A Festivus for the rest of us

The LGBTQ+ Romance New Year’s Freebie Fest is going on until the end of January, so I’m not completely late in posting this. Because it is winter and this giveaway includes the word ‘fest,’ I felt morally obligated to quote Seinfeld in the title.

Here’s some of the free queer books available now.


Former law enforcement agents try to lead a simpler life but a curse has other plans. This is a sample of Treasure Trail by Morgan Brice.

Sparks fly when Erik and Ben meet. But when a cursed hotel’s long-ago scandals resurface, the two men are pulled into a web of lies, danger, and deception that will test their bond—and might make them Cape May’s newest ghosts!


In Lease on Love by Lucy Ravens, being a good son means giving up many of his own dreams. He’s supposed to marry a woman and live the life his father wants him to until he meets his new real estate agent.

My parents have picked out the perfect life for me, including who I will marry… I have always been a good son, and with my father’s recent recovery from cancer, he deserves all the good things happening in my life. Those good things that happen to his son, he considers happening to him as well. I don’t hate him for it, but I can’t say I don’t wish for something more.


This is a bonus story from a series, featuring boyfriends and magic.

Join Remy and Laurence as they learn to control their magic with Bran Vingy’s head witch, Aella. Chapters contain steamy scenes intended for adult readers.


Trying to escape a killer leads a fox shifter to his wolf shifter mate, but finding the wolf might put him in danger.

A grieving wolf. A hunted fox. Fated mates, thrown together by chance, and the looming threat of a fabled Huntsman who might tear them apart forever.


LGBT Romance Fall Freebies Giveaway

There are seriously so many free books available in the LGBT Romance Fall Freebies Giveaway. Like, a ton. Many of them are also novels that aren’t available in the November LGBT Romance Giveaway. So between these two options, there’s going to be something for everyone. However, this doesn’t last the whole month as the giveaway ends on the 15th, so check out these titles now.

Here’s some of the gay romances that caught my eye.

king

A Chance to be King by Sue Brown

A man in need of a vacation encounters secrets and mystery when falling for his neighbor.

From the Blurb: After working nonstop for two years, actor Eric Pawlowski desperately needs a respite from his grueling schedule and the crippling migraines that come with it. Thinking that a few weeks in a secluded cottage is just the thing, his vacation gets off to a rough start when he almost mows down the only other guy who lives on the remote road. Fortunately Thomas is quick to forgive, and soon he, Eric, and Eric’s two dogs are palling around like they’ve known each other for years.

But when Eric witnesses Thomas coldly order a lost stranger off his property, he starts to question how well he knows him.

necro

Romancing the Necromancer by A.H. Lee

Nice cover and I love the title. I’m going to let the tagline speak for itself: Sairis has never ridden a living horse, never left home, never kissed a man. He’d really like to do one of those things.

From the blurb: Sairis is a necromancer with a price on his head. He needs to get to the capital for a conference that may change his life. But he’s never ridden a horse before. At least not a live one.

Fortunately, the local knacker is a gentle soul who has helped Sairis in the past. In addition, Sairis suspects the knacker may know things about the world of romance between men.

sparks

Sparks Will Fly by A.E. Via

Combining enemies and literal fire is surely a great idea in this book where two long-time competitors must team up to restore their reputations. This story belongs to a bigger universe of gay romances about crime solving and law enforcement.

From the blurb: Outcasted from Hollywood, two of the world’s best pyrotechnician engineers are back home where it all started, and the city is not equipped for the heat they can bring. But, when Wesley comes to Law with a plan that can put them back on top again, Law is shocked to find that his nemesis means for the two of them to work… together.

Big. Damn. Mistake.

ten

Tenacious by Blake Allwood

Star crossed lovers must overcome all the obstacles to be together.

From the blurb: After meeting at a dance club when Lane overindulges at his birthday party and Zach is plagued with an ex who won’t leave him alone, one disaster follows another blocking their road toward romance.

