It occurred to me today, as I was editing my current WIP, that this new book about a man with Asperger’s is going to be released during Autism Awareness month. It’s just one of those happy accidents, truly. Aiden Sharp didn’t start out as a man with Asperger’s. He didn’t even start out as a man. In the back of my mind, an entirely different sort of book bobbed in the mirky depths (the very mirky depths) until I had one of those lightbulb moments and decided to adjust a few concepts.
Why not have one of my heroes be a gay man with Asperger’s? I try to write characters that feel like they could be real people. That’s my ultimate goal. I want the reader so invested in the people in my head that they can practically hear them gasping and laughing. And I love the idea that there probably is a gay man with Asperger’s out there, being the romantic hero of his own story. And, goodness, he’s incredible.
I have my own “little” hero, here in my Bawdy house. Alex doesn’t have Asperger’s and he isn’t very much like Aiden. Alex has classical, severe Autism so he’s still a bit of a mystery for us. I did borrow a lot of his eating habits, though. And I tried to have fun with it. I’ll always find a way to have fun. If you’ve read Claimed By Chaos, you’ll know that Aiden isn’t my first Asperger’s hero. Though, Alastair was a very different character. Alastair hid it well and he could be a bit of a sociopath.
I think we all take for granted that our brains just work. We never have to worry that everything will spark and click along just like it should. We don’t have to worry that our hearing might go out if we focus a little too hard on the toy in our hand or we won’t be able to taste a food if our brain doesn’t recognize it. And, pervert that I am, I imagine how different sex would be for someone who’s interaction with people and their own brain is so different from ours.
I’m just going to take a few more days to edit and I’ll have to buckle down and find a real title. I swear, titles are one of the worst parts, for me. Just for fun, I thought I’d share a what this book looked like when I first set out. I decided to tone down the crime/thriller aspect of the book. In fact, I took out the whole serial killer element. I didn’t want the book becoming unwieldy. I thought a gay erotic romcom drama mystery thriller had the potential of just being a hot mess. Originally, Aiden’s character was a woman and the male hero probably wasn’t going to be a love interest. Then, I decided to make her Aiden and put him with Lane. The end result is still a little dark but nothing like this excerpt:
“Sorry, GQ.” Chief grimaced as Lane got out of the car. Lane shook his head and shrugged as he leaned against the door.
“It’s not like I had anything going on.” Lane said as he looked around. Everyone that should have been inside the warehouse was milling around the parking lot restlessly. Chief rested his hand on Lane’s shoulder.
“I feel bad. You haven’t had a weekend off in months. But this is big, Lane.” He gestured toward the warehouse and shook his head. “The F.B.I. sent some special expert before we could even get a look. He’s in there now, waiting on you.” Chief said as he gestured for Lane to follow. Lane frowned as he looked at the warehouse.
“How did the F.B.I. get in there before we did?” He asked incredulously. Chief shook his head again.
“Thing got called in and my phone lit up two minutes later, it was Washington D.C. telling me to keep everyone out. Three hours later, this expert shows up and shuts us out. Tells Cabbot that he’ll wait for the head detective to show up and everyone else needs to stay out.” He snorted and crossed his arms. Lane stared at the warehouse. What the hell? He wondered as the hairs on the back of his neck stood. He narrowed his eyes as he turned to Chief.
“Do you have any idea what we’re looking at?” He asked and Chief nodded as he leaned close.
“It’s a serial Killer, GQ. I was told that this is his case. We’re running support and he get’s everything we’ve got.” His gaze was a firm warning and Lane nodded.
“He can have it.” His cheeks puffed out as he shook his head and shoved his hands into the pockets of his trousers. Lane’s shoulders tightened at the idea of a long, drawn-out investigation. He preferred something more fast paced and straightforward. The idea of a string of tragic victims had his stomach twisting before he’d even seen them. “So, I have to babysit some suit and smile as he bosses us around?” Lane asked as he walked toward the door to the warehouse. Chief laughed as he slapped Lane on the back.
“You’re Head Detective, it’s why you get the big bucks. Get in there and make us look good.” He said. Lane glared over his shoulder before he pushed the door open.
Lane stepped forward and the door slammed shut behind him, echoing through the almost empty space. In the distance, a light glowed through the dust heavy air and Lane’s heart slowed as he moved closer. Jesus Christ, he thought as his eyes absorbed the horror in front of him.
