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Red Sunset -- April 17, 2013

"Red Sunset"

Finding love in the wrestling arena is unlikely, and a relationship based on the illusion of control isn't easy. Scott O’Doul and Brad Fraser have managed both: one night under a blue moon's light they found they meant more to each other than either expected. Their comfortable world is shattered when Brad is released, and he must head to Japan if he wants to keep wrestling. The work is exciting but lonely—six weeks seems an eternity. Once Brad and Scott reunite, they vacation at a lakeside cabin and find the miles apart have brought them closer—but they’ll need courage if illusion of control is to become the heart of love.

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Read an excerpt:


I love you.

Brad Fraser sat on a bench, taping his wrists in preparation for that night's Progressive Championship Wrestling show. He was used to the organized chaos and was able to respond when spoken to, yet allow his mind to wander. Nodding, smiling, and biting the strips of tape with his teeth, he drifted off and began to think about Scott.

Only a few months had gone by since Scott O'Doul's magical admission of love under the watery light of a blue moon. At first, nothing seemed any different. They maintained their partnership, and Scott continued to measure out delicious doses of pain when they were on the road. The only perceivable difference was when they were home, tucked beneath the covers in their own bed, and the words were whispered again, one to the other.

Brad set the tape aside and began to stretch. To the rest of the roster nothing was any different between him and Scott. Sure, there were still rumors about Scott, but Brad was tight-lipped whenever he was asked about Scott or their relationship. If pressed, he'd respond it was no one's fucking business what went on between them, and that usually sent busybodies packing. Of a necessity, since their respective storylines rarely overlapped, they kept their distance from each other backstage at the shows, but everyone knew they were an item because always at the end of the day, Brad and Scott left together, headed for whatever room they were sharing for the night.

Just as Brad was drifting away into a pleasant daydream, a harsh, overbright voice cut through his reverie.

"Yo, pipsqueak!"

With his lips firmly pressed together, Brad turned a cold stare on the man who approached him. Ace Shatter had only been with PCW for a few months, and already he'd made a huge impact on the smaller wrestlers like Brad. Though he was four inches taller and roughly fifty pounds heavier, he garnered a massive amount of favor with the management. He was a comfortable step between Scott at six feet six inches, and Brad, who didn't even break six feet. Unfortunately Brad was booked to work a program with Ace, the eventual outcome being Brad falling victim to the new guy.

"I got some ideas for our match tonight," Ace said once he was closer. He had an annoying habit of talking louder than he needed to, and he always drew the attention of anyone who happened to be in the immediate vicinity.

"Whatever, dude," Brad said, and he rolled his shoulders as he continued to loosen up for his match. "It's pretty straight down the middle tonight. I get over on you, set you up for our Spring Bash-Up match. Piece of cake."

"On paper, yeah," Ace said, and he tipped his head to the side. "You got a pretty slick finisher, right?"

Brad squared his shoulders. There was something about the way Ace had said "on paper," and some deep-seated radar told him to tread cautiously. "You know my finisher. The fuck you asking me about it for?"

With a smile that could only be described as greasy, Ace said, "Listen, sunshine, I ain't here to pick a fight with you. Your finisher is a modified moonsault, isn't it?"

Brad nodded once, highly aware of any nuances that might give away what Ace was really digging for.

"I was just thinking we might switch it up a bit is all," Ace said. "Instead of you pinning me one, two, three after your finisher, we could throw in a few near falls, really jerk the crowd around."

Brad shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. "Manny's all up my ass about me not following directives, and we all know that Manny is Snyder's voice. So if Snyder wants me to pin you in a five-minute bout, then that's what we have to do. There ain't no time for near falls."

"Snyder's an old man," Ace said, sidling closer and lowering his voice for the first time. "He's still living in the past. He don't really know what works these days."

Brad snorted. PCW's owner, Victor Snyder, had carefully built the promotion up over more than three decades, and Brad knew better than to cross him. Although Snyder rarely traveled with the crew, his finger was firmly on the pulse of the business and nothing ever slipped by him. Snyder trusted Manny, the burly former wrestler who booked all the matches and handled the day-to-day running of the promotion.

"Listen, Ace," Brad said as he turned to pick up his bottle of oil, "tonight I'm following the move set the way Manny laid it down for us. The way I see it, we hit the ring, you rough me up, I hit the Frasersault, get the pin, and we're done." From under the fringe of his bangs, Brad looked at Ace and said, "You want to go rogue on me, don't think I can't handle myself out there and make things go down the way I want them to."

"Whoa," Ace said, throwing his hands up, "the kitten's got claws."

"Fuck off, asshole," Brad said. He finished oiling his chest and tossed the bottle back in his bag.

Ace smirked and backed away. "I'll see you out there."

There wasn't much time to wait before the match, and Brad turned the conversation over in his head as he walked toward the holding area behind the curtains. The current program with Ace was designed to showcase the newer wrestler. Brad knew that, in the pro-wrestling business, sometimes you were up and sometimes you were down. He had been handed a series of stunning losses over the past month, and he knew tonight's victory was only a means to set Ace up for the pay-per-view scheduled for the following weekend. Ace would be the stronger for going into the match on the heels of a loss.

After forming the alliance with Scott, Brad gave up the bad habits that affected his wrestling ability. He no longer indulged in smoking pot, and he cut back on the late nights drinking with the rest of the boys. When they had the chance, Scott worked with Brad to perfect some of the finer points of his in-ring abilities. All in all, Brad knew he was stronger and better than he had ever been.

There was just something about Ace that rubbed Brad the wrong way; it was unusual for someone to have such a meteoric rise in the company. He tried to shake off the bad feelings as Manny signaled it was Brad's turn to make his entrance, and by the time he reached the ring he was completely immersed in his character and enjoying the accolades. Even Ace's raucous entrance music didn't really detract from Brad's enjoyment of the crowd.

