Chasing the Sun, the second book of the Provincetown Series, releases tomorrow October 16. To celebrate the release, which also happens to coincide with the beginning of Gay Romance Lit (or GRL) in Atlanta, I’m sharing the entire first chapter of the novella with my readers.
Pretty awesome cover, right? And in case you haven’t read the blurb, here it is to give you a little background to the chapter I’ll be sharing.
As a physician and prominent citizen of Victoria, Texas, Dr. Gil Kelly took a hard fall when his vengeful wife revealed his infidelity with other men. Closing ranks around her, the town’s elite ostracized him, and his relationship with his children was nearly destroyed.
After spending his life focused on living for others, he has no idea how to live for himself. He wants to find love but now settles for anonymous sex that only further clouds his world with shame and guilt. Gil believes finding true love is an unobtainable dream, what his father used to call “chasing the sun.”
Then he runs into Tom Martinez, his son’s childhood best friend, who returned to town a grown man and offers everything Gil needs. But Gil hesitates to fall into Tom’s arms, because after his high-profile divorce, the potential scandal of loving a younger man could separate him from his children permanently.
Spin off of When Love Takes Over (1st Provincetown Series book)
I hope you enjoy this extensive preview. It seemed like the only way to commemorate such a momentous occasion as a new release and GRL converging on the same day. And, without further ado, here is Chapter One:
Gil Kelly couldn’t believe what he was doing. Was he insane? Someone he knew could just waltz in here. How was he going to explain himself? What was this going to look like? Well, he’d look like a crazy old fool, that was for sure, and after everything he’d put his family through, he should know a lot better.
Was that going to stop him, though? No. The allure proved too much. It had been too many months since he felt the comfort of another’s body. Though he should flee this place, and the potential ridicule, the hardness elongating within his khaki trousers trumped his concerns for self-preservation.
A far stronger need held him fast in its sweaty embrace.
His already tarnished reputation in this small town was going to become a greasy stain if things went badly.
“To hell with it,” Gil muttered as he sat down at the corner table of the Starbucks just as he told his would-be visitor he would.
So far, no one he knew in this town of sixty thousand—which for someone of his position and status made Victoria, Texas, a surprisingly small town—had ventured into the coffee house. Only three other customers currently took up space inside. A young college-aged couple sat on the other side of the room, sipping their drinks, completely oblivious to anyone else. They were so in lust with each other, giggling like schoolchildren and rubbing their legs against one another, Gil doubted they would flinch at a pistol shot.
Closer to him and along the left wall, a man roughly about his early thirties—the same age as Gil’s two children, he noted glumly—gazed intently at his computer screen. He was too engrossed in whatever project he furiously worked on to pay any mind to a white-haired man in his very early fifties.
Gil might as well be invisible, which suited him just fine.
It was just past one in the afternoon, and he scheduled the rendezvous for one thirty. Gil chose the time to avoid the lunch crowds at noon and the hurried parents scurrying toward their three o’clock children pickups at school.
Gil glanced at his watch, hoping the gesture would somehow rush time along. He was disappointed to find only a minute had passed, and he cursed himself for getting there so early.
Why had he done that again?
He had entertained the idea of arriving late or sitting in his car to see who sat down at the agreed-upon table. After all, he knew nothing about this person except that his screen name was “Visiting” and, from the picture the man sent, he had probably the most gorgeous ass Gil had ever seen. Based on the supple flesh in the picture, Visiting Guy was some years younger than him, which was hot. But did the body attached to the ass belong to someone resembling Steve Buscemi or Steve McQueen? He might be hard up, but he wasn’t Steve Buscemi hard up. At least not for a few weeks yet.
That was why he had to get there early.
If he waited outside or arrived late, someone else might beat one of them to the table. Then Visiting Guy might just up and leave, destroying an entire morning’s worth of online flirting. He definitely didn’t want that, especially when he didn’t know when he might have another free day from the hospital.
It hadn’t been easy to get Visiting Guy to agree to a public meeting. He wanted Gil to come over to his place or for Gil to invite him over so they could fuck.
There was no way in hell Gil was agreeing to that. The guy might be a psycho—or worse, someone he knew, maybe even a previous patient. Just because he was visiting didn’t mean he’d never lived in Victoria. If they met in public and the guy turned out to be an acquaintance, Gil planned on telling a big, fat lie to save himself.
