QSFer Anne Barwell has a new MM sci fi romance out: “Slow Dreaming.” This is an updated re-release.
Should he change the past for love?
As an agent for the Tempus Institute, Jason Adams’ task is to observe the past, not change it. But when he’s sent to 21st-century Wellington, New Zealand, during the last week of aspiring songwriter Sean Henderson’s life, Jason finds he can’t just watch from a distance. He and Sean quickly become friends and then lovers, and when the song that’s haunted Jason for years connects them in a way he never anticipated, he’ll risk changing history for the chance of sharing a future with Sean.
Author’s note: This story was originally published in 2012 by another publisher. This edition has some added content, and uses UK/NZ spelling to reflect its setting.
Two days spent in 2011, and nothing but rain. Jason brought the cup to his lips and drank slowly, savoring the taste. The coffee was bitter and darker in colour, even with the addition of milk, than he was used to, and tasted earthy for some reason.
The café felt warm, a cozy haven from the cold. He could get used to an assignment that meant spending hours drinking coffee and being surrounded by books. He gazed again at the bookshelves visible through the huge door that marked the threshold between the two businesses. Heaven on both counts. Combining a café and bookshop under the one roof was a brilliant idea. It was a shame neither of them existed in physical form in his own time, as it was just what he needed in order to distract himself from the events of the previous six months.
The tinkle of the small bell hooked over the front door signaled the arrival of another customer. Jason looked up and smiled. This was the real reason he was here, the person he was supposed to be observing and under no circumstances interacting with.
He added sugar to his coffee, stirring it absently. James had been adamant in that, and about the fact this was Jason’s last chance. One more screw-up and he’d find himself stuck down in the stacks forever. Time travel was a risky business; the timelines were definitely not something to be interfered with just because someone was curious or got double-dog-dared.
In hindsight, admitting to tapping that guy on the shoulder because of a dare had not been one of his brightest moments. How was he supposed to know what would happen next?
Sure, he could have read the paperwork attached to the assignment, but he’d never been one for that. Nor had he felt the inclination before now.
But there was something different about this assignment. As soon as he’d seen the photograph he knew he couldn’t turn it down.
Outside, the heavens opened, rain dancing on the roof in a mad tango with a full orchestra, complete with timpani, behind it. Water pelted against the window, people scurrying across the road seeking shelter.
He loved this time and Wellington in particular. It was simpler, nature as it was meant to be before man had begun to control everything. He stood, drawn to the rain, intending to experience it up close. Did he dare venture outside to let the water run over him, or would throwing his hands open to the heavens draw too much attention to him?
A loud clatter interrupted his flight of fancy. Someone swore. Papers flew in all directions, several heading towards the door when it opened again, bringing with it a sudden gust of wind. Without thinking, Jason bent to help pick up the papers, crawling under the table next to his and knocking his head against someone else’s in the process.
“Umph.” The voice was male, although not as deep as Jason’s. Grey eyes, framed by glasses, met his.
Jason backed away quickly, letting go of the piece of paper he held. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled, ready to help his unfortunate victim to his feet.
“No problem.” The man retrieved the errant piece of paper. Jason glimpsed scribbled words, crossed out in places, circled in others. “There you are!” His companion turned, bending to pick up the last of the papers while giving Jason a view of a very nice firm behind.
He swallowed. This should never have happened. Two days in, and he’d done the very thing he was instructed not to do.
His assignment turned towards Jason and smiled, holding out his hand. “Thanks for your help.” His eyes crinkled at the corners before he indicated Jason’s now empty coffee cup. “Let me refill that. It’s the least I can do. I would have been screwed if I’d lost all my work. The name’s Sean, by the way. Sean Henderson.”
“Jason Adams.” Jason shook Sean’s hand. Hell, why not? He hadn’t initiated their meeting, and it would look suspicious if he refused the offer. Anyway, it would be impossible to watch the guy if he left now, and saying no would be just plain rude. “Another coffee sounds great, thanks.”
The grin Sean gave as a reply told Jason he’d given the right response. That, and the fact Sean looked very pleased with himself, although for some reason also a little surprised. “Stay there. I’ll be right back.” Sean tucked his papers securely under one arm and headed for the counter. He apparently considered whatever he was working on too precious to be left in the hands of someone he’d just met, even if that person had just saved it from an impending fate of flying out the door to parts unknown.
Jason leaned back in his chair. He didn’t need to mention this in his report, did he? The assignment was a simple one: observation of both the subject and his interactions. After all, Sean was no one important, just one of a few subjects chosen randomly to give a realistic view of the time period. Making friends with the guy would make the task easier. Jason had been in this time before. He knew his way around, and the cover the Tempus Institute had put in place for him was airtight.
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with Kaylee: a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her. To date it appears Kaylee may be winning the discussion.
In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.
Anne’s books have received honourable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.