Signs of Desire
by Tempeste O’Riley
Blurb: Simon Tyler knows his job as a gay romance author makes his lack of faith in love more than a little ironic, but he’s tired of being used for his wallet. When a night out turns into a matchmaking scheme orchestrated by his best friends—though he’s not the target—Simon’s not thrilled, but since he’s sworn off happily-ever-after anyway, he goes along with it… until he meets the object of their efforts, Adrian, and finds perhaps he hasn’t given up on love after all.
Professor Adrian Keys has tried to date hearing men before, but being deaf himself, he’s never had any success at making a connection. After his friends con him into going out and Adrian realizes it’s all an elaborate plan to set him up, he braces for yet another failure, only to discover there is a spark—except it’s not with the man his friends had in mind, but with Simon Tyler instead.
Not all their friends have found a way past their romantic failures, but Simon and Adrian might be on the path to happily-ever-after.
Coming soon to Dreamspinner Press on November 30, 2015! Pre-order your copy here!
And the moment you’ve been waiting for! Signs of Desire cover reveal…
An Exclusive Excerpt from Signs of Desire
“Why am I here?” Adrian signed to Chase, not sure why he was over at Chase and Rhys’s home. It was only the second or third time he’d been up to their third-floor loft. The building had been a large home, but Rhys had bought it with his best friend Mark and converted the first floor into offices for the Coiled Dragon, their PI agency. Mark lived on the second floor, and Chase’s IT consulting business was now located in the back half of the old home.
“Because I invited you over for dinner and you love me.” Chase’s grin was infectious, and Adrian did adore his friend. Their one date had led to their friendship, not a relationship, but he didn’t mind.
Unable to stop himself, Adrian smiled back. “I do. But there are four settings, not three.” He knew Chase was up to something, figuring it was another blind date attempt, but as he hadn’t seen anyone but Chase and Rhys so far, he was at a total loss for who the other victim was.
Chase smirked before his face smoothed into a look of pure innocence. “I have other friends than just you. Why?”
Uh-huh…. Deciding to just play along and humor Chase, Adrian dropped the questions right then. “Whatever,” he signed with as much attitude as he could manage, using his entire body to show his lack of interest. He ruined it a moment later when he wound up laughing at the fake pout Chase gave him. “OK. OK. What’s for dinner? That OK to ask?”
Instead of answering, Chase stuck his tongue out, then grinned.
“Always. We’re having lasagna, garlic bread, the works. Oh, and I have fresh-made peach ice cream and a crumb cake for dessert.”
God! He was going to gain twenty pounds from the one meal. Adrian couldn’t imagine how Chase and Rhys stayed so fit with how Chase cooked, but they both were. He made an exaggerated show of how fat he would be after he ate all that, which pulled laughter from Chase—one of the few sounds he truly wished he could hear.
By the time they had both stopped laughing and sobered, mostly, Rhys thumped into the room. Adrian turned as Chase lit up and ran over to Rhys and wrapped his arms around his huge partner.
Rhys looked down and smiled at Adrian. “How are you?” he asked, thankfully facing Adrian so he could understand. Adrian was lucky, he read lips well enough that he could mostly fake it if need be. It made things like teaching at the university much easier as he could give his own lectures and everyone understood him fine. He worked at it, though, practicing with a computer program that he had tweaked and modified until it was barely the original program anymore. Chase had helped him with the last few modifications, his hearing had been needed for some of the sound corrections.
“Good. Thanks for inviting me, though Chase still won’t tell me what’s up with the fourth place setting.”
“Really?” Rhys asked, turning to face Chase more, though thankfully he didn’t turn too far. “What are you up to?”
“Nothing. Now go answer the door, and be good, Rhys.”
The puzzled look that crossed Rhys’s face made Adrian curious until Rhys shrugged and turned. “Seems someone is at the door, though I don’t hear anything. Be right back.”
“He can’t hear the doorbell? Is something wrong with Rhys’s hearing?”
Chase grinned again. “No, I just told him someone needed to be let in before the buzzer sounded. He hates when I do that.”
Adrian thought about that, but as he had no hearing, the concept made little sense to him. Chalking it up to Chase being playful, he nodded and turned, intending to find out who else was there.
When he entered the living room, Simon was standing there. He couldn’t pull his gaze away, but then he noticed Simon seemed to be staring at him just as much. Swallowing his nerves down again, Adrian managed to paste a smile on his face. “Hello.”
“Hi.” Simon fidgeted and broke eye contact but didn’t turn away, so Adrian could still read his lips. Lips he still wanted to taste. “It’s nice to see you again.”
“Thank you. Are you here for dinner too?” Was Chase playing matchmaker again, or was he simply trying to get others to spend time with Simon? He knew Chase was worried about Simon, but he wasn’t sure blind-dating was the best answer to Simon’s pain.
Simon looked around but nodded. “Yeah, Chase said I had to come eat. Something about making too much food or some such nonsense.” He suddenly smiled. “Not that I mind eating his cooking. Has he cooked for you yet?”
“Yeah, he has, and it’s always wonderful.”
“You, um, you want to sit with me while they play in the kitchen?” Simon asked. Only then did Adrian realize Chase and Rhys were both missing.
