Hi guys! We have Jay Hogan stopping by today with her new release Digging Deep, we have a great new excerpt and a brilliant $20 Amazon GC giveaway so check out the excerpt and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
A Digging Deep Story
Drake Park has a complicated life. As a gay male midwife, he’s used to raising eyebrows. Add Crohn’s disease and things get interesting—or not, considering the sad state of his love life. Experience has taught Drake that most men are fair-weather sailors when it comes to handling his condition—gone for dust when things get rough. Staying healthy is a full-time job without adding in any heartbreak, so a little loneliness is a small price to pay. If he says it often enough he might even believe it. One thing for sure, the cop who arrested him isn’t about to change that.
Caleb Ashton does not have a complicated life. A senior detective with the Whangarei Police Department, he likes his job and is good at it. He works hard and plays hard, happy to enjoy as many men as he can while he’s still young enough—or at least he was. These days he feels adrift for the first time in his life, and the only thing sparking his interest—a certain prickly young midwife.
But can Drake find enough faith to risk opening his heart again? And does Caleb have what it takes to cope with the challenges Drake’s condition presents?
“THIS LAND is ours, not for mines! This land is ours, not for mines! This land is ours, not for mines!”
Arms weary, voice hoarse, I furiously pumped my end of the cherry-red anti-mining banner above our heads as our protest chants echoed through my head like damn church bells, banging from one side of my skull to the other, and scrambling all sensible thought in the process. Thank Christ the Whangarei Council Chambers, the culmination of our march, was just fifty meters away.
If I hadn’t been a founding committee member, walking front and centre at the head of the march, I would’ve been tempted to run screaming for my sanity over an hour ago. But I’d be damned if I was gonna stand by and let the government sell pristine fucking conservation land out from under our feet without a hell of a fight.
This marked the first of a number of Northland protests all set to culminate in a massive rally along Auckland’s Queen Street in two weeks’ time. Local support hadn’t been a given, as the region suffered above average unemployment, something the mining companies had used to sweeten their application. But an estimated three thousand protesters had given up their sunny spring Saturday afternoon to show their democratic displeasure. Bingo. More than enough to get the voting bean counters worried.
And so they should be. Those sublime hectares of green gorgeousness belonged to the people of New Zealand. Northland was a subtropical paradise with a wealth of untapped agricultural land on offer, ripe for organics and international specialty markets. Why the hell the government wasn’t putting its support behind developing that potential rather than allowing what lay beneath it to be stripped and devastating the environment in the process, who fucking knew? And what was wrong with the damn regional councils for even considering giving the crazy proposal legs? Well, they’d sure as fuck backed the wrong voting horse there, and the numbers in this particular rally proved it.
The march slowed its pace as we hit the cordoned off square directly outside the council chambers, and relief barrelled through me. All we had to do now was form an orderly seated blockade, listen to Nick’s pitch—the guy could sell ice to Antarctica—and wait to be politely moved on by the police. Dead simple.
Or it should have been. A sudden twinge in my gut dried the next mantra midchant in my throat. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. A second stabbing pain followed by a third close on its heels, and I nearly dropped the fucking banner. Goddamn traitorous body. The march immediately forgotten, I frantically stripped the retail signs on either side of the road in a desperate hunt for a bathroom. Oh, come on, surely… what was wrong with this city?
Standing in front of the Chambers with microphone in hand, Nick was directing everyone to come forward and be seated. The committee was to rally behind him with our banner held high. Not. Gonna. Happen. Not for me, at least.
Providing of course I could find a… The Council Chambers. Yes.
“Sorry, gotta run,” I said to Carol marching next to me.
She jerked her head around. “Drake, you okay?”
“Fine. I’ll be back.” I shoved my banner handle into her hands and took off for the council building at a run, garnering some strange looks in the process. Those who recognised me were no doubt wondering what the fuck I was doing legging it just as the speeches were about to start, but I ignored the turned heads and questioning glances, taking the stairs two at a time and pushing through the glass front door into the lobby.
Once inside, I ignored the two men at the front desk who’d stopped what they were doing to stare at me—I was running like an idiot, after all—and paused just long enough to clock the necessary sign before heading off down a corridor to my left. One of the men yelled at me but I was too damn intent on finding that bathroom. In terms of priorities, mine rated light years ahead of whatever the fuck had got up his arse.
I beat a speedy track along the dim, narrow passageway with its framed photos of old downtown Whangarei until a junction with two further corridors had my head yo-yoing. Christ, what a rabbit warren. Could a government building make it any more difficult to find a fucking toilet?
