The hypermarché off the Boulevard du Mercantour was crowded on a Sunday afternoon, full of French families doing their weekly grocery shopping, and Newt Camilleri vowed to do his shopping on weekdays in the future. He pushed his cart behind an Arab woman in a head-to-toe burka, two squealing toddlers with her, and thought about including a woman like her in his next book.
What if that wasn’t a woman under all that black after all, but a man? A man wearing nothing more than a jockstrap and work boots. The burka also concealed the bat-like wings that sprouted from his forearms and a long, forked tail, which snaked out of the crevice of his ass.
After years of writing Tolkien pastiches full of elves and hobbits, Newt had stumbled into writing gay erotic fantasy, imagining sexy couplings of angels, devils, and other fantastical creatures. His most popular character was a half man, half unicorn named Fledglis. Like a centaur, he had a man’s head, arms, and torso over a horse’s body, with a spiral horn sticking out of his forehead. He was pure white except for dark hooves and a mane with all the colors of the rainbow in it.
His mission was to skewer every antigay government official—literally. When he found a homophobic mayor, sheriff, governor, or legislator, he’d use his front hooves to knock the man down. He’d strip the man naked, then pinion him to a floor or wall, his legs open and his ass exposed. Then Fledglis would turn his horn into a giant penis and fuck the man into oblivion. By the time the jerk awoke from his sex-induced stupor, his attitude would have taken a 180-degree turn.
Newt loved to write those books, taking his revenge on everyone who had ever picked on him, teased him, or ignored him. And people loved to read them too—he sold a few hundred e-books in the Fledglis series each month and got fan mail from timid teenagers who found Fledglis an inspiration, and from straight women who were turned on by the raunchy male-on-male sex.
Newt was happy writing unicorn sex scenes because he could make up all the details, and no one would know how little sexual experience he had. In the past, when he’d tried to write realistically about sex, he’d been skewered by online reviewers because he often got the details wrong. He’d never been with an uncircumcised man, for example, and so had no knowledge of what happened to the hood during sex.
It was so much easier writing about unicorn sex. If there was a right and wrong way to describe it, at least no one had caught him yet.
Ahead of Newt, the burka woman’s two kids were tugging at a pyramidal display of kitchen tools. Newt wanted to get as far from them as he could, but he was trapped in the aisle behind them. He watched in horrified fascination as the display toppled and rubber kitchen tools flew everywhere.
One of the large plastic forks caught on the neckline of a burly man a few feet ahead, dragging the fabric down and exposing the man’s shoulder. Newt peered ahead at the tattoo, which had been revealed—the tip of an angel’s wing.
The man turned to remove the offending fork and tug his shirt back up, and when Newt recognized his profile, an electric shock ran from his brain direct to his groin. He recognized that tattoo and that face. It was Freddie Venus.
Freddie had been a star when Internet porn was exploding in the mid-1990s. He was in his twenties then, topping the cutest boys and bottoming for the hottest studs. His back was tattooed with the wings of an angel, but Freddie fucked like a devil. Newt had become addicted to his videos, but Freddie had long since dropped from sight.
And now here he was, buying milk, juice, vegetables, and toilet paper at a hypermarché only a few miles from where Newt was renting an apartment, across the street from the main train station in Nice.
Newt pushed his way around the burka woman and headed directly for the checkout. Nervously, he waited in line, keeping an eye out for Freddie. He paid for what he’d picked up and then loaded his bags into the tiny smart car he had bought. It was the very first new car he had ever owned, and even though it was difficult sometimes to squeeze his considerable bulk behind the wheel, he loved the new-car smell, and it was all he could afford.
Then he waited. Freddie Venus had to leave the store sometime, and Newt would follow him home and then… Well, he’d figure that out as he went. That’s the way he wrote, after all. He was a pantser, figuring out his story by the seat of his pants, not a plotter.
He didn’t have to wait long. Freddie walked out of the store, and Newt got a good look at him. The man had aged very well—strong jaw, prominent cheekbones, and a few lines that gave character to his face. It was hard to tell if he’d maintained his physique, because he wore a baggy, oversize T-shirt and nylon workout pants, but Newt was certain that no matter what else had happened, the man still had the dick of death.
Freddie pushed his cart through the lot, stopping at the trunk of a new-looking Mercedes sedan. He loaded the groceries, then got in the car and backed out.
Newt’s pulse raced. He’d never followed someone covertly, but he’d watched enough TV shows to have a basic idea of what to do. The black Mercedes turned onto the Boulevard du Mercantour and headed south, toward the Mediterranean. Newt followed, careful to stay several cars back. This wasn’t so hard, he thought.
Freddie, if that’s who he was, drove the speed limit and signaled his turn onto the La Provençale highway early. Then things got difficult. The Mercedes took the first exit and began to wind through narrow, twisting roads. Newt had no idea where he was going or what would happen when he got there—which was exactly what he’d come to France for, wasn’t it, to shake up his life?
A cascade of events had driven Newt from his comfortable town house in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, to the Côte d’Azur. For nearly twenty years, he’d been a minor cog in the grand state bureaucracy. To celebrate his fiftieth birthday, he had put the finishing touches on his newest novel, Unicorn Triumphant
, the third in his series, and self-published it.
A week later, his boss was replaced by a woman who immediately began reorganizing the department. Newt was given more work and expected to stay late without overtime pay. His new boss constantly criticized his case decisions. He had no time to write and no enthusiasm for anything.
Then, after a positive review on an M/M romance website, Unicorn Triumphant
took off. Fans downloaded the e-book by the thousands, gushing about it on bulletin boards, giving him hundreds of five-star reviews on Amazon. The day the first big royalty deposit landed in his bank account, Newt quit his job and put his town house on the market.
