Self Preservation

Davis always assumed they would wind up back together, until Jack calls and invites Davis to his wedding to Tadd Austin, a prominent architect in Chicago. Jack’s only known Tadd for two weeks, so whatever Jack feels for Tadd couldn’t possibly compare to what he shared with Davis. There’s no way in hell Davis can stand by and watch the life he always expected to get back slip away to some guy Jack barely knows. Tadd Austin, indeed…more like Toad Ass-ton, Davis thinks. With his best friend, fashion designer Deseree Wildwood in tow, Davis has to shed his sweet, guy-next-door persona, and re-vamp his image into a self-confident, hot piece of eye candy. He’s going to the wedding with only one goal in mind: to do whatever it takes to win back Jack. The Toad is toast! Once in Chicago, Davis discovers it isn’t going to be as easy as he thought. Not only is Tadd very un-Toad-like, but a mysterious British playboy named Alex Parker manages to interject himself into the mix. Only true love will survive as the tug of war ensues in this Bermuda love triangle from hell.

 

Release date: 8 May 2013
ISBN: 978-1-925031-10-2
Category: Gay Romance
Sub-Genre: Comedy, Contemporary, Erotic, Romantic
Number of words: 56,000 words
Formats available: e-book and print
Heat level: 4 Flames out of 5

4.5 Stars and A Reviewers Top Pick
Self Preservation had me laughing, crying and just generally reflecting on the past; on the person that everyone has in the past that ended too soon, that we would give anything to recapture.

Night Owl Reviews

The light bulb flickered in the dark stairwell as Davis made his way down the steps from his third-floor loft apartment to his business, housed on the first. He made a mental note to change the bulb later that night on his way back upstairs. He turned the door’s deadbolt and stepped into the hallway at the back of his store, Aesthetic Artifacts, an architectural remnant and restoration business. He flipped the switches on the wall as six globe lights dangling from the ceiling flooded the showroom with light. Breathing in the scent of musty old millwork mixed with Murphy Oil Soap, varnish, and mineral spirits, he smiled, comforted by the familiarity.

Davis was terminally tangled up in the same old routines. For the past two years he’d spent New Year’s Eve at home…alone. He’d long since stopped getting invitations to parties, to go out to bars, or out to dinner with friends — not because he was disliked or socially inept, but because he typically declined. Davis hated bars, loathed being groped by complete strangers. He preferred to stay at home, relaxing in front of his flat screen watching old black-and-white movies. The truth was, the only time he felt truly lonely was when he was out socializing with others. It seemed to make him more acutely aware of the fact that he wasn’t with the one he loved.

Entering his small office across from the showroom, he flicked on the light. The walls were covered with framed newspaper articles and photos of historic homes in successive stages of restoration. The largest of the framed headlines read LOCAL PRESERVATIONIST LENDS EXPERTISE IN RESTORATION OF HISTORIC MISSOURI HOTEL. An antique drafting table sat against the wall on his right, piled high with architectural drawings and blueprints. Reaching, he pulled a chain that turned on the lamp atop his mahogany desk, then he placed his large mug of steaming coffee next to a local magazine. The cover had a picture of him captioned DAVIS ANDREWS: LIVING IN THE PAST.

Davis looked out through the glass window separating his office from the main part of the store. Sunlight poured in through the large plate-glass windows at the front of the three-story downtown building. Noticing the time, he grabbed his coffee and headed back out into the hall. He walked down an aisle in the main room of the store, listening to the wood floors creak under his feet as he passed salvaged columns, pieces of building facades, fireplace mantels, and rows of huge, ornately carved antique doors. He unlocked the front door and turned, heading back down a second aisle, and made his way toward the back of the store. He passed the stacks of old milled crown and baseboard moldings stacked along the far wall and reached the counter, where he started the CD player. He turned, walked up to the enormous gilded plaster mirror frame, and inspected the molded sections of the leaf pattern he’d created the day before to patch pieces that had broken off at some point in its history.

Davis was dressed in a pair of old, beat-up khaki coveralls covered in chemical and paint stains, along with a white T-shirt that looked to be in about the same condition of wear and tear. His brown leather work boots were worn, the ends of their laces frayed.

