New novel, Black Cats and Bad Luck

As a writer of contemporary romance, one might not know that I love fantasy stories. Especially magical ones. Hey guess what? I’m working on a new novel called Black Cats and Bad Luck. There’s magic. And familiars. And soulmates. And more!

This is of course a gay romance, and this is the beginning of the book. The first part is about a transformation. The second part is two boyfriends shopping in an occult store. Or trying to shop while also trying to make out.

~

The Ward house rarely held such quiet. Sound always existed, from the voices of humans to the low hum of magic. Even the pixies in the garden were silent. Perhaps this warranted investigation.

Laying in a column of sunlight in the master bedroom, the cat raised its head— creatures such as him always stretched, just a little, past their limits. Seeing not only what there was, but what could be. Seeing with more than the eyes, reaching out to touch the swirling cosmos and twinkling stars, to—then again, it would be such a shame to waste this lazy afternoon on anything other than a nap. The cat rested its head back on the hardwood floor.

Awareness hovered somewhere, an insubstantial thing, easily batted away like a stray strand of yarn. He stretched, black tail swishing once in the air, before getting comfortable again.

An ordinary day can shift so quickly. After all, to go from idea to creation, it only takes a spark. The being in the empty house who currently wore black fur and moved on four legs knew all about that. It was his purpose. Mostly, except for the tiny piece of other. The call had been there for so long, a whisper echoing in his mind. He had never been able to answer. A force kept him in place, always with the same song, not yet, not yet, not yet, a melody he’d long since gotten used to.

After a nap in the sun, the perfect next step was up and to the right, a nap atop the comfy pillow on the big bed. He moved, curling up on the softer surface. Yes, perfectly content, he could stay there for-oh. Something was different.

Lifting his head, ears perking, no sound reached him from the still house beyond. Inside, no sound either.

The melody had stopped.

A sound, perhaps fingers snapping. The scent of jasmine lingered in the air. The shift began.

Mystical forces swirled and coalesced on the being indulging in an afternoon nap and… things changed. Transformation, accompanied by only a slight popping sound. Limbs twisting, body bending, almost naturally, like the back when arched, making a bow of the spine in the stretch he knew so well.

Life expanded beyond instinct, beyond black and white. While he hadn’t moved, the bed no longer held a feline. This was something new. He was something new. Even his thoughts were transformed, into the kind with words.

A jumble of images poured into his head like milk from a saucer. Magic. Grace. Whiskers. All of it him and not him. Paws to hands. Hands and hearts. Holding a heart in one’s hands, feeling it beat, and knowing what it meant to live.

He lived. Alive. A person, a man. One with an opinion, small, yet his own nonetheless. His first viewpoint boiled down to this: yes. His mouth stretched up; the thought felt good.

“Meow,” he said. It didn’t feel right.

“Now,” he tried. That was better.

No more time to rest when he could do instead. He rose from the bed on two human legs. Larger than before, yet almost entirely compressed into this place called flesh. The world no longer laid out neatly to view with ease. Whatever came next, it wasn’t for him to know anymore. Time to experience life in a new way, second by second.

The world held endless possibilities, more than even he could conceive of. Whatever came next, it would be amazing. How could it not be? The world was full of wonder. Seconds ago, he used to be one thing. Now, he was another.

* * *

Mason

When his clever hands and nimble body pressed me against the shelves, the strongest urge rose within me to flip our positions and forget about how we were in a public place with a job to do. Putting a respectable distance between us seemed impossible, even though anybody could turn onto the last aisle in this occult store and see us between the portable cauldrons and apothecary kits.

His green eyes sparkled with mischief. The only explanation for why I crave him so much and the way he’s more intoxicating than any whisky? It had to be a spell.

Then again, I know absolutely nothing about magic. My best friend says a good witch recognized when to call on the supernatural and when to let nature run its course. Yes, it would be simple to invoke attraction by dabbing a little love potion on the neck. However, there’s no substitute for the real stuff. Lust felt so much better when truly earned.

