Tags: free fiction, Whitewater
Well, it’s Christmas Day here in the Southern Hemisphere, so I’d like to wish all of you who celebrate a merry Christmas, and a joyful festive season to those who don’t. Here’s to a happy and healthy time for all of us.
I have a little something for you, a glimpse into the Christmas of Luke and Cam from Whitewater. I hope you enjoy it.
It started on the first of December, with the noise of something hitting the landing with what could only be described as a whump. Cam stood at the fridge with an unopened beer bottle in his hand and stared at the front door. After a moment, there was the jangle of metal and the scrape of a key in the lock. The door swung open, Luke’s keys swinging from the door knob, and after another moment Luke appeared, red-faced and sweating, and carrying what seemed like twenty shopping bags on each arm.
“What the hell is all that?”
“Dried fruit,” Luke said breathlessly, dumping all the bags along the wall with a grunt. “About a million kilos of it. I think I cut off the circulation in my arms.”
He came towards Cam. He was wearing shorts, and Cam could see a graze on his left shin, bright red against the purpling bruise around it. Luke kissed him, a quick press of lips, and Cam put an arm around him, Luke pressing his sweaty face into the crook of Cam’s neck when Cam tightened the embrace. “You’ve got a bruise on your shin.”
“Tripped up the stairs with my million kilos of fruit,” Luke said, his voice muffled by Cam’s neck. “I’ve got a case of brandy in the car. Want to help me carry it?”
The brandy wasn’t for drinking, unfortunately.
Cam knew that December was a big baking month for Luke, because he’d witnessed it the year before. But they hadn’t been living together then, so the reality of the million kilos of fruit, the sacks of flour, stacks of butter and mountains of six different kinds of sugar in a relatively small space was a little confronting. Never mind the canning equipment and cute decorative jars and bottles for sauces and flavoured vodka. But not being able to move properly around his flat had one upside: getting to watch Luke work. He was just so fucking good at all of it, and he got this look on his face when he was right into whatever he was doing that made Cam want to haul him onto the nearest flat surface and have his way with him. It was a difficult urge to resist.
It was also difficult to resist dried cherries that had been soaked in brandy for a few days. The sound of Luke’s hand smacking down on his knuckles was almost more shocking than the sting of it, and Cam snatched his hand back. “Ow! Just a couple!”
“It was a couple yesterday, and the day before. Keep out of them.” Luke pointed at him, eyebrows drawn, the look in his eyes stern. The effect was ruined just a little by the fact he had a piece of shortbread shaped like a Christmas tree tucked into his palm, and a slight smear of royal icing on his finger. “If I end up not having enough cherries for all of the cakes you’ll be in the doghouse, make no mistake.”
Cam grinned at him, and waggled his eyebrows. “At least then you’ll catch up on your sleep.”
Luke rolled his eyes, glancing over to the living room area before going back to his shortbread, a slight blush on his cheeks and a small smile on his face. Behind him, Cam heard some sniggering, but he ignored it. “Anyway, seems to me that you’d make this whole Christmas thing easier for yourself if you just bought people DVDs. Or socks.”
“Oh, hey, enough of that,” Terry said, right next to his ear, just before a palm slapped the back of his head. “Don’t go putting ideas into the boy’s head. I need more spicy tomato chutney. I’ll die without it.”
“And his strawberry and lime vodka is the nectar of the gods. He didn’t make that one last year. You just wait till you try it.” Aidan leaned across him to filtch one of the shortbreads before following Terry to the door, lifting a hand to wave goodbye. “See you round, mates.”
“Can’t help but notice you didn’t slap his hand,” Cam said as the door closed behind them.
Luke’s slight smile was back. “There are plenty of biscuits at the moment. And he’s a lot less annoying than you.” He put his piping bag down and stepped back from the bench, taking a deep breath. “Right. They’re done, and this round of cakes still has an hour to go.” He paused, picking up a small glass bowl next to his elbow, idly stirring the substance in the bottom of it. “Made too much ganache for the macarons,” he said blandly, but when he looked at Cam, his eyes were practically smouldering. Cam’s stomach flipped. “What do you think we could do with it?” His gaze flicked downwards, then travelled slowly up Cam’s chest. “It’d be a shame for it to go to waste.”
Cam reckoned he would have made a great fireman, if the speed with which he carried Luke—and the ganache—to the bedroom was any indication at all.
Luke and his friends always did their Christmas on the twenty-fourth, before they scattered to Sydney’s four winds to see family on Christmas day. Cam took over the cooking for that, planning a tapas-style menu that could for the most part be prepared ahead and served cold to suit the heat of the December days and avoid turning the flat into a hot box. They sat amongst piles of wrapping paper and gifts, eating with their fingers and drinking strawberry and lime vodka and egg nog that was more brandy than nog. A Southerly came up in the afternoon and blew some of the heat out of the day, and when the sun went down they left the lights off so the Christmas beetles wouldn’t batter themselves to death against the screen door trying to get in. Luke’s eyes shone in the glow of the fairy lights on the tree, his smile the brightest thing in the room, as far as Cam was concerned.
