I am delighted and a tiny bit gobsmacked that my novel, When Skies Have Fallen, is a finalist in the Gay Romance category.
Congratulations to all! And thank you to the Don't Read in the Closet team - this book was made possible because of you.
Beyond that, I'm speechless, so I'm going to post an excerpt and leave it at that!
(p.s. the ebook is free - paperback also available: Purchase/Download Links on Beaten Track)
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“Good evening to you, Corporal.”
His voice, a slow, deep rumble, startled Arty from his remembering. His breath caught in his throat as he fought to reply. “A good evening to you also, Sergeant…Johnson, isn’t it?”
“Sure is.” The man held out his hand for Arty to shake. “Technical Sergeant Jim Johnson, at your service.”
Arty reciprocated: “Corporal Robert Clarke.” The palm against his was big, rough and cool to the touch.
“Robert, Bobby, or Bob?”
“None, actually. Arty is what they call me, on account of my initials. My middle name is Thomas.”
“Arty,” the American airman repeated with a wide smile displaying straight, white teeth that made Arty hide his own behind tight lips. “Great name, Arty. Has a good ring to it. They call me Jimmy, but I prefer Jim myself. You’ll be wooing us again this evening, I take it?”
“Wooing?” Arty’s vocabulary had abandoned him, along with his propensity to take in air.
“You and Sergeant McDowell.”
“Oh, yes. The waltz.” What an absolute fool he must seem.
“Looking forward to it,” Jim said. The smile remained in place, as did the firm yet gentle grip of his cool fingers on Arty’s own. “Well,” he drawled, bringing the other hand up to sandwich Arty’s, momentarily increasing the pressure and then releasing, “let’s talk later.” He looked Arty in the eye, capturing him with a piercing blue gaze.
Jim departed, and Arty quickly turned away, fearful that someone had seen their exchange. It was, to all purposes, an innocent introduction, but the look Jim had given him offered much more than words. Arty’s heart was thumping hard and he was panting like a dog on a hot day. He closed his mouth and drew air through his nose, slowly, deeply.
Love is the soul’s respiration.
When you love, your soul breathes in. If you don’t breathe in, you suffocate.
“Are you feeling unwell, Arty?” Jean asked.
“No, no. I’m quite well.” He attempted a smile of reassurance.
She pursed her lips, her finely pencilled brows arched high. “We are to commence the dancing in five minutes,” she said.
“I’ll go and get, er, a…a drink.” Arty nodded to confirm that’s what he’d do. “Yes. A drink. Would you like…” He stopped and took another deep breath, releasing it slowly. “Oh, Jean.”
“Get your drink. You can tell me while we dance.”
Arty nodded again and did as she suggested, blinkering his vision against Jim and his friends standing together at the end of the bar.
“Arty,” Charlie greeted him with a clap on the back and a cheery smile. “Here.” He handed him a pint of beer. “I thought you were on your way over, until I saw you talking with Sergeant Johnson.”
“Ah, yes. He was…wishing Jean and me luck.”
“Luck?” Charlie laughed too loudly. “That was decent of him.”
There was a gleam in Charlie’s eye that betrayed his true feelings, and whilst Arty wanted to placate his friend, he was relieved to sense envy coming from Charlie, rather than suspicion. But could he be certain Jim wasn’t interested in Jean? That was the problem: how did one communicate about such dangerous matters?
Keep mum, she’s not so dumb.
Arty glanced over to where the poster hung on the wall of the mess hall; it was a mildly amusing premise, that the one person apart from his sister he had confided in looked like the attractive woman in the poster cautioning against careless talk. An RAF mess hall was a place where it felt safe to speak with a little more candour. Yet for almost all of these people, and he estimated there were eighty or more present, there was only one enemy. Tonight men and women would dance together, perhaps drink a little too much, share a moment of affection, a kiss, even. Where usually this state of affairs did little more than sadden Arty, he was feeling something far more powerful than sadness this evening. They did not face imprisonment simply for following their heart, so why should he?
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