“Relax,” Horatio said, the word more coaxing than soothing. “No one can see us back here.” Tall shelving dark as night hid us from the customers browsing through crystals, candles, and whatever aromatherapy oil I surely needed to calm me down.

“Can’t you keep your hands off me for a second?” I grumbled, though I don’t exactly have complaints about our position.

Horatio drew his hands away, amusement in those bright green eyes as he counted the seconds he kept his hands to himself. One, two, three. Then came the smirk, and he rolled his hips into mine, because no one said they were off limits and—

Dammit. My hands settled around his waist and drew him closer. I tried to protest. “Don’t we have more important things to focus on?”

“Oh, I am.” He pecked my lips quickly with his own. “I assure you.” Another peck. “I’m focusing on—” his mouth began a journey to a spot just below my ear, and he punctuated each word with a kiss. “—the most important part.”

The record would show I tried valiantly to keep us on track. I gave up, getting lost in him instead. Surely our task couldn’t be as important as putting one hand in his black hair and slipping my tongue inside his parted lips. Despite the shoppers in the next aisle, we might as well be the only two people in the world. Our mouths danced together hungrily and—

“Ahem.” Someone cleared their throat.

We froze as if we were guilty teenagers sneaking around, only our heads turning to the noise to see two older women eyeing us with amusement. One stepped forward, the beads on her bracelets jingling, as she reached by my shoulder for what she needed from the shelf.

My beard hid the flush on my face from being caught, though Horatio’s own clean-shaven face showed no embarrassment. Only smug pride, the cat who caught the canary or something.

“Sorry about this,” I apologized to the women without being able to look directly at them. “We were just, uh—”

It had been pretty clear what we were doing. They both smirked, letting the humiliation continue another moment before one took pity on me. “Relax,” she said and then looked to her companion. “We were just as bad before our own Joining, weren’t we?”

“Worse,” the other said with a wicked grin. She looked to us. “Congratulations.” They moved on, chuckling while they went.

With a slight head tilt, Horatio considered me. His pale neck curved only slightly, not showing off the full stretch of skin I loved. I sounded kind of vampiric, lusting after the curve of a neck. With Horatio, there was so much to lust over. I wanted to join our mouths again, but…

“About that ceremony of ours,” I reminded us both. We were here to pick up supplies for it.

Sighing, he pulled away, the reluctance short lived as he remembered something. “Did Miranda put any thought at all into this rite? Maybe I have high standards for a High Priestess, but it’s like she picked the first thing she saw on the internet.”

“Something wrong?”

“If it weren’t for the lavender, our candle would have no masculine scents, and it’s all a little obvious.” He made a distressed noise. “And don’t get me started on the cinnamon and moon water, is this a serious rite or a teenager’s love potion?”

Question seemed rhetorical but he stopped talking, so it was my turn to provide input. “Uh, get whatever you want.”

“You don’t have an opinion?”

“None of this is exactly my area of expertise.” One suggestion did pop into my mind, yet for some reason, the words wouldn’t go past my lips due to a sudden unease that made me hesitate. Pushing away the misgiving, I said, “We’re here now, you might as well grab what you want.”

His eyes fell on my body as he considered the suggestion, then he shook his head. “Alright, though it’s your ceremony too. I’d think you would care.” He began walking away.

Catching him around the middle, I pulled him to me once more, brushing our lips together. I whispered, “There’s nothing I care about more.”

Appeased, he grabbed me by the wrist as he led me around the store, plucking items from shelves and displays and handing them to me to carry, creating his own ritual in his head. Anyone else, I’d worry about unexpected side effects. With Horatio, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had magic running through his veins instead of blood. Uh. Not sure where that thought came from. It felt true, but unease crept over me again.

The whole ceremony was a formality, so there was no reason to have doubts. As far as I was concerned, he was already a part of me. We didn’t need an incantation to bind us together. People didn’t get closer than us.

