Exclusive Excerpt: Taking the Long Way by Max MacGowan


Today is Taking the Long Way's release day! Debut author Max MacGowan dropped by Boy Meets Boy to celebrate the momentous occasion with an exclusive excerpt from their novel. We thank Max for stopping by and leaving this exclusive giftie!


Male escort Rye Bellamy is looking for a way out. Any way out. He’s getting older, and clients are getting more dangerous. If he doesn’t find something better, he knows he won’t survive.

He sees his chance in Marcus Townsend, a functionally blind Army veteran. Marcus, who refuses to accept his condition as immutable, has a shot at seeing a specialist who might be able to help him—but that doctor’s based on the other side of the country.

When Rye and Marcus meet, they realize they can help each other. Marcus can’t drive, but Rye can. Marcus knows what Rye is, but he likes him anyway. In fact, he more than likes him. Driving cross-country with a near stranger is a daunting task, but Rye’s biggest risk is falling for the gentle, stubborn-hearted soldier—and it might already be too late to stop that.

They plan to part ways when they reach their destination, but plans change as the affection between them grows. Now neither wants their journey to end, but continuing means finding a way to bridge the distance between who they were and who they'd like to become.

Book Page: Dreamspinner Press & Goodreads


Exclusive Excerpt:

Marcus held his winning cards up, face out so Rye could see them too. “Twenty-one.”

“Damn.” Rye whistled. “I thought you were kidding me.”

“I never joke about cards. I told you, I can see shapes and colors. Not enough to drive, but enough to know which cards I’m holding when they’re in front of my face.” Marcus tossed his cards down and stood, needing to stretch his legs. “Want some water?”

Rye made a noise of agreement, but other than that, no fuss, no muss. Restful. He took the bottle of water Marcus tossed him without comment, cracking it open peacefully.
Marcus opened his own next to the window. The cool glass felt good on his cheek. He pattered his fingertips against the pane, mimicking the sound of the falling rain.

“You’re really not good at sitting still, are you?” Rye asked.

Marcus looked over his shoulder at Rye, who’d chosen the bed to sit on. His back against the headboard, legs stretched out but ankles neatly crossed. Lounging. Then he took stock of himself, by the window, listening to the rain, one foot tapping quietly, and laughed. “It shows?”

“Little bit,” Rye said, casual as could be. And why not? He’d probably done stranger.
Thinking about that made Marcus more restless. Not because he didn’t like it, or didn’t approve. Everyone had to make a living. Rye wasn’t ashamed. Why should Marcus be?

No, it was something else. He just hadn’t figured it out yet. But he would.

He could feel Rye watching him. “You must have traveled a lot. Army boys all have the same look, like they’ve been places and seen things.”

Marcus let go of the tatty curtain’s edge, intrigued. The way Rye said that—he had the sound of someone who’d always wanted to wander too. “Not that much unless you count West Point as well as the tours I did.”

“West Point?” Rye whistled. “Fancy. What rank were you, a colonel or something?”

“I wish. No, I was a first lieutenant. I thought I’d make a career out of it and maybe go as high as colonel one day, but….”

“I hear you.” Rye let the awkwardness mellow, then asked, “Where were you stationed?”

“Afghanistan. I wish I had seen more of it. It’s a beautiful country, you know? The skies at night are so wide-open.” Marcus could get lost in the memory. “Like if you knew how, you could let go of the earth and go flying up into the stars. So many of them. I loved that.”

“Can you see stars now?” Rye asked. Marcus could feel the kindness and the curiosity in his gaze.

“Not in the city.”

“No one can see them in the city,” Rye said. “What about the country?”

“Haven’t been since then.”

Rye made another of those small, soothing noises. Marcus liked that habit of his. In thanks, he didn’t ask Rye why Rye had never traveled, and hoped Rye liked that about him.

“I went on a road trip once,” Marcus said. The memory had come on him unaware and almost made him laugh. “Me and a couple of high school buddies.”