Once Simon sat on the couch, Adrian chose to sit there as well but left space between them so they could face each other to talk. He didn’t want to crowd Simon, though Adrian would love to get to know him better, if Simon was open to that.
Simon leaned in slightly once they were both settled. “You know this is a setup, right?”
He dipped his head in agreement. “Yes. I had that feeling as well. Do you mind? I can go if you don’t want to put up with Chase’s machinations.”
“I-I don’t mind.”
Adrian took in how Simon’s hands fluttered, how he nibbled on his bottom lip slightly, the shy but hopeful look in his eyes, and wondered if that was really all for him. Could Simon actually like him, as more than just Chase’s friend? “You sure?”
“No, I would like to get know you.”
It took Adrian a moment to decipher what Simon said, and he’d assumed Simon mumbled the words. Whatever it was, it was hard to understand the words, but he hoped he got it right. “Then I’ll stay. Thanks.”
“Oh, I should probably apologize for messing your date with Chase up, but we all knew Rhys was who he needed, even when he didn’t.”
He’d gotten the story from Chase after the fact, but on their one and only date, Rhys had shown up at the same restaurant, with a bubbly, very handsy twink on his arm. Chase had been so upset and distracted it was obvious to Adrian that Chase wasn’t over Rhys. He’d later learned that Simon and James had told Rhys where and when to be to deliberately derail their date. He thought it adorable that Chase’s friends were so determined to be there for him, and while he hadn’t ended up with a boyfriend, he had gained a sweet and loyal friend. So it wasn’t such a bad night in his opinion after all.
“I like having Chase as a friend, so it’s okay. And I understand why you did that. I would have done the same if I were you. So apology not needed but accepted.”
“Glad. So, um, Chase said you were his professor at one point, and I know we stopped at your TA’s house the other night. What do you teach?”
Basic get-to-know-you questions. Okay, this I can do. “I teach a couple of different IT courses at UW Milwaukee, and I work freelance for a couple of places doing IT work. Computer forensics and networking work, mainly. Kelley is my TA and a great help when dealing with the amount of paperwork that comes with teaching. He’s also a friend, but that’s all,” Adrian added, having noted the little tensing around Simon’s eyes when he mentioned Kelley.
“That sounds fun. Do you have trouble teaching Hearing students?” Simon flushed so red it was closer to purple. “I mean, I know you speak well, and your voice is a touch flat in spots but deep and sexy”—at which point Simon’s blush went lower than his shirt collar and up to his ear tips—“but do-don’t your students ever try to use your lack of hearing against you?”
“Yeah, once in a while. They learn fast that I pay attention to what’s going on around me, though, and usually quit quickly. Kelley hears perfectly, so even if I don’t catch them, he does, so it’s not a problem. Honestly, most of my students are not the freshmen that are still learning the rules of college, so I don’t usually get more than one or two that act up the first class.” Taking a deep breath, Adrian decided to add one more thing, dipping his head slightly as his nerves ramped up again. “And thank you. I don’t know what I sound like, but I’m glad you like it.”
Simon looked away and said something, though Adrian couldn’t see what. When he turned back, he held out his hand. Adrian looked at it, confused. “What?”
“It’s time for dinner. I, um….” Simon started to pull his hand back, but Adrian caught it before he could move too far. The warmth and softness of Simon’s hand felt wonderful, the heat and electricity that shot through him at the touch, though, aroused him. It had been ages since he’d felt excited by something so simple as holding hands. Not letting go, Adrian stood and tugged Simon to standing, smiling as he did.
“Then let’s go eat.”
He didn’t let go of Simon’s hand until they were at the table, but instead of just sitting, he pulled out Simon’s chair and waited for him to sit down. Adrian then took the chair next to Simon and looked to where Chase and Rhys were entering the dining room.
The scents from the large pan Rhys carried made Adrian’s stomach rumble and his mouth water. Chase carried a basket of bread and a large bowl of salad. Once they set down their dishes, Chase looked from Adrian to Simon and back before flashing a bright smile. “Food is served. Enjoy.”
They all settled and passed the wonderful foods around. Adrian hated trying to follow group conversations when no one was signing, especially because it was hard to know who to look at next, so he simply enjoyed his food and the warmth of the company as they chatted.
When Rhys reached one big hand into Adrian’s peripheral and waved slightly, Adrian looked over. “Yes?”
“I was just wondering if you’re okay. You’ve not said a thing since telling Chase thank you for the food.” The concern on Rhys’s face was easy to see, and he hated that he’d worried the gentle giant.
Adrian took a sip of the wine, then smiled, hoping to make Rhys relax. “It’s just hard to follow the conversation. The only one here that signs is Chase, and it’s really hard to sign and use a fork.” He could still vividly remember his dad accidentally launching pasta across the dining room table once when he was little. His dad had been so involved in telling Adrian a story, he had forgotten he still held a forkful of spaghetti. His mother wasn’t amused, but Adrian had loved it!
“Oh, I didn’t think of that. I don’t know ASL or anything or I would try to include you.”
“It’s okay, Rhys. I don’t take it personally. It simply is what it is.”
