Friday Preview: Momentos: Mick's Journey
Today I'm sharing an excerpt of Momentos: Mick's Journey. This is the third novel in the Basque Trilogy. I go way back to the beginning in this one. In Part One, I recount Mick and Paul's high school and college days. Part two features Mick and Tono, and the third section of the book focuses on all three. This short excerpt is from the second part of the book, the moment Mick and Tono first laid eyes on each other.
San Sebastian, Spain, 2000
THE room was thick with smoke and crammed with tourists and locals. It was the second week in July, and San Sebastian was reaping the benefits of last week's Pamplona Festival, which included the famous running of the bulls. I'd stopped going years ago; it was no longer enjoyable to fight the crowds to walk across the street, or endure the long wait at a restaurant. I could understand the appeal for someone who'd never been there before, and due to the international publicity, it was still a favored tourist attraction. We always caught the overflow a week later.
My city was more famous for its beaches and countless bars that had been written up and touted in culinary magazines. Pintxos were a variation of the tapas, or finger foods, found throughout Spain. Somehow, the chefs in Sanse, as we natives fondly called San Sebastian, were either better than most or more creative. The abundance and variety of choices offered in tantalizing displays on the countertops of each bar were a visual and palatal delight. For us, it was a part of life and the evening aperitif. I always stopped at Vergara, one of my favorite bars, to have a drink while savoring any new dishes the owner had concocted. He liked trying out new recipes on favored customers before serving them to the general public.
I scanned the crowd, trying to determine if anyone was worth approaching. I'd just returned from my five-year stint in Florida and was slowly getting back to the more relaxed atmosphere of life in my hometown. Florida had been a learning experience and an opportunity to make the kind of money I'd only dreamed of, but the price was high. My daily schedule had left no room for leisure time. If I wasn't at the fronton playing for several hours each night, I was at the gym working out. There hadn't been much time to do any cruising, and even if there were, I wasn't the sort of person who hung around gay bars. A few disappointing hookups early on had convinced me that random fucks weren't my style. I'd hoped to find someone special by now; after all, I‟d had the opportunity. Being anonymous in another country had its advantages. No one knew me outside of the fronton, unlike here at home; the spotlight of recognition shown bright. My parents had never asked, and I had never volunteered any information on my love life. They'd tried for years to set me up with daughters of friends and had finally given up in disgust, claiming I was too picky. My fellow players on both sides of the ocean were unaware of my sexual orientation, or chose to ignore it, which was to be expected. There was no place for mariquitas in our world―a simple fact I‟d always known.
I was getting ready to leave the bar when I heard the laughter coming from a group of men over at the far end of the room. The center of attention seemed to be the guy who was gesticulating wildly. He had his back to me, so all I could see was his rear end, encased in skintight Levi‟s topped off by an equally tight T-shirt. His curly, black hair brushed his shoulders, and I would have disregarded him, except he turned suddenly and our eyes met.
The flash of interest was easily discernible in the stranger's face. I couldn't break eye contact, and I found myself approaching him, unable to stop. I paused and asked for a beer, never taking my eyes off the man who seemed to be caught under the same powerful spell. We acknowledged each other with a nod. He left the group and moved a little closer, stopping when he was about three meters away, and he studied me with blatant interest. I could feel my body reacting to the intense scrutiny and was a little dismayed by the force of my attraction. I had no idea who this man was or where he was from, but he had one of the most beautiful faces I'd ever seen. I was hypnotized―deep purple eyes fringed by dark lashes that curled outrageously, and full, plump lips. The thick shadow of a day-old beard counteracted the almost feminine beauty, while his jet-black hair fell in abundant curls, framing a finely sculpted face. He smiled seductively and moved a little closer, whispering in my ear.
“Hey,” he purred, raising every hair on my body.
“Hola,” I responded in Spanish, curious to see if he understood.
“Hola, guapo,” he flirted. “¿Hablas Inglés?”
“Fantastic! I‟m so sick of trying to make myself understood―it's exhausting!”
I laughed, appreciating his honesty. “I know what you mean. My first few months in Florida were a nightmare.”
“Do you live in the States?”
“I did for a number of years, but I'm back to stay.”
“Lucky you. My name's Mick, by the way. Mick Henley.”
“Not the writer?”
“You know my work?” He sounded surprised.
“I've read your book.”
“I don't know what to say.”
I shrugged. “It was good.”
“Oh, I know that.” Mick laughed. “What I meant was I didn't expect to be recognized.”
“Why? You're a famous writer.”
Mick grinned. “What's your name?”
“Tono is different."
“It's short for Antonio.”
“I see. Can I buy you another beer?”
“I'm not done with this one yet.”
“Do you mind if I join you?”
I looked at the men Mick had been talking with. “What about your friends?”
“I have no idea who they are. We just started up a conversation.”
“Are you always this friendly?”
“Yes. Why are you so surprised?”
“Because I'm not.”
“You seem plenty friendly to me,” Mick said softly. “Would you like to go somewhere and get to know each other better?”
“Do you have other plans?”
I looked around to see if anyone was watching. No one even glanced in our direction, and I felt comfortable enough to venture a positive reply. I turned back to Mick, who'd been waiting for my decision, but I made him wait while I drained my beer in two long pulls. “Follow me after a few minutes,” I instructed. “I'll meet you outside, near the church around the corner.”
Mick remained at the bar with a perplexed look on his face. I couldn't believe I'd said yes to what was probably going to end up as a one-night stand. This wasn't my style, especially not here on my own turf, but there was something about the writer that made me want to take a chance. It could be because he was an American, and a celebrity, but I'd already broken one of my own rules. My strides were brisk and purposeful, leading me away from the bar and the prying eyes. When I reached the church, I waited impatiently, wondering if Mick would show up.
“Is there a reason for the subterfuge?” Mick asked with a half-smile when he finally stood in front of me.
“What do you mean by, 'subterfuge'?"
“The whole James Bond thing.”
“I'm not out.”
“Ahh…. I can't imagine what that's like.”
“It is what it is,” I said angrily. “If you can't accept it, then go.”
“I'm not judging, Tono. I just think it's a hell of a way to live.”
“You know nothing about my life,” I said defensively. “Look, maybe this was a bad idea. I'm really not into casual sex.”
“Hey,” Mick said gently, holding on to my arm. “Settle down, okay? Let's talk and get to know each other. Nothing has to happen tonight.”
“Come on.” Mick inclined his head in the other direction. “Let's head out toward the beach.”
We walked in silence. I wondered what was going through Mick's head right now. Did he think I was a coward for being in the closet? Was he sorry he'd extended the impulsive invitation? I slanted a glance, and he appeared relaxed and comfortable. His body language was reassuring, and I decided to enjoy the moment, shrugging off my doubts and unreasonable fears. Blackmail was always an issue, and being outed in my hometown wasn't a case scenario I wished to deal with, but hopefully none of it would come to pass.
We arrived at Zurriola Beach, and Mick sat on the low concrete wall that separated the street from the sand. “Is this okay?”
“What do you do?”
“I'm a Jai alai player.”
The Basque Trilogy has been turned into a bundle. You can purchase all three novels for $9.99 only at Dreamspinner Press: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/basque-trilogy-by-mickie-b-ashling-8638-b