Miles scratched at his head. “Not that it’s any of my business, but what do you have against your mother?”
Cory’s body tensed. “She doesn’t love me.”
“You don’t really believe that, Cory.”
He leaned over and his pecs widened like boulders. “My childhood memories of my mother are watching her talk on the phone, work at her computer, design at her drafting table, and sew at her machine.”
“So now you’re punishing her for working hard to support you all those years?”
“No, she’s punishing me for not wanting any part of her cover-up.”
Cory nodded. “My mother is drowning herself in work, so she doesn’t have to face reality.”
“I’m not sure. But it has to do with something that happened a long time ago. When I was a kid, I’d watch her in bed, weeping over her old diary.”
Hm, a mini-mystery. Too bad we don’t have a mystery solver. Wait, we do. Me!
“Did you ever ask your mom about it?”
Cory nodded. “Each time I got her cold shoulder and icy stare.”
“Why don’t you try to comfort her?”
“Isn’t that your job?”
“I’m not her son. You are.” Miles sighed. “I’ve said enough. I hope you and your mother work things out.”
“I wouldn’t waste too much time hoping.”
“Good point.” Miles opened his briefcase and took out his laptop. “My business is the task given to me by my employer.”
Cory groaned. “Are you really going to be my matchmaker?”
Miles’ long index finger revolved around the mousepad. “I’ve done quite a bit of research on the topic. A human being seems to work much more effectively than dating apps.”
Cory flexed his biceps. “I don’t need dating apps.”
“Yes, it seems you’ve been quite active on campus.” Miles opened a file on his computer.
“So have I.”
Cory cocked his head. “What do you mean?”
“I did my first interview on campus.”
“You told some guy about my mother’s matchmaking scheme?”
“Not exactly. I said I’m conducting a survey about gay men on campus.”
“Why did he give you any information?”
“Your mother left me an expense account.”
Cory gasped. “You paid someone to talk about me?”
Martin will salivate over this gossip.
Miles read from his computer screen, “Shane Buff, twenty-one, fashion major.”
“I boned him last night.” Cory slid to the edge of his seat. “What did Shane say about me?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“You’re right. He was boring in bed, and out of bed. Shane isn’t right for me anyway. He’s totally into himself.”
Miles smirked. “Studies show opposites attract, so I agree with you there too.”
Cory did a doubletake. “Did you just put me down?”
If the ego fits.
“Cory, it’s pretty clear that you bedded Shane in a lame attempt at punishing your mother for not giving you the attention you crave.”
“Are you a personal assistant or a psychiatrist?”
“I was a business major, but I took some psych classes in college.”
“So you are psychoanalyzing me now?”
“It’s not too difficult. You’re a textbook example of a spoiled child crying out for affection.”
Cory got to his feet. “I don’t have to listen to this.”
“You do if you want to hear what other guys say about you.”
He resumed his seat. “I’m listening.”
“After I complete more interviews, you’ll be the first to know.”
“I don’t think you’ll get very far. Most guys will play with me, but none of them want a relationship.”
“You may have a point.” Miles rubbed his square jaw. “Perhaps I’ve been going at this all wrong.” He tented his fingers. “I need to get to know you better before picking a husband for you.”
Cory chuckled. “I’m sure my mother had lots to say about me.”
“I’d like to hear it from the source. So tell me, what don’t I know about Cory Ultimate?”
Cory shrugged. “My life is pretty much an open book.” He spread his legs, revealing a huge bulge.
“I know you’ve been promiscuous.”
Cory’s eyes turned to brown slits. “Gee, feel free to say whatever you like about me, Miles.”
“No problem.” Miles placed his fingers on the keypad. “But I’m more interested in what you have to say about you.”
Cory unleashed his luscious dimples. “Okay, I’m totally hot, a B student, and a terrific set and lighting designer.”
Not to mention modest.
Cory smirked. “And one day I stand to inherit Ultimate Fashions, which I will sell to the highest bidder before the rest of my mother’s body grows as cold as her heart.”
“Why did you come to Treemeadow College?”
“It’s in Vermont, and my mother lives in California.”
The wonderful faculty in the Theatre Department didn’t attract you?
Miles asked him, “The past murders at this college didn’t frighten you?”
I solved every one of those after only five murders per case!
Cory stared at Miles defiantly. “I’m not afraid to die. Just think, when I’m dead I’ll be as stiff as my mother.”
“You have a smart mouth, kid.”
“I was thinking the same thing about you, assistant.”
Their glances met.
Cory got to his feet again. “Which reminds me. I have to check on the set before the tech rehearsal.”
“Is that what you want to do with your life, be a set designer?”
He looked down at Miles. “As a matter of fact, yes.”
“What draws you to the theatre?”
Your wonderful play directing professor?
Cory seemed to ponder the question. “In the theatre, it’s okay to make believe, hide from the world, and create the reality of your choice. When I use my artistic skills, imagination, and technical knowledge to create a set design or a lighting plot, I feel like the master of my universe.”
