Book Club

This is an excerpt from the novel Like You a Latte, which features a gay young adult romance. This section shows our heroes getting to know each other while discussing literature.

“I have to read The Great Gatsby for a class,” Owen explained while gesturing to the slim paperback currently obscuring my notes. “What are your thoughts?”

Are you actually reading the book or cheating and looking up a summary on the internet? That was my first thought. He was clearly different than me and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if it was the second one then this budding friendship could end right now with no regret on my part. There were some things that just couldn’t be tolerated.

Yet it felt rude to outright ask. Instead, I questioned, “You want to have an academic discussion with me?”

He shrugged. “I didn’t know if you’d really want to just hang out without being ‘productive’ or whatever.” I fought the urge to look at the notes the book covered again. “So I figured this would be the best of both worlds.” He grinned and leaned towards me. “You surprised me.”

Hmm, had I been too eager by just agreeing to chat with him? It wasn’t like me. I felt defensive and too obvious, like a silly, infatuated boy who fell for the first guy with a nice smile, but then again, he put thought into a conversational topic. He wanted to think of something that would make me keep chatting with him, so maybe we were even.

I couldn’t hold back the moment of truth any longer. “Are you actually completing the readings or are you just finding the relevant information online?”

He scoffed. “Seriously? I’m trying not to be offended here.” That was fair, just because he went to public school and seemed laidback didn’t mean he couldn’t also be serious about his studies. Maybe I judged him too much based on shallow observations.

“I’m sorry,” I started automatically. I would hate someone doubting my intellect.

“Did I look online, really?” He looked smug. “I watched the Leo DiCaprio movie.”

Oh dear. There were no words to adequately convey my horror. I felt frozen for a moment. Whatever expression was on my face made him crack up.

“I couldn’t help myself,” he clapped his hands, still chuckling at me. “That was totally worth it.” People glanced over at our table and he paid them no mind.

I didn’t care if we were causing a commotion either. I had to clarify that, “You’re actually doing the reading?” My relief beat out embarrassment or annoyance. That was the second joke he played at my expense, but it didn’t feel unfriendly. He apparently liked teasing me and I didn’t mind as much as I should.

“Not only am I doing the readings,” he said while leaning back in his chair, “I finished the book early.”

Pretty good, especially for a public-school kid. No that was unfair; not everyone could control where they went to school. Still, I felt giddy with relief. God, imagine trying to be friends or having a crush on someone who used Sparknotes. I couldn’t even picture it; it was too absurd.

I tried not to look too overjoyed, going for a simple, “Good for you.”

His arm nudged into mine good-naturedly. “I may not be the Hermione Granger type, but I’m not a complete slacker. I do my homework.”

Would Hermione Granger have a better GPA than me? No, I couldn’t start down that road, it was madness. “I can’t decide if it’s a compliment or not to be compared to Hermione,” I told him. She was the uptight book nerd stereotype on magical steroids.

“She’s the cleverest witch her age,” he responded immediately. “It’s totally a compliment.”

“Perhaps,” I said with a smile. “But I would look terrible with long, bushy hair.” And no way would I want the job of wrangling Harry and Ron.

He laughed. “You’re more fun than I thought you’d be.”

I wasn’t sure many people would agree with him, but the words ridiculously pleased me. I tried not to show it. “Why did you want to get to know me if you didn’t think I’d be any fun?”

He looked away for a second and coughed awkwardly. Oh, were we getting into dangerous territory? “I just meant,” he started after a moment, not quite meeting my eyes, “That I didn’t think you’d be so willing to talk to me. I thought it’d be a challenge to get you to just chill.”

I’d never been accused of being easy in any capacity. Yet I found myself lacking and I didn’t like it. “Well, I hate to disappoint—”

“No, you aren’t,” he assured me. “I’m glad you can relax and have some fun.”

Well, no one had ever accused of me of being able to relax and have fun either. It just showed my defenses were weakened by a busy schedule and a pretty face. It was my turn to cough awkwardly and try to get us back on track. “Okay, what did you think of the book?”

Just being with him was a distraction I needed to avoid, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Once I started looking at him, I didn’t want to stop. I couldn’t even remember what the book was. I looked down at the table. Right, The Great Gatsby.

He considered the question a moment, then gave me a droll look. “Is it a totally cliché and uninteresting opinion to think the two dudes totally wanted each other?” The part of my brain that couldn’t help itself added that question to the growing list of reasons he batted for my team, next to the rainbow wristband and the way his eyes seemed to lock on mine.

