We’re so pleased to have author Isobel Starling dropping by TNA today to celebrate the release of her novel Sweet Thing in paperback format. We’ve got an exclusive excerpt from the book to share with you, and there’s also a chance for one lucky reader to win a print copy of the book, so be sure to check out the entry details below.
About the Book
Book Title: Sweet Thing
Author: Isobel Starling
Publisher: Decent Fellows Press
Book Release Date: September 8, 2017
Cover Artist: Isobel Starling
Length: 237 pages
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Blurb: French male model Simeon Duchamp has a lot of explaining to do.
Two years after a breakdown Simeon is off drugs and booze and wants to stay that way.
On his road to reclaiming his life and modeling career, Sim first needs to apologize to the man he hurt the most -his ex-best friend and object of his unrequited affection Pieter Bayer. Pieter now has a long-term partner, artist Emily Raven, with whom he shares a baby son. Sim is amazed when Pieter accepts his apology, and invites him into his family.
Closeness to Pieter sees Simeon’s longing for his friend is rekindled. But then, when Simeon meets an attractive older man, Bastian Roth at an Art Exhibition, he realizes that there is a soul more broken than his, and Simeon feels compelled to help. Simeon’s connection with the troubled Bastian Roth turns his world upside down. He has to decide whether to allow himself to fall for the man who wants him or pine for the man he can never have.
This book can be read as a standalone.
Simeon Duchamp took a steadying breath. He peeked out from behind the willow tree and exhaled a deep sigh of relief. After an hour of waiting,he saw his quarry at last. Simeon gazed longingly at the rangy figure of thirty-year-oldPieter Bayer strolling down Simsonweg and into Berlin’s Tiergarten, the public park in the heart of the city. It had been two years since he’d spoken to Pieter, his one-time best friend and the object of his undying affection.
His therapist had suggested meeting Pieter again for the sake of closure. Simeon wanted to apologize for the cruel stunt he’d played two years earlier—leaking false information to the fashion media, saying that Pieter was turning his back on all of his contracts and leaving the industry. It had caused a furor, with Pieter due to walk at the Paris shows and work with a list of high-end clients and long-term contracts.
At the time Simeon had been drunk, high, and heartbroken because Pieter found love with a British Painter, Emily Raven. Sim had been in a spiteful mood and wanted to trash Pieter’s reputation—but in the end, he just destroyed his own.
It was a warm spring day in March. Simeon watched his willowy ex-friend move gracefully toward him along the wide, tree-lined pathway. He felt the ball of longing and anxiety wrestling in his chest. Pieter was just so effortlessly lovely to gaze upon. Simeon felt the pang of loss keenly. He rested his head on the rough bark of the willow tree and sighed. Pieter’s hair was a natural sandy blond and it was longer than Sim recalled, tied in a tail, and resting below his shoulder blades. He still wore his signature black jeans, but with a petrol blue, short-sleeved T-shirt and a strange fashion backpack—frontpack? Simeon couldn’t decide. Pieter still looked so young, but healthier, happier. He appeared to be chatting to himself, and Simeon wondered whether he was on a Bluetooth call.
Simeon was torn. Should he just leave and continue to be nothing more than a bad memory in Pieter’s mind? He scolded himself; he had to do it this time. He’d followed Pieter through the park several times over the past few days, admiring from afar, but always chickened out on approaching him. Pieter strolled past the tree, and Simeon gathered his courage and stepped from under the Willow boughs.
“Peety?” he called, his timbre soft, camp, and French.
Pieter stopped and turned toward the voice. He smiled widely when his eyes met Simeon Duchamp. Simeon looked older, how long had it been? Two years? Simeon had cut his hair and was now sporting a short back and sides, with long bangs. It made him look elfin rather than more masculine. It was a cute look, Pieter mused. Simeon was staring at him with a look of wonder in his dark doe eyes.
Simeon heard a whimper from the ‘front pack’, and Pieter laid his hand upon the weight and bent his head to kiss it.
“Shh, Little Bird, we’ll be off again in a moment“, he said in German.
Simeon gazed in awe as Pieter unfolded the covering flap of the ‘front pack,’ to reveal his small, blond-headed baby. Pieter’s body swayed as he calmed the bundle strapped to his chest. Simeon’s breath caught in his throat.
“Shall we walk? He always has to be moving to fall asleep.“ Pieter strode off, and Simeon scurried to match his step, walking beside him in silence, offering sidelong glances at Pieter and his baby.
“How have you been Sim?“ Pieter asked conversationally, not a hint of malice in his voice.
“Um… unwell… for a while. Papa sent me to Rehab. But you know that, don’t you. I’m off the pills and booze for a year now,“ he explained hurriedly. “I wanted to say… My therapist advised that, for the sake of closure I see you. I wanted to say how sorry and ashamed I am about what I did to you. I was so messed up in the head, Pieter. I know it’s no excuse, but I’m sorry for hurting you.“
Pieter spied an empty park bench. Noting that his baby slept soundly now, he headed towards it with Simeon in tow. They sat,and scavenger pigeons gathered around their feet. Simeon kicked out, and the birds took to the wing in a panic.
“What’s your baby’s name?” Simeon inquired.
