Because #SampleSunday is all about trying before buying, I thought I'd share a scene that inroduces some of the major characters in the series and lets you sample two books at once! Man Made Man is Book 1 of the Phoenician Series and in it, you'll read Raif's story so he's in this scene. His sense of humor, his sense of self-confident arrogance, you get all of Raif, all the time here (LOL),
Also meet Raif's "new best friend," Jared Crenshaw, who was used to "spy" on Raif for Dr. Cory Jansen and whose daily and weekly reports crossed the desk of William Harrington--Director William Harrington--for five years. But they never got a chance to speak to each other, not until now.
It's quite the juggling act to watch the varying dynamics of all three of these men. They each interact with the other two in differing ways. Well, William lies to everyone but like everything Harrington, he lies beautifully!
If you enjoy this scene, you'll probably like the rest of Man Made Man, given that this scene is demonstrative of my "voice," and writing style, the pacing, tone, and humor in my books, and of course, the characterizations I write.
If you like William and Jared's chemistry, in particular, you should also check out their m/m romance, a gay scifi erotica piece titled A First Time for Everything which will be releasing on my birthday, November 7th of this year.
By next weekend, you'll be able to place preorders with Apple, Nook and Kobo and or directly from Smashwords, where I'll earn the highest royalties. For now, add A First Time for Everything to your "Wants to Read" shelf on Goodreads and come back here next weekend on #SampleSunday to read a snippet from that short story (28,000 words).
Now onto the sampling from Man Made Man, which is available exclusively from Amazon Kindle for now ((frown)) but that means Kindle PRIME customers can get a copy free!
It’s been 400 years since When Minds Collide and William still hasn’t given up hope of recovering some remnant of Andrew Caine. The current rendition of the merged man is masquerading as a Proctor named Raif. Then William meets Raif’s "new best friend," Jared Crenshaw, and Will forgets about Raif--not easy to do without help!
The man in the blue tunic turned his head slowly and his pale blue eyes fixed on Jared. He hadn’t seen the man in real life since that moment, for three minutes, five years earlier. It was amazing how vividly he still remembered those icy blue eyes. The Director’s gaze sent a shiver down his spine now just like it had five years earlier.
The Director’s eyes narrowed and he said, “Crenshaw, isn’t it?”
God, did the man actually remember him? Horrified as the myriad of reasons why flooded his mind, Jared just nodded.
Raif kicked at the empty chair between himself and Director Harrington and said, “Please, Jared, sit down. Join us for a drink.”
Jared hung there for a moment, gaping, then the Director added, “Yes, please do, Jared,” before he grinned at Raif. “We’re all friends here tonight.”
Friends? With the Director? What the fuck, indeed! Jared slipped in front of the chair and started to put his bag down on the floor next to the Director, then realized his social faux pas and swung it around to drop onto the floor next to Raif’s chair instead.
Jared stood there, between table and chair, and Harrington repeated, “Please, Jared, do sit, and you,” he turned to Raif, “why don’t you tell me why you called for a MedTech? Are you feeling unwell suddenly, Proctor?”
“No, but thanks for asking, Will. I’ll admit I’m a little tired. I’ve had a long day.” Raif sounded like he hadn’t a care in the world and they were all old chums; Jared wanted to punch his gleaming teeth in and knock that superhero smirk off his face. Raif added, “Jared’s here because he’s a friend of mine, and I thought he might enjoy meeting you.” Raif leaned back, hooking an arm over the back of his chair. Slouching. In front of the Director. Of the fucking Centre. What alternate universe had Jared entered and how could he get out of it again? When Jared just kept standing there, shocked into silence, Raif added, “Jared’s a little star struck I think.”
Yeah, Jared was struck by something all right, and Jared was going to use it to kill Raif, just as soon as the Director was gone.
Harrington said, “I’d feel more comfortable if you’d sit down, Jared. MedTech.”
Great, now he was making the Director nervous. Jared looked around the table for something to drink but all the glasses were still empty. So they’d just gotten here. Raif had sent the call through Lawrence and Sam a good twenty minutes ago. He must’ve been stalling Harrington all this time waiting for Jared to show up. Jesus, Raif had nerve and he was just sitting there—slouching—like nothing was wrong at all.
