Title: Through My Own Lens
Series: Horizons, Book Five
Author: Mickie B. Ashling
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: November 6, 2017
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Genre: Contemporary, intersex, gay, family drama, romance, contemporary, addiction, coming of age, mental illness
Luca Dilorio begins his freshman year at Cornell, while his boyfriend, Chyna Davidson, embarks on a modeling career based out of Manhattan, New York. Although Luca is only a five-hour drive away, he may as well be on another planet. Having watched Chyna’s back for years, Luca struggles with the separation. His new roommate, Zeb Araneda, lends an ear, and a solid friendship is born, but it doesn’t keep Luca from worrying.
Chyna learns to navigate the ups and downs of the modeling industry on his own. However, this proves difficult with Luca micromanaging everything, from Chyna’s diet to his choice in a roommate. After rejecting several candidates, Chyna and Luca decide on fellow model, Alex Boulet, who turns out to be perfect in more ways than one.
An unexpected appearance raises a multitude of concerns, and the entire family—Lil, Grier, Clark, Jody, and Chip—descend upon the young couple to offer their help. Will Luca and Chyna weather the storm or succumb to pressure from multiple fronts?
Through My Own Lens
Mickie B. Ashling © 2017
All Rights Reserved
Lowering his camera, Ian Carmichael squinted across the divide of harsh lights and eviscerated me with one question. “Do you always look like this, or did someone come in your mouth without your permission?”
Stunned by the unexpected attack, I struggled to catch my breath while deliberating my next move. I could throat punch the asshole—and get on the blacklist—or choose the high road and keep my dignity intact.
“Don’t just stand there, Red. Answer me when I ask you something.”
My pulse sped up, and I was tempted to walk out the door, but that would only prove I was an incompetent newbie. I decided to tough it out, but not until I had my say.
“First off, my name is Chyna Davidson, not Red, and you might consider rephrasing your question.”
Instead of backing down, Ian challenged. “What the hell kind of name is Chyna anyway?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but my mother was a fan of Wilson Phillips.”
“Forget it.” Clueless motherfucker.
“Listen up, kiddo. Once you’ve attained supermodel status, you can patent that insouciance, but at the moment, you’re nothing but a wannabe. Start making love to my camera or find another career.”
“Jesus fucking Christ!” Ian roared. “Pretend I’m your boyfriend and you’re craving some attention.”
Ooh, that did it. Yelling had never worked with me, and unfiltered words projected out of my mouth like vomit. “Dude, I have a boyfriend, and he gives me plenty of attention. And just so we’re clear, I’m not your bitch, so get over yourself. Fame doesn’t give you the right to be a first-class prick. You. Chose. Me. Stop acting like a bully and tell me what to do without insulting me.”
“Give me a goddamn break.” Ian turned his back and reached for one of several bottles of water he kept on the table piled high with camera lenses and filters. He drained the liquid in a few gulps while I stared at his backside, which, I had to admit, filled his faded jeans rather nicely. The world-renowned photographer, who’d begged for a fresh face to represent Armani’s next spring collection, knew damn well what he was getting when he requested my presence. I never said I was experienced, and instead of treating me with compassion, he was being an utter jerk.
Ian hollered for Melinda, my agent, who appeared at his side within seconds. She and her husband, Dan, owned Elite Plus, the Chicago-based agency who’d first discovered me.
“What’s the matter?” she asked, rubbing Ian’s back gently.
“Do something with your boy or get me a replacement.”
Hell no. I gnawed at my lower lip, terrified by the prospect of being fired on my first day of work. Ian was the most famous photog in Manhattan, the best of the best, or so I’d been told, and he wasn’t too hard on the eyes if one was into silver foxes, which I wasn’t, but that was beside the point. Making a good impression was the right move if I hoped to conquer the fashion world, but so far, this meeting had been a disaster. Ian tossed the empty bottle into a recycling bin and continued to glare at Melinda.
“I’m aware you have a deadline,” she conceded softly, “but honestly, Ian, a little sugar would go a long way to make this easier on our collective nerves. You wouldn’t have asked for Chyna if you didn’t believe he had potential.”
