A Paul B Release Day Review: Love in the Line of Fire by Michael Murphy

Standard

Rating:4.5 out of 5 stars

love-in-the-line-of-fireSpecial Agent Jonah Pratt heads the security detail for First Gentleman Dr. David Hammond.  Basically his work is his life.  His private life, what there is of it, is just that, private.  Nobody in the Secret Service knows he is gay except his supervisors and one agent he began with years ago.  Protecting the husband of the first gay president comes first in his life.  Or so he thought until an assassination attempt on his protectee changes things.

Benji Campbell is a student at Georgetown University.  Having served a couple of terms in Iraq, he has been trained to handle dangerous situations.  Having been in the Middle East for most of the past ten years, he has hardly had time to find a one night stand, let alone something long term.  When someone starts taking shots on campus, his training kicks in and subdues the shooter.  What does he get for his trouble?  He gets punched in the jaw by a Secret Service agent.

Jonah realizes that his friend was killed in the line of duty.  Benji, having lost men in his missions in Iraq, tells Jonah that he knows what he feels and offers to listen to Jonah.  Jonah shows up one night at Benji’s apartment and gets drunk while telling his tale.  Benji feels something for Jonah but as neither have had any real experience in dating, things start awkwardly.  However, the two men find a groove and things are going great until Benji has a flashback in a restaurant.  Benji feels that Jonah needs someone whose head is screwed on right.  He also realizes what it is like now that he is the one waiting for someone with a dangerous job to come home at night.  His fears come true as there is another assassination attempt on the First Gentlemen.  He must find out if Jonah is alright but will he be able to?

I found this book more enjoyable than the Michael Murphy’s previous book The President’s Husband, which shares some of the same characters.  The slow developing romance between Jonah and Benji worked well as neither man had been in a relationship before.   After Benji has his panic attack in the restaurant, his sense of foreboding seems to telegraph future events in terms of the second attempt on the First Gentleman.  You can almost feel what every spouse or partner of a law enforcement official goes through every day they send their love one to work.  I thought that David Hammond worked better in a supporting role rather than as a primary character as he was in Husband.  Having read that book does provide some insight into his actions in this book.  However, Love can be read on its own. 

The cover art by L. C. Chase is outstanding.  It has images of Jonah (in a suit you find Secret Service agents usually wear) and Benji (in a muscle shirt with dog tags around his neck) in the top half of the cover with a photo of the National Mall on the bottom half. 

Sales Links

140b7-dreamspinner2blogo

c60a7-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

Book Details

EBook, 200 pages

Edition Language:  English

Published:  January 23, 2017 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN:  978-1-63533-207-0

A MelanieM Review: Blood Stained Tea (The Yakuza Path #1) by Amy Tasukada

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

blood-stained-tea-by-amy-tasukadaA bloody past haunts him. A devastating present calls him back…

Nao hides from his violent past in the Japanese mob by opening a teahouse in Japan’s cultural center, Kyoto. His past comes flooding back when he discovers a gravely injured man with a tattooed chest, a bloody knife, and a Korean business card.

Saehyun would’ve died if not for Nao’s help. He knows nothing of his savior’s connection with the local mafia, but Saehyun has his own secrets. He commands the Korean mafia, the mortal enemy of Nao’s former syndicate.

As Nao and Saehyun grow closer, so does the strength of the Korean mob. A shocking murder pulls Nao back into a past he’d all but abandoned. War is looming, and Nao must choose between protecting Saehyun or avenging the honor of his old mafia family..

The Yakuza Path: Blood Stained Tea is the first book in a series of Japanese mafia thrillers. If you like complex characters, blood-soaked violence, and twists you won’t see coming, then you’ll love Amy Tasukada’s gritty crime masterpiece.

 

This was undoubtedly one of the hardest reviews I’ve had to write in the past year, most of it is totally my fault.  I approached this story full of false assumptions. I skimmed over the blurb and immediately assumed that it was a murder/mystery romance with a Yakusa foundation along the lines of some of my favorite romances and I could not have been more wrong.  Those false expectations colored my viewpoint for two thirds of this story.  Luckily, the plot, the characters and the superb writing kept taking my assumptions and drowning them in the river in Kyoto, along with many, many bodies.

