12th May 2013: Filth is no longer available from loveyoudivine Alterotica, but I am delighted to announce that a new edition will be available very soon from Dreamspinner Press. This will be a revised and expanded edition, and for the first time, Filth will be available in paperback as well as digital formats. Hurrah! ~ MK
Filth by M. King
ISBN: 978-1-60054-449-1 (ebook)
Cover art: Anna Reith
Length: novel / 68,000 words
Published by: loveyoudivine alterotica (transfix imprint)
Does gender really matter? Kel and Toni are two damaged people, both trying to find answers. But, where Kel’s hopes for the future lie mainly with outreach programs and a new life with his lover, Toni’s looking for absolution in a bottle of Mexican hormone pills.
Kel loves Toni obsessively and—though he supports both of them on the money he gleans from tricks and less-than-salubrious clients—he struggles with the reality of Toni’s burgeoning transition, and her motives for doing it.
While Kel grapples with his worries, and the attentions of regular client Michael, otherwise known as The Sherbet Pervert, Toni has different problems to face. Is there really a correct way to read women’s magazines? What about the manifold uses of maxi pads? And just what is this gender thing, anyway?
For all their attempts to build a life together, both Kel and Toni know their survival is precarious. What neither of them realize is just how easily their harsh, isolated little world can be turned upside down and, when chance events push them into unknown territory, both must confront some difficult truths.
This novel is unforgettable for its glimpse of lives lived on the edge of death, boundless love, and immense inner strength.
Here at Obsidianbookshelf.com, I highly recommend it and choose it as my Top Pick in the Wildfire newsletter published by All Romance Ebooks. ~ Val Kovalin
© M. King 2010
The day they met was summer grit and warm, stale air, just like this. The year has gone by really fast, though some days it feels like it’s been a lifetime.
The outreach center closed a few months back: the economy’s not great for charity at the moment. It stood a block or so from where the free clinic is now, just one of the squat, ugly buildings on the way to the bus station. There used to be a needle exchange on the ground floor, and upstairs a meeting room with bright-painted walls and hard, plastic chairs. When Kel started going, he didn’t think he’d stick with it, but they turned out to be nice people. They weren’t preachy, they handed out free coffee and sometimes sandwiches along with the condoms, and he made a couple of friends there. You’d sit around, drink the coffee, swap the license plate numbers of johns who ought to be avoided, find people to watch your back when you were working, and that was useful. No smoking in the building, though, and that was how he met Toni.
This one time, Kel slipped out onto the fire escape—old wrought iron scaled with rust and overlooking acres of brown brick and concrete—and he almost trod on this guy, sitting folded in on himself and looking down at the street below. When Kel apologized, the guy glanced up, and Kel just saw this perfect crocus of a human being. Slim, with a face that belonged in an art museum, all soft shadows and cheekbones, nose like a marble statue’s and a mouth made for…well, the kind of mouth a man could go blind just thinking about it. The most beautiful brown eyes, deep-set and shaded with apprehension. Tight-furled, like a flower in bud. His clothes hung off him, baggy and faded, almost as if they belonged to someone else, and his wavy black hair could have done with a wash.
If Kel believed in love at first sight, he would have called it that. Instead, he remembers this weird feeling that pummeled his guts, nearly knocked his legs out from under him, and made him shoot out a hand to the rail for support, scratching his palm on the sharp slivers of rust and peeling paint.
Toni smiled. They ended up sitting there, sharing two smokes and a bag of Doritos, and he picked the splintered pieces of rust out of Kel’s hand with graceful, slim fingers. He wore dark blue nail polish to hide how yellow his nails were back then.
—So, what you doin’ out here anyway?—
He’d shaken his head at Kel’s question, blown smoke at the wind, and said he didn’t like the politics. Even now, Kel thinks this was a lie. Toni was probably just chicken-shit. Ever since they’ve known each other, he’s always been running away from something.
Now, Kel slides the chain on the door and tosses his keys on the table. Madonna’s bitching on about something in the background, and he rubs absently at the sore patch on the inside of his elbow where the doctor took blood.
“Baby! You okay? I missed you!”
There’s a brief blur of movement in the kitchen doorway, but then Kel’s arms are full of Toni, wearing nothing but a bathrobe and a smile. He kisses Kel and doesn’t seem to want to let him go. Kel’s not too bothered about that, because he never quite realizes how much he’s missed Toni until he’s holding him, and even then it doesn’t seem entirely real. He starts to tell Toni about the clinic and how he’s got one set of tests back all clear, and it’ll be about a week to wait for the other, but he’s sure everything’s fine anyway, and Toni cuts him off.
