Hi guys! We have Andrew Grey popping in today with his upcoming release Setting The Hook, we have a short guest post from Andrew and a great excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
Setting The Hook
It could be the catch of a lifetime.
William Westmoreland escapes his unfulfilling Rhode Island existence by traveling to Florida twice a year and chartering Mike Jansen’s fishing boat to take him out on the Gulf. The crystal-blue water and tropical scenery isn’t the only view William enjoys, but he’s never made his move. A vacation romance just isn’t on his horizon.
Mike started his Apalachicola charter fishing service as a way to care for his daughter and mother, putting their safety and security ahead of the needs of his own heart. Denying his attraction becomes harder with each of William’s visits.
William and Mike’s latest fishing excursion starts with a beautiful day, but a hurricane’s erratic course changes everything, stranding William. As the wind and rain rage outside, the passion the two men have been trying to resist for years crashes over them. In the storm’s wake, it leaves both men yearning to prolong what they have found. But real life pulls William back to his obligations. Can they find a way to reduce the distance between them and discover a place where their souls can meet? The journey will require rough sailing, but the bright future at the end might be worth the choppy seas.
Labor Day weekend I had the opportunity to fish on the gulf for the first time. It was an amazing experience and I had an incredible time And as you can guess, I looked out over the water, fishing, talking, laughing, and the entire time my mind is running though how I could use all the experiences in a book. I stored them away until the idea for Setting the Hook started developing in my mind. I do have to tell you that while the situations were different, that weekend we did experience many, of the things in the story, including the hurricane, catching the sharks, as well as meeting some amazing people who left an impression on me. I can’t wait for my next fishing trip so I can see what comes out of that.
William was a sophisticated man from the Northeast who worked in the family business, making engine parts for tractors, cranes, bulldozers, and all kinds of specialty engines. He lived outside Providence and was highly educated. There wasn’t any way a guy like him would be interested in someone like Mike. Besides, Mike saw him two times a year for the better part of a day when William came fishing. Their lives and worlds couldn’t have been more different, so whatever interest Mike might have in William was going to remain that—interest. Not action, and certainly nothing more than friendship of a sort. The fact that William got Mike’s motor running faster than the one on the boat was immaterial. He lived in Apalachicola, a town of two thousand people who made their living on the Gulf and where most people had family going back generations. There weren’t gay people in town as far as he knew, and Mike had no intention of being the one and only so folks could look at him differently.
“Mike,” Gordon called, pulling him out of his thoughts. “Are we getting close?”
“Yup.” Mike verified their position and turned on the fish finder, slowing down and checking out what was underneath them. “Go ahead and drop.” He slowed their speed even more, and Gordon released the anchor.
They came to a stop, the boat rocking on the waves as they got the guys ready. Mike let Gordon do his thing, and soon both Dean and William were reeling them in.
“I got a huge one!” William cried, his line whizzing out from the reel.
“Mike!” Gordon cried. “It broke the reel.” He hurried over as the line came to the end, nearly jerking the pole out of William’s hand.
Mike came up right behind him, taking hold of the rod as well, pressing to William’s back. “Get the large line spool. We can roll it onto that by hand.” He didn’t want to move but put space between them anyway, grateful for the distraction. Whatever William had was strong and large. Gordon passed him gloves, and he yanked them on, then pulled in more and more line. Foot after foot the line was retrieved, and William’s catch got closer to the surface.
“Shark,” Dean cried, pointing as a large yellow-gold body appeared from under the water.
“It’s a nurse shark,” Gordon said. “Odd to catch one during the day.”
Mike nodded his agreement. “I’d guess it’s about six feet.” He pulled back as the shark broke the surface right near the boat. “Someone snap a picture.” He held the line still, and Gordon got some pictures. So did Dean. Then Mike cut the line, and the shark took off back down into the water.
“Do you think it will survive?” William asked.
Mike shrugged, watching the waves, and thankfully the shark didn’t make an appearance as a floater.
