Today I am so pleased to welcome Tal Bauer to Joyfully Jay. Tal has come to share an exclusive excerpt from his latest release, Enemy Within. Tal has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving Tal big welcome!
The (Demi)Sexuality of President Jack Spiers
Let’s talk about President Jack Spiers.
Jack Spiers, President of the United States in The Executive Office series, married his college sweetheart, Leslie Spiers, when he was a young adult. Leslie went on to earn a commission in the US Army, and then tragically died in combat, fifteen years prior to the start of Enemies of the State, book #1 of The Executive Office.
Following Leslie’s death, Jack had zero relationships. He was never romantically or physically interested in another, or in pursuing a relationship(s). He never fell for anyone, and he was never physical or sexually attracted to anyone, either. He considers himself a “celibate warrior-politician”, and has committed his life to politics in his wife’s memory. He was content living as a widower, single for the rest of his life… Or so he thought.
And then he met Special Agent Ethan Reichenbach of the United States Secret Service. Straight laced, intimidating, by-the-book Ethan Reichenbach, the head of his Secret Service detail at the White House. Openly gay, Ethan rose through the Secret Service ranks to command the presidential detail. He is committed to his professionalism, and to protecting the president, whoever that is. Presidents come and go – they’re just jobs, to Ethan.
Their friendship, however, starts like a hit of heroin. As Christina says, Jack Spiers is Ethan’s “gateway drug.” He bends the rules from the very first night – spending companionable time with Jack instead of keeping his distance – and their friendship only grows – despite every single one of the rules – from there.
But how did Jack – an otherwise straight man – fall for Ethan? How did he make the transition from who he thought he was (a heterosexual man) to a man that could (and did!) fall head over heels for another man?
I specifically wrote Jack Spiers to be Demisexual. He, throughout his whole life, falls in love with his heart and his soul before falling for any person physically or sexually. He doesn’t know this about himself, at first. In Enemies of the State, he had no idea his friendship with Ethan was building a bridge to his heart.
He understands more about himself in Enemy Within, though.
“Tell me how you and Ethan came to be lovers?”
Jack turned and stared at Sergey.
Sergey wouldn’t look back. His jaw clenched, and he gripped the steering wheel, one elbow propped on the windowsill with his hand on his forehead. “I only know what the media reported. And all of it contradicted each other. I do not know what actually happened.”
Slowly, Jack began to speak. He told Sergey about their friendship, about how Ethan was a breath of fresh air in a stilted world. How, even as the president of the United States, he’d become starved for human interaction and friendship. What Ethan had risked giving that to him, and how their friendship had grown, deepened, and become something more.
Sergey said nothing.
And then he told Sergey about the kiss. Ethan’s hopeful, aching heart wishing for the best, and Jack, shocked and shaken and reacting without thinking. How they’d fallen apart, and then had come back together, ironically, to stand against Sergey in Prague.
Finally, Sergey reacted. Frowning, he shook his head, as if trying to understand. “You… didn’t know this about yourself before Ethan?”
“No. I was never attracted to men before him. Generally, I’m still not.” He hesitated. “I do know myself enough to recognize that I fall for someone with my heart first. That’s how it was with him and me. I already had fallen for him, and then the desire started. Maybe if I had given it a chance before, the same thing would have happened with someone else. If I had been open to it.”
Writing demisexuality is an interesting experience. So many aspects of how the character views the world change. For instance, the male gaze. The male gaze – gay or straight or bi – is highly attuned to physicality. Men – generally – notice physicality first and foremost. How hot is he? How scrumptious? How’s that ass? Oo, those shoulders. Those abs. Yes. Drool. In contrast to Jack, Ethan – who is openly, proudly gay – notices Jack’s physical appearance right away. Jack’s appearance is always a part of Ethan’s attraction to Jack. He thinks Jack is gorgeous, and he moves from sexual interest to lust to falling in love. Ethan’s gaze is the most familiar to most readers, I believe. It’s what readers see and feel when they read most romances. There are usually always the physical cues and clues to attraction when the two protagonists meet.
