Many thanks to MM Good Book Reviews for hosting my blog tour visit today. Forged in Trust is the fourth novel in the Bay Area Professionals series, which features doctors and dentists who participate in the BDSM scene. Many of the characters from the first three books (Impacted, Bonds of Love, and Fractured) make an appearance in this novel, but it can be read as a standalone. Don’t forget to click on the Rafflecopter widget for a chance to win a giveaway. The beautiful cover was designed by Catt Ford. Below is an exclusive excerpt of Forged in Trust.
Forged In Trust
Mickie B. Ashling
Dr. Ethan Marshall is the young medical student on call the night Tessa Duran murders her husband for abusing her twelve-year-old-son, Rino. Ethan stays in the cubicle while the rape kit is performed and is surprised when the boy resorts to prayers instead of tears.
Despite compelling evidence, Tessa is sent to jail for life. To avoid placing Rino in foster care, their parish priest agrees to raise him. Ethan is touched by Rino’s plight and visits whenever possible, but the connection is broken when the priest and young boy leave the area months later.
Raised by the Dominicans in California, Rino considers joining the order until a romance blossoms with a fellow student. After much soul-searching, he turns his back on everything familiar, and chooses his orientation over his perceived vocation. Upon graduating dental hygiene school, Rino takes a job at the office of Scott Gregory and Robin Kennedy.
Seventeen years have passed since that horrible night in the emergency room. Forty-three-year-old Ethan is now a Dominant in search of a full-time submissive. Twenty-nine-year-old Rino is adrift, longing for someone or something to help him find the serenity he’s lost along the way. As they rekindle their friendship, they realize they might be perfect for each other.
THE SHORT walk back to his cubicle seemed endless. Rino was stunned by the appearance of the guy he’d been thinking of over the weekend. Seeing Ethan in the flesh was really miraculous, and he had to wonder if it was coincidence or prayer that had placed them in each other’s path again. Ethan slid onto the dental chair, and Rino silently placed a paper bib over his yellow button-down shirt and striped blue-and-yellow silk tie. He looped the metal chain around Ethan’s neck, clipping the ends to the bib to hold it in place. It was the first thing they were taught in hygiene school. Protect a patient from the inevitable spray of water and flying debris bound to occur during the course of a cleaning.
They were appraising each other intently, trying to pick out the familiar in an otherwise unfamiliar face. A lot had changed in seventeen years, but underneath the generous beard, Rino recognized the same wide mouth that quirked at the sides, a good sign that life had been kind to the young doctor who’d been his salvation. Ethan’s skin was a little weathered, and there were faint crow’s feet developing at the corners of his lively blue eyes, but other than that, he looked great. He was scrutinizing Rino with the same degree of interest.
“I thought you looked familiar the other night at the club, but I wasn’t sure,” Rino said. “It’s been forever.”
“What are the odds?”
“Why didn’t you say anything when you saw my driver’s license?”
“Honestly? I was shocked. In my mind’s eye, you’re still the kid I knew way back when, and seeing a man in his prime was kind of a mindfuck, if you know what I mean.”
Rino chuckled. “I’ll bet.”
“I had planned to reveal myself before you left the club, but you took off without saying good-bye.”
Rino scowled at the memory. “About that. Are you really into the lifestyle?”
“Yes and no,” Ethan answered.
“Glad we cleared that up,” Rino commented dryly.
Ethan looked a little embarrassed. “This isn’t a good place to talk about it.”
“Isn’t it?” Rino asked. “My new employers seem to share your kink.”
“Do they know you’re aware of their inclinations?”
“God, no. Wandering into your club was strictly an accident. I don’t know what I was thinking by insisting you let me in.”
“At least your curiosity was satisfied.”
“Not really,” Rino said. “I still don’t understand the concept or the appeal.”
“Perhaps I can answer your questions over dinner tonight.”
“Sure,” Rino said. “I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to all these years.”
“Ditto,” Ethan said. “I want the unabridged version of your life.”
“We’d need more than one dinner for that,” Rino warned.
“Whatever it takes,” Ethan answered agreeably.
His reply infused Rino with a sense of well-being. Just being around Ethan lifted his spirits and put him in a much better frame of mind. For the moment he could put aside the issues tormenting him for years and enjoy the company of someone who seemed genuinely interested in catching up.
“Okay, let’s stop chatting so I can clean your teeth.”
“Go for it.”
The state of Ethan’s dentition was further proof that his life hadn’t been weighed down by worry. There were no signs of grinding, his enamel was intact—minus the usual craze lines associated with high stress or malocclusion, and his gums were pink and healthy. Rino couldn’t spot a single thing that might cause future problems. He mentioned it as he was reaching for the prophy paste to begin polishing his teeth.
“You’ve been doing a great job with your oral hygiene.”
“Everything looks okay?”
“Better than okay.”
“My dad has dentures, and I swore I wouldn’t end up like that.”
“He’s still alive?”
“Yeah, so is my mom,” Ethan said. “How’s yours by the way?”
Rino flushed at the unwelcome reminder of their joined past. “Still in jail.”
“Do you ever see her?”
“A couple of times a year.”
“Shouldn’t she be up for parole soon?”
“It’s been denied twice.”
“She shows no signs of remorse. The panel has asked her if she would have done things differently if given a life do-over, and she always says the same thing: Jim got what he deserved. I think she’s happy in a weird sort of way. Being fed, clothed, and sheltered without having to sell herself is a win-win in her book.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Ethan commented.
“It’s just as well,” Rino said. “My life would be disrupted if I had to care for her.”
“She’s young enough to take care of herself,” Ethan said. “Isn’t she in her late forties?”
“Yeah, but I wouldn’t want her to live by herself. She’s not equipped to handle life on her own.”
“I’m pretty sure she’d manage,” Ethan remarked. “They wouldn’t let her out without teaching her some life skills to cope with the changes that have occurred since she was imprisoned.”
“I didn’t think of that.”
“You should try and encourage her to be more repentant the next time she’s up for parole.”
“Maybe I will.” Rino reached over and clicked the mouse on Ethan’s name to let Scott know Ethan was ready for his exam. He showed up in a few minutes and asked Rino if there were any areas of concern.
“No, he’s got a great mouth.”
Scott reached for a hand mirror and probe and proceeded to examine Ethan. When he was finished, he gave him a nod of approval. “If you were a kid, I’d give you a sucker and a gold star.”
“Thanks, Doc,” Ethan said. Smiling, he added, “I’m not too proud to accept candy.”
Mickie B. Ashling is the alter-ego of a multifaceted woman raised by a single mother who preferred reading over other forms of entertainment. She found a kindred spirit in her oldest child and encouraged her with a steady supply of dog-eared paperbacks. Romance was the preferred genre, and historical romances topped her favorites list.
By the time Mickie discovered her own talent for writing, real life had intruded, and the business of earning a living and raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing and the inevitable emptying nest, dreams were resurrected, and the storyteller was reborn.
She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called “gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking.” She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings.
Mickie loves to travel and has lived in the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East but currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.
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