Awkward turtle. Do people still say that?

Ryan Miller and Luke Chambers do everything they do in the most terrible and awkward ways, including, well, you know… it.

Doing it.

IT!

You understand. That’s enough.

SEX! Sex was the it in that case. In case you weren’t aware.

One Little Change features Ryan and Luke navigating intimacy and a long distance relationship. Here are some outtakes involving Ryan’s feelings about all of this.

Ryan

First experiences were always weird. Right? Right. I think so. Especially if I was involved. Things would only get better! I had to remember that. Just, it was difficult. Since this was the last memory before I left.

I didn’t want to worry but freaking out and jumping to conclusions was my natural state. I had so much experience with it and much less with being calm and not panicking. This was why we had a plan. It might suck but we could get through it. Who knew that would apply to our first time?

No, don’t think about that. Just, the plan was for me leaving. Oh god. I was already leaving but at least I had been leaving on a high note. Except now. I was leaving on a not high note. An awkward note.  It might suck but we can get through it. We can handle it. I hoped that was still true.

I was the rightest person to ever right and everyone should always listen to me because I could do no wrong, but my powers were too great. The common folk feared my gifts and never heeded my advice. Too bad. Cause see, I told Luke we should freak out first. So we could get it out of the way. Granted, that was about me leaving, not about—

We definitely should have freaked out beforehand. Because I was so going to freak out now.

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Luke is totally not afraid of horses.

Here’s some fiction about people riding horses. Literally, not in a euphemism way. Should I make that sound more exciting? Here’s some fiction about people riding horses!

Nailed it.

Again, not in a dirty way.

This is a scene I didn’t end up using from One Little Change. I took out anything other than vague references to the plot, so this isn’t spoilery and you also don’t need to know anything about the characters.

Enjoy! (Or don’t, you do you.)

Luke

This was the awkwardest experience ever. Happening right now. Around me. Under me. That sounded weird. I was on a horse. It was awkward.

Maybe it wasn’t that weird… it was just also really weird.

“Slow down,” I suggested to Lydia while tightening my arms around her waist.

“You are such a baby.” Swore she sped up while she said that.

“There’s a branch up ahead!” I warned.

“Stop backseat horse riding!”

We were at the camp where Alicia worked, picking up my little sister Lily. Camp was over for her group, but there were still counselors around and they’d soon be getting ready for the next batch of kids. No one seemed to care or question us when we went to the stables and checked out the horses, all the employees too excited for the downtime between cycles, so I followed Lily and Alicia’s leads.

Lily decided we were going to go riding, which I didn’t really know how to do, but she seemed comfortable getting the horses ready.

While Ryan and I patching things up was good for my heart and mind and soul and everything, maybe it was good for my body too. The Millers didn’t even have horses yet, and Ryan and I were in no way married, but my little sister Lily was acting like their imaginary horses were as good as hers.

Our family didn’t have a barn of our own, and the ranch I worked on had different livestock, so I’d never ridden. Maybe a few times at the fair when I was a kid and then horses seemed girly. Why? Yeah, girls liked horses. Sometimes to a scary degree. But the animals were giant and they had strength and what about them was girly, and even if it was, what about that was girly in a bad way?

I told the girls they could ride and I would just wait for them, maybe go back to my car. And now somehow I was behind Lydia on a horse.

The horse Lily rode had a chestnut coat, was obviously named Chestnut, and was fast, as she charged ahead and lost us pretty much immediately on the path.

Alicia’s tan horse, Blondie, they didn’t dig too hard for names, looked like it had the ability to catch up or at least get close to Lily’s horse even though it moved at a slower pace to accommodate me and my steed.

My horse was named Button and had a white coat with grey spots. No idea if its coat was always like that or that just happened when a horse was, like, 90 years old. If he tried to go as fast as Chestnut, he would probably die.

I liked Button. He was an old guy that was just doing his best.

While I probably wasn’t in any danger, I clung onto Lydia for dear life.

“Just be careful,” I told or reminded her.

“Stop telling me what to do.”

“I will if you be careful.”

“I’ve done this before.”

Yeah and so had Button, 900 times, and I think he’s had enough. It’s a big job carrying two people.

~

(Abridged) 20 Questions

This is an excerpt from my YA M/M romance called Like You a Latte.

Owen sat up straight in his chair and met my gaze with a forceful look. Oh boy, I prepared for a doozy. Something deep and philosophical maybe. Or something incredibly invasive and personal. He took a breath and then asked, “Glass half empty or full?”

