Want a taste of book two? Here's the first chapter of 'Fidelity Issues'.
'That's the fifth time today. My arse must be black and blue.'
Scott laughed, as Evan rubbed his behind. 'You did insist on wearing shorts. It's an occupational hazard in Italy. I don't think sexual harassment laws have reached this far south.'
'Well it's a bloody liberty. It's not a soft pinch either, they almost draw blood.' Evan stepped out of the lift onto the observation deck of the Campanile di San Marco, the iconic bell tower overlooking St Mark's Square. 'Oh, wow. Just... wow.'
Scott squeezed through the throng of tourists to join him. The decaying majesty of Venice spread out in front of their eyes, the densely packed buildings tanned by the soft autumn sunlight. Scott put his arm around Evan's shoulder and pulled him tight. 'I know. It is magical.'
Tears brimmed like tiny diamonds in Evan's eyes. He wiped them away with the back of his hand. 'It's incredible enough when you're down there,' he pointed to the labyrinth of narrow streets, 'but from here it doesn't seem possible.'
The spell was broken by a wiry Italian woman in head-to-toe black who had decided they had monopolised this viewpoint for long enough.
'Prego,' Scott said, as he led Evan to the next available gap. This time they were looking out over the Lagoon, blue sky melting into blue water, dappled with amber flashes.
'Can we stay forever?' Evan asked. 'Buy an old wreck of a palazzo and spend our days wandering the canals?'
'I'm not sure we could afford a palazzo, maybe an appartamento.'
Evan dug a finger in Scott's rib. 'Don't even joke. I'm seriously considering not going back.' Evan moved along the platform, looking for another vantage point.
Scott hung back to watch him. His bum did look extremely pinchable in those purple shorts. A gentle breeze played with the fabric of Evan's white shirt, which he'd only half-buttoned up, giving an occasional flash of bare skin. Scott loved watching people respond to Evan, the look of surprise followed by a surreptitious double take and a reddening of their cheeks. He loved watching them, knowing Evan was his.
Evan could have spent a fortune just on shoes, let alone the exquisitely tailored suits, chic leather belts and perfectly cut shirts, but had limited himself to one outfit. Scott was being amazingly patient as Evan tried on virtually every piece of clothing Venice had to offer. Finally he chose a black blazer with dramatic red silk lining, a matching waistcoat and a pair of black patent leather loafers. Evan got out his wallet to pay, but Scott appeared at his side and handed his credit card to the assistant before Evan could react.
'You don't have to do that,' Evan whispered.
'I want to,' Scott replied.
When Evan saw the total due he couldn't help but be a little relieved: he'd missed a zero somewhere. He almost asked if they were still priced in lira.
Scott didn't look worried. He handed Evan the packages, kissed him on the cheek and said, 'Your wedding present, from me.'
'Thank you.' Somehow the words didn't seem sufficient, so Evan put his hand on the back of Scott's head and pulled him in for a proper kiss.
'Grazie, signori, prego.' The assistant, having got his sale, was now keen to usher them out of the store, unimpressed by their display.
'Italy is surprisingly homophobic given the amount of bumming the Romans did,' Evan said once they were outside.
'Yes, but that's the Catholic influence,' Scott said, 'and we know there are no gays in the Vatican.'
Evan guffawed. 'Thank you for my present.' He took Scott's hand and led him off down the narrow shopping street.
'What do you fancy for dinner?' Scott asked. 'Italian?'
Evan laughed again. He looked down at his hand and caught sight of the ring that had only been sitting on his finger for a few short days, yet felt like it had always been there. Something intangible and wonderful had shifted since their wedding: everything was lighter, freer. 'I'd love an Italian, haven't had one in hours.'
'Yes, but what about dinner?'
Evan pulled up outside a small, narrow store with a window packed with Venetian Carnival masks. In the centre was a gold mask with a delicate lattice border and scarlet feathers erupting from its edges. 'We have got to get that for Krystle.'
'Oh, yes, she would love that.' Scott said. 'Will we be able to get it home in one piece?'
'I'm sure we will, even if I have to wear it on the plane.'
Scott suggested they have dinner at the hotel, so that they could drop the shopping bags back in their room. In the end they bought six masks, Evan reassuring him they could somehow fit everything in their cases. As well as the flamboyant piece for their friend Derek's drag alter ego Krystle Klarity, they bought a more subtle harlequin design for Frankie, Scott's fairy godfather, two matching ornate half masks for Evan's mum, Rachael, and his sister, Sally, and a miniature Pierrot with a diamond tear for Scott's Nan. Finally they bought a full-face mask for themselves: it was gold and white, and Scott was drawn to its cryptic expression, like it knew something he didn't.
The Club Del Doge restaurant at The Gritti Palace sits on a terrace overlooking the Grand Canal. The imposing structure of Santa Maria della Salute on the opposite bank was an almost ghostly presence in the fading light. Scott found its beauty a secondary distraction given the view that sat across the table from him.
'This was a good call,' Evan said, 'I can't imagine a more perfect spot.'
'Or more perfect company.' Scott raised his champagne flute.
Evan raised his in return. 'Cheesy, but acceptable. Only two more days of bliss until it's back to reality.'
'I don't see why the honeymoon has to end just because we're back home.' Scott reached across the table and rested his hand on Evan's.
Evan smiled. 'You did that on our first date, do you remember? Slightly less impressive Italian restaurant on that occasion, mind.'
Scott squeezed Evan's hand. He remembered every detail of that night. He replayed those moments repeatedly, determined to prevent time from robbing him of his vivid recall. 'To be fair, it would be hard to compete with this view.'
Evan visibly deflated. 'I don't want to go home. Please can we stay?'
Scott's heart gave a little ache. If only it was in his power to grant Evan's every wish, he would do it without flinching. 'I'll make sure our life at home will be every bit as wonderful as this.'
Evan didn't respond, but looked out over the lagoon.
Scott knew this had to be about what had happened with Mel: he'd seen that same forlorn look cross Evan's face many times over the last few days since his best friend had bolted, having caused a terrible scene at their wedding reception. Scott was grateful to Mel for bringing him and Evan together on that magical blind date - could that really be a matter of months ago? - but he struggled to forgive all the trouble she'd caused. It was becoming clear that none of that really mattered to Evan: Mel had been in his life for over a decade, it was no surprise he was in pain.
'What do you want to do after dinner?' Scott asked. 'We could go for a walk, take a—'
'You.' Evan was back in the moment. 'Just you.'
There was only one possible response to that. Scott picked up his glass. 'Saluti.'