Excerpt from "Opening Night"

Gilbert found that Wilson had already installed himself in Lely's dressing room. The young man sprawled in a chair, legs carelessly apart, breathing heavily. Sweat beaded his forehead. Gilbert was perversely pleased to see that the apparently effortless performance had in fact cost Wilson something.

"Well, Mr. Wilson. That was well done, especially for the first time."

Frank grinned. "It was, rather." He leaned forward like a conspirator. "I could tell that you at least enjoyed it."

Gilbert cleared his throat. He smelled acrid perspiration, laced with lilac. "I could appreciate your talent, certainly."

"Come on now, admit it. You loved it. You couldn't take your eyes off me."

Gilbert's dizziness returned briefly. The intensity of Frank's gaze unnerved him.

"Tell me that you enjoyed it, William." Wilson grabbed both of Gilbert's hands and pulled him closer. Gilbert didn't have the wit to pull himself away. "Tell me how you didn't dare blink for fear you'd miss something. How hard your heart beat as you watched me, performing for you." The arrogance suddenly melted from Frank's face, to be replaced by raw need. "I've been trying for so very long now to get you to notice to me."

"Mr. Wilson, please." Gilbert tried without success to release himself from the younger man's powerful grip.

"Frank. Call me Frank. I want to hear you say my Christian name." He drew Gilbert's hand to his chest. "Feel my heart, William. Feel how it's beating, for you."

Sure enough, Gilbert felt the strong, even rhythm through the damp cotton of Wilson's costume, which rose and fell beneath his palm. His own breathing was ragged and labored. On their own accord, his fingertips wandered across the young man's chest, tracing the ridges of muscle down to the abdomen. There was something about this brash youth, some kind of perfection that was almost painful.

Frank sat completely still under Gilbert's touch, his eyes moist, his lips parted. A flush climbed up his fair cheeks. Sweat-soaked blond curls clung to his brow. "Yes," he whispered. "Oh yes!"

Gilbert started, as if waking from some dream. Deliberately, he drew his hand away, trying to recover his dignity. "Mr. Wilson. You're embarrassing me, and I should think you'd feel embarrassed as well."

"I'm not embarrassed, or ashamed, William. I want you, and I don't care who knows it. You're a comic genius, unappreciated by ordinary stiffs like Sullivan and D'Oyly Carte. And what's more, with your bearish body and your wild whiskers and that brusque manner you adopt to camouflage your soft heart, you're as attractive as hell."

Frank cupped his swelling groin in one hand, daring Gilbert to look away. He pointed at the noticeable bulge in the director's trousers. "You may pretend to be shocked or horrified, but the truth is pretty obvious."

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