Blog Tour, Exclusive Excerpt & Giveaway:
Names for the Dawn
By C.L. Beaumont
Seasoned Park Ranger Will Avery has found his home in the Denali wilderness, cherishing his solitary routines for the decade leading up to 1991. The trade-off that no one knows of his identity as a transgender man feels worth it for the comforting assurance he finds in the towering glaciers.
Until Will discovers an unexpected passenger in his truck—the visiting wolf biologist everyone in the Park is ecstatic to meet—Nikhil Rajawat.
Nikhil doesn’t return his new colleagues’ fervor. He’s dreamt of Denali for one reason: the pinnacle of his research, and it isn’t anyone’s business that this is the last year he’ll get to chase the wolves. He doesn’t expect to fall for the grizzled Ranger who forces him to carry bear spray in the backcountry. Just as Will doesn’t expect to ask Nikhil to share his bed.
But when their dreamlike summer comes to an end, and Nikhil resolutely leaves on a plane bound for India, a devastated Will pretends he didn’t just plead for Nikhil to stay. And one year later, when Nikhil suddenly re-appears in Denali without explanation, Will must decide if Alaska is his solitary refuge—or if perhaps there’s a home somewhere in the world for two.
I bolted upright. The Pendleton slipped down to my waist. There was something off as my eyes struggled to adjust to the pitch dark; something I couldn’t place—
I jumped to standing, adrenaline pumping through my body. Before me, a black shape emerged from the shadows of my kitchen.
“I didn’t mean to startle you,” the shadow said.
“No,” I tried to say, as I came fully awake. My eyes stung; it felt like I hadn’t slept that deeply in weeks. I had no sense at all of the time. “You’re fine. I was just dreaming.”
Nikhil was still in his uniform, a mug cradled in his hands. He looked like he’d been staring out the window at the impenetrable trees, their needles pricking the endless black blanket of night sky.
“I’m sorry,” he said, carefully setting down the mug. “I should go.”
He sounded embarrassed. I had the realization that I must have fallen asleep with my face pressed to his shoulder. That he had apparently laid me down on the couch and slipped away, unfolded and covered me with the blanket in the moonlight. I wanted a map of every place he’d touched me when I’d been asleep. Every devastating moment I’d missed.
“You’re not tired?” I asked, whispering.
His voice was oddly flat. “I often work this late.”
It was as if we were both saying nonsense words, grasping blindly through the dark, catching meaningless sounds with our bare hands before flinging them away again. The fact that he was standing in my cabin in the middle of the night, just feet away from my bedroom, made all my bones feel disconnected, my ribs too tight.
“Nikhil,” I said, feeling like the word itself was an apology. He looked scared, ready to bolt. Neither one of us moved.
Then he said, down at his feet, “I wasn’t . . . expecting this, Will. Meeting you.”
He sounded sad and lost, like he was mourning something. Like he’d somehow let me down. I would have said anything to prove him otherwise. “You think I was expecting this either?” I asked. My laugh sounded forced. “I’m still trying to figure it out. It doesn’t make any sense.”
He grew very still. “What do you mean?”
“Just that you . . . you.” I gestured at him, failing hopelessly at finding the right words. “That you want . . .”
Me, the silence said. I knew that he heard it.
His mouth twisted. “Quite honestly, that’s the one thing that does make sense to me.”
I couldn’t believe what he was saying. It had never occurred to me that he hadn’t accepted himself. He had said the word ‘gay’ so freely, so utterly without shame, I had thought—
“Do you ever wish you could be with a woman?” he asked.
I blinked, trying to catch up. “N-no. Well, I couldn’t really . . . before. And now, I—no woman would ever want—and even if they did, I never wanted that, either. It wasn’t me.”
My face was heating, but he was only looking at me like I’d just said something clear, instead of incomprehensible.
“So you always just knew.”
I had to clear my throat. “Knew that—yes.” Then, because he still looked baffled that it could be so simple, when in reality it was anything but simple, I tried to explain. “It was different for me. Growing up, liking boys—that was the one thing that made me normal. And even after I . . . changed. I knew that that part hadn’t. And it didn’t even matter. I wasn’t ever planning on acting on it.”
“There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“I know that,” I snapped, without meaning to. But it felt overwhelming, as if his consoling me would erase the past twenty years of not needing him. Not needing anybody except my own self, the same unwavering pulse since I was born.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
I bit the inside of my cheek. “I didn’t mean to sound angry. It’s just, back then, I didn’t know anything. There was no path to follow. And once I started living the way I do, it was easier to just . . . ignore it. Not need it.”
He was looking at me like he wanted to ask countless questions—like whether I ever had doubt, and whether I had ever been lonely, and if I’d always been just as certain of me as I was of liking men. I fought down nausea over how I would ever answer such an impossible thing. How I could possibly give a date, place and time to the first moment I saw my own body whip into focus after being in fog. The exact second I met myself for the first time, and felt the force of the sky, the trees, the ground itself all turning to greet me, this newcomer to earth.
“What about you?” I asked in the silence. “How did you know?”
To my surprise, a certain warmth came into his eyes. “Father Donahue.”
I couldn’t keep the horror out of my voice. “What, he and you—?”
“No, no, nothing like that. He was the new history teacher, the year before I graduated. Looking at him . . . I didn’t have any friends. I was always . . . the scholarship kid. And then I walked into class and I saw that I could want somebody. It was . . .”
He trailed off, his face warm like he was reliving a precious memory. Then a haunted look came over his face. “But there are . . . things I can’t do.”
Something terrible twisted inside me, a sinking dread. “Is it because of my—?”
“No,” he said quickly.
I begged myself to believe him. “Then what?”
Nikhil took a slow step closer, like he was afraid I would run. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
Shame punched through me. That he saw me as so weak, so inexperienced—
“You won’t hurt me,” I said, forcing out the words. “I’m choosing this, too.”
“I don’t need anything,” he said. He looked almost frantic. “There isn’t anything we have to do. I’ve no expectations.”
“If you want me to go, I’ll—”
“I don’t want you to go.”
“I don’t know what to do if I stay.”
His eyes were black oceans. They pulled me into him with the tide, so deeply I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to escape. Our ribs were pressed together. I didn’t know who had closed the distance. The heat of him surrounded me.
“Please,” I said, trying not to beg. I traced his ribs through his shirt, my fingers shaking. “Just stay with me. Tonight.”
There was a moment of stillness, something wrecked and undecided passing across his face. And then it was gone, and I caught my breath at the openness I suddenly saw. At the want.
“God,” he breathed. “Will.”
I reached for him, like dipping my toes over the edge of a cliff, the breeze rushing up to meet my face—
And he kissed me.
Enter the Giveaway:
To celebrate the release of Names for the Dawn, C.L. is giving away a signed paperback copy of the release!
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About the Author:
C. L. Beaumont received his B.A. in South Asian Linguistics and Art History from the University of California, Berkeley, and now volunteers as a crisis line counselor while he delves into his true love: writing. When he isn’t hiking or checking another National Park off his list, he enjoys devouring crime fiction, cooking new vegetarian recipes, and working on way too many cross stitch projects at once. C. L. Beaumont lives in Montana with his gorgeous partner and their chickens.