New York City, 2010
PAUL ALCOTT sat at his desk ruminating over the surprise package delivered an hour ago by Mick’s attorney. Alcott Press hadn’t heard from the man since Mick’s passing, other than a few cryptic messages saying that everything was still tied up in legalese and would be for several months. Now, Paul’s meticulously scheduled life was upended with the appearance of what appeared to be a manuscript, marked FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. Along with the three hundred fifty-page manuscript entitled Momentos, there were two letters, one for him and one for Tono.
He’d been steeling himself for the past hour, afraid to open the letter, knowing it would undoubtedly peel off the scab that had been forming over the gaping wound created by Mick’s untimely death, yet he was overjoyed to be receiving this final note from the man who’d been his everything for as long as he could remember.
Paul opened the envelope and pulled out a white sheet of paper filled with Mick’s familiar handwriting and began to read.
If you’re reading this, I must be dead. I’m terribly sorry for keeping this last novel from you, but I was afraid you would dissuade me from writing it. I remember how you scoffed at Tono’s idea of writing our story years ago, but despite your doubts, I took that same idea and ran with it. Momentos is our story, and my best way of showing you and Tono how much your love has meant to me. It’s your choice to publish or not, but if you decide to go ahead and send it to print, I will be smiling from whichever karmic plane I’ve crossed into.
My only stipulation is that whatever profit is realized should be used to start my foundation?Mick Henley’s Trust?to aid writers, and any other artist, suffering from ALS. The very idea of going through this disease with little or no financial help is mind-boggling. I’d like to see my legacy put to good use, and it is my desire that Tono spearhead the foundation. I’d like it based out of New York City as well. I’m counting on you, Pauly, to convince him that it’s the best place to house this sort of thing.
He will balk and give you a hundred reasons why he won’t do this, but I have faith in your powers of persuasion. You brought him home to me, sweetheart, a formidable task I never thought you could accomplish, so there is no doubt in my mind that you will triumph in this, my last wish.
I love you, Paul, always and forever.
Paul reached for his cup of coffee with a shaky hand, causing the liquid to slop over the rim and make a mess on his desk. He grabbed the manuscript and the two letters to avoid their destruction, and he placed them on the table that was on the far end of the room, close to the bathroom, which was his next stop. He wasn’t at all surprised when he stood over the sink to wash his hands and saw that his cheeks were wet. Mick had been the only one who could ever make him cry without even trying. He let the running water slip through his fingers for a minute before bending down and rinsing his face, trying to compose himself. He’d been blindsided by this final request, yet rejuvenated as well.
The surprise manuscript was the best thing that could have happened at this juncture. He’d immersed himself in his job since returning from San Sebastian five months ago, suicidal, for the first time in his life. He’d never thought much about death, but since Mick’s demise, it was all he thought about. Paul had never felt so alone. A large part of his melancholy stemmed from the brutal rejection he’d faced at the hands of the Spaniard.
The three of them, Mick, Tono, and Paul, had shared a lifetime of happiness in three short years, surprising, considering the physical challenges Mick had been dealing with. The early days of Mick’s disease and the resurrected relationship with Paul had been almost idyllic after the battle that had ensued in the beginning. Mick’s desire to have both men in his life had been an unexpected turn of events neither Paul nor Tono had planned. The resulting union had been hard-won; Paul had never expected Tono to relinquish his hold on Mick. Getting Tono on board had been the most difficult hurdle, but they’d finally worked out a satisfactory arrangement, aided by Paul’s declaration of love for the Spaniard. And really, who wouldn’t love the man?
Tono had proven over and over that their trust and love for him hadn’t been misplaced. He’d been more than generous, sharing himself equally with Mick and Paul. He’d never hesitated to express his feelings, nor did he resent the deep and abiding love Paul and Mick had for each other. Tono seemed to have worked out the conflicting arguments in his head, accepting that what Paul and Mick shared was immutable. The Spaniard knew he would never be able to compete or compare with their deep-seated history, but what he brought to the table couldn’t be discounted. Paul and Mick would have never reunited if not for Tono’s loving and munificent persona. In the end, it had ruled over guilt, fear, and jealousy.
But now, the Spaniard was conflicted again, rejecting Paul summarily the minute Mick died. It had been a horrendous time for the two of them, watching helplessly as the man they loved slipped away. Mick’s fervent wish that they comfort each other had failed in the end. Tono had shut himself off, leaving Paul bereft of not only one but two of the things that were most important in his life. His success and fame paled in comparison to what he’d shared with Mick and Tono.
Paul had left San Sebastian a broken man. Baxter, surrogate father and assistant, had done his best to pull Paul out of this terrible place, to no avail. The world-renowned publisher, editor, and screenwriter had reverted to his old habits of pain management. He’d spent the last five months alternately drunk or steeped in one endless round of mindless sex after another. His apartment had become a virtual haven for every hustler in Manhattan who had brown hair and brown eyes, and if they had a dimple on their chin, so much the better.
Mick’s request would force him to do the unthinkable: go back to Spain and have a face-off with the stubborn man who still had his heart. Paul would have to break through the wall Tono had erected and figure out what the hell his problem was. Aside from the immediate need for his approval to move forward on the manuscript, Paul wanted answers. Why was he shoved aside and dismissed so easily? He thought he’d meant more, but due to Mick’s request, he was no longer willing to wait passively for Tono to see the light. He was going to flash that light and shock him into admitting he wanted their relationship just as much as Paul did.
Paul knew Momentos would be a bestseller without opening a page. Mick’s talent as a writer was undeniable, and this would be his final moment of glory. Paul would not deny him that, and he would have to convince Tono as well, even though the story would open their relationship to much speculation. The public be damned, Paul thought. In the end, the only thing that mattered was Mick, and if his desire was to tell their tale, then Paul would be more than happy to honor his request, and no one and nothing would stand in his way.