Hello! I’m Elyse, and welcome to the blog tour for my new release, Whiteout! This is the first book in the Seasons of Love series, and I can’t wait to introduce you to Noah and Jason.
About the series: New York is the city that never sleeps: where everything can change in the blink of an eye, and where anything is possible—especially romance. In the bitter cold of winter or the impossible humidity of mid-summer, your own happily ever after might be right around the corner.
The people of New York come from all walks of life, and the relationships are just as diverse. So whether you’re a waiter or an aspiring actor, a banker or a model, falling in love can happen quicker than the seasons change.
Noah Landers wakes up one day with a headache and no memory of where—or who—he is. Jason, the man taking care of him, tries to fill in some of the blanks: they’re in a cabin in Colorado on vacation, and Noah slipped on ice and hit his head. But even with amnesia, Noah knows Jason is leaving out something important.
Jason O’Reilly is sexy as hell, treats Noah like he’s precious, and seems determined to make this the romantic getaway they’d apparently dreamed of together. But Noah’s more concerned that he’s trapped alone with Jason in the middle of a blizzard while his slowly-returning memories bring hints of secrets and betrayal.
Noah’s not sure what’s the truth and what’s a lie. But as he learns who he is—and who Jason is to him—he’s forced to reevaluate everything he believes about himself, about loyalty . . . and about love.
Now available from Riptide Publishing. http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/whiteout
He woke up to gentle fingers carding through his hair, and a raging headache.
The fingers stopped their soothing movement as he groaned, and then there was a hand on his face and a shadow blocking out the light. He blinked once, twice, forcing his eyes to slowly open.
A man was looking down at him, his gaze filled with relief and tenderness. “Good, you’re awake.” The hand moved down his face and neck, feather-light touches, and then the man twined their fingers together. “I’ve been so worried. How are you feeling?”
He shifted, wincing as the movement caused the pain in his head to spike. “I don’t . . .” His voice was rusty, and he had to swallow a few times before continuing. “Head hurts,” he finally managed. “Where am I?”
“We’re in the cabin in Colorado. Do you remember what happened, baby?”
Baby? The word made no sense, meant nothing to him. His head ached fiercely as he struggled to find something to explain what was going on, but he couldn’t think past the stabbing in his head. The man was waiting for an answer, eyebrows furrowed with worry.
He tried to connect a name to the face staring down at him, but there was only static—and more excruciating agony. “Who are you?” he whispered.
The fingers around his tightened. “Babe? What’d you say?” The words were still soothing, but now there was panic laced in that soothing tone.
“Don’t know,” he tried again, voice tight through the pain, “who you are. Or where I am.”
“Noah, it’s me. Jason. Do you remember me?”
Nope, nothing. The names ran through his head, but there was no memory to attach them to. Nothing to connect Jason to, with his brown eyes and comforting voice. And he was Noah? The words were meaningless. He closed his eyes as his head pounded. Why didn’t he recognize his own name?
“Noah, baby, keep your eyes open. I called the doctor in town; he said you probably have a concussion and I’m supposed to keep you awake if I can.” The calm was all but gone now, replaced with something stronger.
“Don’t remember.” He sucked in a shallow breath, then another. Why couldn’t he remember? His heart hammered like it was going to beat out of his chest. He clenched his eyes tighter, until bursts of red bloomed against his eyelids. Everything hurt, and the harder he tried to think, the more his head felt like it was being torn in two.
The other man—Jason, why can’t I remember that?—climbed carefully onto the bed next to him. He slid one arm underneath his shoulders, made soft noises against his neck. “Deep breaths. Shhh. Inhale, exhale. You’re okay. It’s going to be okay. Breathe with me, Noah.”
“Why do you keep calling me that?”
“Noah? It’s your name, baby. Noah Landers.”
If that was true, then why didn’t he know it? It felt weird, not quite right, like putting on clothes that didn’t fit well. “And you’re Jason?”
“Yeah, I’m Jason.” He paused, then added, “Jason O’Reilly.”
But that wasn’t right either. The words made his stomach ache, but he didn’t know why.
“C’mon, Noah, open your eyes for me.” Jason squeezed his hand again. “I’m going to call the doctor again in a few minutes, but first I need you to open your eyes back up. Come on, let me get you some water and Tylenol. I bet you have an awful headache, and I know how grumpy you get when you’re in pain.”
Slowly, Noah blinked his eyes back open.
Jason gifted him with a smile, and a small part of Noah must have recognized it—his body responded, relaxing at the sight. The sick feeling in his stomach didn’t vanish, but it lessened.
“Let me grab those painkillers for you. I’ll be back soon, okay?”
Before Noah could answer, Jason brushed a gentle kiss over his forehead, then slid off the bed.
Noah took the chance to study him as he walked away, and to take in the room through his pain-soaked haze. Nothing was familiar. The room, filled with dark wood and white linens, was cozy and quaint, but the size, combined with the quality of the furnishings, implied a subtle wealth. A window showed that it was evening, only a hint of gray light making it through the glass, and white snow blew past, obscuring any possible view.
