Saturday, 21 January 2017
Hope House - A New Introduction plus Chapter One
I'm posting chapter one as a preview of the series, which I hope to publish in its entirety after the disaster of publishing it in serial form on ARe the now defunct retail romance site. Kindle doesn't lend itself to serials and nor does Smashwords in my experience. When I do publish it I will publish it as a complete work. If you bought the serial chapters on ARe, then let me know and when I publish the complete book on Smashwords I will offer a discount to you.
Hope House is difficult to categorise. It falls into several genres. It's romantic, in that love is involved, even if that love is already established. It features a M/M relationship and discipline practices, which takes it into the realm of gay romance as well as BDSM, albeit at the milder end. It's also a general comedy drama about a group of people who form a somewhat unconventional family. Nat and Gordon are the couple at the heart of the story and the heart of the family. They run Hope House. The story starts with Nat returning from a convention. Gordon soon realises that something is troubling his partner, but what? All will be revealed as the weekend from hell unfolds.
Hope House - Chapter One
“Come on, Chris, don’t hang back now.” Gordon smiled encouragingly at the dark haired young man who had finally been persuaded to leave his room for the first time since arriving at Hope House the day before. “Let’s get this over with. You have to meet your housemates sooner or later. You might as well do it while everyone is in one place.”
“Why?” Chris Emett scowled at the door, which had a sign reading ‘meeting in progress’ hanging on it. He thrust his hands deep in the pockets of his holey through lack of funds rather than fashion statement jeans. “I’d rather go back to my cell.”
“Room, Chris, not a cell, this isn’t a prison.”
“Can I leave any time I want to, like right now?”
“You know the answer to that question, but I’ll give it again, just so you’re clear. When you’ve proven you’re ready and willing to resume control of your life in a responsible and acceptable way, then you can leave.”
“In other words I’m a prisoner here until YOU say I can leave.” Pulling his hands from his pockets Chris turned away from the door and strode back up the generous hall, aiming for the stairs, only Gordon got there before him, as if practiced in overtaking reluctant house guests.
“Enough. You have to get to know us sometime and this is as good a time as any. We often have an informal meeting at this time of day, so we can talk about anything that might have upset or worried us during the course of the day.”
“I don’t need group therapy.”
“It isn’t group therapy as such. It’s a chance for you to get to know people.”
“I don’t want to get to know people. I hate people.”
“I know this is daunting for you, Christopher, all new experiences are, but the sooner you embrace them the easier they become.”
“I don’t want to embrace anything in this dump.”
“Hope House isn’t a dump.”
“Well it isn’t exactly a luxury hotel.”
“Neither is prison, Chris. You made the choice to come here. No one twisted your arm.”
“I can change my mind.”
“Too late.” Gordon examined the boy, not without sympathy. “The decision was made and you will abide by it. We can help you here, if you let us.”
“Maybe I don’t want help.”
“Tough.” Gordon lost patience. Taking a firm hold of Chris’s arm, and ignoring his protests, he steered the boy back down the hall towards the room where the meeting was being held. Thrusting the door open he pushed Chris inside and closed the door behind them. “Take a seat. Make yourself at home.”
Chris considered trying to shove the big man aside, but catching a look from his ice blue eyes, decided against it. There was something forbidding about Gordon Trapp. He dropped his gaze and turned away from the door, facing into the room, which was furnished with an eclectic range of chairs. Christ. He flinched, as four pairs of eyes inspected him with interest.
Gordon made a general introduction. “This is Christopher, our new resident, make him welcome.”
There was a mumble of greetings, which Chris ignored. He walked over to the large bay window. He might not be able to leave the room, but no way was he going to sit and make small talk with a bunch of weirdo’s. It was like tales from the fucking crypt! How had he ended up here? Folding his arms he stared out of the window at the rapidly darkening garden.
“Chris.” Gordon spoke in a firm voice. “Sit down please, you’re distracting everyone by standing there.”
Chris didn’t respond, keeping his gaze firmly fixed on the window, determined to do things his own way, only, he felt a sudden stir of fear as the outside light faded and the window became a dark mirror reflecting the room behind him. His skin prickled as he caught a slight movement from the corner of his eye, a shadow forming.
