Today, I’m stealing a spot for myself. Turning Wood was published last year. It’s a short Christmas story about Otho Newcomer and Mason Dager and it was the story that started the whole Up North series.
I hadn’t planned on it being part of a series, but for some reason, I feel right at home in the woods around Nortown and Northfield. When I needed a doctor, doctor Ash, who’s crushing on Andre in the Nortown books, popped up. It wasn’t my intentions to put him there, but I did. Then I figured, since I’d already started, I might as well continue.
All Up North stories are standalone, more so than the Nortown stories. The only thing linking the books is the location.
Coolest of all is that Turning Woods is part of the 2020 Top Ten Gay Romance anthology from JMS Books that will be released on December 30th.
Looking up from his work, he saw something move—a man walking out on the ice on the river. Was he insane? The currents were too strong there; the ice wasn’t thick enough to walk on. It had closed over yesterday when the temperature had dropped, but it broke open now and then, a constant struggle between the current and the ice.
Before Otho’s brain caught up with what he was doing, he’d dropped the gouge on the ground and ran out from under the carport.
“Hey!” He waved his arms, but the man didn’t look in his direction. “Hey! You, hello!” He ran, his heavy boots sinking into the snow. He jumped over the snowdrift on the other side of the narrow gravel road passing by his cabin. The reeds buried underneath the snow tangled around his ankles, but he kept going.
“Hey, you!” He waved more, but the man didn’t so much as glance in his direction. Shit. When Otho stepped onto the ice, he slowed down. This close to the land it shouldn’t be any danger, but Otho feared he weighed more than the man. It was a grown man, though, not some teen who didn’t know better.
“Come on, man! Come back here!” Otho took one slow step after the other, and in that moment, the man turned around to face him. Otho blew out a breath and waved.
The sound of the ice breaking shouldn’t have been so loud, but it was. It was as if it was moaning a protest before opening its jaws to swallow the man. Otho’s heart stopped. “No!”
For half a second, he stood immobilized, then he dug into his pocket for his phone and called the emergency service center. He slid down on his stomach and crawled over the ice while waiting for the call to connect.
A sharp intake of air was all he heard from the man as he hurried the best he could. A woman talking in a clear, calm voice answered.
“A man has gone through the ice of the river.” Otho almost hung up before adding, “By River Cove on Lakeside Lane in Snowmelt.” He disconnected. He probably should have said more, but the man was freezing to death or drowning. With the pulse drumming in his ears, he pictured the man sliding in under the ice. His breath froze, and he pushed himself forward.
The edge of the hole came closer. The black water looked alive, angry, and threatening as it tried to pull the man under. Only his head and part of his shoulders remained above the surface. His skin was white, not pale, white. His lips blue, his eyes wide, and his body stiff. Otho dragged himself forward, spreading his weight over as large an area as possible.
“Easy.” He was talking to himself as much as to the man. “Can you grab the edge?”
He still had about four feet to go to where the water lapped at the ice, but he didn’t know how much closer he dared move. The man’s wide eyes latched on to his, and Otho forced a calm expression to his face. “Good.”
The man had done nothing, but Otho figured he couldn’t go wrong with praise. “Now can you try to swim?”
He didn’t move, did nothing but stare at Otho.
“Come closer and try to put your elbows on the ice.”
The man continued to stare and his dark lashes were turning whiter by the second. Damn, he needed out of the cold. Otho crawled closer, listening to the ice as he did. His heart was hammering in his throat. If he went through the ice, he would curse himself his entire afterlife—if there was one.
For Otho Newcomer, the small village of Snowmelt is a haven from his old life. If he’s not exactly a changed man, he at least hopes to keep his distance from all those easy romances, and the inevitable heartache and disappointment that have always followed.
Mason Dager is an idiot. His ex has cleared out his bank account, sold his car and gotten him thrown out of his apartment. And he has no one to blame but himself. But what better way to celebrate a new chapter in his life—one that includes homelessness and the humiliation of telling his family they were right all along—than to spend Christmas at a swanky winter resort like River Cove? It’s already paid for after all.
When a very drunk Mason makes yet another dumb decision, Otho comes to the rescue, throwing the two men together during the most magical time of the year.
What should be the wrong choice for both of them, might be exactly what they need. They’ll just have to survive a nosy best friend, an asshole of an ex, and the scars of their pasts.