Nicola Haken is stopping by today to bring us the amazing cover by Jay Aheer, along with an exclusive excerpt and giveaway. Who We Are is scheduled to release on March 13th.
Since putting his life on hold ten years ago, Oliver Clayton doesn’t know who he is anymore. To his clients at the hair salon, he’s the sassy and confident stylist. To the crowds who come to watch his drag act at the club, he’s the fierce and fabulous Miss Tique. He’s popular. Talented. Out, proud, and self-assured.
He’s also a good actor.
Sebastian Day is content with life’s easy, if not a little monotonous, routine. After several failed relationships, he likes the simplicity of being alone in his truck at his job as a heavy goods driver, spending the weekends with his teenage son, and putting the world to rights with his cat, Marv. He’s not lonely. He isn’t hiding.
At least…he doesn’t think he is until he meets the mesmerising stranger with the red hair and purple lips.
Can Oliver and Sebastian help each other embrace who they are? Or will a cruel twist of fate end their journey before it’s even begun?
Excerpt from Who We Are.
Copyright Nicola Haken 2017
“Oh! Drinks,” I remembered, pushing out from under the table.
“I’ll get them,” Mum said. “You’ve done enough making this.”
“Have you got any wine?” Auntie Gemma asked. “Red, preferably.”
“No, sorry.” I forced an apologetic frown as I lied to her. She was gobby enough without alcohol in her system.
My mum returned moments later with eight glass tumblers, four stacked in each hand, and a bottle of lemonade tucked sideways under her chin, which Oliver grabbed before it fell.
“Thanks, sweetie,” she said, setting the glasses out on the table.
As she started pouring drinks, Scott reached out to grab a piece of garlic bread, using his thumb and little finger – the only digits he had on his right hand.
I caught Tyler staring at his hand, a line of curiosity forming between his eyebrows. “What happened to your fingers?”
“Ty,” Oliver interrupted, his voice low yet slightly scalding.
“Nah, it’s okay,” Scott said, turning back to Tyler. “I’d rather people ask me than stare like I’m a freak. I had meningitis when I was a kid. I’ve got missin’ toes too. Wanna see?”
“Not at the dinner table,” I cut in, baffled and slightly amused by the pride he took in his missing body parts.
“Sick.” Tyler rolled up the sleeve on his hoody. “I’ve got this scar here from when I fell off my bike when I was six. Broke it so bad they had to operate and put a pin in it.”
Scott nodded, impressed. “Cool.”
I glanced at Oliver to see if he found their fascination with scars and missing fingers as bizarre as I did. I guessed he did by the shrug and somewhat bewildered look he gave me. But, hey, at least the boys were getting along and that was great to see.
“This tastes mint, Dad,” Scott said, shovelling another forkful of lasagne into his mouth. “How’s yours, Uncle Rob?”
I wanted to drown the cocky little shit in the bath.
Uncle Rob nodded, still chewing. “Good, thank you.”
“So, Oliver,” Auntie Gemma began. “How do you get that shine on your cheeks? Your face looks…” she trailed off, wiggling her fork in the air while she thought of the right word.
“Like a woman’s,” Uncle Rob mumbled under his breath.
“That’s outta line, Rob,” My dad chimed in.
Rob looked up from his plate, sitting back defiantly in his chair as he glanced between Oliver and my dad. “I’ve nothing against gays…”
Here we go…
“…You know that, but he’s a man, wearing you know, women’s things. Does he want to be a woman? I know that’s all the rage these days too.”
I opened my mouth to put the ignorant fool in his place, something I’d never done before – but he’d never insulted someone I cared about before either, only Oliver beat me to it. “They’re not women’s things, they’re my things, and you’d probably be better asking me,” Oliver began. “No offense to Mr Day, but he’s only just met me. I doubt he’ll be able to answer any questions you have regarding my gender as adequately as I can.” And then, with a swift roll of one shoulder, Oliver carried on eating as if they’d simply been discussing last night’s episode of Coronation Street.
