New Fantasy Novel!

In an announcement I’m totally not late in making at all, I have a new book out. The novel Instalove is a gay paranormal romance set in a modern world where real magic exists.

Avery Ward is the main character. He’s an ordinary high schooler who lacks the magic all the witches and warlocks in his family wield. He thinks the supernatural world doesn’t involve him much until learns that a spell might be responsible for the best thing in his life.

The book also reached number one in one of its categories! Thanks so much to everybody who’s supported the novel so far.

I’ll share some scenes from the novel later, but I’m trying to do something new and stay on topic. And that topic is announcing the new book, yay! Yes, the ‘yay’ is included. Here’s the cover and description.

Can instant love truly last? Or will a witch’s spell lead to a broken heart?

Avery Ward doesn’t have magic powers. Get used to it. He has. Yes, his illusionist father can transport readers to beloved novels, and his sister can turn him into a toad when he hogs the bathroom. Avery prefers normal. As he nears his 4-month anniversary with boyfriend Chris, his regular life is looking pretty fantastic. Except according to his little sister, a spell she cast last week created his relationship.

All spells end sooner or later. So it’s better to steer clear of Chris and his sister until the dust settles. But when an evil wizard begins tormenting his high school, only the trio can stop him before anyone gets hurt…

To keep people safe and combat the fear taking over his school, Avery needs more than magic. He needs a miracle. If he succeeds, maybe he’ll receive a miracle of his own. Maybe he can keep Chris.

But when love and magic combine, how do you trust your heart?

Instalove is a gay romance novel about the power of ordinary magic and what it means to be the one who doesn’t fit in, even when fitting in means flying and performing spells like the rest of your family. While Avery appears in Black Cats and Bad Luck, that story focuses on different characters, so this book can be read on its own.

Grab your copy of this enchanting coming-of-age novel today to fall in Instalove!

For the love of a good man

Ryan is a brainy overachiever. He imagines becoming a brilliant scientist who makes grand discoveries and is only a little mad. Being a mad scientist isn’t required for some chemists, doctors, and whatnot, but a little insanity is non-negotiable for Ryan. Here’s an excerpt where he talks about his plans and what he wants for his relationship with Luke. This possibly relates to how love, and a little insanity, can turn anyone into a fool.

The post is to celebrate the release of a new contemporary gay romance from me. One Big Decision is the hilarious and heartwarming final novel in the One More Thing series which follows a small-town couple as they navigate high school.

Ryan

I wanna do great things. I wanna discover answers to nature’s mysteries. Help people, save lives, be great. And I wanna be happy too. In the grand scheme? One man’s happiness is the least important concern. When you’re living it, it matters so much. The impossible dream is to have everything and love too, especially love.

So if you tell a few lies, burn a few bridges to get everything, you can still probably sleep at night. Even if it’s not right, you behaved poorly for the same reason geniuses turn into fools, kings lose their kingdoms, people with everything gratefully give it all away and accept nothing. For the love of a good man.

God, if I can just have this, if I can have him, I’ll never want anything else again. Yeah, it’s a lie. One more potent than a trick of the light because the kicker is, it’s real in the moment. It’s the only truth you know. For a little while.

What else could I do? I followed my heart.

Former Feline Familiars (is this a tongue twister?)

For my new novel and series, I put together some posts that are an introduction to the world and characters of Black Cats and Bad Luck. This paranormal romance is available for free. It’s a new adult gay romance about magic, familiars, dreams, and monsters.

One of the main characters is Horatio, a former familiar who is seeking his true love. You know how shapeshifters are a hot trend in fiction now? This is kind of like that, except it only works in one direction and only once. He spent some time in cat form, though he isn’t really a cat. Because when I try to write shapeshifters, apparently my brain cooperates to a point and then does its own thing.

In this scene, Horatio meets up with the young witch he lived and worked with, her older brother Avery, and his friend Jonah.

