My latest novel, Dutch Treat was just released by Dreamspinner Press and I thought I'd give you an excerpt. I hope you like it. I spent 5 months working in the Netherlands and it was both an amazing and lonely experience. I used many of my experiences in this story, but I didn't come home with a dark, sexy European.
When Michael accepts a company assignment overseas, he doesn't count on being dumped by his boyfriend on the way to the airport. The breakup is a bad omen--Michael's time in Europe would be one long misery of loneliness and corporate backbiting if it weren’t for his friendship with his coworker, Stephan.
When he finds out Stephan wants more than friendship, Michael is torn. Even if he chooses to risk his one bright relationship in Europe for a chance at love, when this project is over, isn't his only choice to say goodbye?
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“Is this your first visit to the Netherlands?” Johan asked. Both Hans and Johan appeared older than Michael, but both men were handsome. They had trim bodies and slightly graying dark hair, and eyes that looked at one another the way Michael hoped someone would one day look at him.
“This is my first visit to Europe,” Michael answered, pulling himself out of his examination of the handsome men. “I’m here for almost six months working on a project, and Stephan asked if I’d like to come along today.” He couldn’t help glancing at his host. “I haven’t seen anything yet.” Michael tried to keep the excitement out of his voice, not wanting to appear like some wide-eyed kid, but he doubted he was very successful.
“It is funny,” Hans observed from where he sat across from Michael, “but we’d never come to Bruges or most any place else if it wasn’t for visitors. We went to the South of France a few years ago to relax on the beach, and we’ve been to Tenerife and Malta, but otherwise we stay close to home.” Johan leaned close to Hans, saying something in his lover’s ear. Hans smiled before nudging Johan with his shoulder. “Bruges is a wonderful place to fall in love,” Hans said, looking at both Stephan and Michael.
“For goodness’ sake,” Stephan said softly before turning to Michael. “Hans has been trying to, uh, fix me up, for a while now.” The conversation continued, and Michael found himself staring out the window for a while, watching as the scenery steadily passed by the windows. Cities gave way to towns and farms and then turned back into city as they approached Rotterdam. They had to change trains and soon they were off again. “We’re about to cross into Belgium,” Stephan explained, and a short time later, they stopped to change engines and then they were on their way.
Everyone continued talking as they continued on, once again changing trains in Antwerp for a smaller train that wound through the Belgian countryside. “Things are different in Belgium,” Stephan explained. “The country is larger and has fewer people, so it’s wilder, more natural, I guess.” They passed through some small towns, and Michael noticed that Peter was equally enthralled by the scenery. The other guys let them marvel at what passed the windows.
“Bruges is coming up soon,” Hans explained as the train pulled away from a stop. “We should get ready to exit.” They gathered their things, not that there was much, and when the train stopped, they all got off and wandered through the old train station toward the exit. As soon as they got outside, Michael wished he’d brought a heavier jacket. The sun was shining, but the breeze was cool and went through his clothes. “The town center is this direction, and we’ll have to walk a short way,” Hans instructed.
“We should stop for lunch first,” Johan commented from the back of the group, and Hans laughed, saying something about his partner always being hungry.
Michael did his best to keep up with the group, but every time they turned a corner he saw something he’d never seen before: cathedrals, stores in buildings that looked like they had been there forever, and when they came to the square, Michael stopped in his tracks, looking all around him at the decorated buildings. “Michael, are you all right?” Stephan asked when he stopped for what had to be the millionth time.
“I’m fine. I just want to see everything.”
“You will, I promise. We’re going to have lunch, and then I’ll take you all around, and we can take a boat tour of the canals.” Michael nodded and shivered slightly when the wind blew through the square. “Are you cold?” Stephan asked, and without waiting, he opened the backpack he’d been carrying and pulled out a sweatshirt. “You can wear this if you want,” Stephan told him.
“Won’t you need it?” Michael asked, not wanting Stephan to be cold because he’d given him his sweatshirt.
“Probably not. This is perfect outdoor weather,” Stephan replied, handing Michael the sweatshirt. Michael pulled it over his head, grateful for the warmth and Stephan’s thoughtfulness.
“Would everyone like to sit outside?” Johan asked, walking toward a restaurant on the square. They all agreed. Johan spoke with the maître d’, and they were seated immediately at a table right on the square under an awning. Menus were presented, and Michael was relieved to see they were in both Dutch and English, although he forgot about it completely as he watched horse-drawn carriages pass and heard bells ringing the hour across the square.
“Michael,” Stephan said quietly from next to him, “do you know what you want?”
Michael had no idea, but took a stab and ordered the schnitzel when it was his turn to order. Food began to appear, and the conversation turned to the day’s activities. Peter wanted to go shopping, so after lunch Hans and Johan were going to take Peter walking down the shopping streets. Michael wanted to see things, so he and Stephan were going off on their own.
The food arrived, and Michael took a tentative bite before eating with relish. “It is good, yes?” Stephan asked with a smile.
Michael put down his fork, swallowing before answering, “It’s wonderful. I think I found a new favorite food.” They all chuckled lightly and continued eating and talking. When they were finished, they paid the bill and left the table, agreeing to meet back at the restaurant later that afternoon.
“Come,” Stephan told him., “I have something very special to show you.” Stephan had already begun walking, and Michael followed him out of the square and along a busy street to a huge church. “This cathedral is very important,” Stephan told him and walked toward the entrance. Michael paid the small entrance fee, and they stepped inside the massive building and toward an altar where people seemed to be congregating, snapping pictures. “That small Madonna and child,” Stephan explained, and Michael nodded, “is the only work by Michelangelo outside Italy.”
Michael gaped open-mouthed at the small marble sculpture. He could only get so close, but even from the distance everyone was required to stay back, he could see amazing details in the small work. “I heard about things like this, but never expected to actually see them.” He’d seen pictures in books of famous artworks, but to get to see one for real was amazing. “Is there more?”
“There’s lots more,” Stephan assured him as they moved away and wandered through the church, with its massive altars and large sculptures of saints, centuries old. “Do you like it?”
“Yes,” Michael answered, his head craned back looking up toward the ceiling towering overhead. “It’s beautiful.”