Cover & Excerpt Reveal
In 1915, starstruck Jack Abadie strikes out for the gilded streets of the most sinful town in the country—Hollywood. With him, he takes a secret that his country hometown would never understand.
After years of hard work and a chance invitation to a gay gentlemen's club, Jack is discovered. Soon, his talent, matinee idol good looks, and affable personality propel him to the height of stardom. With fame, however, comes inherent distrust, an issue that skews Jack's ability to love.
When Jack meets Wyatt Maitland, his life is turned upside down. He wants to be the man worthy of his good fortune, but old demons haunt him. Only through Wyatt's indomitable strength, can Jack face that which keeps him from being the man he wants to be. Love without trust is empty.
As the 1920s roar, scandal rocks every facet of the movie industry. The public's tolerance of Hollywood's decadence has reached its limit. Under pressure to clean up its act, the studio demands that Jack either give up the man he loves or lose his well-established career.
Will Jack decide to remain Hollywood's box office darling, or will his decision render him tarnished gold?
Genre: Historical M/M Romance
Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
April 15, 1917
JACK ABADIE stared into the old, beat-up mirror as he shaved, noting the beads of perspiration as they dripped into the lathered shaving soap. Though he’d already bathed, he’d worked up a sweat just scraping the razor across his face. Summer already. Seemed Mother Nature had completely forgotten about spring.
Jack smiled though, because soon Louisiana weather would be a distant memory.
He noted the dark circles under his eyes. No wonder. He hadn’t slept for days. Pleasant thoughts of Emery lying next to him, their bodies entwined, had filled the only hours he’d had to himself.
Willswood Plantation didn’t run itself. “You have to help around here more,” his father kept telling him.
Between the long hours he worked doing every conceivable job on the place, then having to tend to family obligations, there wasn’t a moment he could steal for himself, save for late at night.
Jack would have left sooner, but with his father’s mysterious cough getting worse and his stubborn ass resisting every effort to force him to the doctor, Jack’s mother depended upon her two sons to pick up the slack. He’d either break away now, or be stuck for the rest of his life.
“Hey, brother. Happy birthday, old man.”
Jack stared into the mirror at Andrew’s smiling face. He’d miss the boy; they were best friends, but he had to have a life that was his own. “Yeah, thanks. Thought you were out in the fields.”
“I was, but I came in with Papa. He caught a spell out there, couldn’t catch his breath. Figured I’d come to see you, but it looks like you have plans. Big birthday date with Bessie?”
Jack’s stomach knotted. “Yeah. Emery and I are meeting the girls in town.”
Andrew’s eyes darkened, the unmistakable conspiratorial look on his face. “Sure, Jack. I’ll tell Mama and Papa you’re meeting Bessie.”
Though they’d never talked about such personal things, Jack had long suspected Andrew knew about him and Emery. How, he couldn’t say; it was just a feeling. “Thanks,” he said quietly.
“Yeah, well, I’ll leave you to your getting ready. See ya. Have fun.”
“Thanks again. I appreciate it.”
Andrew waved and bounded out the door. Jack watched after him. Sadness welled inside him. He’d miss his brother, hell, he’d miss them all, but a man was entitled to his dreams, and they didn’t come knocking. He had to go after them.
Actually stepping outside the house for the last time would be the hardest part, his mother innocently thinking he’d be back for dinner. Once gone, he’d focus on himself and Emery. Damn it, they deserved a life together, and they certainly couldn’t live on good old Willswood. They’d scrimped and saved for two years, while they’d planned their new life, and it was about to happen. The train would take them to sunny California. Emery would work while Jack took acting lessons, and one day, he’d be a star.
Since the day he’d seen Wallace Reid in The House of Silence at the Prytania, all he could think of was going to Hollywood and becoming a star. Maybe one day he’d even meet his idol.
Jack checked his pocket watch, a birthday gift from his father. The train would leave at six thirty, and with the three-hour leeway they’d allowed, they’d get to New Orleans Depot with little time to spare.
Andrew, his unwitting accomplice, would make it easier to get past his parents and out of the house, before they forced him to damn himself to eternal hell with more lies.
Jack could barely button his Sunday shirt for his trembling fingers. He donned his waistcoat and trousers, already feeling hotter than he had just out of his bath. Before he slipped into his church coat, he applied pomade to his unruly hair, then raked a comb through. He’d always admired the shine of Wallace Reid’s hair and did his best to emulate it every Sunday for church.
He ticked off another box on his mental checklist. Dressed and ready to go. He’d already hidden his meagerly supplied valise behind the barn.
He cast a gaze around the dusty, cramped attic room he and his brother had always shared. His unmade bed made him wonder how easily he’d take to another one. On impulse, he fluffed up his pillow and put it back in place. Bad enough his mother would find his farewell note propped up against it, no need for her to see the impression of his head to make her even sadder.
He so wished he could have the life he wanted without hurting those he loved, but sadly, he saw no other way. Years of working in the cane fields was no life for a guy with his ambitions.
“Emery’s here,” Andrew shouted up the stairs.
His heart leapt. Just a few more moments, and he’d be in the clear. “Coming.”
He patted his waistcoat pockets. Pocket watch in one and his life savings in the other. He walked out the door without a second thought, and down the stairs.
His sickly father, Wilfred, sat in his favorite chair, reading the newspaper as he did most every day. He’d likely head back to the cane fields after the heat of the day dissipated somewhat.
