Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday Teaser!

 MY THOUGHTS WERE still on James and the emotion-packed day when I walked into Gerard’s room at six o’clock. His parents were delighted to see me, and the unexpected treat I brought along was a nice bonus. I was ravenous by then, and we enjoyed the delicious bāo with cups of steaming green tea Mei had thought to bring in a large thermos. We kept the conversation light, sticking to restaurants and bakeries, rating them according to personal preferences.
     Traditionally served as dim sum, a Cantonese style of cuisine, and usually reserved for brunch, the bun in its original form consisted of wheat-flour dough filled with barbecued pork then steamed. They evolved through the years, and now the buns were available throughout the day as a baked good. This mode of cooking made them easier to transport and stay fresh longer. When I went back to the States to get my college degree, I was disappointed I couldn’t find them anywhere but in Chinatown. To me, they were comfort food, as necessary as mac and cheese to my roommates.
     Gerard had been given clearance to go home in the morning, which would leave the afternoon free for my meeting with DI Lee. Now that my belly was full, and Gerard was firmly on the road to recovery, the urgency to share my concerns with the detective seemed to fade. Perhaps I was overreacting as usual and should take a moment to step back and assess the situation. Then again, it wouldn’t hurt to hear what he had to say if they’d uncovered something new.
     After his parents left, Gerard asked me about the funeral. “Was it well attended?”
     “Yes, but I didn’t pay any attention to the guests. I couldn’t tell you who was there.”
     “Understandable,” he said. “How are you holding up?”
     “My emotional bank has been severely depleted,” I confessed. “An infusion of TLC wouldn’t go amiss.”
     “Why don’t you get in bed with me and let me hold you for starters.”
     “That sounds great.” I toed off my shoes and snuggled by his side. Under normal circumstances,         Gerard’s loving presence would have chased away the blues, but I couldn’t seem to get James out of my mind. Should I reach out to him? Let him know there were no hard feelings. The truth was I felt guilty. Maybe my longing for a more attentive lover hadn’t fallen on deaf ears but had acted as a catalyst, the speck of sand that over the years grew into a pearl James called love. Jesus. What in hell had I started?
     I’d vowed to keep the incident to myself, to spare Gerard the additional drama, but in the end, my confusion got the better of me. With my head on his chest, I whispered, “Something disturbing happened this afternoon.”
     Gerard stiffened. “Do you want to talk about it?”
     “Only if you promise to remain calm.”
     “I’ll do my best, but if it involves abuse of any kind, all bets are off.”
     “He didn’t actually succeed,” I hedged.
     “What happened, Niall?”

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Preview

I'm over at On Top Down Under Reviews today with an exclusive excerpt and giveaway in honor of their 5 year blogversary. Check it out and be sure to leave a comment to enter the drawing.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tuesday Teaser

Third Son Excerpt #3

     I got back to the office after two. There were no emergencies or unexpected meetings to attend. Nothing that got in the way of my texting Gerard to let him know I was okay. He’d called earlier, but I didn’t pick up as I was on my way to meet James. I had Peter on my mind and a potential rift with an old friend, but now that disaster had been averted, I was able to give Gerard my full attention.
He asked to meet after work, and I agreed. The thought of going back to my apartment after this morning’s incident was daunting. I wasn’t sure if James would get a hold of Peter today, and I couldn’t bear another confrontation on the heels of the last one. Seeing Gerard was a much better option.
     I met him at the entrance to his apartment building, and we greeted each other in Mandarin. Tonight’s seafood restaurant had one of my favorite dishes. Cracked crab in black bean sauce with spicy garlic noodles on the side. I removed my jacket and hung it on the back of my chair. The waiter handed us large paper bibs to protect our shirts from splatter. Having done this before, I knew it was a necessary accessory if I wanted to preserve my Armani shirt and tie. The food was incredible, and I slurped the sweet meat out of the crab legs and did the same with the noodles. I paused for a second, recalling my good manners, then I did a quick reboot as I looked around. Everyone around me was slurping up a storm, and the approval in the waiter’s eyes as he watched me enjoying my food with proper gusto was gratifying. I was home.
     Beyond Gerard’s initial text regarding my state of mind, Peter wasn’t discussed. I didn’t tell Gerard about this morning’s break-in or my meeting with James. I honestly didn’t want him caught in the crossfire. After we were done, fragrant hot towels were handed out to clean up our fingers and mouths. Green tea accompanied by dessert—small bowls of chilled peeled lychee—completed the meal.
     “Are you tired, or would you like to come up to my place for a drink?” Gerard asked when we exited the restaurant. “I did a preliminary sketch for your campaign. I wouldn’t mind an honest opinion before I go any further.”
     “That sounds great.”Gerard reached for my hand, and I followed him through the maze of narrow streets toward his building. Once inside his place, we hung up our jackets and toed off our shoes. He directed me to one of the tables against the wall. As he mentioned, the drawing was rough, but I could envision the finished product. He’d captured the natural beauty of a typical Shanghai park, adding koi-filled ponds and lantern-strewn pathways, while inserting crowds of people in varying ages. One had to really look to find the same-sex couples, but they were there for those who were hoping to see a change.
     “This is great,” I said enthusiastically. “I think she’ll be pleased.”
     “I’m glad,” he said, looking excited. “I’ll have a few more to present by next week.”
     We walked back toward the kitchen. “Beer or brandy?”
     “What’ll you have?” I asked.
     “A kiss will work for me.”
     I flushed, not expecting this to escalate so soon, although I should have known better. We were attracted to each other and had been from the first. Still, I had to make an attempt to slow things down.
     “Mixing business and pleasure isn’t a good idea.”
     “We broke that rule in Vegas,” Gerard reminded me.
     “That’s true,” I said, teetering on my resolve. “I suppose one kiss won’t really hurt.”
     Gerard moved toward me. “You think we’re stopping at one?”
     “Let’s try.” I took a breath before his soft lips met mine, and I knew we’d never stop at one.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Third-Son-Mickie-B-Ashling-

