Welcome A.B. Gayle today! Her new novel came out from Dreamspinner at midnight! Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Fresh from backwoods Minnesota, actuarial student Ben Dutoit is ecstatic to land a job with Sydney Sutherland Family Insurance, one of the few companies that offers life insurance to people in the high-risk category. The fact that he gets to work in Gay Central, aka San Francisco, is just the icing on the rainbow-colored cake. Ben sets himself just three goals: be out and proud enough to participate in the Pride parade; seek out the company of like-minded souls in the clubs; and maybe, if he’s lucky, fall in love.
But the men Ben meets are everything he’s not: suave, confident, sophisticated, and sexy. Unlike redneck Ben, they’re blue bloods from blue states, born with status, wealth, and the responsibility that comes with the package.
Ben’s still wondering if red and blue can mix when he discovers what risk really means. The global economy tanks. The job he looked forward to is in jeopardy, and every dream Ben ever had is threatened, especially love, the biggest dream of all.
Join us for A.B.’s interview with Adrian, from Red + Blue.
The call woke me from a deep sleep. Bleary-eyed, I reached for the phone and murmured a drowsy “Hello.”
There was no response, and I was about to hang up, assuming some charity had me on auto-dial, when he started speaking, “Sorry, I keep forgetting the time difference between the US and Australia. I can call back later if you like.”
And risk the chance that he might not? Whoever he was, the owner of this sexy voice deserved my full attention. I shook my head to drive away the last semblance of sleep and murmured, “No. It’s fine. I’m awake.” Or was I? That’s the question I’d be asking later. “How can I help you?” Notes to self, stop sounding like a damn shop assistant.
“It’s Adrian Sydney Sutherland here.”
Mentally, I added “The Fourth” after he said his name. Was it American’s lack of a royal family that led them to dynastically themed names? Although he’d only said a few words, there was something about the tone of his voice: the cultured accent, the phrasing that made my heart flutter. It made a perfect fit for the photo that Ben had sent me.
“I gather you wanted a reference for one of my employees, Ben Dutoit.”
Ah, Ben. For those who are interested, check out http://kaylajameth.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/introducing-red-blue-by-ab-gayle.html? to see what set this all in motion.
Maybe it had been cheek on my part for contacting his boss for a reference, but if I was going to devote months of my time, writing about Ben, I wanted to make sure his story was legit or as legitimate as my fevered imagination could make it.
Trying to still my rapidly beating heart, I took a deep breath before speaking. Since Ben had first contacted me, I’d conducted some research and unearthed photos on society pages of his boss. The immaculately dressed man often attended First Night and Charity Dinners, usually accompanied by a blonde bimbo, Lauren or Laurel something. She looked like your typical corporate wife. Slim, well groomed, sleek blonde hair, probably out of a bottle. Women like her were a dime a dozen. But once you saw Adrian, you’d never forget him.
You’d think he was middle aged because of his hair, but the rest of his face looked young. There was always the chance that was due to face lifts and a ton of botox, but a friend with similar coloring went gray in his twenties, so I gave Adrian the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’d suffered some trauma or felt the stress of running a big business.
“Are you still there?”
Woops. “Sorry, I was just trying to work out how to phrase this properly.” I was also finding it difficult to concentrate while part of my brain was wondering why the other part was having this strange reaction to someone who only existed in my imagination. “What attracted you to Ben?” Dead silence. Oops. That could be taken two ways. “What was it about Ben that made you hire him?”
Another pause before answering. The poor guy probably thought he had a nut case on his hands. I was relieved to hear a quiet chuckle before he replied. “If you met him, you’d understand. I distinctly remember when Carl and I were checking through the applications that Ben’s stood head and shoulders above the rest both literally and figuratively. He’d majored in Maths for his BS at St Cloud, achieving a GPA of 3.8 which was pretty impressive plus he’d already passed the first two of his actuarial exams, P and FM. When we contacted his character references, they all raved about what a nice young kid he was.”
Yeah, I added, sardonically to myself, he would have to be ‘nice’, he was from Minnesota after all.
“We do a lot of business in the mid West and wanted someone who understood our clients. A large part of an actuary’s job is to know how to set the premiums. Carl found that he caught on quickly and proved a big help because of his more technologically advanced skills.”
Translation, he was computer savvy and his immediate superior wasn’t. “But how does he get on with the staff?”
Another low chuckle. “I won’t lie to you. Since Lehman Brothers and the other big firms took a hit, things have been pretty grim around here. But, thanks to Ben, people around the office are still smiling. He’s got them thinking more about which NBL team is winning and their pool competitions than worrying about the price of their shares.”
Hm. Still not much meat for a story. I decided to bite the bullet and pose him one of the hard questions. “I gather he’s going out with another of your employees, Jason Parr. Do you have a problem with that?”
This time his reply was decidedly frosty. “Do you mean do I have a problem that he is gay. I….”
“No, no.” I broke in hastily. How could I have a problem with that if I was writing an m/m romance? “I just wondered if you had a problem with employee fraternisation?”
Chunks of ice formed at the periphery of my brain as his friendliness immediately vanished. “California doesn’t have any laws in that regard, and I hardly think a firm that prides itself on being non-discriminatory at all levels would have a problem with the fact Ben and Jason are gay. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m a busy man. If you need any more information in a professional capacity, you can get back to me. Goodbye.” He broke the connection.
Oops. I hope I hadn’t caused any problems between Ben and his boss. You’ll have to read his story to find out more: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2952
Pam has a copy of “Red+Blue” for a lucky commenter, or if you don’t win here, I’ll be giving away Dreamspinner vouchers at my “Meet the Author Day” this Saturday. Hope to see you there!