When he requested my input a moment ago, only one suggestion came to mind. Dandelion. Those little scrubby flowers growing free in fields and unchecked corners of dirt. A weed by some definitions. The same things kids plucked out of the ground and pulled the petals from, playing games of does he love me, does he not, trying to summon their true love, and I…

My true love stood right beside me while we waited in line to pay. He wrapped an arm across my waist, and I didn’t need to look to know he was grinning because no way he would keep it ther-yep, his palm moved lower, cupping my ass. My noise of warning only made him grin. We—

“It’s your turn,” someone said. When it came to Horatio, nobody else better be getting a turn-oh. In line. It was our turn in line, so the person behind us wanted us to move ahead.

Okay, going to the store and paying for this stuff? I could do that much. I really couldn’t contribute anything else. Which herbs and flowers are masculine, and which are feminine? No idea. Nor could I find flowers to represent passion and sincerity or select crystals to aid in a long and healthy bond. I might not even be able to list all the possible steps in this upcoming ritual we were taking part in. I only knew that we would stand up in public and declare our love for each other. I wanted that part.

In fact, the amount I wanted the public declaration seemed almost bizarre. Why did displaying our love out in the open in front of witnesses and the daylight appeal to me so much? We did that all the time. As our actions in this store proved, we weren’t very good at keeping our feelings private and our hands to ourselves.

Screw it. “You go ahead,” I told the person behind us, pulling Horatio to me so the customer could step around.

I laughed and his mouth covered mine before the sound could be heard, so did it even count as a laugh or was it only an idea? Nonsensically I thought, when it comes to him, everything counts. Wrapping my arms around him, I kissed the hell out of him.

And then I woke up.

Groaning, I glanced to the alarm clock. 6:45 in the morning. My girlfriend was already up and out of the room for a morning run. With a sigh, I got up. Even though my guests wouldn’t arrive until after 10. I should make a pot of coffee. I had a feeling it would be a long day.

The trouble with dreaming about a guy who didn’t exist? He was never there when you woke up.


Books!

Sometimes authors get together to promote their books. Authors like me. The trick for me is finding other LGBT authors. I generally search for other gay romances and I’m not sure if I should be more specific, but even being vague doesn’t always work. I recently joined one group specifically designed for YA LGBT stories and I thought ‘perfect, this is exactly right for my books’ and then mine was the only queer story.

The moral of the story, I guess, is that life is hard and I try my best. I succeeded with this promotion for books available in Kindle Unlimited. Actually, I double succeeded because I totally thought this would be ending today but I figured better extremely late than never, but this promotion lasts until Sept. 18.

Most of these novels seem to be contemporary romance or supernatural and M/M or M/F. However, Nicole Higginbotham-Hogue does have some lesbian romances.  Here are a few of the gay romances available.

The Bastille Sphere: a penal colony being developed by Harmony Inc. Entry is one way only, with no way out. It’s supposed to be for habitual reoffenders and the worst violent offenders.

The prize: A fight to the death with the winner gaining his parole. He couldn’t leave Bastille, but would gain a modicum of freedom, including his own home behind the walls of the Compound outside of the prison grounds, and be gifted with a mate. It was a win/win as far he was concerned. Leyland would either be freed by death at last, or he’d win and gain as normal a life as Bastille offered.

If only it was that easy.

Sol’s Solstice

Can Seth help Sol find his way back from the darkness?

Zach Ahmad: Beyoncé’s equal.

In my ongoing quest of having things to say, here is a thing. Do I need more explanation? Well, the character can probably speak for himself. He has lovely things to say. Because he’s cocky as hell. This is from a story I’m currently working on.

~

Zach

Zach, the man, the myth, the legend enjoyed another wonderful night. Believe me, recounting tales of my charms and exploits might be in my top five favorite hobbies, but another matter demanded attention the next morning. Or at least, my father followed me into the kitchen when I woke up sometime closer to afternoon than morning.

Wait. This cannot be stressed enough. Deep down, cross my heart, gun to my head, I truly believed I could be best friends with Beyoncé. If our paths ever crossed, she would think my style game was on point, and not only would we get along, she would be the one eager to make my acquaintance. She would think, ‘damn, I need him in my life. I might learn something.’