“Lukas, he’s four months.”
“Wow,”Simeon stared reverently at them both, tempted, but not daring to reach and caress the baby’s soft rosy cheek. The ball of loss still ached in his chest.
“Fatherhood suits you—Looks good on you—Not that I’m saying he’s an accessory or anything. Are you still with his mother, are you happy? Sorry, none of my business,” Simeon babbled.
Pieter grinned, same old Sim! “Meand Emily and Lukas are very much in love and very happy, Thank you. We’re moving out of the City soon. We bought a house with a big garden beside the River Havel. Emily’s second exhibition’s opening at the Franzen tonight, you know. We’re giving Mama a break, aren’twe Little Bird,” Pieter said, as he absently caressed his son’s slumber-pinked cheek. Lukas’s lips were pursed, sucking as he nursed an invisible nipple.
“You’re welcome along, Sim,” Pieter added thoughtfully.
“Seriously? Will she not kick my skinny ass out the door? I’ve heard she can get territorial about her mate.”
Pieter chuffed a laugh at the comment, careful not to wake his son. “Emily doesn’t take any shit. She’s a grounded, straightforward person and she’s very understanding. She made me see what you did from other angles. I bet she knows you better than you know yourself.”
“Is that right?”
“She won’t tolerate any of your drama Sim, but if you can keep a lid on it, and I tell her I invited you, she’ll understand,” Pieter paused for a moment.
“Everything happens for a reason, Sim. I hated you for a long time. But she helped me to see; it’s just a waste of energy, you know. It was a fucking nasty thing you did, but in the end,it meant that you got the help you needed, ja? And for me, it helped me realize what I wanted for my future, away from the fashion industry. It all seems to have worked out for the best, don’t you think? You look well, and you’re working again, and I have my arms full of love. All sins are forgiven. Move on, and be happy Sim,” Pieter stated pragmatically.
Simeon’s reverent gaze caught the blue-gray eyes of his friend. They smiled at one another in shared understanding. Simeon felt humbled. The weight he had carried in his heart for so long start to shift a little.
“I’ve reallymissed you, Pieter. I mean it”, Pieter nodded in acknowledgmentbut said nothing in reply.
“So are you out of fashion for good? You look so fantastic, your hair and skin have never looked better”, he gushed.
“This is what happens when I eat proper meals and don’t just try and survive on water and chocolate! Food is actually quite nice.” Their eyes met, and they both grinned in understanding.
“I’m going to be a part-time hausfraufor a while, and I’ve been writing a Fantasy novel, making art and playing music. I like not having to travel, and no fashion assignment could drag me away from Emily and Lukas. What about you? I saw you walk for ManuelloKozi, you looked great.”
“Thanks, yeah, I was stoked with that job. It was my first in a long time. It’s early days, but I’m taking the job seriously, no parties. Have you spoken to Veronik recently? I wanted to say sorry to her too.”
“She’s coming to the opening tonight. I pop in occasionally. She wants to put me back out so desperately, you know. It’s been like six months out of the industry, and she is still trying to tempt me. She could dangle a million Euros in front of me, and it still wouldn’t tempt me away from this little man.” He shook his head and laughed, hugging the sleeping baby strapped to his warm chest. A phone beeped,and Pieter groped in his pocket. He read the message and grinned wolfishly.
“Okay, Little Bird that was Mama reminding me it’s your booby time. Let’s get you home,” He said to his baby son. Lukas wriggled in response, still fast asleep.
Simeon’s eyes caught Pieter’s, still filled with awe and longing. As Sim looked up Pieter stood; his tall, willowy figure blocking the noonday sun, creating a corona around his blond-haired head. Sim was unsure as to whether this was closure at all. Pieter looked beautiful, angelic. Sim was still magnetically attracted to him. Was this the end of their friendship or a new beginning?
“It was good to talk. I mean it Sim, pop by and say hi to us tonight if you’re free. I’m sure Emily would like to meet you at last.”
Simstood and offered a hug. Pieter accepted it,and baby Lukas was nestled between the embracing men.
“You both smell so good,” Simeon commented and blushed in embarrassment.
“Baby smell is amazing, isn’t it? See you soon, yeah Sim?” Pieter said, a hand on Sim’s shoulder. He turned and began to stride away with the unmistakable confident long-legged gait of a model.
Simeon felt bereft for a second, as he stood numbly, and watched Pieter walk away. So many words still stuck in Sim’s throat—there was so much he wanted to say. He stared at his feet for a moment, wondering whether Pieter had been nice just to get away from him. When he looked up, Pieter was just about to turn a corner. He glanced at Simeon, lifted a cradling hand from his baby son’s back, and sent a beaming smile and a wave of farewell. A happy tear fell from Simeon’s eye.
©Isobel Starling 2018
About the Author
Born in Germany, Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland. She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art.
Isobel is currently working on her fifteenth book. The Shatterproof Bondseries is an Amazon Gay Romance bestseller and is being translated into French with Juno Publications, German with Deadsoft Verlag, and Italian with Quixote Edizioni. The series is also available as audiobooks, narrated by Gary Furlong.
Sweet Thing will be translated into French by Rienes-Beaux Publishing, and Italian by Quixote Edizioni.
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