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I swear, I thought it was Wednesday today. Really. Today's featured excerpt is from Through the Mist, available in the amazing Wishing on a Blue Star Anthology.

In this compilation, short stories, poems, and anecdotes combined with excerpts from author Patric Michael's blog and a few entertaining, educational group posts reveal, and celebrate, the man who has touched so many hearts and minds.

I am truly proud and honored to have been a small part of this anthology. There's an amazing assortment of authors and stories ahead for the reader. And, of course, plenty of Patric himself.

Free download link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2157


Excerpt:

“Mark, will you wait up?” Jason Lomax glared after the swiftly disappearing back of his boyfriend. He tilted his head skyward and squeezed his water bottle, gulping the lukewarm liquid before pressing the cap down and shoving the plastic container into its clip. He didn‘t care what any newscaster had to say about El Niño weather patterns or global warming. The end of September in landscape scant miles away from Michigan‘s Upper Peninsula shouldn‘t be this warm.

Jason lowered the zipper at the neck of his breathable, wicking, supposedly temperature-controlling shirt and tightened the strap of his helmet. With a muttered exclamation, he shoved his feet back into the toe clips on his rented bike and pushed off, weaving for a second or two before he reacquired his balance and started off.

“This will be something we can do together,” he mimicked Mark‘s words. The same ones used to cajole him into the trip. “A chance for us to get away and reconnect.” Jason snorted. So far, the only thing to connect had been his sore ass to this bicycle seat while they pedaled around Mackinaw City and the surrounding area.

A car passed him, dirt and gravel kicked up in its wake. Jason lowered his head and listened to the pinging of the small stones against the fiberglass of his helmet. Thank God for sunglasses. And for the comfortable amenities of the hotel room, especially the Jacuzzi tub patiently waiting for their return.

Mark had wanted to try camping, tent and all. Jason shuddered at the thought. He could do rustic with the best of them, and build a mean campfire, thank you very much. But sometimes, he and Mark differed on levels of necessary comfort, and in his mind, the hot tub came high on the “necessary” list. The trip might have been a complete rainout instead of the unexpected heat wave, and a wet tent wasn‘t Jason‘s idea of a good time.

He‘d admit the changing colors gave a spectacular show. Jason admired the vast array of red, gold, and fading green foliage surrounding him, fallen leaves covering the ground and crushed beneath his wheels. No wonder this area proudly displayed signs staking claim to being part of the designated Official State Color Tour in the fall.

Jason groaned, his thighs flexing as he painfully powered his way up the hill to the end of the street and the actual end of the road he traveled. Once stopped, he pushed escaping strands of sweat-soaked hair back under his helmet. God only knew the horrific display of hat head he‘d sport when he removed the offending item of protection; his dark mop resembled a Brillo pad on the best of days.

He stared at the two directions available to him; both were dirt and gravel that promised nothing but effort he didn‘t want to expend before he read the sign. McGulpin Lighthouse was to his right, and the Headlands to his left. Jason wondered just what the heck a headlands was. Mark would know. This entire trip was a feast for his history and obscure-fact-loving soul, but Mark had taken off ahead of him.

A spray of gravel interrupted his directional debate as Mark‘s bike skidded to a stop beside him. Jason pushed again at his misbehaving hair and took a small measure of satisfaction in the gasping breaths his boyfriend needed to suck in before he spoke.

“The lighthouse is a little further up the road.” Mark beamed a smile toward Jason. A wide, happy grin lit his face with excitement as he rocked his body, the wheels of his bicycle carving out a narrow trail in the dirt. “Cars are in the lot, so I think we can walk through.”

“Great,” Jason muttered under his breath. “Just what I wanted to do.” He frowned, Mark‘s smile dimmed, and Jason knew the whole unhappy cycle of their relationship for the last several months had started once again. He couldn‘t blame Mark. If anything, Jason was the one who had failed to speak up when Mark first laid out his plans for the trip. Yes, he wished Mark had included him in the planning, but other than the tent, Jason had gone along with every suggestion, eager to make amends for the overtime hours he had spent on his last case. Definitely too little and too late to complain now.

Mark took off ahead of him, and Jason let his eyes focus on the sparse frame accented by the close-fitting material of his gear. Jason appreciated Mark‘s long lanky body: a natural athlete perched on the small bicycle seat. Totally unlike Jason, who was thick and blocky atop the vinyl saddle, unstable and unable to control the two wheels beneath him.

He liked cycling in theory. He and Mark made a point of watching the Tour de France every year. He just never felt comfortable on a bike once he put theory into practice. Mark assured him the ease would come with time, but Jason wondered how much longer he had to wait.

