~ Coming in April from Dreamspinner Press ~
Only 24, Christopher Borgasian has made a drastic and terrifying change in his life. He's turning his back on a lover he'd adored for three years. The breakup required more than regretfully spoken words; it was an arduous process that took over seven months. Now it's time for Chris to see if he can make it on his own. Without heroin.
Without much of anything, really. Chris's family rejected him nearly a decade ago when he came out, and his drug buddies, never true friends to begin with, are now off-limits. Chris Borgasian, gay recovering junkie, is alone with his determination.
The night before he leaves a sober-living facility to pursue his uncertain future, a stranger named Denny shows up in his room . . . then vanishes as mysteriously as he'd appeared. From that night on, Denny keeps returning, suddenly and inexplicably, whenever Chris battles temptation, self-doubt, or feelings of isolation. This handsome young man isn't an angel, but his identity still strains credulity.
Believing in Denny means, for Chris, believing in the magical strength of a child's longing -- for the invisible made visible, the imaginary turned real, and, most incredible of all, the possibility of unquestioning acceptance and abiding love.
Finding a good entry point was like discovering a clean patch of water in the middle of an oil spill. Chris flexed his arm, tightened his fist, touched one spot after another. A line of music went through his head: Oh beautiful, for spacious veins. . .
His didn’t deserve an anthem. Shriveled, sunken sonsabitches.
“Quit farting around; you’re making me nervous,” Winston muttered as he rigged up. “Try your hand or foot.”
“No. Now be quiet.”
The veins in one’s extremities rolled too much. Winston might’ve been reckless enough to jab at one of the slippery tubules, but Chris was more cautious. He didn’t relish the idea of becoming a pincushion, especially a pincushion squirting blood. That had happened to him a few times and it hadn’t been pretty.
Finally, he palpated a barely perceptible, blue-gray rise with the tip of his thumb. Okay, no more farting around. He aimed and fired.
First, a sharp nip as the needle broke his skin, then the faintest pop of sensation as it drove through a second wall. Chris jacked the plunger to make sure he’d spiked one . . . and, sure as heaven, a ghostly crimson plume swirled in slow motion into the barrel of the syringe. It was a beautiful thing to see, all his passion reduced to this watercolor wash. The image was so powerful in its simplicity that it struck Chris as nearly divine.
His anticipation rose as his forefinger steadily lowered. He sent the plume back home, wrapped around a velvet hammer.
First the bees attacked. Yellowjackets, all clustered around the injection site. Little bastards stung like demons. The sensation didn’t startle Chris anymore. It hadn’t for a long time.
He removed the tie-off from his left arm. It was a thin lady’s belt he’d bought at a thrift store, a gauche strip of gilded vinyl that had tickled his fancy as soon as he’d seen it. He eased the needle out of its twin entry holes and laid the rig in a bowl of warm water.
The unique smell-taste of heroin was already blooming within the tissues at the back of his nose and throat. Not pleasant, not unpleasant, but a distinct part of the experience. Like the burn delivered by the bees, it was what it was. Then, as Chris drew water into his rig to clean it out, the bliss descended.
In a blink, he was swaddled in the thickest, softest comforter in this or any other world. Dusty pink, light as air, it imparted a warmth that melted his muscles and turned his blood to honey.
Nothing could touch him now. Even the barbs of his own thoughts and feelings couldn’t pierce this protective bunting. Serene, oblivious, he floated in place as the honey saturated every cell in his body. The honey was heavy and hot and sweet. From clover, he’d always thought. It must come from clover.
Chunks of time got lost—three minutes here, five minutes there—as Chris periodically nodded. No prickly feeling spread over him this time, and no nausea welled, for he was pretty much past the vomiting stage. He had no elaborate, fascinating dreams.
Winston’s voice drifted toward him. “Good shit, huh?”
“You still gonna quit?”
“Got to.” Even if Chris’s halcyon days with heroin were long past—the early period of use when every hit brought orgasmic euphoria—his answer carried profound regret.
He’d probably be giving up the best friend, and best lover, he’d ever had.