Apologies for missing my post last week. I was driving all day and had no way to post anything. So I’m making it up to you by posting an excerpt this week 🙂
It’s just ONE WEEK until release day and I’m super excited! I can’t wait for you all to meet Patrick and Aubrey. They’re some special characters and their story stems from grief and learning how to live after loss. It has more angst than normal for me, but it is the story they needed told and I learned a long time ago not to argue with characters. 😉
Okay, so I won’t keep you waiting any longer. This little excerpt is from Aubrey’s POV, and Patrick’s invited him over for dinner.
Patrick had put out two bowls of minestrone-style soup and what looked like home-baked bread. “Do you make your own bread?” I asked.
Patrick sat down quietly opposite me. “Only when I make soup.”
“Well, this looks incredible.” It really did. Being cold and hungry, it didn’t get any better than homemade soup and bread. I tasted a small spoonful of the soup. “Okay, wow.”
He finally smiled and relaxed. “Thanks.”
“You’re a really good cook.”
“Just for the homely stuff. I’m not much good at that fancy kind of cooking.”
“This,” I gestured to the food he’d put on the table, “is better than any of that fine dining crap I’ve ever had.”
He had some soup and a mouthful of bread and pretended like it was no big deal when he asked, “Eat a lot of fine dining food?”
Oh crap. “Uh, yeah. A lifetime ago.”
He nodded thoughtfully and tucked that little sliver of information away before he changed the subject. “So, about old Frank’s garden, need a hand with it tomorrow? I have a mattock you could borrow. That soil’s going to be like concrete.”
“Nah, the soil’s okay, but I could use a hand lifting one of the old washing machines. It’s one of those real old types, and it weighs a tonne.”
“Sure thing. After lunch okay?”
“Perfect. I don’t know what’s wrong with it. He just said it hasn’t worked in years.”
“Like most things there, I suppose.” He smiled. “Frank’s a funny old guy.”
“He is. I think he pretends to be cranky so people leave him alone, but he’s not really.” I bit into the homemade bread and proceeded to moan like a bad porno. “Oh my God, this is so good.”
Patrick stared at me with darkened eyes before he looked at his bowl and shifted in his seat. “It’s been a long time since I’ve cooked for anyone.”
I tucked that little bit of information away, tit for tat. I could have asked why or how long, but we had some kind of agreement not to push for information. “Well, they don’t know what they’re missing out on,” I said, instead. Then, for reasons I’ll never know, I followed up with, “Because this is better than sex.”
His gaze shot to mine, heated and all too brief. He swallowed thickly, and his tongue swept across his bottom lip. “I don’t think it’s quite that good.”
I took another spoonful of soup, surprised my hand didn’t shake. “Well, it’s been a long time in that regard too.”
His voice was husky and barely above a whisper. “Or maybe you just weren’t doing it right.”
And like a bolt of lightning that earths too close to home, memories of Anton doing unwanted things to me flashed through my mind. My stomach squeezed and I swallowed down the urge to vomit. Hoping Patrick couldn’t see the change in me, I picked up the bread. “So maybe my memory’s a little fuzzy, but this bread is delicious.”
He put his spoon down and frowned, and I knew that whatever emotions flittered across my face didn’t go unnoticed. “You don’t have to tell me anything, but I assume whatever happened to you wasn’t good.”
I put my spoon down as quietly as I could and put my hands in my lap. I couldn’t bring myself to speak, so I gave him a small nod of my head. This game of tit for tat had swayed in his favour, I’d given him more information than I’d meant to, and I felt off-kilter because of it. There was something about Patrick that made me want to tell him everything. I wanted to crawl into his lap where he’d keep me safe, he’d rock me back and forth with my head on his chest, and I’d tell him all my secrets, then he’d say magical words that would fix the mess my life had become.
“I don’t know what brought you to Hadley or why you chose to come here,” he said. “But I have a feeling you’ve come to the right place.” I looked into his eyes then, not sure what to say to that, and found his eyes were glassy. “The knots we get ourselves tied into,” he murmured, “seem to unravel here.”
“Did it work for you?” I asked.
He stared right back at me like he wasn’t sure if he should tell me the truth, if this game of tit for tat was worth the heartache. “Two weeks ago, I would’ve said no. But now, I’m not so sure.”
Just a reminder that G&O will be out June 25th and will be exclusive to Amazon/KU. I’ll post links as soon as it goes live. <3
Very brief WIP update: Word count is now at 25K. I *think* I have a title but I’m still not sure. I’m keeping this one close at the moment because I’m nervous about it and not sure I’ll do it justice. I have a lot of research to do while writing it, but also after. Then I’ll need to send it off to people who can read/check/fix it. I am still hopeful for a release in October.
And speaking of October… I am attending GRL this year. I can’t remember if I’ve announced that, but yes, airfares have been booked and paid for. I’ll talk more of it as it gets closer but please know I will not be taking pre-orders for paperbacks, and I will not be able to sell them there (tax reasons). If you want me to sign any books, please bring them!! I will have swag and fun stuff, and I’m happy to sign anything (except blank cheques LOL) but I can’t bring or sell books there.
I’ll be back next Monday with buy links for Galaxies and Oceans!!
Another week. Holy hell. It’s now getting to the point where I’m scared to blink LOL. This year is flying!
My kids are now off school for two weeks, and will no doubt be driving me crazy. The joys of working from home LOL I may have to sequester myself to the library for some quiet time. 😉
But I did promise an excerpt from Evolved, and considering release day is just SEVEN days away, it’s probably overdue. So, enough of my blabbering on…
So, without further ado… here it is 🙂
By the time my intercom sounded at nine fifteen the next morning, the butterflies in my belly felt more like stomping elephants. I buzzed the delivery team through and waited for the elevator to ping down the hall.
Breathe, Lloyd, I reminded myself.
My apartment was a spacious two-bedroom luxury unit on the top floor of the complex. Polished concrete floors, high ceilings, a bookcase as one entire wall, and floor-to-ceiling windows on the north-east facing wall. I liked the clean lines, minimalistic furniture. Well, I didn’t just like it. I needed it. Clutter and closed spaces made me anxious. My ex-boyfriend had found my apartment cold and clinical, but I found the whites and greys soothing, peaceful. Then again, he’d found a lot of things about me clinical…
The knock on my door startled me, even though I’d been expecting it. I opened it to find two men and a rather large crate. The first man smiled. He was wearing grey suit pants and a navy sweater. He showed me his ID. “Mr Salter, my name is Myles Dewegger. We have a special delivery.”
“Yes, yes, please come in,” I said, standing aside in invitation.
The second man wheeled through the crate. He was dressed all in black with a military style haircut, and he looked as though he belonged in a SWAT team. He was a rather large man, with bulging muscles and perfect skin, and I had to study him for a second. No, he was human.
“Nice place,” Myles said, looking around the large, open living room. “Are we all right to do this here?”
I closed the door and took a breath to steady myself. I wasn’t accustomed to having strange people in my house. “Yes, of course.” I followed him and stood next to the couch. “I thought Mr Kingsley might have attended the delivery. I assumed incorrectly, it seems.”
“Sasha’s a busy man,” Myles said with a smile. “Though if you’d prefer, I can call him and you can speak to him.”
“No, it’s fine,” I said. I was now staring at the crate. Oh boy. It was well over six feet tall, three feet wide. Shaun was inside. He was right there. I swallowed hard.
Myles read me. “Let’s introduce you, shall we?”
