Striking Out

Presented without commercial interruption, here is a scene from Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas where one boy wants to impress another after their first meeting did not go well.

Zach

Right inside the doors of the main school hallway, there was a big brown bin off to the side for a can food drive. Tyler was heading there, if the can of green beans that rolled over to me was any indication. We were outside in front of the school, almost the same spot where I made out with a different guy as part of this insane scheme to—wait.

Instinctively, I moved to pick up the can that landed near my blue Pumas. However, my arms were holding a box filled with more cans for the same drive, so I squatted and then paused while considering logistics, and then I realized I looked stupid and needed to desist immediately. Which meant Tyler walked over and picked up his fleeing item instead.

“Altruism?” he asked, indicating the box in my arms with a note of approval in his voice. Before I could answer, he realized, “Oh, your family owns a grocery store, right? They gave you stuff to donate.”

Carrying the stuff in instead of making my scrawny little brother do it counted as a good deed for me. I recognized voicing the thought wouldn’t help, so I instead flashed him a charming smile and said, “I think we got off on the wrong foot.”

He made a noise of agreement. “You mean where I was polite, and you were sort of a dick?”

“Yeah, like I said. Wrong foot.”

“Was your behavior in anyway different from how you normally treat people?”

“Okay, we got off on the regular foot.” I redoubled down on a charming smile. “I now see that was a mistake.”

“I thought we were on the same page about this. I think being queer is all we have in common.” The words were apologetic yet firm.

“We could find out,” I suggested, halfhearted. How did I proceed? He continued to be immune to me.

Perhaps he began to thaw. “Alright, maybe we could get to know each other better.”

“Yeah?” Some internal organ leaped at the words, and I ordered it to knock that shit off. Hold on. Was that too easy? Was the chase over already? We probably didn’t have anything in common, so what was the point of—

“We can get to know each other.” A sly smile appeared on his face. “If you tell me one thing you aren’t good at.”

~

Plancakes, scene from YA novel

Ryan and Luke are the main characters of the One More Thing Series, but in Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas, they are supporting characters. Which means they get up to even more nonsense than usual, something I hadn’t known was possible until writing this book.

Here is a quote and a scene from the story. In it, Ryan and Luke are trying to uncover the secret, painful backstory of their friend Zach. Partly because they are trying to figure out why he never dates and partly because Ryan is nosy. Ryan and Luke both came up with plans for finding the truth, and this is from Luke’s plan.

~

Ryan and Luke are the main characters of the One More Thing Series, but in Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas, they are supporting characters. Which means they get up to even more nonsense than usual, something I hadn’t known was possible until writing this book.

Here is a quote and a scene from the story. In it, Ryan and Luke are trying to uncover the secret, painful backstory of their friend Zach. Partly because they are trying to figure out why he never dates and partly because Ryan is nosy. Ryan and Luke both came up with plans for finding the truth, and this is from Luke’s plan.

~

Ryan

Luke! Plan! Plancake! I think that summed up the relevant information, though the last one was ‘plan’ and ‘pancake’ combined. Okay, ambushing Zach at his locker was probably the best part of this plan. The rest of Luke’s plan was like him. Simple yet beautiful. No, wait, I was only thinking of Luke. Luke was beautiful. His plan was—

Luke said, “There must have been one girl you were crazy about.”

“You should check your facts again,” Zach responded.

Luke’s plan was stupid.

Normally, it would be Ryan who barreled on anyway. But in this case, I pulled a Luke and stayed silent until I knew where this was going. Luke pulled a me instead and… none of this was the right way to phrase… any of this.

“Come on,” Luke insisted. “There were some girls who lasted longer than the others. You must have really liked them.”

Suspicious but not annoyed enough to leave the conversation, Zach only shrugged and said, “Maybe.”

“Any you still carry a torch for?”

“Nope.”

“What about a guy?”

“Still no.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Huh.”

Oh my god. I brewed a truth serum and Luke’s plan was asking Zach basic questions. The terribleness was so terrible that the only option was for me to begin a sarcastic slow clap.

“Oh wait,” Luke said before I could clap. “We were talking about people you dated. What about people who didn’t fall for your charms?”

