Release Day! It’s an odd, odd day in my world. As previously noted in my blogging history, excitement equals panic in my odd, odd head. So while I may be bouncing, bubbling and fist-pumping the air in “Hell yeah! You did it!” fervor, my mind is busy calculating my demise.

For example (and don’t you just love my examples?)… the obsessive tendencies I have to beat back with a stick every normal day, steal my stick and beat me soundly in the head with it. It would be laughable if it wasn’t quite so degrading.

I check my publisher’s website. I check the AREbooks website. I check Amazon, GoodReads, my website, my blogs, the sales of my other novels. I google myself. Then I google my book. Then I google all variations of my book’s title with my name. And then I bing it… Ten minutes later (I’ve got furiously fast fingers when my OCD takes over), I start it all again… and again… and again.

Odd, wouldn’t you say?

I’m going to try to be better today. I’m scheduling times that I will force myself to write on my next novel, times to work on my outlines for upcoming projects, times to rework old stuff into possibly publishable new stuff, times to work on the next installment of the Hellesgate series, times to…

See a problem?

Yeah, I’ve now OCD’d my writing way out of control.

Damn. My mind is tricky.

Well, while I battle with my gray matter, I offer to you an excerpt of Stripped Asset in hopes it will nudge you just enough to add Heath and Lachlan to your libraries. I think it’s a nice introduction to the characters. Enjoy!…

Chapter One: In the Orchestra’s Absence

            Barefoot and still warm from his shower, Lachlan Hayes stepped out onto his deck and smiled. He would never get used to this spectacular view.

            The Pacific Ocean stretched out before his beachside house like a skein of dark blue silk undulating with wave and wind. It was a million dollar view, one the screenwriter had paid $5.2 million for last Tuesday. Chill blades rolled across his bare skin at just the thought of spending that amount of money. He had come a long, long way.

Thirty two year old  Lachlan Hayes had always played the role of the loner. He had been born to it, actually. Being an only child of a couple infatuated solely with each other, Lachlan’s formative years had held a certain free-form quality to them, a childhood that was great for the imagination but lousy for the foundation of friendships. 

            Despite this Lachlan flourished. He excelled at all his private schools. His summer tutors lauded his dedication to the literary arts and could do nothing but applaud the enthralling, complex plays ten year old Lachlan would write for his toy soldiers and teddy bears. It was at these tutors’ behest that the boy’s parents had sent their child to a  prestigious arts academy in New York City. It was a move that would do nothing but say good things about such self-sacrificing parents.

            Lachlan lived with a housekeeper in his own studio apartment from the age of twelve to eighteen.

            At eighteen years and one day, Lachlan bolted to Berkeley. And while he had his friends and drinking buddies during his college years, he found himself spending his summers and holiday breaks relishing his time alone. He was comfortable within his own skin, a fact that peeved his girlfriends and bothered the shit out of his one boyfriend.

            Sex was great. Lachlan loved sex. He could happily do it all day and all night for six days out of seven, but that seventh day he needed some time alone. At times, he craved the solitude, thriving in those hours with only pen and paper by his side.

            It came as no surprise that he had as of yet to have a serious relationship.

The lack of that significant other in his life, however, wasn’t even a speck of disappointment in his existence this fleeting afternoon. The southern California sun soon rid him of the $5.2 million goose bumps. Her hands were warm and guileless across his chest and arms, cocooning him swiftly in the security of her heat.

The lawn chair of teak and dark blue cotton called to his still half asleep brain, promising a long late afternoon nap under the clear June skies.

In nothing but pajama bottoms, Lachlan rubbed his short thick mop of blond hair and shuffled across the patio, surrendering to the chaise’s siren call.

As his light blue eyes began to flutter closed, he thought to himself what an absurdly perfect day it had been.

After an all-nighter of tweaking an already sold script, Lachlan had collapsed across the white down comforter of his king-sized bed just as dawn trickled through his windows.  Until four o’clock, even the tiny, annoying twinges of hunger hadn’t awakened him from his deep and dreamless sleep.

A power bar, a glass of milk and a forty-five minute shower then followed.

Now, he was going to let Lady Sun do the job of drying his body and hair for him.

Life was indeed perfect.

 ****

Life stunk for Heath Isles at the moment. As the twenty-seven year old landscape architect slammed his truck into park on the pristine, hill-clinging residential street, he wadded up his latest speeding ticket and tossed it into the back of his cab.

Grabbing a sketchpad, a notebook of already copious notes, and his camera, Heath climbed out of his truck and immediately cursed the time.

“Where the fuck did those two hours go?”

It was a rhetorical question of course. Even the rose bushes along the side of his new client’s house knew the answer. Traffic was hell in California. With the day that he was having, Heath wouldn’t have been surprised if he tripped over one of Dante’s rings about now.

Determined not to add a broken knee to the day’s cache of goodies, the man slowed his pace as he picked his way through the overgrown path that led to the house’s private beach.

He had never met Lachlan Hayes himself, since the writer’s manager  had handled all the details and the initial introduction to the much neglected grounds through a couple dozen 8x10’s, Heath just hoped that Mr. Hayes understood screwed up work hours.

Heath Isles could not afford to lose this job.

Ducking under a broken limb of a pinion pine, Heath came to a full stop as the beach finally came into view.