I nodded. “Yes, please.”
Myles and his helper, whose name I didn’t know, undid the crate and removed the front panel. My heart almost stopped. Inside, Shaun stood, packaged-in perfectly so as not to be damaged in any way. He was dressed in a dinner suit. A charming navy piece with a light blue shirt underneath his blazer, top button undone. His black hair was exactly as I’d ordered; short sides, longer on top, professional. His skin was warm ivory with a subtle hint of blush on his cheeks; his lips were pink and a perfect cupid’s bow. His eyes were closed, his lashes long.
He took my breath away.
The big delivery guy stepped in and unstrapped Shaun, then lifted him out. Right, that explained the need for muscle. Then he quickly wheeled the crate back to the front door, making the room neat again, leaving Shaun standing perfectly still in my living room.
Myles glanced at me. “Everything look okay?”
I nodded and had to focus on speaking so I could make actual sound. “So far, yes.”
Myles smiled. “So first we need to configure him to your home hub,” he said, looking around. He took out a small hand-held screen I recognised from the SATinc office. It was an android control panel. He tapped on both screens, I entered in a personal code, and Shaun was officially added to my Wi-Fi.
It was becoming so very real.
Myles seemed completely unfazed and oblivious to the fact that I was in the middle of a monumental life event. He went on a spiel of specifications and diagnostics, developmental robotics, neural networks, artificial consciousness, proprioceptive sensors, and spatial cognizance, but all I could do was stare at Shaun.
Myles stopped speaking when he realised I wasn’t paying attention, and his pause made me look at him instead. He continued, “I’ll activate him, then we’ll require him to study your face for a few seconds. He has facial recognition, so once he recognises you as his custodian, he’ll be able to identify you anywhere.”
“So if you’re out in public and you become separated, he will be able to find you.”
For the strangest reason, I found that comforting.
“And your voice. He’ll recognise that anywhere.”
I smiled at Shaun, though he still had his eyes closed.
“Are you ready?” Myles asked.
Myles held the small black screen toward me. He entered in a code and spoke clear and loud. “Please re-enter in your Wi-Fi code,” he said, averting his eyes while I entered my security code for Shaun’s wireless access. Then Myles added something else, and watching Shaun, he said, “Activate.”
Shaun opened his eyes.
They were the exact shade of blue I’d asked for. But he just stared blankly.
Myles entered in more codes, then spoke to me. “Please stand in front of him until I tell you to move.”
I did as I was instructed. Shaun was approximately an inch shorter than me, and he was even better close up. Being this close to him sent a curl of anticipation through me.
I could hear Myles tapping on the screen and then Shaun’s eyes focused on me. He was scanning my face, and then he looked down to my feet and up my body. It set my blood on fire.
Then Myles handed me the small screen and said, “Please read this out loud to him.”
I let out a breath and looked Shaun right in the eye. “My name is Lloyd Salter. I am your custodian, and this is your home.”
Myles took the control again and clicked on the screen a few more times, and something in Shaun changed. I saw it, the very moment it happened.
He became aware.
His gaze fell on me. “Hello, Lloyd,” Shaun said. His voice was a deep baritone, with a tenor that curled in my belly.
“Hello Shaun,” I replied. My voice was barely a whisper.
And then, throwing my world completely off its axis, he smiled. Not a perfect smile, but slightly lopsided in a very human way. If a simple smile could complete my existence, it was done. He was stunningly perfect.
“It is very nice to meet you,” Shaun said.
“Likewise,” I replied. I couldn’t stop staring at his eyes, and I swore the corner of Shaun’s lip twitched in an almost smile.
“Is that normal?” I asked Myles. “He’s so… human.”
Myles grinned. “It’s amazing, isn’t it? How real they are?”
I nodded, staring back at Shaun. So very real.
“As I was saying before, he has the spatial awareness and object manipulation skills of a surgeon. He can lift heavy objects with ease, but he can also hold the finest, most delicate glass object with precision. He has social intelligence; he can recognise and interpret, process and simulate human affects and empathy. He is, without doubt, the most advanced A-Class synthetic android in the world.”
Shaun tilted his head a little while he studied me, and I stared right back at him. So remarkable.
“He’s been uploaded with extensive knowledge of all requested data,” Myles said, holding the screen out for me to see. I glanced at it but couldn’t take my eyes off Shaun for long. Myles continued anyway. “Literary histories, world current affairs, everything you asked for has been preloaded, but he can access any information you require. If it’s on the web, he can find it, and he can discuss, converse, debate whatever you want.”
“Now, as for the personal companion aspect,” Myles went on. Personal companion aspect was synthetic speak for sex. “All lubricants must be silicone based, not oil based, though I’m sure you’re aware. He can self-clean but he might like it if you help him.” I looked at Myles and he winked. “Yes, he has likes and dislikes. Though he’s been pre-dispositioned to your psych evaluation so there are no conflicts. He enjoys conversation, attention, praise…, touch. Sex.”
My heart rate took off.
Eeeeeeek! Yes, breathe, Lloyd. You’re going to need it 😉
In 2068, androids are an integrated part of human life. Big Brother no longer just watches from the shadows. It’s in every household.
Lloyd Salter has OCD issues with noise, mess, and he’s uncomfortable with human interaction. When his ex claimed the only thing perfect enough to live up to his standards was an android, Lloyd dismissed it. But two years later, after much self-assessment, he thinks he may have been right.
SATinc is the largest manufacturer of androids in Australia, including the Fully Compatible Units known as an A-Class 10. Their latest design is the Synthetic Human Android UNit, otherwise known as SHAUN.
Shaun is compatible to Lloyd’s every need; the perfect fit on an intellectual and physical basis. But Lloyd soon realises Shaun’s not like other A-Class androids. He learns. He adapts. Sure that SATinc is aware Shaun functions outside of his programmed parameters, Lloyd must find a way to keep Shaun safe.
No one can know how special Shaun is. No one can know he’s evolved.
I have the paperback proof too, and the cover is even more stunning in real life.
The photos honestly don’t do it justice. It’s so beautiful, and the colours are striking.
One more week, guys. Just one more week!
WIP update: Private Charter is currently just at 9K. I didn’t get as much written as I wanted this week, but I’m determined this week. Release weeks and the days leading up to are usually a write-off, but I want to really smash it this week. Fingers crossed my kids are on board with this. LOL. (I say, as every parent dies laughing)
Until next week!
OMG there’s only two and a half weeks until we leave for the U.S.!!! It’s getting real, folks. And I still have so much to do! BUT, it does look like my next release, The Weight Of It All will be released before I go. Yay!!
JSYK, there won’t be pre-orders for The Weight Of It All. And chances are there won’t be a blog tour, unless I can pull one together at the last minute. It also means there won’t be my usual new release gift card giveaway etc because I’ll be in transit and can’t guarantee I’ll be able to send the Amazon gift card or even ebook prizes on time. So, it’s probably going to be a low-key release, but at least the book will be out before I leave. Waiting until early November would have killed me LOL.
So, this week, I’ve done one round of edits, and my lovely editor said she’s never laughed so much while editing! 🙂 Glad it’s not just me who thinks Henry is adorable. <3
I have also sent Red Dirt Heart 2 to be narrated! Hopefully it will be out toward the end of November. So, yay for that! <3
Next week, I have appointments and RL stuff to do, including accountant/taxes stuff which I hate LOL. Though I will also be doing the final edits for The Weight Of It All and sending it off to my lovely proofreaders. I also have to plan and fit in a quick trip to Sydney in the next two weeks. So it’s busy busy busy times, as per usual for me.