He looked like the contents of his store. At first glance, the items appeared disheveled and in desperate need of care and attention, but the well-trained eye could spot the beauty that lay beneath, just waiting to be revived. Davis was still in great physical condition at the ripe old age of twenty-eight. But his dirty blond hair looked ratty and way overdue for a cut, and the dark circles that were beginning to form under his eyes looked worse considering the natural paleness of his skin. His thin, just-under-six-feet frame was toned, with long legs and arms. His hands and fingers were rough, worn, dry — stained by chemicals and varnish.

Nineteen-forties big band music poured out of the speakers as Davis took up a brush, gently pressing the sheet of gold leaf over a patched section of the frame. He blew gently over the area as the tiny leftover pieces of gold flew off, floating to the floor around his feet. He stepped back, checking his progress and expertly did a three- or four-step Fred Astaire-style dance move.

Behind him, a waifish woman quietly walked through the front door of the store and placed two suitcases on the floor. Her tiny frame was pumped up several inches by the high heels she wore. She was well put together, wearing formfitting black slacks, a red linen shirt, and a cropped black jacket. Her wild, manufactured mane of curly blonde hair rained down over her shoulders, and she wore just enough jewelry to be noticeable without seeming tacky or over-the-top. She smiled as Davis looked up, freezing in his tracks.

“Davie,” she said, cocking her head to one side. “Davie Unwavie. How’s my favorite root-bound homo?”

“Holy shit, Deseree.” Davis smiled uncontrollably. “I thought I was hallucinating.”

Davis ran to her and tossed his arms around her, nearly knocking her over. “Whoa,” Deseree said, squeezing him tightly. “Somebody’s been eating his Wheaties.”

“Somebody hasn’t returned my phone calls for the last three months,” Davis scolded as he pulled away to look her over, remembering how much the clothes she designed, loaded with taste and drama, resembled her personality.

“I’m sorry I haven’t called,” she said. “It’s been hell putting together my collection for the nationwide launch. I’ve been working like a demon to finish in time for the show last week at Bryant Park…which was complete insanity, by the way.”

“I was beginning to get worried. I thought maybe you’d been devoured by a rogue pack of starving supermodels.”

“Well, I’m here now.” Deseree looked over her oldest and very best friend. And, that was the truth. In university, Davis’s roommate Tim, and Deseree’s roommate Cindy, were fucking like rabbits every night, whether or not anyone else was in the room. Needless to say, Deseree was appalled and Davis, with his fresh-off-the-farm innocence, didn’t know how to handle it. Deseree suggested Cindy and Davis swap roomies. In the end, Davis and Deseree had lasted longer than Tim and Cindy.

“Who knew becoming a household name would require so much work?” She glanced around the store as she placed her hands on her hips. “Wow, this is quite an operation that you have here, Davie! I never realized.”

“I’ve missed your face,” he said, looking down at her suitcases. “You do realize it’s been well over a year…. You should have told me you were coming.”

“I guess I didn’t know,” she said, smiling up at him.

“Is everything okay?” Davis asked, placing a hand on her arm and looking over her face. Her normally bubbly confidence was tinged with a slight edge of uneasiness.

She looked up at him for a moment, opening her mouth to speak, but the phone started to ring.

“Hold that thought.” He turned and jogged to the back of the store where he picked up the cordless phone off the glass display case. On the other end of the line a familiar voice said, “Hello, monkey face.”

“Jack…” Davis hesitated, startled at hearing the voice of his first and only love.

“Davis,” Jack’s voice called through the phone.

“Yeah…I’m here.”

Deseree whispered for him to say hi to Jack for her, and Davis watched as she smiled and began meandering about the store.

“I have some news, and, well, I hope you’ll be excited for me.”

A new part in a play, Davis thought. “You know I never wish anything but the best for you, Jack.”

“I came home to visit Mom a couple weeks ago and, well…” Jack continued.

Davis put his hand over the phone and whispered to Deseree, “Jack’s in a new play.”

Deseree giggled as she ran her fingers over the gilded plaster mirror frame Davis had been working on. She looked back up at Davis. “I totally want this.”

“I met someone,” Jack said.

Davis stopped smiling and removed his hand from the mouthpiece. “I’m sorry…what?”

“I know this is going to sound crazy, but we’ve been inseparable since we met, and well…we’ve decided to get married.”

