My second release snuck up on me. (I’m not even sure how that’s possible.) Where as with my first novel – maybe because it was my first – the release seemed to stay at some undefined future date; my second quickly debuted, leaving me feeling unprepared.
Thrush, is of a completely different vein than my first book. Solstice Night was a paranormal romance set in present day Detroit. It had Vampires, Wolves, plus a few original Super Natural Creatures. I was nervous about telling people about my book, especially my family. It’s hard to tell your parents “Hey guys your baby girl wrote about vampires doing it”. But I survived the embarrassment surprisingly well. My husband requested (demanded ;) ) the first ever signed copy. In fact, my family/friends have been very supportive after they got over the initial shock that, first I wrote a book then the subject matter. I fear they are in for another startling discovery, one that is sure to have a mixed reception.
I wrote a gay character. His name is ‘Joey’ and he is not a one-dimensional bit of comic relief. He is a real character and real part of the story. I didn’t deliberately make him gay because I just wanted him to be. I wasn’t trying to be clever or political. It is hard to explain, but from the beginning that was who ‘Joey’ was. He is a secondary character, but he gets his own story (including love interest). Some of his scenes may be more than the regular romance reader is expecting, but I wouldn’t call the story a m/m romance. In fact, I have been having difficulty categorizing Thrush. My publisher lists it as a “Romantic Suspense”. It has elements of a thriller or mystery. It doesn’t matter what I say it is at this point. The readers will decide what it is…and if they like it.
Fleeing a dark past and even darker pursuer, Jack Blessedhert is a woman of both shattered wellbeing and resilient tenacity. With Joey, her only family and best friend, she travel the world trying to stay one step ahead of her demons. A chance meeting with a jaded noble makes her question her life as prey. Yet, how can she escape the relentless shadow that follows her?
Excerpt (Prologue +Chapter One)
Her breaths came fast. He was gone. This was her only chance. Jack, felt her heart race. She always thought she would survive this. Now she knew she was wrong. She looked down from her window, took a deep breath, and jumped.
CHAPTER ONE, two years later
Jack hated clubs. She didn’t mind the music, and she loved dancing. It was the atmosphere, dozens of half-drunken goobers hitting on her, trying to touch her, but this is where Joey wanted to go. Joey, charming, beautiful and fabulously gay, wanted to go to The Iron Mask. So here they were. The club was everything he wanted and Jack dreaded. Bodies crushed together in a heated frenzy. Lights pulsed in rhythm with the thumping music. Jack liked the building itself. It was all rough stone and exposed steel structure, but the smoky glass gave her the creeps. She heard somewhere it used to be a hotel. It looked more like Hotel California maybe, where the guests had turned feral and gutted the place.
In the dark, it was easy to lose yourself to the music and the mob. To many patrons…that was the exact purpose…to forget yourself and reality, but not for Jack. If she had wanted companionship, if she wanted sex, it was offered in abundance. Joey was getting almost as much attention from the male sex as she was. She couldn’t blame them. With his lithe body and teal-streaked hair, he was something to look at. They danced together while Joey searched the crowd for potential bed buddies. Jack just wanted to be left alone. Yet, she was the reason Joey was on another continent on this ill-conceived plan of escape. She was the reason they couldn’t go home. If he wanted to go clubbing, then she would indulge him.
“See anyone interesting?” Jack asked just to have something to say. Joey smirked. “Always, but it’s too early to be narrowing the field.” Jack shook her head at his celebrated promiscuity.
“You should try it.” Joey teased. “I’m sure one of these Dutch Dicks would love a taste of American apple pie.”
“Shame, all the hearts of Amsterdam are broken.”
“Shut up and dance with me. At least one more song before you abandon me.” Jack tried to keep any hurt out of her voice. Tonight was for fun, and she would have fun whether she like it or not.
* * * *
Aldan hated clubs. He didn’t mind the music. He selected it, in fact. He didn’t dance, but he liked watching it. It was the atmosphere, dozens of desperate bodies seeking temporary comfort from each other. But this was his club, The Iron Mask. He bought the old hotel because it was condemned. A sympathetic part of him identified with the ruined and forgotten place. A developer wanted to build a luxury condo tower. Aldan shuddered. He turned it into a club because he thought it would be fun. It had been for awhile. Now he was bored.
“How’s the talent tonight?” A tall sandy haired man asked as he entered the private box in the balcony. It was Miles, the only man stubborn enough to call Aldan ‘friend’.
“The same.” It was always the same for Aldan. The same shallow people. The same slutty women. The same emptiness after a brief minute of pleasure. He lounged on his designer couch, looking over the club’s patrons.
Miles joined him on the leather couch without invitation. He scanned the pulsing crowd from their raised vantage point. “Mm, now there’s a flower I’d like to pluck.” He nodded to a stunning young man with teal streaked hair.
“You are such a fag.” Aldan sneered.
“Guilty.” Miles was unfazed. “So have you picked out your evening’s distraction?” Miles knew him well enough to not attach any sentiment to his sexual partners.
“I see a few possibilities.” At that moment his eyes were on the woman dancing with the man Miles admired.
Miles followed his gaze. “Let me help a brother out. I’ll pull away the dance partner, and you can move in to sweep her back to your lair.” He was out the door in a flash.
* * * *
“Hello, I’m Miles.”
“Joey and this is my sister, Jack.”
American. Miles liked that. Cute accent and he wouldn’t have to fuss with a messy break up. The boy was probably here for a vacation fling. He looked closer at the dance partner, Jack. She was more of a girl than woman. She had a tight little body and long jet black hair wild around her shoulders. It was her eyes that stalled Miles. They were so dark they pierced the soul. Those eyes did not belong to a girl. They belonged to a woman that could hold her own.
