Sep 5 2014 11:00am

Starling: Exclusive Excerpt

Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae

When J. Alex Cook, a production assistant on one of network TV’s hottest shows, is accidentally catapulted to stardom, he finds himself struggling to navigate both fame and a relationship with Paul, one of the show’s key writers.

But despite their incendiary chemistry, Alex’s inexperience and the baggage they’re both carrying lead to an ugly break-up.

With Alex’s subsequent affair with his polyamorous co-star, Paul’s ill-advised reunion with an old flame, and the meddling of their colleagues, friends, and the entire T.V. viewing audience, Alex and Paul’s story quickly becomes the soap opera of the television season.

The only question is whether they can find their way back together again.

Get a sneak peek of Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae's Starling (available September 10, 2014) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

Paul wakes up first. Alex's face in sleep is a study; even younger than it looks when he's awake, relaxed and at ease except for the way his brow furrows when Paul disentangles their limbs. As much as he would love to stay in bed with him, Paul remembers his brief flight the night before and wants to give him whatever space he needs for now.

He leaves the bedroom door cracked open and goes downstairs to start tackling the last of the cleanup from the party. Todd is sprawled blissfully in a puddle of midmorning sunshine, and Paul stops on his way to the dishwasher to rub his belly with a foot.

Most of the mess left in the kitchen is dealt with by the time he hears movement from the bedroom, and he takes a last private moment to grin to himself before the footsteps start down the stairs.

He turns around to see Alex hovering at the bottom of the flight, one hand on the railing.

“Good morning,” Paul says, and grins at the way Alex bites his lip before he smiles back. He's in his clothes from last night but is still barefoot. It's absolutely adorable.


“How did you sleep?”

“Are you always so polite to your guests?” Alex asks as he leaves his perch by the stairs and comes into the kitchen.

“Southern hospitality,” he says with a shrug and another smile. “Do you want anything to eat?”

“No, thanks.” Alex smiles slyly, steps into his space, and kisses him.

Paul expects a quick good-morning peck; instead, he gets pushed up against the counter with Alex's hands in his hair and his tongue in his mouth.

He groans into it and grabs Alex's hips to hold him there. When Alex tries to pull away, he follows. Alex's eyes are a brown that's on the edge of black, unnervingly dark with the rest of him so fair, and when he blinks them open as he presses a last, soft kiss to Paul's mouth they catch and drink the sunlight in a way that makes Paul need to take a breath.

Alex asks, “Can I invite you to take a shower in your own bathroom too?”

Paul laughs, and tightens his hands on Alex's hips. “Yeah. Yes.”


Paul's body is glorious — lean but thoroughly muscled, with good abs and strong thighs. Alex savors the opportunity to get his hands on it again, this time in the light and under soap and water.

Paul offers to do his back for him with a grin that's a little wicked, and Alex closes his eyes and rests his forehead against the cool tile while Paul's hands, firm and sure, knead their way across his skin. His brain is still churning, wanting to analyze every one of Paul's movements and find the correct response, but it quiets as Paul keeps touching him.

Alex feels lazy, heavy with the heat and with arousal, but eventually he pushes Paul out of the way and rinses the last of the shampoo out of his hair before reaching for the tap.

“I should get going,” he says regretfully, and smirks at Paul when he pouts.

Paul presses his fingers to Alex's naked side when Alex turns the water off and grins at him before grabbing towels for them both.

“Thanks,” Alex says, as he starts scrubbing out his hair.

“Anytime.” Paul kisses him again before wrapping himself in his own towel and disappearing into the bedroom.

Alex grins to himself as he gets dressed, because the lessons of storytelling and fame — leave everyone wanting more — apply to real life, too.

Paul teases him at the door when Alex whines about having to go out in last night's clothes — Sweetheart, no one will think you're doing the walk of shame in thatshirt— and then offers to lend him something. Alex makes a face at him and turns him down.

Paul holds Alex around waist and asks, “Can I call you?”

Alex doesn't know what to say, but Paul seems determined to wait him out as Alex flicks his eyes over his face. Eventually he nods with a smile both happy and hesitant.

With Alex's hand on the doorknob Paul catches him for one last kiss. Then he's out in the driveway and giving Paul a nod and a smile back in response to his wave from the door.

If he puts his dumb victory playlist on and sings along as he drives home, there's no one around to judge.

Gemma is crazy and loud when he gets home, even though he texted her the night before. She wants to know who, and if it was really a good idea with the you know... and all because she actually can almost never bring herself to say the word fame around him without whispering it. Mostly, she doesn't even do that.

And then she wants to know what, in a blow by blow (and oh how accurate that request is) way, until Alex retreats into the shower again just to have space from her. He's fairly sure that, unlike his bedroom, that's somewhere she won't barge in on.

He knows he's going to have to look for a new place soon; it's way overdue, but he's used to this crappy little apartment and he's had enough change for a lifetime. Even if it's too small and probably not even safe for him anymore, it's a thing that keeps seeming to languish.

Despite his assumptions, Gemma actually has the audacity to storm into the bathroom while he's under the water. He's glad their current shower curtain isn't clear like the last one, which mold and mildew totally destroyed both because their apartment is inherently gross and because they are terrible housekeepers. Even so, it feels ridiculous, her trying to get a look at his dick or just being too familiar to care, while he checks his body for marks. Alex feels like there should be some, even though there aren't.

“What are you doing in there? Your hair was wet when you came in,” she demands.

“I will have this conversation with you later,” he states as authoritatively as he can. After all, it's Sunday, and that means HBO and violating their diets on the couch tonight. He laughs to himself for a minute, because a year ago, he couldn't even afford fucking HBO and didn't even have a reason to need a diet. L.A. couldn't be sadder and crazier that that's a marker of anything.

“Why not now? Is it because you need more private time?”

“I am late to brunch and in the shower, not trying to jerk off,” he says sharply before turning off the water and waiting pointedly for her retreat.


Paul's early to brunch, because after Alex leaves and he finishes cleaning, the house feels lonely and empty again without anyone in it. He tells himself to stop it, because getting used to having Alex around after just one night is not going to lead anywhere good and decides that getting out of the house sooner rather than later is the better part of valor.

Besides, brunch brings with it friends, mimosas, and the prospect of his dog. Thank god for restaurants with outdoor patios.

It's as he's crouching next to his chair to rub Beau's ears, carrying on a conversation half with Craig and half with Josh on the other side of the table that he hears Shawna's voice, bright and excited, saying, “My darling Alexander, you made it!”

“Yeah, sorry, couldn't find a parking spot.”

Paul's heart gives a sudden jolt, because, holy shit, that's Alex.


Copyright © 2014 by Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae.

Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae’s M/M romance series Love in Los Angeles, set in the film and television industry, is published by Torquere Press. The first novel, Starling, will be out September 10, 2014; its sequel, Doves, is scheduled for January 2015. Racheline is a NYC-based performer and storyteller focused on themes of sex, gender, desire and mourning. Erin is a writer and blogger based in Washington, D.C. You can find them on the web at

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