“Do you want to be a model too?”
“No, I’m just here for the scenery.” Cory grinned.
“Then modeling seems pretty shallow.”
Cory grimaced. “Since we’re talking about goals, why do you want to be a personal assistant? That doesn’t seem like a life’s ambition.”
“It fits my skillset.”
“Creating my mother’s world?”
“No, helping her navigate successfully through the world she’s created.”
Cory smirked. “How selfless.”
“Not really. I take pride in Ulla’s accomplishments as much as in my own.”
“And you’re comfortable living in my mother’s shadow?”
“Just as comfortable as you are living in the shadows of a stage.”
I heard footsteps behind me. So I leapt around the curtain. “Cory, please get into your wardrobe.”
He saluted, leapt onto the runway, and disappeared into the dressing room.
Miles sat toward the center of the house. I headed into the theatre, where I took my usual front row center seat and readied my notepad and pen. Noah sat next to me, offering a supportive hand squeeze. Martin, in a vermillion bowtie and sweater vest, and Ruben, in a matching leisure suit, filed in behind us.
Craning my neck back toward Martin, I whispered, “I have some dish for you later.”
He whispered back, “Forget a word of it and this campus will have another murder—yours!”
Ruben rested an arm around his husband’s small back. “Leave the nice man alone, honey, so he can direct the fashion show.”
Ulla Ultimate came down the runway and took a seat next to Miles.
Finally, Hoss Packer exited down the runway, giving the illusion of a bodybuilding competition rather than a fashion show. When he was seated in the lighting booth toward the rear of the house, I called out, “Let’s pick it up from where we left off last night, everyone.” I noticed Associate Professor of Fashion Tyler Greenway and his student Lila Hekekia enter from the rear of the house and sit in the last row.
The house lights dimmed, and then they went on again. The stage lights came on, and they went out again.
“Hoss, is there a problem?”
“Sorry, Professor. I needed to reset the computer.”
“Are you ready now, Hoss?”
He replied, “Ready.”
The house lights dimmed, and the stage lights came up with a lemon glow.
“Magenta not lemon!”
The stage lights turned to magenta, and the runway lights exploded—literally. After Hoss repaired them, we resumed, and the models started down the runway in their bedtime outfits.
Julio Bonero was first in a black leather nightshirt and cap. At the tip of the runway, he spun into a costume malfunction—about six inches long and uncut. As I wrote a note on my pad, Cosmo Capra strutted down the runway in black leather pajamas and slippers—with chocolate stains on his cheek. When he turned, a button popped off his pajama tops. While I wrote frantically, Taavi made his appearance blowing kisses like a rock star at a concert. He smiled and strutted down the runway in black leather footed pajamas featuring pictures of animals.
After Cory showed his stuff in a long black leather T-shirt and slippers, Noah rested a hand on my knee. We said in unison, “Where’s Shane?” It’s a cute couple thing we do. So is solving murder mysteries.
When our question was met by shrugs from the models, I ran up the steps and practically flew across the runway. The dressing room was empty. Across the hall in the sewing room, I found Johnny and Tia (while texting) doing last minute repairs. “Have either of you seen Shane Buff?”
They shook their heads while they worked.
I raced out the sewing room door and scanned the area outside around the building. When I made my way toward the back alleyway, I found a bloodied Shane Buff lying motionless on the stone floor. Next to him was a mannequin streaked with blood. Modeling for Dummies.
It’s spring break at Treemeadow College, and theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza is directing a runway show for the Fashion Department. Joining him are his spouse, theatre professor Noah Oliver, their son Taavi, and their best friend and department head, Martin Anderson. The show, designed by visiting professor Ulla Ultimate, is bound to be the ultimate event of the season. And bound it is with designs featuring black leather and chains. When sexy male models drop faster than their leather chaps, Nicky and Noah will need to use their drama skills to figure out who is taking the term “a cut male model” literally before Nicky and Noah end up steamed in the wardrobe steamer. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining tenth novel in this delightful series. Take your seats. The runway is lighting up with hunky models, volatile designers, bitter exes, newfound lovers, and murder!
More About Author Joe Cosentino:
Joe Cosentino was voted Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author of the Year by the readers of Divine Magazine for Drama Queen. He also wrote the other novels in the Nicky and Noah mystery series: Drama Muscle, Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective, Drama Fraternity, Drama Castle, Drama Dance, Drama Faerie; the Dreamspinner Press novellas: In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star, the Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories: A Home for the Holidays/The Perfect Gift/The First Noel, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland with Holiday Tales from Fairyland; the Cozzi Cove series: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings, Cozzi Cove: Happy Endings (NineStar Press);andthe Jana Lane mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Joe is currently Chair of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and he is happily married. Joe’s books have received numerous Favorite Book of the Month Awards and Rainbow Award Honorable Mentions.
Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com