Visiting Guy didn’t know what he looked like, since he never sent him a photo of his face. He sent a cock shot instead, so there was no way for him to be identified that way. The acquaintance might not buy the lie, but it was plausible enough to save him some embarrassment, unless someone who knew about his past happened to see them together.
Then, all bets were off.
Besides, he’d read enough articles about the dangers of meeting strangers in private locales to prevent him from being that reckless, no matter how horned up he was.
When he discovered the gay dating site called Cyber, he initially thought the idea absurd. What had happened to getting to know someone over a few drinks? Then he realized he’d never done that before either, at least not with another man.
And what did he do then? Well, being the good academic he was, he started doing research.
He learned that dating for gay men was different than when he dated and pretended to be straight all those years ago. When he dated his wife, he quickly realized it for what it was—a cat-and-mouse game. She flirted. He advanced. When he made a move, she pulled back. If he followed her lead and didn’t pursue, she flirted, which started the cycle all over again.
It was basically one big tease.
That wasn’t how men pursued other men. Sure, teasing abounded. Why else did most gay men wear such revealing clothing or send naughty pictures of themselves over dating sites like Cyber? To tease and attract someone, just like women tempted men with a peek of their bosoms barely contained by plunging necklines or skirts so short they hardly covered up the goods.
The big difference between pursuing women and gay men, though, was follow-through. Gay men didn’t continue the game. Once both players accepted the rules, the good times rolled. For gay men, dating was about sex, sometimes anonymous, which apparently cranked up the hot factor by ten.
He found the idea intriguing at first, but the horror stories online made Gil not want to chance a private meeting, ever.
He’d read articles about guys being robbed or even attacked by gay bashers, who lay in wait for some unsuspecting man with more boner than common sense to head over to some stranger’s house.
Over the past five years, he’d made enough of a spectacle of himself to not want to add a gay bashing to his long list of scandals.
This town had feasted upon him enough as it was.
Gil accepted the mistakes he made that destroyed his family. He would continue to repay that debt for the rest of his life, if he had to. But he didn’t owe anyone else another damn drop of his blood, even though the social elite constantly circled him like the sharks they were.
He would no longer be the chum in their blood-infested waters.
The man’s voice startled Gil out of his thoughts. When he looked up, fear crawled down his spine like a spider taking a leisurely stroll along the length of his back.
“Tommy?” he asked, embarrassed that he sounded like a teen caught doing something naughty by his parents. To recover, he inhaled deeply. “It’s been, what? A year? How are you?”
“Okay, I guess,” the younger man said, pulling out the chair across the table and sitting down. “But please, call me Tom. It hasn’t been Tommy since I graduated high school, which was many years ago.”
Gil smiled and nodded.
Tommy Martinez had been his son’s best friend since elementary school. Back then, Tommy and Zach were inseparable, and Tommy proved to be much sweeter than the hellion Zach always pretended to be. Where Zach was defiant to authority, Tommy showed only respect to adults. He never complained when he and Zach were told not to get dirty, to take their baths, or to eat their vegetables. He simply nodded, smiled, and did what was asked.
As they entered puberty, Zach’s wild streak worsened. His son never seemed happy. It was as if Zach constantly searched for something beyond his grasp. Tommy, on the other hand, appeared more grounded. By the time they were teens, Tommy possessed self-confidence envied by most adults. He understood his life was of his making, and he was bound and determined to make his way in the world. When Tommy didn’t return to Victoria after college, Gil hadn’t been surprised.
Over the past few years, Tommy had returned to town a few times, and Gil hadn’t been surprised that the respectful boy, who had always smiled underneath a full head of messy jet-black hair as a child, had matured into a striking man.
His hair, still as black as the night, had finally been tamed. Cut short along the sides, it descended into sideburns that dipped just below his ears. The top was a little longer than the sides, just enough to get a good handful of in more intimate situations, and his caramel-colored eyes that were three shades lighter than his tanned flesh made Gil feel drunk.
“You okay, Dr. Kelly?”
“Yes,” he answered quickly. “How come?” He couldn’t stop staring into Tommy’s eyes. What a lecherous fool he’d become! That was why Gil did his best to avoid him whenever Tommy returned to visit family. Gil had known him as a child, yet all he could ever envision was licking a trail across the stubble that hugged Tommy’s jaw line.
The man Tommy became appealed too much to Gil.
“You just seem preoccupied. If I’m intruding, just say the word, and I’ll go.”