Make no mistake.  This is a brutal story.  These characters are not some criminals with heinous crimes that occur off the page.  There is torture, extreme violence that happens at once.  They are in many respects, psychopaths (especially one). Tasukada does not look away from how they got to this point in their lives, the reality of both the Korean mafia and the Yakuza in Japan.  Not for the soldiers at the basest level living in the worst possible conditions, gun fodder in the many battles or the people in the neighborhoods who become expendable in the gang fight for territory.

I know, some of you might be wondering. Why read this?  Because its engrossing, compelling.  I couldn’t put it down.  Its human drama on both an intimate and huge scale.  The author brings in both the ancient City of Kyoto and its past, the tea culture of Japan and so much more effortlessly folded into not only a psychological drama  but a gritty crime masterpiece as it says above.  Yes it deserves that in every sense that The Godfather deserves it as well.  And this is merely the first story, the first step forward.  What a gut cruncher, a heartbreaker and mindtwister Blood Stained Tea turns out to be.  Shocking really.

And it all starts with confused Nao, hiding in his Tea shop, looking for the perfect oolong tea and never finding it.

This story is still haunting me.   And yes, I need that second story.  I need to read it even as I’m cringing in expectation over what I will find there. Blood Stained Tea (The Yakuza Path #1) by Amy Tasukada will top my list of Best Books of 2017.  It may be the top book of 2017.  Its that good.  Don’t go looking for love and romance.  It won’t be found in the blood stained tea. What you will find is a complex, human drama that will surprise you at every turn, make you run through the range of our emotions and emerge still hopelessly connected to this world and characters. Yes I think masterpiece is the word that belongs here.

The cover is perfect as it highlights an important element in the story.

 

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK 

 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 319 pages
Published November 28th 2016 by Macarons & Tea Publishing
ISBN139780997865318
Edition LanguageEnglish

An Alisa Review: Twelve Gifts by Casper Graham

Standard

Rating:  3 stars out of 5

 

twelve-giftsDylan Hughes owns a small bakery. He’s doing what he loves and business is good, but he’s lonely. After a bad relationship, he’s been keeping to himself, and things are worse during the Christmas season. Then there is his unrequited crush on Aaron Tyler.

 

Aaron is a successful event planner. He and Dylan met more than two years earlier and, after tasting Dylan’s baking, Aaron proposed a collaboration. They’ve worked together ever since. Not willing to risk their friendship, Dylan has kept his feelings under wraps.

 

But a secret admirer begins to send Dylan thoughtful gifts twelve days before Christmas. The cute, clever gifts keep on coming and he’s flattered, but they couldn’t have come at a worse time. Aaron has finally asked him out.

 

What happens when the secret admirer’s identity is revealed on Christmas Day? Will Dylan’s blossoming relationship with Aaron survive?

 

This was a cute story.  Dylan is so lonely, he doesn’t even have regular employees to work with and you can only get so much from customer interaction.  He would rather have a quite night at home in lieu of the bar scene so it’s hard to find someone let alone someone who would be worthwhile.

 

Dylan’s shock at receiving the gifts from a secret admirer is adorable, he can’t believe anyone would want him let alone spend the amount of money that it must cost.  He really feels it’s mostly a joke, but absolutely jumps at the chance to date Aaron when asked.  I could see their relationship solidly building as they made a point of working up form their friendship instead of just jumping ahead.  I liked Dylan’s attitude that even though the gifts were great and exorbitant he was happy with building a real relationship with the man he has wanted.

 

The cover art gives a sweet visual of the characters.