I took a sip of my drink but couldn’t hide an amused look. “Are you pandering to your audience?”

“No, I think, I mean,” he stuttered adorably for a moment. Was there a blush on his face? It was hard to tell with the lighting in here. “I really think Nick wanted Jay Gatsby like Gatsby wanted Daisy, even if his feelings weren’t returned.”

I wasn’t completely sold that anyone from The Great Gatsby got down in the forbidden garden of homosexual delights, though Quinn agreed with him. She called it The Great Gaysby once. I told her to quit joking around. Literature was serious. Everything was serious when it came to me. Owen really thought I was fun? I stopped thinking about this.

“Do you want to tell a class full of students that?” I asked. I was out and from the conversation it sounded like he was too but that didn’t mean I’d want the trouble of trying to defend the inherent gayness of a literary classic to all my skeptical, straight peers.

“Oh,” he said as he considered my words. His face scrunched up adorably and his shoulders sagged. “I might be in trouble then.”

“Stick to the symbolism of the eyes on the billboard and the light at the end of the dock,” I advised. “You’ll be fine,” I advised. “And focus on the main themes of class divides and wealth if you need more to say.”

He nodded seriously. “And when do I talk about the Jay-Z songs they used in the movie?”

I felt my eye twitch. “You’re trying to torture me, aren’t you?”

He grinned unrepentantly. “I couldn’t help it.”

We sat there looking at each other and the moment started to feel intimate. He was cute, funny, clever, and I needed to stop listing his positive attributes. I cleared my throat. “I should get back to studying.”

“Come on” he argued. “We didn’t get to discuss Hogwarts houses.”

“I have work to do and so do you,” I reminded him. I had my fun for the night. Besides, I was clearly a Ravenclaw and he was such a Gryffindor. Back to studying. He eyed me and I met his gaze without flinching. I wasn’t going to budge. “Back to work,” I said firmly.

“So, you are a challenge after all,” he concluded evenly.

That totally wasn’t what I was trying to do. I wasn’t playing coy or hard to get. I’d had my break time and now it was time to get back to work. But instead of calmly explaining all this, I asked, “That a problem?”

His lips quirked up. “Nope.”

We both got back to our respective work. That was all, show’s over, nothing to see here.

Now would be the worst time to start something new. I didn’t have any spare moments. And yet, I wanted to anyway. I didn’t even have the free time required to start obsessing about whether this was the best time to get into a new relationship or not. I would have gladly spent more time worrying about this but.

I wanted to get to know him. Something told me he would be worth it.

You can get the rest now on Amazon or KU.

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Excerpt – Gay Teen Romance

I know that you can read an excerpt from the beginning of the book anyway on Amazon, but it just feels wrong to start posting snippets and not start at the start. So here is an excerpt from Like You A Latte, a story spanning the junior year of a brainy, bookish student who meets a laid back guy in a coffee shop.

Others behind the counter were rushing around frenzied, but now that I noticed one of the baristas in particular, I saw that he was different. It took more than an afternoon rush to rattle him. He smiled at each person who came up to the counter and I was struck by how genuine it seemed. There’s no way he could be so friendly. Not while cranky teenagers and adults poured in here for a caffeine fix, rattling out orders and huffing impatiently. Yet he was easy going, the calm in the center of the storm.

Lately, my life held a whole lot of storm and not much calm, so someone like that held a certain amount of appeal at the moment. Even if otherwise he might not be my type. I wondered if his brown hair would feel as soft as it looked and what it felt like to have a posture that relaxed.

Maybe he was an artist. There were faint marks of color on his arms that he hadn’t quite washed off and eclectic wristbands on one arm. One of bands was a rainbow, which might be why Quinn assumed he played for my team. And the once over he gave me when we finally made it up the counter made me agree with her hypothesis.

After diving into school, no one else had caught my attention in a while. I felt the first spark of attraction in my gut and my pulse sped up. The angst and despair of my breakup had faded and the fog of academics obscuring everything else lifted somewhat and I just stared at the boy in front of me. The novelty of it left me speechless for a moment while I remembered that guys existed. Guys like this boy before me who were fun to look at with soft hair I wanted to touch. I savored it, that feeling of interest, after going without it for so long.