At the very least, I was expecting some stoner paradox. I saw a 4/20 pin on his apron one day. If Chuck Norris can beat everyone, could he beat Chuck Norris? I didn’t know whether this was an improvement on that question or not.  “Do you want more time to think of a question?” I asked him.

“I’m the one asking now,” he told me primly. “Kindly answer.”

There was probably a mathematical equation to figure it out. Find the circumference of the glass and then- “I’d have to see the glass,” I told him once I spent a few seconds pondering it.

Owen nodded. “Chicken or egg?” he asked next.

I blinked at him. “Which is my preference?”

“Which came first?” he clarified. There wasn’t a way to win this game the way we were playing it, but he was definitely losing. And it was his choice to go easy on me and not ask anything personal but that didn’t mean I had to do the same.

The chicken or the egg. Just as trivial as glass half empty or half full. Simple at least. “Scientifically—”

“Journey or destination?” He cut me off to ask.

“I didn’t get to answer the second question fully,” I protested.

“Trust me,” his tone sounded drier than the blueberry muffins on sale today, which wasn’t hard because they were very moist, but his tone was still pretty dry. “That one word was enough.”

“And you wasted your questions.” And again, not that this was a competition, but if it were, I would so totally be winning. I was going to kick his ass with my questions.

“No, I’m getting a pretty good idea of how you see the world.” He held up his hands in a frame shape as his eyes skated over me, like he was getting the full Spencer Sharp picture.

“Those questions told you something you didn’t already know?” If so, I might have to question my evaluation of his intellect.

“I’m confirming my hypothesis,” he said with a smirk. “Isn’t that something you smarty pants types care about?”

I suppose. Him saying hypothesis was mildly arousing. I shook it off. My turn to question him. “What’s your least favorite subject in school?” His favorite was English. Was he a thoroughly right brained person and hated math or did he have a proficiency but not interest in the numbers and sciences?

“No, you didn’t answer my last one yet. Journey or destination?” He rested a hand on his chin and looked at me expectantly, like he was dying to know the answer.

Oh, well that was simple. “Destination, obviously.” The journey was the necessary steps you had to take in order to complete your goals. An equation. A formality. The instructions. Or the recipe. But the point wasn’t about how to make a pie, it was about eating the pie.

Owen rolled his eyes but smiled as he said, “Obviously.”

I understood as I wanted to roll my eyes too as I said, “And you disagree obviously.”

While I still maintained his questions were stupid, this was fun and lighthearted, exactly what I needed. Maybe that was why he didn’t ask anything difficult. He was good at reading people. He had that thing I used to think was made up, but I’ve since come to terms with me just not having it, emotional intelligence.

“You never told me your least favorite subject,” I said.

“Spanish,” he answered.

Hmm, that was another right brained discipline. Fascinating. “Interesting,” I mused.

“I don’t like the teacher,” he elaborated.

“Fair enough.” I thought about another question. “Hogwarts house?” I could be whimsical sometimes.

“Okay, I’m happy to answer but maybe not now.” He waved a hand. “That’s a whole thing. A big discussion. We’ll have to devote a different night to it.” He looked excited about it. Him taking the house he’d be sorted into so seriously was a little silly… I should find it a little silly. It was actually kinda hot. And I liked when he made references to seeing me in the future. The small hints that he liked having me around and wanted me to stay in his life.

“I’ll defer that question for a later date,” I concluded formally, feeling a smile form on my face when he snorted at my tone.

“One more.” His eyes danced with something I couldn’t make out in the low lighting. The hazel depths just seemed warm, happy, and I couldn’t tell if there were any flecks of green there, but I liked the hint of something a little mischievous and challenging in his gaze. “Make it good,” he challenged or encouraged.

Whichever it was, it worked. “Last boyfriend?” I asked. I had done a very good job with this friendly/flirty dance we’d been doing, considering I didn’t usually do this. I usually knew what I wanted and what I was getting. And now the perfect opportunity presented itself where I could test the waters. I couldn’t resist.

And the waters were… murky.

Owen blinked and his mouth dropped open like I surprised him. “Oh, uh.” He fidgeted and laughed awkwardly. His fingers twitched on the table and he looked down, not knowing what to say.

Shit. What if he had a bad breakup? I probably would have reacted the same way if put on the spot about Lucas and I didn’t know if I’d share. While it wasn’t a school course, Lucas and my last relationship were definitely my least favorite subject. “Sorry, you don’t have to answer if—”

“No, it’s fine.” It didn’t seem entirely fine. He met my eyes and gave me a weak smile. “I just. I’m not really the boyfriend type,” he said quietly.