Gordon watched the colour fade from the young man’s face. Striding quickly towards to the window he dropped the blinds and drew the heavy velvet curtains together. Taking Chris by the shoulders he propelled him across the room, pushing him onto a chair. “Sit there, boy, before I lose all patience with you.”
Sliding from the chair, Chris sat cross-legged on the floor.
Gordon decided to call it a compromise. “Would you care to tell us what you found so interesting out there in the garden, Christopher?”
Chris gave a caustic smile. “Would you care to tell me why you think it’s any of your damn business?”
“Later then.” Gordon ignored the provocative tone of voice. “Let me introduce everyone.”
“My fellow prisoners you mean?”
Gordon smoothly carried on, holding out his hand towards the young man nearest to him, a gangly figure with uncommonly large brown eyes. “This is Nigel.”
Chris swallowed as Nigel gazed at him intently. The gaze was bad enough, but the babble of words accompanying it was infinitely worse.
“I like gardens, don’t I, Gordon? I’m not much good at gardening though. Are you good at gardening, Chris, is that why you were looking out of the window? I wish I were good at gardening. If you are good at gardening can I watch you while you garden? I won't get in your way. Gordon lets me watch him while he’s gardening don’t you, Gordon?”
“I ain’t no fucking gardener,” spat Chris, embarrassed by the long-winded spiel, “so shut up, you freak!” His discomfort doubled when the brown-eyed young man shot from his seat and lumbered towards Gordon, arms outstretched,
“He didn’t mean to upset you, Nigel, so there’s no need to cry.” Gordon wrapped comforting arms around the figure, while fixing Chris with a cold look. “We don’t upset each other here, Christopher. We certainly don't call each other hurtful names. Mutual respect is the house policy. Please apologise to Nigel.”
“What the fuck for?” Chris started to his feet. “I’m not apologising for not liking fucking gardening!”
“I’m not asking you to apologise for disliking gardening. I’m asking you to apologise for upsetting Nigel, and may I remind you that swearing is against the house rules. I don't want my ears suffering a constant barrage of foul language.”
“Jesus H Christ!” Chris blew out his cheeks. “Sorry, okay I’m sorry.”
Nigel’s tears magically dried up and he gave an engaging smile. “Does that mean I can watch you when you garden?”
“I suppose so.” Chris ground the words from between gritted teeth, conscious of Gordon’s eyes on him. He felt hysteria rising. What the hell had he come to?
“Can I have a hug?” Nigel turned from Gordon and lunged for Chris.
“Bugger off!” Chris backed away, revulsion written large on his face.
Nigel produced fresh wails. “He doesn’t like me. Why doesn’t he like me, Gordon? I just want to be his friend. Tell Paul to stop laughing. He’s laughing because he doesn’t like me either. Why doesn’t anyone ever like me?”
“Because you're annoying and you get on everyone’s wick.”
“That's enough, Paul.” Gordon gave the giggling teenager a stern look, while comforting Nigel afresh.
“I like you, Nigel,” said a man with pale skin and short blonde hair who sat rocking backwards and forwards on the edge of his seat, a bamboo wastepaper basket clutched tightly to his chest.
“Thank you, James. I like you too.” Nigel broke away from Gordon and hurled himself at James, who let out a thin high-pitched squeal of distress as his paper basket was crushed in Nigel’s ensuing clumsy embrace.
“You’ve squashed my mother, Nigel! I don’t like you any more. You can’t go around squashing other people’s mothers.”
“Welcome to Hell House, man.” Paul grinned sadistically at Chris who was staring in fascinated horror as James tried to evict Nigel from his knee. “If you aren’t already barking mental, you will be after a few weeks here. It makes Bedlam seem like an oasis of sanity.”
“Be quiet, Paul, you’re not helping anyone by saying things like that.”
“I’m only telling the truth.”
