Encore! Encore!

Encore! Encore!

Charlie Cochrane Jet Mykles Kimberly Gardner

Price: $6.99


Take a bow and blow a kiss as the curtain falls on love. Or does it?

From London's West End to a New York drag bar and onto the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, three couples rediscover the passion that once burned as brightly as the stage lights.

Their plays might be over, but the show goes on. For these players, the heart discovers that just when you think a love story has come to its end, if you have the courage to turn the page then love will make a return to the stage.

PUBLISHED BY: ManLove Romance Press
ISBN: 978-1-60820-132-7
CATEGORIES: ManLove, Romantic Fiction, Anthology, Contemporary
KEYWORDS: gay romance, crossdressing

EBOOKS BY ManLove Romance Press

EBOOKS BY Kimberly Gardner

COPYRIGHT Kimberly Gardner/2010


Someone was watching him. That wouldn't be so odd if he was onstage, but he was in a deserted dressing room. Shawn stopped mopping cold cream from his face and looked toward the dressing room doorway.

Ms. Tyken stood there in all her sequined glory. Without the bouffant wig and the three inch heels, the drag queen was five- feet even if she was an inch but once she started talking, you'd swear she was all of six foot. Tonight she wore a vivid yellow and black evening gown that brought to mind a shimmering bee. The black wig atop her head had been threaded through with yellow ribbons and had even been fashioned to a stylized curved point high above her head to resemble a stinger. Heavy makeup almost disguised the fact that Ms. Tyken was no longer a young queen.

Once seen, she put on a broad smile and sashayed into the room, carrying a cloud of jasmine scent with her. "Shawna, darling, did you mention once that you used to date a director?"

Inwardly, Shawn fought the immediate memories that filled his head. Had he mentioned it to her? He didn't think so. But he probably did mention it to the other girls. He shrugged, turning back to the mirror then lifting a new tissue to wipe off some more cold cream. "That's ancient history."

"Mmmm. What was his name, sugar?"

"I don't talk to him anymore." And I couldn't get you a job with him if I wanted to. He doesn't do drag queens.

"Is that fact?" Ms. Tyken trailed the two-inch talons of her right hand along the edge of the makeup table. "Wasn't it Roscoe Schroeder?"

Why did the mere mention of the man's name have to make his heart race? "That's the one."

In a rustle of skirt, Ms Tyken came to stand behind him, blocking the reflection of the rest of the room and providing extra illumination as the makeup lights bounced off her sequins. "Mmmmm. He's a handsome devil, isn't he?" 4 Mykles ~ Much Ado

"Do you know him?"

"Oh no. Just met him tonight."

Hands freezing, Shawn glanced up at his boss. "Tonight?"

She gave him a smug, carmine-coated smile. "Mmm. He's out front. Asking for you."

"For me?"

Fingers pasted with black and yellow striped fake nails squeezed his shoulders. "For little ol' you, sweetie. You sure he's ancient history? Doesn't seem like the kind of man you want to let go of."

No, he wasn't. Too bad Shawn just couldn't live under his wing.

Shawn stared at his own reflection, at the cold cream smeared makeup. His hair was still encased in his wig cap. He'd already changed out of his costume into sweatpants. In short, he looked like shit. "What's he doing here?"

"He only asked for you." She stroked Shawn's shoulders. "What should I tell him?"

Go to hell? But his usual mantra didn't ring true, even in his own head. In truth, it hadn't rung true for the last few months. His righteous indignation after their breakup hadn't outlasted the winter. "Tell him..." He blinked at himself. Shit, what's he doing here? Shawn hadn't heard one peep from him in the fifteen months since he'd moved out. "Tell him I'll be out after I change."

Wise blue eyes studied him for a long moment before Ms. Tyken nodded. "Whatever you say, sugar. But you're not on the bar tonight. You could just slip out the back." Trust her to see his hesitation and respect it.

Shawn considered it only for a brief moment. Like it or not, he was curious about why Roscoe was here. "Thanks, but no. I'll be out as soon as I change."

She swatted him lightly on the shoulder, grinning wide to show professionally capped teeth in her reflection. "Don't go changing, honey. Not for any man." One heavily-lashed eye winked over a wide, lipsticked smile, then Ms. Tyken turned to leave. "I'll tell the man you'll come see him when you're good and ready."

Shawn sat alone in the dim glow provided by the frame of lights around the makeup mirror, slowly tissuing the remaining cold cream from his face. Thinking. "Don't go changing." Well, that was the thing with Roscoe, wasn't it? He didn't like who Shawn was, rather what Shawn was. It's what broke them up. "Don't waste your talent," Roscoe had told him when he'd professed to wanting to explore what being a drag queen was all about. According to Roscoe, drag queens were no talent hacks or over-the-top comedians with a twist. Okay, maybe those weren't his exact words but the meaning had been clear. Roscoe didn't seem to mind that Shawn liked to wear skirts and makeup, but he'd hit the roof when Shawn had wanted to explore the life for real. Shawn had done the leaving, but Roscoe's attempt to direct his personal life had made it impossible to continue living together. They hadn't spoken since Shawn had taken his meager belongings out of Roscoe's loft to find another place to live in a city he'd only lived in for two years. Shawn had grown past him, found a life, and was doing perfectly fine on his own.

