I’d like to thank Sinfully for giving me the opportunity to present the striking cover created by Catt Ford for my upcoming release, Open Seating. This is the first book in a planned trilogy featuring two men in their late forties who come with a good deal of baggage. As you can see from the blurb, they are as different as any two people can possibly be. Thrown together by a tragic event, the only things Seth and Bryce have in common are age and orientation.
The exclusive excerpt I’m sharing will give you a sneak peek into the mindset of this unlikely pair as they embark on the first leg of a three-week journey throughout the UK.
Mickie B. Ashling
RELEASE DATE: 10th JUNE 2016
Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Seth Wilder lost his partner of twenty years to suicide two weeks before a long-anticipated cruise. Cancellation insurance was never purchased, and Seth can’t get a refund. Bryce McFarland, his late partner’s gym buddy, appreciates his predicament, and when asked, agrees to accompany him on the trip. This way, Seth recoups the money and doesn’t have to cancel his plans. The gesture is unexpected but accepted gratefully.
The two men have nothing in common. Seth is a reclusive romance writer, and Bryce is a hard-core Grindr user with major commitment issues. Out of necessity and despite the seemingly insurmountable differences in personality, they develop a tentative rapport. As they begin their journey through the UK, Bryce helps Seth come to terms with his partner’s sudden death while Seth, in turn, discovers the root cause of Bryce’s phobia.
Shipboard romances rarely work. Sensible men resist, sexual tension notwithstanding. But a full moon and late summer breezes lend itself to the impossible situation, barriers are crossed, and a love affair is kindled.
Bryce didn’t wake up until Seth elbowed him, letting him know they were about to land.
“Shit, why didn’t you get me up sooner?”
“I tried a couple of times, but you ignored me,” Seth explained.
“Well, you should have tried harder. Now I don’t even have time for a coffee.”
“Here you go,” Seth said, pushing a cup toward him. “I asked for two just in case.”
“Thank you,” Bryce said gratefully. “I can’t function in the morning without caffeine.”
“That’s one thing we have in common.” Seth perked up a little. “Good to know.”
Bryce didn’t reply to the comment. He finished up the coffee as quickly as possible so he could hand the empty cup to the smokin’ hot flight attendant who looked exactly the same as he did seven hours ago. “How in fuck do they do it?” he mused out loud.
“Do what?” Seth asked.
“Keep their looks after flying in this tin can for hours. Don’t I look like a homeless bum?”
Seth gave him the once-over. “Aside from the scruff, which seems to be all the rage these days, you’re fine.”
“What about my hair?” Bryce asked. “Do I look like a hedgehog?”
“It is sort of spiky.”
“In a good Adam Lambert kind of way or disgusting like George Michael after a night in jail?”
Seth raised his eyebrows. “I never realized how vain you are.”
“How could you when you hardly know me?” Bryce said, combing back his thick hair with his fingers. “Answer my question.”
“Adam,” Seth admitted. “Although you’re a little long in the tooth to be attempting that look.”
“Just saying,” Seth said. “If you’re going to emulate a celebrity, you should find someone more age appropriate.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Hugh Grant perhaps, or Bono? How about Banderas? He’s hot.”
“Fuck you,” Bryce said. “Those guys are older than dirt.”
“No they’re not.”
“They’re over fifty.”
“Which you’re about to be any day now,” Seth reminded him.
“I won’t be fifty for another three years. Why would I try to look older than I am?”
“Because it’s better than pretending you’re a thirty-year-old. There’s nothing more pathetic than someone who’s trying to stay young forever.”
“I’m not switching from Diesel jeans to Dockers to make you happy.”
“Bryce, I couldn’t care less. You asked for my opinion is all.”
“Why don’t you lie next time?”
Seth smirked. “Okay.”
The flight attendant came back one more time and handed Bryce and Seth a warm washcloth. “Be careful, sirs, it’s hot.”
Bryce looked right into the guy’s face and smiled. “It sure is.”
“I meant the washcloth.”
“I didn’t,” Bryce noted.
The guy cleared his throat but kept on smiling. “Are you going to be in London for a while?”
“We’re going on a cruise,” Seth butted in. “My partner and I will only be in London a few days.”