“Those people are fictiona—”

“I was there,” Luke interrupted. “At least sometimes. What about A Girl’s Name?” Yes, Luke said the actual girls name, so I paraphrased. “Or Other Girl? Could it be this Other Girl’s Name?” He asked things like that, with Zach responding in the negative each time.

Until Luke began, “What about Danielle N—”

 Zach cut in with, “I thought you were forbidden from ever speaking of her again?”

“Jackpot,” I breathed.

-The rest of the book is available here.

All about love and gay books

‘All About Love’ is both accurate in a metaphorical sense and the name of this group right here. My favorite part of this promotion, aside from that all titles are LGBTQ+ romance, is that I know all the novels are LGBTQ+ romance, so I don’t have to try to figure out how many of them are queer by myself. Because the answer: they’re all queer! Hooray.

It looks like this group is mostly contemporary romance and supernatural romance. The promo runs until Sept. 19. And I’m not saying that the coffee shop gay romance I included in the group is actually also available for free, but I’m strongly alluding to the possibility. Or saying it outright after all because it’s free here. 

Here are some of the titles that caught my eye.

Hidden in the Shadows by Gwen Martin

This is also a coffee shop romance so that’s cool. And also means I have told you relevant information, so now I can go on to gush about how freaking cool this cover is. It’s good as hell. Even the tagline is good, and the cover is so pretty and so is the pretty boy on the cover.

The Alpha Highwayman by Colbie Dunbar

Why not? This isn’t something I typically write about or rec. Curve-ball! I enjoy how the cover screams ‘classic bodice ripper.’

To Have and To Hold by Inge Mayhem

I mentioned this author in a newsletter recently. From what I know of the series, there’s multiple gay characters generally acting in terrible but dramatically interesting ways.

Time for Goodbyes by Jay Argent

Hey, Jay Argent also writes young adult books like I do. This is one that’s on my list of books to read.

Writing!

I’m working on a bonus story to add to my mailing list bribes. Hey, speaking of that, there are lots of free stories available for joining my mailing list. Anyway, here is an excerpt from one such story. The characters are from my story Like You A Latte. In this scene, a boy thinks about his impossible crush on another boy.

~

Asher

Asher Ford has everything. That’s what people think. Life is so easy for him. It’s not that simple.

Wait, do I sound ungrateful? I’m exceedingly blessed. I attend a prestigious high school, get good grades, and am lucky enough to call many people my friends. And maybe I look alright? Jamie says insecurity looks unbecoming on Fords. He always talks all pretentious-y when I doubt myself. I’m not sure who he’s trying to imitate because no one in my family talks that way, but he manages to make me smile.

Probably, I look alright. I don’t think I look bad. Jamie says drugstores are filled with bottles of product promising the kind of blonde hair I was born with, which I have to trust because I’ve never been inside a drugstore. My height is enviable, and my eyes are hard to look away from. That’s what Jamie says. Again, I don’t think I look bad, but he’s never noticed.

We all have our weaknesses. Spencer Sharp is mine.

Naturally intellectual, Spencer still pushes himself and strives for perfection. He works harder than everyone in our grade. Maybe harder than everyone in the entire school. Maybe the whole world. He’s always so focused. I get drawn in watching him, so I’m never prepared for the moment he looks up with his cool stare, jumbling my insides and making the thoughts leave my head.

For all the fortune and esteem my name brings, I’m a dumb kid with a hopeless crush.

No, it’s only hopeless if I don’t do something about it. I will do something. Today’s the day.

I’m asking Spencer Sharp to prom.

Cults and other weirdness

Do you ever get a weird song stuck in your head? If you are a human being, the answer is probably. And if the human being is me, then I have a song stuck in my head right now. I guess it’s just the subject matter that’s weird, because the song is oddly catchy. The subject is cults.

 

Speaking of weirdos, I write a series about a giant loser and his boyfriend. This is a cut part from One Little Lie where Ryan and Luke are hanging out in Ryan’s room being cute. They can’t be as on top of each other as they want to be because Ryan’s dad is home, they are teenagers, and Ryan’s father possibly owns a firearm. Okay, you are caught up.

~

Luke

“As much as I like your dad, you should probably open the door, so he doesn’t come back.”

“I don’t wanna get up.” Ryan groaned and buried his face in my chest. “Carry me.”

