American Niall Monroe returns to Hong Kong—a city he calls home—after being away for eight years. He hopes to finally find happiness with Peter Wei, his closeted lover of fourteen years, but is disappointed to find Peter has been put in an untenable position. He must marry and produce the long-awaited grandchild or get cut off by his millionaire father.
Gerard Sun, a talented artist, bursts back into Niall’s life after a one-night stand in Las Vegas. Circumstances force the men to deal with their attraction, especially when Niall’s firm considers Gerard to help promote tourism in the People’s Republic of China.
James, Peter’s younger brother, has been Niall’s best friend since they were schoolmates. He encourages Niall to ditch his brother and move on. He encourages Niall to ditch his brother until he finds out Niall is thinking of dating Gerard Sun, a talented artist.
Coming home seemed like a great idea until it wasn’t. Niall finds himself a stranger in a familiar landscape, slammed on multiple fronts by broken promises, jealousy, intrigue, unimaginable deceit, and undercurrents of evil. As his dreams quickly turn into nightmares, Niall reaches out to new allies for support.
“I’ve heard rumors you’re in denial,” the guy from Chatty Man commented.
Leaning forward, I waited to hear Adam Lambert’s response. I’d been ignoring the interview so far, but now I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the flat-screen, not after hearing that accusation.
Warily, the superstar asked, “About what?”
“Being a ging.”
Adam smiled, showing off those gorgeous white teeth. “I’m not in denial, just quiet about it.”
“What was it like for you at school being a ginger?” Alan Carr asked.
“Unremarkable. You know,” the stud confided in a mock whisper. “We’re said to have a lot of secret powers.”
“We can go for hours,” Adam replied, bursting into laughter.
“Yeah, right,” I slurred, flipping him the bird. Disgusted, I got off the couch and went to refill my drink. Super powers, my ass. If that were true, then how come the guy dyed his hair black? Because it’s a myth, I concluded scornfully. Like the correlation between fingers and dick sizes.
“A face without freckles is like a night without stars,” someone in the audience commented.
God…give me a fucking break.
My knee-jerk reaction to that old cliché was another shot of tequila. I was on day two of a monumental bender. Thank God, the weekend was almost over. Tomorrow, I’d be back to normal—innovative, focused, and coolly competent—despite this setback. Dealing with clients in my current state of mind wasn’t an option and could end up a financial disaster. A large part of my success as a top-tier exec at one of the most successful advertising agencies in the world was my inscrutable façade. It would have been the kiss of death to show any sort of weakness among Hong Kong’s movers and shakers. The majority of my clients were from the PRC. They asked to work with me, because I was born and raised here. Even though I looked like your average American, I spoke fluent Mandarin and Cantonese and knew the drill. Emotions, good or bad, were viewed as a character flaw. Men who allowed feelings to interfere with business were usually dumped like yesterday’s pork bun.
I tried making out my reflection in the glass cabinets above the bar and only saw a reddish blur where my head was supposed to be.
“If you’ve dated a redhead, raise your glass, if not…raise your standards.”
What in the ever-loving fuck was this guy yammering about? I turned my attention back to the TV screen and muttered, “Piss off!”
To my surprise, Adam looked me right in the eyes, with a sly grin plastered on his gorgeous face, and purred, “Make me.”
Blinking rapidly, I stared at the flat-screen. Was I hallucinating or what? Had the overpriced tequila finally destroyed my few remaining brain cells?
I staggered toward the sofa and threw myself backward, hoping the cushions would catch me, so I wouldn’t end up on the floor with a mild concussion. They did, thankfully. Never losing sight of the flat-screen, I took another shot of the aged Patrón and shuddered as it went down my gullet.
TV Adam snickered.
“Are you making fun of me?” I grumbled.
“You started it, honey.”
Grabbing the remote, I pointed it at the TV and made stupid pew-pew noises, hoping it would blow up. The room was plunged into darkness, and the abrupt silence was a much-needed reprieve. I waited a few minutes to see if Adam would goad me again, but nothing happened. All I heard was the soft hum of the central air. Good. I could chalk this up to an overactive imagination and some wormy tequila.
