My guest today is new-to-me author Lina Langley and her latest novel, Welcome to Crash, which is due out from DSP Publications on Tuesday, 12th September. Lina has brought not just the blurb and cover with her, but also a lovely long excerpt for all of use to check out Damien and his gorgeous boss, John.
Amazon tells me it’s a time travel story and since I have a particularly soft spot for those ever since I wrote my first one, Welcome to Crash goes on my TBR list.
Welcome to Crash
Length: 226 pages
Genre: Sci-fi, Romance, Time Travel
Buy at: DSP Publications
This book will be released on September 12th
At first, Damien feels lucky to land a job at an influential art studio, but it soon becomes obvious that something’s not right. His gorgeous boss, John, is interested, and he’d be the perfect man for Damien—if Damien wasn’t already in a relationship. It isn’t long before Damien is at the center of a love triangle, forced to choose between hot, punk John and his secret affair with his professor, Levi. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because something impossible is happening to Damien—and it’s having a drastic effect on his health as well as his perception of reality.
Each time Damien goes to work, things grow more bizarre, starting with Sam—an artist who has been dead for years and now somehow… isn’t. Damien’s unusual circumstances also free him from the restrictions of monogamy—or so he thinks. Levi, who cannot believe Damien’s claims, fears for his sanity. John also has strong doubts when Damien reveals knowledge of a catastrophic event looming in John’s future. Whether the men he loves believe his wild claims or not, neither can deny Damien is languishing, and if they cannot save him, he’ll be lost. More importantly, they must convince Damien to save himself.
Excerpt from Welcome to Crash by Lina Langley
I’m early to arrive at work today, mostly because I don’t want John to catch me in the hallway again. I’m prepared for him this time. I’m about to take my phone out of my pocket and try to text Ziggy to make plans, because I don’t want to go straight to Levi’s after work today, when John walks through the door. I open my mouth to greet him but he beats me to the punch.
“Hello,” he says and raises his eyebrows. “You’re here early.”
“Yeah,” I reply. I wait for him to say something about my outfit, but he doesn’t. He’s still looking at me, his eyes narrow now, so I decide to make a joke. “I thought that if I arrived early enough, I may run into Sam.”
He chuckles. “You don’t want to run into Sam. He’s scary.”
“I don’t know,” I reply. “I kind of would give up a kidney if it meant I got to meet Sam Riordan.”
He laughs again. “Keep your organs to yourself, Damien. We have a lot of work to do and you’re bound to meet him sooner or later. Just try not to be by yourself when you do.”
“He’s eccentric,” he says, putting emphasis on the last word.
“But that’s kind of cool,” I reply. “You’re eccentric.”
He looks at me and rolls his eyes. “I’m not sure whether to be offended or flattered.”
“It was a compliment. The best artists in the world are eccentrics.”
He raises his eyebrows. “You must be really good, then.”
I laugh and shake my head. “I’m so not. Eccentric, I mean. As an artist, I’m also pretty shit.”
“Shouldn’t I get to decide that?”
“You want to see my work?”
He shrugs. “I don’t know. Could be good.”
“It’s terrible,” I say. “Seriously. Compared to Riordan quality work, it’s not –”
“Interesting. I didn’t think that you were shy.”
I laugh. “I’m not. I’m just being honest.”
“Guess I need to find out for myself,” John says. He bites his lower lip and sets his gaze on my face. I can feel the heat in my cheeks. I’m about to say something when a lock clicks somewhere and his eyes widen. “Come on. We have a lot of work to do today.”
Sorting cans of paint turns out to be weirdly exhausting work, but it’s fine. At least it’s not idle. I’m doing something. I have to go to the back, where the studio gets shipments, and then bring the cans in. I have to stack them up in the storage room, making sure they don’t touch anything else. These aren’t, like, oil paints either. They’re the type you do your walls with.
There’s barely enough space on the shelves as it is, and it’s quite tricky to stack them together. I wonder why I have to do this at all, why they have so many cans of greens and reds and blues sitting right outside the studio today. John told me there’s some sort of shipment every day.
I want to ask why, but I also know I shouldn’t. I mean, of course there is.
It’s cold outside, so I try wearing my coat at first while I work, but then it gets too hot, so I take it off and put it on John’s desk. He watches me peel it off, even though he’s already seen me with my coat draped over my forearm, wearing, well, business casual. Italian prostitute uniform. A bit of both, maybe. Whatever my outfit is, he seems to enjoy the show.
He’s not shy about it, his eyes all sparkly and his mouth kind of half-open in this expression that doesn’t quite give way to a grin yet but isn’t exactly not a smile.