 

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | B&N

 

Book Details:

Club Raven Blog Tour for BA Tortuga, Julia Talbot, and Kiernan Kelly (3 books, one series)

Standard

club-raven-banner-v2

Title: Calling His Bluff, Happy Medium, and Wishful Thinking

Author: BA Tortuga, Julia Talbot, and Kiernan Kelly

Series Title and Number: Club Raven, Books 1-3

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: January 17, 2016

Pairing: M/M

Genre/Tags: Romance, Paranormal, Historical, Alternate Universe, Spanking, Mediums, Mind Readers

Add Calling His Bluff to Goodreads

Add Happy Medium to Goodreads

Add Wishful Thinking to Goodreads

Synopsis

callinghisbluff1400x2100Calling His Bluff by BA Tortuga

After his twin dies in battle, it’s Patrick Daniels’ duty to marry his brother’s fiancée. Too bad he can’t make himself do it, and in his distress, he manifests a psychic talent that’s stronger than the tornadoes in his native East Texas. Then a mysterious man from a place called Club Raven steps in and sweeps Patrick off to the booming East Coast city of Baltimore.

Club Raven veteran Remy Blanchard sees Patrick and knows, even though Patrick is very ill, that this is the challenge he’s been waiting for. He nurses Patrick back to health, and begins to teach Patrick to control his talent. His methods might be unconventional, and Patrick might be new to the kinds of sexual games Remy knows best, but the two of them find something in each other that might be just as magical as the gentleman’s club where they meet.

Happy Medium by Julia Talbothappymedium-1

Andrew is out to debunk Max as a medium, not make love to him…

Max Bellame is working his way through 1870s Baltimore as a medium, even if he knows nothing about spirits. He uses the power of his mind to move objects, convincing his clients he’s the real thing.

Andrew Meechum works for Club Raven, a gentleman’s club that doubles as a paranormal research facility. He sets out to debunk Max, only to be fascinated by the man. Can Andrew convince Max to take a chance on love, and to find his true calling as a medium, or will their personal demons force them apart?

Wishful Thinking by Kiernan Kellywishfulthinking

Tony Brazzio, co-owner of Club Raven, Baltimore’s premiere men’s club in 1875, has a pocketful of cash and a chip on his shoulder. He’s out to prove to his co-owners — and himself — that he’s not a fluke, that anyone can be successful give the opportunity, no matter how poor his beginnings.

Bull O’Brian and Dandy Gilroy are two hoodlums from the rough streets of New York’s Five Points. They’re pickpockets by trade, and both possess psychic talents that make them two of the best. When Tony offers to bring them to Baltimore and give them the chance at a life of riches in polite society, they jump at the chance, if only to steal the members of Club Raven blind.

The best of plans rarely work the way they’re intended, and things swiftly go from bad to worse for Dandy and Bull. There’s murder afoot and a detective on their trail, and not even copious amounts of hot, sweaty sex can ease their fear or guilt.

As for Tony, he’s faced with admitting his experiment is a failure, something he’s loathe to do. It’ll take a great deal of persuasion, a little luck, and a lot of lube to make sure his plans for Dandy and Bull become more than just wishful thinking.

Purchase

Purchase all three Club Raven novels below!

Calling His Bluff: Evil Plot Bunny | Amazon

Happy Medium: Evil Plot Bunny | Amazon

Wishful Thinking: Evil Plot Bunny | Amazon

Meet the Authors

BA Tortuga

Texan to the bone and an unrepentant Daddy’s Girl, BA Tortuga spends her days with her basset hounds, getting tattooed, texting her sisters, and eating Mexican food. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing. She spends her days off watching rodeo, knitting, and surfing Pinterest in the name of research. BA’s personal saviors include her wife, Julia Talbot, her best friend, Sean Michael, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Really good coffee.

Having written everything from fist-fighting rednecks to hard-core cowboys to werewolves, BA does her damnedest to tell the stories of her heart, which was raised in Northeast Texas, but has heard the call of the high desert and lives in the Sandias. With books ranging from hard-hitting GLBT romance, to fiery menages, to the most traditional of love stories, BA refuses to be pigeon-holed by anyone but the voices in her head.

