Welcome back to Love Bytes! It’s great to see you here! I’m just now finishing a novel for Bénédicte Girault and Men Over the Rainbow entitled Heartifact. It will be released in English and French, and all net proceeds benefit the Trevor Project here in the US, and le Refuge in France.
The story is about marine archaeologist, Harper Kidd, who is fed up with life and decides to take a break from is regular job and go on an undersea salvage mission with his best friend, Stick. The financier of this oceanic dig doesn’t disclose that the site to be excavated is fraught with UXO, or unexploded ordnance. Separately, and having nothing to do with the dig—or so Harper thinks—nightly dreams of a mysterious undersea lover plague Harper. While the sex is exquisite, something about the sexy man leaves Harper with a feeling of unease. Read the blurb and an excerpt below!
Harper Kidd is a highly respected marine archeologist. Yet, with the economy in a slump, he’s trapped working in an oil company’s exploration division. Now, at the ripe age of thirty, Harp is disgusted with his employer’s damage to the undersea world he loves, tired of his ATM-card-filching ex, and tormented by beautiful dreams of an undersea lover. It’s time for a change and when his best friend, Stick, pleads with him to assist on a deep-sea dig in the Mediterranean, he jumps at the chance.
Harper’s sprits are high when they discover the ruins of an ancient civilization, and soar to the heavens when they discover a statue of an ancient pelora, a mysterious hybrid creature said to mediate between the worlds of reality and fantasy—and the very lover who holds the starring role in his dreams.
When the crew discovers the site is teeming with unexploded ordnance from the conflicts in the Middle East, and the excavation turns deadly, Harper must choose between saving his best friend and saving the pelora he’s fallen in love with.
“Harp! Harper! Are you home?”
The incessant pounding on the front door broke through Harper’s erotic dream, and he sat up, still luxuriating in the feel of a lover’s hands on his body. He looked down and smiled at the wet spot on his shorts, and then looked at the Seamaster on his wrist. When he saw ten a.m., he realized jetlag had claimed him and he’d slept a full twenty-four hours. Irritated, he removed the watch and thought, not for the first time, he should have spent the nine thousand dollars on a car.
“Harper! I know you’re in there!”
He stumbled to the door and opened it.
“About time! What are you doing still asleep? It’s ten in the morning.”
Harper stared at his ex, not awake enough to form the evil glare Donny deserved. He’d been nothing but freeloading trouble since the day they met, and Harper had subzero interest in rekindling their relationship—if you could have called it that. Regular tantrums and abuse of an ATM card did not a relationship make. “What do you want, Donny?”
“And a fine fucking hello to you too. I want to get back together.”
Donny tried to enter the condo and Harper stepped into his path. “No.” He slammed the door in Donny’s face.
He ran a hand through his dark wavy hair and headed to the shower as Donny continued to pound on the door and call him every name in the book.
He let the clear water of the shower soothe his sun-baked skin as he thought about what to do with his life. He needed a change. He quickly calculated what he had in the bank. It was enough to take a year off if he were careful. His spirits had reached an all-time low—to a point where a position as a lowly deckhand sounded appealing to him. Anything to save the vestiges his sanity.
His dream came back to him with alarming clarity. The strong certain hands as they smoothed down his torso and hips, every caress sating his need to be touched and igniting extraordinary pleasure. He lowered a hand and stroked himself as he savored the dream. The sex had been exquisite, but a subtle cautionary feeling lingered. Something about the man seemed dangerous. Nonetheless, he could most certainly handle nightly seductions by this mysterious imaginary lover.
Donny’s pounding had ceased and Harper said a silent thanks to the heavens as he dried off. His skin had darkened to a seasoned bronze in the Queensland sun bringing out the bright gold flecks in his eyes. His hair had grown long during his time on the Coral Sea and he toyed with the idea of leaving it free for the day before opting for a no-frills man bun. His boss had the coping skills of a Neanderthal and long hair would likely find Harper thrown out on his ass without a job. If he were to leave his job, he’d do it on his own terms, which translated to: he’d need a haircut sooner rather than later.
In spite of his average five-foot-ten-inch frame, three months at sea had served him well and his abs rippled with his every move. He was no match for the brutes on a naval ship or oil rig, but didn’t look half-bad for a wimp of a seafarer. He smirked at himself in the mirror and decided he’d leave the three days of stubble on his face. He’d feign full metro for the day.
After being away, his kitchen seemed foreign to him, and dismay swept his mien when he remembered he might not have coffee in the freezer. He opened the door and riffled through the contents proudly displaying freezer burn. No coffee. He sighed and closed the door as his phone rang. He looked at the caller ID and was relieved to see it wasn’t Donny.
“Welcome back, Harp! You up for grub?”
Stick, whose real name was Maggie, piloted remotely operated underwater vehicles, or ROVs. Hence the nickname “Stick.” He’d met her on his first internship dig and she’d quickly become his best friend. She was easy and comfortable, and could read his mind; she knew when he needed silence and when he needed to laugh. She was a woman without a vagenda, and occasionally made him wish he liked the opposite sex.
“Coffee,” he grunted.
“Grab your astrolabe and chart a course to that illusive island known as my car.”