In this series, I did NOT set out to write a “GFY” story. I wanted to write a story about discovery and identity, acceptance and perseverance, and finding true love. A large part of that is Jack’s journey of discovery of who he is – a demisexual, bisexual man, who is absolutely capable of falling in love with a man, both emotionally and physically.
He starts to fall in love in Enemies of the State. Readers, along with Ethan, and Ethan’s coworkers, all watch how he relates to Ethan… and they think it’s somewhat strange. He wants to be with Ethan at all times. He seeks him out for companionship and friendship. He thinks of him in nearly all of his spare moments. The thought of Ethan brings a smile to his face. They text throughout the day at the White House. They trade jokes. He looks forward to seeing Ethan at the end of the day. As he thinks in Enemies of the State,
Jack pulled out his phone, opening up Ethan’s text messages. Was it selfish, asking Ethan to hang out with him? Ethan spent a lot of time at the White House as it was, between working and their clandestine friendship. Some days, the promise of seeing Ethan later was the goal he trudged forward for. And their texts always made him smile, even when nothing else did.
That’s what friends did for each other. What Ethan did for Jack, for sure.
He hoped he was half as good a friend to Ethan as Ethan was to him.
Did Ethan look forward to when they hung out? He swallowed, frowning as dark thoughts edged into his mind. Did Ethan see their time together as another one of his duties? Was this all… just a big show?
When Jack learns of Ethan’s attraction – Ethan’s love – for him, he’s flummoxed. He doesn’t know what to do, at first. But then, he starts to explore his heart.
Jack headed for his bed. He laid Ethan’s jacket on the mattress and never took his eyes off it, methodically stripping out of his own clothes and leaving them in a heap.
Naked and trembling, Jack slid into Ethan’s jacket. The sleeves were too long and the shoulders too broad, and he felt like a kid playing dress up, but Ethan’s scent—his scent!—surrounded Jack, burrowing down to his bones and into his blood.
He crawled into his bed, just in the jacket like some kind of fetishist, and lay back. He let his mind go, wandering over his memories of Ethan—from the bar earlier, from the night by the pool table, from every one of the times they’d stolen away together. He remembered his dreams, and dove into those as he closed his eyes and tipped his head back.…
He couldn’t ignore what had happened. And he didn’t want to keep going like this, missing Ethan like a festering wound.
Was he actually, truly, thinking of…
Fifteen years was a very long time. Long enough to decide that he was going to be a widower for the rest of his life. He’d made his peace with that years ago.
But, Ethan had walked into his life—bold, brawny Ethan—and he wasn’t going to pretend that their friendship wasn’t already bordering on the edge of something he wasn’t ready to name just yet. He knew himself enough, at least, to know that he fell with his heart first. Had that happened here? And he didn’t even know?
Could he actually start a relationship? With Ethan? While he was the president?
The past hour had proven that he, in fact, could… at least physically.
But fifteen years of solitude and no small measure of fear held him back. Stilled him on the bed, and kept him frozen as he trembled, wrapped up in Ethan’s jacket. What should he do? What was the right choice? Where did he—they—go from here?
It was important to me that Jack, being demisexual, fell emotionally first and then followed that fall into love with developing a physical attraction to Ethan. In his POV of their building friendship, there isn’t a single hint of him being physically attracted to Ethan (emotional attraction, oh, hell yes!). The thought of being physically attracted to Ethan never crosses his mind. There are no wandering eyes, or gazing at him appreciatively, or zings in his belly. No sweaty palms or gazing at his lips. No imagining Ethan as he rubs one out. He’s totally in the heart there – falling for Ethan through their friendship first. When his eyes are opened by Ethan’s desire, and how Ethan has fallen for him, the possibility of more is planted in his brain.
Then, he starts down the path of “can I reciprocate this desire?”
Here is in his own words, describing falling physically for Ethan (excerpt of a Reader’s Press Corps Interview with Jack & Ethan):
Nicole: Alright, Mr. President. You never thought about Ethan in a romantic way. Not until Ethan revealed his feelings to you. You’ve never been in a relationship with a man before. What do you think when you look at him? You love who he is, but is he hot, sexy, or beautiful to you? Is the physical attraction the same as it was for your wife, or with other women?