I also have two different sets of characters in my head at the moment. As usual, my characters don’t waste much time in wanting their story told, but normally they wait their turn. I can’t decide which story to start first. Neither one is yelling at me to be done first, and neither one is strictly romance… And after writing The Weight Of It All, which was all romance and LOLs, I’m hesitant to jump into an angsty drama or crime/mystery. One is a drama, stand alone novel, the other is a crime series, and while they will have hints of romance, it’s not the driving plot. Both will require research, and time. And let me tell you, writing fluffy romance is so much easier. BUT my characters are usually stubborn and get what they want in the end. I will write them at some point, of that there is no doubt.
Given I’ll be traveling and will be too busy doing touristy things to get much writing done, I might work on a light and fluffy Christmas story, and leave diving into something meatier until I get back from GRL.
If my brain, and the characters in it, keep to that plan is anyone’s guess. 😉
To finish up this week’s post, I thought a little excerpt of The Weight Of It All might be in order.
The next morning I was just as sore, if not a little sorer than the day before. But I was determined, and like a sucker for punishment, I dragged my sorry arse to the gym. I arrived with two minutes to spare, and Reed’s whole face broke out into a smile when he saw me.
“Glad you made it.”
“I’m sore as hell. Please make it stop.”
“Okay,” he said with a chuckle. “Come this way.”
I followed him over to the far corner where there were mats on the floor. He said goodbyes to the people who were just finishing up and leaving, sweaty and smiling. It was pretty clear everyone liked him. He was just that type of guy. Not like me, I was socially awkward, said things that were cringe worthy at best. Like now…
“G’day,” one fit looking guy said to me as he walked past.
It wasn’t until he was a metre or two behind me that I’d realised what I’d said. I just shook my head, like the socially inept idiot I was, and kept walking.
When we’d reached the corner, Reed stopped and turned to face me. “So, where hurts the most?”
“Legs? Arms? Chest?”
Reed smiled. “Okay then, sit down for me.”
“Sitting down is fine. It’s the getting up that bites.”
Reed planted himself easily, gracefully, despite his size, on the ground. “Legs spread comfortably.”
I lowered myself to the floor, trying to keep the grimace and yelp to a minimum. “Jesus. And this is normal?”
Reed nodded. “Take a deep breath, keep your chest up straight.”
I did that and didn’t die, so I relaxed a little.
“Now stretch forward and grab your ankles.” He folded himself in half and held his feet with no trouble. I could barely reach past my knees. “Knees are fine.”
He nodded encouragingly. “Hold it for twenty seconds.”
Ugh. “I’m so unfit.”
“But you’re here.”
I nodded and breathed through the stretch and burn in my hamstrings, but by the end of the twenty seconds, I was grabbing my calf muscles. At this point, I’d take any advance I could get. Then he had me stretch arms and shoulders, then my lower back. It probably took fifteen minutes, and I felt like I’d already done a workout session.
He leapt to his feet with the agility of a cat, then extended his hand to me. His hand was warm and calloused, which I had to admit, felt nice. I wasn’t used to rough hands. Graham’s hands were soft, like mine…
“So, we’ll start on the treadmill to get the blood pumping.” He obviously read the trepidation on my face. “Just slow, nothing strenuous.”
I took a deep breath and stepped onto the machine. Once I started walking, Reed seemed to sigh in relief. “Perfect,” he said.
He left me to it for a few minutes, and truthfully, it wasn’t that hard. It was just hard on already-sore muscles. When that was done, I did equal time on the elliptical StairMaster, cardio-killing machine. It wasn’t overly strenuous, but I could feel every muscle burn. After quite possibly the longest five minutes of my life, I stepped back off the machine, wiped my face down with my towel, and took a sip of water, trying not to die.
“How you feeling?” Reed asked.
“Like I’ve been set on fire, thanks for asking.”
He just grinned and clapped his hands together enthusiastically. “Time for strength and core conditioning.”
“I’m sorry, was that full strength coffee and air conditioning?”
He laughed, and his eyes shone bright blue. “Oh, you crack me up.” Then he led me over to the weights. “The weight and pulley machine is good, but it might not always be available,” he said. “Some days you might need to use free weights.” He handed me two five kilo dumbbells, he picked up some for himself, and together we did a range of exercises like tricep extensions, lateral raises, and hammer curls. He called it body strength exercises. I called it brutality.
He put his weights down. “Okay, now get down on the floor for me.”
I collapsed in a panting, sweating, aching heap. “Thank God.”
Then he made me do cruel, cruel things like leg lifts, leg holds, bridges, and planking. And to finish, we did torso twists and sit ups. I mean I only did about thirty seconds of each, but good fucking Lord! And I signed up for this shit?
After he’d made sure I’d stretched properly and that I could still breathe and wasn’t going to drop dead, he held his hand out to me where I was now lying flat on my back for a high-five. It was an effort to even lift my hand up to reach his, but I did it.
“Would you mind terribly if I just died here for a little while?”
He grinned. “Nope, no dying today.” He held his hand to me and pulled me to my feet without any effort. “You did great today.”
“Can we go back to blinking? One for yes, two for no. My eyelids are about the only thing that still works.”
He blinked once for yes.
I laughed and let my head fall forward, a mix of exhaustion and relief that my second official training session was finished.
“You did real good today, Henry.” He spoke to me―and to all his clients, I presumed―like I was the only person in the room. “For the next two days, do some gentle walking, gentle stretches. Give your body a rest, but try not to be still for too long. And I’ll see you on Sunday at eight o’clock, yeah?”
I nodded. “Yep. If I’m not dead.”
“I’ll text you tomorrow to see how you’re getting on. Is that okay?”
“Sure. But isn’t tomorrow your day off?”
Reed nodded. “Yep. I have Wednesdays and Fridays off. But I don’t mind.” He perked up and gave a mock salute. “It’s my duty as your personal trainer.”
I found myself smiling at him. “Sure. I better get going. I gotta go home and get showered and into work by nine.”
Reed looked at his watch. “Shoot. It’s eight o’clock now.”
“Ten minutes to home, twenty minutes to shower and shave, and fifteen minutes to drive to work. Believe me, the longest part will be the walk from the elevator to my desk.” I did my best rusted Tin Man impersonation, though I wasn’t acting, and walked/shuffled out of the gym.
And by the time I fell into my office chair, the familiar, yet still surprising at every turn, muscle pain mowed me down again.
That’s it for this post, folks. Until next week…
Good morning guys!! I’m finally home after two weeks, and it’s seriously the best feeling ever. My bed, my shower, my house, my TARDIS coffee mug… Sure, travelling and visiting is nice but nothing beats the feeling of coming home.
I have SO much to do. My to-do list resembles a phone book, and I’m starting to panic about not getting everything done before we leave for the US in eight weeks… eeeeeeeeeeek.
So this week, the only writing I got done was the plot points for the rest of my WIP. No actual word count but an outline, so that has to count for something. I rarely use an outline, but I was on the plane and jotted down some plot points to get my characters to the finish line. They probably won’t stick to it anyway LOL
Now I’m home, I’m hoping to kick-start a promo tour for the audio of RDH. Will post more on that when I know more.
In more RDH news, the German Translation is now live!!
