Exclusive Excerpt from Charmed by You
by Jess Bryant
Henry Lord was bored out of his mind. He hated these campaign fundraisers. Galas. Balls. Parties. Whatever they were called, the events were always the same. Wealthy men and women from across the city, dressed in their finest suits and gowns, drinking bourbon and champagne and telling stories that he’d heard a dozen times before all over again while he smiled and nodded, schmoozed and charmed, all so that they’d write a check at the end of the night and maybe, just maybe, vote for him when the polling booths opened.
It was mind-numbing but if this was what it took to become the next Mayor of Knights Port, he would do it. He was going to be the youngest Mayor in the history of this great city. He was going to win that seat next month and it would be only the first in an assent that would lead him to the Senate and then, if he played his cards right, the White House.
He had everything it took to go the distance. Pedigree. Looks. Personality. He’d kept his nose clean and his closet empty of skeletons. He’d gone to the right schools and aced every test. He’d been trained from childhood to always say the right thing at the right time, to never let his mouth open before his brain had worked out what his audience needed to hear. He had every qualification and quality to be a fantastic politician and an even better leader… except one.
Henry was gay and openly gay politicians were about as common as openly gay fairytale princes.
Knights Port was a progressive place. Accepting. He’d never felt that he had to hide who he was here. He’d told his parents he was gay after he kissed his lab partner sophomore year of high school and realized it was way, way better than kissing his cheerleader girlfriend had ever been. They hadn’t seemed surprised. In fact, nobody in his life had seemed all that surprised. But as accepting as his family, his friends and even his city was, Henry knew that once he entered the national political stage that he would have to watch his back.
There were still small-minded, judgmental people in the world. A lot of them were the old white dudes in positions of power, the men that currently sat or had sat in the seats that he wanted to fill. So he played their games, played by their rules and didn’t dare step out of line.
One discretion. One misstep. That was all it would take for them to cast him out of the good ol’ boys club and if that happened he could kiss his dreams of breaking barriers and changing the future for the better goodbye.
So he didn’t date. He didn’t go out. He didn’t even flirt. He’d accepted the idea that in order to live his professional dream he would have to give up his personal life. It hadn’t seemed like all that much of a loss. His last serious relationship had ended years ago and though he experienced the occasional loneliness, he’d never met anyone that made him want to rethink his rules.
The moment he’d seen the blond man in the simple black suit and tie, he’d felt a rush of desire hit him like a punch to the gut. Henry couldn’t explain it. The man wasn’t his usual type, not that he’d ever given his type much thought. If he had, he certainly wouldn’t have considered that he would be utterly captivated by a man that could well be ten years his junior from the looks of it, let alone with long, tangled blond hair and tattoos peeking from beneath a suit that didn’t fit his tall, thin, lithe frame all that well.
He’d caught Henry’s eye as soon as he came into the room. Henry had tried to tell himself that it was only because the boy looked so out of place. He wasn’t one of the trust-fund babies walking around in thousand-dollar suits. He wasn’t a face that Henry knew at all, but it was one he wanted to know. He’d given up his lie about only wondering who the man was hours ago because his curiosity had become downright fascination.
Despite his appearance, the boy moved through the crowd with an easy, confident assurance. More than once, Henry had tried to pin him down but each and every time he spotted that golden head of hair and started that direction, someone caught him and wanted to talk politics or business or God only knew what. Henry certainly didn’t know because he’d only been paying the bare amount of attention to his guests and their conversations as he searched the crowd for the elusive man who always seemed to disappear just before Henry reached him.
His brain said that his singular minded need to meet this man was insane. Reckless even. But he tried to soothe his more logical side by telling himself that once he met the man, the mystery would be gone. Surely, up close, he wasn’t as mesmerizing as he’d been across the room all night. Henry would meet him just long enough to figure out who he was and that would be enough.
It would have to be enough. It certainly couldn’t be more. Even if the way his stomach clenched at the mere sight of that blond head moving in the crowd below made him want more, want everything that he’d given up a chance at.