Hi! I’m Kay, and I’d love to share an EXCLUSIVE excerpt from the second installment in my brand new “Landlocked Heart” series, Lyle’s Story. The books tell the story of Ben, an ordinary guy working in an ice-cream parlour in a seaside town, and Lyle, the flamboyant merman who he falls in love with.
If you enjoy the excerpt, please leave a comment here to be in with a chance of winning a $15 voucher for Less Than Three Press.
When Lyle’s merfolk family accuse him of murder, Ben and Lyle’s bond is stretched to the limit. Not only does Lyle seem unsuited to Ben’s dreams of domestic happiness, his magical powers are spinning dangerously out of control. Even Lyle isn’t entirely sure he’s innocent.
With Ben dragged deep into the enchanted processes of merfolk justice, escaping with his life—and getting home to an important job interview—is just the start of the challenge. Uncovering Lyle’s inner truths without destroying their love could be a step too far…
“That’s it, Lyle,” called Jarvis, “you’re killing it!”
Shirtless, somewhat chilly, but beginning to enjoy himself, Lyle draped backward over the breakwater and swished his hair.
“Let’s have more of that gorgeous pout,” coaxed Jarvis, while his camera rolled out a frenetic series of clicks. Lyle obeyed, puckering his lips and fluttering his lashes. A couple of elderly ladies who’d been taking a stroll along the prom had stopped to watch, and they’d been joined by others to form a small but appreciative audience by the railings.
“I wonder if he’s a pop star or model,” said one of the women, and Lyle couldn’t help smirking. He wasn’t too keen on Jarvis’s leering comments, but he liked being admired. Perhaps there were more career options open to him than he’d thought.
“Okay, babe,” said Jarvis. “That’s enough like that. You got decent underwear on, by any chance? That skyscape is fascinating. We could get real arty if I take some sepia shots and if you stripped off another layer.”
Sliding off the breakwater, Lyle baulked. Thickening fog rolled in off the sea, and it looked like it might rain. Besides, taking his top off had seemed harmless, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to share his underwear with anybody other than…
“Lyle, what the hell are you doing?”
Lyle heeded Ben’s angry shout before he spotted him, crunching down the stones towards them. Lyle winced and reached for his t-shirt, slipping it over his head. He wished he’d just gone home, like he promised. The last thing he wanted was to have lied… again. “When do I get paid?” he asked Jarvis.
“We’re not done yet,” said Jarvis. As Ben neared with a face like a gathering storm, he mumbled, “Shit, babe, is that your cranky boyfriend? Call me if you ever want to do better.”
He flicked a business card at Lyle’s chest then started off at a lick across the beach. Realizing the show was over, the crowd also dispelled, which proved a small mercy. Lyle’s anger struck with such violence, he struggled not to lose his faculties and drop his shape-shifting spell.
“How dare you, you smarmy rat-face bollocks!” he screamed after Jarvis, scrunching up the card and hurling it. “You’ll never be half the man Ben is! When do I get my money, you—”
“Shhh, for heaven’s sake!” Ben grabbed Lyle’s arm and spun him around. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” said Lyle, still reeling from his own anger.
“Because I was working alone, Mr. Bertrand told me I could shut down the parlour for a lunch hour. I was popping home to check you were okay. But rather than keeping a low profile, I find you making a ruddy spectacle of yourself with that… that… who the heck was that?”
“It’s the guy who took pictures of my art,” said Lyle, drizzle now plastering his hair to his nose. “He asked me to pose and said he’d pay me. I thought you’d be… oh, I don’t know, pleased maybe?” Ben scrubbed his palms against his stubbly cheeks in such an exaggeratedly weary fashion that Lyle snapped further. “But you’re never bloody pleased, are you? Everything I do it wrong. It’s not like I was flirting with him or anything.”
“Stripping your shirt off isn’t flirting, then? I suppose it’s nothing to a master of seduction like you. How many lovers have you had again? Forty-one, wasn’t it?”
“That’s unfair! You told me you understood.” The rain grew heavier, the clouds pressing low over the beach, and Lyle felt like ripping his hair out. “It was over centuries, anyway, and I was lonely.”
“Oh, poor Lyle, maybe you should’ve been flirting with that photographer.” Ben pinched the bridge of his nose. “I love you, I always will, but sometimes I wonder if I’m what you really need.”
“What do you mean?” Lyle froze, anger quelled by a spasm of fear. “You’re my Benjamin. You broke the curse and you’re gorgeous. Why would I want any other man?”
Ben looked down, rolling a pebble beneath his trainer. “One day I fear you’ll see the truth. I’m not gorgeous, I’m very ordinary, and I can’t give you what you desire. You want a millionaire sugar daddy to buy you a luxury home with a swimming pool and patronize your art.”
“Er, sugar daddy?” Lyle let out a humourless chuckle. “Even if I wanted one, it’s going to be hard for me to find an older man around here. And anyway, he won’t want me when he discovers I’m a merman.”
“Believe me, Lyle, most chaps are going to see tentacles as a bonus feature.” Ben dropped his voice to a whisper, although the only creatures within earshot were some large herring gulls who’d settled on the breakwater. “There’ll be a queue of rich guys who want you—including those who can afford the repairs when you accidentally bring the ceiling down. Somebody out there must be able to keep better tabs on you than me.”
The despair-filled suggestion hit Lyle like a knee to the groin. “Keep tabs on me? You mean I need controlling? Is that what you think I need?”
“No!” Ben’s raw panic suggested he was backtracking fast. “I’m sorry, love. I didn’t mean it like that, uh… oh shit, I…”
“Maybe that is what I need.” Lyle turned his back on poor stammering Ben and gazed out into the fog. “Maybe he’ll tie me up and put me in a cage, treat me like the monster I am. I’m a killer, Benjamin. I can’t control myself, let alone my magic. You should just walk away now.”
Ben stepped to his side and slipped a hand to his waist. “Honey, I—”
“Go!” Lyle’s holler set the gulls on the breakwater flapping and wheeling and crying out. He spiralled to face Ben, the white heat of his anger returning with vengeance, fins ripping forth from both his shoulders, spoiling his shirt. Two more burst out from his upper legs, lacerated the trousers at his thighs. “See? A monster!” He flicked them around, feral. “I killed my own brother, Benjamin, so you’d best get the hell away from me!”