Are you ready for an exclusive excerpt from Ethan Day’s forthcoming Sci-fi/Time Travel Romance novel Meteor Springs from Wilde City Press? Good, because we have one for you right here at The Novel Approach today, and in honor of his visit with us, Ethan’s offering one lucky reader the chance to win an e-copy of any title from His Backlist (excl. Meteor Springs), winner’s choice.
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED
Excerpt: Jonah March sat, perched up high on top of a limestone rock formation that looked down over the hot springs on one side with a view of the mountains and town off in the distance on the other. This was his special place where he came to hide out from the world in general. He began to relax now that he was safely tucked away—completely concealed from view. The entire walk down to the spring, he’d been unable to shake the feeling he was being watched. It unnerved him because he’d never had the sense he was anything other than completely safe in Meteor Springs.
The only way up to his eagle-eye perch was by climbing along the rock’s edge, somewhat precariously, until reaching the cover of the foliage at the top, but Jonah had always been a climber. There was maybe four square feet of flat surface at the top, and one or two wrong steps in either direction could mean serious injury or possible death should he tumble backward into the lagoon or forward down the cliffside several hundred feet into the ravine.
A shaggy-haired imp of a man-child, Jonah was most often described as cute or adorable. He jokingly referred to his look as “scruffy-chic”, much to the dismay of his snooty little sister. His size and short stature had always been a point of contention for him, with one exception—coming here. In this one spot, being small was a bonus, not a curse. As far as he knew, no one else was aware of this spot, and he’d always done his level best to keep it that way.
Not really a problem at the moment, he thought, staring into the steam rising off the hot spring below as if hypnotized. It was the wee hours of the morning and the springs were long closed, so no one was supposed to be here. It was actually the time he most enjoyed coming.
“Perpetual loner to the bitter end,” Jonah muttered under his breath.
His desire to be alone had been the motivation when he found this spot in the first place, one of his many childhood attempts to run away from his overly-protective, albeit hippie parents and Mean-Girl-in-the-making little sister.
Jonah sighed, breathing in the scent of wet pine mixed with oak and hickory from the trees all around him. He watched two raccoons scurrying along the bank below, able to see just enough through the haze from the light posts scattered around the grounds. Ankle-high landscaping lights ran along the stepped walkway that led from the parking lot up the opposite hill. All that ambient light mixed with the mist and fog creating a warm golden hue along the water’s surface that faded to black the farther the eye went into the encroaching forest that surrounded him.
It used to bring Jonah peace, coming here like this. He’d been drawn back to this spot after his parents brought him home halfway through the second semester of his sophomore year at the University in Fayetteville. Disgraced in the aftermath of having his heart brutally broken and trampled on by all-star jock and campus golden boy Billy Walters, he’d been unequipped to cope. Unable to eat and plagued by depression and all-around feelings of loserdom, he’d come home—correction, had been dragged home—to lick his wounds in hopes of finding the strength to return to school in the fall.
That prospect was terrifying at the moment. Of course, one more discussion about his chi, the power of meditation, or centering his chakras with his wing-nut parents might be enough to tip the scales.
“I’d sooner welcome the continued antagonistic mocking of my peers, thank you very much.”
Exactly how does someone go from relative anonymity to seemingly megawatt superstardom before hitting rock bottom as the reviled Quasimodo being chased into the bell tower, all in a matter of mere months?
Billy fucking Walters.
Mixed in amongst the steamy good looks of an underwear model, Billy had the charisma of a Kennedy and the popularity of Lady Gaga. He was, quite literally, king of the campus, the star jock that everyone wanted to be around, and being with him meant that some of that magic rubbed off, transferred onto Jonah while they’d been going out. Jonah had been the envy of guys and girls alike. Billy was bisexual in the true sense of the word: he’d been with men and women and appeared to relish having the world as his sexual oyster. It had made Billy seem even more special at the time, or so he’d thought. Jonah had been chosen over everyone else—the golden ring from Tolkien’s tale.
What he hadn’t realized until long after his phone calls stopped getting answered and his continued “stalking” resulted in threats of restraining orders and the verbal persecution of the entire campus was that his relationship with Billy had never really existed in the way he’d led himself to believe. There had been no inner light that had been somehow switched on allowing Jonah to finally be seen for the first time in his life. He’d merely stumbled into someone else’s spotlight for a little while—before being cast back out into the darkness.
Once he’d been able to recognize that, things got worse. The level of hatred aimed at him from Billy’s teammates and friends became so intense that Jonah was afraid to leave his dorm room. That was when his roommate Tommy finally broke down and called Jonah’s parents.
Even now, his sister’s cruel recommendation from earlier that day continued to bang around inside his head.
“Perhaps next time you’ll try aiming a little lower on the food chain by choosing a boy who isn’t so far out of your league,” Cadence had said before spinning around in a huff when he’d refused to give her the remote to the one TV their parents had finally allowed into the house after years upon years of combined pleading.