For my German readers, it’s available at Amazon.de. I will have it up on Smashwords, ARe, iTunes etc in the coming days. <3
Because I don’t have much else to report on, I’ll share a little snippet of my current WIP. Tentatively titled The Weight Of It All (though that may change) I did share this same excerpt in my Readers’ Group on Facebook and in the Grinder’s Group on Facebook, so some of you may have already seen it. It’s the story of Henry Beckett who joins a gym after his boyfriend Graham left him for being overweight 🙁 But, he meets Reed, his new personal trainer <3
This is unedited, and copyright of N.R. Walker
Being at the gym at eight in the morning on a Sunday was ridiculous. The fact that some people were finishing up from an hour session already was even crazier. Did these perfect people sleep? And realistically, that meant they must have gotten up sometime after six to be here to start at seven. To exercise. On a Sunday. The day where I normally slept in and went out for a lazy brunch. But exercising? I had concerns for their psychological well-being.
“Hey, Henry!” Reed greeted me cheerfully. “So glad you’re here.”
I watched two women as they left, all sweaty and laughing. “Do you do psych evals, or blot tests on these people?” I asked Reed quietly. “Because I think they might have some mental health concerns.”
Reed threw his head back and laughed. “Oh, you crack me up.” He seemed genuinely happy, and given he’d been here, probably working out since six himself, made me question his sanity.
“So do you have to be crazy to do exercise for a living?”
He grinned. “Nope. But it helps.” He clapped his hands together. “I’ve worked out an exercise and diet plan for you.” He collected some sheets of paper, and showed me the exercise plan first. “Cardio, and core training and body strength will be the two main focuses of the first four weeks. We’ll start slow and work our way up, okay?”
I nodded bleakly.
“And the diet plan is fairly broad. You said food is your thing, so it’s important to get this side right just as much as the exercise because if this doesn’t work for you, then you’ll be more likely to quit.”
“Does it include kale?”
He grinned. “No kale.”
“Come on, and I’ll show you what I’ve got planned for you.” He walked with a bounce in his step over to a row of treadmills.
I did my best David Attenborough impersonation. “Ah, modern, yet archaic torture devices in their natural habitat. Not a particularly threatening species unless you’re an overweight thirty five year old who hasn’t run since high school.” Then I remembered that wasn’t exactly true. “Okay, well, running to grab a half-priced Kitchen Maid in the Boxing Day sales doesn’t count.”
Reed was staring at me, still smiling. “Did you get it?”
“The Kitchen Maid.”
“Oh, of course. I love to cook. It’s my thing. And there was no chef or grandma alike brave enough to get in the road of a man on a mission. Although I still do feel bad about elbowing that lady. She was faster than me; she wore running shoes, and I wore my Diesel loafers. Style over comfort, you know how that is. But let me tell you, I never made that mistake on a sale day again.” Reed looked at me for a long moment, like I baffled and amused him in equal measure. “Sorry. I tend to talk a lot. Not a great deal of it makes sense.”
His grin was slow-spreading but genuine. “Makes perfect sense to me. Okay, we’ll start with some cardio.” Then he pressed some buttons on the treadmill. “I’m gonna set this for you. See this?” he pressed some more buttons while I watched. “It’ll start with a slow by steady walk, then it’ll get a little faster, incline a little like you’re walking uphill, then it’ll slow back down to your starting pace.” I stepped onto the machine and he hit the start button. “I’ll be back when you’re done, okay?”
He left me to it, walking over to some other customers, giving them the exact amount of attentive and professional time he gave me. He was good at his job. Definitely a people person, and the way that everyone called him by name, and him them, I assumed he was well-liked.
I watched him while he spoke to a lady who was using some arm-pulling torture device, and then helped a guy lifting weights. He looked over at me every so often and smiled, as I puffed and huffed my way through what he’d called a gentle stroll. Jesus, if I walked this gently anywhere, I’m sure I’d be dead before I got there.
Then holy shit, the treadmill beeped and started to tilt. The platform started to raise up and sweet mother of God I was going to die.
After I got used to the change, Reed was beside me. “Looking good,” he said, his usual smile firmly in place.
I fully intended to reply with some intelligent and witty comeback, but walking up a non-existent hill for five minutes left me incapable of breathing and talking at the same time.
I thought about hitting the stop button. Actually, pressing that emergency stop button in hopes that an ambulance would arrive and drive me to the nearest coffee shop was very tempting.
But I knew if I started making excuses now, I was wasting everyone’s time, and proving Graham right. And that’s what made me push through it. Sure enough, after an eternity in hell, the treadmill started to decline and the pace slowed.
When it came to a stop, I hopped off, my legs were absolute jelly, my lungs burned and my heart was nearing cardio-defcon one levels.
Reed clapped his huge hand on my back. “How was that?”
I held my hand up, still too out of breath to speak. So I nodded instead and managed a few one-syllable words. “Not. Good. Exercise. Bad.”
He laughed again. “You pushed through it. You did really well.”
I nodded and wiped my face down with my towel. “Yeah. That was great,” I managed to say. “Thanks. See you tomorrow?”
Reed barked out a laugh. “Uh, that was just your warm up.”
“Well,” I panted. “Consider me sufficiently warmed up. Overly warmed, actually. Hot, if I’m being honest. I think I’m going to expire. As in, drop dead.” I walked, somewhat shakily, over to the closest weight bench and sat on it. My heart was still trying to kill me, my lungs felt like they were fighting for room in my chest.
Reed clapped his huge hand on my shoulder. He was really rather touchy-feely. “Come on, on your feet. You’ve got more in you yet.”
I put my hand up, still trying to catch my breath. “One sec. My lungs are broken.”
He snorted out a laugh. “Come on, get up.”
Somehow, I stood. Reed took me over to a stair-master machine. “Oh, I’ve seen these in action before,” I said. “In Hugo’s House of Pain, except the guy was strapped on and he was naked and―” Reed’s eyes went wide “―and that was a long time ago. I’m not into leather, it was just one night, sorry, what were you saying?”
Reed slow blinked then started to laugh. It took him a moment to stop laughing, not that I minded because the longer he laughed at me, the less time I was gonna be on that exercise machine.
Still smiling, he shook his head. “Okay, step up on it for me.”
I did that.
“Hold onto the handles,” he said. I did that, and he continued to explain, “The elliptical is a cross-trainer. You will use lower body and upper body. It’s great for cardio, similar to the treadmill but with no impact.” He rattled off the physical benefits, to which I simply nodded and smiled―in a slightly horrified kind of way―then he went through the settings on screen and set it for two minutes. “Just a short one today. I just want you to get a feel for it. You ready?”
“Not at all.”
He chuckled and hit start. Fuck. It was like climbing stairs while holding ski stocks, or two Gandalf staffs. Thou shall not pass was too bloody right. I’d never make it in Middle Earth because two minutes on this frickin’ machine almost killed me. Fuck going to Mordor. I couldn’t even go around the block.
Poor Henry 😉 I’m currently 22K into this story and it’s probably about half done. I have no clue on release. Maybe early Sept?
Until next week!
I have a little something special for you this week! I’m still away from home so I’ve scheduled this in advance to make up for my lack of social media presence.
Given it’s just ten days until Blood & Milk is released, I thought I’d share with you a little excerpt. This is how Blood & Milk begins…
It was twelve months on. A full year had passed, yet my world had stopped completely. The men who stole my life were charged and would serve time for their crime. No one called it a hate crime, but that’s what it was. If I was expecting some sort of finality to come with the court findings, I didn’t get it.