Dean returned to his line, got a bite, and hauled in a really nice-size grouper, which went into the box with more ice.
“Let’s move on.”
Gordon hauled in the anchor, and they went in search of another location.
The morning passed with some nice catches. Dean and William ate lunch in the shade as Mike tried to locate a spot he’d had good luck with before. Out of habit and because of his mother’s warning, he checked the weather reports once again.
“Wind on the Gulf is still expected to diminish, as are the waves. However, Hurricane Marshall is continuing its fast pace toward the Space Coast, showing no signs as yet of turning north, has picked up speed, and will likely make landfall near Daytona Beach. It is now expected to turn north and ride up the center of the state and into Georgia.”
Mike sighed and took off his headphones. The weather wasn’t threatening, but he’d check in another hour for another update. Mike wasn’t so concerned about getting caught in the storm itself as much as the storm entering the Gulf and stirring up the waves.
He found a good location, and Gordon threw the anchor. While the guys fished, Mike ate his lunch and then switched with Gordon so he could eat as well, and William offered them whatever they wanted from his overflowing cooler.
The next few hours fell into a routine for Mike and Gordon, interrupted by Mike’s occasional daydreams about William. Mike checked the weather every hour. The next check had little new information, but the report at two was disturbing.
“Hurricane Marshall made landfall at Daytona Beach and has been downgraded to a tropical storm. The eye is currently twenty miles north of Orlando. It continues to move west-northwest at twenty-nine miles an hour and is now expected to enter the Gulf as a tropical storm, but could strengthen once it gets over water. Stay tuned for further advisories.”
Mike’s stomach clenched and he looked to the east. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the storm was hundreds of miles away. Usually Mike stayed out until six and then headed back to the marina.
William and Dean were both giddy from their latest catches. “This spot is amazing,” William said, turning to him with a smile that rivaled the sun.
“Then keep fishing,” Mike said distractedly.
“What’s going on?” Gordon asked when both men had their lines in the water.
“The storm didn’t turn north. It’s continued moving west and is now near Orlando. If its winds start to reach the Gulf, the waves are going to build quickly. It seems like they’ve pretty much given up trying to predict this sucker and are winging it.”
Gordon turned toward the water. “Give it a few more hours and we’ll head in. There’s no sense taking any chances, and they’re going to have plenty of fish by then at this rate.”
“I agree.” If the storm headed their way, he and Gordon were going to need time to secure everything. “I’ve been listening to the weather every hour anyway.”
Mike returned to work, and Gordon helped William and Dean replace their nibbled-away bait. Mike moved them to a few more spots, each one closer to shore. After two hours, he checked the forecast once again. The storm was now expected to continue on its current path. “All right. This is our last stop. We’ll stay here for about fifteen minutes and then head in. The storm that was supposed to turn north in the Atlantic didn’t. It’s crossing Florida and will hit the Gulf in a few hours. We don’t want to be out here when it does.”
The attitude on the boat immediately changed. Mike started getting things together while Gordon helped the guys fish. They caught mostly red snapper and threw them back. William got a small reef shark, and Gordon clubbed it enough to stun it and got the hook out, letting it drop back into the water. That brought the trip to an end, and Mike pointed the bow toward land and opened up the throttle.
Gordon gathered up all the equipment and began putting it away. “Sorry, guys, about cutting things short.”
“It’s perfectly all right,” Dean said with a wide grin. “It’s better to be safe than sorry, and this was an amazing day. One I’m going to remember for a long time.” He sat down nearby, and William took the seat right behind him. Mike was hyperaware of him and knew William was watching him.
The wind picked up slightly as they went, though thankfully the water’s surface remained calm. But it wasn’t going to stay that way once the storm passed over Florida.
“Does anyone have a signal on their phone?” Mike asked.
“I’m checking,” William answered from behind him. “I have something, but not enough to really do any good. I could probably make a call if necessary, but….” William didn’t finish his thought as the power to the engine cut out.
“Fire!” Gordon yelled.