And Jason himself . . . Noah couldn’t take his eyes off him as he walked back into the room with a glass of water and bottle of medicine. He was tall, easily six foot, and there was a clear definition of muscles beneath the henley and jeans he wore. His dark hair was flecked with gray at the temples, and it was standing straight up, as though Jason had run his hands through it over and over.
That thought was followed by another. What do I look like? Noah’s panic attack threatened to return again. How can I not know what I look like? It was a terrifying disconnect, trying to picture his own face and drawing a complete blank. He examined his arms, thin and pale. Sparse blond hair and dark freckles patterned the skin.
Jason set the water down quickly and moved back to the bed. He shifted Noah to a sitting position, wrapping his arms around Noah’s shoulders to support him. “You’re all right. Deep breaths, babe.” The concern that had been present on his face since Noah had woken hadn’t faded, but there was another emotion present there now. Noah wasn’t sure what to call it, but it made the awful feeling in his gut rise back up.
“I’m trying to remember.” He took a deep breath, felt his body steady, and then took another one. His hands were trembling, heart racing.
“Let’s start with the pain medicine,” Jason said. “Then we’ll work on helping you remember, okay?” He retrieved the water and passed over two white pills, but had to help Noah drink from the cup. A few drops spilled down his chin anyway, and Jason used his thumb to wipe them up gently.
Noah swallowed the medicine gratefully, then relaxed back against the pillows.
“So you don’t remember anything?” Jason asked.
“None of this is familiar. I don’t know who you are. I don’t know who I am, or what I look like.”
“I can fix one of those things right now.” Jason moved over to the wall, where a large rectangular mirror hung, and lifted it off its hook. His arms flexed under the strain, and Noah had to pull his attention away from the bulging biceps in order to investigate the image before him.
Blond hair curled around his ears. Blue eyes appeared dull with pain, and a purple bruise bloomed along the edge of his temple, disappearing up into a white bandage that was spotted with blood.
Hesitantly, he touched the injury, watching in fascination as his reflection did the same. The face in the mirror wasn’t familiar, and his brain struggled to connect the thin, pale figure with the concept of self.
“The bleeding stopped,” Jason said, motioning to the bandage. “But it bled a lot at first. The doctor gave me a list of food to help you recover from the blood loss, so you should be . . .” He paused and ran a hand through his hair. “That was the scariest part, finding you lying on the ground, blood everywhere.”
The face staring back at him was essentially a stranger, and Noah had to look away.
Jason propped the mirror against the wall and then sat down on the bed again, carefully drawing Noah in to curl against him. “We’re on vacation,” he said. “In Colorado. I have a small cabin here, and we decided to come up for Christmas. I had . . .” he hesitated. “I’d asked you to go shovel the path to the wood shed, because it was starting to snow and the weather report had said a blizzard was going to be rolling through. I guess you slipped, hit your head pretty bad.”
“Yeah,” Jason laughed, “of course that’s what you’d latch on to. You warned me, said sane people go to the beach for Christmas, not to a house in the middle of the mountains, because who picks avalanches and blizzards over sun and sand? But I wanted to spend Christmas with you, relaxing in front of the fire. You said you’d never had a true white Christmas before, just gray slushy snow in the city.”
Noah frowned. The more Jason spoke, the more he knew that something wasn’t right. “Why no hospital?”
“Emergency vehicles can’t get up here until the storm dies down,” Jason said. “Maybe two days if we’re lucky, three or four if not. I called the doctor in Aspen, and he’s been walking me through how to take care of you step-by-step.”
Carefully, Noah brushed his fingers over the bandage around his head again. The Tylenol was beginning to work, but there was still a sharp pain and throbbing ache in his skull, and there was a large bump just over his ear.
“It’s late now, but I’m going to call the hospital back, see if I can talk to a doctor. A little memory loss is normal, from what they told me, but I just want to check in with them about your amnesia.” Jason leaned forward, and Noah expected another kiss on his forehead. Instead, Jason carefully brushed their lips together, fingers resting against Noah’s jaw. “You’re going to be okay, baby,” he said. “I’m so sorry, but I’ll do everything I can to make sure you’re better soon.”
Then he left Noah alone in the room with his thoughts.
The wind howling outside combined with the faint murmur of Jason on the phone in another room, creating a soothing white noise as Noah stared at the ceiling and tried to remember.
There were things he knew, although he wasn’t sure how he knew them. He knew what amnesia meant, and that he didn’t like being trapped in a blizzard. He knew that Jason loved him, or at least cared very deeply for him. But he didn’t know why that knowledge made his chest sore. He’d caught Jason’s nervousness earlier when explaining how he’d been injured, and knew there was something that he wasn’t being told, but his brain was as blank and white as the world outside the windows.