I was still hollow. I was still numb to the world, and I was still alone.
I was also awarded damages, civilian victim and medical.
A nice healthy sum that meant I could pay off my debts after not working for twelve months, and more. Though no amount of money would make this right. No amount of money would bring him back.
My mother came along for the final hearing, though I could only guess why. I had barely spoken two words to her in the last year. Maybe she came so she could vie for the sympathy card with her friends. Or maybe she thought she could have one last twist of the knife…
“Now it’s all over,” she said, nodding her head like her words were wise and final. “You can put all this homosexual nonsense behind you.”
I looked at my mother and smiled. I fucking smiled. I raged inside with a fury to burn the world, and maybe she saw something in my eyes―maybe it was a ferocity she’d never seen before, maybe it was madness―and my words were whisper quiet.
“You are a despicable, bitter human being, and you are a disgrace to mothers everywhere. So, when you go to your church group, instead of praying for my soul, you should be praying for yours. You have only hate and judgement in your heart, and you are doomed to an eternity in hell.” I leaned in close and sneered at her. “And I hope you fucking burn.” I stood up and stared down at her. She was pale and shocked, and I did not care. “If you think my words are cold and cruel,” I added, “I want you to know I learned them from you.”
I walked away, for the final time. I knew I’d never see her again, and I had made my peace with that.
I didn’t care for the money. I didn’t care for anything. I longed for sleep, because in my dreams, I saw him. And that night, almost one year to the day since he was gone, in our too-big bed, in our too-quiet flat, in my too-alone life, I dreamed of Jarrod.
He sat on our bed and grinned. I longed to hear his voice, just once. It’d been a year and I craved the sound of his voice, his touch. But when I reached out for him, even in my dream, as in my waking nightmares, he was gone. I sat up in our bed, reaching out for nothing but air. He was gone, really gone.
But in this dream, on the bed were he’d sat, was a plane ticket. Mr Heath Crowley, it said. One way ticket to Tanzania.
Less than a week to go to the release of Exchange of Hearts, and here is a teaser extract.
Eighteen-year-old Harrison Haddon has grown up alone. Surrounded by wealth, nannies, and material things, all he craves is the approval of his father. Sent away to the boarding school his father and grandfather attended, it’s assumed he will follow in their footsteps from Sydney’s prestigious Ivy League school straight into medical school.
But Harrison doesn’t want to be a doctor.
He dreams of music and classical piano. His only true happiness, his escape from the world expected of him, is dismissed by his intolerant and emotionally detached parents.
Levi Aston arrives from London for a three-month student exchange program. Free-spirited and confident in who he is and what he wants to do with his life, Levi convinces Harrison not give up on his dreams.
But convincing Harrison not to give up on his family might not be so easy.
One afternoon after school, we walked down to the little supermarket not far from campus. It was the usual place boarders went to pick up snacks, drinks, and magazines. When we walked in, we found a few other guys there, Carson being one of them.
“Not here,” I told Levi.
He nodded in understanding but seemed a little disappointed. And as we scouted through the aisles, it just so happened that Carson was there by himself.
Levi looked at me, but I shook my head no.
To his credit and my relief, he didn’t say anything, or do anything, and we bought our stuff and went back to our room.
“That was the perfect opportunity!” he told me, dumping his things on his bed. “God, I could have had some fun with the cucumbers.”
When I didn’t laugh at his joke, he looked at me. “Harrison, what’s up? Are you starting to have second thoughts?”
“It’s not that,” I said.
“Then what is it?” he questioned.
“Nothing,” I lied. “It’s just….” I didn’t finish. I couldn’t finish.
Levi walked over to stand right in front of me. “It’s just what?”
I shook my head and took a step back from him, trying to put some distance between us.
“It’s just what?” he said again, taking another step toward me.
“Um,” I swallowed thickly, taking another step back. “Every time you… do something to piss Carson off… you….” God, I couldn’t say this.
“I what, Harrison? Just tell me and I’ll stop it.”
“No,” I blurted out. “I uh, I don’t want you to stop it.”
His eyes widened. He was confused, curious.
Oh, God. Oh, fuck. I could feel myself blush right down my neck. Considering what I’d said already, I may as well just finish and completely die of embarrassment. “Every time you do something to make Carson jealous… you… youmakemehard.”
And I wanted to die.
He blinked again. Then a slow spreading smile took over his face. “I make you hard, huh?”
I breathed out shakily and nodded. “When you lean in and whisper… when you touch me….”
He was grinning now, right in front of me. I couldn’t move; even if I could have made my legs work, I was backed in against my bed.
“Harrison,” he said softly. He lifted his hand toward my face. “Can I touch you?”
I couldn’t speak, so I swallowed and nodded. Then ever so softly, he touched his fingers to my cheek. He mumbled, and I could barely hear him over my pounding heart. “So beautiful.”
I found myself smiling shyly at his words. God, I was never embarrassed like this with Carson, but something about Levi made me nervous. He was so close to me. His body, his face, his eyes, his mouth.
“I want to kiss you,” he whispered.
Just to tease you here’s an exclusive excerpt from Cronin’s Key III.Cronin’s Key III is available for pre-order!Blurb:
History isn’t always what it seems…
Twelve months after his change, Alec MacAidan is still getting used to his many vampire talents. While most vampires would give anything to have more than one supernatural power, Alec craves nothing more than peace and time alone with Cronin. But when Alec meets entities from outside this realm, he’s left powerless in their presence.
Zoan are half-lycan, half-dragon creatures that have slipped through time and reality, seemingly undetected by man and vampire. Or have they? They bear an uncanny resemblance to gargoyles, leaving Alec’s view on all things weird to get a whole lot weirder.
This new quest leads Alec, Cronin, and their band of friends to Paris, Rome, and Moscow, where they learn that gargoyles aren’t simply statues on walls. In the underground pits beneath churches all over the world, Alec discovers the Key’s true destiny. Facing the Zoan might take every talent he has. And he may need help from the dead to get them all out alive.
Cronin was reluctant to return to New York. He knew they must, and he knew they’d been gone too long as it was, but he still would have rather taken Alec to some obscure, secret place where no one could find him.
Though with The Zoan—who, it seemed, tracked Alec in his mind—hiding was futile. It didn’t matter where he was or what he was doing. If they wanted him to see something, they simply did exactly that.
But Alec was keen to get back and start piecing together the puzzle that he’d been once again thrown into.
“Nice of you to join us,” Eiji joked. “Though I’m grateful you left to—” He sniffed Alec and scrunched up his nose. “—do whatever it is you did.”
Alec laughed loudly. “We showered and everything!”
Alec and Eiji had become close friends, and this pleased Cronin greatly. They were, as the saying went, like peas in a pod. They had similar senses of humor and Cronin would often find them together, laughing about something—usually something crude or childish.
“Quit your whining,” Alec said with another laugh. “Or I’ll give you a complete mental replay.”
Eiji paled and his hands dropped to his sides. “Please don’t ever do that.”
Alec clapped him on the shoulder and turned to face everyone in the living room. They each sat with books or a laptop, making notes and cross referencing. There had been great progress, and Jodis had put most of them in chronological order.
“The first, and perhaps the most alarming, is the Epic of Gilgamesh scripts. In approximately 2100 BC, there was a creature known as Humbaba, which is described as a wolf-like man with a body of thorny scales.” Jodis looked at Alec. “It also breathed fire.”
