You know the beginning of a novel when the protagonist is doing great? Everything is pretty close to perfect before an unexpected event happens and then it all starts going wrong. Well, in this scene from the LGBTQ young adult novel Instalove, Avery is doing great. He’s thinking back to the time he met his boyfriend, and everything totally isn’t going to go wrong. (Yes, it is.)
P.S. this is a modern fantasy novel with magic and spellcasting, but there’s no magic in this scene. Or is there? Hmmm…
The football players practiced on the field while groups from the track team ran laps on the track around them. We tended to run in groups even though this exercise was such a solitary endeavor. It made no sense, but I didn’t care enough to be the only one running by myself.
There was a sudden jolt from the force of a hit, but I was fine, so I picked up the ball and tossed it a short distance to the athlete heading towards me with a sheepish expression.
It took me a moment to think of his name: Chris Reyes. A light sheen of sweat dusted his arms, visible in his cut-off tee, making his bronze skin glow faintly.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“I think I’ll live.”
“Danny the QB thought my job looked easy,” explained the affable, good looking athlete. He twirled the ball around casually in the air while he talked. “I bet him 20 bucks he couldn’t kick a field goal.” He smiled. “I won 20 bucks.”
“Do I get a cut of the profit?” I asked.
“I don’t know about that,” he said, grin turning less charming and more teasing.
“I was just out here minding my own business,” I explained innocently. “When I was attacked with a football.”
“Hmmm.” He fought a grin. “Sounds terrible.”
I regarded him seriously. “There may be permanent damage.”
“That bad, huh?” Chris played along. “How can I make it up to you?”
I made a show of thinking about it while a voice in the back of my head helpfully pointed out that he came out last year and was openly gay.
“My injuries are pretty grim, but I suppose they’re nothing 10 bucks can’t fix.”
“Oh, you want half my winnings? Is that fair?” He considered me, tilting his head and trying to place me. Wow, the full force of his attention? It’s worth being hit by a football.
“Unfair would be leaving me out here alone, injured, and poor.” I used my drama skills to don a pitiful expression.
“Okay, okay.” He held his hands up in surrender, sending me a grin that made my stomach do somersaults. “I’ll make sure you’re properly compensated.”
We were having fun, joking around, but that sounded downright suggestive.
“Are you flirting with me?” I asked.
He smiled slowly, taking in that I was someone who was alright with another guy flirting with him. “I wasn’t necessarily.” His eyes trailed up and down my body quickly. His smile widened. “But I am now.”
I suddenly found myself very okay with that.
A romcom might call this a meet cute. My father called it ordinary magic. I called it a Tuesday afternoon. There was nothing special about it yet, even if our actions closely resembled flirting.
He didn’t give me any of his winnings, but he did pay for dinner.
That was how it started.
—Instalove is a coming of age novel where Avery Ward thinks the magic his family has doesn’t involve him. Until a spell calls everything in his life into question, even the desires of his heart. Grab your copy of the novel here!