“Yeah, like that would work.”

Ryan was taller than me, though it was hard to tell when we were lying on the bed and he was clinging onto me like an octopus. I poked him in the side with a finger and he squirmed, so I did it again. He clung onto me tighter in retaliation, but I didn’t mind him being pressed up close to me in the first place, so I let him.

“Are you calling me fat?” he asked in a mock scandalized tone but didn’t pull away.

“I’m calling you a giant.” I wrapped my arms around him instead of pushing him away like I was supposed to. This wasn’t cuddling or something girly like that. It was just… a lying down hug. Okay, that didn’t sound any better.

He pulled his head back enough to glare. “You’re ruining the mood.”

“Think your dad did that,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, he’s good at that,” Ryan sighed before pulling away and getting up and opening the door.

“Too bad,” I continued. “I’m sure you were looking forward to doing that yourself.” Ryan was a smartass and could be kinda awkward, so he wasn’t the smoothest guy I’d ever dated. Well, no, he was, because he was the only guy I ever dated. Somehow, he made being weird seem attractive.

He came back and sat on the bed, hitting me in the stomach with a hand. “How dare you,” he protested. “I am romantic and sexy and errrrrotic.” He dragged the ‘r’ sound out while waggling his eyebrows at me.

Okay, sometimes he made being weird attractive and sometimes he was just weird. But still, it was cute coming from him. Even if I didn’t tell him that. “See that right there?” I asked smugly. “Ruining the mood.”

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.”

Who still drank root beer after age ten?

The only thing I can think of to say doesn’t relate to the image quote I’m going to post from One Little Word. I wanted to put some incredibly charming, witty words here and then connect them to the next part, but I got nothing. So I’ll just say what I thought of anyway because, well, it’s the only thing I can think of to say.

A million years ago, in a post I am too lazy to link, I talked about  how One Day at a Time was a cool, cancelled show about Latnix people and queer characters and representation. Every now and then, I tell myself, hey that got picked up by a different network so I should comment on that and be happy.

odaaat
From IMDB

 

So hey, One Day at a Time got picked up by Pop and I’m happy about it. That sounds sarcastic, but really, I’m thrilled. That still sounds sarcastic, but I have waited a long time for there to be a funny show about Hispanic people and I’m glad it’s not over yet.

Also in case you’re wondering, no I could not resist using the photo I chose. Hi lady from Brooklyn 99!

Scenes from a book

Okay, now for a quote and excerpt from a book. Here’s what you need to know. There are two guys who don’t like each other. They’re at a fall festival and decide to turn everything into a competition. Possibly they fall in love.

Luke

We played the most competitive version of ring toss ever.

A one at a time game, but we stood right next to each other on the taped line in the parking lot, trying to keep the other person from making it as much as we tried to get a bottle ourselves.

Ryan’s brows were scrunched, an intense look of concentration on his face. I had to look away to focus. He was just so intense and weird, which wasn’t exactly a bad thing, except for how he hated me.

wordswag_1581451514227

This experience felt nothing like being on the mound at a game, but a surge of triumph still went through me when I got a bottle, smile growing while Ryan tried to elbow me. We kept throwing until there were no more rings left. I felt mildly ridiculous to get so into the game, but I still pumped my fist in the air when I won.

Only to be met with Ryan’s bitchy face. “This wasn’t fair,” he complained, crossing his arms and sulking.

I grinned. “You’re such a sore loser.”

I wasn’t planning on taking any of the bottles I won, we wouldn’t have enough hands to carry them, but I grabbed one. Root beer.

I’d seen Ryan drink it at lunch and pushed the bottle into his chest, making him take it and uncross his arms. That was another reason he was weird. Who still drank root beer after age ten?

Sports!

I’m posting this the day after the Super Bowl. I feel like I should mention the Super Bowl, but as I’m writing this the day of the game and it hasn’t started yet, I don’t know what to say. Um… How about that game, huh? It sure was something. And that one commercial? So funny!

While I might be advertising myself as a loser depending on how the game goes, I hope KC wins. It took me a really long time to realize they made it all the way this year, but the Chiefs are my home team. Plus, I’m in the area this year, so it would be fun to see everyone go crazy. I wasn’t here when the Royals won the World Series, but the grade school my nephews go to cancelled school like it was a snow day the day after the game.