Jared considered taking out a sedative for himself. He was definitely going to need something to help him calm down if this was how the evening was going to go, but he couldn’t think clearly enough to figure out how to slip himself so much as a ten-patch of Seretin.
The Director asked again, “MedTech, are you all right?”
Raif quickly answered, “I told you, Will, you simply dazzle him. Jared, Sit. Down. You’re being rude standing there.”
Jared managed to speak but his voice was weak. Better faint than mute. “It’s an honor to meet you, Director Harrington.” Jared just couldn’t bring himself to sit down and pretend this was normal. Then again, if he stood here much longer, his voice wasn’t the only thing going to faint. “I’m just…a little confused. I was in the middle of a task that,” Jared glared at Raif, “our friend here knew was not to be left unattended or to be interrupted and yet, well, here I am. Interrupted and not attending…anything—not that meeting you isn’t delightful. We met five years ago, I’m sure you don’t remember.”
The Director stood up now and said, “Oh, yes, I remember. You’re the lucky MedTech who found our stolen property during that terrible incident we had over in production.”
Harrington placed a hand on Jared’s shoulder—gripping his clavicle with surprisingly force. In fact, if Jared didn’t sit down, he wondered if he’d be forced down by a brachial stun, jokingly called a Vulcan Death Grip by pop culture fans. Maybe Harrington could kill with that grip. It was strong enough—and that thought stirred images of Harrington’s strong grip on other parts of Jared’s body. A flush of arousal rippled through him, no doubt leaving an embarrassing flush to his face. Harrington’s expression softened and his grip on Jared loosened then shifted, his thumb brushing briefly against Jared’s jaw. The brief contact, though only a light touch, was enough to jerk his dick to life. Clearly Harrington’s touch was more powerful than any Vulcan Death Grip.
For everyone’s sake, Jared dropped himself down and dragged the chair back up to the table, trying not to notice the Director smiling at him. God, what had Raif been thinking calling him here for this? Jared stretched his legs out, placing his hands flat on the table’s edge to steady himself and took a few deep breaths to calm down. He’d be fine. Or wake up. This was quite possibly all just a dream. God knew he’d had more than a few erotic dreams about William Harrington five years ago. There was something about the guy that shot right through Jared. Try as he might, he couldn’t stop being aware of him now.
Harrington offered, “I’ve ordered a bottle of wine, Jared. Would you join me in a glass?” He smiled at Jared and the man’s entire face lit up. It was remarkable how much a smile transformed his countenance. He quickly added, “That offer extends to both of you, of course.” And just like that, Harrington’s smile vanished, the light with it. That was a shame.
Jared heard himself sighing and when Harrington looked his way again, he covered by saying, “I’d love a glass of wine. Thank you!” He tried to wrap his brain around the situation. The Director of the Centre had just offered him a glass of wine, and he’d accepted. And sighed. If this was a dream, he hoped this time he didn’t wake up before the really good parts.
Thankfully, the head waiter came over with three glasses of water and the Sommelier, who presented a bottle of wine even better than Raif-as-Gaultier kept on private reserve. It shouldn’t have surprised Jared; Director Harrington had ordered it. The man probably could afford the best of everything. He probably took this sort of thing for granted.
As the Sommelier presented the wine for Harrington’s approval, Jared asked the head waiter hovering nearby for the strongest synthahol Jared could think of by name. Wine, no matter how fine, was not going to cut it tonight. Before the waiter could escape again, Jared revised his order, making it a double.
Then he regretted only ordering one.
Jared decided he was going to get—and stay—drunk for the next three days if this was any indication of the hijinks Raif would be pulling in his newfound free time. Staying out of Raif’s practical joke range was never easy but this was a whole new level of Raif-ness.
Jared downed the water in his little glass and tried to ignore the fact that Harrington and Raif were bantering back and forth like old chums. When they both laughed at a joke that was absolutely not in the least funny, Jared wondered where exactly the waiter had gone with his drink. He reached over to pick up Raif’s water glass and was lifting it to his mouth when both Raif and Harrington lunged at him, grabbing at his wrist and shouting in unison.
“Don’t!” Raif shouted as Harrington said, “No!”