I opened and closed a few doors until finally… there. An accessibility sign. Fuck it. If a guy in a wheelchair turned up, I’d wear their righteous anger. Accessible was exactly what I needed at this point, and I was more than willing to argue the fact with any idiot that dared cross my path.
I burst into the bathroom and slammed the door shut. A half second later, the handle jiggled, and someone threw their fist against the wood, but I was already in position, jeans around my ankles and a sigh of relief on my lips. Thank Christ the council cleaning budget ran to a decent-quality toilet paper in a dispenser that actually allowed you to grab more than just an ant-size allocation in one go. As far as bathrooms went, this rated a solid eight out of ten and I’d seen more than the average Joe blow in my life.
I jumped. What? Like hell. “Hold your bloody horses. I’ll be out in a tick.”
The banging continued.
What the fuck was wrong with this dude?
“Police. Unlock the door and vacate the toilet now.” The voice bounced around the small tiled room like a rifle shot.
The police? What the…? And who the hell says vacate? “Um, I’m a little busy in here, if you catch my drift? Is it an emergency?”
The handle went still. “No. Unlock the door, sir.”
“I can’t reach the damn door. It’s a wheelchair toilet.”
“The building is closed to the public. You shouldn’t be inside, sir.”
Oh for fuck’s sake. “Okay. I’m sorry. But if it’s not an emergency and seeing as I am here, do you think I might be allowed to finish, please? I have a… condition. I really need to use this toilet.”
“Regardless, you need to stop and come out, sir.”
Really? Even if he was a cop, the guy didn’t need to be a dick about it. “Easier said than done, officer. Look, I’ll come out, no problem, but trust me on this, you want to let me finish.”
Two beats of silence.
“Make it quick. And then come out slowly, with your hands up.”
Thank Christ. But the word quick and toilet in the same sentence just didn’t fly in my universe, so the guy would have to wait. And he did. More fool him. I’d long ago learned not to give a flying fuck about people listening to me do my thing. They could just deal. Crohn’s was a bitch of a mistress and it wasn’t always pretty. Ten minutes, a fuck-ton of cramping, and two more impatient reminders from Policeman Pat along the way, and I was finally done… I hoped. I really never knew.
Rinsing my hands, I felt a million times better, bar the spiked anchor chain I felt was currently resident in my arse. A hazardous waste warning on the door wouldn’t have gone amiss either. Through the window in the cramped room, Vince amped up the crowd. He was in fine form. For a retired accountant, Vince hardly fitted the meek and bespectacled model. Read: silver fox hotty in its place, not that I was looking. Daddies weren’t my thing.
I threw my hands under the air drier, bemoaning the sad truth that pretty much nothing was my “thing” these days. Still, I had a job I loved, a great family, wonderful friends, blah, blah, blah. The fact that the dryness of my love life would give the Kalahari a run for its money and win was neither here nor there. Mostly not here… or there… actually. I sighed and mentally slapped myself. Further down that track lay a damn good self-pitying sulk, which wasn’t without merit, but which I currently had no time for.
Cue the dickhead outside the door with another ear-shattering fist thump that damn near sent me through the roof.
Son of a bitch. “All right, all right. Calm the farm.”
Reassured I was safe for an hour or so… fingers crossed, I opened the door, threw my hands skyward in dramatic fashion—yes, yes, I know—and stepped into the corridor looking for the arsehole with the ham fist, more than ready to give him a piece of my mind. As it turned out, all I managed was a humiliating squeak as he pushed off the wall beside the door and had my wrist strung up behind me and my face planted against the wood before I could utter a single word, or even catch a glimpse of his face.
“Don’t move.” His tone was distinctly pissy.
Too bad. I was distinctly pissy myself. “Look, I’m sorry I kept you waiting, but there’s no need for all this.”
“You should have come out when requested, sir.”
The clean scent of citrus mixed with the heady aroma of coffee drifted as the cop shifted, and… God, I missed coffee.
“Oh, come on. I was on the damn toilet. What was I supposed to do?” Ugh. Stop antagonising the nice policeman, dear. Delivered in my mother’s voice, so yeah, it might’ve been a pattern.
He held me against the wall. “What were you looking for?”
“You looked in several offices before you came in here. We watched you on CTV. What were you doing?”
“Looking for the damn toilet.”