“Can I wear a towel?”
“Sure. I’ll protect you.”
He smiled to himself as he terminated the call and went to get dressed.
“Whoa! You wear dark well!”
Harper snorted as he climbed into the convertible and kissed Stick’s cheek. “I see you managed to protect your lily-white ass from the sun.”
She shrugged as she put the car in gear and sped off without so much as a gander in her rearview mirror. “What can I say? I am the undersea drone you’re looking for.”
Thank Poseidon, she didn’t pilot ROVs the same way she drove a car. He imagined a fifteen-fish pile-up on the Bimini Road and suddenly chuckled to himself.
They rode in companionable silence until they reached John O’Groats on Pico Boulevard. Graced with a rare parking space in front of the place, she crammed the car against the curb at a slant.
“You may want to straighten it out.”
“You got something to say about my parking?” she demanded as she hopped out.
Harp couldn’t help but grin as he got out of the car. “Not a chance. I like my head on my shoulders.”
She put an arm around his waist and looked up at him, her green eyes bright in the morning sun. “Smart man.”
He put an arm around her shoulders and guided her inside. The wait for a table was almost an hour and they opted to sit at the counter. Harper perused the menu and decided on Huevos O’Groats. Three months of Aussie Vegemite had nearly killed him.
They ordered food and Stick handed the menus to the waiter. “How was it?”
“I didn’t think I could detest sediment more than I already did.”
She grinned. “Do you know something I don’t know? I mean, how do you propose to avoid it in this line of work?”
“They’re destroying the reef, Stick,” he said in disgust.
She winced. “I couldn’t imagine being part of that.”
Harper sighed. “Donny showed up this morning.”
She rolled her eyes. “I ignored him while you were gone. Couldn’t take the whining.”
“I slammed the door in his face in favor of reconciliation with my plastic.”
She smirked. “Drum and I split.”
Harper couldn’t help it. His jaw hung agape. They’d had a near-perfect marriage for eight years.
“Yeah,” she said softly. “It was time.”
She met his even gaze. “He’s been screwing everything above sea level. Can’t handle me being away.”
“I’m sorry, Stick. Are you going to be okay?”
“I don’t know.”
He’d never seen her forlorn and it tore at his heart. He put an arm around her and gave her a hug. She buried her face against his shoulder for a moment before withdrawing and pulling herself together. “Fucker.”
“Motherfucker,” he agreed.
She suddenly smiled. “I knew you’d understand.”
The waiter brought their plates and they spent a few moments exchanging condiments and dressing eggs.
“When do you ship out again?” Harper asked around a piece of bacon.
“Wednesday. Mediterranean salvage operation.”
She shook her head. “Won’t know until I’m there.”
Harper frowned. “Do they expect you to sign a waiver?”
She nodded. “Private gig.”
Harper shot a dubious look her way. “And you’re going, why?”
“I don’t have a choice. I need my job, Harp. I have a divorce to pay for.”
Harper shook his head as he shoveled the last of the eggs into his mouth.
He looked up from his plate.
“Bad mojo. Two divers down last time out.”
Harper tamped down the alarm that rose in his chest. “What happened?”
“Do something else, Stick. Please.” He hadn’t meant to sound like a beseeching candy-ass and cursed himself silently. “At least pair up with someone you trust. Can you do that?”
A smile lit her face again. “Sure.”
“Not that it’s any of my business, but whom?”
“Met this guy on my first dig. You might remember him. Skinny little kid with no friends? Total nerd? Peed his wetsuit the first time a great white came at him? Even has a pirate last name. Imagine that. I know I can trust him—”
He threw his napkin onto the empty plate.
“—with my life,” she finished with an even bigger grin.
“Do it, Harp. For me?”
He sat back in his seat and considered her for a long moment. “As?”
“You name it.”
He tucked his chin in disbelief. “Who made you captain?”
“Without me, they have no drone,” she said in a singsong voice.
“Assistant and done.”
“You were supposed to say third, so I could preserve my maleness by exhibiting ruthless negotiating skills.”
She nodded, portending solemnity. “From now on, all negotiations will be aimed at preserving your manhood.”
“Masculinity. My manhood is fine.”
He half grinned. “Do I get a cabin boy?”
“Don’t push it.”
I hope you enjoy Heartifact as much as I enjoyed writing it! Look for it fall, 2016! See you back here next month on Saturday, September 17th, and thank you for reading my books!
Ash is an author who lives, most of the time, on the West Coast of the United States. Ash writes adult fantasy, science fiction, mystery thrillers, romance, and fiction for gay young adults as C. Kennedy.
Raised on the mean streets and back lots of Hollywood by a Yoda-look-alike grandfather, Ash doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in, is epic awkward, and lives to perfect a deep-seated oppositional defiance disorder. In a constant state of fascination with the trivial, Ash contemplates such weighty questions as If time and space are curved, then where do all the straight people come from? When not writing, Ash can be found taming waves on western shores, pondering the nutritional value of sunsets, appreciating the much-maligned dandelion, unhooking guide ropes from stanchions, and marveling at all things ordinary.
Pssst. Click on the captioned title of each book to read the first chapter!