Mike switched the controls off immediately. Black smoke poured from the engine compartment vents, and Mike sprang to his feet, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and ushered Dean and William as far away as possible. Gordon got into position and tugged on the rope that would lift the engine cover, with Mike ready to douse any flames.
There were none, just huge billows of black smoke.
“Can you see anything?” Gordon asked as the wind took the smoke out over the water.
“Yeah. The turbocharger separated from the engine.” Mike set down the extinguisher, grateful there was no actual fire, and raced into the front cabin to get the tool kit. “Let it cool down,” he called as he rejoined Gordon, who peered into the engine compartment.
“Can you fix it?” Dean asked.
“I can,” Gordon said. “I just need to reconnect them.” He started getting the spare parts he’d need while Mike radioed into the harbor and to the Coast Guard. He explained their situation and that they were calling to put them on alert.
“Can I do anything to help?” William asked.
“Do you know about this engine?”
William laughed. “My family’s company built parts for this one.”
“Whatever you can do is appreciated.” Mike finished with the Coast Guard, and both Gordon and William got to work on the engine as the boat rocked and bobbed in the waves.
“The connector is shot,” William said and began working with some of the ones Mike had on board. William ended up splicing two pieces together, and then Gordon got it around the connection and tightened it down.
“I think that will do.” Gordon stepped out of the well and lowered the cover. When he was clear, Mike started the engine and slowly powered it up. “It’s holding.”
Mike nodded and opened up the engine, getting them closer to land as quickly as he could.
A gust of wind raced through the cabin, and Mike willed the repair to hold. They had lost an hour fixing the engine, and in that time, the weather had starting to turn. The storm itself was hours away, but if it was entering the Gulf, then they would be among the very first people in their area of the state to feel it.
The wind picked up. Not to a threatening level, but enough to cause the waves to build, and what had been quite calm half an hour earlier was getting rougher by the minute. “I need everyone sitting down,” Mike called. “We have about another hour before we enter the protection of the channel, and I don’t want anyone getting thrown overboard.” He also didn’t want to slow down unless he had to.
He checked the weather one more time, but he didn’t need the information to tell him what he already knew. While the main part of the storm hadn’t reached the Gulf, some of the wind had and was propelling the water and fueling the waves.
The Gulf was huge, but it also had a lot in common with a bathtub, so what disturbed part of it was going to be felt across the rest of the body of water. The waves were about four feet now, but climbing, with heavier ones crashing into the bow. All that Mike could think about was that the repair had to hold and he needed to get everyone and his boat back to the harbor as quickly as possible.
The sun still shone brightly and there were only hints of clouds on the horizon, but the waves were approaching five feet as the shore got closer and more distinct.
Mike had never been so glad to see home in his life.
As he pulled into the mouth of the harbor, the protection of the land did its job and the water calmed to glass. Mike slowed the boat, cutting his wake as he headed upstream, closer and closer to the slip. His hands shook as he turned the boat to back in, and then Gordon began fastening the lines. Mike cut the engine and switched everything off before helping the guys load their fish into coolers and carry their gear off the boat.
“You have safe places to be? Who knows where this thing is going to end up, but you need to get away from the water.”
“What about the boat?” William asked. “If it gets bad, what will happen to it?”
“The cove is protected, and I have to rely on that and whatever extra mooring Gordon and I can do to protect it.” Mike wished there was more, but it was one of the hazards of doing business on the water. He didn’t have the equipment to lift the boat out and transport it away, so he had to settle for what protection the harbor would give him. In addition, he paid hefty insurance premiums to cover any damage.
“Is there anything we can do to help get it ready for the storm?” William asked as he carried his cooler off the boat and set it on the dock.
“I don’t think so. Just get yourselves someplace safe and secure. I don’t know if the storm will intensify or not.” Mike shook hands with him, wondering, like he had for the last few visits, if this would be the last time he saw William or not. The thought that it could be left him unsettled, but there was nothing he could do about it, and Mike had long ago accepted that his life was one that he’d most likely spend alone.
“Is that the last of it?” Gordon asked once Mike returned to the boat.