It’s sweet. Sweet, sincere, a complete contradiction from his harsh features, the intensity of his looks. I hate that I have to go back out again, make him stop inspecting me.
I’m both sweaty and cold by the time all the paint is stacked in the supply closet. My face and fingers are getting really warm from the contradiction—cool air, hot air, cool air, hot air, cool air, now just hot, warm, enclosed air.
John looks at me and chuckles. “You alright there?”
I nod, and lean against the desk as I hold on to the edge, my fingers slipping on the wood. I close my eyes and tilt my head back, taking a second to gather myself. It’s been a rough, punishing morning, and I don’t notice how tired I was until now when deciding whether I’m too warm or too cold. Everything’s aching.
At least I’ve done something. Which is better than most days.
“Take a break,” John says.
His voice sounds so distant, it’s hard to believe we’re in such a small room. I nod and survey John’s silly little office as I try to find a suitable place to sit down, to rest.
The entire floor is taken up by John, sitting with his knees up by his chest and his ankles crossed, and the pile of letters he has managed to scatter over the carpet. I thought he was meant to be sorting these.
There’s no room for me here at all. It’s so stupid, but it hurts that he hasn’t even tried to make space for me, even though he doesn’t have to.
And I know I shouldn’t want him to. I need to get a grip.
I’m nobody to him. We just met a couple of days ago, and I’m being crazy. I close my eyes again and exhale heavily through my nose as I try to keep myself steady on my feet.
I open my eyes to catch John looking at me—no, looking isn’t the right word, he’s staring. Unabashed, full-on, a hundred percent staring. The type that I wouldn’t even have access to unless I was drunk or high off my tits. I can feel the pull to look anywhere but at him. But I don’t. I look right back at him, trying to seem just as serious and intense as he does. Is. By default.
Maybe he’ll look down and blush, and I’ll have won. Because right now it feels like a game and suddenly it’s really important that I’m the one who wins. Instead of looking down, he grins.
And I look away.
He laughs. “Sorry. Am I making you uncomfortable?”
I don’t really know what I’m supposed to say. Yes, you’re making me uncomfortable, incredibly uncomfortable, but I don’t want you to stop. That’s what comes to mind, but I’m definitely not going to say that. I may be giddy with something, but I’m not stupid. Not that stupid. This person, he’s my boss after all. And I guess there’s no harm in looking.
“No,” I say and smile back at him. I hope it looks sincere. “Not at all.”
John stops smiling. His eyes darken for a second. “So you liked that?”
“Yes,” I reply, probably too quickly. I take a few seconds to speak again, actually counting myself down so I stop seeming like I’m overly keen. “Almost as much as you liked looking.”
This time he does blush and he looks away from me. Victory maybe. I try not to smile, but I can’t help myself.
“I’m not gay.”
I laugh. I don’t think it’s a joke, but I don’t know him well enough to be able to tell. I do know that this, like him, like this entire situation, is verging on the edge of absurd.
“I didn’t say that you were.”
“I’m not,” he says a little quietly, looking at the floor.
This is awkward now, and I’m not really sure what I’m meant to say to him. I’m wondering what to say, when he stands up and walks over to me. His face is really close to mine, so close that I can smell him—chewing gum and tobacco. He doesn’t smile. His face is as close to expressionless as it can get. There’s only his eyes I can get a read on really, which are bright and wide, framed by these beautiful, dark eyelashes that I’m angry at myself for not noticing before. If I wasn’t kind of certain where this was going, I would be scared.
He puts his hand on the back of my head and presses his lips against mine. I should probably stop him, but I don’t. I do nothing but stand there, his breath tickling my skin, his mouth soft and dry against my own. He insists, pressing against me hard, and I give in. He’s eager, maybe just as eager as I was a second ago, and that makes it all the better when I finally put my arms around him and our bodies touch.
I can feel he’s already hard despite how tight his jeans are. I’m wearing, well, normal business-casual trousers, and I’m getting there. I know that if I let him continue, something else is going to happen. I really, really want it to, but I can’t because he’s my boss and—well, because he’s not Levi.
I grab his wrists, barely gripping them, and move them off my head. He doesn’t resist. “John,” I say quietly.
He looks at me before he takes a step back, swallowing hard.
“I’m sorry,” I say when I see the look on his face. I’m still holding his wrists and I can feel his pulse. I should probably let him go, but I don’t. “I’m seeing someone.”
He moves away from me. “Right.”
“I like you, I’m just—”
“Not single,” he replies. He moves his hands away from me—not quite jerking away but not kindly either. He sets his gaze on me before he speaks again, his eyes small, defiant. “I get it.”
I wonder if he’s going to apologize. He opens his mouth to say something, looks me up and down, and then turns and walks out of the room.
