Finally Home Release Party: Excerpt

August 29, 2014

As I mentioned earlier, Finally Home is the sequel to my short story, Krung Thep, City of Angels, where we first met novice backpacker Marco and culinary travel writer Chris in Bangkok, Thailand. Not to spoil too much, but Finally Home picks up shortly after the story left off, with Marco and Chris enjoying their last dinner together in Thailand before they part ways, possibly forever. Here, have a peek:

Thai food

Bangkok, Thailand
July 2011

Marco’s mouth was on fire.

Scratch that. His entire body was on fire, a searing burn radiating from his mouth all the way down to his toes. Buds of sweat bloomed over his already sticky skin, and the lazy fan mounted above the table did nothing to cool him. He stuck his tongue in his glass of beer, hoping the remains of the ice cubes floating inside would soothe it, but the fizz just seemed to aggravate the burn. A tormented whimper escaped Marco’s lips.

Across the scarred Formica table, Chris’s normally tanned face had gone red beneath his shaggy blond hair. However, his shoulders quaked with barely contained laughter rather than pain, his ice blue eyes filled with a mix of compassion and mirth.

“Thith isn’th funneh!” Marco cried. It was hard for him to make himself clear with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, which made Chris laugh all the harder.

“Yes it is!” Chris wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “I warned you, the waitress warned you, but you didn’t listen!”

Marco scowled at Chris through watering eyes. The dish had seemed harmless enough on the menu, just some glass noodles tossed with prawns and minced pork. He hadn’t counted on the strength of the chili-lime dressing dousing it, though. Marco had figured that by now, after two weeks in Thailand, his spice tolerance would have increased enough to graduate from the farang level of spicy to that of the locals. How wrong he’d been.

Chris passed a small plate of cucumber slices toward him. “These should help.”

As Marco crammed two into his mouth, Chris motioned to the waitress. All he had to do was point at the sweating, panting Marco and she nodded in understanding. What seemed like an agonizing amount of time later, she plopped a small plastic bottle of milk on the table. Marco was in too much pain to care how foolish he looked, and he wrenched off the lid in one pull. As the milk bathed his tongue, the burn subsided to a dull, throbbing ache.

“Better?” Chris asked, his blue eyes twinkling with humor.

Marco simply scowled at his travel companion over another slug of the sweetened milk. Embarrassment kicked in as the pain subsided. It would have been one thing if Chris were just some random travel buddy he’d met at a youth hostel, another green twentysomething out seeing the world for the first time. But Christopher J. Springer was a noted culinary travel writer, who made his living sampling what the world’s food carts and hole-in-the-wall joints had to offer. Marco had watched Chris sample chili-studded soups and grilled crickets with equal amounts of gusto. Marco couldn’t even handle a plate of noodles.

“Hey.” Chris’s voice grew suddenly tender, drawing Marco’s gaze away from the offending dish. “It’s okay. We all get burned sometimes.”

Chris reached out a hand and placed it over Marco’s with a squeeze. Marco’s heart skipped a beat, the solid warmth of Chris’s calloused fingers soothing away some of his shame. That was the other, more important reason Marco had been so eager to show Chris he’d absorbed some of his adventurous spirit: Chris was the first real lover that Marco had ever had.

Chris had appeared out of the blue three days after Marco had arrived in Bangkok, materializing like some khaki-clad guardian angel to guide Marco through the convoluted streets, sois and canals of the city. It had only taken them a day to fall into bed together, though it had taken a bit longer to figure out that they made a good traveling pair. Now, after ten days of trekking side by side across Thailand, Marco was having a hard time imagining what life was going to be like once he boarded his plane back to Los Angeles tomorrow.

“Really, it’s okay!” Chris said. “You don’t have to look so sad, Marco. We’ll order something else.”

Marco tried to shake off his melancholy and offered Chris a weak smile. “Can we get that one dish—‘the catfish exploded’?” He remembered the crispy-sweet seafood salad he’d fallen in love with during their two days in the beach town of Hua Hin. Best of all, it was flavorful, yet barely spicy.

Yam pla dook foo?” The Thai syllables rolled off Chris’s tongue with enviable ease. “If they have it.”

Chris gave Marco a smile that spread a different type of heat through him. As Chris waved down the server to order, Marco couldn’t help but study him, struck again by how he’d managed to attract such an intensely good-looking traveling companion. Chris’s physique was wiry and toned from years of constant travel, not too built, not too thin. He had a smile that stood out like pearls against sand on his lean, tanned face, which time had only begun to line. Marco’s gaze drifted from Chris’s face, down the long column of his throat, to the wide triangle of bare flesh peeking out from his unbuttoned collar.

As Marco watched, Chris’s fingers fluttered unconsciously against the spot, quick as a hummingbird, before falling back to the table. Marco felt a pang, as he always did when he saw Chris’s tic. When Marco first met Chris, that spot had been decorated by a worn silver St. Christopher’s medal, a talisman of protection that had been with him on all his travels. Now it hung around Marco’s neck, a testament to the bond they had forged in such a short time. Marco wondered if he should return it to Chris before he left, seeing as it had been so precious to Chris, but part of him didn’t want to let it go. After tomorrow, it would be all he would have to remember Chris by.

