Join Prism Book Alliance® as Kelly Jensen goes Outside the Margins today.
By the time you read this, I could have already passed the threshold of sanity and have been strapped to a seat down the back of the plane. Hopefully the air marshal hasn’t gotten involved. The flight attendants are probably eyeing me with a mixture of sympathy and concern. The passengers want me off the flight. Unfortunately for all of them, it’s going to be a while. I’m flying to Australia and I’m going to be stuck in a tin can with wings for sixteen hours.
I started traveling when I was just four months old. A flight from Melbourne to Hobart to visit the grandparents. At age eight, I was winging across the world to England on one of Qantas’ new Boeing 747s. At ten, I was on my way back to Australia. Then on to the United States. Then back and forth for a while, then around the world in various directions. I’ve flown and flown and flown.
My dad traveled for his job. My husband travels with his. Traveling is an integral part of my life. So, it comes as no surprise that both of my current novellas with Dreamspinner Press feature traveling men, as does my upcoming release, <em>Counting Fence Posts</em>.
Why do I feel drawn to these guys? Characters are like huge question marks. When I write a story, I try to answer these questions. In <em>Counting Fence Posts</em>, Henry is pretty content with his lot in life. He has the full support of a loving family and his career is going to plan. The only blank spot is his love life. He’s been dating his left hand for a while now. Thing is, when your job requires a lot of travel, your life can become imbued with a sense of impermanence. It can be difficult to make long term plans, because you might not be there.
There is someone Henry would like to date. This someone is named Marc. He works for the same firm and is probably straight. Probably. Henry’s focus on his career is more than a convenient excuse not to approach Marc. So is the fact they both travel. Why start something if they’re never going to see each other (if, magically, this guy isn’t straight). Why risk his heart?
Why not just keep traveling?
When they’re assigned to travel together, it’s pretty much Henry’s biggest dream and worst nightmare. What he doesn’t realize is that it’s the same for Marc. Marc has noticed the way Henry looks at him. Unbeknownst to Henry, Marc has been looking back. He’s fascinated by the shape of Henry’s mouth. And he’s questioning everything. His dating history (why it’s rather dry and unfulfilling) and his sexuality. Turns out, he’s not as straight as he supposed.
Marc’s question is about why it’s taken him so long to figure himself out. Well, he’s a traveling man, and like Henry, he’s found it easier to shelve lot of life’s questions (and inconsistencies and inconveniences) until later. For that mythical time when he’s not traveling, or when he’s settled. Somewhere, with someone.
Now he’s ready to stop traveling, in a mental sense. In a romantic sense, he’s found someone he’s really, genuinely interested in. The challenge now is to convince Henry to take the same risk.
Counting Fence Posts releases July 23 from Dreamspinner Press. Read on for an excerpt!
Title: Counting Fence Posts
Author: Kelly Jensen
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publication Date: 07/23/2016
Cover Artist: Bree Archer
Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Romance, Winter Holiday
There are over two hundred thousand fence posts between Syracuse and Boston. Henry Auttenberg likes numbers—it’s his job—but he isn’t going to count them all, even if the view outside the rental car is less confounding than the driver, his attractive but oh so obnoxious colleague, Marcus Winnamore. It’s Christmas Eve and Henry would much rather be home with his family. When the blizzard that grounded their flight forces them off the road, however, he’s stuck with Marc until the storm passes—or a plow digs them out.
As the temperature outside plummets, the atmosphere inside the car slowly heats up. Henry learns the true reason for Marc’s chilly distance—he’s not exactly straight…maybe…and he’s been fantasizing about Henry’s mouth, among other things. Confession laid out, Marc is all for sharing body heat…and more. Henry isn’t interested in being an experiment, but as the night and cold deepen, he could be convinced to balance certain risk against uncertain reward.
When Marc made no immediate answer, Henry glanced back up. All traces of humor had fled Marc’s expression, and he seemed occupied by brushing the rest of the snow from his sweatshirt. Then, obviously drawing the same conclusion Henry had, he pulled it over his head, removing his shirt along with it.
It wasn’t an invitation, but it was. Henry stared.
Marc’s chest was beautifully carved, the cut of his muscles obvious, even in the dim light. In fact, the shadows only enhanced his build, showing off square-shaped pecs, six definite abs and a tapered V pointing directly to heaven. Henry tried to look away before the line of dark hair from Marc’s navel led him to the folds of material over his crotch. Tried and failed. When he did manage to look up, Marc’s eyes were hooded and focused directly on his.