“I don’t have time to babysit,” he snapped.
“No one’s asking you to feed and burp the guy,” Melinda argued. “Chyna’s a natural, but he doesn’t know you or what you’re hoping to achieve. You’d get a lot more cooperation if you encouraged rather than criticized.”
“My God, woman! Do you have any idea how long it’s been since anyone asked me to adjust my attitude? I’m not the one with a problem. It’s your brat who needs a swift kick in the ass.”
I could feel my anger—and humiliation—rising again. My hands curled into fists as I got ready to punch Ian’s lights out.
“You’re the one acting like a diva,” Melinda shot back. “Chyna’s a hard worker with a lot of potential star power. It’s up to you to unleash the magic, not snuff it out with your craptastic posturing.”
Ian’s mouth gaped. I wondered how long it would take security to escort us out of the studio, and I was surprised—honestly flabbergasted—when it didn’t happen.
“Okay,” Ian agreed, backing down. “I’m willing to give this another chance, but I want to see more sass and less pouting.”
Nodding, Melinda acknowledged his request with a curt “Got it.”
She covered the short distance between us in a few determined strides, and I braced for whatever was coming next. Mel was fired up, willing to go the extra mile to ensure my success, but the responsibility now rested squarely on my shoulders. If I didn’t live up to her hype, I might as well pack it up.
My family would probably be relieved if I walked away, but Mel’s reputation was on the line, and I owed her big-time. When I walked into Elite Plus four years ago, I’d been passing for female, due in part to being born intersex, but mainly because of my mother’s irrational desire to have a daughter. Against all medical advice, and despite my fully formed male genitalia, she’d been raising me as a girl. Mel had seen through the charade and gently coaxed me into becoming my authentic self. She was more than my agent—she was my mentor and best friend. I couldn’t let her down after she’d put her reputation on the line for me.
“What an asshole,” I muttered. “He’s obviously too full of himself to mentor anyone.”
“I won’t deny it,” Mel whispered, “but Ian’s very much in demand. You’re lucky to be here.”
“Hon, you’ll have to trust me on this.”
“Put some enthusiasm into your smiles,” she began, “and own your beauty.”
“Sorry, but it’s difficult when he acts like I’m a waste of time.”
Mel gave me the look she usually reserved for gossipy tidbits. “He’ll never admit it, but I know Ian finds you attractive, and that’s a big plus right there.”
“How can you tell?”
“His nostrils flared when we walked in.”
NineStar Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/through-my-own-lens/
Thank you for hosting my blog tour and giving me an opportunity to talk about my latest release. Through My Own Lens is the fifth book in the Horizons Series, but catching up isn’t necessary. This new story can be enjoyed as a standalone.
As the blurb mentions, my main characters, Luca Dilorio and Chyna Davidson, have just graduated high school and are headed east to start a new chapter in their lives. Being away from home for the first time can be exhilarating, but it also presents challenges neither one anticipates.
To celebrate the release of Through My Own Lens I bring two gifts to make your holiday season a little brighter. One lucky winner will receive a $25.00 NineStar Press Gift Certificate and the other will get to choose one e-book (excluding Through My Own Lens) from the NineStar Press catalog. Before I go, I’d like to thank Lori at IndiGo Marketing for her excellent work in organizing this book tour.
Exclusive Excerpt - Clubbing with the roommates.
Alex had accompanied Zeb on a tour of the 911 Memorial while Luca and I dozed on and off all afternoon. Eventually, the need to get out of the apartment to enjoy a Saturday night together became imperative. My rash was practically gone, so instead of taking another pill, I downed two cups of coffee to wake up. The Benadryl would have to wait until we got home tonight.
Since most of us were underage, Alex suggested Webster Hall in the East Village, which was a club that catered to nineteen and over. I was surprised to see so many familiar faces at the club—models, photogs, and their trusted minions—rushing over to greet me with enthusiastic hugs and air kisses. On the surface, it couldn’t be friendlier, but I hadn’t been around long enough to tell the phonies apart from the genuine admirers. They sized up my outfit—skinny black jeans and a cropped top—and checked out my companions to see if they were celebrities. Alex was well known, having graced several magazine covers already, and greeted a few friends but didn’t leave our side.