That was the level I generally operated at. Zach Ahmad: Beyoncé’s equal.

Thoughts like these gave me comfort when interacting with my father and during other moments of adversity when I more closely resembled, unfortunately, an utterly basic bitch.

Books, yay!

Recently, I joined BookFunnel, which is great because it gives me stuff to talk about. So you know, that’s what I’m going to talk about. This may be the most straight forward introduction to a blog post I’ve ever made, go me.

One group I joined is for YA Coming of Age Books.  Most of these are contemporary and straight romances. One book with queer characters and a cover I like is After the Fall by Brad Graber. It’s about a teenager girl on a quest to find out more about her mother.

Rikki, a teenager being raised in New York City, has a secret. She can’t remember her mother. Whenever she asks her grandmother a question, the older woman falls apart and refuses to discuss the matter. Desperate to learn the truth, Rikki finds a hidden album with family photographs. Can the boy in the picture with her mother be a long lost uncle? Determined to unlock the mystery, she embarks on a journey to meet Harry, a writer who is struggling with his own issues of identity.

This group lasts until the 15th, so yes, I am last minute like usual. Pretend this post is happening a week ago when it was supposed to before my computer charger broke and I had to order a new one.

Some of the other promotions I joined for August are these, Summer Laughs and Happy End of Summer. Summer Laughs offers giveaways and all the books in the other one are on KU. I will tell you more about these later because then I can make another post. I mean, because of another sensible reason.

Jamboree! And other stuff too…

After joining the Jamboree Book Fest for July, my first thought was, what even is a jamboree? I mean, I know it’s a party, basically. A gathering, a social event, etc. But why is it a word? Where does it come from?

Get ready, here comes the answer. Are you ready?

Okay, here goes.

The word ‘jamboree’ comes from… somewhere! No one knows for sure. And it is… a large celebration or party, typically a lavish and boisterous one. Yeah, I hoped it would be something more exciting too. I was hoping the word had an interesting origin but I’ll just skip to the end of this story and say this: it doesn’t.

Though I guess, if there isn’t a definitive answer on where the word comes from, it could come from anywhere. So the jamboree could have been invented by lonely jam makers who decided to unite over their common love of turning fruit into preserves or something.

Anyway, here’s one link for the book giveaway, and there’s also a drawing for an Amazon gift card here.There’s multiple genres from romance to fantasy and a few YA titles. It’s mostly straight, which is fine, some of my best friends are straight.

Superpowers and the Powerpuff Girls (hey, those topics are related!)

I would never repeat myself, but it’s possible I’ve said this next bit before. But I’m going to say it again anyway, even though it’s not entirely new, and you’ve perhaps heard this already. I hate repetition and also being subtle, apparently. Yes, I repeated myself intentionally in this paragraph to be hilarious. I will give you a second to laugh and collect yourself after my wit nearly knocked you over.

While I was about to say something else, I’m now off topic. Because I thought of Mojo Jojo, who always repeats an idea in new ways, and I’m going to put a picture here. Why? Evil monkey! That’s the best answer to any question ever. And in general, an evil monkey is a great idea. I know someone whose nickname is JoJo, and sometimes they like sharing their name with a cartoon monkey supervillain, and sometimes they get angry at being called ‘Mojo Jojo.’

mojojojo
When trying to type ‘Google’ after ‘Mojo Jojo, I typed ‘gogo.’ Pic from Pinterest.

Back to what I was originally going to say, the deleted scene I’m going to post talks about superhuman abilities. I’m almost positive I put my superpowers in the back of one of my books, but I’m not sure which one. I don’t think it’s in all of my books, so this might be new information if you haven’t read that one book this is also from, or if you skip the author section at the end of novels.

After accidentally building this up, my superpowers will be anticlimactic. Oops! I never trip over untied shoelaces, and I can lose anything in the most annoying way possible. Is my debit card still missing after I misplaced it a few weeks ago? No way! Ahem, those are my superpowers. And now for a character from One Little Lie talking about some stuff I also talked about.