Straightening my back, I dropped my fork onto my plate, staring at Oliver, this incredible man, in utter awe. I’d known Uncle Rob my entire life, put up with his bullshit comments and homophobic slurs for as long as I could remember, and I’d just rolled over and ignored them or changed the subject because he was family and it wasn’t worth the hassle.
But not Oliver. He’d known him less than an hour and here he was, prepared to challenge him and, if I knew Oliver like I thought I did, educate him. Not that I held much hope of Rob actually listening.
“Well? Do you?” Rob asked.
The room fell deathly silent. Auntie Gemma chose to chew her lip and pretend to admire Scott’s school photos on the wall, my parents stared awkwardly at their plates, and Scott and Tyler gawped between Uncle Rob and Oliver with their mouths hung open.
“Do I want to be a woman? No. I’m very happy with my gender.”
“Then…why?” Uncle Rob’s nose scrunched up in what looked like disgust.
“Because I believe everyone deserves to feel good about themselves. I wear what makes me feel good. I don’t particularly like your jumper,” he said, pointing towards the argyle knit my uncle wore. “So I wouldn’t wear that, but under normal circumstances I’d never have told you that because you clearly feel comfortable in it and that’s all that matters.”
Uncle Rob looked down at his grey jumper, the disgust on his face melting into confusion.
“Plus, I’d be interested to meet the person who decided makeup is exclusively for women, given that it hasn’t always been the case. Men have been wearing it since the times of ancient Egypt. Maybe before.” Oliver shrugged. “I’m no historian. My point is, somewhere along the way someone, I don’t know who, decided we shouldn’t do that anymore. Well, unless we’re rock stars, actors, or new romantics, because that’s acceptable, right? Well, seeing as I don’t even know who decided I shouldn’t wear makeup simply because I have a penis, I don’t see why I need to listen to them.”
Oh shit. My mum started coughing and spluttering, choking on the lemonade she’d taken a sip of at, clearly, the worst moment possible. “You okay?” I asked her.
Still coughing, she raised her hand and attempted to nod as my dad patted her back. Oliver’s lips tightened into a firm, worried line, like he was afraid he might’ve been about to ruin what should’ve been a relaxed family dinner by killing my mother. But then she stopped coughing and managed to swig a few sips of the water Auntie Gemma had got from the kitchen without choking to death.
“If anyone’s still interested in what I was saying,” Auntie Gemma began, taking her seat back at the table. “I was trying to say your face looks like something out of a magazine. Photoshopped, almost. How do you get it to look so…so perfect?”
“Practice and good products,” Oliver answered with a proud smile.
“Do you do other people, or just yourself?”
Oh, Christ. Where’s she going with this?
“It’s just, Rob and I have a wedding coming up. My friend’s daughter is getting married in a few months. Could you make my face look as good as that?”
If you sprinkled glitter on a turd would it look like a diamond? I deserved a frigging award for not saying that out loud.
“Sure. I could do your makeup. I’ll give you the number for the salon I work in. Ring up and ask for an appointment with me.”
Thank fuck. At least that way we wouldn’t have to go around to their house for another hour of jaw-aching fake smiles and soul destroying awkwardness.
“Whoop! I’m all excited now!” she said on a squeal, clapping her hands.
Whoop? Who actually says whoop aloud? The same woman who often said LOL as an actual word, that’s who.
“Hey, Dad?” Scott piped up. “Can Ty and I go up to my room to play on the Xbox?”
“Don’t you want pudding? It’s spotted dick,” I said, raising my voice a notch higher. No one could resist spotted dick. “Custard too.”
Scott flashed the side-eye towards my auntie and uncle and said, “We’re full.”
“Sure,” I agreed. “I’ll save you some to reheat later.” Honestly, I wished I could hide out upstairs with them too.
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Nicola Haken lives in Rochdale, England, with her five kids – one of whom is a grown man who many refer to as her husband. She spends her days writing about life, love, and all the beauty and angst that comes with it, and her nights binge watching Netflix or being the household slave. She’s also not very good at referring to herself in the third person, so if you’d like to get to know her your best bet would be to follow her on social media!
Oh, and if the kids ever ask, she moonlights as the Pink Power Ranger while they’re sleeping…