“Oh.” I guess that made sense. He didn’t make a lot of plans for the future, he didn’t seem like the type to be tied down. I couldn’t quite process my feelings about his admission. I should have suspected as much. Still. Having it said was something else. I regretted asking this question.

“I mean,” he amended. “I haven’t been, in the past.” He still looked a little nervous, but there was a gentle, hesitant smile on his face. Was he afraid of how I’d react?

I didn’t regret asking this question. “So, you’re saying—” I started to ask and then trailed off. He might be open to it with the right person? I tried to make my posture open, to seem nonjudgmental. I didn’t want to scare him off.

“I’m saying that I don’t know.” He shrugged, looked down at the table. Good because I couldn’t hide a wince. That didn’t sound very optimistic. “It’s not that I’m opposed,” he continued. “I just haven’t been in a serious relationship. I’m usually more casual.”

So, like the opposite of me. I already knew that. I probably needed to say something.

He spoke again before I could formulate a response. “But remember, I’m the one of us who likes trying new things.”  The gentle smile was back on his face, hopeful. Oh. And that, that definitely sounded optimistic to me.

I didn’t know if I should smile back, maybe I should just be neutral and supportive, but that hopeful look made my insides all soft and warm and I had to smile at him. “Yeah,” I said lightly but with a bright smile on my face. “I guess you are.”

The book is available here.

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.

Entirely Too Gay

I am the worst at figuring out intros for blog posts, so normally I just ramble about something and then get to the topic later. I don’t know if that’s a particularly good strategy, but it is my strategy.

Okay first, the rambling. Currently, I’m reading and loving Riding With Brighton by Haven Francis. I need a new show to watch because I just got done watching Insatiable, which apparently everyone hates. I love me a dark comedy and think it has potential.

Now the topic at hand. I have a free book available on Amazon, but I should probably talk about that  on my blog to so, um, I have a free book available on Amazon. Here’s the link.

Young fitness model is posing in studioWrestling: A school-sanctioned way to roll around on the floor with sweaty guys. Why didn’t more gay kids join the wrestling team? The other wrestlers.

The days of being picked on and beat up were over for Alfonso Flores. Instead of being the scrawny nerd everyone remembered, he returned to high school bigger and buffer. He just wants to be left alone in peace. How does he end up joining the wrestling team?
A guy, of course.

To get closer to Dallas, he’ll go where no gay boy has gone before: the wrestling team. Even if he doesn’t receive a warm welcoming. For big macho men, wrestlers were pretty self-conscious. Maybe it was a gay guy joining the team. Maybe they understood just how insane their sport was. It was pretty gay.

What’s the saying? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Alfonso’s going to do both. He’ll try not to get killed in the testosterone filled, macho world of groping other guys for sport all while getting closer to Dallas and dealing with his overprotective father. If he doesn’t survive, at least he got to feel Dallas Archer’s muscles. Definitely worth it.

This is a humorous, light hearted story about getting out of your comfort zone and getting the guy.

 

Excerpt from Pool Boy

plbymerfednewThe beach here could adorn a postcard, it was exactly what one would want a beach to look like with white sandy beaches and lovely blue waters. The good-looking people laying on towels or strolling down the beach didn’t hurt the picture either.

I found a good spot and lounged on a towel for a few minutes, closing my eyes and enjoying the way the sun felt on my body. Then I popped in my earbuds and got ready to watch some episodes I downloaded of my latest favorite guilty pleasure TV show. I had two weaknesses. Gummy bears and trashy TV. Though I was currently on Grey’s Anatomy and it was pretty damn good. Wildly medically inaccurate but quality TV.

I was a 17-year-old guy who was a self-described nerd. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, but I still didn’t need other people to know my current favorite show was Grey’s Anatomy. Watching this in public, I felt a little thrill. See, this counted as being adventurous, right? Well, it counted for me.

I sat up and watched an episode with the tablet on my lap while occasionally glancing at the waves or stretching out my toes to wiggle them in the sand. This was definitely the perfect way to soak up some vitamin-D. Yeah, maybe this chilling at the beach thing wasn’t so bad.

One minute I was watching tiny Dr. Bailey taking names and giving orders and then there was a shadow over me. I paused then instinctively put a hand over the tablet so that whoever was above me wouldn’t see what I was watching, even though it was probably just some stressed out traveler who had forgotten their sunscreen.

Except when I raised my other arm and squinted upwards to glance at the person without being blinded by the sun, it wasn’t an anxious tourist… it was a really hot guy.