“Oh, crap,” Alec mumbled.
“That’s not all,” Jodis said. “The original stone tablet these scripts were carved upon bore the words Sha naqba īmuru, which, from ancient Mesopotamian times, roughly translates to ‘it begins with he who sees the unknown.’”
“Sees the unknown?” Cronin repeated. “Like Alec sees the Zoan?”
Jodis gave a nod. “I believe so. These scripts were either made by someone who knew of the visions or by someone who saw them firsthand, like Alec sees them.”
Alec leaned against the dining table and folded his arms. He looked at Cronin for a moment, seemingly not sure what to say. He swallowed hard, then turned back to Jodis. “What else?”
“The well-known story of Saint George bears some credence,” she replied. “In the second century BC, it is said he slayed a fire breathing dragon. Whether it is fact or fiction is still debated to this day, but given that the story remains the same in many different cultures and religions, I’d believe it to be closer to truth than not.”
Alec closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. “And?”
“There are recorded Ukrainian histories dated to the sixth century that claim an entire race of people—the Neuri—to be werewolves,” Jodis said. “Though I think we can forgive the term werewolf. Locals of that time would have likened them to wolves, being the most feared wild animal in those areas, not knowing the difference between wolves and lycan.”
“I think we can forgive much of the human histories for this confusion,” Jacques added. “It wasn’t until the sixteenth century that a scientific difference was clarified.”
“There were a lot of witch hunts throughout Europe through medieval times, as we know,” Jodis gave Cronin a dark look. “Though many creatures are listed as werewolves, the true nature of these creatures may not ever be known.”
“The first instance of the word werewolf, be it an actual werewolf or a lycan, was in the eleventh century,” Jacques said. “Though the first lycan story was told in Greek mythology.” He read from an old text. “‘A doctor, Marcellus of Sides, in the second century documented lycanthropy was a form of depression and prescribed bloodletting.’”
“Oh, excellent,” Alec said sarcastically. “That would have ended well for a blood drinking animal.”
Jacques continued. “‘In the seventh century, an Alexandrian physician by the name of Aegineta wrote of humans who became wolves and howled in the cemeteries, killing people. Also prescribed bloodletting.’”
“Then with the introduction of Christianity throughout Europe, these stories of lycans and other shape-shifting creatures were put to an end with witch hunts and religious persecution of demons and Satanists. No one even dared write about them for fear of retribution.” Jodis closed the book in front of her. “Though there was a doctor by the name of Weyers who wrote about demonism, including lycanthropy, in the sixteenth century. Needless to say, he wasn’t very popular.”
Jodis went on to add, “So for a few hundred years, such creatures only survived in folklore and pagan tales spoken around campfires instead of written down. Then we find medical cases from the sixteenth century, most citing madness and clinical lycanthropy.”
“And outside of Europe?” Alec asked.
“Asian dragon myths stem from the beginning of time to this very day,” Eiji said. “In most countries, religions, and art.”
“There’s a dragon in the Old Testament,” Kole said. “A seraph serpent. A fiery reptile. Could it have been a fire-breathing lizard with wings… a dragon… type thing?” He shook his head like he couldn’t believe he was saying such things.
Alec snorted. “Weird, huh?”
Kole looked so much like his son when he smiled. “Just a little.”
“There is an African people,” Eleanor said, “the Nyoro tribes, who believe in ancient times that the first humans were chameleons.”
“A lizard that changes color?” Cronin asked.
“Or shape,” Alec added.
“Could it be that the Zoan present themselves in the form most horrific to the human culture it faces?” Eiji asked rhetorically. It was an interesting notion, and quite possible, Cronin agreed. Eiji went on. “Throughout Europe, the wolf was most feared, so that is what they saw. Throughout Asia, it was the evil dragons.”
“And what do I see?” Alec asked.
“Their truest form. You see under their human façade to the beast underneath,” Jodis said. She looked around at everyone. “We’ve all seen what Alec has seen. Wild teeth, scaly skin. Could it not be a hybrid of lycan and dragon?”
Alec turned to Jacques. “Tell the others what you just thought,” he said to him. “Sorry for hearing that, but it’s a valid point.”
“Oh,” Jacques said, blushing a little. “I don’t know what made me think of it, but getting back to the gargoyles… there was a remarkable case in France in 1450 called the Paris Wolves. A pack of forty or more ‘wolf-men’ reportedly killed a hundred people. The pack was eventually lured and cornered, and they were killed.”
“Tell them where,” Alec pressed.
“At the doors of the Notre Dame Cathedral.”
Cronin knew why Alec thought this was important. He stared at Jacques. “When were the gargoyles added to Notre Dame?”
“There have been many additions to the gargoyles that grace the exterior walls,” Jacques explained.
“When were the first ones added?” Cronin pressed.
Jodis smiled. “It cannot be a coincidence. They are one and the same.”
Cronin nodded. “It would appear so.”
“The original gargoyles were removed and replaced in the nineteenth century,” Jacques said. “There’s a crypt beneath the cathedral. From what we learned in history, statues and such things are kept there.”
Cronin, Alec, Jodis, and Eiji all smiled at one another. Then Alec clapped Eiji on the shoulder again and said, “Looks like we’re going to France.”
Then Cronin watched as Alec froze, for just the blink of an eye, his face neutral, his eyes glazed over. Alec sucked back a gasping breath and stumbled forward. Cronin leapt to catch him, and when he held him and helped him to his feet, he smelled it. The most delectable scent, an essence Cronin would kill for.
The Cast and Crew
With release day just 9 days away, I’d like to introduce you to the cast and crew of Cronin’s Key.
First, we have Alec. Alec is a typical 21st century New York City guy, 29 years old, a cop who, in his own words, has always been good with weird.
Then there’s Cronin. A twelve hundred year old vampire, quiet and unassuming, yet respected and a little bit (or a lot) feared. He’s also the only vampire in all of histories to be fated to a human.
Next is Eiji. Older than Cronin, Eiji is a Japanese vampire who calls himself brother to Cronin. Always smiling, always laughing, Eiji has been one of my most favourite characters to write.
And finally there is Jodis. Roughly the same age as Cronin, Viking by heritage and fated to Eiji. She’s a kickass woman who has basically spent the last thousand years keeping the boys in line.
After a minute or two, Alec turned to face the glass wall. He could see nothing inside, only himself and the city mirrored back at him. Though he knew they were watching. He could feel Cronin’s eyes on him and as much as it annoyed him, as much as it infuriated him that Cronin was watching him, it was oddly reassuring.
Nevertheless, he turned around to allow the sun to wash over him. The warmth of it on his skin, after days of hiding, felt heavenly, and he stayed that way until the sun had almost disappeared.
Alec knew the moment Cronin left, because he was barreled by sudden wave of unease; restlessness and agitation sat heavy in his chest. He spun to face the wall, and the door opened. No one came out, but Eiji spoke. “He’s gone to feed. Your dinner is here also,” he said.
With a sigh, Alec crossed the patio and stepped inside. “Thank you,” he whispered.
Eiji smiled at him. “Please don’t be mad at him. The conflict you feel, how your mind and heart push and pull, is the same for him. He has been alone a very long time, and he only wants you to be happy. You will have to adjust together.”
“I know.” Alec winced. “Has he gone for long?”
Eiji shook his head. “No. Even if you weren’t being hunted by seekers right now, that unease and fear you feel won’t keep him gone long.”