“Oh yeah?” Rye sat up straighter, crossing his legs Indian style with his elbows propped on his knees. “How old were you?”

“Eighteen—barely, but we figured we were all grown up.” Marcus had forgotten that. He let himself sink into the mental images, marveling at how clear they were. “I still don’t know how we even made it past the city limits. We had a single grocery bag of clean clothes each, and we filled the trunk of my old ’81 Skylark with beer we’d lifted off the back of a truck.”

Rye’s shoulders shook with laughter.

“How we didn’t get arrested, I don’t know that either.” Marcus had warmed to telling the story now and took one of the rickety motel chairs to swing it around and straddle the seat. “But we had such plans. The Grand Canyon. Las Vegas, where we were going to make our fortunes playing blackjack. Maybe see that giant ball of twine everyone talks about. Then keep on going. Drive until we reached the other side of the country, and dive headfirst into the Atlantic.”

He fell quiet. Yeah. He remembered that. How he’d slipped behind the wheel of that old Skylark with his fingertips and his toes almost buzzing with excitement. Like anything—and everything—was possible over the horizon.

“It didn’t matter if we made it,” Marcus said into the silence. “The journey was the point.”

Rye tilted his head, and it wasn’t hard to imagine his quiet smile. “How far did you get?”

“Not very. But that didn’t seem to matter at the time.”

“Because you still had the dream.”

He did understand. “That we did.” That was what had mattered most to Marcus, then and now. The idea that they could keep going. That it was all up to them, and their choices were the only things that defined them.

It’d been a thing of beauty, those few days. And he’d almost forgotten about them.

Rye cleared his throat. When Marcus looked up, the shapes and colors told him Rye had lifted his bottle of water in a toast that would be only a little ironic. “It’s not champagne, but what the hell. To the good times.”

Marcus’s cheeks were already sore from so much unaccustomed smiling, but it was worth it. “Damn right. Past, present, and future.”

“L’chaim.” Rye drank his water, capped the bottle, and set it aside. He moved as he always did, fluidly and with an economy of grace that anyone would call striking.

The long, lean stretch of his body, even indistinct, drew Marcus’s eye too.

That kiss. Marcus touched his lips. He hadn’t expected it, hadn’t asked for it, and for a second, he hadn’t known what was happening. He’d never kissed a man before, and the surprise of it stalled his brain. Only when he closed his eyes had it become real, and then—just as quickly—it’d been over.

Gone, but not forgotten. Marcus could still taste Rye’s mouth. Could feel the light scrape of a day’s worth of stubble, smell the faint hints of coffee and soap. Deep behind his ribs, in the heart of himself, Marcus could feel a sort of warmth that hadn’t yet died down, that’d been born when Rye kissed him.

He’d never even messed around with guys. Maybe he should have. He’d let it drop because Rye clearly wanted him to, but he couldn’t help how it made him think.

What if. What if. What if.

Marcus reluctantly let it go. It’d be a hell of a thing, wouldn’t it? Repaying a new friend for his kindness by treating him like kindness could be bought and paid for. Like he thought Rye owed him, when it was the other way around. He hadn’t enjoyed himself so much in months.

Even given the circumstances. Which reminded him…. “You never did give me a real answer, before.”

“About?”

“How much trouble you’ll be in for us taking that guy down. I’m guessing it’s a lot. Just a hunch.”

Rye waved that off, as Marcus had figured he would. “Don’t worry about it.”

“I can’t help that.” Impulse moved Marcus to sit on the edge of the bed, below where Rye’s feet landed. “Tell me the truth.”

He felt Rye study him, then heard Rye’s quiet sigh. “Marcus…. Okay. Short version is I got fired. As close to fired as someone like me can be.”

Marcus didn’t understand, not completely, but he figured he got the gist.

“They want to teach me a lesson.” Rye tapped his fingertips against his knee in a restless staccato rhythm. “They’d like to make me need their protection enough to come crawling back and beg.”

