I’m using Other Worlds Ink for the promo tour this time around since When Are You? is a time travel story. It actually reads more like a contemporary (with elements of far-back history and mystery), with our heros stumbling through a random and temporary time rift, losing their kid, and having to figure out where—or rather when—he is, and how to go back to save him.
Don’t worry, though, I can promise a super happy ending at the end of the emotional rollercoaster ride!
There’s still one slot on the 2-week tour open, and multiple chances to get a review copy to post when ready. If you’re already on their blogger list, you know how to get to the signup spreadsheet. If you’re not, follow the link, above, and contact Scott for signup info.
They have to find him…but how?
A former member of an elite military special forces unit, Leo Bailey can handle anything life throws at him. Except maybe approaching a certain gorgeous, purple mohawk-wearing, heavily pierced artist. Not without his three eye-rolling wingmen along to push him in the right direction.
One look at the mouthwateringly muscled, military buzzcut-sporting man with the endearing blush, and Vincent Noland is in love. Or at least in lust. Love comes later. Then marriage…and sweet, adorable Oscar.
Life is perfect—the stuff of fairy tale happily ever afters—except for Arthur Fletcher, whose unsettling reactions to them threaten to upset the happy balance of their lives. But it isn’t Arthur who throws their life into turmoil.
A freak event causes Oscar to go missing and leaves both men frantic to rescue their son. As they piece together the clues, they discover that Oscar isn’t somewhere. He’s somewhen. And Arthur Fletcher holds the key—or rather the glass beads—to their one chance of finding Oscar.
Will Leo’s training, Vinnie’s determination, and Arthur’s knowledge help them rescue Oscar, or is the little boy doomed to spend the rest of his life at the mercy of a primitive civilization? Could there be a third possibility?
Prologue – MeetCute
Vincent Noland shook water off his freshly washed hands and stood staring into the sparkling clean sink as droplets landed, one by one, with a soft splat at the bottom of the basin. Much like his career, as evidenced by the sparse crowd at his first—and possibly last?—gallery showing.
He groaned and wobbled his head as if that would likewise shake off his worries. Enough with the self-pity. Whether the showing was a success or a failure, he had to be present for it. He picked up a fresh cotton towel, dried off the remaining water, and tossed the used cloth into a receptacle.
He jumped when the bathroom door creaked open, and a couple guys stepped in. They ignored him and went straight to the urinals. Vinnie squeezed shut his eyes and straightened his shoulders.
He took a few steps toward the door then paused to smooth his hands over his suit jacket. He was wearing Tom Ford from head to toe. All black because Alicia, the gallery owner, had recommended that. His jewelry provided a little contrast to the darkness of his outfit. His earrings, ear cuffs, nose, and eyebrow rings were all platinum. For that matter, so were the piercings that were out of sight, beneath his clothing.
Sure—he suppressed a self-depreciating snort—that’s all he was doing. Just making sure his suit was in order, not delaying the inevitable.
Then metaphorically only, so as not to unduly wrinkle the unbelievably expensive suit, he pushed up his sleeves and strode out the bathroom door.
He swallowed a soft gasp but allowed a faint, shaky laugh to escape his lips. More people had arrived. Quite a few, in fact. His attack of nervous anxiety envisioning his art show flopping like the worn Tickle Me Elmo stuffy he’d had since he was a small child—and still kept on a shelf in his closet next to his rainbow Converse sneakers—might have been a touch premature. But really, if he couldn’t pull a decent crowd in Asheville, North Carolina, he didn’t have a chance in the larger art world. So thank fuck and praise Francis Bacon, Paul Cadmus, Grant Wood, and every other gay artist who’d come before him.
He lightly touched his head, gently patting and checking—again—to make sure Alexandre’s work on his hair was still in place. And of course, it was. His longish, thick, curly, purple Mohawk was usually worn natural. Or rather, a bit of effort went into making it look naturally tousled rather than like the overwatered fern it would’ve resembled had it been truly natural.
For the gallery opening today, Alexandre had smoothed out his curls and French braided upward from the point at the back before gathering the balance into a man bun. He’d also worked an intricate razer pattern into the dark hair of the fade. Vinnie knew the carefully maintained and trimmed dark stubble on his face highlighted his cheekbones, and black eyeliner highlighted his Starry-Night-blue eyes.
Vinnie’s gaze swept the room. He recognized some of the faces as those he’d seen at different times at other openings around the city. And of course, Simone and his other friends were still here. Sure, they counted, in that they were here for him, supporting him and filling the space so it wouldn’t look empty, but they didn’t count-count. Not as potential customers.
But many others were milling around, stopping in front of his pieces, smiling, making comments to each other. Seemingly enjoying themselves. Hopefully, a few—or more than a few—would reach into their wallets and buy something.
“There you are, darling. Time to mingle.” Alicia wore a wide all-business grin over her all-black outfit—blazer, skinny pants, silk shirt, and killer black leather pumps. Her platinum hair was pulled into an elegant chignon. She lowered her voice and raised a single brow. “Do you need me to come around with you, or can you handle it?”
They’d spoken to each other enough that she had to know he could carry a conversation, but she was probably used to people freezing under pressure.
Vinnie shook his head. “No. Thank you, though. I’ll be fine.” He smiled back at her. “Anyone in particular I should target?”
“No, darling. Just circulate and make yourself available. If anyone makes eye contact and appears interested in a tête-à-tête, approach them.”
“Will do.” He refrained from adding a cocky two-finger salute.
He pasted on a smile he hoped appeared sincere. He was cautiously optimistic about the turnout, so maybe it did.