As the conversation picked up again, Adrian felt a gentle tap to his shoulder. When he looked up, Simon was looking at him, sadness clear in his deep brown eyes. They reminded him of a lonely puppy’s, though he would never tell Simon that. “Hi.”
“Hey. I wanted to talk to you some more. Earlier was nice.”
“It was. What did you want to know?”
Simon shrugged. “I don’t know. I just liked talking to you.”
“I like talking to you too. Why don’t you tell me about you? You asked me what I did, but all I remember is from the other night and from Chase. You’re an author—romance, right?”
“Yeah. I write gay romances. Well, they aren’t just romances, but that is the main thing to them.” Simon paused, looking toward Chase for a moment before he returned his focus to Adrian, a slight flush on his cheeks. “Okay, Chase says I shouldn’t call them ‘gay romances’ since I do have a couple of bi characters and am planning to write a character based on Dal’s partner, Alex.”
“Alex is gender fluid, right?” Adrian had met Alex and Dal and thought Alex was adorable—and downright edible in the strappy little sundress he’d had on. It had taken him a moment to figure out what was behind Alex’s nervous fidgeting. Dal had explained that Alex was gender fluid and was still shy about going out and meeting people when in nonmale clothing. Alex was cute, sweet, and obviously made Dal extremely happy.
“Yeah. That’s the reason I want to write about a character like him. I think more people need to be open to others and need to understand that differences aren’t a bad thing. Same reason I added my first bi character. I had a good friend in college that was bi and got crap from straights and gays for it. I hated seeing him get rejected because of who he was.”
“So you write stories to show love and give the people you care about happy endings? I like that.” The more he learned about Simon, the more he wanted to know.
“I… I guess so. I never thought of it that way, but why not write the story so love wins instead of hate or bigotry or mistakes?”
“I think it’s a great way to live, Simon. It’s cool that you can make a living doing something like writing and that you get to teach and right wrongs with a pen, or keyboard as the case may be.” God! If Simon didn’t stop blushing, Adrian was going to have to kiss him.
They continued to eat, Simon talking to him off and on. When Chase served dessert, Adrian’s taste buds rejoiced. The food was delicious, the coffee perfect with the ice cream and cake. By the time they were done, Adrian didn’t think he’d be able to eat again for a week. Since Chase had cooked, he stood and started gathering dishes, determined to help. Chase wouldn’t let him, though, taking the plates from Adrian’s hands and then shooing him back into the living room, promising to send in more coffee.
Giving up, Adrian did as he was told. He settled again on the couch, and a moment later, Simon came in and flopped down beside him. “I was kicked out too.”
“I think they are trying to get us to spend more time together.” Adrian had caught the smirks and knowing looks Chase threw their way throughout the meal. For once, he had to appreciate having a friend willing to meddle, especially if Simon returned his interest.
“I do too.” Simon nibbled on his lip again, and Adrian worried he might draw blood considering how often he’d bitten it that evening. “While they are busy, I wanted to ask you something.”
Adrian scooted a little closer to Simon and took his hand again, careful not to startle him. When they’d touched earlier, the heat and connection had surprised him, but touching Simon now was just the same. The warmth and rightness was there, as was the excitement. “What was that?” When Simon didn’t say anything, just stared down at their joined hands, Adrian tried again. “Simon? What did you want to ask?”
“Oh, sorry.” Simon lifted his gaze to Adrian’s, hope and fear mixed in his expression. “I wanted to, um, ask if you’d like to go out to dinner with me sometime. I mean, like a real date, not where we’re being pushed together and monitored.”
“I’d love to.” Adrian smiled, trying to put as much of his joy at being asked into it as possible. “How about I pick you up Friday about five? I’ll take you someplace quiet where we can eat and chat without our nosy friends hovering behind the door,” Adrian added, forcing his voice louder to make sure Chase could hear him. “Or would you rather drive?”
“No, I don’t mind. Here, give me your phone. Please,” Simon quickly added, looking away enough that Adrian wasn’t certain if he said any more or not. When Simon pulled out his own cell and presented it to Adrian, he realized Simon had turned away to get it out.
After swapping cell phones and numbers, Adrian took his back and repocketed it. “I’ll text you tomorrow and we can work out the details. Plus, I’d kind of like to chat with you more.”
Shortly after they were done, Simon announced he needed to head home. When Adrian noticed the time, he thought he should get home and to sleep as well. After giving hugs and promises to text all around, Adrian walked Simon to his Audi, Simon’s hand in his. He bent and kissed Simon’s knuckles briefly before saying his good nights and headed to his Rogue, happier and more hopeful that he had been in a very long time.
About Tempeste O’Riley
Tempeste O’Riley is an out and proud omnisexual / bi-woman whose best friend growing up had the courage to do what she couldn’t–defy the hate and come out. He has been her hero ever since.
Tempe is a hopeless romantic that loves strong relationships and happily-ever-afters. Though new to writing M/M, she has done many things in her life, though writing has always drawn her back–no matter what else life has thrown her way. She counts her friends, family, and Muse as her greatest blessings in life. She lives in Wisconsin with her children, reading, writing, and enjoying life.