While they waited for their dish, Marco pulled his smartphone out of his pocket and snapped a picture of the offending noodles. Within a minute, he’d posted the picture to his Facebook account, the caption reading: “I think I just ate noodles made out of the sun.” When he finished, he noticed Chris watching him with equal parts bemusement and disdain.

“You know your phone bill is going to be huge when you get back home,” Chris said.

“Maybe, but it’s worth it. I’ll have a record of my day-to-day trip.”

“A travel journal would work just as well. Cheaper, too.”

“Nowhere near as fun,” Marco scoffed. His phone made a cheerful bleep. His older sister, Angela, had already commented, most likely from her office computer, seeing as it was around 11:00 a.m. back home in Culver City.

“You kids and your constant need to share everything,” Chris griped cheerfully. He leaned back in his seat, gnawing on a piece of cucumber. “Back in my day, we used postcards and e-mails to keep in touch.”

“Okay, Grandpa,” Marco snorted. “You’re only nine years older than me!”

“Might as well be twenty, the way things are speeding up these days.”

Chris’s tone was light, but there was a new crease across his brow. This wasn’t the first time their age difference had come up, though the gap didn’t bother Marco in the slightest. In fact, he liked that Chris was older, even if it meant having arguments like this again and again.

“You know, for a travel writer, you’re an awful Luddite,” Marco said.

Chris shrugged. “I have my laptop—”

“That thing is older than I am!”

“And I have my camera. You can’t tell me that little phone takes better pictures than my Nikon D3.”

“No,” Marco conceded, “but at least I can upload them to the web right away.”

“See, I don’t need that.” Chris took a sip of his beer. “Why bother putting things online for free when you can find a magazine or a website to pay you for it?”

“Because sometimes it’s not about the money.”

Marco was getting exasperated. They’d had this argument almost every day. If only Chris would understand how using social media could expose him to new readers and boost sales of his photography books and travel guides. Sometimes Marco thought Chris deliberately didn’t want recognition, despite his awards and high-profile articles. At least Chris had finally taken Marco up on his offer to let him help by recording video footage of Chris’s street-food encounters. It wasn’t high quality, but Marco figured it would help give Chris reference materials, if nothing else.

“Social media is about being connected,” Marco continued, “sharing your experiences.”

“Who would I want to stay connected to?” Chris rolled his eyes in irritation. “The marketing manager pretending to be Anthony Bourdain on his Facebook? My roommate from college? Anyone I want to stay connected with, I do, on my own terms. I don’t need a face-twit-blog-whatever.”

“What about me?” It came out before Marco could stop himself. “After tomorrow how are you going to stay connected to me?”

Finally Marco had asked the question they’d both been avoiding. Marco knew he’d been a rare exception to Chris’s usual rule of not mixing business and pleasure, a lover who had become a travel companion and assistant. The color drained from Chris’s face, and his cool gaze slipped away from Marco to study his half-empty beer glass. For a long moment, the only sounds at their table were the clink of melting ice in their metal bucket and the whir of the cheap plastic fan above.

“All right,” Chris said slowly, “I’ll set up a Facebook account.”

“Really?” Marco’s eyes went wide. “You serious?”

“Maybe you’re right.” It seemed like it physically pained Chris to admit it, which made Marco smile. “It wouldn’t kill me.”

A little side note, if I may, the picture at the top of the page is a meal very similar to the one Chris and Marco shared. The “catfish exploded” dish is on the upper left, and beside it are the “noodles made out of the sun.”

How about you? Have you ever had a dish so spicy it made you cry?

Finally Home
When novice backpacker Marco and seasoned travel writer Chris parted ways in Bangkok, they thought it was the end of their summer romance. Three months later, though, a change of assignment reunites Chris and Marco, and the pair embarks on an adventure greater than ten days trekking through Thailand—forming a real relationship amid family drama, coming out fears, career woes, and personal demons.

Now available from Dreamspinner Press in eBook and Paperback!

Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway

Finally Home blog tour banner

Join me on my blog tour (August 29-September 12) and enter to win an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise!

5 Responses to “Finally Home Release Party: Excerpt”

  1. Andrea M says:

    I like your writing style – good flow.
    I’ve never had a super hot dish but when my son was younger, he ate hot peppers like they were candy. Just watching him was almost enough to make my eyes water but he loved them – adult now but still loves them and anything else super hot.

  2. Trix says:

    I live in an area where there’s a lot of spicy food (I have to be more careful than I used to, since it irritates my skin even though I love it), but sometimes I get knocked for a loop. There was some hot sauce at what I figured was an innocuous taqueria that made my face burn for three days afterward…

  3. Ardent Ereader says:

    I love spicy food especially spicy Thai food. However, there has to be a good balance, too many Thai hot peppers can overwhelm the taste of the food.

  4. Andrea: Thank you for your kind words! I can’t imagine my son eating peppers like that, but he’s young yet, so who knows!

    Trix: Ouch! Surprise spicy salsa is no fun.

    Ardent: I’m with you on that. For me, it’s Indian food that can be too spicy to taste sometimes. I remember a curry that tasted only of burning!

  5. Thanks Brianfor a fantastic tip, also non-developers like my family should be able to yank this specific away from: )This is very important for a multi-international web-site in relation to WEB OPTIMIZATION.

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