“I said be quiet.” Gordon rubbed a forefinger against his temple. It was going to be one of those sessions. Maybe it was time to ditch them as a Hope House staple? They seemed to hike up stress more often than they reduced it, or maybe he was just in the wrong frame of mind. He silently cursed his partner Nat for insisting on attending a conference when they had a new resident to cope with. It wasn’t the best of times to jump ship, not with Nigel still unsettled after a visit by his parents. Wretched people. They had turned up out of the blue after a year without so much as a postcard, undoing in an hour the slow painstaking progress of an entire year. The visit had sent Nigel crashing back into fretful child mode. He had been difficult to cope with ever since, demanding attention and constant reassurance.
Pushing aside his weariness, Gordon took Nigel by the hand and led him back to his chair, uttering reassurances. “James doesn’t hate you, Nigel, not at all.”
“No, James, you don’t.”
“My mother does, she said so, just now, after he squashed her, great lump he is.”
“She said nothing of the sort. Really, James, it isn’t like you to be so unkind. Besides, we both know your mother is not in that wastepaper basket.”
“She is. I can hear her.”
“No, James, you can’t,” said Gordon firmly. “Your mother is dead, she is not in the basket, so put it back in the corner where it belongs. I mean it, James, are you listening to me, put the basket back, right now.”
When calm and the battered wastepaper basket were restored, Gordon took a deep breath and glanced around at the small group. Nigel had fished a red jelly baby from his pocket and was peaceably engaged in de-fluffing it, his tongue slightly poking out as he concentrated on the task. Jelly babies were his favourite sweets. He insisted on taking the wretched things out of their wrapping and putting them in his pockets naked, so to speak. It was no wonder they got covered in fluff. They were barely edible after being confined with coins and tissues and whatever other rubbish Nigel filled his pockets with.
James was rocking gently back and forth on the edge of his seat, his lips moving in silent conversation. “Stay with us, James.” Gordon touched a soothing hand to his pale cheek, receiving a small distant smile in return.
Paul was still grinning like a Cheshire cat, delighted as ever by chaos. The grin diminished a little when Gordon fixed him with a cold look. He would have verbally remonstrated with him, had not a slight snivelling alerted him to the distress of another resident - a teenage girl whose thin face was grotesquely at odds with her bulky body. She huddled on her chair, twisting a strand of lustreless, mousy hair around her finger in tearful agitation.
“What’s the matter, Anna?”
“I’m too hot. I feel sick.”
Before Gordon could comment, Paul jumped in with characteristic subtlety. “Take your coat off then, you barmy cow.”
Gordon frowned. Paul always had to bait and provoke, poke and prod, especially where Anna was concerned. He spoke sharply. “Apologise to Anna for that remark at once. It was uncalled for.”
“Just saying. She’s got four jumpers on under her coat. It’s a wonder she doesn’t have heatstroke.”
“How do you know how many jumpers I’ve got on?” Anna leapt to her feet, her face flushed with temper as well as heat. “Have you been spying on me again? You spotty little pervert!”
“Why would I want to spy on a skeleton?” Paul also leapt to his feet. “You’ve got nothing worth spying on. A flat fish has bigger tits than you.”
“You have, you have been spying on me, and I’m not a skeleton, you pustuled creep.”
“That’s enough. Both of you.” Gordon made an effort to intervene, to no avail. The two teenagers were like a couple of alley cats squared up for a fight, oblivious to anyone but each other.
“Bony bitch! It’s about time you started eating something. No wonder you give off such bad vibes.”
“Vibes? What are you on about? You’re such a retro geek.” Anna whipped off her gloves and savagely hurled them at Paul. “Pick the vibes out of them, sad sack.”
Paul snatched the gloves up and waved them under her nose. “Are you offering me out? Throwing down the gauntlet? What’s it to be, lettuce leaves at dawn?”
Gordon suddenly brought his large hands together producing a sound like a thunderclap. It did the trick. The alley cats stopped hissing and spitting. “Thank you.” He wagged a finger between them. “Take a deep breath and think about what ego state you’re operating from right now?”
Nigel stopped cleaning his jelly baby and shot an arm into the air, waving it frantically. “Oh, I know, I do, I know this, Gordon. Ask me, ask me.”
Paul made a rude noise, snorting. “I know what ego state she’s in, prize bitch ego state, same as usual.”