The cop drew breath and pushed me harder into the wall, pretty much guaranteeing I’d carry the imprint of the wood grain on my cheek for some time after. Total dickhead. And I was about to tell him just that when steel circled one wrist and then the other. Handcuffs? Holy shit. Had this guy lost his fucking mind?
“No, I have not.”
Okay, I apparently said that last bit out loud.
“You ignored a police directive… sir. That puts you under arrest for trespass. Now spread your legs.”
I did. And no, it wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked to do that.
“You have the right…”
I listened to the man read me my rights barely holding back a hysterical laugh. This had motored way past funny and straight on to ridiculous, but I reluctantly did as I was told.
“Trespass? You’re kidding me, right? For using a damn public toilet… in the public foyer of a council building. A council being an elected public body, elected by people such as myself? I have every right to be here.”
He finished patting me down, having removed my wallet and left me feeling like I’d fallen down the rabbit hole into an episode of Criminal Minds.
“Of course I’m bloody clear.”
“You need to watch your language, sir. Now if you would kindly step back from the wall and turn around.”
I did as he said, and every snarky pissy comment about to let loose from my lips dried to dust, because—holy shit… wow—six-foot-three, top-to-toe thirtysomething deliciousness. Hard-muscled, lean and athletic, the guy had dancing hazel eyes and dark brown hair shaved tight to his ears, but wild on top—long enough to thread my fingers through in a firm grip… and yeah, hadn’t that thought escalated at light speed?
Sporting a heavy stubble for two in the afternoon, he had a strong square jaw and a cute-as-fuck chocolate beauty spot high on his right cheekbone that I wanted to get all kinds of up close and personal with. That is if I did that sort of thing… which I didn’t… anymore.
Dressed in tight black chinos that showed off an impressive set of thighs, not that I was looking, and with an equally fitted black T-shirt sporting the word Police stretched over a wide chest, he wore an adorable scowl and presented a mouthwatering package of delicious irritation. I might have swallowed my tongue if it weren’t already rolled out panting on the damn floor. It occurred to me I should reel that sucker in before I made a fool of myself, but yeah, the man’s loitering smirk confirmed I’d already been busted. Jerk. My pissed-off quotient rose exponentially. Ogling a dickhead and being caught ogling are two entirely different things, especially when said dickhead was a cop, did I mention that bit?
He thumbed through my wallet, pulling out my driver’s licence and looking between me and a piece of paper he’d dragged out of his pocket. And then between me and the photo. A frown creased his brow.
I shrugged. “It was a bad day.” It was. I’d been a week post my last hospitalisation when that sucker was taken. I looked like an escaped nutcase with a severe case of anorexia. I’d seen more of the driver’s licencing restroom facilities that day than I had the nice lady behind the counter.
He grunted. “Close enough, Duck-Young Park?” He quirked a curious brow.
“Korean,” I explained. “Friends call me Drake.”
He smiled. It was a good look on him. No, it wasn’t.
I sent him a scowl. “You can call me Mr Park.”
He frowned… again. And yes, I know. I really shouldn’t be let out without my minder. I schooled my expression into something closer to disdain and popped a hip, the sum total of which would probably have had more impact had I not been handcuffed. I should just cooperate and be nice, but I was so over needing to explain myself every damn time my body pulled a number on me. No one gives a diabetic the third degree about needing their insulin. Well, toilets are my insulin. Actually, that sounded a lot better in my head than out of my mouth.
Officer Pain-in-the-Arse side-eyed the various slogan badges pinned to my shirt, from Save the Whales to Protect the Sun Bears and everything weird and wonderful in between, and frowned. I wore them more as an amusing talking point than a serious statement, not that he knew that. I’m sure next to tall, black, and sexy, I came across like a right nutter, and yeah, I might have been regretting that particular life choice at this present moment. I would’ve straightened my shirt and brushed off my trousers except… yeah, handcuffs.
“You’ll find my business card in there as well.”
The man read and pocketed it. “A midwife, huh?”
“Yes, a midwife. I doubt it’s a career that tops the list of ‘people most likely to cause trouble,’ I’m thinking.”
Well, Mr Park, that might be so, but it appears you are on my list.” He waved his piece of paper in the air before tucking it back in his pocket.
“The activists list. You are one of the organisers of the march, right?”
“Then that makes you a person of interest to us, today. Just a precaution, of course.”
“Of course. Look, would you mind explaining what this is all about?” I pushed. “Last I heard, it wasn’t against the law to use the council bathrooms.” I raked my gaze over his body because… well, damn. It’s not like I had anything to lose, right? May as well enjoy the show. “Plus you’re not in uniform, so I’ll need to see some ID.”