Once the match started, everything seemed to go according to what had been discussed and laid out. In the beginning, Ace had the upper hand, slamming Brad into the corner, delivering brutal smacks to the chest, and rolling him up for a near pin.

"Fuck," Brad ground out, keeping his voice low so only Ace and the ref heard, "that wasn't part of the plan."

"Relax, pipsqueak," Ace said as he circled close. "Told ya, plans were meant to change."

"Bullshit," Brad said, forgetting to modulate his voice and drawing gasps from those who sat near the ring.

The ref signaled that time was running out for the match. Brad pushed forward and sent Ace crashing down to the mat, flat on his back. He turned and climbed to the top of the ring post in the corner and posed for the crowd. Brad shouted that he would be the victor. Many in the crowd roared and held their Frasersault signs aloft.

There had to be a level of trust between the wrestlers, and even though Brad had his differences with Ace, he trusted Ace to remain prone on the mat. Brad's finisher was a moonsault, which meant he stood with his back to the ring, leaped in the air, did a back flip, and landed full force on the man lying on the mat. If the match called for the downed man to move out of position, then Brad adjusted his body to land on his feet. At this juncture, Brad anticipated Ace would stay in position; therefore it came as a great shock when he felt the brutal sting of the mat smacking against his chest, and the wind rushed out of his lungs. Instead of staying in position, Ace had rolled out of the ring when Brad's back was turned.

As Brad rolled onto his back and struggled to catch his breath, he was in for an even greater surprise when Ace climbed back up into the ring and threw himself over Brad's body. He hooked an arm under Brad's leg, yanked it up, and Brad was dimly aware of the ref pounding out a three count. Ace leaped to his feet, his back to the camera long enough to flip Brad the bird before turning and celebrating his victory.

"Shit," Brad coughed as he forced himself upright. "What the fuck? You get an audible on that one?" he said as he advanced on the ref.

The ref backed toward the corner, hands raised. He waited until Brad was close enough to whisper tersely, "Don't make it worse for yourself. You touch me and you'll be fined."

"Fuck that," Brad said. "He changed the match."

The ref shrugged. "Take it up with Manny."

"Son of a bitch," Brad said, and he stalked across the ring to shake the ropes on the side where Ace was sauntering up the ramp, taunting him as he went. Because he didn't want to botch things any more than he thought they were already botched, he waited until he got a signal from the floor crew that they had broken for an advertisement before he exited the ring and surged up the ramp.

Manny was waiting for Brad as he ducked under the curtain.

"What the hell was that?" Brad demanded.

"Change of plans," Manny said. "Look, go and get cleaned up, calm down, come and see me before you take off."

"That fucking bastard," Brad said, and he pulled away from Manny. "Who the fuck does he think he is?"

"Listen, runt." Manny laid a hand on Brad's shoulder. "It wasn't his call, it was mine. Go get a shower, burn off a little of this steam, come see me when you're less agitated."

Brad clamped his mouth shut and turned away. Something definitely wasn't right, and his premonition from earlier assailed him again. Protocol dictated that problems were dealt with after the show was over, so badgering Manny now wouldn't do Brad any good. He'd shower, change, wait for Scott, and then go see what the hell was up.

Less than an hour later, he stood waiting for Manny to finish up a phone call. Since the wrestlers were required to remain in the arena until the show was over, several people still milled about. Just as Manny snapped his phone shut, Scott emerged from a hallway and came to stand beside Brad.

Manny pocketed his phone and ran a hand through his thinning hair. "You know I ain't got no beef with you, runt, right?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know you don't," Brad said. A muscle tensed in his jaw as he waited to hear what the grizzled veteran would say next.

Manny reached in his pocket, produced an envelope, and handed it over to Brad.

Brad frowned as he tore the envelope open and scanned the letter inside. Color drained from his face when he reached the last line: We wish you luck in your future endeavors…. Brad looked up. "You're firing me?"

Manny shrugged. "Not me, kiddo, management. Creative doesn't have anything for you—"

"Save it," Brad said, his voice tight with controlled rage. "That's fucking bullshit. My program with Shatter is on fire—you and everyone else knows it. What the fuck is really going on here?"

As Brad talked, Scott eased the letter from his hand and read it over. Using the excuse that "creative," the department in charge of writing the storylines for the wrestlers, didn't have anything was a thinly veiled excuse used far too often.

"Snyder thinks you're a pothead," Manny said, and he folded his arms over his chest.

"Bullshit," Brad said. "I ain't smoked weed in over a year."

Color crept over Manny's cheeks and he said, "Look, Fraser, this isn't the time or place to discuss it. Yeah, there's more to it than that, but I ain't the one you got heat with."

"Fuck," Brad said. Before he could say anything else, he felt Scott's arms around him, and he was turned so his cheek pressed against Scott's chest. Even though the show was over, Scott was still dressed in his ring attire, and his silk necktie felt cool to Brad's overheated cheek.

"This is a cheap shot, Manny, and you know it," Scott said. "Tell Snyder to expect my call tomorrow."

"Will do," Manny said.

Brad stood quietly in Scott's embrace. He realized two things. First, Scott seemed to have deduced the real reason for the firing. Second, this marked the first time Scott publicly acknowledged to the rest of the roster that he and Brad were a couple. For some reason, the acknowledgement went a long way toward taking the sting away.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 7th, 2013 10:14 pm (UTC)
I'll be happy for payday, so I can purchase this one!! Congratulations on the upcoming release, dearest one :)

Apr. 7th, 2013 10:18 pm (UTC)
*hugs* Thanks! I'm pretty excited!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )