Merle Justice wants to reach for the stars, but it’s tough to get respect when playing a teenybopper vampire on TV. Then he meets a famous director anxious to give him all he thinks he wants—and maybe a bit more. Everything’s looking up until a life-threatening encounter with some homophobes on Main Beach puts Merle face-to-face with a Sasquatch-sized hero in a pink puffer coat.
Tom Henry defies description. As unsophisticated and simple as an angel, he walks through life content with who he is and asking for very little except to care for his sister, Lily, and the dogs he loves. Then he meets Merle, the embodiment of dreams he barely knows he has. Merle knows the people who hold his future in their hands might love Tom—but they’ll never understand Merle and Tom together. Tom knows it too. With lives this far apart, who’s really the fool of Main Beach?
Excerpt – Fool of Main Beach by Tara Lain (Sandwiches)
Merle stretched out the measuring tape and got the dimensions of the huge family space, then paced it off into dining and living areas. Once he had enough measurements to buy rugs, he wandered past the big island into the kitchen and opened each cabinet. His mind filled in the spaces with dishes and pots and pans—yeah, a lot of stuff he didn’t have. His current apartment in Santa Monica was still a transition space from starving-actor digs to TV-star quarters. TV star? He snorted softly. More like vampire of the month. Of course, he’d been lucky enough to be vampire of the month for two years.
I’m killing time. Go down to Ru’s studio and take him to lunch.
“Want part of my sandwich, Merle?”
He looked up into the truly pretty face smiling at him from the other side of the island. “I don’t want to take your lunch, Tom. I’ll go get some.”
“It’s okay. I made two sandwiches, so there’s lots.”
I should go, but—“Sure, I’d love half of your sandwich. What kind is it?”
“I’ve got peanut butter and I’ve got avocado and cheese.”
“Which kind do you like best?”
“I like them both.”
“I’ll take avocado.” He looked around the big room still covered in drywall dust, nails, and wood shavings. “Where shall we sit?”
Tom made a waggling motion with his finger.
Merle cocked his head and walked around the island to where Tom stood, towering over him. Suddenly he was flying through the air and made a little gasping sound as Tom sat him on top of the island, then grinned and easily hopped up beside him. Merle laughed. “No fair.”
“Oh, didn’t you like it?” Tom looked serious.
“I’m teasing you. I just meant it’s funny that you’re so much bigger than me.”
He shrugged. “I’m much bigger than anybody—except Billy. I’m just a little bigger than him.” He handed over his half sandwich. It was on some kind of multigrain bread and appeared to have cheese that wasn’t American.
“This looks delicious.”
“Mrs. Allison taught me to make it.”
“Who’s that?” He took a bite and was very happy he did.
“The lady I live with.”
“Oh, you live with a lady?” Duh, Merle.
“She owns the house, and I rent a room from her.” He chewed his peanut butter, which also looked like it might have some organic roots. “I help her with stuff, and she helps me too. Like teaching me about food and water and how to feed the boys.”
“How many dogs?”
“Two. Fluffy and Tigger. I got them from the shelter where I work sometimes.”
“Most landladies don’t let you have dogs.”
“Mrs. A. is really nice. She doesn’t want me to have big dogs, though. Wish I could.” He chewed thoughtfully.
“You could probably get an apartment or house with enough space for bigger dogs if you want them.”
He shook his head matter-of-factly. “No. Can’t afford it.”
“I guess rentals in Laguna are pretty high.”
“Yeah, but Billy pays me good. I just need the money for my folks to take care of Lily.”
“Right.” He grinned like he was happy Merle knew her name. They chewed companionably. “You’re on TV, right?”
“I don’t see TV much, but I’m going to watch this week. Mrs. Allison said I can.”
Why did his saying things like that wring Merle’s heart? “Do you like movies?”
“Oh yes. I go to movies sometimes.”
“What kind do you like?”
“All kinds. Except the ones with the words. I’m not so good at that.”
Merle’s glance snapped to Tom’s face, but Tom didn’t seem to be complaining or confessing. Just stating a fact. “Do you have trouble reading?” He tried to ask it with great nonchalance.
“Yes. That’s how Billy and I got to be friends. He doesn’t read so good either.” He grinned. “But we’re better now.”
“May I ask you a personal question? You don’t have to tell me.”
“Sure, Merle. You’re my friend.”
Again, that thump on his heart. “I know you passed the electrician’s exam. Billy tells me that’s really hard. If you have trouble reading, how were you able to do it?”
“Mrs. A. read it to me.”
He looked up from licking his fingers clean of avocado. “What?”
“I gave her the tests that were like samples, and she read them to me. And she read all the handbooks too. Then a nice guy named Burt read me the questions on the test, and I said the answers out loud.”
“So you learned everything when Mrs., uh, A. read it to you?”
“Um-hm. I remember really good.” He finished the last bite of his avocado. “Most people don’t, you know?”
Merle grinned. “Yes, I do know.”
“Do you like being on TV?”
“Yes. It’s a good job. Long hours, but I get time off sometimes. Like now.” Funny. He wanted to tell Tom. “I might have a chance to make a movie.”
Tom’s whole face lit up. “That would be really good, right? Would you like that?”
“Yes, it’d be a step up in my career. And the guy directing the movie is very well-known and respected.” He glanced over. Did Tom have the slightest idea what he just said?
“Do you like him?”
Merle smiled. Leave it to Tom to get to the heart of the matter.