~

Avery

“Horatio is a cat.” I went over the facts, seeking comfort from them. “He eats from a black dish with little stars decorating the outside. He gets hair all over my pillows, he smacks me in the face with his tail. Because he’s a cat, our—”

“I hope you weren’t going to say pet,” he interrupted sternly.

“He’s right, Avery,” Stella said. Great, they were both glaring at me. “We don’t own him, we never did.”

Rubbing my face with both hands, I groaned. What the hell I did not even believe in? What the hell? All I could say was, “He’s not Horatio.”

“I am Horatio,” the guy argued.

“And you were lonely, so you followed us here?” And also grew human parts.

“No, you’re where I need to be, and I can sense you strongly. You’re my bridge between worlds.”

Not sure what to do with that, I only weakly said, “Horatio is a cat.”

“I was,” he agreed. “But no longer.”

Everyone had gone insane. I did not have enough sanity on my own to bring them all back to reality. So I did the only thing I could. I gave up, falling back on the bed, closing my eyes, and wishing the world a fond farewell. It would have to get along without me.

“Oh my god.” Jonah laughed. “Awesome! Are you serious?”

Distantly, a reasonable part of myself tried to mount a defense. It argued I shouldn’t allow a naked, possibly deranged guy to waltz in here just because he guessed the name of our cat.

 If anyone else showed up out of nowhere buck-naked claiming to be a family pet, or a rough equivalent, they would be full of shit. But this guy? I believed him. While the shape of him changed, he was still Horatio.

— the rest is available here. For free!

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.


Promising Start to Gay Supernatural Series: Review of ‘Witch Eyes’ by Scott Tracey

Okay, so you know those epic book and movies series that are all intense and exciting? To set the scene, there’s a world vastly different than ours, yet still relatable. Then add in young heroes, unimaginable danger, and impossible love stories. This is almost Witch Eyes.

Imagine something like Harry Potter or Hunger Games or Divergent. Take the awesome fantasy series of your choice and insert it here. Then go to that moment where you’re like, man, this is awesome, but hey, here’s a wild idea. What if there were also gay people?

That’s Witch Eyes.

Who knew I could explain a whole story without actually giving away one plot detail? Should I go into more specifics? I guess. ‘Magical YA series’ with gays is all I need to hear, but reviews typically include… reviewing. Okay, here’s some more information about
Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey.

Spoilers!

I will try to be more general about the twistiest parts, but there’s probably going to be some:

spoilers

 

I’m not sure how popular of an opinion this is, I also don’t care, but I adore River Song. So unpopular or popular opinion, River is my favorite doctor. Followed by Martha Jones, because I’m physically incapable of not being difficult. And they are both doctors even though they aren’t “The Doctor.” Anyway, there’s spoilers, sweetie.

The book has suspense and dark secrets, like any good fantasy series, so there are some big mysteries, but there’s also a lot of little ones. The plot kind of unfolds piece by piece, so you don’t really know anything until you do. Does that make sense? Basically, every single part is a mystery, until you read it, and then it’s just part of the plot.

The slowly unraveling mystery of everything is done really well. Like damn. Very nice pacing, and just when things even out or my interest started to wane, bam! There’s a twist I didn’t see coming, and it all changes.

Plot!

Braden is this kid with crazy strong magic that makes his eyes painful and powerful.  In the real word, his eyes are sensitive and he can’t see very well. In the supernatural realm, he Sees more than he should. When danger looms, he flees to get answers by going to the place where he was born. He slowly learns about his hometown and the mysteries surrounding it and his life. The story has familiar elements but feels fresh and original, and overall is incredibly intriguing.

From the book:

There was more to the world than what most people saw…. Everything that had ever happened in a place, to a person, or because of something left an imprint…

Witch eyes, my uncle called them. A “gift.” I was “special.”

Sometimes being special wasn’t a good thing.

It was every horror movie nightmare come to life… Every time I unleashed the power of my visions, it was only a matter of time before I was overwhelmed. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of memories in a place, and all of them funneled into me all at once. For as long as they ravaged through me, I was at their mercy.

