TO CELEBRATE THE UPCOMING RELEASE ON 14th JUNE, 2013
SAME PAGE: BOOK 1 HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN
I’d like to announce a
Close Date: 14th June, 2013 (Australian Time)
and the SAME PAGE Playlist uploaded.
(Full features list of the MP4 player available upon request)
Signed copy of SAME PAGE
(For those that have pre-ordered a paperback of SAME PAGE
a gift voucher to the value of $17.99 will be established with Dreamspinner Press)
SO WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO WIN???
JUST READ THE EXCERPT BELOW AND
ANSWER A SIMPLE QUESTION!
I strode into the gallery the way I’d been taught—as if I owned the joint. I’d not quite managed to throw off my bad mood at having my agent, Sonya DaSilva, arrange for me to appear at some local artist’s opening night when I’d only arrived in Australia a few short hours earlier. Even flying first class, it was an excruciatingly long flight from New York. The fifteen-hour time difference had thrown my body clock out of whack, and my eyes felt dry and gritty; the Advil I’d taken before leaving the hotel was only just beginning to make inroads into my headache.
Absently, I rubbed my chin, feeling the scrape of my designer stubble, which, at that moment, was more genuine than stylish. All I really wanted to do was dive under the bedcovers and sleep; instead, I had to put on my public face, smile, and be charming. That’s what she’d said to me via her assistant—or should I say mouthpiece?—Deanne Clarke: “Jaxon, go to this opening. It will be good for your image. You know you like art, and I’ve heard on excellent authority the artist is talented. Go mingle with the locals. Smile. Be charming.”
I glanced down at my tiny, inky-haired assistant, Alison, who was also my best friend, who I knew was already making a quick assessment of the room and its occupants. I smiled, knowing she would save me from any overly persistent fans. Out of habit, I scanned the room myself but saw no one intriguing enough to hold my gaze. I tried instead to look at the artworks, but my view was blocked as the gallery was overflowing with a mixture of the designer clad and the more individually clad. The predominant color of choice for both the men and the women was black. Perhaps wearing black makes them feel artier?
I felt the hum go through the crowd, the wave of awareness that a celebrity had entered the room. God, how I hated that. I hated the adulation of celebrity. None of my thoughts or feelings, however, showed on my face, and to all except the most perceptive, my smile seemed relaxed and genuine.
The advantage of being an actor, I thought ruefully, trying to shake off my bad mood—a bad mood that seemed to haunt me more with each passing day. I suppressed the sigh threatening to escape me at the thought of 99 percent of my life being spent with me acting the part of Jaxon Moncrieff, successful actor.
A tall, lean man in a well-cut tuxedo, who looked to be in his forties, approached us with a broad smile on his face and a slender, elegant hand outstretched.
“Mr. Moncrieff, I’m so glad you could join us.” He spoke with an upper-crust English accent. “My name is Garrett Flemington, and I’m the owner of this gallery. I’m so glad Sonya convinced you to join us this evening. Please allow me to give you a guided tour of the show and introduce you to Liam Lassiter, the artist.”
“Pleasure is all mine, Mr. Flemington….”
“Please, call me Garrett,” he replied, smiling warmly.
“Jaxon, and this is my assistant, Alison,” I said, returning his smile.
The crowd parted as Garrett led us to the right, and I was able, at last, to see one of the works on display. My breath left me in an embarrassingly loud gasp. It was so beautiful. No, beautiful wasn’t the right word. Sensitive? Lyrical? I couldn’t think of the right adjective as my eyes drank in a nine-foot-long sculpture suspended from the ceiling. It was a larger than life-sized branch from a Chinese cherry blossom tree cast in bronze. Integrated with the metal were cherry blossoms formed from a papery substance I couldn’t put a name to. Within selected petals, the lines of a haiku poem had been cut out. The piece was lit in such a way as to throw a shadow onto the gallery wall that silhouetted the branch and revealed the words.
“Wow,” breathed Ally beside me, echoing my sentiments, and I heard Garrett’s chuckle at her reaction.
“Wow, indeed. Liam’s works are poignant, don’t you think? Masculine yet gentle, without being weak or trite.”
“What’s the papery stuff he’s used for the petals?” I blurted, and immediately felt foolish for asking such a mundane, practical question.
“It’s bark from the paperbark tree. They’re native to Australia, which is why you probably haven’t seen it before,” replied Garrett with no sign of condescension in his voice. “Clever how he seamlessly blends something so soft and delicate with something as strong and unyielding as bronze, don’t you think?” he asked, obviously not expecting a reply.
