AUTHORS' NOTE: Surprise! It's Esquirella, here! Yes! Esq! On princess max's account. How'd that happen? (I'm sure you're asking that!) Here's the situation. I'm collaborating with princess max on a new story with my vulnerable little character, Travis, from "Taking Back My Pride" and one of her hot Brisbane boys! (No questions now! She'll tell you all about it in chapter 2!) The thing is, we both have secondary accounts with other stories we're co-authoring. It's hard to keep everything straight! (For lack of a better term, of course.) So, we decided to do this story on one of our accounts (hers for this one). And we'll eventually do another on the other account (mine) later on.

Yes, we're both going to continue our other stories as well. (Do you really think she'll leave Brett and Michael dangling? And we all know how hard it is for Damon to go without, right? Trent will be a big temptation for him.)

So sit back and get to know poor little Travis here in chapter 1. And please don't forget to review. I am a review junkie! LOL!

Chapter One

Dear Journal,

It's taken me a while to get used to writing things down in a paper journal, but I figure it's easier to get a spiral notebook past the airport security than a laptop. And who's to say I'll be able to get an inexpensive wireless connection at the hotel Rebecca booked for me? She keeps trying to pay for everything, but you know how I feel about that.

I'm sure if Max wasn't hanging around the gallery so much, she wouldn't even have sent me on this trip to begin with. I was hoping Reginald's threats would work, but I guess that was asking too much. Max appears to be determined to get me to go back to him. I don't know why he doesn't just find someone else. It's not like there aren't a bunch of other guys who wouldn't have traded places with me when I lived with him. You know, I think he likes chasing after things. That's right. To him, I'm still a thing. He doesn't even try to hide it anymore.

When he found out where I lived, I was scared out of my mind. He had his chauffeur park the car there early when I was leaving for work. Imagine that at 7 in the morning! When I tried to ignore him, he had the car slowly follow me as I walked to the art gallery. But I'm trying to stand my ground! Rebecca thinks I should move to another apartment, but he'd find me eventually anyway.

Staking out the gallery last week was the last straw for her though. He'd had the car parked there and stayed for over four hours. He didn't leave the car and the windows were tinted, but I knew he was in there, watching me.

Rebecca planned to visit an aspiring artist in Brisbane, Australia. Then, suddenly I'm the one going. I know she worries about me, but I can't live in fear of him. Well, I have been. But I need to stop.

He's ruining my whole life! We've been apart for a year and a half, and he won't go away! I can't even date, and now that I'm ready to start again it's very frustrating not to be able to. Two days ago, I went to a club not far from my apartment. It wasn't even a gay club, just a place for people to gather and dance. I just wanted to see what it was like. I mean, I've been busy rebuilding my life, so I haven't had time to even make any friends around my own age. I thought this would be a good way to meet some people. Break the ice.

I wasn't there for more than half an hour when I felt someone tug my elbow and turn me around. There was Max again, with the same cold, calculating look in his blue eyes, his black hair slicked back. I pulled away sharply and left the club immediately. The chauffeur gave me a sad, apologetic look as he attempted to block my way on the sidewalk and Max stood behind me smugly. I didn't need to turn to know he was there.

You should have seen the shock on their faces when I created quite the public scene, yelling and demanding he leave. And he had no choice but to retreat. Let's remember just why he never liked to let me wander around on my own. Yes, he wants me back. But he still doesn't want the world to know exactly why.

I guess that's when I stopped arguing with Rebecca over the trip. I didn't even make a big deal over the first class seating she reserved for me, anything to get away from Max for a while. And "a while" definitely describes it. The ticket is open-ended. She said she wants me to really get to know Kendall Warham and see if she was right for the gallery. The woman had sent Rebecca some pictures of her work, very turbulent and colorful oils and acrylics.

I know the real reason the return flight isn't set. Rebecca had hoped to keep it from me, but she and Reginald are easy to read. Reginald is planning to make good on some of his threats. Maybe I should feel some remorse for being the catalyst to Max's downfall, but I don't. I'm 24 years old and scared half to death to live because of that man's actions. I do hate making them go to such extremes to help me, though. But I'm so grateful to them for doing it. I doubt I'll ever be able to tell them though.

I hope there aren't any rich snobs in Brisbane. No offense to Reginald, but the smell of money makes me sick. I want nothing more than to make enough to sustain myself. And live peacefully poor.

Until next time,


I sigh and lean back against the headrest of my seat. They aren't kidding when they tell you it's a long flight to Australia. I left New Haven at almost 8 p.m., flew into Philadelphia, changed planes then flew to Los Angeles and changed planes again. I figure I might as well make myself as comfortable as possible as I won't be getting to Sydney for, oh, at least 20 or so hours. Then I get to take another flight to Brisbane. Ah, flying. I think I'll be sick of it soon.

The seat is pretty roomy and comfortable, though. My mind is relaxing as it finally sets in that I won't have to worry about Max for a long time. I can just concentrate on the artist I'm going to see and the work that she wants the gallery to show.

I look out the window at the passing clouds and smile. It's the first trip I've been on since my parents took me to California when I was in high school. Ah, those were the days! Back then I still had parents. Now they don't acknowledge me. Seriously, they don't. I tried to call them after I was settled into the gallery job and had been working for a few months. My father answered the phone.

"Hello?" Gruff as ever.

"Dad? It's Travis!"

There was a moment of utter silence before he answered.

"It's been three years. Are you done yet?"

"Done with what?" I asked, very confused.

"Done with that nonsense!"

Ah! That nonsense! That gay nonsense! "It's who I am, dad. I can't be done with it."

"Well, thanks for calling," he replied curtly and hung up.

My cousins tell me not to let my parents' attitudes get to me. They'll come around one day. I'm not so optimistic, but then why should I be? At least I can lead my own life now. Make my own decisions.

I open the travel guide Reginald gave me on Australia. The pictures are bright and inviting. There are crocodiles in one of them. Can't say I'm anxious to make their acquaintance though. Ah, look! A kangaroo. I don't think there will be many of those where I'm going.

It doesn't appear to be a huge art-producing area, this Brisbane, but it is a definite city. And it looks pretty with all the water. I hope I meet some interesting people while I'm there. It would be nice to have something to talk about besides my job. There is my art, but after those two subjects are exhausted, what else is there? Well, besides my horrible history with Max, which I never leave open for discussion if possible. Now, at least, I can talk about my trip out of the country.

Maybe I'll go on a tour while I'm there. If I have time, I mean. I know Rebecca is expecting me to bring back at least four of Kendall's paintings, ones she'd liked in the photos. I would need to find a good picture framer first, though. I could take them back unframed, but I wanted to choose the wood and finish, and if I bring them back undone, Rebecca will likely ask the framer she uses to just slap on something black, which to him would mean thin, plain steel – at an overly inflated price, of course. That won't do.

As I go over my mental checklist in my head, my eyelids begin to droop. Deciding not to fight the fatigue, I pull down the stiff shade and tilt my seat back. It's going to be a long time until we get there. And I'm hoping that the ride will just be beginning. Maybe I'll meet some real life crocodile hunters, I muse. Or not. I wonder if everyone over there is as nice as they seem in the ads and on television. Do they really put shrimps on the Barbie? What kinds of adventures will I have when I get there? I feel so sleepy. The slight snore I hear as I drift off undoubtedly comes from me.