You can find out more about her by following her online.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Julia Talbot

Julia Talbot lives in the great Southwest, where there is hot and cold running rodeo, cowboys, and everything from meat and potatoes to the best Tex-Mex. A full time author, Julia has been published by Samhain Publishing, Dreamspinner Press and Changeling Press. She believes in stories that leave a mark, and that everyone deserves a happy ending, so she writes about love without limits, where boys love boys, girls love girls, and boys and girls get together to get wild, especially when her crazy paranormal characters are involved.

You can find out more about her by following her online.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Kiernan Kelly

Kiernan’s award-winning stories of gay romance envelop diverse themes, varying from paranormal, to fantasy, and science fiction to contemporary romance. She has over eighty titles in ebook and print, published through a variety of houses. Her horror short story release, “Cletus,” appears in the Coscom Publishing’s book “Bits of the Dead.”

Kiernan also writes young adult GLBT fiction under her Dakota Chase pen name. As Dakota, she currently has three novels and several shorter works available in print and ebook. Mad About the Hatter, her YA gay romance, is a finalist for the American Library Association book list for 2017.

You can find out more about her by following her online.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 Indigo Logo 200

Love a Terrific Crime Novel? Check out Blood Stained Tea (The Yakuza Path #1) by Amy Tasukada (giveaway)

Standard

Blood Stained Tea – Amy Tasukada

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK 

Length: 85,000 words

Blurb

Nao hides from his violent past in the Japanese mob by opening a teahouse in Japan’s cultural center, Kyoto. His past comes flooding back when he discovers a gravely injured man with a tattooed chest, a bloody knife, and a Korean business card.

Saehyun would’ve died if not for Nao’s help. He knows nothing of his savior’s connection with the local mafia, but Saehyun has his own secrets. He commands the Korean mafia, the mortal enemy of Nao’s former syndicate.

As Nao and Saehyun grow closer, so does the strength of the Korean mob. A shocking murder pulls Nao back into a past he’d all but abandoned. War is looming, and Nao must choose between protecting Saehyun or avenging the honor of his old mafia family..

The Yakuza Path: Blood Stained Teais the first book in a series of Japanese mafia thrillers. If you like complex characters, blood-soaked violence, and twists you won’t see coming, then you’ll love Amy Tasukada’s gritty crime masterpiece.

Author Bio

Amy Tasukada lives in a catless home in North Texas. (She enjoys cats but can’t quite make that kind of commitment yet.) As an only child her day dreams kept her entertained, and at age ten she started to put them to paper. Since then her love of writing hasn’t cease. When she’s not chasing after stray cats, she can be found drinking hot tea and filming Japanese street fashion hauls on her Youtube channel.

 

https://www.amytasukada.com/

 Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

 

 

BLOG TOUR: People Fish by Medella Kingston (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

peoplefish

PeopleFish by Medella Kingston

Publisher:  NineStar Press
Release Date: January 23rd

ccc0c-goodreads-button

Purchase Links

NineStarLogoFinal

NineStar Press

amazon square borderB&N borderKobo borderSW border

 

people-fish-teaser-graphic

Synopsis

 

Her Cree grandmother called it the gift of seeing, but for Petra “Pete” Orvatch, knowing things in ways that defy explanation has made reality and fantasy blur in a world where the clocks literally go backward. Her fascinating and clairvoyant mind is a riddle that many doctors have tried to solve with medication. Love comes her way unexpectedly when she meets Fiona Angeli, a stunningly beautiful single mother. A risk-taker by nature, Fiona is not scared off by her new lover’s psychic abilities and eccentricities.

 

The two of them share passion and secrets on a magical and surprising journey, and their torrid love affair takes them to thrilling new places until betrayal divides them. Both these women fight battles within themselves; Fiona must gain control of her dangerous compulsions, and Pete’s onerous gift ultimately puts her at risk of losing herself in the gap between delusions and the real world.