Two hours, a handful of sales, and a couple contacts—one with a successful children’s book author searching for a new illustrator, and another with a popular author looking for an artist for a graphic novel he’d outlined—later, and he was floating along on the kind of high that didn’t need chemical assistance to maintain. Alicia’s smile had relaxed into something less frozen than a politician trying to convince him he’d chosen to be gay.
A fresh group of faces was eyeing his art. They were probably making the rounds of all the downtown galleries.
Well…most probably were. Vinnie elbowed Simone. “I’d bet my night’s profits those guys aren’t part of the art walk.” The group of four men were whispering to themselves in front of a set of watercolors. They were probably in their low-to-mid-twenties, same as himself, and their collective military haircuts, deliciously bulging muscles, taut abs, tight asses, and bewildered fish-out-of-water (or soldier-in-an-art-gallery) gazes screamed that they weren’t here looking for something to hang on the breakfast nook wall. Not to mention, their casual clothes didn’t look like anything people setting out to tour art galleries would wear.
“You profiling them, sweetie?” Simone’s tone was deceptively innocent.
“No.” Except, yeah, he kinda was.
“Well, they make nice eye candy, regardless.”
He couldn’t argue with that. The tallest one, with Cherry Coke red hair, nudged the dishwater blond guy who was gnawing at his lip like he’d missed a meal or two. Which he clearly hadn’t. In fact…
“Weren’t they scarfing burgers at District 42?” It was them…he’d swear it. Vinnie’d been sitting at the bar sipping a “Mandara’s Mule” cocktail and talking Simone’s ear off about his hopes and worries regarding tonight’s opening.
“I knew I’d seen them somewhere. Red, especially is a cutie. Think he’s taken?”
Vinnie’s eyes narrowed. Was the men’s presence at District 42 somehow related to their showing up here, now? Bigots hoping to crash and burn the clearly-gay-guy’s exhibit, or possibly cause a scene to clear out the customers? Maybe he was jumping to conclusions, but there had to be some kind of ulterior motive, because despite Simone’s admonition, they were clearly out of place here. If they thought they could intimidate him with their burly presence, hulking in the shadows, they could kiss his silk-brief-covered ass.
“I don’t know what they’re up to, but I doubt it’s any good.” Vinnie set his jaw and neutralized his expression. “Wait here.”
He walked smoothly toward them. Being in the security guard’s line of sight might’ve helped bolster his confidence…just a touch. The brunet cuffed dishwater blond’s mouthwatering biceps, alerting him, and the man turned his gorgeous, wide chestnut-brown eyes to Vinnie.
Vinnie’s step faltered. Looking the man in the eyes, Vinnie didn’t get the impression he was hiding anything. Not anything bad, anyway. Something, though…
“Good evening, gentlemen.” Vinnie kept his tone deceptively light, but the glint that no doubt hardened his eyes would give lie to that. “I’m Vincent Noland, the artist featured here tonight. Can I answer any questions for you?”
Cherry Coke red nudged dishwater blond again, and the man cleared his throat. “Oh. Hi. I love your work.” He cast a glance toward the watercolors. A…nervous glance? Surely not. Much as Vinnie would like to think he could be intimidating if the situation called for it, he knew this bunch wouldn’t be cowed by his tough-guy attempt. Not if he’d assumed correctly about their intentions. “Um…” dishwater blond caught Vinnie’s questioning gaze and blushed. “I…uh…don’t really know enough about art to come up with—”
Cherry Coke red elbowed the now-stammering dishwater blond guy. Again.
Dishwater blond narrowed his gaze at Cherry Coke red, then turned back to Vinnie. “Uh…do you have a favorite piece here?”
Vinnie blinked. He could answer the direct question, of course, but obviously, that was just something that had popped into dishwater blond’s head, not something he actually wanted to know. Probably.
Ash blond, who’d been a silent observer up to this point, sighed and shook his head at dishwater blond. “For fuck’s sake, Leo.” Then he looked pointedly at Cherry Coke red, who seemed to be the leader of the bunch. “Danny?”
Cherry Coke red—Danny—rolled his eyes, looked at Vinnie, and said, “Leo here thinks you’re cute. No. You’re…” He made air quotes. “…‘oh-my-fucking-god-gorgeous-but-so-out-of-my-league.’” He shrugged. “Anyway, he needed three wingmen to come with him to get up the nerve to ask you out.” He rolled his eyes. “And still failed.”
Vinnie’s jaw dropped.
Dishwater blond—Leo’s—face turned a shade that remarkably matched Danny’s hair. “Some fucking wingmen. Christ.” Leo made shooing motions with one hand, and Danny and the still nameless brunet and ash blond guys slunk off toward another exhibit amid snorts of semi-suppressed laughter before detouring toward Simone, who couldn’t have been any more obvious about the come-hither look she was leveling at Danny.
Leo’s blush deepened, but he maintained Vinnie’s direct gaze, and his smile tweaked up when Vinnie grinned.
“Sorry about that.” Leo shuffled his feet but still maintained that eye contact. Good for him. Fighting the nerves. “I imagine you’re in a relationship anyway, and even if you weren’t…”
A delicious shiver that had nothing to do with the relief he felt that he’d been so very wrong about the men’s motives raced across Vinnie’s skin. Nobody’d ever gone to such lengths to facilitate a meetup with him before. Military types had never turned his head, but damn…that adorable blush.
Vinnie cocked his head to the side. “I’m not in a relationship.” And because he didn’t have the heart to tease the guy… “And I am…” he raked his gaze up and down Leo’s muscled body, pausing pointedly at the package nicely shown to advantage by soft, worn denim, before meeting Leo’s gaze again. “Very. Very. Interested.”