So what the hell did Roscoe want now?


Brighton, January

"He had it coming. He had it coming."

One of the merry murderesses was strolling along past the door, getting every part of a strident voice properly tuned up for the dress rehearsal. "If you'd have been there, if you'd have seen it..." The song faded as the singer turned one of the corners of the labyrinthine backstage corridor, heading for the communal homicidal dressing room.

Velma Kelly made a miniscule adjustment to her eyeliner, emphasising her naturally dark blue eyes and creating an effect which was seductive as well as overtly theatrical. Getting the right effect, one which reached to the back row of the circle but didn't make the people in the front row of the stalls think you were made up with oil paint, was an art in itself. Juliet had the knack and Velma was grateful to have her skills to call on. Juliet had been a dresser and make-up artist for twenty years, having amassed a fund of wisdom and risque stories. She plied everyone with anecdotes of the great, mediocre and downright useless. And she wielded a mean panstick-the company had been lucky to get hold of someone so capable.

"When you're good to Mama..." A higher pitched voice went past the dressing room door, slightly croaking and subtly out of tune. Not one of the cast this time. Maybe a stagehand putting on the falsetto, or even the doorman, who was built like the side of a barn and probably sang counter tenor.

Velma considered her reflection again. Luscious waves of hair from the black Louise Brooks style wig framed her heart shaped face-it was a decent black wig, to boot, not something that looked like it had come off a dead cat. That sweet face would be vying with the slightly more lantern-jawed features of Roxie Hart for the hearts of the audience in only a few evenings' time. Opening night seemed to have been a bloody long time coming, the traumas of auditions rounding the corner into the mixed excitement and ennui of rehearsal, then going into the home straight of being in a real theatre rather than just a church hall.

Sorting the technical stuff seemed to have taken forever. Velma knew she should be more patient, should be taking more of an interest in that side of things. The guys on the team worked their backsides off getting the practical aspects right and there were plenty of them in this show. Somehow thinking about the nuts and bolts just seemed to get in the way of what she felt was real theatre. People with their feet on a stage, reaching out to those with their bums on the seats. Strip all the lights and sound equipment and props away, and it was as simple as that.

A small tattoo on the door brought Velma's thoughts back from performance to reality. "Come in."

"Just wanted to say 'break a leg.'" Freddie Wright, the director, put his head round the door, his usual smile not entirely hiding his nerves. There was a lot riding on this production, for all of them. Musicals had a habit of failing, even productions of something as seemingly gilt-edged as this one.

"I'll ignore the cliche and take all the good wishes lying behind it." Velma smiled. A lot of affection existed between director and star. They'd known each other since University days, when third year Freddie had taken this seemingly innocent young fresher under his wing. A lot of water had passed under the bridge-or been passed over the parapet on drunken nights-since then.

"You'll be swell." Freddie grinned.

"I'll be great. I'll have the whole world on a plate." Velma resisted putting the tune to the words. "Maybe."

"No time for doubts. Or if it is, they have to be gone for the preview night. Brighton expects and so do I." Freddie gave a mock salute. "Just off to give Roxie the pep talk as well."

"Not one for Billy Flynn?" Velma returned the salute by rising and giving a deep curtsey, one that would probably mean readjusting her tights afterwards. Bloody stupid things, seams.

"Nah. He's the least worried of the lot of you. Done the role four times, amateur through to pro. Could do it in his sleep."

"Sometimes it seems that's just how he is doing it..." Velma's voice followed the director out into the corridor. She'd just got the left seam to a ramrod straight perfection on her left calf when the stage manager's runner came along, knocking on the door.

"Five minutes, Mr. Yardley."

"Thank you." For a moment, a dreadfully long vulnerable moment, Francis Yardley remembered who he really was. Not Liza Minnelli or Chita Rivera, just a bloke from Stoke Newington who happened to have both a brain and a pair of pins to match Cyd Charisse's. One who'd talked his way into a university production of Oklahoma during his fresher year, and had turned out to be a more than acceptable Curly McLain to an utterly appalling Laurey Williams. It had been a modest start, but a start nonetheless.

Curly McLain had led to Billy Flynn in Chicago-yeah, he'd played that part as well, second year at university. By the time he'd finished, the passable second class degree under his belt had been joined by a range of amateur roles. Freddie was starting to fly by then, getting his directorial feet under the table in the provinces. He'd taken Francis along with him, bypassing back and even front rows of the chorus, and heading straight for Evelyn Oakleigh. You rarely got a better start, even if Evelyn Oakleigh, Billy Crocker, Velma Kelly, wasn't a natural progression.

"Overture and beginners." The disembodied voice moved around backstage, hollering the lines which got the adrenaline flowing, penetrating to the most meagre of the dressing rooms and fading away into the depths of the labyrinth. "Overture and beginners." It came through the crack where the door wasn't quite closed and brought Francis back to the present with a bump. That was his call and he needed to get his arse in gear.

Another glance in the mirror and a last deep breath. Off with Francis, on with Velma, and off to the wings.


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