Title: Third Son
Author: Mickie B. Ashling
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: October 2, 2017
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, mystery, action, family-drama, gay, crime, suspense, explicit, criminals, bodyguard
American Niall Monroe returns to Hong Kong—a city he calls home—after being away for eight years. He hopes to finally find happiness with Peter Wei, his closeted lover of fourteen years, but is disappointed to find Peter has been put in an untenable position. He must marry and produce the long-awaited grandchild or get cut off by his millionaire father.
Gerard Sun, a talented artist, bursts back into Niall’s life after a one-night stand in Las Vegas. Circumstances force the men to deal with their attraction, especially when Niall’s firm considers Gerard to help promote tourism in the People’s Republic of China.
James, Peter’s younger brother, has been Niall’s best friend since they were schoolmates. He encourages Niall to ditch his brother and move on. He encourages Niall to ditch his brother until he finds out Niall is thinking of dating Gerard Sun, a talented artist.
Coming home seemed like a great idea until it wasn’t. Niall finds himself a stranger in a familiar landscape, slammed on multiple fronts by broken promises, jealousy, intrigue, unimaginable deceit, and undercurrents of evil. As his dreams quickly turn into nightmares, Niall reaches out to new allies for support.
Many thanks for giving me the opportunity to share an exclusive excerpt from my latest release, Third Son. The idea for this novel appeared out of the blue like all my other stories, and I jumped on the chance to explore the mind of a character whose outward appearance and psyche are completely at odds. Having grown up in a country where I was a minority—the Philippines—it was easy to relate to Niall. Although he speaks the language, and understands the prevailing mindset, a blue-eyed ginger in China sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. This story is a departure from most of the romances I’ve written in the past and I’m happy it found a home at NineStar Press.
Niall considers Gerard for an upcoming project with the People’s Republic of China and attends the opening of his art show. Over dinner, they get better acquainted.
The gallery was crowded when I walked through the doors at six that evening. Gerard must have been on the lookout, because he was by my side in seconds. I almost didn’t recognize him in a suit. It was the first time since we met that he wasn’t in casual clothes. The who’s who of Hong Kong must have been in attendance if he wanted to make a good impression. He looked gorgeous, but I didn’t voice that out loud.
“Thanks for coming, Niall,” he said, grabbing me in a bro hug. “I know you’d rather be somewhere else tonight.”
“Actually, you’re wrong. Celebrating with you is exactly where I want to be right now.”
Gerard smiled. “I’m glad.”
He took my arm and we made a slow circuit of the gallery, stopping occasionally so he could respond to the many well-wishers. More than half of the artwork had a Sold sticker beside the title, and I imagined they’d be completely gone by the end of the night. This exhibit’s theme was Tanka boat people, the gypsies of the sea, according to the printed handout describing Gerard’s current pieces. The origins of these people could be traced back to the Tang Dynasty when local fishermen chose to escape war by settling on their vessels. The images showed typical family scenes in an atypical home. Toothless men sharing a meal with their younger, more virile counterparts, women washing their hair, breastfeeding, stir-frying vegetables in woks over hot coals, children playing with strings and buttons they’d turned into toys, piles of fish, some still leaping in the air, while others were gutted and ready for delivery.
They were starkly realistic but tempered by the ink wash painting, his chosen medium for this particular exhibit. The goal was to capture the spirit of the subject beyond the actual image. Gerard had succeeded magnificently, and I would have gladly handed over a check to own a piece for myself if the timing had been better. With my future in doubt, I couldn’t afford to be impulsive. Although my job was secure, and the company had assured me that staying in Hong Kong was my choice, Minister Xiang Guo might refuse to work with anyone else. In truth, I was perfectly suited for this branch, and my transfer back to the States might not be forthcoming if the PRC held sway over the decision. I’d have to wait and see how this all played out before investing in expensive artwork.