The smile was wiped off the pretty face in a second. “I hope you have a great time, guys.” He took the used washcloths back and walked away.
“Way to cock block,” Bryce accused. “What’s with the ‘partner’ crap?”
“You shouldn’t be flirting with anyone while I’m around,” Seth scolded. “It’s rude.”
“We’re not in a relationship or even fuck buddies.”
“God forbid,” Seth said with an eye roll.
“Then why not let me do my thing?”
“I think it’s embarrassing to flirt with someone half your age.”
“You’d be okay with it if the guy was our age?”
“Then what the hell, Seth? I won’t have you policing me on this trip.”
“Does that mean you’re planning to fuck your way across the UK?”
“Maybe, but it’s really none of your business if I do or don’t.”
Seth groaned dramatically. “This will be the longest three weeks of my life.”
“It doesn’t have to be,” Bryce said. “Let’s just do our thing and not get in each other’s face.”
“We’ll see,” Seth said.
Chicago’s O’Hare might be the Godzilla of airports, but at least it was organized, in Bryce’s opinion. London’s Heathrow was a nightmare. The long line snaking around in dizzying loops to present his passport to a guy who looked like he’d had battery acid for breakfast was a major pain in the ass. Bryce had made the mistake of ignoring his need to pee, thinking he’d slip into a restroom as soon as they cleared customs. He didn’t realize it would be at least forty minutes before that was likely to happen. In the meantime, his bladder was about to burst.
“Listen, Seth. I have to go to the restroom. I’m going to sneak under the ropes and find the closest one.”
“They’ll make you stand in the back of the line when you return.”
“No, they won’t.”
“We’re in England, where everyone respects the almighty queue.”
“I can always pull out my dick and pee right here. Would you prefer that?”
“Have I told you how disgusting you are at times?”
Bryce started to unzip, and Seth gripped his hand. “Stop it,” he hissed.
“I need to piss.”
“Give me your carryall and hurry up,” Seth said. “I don’t want any problems before we even hit the street.”
“I got this, Seth.”
Bryce snuck under the ropes, apologizing along the way, and after clearing the mob, he followed the signs to the restrooms. He almost cried in relief when he stood over the urinal and got rid of a quart of liquid that had accumulated overnight. He was washing his hands as the door opened and in walked the hot flight attendant in red and white. They both smiled.
“Well, fancy meeting you here,” the Brit said amiably.
Bryce cocked his head. “About that offer?”
“Which offer, sir?”
“The one you were about to make before my traveling companion butted in.”
“Aren’t you two in a relationship?” the cutie asked.
“Hell, no,” Bryce said.
“He’s quite territorial for a friend.”
“He’s got some issues. Let’s stop talking about Seth and get down to business.”
They both looked around to make sure they weren’t being observed, and when they realized they’d lucked out, quickly made their way to the enclosed stalls in the back. As soon as the door locked, Bryce moved efficiently, running his hands all over the eager man who let him take charge. Within minutes, Bryce had the guy pinned up against the wall with his pants down, his thighs and his ass in perfect view. He pulled the condom out of his pocket, ripped it open with his teeth, and rolled it on his cock, which was primed and ready.
A second before breaching the guy, he stopped and asked, “You okay with this, buddy?”
“Absolutely, sir. Welcome to the UK.”
By the time Bryce got back to his place in line beside Seth, he’d been subjected to righteous muttering and thinly veiled insults from the passengers who felt he was jumping the line. He had to explain over and over about his need to use the restroom while apologizing profusely, but God, he didn’t give a shit. The side trip had been so worth it. He’d exchanged contact info with his hookup and pecked him on the lips as he exited. Both of them were confident they’d never see each other again, but they went through the motions.
Buoyant from a most satisfying orgasm, Bryce didn’t even flinch when Seth leaned in and whispered, “You reek of sex. Where the hell have you been?”
Bryce turned his head. “Starting my quest to learn everything about the landscape.”
Seth squeezed his arm and pulled him a little closer. “Tell me you didn’t screw someone in the bathroom.”
“I didn’t screw someone in the bathroom.”
“Sure am,” Bryce said. “Keep moving, Seth. We’re up next.”
Meet Mickie B. Ashling
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.
Mickie currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.
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