The really hot guy had an easy smile on his face and seemed relaxed, more so when he sat down next to me after a moment so that we were on the same level. He placed his arms over the valley of his knees while he continued to look at me with interest.

“Please don’t tell me you came to the beach to watch TV?” came a friendly if a little incredulous voice. His voice was… inviting, that was the best way to describe it. I resisted the invitation.

“I’m relaxing at the beach,” I said while forcing myself to look away from him. “This is how I want to relax.”

“You could go for a swim.” The voice was definitely amused now.

I looked back at him… and had some trouble looking away.

He was wearing a thin white t-shirt with a V-neck and a hint of dark chest hair poked free of the material. He looked the same age as me and was tall and masculine, the way I expected a guy who was my age and had more chest hair than me to be, but there was also something softer about him.

Maybe it was the deep brown hair that trailed down and stopped just past his chin. Most of it was pulled back in a short pony tail but a few tendrils curled slightly and framed his face. He had a strong jaw but a delicate nose and intelligent green eyes stared back at me. He looked almost familiar but maybe he had one of those faces. It wasn’t like I knew anyone here.

It was only when I began to categorize his lips that I realized how long I’d been staring. He didn’t seem to mind though. Wasn’t this always how it went? I didn’t many suitors before but now that I had a boyfriend, I’d gotten someone else’s attention without even trying.

Um, what had we been talking about? Oh, going for a swim. “I don’t know how to swim,” I offered up before I could think about whether I wanted to say that or not. The attractiveness of the guy I was talking to short circuited my brain.

“I could teach you,” he offered. His long limbs were well-formed, with corded muscle in every inch of them. I definitely believed he knew how to swim, that could be where he got his toned body and thin torso.

Part of me wanted to say yes but that would be foolish without knowing his credentials. “Are you an instructor?” I asked.

“No.” His lips quirked upwards. “But I know how to swim.”

Why was he even talking to me? Most people here took one look and ignored me. I was too nerdy, too poor, or too something else I didn’t want to think about lest I get a complex.

“Have you taught anyone else before?”

“You’d be my first.” His smirk widened as his tongue peeked out quickly to wet his lips. “In that regard.” He had full lips, how did they look like that? Did he use Chapstick with this heat?

Man, it was hot out here. I felt parched all of a sudden. I did my best to carry on the conversation. “Are you CPR certified?”

He started to laugh, then paused when realizing I was serious. “Come on.”

“That’s a valid question.” I forced myself to hold his gaze without backing down in embarrassment.

But really, what was I supposed to do? Take one look at him, imagine his body shirtless and wet, and then happily hop in the water with him? Probably. That didn’t sound like a bad idea actually… but that was how sharks got you.

His eyes narrowed as his lips pursed in thought. “You don’t know how to relax, do you?”

At first glance, he might know a lot about how to relax. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine him spending his days here stretched out on the sand as his skin glistened with sweat and moisture from the nearby ocean.

When I caught myself looking him over again, I forced my gaze to his face and said with as much dignity as possible, “I’m here to lay in the sun and unwind with my favorite guilty pleasure show. That sounds pretty relaxing to me.” Wasn’t that the point? To chill how I wanted to?

On the other hand, he didn’t look overly or artificially bronzed. His lightly tanned skin looked naturally sun kissed. I admired him idly while he thought. The people here were all attractive. It’s like you weren’t allowed to live here if you didn’t meet certain aesthetic standards.

He came to a decision. “Okay, you got me.”

His hand moved toward me, palm up, while he looked at me expectantly. He had a rugged but artistic vibe. Big hands with long, almost delicate fingers: an artist’s fingers.

“What are you doing?” I asked the stranger who kept sitting next to me like we were friends. I didn’t necessarily mind, I’d just never made friends this easily before.

“I’ll watch it with you,” he suggested. “See if you’re onto something with the way you relax.” Before I could do anything, he said “Is that, are you watching Grey’s Anatomy?”

It wasn’t a sunburn but a blush staining my face as I managed to respond with a weak, “I said it was a guilty pleasure.”

“No judgement,” he responded immediately and I peered at him skeptically. “Okay, there is some judgement,” he admitted. “But not much.” He laughed but not at me, like he was sharing a joke with me. “I’m judging both of us because I can apparently recognize it with just a glance. So, ready to watch?”

He made a grabbing motion with his hand as he kept waiting for an earbud while he scooted closer. We’d have to be pressed together along one side to make this work.

“But this isn’t how you relax,” I deflected.

“No,” he agreed. He let his hand down but didn’t move away. He lowered his voice to say, “But there’s too many people here for I how relax.”