P.S. Luke from this series is Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls. Ryan is Buttercup. I’m proud of myself for getting those names right as at first they were respectively ‘the one in blue’ and the ‘the one in green.’

~

My name is Luke Chambers and I’m a superhero. Once upon a time, I thought I was an ordinary guy. Sure, I was good looking and athletically gifted but that was genetics and practice. Now, I had a strange gift I hadn’t asked for.

That’s the only thing that makes sense. Only I could keep taking awkward, potentially bad situations and making them infinitely more complicated. I used to be suave, so my ability to mess things up had to be supernatural. It was a superpower. I was Bad Idea Man. Okay, that’s not the best name for a superhero, but like I said, I’m not so good with bright ideas.

My parents thought I was dating a girl, and I hadn’t corrected them yet, so it was time for the Luke’s an Idiot Explanation Tour. I’d done this tour before. Who did I want to face first: Ryan or Lydia? Lydia would be brutal, but maybe she’d give me some advice about how to fix this or how to tell Ryan in a way that didn’t get me in trouble. I couldn’t think of one, but as she liked to tell me, I was dumb.

Plus, getting through this conversation with Lydia meant I could see Ryan next, like a reward.

I thought about telling the truth to my parents last night. In fact, that was all I had done. I laid on my bed and worried about it, which was surprisingly exhausting as I fell asleep early and still didn’t feel rested when I woke up. Maybe if this conversation somehow went well and was over quickly, I could take a nap. I had a game later today.

 

Go dancing, a M/M short story

Here is a short story, loosely inspired by the song “Stay Young, Go Dancing” by Death Cab for Cutie.

 

If all the world were a stage, I preferred a behind the scenes role. Yet all eyes were fixed on me as I puzzled my way through slow dancing. I was hyper aware of his warm hand in my own and the heavy weight of my partner’s other hand on my lower back. My dance partner! A bigger commitment couldn’t be assigned. We never even had a conversation before. He only stretched one arm out towards me, and now we were in the middle of the dance floor, two guys with a crowd of eyes watching.

With his dark hair, dark eyes, and an even darker tux, I had trouble looking away. The white dress shirt was unbuttoned at the top, the tie undone but the light purple scrap of fabric hanging loosely around his neck.

“Can’t say I expected this,” I spoke. I tried to follow his lead, the motions not practiced but fluid. “This is crazy.”

“You’re not the only one who thinks so,” he muttered, hand tightening against mine briefly while he glanced toward the spectators.

“It’s just, I’m nobody. And you’re–”

“We both got invited to the same wedding,” you protested.

“And I was under the impression you were, uh that dancing with me wasn’t something you would be interested in.” I should have just said ‘straight,’ but he reminded me of a skittish animal, like he might spook and bolt. I kept talking, perhaps to soothe him, though it mortified me. “This isn’t where I expected the night to go. Me touching your arms. You have nice arms.”

“Uh, thanks.” We spun, slowly. Enough to see two girls from the wedding party gawking. “God, do they have to stare so much?”

“Think so.”

“Don’t have to take their side.” The petulant quality to his voice seemed cute, less menacing without the usual stubble and leather jacket.

“You don’t have to tell people stuff if you aren’t ready, obviously, but. What did you think would happen?”

“I had no clue I would do this until I did. Also, I wasn’t sure you were gonna say yes.”

“You have very nice arms.”

He laughed. “You mentioned.”

We managed to dance without comment for a little while.

Close together with a stranger, someone I’d only seen from afar, it felt weird. Nice too. He smelled woodsy and like the lavender from the centerpieces. The bride’s little brother, he had stood on her side of the altar with women in identical champagne-colored dresses. The groom’s older sister stood on the groom’s side. Cobbling the honorifics together, he became the ‘man of honor,’ her the ‘best maid.’

“Why did you ask me to dance?” I wondered.

He nodded, indicating the happy bride. She picked her dress up as she spun around, showing her neon pink shoes covered with sparkles. The footwear didn’t match well with her color scheme, but I heard her thought process when getting punch. She was the bride, she could do what she wanted, and those shoes were worth clashing.