“What do you mean?” Davis asked, his head beginning to swim. He was having trouble catching his breath. “Who is this person? Does Candace know about this?”

“Of course. She introduced us. His name is Tadd Austin; he’s an architect here in Chicago. Davis, you’re gonna love him.”

“He’s moving to New York to be with you?”

Deseree poked around the store, quietly trying to eavesdrop.

“I’m moving back to Chicago, Davis. Mom’s really excited, and I was hoping you could fly up on Thursday. It’s going to be like this three-day extravaganza.”

“This Thursday?” Davis placed an arm on the countertop to brace himself. “You’re getting married this coming weekend?”

Deseree turned sharply, losing her balance as her heel caught in a notch in the wood floor. She flailed her arms out in an attempt to balance herself and fell back into a fluted column before landing on the floor.

“Please tell me you can make it, Davis. ’Cause if you weren’t here… I don’t know, it just wouldn’t feel right.”

Deseree scrambled off the floor as the column toppled, slamming into a door that fell into a large box of doorknobs. They spilled onto the floor, scattering like balls on a pool table.

“I don’t know if I can come.” Davis paced, unaware of Deseree and the carnage around him. “Deseree is visiting, and –”

“Great! I need as many friends around me as I can get. Most of the people coming are friends of either Tadd or Mom. I’ll book a flight for the two of you.”

“Okay,” Davis said, “but Jack…”

“It’s been forever. I’ll e-mail you the flight info. Can’t wait to see you. Gotta run.”

Davis heard the click on the other end of the line. Frozen in place, he slowly pulled the phone away from his ear and turned to look at Deseree in shock, mouth agape.

Deseree stared back at him, unsure of what to say.

After a long silence she said, “Okay, maybe this is a good thing. Closure, this will help you move on.”

“A good thing!” Davis finally replied, placing a hand on his forehead. “Closure!”

“Or not.” Deseree cringed, dusting off her pants.

Davis slammed the phone down onto the counter and stormed about the room, seemingly unaware that he was kicking the doorknobs.

“Married!” Davis finally screamed, causing Deseree to jump. “He can’t do that…it’s not even legal. And what the fuck kind of name is Tadd Austin? More like Toad Ass-ton.”

Deseree started to giggle.

“This isn’t funny, Des.” He shot her an irritated look as he flung his hands into the air. “He’s supposed to marry me! We were together for four goddamn years!”

“Davis.” Deseree tried to soothe him. “You haven’t been together for almost six years. What did you expect?”

“That we would find our way back to each other.” Tears began to well up in his eyes. “We’re still in love.”

“You mean you’re still in love,” Deseree corrected gently, reaching out to take his hand.

“We belong together,” he said, jerking away from her. “I know he still loves me. He still calls… He has to love me.”

“Maybe you two just aren’t meant to be, Davis.”

Davis stopped pacing and surveyed the room as if trying to find a place to hide from her words. She walked to him and placed her hands on his arms.

“When did you become so negative?” he asked.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said as he jerked away from her.

“You’re not helping here.”

“All I’m saying is that maybe you aren’t being very realistic.”

“I can’t let some Toad hop in and take Jack away from me,” Davis said, sitting down on a step to a raised platform filled with rows of doors. “Two weeks, Des… That’s all they’ve had together.”

Deseree let out a sigh and sat on the step next to him.

“Toad can’t possibly know how wonderful Jack is,” he said, resting his head in his hands. “The way the hair around his temples curls when he sweats, and how his eyes seem to be able to smile on their own. That he isn’t afraid to stand up and defend himself, or anyone else who’s being bullied. His cute little clean teeth dance.”

Deseree put her arm around him as Davis seemed to suddenly notice the doorknobs.

“What the hell happened here?”

“His…what dance?” Deseree asked, changing the subject.

“He has this little dance he does when he’s finished brushing his teeth,” Davis said, smiling as he reached down and picked up a glass doorknob. “Something he and Candace used to do when he was little.” He turned the knob in his hand as light caught the reflection of the glass. Davis let out a defeated sigh as Deseree placed her head on his shoulder. She ran her hand over his back, and Davis felt a tear begin to run down his cheek as the thought of Jack being with someone else started to sink in.

“I can’t lose him, Des. He’s making a mistake. He means everything to me.”

“You mean you’re actually going to go?” Deseree asked as Davis stood. She got up next to him.

