West of El Pilar, the third book in the Tomcat Line series, has just been released by MLR Press. Like the other books in the series it has first been released in eBook format but will follow in a while in a print version.
Tracking another of Uncle Roger’s more outrageous theories concerning a special crystal skull, Ian takes Mac back to Central America where together they search for a hidden temple near the huge archaeological site of El Pilar which straddles the border of Belize and Guatemala. After searching for weeks, Ian knows he is close. He has found the plaza and the causeway and now the palace, the temple has to be here! Whatever Ian hoped for it most certainly was not an attack by two determined thieves who will stop at nothing to get their way.
Mac Wallace checked with the Anthropology Department to confirm where he could find Doctor Grayson and headed for the lecture hall. Slipping in quietly through a half open door, he lounged against the back wall of the hall watching as Ian taught a class of his students. They were hanging on his every word. Ian never seemed to recognize what a good lecturer he was, easily drawing his students into his own visions of the ancient past. Even Mac was caught up in his vivid description of the lives of the Ancient Greek bonded warrior pairs, though, of course, in his case the interest was personal. After all, he was presently watching his own bonded partner. He grinned at the sudden image he had of Ian dressed as an ancient Greek warrior, all long golden limbs and long blond hair, wearing that fetching short skirt; it was a damned enticing fantasy. He wondered what Ian would say if he got hold of an ancient Greek outfit and asked Ian to wear it. His grin widened.
Checking his watch, Mac confirmed that the lecture was nearly over and he glanced around watching as the students packed up getting ready to leave. They were talking excitedly among themselves. Doctor Grayson’s lectures were amongst the most popular. He was still under the impression it was as a result of his rise in popularity the previous year. After his famous discovery of the Ix-chel device within a hidden temple in Belize a little over a year ago his classes had suddenly become very popular, but they had stayed full because he was an excellent teacher not because of his sudden fame.
Mac nodded to a couple of the students who had seen him before and then turned his attention back to Ian and what he saw confirmed he had been correct in his decision to get back home swiftly.
Ian wasn’t even aware he was there; the younger man was staring down at the desk, at the papers spread all over it. To someone who knew him as well as Mac did, his body language alone was telling; stooped shoulders, a finger rubbing under his eyes and then migrating to rub the back of his neck. He didn’t even bother to look up as his class dissipated. He slowly gathered the papers together, tidily tapped them into a nice neat pile which he placed on the corner of the podium. Then he picked up his bulging briefcase and removed a folder, opened it and took out a worn, dog-eared notebook.
Mac recognized both the folder and the notebook; it was Ian’s Ix-chel file. Part of it Ian had inherited from his Uncle Roger and the rest accumulated over the years as he investigated and searched. Mac was somewhat surprised to find that Ian was carrying it around with him again. Then he thought maybe he shouldn’t be. Perhaps it only confirmed Mac’s own thinking of late.
He had been struck more and more that while Ian may be content with his life, he wasn’t really happy. Not the way he used to be, not the way he had been when he had made his discovery of a lifetime. Not even the way he used to be over his relationship with Mac, and that hurt perhaps most of all. It was selfish, Mac acknowledged, but he was human after all. Ian was the most important thing in his life and he wanted Ian to feel the same way about him. He knew Ian loved him, he showed it in small ways whenever they were together, but it seemed to Mac that lately Ian had been… distant. It was almost as if his attention was elsewhere, and even when Ian had been so wrapped up in finding the Ix-chel device he had never seemed like that with Mac.
Last weekend, just before he had left on his road trip, Mac tried to broach the subject of his discontent with Ian but he just brushed it off, saying he was just tired. Then when Mac commented that he had felt for a time that something was worrying his partner, Ian had just smiled and said Mac was tired. Mac decided he would let Ian get away with his prevarication for a while, but Mac wouldn’t let it drop indefinitely; he wanted to help Ian with whatever was bugging him.
Watching now, he saw Ian glide his hands lovingly across the leather cover of the notebook before skipping through its pages, stopping here and there to read a passage and then he repeated the action opening the file at random pages. A smile would flit across the attractive face for an instant to fade again, and reappear when something else, some other good memory, came to mind. Then with an audible sigh, Ian gathered everything back into the folder and began to pack it away in his briefcase again.
“Ian!” Mac suddenly called out, as if he had just walked into the lecture hall to see his lover.
Lifting his head swiftly in surprise at the sound of his partner’s voice, Ian wasn’t quick enough to hide his wistful expression before, with a smile, he asked, “Lord, Mac, what are you doing here?”
“Not glad to see me? Should I leave and come back tomorrow?” Mac grinned, moving steadily down the steps toward Ian.
“Don’t you dare, I missed you. This week seemed longer than… but how did you…? There’s nothing wrong is there?” asked Ian, a frown marring his handsome features.
“No, of course not. I decided we’ve become… boring, wanted to shake things up a bit. So, surprise! You’re going out to dinner tonight and,” he looked around as if he expected someone to be listening in, and leaned close to Ian to whisper, “and then we are going to Jackson Park and make love under the stars.”
A flush crept up Ian’s neck as he declared, “Mac! We can’t!” Ian hesitated, the heat still evident in his cheeks as he added, “Can we?”