Even from here, we could hear her laugh. A bright sound as she spun again, her and the groom dancing with a group of kids. The song was slower, romantic, but that didn’t stop the kids or the happy couple.

“She’s really happy,” he noted. “Ecstatic. Annoyingly so.”

“She’s beautiful.”

“Yeah.” He smiled, watching as her and the ring-bearer grabbed hands and jumped up and down while the groom danced with a flower girl on his shoes. “She said why are you frowning, you should feel just as good as me.”

“Can’t say no to the bride?

“Wouldn’t be smart. She told me to dance with whoever I wanted and not to waste time on anyone else. I don’t think she imagined her advice would play out like this.”

The song changed, upbeat now, and fear crossed his face briefly. The song changed abruptly, back to another slower one, the bride lowering her hand after indicating to the DJ he should change it. We had a little more time.

“Regrets?” I wondered.

“Only that any kind of preparation for whatever comes next would have been smart. But holding you and swaying? I can do that.”

“Then I guess just focus on this part?”

“I can do that too.”

We kept dancing.

Favorite Characters: There is a correct answer

I write YA gay romance novels, in case you had no idea. My One More Thing Series starts with fake boyfriends and then becomes what I would describe as, “cute idiots, sarcasm, and more cute idiots.” My guess, and from the few people who have told me, most people’s favorite character is Ryan.

As Ryan is one of two main characters and the whole series is about him and his love life, that makes sense. He’s funny and zany and very likeable character-wise. My fave is Zach. I like Ryan, and Luke, the other main character who I think of as a bi-disaster who tries to not be a terrible human being, but Zach would agree with me here when I say he’s the best.

Ryan is a lot, and I am a lot, so having two a lots in my head is A LOT a lot. So Zach. I love him. It’s not relevant to anything, really, but I’m proud of myself for not letting his moodboard get out of hand.

Zach!

When I saw Zach, I had no complaints. Unless I was drooling, then I took issue with myself for being such an obvious loser. He wore a dark leather or faux leather jacket, tight jeans, and his hair was flawless. Like honestly, I stared while looking for a flaw, because it was giving me a complex, but there were none.

Luke OLW

Here is some writing and art about Luke Chambers from One Little Word. This is part of my series of posts celebrating the new edition of the book. Yay!

lukeowl

Luke

On the pitcher’s mound with all eyes on me, I can handle heavy hitters, fastballs, anything. Real life is different. And dumb jocks like me aren’t known for being good with words. When some careless remarks heard by the wrong ears land me in big trouble, I panicked as my easy life turned anything but.

Being Luke Chambers means guys want to be me and girls want to date me. I never considered guys could want to date me too. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately because, as crazy as it sounds, there’s only one way to prevent disaster: I need a boyfriend.

Out of the fire and into… a gay relationship. My pretend romance with Ryan Miller may look like puppy love, but his real feelings for me seem closer to pure hatred. The guy showed up to one of my games in a cheerleading outfit for girls just to humiliate me. It worked. He challenges me on everything, even something as unimportant as a game of ring toss.

I didn’t think life could get crazier than having a fake boyfriend. Then I started liking him.

Ryan is more challenging than Algebra II, yet a million times more interesting. Making him laugh is like hitting an out of the park home run. His hand in mine… there’s no comparison, I’ve never felt anything like this before.

Being out and proud isn’t the easiest thing in a small town like this, but it doesn’t stop Ryan from wanting something real. I don’t blame him. Pretending with him has started to feel more real than anything else in my life. That doesn’t make admitting my feelings easy. I’m not sure I can give Ryan what he needs… but someone else is willing to try.

If I don’t figure this out soon, I might lose Ryan Miller before he was ever really mine.

 

Fake dating, fake break ups, and other stuff that is not fake.

I adulted today! Take that not-adulting! My dog will not get heartworm because I ordered more heartworm pills for her. I even talked to a person over the phone and everything.

If you regularly talk to people on the phone for business or pleasure, or if you have less social anxiety than me, maybe this isn’t a big deal. I’m still going to bask in the imaginary glory of a task handled and a job well done.