Through the pain pulsing in time with his heartbeat, he tried to get his mind to focus. He couldn’t stop thinking about the pale reflection in the mirror and how much his own appearance had unsettled him. And who, exactly, was Noah? Where do I come from? Do I have family? A sharp wave of nausea hit him, and Noah forced his thoughts elsewhere. It was Jason who came to mind immediately, and the caring look he’d given Noah that helped the nausea fade. Jason had called him babe, so were they boyfriends? Was he gay? Why did he know what the word gay meant, but couldn’t even remember if he had a family, or what his favorite color was?
When Jason came back into the room, Noah was no closer to figuring anything out.
“Good news and bad news,” Jason said. “What do you want first?”
“Bad news,” Noah said immediately.
That got him a grin. Clearly it was the response Jason expected from him. “All right, bad news is that the doctor thinks you have retrograde amnesia.” He had a pad of paper in his hand, and was reading the words carefully. “Normally it goes away on its own, but it can take anywhere from twenty-four hours to a week, and you’ll probably have a headache the whole time.” He winced. “Sorry.”
Retrograde amnesia. Memory loss, that was the amnesia part, but he wasn’t entirely sure what retrograde meant. How do I know that? “It sounds like a bad movie plot,” he said aloud, the words tumbling out before he could think.
Jason laughed. “Yeah. And the fact that you remember the plots of cheesy movies but didn’t remember your own name sounds exactly like Hollywood.”
The smile warmed something in Noah, as did the doctor’s report that the amnesia would go away . . . eventually. But while the headache had faded thanks to the medicine, Noah wasn’t thrilled to hear that it wouldn’t stop hurting anytime soon. “And the good news?”
“Dr. Whitcombe says you can sleep tonight, but I’m going to have to wake you every two or three hours.”
“That’s the good news?”
“Yeah.” Jason paused. “Sorry.”
“Stop saying that you’re sorry,” Noah said. “It’s not your fault that I agreed to shovel the snow.”
That got a wince, and Jason started to open his mouth, then closed it suddenly. “The doctor also said not to tell you too much. He wants you to remember on your own.”
Which meant Noah would be lost and confused until his memories started coming back. “Still waiting for the good news,” he grumbled.
“There’s not a whole lot of that,” Jason admitted. “It’s late now, though. I think we should go to sleep.”
“So you can wake me up every two hours?”
Jason smiled. “Yeah. Trust me, I’m not looking forward to it any more than you are. Hopefully in the morning you’ll remember more.”
Noah allowed Jason to reposition the pillows to support him so that the throbbing in his head wasn’t quite so immediate, and pulled blankets up around him.
“Good night, I guess.” Jason leaned over and gave Noah another kiss on the forehead, then straightened, glancing at the other side of the bed before shaking his head and turning to leave.
“Where are you going?”
“The couch, I suppose.” Jason sounded unsure.
Noah frowned. He glanced at the bedside tables: there was a book on the one next to him and an e-reader tablet and watch on the one opposite. “You normally sleep here,” he said. “We sleep together?”
“Yeah, baby—I mean, crap. Noah. I shouldn’t.” Jason bit off the words, then started again. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable,” he said. “If you don’t know who I am, then . . .”
“Are we boyfriends?” Neither of them had rings on, so they probably weren’t married. But he also knew—somehow, his brain had retained this information when it cut him off from everything else—that he wouldn’t sleep in a bed with someone he was just friends with. And Jason kept calling him baby, like he was something precious.
Jason’s lips quirked up. “Partners, I think. You used boyfriends once, then made a face like you’d eaten something terrible. Said it sounded like we were back in high school. So, partners. Lovers.”
Lovers. Noah liked the sound of that. He liked Jason, even though he couldn’t remember him. “You should stay here tonight, then.”
“Noah, I can sleep on the couch just fine.”
“But you have to wake up every few hours to wake me up,” Noah pointed out. “And . . . this is your bed. I mean, it’s our bed? You should stay here.”
Jason lingered at the side of the bed, the desire to be close to Noah clearly visible on his face.
Noah pulled the blankets down next to him. He yawned, the pain pills leaching away the last bit of ache, exhaustion washing over him. “Sleep.”
“All right,” Jason finally agreed. He turned the light off in the room, then crawled into the bed next to Noah, careful to leave space between them. There was a flash from his watch as he set an alarm. “Three hours,” Jason said. “Good night.”
“Night,” Noah murmured, and didn’t fight the darkness as it pulled him under.
About Elyse Springer
Elyse is an author and world-traveler, whose unique life experiences have helped to shape the stories that she wants to tell. She writes romances with LGBTQ+ characters and relationships, and believes that every person deserves a Happily Ever After. When she’s not staring futilely at her computer screen, El spends her time adding stamps to her passport, catching up on her terrifying TBR list, and learning to be a better adult.
She’s always happy to chat with other readers, and you can find her online at:
- Website: http://elspringer.com
- Twitter: @ElyseSpringer
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elysespringerwrites
To celebrate the release of Whiteout, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Amazon gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on January 28, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.
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