Which meant that for a few moments, it was just him and I, eyes locking as I finally made it to the front of the line. He had hazel eyes. The light caught them just right and almost made them sparkle. I shouldn’t let his smile get to me, he gave that exact smile to everyone, but I wanted to believe it meant something different when it came to me and I almost convinced myself it did as his eyes stayed on mine and—

“Are you going to order?” said an impatient female voice behind me.

Oh right.

“Oops,” the guy said with a soft laugh and smiled sheepishly at me. It was even more captivating than his earlier smile.

You can get the rest here.

 

 

Perils of Fake Dating

In One Little Word, Luke needs to use Ryan to get out of trouble. Ryan wants to get Luke back for an old grudge. And then they fall in love? Maybe, but there’s a bunch of other stops along the way.

Here’s an excerpt:

Ryan

My fake relationship seemed to be working out great for my boy toy, but it was pretty inconvenient for me. Time to balance things out. Besides, I could argue it was practical to show up and embarrass him in front of his coaches. I mean interact with him in front of his coaches since he wanted some type of sports scholarship. They should know all about their star athlete and his boyfriend.

I went more subtle than showing up in a cheerleading uniform this time. I wore a pink sweater as it was cold and pink earmuffs for a little flair. Most of the guys had left the field, but Luke was talking to his two coaches at the pitcher’s mound. One of them was older and also the Economics teacher, and the other was younger, probably playing baseball in college.

I jogged up to Luke, giving him a noisy kiss on the cheek and throwing my arms around him. “Hi honey bunny, are you done with practice?”

The two coaches looked at us, blinking and seemingly trying to process. I kept my arms around the rigid jock and smiled enthusiastically at the men.

“Uh, just talking to the coaches… babe,” he said with false cheer. “Give me a second.” He stared into my eyes, telling me get the hell out of here. He didn’t understand me last night, so I ignored him now.

“You’re the cheerleader,” said the older coach.

I had showed up in a cheerleading uniform to his game one time. I guess that made an impression. “My friends call me Ryan, but Lukie calls me his little lemon drop,” I gushed. Technically, it would make more sense for Luke to be the lemon drop: he had blonde hair while I was a brunette, but it was the first pet name I thought of.

Lukie, I didn’t know you had a boyfriend,” responded the younger coach. He grinned and Luke flushed while I soaked in the embarrassment.

“Then you’re the only one,” the other coach grunted. God, even teachers had seen the video?

“What?” the younger one asked.

“Nothing,” Luke said quickly. “It’s nothing you need to see.”

His eyebrows raised.

“We’re an internet sensation,” I said proudly. “Don’t be so modest.”

“We’re hardly a sensation,” Luke argued. He’d pried my arms off him and was holding my hand, gripping it tight. I didn’t back down.

I patted him on the chest. “Let’s not fight in front of your coaches.” I turned to the men with an indulgent smile. “You know how he can be.”

“He’s a great player, keeps the guys focused,” said the older coach slowly, not really sure what was happening.

“Oh, so you just fight with me? I guess I’m special then.”

“So special,” Luke agreed.

I narrowed my eyes. “I didn’t like your tone just then.”

“What?”

“I know you said not to do this in front of them, but I can’t help it. That hurt, Lukie.”

“Oh my god,” he huffed, face red again.

“Well, apologize to your… fellow, Luke,” the older coach said. I fought not to grin as he took my side, looking at Luke expectantly.

“He’s just joking,” Luke assured him, sounding nervous.

Perfect. “Oh, so my feelings are a joke to you?” I raised my voice.

“Luke, come on,” the younger one pleaded. They probably hated dramatic scenes when girls were involved; being around a dramatic gay scene was even worse.

“Son, you’re just going to make it worse,” the older one said.

“Your coaches are smart, you could learn something from them,” I told him, not hiding the grin on my lips.

“Ryan,” he started but I opened my mouth. “Lemon Drop,” he said through gritted teeth, and I let him continue. “I’m sorry.”

I sniffed, turned away. “I don’t think you mean that.”

“I mean it, come on, please,” he begged. I should have captured this moment on camera.

“I can’t stay mad at you,” I exclaimed, throwing my arms around him again. The coaches used it as an excuse to leave.

“I’m going to kill you,” he whispered while awkwardly embracing me back.

“Don’t be like that, honey bear,” I quipped and skipped away.

