Exclusive Excerpt: FIRE ON THE ISLAND By Timothy Jay Smith

Excerpt:

They stripped, and Nick followed the naked young man onto the beach. Moonlight fell across his shoulders and showed his buttocks flexing as he picked his way across the pebbles. In a short distance, they came to the whitewashed walls of an ancient hammam. Oblong, it had a vaulted roof and a rounded snout that jutted into the sea. The wind-driven waves crashed against it. Takis planted his hands on its side and stepped into the cold rough water.

“Where are we going?”

“Just follow me!”

Immediately drenched, and quickly waist deep in the churning sea, they had to struggle to stay upright. The water knocked them one way while the undertow dragged them the other. When they’d worked their way around to the other side, they crawled onto a stone landing and collapsed, wracked with shivers, elbows tucked under them for warmth. “You call this a hot bath?” Nick finally managed to say.

Takis blindly dropped a hand on his back. “Just wait.”

Nick shook his hand off, and Takis, wondering why, saw his scars. “You were in a fire?” he asked.

“I should’ve warned you. It’s why I usually don’t get naked on a first date.”

“Your scars won’t bother me.”

“They bother me.”

“Maybe a hot bath will change that.” Takis stood up. The hammam’s short door was unlocked and he stooped to step through it.

Nick followed him.

Warm dank air instantly enveloped them.

“Don’t move until your eyes adjust to the light,” Takis cautioned as he closed the door behind him. “You don’t want to fall into it.”

“Fall into what?”

Moonlight streaming through round vents in the curved ceiling revealed the black pool. Rectangular, it stretched the length of the hammam, and the steam rising from it smelled faintly of minerals.

“I promised you a hot bath,” Takis said. “I also promise, you’ll never take a hotter one.”

He sat on its edge, stuck his legs out and bobbed his heels in the water.

Nick sat next to him. The flagstones felt cool on his bare skin. He copied Takis and stuck out his legs, but the first time he bobbed his heels, he retracted them. “Holy shit that’s hot!”

Takis laughed.

“You actually put your body into this?”

“The trick is to go in slowly. Very, very slowly.”

“The trick is not to go in at all!”

“That’s the problem with very very slowly.”

“What’s that?”

“You’ll end up not going in at all.”

In the next instant, Takis slipped into the pool up to his neck. His chest heaved from the shock.

“How did you do that?”

“You have to come in, too.”

“No way.”

“If you want to have sex tonight, you will.”

“What? Are you blackmailing me?”

“I won’t sleep with a man who hasn’t had a bath.”

“I have a shower back in my room.”

“We’re not going back to your room.”

Again Nick tested a heel in the water. “I can’t believe this doesn’t melt flesh.”

Without warning, Takis grabbed his foot and pulled him into the water.

Nick flailed, and yelped.

“Are you okay?”

“No! I feel like the meat in cannibal soup!”

“Sit very still. The more you move, the hotter it feels.”

“I’m surprised I can move at all. You’re used to this?”

“I know what to expect.”

“And you’re crazy enough to still do it?”

“Afterwards, you feel great.”

“Afterwards, I’m not sure I’ll be able to feel anything.”

“Run your fingers over the water. You’ll see how it feels even hotter.”

“Who wants it hotter?”

“Just try it.”

Nick did, and it did feel hotter, but he was getting used to it. Takis, too, drifted his fingers on the water’s surface, and their hands touched. Fingers entwined, they pulled each other into a tentative kiss that became a long one. With lips trying to stay together, they crawled onto the cool flagstones, hands venturing where their mouths would later explore.

Blurb:

FIRE ON THE ISLAND is a playful, romantic thriller set in contemporary Greece, with a gay Greek-American FBI agent, who is undercover on the island to investigate a series of mysterious fires. Set against the very real refugee crisis on the beautiful, sun-drenched Greek islands, this novel paints a loving portrait of a community in crisis. As the island residents grapple with declining tourism, poverty, refugees, family feuds, and a perilously damaged church, an arsonist invades their midst.

Nick Damigos, the FBI agent, arrives on the island just in time to witness the latest fire and save a beloved truffle-sniffing dog. Hailed as a hero and embraced by the community, Nick finds himself drawn to Takis, a young bartender who becomes his primary suspect, which is a problem because they’re having an affair. Theirs is not the only complicated romance in the community and Takis isn’t the only suspicious character on the island. The priest is an art forger, a young Albanian waiter harbors a secret, the captain of the coast guard station seems to have his own agenda, and the village itself hides a violent history. Nick has to unravel the truth in time to prevent catastrophe, as he comes to terms with his own past trauma. In saving the village, he will go a long way toward saving himself.

A long time devotee of the Greek islands, Smith paints the setting with gorgeous color and empathy, ushering in a new romantic thriller with the charm of  Zorba the Greek while shedding bright light on the very real challenges of life in contemporary Greece.

More about Author Timothy Jay Smith

Raised crisscrossing America pulling a small green trailer behind the family car, Timothy Jay Smith developed a ceaseless wanderlust that has taken him around the world many times. En route, he’s found the characters that people his work. Polish cops and Greek fishermen, mercenaries and arms dealers, child prostitutes and wannabe terrorists, Indian Chiefs and Indian tailors: he’s hung with them all in an unparalleled international career that saw him smuggle banned plays from behind the Iron Curtain, maneuver through Occupied Territories, represent the U.S. at the highest levels of foreign governments, and stowaway aboard a ‘devil’s barge’ for a three-day crossing from Cape Verde that landed him in an African jail.

Tim brings the same energy to his writing that he brought to a distinguished career, and as a result, he has won top honors for his novels, screenplays and stage plays in numerous prestigious competitions. Fire on the Island won the Gold Medal in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition for the Novel (for unpublished novels), and his screenplay adaptation of it was named Best Indie Script by WriteMovies. Another novel, The Fourth Courier, set in Poland, published in 2019 by Arcade Publishing, was a finalist for Best Gay Novel in the 2020 Lambda Literary Awards. Previously, he won the Paris Prize for Fiction (now the Paris Literary Prize) for his novel, A Vision of Angels. Kirkus Reviews called Cooper’s Promise “literary dynamite” and selected it as one of the Best Books of 2012. 

Tim was nominated for the 2018 Pushcart Prize. His stage play, How High the Moon, won the prestigious Stanley Drama Award, and his screenplays have won competitions sponsored by the American Screenwriters Association, WriteMovies, Houston WorldFest, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Fresh Voices, StoryPros, and the Hollywood Screenwriting Institute. He is the founder of the Smith Prize for Political Theater.

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