“I just ran a bath. Wanna share? C’mon.”
He’s tugging on Kel’s arm and pulling the puppy-dog face he does so well, so it’s a foregone conclusion even before Kel glances at the clock.
“Yeah, but I have to—”
“You’ve got hours. Come on. Don’t you want to?”
Kel sighs. There aren’t that many hours, but there’s no point arguing. The song on the stereo changes. Bad Girl starts playing, Toni’s arms slip around his neck, and there’s close, swaying dancing and lip-synching. Toni’s warm, peppermint-scented breath is tempting, so Kel figures what the hell. He grabs the back of Toni’s neck, soft and vulnerable where the black curls—so much longer now than that first day—have been gathered and pinned up, leaving his nape bare, pulls him close and gives him a rough, deep kiss.
“Show you what bad girls get,” he mutters into Toni’s mouth, and there’s delighted laughter and the promise of a whole lot more to come.
The bathroom is tiny—the kind of tiny where you have to sit on an angle to take a shit and the door won’t open all the way—but they have candles, and Toni’s poured some kind of sweet, flowery oil into the water. He gets in first, and Kel can’t help but watch. He’s already starting to change. Hell, that started when he began growing out his hair, talking about facial electrolysis, and looking up all this crap on the internet. Kel didn’t think he’d do it, didn’t think for a minute it would come to anything, but he was wrong.
It hasn’t been long so far, with the pills. A little over six weeks, maybe. Kel supposes he should be keeping count, but he hasn’t. They’re the horse piss kind—no prescriptions, and the labels are often in Spanish—and they scare him to death because Toni bought them online, sitting there in this cyber café drinking a cinnamon latte and pretending it was just normal shopping. He’s self-administering, talking about complicated dosages of estrogen, anti-androgens and progesterone like he knows what he’s doing, but he doesn’t. They make him moody as hell—worse even than before he started—and who knows what he’s doing to his body in the long term.
Kel figures maybe he’ll stop. Maybe he’ll see it’s not right for him, or that he at least needs to wait and get proper help, and he’ll just…stop. Because, looking at that body stepping into the water—all long legs and narrow hips, lithe and slim, ripples of muscles and smooth flesh—he doesn’t know how much change he can bear.
A perfect crocus, flattened and torn.
Kel can’t even begin to imagine that, and he gets dizzy trying. So, he climbs in behind Toni, and there’s the splashing and wriggling of legs and bodies accustoming themselves to each other, and Toni laughs when Kel tickles him. The water’s deliciously warm, lapping up around and between them, and Kel slides his arms around Toni, wishing he didn’t have to go anywhere ever again.
“What’d you do today?” he asks, kissing Toni’s nape.
“Not much. Read. Watched some TV. Slept in.”
“Hm. You were sleeping when I left. Did you get my note?”
“Uh-huh.” Toni leans back into him a little. “You’re sweet.”
Kel moves away and reaches for the soap so he can wash Toni’s back. Toni arches it like a cat and makes a small, soft, happy noise, so Kel takes his time, tracing the hard muscles, the tension, the fleur-de-lys tattoo on the back of Toni’s left shoulder…and he tries not to let it matter. Toni is still the same person. His back, so far, remains a man’s back, and it’s a nice one. Kel kisses it, warm water and warm skin, and he really would much rather stay here than go out, but he has to.
As if Toni’s reading his mind—which happens a lot, and Kel thinks proves that, even with all the crap he has to take, Toni is so fucking special—he says:
“So where are you going?”
“Hmm.” Kel cloaks his reluctance with a grin. He knows Toni can’t see it, but maybe it’ll reflect in his voice. “I shouldn’t even be taking a bath.”
“Oh, hell, no….”
“The Sherbet Pervert?”
Another kiss pressed to that smooth back. Kel wonders idly how long it will take before the hooky Mexican pills start changing the way Toni’s body feels against his mouth.
“Eeww!” Toni squeals, kicking and splashing in the water. “Oh, yuck! Is that why you took those disgusting socks back out of the hamper this morning?”
“Mm-hm.” Kel rubs his hands over Toni’s shoulders, still entranced. “I can’t believe you were gonna wash them. I’ve spent all week dirtying those puppies up.”
“I hate it,” Toni declares, and Kel knows there’s a pouty face being pulled, though he can’t see it. “It’s stinky and gross and disgusting. Does he make you call him Daddy?”
“Nn-nn.” Kel writes three small, secret words across Toni’s shoulders with a soapy finger, then quickly washes them away. “Mr. Petersen. I think that was his eighth grade Phys Ed teacher or something. Whack, no?”
“Ick,” Toni agrees, melting back against him.