Henry felt the blush before it claimed his skin—an itchy tingle starting at his neck before spreading up and down, flushing his cheeks and chest in the same instant. He shivered. His nipples tightened under the prickle of goose bumps. Below his waist, his cock couldn’t decide whether to harden or retreat. The heat of Marc’s gaze hinted he fought a similar struggle.
For a moment it seemed as if they’d both lean in, drawn together by an invisible string. Henry’s breath shortened. Warmth flowed toward his frozen fingertips and toes. His ears burned.
Is he not quite straight? Or does he just want?
Henry remembered that struggle all too well. He also remembered the price of asking those same questions out loud.
Marc broke the spell, inhaling sharply and looking away. He bundled up his shirts and pushed them aside, then leaned toward Henry with a more innocent intent, angling his shoulder between the seats to rummage in his case. The scent of his skin tickled Henry’s nostrils. Masculine and clean. When Marc pulled back with a handful of shirts, Henry looked down. Tucked between the dress shirts was a flash of striped flannel. A pajama top.
Henry tried not to laugh, but a small sound escaped him.
“What’s so funny?” Marc asked, shaking out his new shirts.
Shaking his head, Henry lifted an undershirt and resisted the urge to sniff the fabric. He already knew it would smell like day-old sweat. That it wouldn’t smell like Marc. He shook it out and tugged it over his head. He did the same with a second undershirt and reached for a dress shirt. Warmth quickly caressed his skin, but it wouldn’t be long before the cold crept in again. Their breath was starting to fog.
Beside him, Marc pulled on his collection of shirts, leaving the pj top until last. As he stuck an arm into the striped flannel, Henry gestured toward it.
“I was laughing at your pajamas, but not for the reason you think.”
“What reason is that?”
Henry waved a hand. “It’s just that I never take pajamas with me when I travel. Well, I did the first time, but it felt weird wearing them in a hotel room. Like I was a boy playing grown-up or something.”
“So you’re laughing at me because I look stupid?”
“No, I’m laughing because I feel stupid.”
“I really don’t get you, Auttenberg.” Marc’s eyes narrowed. “You’re like a snake or something. All quiet until someone steps on you. Is the shy thing just an act?”
“The shy thing?”
“You’re quiet and reserved. Aloof, even. You never come to Mulligan’s on Thursdays.”
“You’ve never invited me.”
Marc’s brows drew together. “It’s a public place.”
Henry hitched his shoulders into a shrug. “I figured….” He clamped his mouth shut.
“You figured what?”
“I thought it was like a group thing. I didn’t realize anyone could just show up.”
“Like I said, it’s a public—”
Henry held up a hand. “A public place, I know. But do you make a habit of going where you don’t feel welcome? No, don’t answer that—of course you do. You’re Marcus Winnamore. There is no wall high enough, wide enough, or dug deep enough to keep you at bay.”
“That’s who you think I am?”
“You’ve been at the firm for four years, and you’re already a senior analyst. You’ve only lost one acquisition, not even to a competitor. The CEO of the company died, and you managed to close the deal with his son three months after the funeral.”
“Technically, that’s not a loss.”
“See? That’s what I mean. Hell, trap you in a car during a blizzard, and you think you can get out and walk to Boston.”
“You’re the one who ran off down the road.”
Henry raised his hands. “All part of the strategy, no doubt.”
“Do you have a problem with me?”
Not in the way you think.
“No, I don’t. I want to be you. Everyone does. You’re the shining standard held up to every new hire. I knew all about you before I even went for my first interview, and I’ve only got eighteen months left to get to where you are.”
A dark brow quirked. “By then I could be on the partnership track.”
Squeezing his eyes shut, Henry let out a frustrated growl.
“You….” Marc’s tone held none of the wry amusement of before. “You’ve really, um, been following my career path?”
Henry cracked open one eye. “You need to watch those verbal tics, Winnamore.”
Marc’s quick laugh was as much a surprise as the delight lighting up his entire face, and it was damned infectious. Henry fought the curve of his lips for only a second before giving in. They chuckled for about a minute before falling silent, then it took only one stray glance to set them off again. Another minute of quiet passed, with both of them smoothing snow from their pants and plucking at their layers of clothing. Then they were laughing again, only their humor had a slightly hysterical edge, as if they needed to find something to laugh about, while outside the storm slowly buried them alive.
About Kelly Jensen
If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.
Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, co-written with Jenn Burke. At lot of what she writes is speculative in nature, but sometimes it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.
You can chat with Kelly on Twitter @kmkjensen or visit her blog at http://kellyjensenwrites.com where she rambles on about anything and everything.
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