Gerard had promised dinner after the show, so I picked at the finger food and nursed my drink. At the gallery owner’s urging, he wandered away to schmooze potential buyers while I made another round of the room, going from painting to painting. Gerard was an extremely gifted and versatile artist. The murals we’d purchased for the Thailand project were oils and eerily futuristic, nothing at all like these meticulous inks that had an old-fashioned vibe. Minister Guo would be a fool to reject him because of finances.
“I’ve been given permission to escape,” Gerard said quietly. He’d snuck up behind me and I spun around, startled by the mischievous smile on his face.
“Don’t you enjoy meeting your buyers in person?” I asked. “Basking in the spotlight seems like the perfect reward for all your hard work.”
“Not really,” Gerard replied. “I’d rather paint and have someone else do the promo.”
“That’s refreshing,” I commented. “Most artists enjoy this part more.”
“Do you know a lot of artists?”
“I meant artistic types in general,” I said.
He shook his head. “Not my thing, Are you ready to get out of here?”
“Where are we going?” I asked. “I’m starving.”
“You want fancy or down-to-earth good food.”
“The latter,” I said. “I’m ready to dig into a mountain of crab and shrimp with my fingers.”
“Good deal,” Gerard said. “I know the perfect place.”
His idea of perfect was the Chinese version of a greasy spoon. We walked into the heart of Kowloon, getting farther away from the tourist traps and weaving through narrow alleys and backstreets. Gerard reached for my hand to help me circumnavigate puddles, and other undesirable droppings, and didn’t let go until we got to our destination. I probably should have untangled our meshed fingers, knowing the culture, but being with a man who cared about my wellbeing and wasn’t afraid to show it was a welcome change.
After I came out to my parents in my sophomore year of high school, kisses and hugs just stopped. Maybe they figured if I was old enough to have sex with another guy, I wouldn’t need their affection. It was odd and painful, but at least they hadn’t disowned me, which was what I’d been expecting. Even now, after all these years, they continued to be reserved, preferring to shower me with cards and gifts instead of a pat on the back or a much-needed hug. I was so starved for open displays of affection, I soaked up Gerard’s attention.
Over dinner, which was as good as promised, Gerard and I exchanged information about our formative years. We never got around to our history during our short time together in Las Vegas. I was surprised when he told me he’d been born on mainland China.
“When did you get out?” I asked curiously.
“The day after I was born.”
“I was a second child before the One Child Rule was lifted. My parents refused to abort me, and they wouldn’t give away my sister so they headed toward Hong Kong. I was born in a rice paddy close to our final destination.”
“Wow. Talk about a happy ending.”
He frowned. “Not quite. We lived in poverty for the first two years. My sister contracted the flu, and my parents couldn’t afford a doctor. We were illegals then, and the possibility of being discovered and sent back to the mainland prevented them from taking her to the hospital. She died.”
He shrugged. “It was a long time ago. Things started to improve when my father found work as a fisherman and my mother as a domestic.”
Mickie B. Ashling © 2017
All Rights Reserved
“I’ve heard rumors you’re in denial,” the guy from Chatty Man commented.
Leaning forward, I waited to hear Adam Lambert’s response. I’d been ignoring the interview so far, but now I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the flat-screen, not after hearing that accusation.
Warily, the superstar asked, “About what?”
“Being a ging.”
Adam smiled, showing off those gorgeous white teeth. “I’m not in denial, just quiet about it.”
“What was it like for you at school being a ginger?” Alan Carr asked.
“Unremarkable. You know,” the stud confided in a mock whisper. “We’re said to have a lot of secret powers.”
“We can go for hours,” Adam replied, bursting into laughter.
“Yeah, right,” I slurred, flipping him the bird. Disgusted, I got off the couch and went to refill my drink. Super powers, my ass. If that were true, then how come the guy dyed his hair black? Because it’s a myth, I concluded scornfully. Like the correlation between fingers and dick sizes.
“A face without freckles is like a night without stars,” someone in the audience commented.