His father glanced up over his glasses when Jack entered the room. “Where you headed?”
Jack decided he wouldn’t miss his father’s gruffness. “The picture show.”
Wilfred shook his head. “You spend entirely too much time with your head in the clouds, boy.”
Predictable response and nothing he hadn’t heard a million times before. “Yes, sir.”
“You are mighty dressed up for the picture show,” his mother said from across the room. “Andrew said you’re meeting Bessie.”
“Yes, Mama,” he said, his fingers firmly crossed behind his back.
“I’m so happy to hear that. She’s a nice Catholic girl. You know we’d like to see you married soon. You’re twenty, time you settled down.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jack said, his eyes trained on the door, Emery, and freedom.
“We need more help in the fields. I ain’t gonna live forever.”
“Yes, Papa. I’ve got to go.”
His mother shouted after him as he leaped off the porch. “Dinner at six. Invite Bessie for some birthday cake.”
He waved, but didn’t answer. One less lie to cross his lips.
Emery pulled the wagon around to the barn. Jack chased after him and tossed his valise onto the boards behind Emery, who clucked his tongue as he prompted the horses into a trot. Jack ran alongside, then hopped up. “Very funny,” he said as he swiped Emery’s shoulder with his hand.
The horses trotted down the dirt road at a good clip while Jack looked around him, saying a silent goodbye to the rows of shacky houses and the bright pink azalea bushes. Several minutes passed with not a word from Emery. “Why you so quiet? Did you have trouble getting away?”
Emery shifted on the seat. “No, just don’t quite know what to say.”
“Then tell me again about how wonderful it’ll be when we get to Los Angeles,” Jack said as he leaned in close.
Emery turned his head and drew a deep breath. “It’ll be wonderful for you.”
Before Emery looked away, his eyes filled with tears.
Jack grabbed the reins and stopped the wagon. “What do you mean, for me? We’re doing this for us.”
Emery shook his head, slowly at first, then with vigor.
Jack grabbed Emery by the arms. “You’re scaring me, Em.”
Birds chirped, and a squirrel jumped from branch to branch in Mrs. Faucheaux’s old pecan tree, and still Emery stared straight ahead. “I didn’t want to tell you until after we’d made it to the ferry and you’d bought your ticket.”
Jack grabbed Emery’s face and forced his best friend to look at him. “Tell me what?”
Emery’s hesitation chilled Jack’s spine.
Agonizing moments passed before Emery gathered himself enough to speak. “I can’t go with you.”
Panic scrambled Jack’s thoughts. He grabbed Emery’s arm. “You have to go. We’ve got everything planned. Don’t you remember?”
“Of course, I remember. But I can’t go. I just can’t.”
Jack stiffened his back. “You have to. I can’t do this on my own. I don’t want to be without you. I need you.” With one trembling hand, Jack clutched Emery’s sleeve. “We need each other.”
Emery hesitated for an instant, then tugged his arm away. “Damn it, I’m not going and that’s final! Now shut the hell up about it.”
He snatched the reins back, and they set out again. The wagon lumbered along the dirt road, while Jack and Emery sat silently all the way to the Algiers Ferry crossing.
Jack’s fear grew at the thought of traveling so far away from home by himself. How would he survive without Emery? Yet, he found it difficult to beg.
They stopped at the pawnshop on Daneel Street, where Jack sold his grandmother’s fichu pin. The pawnbroker agreed that if Jack sent him the money within a few months, he’d return the pin to Jack’s mother. Jack’s guilt at stealing it abated. Mama would understand.
“Look,” Jack said as he showed Emery the money he’d received. “I have enough for us both, if that’s the problem.”
Emery steered the horses onto the ferry without saying a word.
They both jumped down onto the deck, and after Emery secured the horses, he led Jack below deck, where they found a darkened corner to themselves. “I can’t go, Jack. You have to understand. The folks need me, and what can I do out there, anyway? All I know is farmin’.”
“We’ll learn what to do,” Jack said weakly, too sad to plead.
“You’re better at learnin’ than me, Jacko. I can’t and that’s the end of it.”
Jack scouted around and discovered that they were quite alone. He hugged Emery, who kissed him hard and touched him frenetically through his clothes. “I want you, one last time. Something to remember you by.”
Emery’s eyes filled with tears. “I want you too.”
Jack undid his trousers. There were no words, just muffled moans, and tears enough to float the boat to shore.
After they’d disembarked the ferry, Emery drove along Canal Street toward the train depot. Jack didn’t try to convince Emery to change his mind, nor did Emery ask Jack to stay. All the unsaid words spoke volumes.
Now, in the crowded station, Jack gave Emery a brotherly hug.
“Do this for both of us,” Emery said as he patted Jack’s back.
With extraordinary effort, Jack held back the tears that seared his eyes. “I’m too afraid to go it alone, yet too afraid not to.”
Emery pushed him to arm’s length. “You go, you hear, and don’t be afraid. You were meant for greatness. Me, I’d just get in your way.”
If he lingered a moment longer, he wouldn’t leave at all. “I love you.”
His throat tight, Jack turned and walked away, the sound of his footfalls muffled by the breaking of his heart.
“Remember me, Jack.”
He slowed his pace, but didn’t turn around. Instead, he stiffened his back and walked toward his new life, without the man he loved.
Other titles by Brita Addams:
Lucien & Serenity
Brita Addams Amazon author page
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