 

Title:  PeopleFish
Author: Medella Kingston

 

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Pairing: Female/Female
Length: 118000

Genre: Romance, lesbian, bisexual, paranormal, Addiction, psychic ability, romance

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33546115

Excerpt

PeopleFish

Medella Kingston © 2017

All Rights Reserved

 

 

Pete looked up from the mystery she was reading and scanned the faces in the waiting room. There was Tired Pinched Mom, with faded blond ponytail and dark roots coming in. She had one kid under control and was now quietly negotiating with the other. Next to this trio sat Man Too Large for His Seat, who seemed to be staring at his shoes or sleeping with his eyes open. In the corner was someone so nondescript she couldn’t instantly name her—then it came to her: Any Woman. This woman was neither thin nor large, short nor tall, and had a slightly exotic yet familiar face. She looked as if she could be from many different places, like Greece, Morocco, Central America, or New Jersey. She was text-messaging so quickly, Pete half expected her thumbs to spark and set fire to her phone.

 

Doesn’t anyone people-watch anymore? Was she the only person left who liked to read faces and create narratives? Maybe so. She’d never stop doing it. She’d been spinning this stuff since she was little—much to the annoyance of her mother. Instead of acknowledging the creative gifts of her child, or at the very least being entertained by them, she’d say, “God will punish you, Petra Marie, for thinking bad thoughts about people and making up lies.”

 

Some traits must skip generations, because Grandma Sweets had the right attitude. She’d join right in and embellish her granddaughter’s rough outlines of strangers’ lives with additions that could only come from a seasoned mind. If Pete said a passenger on the bus looked guilty, Gram Sweets would say, “Of course he looks guilty, he ought to! Instead of cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving, he cooked his wife!”

 

Her reminiscing was perforated by the staccato ring of a telephone.

 

“Cambridge Holistic Health and Wellness Center, please hold.”

 

Please hold? No one else is on the line; is this receptionista just fucking with the caller? Pete dog-eared the page in her paperback, closed it, slipped it into her bag, and decided to devote all of her energy to observing. She was just about to make up a story about the receptionist when her eyes landed on something strange. She hadn’t noticed the cheap plastic clock on the wallpapered wall before, but now she couldn’t take her eyes off it because the second hand was moving backward.

 

At first she thought she was seeing things, since her imagination was such a well-developed muscle. So she did something that made her feel seven instead of thirty-seven. She closed her eyes to reset, inhaled a long, slow breath, and then opened them, hoping this simple act could alter what she saw, or make things feel right again. She didn’t return her gaze to the clock right away, but rather avoided its face like you would dodge direct eye contact in a volley of flirt-and-stare with a stranger who’d caught you looking.

 

She panned her eyes evenly over all she had just taken in. Now the previously obedient child of the two was acting petulant, Man Too Large for His Seat actually was asleep, and Any Woman had stopped texting and was staring back at Pete. This startled her a bit. She looked away and then forced herself to look at the clock again. The red second hand was still moving backward and now instead of 2:27, it was 2:26, and the room seemed brighter to her than it had been just a minute ago.

 

“Petra Orvatch?”

 

She heard the automaton call her but she couldn’t move—she felt obligated to monitor the clock and confirm that it was in fact going backward, but knew she shouldn’t say anything about it. It was one of those times when she couldn’t expect people to understand her. These occurrences had happened ever since she could remember and could be confusing, amusing, or even downright dangerous.

Meet the Author

 

About the Author

Medella Kingston fell in love with writing at an early age and published articles, poems, and stories when she was growing up. She wrote, performed, and sold songs for movie soundtracks, and continued writing short stories for her own pleasure. She currently sings in the band Omnesia, which has aired locally on UC Berkeley’s radio station and been heard as far east as Goa and the Mumbai University. She lives with her partner and their two dogs in the East Bay. PeopleFish is Medella’s first novel, and she is currently working on a new book.