The surreptitious glances and cliquey clusters reminded me of high school, only this time the ante was much higher. Fame and fortune were at stake, and hanging out with people who could make or break a career was an art form in and of itself. It took time to cultivate connections, and more often than not, the ruthless pursuit of one’s career led to conniving and left little room for true friendship. I was one of the newer faces in town and hadn’t proven myself yet. Perhaps next year, or even in six months, I’d be considered an A-lister, but for now, I was another aspiring model trying to get ahead. It would take a lot more than the right name or clothes to become a part of the “in” crowd.
Still, I wasn’t invisible, and the sycophants hanging around the scene hit on my companions and me with one goal in mind—sex. Who you slept with was as important as who negotiated your contract. The gushing and playful flirting could knock down self-imposed barriers, and it was easy to fall into the bed-hopping trap.
If nothing else, my past had taught me to be wary of overt signs of friendship. The need to be accepted, carried over from my cheerleading days, had diminished considerably, but like an old wound that ached when prodded, it didn’t take much to revert back to the insecure teenager.
An aggressive blond with an impish grin flung himself at Luca and asked for a dance. Pushing the interloper aside, I inserted myself in the vacant spot and snaked my arms around Luca’s waist possessively.
“I was going to tell him to back off,” Luca said, bemused.
“Saved you the trouble.”
“Now he’s giving us the stink eye while he chats up your friends.”
“Those people aren’t my friends,” I pointed out. “They’re competition.”
“Isn’t there one person in that group who might actually give a shit about you?”
I glanced over at the crowd of beautiful people and noticed that Ian Carmichael had joined the group and was checking us out. The blond I’d pushed away was whispering in Ian’s ear, probably reporting back on my territorial hold on Luca.
“None that I can see,” I replied.
“That’s sad,” Luca whispered close to my ear. My skin rippled with pleasure, and I moved closer, loving the sensation of Luca’s hard body pressed against mine.
“Why do this to yourself?” Luca continued. “There’s a spot ready and waiting for you at Cornell. You’d be making lasting friendships while earning your degree. Granted, it won’t be glamorous, and money will be going out instead of coming in, but it’s real. How long do you think this make-believe world is going to last?”
I pressed my forehead against Luca’s. “Sometimes, I’m not sure why I’m here. When you’re in town and I’m holding you close, all the reasons that made sense at fifteen no longer apply. You’re not the only one with jealousy issues. I think of all the hot guys on campus flirting with you. Ugh. I can’t even.”
Luca cupped my ass and squeezed possessively. “Why in the fuck are we doing this to ourselves?”
“It’s not you, Luca. I’m the one with this compulsive need to prove I’m as good, if not better, than anyone out there.”
“You can do that in college,” Luca said gently. “You don’t need to prove anything to me. I’ve known how special you are for a long time.”
Someone tugged at my elbow and I flinched. Ian was looking at me hopefully. “Mind if I butt in?”
“Dude,” Luca said. “He’s with me.”
“I haven’t seen Chyna in a while,” Ian persisted. “It’s only a dance, buddy.”
Luca frowned and looked at me for guidance.
“Ian’s the photographer I worked with when I first got into town,” I explained.
“Right,” Luca said, glaring at Ian. “I remember now.”
“One dance?” Ian pleaded.
“I’ll be back as soon as the song ends,” Luca said.
“Who was that?” Ian asked when Luca stormed off. He leaned in so we could hear each other over the pounding beat.
“He’s deliciously territorial,” Ian said.
“Does he model?”
“No. He’s studying to be an architect.”
“I could make him a superstar if he’d agree to a photo shoot,” Ian said. “Talk to him.”
“Is that why you asked me to dance? To get to Luca?”
“Among other things,” Ian said. “How’ve you been?”
“I heard you had a reaction to waxing.”
“Why is my allergy big news?”
“Your name is starting to crop up more and more,” Ian explained.
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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One lucky winner will receive a $20.00 NineStar Press Gift Certificate, as well as one e-book from the NSP library (excluding Through My Own Lens).