They each had a hand on Jared’s wrist now. The water, amazingly, only sloshed a little and did not spill over the lip. But it was close. So, maybe Raif’s paranoia wasn’t entirely unfounded. Jared eyed them both and waited for his wrist to be released by the two of them. One by one, they withdrew and Jared sat back with the glass of water in both his hands and looked down into it. Sure looked like plain old water. He gave his two table mates a look. They were both trying to recompose themselves as though nothing at all had happened.
“What exactly is wrong with this water?” Jared asked the two of them.
Harrington said, “There’s nothing wrong with that water.” at the same time Raif said, “I wouldn’t want you to catch my cold.”
Harrington sat back and smiled again—that brilliant and blinding light that Jared studiously tried to ignore as it was a definite distraction. The man really needed to stop doing that, or Jared would never think straight again. Raif added a cough for effect and brought Jared’s mind back to focus. Raif had never been sick a day in his life and he was a very bad actor. Raif held out his hand for the water glass with a smile as fake as his cough. Jared decided there was something in the water that his naked eye couldn’t detect—and both of the other men at the table knew what it was.
“I’ll just hold onto this a moment, if you don’t mind.” Jared drew the glass towards himself, nestled at the table’s edge, and he leaned forward, bodily owning it. Finally, the waiter arrived with their drinks and Jared told him to bring him another round right away. Jared held onto Raif’s water glass with one hand while downing his synthahol with the other. It felt amazingly good going down.
“Now, gentlemen,” Jared started, sitting back and holding the water glass up in front of his face again with both hands, “shall I test this with the equipment in my kit or would one of you like to tell me what exactly is in this glass?”
Harrington said, “You mean, besides water?”
Jared laughed, but it was a snide laughter, surprising even himself. “Oh, yes, Director, that’s exactly what I meant, and I think you know it.” Jared couldn’t believe he was speaking that way to Harrington but extreme times called for extreme measures. He turned to Raif. “Let’s have it, Raif, what’s in the water?”
“Other than my germs, I really don’t know, but if you’ll give it to me, I’ll drink it and prove it’s just water.” Raif put his hand out again for the glass.
Jared held up the glass and took an other close look at it. No lip marks at the rim, so he hadn't imagined that no one had touched the glass yet. In fact, only his own fingerprints marred the spotless surface. The head waiter wore pristine white gloves. So Jared was the only one with dirty hands here. Lovely. Now he felt conspicuous and out of place. He said, “Raif, you haven't drunk from the glass yet so how’d your germs get in here? And I’d note, you know as well as I do, there are more germs on this table cloth than you’ve had in your body in your entire lifetime.” Jared turned to Harrington and shook his head. “He’s the healthiest human being on this planet. It’s really kind of disgusting how abnormally strong his immune system is. Trust me, I would know.”
Harrington smiled, a dark smile this time. “You would, wouldn’t you?” Harrington leaned forward, a sharp interest in his eyes now. He rested one elbow on the table and perched his chin in his palm, fixing Jared with his piercing gaze. “Are you his personal MedTech, then?”
God, it was like being stunned by a laser when the man stared at him like that. Jared just sat there trying to breathe, never mind comprehending what the man had asked.
Raif took advantage of Jared’s momentary distraction to snatch the glass from Jared’s grip with a muttered, “Give me the damned glass.”
Before Jared could stop him, Raif had lifted the glass to his lips and downed half the contents. He said, “There. Now you can get your kit ready in case I keel over from—” Raif stopped but Jared suspected Raif-ness was about to strike again. Raif’s eyes widened and his mouth opened but he really was a bad actor. Jared knew he was faking. Raif’s idea of humor. The jerk.
Raif clutched at his throat with his free hand and Jared shoved at him. Raif burst into laughter, that deep, rich laughter that Jared loved so much and that annoyed him no end right now.
“Not funny, asshole.” Jared muttered then remembered their guest. “Excuse my language, Director, but he actually thinks he’s hilarious.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed his humor with others, and you know, I’ve heard that word before. I’ve even been known to use it on occasion.”