“Oh my God.” He pointed to his reflection in the mirror of an antique fireplace mantel. As if seeing himself for the first time, he added, “Have you seen this?”

“It’s not that bad,” Deseree answered, crinkling up her face.

“Are you on crack?” He began to hyperventilate. “I look like…like a heterosexual! I can’t go to Chicago looking like this!”

Davis took off running toward the back of the store and threw open the door to the stairwell. He let out a shriek and ran up the stairs. Deseree looked around helplessly. She dashed back to the front door, flipped the CLOSED sign to face the window, locked the door, and took off up the stairs after Davis.

Davis burst through the front door to his loft and paced around the living room, muttering under his breath. Deseree followed several minutes later, stumbling through the door, trying to catch her breath after climbing the two flights of stairs.

The decor looked as if it had been replicated from an old film noir movie set. Classic curved lines and geometric shapes typical of art deco dominated the design. A couch and matching chair with large curved arms took up the bulk of the living room. They were covered in the original fabric and, with the exception of a small worn area on the piping of one of the sofa’s arms, looked almost new. A large, wool antique area rug covered most of the wood floors. Its rich burgundy color had faded over the years. A massive flat-screen TV mounted on the opposite wall was the only item in the room that betrayed the historical accuracy of the space. Three large double-hung windows allowed the full morning sun to pour in along the front wall.

“Those stairs are murder,” Deseree said.

“I can’t meet the Toad like this,” he said, crossing his arms.

“Calm down, Tammy Faye.” Deseree looked him over. She walked up to him and ran her fingers through his hair, trying to figure out what to do with it. “You do have a world-renowned fashion designer at your disposal.”

“You’ll help me?” he asked with pleading eyes.

“I’ll drag you out of the denim and cotton nightmare known as your wardrobe and have you looking like a rock star within a day.”

“And you’ll come with me to Chicago?” he asked.

“You breaking out of your shell and laying claim to your man?” Deseree asked, smiling at the thought. “Like I’d miss watching you going all My Best Friend’s Wedding on Jack’s ass.”

Davis shook his head, visibly confused. “Jack and I were never friends. We practically went from perfect strangers to boyfriends overnight.”

“I was referring to the movie.” She rolled her eyes, sighing her frustration when it was apparent he was still lost. “Julia Roberts? Cameron Diaz?”

Davis shrugged, shaking his head. He was still in the dark.

“Christ, do you know any movie stars who aren’t dead?”

She slapped her hand over his mouth when he began to answer. Davis realized she wasn’t actually asking the question. She grinned when Davis began to laugh under his breath and her hand fell away from his mouth.

He threw his arms around her. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t here.” Davis’s eyes widened as panic swept over his face. He pulled away from her sharply. “Good Christ, I left the store open.”

“Calm down,” Deseree said, laughing at him. “I took care of it before I came up.”

Davis let out a sigh of relief and hugged her again. “Thank God you showed up today of all days.”

They separated and she looked at him, started to say something, but stopped. She turned and walked over to a table full of framed photos. They consisted mainly of their college years, and she smiled as she looked over them. There were candid shots of Davis and Jack together, a shot of Deseree at one of her student fashion shows, and Jack onstage performing in a play.

“Oh my God,” she said, picking up a picture of her and Davis dressed like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, dancing together. “I can’t believe you have this.”

Davis walked over, looked down, and smiled. “From our ballroom dancing class,” he said, still fidgety but less frantic knowing he wouldn’t be heading to Chicago to face Jack all alone.

“We were maniacs,” she said, setting the picture back down.

“We were good.” Davis reached down and turned the frame slightly, putting it back exactly as it was before she’d disturbed it.

“Who’s this?” she asked, pointing to another picture of a glamorous woman singing next to a piano.

“That’s Jack’s mother, Candace,” he answered with a smile. “She has her own cabaret act in this really cool jazz club in Chicago, been doing it for years. We still talk once a week or so.”

“That’s strange,” Deseree said, running her fingers over the top of the table, “still having a relationship with your ex-lover’s mother.”

“We’re still close.” He turned and headed into the kitchen. He picked an open bottle of wine up off the counter and yanked the cork out. “Although I don’t understand why she didn’t call me to warn me about the Toad,” he added, before putting the bottle to his lips and taking a big swig.