“Yeah, Bubba. Let’s get the boat stripped as best we can. Take all the fishing equipment and put it in the back of my truck. The cushions can go in the cabin. We can’t leave anything on deck that might get picked up by the wind or it could damage one of the other boats.”
They had been through this drill before and both of them got to it. Mike packed up the electronic equipment and took it, along with a load of other equipment, to his truck. He piled it in the back and returned. The cooler was next, and Gordon brought more equipment. They worked quickly as clouds cast a haze over the sun. Mike knew those were just the first wave of what was going to be a steadily worsening weather picture. His mother had been right to be worried, and he should have known there was more to it than just her nerves.
“I have all the lines secured, and everything is off the boat that’s of any value.”
“Unfasten the sun cover and let’s put that in the cabin as well. At least the wind will have less to grip onto.” Mike loosened the lashings and wound up the rope, and Gordon folded the cover, then added it to the stowed items. Once they were done, Mike grabbed Carrie’s present before closing and locking the cabin door. “I think that’s all we can do.”
“Yeah. Let’s get away from the water.” Gordon tipped his hat and hurried to his truck, backed out, and hurried away. He lived ten minutes away, but closer to the water than Mike did, and would need to make storm preparations at home.
Mike took one more look at his boat, his livelihood, and hoped that if the storm came this direction, it would survive the next twenty-four hours.
He turned away as other captains pulled in. He waved, and most waved back. His first instinct was to help them get ready for the storm, but Carrie was at home and he needed to see her and make sure everything there was battened down tight.
The grinding of an engine that wasn’t turning over pulled his attention, and Mike walked over to William’s rental car.
“The dang thing isn’t starting.” William got out, slamming the door closed behind him. “I need to call the company and see what they say.”
“Let’s have a look.” Mike motioned, and William opened the door to pop the hood. Mike released the latch and saw the problem immediately and suspected William probably did as well. “The wires out of the starter are fried, so the engine isn’t getting the signal to start.” Not something he could fix. “Where are you staying?”
“I came down from Georgia for the day and was planning to head back to my hotel and then to Atlanta tomorrow for meetings.” William pulled out his phone as Mike closed the hood on the expensive car. He paced back and forth, most likely on hold, becoming more and more agitated as the minutes wore on. “Finally. My rental car won’t start.” He gave all the information. “I’m at the pier in Apalachicola.”
Mike leaned against the car, waiting for William to complete his call.
“You have to be kidding me.” William continued packing back and forth, his footsteps turning to stomps. “I’m aware that the storm has switched paths and that everyone is gearing up. I’m near the water with a car you rented to me that doesn’t start. I know you can tow it, but how do I get another one? I see…. Thanks for nothing.” William hung up, still pacing.
“No other car.”
“The nearest location is at the Tallahassee airport, but that doesn’t do any good because they’re out of cars. It seems everyone is trying to get out of Dodge, and they’re grabbing every available car to head north, which is exactly what I was going to do.” He scrubbed his hand through his hair.
Mike wasn’t about to leave William here. “Can you get a hotel somewhere? I can take you there.”
“I can try. Thanks.” William got on the phone once again, and from the sounds of it, came up empty. “Looks like I’m batting zero. So many people are stranded that hotels are full.” William paced again. “Maybe I can get a private plane or a limousine to get me to my hotel.”
Mike opened the door to his truck. “Let’s transfer your things to my truck, and you can come home with me. I have a small extra room, if you don’t mind that Carrie uses it for her dolls and things. It has a bed, and you can wait out the storm there.”
William smiled. “Really? Thanks. I appreciate it.”
Mike waited for William to transfer his gear and then pulled out of the parking lot.
William smelled divine, and the truck filled with his earthy warmth, even over the air-conditioning, which did nothing to cool the heat that rose inside Mike. He pulled out onto the main road and then turned inland away from the waterfront to the more affordable part of town, wondering just how he was going to keep his distance with William under his rather small roof.
Andrew grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation.
Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing) He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.