Beneath a single, bright light, a body was suspended from the ceiling by a dozen or so chains. One arm was cut off at the shoulder and the other just above the elbow. Two patches of skin were removed from the chest and the flesh was peeled and artfully draped, from the waist down. On the floor, a puddle of blood and tissue congealed. The arms were crossed, carefully arranged on top of the mess. In the silence, Lane’s heartbeat sounded deafening as he slowly walked toward the… What the fuck is that? A victim? Art? He wondered as his head fell to the side. The victim was in his mid twenties and his youth and beauty made the whole display even more horrific.
“What was your first thought, detective?” The voice was warm and deep and the words were soft and low but Lane jumped as if someone had fired a pistol in the room as he spun around. His eyes fell to the wall, next to the door he’d come through. Lane squinted and saw a man sitting on the floor, against the wall. His knees were pulled up and his elbows rested on them.
“Venus De Milo.” Lane replied softly.
He heard a soft gasp and the other man rose to his feet. Lane held his breath as the shadow shrouded figure walked toward him. He was wearing a grey hoodie, jeans and a pair of black Converse. Lane frowned when he noticed the bluetooth headphones around his neck and that he held a smartphone in his hand. This is the F.B.I.’s special expert? He looks like a hipster college student. Lane thought as he tried to see more of his face but the shadow from the hoodie covered everything but his lips and chin. He passed Lane and went to the body.
Lane watched as he stepped close to the body, his feet spread wide, avoiding the puddle as he leaned close. Lane frowned and suppressed a shiver when it looked like the guy was about to kiss the victim. Lane strained to hear as he whispered something but couldn’t make it out. The man stepped back and slowly made his way around the body. Lane’s mouth fell open as the man’s hand gently brushed down the body’s side.
“You can’t touch him…” Lane’s voice fell away as the man’s head tilted as he stared around the body at Lane. He saw the hint of visible lips form a smile.
“You’ll have to excuse me. I’m afraid I have an unusual connection.” Once again, Lane was struck by the velvety smoothness of his voice. “Come here and tell me what you smell.” He said.
Lane wanted to shake his head and insist that he was fine right where he was but he could feel the other man’s expectation and he didn’t want to appear squeamish or inexperienced. He clenched his jaw as he drew closer. The man’s hand raised and gestured impatiently for Lane to move quicker. He drew close to the corpse and the other man and Lane pulled in an exaggerated breath and ground his teeth as the sweet, rotten smell of a body in mid rigor mortis assaulted him. Lane looked and raised a brow. The other man’s forehead rested against the victim’s back between the two large hooks that pierced the flesh inside the shoulder blades. Lane had to swallow as his stomach churned angrily.
“Sweat, saliva, urine…” The man murmured as he raised his head and moved around to the front of the body and looked up toward the overhead light. Lane followed and his eyes clung to the man’s face, taking in the angular jaw and sharp cheek bones and straight nose, all revealed as the light pushed back the shadows over his face. It stopped just below his eyes and Lane frowned. The man’s head tilted down as he looked at the puddle by his feet. “He was alive for most of this. He screamed and he begged.” His hand swept over a tattoo across the victim’s stomach, just below the navel. Lane bit back the urge to tell him to stop. The man dropped to his knees and his fingers traced the tattoos on the inner forearms. Lane came around and stood next to him.
“What am I looking at?” Lane asked quietly.
“Open his eyes.” He whispered.
Lane removed a pair of rubber gloves from his pocket and pulled one on. He gently spread the eyelids and his brows pulled together. Blue contacts covered milky irises.
“He’s wearing colored contacts.” Lane murmured and the man nodded as he stood up.
“You’ll also find that his hair has been cut and colored and the tattoos are new.” He said. Lane saw the redness and swelling around the tattoos and nodded.
“Why? Who is he?” Lane asked. The man sighed as he stood and pulled back his hood and the air left Lane’s lungs.
“He’s me.” He said as he pulled his sweatshirt up. Lane’s eyes swept quickly over him, cataloguing almost identical hair, eyes the same shade of blue and similar facial structure. His eyes reached the tight, muscled stomach and he gasped in shock. It was the same tattoo. Lane’s eyes went even wider when the man released his shirt and pulled up his sleeves, presenting the exact same Hebrew script on his forearms.
“What the hell is going on here?” Lane whispered as he searched the man’s eyes. He smiled softly as he pulled his phone from one of his front pockets.