Jack: He is all of those things. Beautiful, gorgeous, and so, so sexy. When I look at Ethan, my heart beats faster. I feel like I can’t speak right sometimes, he just stuns me with everything about him. I get that zing inside me, and I want to reach out for him all the time.
Was it like this when I first met him? No. No, I wasn’t physically attracted to him right away. I could see he was an attractive man. Could recognize that he was good looking. But it didn’t hit me personally. My… physical attraction to him developed alongside my emotions. The deeper I fell for him, the more attracted I became. His eyes went from being brown to burnished bronze. His face went from being like a statue—so serious!—to me noticing all of the beautiful touches and uniquenesses that were his own. The way his lips quirk up, just before he smiles. A pre-smile, almost. How his eyes crinkle at the corners. I can read everything in that little crinkle. The way his eyelashes fall over his cheeks. The angle of his jaw, when he’s standing in the sunlight. How his five o’clock shadow grows in. The way his shoulders fill out his suit. His ass. He’s got a nice tight, round ass. And his thighs. God, they’re so strong. His whole body. It’s powerful. I can never get enough. *laughs at himself* So, as you can see, now that I’m deeply in love with Ethan, my physical attraction to him is over the moon. It’s just as, if not more, powerful than anything I have felt before. Because I discovered this. This amazing love I have for this amazing man.
Writing a demisexual character is deeply meaningful to me, as my husband is demisexual.
In Enemy of My Enemy, Jack has accepted that he is madly, wildly, deeply in love with Ethan, and he’s ready for the world to know about it. However, actions and declarations have consequences, and both domestic and international forces conspire against him and his new-found love. One enemy in particular, rogue General Madigan, sets in motion a plan to tear Jack and Ethan apart in the worst way possible.
Which brings us to Enemy Within. In this, the final Executive Office novel, Jack and Ethan reconnect, and their love grows deeper. Both men accept the soul-deep truth of their love. They are, in every sense of the word, soul mates, and they both know it in their hearts. They face their final challenges as a united front – together, inseparable – and as men and partners who gather strength from their love.
What else happens in Enemy Within? At the end of Enemy of My Enemy, Ethan has two engagement rings in his pocket. How and when will he propose? And what will Jack say?
What about our other couples? Sergey & Sasha? Adam & Faisal?
Well… we’ll have to wait and see!
Enemy Within, Executive Office #3, releases on March 28, 2017 at Amazon, Smashwords, and other eBook & print retailers!
Enemies of the State, Executive Office #1, the first in the series, is available NOW for $0.99 at Amazon, Smashwords, and other eBook & print retailers. Dive into the series now!
The White House, infiltrated.
The president, running for his life.
A traitorous general, intent on burning the world to the ground.
When everything falls apart, who do you trust?
President Jack Spiers fled Washington DC on the heels of a devastating attack on CIA headquarters, masterminded by one of America’s own, former General Porter Madigan. While the world believes Jack was killed in the bombing, he embarks on a wild infiltration mission, smuggling himself into occupied Russia to rescue the love of his life: former Secret Service Agent and First Gentleman Ethan Reichenbach.
Reunited, Jack, Ethan, and deposed Russian president Sergey Puchkov, along with President Elizabeth Wall—the only person left in Washington DC who Jack trusts—must work together. They piece together a desperate plan, hunting Madigan to the ends of the earth and the bitter frigidity of the Arctic, where Madigan’s world-shattering doomsday plan comes together.
Outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and outgunned, Jack, Ethan, Sergey, and the rest of the team struggle to put a stop to Madigan and his army. In the desolate extremes of the Arctic, their resolve, their strength, and even their love is tested, pushed to the absolute limits as choices must be made: choices that pit the fate of the world against the love in their hearts, and the loves of their life.
As the world crumbles around them, Jack and Ethan find themselves waging a war on two fronts—against an enemy they can see, and another, hiding within their ranks.
Who can be trusted when the enemy is within you?
Tal Bauer is an award-winning and best-selling author of LGBT romantic thrillers, bringing together a career in law enforcement and international humanitarian aid to create dynamic characters, intriguing plots, and exotic locations. He is happily married and lives with his husband and their Basset Hound in Texas. Tal is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.
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