Despite their intense attraction, it seems the world is stacked against them especially when Zach’s ex is hellbent on destroying both men’s lives in multiple vindictive attacks.

divers

Diversion by Eden Winters

A rule following and a rule breaking investigator are partners while hunting a drug ring in Diversion by Eden Winters.

From the blurb: Textbook-quoting, by the book Bo Schollenberger is everything Lucky isn’t. Lucky slurps coffee, Bo lives caffeine free. Lucky worships bacon, Bo eats tofu. Lucky trusts no one, Bo calls suspects by first name. Yet when the chips are down on their shared case of breaking up a drug diversion ring, they may have more in common than they believe.

Two men. Close quarters. Friction results in heat. But Lucky scoffs at partnerships, no matter how thrilling the roller-coaster. Bo has two months to break down Lucky’s defenses… and seconds are ticking by.

gate

The Gate by A. L. Lester

Two friends and soldiers explore a paranormal mystery and their feelings for each other in the historical short story. This one is part of a time traveling series.

From the blurb:  It’s 1918, and Matty returns home to the family farm from the trenches only to find his brother Arthur dying of an unknown illness. The local doctor thinks it might be cancer, but Matty becomes convinced it’s connected to the mysterious books his brother has left strewn around the house. Matty confides his suspicions in his friend Rob, who’s also come back to the farm from the Western Front.

Matty and Rob were friends before the war. Now they’re both changed by what they’ve been through. Will the mysterious energy swirling round the farm blow out the ember of attraction between them, or ignite it?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00018]

Take Two by Ann Grech

A natural disaster brings two enemies together and gives them a second chance to change the nature of their relationship.

From the blurb: A politician who’s determined to save the forest. A property developer who wants to cut it down. Two men, a grudge and the bushland standing between them. The unstoppable inferno in the distance draws closer, threatening their piece of paradise. As it razes everything in its path, will these two enemies survive the night? Can they call a take two on their relationship and find something a little bit like love in the midst of disaster?

inc

Incubus Seduction by Emma Jaye

A paranormal novella about the lust between an incubus and human, told from the human’s POV.

From the blurb: Judging by the desire radiating from the red-faced mortal in his sex shop, there was yet another fast, forgettable meal coming his way. When his intended snack turned him down, even after he’d massaged his prey’s inhibitions, the demon’s interest piqued.

No ordinary human could resist the lure of an incubus for long, and yet Finn was fighting as if his life depended on it.

ignite

Ignite by Elouise East

Two friends never thought about being together until a matchmaking service suggested they should try for something more.

From the blurb: To everyone he meets, Leo is calm, confident and sexy, but deep inside he feels unworthy. After too many failed relationships, Leo hands over the reins to a matchmaking company; obviously, he is unable to choose the right guy by himself.

Noah is a respectable chef who always follows the rules, keeping his head down, just like his parents’ taught him. Unfortunately, his working hours make it difficult to find time for pleasure. Unable to see a way out, he chooses one final option: a matchmaking company.

Meet cute, scene from gay romance

In romcom terms, this is the meet cute between the main characters. This scene is from Falling in Love and (Other Bad Ideas).

Zach

Joey moved ahead of Luke, walking even with me to better annoy me, unless he just wanted to walk down the stairs with me for some reason, which would be weird, so the first one. Or more like, he attempted to walk with me while still narrating his fever dream and gesturing broadly.

Basically, I was doomed. Joey was a catcher, built to stay where he was planted. Me, being the shortstop, had to be the opposite: quick, flexible, and able to cover more ground. So the math was easy. He made a motion with his arm and pushed me, and I wasn’t prepared. I went flying, sailing over the last few steps instead of stepping down them. Down I went.

…There so many situations where I would happily go down, but this wasn’t one of them.

Except instead of hitting the ground, I instead landed right in the pages of some fucking chick flick novel. I fell right into somebody’s arms. It couldn’t have been choreographed better. I stared up at an unfamiliar face, his light brown eyes looking into my darker ones. The guy who caught me, the whole picture he painted boiled down to this: a standard male protagonist.