“In the beginning, I changed my hair every time there was a new body.” He said as he leaned close and held up his phone as his fingers swiped across the screen. Lane focused on keeping his breathing slow and even as a gruesome series of images rushed by. They were all almost identical, with the exception of the hair. “I’m sure you can understand that that would be unsettling. But I realized it was pointless.” He said as he watched Lane.
“Right. Unsettling and pointless.” Lane mumbled weakly as he stared in confusion. “I’m sorry, who are you?” He whispered loudly. The man turned back to the body and for a moment, Lane thought he might have dismissed him.
“Aiden Sharp.” He announced as he raised his phone and started taking pictures. Lane waited until he was done and his phone was back in his pocket.
“Detective Lane West, Agent Sharp.” Lane said as he offered his hand. Sharp shook his head as his eyes swept over Lane before he offered his hand.
“I never went to the academy. I’m a doctor but just call me Aiden.” He took Lane’s hand and shook it before he strode for the door. Lane’s head pulled back in shock.
“Wait!” He called and Aiden stopped and turned. His brows were raised and he stared back. Lane frowned as he crossed the room. “Are we done here?” He asked as he gestured around the warehouse. Aiden shrugged.
“I’m done. And I’m hungry. Can you take me to McDonald’s?” He asked as he turned and went for the door. Lane’s jaw fell.
“You want me to take you to McDonald’s?” He asked incredulously. Aiden nodded as he looked over his shoulder at Lane.
“I haven’t eaten since yesterday morning.” He explained as he pulled the door open. Lane squinted at the late afternoon sun as he stepped through.
“I can get you a car to use while you’re here.” Lane offered and Aiden shook his head.
“I don’t drive and I can brief you on the way and while I eat.” He said as he ignored the circus outside the warehouse. Lane waved as Chief rushed toward them.
“Can I send my people in?” Chief asked as he eyed Aiden warily. Aiden shrugged as he examined the parking lot.
“Fine. Death by exsanguination or cardiac arrest. Homicide.” Aiden said flatly as he turned to Lane. “Where’s your car. I really need to eat.” He added impatiently. Chief’s eyes were wide as they swung to Lane. Lane threw his hands up.
“He can’t drive and he’s hungry. You said I have to babysit.” He offered sarcastically and Chief nodded weakly as he waved toward Lane’s car.
“This is your car?” Aiden asked as Lane went to the driver’s side. Lane slid him an impatient look and gestured for him to get in.
“Yes.” He said as he buckled his seatbelt. Lane started the car and waited for Aiden to settle into the passenger seat.
“This is a 1960 Mercedes-Benz 190SL. You can’t afford this on your salary.” Aiden said as he rubbed his hand over the red leather dashboard. Lane reached over and pushed Aiden’s hand off the dash.
“You don’t know what I can afford.” He said bluntly and put the car in Drive. He could feel Aiden’s eyes on him, the side of his face felt warm.
“I can guess your salary with reasonable accuracy.” Aiden said and Lane jumped then ducked his shoulders when he felt Aiden’s hand pulling back the collar of his shirt. “Banana Republic. More reasonable on a detective’s salary.” He added. Lane glared out of the corner of his eye.
“Do you mind?” He asked as he leaned away. He saw Aiden shake his head dismissively.
“Expensive haircut and manicured nails.” Aiden observed. “Is this is how you think a gay man should look?” He asked. Lane’s head whipped toward Aiden and his mouth fell open.
“What?” Lane asked in shock. “Why would you assume I’m gay? Because I don’t wear bad suits and put effort into my grooming?” He knew he sounded defensive. Aiden looked confused.
“I don’t make assumptions. You kept looking at my lips and your pupils dilated and your body temperature rose when I pulled up my shirt. And you don’t wear bad suits and you put effort into your grooming.” He stated as he tilted his head so he could see more of Lane’s face. “Are you gay?” Aiden asked. Lane’s lips pulled in and he nodded stiffly. Aiden nodded as well. “Good. I’d like to have sex with you, if there’s time.” He said casually as he looked out at the street around the car. Lane gasped and forced his attention back to the road. He noticed that the light turned red and slammed on the brake.
“What’s wrong with you? Who says shit like that?” Lane asked loudly. Aiden shrugged.
“I do. I have Asperger’s syndrome. And I generally don’t care about what other people do.” He explained.