Still resting his chin on his hand, Harrington smiled at Jared again. His eyes sparkled this time. If Jared weren’t already sitting down, he’d have fallen down from that look. He couldn’t take his eyes off the Director’s mouth and for a terrible moment, Jared thought he was drooling at the prospect of tasting those full lips. He swallowed loudly and grabbed at the wine glass for another drink. It was a bad idea to mix synthahol and wine but if Jared didn’t put something else in his mouth, he was likely to try and fill it with Director Harrington. Talk about biting off more than he could swallow.
Raif said, “Will, maybe you could do us all a favor? Prove to Jared that this is just water by drinking some yourself.” Raif smiled, one of those cold, calculating smiles Jared had heard about but until now, never seen applied first-hand. Now he understood why that look scared grown men. Raif’s smile sent a chill down Jared’s spine—killing all the warm fuzzies that Harrington’s smile had been spinning in Jared’s gut a second ago—and Raif’s smile hadn’t even been aimed at him.
Harrington didn’t seem at all affected by Raif’s chilling intent. He barely hesitated before sitting up and reaching out to retrieve the glass from Raif’s hand. They maintained eye contact as Harrington raised the rim of the glass to his lips, held it there and even bobbled his Adam’s Apple; but from Jared’s angle of view, he could tell that Harrington hadn’t actually drunk the water. He’d faked it for Raif’s benefit. Harrington put the glass down in the middle of the table and asked Raif, “Happy now?”
“Oh, yes. Just thrilled.” Raif said, clearly simmering under the surface.
Raif used just thumb and forefinger to touch only the rim of the glass in the spots where no one had drunk, and drew the glass back towards his place setting, then folded his hands around the glass marking it off as his personal territory. So he wasn’t clueless to the risk, just stupidly exposing himself to potential poisons, contagions and other artificial means of sabotage. Just like a Proctor to do a stupidly-heroic thing like that.
Jared had never understood the Proctor’s drive to commit suicidal heroic acts, even in all his years of working with them, but it was part of the brainwashing designed by Harrington’s own ancestor. Maybe this Director Harrington could explain it to Jared one of these days.
Jared had never seen Raif actually doing it either, not before now. Jared wasn’t sure just what rationale had made Raif swallow whatever biohazard was in that glass, but at least now it was clear why Raif had called him here. Raif had wanted Jared here to revive him once the toxin, drug or other alien substance took hold, and Jared was utterly convinced now that there was something besides water in that water glass. He just hoped his MedKit contained an antidote for it.
Harrington took a sharp left turn—literally turning back to Jared before speaking again. His expression softened but the smile was forced this time, adding none of that brilliant light the natural smile caused.
“Jared, you said you had an interest in meeting me? So many do these days. Was there a research project you want funded?”
“No, I—” Jared laughed nervously and decided there was no graceful recovery “No research, Director. It was just—It was a joke, and a bad one, telling Raif here that I’d love to meet you one day because here we are.” Jared laughed nervously. As though to remind Jared that he was sitting right there, Raif clapped a hand down over Jared’s forearm on the table and held him there with an iron grip. Why? Did Raif think Jared was going to jump up and run away now he’d been completely embarrassed in front of one of the most-desirable men on the planet? Or was Raif finally experiencing whatever was in that glass? That was a bad thought. Jared looked up at Raif and didn’t see any joking or cajoling in his expression, just cold, stone blankness as he stared across at Harrington.
Harrington glanced down at Raif’s hand holding Jared’s arm to the table and a small smile crept into the corner of his mouth, though he tried to hide it. Jared wished it were another one of those light-inducing smiles, and he wondered if Harrington also had a nice laugh to go with it. Perfect men were like that. Jared’s laugh was too loud, he’d been told by former lovers. Raif had disabused him of that insult, saying he liked Jared’s laugh, that it was unrestrained, not loud. Would Harrington like his laugh? Would Harrington ever make him laugh? Could he ever make Harrington laugh as brightly as that perfect smile?
Before Jared realized it, Harrington stood and pushed his chair a fractional distance away from the table, saying, “Yes, I’m a little unpredictable myself so I do believe it’s time for me to go. Please enjoy the wine. It’s a very fine vintage and I assure you, there’s nothing wrong with it.” Harrington poured himself a small refill and sampled it, vapor first, then just a taste. “Mm, delicious as ever. It does need to breathe a few more minutes but,” He held the wine up to look at it, then looked down at Jared and said, “it’s one of my personal favorites.” Harrington said it as though he knew Jared had an interest in his personal preferences in wine. In his person, generally. Was Jared that obvious tonight?