“No.” Nigel shook his head. “That’s wrong, isn’t it, Gordon? It’s all wrong.”
“You could invent ego states of your own,” hissed Anna, beads of sweat trickling down her face as both her temper and temperature rose. “Moron, adapted moron, and total frigging moron.”
“Wrong, wrong.” Nigel bounced up and down in his seat. “They’re not real ego states. Ask me, Gordon. Ask me. I know what ego state Anna and Paul are in.”
Paul and Anna turned from glaring at each other to glare at him. “SHUT UP, NIGEL!”
Nigel once again dissolved into tears. “Don’t shout. I don’t like being shouted at. It hurts my head.” Discarding the jelly baby he got to his feet.
“You’re upsetting mother,” James began rocking more frantically. He pointed to the wastebasket he’d been made to put back in the corner. “You’re upsetting my mother. She’s saying her rosary now.”
“Now look what you’ve done you bad tempered sow. You’ve upset James’s mother.”
“You started it, pig face, and give me my gloves back.”
Gordon groaned as the room erupted into frenzied chaos with Nigel crying and trying to cling to him while Paul and Anna shrieked and all but punched each other. It was all too much for the new arrival.
“Fucking Hell. It’s a fucking lunatic asylum. I’m not staying here. You’re all raving nutters!” Chris rocketed to his feet and ran for the door.
Gordon managed to disentangle himself from Nigel in time to prevent Chris from leaving the room. Thrusting him back towards the circle of chairs, he barked. “SIT down, Christopher. I don’t want to hear another profanity cross your lips for the remainder of this meeting.” He divided a glare between the warring teenagers. “The same goes for you two. I will wash your mouths out if I hear one more dirty word.”
He then pointed a stern finger at Nigel. “Stop wailing at once or I won’t allow you to watch Blue Peter tomorrow.” The noise shut off at once. Blue Peter was Nigel’s favourite magazine programme and they were doing a special feature on ‘The Sound of Music,’ one of Nigel’s favourite films. He’d had the programme ringed in the Radio Times for days past.
Gordon turned his attentions back to Anna. “Take your coat off, young lady, and at least two sweaters before you faint and then take yourself off to your room. You can have an early night. I’ll be discussing your behaviour with Nathaniel when he gets back.”
Anna complied with the instruction, muttering and mumbling all the while. She looked decidedly more in proportion as she removed her thick coat and peeled off two heavy knit sweaters, dropping them on her chair before storming from the room.
“Good riddance, skinny chick.” Paul used both hands to deliver a double V sign to her parting back.
Gordon wiped the gleeful look from his mischievous pixie face with a curt command. “Go to my study, Paul. Find yourself a corner and stand in it. I’ll deal with you presently.”
“That’s SO unfair. She started it. Why do you always pick on me?”
Gordon pointed to the door. “No arguments. Go now or shall I take you there?”
“I’m going.” Paul stalked out of the room.
Gordon closed the door behind him, took a deep breath and smiled at the three surviving members of the meeting. Chris, huddled on the floor, was gazing anxiously around, his eyes never quite resting anywhere. Gordon felt a twinge of pity for him. He was being given a baptism of fire. Clearing his throat he spoke with an air of forced cheerfulness. “You’re not seeing us at our best today, Christopher. Don’t worry about it, we....”
Yells and shouts from the hall followed by an almighty crash stopped him mid-sentence.
“Nobody move.” Gordon strode across the room, his face grim. “I’ll be back in two shakes.” He opened the door and closed it behind him again. It did nothing to keep out sounds of the fracas in the hall.
Anna’s voice shrilled an accusation. “He smashed it.”
“You skinny witch! It was your fault for ducking.”
“You could have killed me, you knob head!”
“That’s enough, Anna. What part of go to your room didn’t you understand?”
A thunder of feet on the stairs and the slamming of an upstairs door were followed by the more conservative opening and closing of a door further along the hall. There was a blessed silence.
In the meeting room, Chris swallowed uneasily as Nigel and James stared at him with rapt attention.
“Paul’s naughty,” said Nigel, and plucked another jelly baby from his pocket, examining it.