When I woke up on Monday morning, daylight seeped in through the vertical blinds. The noises in my head had been replaced by a relentless pulse of pain. I gritted my teeth, forcing myself to focus on my goals. Aspirin, shower, change, meet with the client, close the deal, and send them on their merry way. Now was not the time to dwell on my love life or lack thereof. Glancing at the digital clock on the nightstand, I saw that I had two hours to get my shit together and walk into my meeting with a studied look that oozed calm and confidence. It would be a stretch given my current condition, but I knew I’d pull this off. I had to. There was no one else on staff who could deal with Minister Xiang Guo. She was a formidable negotiator and set in her ways. It was my job to open her eyes and help her understand that, if the Chinese hoped to improve their status abroad and lure in more tourists, they needed a serious makeover.
I sat up and swung my legs off the bed, immediately regretting the sudden move. My head was spinning and I cradled it between my hands, hoping that would help. When the room stopped tilting, I inched my way toward the bathroom, grabbing on to the wall whenever I found myself lurching. My earlier assessment would need a hard edit. This hangover was going to be a bitch. I reached for the bottle of aspirin, shook two in my hand, and used the shower water to chase them down. Under the stinging spray of oscillating heads, I recalled how this binge had started.
On Friday evening, I’d stood at the bar, nursing my first drink and scanning the crowd. Despite the extravagant makeover, Pandora was the same dance club I’d walked into eight years ago. Time had stood still for the people in this room. Faces were unrecognizable, but the shirtless dry humping was the same. Everyone was looking to get laid and that included me.
You’d think two thousand nine hundred and twenty-one days would be enough time to shed youthful fantasies, but that wasn’t always the case. Take Peter Wei for instance. He was the same recalcitrant party boy I’d left behind, only this time around, he owned the dance club and, as such, had first pick of the pathetic selection scattered around the room.
The man I had hoped to share my life with hadn’t had an epiphany while I’d been away pursuing my business degree at Wharton. I’d given him the space he’d requested, all the time in the world to rethink his priorities, but judging by his actions so far, it had been for nothing. He had remained in a state of suspended animation, unwilling to accept the fact that he was thirty-five years old.
Most of our friends had settled into committed relationships. Why couldn’t Peter understand that it was just a natural progression, a move in the right direction? Instead, he saw monogamy as a ball and chain. Fantasizing about our grand reunion had only fueled my hopes. They were dashed as soon as I walked into his office and caught him boning a guy over his desk. He only greeted me after he’d shot his load and sent the latest boy toy scurrying away. I didn’t stick around to listen to his bullshit excuses but made my way back to the bar to drown my sorrows with shots.
Suddenly, there was a shift in everyone’s body language. I felt it myself so I turned my attention away from Peter—now at my elbow, apologizing—to the man who’d walked out onto the dance floor. I heard a bystander asking if anyone recognized the new arrival. The question was muffled by the roaring in my ears as adrenaline raced through my veins like a controlled substance.
I recognized Gerard immediately. He was in his usual getup: tight paint-splotched jeans, sleeveless black T, and a backward-facing ball cap keeping his shaggy chin-length hair out of his face. He rolled his shoulders as he scanned the room. The movement made the colorful dragon tats on both arms come to life. I couldn’t take my eyes off the amazing body art he’d designed, a tribute to his zodiac sign. The scales of the magnificent creatures seemed to move of their own accord as they climbed up his sinewy arms and wrapped around his neck. Honey-colored eyes zeroed in on mine, and I responded the way I always had in Gerard’s presence. A hot spark of desire sent blood rushing to my groin. Men were pushing each other aside, trying to get at him. Even Peter moved forward with interest.
I predicted the outcome of this chase with deadly precision as Peter made his move, cruising Gerard with his usual audacity, expecting him to just bend to his will the way all the others had.
Instead, Gerard ignored him and moved deeper into the crowd. Peter followed and was back after several minutes, looking pissed.