Supernatural! (I started with the exclamation points, so I’m going to keep going)

There’s a magical world hiding in a regular town, so many people are unaware of the very messed up place they live. The mystical elements and battles of good and evil are interspersed through daily life. If you get bored easily, I think there’s enough action to hold your interest.

I am going to be vague and boring with a list to avoid giving away too much. The supernatural elements that star heavily allegedly involve: psychic powers, curses, werewolves, witches, demons, and wards.

Braden’s powers are especially fun because it’s a cool opportunity to change the writing up and see things in a different perspective. His eyes give him insight into the location he’s physically at and can show him the hidden depths of people. I freaking love his powers.

Bright light smacked me in the face, drawing out colors and images that weren’t there a moment ago.

Rings of purple bruising from the tears I never should have trusted him angry red stains copper on the carpet must get that fixed fire bowing down in his wake all angry oranges and gas blues money green in my purse the best job I’ve ever had. Why doesn’t he respect me as much as the resting gold dulled into unremarkable grays I am nothing he was right I should disappear.

Not Supernatural!

Right along with the magical elements are the messy human complications that pollute the town. There’s a giant feud between two families, the Lansings and Thorpes. The conflict has supernatural origins but spills over into regular life so everyone knows the town is divided between two sides.

If you have ever read a book or watched a movie, you will not be surprised that Braden’s father is the head of one side. His love interest’s mother is the head of the other side. Cue the inherent drama! And if you’re thinking this sounds like Romeo and Juliet but with magic and gay, that’s exactly what the author was going for, and it’s fantastic.

Between the magical and regular elements, and how everything blends together, there’s a lot going on. If you don’t have the memory of a goldfish, unlike me, you might be able to set the book down and come back to it. But I recommend not leaving this world too long before finishing the story or you might forget the details.

Love Story!

To sum up the romance, I think this quote works well:

You barely know him, I reminded myself. He was nice to look at, but he was kind of a dick. I definitely didn’t trust him.

Isn’t that the way it always starts? Braden and Trey don’t trust each other at first. But they are drawn to each other anyway. They have the setup for a really, really, really good love story. Like one from a movie where it’s all epic and star-crossed.

Okay, here’s part of a conversation between the two where they discuss names and nicknames.

“Cyke? Like Cyclops? From the X-Men? What’s wrong with Braden? It’s been working for me all my life.”

“Everyone gets to call you Braden,” he said, flashing me a wicked smile that was like a punch in the gut. “I’m the only one calling you Cyke, right?”

“You realize you’re annoying, right?”

Trey‘s smile was brightly comfortable. “I’ve heard that once or twice.

My note for this part was ‘dfldadgjlgfenvd.’ So I like their flirty, charged banter.

The only slight downside is that their relationship, and the whole novel, isn’t exactly incomplete, but it’s more like a set up for future events. So if you want a standalone read, this probably isn’t it. There’s a lot of promise overall, but it’s clear there’s more story to tell.

More!

There’s a lot of subtle humor in the narration by Braden that I really appreciate. And I like how the intense gravity of the supernatural crises and challenges are balanced with some comedy. So I’ll end with a few lines I enjoyed.

I forced myself to finish my homework before considering plans to raise the dead.

Something howled in the distance. It sounded like a wolf, but that was impossible. There weren’t wolves for hundreds of miles. Just some dog with delusions of grandeur.

“I’m an open book,” I said flatly. “Really.”

“Maybe in Latin. Or Arabic.”

Mental malfunctions

Do you ever have a moment at three in the afternoon where you’ll like, damn I’m hungry, and then you realize you haven’t had anything to eat? Maybe not if you don’t have hyperfocus and ADHD. Occasionally, that happens to me. My two speeds for concentration are, oh hey, did you see this cute dog on the internet and on the other end, ALL FREAKING IN.

This is all I have to talk about now because  I’m very hungry, but the food I warmed up is still too hot to eat. I do have a quote from One Little Word to share, so I guess I’ll do that.

I was going to provide the relevant information here before the excerpt, but then I realized that it’s literally a guy crushing on another guy. So that’s all the details right there.

_

wordswag_1581454522791

Ryan

Luke was one of my new friends. Making nice and getting to know him seemed like a good idea at the time. He apologized and he was my boyfriend as far as the principal was concerned.

However, once I stopped despising a guy that hot, I was doomed. Hell, once I fell into his arms like a damsel in distress, I was doomed. Saving me gave him a clean slate and made him instantly crush worthy.

Hating him had provided some protection from his stupidly attractive face. Now all I noticed was the green of his eyes, the way the light looked in his hair. Anytime the dimples appeared, a small electrical fire started in my brain and I lost all cognitive function while repairs were made.

 

Dudes Making out in a Car: A Short Story

Man, I’m so great at titles. However, it is accurate and to the point (two things I rarely am).

This is what I’m calling a quick writing exercise because that makes it sound professional and official, but really, I was going to post a song on this blog and then I decided to write a short story with it. Since I’m, you know, a writer.

The song is Little Secrets by the band Passion Pit.

And now, here’s a short story!

Panted breaths after dashing to the car were the only sound in the enclosed spaced for one blissful moment while my hands dug into his styled dark hair, relishing the chance to mess it up while his hands settled on my chest.

Lips brushed against mine, a quick kiss and then, “No, we’re not really doing this,” he whispered in the space between our mouths.

“Making out in your car?” My smirk couldn’t be seen, but he could feel it against his lips. “I hate to tell you, but it kinda seems like we are.”

He put space between us, furrowed brow and annoyed dark eyes watching me from thick framed glasses that were either the style these days or he just didn’t care if they weren’t in fashion.

“In theory, the whole throw caution to the wind thing?” he carried on. “It’s hot, having to get our hands on each other immediately–”

Since he was watching, I didn’t let myself smile, but that was so him, having to say things that didn’t need to be said.

“However, there’s a limit to the thrill,” he continued. “It’s also extremely risky—”

While I could only stand to look away from him and outside of the car for a moment, it was pretty clear what was out there. Bright sky, no raindrops on this dry day, and the car stayed where it was despite the two guys that just rushed to it, so yeah, wasn’t hard to figure out what was going on if someone saw us. However…

“Some risks are worth taking,” I responded before surging up and crashing our lips together, my hands moving to his back and drawing him nearer to me.

He made a little annoyed noise at being interrupted that quickly turned into a groan and then our tongues were dancing together. Really surprising that worked, but I wasn’t gonna say anything because I’d have to remove my mouth from his.

“Risks are best undertaken only after a thorough cost-benefit analysis,” he told me a moment later.

“Sexy—”

“Isn’t the whole point of a secret relationship that it stays secret? Hidden. Everything we’ve been doing, all the caution we expended could be set asunder in this one moment.”

I sighed, giving him an even look. This wasn’t what I wanted at all, but I managed to sound neutral when asking, “Okay, so you wanna go somewhere else?”

Expecting him to get off me and move into the driver’s seat, my hands tightened, as if to confirm he was still there, watching me with a frown.

“Huh,” he said quietly. “I guess we’ll just have to… risk it.” He didn’t want to leave this moment either.

“No cost-benefit analysis?” This time, he could see the smirk, which made it widen as I wryly commented, “I’m honored.”

He shut me up with his lips.

There were many things I thought of for this scenario. One of the guys involved could be the president’s son, one of them could be a vampire and the other a werewolf, maybe they come from rival warring families. An innocent preacher’s son and the bad boy next door. Something like that.

One Little Word Prologue

Here’s the prologue to One Little Word. Enjoy!

Luke

My mother raised me right. She would say that everything good about me came from her and my less pleasant qualities were inherited from my father. It’s not that they’re divorced or that they don’t get along. She’s teasing him. They’ve been together 20 some years and they do that, tease and joke and then kiss right in front of me. It’s pretty disgusting.