“And you won’t do that,” Marcus said softly.

Rye bared his teeth. “I’ll crawl to hell and back first.”

Rain beat steadily against the motel room window. Wasn’t as soothing a sound as it had been.

Rye cleared his throat. “Anyway. I’ll figure something out. Man, listen to it come down, would you? Hasn’t lightened up at all.”

“Not as far as I can tell.”

“Into every life, some must fall.” Rye stretched one arm and then the other, working out pops in his elbows. “An optimistic kind of guy like you would probably say the trick is finding an umbrella.”

With anyone else, Marcus knew that would have been the start of their making excuses to go. He steeled himself, ready to argue against it, but—

He was wrong. Though Rye hesitated, he gave himself a light shake and then asked, “Want to try the cards again? We could make it best two out of three, and… well.” He laughed once. “I’m in no hurry if you’re not.”

It wasn’t much of a thing to say, really. It was the way he said it. The way Marcus could feel Rye looking at him. It tipped the balance, and Marcus understood him then. Rye didn’t want this escape from their real worlds to end. No more than Marcus did.

He wanted to break away too.

Now I see.

Now he understood the way Rye made him feel. Like that once-upon-a-time road trip he’d remembered so clearly tonight. Like they were both standing on the very edge of something he couldn’t yet see.

Whether Rye was aware of it or not, he wasn’t the only one.

“We should do it. Pick up and go,” Marcus said. “You and me.”

Rye gave a startled laugh. “What?”

Marcus could see it now, unfolding behind his eyes. “I have a truck. It hasn’t been driven in years, but my cousin’s an auto mechanic, and he’s kept it maintained. If you have a license, it’s all we’d need.”

“Marcus, wait. I can’t keep up. What are you saying?” Rye unfolded his legs and hitched himself closer to the foot of the bed, nearer to Marcus. “Start over.”

“That’s what I’m saying.” Marcus gestured with both hands. “We both want to get away, don’t we?”

“Yeah, but—”

“There’s a doctor in Atlanta I’ve been offered a referral to. Someone who might be able to help me. I had thought there was no way I could make it, but this could work.”

“Why don’t you fly?”

“I can’t take the pressure changes you get on planes at cruising altitude. I get headaches, bad ones.” Marcus waved that impatiently aside. “It could work, Rye. You’ve never traveled, but I’ve got enough experience with that to get us started. We get in the truck, you and me, and hit the road. When we get where we’re going, it’s a blank page for both of us. We can start over.”

He wished he could see Rye’s face clearly. All he could do was guess at the baffled frustration he felt coming off the guy in waves.

Marcus put out one hand and rested it on Rye’s biceps. “You wouldn’t bitch about your problems if I put a gun to your head, and neither would I. But I can read between the lines. You need a fresh start as much as I do. So why not?”

*****

Author Bio:

Max MacGowan is a work in progress. They’ve just turned forty, and are determined not to go gently into that good night. They identify as nonbinary genderqueer, and prefer they/them pronouns. While Max lives in North Carolina, they daydream constantly of Seattle and Portland and all other colorful points West. In the meantime, they’ll satisfy themselves with coffee and trying every recipe that piques their interest on the Food Network. While they can be quiet, friends will tell you all that still water can’t quite hide Max’s quirky personality, Or maybe it’s the ever-present puckish twinkle in the eyes that’s really to blame.

Max has a fantastic time writing male/male romance, and is especially fond of polyamory, found families, love in unexpected places, friends who become lovers, and romantic comedies. They’re owned by two rowdy tomcats who take pains to make sure their owner doesn’t ever get the status confused.

You can find Max online via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and their website.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Max-MacGowan/100009993105655
Twitter: https://twitter.com/maxmacgowan
Tumblr: http://maxmacgowan.tumblr.com/
Website: http://www.maxmacgowan.wordpress.com

You can also send Max an e-mail at max.macgowan.author@gmail.com. They’d love to hear from you!

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