The property was stunning. It had all the bones any landscape architect liked to work with and just enough of the overgrown, neglected quality to it to give the architect’s creative juices a healthy jolt of “I’m broken. Fix me.”

Heath had always loved the fixer-uppers the best. While he had had his share of new construction commissions, the properties of faded glory or untapped potential were his favorite types to dive into. He would then devote all his skills to the project until the land’s God-given beauty was revealed.

Heath smirked at the thought. His job was hardly as haughty or important as all that sounded. Just because he had the degrees to back up his ideas, he knew he wasn’t any different than most gardeners who just wanted their places to look good. It was exactly this ability to see his work through the eyes of both the “common man” and the “aristocracy” that had made his career so successful. Heath Isles appealed to everyone.

Heath outright laughed at that. The California court system sure as hell didn’t find him appealing and his father’s ex-wives out and out hated “every single one of his measly, greedy guts.” Ex-wife number one had a knack for color in her hatred. While ex-wife number two had perfected the uppity sneer to the point that words to the lower half of society had been deemed utterly useless and wasteful for years. She merely pointed at someone that disturbed her upper crust sensibilities and let her kennel of lawyers loose on their sorry asses.

If it wasn’t for his little brother, Heath would have gladly ignored his ex step-moms’ existences altogether. As it was, however, Heath now found himself in a heated custody battle for the eleven year old Clay Kilduff. A brother Heath didn’t even know existed six months ago.

One year ago, the father Heath never knew, either growing up or at any time in his adult life died, leaving Clay behind as his sole heir. Clay’s mother had died when he was just a baby. The boy had grown up in a string of boarding schools with only holiday visits from his father. It wasn’t until six months after learning the news about his father that Heath accidentally learned about Clay. The boy stood to gain a huge inheritance. It was the reason why he was being fought over like hot property by the two very greedy but very rich ex-wives.

Clay couldn’t be allowed to grow up in either woman’s house hold. They both viewed the eleven year old as nothing more than a financial asset, one that some garden boy/thief was trying to strip out of each of their bank accounts. Love and affection were nothing but messy means to the end as far as the ex-wives were concerned. They only brought out these foul emotions when in front of the judge or other influential members of the court. Of course, if the press happened to stop by, they would roll out a particularly stunning version of motherhood for the cameras to capture. They were just that kind of ladies.

Heath’s declarations of affection and concern about his young brother’s well-being were turned around by the ex-wives to appear as nothing more than the machinations of a gold-digger who was seeing his only opportunity to reach the higher echelons of the financial world slip through his grubby fingers.

The “dirty, money-hungry bastard” theme had become an early favorite in the child custody hearing. Less than a week into the court proceedings they were already becoming slimy. Heath didn’t want to drag this disaster out so he played what he thought would be the ace up his sleeve. Heath signed a legal document stating that he would never touch a dime of his brother’s money. He would provide for Clay by his own financial means. Clay’s inheritance would stay completely untouched until, as their father’s will provided until Clay turned twenty-five. The brothers’ lives wouldn’t be rich,  but they would be good,  and Clay would always, always know that he was loved every day of his life.

Unfortunately, Heath’s ace made little impression on the ex-wives or their attorneys. They simply argued that Heath would just be biding his time, earning Clay’s loyalty until the boy reached his financial maturity. Then, the women held, Heath would strike, and Clay would be helpless to turn down the brother who had raised him.

Heath had been struck fairly speechless at that response and had decided that any other grand gestures he’d leave in his back pocket until the bitches weren’t looking. Running off to Mexico with Clay was one of those gestures. It was a very, very last resort and had only entered his head as a crumb of a half-baked, crazy idea. It was there, however. The possibility was there and growing more and more likely after every bad day in court.

There were a lot of days in court to be bad, too.

Last Monday, the hearing had entered its fifth week. Every motion that could be filed was filed in triplicate by the ladies’ squadron of lawyers. Delays were asked for and received with such regularity that Heath was beginning to suspect that the judge had a weekly lunch date set up with each of the attorneys, except Heath’s own, of course.

“They’re gutting you, son. Trying to bleed you dry.” Heath’s lawyer had colorfully confirmed his own suspicions. “Those women know you’ve got a damned limited budget. They’re just going to wait you out until your money well runs dry.” Unfortunately, Heath’s lawyer was more adept at turning all things legal into cowboy-ese than actually winning a case, but he was all Heath could afford.

The ladies’ “gutting” technique was sadly running right on their malevolent schedule. Heath had to work a stupid amount of hours at some really stupid jobs. While he had to be careful to take jobs that would not hurt his professional reputation as a certified landscape architect, he was not beneath vicious amounts of manual labor. He quickly found that by doing most of the “grunt work” of his commissions himself, he was able to save a healthy chunk of the fees. Admittedly, he was pushing his body and his amazing stamina to its outer limits, but he was pulling enough cash in to keep his lawyer happy in cowboy boots and trail mix.

It was worth it.

Clay was worth it.

With that determination alone, Heath Isles made his way down to the shore.

I hope you enjoyed it and that it tickled all of those good buttons inside of you.

Thank you again for reading and taking time to share a little bit of my world. I will now hand the stick over to my OCD and see what craziness this release day will wrought.

Until next time…

Chloe Stowe

http://www.ravenousromance.com/m/m/stripped-asset.php

 


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