Today, I’ve traveled to Crescent Bay, a seaside town whose biggest claim to fame lies with its supernatural inhabitants. I’ll be interviewing two of the residents today, to get their take on life in Crescent Bay from both sides of the railroad tracks, so to speak.
My first stop is the infamous night club, Charisma. Anyone who knows of the town knows about Charisma, and the man who draws people to it like a magnet. What could be more fitting than I should interview the crown prince himself, Raoul Marchand. This wasn’t easy to do, believe me. I had to pull a few strings to get his agreement to this. Let’s hope he’s in a good mood and willing to talk.
It’s still fairly early when I arrive. Hopefully, I can avoid most of the crowds. I hear people line up just to get into this place, to witness the phenomenon that is Raoul Marchand. Well, I’m ready to be wowed. There is only a short line, luckily, when I arrive, and when I reach the head of the line and start to pull out my ID, the bouncer waves me in. I’m not sure if I should be glad or insulted.
Another bouncer greets me inside. “Good evening, I’m Paolo. You must be Julie?” I nod. “Raoul is waiting for you. Right this way.” I follow him down a hallway, which opens up into a very bright and shining place indeed.
Flashing colored lights bounce off platinum and chrome surfaces, exuding a certain energy. A large circular bar dominates the room like a command post. It’s covered in mirror tiles streaked with dark blue veins the color of night.
“Right down there.” My guide points to the end of the bar, and I spot him. It’s hard to miss him, even at this distance. He has a most commanding presence.
“Thanks, Paolo.” I give him a smile and proceed. As I approach, the man stands, and I tell myself to please not drool when I’m speaking to him, but I know it won’t be easy. He’s tall, dark, and hunkalicious. His dark hair falls down his back—to his ass, I hazard a hopeful guess—and his eyes glitter with a fierce intensity. He is very well put together, and he doesn’t dress to hide it. He’s a veritable god.
“Thank you for agreeing to this, Mr. Marchand,” I say as I reach out my hand. He takes it for just a moment before returning it to me, gesturing toward a leather and chrome bar stool beside his own.
He shrugs. “My father thought it was a good idea.” Does that mean Raoul doesn’t? I wonder.
“What would you like to drink?” he asks.
I think a moment before ordering an amaretto sour. He relays that to the bartender, and orders himself a marguerita. The bartender seems friendly enough. He quickly brings our drinks then leaves us to our own devices.
“What would you like to know?”
Well, that’s... to the point, isn’t it? Good thing I borrowed Sarah’s voice recorder. Otherwise, I might not remember a thing.
“Mr. Marchand... may I call you Raoul?”
I hear a low growl and I wonder if someone brought a dog into the bar before I realize it’s my host. Then the sound is gone as he replies. “If you wish.”
“So...” I think I’ll skirt the name thing for now. “How long have you been running Charisma?”
“About twenty years.”
“That’s a long time for someone so young. How old are you, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Of course I don’t mind. Age doesn’t make a difference. I’m forty.”
“So you started in the business pretty young?”
“My father gave it to me to run, so it was pretty well laid in my lap.” He gives me an enigmatic look as he picks up his glass and drinks.
I think for a moment. “Let’s see, your father is Philippe Marchand, right? So he started Charisma? When was that?”
“About fifty years ago. But it wasn’t a night club, it was a restaurant.”
“Oh, I see. Did he close the restaurant?”
“No, he moved it across town and gave me the night club.”
“That was nice of him. Why did he do that?” I’m thinking maybe a graduation present or something. Must be nice, right?
I think I said something wrong. He gets this look I can’t describe... like he’s just assumed a mask of indifference. He pulls a phone from his pocket, glances at it and then at me.
I think I’m living on borrowed time, so I cast about in my mind for another subject.
“The Marchands are the largest and most well known supernaturals in this part of the country, aren’t they?”
Short and sweet.
“I know that with drugs, lycanthropes don’t have to suffer through the change any more. What a blessing that must be for you and your family.”
“Yes it is.”
Hmm, not getting anywhere there. Try something else.
“Tell me, Raoul, is there a special someone in your life?” That has to be good, get him to talk about his girlfriend. Or boyfriend. Whichever.
Suddenly he rises, slams his glass onto the bar. “I’m done,” he announces. “Find your own way out.” And before I can respond, he’s flounced off, toward the dance floor. Ooh, I hate to see him go, but I love to watch him leave.
Wait, he’s picking someone out of the crowd, and all the people around him are going nuts, trying to gain his attention. I watch as he selects a young man and leads him away. Ah, it was fun while it lasted. Guess I’ll get some rest at the hotel and go to my next interview tomorrow.
I’m sure there’s a story there, one he’s not ready to share.
The next day, I’m up bright and early. My next interviewee is meeting me at my hotel on his way to work, and he said he doesn’t have long. I can live with that.
I take the elevator down and make my way to the restaurant, which is sparsely populated. He’s already there, and looking rather chipper for so early in the day. He waves me to the table he’s at, and as I join him a very kindhearted waitress brings a cup and a pot of nectar of the gods. Good, I’ll be able to think.
I add sweetener and cream and smile at the young man. He has thick red hair and bright blue eyes and a very energetic smile. “You must be Alexx Jameson?” I hazard a guess.
“I am. And you’re Julie?”
“Right the first time.”
Okay, down to business, since he doesn’t have very long.
“I’m flattered you called me,” he says, “but I can’t imagine anyone wants to read about me, you know? I’m no one special. Just a guy who works for the Chronicle.”
“Everyone is someone,” I reassure him. “So, what do you do there, Alexx?”