Anyway, every other Monday is when I post an extra from one of my books. This is from One Step Forward. Due to shenanigans, our hero Ryan finds himself stuck in a car with Joey, a member of the baseball team he has nothing in common with.

Ryan

With no other options, I guess I could learn about Joey. Desperate times. Maybe it would be fun? Didn’t believe that, but I couldn’t come up with something better to do. Okay, a question. Can you imagine anything worse than this? No, something easy. A warmup before the heavy hitting, Pulitzer prize stuff. A softball. Different from a baseball but don’t ask me how.

“How many siblings do you have?” I asked. Question transmitted, I waited with bated breath for the answer.

The Secret Ingredient

Insert banter/witty intro here. I would try to think of something, but this is a good-sized story, so maybe I should just get right to it. Yeah, that’s my excuse. I mean reason.

This is a deleted scene from One Little Change. In that story, Luke and his boyfriend have an awkward sexual encounter and he doesn’t want to talk about it. Instead, he’s talking to his foster sister Lydia. Lydia is dating Alicia, who is asexual. Luke is dating Ryan, who is sexual.

In this story, Luke is trying not to think about Ryan while trying to figure out how asexuality works. Luke never knows how anything works. It’s part of his charm or something.

Luke

Once upon a time, even though she could still be vicious as hell early in the morning, I used to enjoy not seeing Lydia all put together. No makeup in a tank top and pajamas, hair mussed, eyes sleepy, just a regular person. Wasn’t getting much enjoyment from that today.

But there were some bright sides to this awful day. I might not be too late for work. I definitely was going to be late but not as late as I thought when Lydia parked herself in my room and refused to leave until we talked. And now Lydia was making me breakfast. And the best part of all? Talking about her and Alicia meant I didn’t have to think about me and Ryan.

Not that any of this made any sense. Okay, Alicia couldn’t have sex. Wait, maybe she could. She just didn’t want to. Yeah, I didn’t think she had a medical condition where… no, I wasn’t going to guess. I wasn’t going to think about her private parts. Maybe it was, like, just how she was. Ryan liked guys, Lydia liked girls, I liked both, and Alicia liked neither.

No, that couldn’t be right either. She was dating Lydia. Alright, even knowing Lydia might make fun of my general ignorance, I had to ask for clarification. “You and Alicia, like, kiss?” I needed a mental picture. Wait, ew, not literally.

“Of course we kiss.” She faced the stove while she made pancakes, but I could hear her roll her eyes. She rolled her eyes loudly.

“But you don’t do other stuff?” I wondered next. Maybe this was dumb and obvious to her, but I was just trying to understand. Wasn’t even sure these questions would help me do that but maybe they would at least help me think of better ones.

Would it be possible for Alicia not to know what she liked? Like on the checklist of sexual activities, maybe she had to try each one and then decide to cross them off her list or not… that really didn’t sound right. Didn’t sound totally wrong, but it really didn’t seem like a good idea to suggest that an asexual person should do sexual stuff just to be for sure.

She turned around for a moment, regarding me suspiciously. “Why are you asking about what my girlfriend and I do together?” Fair’s fair. No, she didn’t care about fair.

“Because I have no clue?” It sounded like a question, but it was true. Duh. I just didn’t know me not having a clue was something I’d ever have to explain to her. I thought she just assumed I had no clue, like Zach did, and that made it easier for everyone involved. I didn’t know if my eye roll was strong enough to be heard when not looking at my face, but she was looking at my face, so she could see it.

“Not because you think it’s hot,” she clarified. One hand flipped a pancake while the other was on her hip as she regarded me frankly.

Why would her and Alicia kissing and stuff be hot?  Oh, because two girls. Maybe that could be hot… if one of those girls wasn’t practically my sister and the other one wasn’t… whatever Alicia was. And if I hadn’t had a terrible sexual encounter with my boyfriend the night before. “I’m with a guy now,” I reminded Lydia.

“That doesn’t mean you don’t like girls.” Guess she was appeased though because she turned around again.