The more Luke drank, the fuzzier around the edges he got, and the more he leaned on Cam for support. By the time the others showed themselves out he was tucked up in the vee of Cam’s legs as Cam sat with his back against the lounge, his left leg crooked and supporting Luke’s lower back as Luke curled up with his right shoulder against Cam’s chest and his face tucked into Cam’s neck. Luke had his legs curled up as tightly as they would go, and Cam’s right hand rested on his knee, holding Luke’s left hand, their fingers intertwined. Cam stroked Luke’s side with his left hand over and over; Luke smelled like strawberries and cinnamon and nutmeg, and when he sighed, like brandy, and Cam breathed it all in, letting himself relax and bask in Luke’s warmth, even while his arse was slowly going numb against the hard floor. If asked he probably would have said Luke was asleep, but eventually Luke shifted slightly, the scruff of his beard rough against Cam’s collarbone as he said softly, “Midnight. It’s Christmas day. Merry Christmas, Cam.”
Cam smiled and put a hand up into Luke’s hair, tugging his face up for a kiss. “Merry Christmas, Luke.”
Tags: dreamspinner, Whitewater
Two things are quite important in Whitewater: food, and Coogee Beach.
If you bought the paperback of the anthology, you will know already that there’s a glossary in it, that explains some Aussie terms, and on my part, provides some information on the Australian-specific food mentioned in Whitewater. I am quite keen for people to be able to picture the food that Luke makes accurately, and to that end I’ll reproduce here the explanations and recipe links that are in the glossary in the paperback version.
Biscuit – cookie.
Flat white – coffee, with milk. No froth or other embellishments (cocoa powder, cinnamon, etc).
Sausage roll – minced meat (typically beef and pork, but sometimes chicken), herbs and onion wrapped in puff pastry. An example of a recipe is here.
Scone – a small bread-like cake. Can be sweet or savoury. Wikipedia entry for scones.
Tomato sauce – the Australian equivalent of ketchup.
Vanilla slice – a firm vanilla custard between puff pastry sheets, typically decorated with either a simple water and icing sugar-based icing or a dusting of icing sugar. An example of a recipe is here.
Now I would really, really like a sausage roll. NOM.
Also, in Australian, thongs = flip flops. 🙂
Now we get to Coogee beach. In a spectacular case of good timing, I happened to be going back to Sydney at a time when I had just finished the first draft of Whitewater, so I decided to visit all the locations featured in the book and take some photos, which turned out to be incredibly useful, particularly when it came to Wylie’s Baths.
I posted an album of some of the photos I took that day on Facebook, which is here if anyone wants to take a look at it. It just so happened to be one of those beautiful Sydney spring days that Luke thinks about on the day that he and Cam go to Wylie’s Baths for the first time. What it wasn’t, though, was a good surfing day. Cam and Luke wouldn’t have gotten much out of a surf that day. 🙂
Tags: dreamspinner, novella, Whitewater
I’ve mentioned before that Whitewater is part of an anthology of novellas set in Australia and written by Australian authors: myself, LJ LaBarthe, Isabelle Rowan, RJ Astruc and Robyn Walker. The novellas are available as separate ebooks or together in a print edition. If you’d like to take a gander at the other stories, you can find them all on their very own page at Dreamspinner and All Romance ebooks. I hope you enjoy them!
Tags: anthology, dreamspinner, under the southern cross, Whitewater
My next book is almost here! It’s called Whitewater, it’s a novella, and it’s being released as a stand-alone ebook and in print as part of the Under the Southern Cross anthology, which is an anthology of five stories set in Australia written by Australian authors – myself, LJ LaBarthe, Isabelle Rowan, RJ Astruc and Robyn Walker.
More about the anthology as a whole in a minute. First I just want to share the absolutely beautiful cover art, done by the amazing Anne Cain, and the blurb for Whitewater.
Tags: anthology, dreamspinner, Whitewater
I’m pleased to announce that in addition to Metal Heart, which will be released January/February, I’ll have another book coming out early-ish next year, from Dreamspinner Press once again. It’s a novella called Whitewater, and it’s about a baker called Luke Henderson and a chef called Cameron Brown, and what they get up to on and around Coogee Beach in Sydney. It’ll be released as an ebook, and also in paperback as part of the anthology Under the Southern Cross, where it will join other stories by LJ LaBarthe, Isabelle Rowan, RJ Astruc and Robyn Walker.
Whitewater means quite a lot to me, for several reasons. It’ll see the light of day in March next year, and I hope people enjoy it.