I am so delighted to be releasing Digging Deep. It was such a gratifying and special story to write for a number of reasons. I’m a sucker for a story with a very challenged MC, but writing about a guy living with such a difficult life-altering condition such as Crohn’s Disease, and who was trying to make a go of a relationship, was also a challenge in itself.
Why did I choose Crohn’s disease? There were a few reasons. Although I don’t have Crohn’s, I had a condition with some similar symptoms for a while, and so I could somewhat relate at a personal level. Also I was a nurse and I had some of that background experience of the vagaries of the condition, and its effect on people. And last, in the way of small-town NZ, I happened to be introduced at different times to two gay men both with the condition. I have them to thank for a lot of the insights as they offered me the privilege of hearing their stories. And so I began wondering about writing an mm romance with–in the words of one of these men–a ‘less palatable’ health issue with an ‘ick’ factor.
There’s a social stigma around talking about anything to do with our bowels at all, but any problems ‘down there’, even more so. Add that to the stigma about gay sex, and you have two connected social stigmas in one story. I didn’t want to water anything down too much, or gloss over details, or keep it in the background and so I decided to try and write the story where Crohn’s was almost the third person in the relationship, front and centre as it was in real life. Injecting a lot of humour helped me do that, and in talking with people who have Crohn’s, I’ve found humour is a crucial tool in their arsenal to deal with it.
But Digging Deep is still a love story, first and foremost. Caleb is looking for a more substantial relationship even though he has no idea how to go about that. But he has good instincts, loves a challenge, and doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff. He is ready for this, he just needs to convince Drake of that. And Drake yearns for that kind of support, even though he has almost given up on finding it. And when emotional upheaval and stress can cause a flare-up of your condition that could see you hospitalised with weeks or months of pain and recovery, taking a risk on someone is a big ask. Falling in love can literally be a hazard to your health if it all goes south.
I hope you enjoy the story and I’d love to hear from you, especially if you read it and know of someone who has Crohn’s. I have really enjoyed getting that kind of feedback already.
The cop drew breath and pushed me harder into the wall, pretty much guaranteeing I’d carry the imprint of the wood grain on my cheek for some time after. Total dickhead. And I was about to tell him just that when steel circled one wrist and then the other. Handcuffs? Holy shit. Had this guy lost his fucking mind?
“No, I have not.”
Okay, I apparently said that last bit out loud.
“You ignored a police directive… sir. That puts you under arrest for trespass. Now spread your legs.”
I did. And no, it wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked to do that.
“You have the right…”
I listened to the man read me my rights barely holding back a hysterical laugh. This had motored way past funny and straight on to ridiculous, but I reluctantly did as I was told.
“Trespass? You’re kidding me, right? For using a damn public toilet… in the public foyer of a council building. A council being an elected public body, elected by people such as myself? I have every right to be here.”
He finished patting me down, having removed my wallet and left me feeling like I’d fallen down the rabbit hole into an episode of Criminal Minds.
“Of course I’m bloody clear.”
“You need to watch your language, sir. Now if you would kindly step back from the wall and turn around.”
I did as he said, and every snarky pissy comment about to let loose from my lips dried to dust, because—holy shit… wow—six-foot-three, top-to-toe thirtysomething deliciousness. Hard-muscled, lean and athletic, the guy had dancing hazel eyes and dark brown hair shaved tight to his ears, but wild on top—long enough to thread my fingers through in a firm grip… and yeah, hadn’t that thought escalated at light speed?
Sporting a heavy stubble for two in the afternoon, he had a strong square jaw and a cute-as-fuck chocolate beauty spot high on his right cheekbone that I wanted to get all kinds of up close and personal with. That is if I did that sort of thing… which I didn’t… anymore.
Dressed in tight black chinos that showed off an impressive set of thighs, not that I was looking, and with an equally fitted black T-shirt sporting the word Police stretched over a wide chest, he wore an adorable scowl and presented a mouthwatering package of delicious irritation. I might have swallowed my tongue if it weren’t already rolled out panting on the damn floor. It occurred to me I should reel that sucker in before I made a fool of myself, but yeah, the man’s loitering smirk confirmed I’d already been busted. Jerk. My pissed-off quotient rose exponentially. Ogling a dickhead and being caught ogling are two entirely different things, especially when said dickhead was a cop, did I mention that bit?