James nodded agreement while eyeing the wastepaper basket he’d been made to return to the corner. He added. “I think Gordon might spank him.”
A muffled yell seemed to lend credence to this bizarre statement.
Getting to his feet, Chris began edging towards the door.
“Gordon said not to move.” James forced his eyes away from the wastepaper basket to look at Chris. “He’ll be cross.”
“Fuck, Gordon. I’m getting out of this nut house. I’d rather sleep in a piss soaked shop doorway than stay in this freak show.” Chris dashed out into the hall, colliding with a visibly upset Paul who was heading for the stairs.
“Watch where you’re going, you idiot.”
Chris didn’t bother retaliating. He bolted for the door with only one thought on his mind. Escape. Flinging it open, he rocked back on his heels with a scream of shock, as a blue-eyed apparition materialised in front of him with a taunting smile. It had followed him.
“Well.” Nathaniel Andrews stepped over the threshold, set down his suitcase, and stared at the prone figure at his feet. “Have I overdone the Lynx body spray perchance? I don’t usually have such a dramatic effect on people.” He looked at Gordon who had emerged from the study into the hall. “This is our new resident I take it?”
Gordon nodded. Effortlessly scooping Chris up into his arms he began walking up the stairs. “I’ll take him to his room and see to him. The poor boy is thoroughly overwrought.” He glanced back over his shoulder. “Welcome home by the way. I’ve missed you.”
“Thanks. I’ve missed you too.” Nat smiled and then glanced at Paul who was still hovering tearfully in the hall. Pulling down the corners of his mouth, he said, “oh dear. Trouble?”
Paul nodded miserably. “It’s not fair, Nat, he always...”
Paul glared at Gordon’s back. “See what I mean. It was Anna's fault, Nat, but I'm the one who gets the bother.”
A dramatic high-pitched scream prevented further discussion.
“Sounds like I’m needed.” Nathaniel gave the unhappy youth a quick hug. “Off you go, Paul. I’ll come up and have a chat with you later.” He winced as the shouts reached a new pitch. James had obviously forgotten, again.
After flinging his jacket over the end of the banister, Nat hastened in the direction of the screams, murmuring, “and to think I was looking forward to getting home. Why the hell didn’t I flee the country? I could have been on a beach in Barbados by now eying up the talent.”
The scene in the sitting room was one he’d encountered many times with a puzzled James and an outraged Nigel.
“He killed my jelly baby. He bit off its head.”
“You gave it to me.”
“Not to kill.”
“Calm down, Nigel. It's only a sweet. I’m sure you have plenty more.”
“I want that one back. I loved that jelly baby.”
“He gave it to me, Nat, he did.”
“I know, James, don’t worry about it. Only do TRY to remember not to eat it next time. He only gives you them to look at. You should know that by now.”
“He’s silly, mother says so.”
“Yes, well, we’re all silly at times.”
Taking the dismembered jelly baby from James, Nat dropped it in the wastepaper basket, ignoring scandalised looks from both him and Nigel. Taking each of them firmly by the hand he said, “come on you two. It looks like poor Gordon has his hands full right now, so you can help me make a bite of supper. I’m starving.”
“What’s he like then, our new boy, when he’s conscious?” Nat opened the wardrobe door in order to inspect his face in the mirror on the back of it. He fingered his unshaven chin and then turned to look at Gordon, who was sprawled on their big bed. “I'm thinking of growing a beard, designer stubble style, what do you think?”
“I think you can shave in the morning. As for Chris, he’s like all our charges, something troubles him up here,” Gordon touched a hand to his head and then to his chest in the vicinity of his heart, “and in here. He's prickly, defensive, angry and frightened, oh, and foul-mouthed too. He could give you a run for your money in the effing and blinding stakes.”
“Sounds like an average Hope House sort of person then.”
“Yep, he’ll fit right in.”
“Have you really missed me?”
“No. I’m lying here naked on the off chance an artist looking for a subject is going to pass by?”
“Sarcasm does not become you, Gordon.”
“Then shut up, my darling. Lock the door and come to bed. I want you.”
You can read more about Nat and Gordon in Out of Tune, a prequel to the Hope House series.