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

In Case You Missed It!

Exclusive Excerpt #2

Niall has been in love with Peter since he was fifteen. After being apart for eight years, he’s looking forward to starting a new life, one that no longer involves subterfuge. He’s disappointed to find that nothing has changed; in fact, things are worse.  

     At my desk the next morning, I thought back on Peter’s midnight visit. He was gone when I woke up. There was nothing to indicate he’d ever been there other than the used condom in the wastebasket by my bed. Even though he hadn’t left money on the nightstand, I still felt like his whore. He was getting worse instead of better. I pulled out my phone and sent him a blistering text, telling him to stay away. I was tired of his shit and determined to push him out of my heart.
     My new resolve lasted about three hours, long enough for Peter to mount a counteroffensive. A messenger showed up after lunch with a magnificent purple and white orchid in what looked like an antique celadon vase. I wasn’t a connoisseur of either orchids or Chinese porcelain, but I was a sucker for gestures, be they grandiose or sweetly romantic. The accompanying apology in his handwriting weakened me further. At least he’d had the decency to walk to the florist himself rather than sending a minion.       When my phone rang about an hour later, I knew it was him.
     “Good save,” I said by way of greeting.
     “I’m sorry, Niall. Am I forgiven?”
     “Only if you can explain what’s going on. Why are you more insensitive than ever? I thought things would be different this time, Peter. Are we regressing instead of moving in the right direction?”
     He sighed. “I’ve got a lot going on you don’t know about.”
     “Talk to me then,” I pleaded. “Why are you keeping me at arm’s length?”
     “It’s local shit that doesn’t concern you.”
     “Anything that bothers you is worth discussing,” I said. “If nothing else, I can be your sounding board.”
     “Why don’t we do it over dinner?” he suggested. “Come to my apartment after work and I’ll wine and dine you.”
     “I’m more interested in talking than eating.”
     “We’ll get to that later.”
     “Do you promise?”
     “I give you my word.”
     I looked at the appointment calendar on my desk and saw that my evening was free. Tomorrow was Gerard’s art show, which I still planned to attend, unless Peter proposed tonight. Righto. The odds of that happening were a zillion to one.
     Making up my mind, I informed him I’d be there around six.
     “That’s great,” he said, sounding relieved. “Niall?”
     “For what?”
     “Putting up with me for so long,” Peter said softly. “You’re a prince.”
     My heart stuttered for a sec, then resumed a steady beat. I couldn’t remember the last time Peter said anything remotely meaningful. He must really be in a bad place if this slipped out so easily.
     “I love you, Peter. You know I’ll always be here for you.”
     “See you later,” he said, ending the call.
     Hope split open like a ripe fig. Peter was emotionally stunted, and I was a fool for buying into his crap. Irritated, I turned my attention back to the job at hand.
     Minister Guo had begrudgingly agreed to add a few same-sex couples in the very distant background of their new travel posters. The images had to be subtle. Anything overt would be dismissed as inappropriate. Rather than using artists on our staff, which were costly in her opinion, she insisted on raw talent from the Mainland she could get for free. I told her the wrong images could ruin the entire campaign, and it was in her country’s best interest to use the best, regardless of cost. She’d asked for a list of names and samples of their work so she could make a decision.
     Naturally, I thought of Gerard. I’d worked with him once before, and he was damned good. Plus, he was a local guy and understood the prevailing mindset. He’d be perfect for the job, except he wouldn’t come cheap. Perhaps if he learned the project was for the PRC, he might be more benevolent. On the other hand, why should he give them a discount unless he could get something in return? I had no idea what that might be at this point, but it would be something to discuss tomorrow if I could drag him away from his admirers.
     Peter’s place on Central Street was in the same building owned and occupied by Wei Bank. It overlooked Victoria Harbor and the views were fantastic. It was also very convenient for him to take the elevator down to work each morning, put in the requisite hours to keep everyone happy, then go back upstairs to the penthouse to change into club attire. The truth was he spent more time at Pandora than at his day job. It was James logging in the long hours and making financial decisions that would impact customers from all over the world.
     His majordomo, Shun, opened the door when I rang the bell. I knew he’d disappear the minute we were settled, but he’d stick around long enough to make sure Peter had everything within reach. He was a fixture in Peter’s life and privy to all his secrets, which included me.
     Bowing, Shun greeted me in Cantonese. “Welcome home, young sir.”
     “Thank you,” I replied in the same language.
     “I’ll let Master know you’ve arrived.”
     Shun disappeared, soundless in his embroidered cloth slippers. He didn’t look any older than he had when I first laid eyes on him. He could have been in his mid-forties, or late fifties for all I knew, but the dour expression and malevolent glint in his all-seeing eyes hadn’t changed. Most everyone was terrified of Shun, a reputation he’d perpetuated by earning a black belt in Shaolin Kung Fu and keeping his distance from the rest of the staff. He’d been charged with Peter’s safety when he’d returned from college at the age of twenty-two and hadn’t left his side since. I was always treated like James’s best friend, the pesky young admirer to the more sophisticated older brother, until Shun walked in on us one day sucking each other off. He didn’t even blink, only shut the door and switched my honorific. Going forward, I was sir instead of boy.