He thumbed through my wallet, pulling out my driver’s licence and looking between me and a piece of paper he’d dragged out of his pocket. And then between me and the photo. A frown creased his brow.
I shrugged. “It was a bad day.” It was. I’d been a week post my last hospitalisation when that sucker was taken. I looked like an escaped nutcase with a severe case of anorexia. I’d seen more of the driver’s licencing restroom facilities that day than I had the nice lady behind the counter.
He grunted. “Close enough, Duck-Young Park?” He quirked a curious brow.
“Korean,” I explained. “Friends call me Drake.”
He smiled. It was a good look on him. No, it wasn’t.
I sent him a scowl. “You can call me Mr Park.”
He frowned… again. And yes, I know. I really shouldn’t be let out without my minder. I schooled my expression into something closer to disdain and popped a hip, the sum total of which would probably have had more impact had I not been handcuffed. I should just cooperate and be nice, but I was so over needing to explain myself every damn time my body pulled a number on me. No one gives a diabetic the third degree about needing their insulin. Well, toilets are my insulin. Actually, that sounded a lot better in my head than out of my mouth.
Officer Pain-in-the-Arse side-eyed the various slogan badges pinned to my shirt, from Save the Whales, t Protect the Sun Bears and everything weird and wonderful in between, and frowned. I wore them more as an amusing talking point than a serious statement, not that he knew that. I’m sure next to tall, black, and sexy, I came across like a right nutter, and yeah, I might have been regretting that particular life choice at this present moment. I would’ve straightened my shirt and brushed off my trousers except… yeah, handcuffs.
“You’ll find my business card in there as well.”
The man read and pocketed it. “A midwife, huh?”
“Yes, a midwife. I doubt it’s a career that tops the list of ‘people most likely to cause trouble,’ I’m thinking.”
Well, Mr Park, that might be so, but it appears you are on my list.” He waved his piece of paper in the air before tucking it back in his pocket.
“The activists list. You are one of the organisers of the march, right?”
“Then that makes you a person of interest to us, today. Just a precaution, of course.”
“Of course. Look, would you mind explaining what this is all about?” I pushed. “Last I heard, it wasn’t against the law to use the council bathrooms.” I raked my gaze over his body because… well, damn. It’s not like I had anything to lose, right? May as well enjoy the show. “Plus you’re not in uniform, so I’ll need to see some ID.”
He rolled his eyes, delved in his pocket, and held his ID open for me to read. Detective Caleb Ashton. Detective? That explained the no uniform, but what the hell was a detective doing patrolling the bathrooms of the council buildings? My gaze flicked up and caught his… focussed distinctly lower than my face. What the…? Was he checking me out? But then he looked up without a trace of guilt, and I guessed not.
“Satisfied?” he asked flatly.
Not even remotely. I sniffed. “Demoted to lurking around toilets, detective? Whatever did you do?”
He stared at me a minute, and I swore he was about to laugh. His cheeks twitched and that siren beauty spot sang out my name. It was all I could do not to reach up and run a finger across it.
Finally he shook his head. “Are you always this charming?”
I snorted. “No. Sometimes I can even be a bit sarcastic. Shocker, right?”
This time he did laugh and it was an effort not to join him. His whole face lit up and those sparkling eyes… holy shit… they needed to come with a caution. Have been known to cause bats to take off without warning in your chest.
Jay Hogan is a New Zealand author writing in m/m romance, romantic suspense and fantasy. She has travelled extensively and has lived in the US, Canada, France, Australia and South Korea. She has degrees in Nursing and Theology, and in another life, she was an Intensive Care Nurse, Counselor, and Lecturer.
She is a cat aficionado especially of Maine Coons, and an avid dog lover (but don’t tell the cat). She loves to cook- pretty damn good, loves to sing – pretty damn average, and as for loving full-time writing -absolutely… depending of course on the day, the word count, the deadline, how obliging her characters are, the ambient temperature in the Western Sahara, whether Jupiter is rising, the size of the ozone hole over New Zealand and how much coffee she’s had.
Her characters and stories are rarely straightforward and often have a mind of their own. Go figure.
You can find Jay at: