Acting on Love, Conquest series #8
Now available at MLR Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more.
Brandon Alexander has risen to the top of theatre in Chicago, but when you reach the top, there’s usually only one way left to go. Funding fell through on the latest play he was to star in and now he finds himself an unemployed actor. Coming fresh off a bad audition, he wonders if his time in the spotlight is over. But what worries him more, is not making the man he loves proud of him.
Shunichi Miyamoto runs a highly successful dojo. He had always let work be the focus of his life, until over a year ago, the man of his dreams walked into the dojo to rekindle his passion for karate, and it led to further passions between him and Brandon. He knows Brandon is worried about his career, but he loves him, he’s proud of him, and he’ll do anything for Brandon’s happiness.
Both Brandon and Shunichi want to spend their lives together, but when a new opportunity comes to Brandon, he must decide whether to follow his career dreams or to act on his love for Shunichi.
A portion from Chapter One:
Brandon held the Suzuki GSXR-1000 steady with one hand, his other rested on his hip. Now that he was nearly home, cruising slow and easy, he could relax from the chaos of maneuvering the motorcycle through the heart of Chicago. Entering his home neighborhood always brought an instant calm over him and he needed as much calmness as he could get right now.
The audition…it hadn’t gone well, to put it mildly. To be perfectly honest, he hadn’t bombed so bad in a performance since he was playing Captain Hook in his junior high’s production of Peter Pan when, as he tried to add some flourish to ol’ Hook, he fell off the pirate ship prop onstage. In his defense, the ship had been built by pre-teens and early teens, and it was about as unsteady to walk on as if it really did roll and rock on the waves of the high seas. At least then he’d still remembered all his lines, even when he fell off the damn ship. Not like today.
He forgot his fucking lines!
Brandon tossed his head back, throwing the blue sky a quick glance as though he could find the answer up there to why things had gone so wrong. Really, he knew the answer and didn’t have to look anywhere else for it other than within himself. He hadn’t prepared enough. Why hadn’t he prepared? That was a tougher question to answer and there was no single answer to it. There were many combined and tangled reasons that he was still trying to sort out and understand.
He wouldn’t look at it any other way than he wasn’t excited about the role, or the play. It was a dramatic piece, a brand new play by a young playwright looking to make his break. All in all, the script was pretty good; the story of a husband and wife whose marriage was falling apart when the husband couldn’t hold back his true self and deny being gay any longer, and yet, there was still love between him and his wife. Emotionally, it was very powerful. On a personal level, the role should’ve been a perfect fit, as Brandon had struggled with his own sexuality.
Maybe that was part of the problem, it hit too close to home. He loved to lose himself in a character, become someone he could never be in real life. Or maybe he hadn’t done his best in the audition because of it being a dramatic piece rather than a musical. He could do drama, no problem, but it wasn’t his preference in roles and it’d been a long time since he’d done it. Then again, maybe because it was a smaller production, more low budget than he was used to, it felt like he was taking a step back in his career, rather than forward…
Brandon placed his other hand on the handlebars and clenched on with both hands. Now that was hitting too close to home. He didn’t like to think the last factor had any bearing on his performance during the audition, but truthfully, it did. He’d gotten used to big productions, having the spotlight shining on him and following him wherever he went. When he’d walked into the little theatre that morning, the building plain and tucked away from its bigger and grander fellows, he felt as though his spotlight had dimmed.
Brandon let out a rough snort. He’d always teased Jesse about being the prima donna between the two of them. Things weren’t looking too good for Jesse keeping that title.
But having reached a high level of success, it was hard to take a step…down. He’d walked the hard road in his career, taking any role he could get just to be involved in theatre, trying to build recognition for himself, his name, his talent. From free community theatre gigs to low budget productions, he’d paid his dues and fought for every moment of success he’d gained.
He had starred in some of the largest, most successful plays in Chicago. He’d worked steadily, supported himself as an actor, earned respect in the theatre community, and there was no shortage of roles offered to him. Until recently. Lately, the quality of the offers had gone down and those high profile leading male roles were harder to come by. The thing was, he didn’t know if it was a low in the business, or if it was him.
In theatre, there was always a hot actor or actress on the rise. Someone new and dynamic to fill the seats. What if that’s all he’d been and now his popularity was on the decline? What if his career had already hit its peak and he’d gone as high as he could with it?
Maybe that’s why the funding fell out from under Jersey Boys; the investors might’ve thought he wasn’t relevant enough to fill the house anymore.
Brandon tried to shake off the last thought. No one had said such a thing to him when Jersey Boys was canceled, never even hinted at it. Those things happen. A lot of productions depended on investors to help them get it off the ground and sometimes, for whatever reason, the investors get spooked and pull out. It was no one’s fault.
So why did he keep blaming himself?
Brandon huffed out a frustrated sigh. He guided the blue and white motorcycle left around a turn. The sense of calm strengthened and took over his frustrations and worries as he saw the Miyamoto Dojo—home. The sweeping roof of black tiles and the building of timber siding mimicked classic architecture of Japan. A broad picture window in the front gave a shadowy view inside, but he didn’t see any figures moving on the other side of the glass. Several cars were in the stone and gravel parking lot, and he knew at this time, assistant master, Hiroshi Yoshida, would be putting on a kendo lesson, and Shunichi was between lessons.
Brandon swung the bike into the driveway, the need to see Shun making him crank the throttle and cruise faster than usual past the dojo and the bamboo-lined privacy fence. Beyond the fence was his and Shun’s little sanctuary, a Japanese-style garden. It was where they’d shared their first kiss, where he realized he’d found the man he’d always been looking for. They’d spent many evenings in the garden, talking, enjoying each other’s company…kissing…touching…
He veered the bike toward the garage. The home cloned the dojo in style and architecture, blending aspects of the seventeenth century with modern day amenities, the Japanese and American influences blending.
Bringing the bike to a halt, Brandon knocked the kickstand down. He switched the motorcycle off and swung his leg over the back as he dismounted. He pulled off his helmet, tucking it under his arm, and bounded up the steps to the wraparound veranda. A light breeze sent the wind chimes singing in melodic random notes and carried the scent of flowers to him. He opened the front door, locked it behind him, and took off his shoes, placing them on a wooden rack by the door then set his helmet on the rack. Shaking his fingers through his hair, he stepped up into the family room. It always felt good to come home, but today it felt especially so. The house had been Shunichi’s before they met and it was the home Shun had grown up in. When Shun had taken over the dojo from his father, his parents had also signed over the house to him. Not long after he and Shun started dating, they’d moved in together. Never had he fallen so fast, so hard, or so deeply, for someone.
And nothing had changed. That June, two weeks ago, they’d celebrated their one year anniversary together. It amazed him. He felt as if he’d known Shunichi for longer, and he’d felt that way the moment he met him. A deep connection and comfort level had blossomed between them and it’d only grown stronger with time. On their anniversary night, when they’d lain in bed drawing out their lovemaking as long as their bodies could take it, he knew he’d never been happier in his life.
He wanted it to last. Deep down, he knew it was his main reason for being upset over the audition. It was one thing to disappoint himself. It was another to disappoint Shunichi. To have to tell him…he’d failed. Shunichi wouldn’t say he was disappointed in him, but he wanted to be a man Shunichi would be proud to be with.
Brandon walked through the family room and picked up faint music, the rock band Black Heart Down, and it guided him toward the kitchen. He turned left to go through the broad, open doorway leading into the kitchen and stopped short. His worries, his frustration, his disappointment all faded away at the sight before him.
Shunichi was bent over the sink scrubbing at a pan. The night before, after having put in a long day, they’d both only had enough energy for one of two things: they could either clean up the kitchen from cooking dinner, or they could have sex. It was an easy decision to make. Before he left that morning, he’d told Shunichi he would clean the kitchen when he got home, knowing Shun wouldn’t listen. So seeing Shunichi cleaning wasn’t what made him stop and stare. It was that Shun was wearing nothing but a white jockstrap as he did it.
Brandon watched the muscles in Shunichi’s back work and shift. From years of practicing martial arts, Shunichi’s body was chiseled perfection, lean and hard with toned muscle. Brandon let his gaze roam down the V of Shunichi’s upper body to the rounded and muscled ass cheeks.
He managed to glance away from Shunichi and spotted the white karate uniform neatly folded on one of the kitchen chairs, Shun’s black belt rolled and placed on top. Brandon put the pieces together. Shunichi had probably tried to hold off on cleaning for as long as his obsessively neat self could take it and when he’d finally caved, stripped off the uniform rather than risk tainting it with a stain.
A smile slipped onto Brandon’s lips. From Shun’s fine body to his brilliant mind, his athletic skill to his beautiful face, his gentle heart to his quirks, Brandon absolutely loved this man.
And he should probably let him know he was home early, especially since he was so damn hard now. He just needed one thing first.
Brandon backed out of the doorway and crossed the family room again, aiming for the hallway to the left. He darted down it and swung into the bedroom, snatching the bottle of lube off the nightstand beside their bed. He headed back to the kitchen with quick steps, slowing when he walked in. He tucked his hands behind his back.
Copyright 2015 by S.J. Frost and MLR Press