“He feels it too?” Alec asked, pushing the heel of his hand against his heart.
Alec frowned and pulled the takeout container and chopsticks out of the bag, not sure he could eat, despite how hungry he was.
“Alec,” Eiji said softly. “Don’t disregard his concern for you. I don’t think you grasp the severity of what could happen. His concern is not only for you because of what you mean to him, but for what you mean to all vampires, and humans for that matter.”
Alec swallowed hard. He was embarrassed that he’d acted so childishly. “It’s just all been talk so far. I get told I’m the key, I’m important, but it doesn’t mean anything because it’s just fables and stories, you know what I mean?”
Eiji blinked. “Not really, no.”
“And Cronin,” Alec continued. “God help me, that man does my head in.”
Jodis walked into the kitchen and smiled. “Cronin is…” she seemed to search for the right word.
“Stubborn,” Alec prompted. “Sexy as hell, frustrating, he smells so damn good, he’s funny and so serious, and he completely does. My. Head. In.”
Eiji laughed, his eyes crinkling at the corner of his eyes. “That’s funny,” he said. “Cronin said something similar about you.”
“He did?” Alec asked, probably a little too quickly. “I mean, not that I care.”
“Hmhmm,” Eiji hummed. “Of course not.”
Jodis put her hand on Alec’s arm. “Cronin is very smitten with you. He falls deeper every day. It’s confusing for him, but it’s equally wonderful. Be patient with him. He’s worth it.”
Alec’s head lolled back and he let out a deep breath. He didn’t dare admit that he’d passed smitten like it was standing still. Instead, he collected his takeout and chopsticks and walked back to the door. “I might eat out here. The sun is almost gone.”
Alec was distracted, his mind in a dozen different places, he was so hungry but had no appetite, and Cronin’s absence twisted in his gut. He’d barely crossed half the patio and wondered briefly how much sunlight, or lack thereof, was required for vampires to walk around in the day when two vampires suddenly appeared in front of him.
Dark, hulking and menacing, their sneers did little to conceal their fangs and they both took another step toward Alec.
Everything happened so quickly, yet in slow motion at the same time. Eiji and Jodis were in front of him in an instant, defending him, protecting him. Just like it was happening in slow motion, Eiji snatched the chopsticks Alec had on top of his takeout, and spun around at the vampires in front of him. Jodis turned too, her long white hair twirling around her like ribbons, her hand went out and both vampires were still, frozen. Eiji used the chopstick like a stake, spearing one vampire in the chest, then the second vampire turned to dust as well. Alec was picked up and removed, back into the safety of Cronin’s apartment, all before his takeout dinner could hit the patio floor.
I will post buy-links when I have them. Release date is March 13th 2015. <3
Excerpt ~ This is from Chapter 18
Charlie on a plane for long periods of time was never going to end well. He just couldn’t sit still for that long in such a confined space. He was fine for the first few hours, but then boredom set in, and a bored Charlie is the worst.
He started to fidget and fuss. The seat was uncomfortable, then there was nothing worth watching, he didn’t want to read, he wasn’t tired enough to sleep, he wasn’t hungry, he was sick of sitting down, and no, Travis, he didn’t want to walk up and down the aisle looking at people like some sicko perv.
I laughed at him. “I told you it was boring.”
“You didn’t say it was this boring.”
“Have you got some paperwork to do or some data collating on sales to read through? Or some stats for Greg and Allan? I told you to bring something.”
“I thought you were joking.”
I riffled through my carry-on and pulled out one of Ma’s crossword books. “Here. Do one of those.”
“Did you steal Ma’s book?”
“She told me to take it.”
He frowned but took the puzzle book like a petulant child. And he was quiet for all of two minutes. “What’s a seven-letter word for escarpment?” He tapped the pen on the page. “Or a five-letter word for review? No, wait, what the hell is kwinn-oh-a?”
“Kwinn oh a, with a q. What the hell kind of word is that?” Charlie made a face that was part confused and part peeved-off. He looked at the front of the crossword booklet. “Is this one of those stupid cryptic crossword books?”
Oh dear Lord.
“Let me have a look,” I said, leaning over to read the word. “You mean quinoa?”
“It’s not spelled keen-wa, Travis,” he said, like it was my fault for inventing a stupid word.
I took a deep so-help-me-God breath. “It’s a seed or a grain. How many letters?”
“Try grain. Though that’s not technically correct. It’s a grain crop, but the edible part is the seed. But we won’t begrudge the crossword people for not having a degree in agronomy.”
Charlie chuckled. “No. No we won’t.” He tapped his pen again. “Hey, what’s a one-two—” He started counting in his head. “—eleven-letter word for photogenic?”
Charlie stared at me. “Are you like some closet crossword guru or something?”
I snorted. “Yep, that’s me. I’m a crossword fanatic. I get up when everyone else is sleeping and do them. I can’t get enough of them.”
Charlie made a snooty face. “Oh look. A six-letter word for smartarse. Starts with a T and ends with ravis.”
I laughed, and the lady in front of us turned around and smiled. At least someone else was amused.
“We should have gone out last night,” I told him. “At least you’d be hung-over and sleeping right now.”
“I wanted to go out,” he said. “You were the one who kept saying no.”
“Yeah, because I didn’t want to go to all your old stomping grounds in Sydney so you could gloat about your conquests and what you did and where.”
“I wouldn’t do that to you,” he said softly. “And anyway, we’re heading to your old stomping ground.” He seemed to think about that for a second. “Any exes I should know about? Do I need to defend your honour?”
“If by defending my honour, you mean punching in the face, then no.”
He snorted. “I wouldn’t punch them in the face. Well,” he amended, “not without good reason. If someone tries to woo you back—”
“Woo?” I interrupted. “Who the hell says woo anymore?”
“People still say it. It’s a word people use.”
“Not people of this century,” I corrected. “Or the last. I think it went out of fashion with duelling, Charlie.”
He grinned. “Good. If someone tries to woo you, I shall challenge them to a duel.” He stretched out his legs and shifted in his seat. “Though it’d be quicker and a whole lot less messy if you’d just let me punch them in the face.”
“You’re not punching anyone or duelling anyone,” I said with a sigh. “Maybe Michael might challenge us to a game of backyard football or baseball.”
“Playing footy with your brother is fine. I can teach him proper footy and not that poxy game you play.”
I laughed. “You’re gonna be the foreigner this time, Charlie. Not me. We play the right kind of football, we have baseball bats, not those stupid flat-edged cricket bats, and we drive on the right side of the street.” I smiled at him. “You’ll be the one with the accent and have people making fun of you instead of it all being on me.”
“We’ve never made fun of you!”
I think my mouth fell open. Then I laughed incredulously. “I spent the first twelve months being called The Yank. And you make fun of the words I say all the time.”
“Because some of them are wrong,” he said flatly. “Like cookie and sidewalk and fixin’-to and y’all.”
I glared at him. “And G’day, mate and fair dinkum are what, exactly?”
“Awesome things to say.”
I sighed. “I swear to the Lord above. I would pay someone a hundred bucks right now to download a Bruce Willis movie just to shut you up.”
“Any Bruce Willis movie?” he asked. “Not that Hawk one. Just his action movies. You know that.”
“Charlie, next time we fly back to the States, we’re paying extra for business class. And possibly separate seats.”
He sighed and went to looking out the window. He was quiet for too long.
“Charlie, what’s really wrong?”