Should I ask Luke what romcom this meet cute was stolen from the pages of? He would probably know. Or wait, this could have been a terribly contrived introduction to the handsome stranger who saved me, but him being a stranger meant something. While entirely possible there were closeted guys at school I didn’t know about, it seemed unlikely. Either through firsthand knowledge or rumors from the guys I shared the aforementioned firsthand knowledge with, I had a pretty comprehensive understanding of any dudes at this school with queer leanings.

“Hi there,” the guy said to me with a little smile. He righted me and continued, “This is one hell of a meet cute, huh?”

No, I already decided it wasn’t! I dusted myself off, unnecessarily, but it made me feel more in control. “I don’t do cute. Not meet, or as a button, or otherwise.”

“Uh oh, is it about to get gay?” Joey asked, looking between us. “It’s fine, just give me some warning.”

“No, it’s not,” I said while the almost-protagonist said, “Yes, it is.”

“So, they answered differently, is that another clue?” Joey directed the question to Luke. “It’s about to get gay, right?”

“Well, I am gay,” the stranger answered. “So I’d argue whatever is happening is already gay.”

We all stared at him. Because… huh. Technically, I was right. This wasn’t some closeted guy I didn’t know about. Because he wasn’t closeted. Which threw us off. Until right then, everybody out at our high school was already in our friend group. And since we had never seen him before, he clearly did not meet these standards. His casual words weren’t anything we expected.

“Am I offending your family values?” he asked us, not really surprised. Seemed he’d been doing a lot of that lately.

“Don’t worry, he doesn’t have values,” Luke responded helpfully.

“Family or otherwise,” Joey added.

Luke looked between me and the new guy slowly. Uh-oh. “You did fall right into his arms.” Don’t let the jock thing fool you, he was actually a huge girl because I could see the words ‘fate’ and ‘destiny’ running through his head. “And did you hear what he said?” Luke asked me, nudging my side with an elbow. “About being gay?”

“I’m standing here with you, in front of him, so obviously I—”

“Dude, come on,” interrupted Joey. “He’s queerballs, and so are you.”

“Seriously?” I asked him.

“It’s destiny or some shit,” Joey reasoned. “Even I’m not strong enough to stand in the way.”

“Two queer people crossing paths doesn’t mean we need to kiss,” I argued. My life wasn’t a romcom.

“I agree,” the Standard Male Protagonist said. “But it is cool to meet you. You’re gay too?”

“Bi,” I corrected.

“Oh, you’re bi?” SMP asked.

“Not what I meant.” I tried again. “Bye.” Got it that time.

I walked away.

-Get your copy here!

Friendship

This is a scene where two boyfriends try to support their friend. It’s from Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas.

Zach

Ryan and Luke watched me eagerly as I grabbed things from my locker. I shared homeroom with the former, and Ryan treated homeroom, punctuality, and other things he didn’t want to do as optional rather than mandatory, one of the few things I respected him for.

Luke always complained about Ryan’s brown hair falling into his eyes and adding additional walking challenges for a guy who never made peace with gravity, but now his own blonde locks were doing the same thing. Ryan had the same shoes as Luke so their feet could be twins or something. They were both wearing flannel shirts, Ryan’s mostly red with blue, Luke’s mostly blue with red. Which… how? Did they call each other up and plan their outfits? Luke never even wore flannel.

Luke said, “I want to talk about Zach’s love interest.”

I scowled at how he phrased it while saying, “And now for the simple, folksy Luke wisdom.”

He frowned. “Don’t think anyone has ever called me folksy before.”

I smirked. “They have called you simple, that’s what I’m hearing.”

“Hey,” Ryan warned, jumping to his boyfriend’s defense. “I will fight you. With my words.”

“Dude, come on.” Luke said to me, giving me his earnest, dumb Luke smile. “You should go for it.” Groundbreaking. He kept going. “Somewhere along the line you went from not dating much to not dating at all. If you like this guy—”

“I don’t even know him.”

