Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sheepskin - Free Short!

A few months ago, for the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet, I wrote a free novella companion to Hair of the Dog. Now that the crazy summer of travel is behind me, I've gotten around to figuring out how to share it with the Internet as a whole. Surprise!

While Sheepskin is set in the same general universe as Hair of the Dog, no prior knowledge is required. It's a cheeky, fluffy paranormal mystery set in a tiny back corner of the Netherlands called Dinxperlo.

After finishing a degree in criminology, dual citizen Jansen van der Westhuizen takes his American stepbrother, Miguel, home to the Netherlands to meet West's mother (and escape the ex-girlfriend who tried to run him over). But what West intended as a relaxing couple of months getting drunk and/or stoned and avoiding adult responsibility for one more summer turns into a supernatural adventure when Miguel gets bitten by a... well, a were-sheepdog? If that's even a thing.

And that gets West and Miguel tangled up with the local pack and its ├╝berhot new alpha, Graeme Bryant, an American transplant. Graeme has two beefs with the biting. One, nobody filed the paperwork to turn another lycan and this is going to be a bureaucratic nightmare. Two, biting people against their will is against every rule in the book and that means he has to track down whoever did it. If that means spending a lot of one-on-one time with West, well, that's just a sacrifice he'll have to make.
An excerpt:

THANKS to traffic, a flat tire on Miguel’s piece of shit Toyota, and a mild snafu at security because West forgot to get rid of his water bottle, they make it to the boarding gate by the skin of their teeth. The flight attendant raises her eyebrows judgmentally at West as he waves his boarding pass in her face, but when Miguel—honest, charming, why-yes-my-mother-is-a- Brazilian-supermodel Miguel—flashes his dimples in a sheepish apology, she melts into a predictable pile of goo and asks them to please take their seats. 

Miguel’s smile fades as soon as they start making their way through the first-class cabin toward the back of the plane. “I still can’t believe I’m doing this,” he mutters just loud enough for West to hear. 

“I still can’t believe you didn’t want to flee the country after your crazy ex-girlfriend tried to run you over,” he says back. “Besides, you need a break, dude. And you know my mom loves you.” 

Both things are true—Miguel’s run himself ragged the past year and a half finishing his master’s degree in biology, something about infectious diseases. West tries not to listen too closely when he talks about it because it can get seriously graphic. And everyone loves Miguel except his crazy ex- girlfriend, who doesn’t know the meaning of the words “restraining order.” 

“I know, just....” Miguel turns in the aisle to look at him, then checks his seat number again. “It feels like I’m running away.” 

“That’s because you are running away,” West points out. “But you’ll be back in time to start your MD, so quit stressing. Actually, you know what, just wait until we get there, okay? It’s, like, physically impossible to stress in Dinxperlo. I think they put Xanax in the water supply.” 

West has spent all twenty-three years of his life shuffling back and forth between countries. His parents were best friends in college, and then one night they got drunk and made a mistake of the twenty-three-pairs-of-chromosomes variety. His mom delivered him back at home in the Netherlands forty-two weeks later, because West couldn’t be on time for anything even when he was still a fetus. Since he was a toddler he’s been spending summers in the US with his dad and school years with his mom in Dinxperlo. 
Then his dad married Miguel’s mom and West got a stepbrother and a best friend and, eventually, a college roommate. Their crappy shared apartment was home sweet home for six years, but now it’s time to go back where he belongs. 

And it’s a crime that Miguel’s never visited his hometown, really, because his hometown is awesome, so he’s taking Miguel with him, just for a while. 

Miguel pauses in the aisle to assist a woman in a business suit with stowing her rolling briefcase. Whenever West does that he gets accused of being a misogynist, but Miguel just gets a smile and a thank-you, because he’s made out of rainbows and puppy kisses. West tries not to roll his eyes at the flirting that follows—or watch it too closely in case he has to pretend not to notice later when Miguel’s being inducted into the mile-high club—but when he looks over at the next row of seats his mouth goes dry and his skin seems to shrink, because sitting two rows back is the most beautiful man West has ever seen in person or on film. He actually has to raise a hand to his face to check if he’s drooling. 

Then the guy opens his eyes and looks at West and holy God it gets better. Who actually has eyes that blue? This is a level of hotness West is not prepared to deal with on a nine-hour transatlantic flight. 

“West,” Miguel says patiently. He’s practically to the economy cabin now, and West is just standing there staring like a loser. “Come on, man, we’re delaying takeoff and I don’t want to be on this plane any longer than I have to.” 

He shakes himself out of it, makes himself find his seat— they’re in the middle of a set of four, which sucks, but they’re just behind the bulkhead so at least they have extra legroom— and stashes his iPad in the magazine rack in front of him before announcing, “I’m in love.” 
Miguel leans his head back against his headrest and gives West the stinkeye. “You are not.” 

“I am so, did you see him? He looks like if Benedict Cumberbatch and Karl Urban had a baby.” Those cheekbones! Those eyes. The general rugged manliness! 

“A baby with three days’ beard growth?” Miguel says skeptically. “Are we going to need an Air Marshall or do you think you can control your urges?” 

West huffs. “I’m only interested in sex if it comes with enthusiastic consent.” 

“He has a butt chin, dude,” Miguel says with a wicked gleam in his eyes. 

They spend the next five minutes bickering good- naturedly, and then the plane starts taxiing toward the runway and Miguel goes sort of green. By the time they land in Amsterdam, he’s forgotten all about it. 

West hasn’t, but he doesn’t manage to see Scruffy McHotlips at baggage claim, either.

You can download Sheepskin here.

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