“I’m a go-fer, I guess. I work in the mail room, but I do whatever they need me to do. Like get their morning coffees, which is my next stop.”
“How long have you worked at the Chronicle?” The Crescent Bay Chronicle is the town’s one newspaper, owned by Joseph Levine, head of a family that is second in size and position to the Marchands.
“About two years now.”
“Were you born here?”
“No, I wasn’t. I lived in another state entirely. Chance brought me to Crescent Bay and got me a job at the paper.”
“Chance or fate?” I can’t help but smile. He sips at his coffee and grins back. He seems like a very nice young man, very easygoing.
“So where do you see yourself in a few years?” I ask.
“Hopefully as a reporter at the Chronicle,” he confesses, a faint blush rising up his cheeks, as if he isn’t used to speaking about his dreams.
“What kind of reporter do you have in mind to be? Sports, fashion, general news?”
“Crime,” he admits. “Something there isn’t really a lot of in Crescent Bay. But it would be a start. Who knows what after that?’
“The sky’s the limit. And if it’s meant to be, you know... maybe something is just around the corner for you?”
“I hope so.” He finished the rest of his cup and rises. “I’m sorry to drink and run, but there are people who will be very upset with me if I don’t get their morning coffees and stuff.” He rolls his eyes in a playful way.
“Save us from divas.”
I can’t help but laugh. “I’ve met a few of those in my time.” I rise and hold out my hand. He takes it. “Nice to meet you, Alexx, thanks for talking to me. I’ll send you a copy of the interview when it comes out.”
“Nice to meet you too, Julie.” He gives me another smile and quickly hurries out of the restaurant. I, on the other hand, am starved, so I sit back down and glance at the menu. Might as well eat while I’m here. Then go home and put these interviews together.
So, there you are. Two different men, two different stories.
Hmmm, wonder if their worlds will ever collide?
Raoul Marchand is the crown prince of Charisma, the infamous night club in Crescent Bay, renowned for its supernatural clientele. He has the pick of any and all men, but he cares for none. He uses them and throws them away again, and has done so for some twenty years, in the aftermath of a tragedy that robbed him of what he loved most in the world.
Alexx Jameson is an idealistic young would-be reporter with the Crescent Bay Chronicle. Presented with an opportunity to write a story on the Marchands, he eagerly grasps the chance to be a real reporter. His friend, Chronicle receptionist Miller Fenwick, suggests they go to Charisma to do a little research. Alexx isn’t sure that’s such a great idea. After all, he’s still under age, being only twenty. No problem, Miller can fix that! Added bonus, there’s a full moon tonight.
When Alexx first encounters Raoul, it isn’t exactly in the way he dreamed of, and he’s sure he made a terrible first impression. But Fate throws them together under unforeseen circumstances, and the attraction between them can’t be denied. Can Raoul let go of the past long enough to find his future with Alexx, or is he doomed to repeat past mistakes?
Alexx drew in his breath in dismay. This wasn’t going well. Even so, he could not stop staring at Raoul. His eyes met the other man’s. Raoul’s were very golden; he wasn’t aware such colors even existed in the spectrum of the human eye. But then again, he didn’t have any friends that were werewolves either. He wondered if this was a sign that perhaps this man was about to change, right here and now?
The thought was both exhilarating and frightening.
Alexx’s vision telescoped until he wasn’t aware of anything but this gorgeous man in front of him. Blood pounded in his ears and his mouth felt suddenly dry. Having lost all sense of the others in the room, he was surprised when he felt his chair yanked out from under him. Before he could fall, a hand grabbed the scruff of his neck, propelling him to his feet. He glanced at his companion; Miller was being subjected to the same surly treatment.
“You waste my time for this?” Raoul’s upper lip curled back in a snarl. Alexx found himself wildly attracted to him. “I have somewhere I need to be. Paolo, please show these gentlemen out.” Sarcastic much? He turned and reached for the door, but it opened before he touched it.
A shaggy blond with hazel eyes and a cheerful countenance stuck his head inside. “Hey Paolo—” He interrupted himself at the sight of the occupants of the room.
Alexx heard Miller’s sigh of relief, even as he too recognized the newcomer. He’d seen him around the Chronicle often enough, although he’d never really spoken to him. Foster Levine, son of the Chronicle’s owner—heir apparent and future newspaper magnate.
Alexx’s relief quickly changed to anxiety. What if Foster knew how old he really was? He couldn’t be sure one way or the other, but for the sake of argument, he had to assume he did. Would he out him to Raoul Marchand and his burly minion? Had they simply jumped from the frying pan to be scorched by the fire?
Julie Lynn Hayes was reading at the age of two and writing by the age of nine and always wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Two marriages, five children, and more than forty years later, that is still her dream.
She blames her younger daughters for introducing her to yaoi and the world of M/M love, a world which has captured her imagination and her heart and fueled her writing in ways she'd never dreamed of before. She especially loves stories of two men finding true love and happiness in one another's arms and is a great believer in the happily ever after.
She lives in St. Louis with her daughter Sarah and two cats, loves books and movies, and hopes to be a world traveler some day. She enjoys crafts, such as crocheting and cross stitch, knitting and needlepoint and loves to cook.
While working a temporary day job, she continues to write her books and stories and reviews, which she posts in various places on the internet. Her family thinks she is a bit off, but she doesn't mind. Marching to the beat of one's own drummer is a good thing, after all.
Her published works can be found at Amber Quill Press, Dreamspinner Press, MuseitUp Publishing, Torquere Press, and eXtasy Books. She is also an editor at MuseitUp.
Available now from Amber Allure