Gil didn’t have the heart to dismiss him like he did last year. His reactions to Tommy weren’t Tommy’s fault. “Not at all. I’d love to catch up.”
“Are you sure? You seem like you might be waiting for someone, so I don’t want to be a bother.”
“Please, Tommy. Stay.” But as the words left his mouth, panic descended upon him. What if the man he was supposed to meet showed up while he was talking to Tommy? What would Tommy think? And would Tommy tell Zach about it?
Just what he needed. Another reason for his son to hate him.
“Okay, I’ll stay. But only if you call me Tom, not Tommy.”
Gil nodded in agreement, forcing his rising fears about being discovered into the pit of his stomach. What could he do about it now anyway? He asked Tommy to stay, and Gil owed him the courtesy of his undivided attention.
After all, Tommy made it a point to try to see Gil whenever he came to town.
Visiting Guy would just have to wait, or even better, just leave if he saw the table already occupied by two customers.
They chitchatted for a few minutes. Gil learned that the younger man’s parents had passed away, and he’d returned to take over the family business, a Mexican restaurant called Tequila Sunrise. Although Gil hadn’t patronized the establishment in some time, the eatery was a local favorite.
Their conversation, about how Gil’s daughter Sami was getting along, went nicely until Gil accidentally called him Tommy again. “I’m sorry, Tom. I’m just so accustomed to calling you Tommy. Please, forgive me.”
“It’s okay. I get that a lot in Victoria. Everyone only sees the boy I was before I left. Not the man I now am.”
Gil understood about not being seen for who he was now. The town certainly never let him forget what he’d done, and his son refused to speak with him. Holding a grudge bigger than the Grand Canyon was wide about how he treated Zach as a child. Even though he’d changed, neither the town nor his son could see past the man they once knew.
Would his past define him forever? He hoped not, but there didn’t seem to be anything he could do about that.
“Well, I see him,” he told Tom. “In fact, I’ve always seen the man inside you. Even when you were a kid.”
“You were so different from Zach. More focused. Less angry. I know Zach was trying to prove himself in the world and to me. I certainly wasn’t the easiest father for my son, and I regret that. But you never seemed as if you had anything to prove. To anyone.”
“Guess I didn’t feel the need to fight who I was. I simply accepted it,” Tom said. “It wasn’t that easy for Zach.”
“How so?” Tom’s statement slightly wounded him. Gil always wanted his son to feel accepted. Lord knew, his father never made him feel that way. He was always too much of a dreamer for his working-class father. The man accused Gil of putting on airs, of trying to be more than what he was born to be.
His father called it chasing the sun.
He tried to be better for his son. To make him see his life held endless possibilities if only he’d choose something worthwhile and pursue it. But Gil realized too late that he’d ridden Zach just as hard, which paved miles of distance between them.
“It’s not my place to say,” Tom finally replied after a long silence.
“I can respect that, but do you mind if I ask you a different question?”
“As long as I don’t have to break Zach’s confidence. We may not be as close as we once were, but I still consider him one of my best friends.”
Gil nodded. “You were there with Zach as he grew up. Hell, you practically lived in our house! With whatever you know about Zach, did I do something or treat him in a way that made him feel as if I expected anything more than for him to be happy?”
Tom thought about the question. As he pondered it, he lightly tapped his fingers on the table. Dark hair dusted his forearms. From there, smoother skin disappeared beneath the tight red Polo he wore.
Was Tom’s chest smooth or sprinkled with dark hair like his forearms? The image caused his cock to stiffen, so he immediately banished it from his dirty old mind.
What the hell was he doing? Lusting after his son’s childhood best friend? He used to put him to bed in his Superman pajamas, for Christ’s sake! He even took pictures of him and Zach and the girls they escorted to homecoming and prom. So why couldn’t he stop thinking of kissing Tommy’s soft lips? Or running his tongue across his naked body?
“I seem to have lost you again.”
Gil focused on Tom’s alluring eyes, which had widened in concern. Tom pushed his chair back from the table as he continued, “I must be intruding.”
“You’re not. I was just thinking about how I might’ve screwed things up with Zach.” Even though it was a lie, it was only a partial lie. “I guess I just lack the ability to see myself objectively to arrive at a definitive answer. This is something I’ve thought about for a while now, and though I have some ideas, I really don’t feel as if I understand it all, so any insight you have would be welcome.”