God…give me a fucking break.
My knee-jerk reaction to that old cliché was another shot of tequila. I was on day two of a monumental bender. Thank God, the weekend was almost over. Tomorrow, I’d be back to normal—innovative, focused, and coolly competent—despite this setback. Dealing with clients in my current state of mind wasn’t an option and could end up a financial disaster. A large part of my success as a top-tier exec at one of the most successful advertising agencies in the world was my inscrutable façade. It would have been the kiss of death to show any sort of weakness among Hong Kong’s movers and shakers. The majority of my clients were from the PRC. They asked to work with me, because I was born and raised here. Even though I looked like your average American, I spoke fluent Mandarin and Cantonese and knew the drill. Emotions, good or bad, were viewed as a character flaw. Men who allowed feelings to interfere with business were usually dumped like yesterday’s pork bun.
I tried making out my reflection in the glass cabinets above the bar and only saw a reddish blur where my head was supposed to be.
“If you’ve dated a redhead, raise your glass, if not…raise your standards.”
What in the ever-loving fuck was this guy yammering about? I turned my attention back to the TV screen and muttered, “Piss off!”
To my surprise, Adam looked me right in the eyes, with a sly grin plastered on his gorgeous face, and purred, “Make me.”
Blinking rapidly, I stared at the flat-screen. Was I hallucinating or what? Had the overpriced tequila finally destroyed my few remaining brain cells?
I staggered toward the sofa and threw myself backward, hoping the cushions would catch me, so I wouldn’t end up on the floor with a mild concussion. They did, thankfully. Never losing sight of the flat-screen, I took another shot of the aged Patrón and shuddered as it went down my gullet.
TV Adam snickered.
“Are you making fun of me?” I grumbled.
“You started it, honey.”
Grabbing the remote, I pointed it at the TV and made stupid pew-pew noises, hoping it would blow up. The room was plunged into darkness, and the abrupt silence was a much-needed reprieve. I waited a few minutes to see if Adam would goad me again, but nothing happened. All I heard was the soft hum of the central air. Good. I could chalk this up to an overactive imagination and some wormy tequila.
When I woke up on Monday morning, daylight seeped in through the vertical blinds. The noises in my head had been replaced by a relentless pulse of pain. I gritted my teeth, forcing myself to focus on my goals. Aspirin, shower, change, meet with the client, close the deal, and send them on their merry way. Now was not the time to dwell on my love life or lack thereof. Glancing at the digital clock on the nightstand, I saw that I had two hours to get my shit together and walk into my meeting with a studied look that oozed calm and confidence. It would be a stretch given my current condition, but I knew I’d pull this off. I had to. There was no one else on staff who could deal with Minister Xiang Guo. She was a formidable negotiator and set in her ways. It was my job to open her eyes and help her understand that, if the Chinese hoped to improve their status abroad and lure in more tourists, they needed a serious makeover.
I sat up and swung my legs off the bed, immediately regretting the sudden move. My head was spinning and I cradled it between my hands, hoping that would help. When the room stopped tilting, I inched my way toward the bathroom, grabbing on to the wall whenever I found myself lurching. My earlier assessment would need a hard edit. This hangover was going to be a bitch. I reached for the bottle of aspirin, shook two in my hand, and used the shower water to chase them down. Under the stinging spray of oscillating heads, I recalled how this binge had started.
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Meet the Author
Mickie B. Ashling is the pseudonym of a multifaceted woman who is a product of her upbringing in multiple cultures, having lived in Japan, the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East. Fluent in three languages, she’s a citizen of the world and an interesting mixture of East and West. A little bit of this and a lot of that have brought a unique touch to her literary voice she could never learn from textbooks.
By the time Mickie discovered her talent for writing, real life got in the way, and the business of raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing—and the inevitable emptying nest—dreams of becoming a published writer were resurrected and she’s never looked back.
She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called “gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking.” She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings.
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