 

~~~

Night at the Theater

A pretend date from One Little Word.

Ryan

Luke and I went to see the drama club’s fall presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream together. He got to pretend he was an out and proud athlete, and I had someone to go the show with, so I didn’t complain. I flailed internally at how date-like it seemed, but I covered pretty well, I thought. Good thing he was fun to laugh at.

We were early, so we stood in line and waited to be let in while I watched Luke with a bemused expression.

“It’s set in the woods. You’re sure one of them doesn’t wander off and die?” he asked hopefully. “It’s the perfect horror movie scenario.”

“This isn’t a horror movie, it’s a comedy.”

“They should have done Romeo and Juliet instead,” he muttered. His acting chops weren’t that good, but they were good enough people bought our act, so privately I thought he would make a good Romeo. With passionate green eyes and dimples, I could see how any naïve, young Juliet would follow him to certain death.

I felt nervous and excited just from the awkward hand holding we were doing, but I didn’t say any of that. “You like Romeo and Juliet?” I questioned instead.

“It has swordfights and death. It’s the Shakespearean version of an action flick,” he reasoned.

“Well, this is like the Shakespearean Hangover.”

He narrowed his eyes. “No way.”

I shrugged. “Everyone wakes up confused in a forest and there’s a donkey instead of a tiger.”

He didn’t look convinced but said, “I guess I’ll give it a chance.”

“You’re so uncultured,” I teased.

“Dude, don’t be like that. I’m your boyfriend,” he teased back, but I couldn’t handle hearing him say those words.

“Shut up,” I said, removing my hand from his suddenly.

Luke frowned. “I’m just joking.”

“You suck at it.”

He doubled down, clutching a hand to his heart and imploring, “Oh, I’m so sorry, baby. Can you ever forgive me?”

I did not melt. I fought a smile while saying, “Pretty sure you’re hopeless.”

“But you love me anyway.”

The words caught in my throat.

~~~

A real romance?

Luke keeps getting put in gay situations. And now his fake boyfriend Ryan has a real suitor. Luke’s best friend is Zach. Those last two sentences aren’t related to each other… right? Right?

Here’s an excerpt from One Little Word.

Luke

Lunch was awkward. Of course it would be awkward. I had just sucked face with a guy in front of our table. The seniors had gotten up and left, something they usually did when Ryan sat with us, but it felt different now. This wasn’t a video or a rumor. I had just kissed a guy in the cafeteria. I thought the stares were bad before.

“This isn’t right,” Ted said, and some of the guys nodded.

“Come on, man—” I started.

“No, it’s not that,” he interrupted, gesturing between me and Ryan. “I mean, I’m not thrilled about that,” he admitted, looking at us distastefully. Yeah, that was quite obvious I wanted to snap but managed to hold my tongue. “It just seemed like…” Ted looked at Zach and the other guys followed suit.

I looked at him, not getting it. What, Zach had the biggest problem? We were best friends. I’d have thought he’d at least try to be supportive, or pretend to be. Okay, Zach didn’t really do supportive, but I didn’t think he’d go out of his way to be a bigger asshole than he already was. That was true friendship for him.

“Uh, we thought you and Ryan were just pretending,” Joey said carefully. “And just a second ago, we were pretty sure Zach liked Ryan.”

God, Joey was so dumb. The catcher obviously took too many fastballs to the head, even with a helmet. “It must have been a misunderstanding,” I said easily.

“No, he’s right,” Ted said. What? The rest of the guys nodded.

“Zach’s straight,” I informed them. Was that something I even needed to say? He seemed to have a new girl every week.

“Well, actually,” he piped up.

“What?” No, no way. I stared between him and Ryan. Ryan looked down, not saying anything or meeting my eye, and he removed his hand from mine. Shit, I didn’t even realize we were still holding hands.

“Nothing’s going on between Ryan and I,” Zach chimed in when it was clear me and Ryan weren’t going to say anything, “As obviously he and Luke are so in love, but I was inspired by your PDA to come out.”

“How is this even possible? Is there something in the water?” Ted asked sarcastically. Joey put down the bottle of water he was about to bring to his lips, staring at it like it was poison.

Zach looked at Ryan, and the two traded a warm look, like they were in on a secret. What the hell? I suddenly felt annoyed for some reason. I wanted to grab Ryan’s hand again but that felt too petulant.

“Nope, no way,” Ted said. Joey was looking at everyone who passed by our table with suspicion and distrust, trying to see if there was someone with a rainbow sign around their neck reading ‘I’M GAY’ that he missed somehow.