But I am a good guy. And I mean more than just good to look at it. Not that I’m a slouch there. I see the way girls look at me when I walk through the halls. It could be my sandy blonde hair or the muscles and trim body I’ve developed from lifting weights and playing baseball. Maybe it’s my vibrant green eyes or just the confident way I stroll through school, like nothing and nobody can stop me.

It’s precisely that attitude that got me in trouble. It was a few minutes before school started. Me and some of my buddies from the team walked from the gym after doing our morning weight training routine. We’re sweaty and tired, not just from the exercise but at having to get up so freaking early, though a few guys shoved each other and messed around in their typical fashion.

“My grandma can bench press more than you, Ahmad,” said Joey Wilson, a great catcher whose IQ was much lower than his batting average, which was saying something since his batting average wasn’t that great. My best friend Zach Ahmad didn’t look over at Joey. I don’t even think his eyes were open.

“Got nothing to say to that, Ahmad?” smirked Ted Summers, our team’s back up third baseman.

“If you expect a response from me before 9:00 a.m.” he started haughtily, “come up with something worth the effort of replying to.” He leaned into my shoulder and let me guide him down the halls. Lazy asshole.

“You didn’t have to come work out,” Ted pointed out.

Zach swung his arm around my back, clapping me on the shoulder. “The captain here said I should show initiative.” The last words dripped with disdain.

“I will drop you,” I warned.

He opened one eyelid to peer at me. His tired blue-grey eye projected a surprising amount of menace. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“How did you make captain anyway?” Joey asked me, switching targets. “My little sister can bench press more than you.”

I scoffed at the catcher. “One, you don’t have a little sister.”

“Okay, your little sister can bench press more than you,” he corrected.

I carried on like he hadn’t spoken. “Two, that was basically the same insult.”

“Whatever, you queens.” Joey gestured to Zach and me limping down the halls together. “Going to take each other to prom?”

“How would they decide who gets the fancy crown?” Ted snickered.

I considered thanking Ted because if we got a crown that meant we won something, but I directed a question to the leech on my shoulder instead. “You got anything to say to this?”

He lifted a finger in Ted’s general direction. “Blah-blah, you’re a girl.” Then he pointed towards Joey. “You’re gay, blah-blah-blah.” Zach positioned himself more firmly on my shoulder. “You make a surprisingly comfortable pillow,” he told me. “Why don’t I sleep on you in Spanish class?”

“You’re a vain bastard who’d never do this in front of anyone else?” I guessed. The guys watched, thinking that might get a response. Zach opened his mouth, then shrugged and closed it, conceding the point.

“You’re so gay,” Joey said, laughing at us.

“Better than being a retard,” I responded instantly.

Remember, my mom raised me right. I don’t swear in front of my grandparents or act rude to ladies and I take my cap off for the national anthem. But in front of the guys, it’s different. I may be the most popular guy in my grade but part of that is because I fit in. Juvenile, off-color remarks are the only things Joey and a lot of the other guys understand. I guess I could not say anything, but okay, maybe I’m a macho idiot jock who can’t be the bigger person because I just can’t let the comments slide.

“At least I’m not a pussy,” Joey said. Zach snorted on my shoulder because the catcher basically conceded to being a retard. I mean, mentally challenged.

I responded back as I’m expected to, not even thinking about it, trying to remember if we had any homework in algebra that I forgot to do. “Whatever, you fag,” I said. No points for originality, but I flipped him off too for good measure. He huffed and rolled his eyes, opening his mouth to respond, probably with something witty and original along the lines of I know you are, but what am I.

Except then I heard a sharp intake of breath and a stern voice behind me. “Mr. Chambers. Head to the principal’s office.”

Fuck.

A Chance Encounter

A young guy in sunglasses posing in front of camera

Bodies filled the decrepit, rusting building while the chilly night air had many openings to invade the space inside the run-down walls of the old warehouse. Maybe that was why several empty barrels held fires or maybe that was for ambiance. It didn’t seem like this forgotten place would have any electricity, yet someone somehow got music playing.