Garrett stopped the waiter, grabbing us each a glass of wine before guiding us from piece to piece, each as moving as the last. The artist’s choice of words was very profound and thought-provoking. On some, he used snippets of lyrics, or speeches, while others incorporated verse. In each case, the words, revealed so cleverly by the lighting, combined with something bold and physical, elevated the piece from merely lovely to poetic and totally extraordinary. I was in awe—I’d never seen anything like it.
“I’d like to introduce you to Liam, but I can’t see him at the moment. I’ll leave you to mingle and to look around on your own while I find him,” Garrett murmured, craning his head first to the left and then to the right, scanning the crowd.
As soon as Garrett left us, we were joined by an attractive brunette wearing a revealing black cocktail dress. “Oh, Mr. Moncrieff, I’m your biggest fan. I’m so thrilled to meet you. I just love your accent! Are you here for the premiere of your latest movie?”
Inwardly, I sighed and prepared myself for the flirting and inevitable passing of a phone number that would follow. Only a few short years ago, I’d have been thrilled to have such an attractive woman make a pass at me, but I now knew it was more my fame than my personality they were attracted to. God, when was the last time I actually felt genuinely attracted to someone?
Alison skillfully maneuvered me away before the brunette could put me on the spot, but she was soon replaced by a petite, curvy blonde, also dressed in a black cocktail dress. And so it went on; each time Ally cleverly gave them a moment with me before guiding me away.
Perhaps rescuing me is a better description, I sneered at myself.
“JJ, I have to go to the bathroom. Think you can fend for yourself for a little while?” she asked in her lilting voice.
I could see the smirk she was unsuccessfully trying to smother and knew she was teasing me. Again? As always?
“Get away with you!” I growled at her in mock anger, doing my best Sean Connery impersonation. Smirking at me in earnest now, she turned and walked away.
Smiling affectionately at her retreating back, I followed her departure, and it was as she neared the back of the room I saw him.
He was like the only splash of color in a black-and-white photograph.
Tall, with broad shoulders and slim hips clad in faded blue jeans. His untucked shirt was peacock blue with the sleeves rolled almost to his elbows, showing strong, lean forearms. It hugged his torso just enough to show the light play of the muscles of his chest and abdomen as he raised his drink to his lips. It was not the casualness of his attire, nor the vivid blue of his shirt, however, that made him stand out so vibrantly in the room of black-clad patrons. It was his disheveled russet hair. I couldn’t recall ever having seen hair that shade before in my entire life. It was like every imaginable shade of red, brown, and gold all rolled into one: an autumn collage.
The man was beautiful.
There was no other word for it. He was truly beautiful, and yet not feminine.
His skin was the color of ivory, and the soft blush staining the apple of his cheeks brought to mind images of the magnolia blossoms in my mother’s garden. Defined eyebrows were partially hidden by the frame of the glasses he was wearing, and I could just see the faint shadow his long lashes were casting beneath his eyes. Eyes currently downcast as he stared pensively at his feet. The strength of his chiseled jaw was in direct contrast to his mouth, which was soft and full, and I was sure many of the women attending the opening would gladly have swapped their lips for his. High cheekbones and a strong, narrow, slightly crooked nose completed the perfection of his face. On another man, the slight bend to his nose might have spoiled the overall finished appearance, but, somehow, this one slight imperfection enhanced rather than detracted from the whole.
The man sensed, I think, my scrutiny and raised his gaze to mine. It was impossible with the distance separating us to see the color of his eyes, but there was no mistaking their intensity. As I continued to stare, unable to drag my eyes away, he coolly raised one eyebrow before turning his back to me.
God, his back is as sexy as his front, came the unbidden thought as I noted the way his shirt hinted at the musculature of his back. What the hell, Moncrieff? Since when have you ever thought of a guy as being sexy? And what the fuck are you doing staring at a man in the first place?
Despite my negative thoughts, I found myself striding across the room to stand beside him, drawn as if by a magnet. It wasn’t so much vanity as years of experience that had me fully expecting him to turn toward me and smile in recognition. Instead, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him briefly close his, as if steeling himself for something unpleasant, before turning and walking away from me. I stood for a moment, stunned at his overt rejection of me. It had been a long time since anyone had rejected my presence. Rather than feeling defeated, I felt challenged. His rebuff only heightened my interest, and I followed him, coming to stand beside him again as he stood before one of the artworks.
“So what do you think?” I asked with my signature smile—the one that usually had the receiver falling at my feet.
“I think you’re a very popular man and that just about every woman here would love to have you exercise your charms on them. Not to mention a handful of men who’d probably be equally interested,” he replied in a rich, deep, accented voice.
English. So he’s an Englishman living in Australia.
A small thrill coursed through me. He’d noticed me.
Russet. His eyes were russet, flecked with shades of amber and mocha; a perfect mirror image of his hair.
They can’t be real! He must be wearing contacts. No one has eyes that match their hair so perfectly. But why would he have contacts in when he’s wearing glasses?