“You’re gay?” is what I asked Zach. I couldn’t believe it. It seemed like the rest of us were freaking out, fidgeting and staring at Zach like there was still a hope he could be joking, but Zach just sat there calmly.

“Bi actually,” he said simply, examining his nails like he was bored. He always had neat, even nails. Was that a sign?

“We’re, uh, supportive?” Ted tried to say but asked instead.

Zach sent him a bitch please look. He was always so good at that expression, just like Ryan. Was that a sign I missed? “You don’t have to say that,” Zach informed him.

“No… we totally accept you,” he said in a flat tone.

“I don’t give a shit,” Zach said easily.

The rest of the guys seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. “Thank god,” Joey said. “It’s already enough with those two.” He pointed at me and Ryan. “But apparently you’re also a fa—”

Ted elbowed him, and he stopped talking while Principal Simmons walked by. “I mean, uh. It’s fine. I’m…”

“Supportive,” Zach filled in, amused.

“Yeah, that.”

~~~

Secretly Gay

“Let me get this straight,” Zach said, eyes dancing with mirth as we walked through the halls to the cafeteria.

“You mean let me get this gay,” Joey corrected.

“You know what? I’ll accept that,” Zach decided, offering his fist for Joey to bump. “Good one, Joey.” Why were these two my closest friends? Assholes.

“Oh, come on,” I begged.

“No, you come on,” Zach responded. “Your plan is to fake date Ryan, but secretly, so no one finds out.”

I nodded. “Right.” What was so weird about that? Alright, a lot, but still. It could work.

“But you want the administration to find out somehow.” Zach looked at me like I was a moron, but he did that a lot, so it didn’t really mean anything.

“This is so gay,” Joey interjected.

“No, it’s secretly gay,” Zach quipped.

-from One Little Word

What Love Means Excerpt

 

Here’s an excerpt of What Love Means. Both of the main characters have a sibling who competes in spelling bees, and this takes place at a spelling club meeting.

whatluvmeansred

Cal

This was the perfect chance to spend quality time with my brother while getting my mind off the breakup. And the guy from the party. I had to get him out of my mind. I thought about him more than I wanted to admit.

Did it seem so intense because of the alcohol? Needing someone so badly and feeling such pleasure at his skin on mine couldn’t possibly be real. I didn’t even know his name! Still, it had been heady. Maybe because it was new? Feeling coarse skin scrape against my jaw. Meeting muscles instead of soft flesh. How he backed me up against a wall with easy strength. His demanding mouth and hands…

Freaking hell. I was thinking about it again!

Continue reading “What Love Means Excerpt”

What Love Means Excerpt

quote2

“This isn’t spelling, it’s chemistry. We have it. Why fight it?”

“That’s so cheesy.” It was but I didn’t care. It was true. We stared at each other and just when I thought I was going to drown in the sexual tension or he was going to kiss me right here in public in a middle school cafeteria, he broke away. Good, I still wasn’t anymore decided on the subject. I protested because it felt like I needed to, because I worried it couldn’t be as easy as he made it sound. But what if it could be?

I wasn’t considering his offer. I just. I wasn’t not considering it. Shit.

“You can tell yourself whatever you want,” he said lowly, “but this tension, this energy between us, it isn’t all one sided.”

It was hard to deny that when just his deep voice close to my ear sent shivers up my spine. So instead of pretending there was nothing between us, I just said, “It’s not a good idea.”

 

 

I expected Max to scoff, leave my side, or maybe get pissed off. He only squeezed my hand softly, eyes fixed on the stage. A small smile quirked his lips up. I got the feeling he didn’t mind that I hadn’t given in. Why didn’t he care?

Max had a thrill-seeking, daredevil streak in him that made flying down the road on a tiny piece of metal exciting when there were bigger, stronger pieces of machinery out there that could flatten him in an instant. He probably cranked the throttle and went fast, over the speed limit definitely, and pushed his bike to the limit. That all meant he’d like the chase. Shit. I couldn’t say yes yet, but I couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t want to say no. It seemed like he was up for the challenge of wearing down what little resistance I had. I’d never been pursued before. Shit, maybe I was a bit of thrill seeker too. I’d been too busy burying myself in books to realize it, but here I was, on the verge of something with him and so eager for it even if I couldn’t quite give in. Yet.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I was becoming certain I wanted whatever it was.

– What Love Means