“Then get to know him. And if you like him, go for it.”

“God, you’re hot,” Ryan told him.

“Thanks babe.” Luke’s dimples appeared as he smiled at Ryan. “I’m also right.”

“Duh, that’s what makes you even hotter.”

They left, even though we had been right next to homeroom, and Luke needed to go to homeroom because that was how school worked. He let Ryan lead him off anyway because true love meant more than compulsory attendance or some shit like that.

When Luke and Ryan were morons who made their relationship 50 times more difficult than it needed to be, at least they provided some entertainment. However, it was also a hassle for me because they would both expect me to listen to their woes and provide answers. Nobody even paid me for it. Yet this same page, ride-or-die stuff they’d been doing lately was so… insane.

The couple weren’t just crazy kids hopped up on hormones thinking they were destined to be together forever. They had become shockingly stable somehow. As if they truly expected to go the distance when they’d barely even started the race.

New book! Hooray!

Happy book release day! This is in no way a national holiday, but my book Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas is out now.

Sometimes bad ideas are the hardest ones to resist…
Zach Ahmad is more used to fooling around than falling in love. In fact, the bi baseball player’s fondness for having a good time earns him many parental lectures from his disapproving father. But Zach isn’t expecting anything to change during his senior year, until he literally falls into the arms of the new boy at school.

When the new guy isn’t impressed by his charms, Zach can’t help but be intrigued by the dog-lover and do-gooder. Even if his meddling friends are trying to turn his life into a romcom. Just when Zach is ready to take a chance on something real, a curveball from his dad puts his whole future in jeopardy. Can Zach face his biggest challenge ever and still fall in love, or will he fall flat?

Falling in Love and Other Bad Ideas is an LGBT romance about what happens when a guy who never falls in love finds himself in a romantic comedy filled with meet cutes, matchmaking friends, and supposedly adorable canines. While characters in this story appear in the One More Thing universe, this standalone Zach novel can be read separately from the other books.


That’s the official stuff, but I wanted to say a little more about the book.

Inspiration: Zach is the kind of character who takes over. At least, he is for me. When writing this series, I would look back over a scene he’s in and remind myself the book wasn’t about him. Which meant naturally I needed to make a novel about him.

Our common traits: Sometimes I use a specific trait or event from my life, but I usually do more an inspired by true events thing than an accurate recounting. Zach and I sort of have lots in common in that we’re not-white bi people who avoid serious situations, and we don’t believe in the religions we were born into. However, we’re only share those traits in broad strokes, the more specific one goes, the more different we become. The part where I did draw inspiration from my own life is in how Zach’s parents don’t address him being bi.

Differences: Zach is confident in a way few people, including myself, are. His ego is both his biggest strength and weakness. And when focusing a book on him, it’s a great place to start as we test his confidence and see what’s under his bravado.

LGBTQ+ Giveaway

There’s an LGBTQ+ giveaway happening until Oct. 29, which means there are free books available here. With the exception of two books, the rest of them are of the gay (M/M) variety. Here’s some of the titles that caught my eye.

Always for You

Is it too early for Christmas? If commercialism in America has taught me anything, the answer is never. And this works regardless, since it’s a ‘Christmas in July’ story. All I really needed to know anyway was there’s a dog and it’s by Becca Seymour.

From the blurb: Join the residents of Kirkby for celebrations, romance, and just a little mayhem. It’s the perfect chance to get to know outgoing and loveable bar owner Ted, and his grumbly younger husbutt, Jason.

Kissing the Lizard

As I’m getting elements of horror from this novella, maybe the tagline is supposed to be scary? I thought it was hilarious, and it’s what grabbed my interest. Of course, maybe that’s intentional too as this is supposed to be a dark comedy. Also, I have never heard the description ‘creepy coming-of-age’ story before and I love it.