He knew she’d said it out of anger, merely an attempt to wound him in some small way. She’d gotten used to not having to share time and her tongue had become sharper…and apparently forked now that she’d almost finished her freshman year in high school.
The hardest bit to swallow was Cadence wasn’t wrong. Billy had been completely out of his league, so far out of his stratosphere that, like any other celestial body that came too close to the sun, Jonah got burned. When he looked back over their nearly month-long relationship, he realized there had never been a relationship at all. Billy hadn’t actually broken any promises—for he’d never made any to begin with. Instead, the instant Billy had shown the slightest interest, Jonah all but lain down before him and offered up his ass as a willing sacrifice to the god.
They’d never even gone on a date, shared a meal, or even had much to talk about, for that matter. The only thing Billy couldn’t seem to get enough of was Jonah’s tight, virgin ass combined with his shameless worship of Billy’s cock.
Eventually Billy did tire of those things, as most guys do when all that’s shared between them are fluids. Jonah had been the fuck of the month and everyone seemed to love him until he no longer was. Despite his denial to the contrary, what truly wrecked Jonah, leaving him stunned and shaken to his very core—he’d never loved Billy.
It had taken him several months to come to that unfortunate conclusion.
The truth was, Jonah didn’t know anything about the man that couldn’t be found in Billy’s official online student profile. Their entire relationship—this incredible love—had only existed inside Jonah’s head, a way for him to perpetuate the addiction to this otherwise imagined fiction.
Jonah had made a complete fool of himself, scrambling after this guy, pleading to be taken back as if he’d had no pride, no self-worth.
Jonah took in a deep breath, attempting to get some much-needed oxygen, while wiping the tear currently running down his cheek. The amount of shame he carried with him was suffocating, and the pressure was stifling. He needed to find a way out from under it, he knew that, but it constantly washed over him in waves. It was killing him, but he couldn’t talk to his parents about it. Jonah was too ashamed. He would be devastated if they ever found out what a shallow person their one and only son turned out to be.
Noticing movement out of the corner of his eye, Jonah watched an old man make his way down the walkway toward the water’s edge, where he stopped and looked around for a precious few moments before stripping down to his birthday suit and wading into the water.
Jonah’s lip curled in protest, trying to purge that visual from his newly scarred brain. He shook his head, imagining the unwelcome vision fading away like the drawing on an Etch-a-Sketch.
If only he could rid himself of all his unwanted memories that way.
The pathetic truth behind everything Jonah had put himself through over the past four months was that, if he’d never loved Billy in the first place, then what he’d really been begging the man for was more time in the spotlight—basking in Billy’s popularity. More scraps of the superficial love, adoration, and envy from those same people who afterward looked at him with disdain, disgust, or in the case of the nicer kids, merely pity.
It was something he’d never realized about himself before, the knowledge of which brought about his general loss of appetite and will to move forward. It turned out the boy who’d been a card-carrying out-and-proud outcast all through high school had no real principles or dignity…in fact, Jonah hadn’t any semblance of the strength of character he’d once clung to as the best part of himself.
It meant the guy he’d envisioned himself to be all his life, prior to Billy, had been a lie—a false image he’d apparently conjured up to mask the shallower version of himself.
Otherwise he’d never have sold himself out for the opportunity to be another man’s plaything.
“Who the hell would want me after knowing all that?” Jonah asked, his brow furrowed as he came out of the pathetic haze he’d been wallowing in, slowly drifting back into reality.
He looked around, trying to spot the old man.
Another geezer tourist who’s heard rumors about the healing properties of the water, no doubt.
It was all part of the eye-rolling urban myth surrounding Meteor Springs. Rumors of witchcraft and UFO sightings aside, the biggest claim to fame perpetuated by the local tourism board of this sleepy Victorian resort town was that the water from the hot springs could fix what ailed you. Though usually handled in a cheesy tongue-and-cheek sort of way, the fact no one who was actually from Meteor Springs ever got sick didn’t exactly hurt.
People died, of course, like old man Malone who’d been the victim of a hit and run not long after Jonah returned home from college. On any given day, however, the only patients to be found in the small medical clinic were usually sick tourists or locals who’d suffered accidents such as scrapes, bruises, falls, broken limbs, or other physical wounds. The people from Meteor Springs—those who had lived here all their lives—did seem to be immune from bacterial and viral illnesses such as colds, flu…even cancer.
Naturally, the water had been tested on multiple occasions over the years and, other than a slightly elevated mineral content, was found to be otherwise ordinary.
Jonah brushed his fingers across the smooth, glossy surface of the amber-colored rock embedded in the earth on which he now sat.
“The meteorites,” he mumbled, resting his head on his knee.
The one thing Meteor Springs had that that nowhere else did, the meteorites were all over the place in this area. They were not of this earth, but were still considered inert. It was illegal to dig them up, though, and like the water, that very thin thread of fact—the stones were from another planet—had been stretched, bringing all the UFO believers to Meteor Springs. It was second only to Roswell in wing-nut-alien-enthusiast tourist traffic. Apparently, the price for never being part of any supposed government cover-up was a second-place finish.
