Have you ever played the game ‘two truths and a lie?’ Do you want to play now? Whatever you answered, I can’t hear you, so I’m just going to keep going. Okay, the way the game works is I say three things, then you guess which one is the lie. Ready? Again, I can’t hear you. Go!
1. F.N. Manning, me, has a new story available.
2. I actually have four new stories available.
3. The new thing I’m talking about is on sale right now!
Um, maybe I should build the suspense instead of just telling you the answer. I’m going to tell you anyway. Number three is the lie. Because the story is free, so there is no sale, because you never have to pay for it. Free!
When We Were Strangers is a prequel to the first book in the One More Thing Series, One Little Word. No knowledge of the series is required to read this short story. Well, there are actually four stories altogether, which are all included in the prequel.
Here is the beginning of one story. You literally need to know no information to read this, but I’m going to tell you some stuff anyway. Zach (and friends) crash a wedding, where he flirts with an older guy and goes on a quest.
Under no circumstances would I ever base my life choices around Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Yes, they were rich and famous, but at what cost? They were still Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Which meant that my decision to crash a wedding reception occurred for one reason and only one reason: free alcohol.
The party took place in our hotel, and we had a break from our baseball tournament. Me, Luke Chambers, and Joey Wilson made a marginal effort to blend in by splitting the dressier clothing I packed. A formality, as getting caught hadn’t even occurred to me, because who really cared?
Apparently, Samuel cared. The uptight groomsman who seemed unfamiliar with fun and party etiquette, though watching Luke fail to bond with him was amusing.
“We’re no different than everyone else here,” Luke tried with a charming smile. “We just wanna have a good time.”
“Except everyone else was invited,” said the fun police.
Never great at thinking on his feet, Luke smiled harder, counting on his all-American good looks, green eyes earnest and dimples peeking out. “Come on, Sam—”
“It’s Samuel,” he corrected instantly with a glare. “Hardly on nickname basis as we’re strangers.”
“I’m Luke. Nice to meet you, Sam.” Luke held out his hand.
“It’s still Samuel.” Still Samuel stared at the outstretched hand dubiously until it was removed.
Luke sent me a desperate look. I mouthed ‘you got this,’ gave him a thumbs up, and left him to investigate the alcohol situation. Yes, we were best friends, but this way was more fun, and I still wanted to drink.
Sorry not sorry about stealing thunder from the bride I’d never met, but everyone could see Zach Ahmad looked damn fine. With flawless brown skin, expertly styled hair, and a roguish smirk, I… oh wait. There was a reason my amazing good looks were important. I would get to that momentarily.
As Luke took my dinner jacket, I only wore the under layers, a grey vest and a long-sleeved white dress shirt. My impeccably fit body was highlighted in the tailored clothing, and my ass looked incredible in the dark pants. Joey stole my red tie for himself as he was too big for my clothes, and he always wore whatever he wanted regardless of dress code anyway. I half respected that. I would respect it fully if he had better taste.
Anyway, back to Zach.
After discovering only those with wristbands got free, no-questions-asked alcohol, I glanced back towards Luke and caught Samuel’s eyes moving away from me. So… that could work. I interrupted Samuel boring Luke to death and took care of the situation, at least 70% sure Samuel wanted me.
Sometime after being awesome and gaining us admittance and free alcohol, I lost track of my friends. I stood at the edge of the dancefloor with Samuel. A peppy song about everything being great played loudly while people danced and had fun. A good time had by all, except for or including us? Unclear.
“Look Zach,” Samuel began, then faltered. “Do you go by Zach or Zachary? Is Zachariah an option?”
“Never,” I shot down, then sent him a small smile. “It’s Zach. Can I call you Sam?”
“Um, yeah,” he answered, nervous but no hesitation. “Sure, if you want.” He definitely wanted me.
“What’s on your mind, Sam?” I asked.
“Okay, one thing.” He seemed to psych himself up mentally before managing to speak. “Crashing a party for free booze when you’re obviously underage, uh.” Samuel shook his head. “I may not condone this, but I won’t stop you.”
“You did give us the wristbands.” I held up my wrist with the neon green band attached.
“Alright, I condone it a little.” He frowned, thinking. “Enabling, that might be the better term. I wanted to make clear, I’m not judging, but I am, well.” He shrugged helplessly. “I see through what you’re doing.”
“Okay?” I arched one eyebrow, the gesture and single word slightly dismissive out of habit. Some people had ‘resting bitch face.’ ‘Resting bitch everything’ was my default setting.
“Apparently I’m alright with corrupting a minor, but I’m not an idiot,” he explained, potentially flushing. Hard to tell with his beard. “I saw through the plan, that’s all. I want to be clear.” He crossed his arms. No jacket, sleeves rolled up, lots of hair there. “I sound silly, don’t I?”
“A little, yeah.” I smiled. “Though I do understand where you’re coming from. Going along with it is different than being duped. I’d be bothered at the impression of being outsmarted by a bunch of high school jocks too.”
His blue eyes widened with panic. “You’re in high school?”
Shit. “You didn’t know? You said—”
“21 is the legal drinking age! Which by the way, I am also younger than. Not that I’ve imbibed.”
“Gonna start?” Rhetorical, because my invitations weren’t turned down. The only thing I did better than resting bitch everything was becoming inviting.
His head bobbed up and down in a nervous nod. “Lead the way, I guess.”
I led the way.
-Read the rest here.