“Thank you, Director.” Jared muttered.
“Will.” Harrington said quietly then pushed his chair back in and told Raif, “Proctor, I strongly advise you to wait for your friend in Dr. Jansen’s office from outside the building. You have about,” Harrington checked the time, “a half-hour left before the records show you leaving, so if you decide to re-enter, please wait another half hour or Security will receive an alert about the logs. Your friend should be in there another hour anyway. Enjoy your unrecorded freedom here. It’s not something that someone in your position happens upon often.”
“No, it’s not.” Raif said, again with the blatant sarcasm in his tone. “Thank you so much for that, Director. I mean, Will.” Raif gave Harrington a snide smile. “My night would have been so different without you showing up.”
Jared didn’t want to know what Raif meant by that. Since Raif hadn’t released Jared’s arm, he was unable to rise to bid farewell to Director Harrington. Despite Raif’s conflicted feelings about Harrington’s presence, Jared was feeling sorry about how the evening had turned out—and he knew he might never get another chance like this. He couldn’t let it go by untried.
Jared blurted out, “Director—Will—maybe sometime when the Proctor here has his own plans, you and I could try having a drink again? Just the two of us, a social visit, nothing to do with business. I promise, no research proposals.” Jared smiled but he was sure it was obvious it was a nervous smile.
Harrington clasped his hands behind his back and inclined his head to smile down at Jared. It wasn’t one of those smiles that lit his face, though; it was a cold, polite smile. Distant. In fact, Harrington had an air of superiority now. Maybe it was just his posture.
Jared was just about to try and take it back when Harrington asked, “You mean a date?” Harrington looked Jared over as though he were considering the prospect.
Raif’s vice-grip on Jared’s arm hadn’t loosened and Jared was feeling like a bug pinned under a glass being examined by two bullies facing off in the courtyard. He wished one of these two men weren’t here; he just wasn’t sure which one. He just nodded and tried to smile up at the Director. He hoped it didn’t come out making him look like a goofy idiot. One ex-lover had described his nervous smiles that way.
Finally, Harrington said, “I don’t date much anymore. It might be nice to change that before it becomes a habit. My schedule’s quite a challenge though, so I’ll have to call you when I can get some free time blocked off and see what we can do with it. Thank you for asking.”
When Harrington made to go, Jared asked, “Don’t—that is, don’t you want my numbers?”
Harrington looked over the table and his gaze tracked from Raif’s grip on Jared’s arm up to Raif’s face, then he came back to Jared and smiled openly, one of those smiles that lit up his whole face, “Oh, I’ve got your number.”
Jared sat there stunned as Harrington left, his foot falls barely audible. Jared only knew the man was gone because that was when Raif finally released his grip on Jared’s arm.
“What the fuck, Raif?” Jared massaged his forearm, which had started to ache. “You trying to break my arm? And what were you thinking bringing me in here—with him?”
“I was thinking you droned on about how much you wanted to meet him and you might appreciate my giving you the chance to ask him out. I’m proud of you for doing it. Good job—and you’re welcome.”
“I didn’t thank you, asshole!”
“No, you didn’t and I noticed that. Poor form, Jared, really. You usually have better manners than that. You know, he seems like a stuck-up snob to me, not to mention closed and emotionally unavailable, but I guess he’s pretty enough to look at and he’s certainly a better class of man than your usual fare. He might even be good enough for you.”
“Yes, speaking of stuck-up assholes.” Jared muttered.
You have reached the end of the free sample. If you enjoyed it and would like to keep reading, please consider purchasing Man Made Man from the Amazon Kindle Store (KindleUS and KindleUK). Amazon PRIME members may borrow it from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL) at no charge through the end of the Kindle Select period, so until the end of November. The book will be available to purchase from Smashwords or other eTailers worldwide after December 5, 2013.
Tune in for next week's #SampleSunday snippet from A First Time for Everything. Hope to see you then!