From the blurb: When Jamie meets Matthew in Soho, he’s drawn to his new-age charms. But when he follows his new friend across the planet to a remote earth-ship in Taos, bizarre incidents begin unfolding and Matthew’s real nature reveals itself

Cosmic Tea

The cover is simple and pretty, and I like the space part at the top, which I didn’t notice at first. And as the tagline explains, this is a “Coffee shop romance in space. Because everything’s better in space.” I find that very hard to argue with. If I did want to argue for some reason, the other part that wins me over is “a series of shorts following two dumbasses in space and their relationship.”

From the blurb: Doran Scott keeps things light. It’s the only way of dealing with the things he’s seen serving in the military — and the tragic past that led him to sign up in the first place. When Doran’s ship lands on Iulia after a skirmish and he walks into Doug’s, there are immediate sparks, but they both know this can only be a one-night stand. Right?

Shenanigans

Shenanigans are afoot in One Little Lie, and Ryan tries to figure out what he thinks about these antics and what he should tell his father. This is a different version than what appears in the book, with some extra content.

Ryan

Should I cut the old man some slack? At least he knew I had a boyfriend, unlike Luke’s family. Which was totally fine and I wasn’t bothered at all. I should probably be storming off or sitting down in a huff so we could sulkily watch TV together, but I got distracted thinking about Dad and Luke’s new scheme.

“Anything else?” Dad asked when I just stood there.

“It’s just—” I’d been tempted to run this whole thing by Dad, but I couldn’t when he was being like this. It’s not like he was being very accepting anyway and I didn’t want that to get worse. “Never mind.”

He eyed me keenly. “What is it?”

“I’m wondering if we should switch our home insurance provider.” I am so bad at lying on the fly. Isn’t that a skill all teenagers possess in their genes, like instinct?

Dad called me on the obvious and terrible diversion I tried to use. “You’re hiding something.”

“Should I get a tattoo?” I asked. That was better for distraction and if he said yes, I could get a tattoo. Too bad needles kinda scared me.

“No,” he responded instantly, then thought about my shifty behavior. “Is it about you and Luke?”

I grabbed the remote and hastily turned up the volume while telling my father to, “Leave the questioning to Stabler and Benson.” Then, like it just occurred to me, I said, “Hey, isn’t it time for them, anyway?”

“Stabler isn’t even on the show anymore,” he said while holding his hand out to me. I gave him the remote and he flipped channels.

Stabler was hot for an old guy and I heard he used to play a character who had forbidden gay relationships in prison. We should look into getting HBO. Before I could tell Dad that, he told me, “I don’t know what’s going on with you and Luke, but if you have to lie to me about it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.”

I left then instead of watching TV. It wasn’t like I could say, ‘hey, Dad, you know how Luke’s dating me and you’re already so super cool with that? He’s gonna pretend to date Lydia while he goes out with me.’ Yeah, I didn’t see that going well. Did that mean something or did Dad just not understand? He never had to come out.

No, everything was totally fine. I was totally fine.

I wasn’t fine. Acting like the chillest, awesomest boyfriend ever meant I was only on duty when Luke was around. So maybe I did freak out a tiny bit. Stupid Dad and his stupid words. The less said about that unpleasantness the better. And it wasn’t my finest moment, so I only want to focus on the parts where I’m super great instead.

Okay, fine, maybe the freak out went like this:

Luke pretending to date Lydia? How could that go wrong? Oh, only in a million ways. He could realize how hot she was and dump me. He could realize how easy dating a girl was in this town and dump me. He could see how easy dating anyone other than me was and dump me. Or worse, maybe he’d decide he was both bi and a stereotype and not dump me but instead date Lydia and me behind the other’s back.

Anything could happen. However unlikely it seemed, their fake dating could go so well that they decided to make it a reality. It didn’t sound so crazy since that’s what happened with Luke and me. Wait, no, our fake dating had gone terribly. Yet we still ended up together anyway. Aww.

I could handle this, right? And even if I couldn’t, did I have any right to complain? Luke went from zero to gay, or gayish, really fast. He had no adjustment period. I couldn’t ask him to speed things up on my behalf. Especially when we were already cruising at warp speed. Dammit, I should have talked to Mrs. Sharp about this. No, that would be insane. And this plan was what, perfectly logical and normal?