You can purchase Third Son at the following retailers:

NineStar Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/third-son/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Third-Son-Mickie-B-Ashling-ebook/dp/B075GX12SJ/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday Preview

 In Case You Missed It-Blog Tour #1 Exclusive Excerpt

THERE WAS A Starbucks on the ground floor of my building, and I stopped on my way out to get a large black coffee with an extra shot of espresso. The aspirins had helped control the headache, as had the shower, but I was a little sluggish and had to be on point for my meeting. Trying to convince the PRC that their antiquated opinions on gay rights didn’t measure up to the changing landscape would be a challenge. The queer community had as much, if not more, disposable income at their fingertips, but they balked at visiting countries renowned for their hard line against their tribe. Even when they did venture into parts of mainland China, they were paranoid and reluctant to walk about outside of the arranged tour.

After paying for my drink, I murmured xié xie—thank you—in perfectly accented Mandarin. The barista’s eyes rounded in surprise upon hearing the polite words coming from a blue-eyed ginger in a bespoke three-piece suit. In the days of British Rule, it was common to find Westerners who spoke the language, but since 1997, when China took back Hong Kong, many of the expats had returned home. The majority of Caucasians who now resided in the area were transient businessmen and didn’t have the time or inclination to learn the difficult language. It was second nature to me, so much a part of my persona I never realized when I shifted language as needed. Winking playfully, I left her a nice tip.

I had time to walk to the escalator that would take me to the central part of town, so I could catch a cab to my office at the AIA Kowloon Tower in Kwun Tong. If I decided to stay beyond this assignment, I’d have to look into purchasing a car and possibly selling my place on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to invest in something local. Having been away for so long, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to live here permanently. I’d made that clear to the higher-ups when I accepted this campaign. Peter had a lot to do with my decision. Given his connections, it would be impossible to have any sort of personal life in this town if our relationship didn’t pan out. I knew he wasn’t the only attractive man in my immediate vicinity, but he was the one I wanted. If I couldn’t have him, then I’d rather be on the other side of the world.

Having just arrived a week ago, it would take my olfactory senses a few more days to acclimate to the combination of fetid and flowery aromas that were so much a part of this city. Bins overflowed with rubbish until the garbage collectors made their rounds. As I got closer to the harbor, smells changed. The briny tang of the ocean mingled with diesel fuel, masking everything else. The Star Ferry shuffled people back and forth from Hong Kong to Kowloon all day, and car and bus exhaust hung heavily in the air.

People prattled into their cell phones as they rushed about, shoes skidded across walkways leading to the ferry, double-decker buses rumbled, bicycle and tricycle riders didn’t hesitate to squeeze their annoying, trilling bells to warn pedestrians to get out of the way while car and bus drivers utilized horns haphazardly. I was keenly aware that people around here didn’t talk in low murmurs. Voices caterwauled from all directions. As one got deeper into the areas of commerce and open food markets, shop owners hawked goods from doorways, haggled over prices in strident tones, cackled in amusement when they made the deal, brayed in anger if they were blocked, shouted at potential pickpockets, and waved off nefarious lookie-loos.

I’d lived in big cities all over the world, but nothing could compare to Hong Kong’s energy. This was a city of commerce, centuries old, and the smell of money was as redolent as the stink of fish. It felt great to be back in my element, but on the other hand, not much had changed in my personal life. I was still the freckle-faced áng-mo—red-haired foreigner, a step up from the more derogatory gweilo—looking for a meaningful relationship with an unattainable man.

James, Peter’s younger brother, had invited me for dinner tonight. We were both twenty-nine, had bonded at twelve after ending up on the same basketball team, and stayed friends despite our distance. I was certain he’d pump me for information regarding my visit with Peter. To this day, he felt personally responsible for our disastrous pairing. Every time Peter hurt my feelings, James would know. Apparently, my cool mask slipped when it came to love.

You can purchase Third Son here: https://www.amazon.com/Third-Son-Mickie-B-Ashling-ebook/dp/B075GX12SJ/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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