“A pleasure, my lady.” Miles placed a light kiss on the hand she had extended. “Do you care if I cut in?”
“Not at all.” Jack backed away a little to give the couple some room. It wasn’t long before the mob swelled to consume her. Faceless hands reached out to touch her. She tried not to cringe from the unwanted contact. She had promised Joey she would at least try to have a good time and not rush back to their loft as soon as he was occupied.
She pushed through the crowd. She wouldn’t mind dancing with one person or having a little room to dance by herself. There was more open space away from the DJ’s table. She finally claimed a few square feet to stand alone when she felt something wrong.
A muscular man in all black was scanning the crowd.
He wasn’t dancing.
The throng parted for him. Jack knew instinctively he was coming to her.
“Mister Black would like to invite you to his private box,” the muscle announced.
“No, thank you.” Jack squared her shoulders. She knew better than to turn away.
“You may be unaware, but this is Mr. Black’s club.”
“So, if I refuse Mr. Black’s ‘invitation’ I am kicked out of the club?” she challenged.
“Not at all. I only wished to impress upon you the honor you are being shown. Mr. Black is a very wealthy and powerful man.” The talking muscle was completely sincere.
“Then I have no use for him.” Jack backed away, never taking her eyes off the messenger.
* * * *
If Joey hadn’t caught her eye at the bar, she would have left then and there, but she had made a promise.
“What’s your poison?” Miles asked.
“Gin and tonic,” she blurted out the first thing that came to mind. Miles nodded to the bartender. Joey threw his arm around Miles’s shoulders. Jack smiled at him. “Looks like you skipped the playoffs and went straight to the championship game.”
Miles looked confused. Joey laughed. “It’s a compliment. Don’t worry. Are you going to get off the bench?”
The bartender picked that moment to return with her drink. He waited to see if she liked it and then continued to wait. He was smallish but built. He had short chocolate brown hair and hazel eyes. He smiled at Jack, “Hi, I’m Bernard.”
“Her name is Jack.” Joey supplied. She shot him a death glare. “We’re going to dance some more.” Joey left with Miles in tow.
Alone with the bartender, Jack was very conscious of her body’s needs, and he seemed to appreciate those needs. The alcohol and the heat replaced the dire panic Mr. Black’s invitation had induced. They chatted about nothing for a few minutes while he tended bar. He was flirtatious and confident.
“I get a break in five minutes. Do you care if I spend it with you?”
* * * *
“She refused?” Aldan repeated back to the dumb block of muscle.
“And you let her just walk away.” Aldan kept his voice level, but the messenger still took a step back.
“Might I ask why?”
“You told me to invite her, and she declined,” the muscle reasoned.
Aldan began pacing. No one had ever refused to meet him. Even when they didn’t know he was one of the wealthiest men in Europe, the mystique of being summoned was usually enough.
“Did you inform her I own this club?”
“Uh, yes, sir. I told her the invitation was an honor, and you were a wealthy and powerful man.”
“And her response?” He was getting tired of this stop-and-go conversation.
“She said she had ‘no use for you’ and left.”
“No USE! What am I? A goddamn appliance?” Aldan was stomping mad now. His pacing circuit took him back to the edge of the balcony. His eye caught her by the bar.
She was SMILING at the damn barman. She refused HIM, but she was chatting it up with the staff. He growled in his chest and gripped the rail on the balcony until his knuckles turned white. Aldan’s messenger took his own welfare in hand and silently slipped out the door while Aldan was occupied.
She WAS leaving with the barman now. She was SMILING and LEAVING with his employee. Aldan was indignant. He stomped around some more, feeling completely useless.
He lost sight of her then. He kept scanning the crowd and looking over at the exits. He sat back on his couch defeated and mentally berated himself. Why did he care if some little tramp was off with his barman? There were lots of hotter women in his club he could choose to take to bed tonight.
He wasn’t in the mood anymore.
He let his head fall onto his hands and closed his eyes.
* * * *
Clumsy movements caught his attention. Semi-private rooms shared walls on either side of Aldan’s very private box. They were only semi-private because their seemingly opaque walls were actually one-way glass visible from Aldan’s side. He liked to keep an eye on the clientele, and…He liked watching.
The girl and the bartender came stumbling into the room on Aldan’s right.
* * * *
“I get a break in five minutes. Do you care if I spend it with you?” the bartender had asked.
Jack had smiled coyly at him, “That depends. I’m a girl on vacation. Are you sure I’ll have a good time?”
“I swear on my honor.” Bernard dramatically placed his hand over his heart.
Bernard led her to one of the VIP private rooms. They were locked together and moved with equally urgent motions. She untucked his black muscle shirt while he shoved her halter top up. She wasn’t wearing a bra. Bernard sucked in a deep breath at the sight of her. She giggled and pulled away so he could see her.
Jack was scared to death as she pulled her shirt completely off. She reminded herself she needed this, and the past was over. She spun around for the bartender. Her wraparound skirt flared out to reveal her black thong underneath. Bernard groaned. Her outfit was completed by three-inched heeled, calf-high boots. Joey had created her ensemble for the evening. He had said it was ‘practical’.
Bernard’s control snapped at the sight of her. He sat down on one of the plush sofas and pulled her to straddle his lap. Jack committed herself with blind abandon. She knew if she paused she would fail.
Bernard was rubbing himself against her. She lifted up and…
The door crashed open against the wall. A black shadow of a man filled the doorway. Jack couldn’t make out his face, but she could feel his rage and power.
She instinctively hopped off the barman’s lap and tugged her shirt back on. She felt her cheeks burn when she met the eye of their intruder, but she was determined to meet him as an equal.
“Hello, you must be Mr. Black.”
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