“Only if you’re sure,” Tom said as he once again scooted his chair closer to the table. “I don’t want to speak out of turn.”
Gil smiled. “As respectful as ever, I see.”
Tom’s soft lips parted, revealing a sparkling set of white teeth. “To a fault. Or so I’ve been told.”
“Well, I don’t know who’s been telling you that, but it’s never been a fault in my book.”
“Let’s just say it was a problem in my last relationship.” His cheery brown eyes grew murky for a second before he managed to blink the sadness away. “But we were talking about your relationship with Zach, not my tale of heartache and woe.”
Tom obviously did want to talk about the relationship and the pain associated with it. Although the sting he saw in Tom’s eyes seemed in no way to weaken his self-confidence, Gil observed enough hurt to know that it had at least rocked Tom’s rather stable foundation.
When they were done discussing Zach, he planned to see what advice he might be able to offer Tom. After all, if there was one thing Gil knew, it was fucked-up personal relationships.
“So, then, what do you see that I can’t?” Gil asked.
“Well,” Tom began, looking more like the child Gil remembered as he ran his right hand through his dark locks. The gesture turned Gil on more than it should have. “The troubles you had with Mrs. Kelly hurt him a great deal.”
And there it was. Gil had always hoped he’d done a better job of shielding his children from their parents’ marital distress, especially before the marriage suffered its meltdown. Apparently, he failed. “In what way?” he finally asked.
“You know how close Zach was to his mom.”
“Close is an understatement. Donna’s life revolved around Zach. It seemed almost unhealthy. Poor Sami never got anything close to the affection she heaped upon Zach. I tried my best to give Sami more attention, to somehow make up for what she didn’t receive from her mother, and I tried to provide some balance to Donna’s overindulgence of Zach. Did he resent me for that?”
“That wasn’t it.”
Tom sighed. He looked worse than miserable for having to speak whatever truth he knew. He chewed on his lower lip and looked away.
“You won’t offend me, son,” Gil reassured him. “In fact, you’ll probably be helping my relationship with Zach. We haven’t been on good terms for far too many years.”
“I know. We talk every few months or so.”
“Really?” When was the last time he talked to Zach? If he had to guess, it was at least three years ago. That was way too long.
“In fact, we chatted a few weeks ago,” Tom said.
Tom obviously preferred this topic of conversation to the previous one. His former apprehension vanished, and the light in Tom’s eyes returned. For that reason alone, Gil decided to allow the subject change. For now.
“I told him I was moving back this week, and he couldn’t believe it. He demanded to know why I would ever return to Hick-toria.”
Gil smiled. He hadn’t heard Zach’s less-than-endearing nickname for Victoria since before Zach departed for college in Dallas. When he moved out, he promised never to see the town again.
“What did he say when you told him you were taking over the restaurant?”
“Well, he knew that it wasn’t my only reason for returning.”
“Did the past relationship you mentioned play a contributing factor?”
Tom’s mouth hooked to the right in a half-grin. “Spot on, Dr. Kelly.”
“Well now, if I have to call you Tom, you need to call me Gil.”
Tom looked shocked, as if Gil were asking Tom to shoot him point blank. “I could never,” he said. “You’ve always been Dr. Kelly.”
“And you’ve always been Tommy.”
Tom pursed his lips in defeat, the same way he used to as a child whenever Zach beat him at a board game. “You win,” he replied with extreme hesitation before finally uttering his first name, “Gil.”
“See, it wasn’t that bad now, was it?”
“Yes, it was.”
“Okay, then you can call me by my birth name.”
“What is it? Gilbert?”
He shook his head. “Worse than that. It’s Gilchrist.”
“Gilchrist?” Tom asked with a wrinkle to his nose. “That’s awful!”
“Tell me about it! My father was a good ol’ Irishman and wanted his son to be a proud Irishman as well.” He rolled his eyes. “He got me instead.”
“Well, I like who you’ve decided to be,” Tom announced. “We should always define ourselves and never be defined by what others see or expect.”
Was there some hidden meaning in Tom’s comment? Why did it seem as if Tom was trying to send Gil a message he was supposed to understand? In fact, the majority of this conversation left him perplexed. As a boy, Tommy Martinez answered questions posed to him. Tom Martinez proved more evasive. He hadn’t revealed what he knew about Zach’s beef with Gil, at least so that it made clear sense. He also remained vague about his past romantic relationship and how it contributed to his return to Victoria.
Just what was Tom hiding? And why?