He rolled his eyes, delved in his pocket, and held his ID open for me to read. Detective Caleb Ashton. Detective? That explained the no uniform, but what the hell was a detective doing patrolling the bathrooms of the council buildings? My gaze flicked up and caught his… focussed distinctly lower than my face. What the…? Was he checking me out? But then he looked up without a trace of guilt, and I guessed not.
“Satisfied?” he asked flatly.
Not even remotely. I sniffed. “Demoted to lurking around toilets, detective? Whatever did you do?”
He stared at me a minute, and I swore he was about to laugh. His cheeks twitched and that siren beauty spot sang out my name. It was all I could do not to reach up and run a finger across it.
Finally he shook his head. “Are you always this charming?”
I snorted. “No. Sometimes I can even be a bit sarcastic. Shocker, right?”
This time he did laugh and it was an effort not to join him. His whole face lit up and those sparkling eyes… holy shit… they needed to come with a caution. Have been known to cause bats to take off without warning in your chest.
“I’ll consider myself put on notice,” he said with a grin. “Now I’ll need you to step back inside the bathroom just for a minute, while I check.” He pushed me none too softly through the open door and face up against the inside wall, still keeping a hand on my cuffs, no doubt searching for the half a kilo of Semtex I apparently must have left sitting on the toilet lid, just waiting to be found. Moron.
“Well if nothing else, the unpleasant bouquet should confirm my story,” I grumbled.
He said nothing.
The disconcerting skip in my chest alerted me to the alarming notion that being held in place and ordered around had suddenly developed an appeal I had hitherto been unaware of. God, I was pathetic or maybe simply desperate. I hadn’t been touched by another man in… nope, sooo not going there.
“Okay,” he said. “Nothing untoward.”
Untoward? Really? Who said that shit?
I sniffed haughtily, which was harder than you’d imagine to accomplish with my face still smooshed against the wall. “And what exactly did you expect to find? Not that I don’t like being hauled into a bathroom as much as the next guy, given the right context… but I mean, we hardly know each other.” Yeah, yeah, I know.
But honestly? I was the least likely saboteur I knew. Hell, knowing my luck I’d get an attack of cramps or diarrhoea halfway through the operation. Not to mention I couldn’t attack anything without a packed lunch of my safe food products, or be given any target that didn’t have an available restroom within a hundred meters… with good quality toilet paper, and I needed to be home by ten to get a proper night’s sleep, so yeah.
I’d almost swear he chuckled before manhandling me back into the corridor. He studied me with a curious expression, and a sly smile stole over his face. “Is that so? Sorry to disappoint.”
Hmm. Not exactly the response I expected. The man threw off mostly straight alpha vibes, all except for that one look. I stared shamelessly until… there… a hint of a pink on his cheeks. Huh. Who’d have guessed?
Still, the guy was a jerk. “Disappointment would imply some interest to begin with,” I countered peevishly. “Can I go now?”
The jab hit home. His gaze narrowed and his mouth tightened into a fine line.
When will I learn?
He said, “Do you recall I read you your rights?”
“And?” Vaguely uneasy.
“Meaning, you are still under arrest.”
Fuck. My eye roll was epic. “Well, un-arrest me, then, please?”
He shook his head. “Not possible. We are under a directive today. And as a person of interest, you’ll need to accompany me to the station. You did trespass, after all.”
He steered me back through the corridor and up to his mate at the front desk.
“I’m taking him in,” he told the man. “It’s nearly done here. I’ll see you back at the station.”
My eyes drifted to the detective’s watch. Goddammit. We’d wasted twenty minutes already. I needed to calm down or the mild unmentionable explosion I’d just suffered was gonna look like a walk in the English countryside. But holy crap, I was so sick of this. Why today?
“Check my wallet and you’ll find my health card,” I snapped. Yeah, I was getting that whole calm thing sorted.
He turned to face me. “What?”
“My card. It says I suffer from a bowel condition that means I sometimes need quick access to a toilet.” God, I hated having to medically eviscerate myself in front of strangers like this.
He searched the wallet and pulled out my Crohn’s and colitis NZ urgent toilet card
I blew out a sigh. “See. Now can I go?”
The look he sent wasn’t reassuring. “No.”
Caleb What’s-His-Face suppressed a charming grin, which didn’t help matters. “The building is closed. There was a sign. You’re trespassing. And your name is on the list. I have to take you in. It’s my job.”
