Hi all! We made it to Friday and that means another sneak peek at my upcoming release. Third Son is a contemporary m/m novel set in Hong Kong.
Before you get started on the excerpt, I'd like to remind you about the 30% discount available at NineStar Press if you pre-order the novel. Once the book releases it goes back to full price. Type in PREORDER at checkout to get the discount. Here's the link: https://ninestarpress.com/product/third-son/
I know some of you prefer Amazon's convenient one-click method and I totally get that. Here's the direct link to Third Son: https://www.amazon.com/Third-Son-Mickie-B-Ashling-ebook/dp/B075GX12SJ/ref=la_B004QSCN3E_1_30?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1504964136&sr=1-30&refinements=p_82%3AB004QSCN3E
And we're off....
The gallery was crowded when I walked through the doors at six that evening. Gerard must have been on the lookout, because he was by my side in seconds. I almost didn’t recognize him in a suit. It was the first time since we met that he wasn’t in casual clothes. The who’s who of Hong Kong must have been in attendance if he wanted to make a good impression. He looked gorgeous, but I didn’t voice that out loud.
“Thanks for coming, Niall,” he said, grabbing me in a bro hug. “I know you’d rather be somewhere else tonight.”
“Actually, you’re wrong. Celebrating with you is exactly where I want to be right now.”
Gerard smiled. “I’m glad.”
He took my arm and we made a slow circuit of the gallery, stopping occasionally so he could respond to the many well-wishers. More than half of the artwork had a Sold sticker beside the title, and I imagined they’d be completely gone by the end of the night. This exhibit’s theme was Tanka boat people, the gypsies of the sea, according to the printed handout describing Gerard’s current pieces. The origins of these people could be traced back to the Tang Dynasty when local fishermen chose to escape war by settling on their vessels. The images showed typical family scenes in an atypical home. Toothless men sharing a meal with their younger, more virile counterparts, women washing their hair, breastfeeding, stir-frying vegetables in woks over hot coals, children playing with strings and buttons they’d turned into toys, piles of fish, some still leaping in the air, while others were gutted and ready for delivery.
They were starkly realistic but tempered by the ink wash painting, his chosen medium for this particular exhibit. The goal was to capture the spirit of the subject beyond the actual image. Gerard had succeeded magnificently, and I would have gladly handed over a check to own a piece for myself if the timing had been better. With my future in doubt, I couldn’t afford to be impulsive. Although my job was secure, and the company had assured me that staying in Hong Kong was my choice, Minister Xiang Guo might refuse to work with anyone else. In truth, I was perfectly suited for this branch, and my transfer back to the States might not be forthcoming if the PRC held sway over the decision. I’d have to wait and see how this all played out before investing in expensive artwork.
Gerard had promised dinner after the show, so I picked at the finger food and nursed my drink. At the gallery owner’s urging, he wandered away to schmooze potential buyers while I made another round of the room, going from painting to painting. Gerard was an extremely gifted and versatile artist. The murals we’d purchased for the Thailand project were oils and eerily futuristic, nothing at all like these meticulous inks that had an old-fashioned vibe. Minister Guo would be a fool to reject him because of finances.
“I’ve been given permission to escape,” Gerard said quietly. He’d snuck up behind me and I spun around, startled by the mischievous smile on his face.
“Don’t you enjoy meeting your buyers in person?” I asked. “Basking in the spotlight seems like the perfect reward for all your hard work.”
“Not really,” Gerard replied. “I’d rather paint and have someone else do the promo.”
“That’s refreshing,” I commented. “Most artists enjoy this part more.”
“Do you know a lot of artists?”
“I meant artistic types in general,” I said.
He shook his head. “Not my thing, Are you ready to get out of here?”
“Where are we going?” I asked. “I’m starving.”
“You want fancy or down-to-earth good food.”
“The latter,” I said. “I’m ready to dig into a mountain of crab and shrimp with my fingers.” “Good deal,” Gerard said. “I know the perfect place.”
His idea of perfect was the local version of a greasy spoon. We walked into the heart of Kowloon, getting farther away from the tourist traps and weaving through narrow alleys and backstreets. Gerard reached for my hand to help me circumnavigate puddles, and other undesirable droppings, and didn’t let go until we got to our destination. I probably should have untangled our meshed fingers, knowing the culture, but being with a man who cared about my well-being and wasn’t afraid to show it was a welcome change.
After I came out to my parents in my sophomore year of high school, kisses and hugs just stopped. Maybe they figured if I was old enough to have sex with another guy, I wouldn’t need their affection. It was odd and painful, but at least they hadn’t disowned me, which was what I’d been expecting. Even now, after all these years, they continued to be reserved, preferring to shower me with cards and gifts instead of a pat on the back or a much-needed hug. I was so starved for open displays of affection, I soaked up Gerard’s attention.