For the next however many weeks, I'm going to showcase my earlier books, starting with an excerpt from SEA CHANGE.
If you like slow burn friends to lovers, this could be the one for you. It's set on O'ahu in the Hawaiian Islands, and features a Brit veterinarian and a retired American Coast Guard, their friends, and various critters around a wildlife rescue charity...
Injured on duty and no longer fit for active service, soon-to-be-ex-Coast Guard Bran Kaulana is drifting, filling his days helping out at the Wai Ola Rescue Center, one of Honolulu's wildlife charities. He's working with the new veterinary, Steve Lucas, a man drawn to O'ahu by his fascination with dolphins.
As their friendship slowly deepens, the two men are caught up in the mystery of injured seals and dolphins, a ruthless gang of smugglers and a not so dormant undersea lava vent.
With a plate of pork from the kalua pig, leaf-wrapped bundles of steamed chicken and of fish, small mounds of poi and thin-sliced sweet potato, Steve retreated to the far side of the now blazing fire pit and sat cross-legged on the sand. This was the third Sea View-Wai Ola luau he had attended, and he wouldn't willingly give up the chance to be on this private beach with the people who had so quickly become close friends. His first had been the one thrown to welcome him the night before his first working day, a somewhat mind-blowing experience. Somehow he'd had the time of his life and managed to remain sober enough not to be hung over the following morning.
What one Harry Lucas would have made of it, he couldn't begin to guess. He had a stormy relationship with his father at the best of times. Every so often it had escalated into outright verbal conflict, and as usual, those clashes were caused by Steve's inability to stay long enough in one place to build any kind of a career.
Eight years ago Steve had graduated from Nottingham University with his degree, and started work in his father's veterinary practice. After less than two years he'd applied for and got an interview for the job in Bradenton, Florida, and left England behind him. Harry hadn't spoken to him for nearly a year. That rift healed eventually, thanks to his mother's skillful diplomacy, only to be reopened when he took the Miami post. That, too, had been smoothed over with time and distance, until the Sea View advert caught Steve's attention.
To leave the prestigious Marine Research Institute for a veterinary practice in a city, even if the city was the state capital of the Hawaiian Islands, was the height of lunacy as far as his father was concerned. It was merely a replay of Steve's previous fickleness. Immature pie-in-the-sky posturing, was only part of his loud denunciation when Steve had phoned to tell them. Heated words had been spoken on both sides of the Atlantic and the result was no more phone calls, and no Christmas trip home last year. He'd kept in contact with his mother, brother and sister via letters and emails, and told himself the break with his father did not hurt.
Over the last six months Helen Lucas had worked to form a truce of sorts between her pigheaded husband and equally stubborn youngest son, and had come a long way towards success. Steve's letters had helped. They had started out as short, curt notes, and rapidly escalated to pages of small details, long descriptions of the island and tales about his work and his friends. They'd also had the ongoing sagas of the more eccentric patrons of the Clinic and the Rescue Center.
Steve found he was laughing, and that Bran was approaching with a couple of cans and a quizzical expression.
"Share the joke?" Bran asked, offering one of the cans and folding long legs to sit beside him.
"Thanks," Steve said. "You're a mind-reader. No joke exactly, just imagining my Dad here. The next time I write I'm going to invite the family for a visit and not stop nagging until they agree." Over the months he'd emailed photos as well, pictures of work colleagues and friends, breath-taking scenery, and a couple of himself, looking sun-bronzed and fit, even if he said so himself. "Alan, Vickie and Mum would come like a shot, but getting Dad out of the country would be like trying to move the Statue of Liberty with one hand tied behind your back. But he needs to experience this. I don't know whether he'd let his hair down and join in, or pin Ken in a corner and talk comparative veterinarian practices at him."
"Or both?" Bran suggested, a smile growing. A smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. Although he put on a cheerful face there was always an aura of sadness about him. Steve knew that Bran had lost his lover in a horrific accident scarcely a year ago, and how their friends could think Bran was ready to move on so soon was beyond Steve's comprehension.
"That's distinctly possible," Steve said. "It doesn't do to make assumptions, after all. For instance, when Connie told me about the Coast Guard officer who would use his pickup or boat as a taxi service whenever the Center needed it, and would be doing odd jobs around the place while he recovered from an injury, I had a picture in my head of a gnarled old sea-salt with tattoos, white hair and beard. And possibly a parrot."
No matter that Bran had that shadow of sorrow about him, his laugh came easily enough. "I've got the tattoos," he said. "Maybe I'll think about the beard sometime and the white will come soon enough. But a parrot? Give me a break. Didn't that African Grey nearly take your finger off last week?"
"He did, the mangy sod." Steve eyed him critically. "No," he said. "Can't see the beard somehow. White hair, maybe. But not the beard." He remembered the tattoos, hidden now under Bran's shirt. There was a complicated tribal design over the muscled curve of his right upper arm and shoulder, a stylized dolphin shape almost hidden in the heavy black pattern. Another abstract of dark angles and curves stretched across his shoulder blades. That, too, was a dolphin, though to Steve it had looked more like a shark. The first time he'd seen them was two months ago. Bran was working shirtless in the sun, trimming back a rampant moonflower vine, and his coppery skin was glossy with sweat. Heat had started to curl low in Steve's belly, reminding him that once he had not been quite as hetero as he was these days, and he had to smother an inappropriate impulse to trace the maze of black lines on Bran's flesh with his fingertips. Or his tongue. "How about an eye patch?" Steve said quickly. "You'll look like a pirate. Talking of pirates, I hear you've upgraded the Nautilus."