Jason glanced ahead of Mark and realized they had ridden up to another electrical power station in the middle of their nowhere. He couldn‘t help but be fascinated by the assortment of metal twisted into strange shapes and curves no one ever seemed to understand the purpose of.

He accepted the principles of electricity, the movement of the unseen current along copper wire, and the way the condensers and coils worked to step down the voltage for safe usage in the modern world. But he never got past the how. Who had been the first to figure this out? How had they put it into practice? His inner pragmatist didn‘t buy Ben Franklin with his key and homemade kite in the middle of a storm.

“We‘re almost there.” Mark paused by the power station and grinned when Jason caught up to him. Mark held his sunglasses in his hand, face reddened from the influx of oxygenated blood. Jason couldn‘t help the little zing that ran through him. Mark shrugged off Jason‘s compliments, swearing his dark brown hair and matching eyes were average in appearance, but something about him had caught Jason‘s attention their first meeting and hadn‘t let go of him since.

This time, they pedaled off in tandem, Mark naming the wildflowers fighting for life in the cracked asphalt of the shoulder: chicory with blue, daisy-like blossoms and the ever-present Queen Anne‘s lace. Jason relaxed, enjoying Mark‘s unexpected attention. The brush framing the road grew taller, trees and weeds combining to form a thick barrier. They passed a dirt side street on the left and Mark slowed his pace, Jason instinctively following suit.

A large sign loomed on the right, announcing their destination as the brush became less dense, and Jason caught his first glimpse of a faded, yellow brick building and attached tower set back from the road. Three cars and a RV sat parked in the gravel lot. Jason came to a stop beside them. He shifted off his seat as his legs stretched thankfully down to the ground to secure his balance, mindful as always of the solid bar some sadistic soul had decided was a necessity on a man‘s bicycle.

“Look at that,” Mark said excitedly as he hopped off and secured his bike in the waiting rack before taking off his helmet. Jason gingerly swung his leg over his own, and wheeled it to rest beside Mark‘s, uncomfortable as always as his first, few movements shifted the padding in his shorts. Oh, yeah. Fun times.

“Wasn‘t the building set too far back from the water to do any good?” Jason couldn‘t help but question. Every picture he had always seen of lighthouses showed them perched on some rocky coast.

“This place is amazing.” Ignoring Jason, Mark rested his hands on hips as he surveyed the aged exterior, his eyes shining with excitement. “So full of history. Built in 1868, the lantern was first lit in 1869 and burned every night until deactivated in 1906.”

“What happened then?” Jason asked, intrigued despite himself by Mark‘s excited recitation. His initial impression of the old lighthouse grounds proved disappointing. The grass, dried and browned by heat and lack of moisture. Someone had tried planting petunias along the side, but the plants had grown leggy, the blossoms small.

“The building was used as a private residence,” Mark responded as Jason pulled off his helmet and shoved his hair off his face. “Then, in 2008, Emmet County purchased the lighthouse and started the restoration.”

“Pretty cool,” Jason conceded. “It must have been fun to grow up here as a kid.” He followed Mark‘s example, dangling his helmet from the bike‘s handlebars, and walked across the gravel toward the side entrance.

“I know, right?” Mark‘s face brightened at Jason‘s contribution. He slid his arm around Jason‘s waist and pulled him close.

“So, the county turned the structure into a museum?” Jason asked as they reached the building. A small placard announced the hours of operation, and Jason couldn‘t resist petting the ginger-striped cat curled up in a large planting pot beside the step.

“Kind of.” Mark opened the wooden, screened door for Jason. “Nothing here right now but photographic displays. Brian told me the full restoration would take years, but we shouldn‘t miss the chance to climb to the top of the tower.”

Jason‘s good humor quickly evaporated. “Brian?” he questioned, as his body stiffened. He heard the stilted tone of his voice but couldn‘t help it. The two of them had met Brian on the second night of their stay while strolling a portion of the three-mile Historical Pathway laid out around the city. Mark insisted on stopping and reading every display marker they passed, and when Jason had taken advantage of Mark‘s distraction to use the restroom, Brian had walked up and introduced himself.

Brian had acknowledged Jason‘s reappearance with a rueful smile, but continued to direct his attention and historical tidbits toward Mark. Turned out the two of them were both history teachers, and they eagerly compared classroom notes and teaching techniques while Jason, a transactional lawyer by trade, trailed along behind, his unhappiness increasing with every step.

“Didn‘t I tell you?” Mark said, apparently oblivious to Jason‘s change in mood. “He‘s staying in our hotel. I ran across him when you were in the shower and I went to get us some bagels. He told me about the lighthouse and gave me directions.”