People cheered and danced while the booze flowed liberally. Then glow sticks appeared. This was going to turn into a rave. I fucking hated raves. I missed the days when it was just me and the guys breaking into some ramshackle place that no one even used or cared about but went through the trouble of locking anyway.

And now snobs infiltrated the party, their stares boring into me – the scowling guy who filled out his leather jacket – with disdain and grudging interest. Rich kids were all the same, with critical eyes and upturned noses, both envious and judging of those below them. Good to fool around with sometimes but that was all they were good for.

I grabbed a drink so I’d be able to get through this night. Okay, I was probably going to have a couple drinks anyway but this one I threw back too fast to make the EDM and snobs bearable.

Finding someone to spend the evening with would normally make a night like this perfect. However, an unexpected surge of déjà vu stopped my perusal of the assembled bodies. This night felt like all the others but not in a good way. Nothing out of the ordinary would happen, just drinking, dancing, and partying. Even the preppy kids looking for a spot of rough in their polished, perfect lives happened regularly enough to not warrant surprise.

I’d just turned 18 but suddenly felt old. This life was new and thrilling a few years ago, so how could I be tired of it already? It seemed bland: the same thing I did last week and would do again next week. I wasn’t out of high school yet but, as I didn’t plan on attending college, more of the same was my likely future. That shouldn’t be a bad thing… except being a teenage delinquent had become the norm. I had enough older friends with loose morals that even getting alcohol for my underage self wasn’t a thrill or challenge.

I was no longer part of this event but outside of it even though I was in the middle of revelers. I stood separate from them as noise and laughter and neon lights flittered around me without touching me. I was at a distance, a million miles away and right there at the same time, looking at it all with detached disinterest and wondering how I got here.

It’s like all the atmosphere had to travel a great length until it reached my senses. When the distance snapped, it was a rush. All of it hit me at once, colliding into me like a freight train and nearly making me stagger: the pounding music, the movement of limbs, him.

Why had I been down? All it took was an intriguing guy to snap me out of it. Amazing what a pretty face and a nice body could do. I didn’t mind listening to shitty music and being surrounded by a sweaty crowd since he was here too. Nothing was wrong with my life; I just needed some action.

Rebellious teens looking for a good time poured into places like this as soon as word got out about a party. Gotta love technology. It made him stand out more because instead of tight clothes and club gear, he looked like he came here straight from the library or country club. He wore pressed brown pants, somehow still perfect despite this atmosphere, and a stupid preppy shirt with a little animal logo on it. Lots of people dug bad boys but not me. I played the bad boy, so I enjoyed the innocent ones.

He looked like the kind of guy I had absolutely nothing in common with, but I only needed him to be attracted to me too. We didn’t need to talk. I felt a surge of adrenaline spread through my body, not from a motorcycle ride this time, from interest while I prepared to make my move. I imagined running my hands through that perfect gelled hair. His blond locks changed color with all the neon lights in here now, becoming purple, blue, pink for an instant. The lights played over his sharp classical features while my hands itched with the need to touch.

I wasn’t superstitious, but the fingers of my left hand played with the threaded turquoise bracelet around my right wrist without any conscious thought on my part. It was like a good luck charm as I drifted in behind him and pressed my body close to his. He stiffened yet didn’t pull away immediately. He seemed like the type that mostly stayed indoors with a skinny frame and pale skin in the light of day. I wondered if I’d feel his ribs through his shirt as I moved to the music and brushed my hands along his torso, but his unassuming figure hid lithe muscles.

I ran my hands up and down his arms while his biceps flexed under the attention like he couldn’t help it. His skin felt warm and electric. Though the drink I had might have dulled my senses some, any fog in my mind melted away by touching him. My body buzzed and responded to him, senses awakening, all demanding to get as much of him as possible. I wanted to feast on his smell and taste and touch.