He kept his face turned to the window. “What if they don’t like me?”
“Your parents. Or your brother and sisters… Oh God. What if none of them like me?”
Don’t forget there’s a contest/giveaway to celebrate the release of RDH4!!
Click HERE for the rafflecopter link! (It should work this time) *kicks rafflecopter for all the broken links*
I have had quite a few people contact me regarding the release of Red Dirt Heart 2, so I thought I’d post about it here. I know I originally said the book would be released in late July, but that has not been the case. Sometimes things happen out of our control and sometimes that’s just the way it goes, and I do apologise.
I want to release a book that is not rushed, with minimal errors (grant me lenience for a few, I am human after all LOL) and such perfection takes time.
But rest assured it’s coming soon. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’m hoping for next week. I will post more when I know more.
So, that being said, I’m sharing an (unedited) excerpt from Chapter Six (of RDH2). Charlie and Travis have just had a weekend in town together. I hope you enjoy…
When I pulled up in the parking lot at the supermarket to get Ma’s long list of groceries, instead of walking into Woolworths, Travis walked the other way.
“Where you going?” I called out.
“Just over here,” he answered. He kept on walking to the park at the end of the complex. It was just a small park, some kids had graffitied the seats and the play equipment was kind of broken, but there were big maple trees which Travis headed straight for. He sat down on the dirty park bench and by the time got over to him, he was pulling off his boots. He looked up at me and smiled, then took off his socks and put his bare feet on the grass.
The longish, green grass.
I sat down beside him. “Trav, you okay?”
He gave me a bit of a smile. “Sure. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“You’ve just been a bit quiet, that’s all,” I said, avoiding making eye contact, looking at his feet instead.
“I just wanted to feel grass under my feet.” He shrugged. “Didn’t realise I’d miss the feel of grass.”
Then it dawned on me. Travis was homesick.
I swallowed down the lump in my throat, and could barely form the words. They were a whisper at best. “Do you want to go home?”
He sighed. “We’d better get Ma her shopping first, or she’ll have our hides.”
He didn’t understand. “No, I meant home, home.” I cleared my throat and took a deep breath. “As in Texas?”
He shot me a look. “What?”
I felt a bit sick at the thought, but that voice in my head that knew this was inevitable at some point was loud and clear. I didn’t want to hear it, I didn’t want this to end – ever – but I had to know. “Home. Do you miss it?”
He didn’t answer for a while. I could feel his eyes on me, burning into me, but I couldn’t look at him.
“I’ll understand, Travis,” I whispered. “Just say it.”
“Charlie,” he said softly. “Look at me.” He waited for my eyes to meet his before he continued. “I won’t lie to you. Yes, I miss it. I miss my family.”
I nodded and took a deep breath, trying to keep it together. “I don’t blame you,” I said. My voice croaked and I bit my lip to stem the burning in my eyes. I couldn’t bear to look at him, so I looked out at the car park instead.
I shook my head. I couldn’t do this. Not here, not ever. I wanted to stand up and walk away, but I couldn’t seem to move.
“Charles Sutton you can stop that right the fuck now.”
I looked at him then, and his face went from pissed off to oh-hell-no when he saw that I was fighting tears.
He kind of laughed, but put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me into him. “No, no, no, Charlie, no. I’m not leaving.”
I lifted my head from his shoulder and looked at his face. “But you miss home.”
“Yes, I miss my folks, but that’s only natural. I don’t want to go home, maybe for a visit sometime, yes. But not for good.” His eyes were soft and he smiled. “Charlie, you’re just waiting for me to tell you it’s over, aren’t you?”
I swallowed hard. “Well, I wouldn’t blame you.”
“Well, you know what?” he asked. “You’re stuck with me. I’ve told you that. A hundred times.”
“Are you sick of it though? Even just a little bit?” I asked. “The heat, the dust, the monotony of it all. Being so far away, from everything. I know it’s not an easy life.”
He smiled but looked out to a passing car. “You know what does bother me, Charlie?”
“The fact I keep telling you I’m staying, that I love it here, that I love you,” he said quietly. “And you don’t believe me.”
I wanted to take his hand. I wanted to reassure him with a touch. But I couldn’t. My hand wanted to move, but my hammering heart wouldn’t let it. “I do believe you.”
“Then why do you always think I’m leaving?”
I shrugged. “Because I would understand if you did.” I looked back out across the car park again. It was easier than looking at him. “I do believe you. I’m sorry if you think I’m doubting you. Because I’m not. I doubt me.”
“That I’ll fuck it up, or the fact I’m not technically out,” I admitted. His eyebrows furrowed in that what-the-hell-does-that-mean way he did. “Well, this weekend… I booked us into a twin room so the lady behind the counter wouldn’t know, I wouldn’t dance with you, I walked away from you in the stupid electronics store, and I wouldn’t hold your hand at the movies and that’s not fair on you.” I shrugged again. “I’m trying, Trav, but it’s not easy for me. I wanted this weekend to be a bit special and I kinda failed.”
“I never asked you to hold my hand at the movies,” he said, obviously confused.
“I know you didn’t. But I wanted… I wanted to hold your hand,” I admitted quietly. “And I couldn’t do it. Even in the darkened cinema. In case someone saw it… I hate that I can’t… like right now. I want to do something as simple as hold your fucking hand, and I can’t.”
Travis stared at me for the longest time. “Charlie. You didn’t fail. This weekend’s been great. And don’t ever apologise.”
Before I could lose my nerve, I asked him, “Are you happy? Here with me?”
He didn’t answer. Instead, he just kind of smiled and shook his head in a frustrated I-can’t-believe-you’re-so-fucking-stupid kind of way. “Charlie, do me a favour?”
I nodded. “Sure.”
“Take your boots and socks off.”
He looked pointedly at his bare feet. “Boots and socks. Take ‘em off.”
I considered arguing. I considered telling him it was the middle of town, in the park next to the supermarket, and that taking my boots off probably wasn’t strictly proper. But it was Travis, and it was kind of pointless in arguing, and considering how this conversation was going, I didn’t dare. So I took off my boots and socks.
“Doesn’t that feel good?”
“The grass,” he said. “Under your feet.”
It was like soft paper, and… green. “I guess.”
“Of all the things, I didn’t think I would miss this.”
Travis looked at me and grinned. “Weird, huh?”
I thought about it for a long moment. “I guess not. Not if you were used to it before.”
He smiled wistfully, and sighed. “Charlie, I can see how hard you’re trying this weekend.”
“I want you to be happy.”
He smiled more genuinely this time. “I know you do. And I am.”
“But?” There definitely sounded like there was a but looming.
“I’ve loved this weekend here with you. No work, no anything. Just us.”
“And all you want to do is go home.”
“No I don’t,” I lied.
He raised his eyebrow again. “You really are a terrible liar.”
“I’ve loved being here with you,” I said quickly. Then I shrugged and opted for honesty. “I just feel very… out of place.”
“Can I tell you something?”
I nodded, really not wanting to hear what he had to say.
“You don’t belong here.” He smiled at my expression. “You belong on Sutton Station. It’s a part of you. The vastness, the open spaces, the red dirt.”
“It’s who I am.”
He smiled. “It’s who I love.”
In other news, I’m almost done on my WIP. I imagine it will finish at about the 75K-ish mark. I haven’t posted much on this one, but I don’t mind telling you all that the book I’m hoping to release in Sep/Oct is indeed, Red Dirt Heart 3.