He closes the door behind him. For a mad second, I wonder if I should follow him. I could follow him and then—then what? Nothing.
I need to talk to Levi.
I take my phone out of my pocket. I need to get in touch with him right now or things could go terribly wrong.
No signal. Of course I have no signal.
I type a text and hope my phone will send it as soon as I walk out the door. I look at the clock.
Good. I only need to get through a few more hours of this. Just a few more hours. Then I’m probably never being asked to come back.
I don’t have time to decide whether I’m upset or relieved, before John walks in the door. “Come on. We’re going for lunch.”
I follow John out the door. He’s not saying anything. I wonder if I should, but nothing intelligent comes to mind. I decide to keep my mouth shut, as we walk from the back of the studio and into the cold day.
There’s no one in the back alley. And it is a back alley, full of rubbish and puddles and little else. That’s why I’m surprised when we arrive at a door, which looks small and unassuming, and John pushes in.
It’s a restaurant. Kind of.
Like his office it’s small. There are a couple of desks pushed to the side, and there’s a person at the back, next to an old-looking till. There’s a small kitchen behind them. It’s covered by shadows.
I walk into the café, scan it, and find a menu—it’s one of those chalk menus that hangs on the wall, except it isn’t behind the till but just on the right wall.
I look at it. It’s as small as this place. There’s a subsection of sandwiches: cheese and tomato, egg and bacon, tuna, sausage. There’s also a “hot snacks” section with things like a full English. And there’s bread and butter rolls.
Which is of course ridiculous.
I’m busy staring at the selection of food and trying to forget about what just happened in the office. I don’t hear John walk past me and toward the till. I don’t even notice they’re talking until John puts a hand on my shoulder.
“Damien,” he says. “What do you want?”
I look at the menu again, this time at the prices too. They’re really, really cheap. There’s no way this place is turning a profit at all.
Not just because of the prices. Everything looks thoroughly unappetizing.
Plus it’s kind of hard to think when John’s hand is still on my shoulder and I can feel the warmth of his skin even through the fabric of my coat and my shirt.
“Uh,” I say. “I’m not hungry.”
“You have to eat,” he says. His hand is still on my shoulder and maddeningly close. “It’s hungry work, what we do.”
The man at the till snickers.
“I don’t know, John,” I say. “I’m vegan.”
He takes his hand off my shoulder. “Vegan? You don’t eat meat?”
“Yes, that’s part of it,” I say, frowning. “I don’t eat, like, any animal products. I don’t really talk about it, you know, because people think vegans are so overbearing. But, um, I don’t think anything here would be okay.”
“Not even the bread rolls and butter?”
For a second I wonder if he’s making fun of me, but I don’t think so. He seems sincere, almost concerned. It kind of sounds as if the concept is completely new to him. I’m guessing he just wants to be funny, so I try to play it straight. “Butter’s an animal by-product.”
“So what do you eat?”
“Loads of things,” I say. “Just nothing they have here. Like, I don’t know, a salad or potatoes, I guess. I mean, I’m not going to just list my diet at you, because that seems both stupid and a waste of time.”
“Right,” he says. He turns away from me. “Okay. Earl, make Damien a salad.”
I’m so confused. That’s not the kind of instruction you can give someone. He hasn’t even specified which kind of salad I want. There’s no way he could because I haven’t told him. We should probably just go somewhere else. “I mean, maybe we could—”
“That’ll be fifty pence,” Earl says, his voice all raspy.
I want to ask what for exactly, but also it’s only fifty pence and it’s the first time John has tried to do something nice for me. If I refuse, I guess it’s kind of like spitting in his face.
Which I don’t want to do.
Or maybe I do, I guess, if things get weird.
But not—God, what’s wrong with me? I dig my credit card out of my wallet and hand it to Earl, who looks at it and raises his eyebrows, his eyes small and accusatory.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I don’t have any cash.”
John looks at me for a second and rolls his eyes. “Don’t worry about it, Earl. I’ll pay.”
He grabs a wad of notes out of his jacket pocket and slams them on the desk in front of Earl. Then he looks at me and smiles.
About Lina Langley
Lina Langley is a first-generation immigrant. She currently lives in sunny Florida and spends her time slashing hot strangers while getting coffee.
Her past is haunted by spies, thieves, tyrants, and murderers. A resident of the world, she’s lived on three different continents. She first saw a radiator when she was twenty-two years old, and one time she followed a cat instead of going to a house party.
She likes to read, watch TV, and play video games when she’s not developing them. The rest of her free time is spent recreating her own characters in The Sims and hoping that people don’t look at the back end of her games.
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