The entire town and surrounding area, including the hot springs and nearby Deer Lake, were listed on the National Register of Historic Places and considered to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in Missouri for lovers of nature, the architectural, and the mystical. It was back in June of 1822 that the meteorites fell from the sky, raining down for hours, scaring the landscape and littering the terrain, including the now infamous hot springs. The anniversary was now celebrated as the town’s founder’s day event.
“Only a few weeks away,” Jonah mumbled to himself, unsure how he felt about the added influx of tourists who’d be flocking in daily by the thousands. “Certainly helps pull more focus off me.”
It already had to an extent since his mother was now gearing up for the crowds by cranking out extra inventory for her store. The extra time alone had been a welcome change from the constant surveillance Jonah had been under for weeks.
His eyes were drawn back to the meteor rock imbedded into the limestone and he furrowed his brow. He blinked several times before what he was seeing actually set in. The rock appeared to be glowing slightly.
Jonah’s gaze drifted along the beach below to where he noticed the old man’s clothes still lying in a heap by the water’s edge. Slowly, Jonah stood up, straining to scan the surface of the water for movement through the steam and fog, trying to recall exactly how much time had gone by. An odd sensation of a cold sweat on this otherwise balmy early summer evening passed over him in waves. Slightly panicked, Jonah began wondering if the old man had ever resurfaced.
He cocked his head to the side as the water began to glow softly as well.
His gaze flitted from the glowing meteor rock at his feet, then back to the old man’s clothes on the beach before landing steadfast along the water’s surface.
The fear and realization of how much trouble he’d be in crept over Jonah as he imagined having to explain what he’d been doing out here in the first place. Nor did he look forward to being grilled by Sheriff Pope as to why he’d sat idly by and allowed one of their precious tourists to drown right under his nose.
He blinked maybe twice before furiously ripping off his clothes, not paying the least bit of attention to where they happened to land. Once he’d stripped down to his underwear, Jonah took several deep breaths for courage, praying the water was deep enough, and dove off the cliff’s edge into the water.
The instant he broke through the surface, the resistance from the warm water quickly brought him to a halt. He peeked one eye open, relieved he hadn’t cracked his head open on the rocks. That’s when he noticed the strange amber glow from the meteorites embedded in the limestone rocks along the bottom of the spring. The meteorites throughout the walls to his right pulsed, then began getting brighter.
He’d heard it could happen, but the occurrence was so rare he’d never actually believed it to be true—yet another old wives’ tale that seemed to be so popular in these parts. As far he knew, there were very few people in town still alive who claimed to have ever witnessed it.
The task at hand snapped back into focus as the light from the meteorites became bright enough to see the body floating about fifteen feet away. Jonah quickly broke the surface once more, taking in another deep gulp of air before diving back under. He was swimming as fast as he could, desperate to reach the man and get him to the surface before it was too late, but something was off with the water.
Please, please, god, don’t let me be too late.
Exerting more energy, Jonah propelled himself through the water that was becoming thicker, heavier, the way his shaving gel felt on his fingers. With his outstretched arm, Jonah felt the tips of his fingers brush the man’s shoulder. He grabbed hold and pulled, spinning the lifeless body around in the water.
The light from the rocks pulsed once more, and Jonah did his best to squelch his own growing fear. He froze, floating there for several moments, stunned to discover a much-younger man. The water was becoming more dense as the intensity of the light grew even brighter. He’d never even seen this guy getting into the water. Fearing the worst, Jonah reached out for him. The man didn’t appear to be alive. Though Jonah was terrified, something seemed to be keeping him there, suspended in the water, unable to pull away.
It was as if the water were changing on a molecular level, becoming difficult to maneuver—more resistant to the force of his limbs. Aware on some level that he was running out of air, Jonah managed to remain calm despite being unable to move any faster. He became mesmerized by how peaceful the stranger seemed, no signs of fear, only the light reflecting off the angles of his handsome face.
Jonah had his fingers outstretched, trying to touch him, straining to reach out for him.
The glow from the stones was getting brighter and the water became warmer, igniting Jonah’s desire to caress the man’s face. So strong was the pull, he felt powerless to do anything other than touch—fingers so close, only centimeters away from those thick, full lips.
The light from the stones reached their brightest as Jonah’s hand grazed the man’s cheek. The lifeless body twitched and those large eyes popped open, causing Jonah to scream and suck the thickened water into his lungs.
Unable to breathe, spit, swallow, Jonah panicked, his uncontrollable coughing allowing more water into his lungs. His throat burned and every muscle went rigid as he struggled to rise to the surface, until finally the world fell silent. As he began to lose consciousness, floating lifelessly, Jonah caught one final glimpse of those dark eyes staring back at him from the mysterious stranger. The light from the meteorites began to dim, and Jonah felt his eyelids flutter before everything went black.