Okay, maybe I was still in the middle of my freak out when my cell phone vibrated on my desk.

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.

Scenes from a Baseball Game (Baseball not Included)

Luke is a high school baseball player. A great high school baseball player. Well, a pretty good one. He’s an excellent pitcher and batting… is also a thing he’s expected to do. He usually isn’t very good at the hitting part, but plot twist, he’s now amazing at batting.

What’s going on? He has no idea, but he’s not about to question it. If he had to speculate, maybe he has magic powers or is a secret superhero? Or maybe he’s feeling more confident after realizing he’s bi and coming out. It’s definitely one of those.

This is a scene from One Little Problem where Luke and some teammates discuss why he’s suddenly better at baseball. Some of this in the novel and some isn’t.

Luke

We had an away game, so there was no big cheering section for our team. Sometimes that made a difference, but not today. We were winning anyway. I’d been hitting and getting on base a lot more these days. I didn’t always hit home runs or anything, but this time I did. I was grinning before it even left the diamond, I just had a feeling it was out of here and then it was and I jogged around the bases, feeling amazing, like I could do anything. I was a baseball god. It felt good to take my victory lap, to have my team hollering in the background. I was done pitching, so I ended the game on a high note.

“Are you using performance enhancing drugs?” Joey Wilson asked as he patted me on the back when I got back to our dugout.

“Seriously?” Yeah, I had done well and he had struck out. Still. If anything, it was the other way around. He was bulkier and dumber and prone to punching walls when someone sniped him in Fortnite. He’d be first in line if somebody was testing for steroid usage.

“I’m not judging.” His face was wide and a tad confused, just like always. “I’m just saying, you have to share.”

I snorted. “Because you can keep a secret.”

“Oh my god,” he marveled. “Did you just admit it? Did you fall into my clever trap?”

“Your clever trap of asking a question?” I didn’t say so no to his question, but it was a dumb question.

Joey raised his chin definitely. “Don’t question the methods if they work.” His batting average was on the average to below average side while mine was definitely below average. Most of the time, we both lamented how much we sucked at batting together.

“No, I am not on steroids,” I told him, making it clear, which caused a few other people to look over at us. Yeah, I got that. Saying you weren’t on steroids was probably not something a lot of people who weren’t on steroids felt the need to say. “Even if I was, why would you need them?”

“My batting average isn’t great either,” Joey said. “If you bring yours up, I’ve gotta keep up.” His wasn’t great but when he did get a hit, it tended to be a big one. That gave him time to at least make it a base or two, if he didn’t outright knock it out of the park.

Wasn’t a bad problem to have from my viewpoint, either striking out or hitting a homer. For me, it typically more like striking out, striking out, striking out, striking out, and every so often getting a little bit lucky and hitting it. And then after that, if I got even more lucky, the hit actually meant I got on base.

This whole thing where I was suddenly good at every part of baseball? It rocked so hard.

I moved on from Joey and sat down next to Zach in the dugout. My grin came back.  Wait till I tell Ryan about this. Probably should tell him in private incase he had the bright idea to do something dumb and embarrassing like start cheering wherever we were or jump into my arms and kiss me on each cheek.

I wasn’t ashamed or anything, only in the way that I was dating a very embarrassing person. One who didn’t even realize he was being embarrassing until he did and then it was like he already started, so he might as well go all the way and really play it up because that way at least I would be more embarrassed than him. That meant he won or got to be less embarrassed because he could say it was all part of a plan to embarrass me or something.

I had finally gotten to the point where being with a guy didn’t embarrass me and now I was just the recommended normal amount of embarrassed around Ryan, the baseline that everyone who comes into contact with him exists at. And god, why was I freaking smiling just from thinking about what an awkward loser my boyfriend was? That’s the kind of thing I should be sad about, having to deal with such an embarrassing, awkward guy all the time. I was sad… My face just didn’t know it yet because I was still grinning.