“The Closed sign by the entrance. The one intended to keep all protesters out. That sign.” He pointed to the door I’d entered by, and the clear-as-fucking-day sign propped right next to it.
Well, shit. “Oh. I didn’t see it.”
“Not my problem.”
“If you’ll just let me explain—”
“I have no choice in the matter,” he interrupted.
“But I really needed to—”
“You can explain everything back at the station. We can check with your doctor there. But I can’t just take your word for it. You get that, right? It’s a public safety issue,” he stated blandly, dragging his gaze from a particularly colourful Greenpeace badge back up to meet mine. “You never know what crazies lurk in these protest groups or what lengths they might go to.” He sent me a pointed look. “And that sign out there means you’re trespassing, bathroom break or not. You could’ve been up to anything, how were we to know? That’s why we have a list.”
The pompous dick. I was so over this ridiculous conversation. “Is that ‘we’ a royal ‘we’?” I threw back with added sarcasm for good measure. “’Cause I didn’t realise she was attending, or I’d have dressed better.”
He rolled his eyes like I was a stroppy teenager. “We,” he said so patiently I wanted to smack him in the face. “As in, we the police… as in, me. And whether you like it or not, my job is to keep people safe, all people, including your mates out there in the march, including you, as it happens, God help me.”
Fuck. He had a point, dammit. I really was being a bitch. The guy was only doing his job. I sighed. “Okay, look, I didn’t see the sign. I was in kind of a hurry. I’m sorry,” I mumbled apologetically.
“I understand,” he answered flatly. “But you’re still under arrest.”
My jaw dropped. “What? Oh, for Christ’s sake. I didn’t do anything. You’re acting like I’m a damned terrorist.”
His brows peaked. “You’re on the list.”
“Fuck the damn list.” Ugh. Yeah, maybe not the best thing to say. I counted to five, dropped the snarky tone, and did my best to look apologetic. “Sorry… again. But, come on, I’m about the furthest thing from a threat… to anyone. Unless you consider sarcasm a deadly weapon.”
Even biting back a smile, he still managed to look less convinced of my virtue than I hoped. “I’m sorry,” he explained. “But under the brief we were given, I have no choice. I have to take you in.”
I stared at those gorgeous but determined hazel eyes for a few seconds longer, then blew out a sigh. This was clearly a battle I wasn’t going to win, and though the realisation galled, there was also nothing I could do. “Okay, whatever,” I sighed. “Let’s just get this waste of taxpayers’ money over with.”
He nodded, put a hand on my shoulder, and steered me out the door and past a group of my fellow protesters, who stared in abject disbelief, coupled with some sort of weird-arse jealousy. At least a dozen phones snapped to attention to video my humiliation, to accompanying cries of “police brutality.” There was no doubt in my mind that my arrest would soon be plastered across social media sites ad infinitum, and I’d be lucky to miss the six o’clock news. Scratch that. The TVNZ crew were already running toward the parked cop car, cameras pointed my way. I ducked my head. Fuck. My. Life.
For whatever reason, Caleb took mercy on me and pushed me slightly to the side, effectively blocking their view. I mumbled my thanks but not too loudly. It was, after all, his bloody fault I was in this predicament to start with. After reaching the car, he manoeuvred me unceremoniously into the back seat and buckled me in, careful to make sure I was as comfortable as possible under the circumstances—read: not at all—and I got my first ride to a police station cuffed like a damn criminal. I briefly wondered which of my darling pregnant clients would be the first to call and fire their trespassing midwife’s arse.
Jay Hogan is a New Zealand author writing in m/m romance, romantic suspense and fantasy. She has travelled extensively and has lived in quite a few countries. She has a BA degree in Nursing and in Theology, and in another life, she was an Intensive Care Nurse, Counselor, and a Lecturer.
She is a cat aficionado especially of Maine Coons, and an avid dog lover (but don’t tell the cat). She loves to cook- pretty damn good, loves to sing – pretty damn average, and as for loving full-time writing -absolutely… depending of course on the day, the word count, the deadline, how obliging her characters are, the ambient temperature in the Western Sahara, whether Jupiter is rising, the size of the ozone hole over New Zealand and how much coffee she’s had.
She has complex boys telling stories in her head that demand attention and a considerable number of words to go with them. Their journeys are never straightforward and even surprise Jay. She does her best to plot things out ahead of time but those pesky characters seem to have a mind of their own. Go figure.