Sat
Jul 15 2017 11:00am

Garrett Leigh Excerpt: House of Cards

Garrett Leigh

House of Cards by Garrett Leigh

Calum Hardy’s life has unravelled. Reeling from the betrayal of a man he once loved, he boards a train heading south, with no real idea where he’s going except a world away from London.

Brix Lusmoore can hardly believe his eyes when he spots one of his oldest friends outside Truro station. He hasn’t seen Calum since he fled the capital himself four years ago, harbouring a life-changing secret. But despite the years of silence, their old bond remains, warm and true—and layered with simmering heat they’ve never forgotten.

Calum takes refuge with Brix and a job at his Porthkennack tattoo shop. Bit by bit, he rebuilds his life, but both men carry the ghosts of the past, and it will take more than a rekindled friendship and the magic of the Cornish coast to chase them away.

Get a sneak peek at Garrett Leigh's House of Cards (available July 15, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

“What?” Calum opened his eyes to find Brix watching him, clearly amused. “I’m okay.”

“Oh, I know you are. I remember the look on your face right now. Means you’re gonna fall asleep smiling.”

Calum snorted. “I doubt it. Ain’t done much of that lately.”

“You’d be surprised. I reckon you smile most when you don’t know you’re doing it.”

Calum sat back, prepared to take Brix’s word for it, but then Brix jumped up with more grace than Calum could ever hope to have and went to the cabinet by the window. He pulled out a battered photo album Calum had long forgotten and brought it to the couch.

“Proof,” he said by way of explanation, his words heavy and slurred, like his own skinful had caught up with him. “Let’s find us happy.”

Curious, Calum forced himself upright and scooted along the couch. In his drunken stupor, he overshot and bumped into Brix, who didn’t appear to notice, or feel the jolt of electricity where their knees touched. Calum swallowed. Damn. Must be the scrumpy. Fuck it. He took another deep swallow. “Show me the happy.”

Brix gulped more scrumpy, then opened the album, flipping forward a few pages until he came to what Calum recognised as Brix’s converted warehouse flat in Camden, the scene of many a rowdy party. Calum couldn’t count the long summer nights he’d spent on Brix’s balcony, talking, drinking, smoking, all to the soundtrack of Brix’s huge music library.

“Makes me want a spliff,” Calum said.

Brix sighed. “Me too, but I gave the fags up, and the weed. Gotta be clean. Don’t even drink much anymore, believe it or not.”

“Why? Not that it’s a bad thing, I guess.” Calum reached for his scrumpy, trying to ignore the irony.

Brix did the same, draining his glass. “Living hard caught up with me. Can we leave it at that?”

Calum frowned. “Of course, but . . .” Is that why you left? For some reason, his voice fell away before the words became real.

“Here you are.” Brix passed the photo album over. “That was your missus, wasn’t it? Can’t remember her name.”

“Lucy.” Calum glanced at the photo absently, his mind still on Brix’s cryptic explanation. He was missing something huge. Had to be. His family aside, Brix had never been one for secrets.

“Have you had any girlfriends since her?”

“What?”

“Since Lucy. I remember you banging a few blokes, but I always figured you’d end up with a bird. You seemed so comfortable with them.”

“Not really.” Calum turned a few pages until he came to a photo of Brix sitting on a bench outside the Camden studio, his clothes grungier than he seemed to favour these days, and his hair held back with a gothic bandana. “I’d just never met a bloke who wanted to do more than fuck.”

Brix poured more scrumpy. “They’re hard to find.”

“What about Jordan? I thought you two would go the distance.”

“I don’t want to talk about Jordan.”

Fuck. Calum’s inebriation had obscured the warning lights flashing around Jordan. Did Brix know what had become of him? Last Calum had heard, Jordan had moved to Amsterdam.

He turned another page. Brix moved closer to peer over his shoulder. Warmth where they touched seared through Calum, eclipsing even the scrumpy-induced burn in his gut. “I’m—er—still looking for the happy.”

“It’s there. Keep going.”

They were about ten pages in when Brix let out a low hoot. “And there it is. Game, set, and match to me. Happy Calum, grinning away to himself like no one’s watching.”

Calum stared at the photo of himself, circa 2009, all dodgy jeans and faded band T-shirts, his hair cropped short in an ill-advised buzz cut. “What a tool.”

“Aw, don’t be a dick. You’re happy. Look.”

Calum looked again and couldn’t deny it. He had no recollection of the night the photo had been taken, but his carefree smile was so genuine it seemed to belong to someone else. “Did you take the photo?”

Brix shrugged. “Maybe. I always had that old Nikon knocking around that flat, and you were my favourite subject.”

“Was I?”

Brix’s grin turned sheepish, and he flipped forward a few more pages, all of them crammed with image after image of Calum smiling to himself, clearly off his nut, or staring into space like a gormless idiot.

Calum didn’t get it. “Why me?”

Brix set the photo album aside and grasped Calum’s shoulders, shaking them slightly, his gaze sliding into an intensity that made Calum’s head spin. “Because I wanted to show you something you’d never see on your own. Cal, you’re fucking beautiful. Has no fucker ever told you that?”

The urge to be flippant was strong, but Brix’s eyes held Calum hostage, rendering him mute, and leaving him devoid of anything except a silent head shake.

Brix leaned closer and pressed their foreheads together, his lips just a hairsbreadth away. “Well, they should’ve, ’cause you are—”

Calum’s mouth found Brix’s in a soft, cider-flavoured kiss, a brush of lips that took him by surprise as much as it seemed to Brix, whose hands flew to Calum’s face, though he didn’t pull back. Their lips met again and again, the kiss growing in intensity with a subtle burn that stole Calum’s breath, prickled his skin, and quickened his pulse.

Then Brix drew back, his eyes wide. “I . . .”

“Me too,” Calum said. “I don’t know how that happened.”

“Same as it did last time, I’d imagine.”

Calum’s heart skipped a beat. “You remember that?”

“Course I do. I fell over my own feet outside Koko’s. You caught me, and I threw myself at you in return. Made a right arse of myself if I recall.”

Brix’s grimace was so comical that the heady tension between them faded a little. The desperate, artless snog they’d shared on a damp Camden evening so many years ago had been seared on Calum’s soul until he’d met Rob. Calum scrubbed a hand over his face. “You weren’t the arse that night. I was so hammered I nearly dropped you.”

“Fun, though, wasn’t it?” Brix’s frown morphed into a rueful grin. “I thought about it a lot after.”

“Me too. It was a crazy night.”

Brix hummed, then seemed to notice his hands were still gripping Calum’s face. He let them drop, leaving Calum mourning the loss of his touch, craving the rush of Brix’s warm palms against his scruffy cheeks. “I’m fucking wankered.” 

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Copyright © 2017 by Garrett Leigh.
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Learn more about or order a copy of House of Cards by Garrett Leigh, available July 15, 2017:

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Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.

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