Please welcome the fantabulous Mr. Edmond Manning
who's here today with his brand-new release
Come Back To Me
(The Lost & Founds #5)
After years of lying, scheming, and dangerous manipulation, Vin Vanbly finally gets what's coming to him: love.
How can he survive unstoppable, uncontrollable love when his very nature demands he control everything? Clues about his one true love—tantalizingly hinted at in each of the books in The Lost and Founds series—come together in four life-changing stories.
In No Kings, a sex hookup with a parking lot stranger reveals more about Vin’s life as a Lost King and his destiny than he could have dreamed. In King Fitch, Vin meets the last king in his long legacy, one final weekend before he withdraws from the world to an anonymous Latin American jungle. The Lost Ones recounts a terrifying kidnapping by street thugs from Vin’s past. In King Malcolm the Restorer, Vin’s mysterious relationship with his older brother—and the soul-crushing secret which drew them together—is finally revealed.
Through it all, Vin Vanbly struggles to survive. But what if he is destined for more than mere survival? Is he finally ready to embrace the truth and remember who he was always meant to be? Once there were a tribe where every man was the one true king and every woman the one true queen…
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Thank you, My Fiction Nook, for allowing me to entertain you today.
I’d like to share one of my favorite characters from my brand new release, Come Back To Me. The man has been nicknamed Fitch, due to his extreme handsomeness and aloofness, like an Abercrombie & Fitch model. The narrator, Vin Vanbly, stalked Fitch through nightclubs and finally issued his invitation: spend thirty hours with me and I will help you remember the man you were always meant to be. Vin promises to help Fitch “remember the king.”
Although it’s the fifth book in my series, The Lost and Founds, this book is definitely new reader accessible. (Without reading the previous books, you’ll miss out on the narrator’s history, and some plot details, but you don’t have to read anything else to enjoy this HEA romance.)
In this scene, Vin and Fitch recently entered a Chinese restaurant, but instead of being escorted into the main dining area, they were ushered through the kitchen to the manager’s office, where a private table for two has been established. A one-way glass window overlooks the cook line. Their server is Greg, one of the men Vin Vanbly kinged.
Greg saves our conversation by returning with a bowl of hot peanut noodles. The rich, thick peanut smell reaches us both at the same time, and we both inhale deeply, like in a cartoon.
“Oh god,” Fitch says.
“Smells amazing, Greg. Thank you.”
Fitch inhales deeply again. “Oh, god!”
Greg bows and leaves in silence.
Fitch indicates him with a jerk of his head. “Your ex-boyfriend isn’t much of a talker.”
Funny, because Greg talks for a living. He works as a translator when he’s not at the restaurant. Demure is not how I would describe Greg. He’s the life of the party. But he obviously decided his role tonight is to be seen and not heard.
Fitch studies the table. “And he forgot to drop off silverware. Or chopsticks.” He meets my gaze and reads my silent intentions. He says, “You’re kidding me. Please tell me you’re kidding.”
Steam still rises from the bowl between us, delicious tendrils aching with peanut-buttery goodness, cut by the crisp smell of steamed scallions.
“With our hands?” Fitch wrinkles his nose. “That’s disgusting.”
“Do you want to wipe your hands again with antibacterial gel?”
“No, I want a fork.”
When I reach into the bowl, I find the noodles too hot, so I dance around them, stirring them slightly until I feel I can touch the top ones without scalding myself.
“Open up, Fitch. This has to happen quickly because they’re still hot.”
“Ugh, no thanks.”
He glares me down with the Nightclub Fitch attitude, the bored disdain I witnessed quite often. But he’s already a different man than a few hours ago, cleaner in the soul, so his expression melts like wax, and he looks deeper into my eyes, demanding an answer to the unasked question, can I still trust you?
With my eyes, I communicate back, Yes. You can.
Fitch opens his mouth.
I bring the warm noodles to him quickly, and several don’t make it, the squirmy little buggers, jumping back into the bowl or landing in his lap. Four or five make it to his mouth. They slap against his chin on the way in, and he mutters a short, uncomfortable laugh at having peanut sauce whipped against his face, smeared over his lips. He sucks them in like spaghetti.
“’S good.” He runs the words together, eyes arching in surprise. “Really fucking good.”
I nod and pick up more.
Hot! Hot! Hot!
Like a baby bird responding to momma, his mouth opens again, and as I struggle to corral noodles into my fingers long enough to feed him, he chuckles at my effort.
The noodles are slippery. It’s a strange experience to be slapped with a hot noodle. Pretty soon, he’s got a peanut-butter chin. Soon after that, we’re both giggling.
Slippery, sloppery, his mouth makes quippery, quoppery, funny little words dancing off his tongue, asking me how I know Greg, as another slippery noodle, noodle, noodle—
“The word noodle itself is a funny word. N isn’t particularly hilarious until you pair it with those goofy brothers, those o’s, and then it’s noooooooooooooooooooooo, slipping right past that d, just giggling around it, and jumping off le slide, with noodle! Noodle!”
“If you say so.”
Fitch laughs. “Noodle!”
Fitch’s face is smeared with peanut-butter paste, and not exclusively around his mouth. He insists on feeding me next, and we laugh outright as he discovers how hard it to capture noodles with your fingers. Noodles, noodles—stop it. He guffaws at the effort, claps his hands together—the parts not covered in sauce, and I must look ridiculous to him, sucking down his latest offering, because he bursts out laughing, a deep belly laugh, and I respond in kind, chewing and laughing at the same time.
Fitch grins ear to ear, and it’s not the practiced, seductive smile I’ve observed him flash potential conquests. This is stupid and loopy, unaffected and unrehearsed. He’s laughing and doesn’t care about the squiggly noodle fallen to his chest.
Do not get started on the word squiggly.
I announce a new game: feed yourself.
“This is our entire dinner, Fitch. I don’t want us overly full for what happens next. So, the goal is to eat your fill before I eat your share.”
“Bitch,” he says with a serious nod. “It is on.”
We both dive in, fingers first, spending more time slapping each other’s hands away than succeeding in drawing out a single noodle. When he gets a handful, I snatch them from him, watching them fall mostly back into the bowl, which makes him roar. During a particularly long laughing jag, he catches his ghostly reflection in the two-way mirror and freezes at the unfamiliar face. A shock of pain races across his features, gone almost instantly, but I had been watching for this, a moment of recognition, so I catch it. Fitch doesn’t live like this, his boyish joy unlocked and free. I suspect he just saw a version of himself long forgotten.
The moment passes, and he returns to the competition with me, but the fight in him has faded. Soon, we are both calm in extracting noodles and eating them thoughtfully. I catch him gazing at his reflection several more times, seeking traces of the ghost he recently witnessed.
I want Fun Fitch back.
I pull out a noodle and flick it into his hair. It sticks to his forehead, and he laughs again. He leaves it sticking there, a fat noodle almost between his eyes. He chuckles a few more times, and with an archness in his voice he says, “I’d throw one at you, but these are too fucking delicious to waste.”
I agree. We finish dragging every noodle from the bowl and spend a minute or two licking our fingers.
I knock on the glass, leaving a slight peanut smear. I hand him a paper towel from the roll on the desk, and we take a moment or two to make ourselves presentable.
Greg appears, wearing a sequined red shirt, reflecting rubies everywhere around us. While he serves us, the dark office sparkles. Fitch watches with wonder on his face, as if we are visited by a celestial being. Greg leaves us a plate of sticky rice and fresh mango, our dessert, and this time, forks.
Fitch gawks and makes a flattering comment, but Greg remains ever silent. This is so not the Greg I know! But when I proposed dinner here, he said he would be deeply honored to participate in a King Weekend. He got very quiet and serious. I should have known he would treat this experience with reference. He is a beautiful man.
When he leaves, Fitch picks up his fork, poised over dessert, and says with a mischievous smile. “Another competition?”
“Not this time. This is about gratitude. Let me serve you. Let me show you how grateful I am you showed up this afternoon.”
Fitch watches me carefully as I slice through the fresh mango to prepare the first bite.
He opens his mouth when I present the fork. He accepts what I offer, and as he closes his mouth, with my free hand, I cup his strong jaw. I feel him chew, and he stares at me. His green eyes, so bright in their reflection, seem confused again, and soon, tears brim along the bottom lids.
He says, “This is amazing. I mean, I’ve had mango and sticky rice before, but this is so tender, so juicy…”
In silence, I feed him two more bites. He chews slower. I graze his cheek with the backs of my fingers, and he winces. As I prepare the next bite, he sits back.
“No. No more. I can’t take this anymore.” He wipes his eyes, a futile gesture, as the tears continue to roll down his cheeks. “Why did you pick me? What are you doing to me? Why does every fucking thing make me cry? Who are these kings?”
The hurt on his face suggests I called him a string of derogatory names, not lovingly fed him one of the best secret desserts in the Twin Cities. It’s not on the Rainbow Village menu, but you can ask for it.
He crosses his arms. “Tell me.”
I sense an impasse.
“I will answer one question, but not all of those. One. Which question?”
I wait in silence until I am sure he is ready to hear me.
“Roughly four weeks ago, outside a coffee shop on Selby, a boy dropped his ice cream cone. Maybe four years old. Red jumper. It was an exceptionally warm day in early April—felt like summer. While his mother cleaned up the sidewalk and scolded him, he kept staring at the ice cream stain in disbelief.”
Fitch’s gaze grows distant and then he focuses again and looks at me. “I bought him another ice cream cone.”
“Yes. Before his mom had even finished cleaning it up, you appeared with a new cone and handed it to him before she could protest.”
He waits. But I have nothing more to add.
“That was it? It was just ice cream.”
“It was compassion. Kindness with no expectation of return.”
Fitch looks away and wipes his eyes again. “I spent two dollars. Not even two dollars.”
“I was sitting outside reading a book. Drinking tea. I saw the look on your face when you handed that kid his new ice cream, and I knew. You were one of them. But lost. Sometimes, I will see a man and the words vibrate strong inside me, king him.”
Fitch opens his mouth to argue, but says nothing.
We feed the dessert to each other in total silence.
When the mango and sticky rice is gone, we thank Greg and leave.
About the author:
Edmond Manning has always been fascinated by fiction: how ordinary words could be sculpted into heartfelt emotions, how heartfelt emotions could leave an imprint inside you stronger than the real world. Mr. Manning never felt worthy to seek publication until recently, when he accidentally stumbled into his own writer’s voice that fit perfectly, like his favorite skull-print, fuzzy jammies. He finally realized that he didn’t have to write like Charles Dickens or Armistead Maupin, two author heroes, and that perhaps his own fiction was juuuuuuust right, because it was his true voice, so he looked around the scrappy word kingdom that he created for himself and shouted, “I’M HOME!” He is now a writer.
In addition to fiction, Edmond enjoys writing non-fiction on his blog, www.edmondmanning.com. When not writing, he can be found either picking raspberries in the back yard or eating panang curry in an overstuffed chair upstairs, reading comic books.
Promotional post. Materials provided by the author.