Wow, I’m actually going to get at least two things done today. What else am I doing? Posting this. Here is an extended scene from One Little Lie. This is a different version of something similar in the book.

Setting the scene: Due to insanity and stupidity, Luke was out of the closet at school and publicly dating Ryan Miller. When this news reaches home, he pretends to be dating a girl instead. Now the group is talking about this.

Basically, the boys in this story are dating each other. The girls in this story are dating each other. Coming out is difficult, so the people with ‘L’ names said they were dating each other instead.

~

Ryan

Our foursome talked strategy at lunch. Now that Alicia had seen how terrible Luke and Lydia were together, she was in and wanted to help. My guess was that she hadn’t been as cool about this idea as I was when she was told and was trying to make up for that now.

Her efforts to get Luke and Lydia to formulate a plan weren’t working; it didn’t seem like they wanted to do much. They sat on the same side of the table and people watched us and whispered. Hey, in this fake scenario, I was a pretty mature person by eating lunch with my ex and his new girl. Good for pretend me.

I couldn’t even imagine I would be anywhere near as composed if this were real but that just meant I had a strong sense of self. I knew who I was and what I was about. Still. I liked the idea of being that mature. I tried to find this hidden well of maturity while talking about Luke and Lydia’s relationship.

“Are you and Ryan going to break up?” Alicia asked Luke.

“Like hell we are, you homewrecker,” I responded automatically.

So much for that maturity.

kiss-2931833_960_720Alicia gave me a patient, amused expression. “If the latest rumor is that you two are dating,” she nodded her head at the pair across from us, “maybe you two should publicly break up first.” She pointed to me and Luke.

Okay, I was feeling a lot less cool with this suddenly. I glared at Alicia and she shrugged, not understanding. Because she wasn’t out and no one knew about her and Lydia, so she didn’t have to “break up” with anyone to make this work.

Luke smiled at me. “What do you think? I bet we could top our last fake break up.”

I felt an eyebrow raise against my will as I considered that. Our fake breakup had included a public screaming match in the hallway, accusations of betrayal and jealously, and Luke being slapped.

Maybe this new charade would make sense as everyone thought Luke and me already broke up once partly because Lydia was the other woman. Topping that would be a challenge but could be fun.

Then I remembered what I was thinking about and shook my head.

“I don’t know if that’s necessary,” I said, trying to sound rational instead of weak and scared.

“Come on, give us a show,” Alicia encouraged.

“You do have a flair for dramatics when the occasion calls for it,” Lydia said stiffly.

Had Luke not been helping her out, she probably would have found a way to say that in a less complementary manner: drama queen. I smiled sunnily at her and she scowled until Luke saw her scowling at me and elbowed her and she looked down at her food instead with a little huff.

Still. “I don’t want to break up,” I admitted quietly.

“You don’t have to,” Lydia said unsurely, “But it would help.” She glanced at Luke.

“Come on, it won’t be a big deal,” he tried.

“No,” I said firmly.

I was already loaning out my boyfriend and I felt sympathetic to their cause, but I couldn’t do more. Fine, no maturity for me, but I couldn’t go through a break up, not even a fake one.

Luke and I were actually dating now and I didn’t want a break up screwing that up even if it wasn’t real. And our fake fight had turned real last time; that could happen again. I couldn’t stand up in public and say I didn’t want to date him anymore and I didn’t want to hear that from him. It felt like tempting fate or at the very least subjecting myself to something awful.

I didn’t explain very well, but Luke seemed to get it. His foot kicked mine under the table and he had a small gentle smile on his lips when he looked at me. “Hey, it’s okay. We won’t break up.”

I was probably being silly. But then again, it was hard to feel anything other than content when Luke looked at me that way and our legs touched under the table.

After a moment Alicia sighed. “So, the basic plan is just to half ass this?”

Everyone nodded.

~

This has been More on Mondays, where I post outtakes and deleted scenes. On Mondays. Every other Monday to be exact.