My eyebrows rose. I didn’t let myself think about the words too closely, just asked, “You have a dirty mind, don’t you?”

His smile looked genuinely pleased at what I said. “I haven’t gotten any complaints about it so far.”

We sat there, too close and staring at each other while my stomach acted up, feeling all tingly and weird. Maybe I’d had too many gummy bears.

“Are you going to share?” he asked after a moment, gesturing for the earphone again.

“I don’t even know you.”

Like that was what he’d been waiting for, he said, “Reese.”

“Colin,” I replied. I wasn’t sure which one of us put our hand out first but then we were shaking hands, which was kinda weird because I don’t think I’d ever really done that with anyone who was my own age. This was… flirty. An excuse to touch each other. My heart started beating a little faster, and I felt a twinge of guilt, but I forced myself to get it together. Relax. It was just a freaking handshake.

“Great, now we know each other,” he said easily while his hand caressed mine and I almost wanted to chase it when he pulled his away. “You show me your way to relax and then later maybe I’ll show you mine.”

“M-Maybe we better not,” I sputtered out. Flirting. There was so much flirting. Why had I not shut it down immediately? Maybe it was still somewhat surprising to be flirted with. It hadn’t happened much aside from Wyatt.

“Did I say something wrong?” he raised his hands in a placating gesture, showing he meant no offense.

“You’re being very flirty and I have a boyfriend,” I explained, looking away.

He nodded and made a ‘hmm’ considering noise. “Would it be really crass to say that what happens in Sterling, stays in Sterling?”

I smiled despite an effort not to as I told him, “That’s Vegas and he’s here too.”

“You sure about that?” He looked around. “I don’t see anyone who’s mad I’m hitting on their boyfriend.”

The weird, somewhat fun novelty of this exchange wore off at that. Wyatt was here in town, not here at the beach with me. Thanks so much for reminding me.

“You’re right,” I said getting up and dusting sand off my shorts. “This isn’t the right way to relax at all.” I started gathering my stuff.

“Hey, sorry, hold on.” He touched my arm briefly and his face looked sincere. I paused in my hasty retreat and he gestured towards a nearby shop. “Let me get you a lemonade or something.”

“I told you—” I started, ready to repeat I had a boyfriend in case he didn’t believe me the first time.

“No, just to be nice,” he clarified. “Sorry if I came on too strong.”

I studied him for a moment and took his statement to be genuine. “Okay,” I said and we walked side by side to the nearest shop with drinks. To be safe, I had to emphasize, “I wasn’t kidding about the boyfriend.”

“Alright, I get that now.” He held the door open for me as we walked into the little shop. “Do you work here?”

“No, why?” By here, I took that he meant in town and not the store we walked into.

“I do,” he offered. “I thought you did too and figured I’d take a chance.”

He was trying to be nice, so I forced a smile while ordering a small lemonade. Then I asked, “I don’t look good enough for this place?” I already knew it, but it wasn’t great to know how obvious it was.

“It’s not a bad thing,” he insisted immediately. “You’re the only person our age I’ve seen, besides me, who isn’t wearing TOMS.”

He got a small iced water for himself and we took our drinks and went outside. He flustered me a little when we first met, between his looks and blatant interest in me, but the mood felt companionable between us now and I liked him.

Ordering the ice water was what did it. Everyone else here was busy enjoying their lazy day in the sun, but it was clear to me that all this stuff was normally out of my price range. I didn’t really belong. I liked having someone else who felt that way here. Who didn’t or couldn’t splurge on sodas. But he got me a drink anyway.

Eventually, I said, “I feel a little out of place here sometimes too.”

He looked at me with a peculiar expression. “I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t have to.” I gave him a little smile.

“Okay, well, we can be misfits together,” he decided.

“Sounds like a plan. Thanks for the drink.”

He nodded. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”

I was dating, not dead or whatever so that didn’t mean I couldn’t look. I watched him walk away. The shorts he was wearing were a little baggy, but he still had a nice ass.

***

More about Pool Boy by Finn Manning

freee boooks

Hello, how are you? I’m going to assume you’re doing fine, that’s great. We should catch up more often. What am I up to? Thanks for asking! I’ve been writing a lot and this month is going by fast. I have no idea how it’s already a few weeks into June. But there’s free books to be had, so here’s some of the giveaways for June.

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The Truly, Madly, Deeply giveaway has 51 books in various genres. There’s some fantasy,  historical, billionaires and fake relationship stories.

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This one has 78 YA reads, with a focus on romance and content suitable for YA readers.

Check it out and see if there’s anything you’re interested in! They’re all free and include previews and full books.