“Why yes, I’d love a glass, thanks,” Deseree said with a smirk.

“Sorry.” Davis pulled a couple of glasses out of the cabinet. He walked back into the living room and flopped down on the sofa, then filled each glass with wine.

“Jack’s her son, Davis,” she said, lingering at the photos a moment longer before joining him on the sofa. “If you and she are still friends, perhaps she’s trying not to get involved.”

He handed her a wineglass and leaned back into the sofa as Deseree took a drink. Her eyes widened as she quietly spit the wine back into the glass. She looked at the glass funny and set it down on the coffee table.

“Maybe,” Davis said, staring out the windows. “But she was really upset with Jack when we broke up. I’d like to think she’s on my side, but maybe she likes the stupid Toad. Jack did say she introduced them.”

“So what’s your plan?” Deseree asked, leaning back and resting her cheek on Davis’s chest. “Are you gonna scratch Toad’s eyes out and throw him in a pool?”

“Of course not.” Davis put his arm around her and pulled her into him. “After you work your magic on me, all it will take is Jack and me being in the same room.”

“I hope for your sake, you’re right,” Deseree said, closing her eyes with a big yawn.

“Jack just needs to be reminded of what we had,” Davis said, looking down at her and smiling. Seeing she’d fallen asleep, he reached down with his free hand and brushed a stray curl off her face. He looked back up facing the windows. “So that’s what we’re going to do, you and me. Show him what he’s been missing.”

As he listened to Deseree’s breathing slow and regulate, he thought back to the comment she’d made about it being six years since he and Jack had stopped seeing each other. He wondered how it was even possible that much time had gone by without his realizing. His chest began to ache and he shut his eyes, squeezing them tight. In the back of his mind, he’d always felt as if he and Jack were still together. Just on a break of sorts. But not once had he ever really considered the fact that they wouldn’t get back together. Random memories flooded his mind in a slide show. He smiled thinking about their first date. He’d been so nervous, but even that early in their history, he’d felt an undercurrent flowing through his body that told him his life was about to change in ways he’d never even imagined it could.

5 Stars from Sammy at Joyfully Jay Reviews
“A good story takes you through the gamut of emotions and leaves its indelible mark on your heart.  Self Preservation by Ethan Day is a good story—a really good story.”
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5 Stars from Tina at The Novel Approach
“Day injects humor into every possible little nook and cranny that he can find. He had me laughing out loud so many times! But he also had me crying.
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A special thank you to Elisa Rolle who will forever be the first to review my writing.
“I Like the mix of high society party world with the small town tittle-tattle behavior of all the characters”
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A Literary Nymphs Golden Blush Recommended Read
“Honestly, each character completes this story and brings it to life”
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5 Stars from Rainbow Reviews
“This was an extraordinary fun filled book that made me smile…a must read.”
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Recommended Read from Joyfully Reviewed
“Self Preservation was one of the best romantic comedies I have read in a long while”
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4.5 Stars and A Night Owl Reviews Top Pick
“Self Preservation had me laughing, crying and just generally reflecting on the past; on the person that everyone has in the past that ended too soon, that we would give anything to recapture.”
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4.5 Stars from The Jeep Diva Reviews
“Self Preservation was well crafted and gave new meaning to dysfunctional family and friends in the most loving way possible.”
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4.5 Stars from World of Diversity Fiction Reviews
“This was a sweet story about love, friendship and coming to terms with what you’ve lost then realizing there just may be a light at the end of that love tunnel for you anyway—a well written romcom that plays out like a movie.”
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4 Stars from Cindi at On Top Down Under Book Reviews
“Overall, an excellent book. A very entertaining read.”
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4 Stars from Tams at MM Good Book Reviews
“Overall this was a fun, quick, sexy read and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a comedy of errors with some hot guy/guy action and that ever elusive happily ever after!”
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4 Stars from The Book Wenches
“If you are looking for colorful characters who will steal your affection, fast-paced comedic drama, and just a dash of angst, you will enjoy Self Preservation.”
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4 Stars from Two Men Are Better Than One Reviews
“Funny and fabulous!”
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3.5 Stars from Reviews by Jessewave
“I just had to keep reading while peeking through my fingers. It was hard for me to watch Davis’s desperation and the events unfold, knowing where it was likely going”
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