Author Links

people-fish-banner

Tour Schedule

1/23 – On Top Down Under – http://ontopdownunderbookreviews.com/

1/23 – Scatteredt Thoughts And Rogue Words – https://scatteredthoughtsandroguewords.com/

1/24 – Molly Lolly; Reader, Reviewer, Lover of Words – https://mollylollyauthor.wordpress.com

1/24 – Stories That Make You Smile – https://authoraddisonalbright.com

1/25 – Erotica For All  http://eroticaforall.co.uk

1/25 – Divine Magazine – http://divinemagazine.biz

1/26 – MM Good Book Reviews – https://mmgoodbookreviews.wordpress.com/

1/26 – Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents – http://fangirlmomentsandmytwocents.blogspot.com

1/26 – Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews – http://wickedfaeriesreviews.blogspot.com

1/26 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews – boymeetsboyreviews.blogspot.com

1/27 – Happily Ever Chapter – https://www.facebook.com/happilyeverchapter

1/27 – Sharing Links and Wisdom – http://sharinglinksandwisdom.blogspot.com

1/27 – Love Bytes – www.lovebytesreviews.com

Giveaway

One lucky winner will receive an ebook of their choice from NineStar Press
Rafflecopter Embed Code:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Direct Link:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/555033ec122/

indigo-badge-1

Reece Pine on ‘In Your Court’, A Dreamspinner Press World of Love story (DSP GUEST POST)

Standard

in-your-court-by-reece-pine

In Your Court (World of Love) by Reece Pine
D
reamspinner Press

Cover Artist: Garrett Leigh

Available for Purchase at

0dbe2-dreamspinner2blogo

amazon square borderB&N borderApple borderKobo border

 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Reece Pine here today to talk about her release, In Your Court.  Welcome, Reece!
~

Hi and thanks for letting me introduce In Your Court, part of Dreamspinner’s World of Love series, which sees Californian college grad Ray in Vietnam for a week teaching basketball and English to elementary-age kids. For Ray, the chance to hide his (often) invisible physical disability while he’s far from home is a way to have a holiday from what he hates most about it, which is being unable to play basketball anymore. So although he knows that doing a lot of physical activity all at once is a bad idea, he plans to indulge himself for as long as he can until his chronic pain catches up with him.

Translator/businessman Xin considers himself a pro communicator – he takes pride in patching up communication gaps between other people, and is frustrated when he can’t help people fulfil their desires. Secretive Ray is a tough case for him to handle, but their shared interest in seeing Ho Chi Minh’s sights and in the Vietnamese language lets him scratch Ray’s surface and get him to begin to open up. The hard part is Ray already knows that communication is the key to getting what he wants, but first he and Xin both have to figure out what they want and can realistically have in a relationship and in their futures.

The inspiration for the book came from a weird, jealous, nostalgic thrill I felt watching a lot of basketball while being myself laid up with a condition. It’s one thing to fully understand the limits physical disabilities impose, but another thing to actually obey them, so I’m sure Ray’s not the first character (or person) to want to push such limits to their breaking point for the sake of enjoying a sport. The on-court atmosphere of a tense basketball game has a lot in common with the bustling, humid streets of Ho Chi Minh, so I jumped at the chance to set the story there, since Vietnam and Singapore (which is also seen in the book) are also incredibly scenic and romantic cities. I hope you check it out, or any of the other beautiful places represented in the World of Love series.

inyourcourt_banner

Blurb

With a shot at happiness in sight, it’s no time to drop the ball.

A back condition ruined Ray’s basketball ambitions, but he wants one last opportunity to play before hanging up his sneakers. While volunteering as a coach at a special needs school in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, he meets Singaporean Xin, who works matching wealthy corporations with compatible charities. Xin helps the American navigate the local customs in order to see the smile Xin fell for at first sight, but Ray makes sure no one sees how hard it is for him to keep upright, let alone keep enjoying Vietnam and playing the sport he loves.

When Ray’s back pain becomes too great to hide, Xin accommodates him in Ho Chi Minh and in Singapore—and in bed. Ray wants to imagine a future for them but fears he’s damaged goods, and Xin’s obligations in Asia aren’t easily forgotten. Ray won’t be another charity of Xin’s, especially when Xin also needs someone by his side. Their romance will be cut as short as Ray’s basketball dreams unless he can close the Pacific-sized distance between them.

World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.

Excerpt

 

Gray dawn and blaring big-band music that sounds like it’s been filtered through three DIY crystal radios creep in on the draft spilling under our door. The electro-pop communist march song is an effective call to arms in that I’m up and swearing, just not in allegiance.