It took me a moment to notice Zach was staring at me. Zach was more of the striking than striking out type. Both in life and on the field. He had sharp features and an effortless coolness, an Arab-American guy who always took care to look put together and fashionable, never had a hair out of place. Except for on the field but of course he made the dirty, sweaty athlete look work too somehow.

“How are you doing that?” Zach asked, nodding his head to indicate the field in the front of us. I shrugged, so he continued, “There’s got to be some explanation for why you’re suddenly good at hitting. Off the top of my head?” He feigned thinking about it before deciding on, “Black magic comes to mind.” Jerk. “Along with selling your soul or a cursed baseball bat that gives you magic homerun powers but takes away your manhood, poor Ryan—”

I frowned. “Wouldn’t everything you just said fall under the heading of black magic?”

“So, it is black magic?”

“No.” I shrugged. “It’s just not that hard.” For once in his life, maybe he would let something go. Probably not likely, but I could hope. Seemed like I was full of hope these days. Even with my parents and they were being super difficult.

“For you it is.” Nope, he wasn’t letting it go. Good thing I didn’t hope too hard. “You’re not allowed to be good at both pitching and hitting.” Jerk again.

“Why not? Because then I’d do better than you?”

“Obviously,” he replied without remorse. “Did you really think I’d have a different objection?” I was just going to assume Zach would be a jerk for the rest of this conversation, so I didn’t have to think it all the time, that would save me some time.

“I think you could use some competition,” I challenged. Zach snorted like it was outlandish to think we’d even be in the same league, let alone that I would be competition, even though we were literally in the same league and same team and school and town. “Maybe you’re gonna have to step up your game,” I continued. “And actually, oh, I don’t know, try.

Not for a second did I believe that Zach’s life was as effortless as he made it seem because I had been given a few peeks behind the curtain in all our years of friendship, but annoyingly, while not everything just naturally came easy to him, there was a lot that unfortunately did, which might be where he got his incredibly cocky attitude in the first place.

“Excuse me?” Zach scoffed in full on bitch mode. “How dare you imply that I would have to try or make anything remotely resembling an effort to best you, Luke Chambers.”

Man, the inning still wasn’t over yet. This actually was probably one of the better conversations I had with Zach, but I didn’t have anything to say to that and this would normally be the part where I floundered and said something dumb, but I was surprised and then glad to realize that I didn’t really care. If this conversation was about to not go my way, I could just stop having it.

“Whatever,” I said, watching the game.

Zach looked triumphant for a moment before realizing that I didn’t just say whatever because I had nothing else, I mean true, but I also really didn’t care. He waited but I didn’t say anything else. “Is that all?” he asked. He frowned a bit because he was a bastard who loved playing with his food before he went for the kill.

I laughed. “You got me there, man,” I admitted.

There were several things Zach needed me around for because he didn’t have the skill set or patience to do those things himself, but witty conversation wasn’t on that list. Had always been true but sometimes I wanted to get one over on him anyway and only in very rare cases did that work, so it just didn’t seem worth the effort of trying. I got a homerun this game and he didn’t, and I was on fire right now and nothing anyone said could change that.

Zach actually stared at me dumbfounded for a moment and just when I turned to really take that look in because it happened so rarely that he showed shock or confusion, he wiped it off his face. Rude. “Who are you?” he asked. “This might still qualify as black magic, I’m unclear, but we need to rule out possession. Are you possessed?”

I rolled my eyes. I really didn’t know how to put it in words, so I started with the obvious, “I’ve never liked hitting.” Wow, he really wanted to know my secret because he didn’t even make a get on with it gesture or look put out because I said something he already knew. “I pitch, why do I have to hit the ball too? It’s a totally different skillset and it seems like asking a lot from me. Plus, what if I get hurt up at the plate? Ball can come at you fast on the mound, but I don’t have to wear a helmet up there, and mostly, I just don’t like batting. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been very good at it, but there’s times when I just dread it.”