A small truck-van combo veered dangerously close to Newt’s car as he approached a switchback, and he had to pay attention. When he checked for the Mercedes again, he had lost sight of it around one of the curves ahead. He sped up, suddenly finding himself right behind the car. He fell back, hoping that the man hadn’t noticed him.
He had thought that the move to France would jump-start his life—fantasizing about new books, a landscape without snow, maybe even a sexy French boyfriend. He’d long harbored a secret desire to retire to the French Riviera. He had studied French in high school, and then for his thirtieth birthday, he had taken a European bus tour with his mother that passed through Nice. The combination of sunshine and handsome men in skimpy bikinis had ignited his fantasies, and he’d sworn he’d go back one day.
But instead the move had simply reinforced the despair of his situation. He was too fat to live in a hot climate. He had to concentrate so much on speaking French that when he tried to sit down and write, he had no English in his brain. And what sexy Frenchman would give a second look to a sweaty blond pig like him?
But this chance encounter might be what he needed to start over. If that was indeed Freddie Venus ahead of him, he’d been able to start over. How had he managed it? Could Newt learn anything from his example?
While unicorn sex paid pretty well, it wasn’t enough to buy him that oceanfront condo he’d been dreaming of. He had spent a couple of weeks in Nice, shopping for apartments along the Riviera from the Italian border to as far southwest as St. Tropez, and couldn’t find anything decent he could afford. He had to settle for a six-month lease on a two-bedroom apartment across from the train station.
In the three months since then, he’d hunkered down in his apartment, desperate for inspiration. Newt forced himself to stay at the computer for hours each day, but Fledglis had left the building. Instead, Newt spent hours looking out the window at young backpackers arriving on the overnight train from Paris, leaving in the evening for destinations unknown. He walked along the ocean, looking at the men, young and old, in their tiny bikinis. He jerked off to online porn. But no matter what he did, the words wouldn’t flow. It seemed like Newt had left his imagination back in New Jersey.
But now God or his muse or whoever had brought him Freddie Venus. Freddie would inspire him; he was sure. Watching Freddie go about his business would be the spur Newt needed to write again. Otherwise his money would run out, and he’d be on a plane back to the States, tail between his legs, even more of a failure than he’d been before.
With no other cars around them, Newt had to hold back, but he got lucky when Freddie signaled a left and turned into a curving driveway between two tall cypress trees.
Newt had watched enough spy movies to know what to do next. He kept going, pulling the smart car into a tiny lay-by a few hundred feet ahead. He struggled out of the car, reminding himself once again that he had to keep losing weight. At least one good thing about all that walking he’d done was that the pounds had begun to melt off. His triple-XL T-shirt had begun to feel loose, and he’d begun cinching his belt one notch tighter. He was still entrenched on the obesity scale, though.
He walked back down the road to the driveway, staying in the shelter of a row of trees. The air was hot and dry, but sweat began to pool under his arms and his man boobs, and he wiped his hand against his brow. When he reached a good vantage point, he saw Freddie carry his groceries into an old stone and stucco farmhouse, closing the heavy wood front door behind him.
Now what? How could he be sure that the man was indeed Freddie Venus? He had no idea how to check property records in France. He looked around. The house was isolated up a slight hill, with no close neighbors. No one to ask about Freddie—but then again, no one to notice if he did a little more snooping.
He climbed the rise, keeping to the line of trees, huffing for breath. His thighs chafed against his jeans, and his dick stiffened. His mind was filled with images of Freddie Venus naked, his body being worshipped by some equally naked stud. Freddie leaning forward, his hands pressed against a rough brick wall as a blond twink plowed his ass.
By the time he got to the top, he was out of breath and slumped to the ground beneath a twisted olive tree. From that angle, the old farmhouse was quite charming, a single story with a red tile roof. The entire rear wall of the house had been replaced with glass.
Because the land sloped steeply, the house had an unobstructed view toward the Mediterranean. Small farmhouses dotted the landscape, giving way to apartment buildings painted in brilliant shades of pink, red, and orange. Farther below he saw the cityscape of Nice, gleaming towers of glass and steel up against the narrow alleys and ancient buildings of the old city.
If he turned his head, he could see a stretch of blue-green water and the edge of the famous gooseneck of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Once he had his breath back, he crept closer to the house. The room at the nearest end appeared to be an office, with a row of computer monitors and a large screen mounted on the wall.
As he watched, the man Newt had seen at the hypermarché entered the room, and Newt was certain that he had found Freddie Venus. Freddie had shucked his long-sleeved T-shirt, and Newt got a clear view of his impressively muscled chest. When he turned to the side, Newt saw that familiar tattoo of angel wings.
The only clothes Freddie wore were a pair of neon green workout shorts. He sat down at one of the computers with his back to the window and began to type, and quickly a movie began to play on the big TV screen facing Newt.
A young blond guy in a bright orange ball cap danced on a stage, wearing only a tiny bikini. He was slim but muscular and very limber. He gyrated sexily, sticking his hand in his bikini and rubbing his dick.
Newt got hard and began to rub his own dick through his baggy jeans. He stood in a patch of lavender, and the scent was intoxicating, like lathering in a shower with a bar of scented soap.
The blond on screen was joined by a dark-haired dancer of about his age wearing boxer briefs. The blond moved toward him, then turned his back and began twerking, rubbing his sexy ass against the dark-haired boy’s crotch.
Newt couldn’t help himself. He opened the fly of his jeans and pulled out his dick. He rubbed himself into a frenzy and came in his shorts, yelping as he did.
From behind the wall of glass, Freddie Venus looked outside and locked eyes with Newt. Mortified, Newt rushed back down the hill toward his car.