“Good morning, Vietnam,” Xin mumbles, rolling over on his creaking cot and snaking a hand under his thin cotton sheet to scratch his stomach. A pirated copy of The Quiet American, the kind of photocopied book I saw street stalls selling yesterday, sticks out from beneath his pillow. I loved the movie they made of that. Good Morning, Vietnam too.

I have six days left. Still in yesterday’s stinking jersey and slacks, hair damp with old or new perspiration, I peel myself off my mattress to start my usual routine of push-ups on the floor between our beds. In no time, sweat drips Rorschach splatters on the concrete, on which I try to focus rather than on the dude beside me moaning as he languidly stretches his body to its full horizontal height.

“Aren’t you energetic?” He sits up, head tilted to match his half smile, and lazily reaches for my shoulder. “If I sit on your back, will that help—”

Don’t,” I snap, wrenching straight up and crawling a step away. My morning voice rattles in my throat and in the heavy air, so I clear both with a cough before spreading my hands on the floor and recovering my rhythm within two push-ups. My lower back’s familiar ache is waking up too, but it has yet to seep into my hips. I shouldn’t have played yesterday after so long sitting in a cramped airplane chair. Not that it was that cramped for little old me, but it was too rigid, and I didn’t pace the aisle as much as I should have.

In the corner of my eye, I watch Xin quietly unlatch his hefty wheeled suitcase  to  extract  linen  shorts  and  a  long-sleeved  raglan  tee.  He looks comparatively casual today, but the outfit’s clearly styling. The cotton shirt is luxuriously creamy in color and texture and spills down his pale back as he dresses, eyeing me warily. “Are you against queer folk?”

I laugh. “When I’m lucky.”

Xin pauses, silent.

Shit. Did he just come out to me? Did I just come out to him? And did I imagine him calling me cute last night? Probably. “You’re queer?”

An automatic smile pulls at my lips. I stop doing push-ups at the count of a hundred and the sight of Xin’s calm expression probing my hard-to-hide relief. “’Cause I am.”

“Are you touch-averse ace or anything? Because I’ll let people know if you need. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”

“No, I’m gay. You planning on making me uncomfortable?”

“No, I’m gay,” he parrots, preening his short hair with a black lacquer comb. I can’t tell its fine teeth from the shining hair it parts. “Just… that was a pretty strong shutdown to being nearly touched, Ray. This is Asia. Guys are going to touch you, no sex implied.”

Oh wow, after being possibly called ‘cute’ last night, I’ve been shot down before my eyes are even properly opened. ‘No sex implied’—well, at least I know where I stand with him today. “Is it an Australian thing too to touch up your… mates?”

Xin laughs. “Fuck, no. There it’s only cool for men to slap around butch, strapping athletes like you, especially when you’re panting and glistening.”

It takes me a second to get that the lascivious wink he hits me with is a sarcastic stand-in for ‘Apology accepted.’ He didn’t take my snapping personally. “Do even Australians get Australian humor?”

“When we’re lucky. Shower’s three doors down on the left. It’s a faculty one, but all the teachers who live here are housed in another block, so we don’t have to share it.”

“Except with each other,” I mumble into the tangle of clothes I’ve gutted from my backpack.

“Thanks for the invite, but right now it’s all yours. Mate.”

“I take back yesterday’s request. You’re the last person whose job it should be to rein me in for stepping out of line.”

“Then I’ll just have to do it for fun.”

 

About the Author

Reece is a human pinball who’s moved around the world 20-odd times in the last 15 years. At the moment she’s in Australia, ignoring her handful of degrees in law, science and other subjects in order to make things up instead. She loves genre-jumping when writing and reading, and seeing diverse characters appear everywhere, as in real life. Although she’s a big fan of twists and drama, good representation of genders, sexualities, and disabilities remains as important to her as ensuring all of her stories end well, because we all deserve a happy ending.

Social media links:
Personal website: http://www.reecepine.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/reecepine
Tumblr: http://www.reecepine.tumblr.com