Today I am so pleased to welcome Heidi Cullinan to Joyfully Jay. Heidi has come to share an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, Enjoy the Dancing (which I reviewed yesterday and really enjoyed). She has also brought along two great giveaways. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
The kindergarten decor—brightly colored alphabet and number lines, bulletin boards featuring shapes and colors and inquiries about the weather—kept Tomás’s desire in check. It was a comfortable, welcoming space, with a reading nook and an art corner and a line of cubbies marked with laminated nameplates in a cheerful font. Spenser fit into it better than Tomás would have predicted, well-scrubbed and welcoming in his khakis, checkered dress shirt, and tan boat shoes. Tomás had no difficulty imagining Spenser sitting on the tuffet reading to children in a semicircle or crouching and speaking in a soft voice to a troubled child.
Right now Tomás was the troubled individual, and though Spenser had to look up slightly rather than crouch down, he was all gentleness and concern. “What happened? What has you so upset?”
Tomás didn’t know where to begin, didn’t know what detail to offer first. Wasn’t sure what he should and shouldn’t say. He tried to glance away, to see if avoiding Spenser’s gaze would give him some clarity, but he fixed on the teasing hint of his collarbone. He felt ridiculous for being here, for putting this on their barely begun relationship. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come here. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Spenser led him to a chair and pushed on his shoulders until he sat in it. The chair was designed for six-year-olds, which meant Tomás’s knees came up to his chin. Spenser sat on the edge of the worktable opposite and regarded him with worry. “There’s no problem with you coming here. I’m glad you did, if something has you upset.”
Tomás remembered the sign in the office. “I know you’re not out here, that you can’t be. I didn’t mean to put you at risk.”
“I’m not out, no, but there isn’t anyone operating under the illusion I’ll bring a nice young lady as my date to the employee picnic, either.” Spenser nudged Tomás’s ankle with his foot. “Don’t worry about that, seriously. Why did you seem so upset outside? Why do you look upset now?”
He couldn’t get out of this confession now. Tomás ran a hand over his face and stared into the tight-knit fibers of the industrial-grade carpet. “It’s complicated and involved to explain.” When Spenser let the silence stretch out, Tomás filled it without meaning to. “It’s about my family. I have a decision to make, and I don’t want to make it.” He met Spenser’s gaze. “And if I tell you any more, you have to promise me you’ll keep my confidence. No more of this mandatory reporting stuff.”
He expected Spenser to dismiss the idea, but no, Spenser’s expression remained serious. “Give me the general gist of the topic, and I’ll let you know whether or not I can offer you that assurance.”
Moment of truth. Tomás drew a breath. “I need to tell you a story involving an undocumented immigrant.”
Spenser’s whole body relaxed, and though he didn’t smile, his posture was easier now. “I’m not required by law to report undocumented immigrants. But if this undocumented immigrant threatens the health and safety of a minor, whether or not the minor is a US citizen, I’m obligated to report the matter.” He leaned forward, touching Tomás’s leg. “Are…you the undocumented immigrant?”
Tomás shook his head. “No. But both my parents are.” He felt cold admitting it out loud, despite what Spenser had assured him. “My sister is a citizen as well, but she’s a terrible parent and has already been reported to DHS. Multiple times. Someone is threatening to report my parents too, possibly my sister’s worker. So I keep acting as Alisa’s backup. I’ve been named as guardian a few times, and I get a tiny monthly stipend that covers one or two meals’ worth of food at best. But usually I don’t get anything at all. Alisa knows we’re over a barrel and leaves the kids with us all the time while she runs off.” He hesitated, realizing he’d wandered into the health-and-safety-of-a-minor territory. “DHS knows all this. They watch us like hawks. And any second they’re going to swoop in, take my sister’s kids, and bring in the ICE to haul my parents back to Mexico.”
He paused for breath, and Spenser’s grip on his leg tightened. “Tomás—I’m so sorry. That must be terrible for you.”
Tomás laughed darkly. “Oh, that’s not the issue. What’s got me now is Ed and Laurie found me a lawyer to help with the immigration aspect who thinks the best way to save my parents and the kids is to turn on my sister.” He exhaled, the last of his fight escaping. “I can’t. I can’t take it anymore.”
With his hand still on Tomás’s thigh, Spenser leaned forward and pressed a kiss on Tomás’s forehead. “Let me get you home.”
Tomás tensed. “That’s the problem. I don’t want to go—”
Spenser laid a finger against his lips. “I meant to my home. Let me make you dinner.” He traced the outline of Tomás’s lips and dragged the pad of his thumb across the stubble of his chin. “Let me take care of you.”
It was what Tomás wanted more than anything, to be taken care of. To be with Spenser and forget the rest of the world, if only for a little while. But the claws of doubt and despair wouldn’t let him go so easily, and they tried to tear this apart too. “You deserve better than this. I’m too busy to date. I’m never around. I’m all bottled up.”
Spenser leaned in close, kissing the point of Tomás’s jaw just below his ear. “Let me get you home and uncork you.”
Part of Tomás wanted to cry, to weep in relief and collapse in surrender in this man’s arms. But he laughed instead, his despair transforming in the magic of Spenser’s embrace. Shutting his eyes, Tomás turned his face so his lips could meet Spenser’s own.
A noise in the hall made Spenser leap back, reminding them both of where they were. Before Tomás could apologize again, though, Spenser took his hand and pulled him to his feet.
“Come on. Let’s go home.”
This time Tomás didn’t misunderstand Spenser. He did admit to himself, however, this was why he’d come to Spenser, the dream he was chasing: that the man smiling at him and urging him to his car could be his safe space.
That Spenser could be his home.
Dance with your heart, and love will follow.
Kindergarten teacher Spenser Harris has carved a quiet, stable future out of his tumultuous past, but his world turns upside down the night a homeless teen appears on his doorstep—a boy whose story mirrors the one Spenser has worked so hard to overcome. The decision to shelter Duon is easy. What’s tricky is juggling the network of caregivers in Duon’s life, especially Tomás Jimenez.
Tomás wouldn’t have hesitated to take Duon in, but his plate is already full working three jobs to support his family. Though Spenser’s carefully constructed walls are clearly designed to keep the world at bay, Tomás pushes past Spenser’s defenses, determined to ensure the man is worthy of his charge. As the two of them grow closer, Tomás dares to dream of a life beyond his responsibilities, and Spenser begins to believe he might finally find a home of his own after all.
But Spenser and Tomás’s world is poised to crash around their ears. Duon’s grandmother isn’t sure she wants him to be raised by a gay man and challenges Spenser’s custody. Tomás’s undocumented parents could be deported at any time, and all the while the state of Minnesota votes on a constitutional amendment against marriage equality and the US Supreme Court debates whether or not Spenser and Tomás get a happily ever after. All they can do is hold tight to their love, hope for a better future…and remind each other to enjoy the dance.
Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi at <a href=”http://www.heidicullinan.com/”>heidicullinan.com</a>.
Heidi has brought two great giveaways today! First, you can win a copy of Enjoy the Dance. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Sunday, October 16th at 11:59 pm EST.
Heidi also has a Rafflecopter giveaway going on for the tour. Follow the link below to enter!
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