“Yeah, whatever.” Yep, bi pride. I would wave my bi flag later. I focused on the topic we were discussing. “Alicia doesn’t feel whatever it is that tells her, let’s have sex, right? Well, what if you guys were kissing or whatever and she did feel that? I mean, is that possible?”

Also, did bi people have a flag? No, wasn’t the time for that.

“We make out and stuff.” The words sounded a little short, but Lydia sounded like that a lot, so I couldn’t tell if that meant something or was just regular. “Some stuff,” she added. “Not all the stuff,” she finished lamely. Lydia brought the food over to the table. She had a look on her face like she had no idea what she was talking about.

“Is that difficult? To do stuff and then stop?” Always was a challenge for me and Ryan. Or we thought it was, maybe all that had been a blessing in disguise.

“Kind of. I think because we’re still figuring out how we work together. I mean, I didn’t think this was even an option, not anytime soon at least.” She had a faraway look in her eyes for a moment, then she shook her head. “It will be easier once we know. I hope.”

“I’m sure it will be,” I assured. “If you guys do some stuff, and you’re still figuring out how it works, then couldn’t being, uh, intimate together be a part of that?”

Lydia rolled her eyes when I said intimate. “In theory.” Sounded like she had more to say… but then she didn’t say any of it.

“How do you know?” I pressed when she went quiet. “Maybe she likes you that way? You’re the right person.”

“It doesn’t work like that,” Lydia said, glaring at me.

Maybe her hormones or sex drive or whatever were just idling, the engine on but the car not moving, until the right person got in the driver’s seat and stepped on the gas. All she had needed was to find the right girl. Though, huh, maybe that was bad. I remember my parents hoping I’d find the right girl and get over Ryan. Maybe it didn’t work like that.

In case there was any doubt, I still had no clue how this worked. There probably wasn’t any doubt.

“Do you know how it works?” I didn’t tell her my car analogy because that might be offensive to compare women to cars. Being a car sounded pretty cool to me though.

“Of course!” Lydia glared at me.

Lydia glared at me a lot, and it was early, and I had pancakes to eat, so I began cutting my food without paying her much attention. She didn’t usually mind being ignored, think she preferred it, but when she was expressing how little she thought of something or someone, then she wanted attention.

I started paying attention because I had accidentally earned her wrath, I did that a lot, and sometimes violence followed the wrath. Looked like Lydia wanted to take the knife she was using to cut her pancakes and stab me in the throat with it instead.

Lydia’s reaction to not being in control, feeling insecure, and a whole lot of other stuff was anger, so none of that fazed me. I wasn’t a complete moron, so I paid attention in order to defend myself, but I wasn’t fazed. I waited her out and she sighed.

“I thought I understood how it worked,” she admitted quietly, staring down at her pancakes and biting her lip, then she shook her head. “Might be just as clueless as you.”

“Sorry,” I told her sincerely. I was as clueless as me all the time and it wasn’t fun. “I don’t think I’ll be able to help you with this.”

She rolled her eyes. “I never thought that was an option.” She could at least pretend!

“I hate you,” I told her sincerely.

“Oh Luke, you’re my only hope,” Lydia said. Her voice was dry and not at all believable. “I need your big brain so badly.” Her face turned wicked. “Did Ryan say that to you last night?” Just swapping out the word brain for a different part of the anatomy, her eyes seemed to suggest.

I was the one who wanted to grab my knife and stab her. I tried to. Well, I mimed doing that but wasn’t really going to, and Lydia brought her knife up to block mine anyway, so we had a mini swordfight with our butter knifes for a minute until we calmed down and ate our food.

Holy crap, these were good pancakes. Maybe better than my mom’s, and just having that thought made me look around wildly for a second, afraid she’d jump out at me from the shadows and ask why I betrayed her, but nothing happened, so I told Lydia, “These pancakes are good.”

“Family recipe,” she told me easily, then what she said registered with her. “Old family.” As in the one she had before this one, her biological family. “I mean, uh. Mom used to say the secret ingredient was love.”

“You cooked for me with love?” I asked in amusement. First good food and now this; the day was turning around.

“No! That’s bullshit.” She scowled. “The secret ingredient is a shit-ton of butter.”

Butter. It was better than love.

At the moment, yeah, that sounded about right.