My thoughts weren’t making any sense.
I couldn’t help the way I was staring at him. His eyes had me mesmerized. His glasses were squarish, with quite thick frames that gave him a slightly intellectual look, but neither the glasses nor the severity of the scowl he was wearing could disguise the beauty of his face.
“I’m flattered—” I began, looking up at him though my lashes coyly.
“Don’t be,” he replied dismissively with a wave of his arm, cutting me off. “I also noticed the lady in the corner, over there, has either recently become single or has been stood up by her date, as she has that somewhat lost look that comes from being abandoned and not quite knowing why. And that man,” he said, indicating a short man across the room with a graceful wave of his arm, “the one with the ridiculous bow tie, is here with the lady who is pregnant, yet he can’t seem to take his eyes off that tall redhead by the drinks table. I could go on, but I think you get the point.”
He turned away from me, his gaze now resting on one of the artworks in an obvious tactic to dismiss me yet again, but I couldn’t seem to leave him alone.
“What do you think of the artist and his work?” I asked flirtatiously, infusing my voice with a hefty dose of the Moncrieff charm and pulling another winning smile out of my bag of tricks as I reached out to touch his forearm. A warm charge ran up my arm and spread across my torso as soon as my fingertips made contact with his skin. It was like a huge, relief-filled sigh settling in my chest. Holy shit, what was that? And my God, are you flirting with him now?
I thought he must have felt the warm, relief-giving sigh, too, as he jerked his arm from mine and frowned at the place where my hand had been.
He bit his bottom lip, and I felt my pulse quicken. I wanted to take his lip and suck it into my mouth. Did he have any idea how sexy he was? I wanted to kiss him until he lost that guarded look in his eyes, until he was soft and responsive in my arms, until his lips were swollen from my kisses. What the hell? He’s sexy? I want to kiss him?
Feeling confused by the strange feelings and reactions I was having to the guy, I looked down at the glass of red wine in my hand, wondering if it was reacting with the Advil I’d taken earlier. Why else would I be having such bizarre thoughts about a man? Had someone slipped something into my drink? Was I hallucinating?
Part of me wanted to turn and run from this man who was arousing such strong yet alien feelings in me, but another part of me, the bigger part, wanted to stay. Truth be told, a huge part wanted to be even closer to him, wanted to feel that warm charge flow over my body again. Never in my entire thirty years had I felt such a pull to another person.
He turned to me again and gave me a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “I think he’s intelligent, observant, and insightful. So much so that he’s highly unlikely to fall for the charms of a player such as yourself. Good evening, Mr. Moncrieff.”
And with that he was gone, swallowed by the crowd.
So much for your famous charm, Jaxon! Smart, too, asking the artist what he thinks of his own work. A silent laugh had my shoulders shaking slightly as I reeled from the onslaught of thoughts and feelings he’d evoked in me. Well, at least I know his name.
Ally came back to my side with Garrett, who appeared a little flustered.
“I really must apologize, Jaxon. Liam seems to have left. I’m afraid he’s not too fond of these occasions. Prefers to observe rather than be observed. He’d be far better known if I could get him to do the whole networking thing, but he refuses, says it should be about his work and not his persona.”
Interesting. I stored away for later the insight into Liam’s personality Garrett had unwittingly provided. I longed to ask about him in depth but restrained myself. Ally—ever observant Ally—noticed my subtle signals, and in her usual charming way made our excuses and organized our driver.
The trip back to the hotel was a silent one. With my head lolling against the headrest, I feigned fatigue by closing my eyes, and for once Alison humored me, resisting the urge to chatter.
I replayed my encounter with Liam over and over again—examining his features, the nuances in his voice, studying his body language. No matter how many times I went over it, I came to the same conclusion. Something in how I’d looked at him, in what I’d said to him, had angered him. But what? Why had he taken such an instant dislike to me? I wished I’d paid more attention to Sonya and Deanne when they’d first proposed I attend the exhibition opening. I was fairly certain one of them had said he was gay, but I wasn’t sure.
God, what am I thinking? I’m straight. I’ve never been attracted to a man before. I probably imagined it all. I’m tired and jet-lagged, and it’s obviously been too long since I got laid. What the hell does it matter if he didn’t like me? It’s not like I’m ever going to see him again.
However, even as those thoughts chased themselves inside my head, my heart gave a painful squeeze at the thought of never seeing Liam Lassiter again.
WHAT FLOWER IS NAMED AS BEING PART OF ONE OF LIAM LASSITER’S ARTWORKS?
B) Cherry Blossom
Please write your answer in the Comment Box below.
DON’T FORGET: CLOSE DATE 14TH JUNE, 2013 (Australian Time – equates to 13th for European and American time)