Here's the next unedited chapter of the upcoming 888-555-Hero novel!
“Are you friggin’ kidding me?” Jeremy shouted. “I will not have a supervillian wearing one of my creations!”
Leonardo frowned and laid aside the knife. Well out of Jeremy’s reach.
“No, no, no,” Mel replied. “He wants you to be one of the judges.”
If they weren’t totally immune to the effects of any and all drugs, Jeremy would suspect they were high on something.
“This Dale better be worth it in bed,” Jeremy grumbled.
“Oh, he is.” Mel laughed. “Why do you think I’m just getting home?”
“Let me talk it over with Leonardo and call you back.”
“Can I have Dale’s assistant send the contracts to Winters and Franklin for their review?”
“That’s awfully presumptuous of you,” Jeremy retorted.
“Puh-leease. We both know you won’t sign a damn thing without your foster sisters’ input.”
Jeremy looked at Leonardo who wore a shit-eating grin. Oh, he was definitely going to hear about this over breakfast. “All right, e-mail the contracts to Harri. But this is not a yes by any means, Mel.”
“Of course. Talk to you later.” Mel made kissy noises before they ended the call.
Jeremy at Leonardo. “What are you laughing about?”
“We both know if the money’s right, you’re going to do it.”
“Did you know about this?” Jeremy laid his phone on the counter before he pulled out the carton of eggs from the refrigerator.
“There’s been rumors in the gossip rags that TV wunderkind Dale Bernhardt has signed a producing deal with the ABS network.” Leonardo shrugged and popped a mushroom slice in his mouth. “The execs want a show to compete with the reality series on their rivals. Between cable and streaming, they are hemorrhaging money like crazy.”
“You mean reality shows are cheap.” Jeremy cracked two eggs into his mixing bowl, added two tablespoons of water, and whisked everything until it was evenly smooth and yellow. Did he really want to out himself? Mel didn’t care if they were outed or not. Very little could hurt them. Plus, they always kept their relationships casual. Jeremy, on the other hand, had Leonardo and his foster sibs and foster parents to worry about being used against him.
Jeremy cut a pat of butter into the small non-stick skillet and turned on the heat. He had some issues with two villains when he first started designing for supers. If it weren’t for Mel, he’d be dead. But the odd thing is Mel never it over his head when they asked for a favor.
“It would mean living out on the West Coast for a few months,” Jeremy murmured.
“What’s the point of having your clients train the local Alphabets to take care of themselves if you can’t stop being a mother hen?” Leonardo asked while he diced the onions.
“Your parents accepted you for what you are, babykins.”
“Being gay, yes. Marrying you, yes, though Mom sides with Betty about us eloping. But my parents didn’t agree with a lot of other stuff in my life.”
“That’s because you can freaking do calculus in your head. You should be teaching at MIT.” Jeremy sobered and swirled the melting butter around in the pan. “You have no idea what it’s like to live on the streets.”
“The only reason you do is because you let your pride get in the way,” Leonardo responded gently. “I know damn well once Harri and Aisha found out what had happened to you, they talked Betty and Marvin into helping you.”
Jeremy shuddered. If it weren’t for Aisha’s parents taking him in along with Harri—well, he’d come pretty damn close to prostitution in order to eat. On the other hand, Leonardo was right. He’d lived on the streets out of a misplaced sense of pride.
“A couple of months in California would be a perfect opportunity to see how Elaine can handle the salon,” Leonardo continued. “We get a furnished apartment. I can take my laptop and work on my designs while you’re at the studio.”
“You’re jumping way ahead here.” Jeremy poured the eggs into the bubbling butter. “I haven’t agreed to a damn thing yet. But you’re right about giving Elaine a probationary period as manager.” He added the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and shredded Swiss cheese.
“You want me to talk to her.” Leonardo rose to refill his coffee cup.
Jeremy considered the matter. “When is your first appointment today?”
“I’m booked from one to nine.” Leonardo set his filled cup on the breakfast bar and reached for Jeremy’s mug.
“Let’s go in early and take her out to lunch,” he suggested.
Leonardo paused and looked at Jeremy. “Mabel Longwood is my first client.”
“She can handle it if you’re late.” He shook his head. “You can’t let people like Mabel run roughshod over you.”
“Oh, please, darling.” Leonardo glared at him. “You let her run over you when she was your client, too.”
“And then, I did the smart thing and dumped her on the cute, naïve, new stylist who joined my salon.” Jeremy smirked while he flipped the omelet over in the pan.
“You are evil.” Leonardo laughed and shook his head. “It’s a wonder you didn’t become a supervillain.”
“And have a certain foster sister beat the crap out of me if I did?” Jeremy slid the finished omelet onto one of the waiting plates and handed it to his husband. “No, thank you.”
“I admit Harri’s a lot of bark—” Leonardo said.
“Harri would only yell at me. I wasn’t referring to her.” Jeremy dropped another pat of butter in the omelet pan and cracked two more eggs in the mixing bowl.
“Aisha would only resort to fisticuffs—”
“Not her either. She’d give me the same disappointed parent look Marvin would have.” Jeremy whipped the eggs with two tablespoons of water.
“LaShun?” Leonardo wore a confused expression. “Wouldn’t she break a nail?”
“Do not underestimate her, darling.” Jeremy poured the egg mixture into the bubbling butter. The liquid hissed and steamed. “When we were kids, she towed Mama Betty’s line, and she made sure the rest of us did, too. And that was long before Betty and Marvin let Harri and me move in with the Franklin clan.”
Leonardo giggled. “What would LaShun do?”
“Pull my hair.” Jeremy ran a hand over his locks. “Sit on me, or dig those damn claws of hers into very sensitive flesh as a last resort.”
Leonardo winced in sympathetic pain. “What did you do for LaShun to resort to the third option?”
“I used her makeup without permission.” Jeremy smiled at the memory while he added fillings to his omelet. “But the next day she took me to Arrow’s and helped me select my own makeup while she lectured on not sharing products because of germs. She even pitched in her own allowance to pay for everything and gave me my first lesson on proper application.”
“And here, I thought she had no heart.” Leonardo chuckled.
“She and Betty are a lot alike.” Jeremy flipped his omelet in half. “In a way, they care too much. Then, there’s the perfectionistic streak. Eat your omelet before it gets cold. And please call Elaine after breakfast so she doesn’t have lunch without us.”
“And what will you be doing?”
Jeremy slid his omelet onto his own plate. “I need to call my attorney to draw up Elaine’s paperwork and consult with her about the contracts Mel’s boyfriend will be sending to her.”
As he dug into his breakfast, he wondered if would really be worth his time to participate in Dale Bernhardt’s reality show. Because the idea of an unknown supervillain involved worried him to no end.