Today I am so pleased to welcome Heidi Cullinan to Joyfully Jay. Heidi has come to share an exclusive excerpt with us about her latest release, Hero. She has also brought along a copy to give away to one lucky reader. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Hal could still see the woman in Morgan, vaguely, but there was no mistaking now that he was looking at a man. A young, handsome, effeminate man, but he was a man, regardless. Hal could see the definition in his arms, his face, his legs, even through what sure as hell looked like a pair of tights to him. It was so obvious now that he felt embarrassed and confused. Hal felt really, really confused.
And shamed. The old demon was back, pressing on him harder than ever.
Hal had known for ten years that he was gay—probably longer, if he were honest—but it was when he was twenty-two and he came home too early to the bachelorette party his sister was hosting that he truly admitted it to himself. She’d hired a stripper, and the man was wearing nothing more than a thong as he humped the drunk and giggling bride-to-be on a chair in the middle of the room when Hal had walked into the scene. They’d laughed for days about how shocked he’d looked, how pale he’d gone.
His sister had thought it was just shy Hal being prudish. He hadn’t been feeling prudish, though. He had felt aroused, really, really aroused, like he’d never felt before. He’d lain in bed that night, clutching the rosary he hadn’t so much as touched since he was confirmed, saying Hail Marys and praying to God to take the feeling away. He’d tried so hard to talk himself out of what he’d worried he’d known about himself for years. He’d tried dating, had even tried a hooker once, which had been even worse than dating—but it was that night and that dancer when he’d finally given up. He was gay. There was no way around it. None of his prayers had ever been answered. He was going to stay gay, and that was that.
He didn’t feel it was a sin, really. He knew he should think of it that way, according to the church, but he couldn’t change it no matter what he did, so how could it be his fault? He didn’t like the way other people would talk about him if he came out. He didn’t like the way people would whisper, and he knew they would. It was the other reason he’d come to Los Angeles. Surely here in a place this far removed from Kansas, he thought, he could be comfortable enough to be himself.
Unfortunately, it hadn’t worked out that way. By the time Hal hit the gay bar scene, he was too old, and to be honest, he’d have been almost too shy even when he had been young enough. Really, it had been just like construction. He’d thought it would all be different in California, but it was just bigger and stranger. So he’d turned into something of a monk, dating no one, approaching no one, thinking about no one, except for when it all became a little too much, and then he jacked off in bed and wished he were the sort who could hire a rent boy. He’d resigned himself to his fate and tried not to think about it.
Hal looked up at Morgan, who fussed with his shelves, more out of nervousness, Hal suspected, than because he wanted to clean up. Now, somehow, Hal was here, with this strange, beautiful, magical man. In a room with no doors and no windows. He was with a man who could cast spells and read his mind.
He was with a man, he thought, as Morgan’s eyes came back to him, who had already fondled him and kissed him. And seemed to like it. Hal had liked it too.
Their eyes met, and Hal quickly looked away.
“I’m sorry,” Morgan said, very quietly. “I truly am.”
Now Hal had to look at him. “Why? You didn’t do anything. I’m the one who was an idiot.”
“It wasn’t your fault she enchanted you,” Morgan said with a little heat. Looking miserable, he sank a little lower against the bookshelf. “I’m so sorry, for all of this.”
Hal jerked his head at the foot of the bed as he shifted to make room. “Sit. This place looks unstable as hell, and you’re going to knock that case of gewgaws over.”
Morgan stood, rubbing his arms as he glanced around at his room. “Does the Oasis look that bad?”
Hal grimaced at the cracks on the wall, but he was feeling a little easier. Construction, now, he could talk about all day. “Aside from having no door, it just doesn’t look well-designed. I don’t understand what’s bearing the load. Don’t even get me started on that bar downstairs, and that stage. Who built this place, anyway?”
Morgan blushed, rubbing his arms again. “I did.”
“You mean you designed it?” Shit, he’d just insulted an architect. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time.
“No—I made it. Eagan designed it, I built it, and I am currently failing to maintain it. Part of the problem is that he’s always changing everything. It makes it so hard to keep things in proper order.” He gave Hal a curious look. “Shinju didn’t tell you anything about me? She said, ‘go get the woman,’ and off you went?”
Hal grimaced and shifted uncomfortably on the bed. “I don’t really understand it, to be honest. It started yesterday when I was getting off work, and there was this woman in a fur coat standing outside this bar that hadn’t been there when I’d passed by the lot in the morning.”
Morgan winced. “She exposed me? How many people saw?”
“Just me, as far as I could tell,” Hal said. “But I didn’t see you. Just the building.”
“That’s not possible,” Morgan replied. “There’s no way only one human could see, if she lifted the enchantment on the Oasis.”
“What is this Oasis everybody keeps talking about?” Hal asked. “Is that the name of this bar?”
Morgan gave him a strange smile. “The Oasis is me. That’s what I am, Howard.”
Hal frowned. “You’re a bar?”
“I am this place. You are a human, and I am a place. I know I look human, but that’s a guise. I’m a shape-shifter, like everyone else in the bar, but I’m different, because I am the place they live in. Think of it as if the house you lived in had a heart or a soul and it could walk around and sit at the table with you.” He gestured to the room around them. “This room is my inner sanctum. It has no doors because only I can come here, and I don’t need doors to enter it. It’s been harder to come here lately, because I’m getting weaker, and it took considerable effort to bring you here as well. It’s harder for me to change my appearance too. I can only modify what I suppose you’d call my human form. But the spell Shinju cast—well, you could say I hijacked it. I used it to cancel out the effects of the elixir, then the rest to bring us here. Talin and his idiots can’t reach you. We’re safe.”
Hal wasn’t exactly sure he understood—he was trying to imagine someone giving birth to a bar, and it just didn’t work—but he nodded anyway, because he understood enough to get that whatever was going on was magical, which was jarring enough. That he was standing here talking to a very attractive house was more than he could process.
Reissuing August 2014 from Wilde City
Construction worker Hal Porter knows he’s nobody special. But when strange events draw him into a magical world, he becomes the only man who can free Morgan, a lonely, long-enchanted shape-shifter. Whether he feels he’s worthy or not, Hal is the hero Morgan has been waiting for.
However, Hal’s task becomes personal as he and Morgan fall in love. Now, to save Morgan and give himself the happily ever after he’s always longed for, Hal will need to do something far more daunting than face Morgan’s captor or finally come out of the closet…
He’ll have to believe in himself.
This title has been previously published and has been revised from its original release.
Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality. Find out more about Heidi, including her social networks, at www.heidicullinan.com.
Heidi has brought an ebook copy of Hero to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Tuesday, August 26th at 11:59 pm EST.
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