My hands moved down his thin but toned body, tightening minutely on his waist, and then he was out of my grasp. My stomach dropped but that’s stupid… there were other guys, gay ones or those who got brave enough to experiment after consuming too much liquor. He probably had a girlfriend and was almost definitely some snobby rich kid. I’d find someone else. I could do better. Except something about him felt magnetic; I’d be drawn in his direction the whole night even if he walked away.

Only he didn’t go far. He turned and looked at me. Maybe I imagined the spark of fire in his eyes or maybe he felt the electricity between us too. His body moved close to mine again as both our hands explored this time. He smelled clean, with a hint of something sharper and appealing. Bright blue eyes peeked at me from beneath his lashes as he sent me a smile that was more shy and uncertain than coy, but his nerves didn’t stop him. He held me tight and rocked his hips into mine in time with the music. God, I wanted to devour him.

Was I in a mood earlier? I didn’t remember. There’s only dancing, drinks, and him. And life was anything but predictable because he made the first move. I couldn’t say whether we spent minutes or hours on the dancefloor when his lips captured mine and a quick tongue slid into my mouth, greedy and demanding, while his hands groped and squeezed at my ass.

I only had one complaint after that: the night passed too quickly.

Prompt -Thin

Deleted Scene

This a moment between Cal and his brother Brendan that got taken out of What Love Means.

We left the house to get away from worrying about the bee. I’d thought he’d suggest go-karting or mud wrestling or whatever sports people did, but we ended up just walking around the neighborhood. We didn’t talk much at first, but there was fresh air and the sun shining down on us, so I think we both felt better.

We likely meandered for hours, until it got darker. It was still and quiet. All the fancy homes had their lights on, so the neighborhood looked warm and cozy.

Brendan eventually loosened up. I didn’t want to destroy that as we headed back to the house. I cast about for something to talk about. We had nothing in common but the bee. “Wanna help me with my trig homework?” I joked.

He shook his head. “I don’t know anything about your fancy math problems, but I can help you with your Max problems.”

I looked at him in shock. “What? What are you talking about?”

Brendan grinned. “Oh man, you are so guilty.”

“No, no, I just.” I cleared my throat. “What are you referring to?”

“Mostly April,” he admitted. Brendan wasn’t supposed to have social messaging apps on his phone, but I didn’t call him on it, or on finding the time to gossip with April. “She said Max is— am I allowed to say pissed off in front of you?”

“Max is pissed off at me?” he sky was grey and it was a little chilly, but it beat the warmer but somehow more frigid stillness of home.

“I didn’t say that.”

“How do you know it’s my fault?”

He stared at me smugly. “It so is.”

“Maybe,” I admitted. “I don’t know what to do about it though.” He ran somewhat hot and cold with me. No, he generally seemed to want me, it just sometimes annoyed him that he felt that way.

“I could help.”

I smiled at Brendan but said, “No, I don’t think so.”

“I know you like him.”

“What?” Oh god, how the hell did he know that? How obvious were we? Everybody in Max’s life knew, that was pretty clear. I’d been able to handle that perhaps because I didn’t need to say anything and I could kind of ignore it. Actually telling people in my life and having them know. That was a different story. Wasn’t it?

The panic rising swiftly stopped suddenly. “He’s a good friend,” Brendan explained. “He’s a lot better than your other friends. You like him better than them too.”

“I’m not comparing,” I tried.

“They’re boring.” Brendan summed up simply.

“Max is too exciting then.” That was entirely true. It didn’t stop the wanting though, maybe was even part of why I liked him. We had been so similar once. Our friendship was comforting, easy. Now I didn’t know what to expect. It was different, but maybe not bad.

“So what? You should apologize, you need one exciting friend in your life.”

“Words don’t go so well for us.” We certainly knew enough of them, just not the right way to use them.

“Then show him in a different way,” Brendan said like it was easy. Perhaps it was.

“Wait, wait. When did you become smarter than me?” I asked Brendan.

“Always, I just didn’t want you to feel bad.”

“I guess I’ll have to become good at sports then.”

He scoffed. “Yeah right.”

“Race you to the house,” I said and took off.