Hitting his limit for stating the obvious, Zach said, “Uh-huh, I’ve heard this from you before. About 900 times.”

I glared because he was the one who wanted a damn answer and after a mini standoff, he let me go on. Cool. Working through that all had actually helped, stating all my old objections and seeing that they were still more or less true. It’s not that I didn’t feel that way anymore but that stuff seemed farther away. Like it wasn’t in my head as much as it usually was.

“I get up there,” I said slowly as I pieced it together. “And I think about all that. How I’m not going to do good, how everyone’s going to see me not do good, to me uselessly wishing I could just pitch and not hit even though it does no good ever, and now I just… I don’t care.”

“You turned off your brain?” He couldn’t resist taking the easy shot. “On the one hand, how can that hurt when you barely use it anyway—”

“Ha ha—”

“—But on the other hand, you were already operating at dangerously low levels of cognitive function. I can’t imagine going any farther down is safe.”

Before this whole thing with me and Ryan? I liked giving the impression I didn’t care what other people thought. I did care though. I just knew how to downplay it. And it was easy to be confident when everything people said about you was good. But now? “What other people are going to think about me is like the furthest thing from my mind. Even farther away than not being a vain dickhead is for you.”

“Wow,” he said mildly. “That’s far.” He shook his head. “Still though, being unconcerned with mere mortals is my superpower, not yours. Get your own.”

I shrugged. “You’re gonna have to share.”

His brow furrowed. “I don’t sha—”

“Maybe you’ll learn.”

I had good looks, popularity, athletic ability. I was the guy everyone wanted to be and then the guy nobody in our town wanted to be, the gay one or whatever. And I had to go from fitting in and being basically worshipped to being gawked at, judged, found wanting. All while not actually being like Zach, who came out and treated every sneer and bad word directed his way like he treated everything else, background noise that could be ignored or paid attention to based on his whims, fodder for occasional amusement. All anyone looking from the outside would see was someone who seemed in complete control, someone who liked bad press about himself as much as good press because, hey, it was all attention.

Being the golden boy, I did have plenty of confidence, but I’d never had to maintain it while being ridiculed and watched by everyone. Never had to be pretend to be unbothered while everything changed. So I hadn’t really known what to do. Hadn’t really known who I was becoming. Seemed like anything could happen, I could turn into a freaking dragon. Instead, I was basically the same guy but with some new additions that had totally blindsided me. And then.

“School? Baseball? Other people? It all just seems,” I paused, watching our second baseman swing at a high curveball, how many times did I have to tell him to avoid those pitches? “I mean, what can any of it really do to me? Not much, not after surviving things with my parents.” I lowered my voice. “Sometimes, I don’t even know if I have a right to complain about that. It’s not as bad as what happened to Lydia. Hell, they took her in, so it kinda seemed like things might start to be okay, but things are still weird between us and the longer it goes on it’s like, maybe not. But still, maybe I should be grateful.”

“It’s okay if you’re not. You used to be really close to your parents. Even not much distance would feel like a lot in your situation.” As usual when he tried to have a serious moment or behaved like a normal human, the words were slightly stilted but sincere.

“Yeah. Well, I survived that or am surviving it. I survived everyone knowing this thing about me basically as soon as I knew, having so little time to process, so I don’t know. These days, everything seems pretty easy. Like at least for a while, I made it through the hard part.” I grinned at him. “I’m invincible now, dude.”

“Nice sentiment.” Then, his face turned serious “However, I feel like I should make this clear, you aren’t really—”

“It’s a metaphor, dude.” I was not literally invincible. I wouldn’t go darting into traffic or standing in front of an oncoming train.

Wow, that was twice in one conversation where Zach looked dumbfounded. “Oh my god,” he said.

“Um, did I use that wrong?” Really didn’t think so, but he kept looking at me funny.

“No, you used it correctly.” He looked at me like I was a pod person again. Asshole.

Yet I only smiled. “See? Everything is going my way.”

Then our turn to bat was over and Zach and some of the other guys made their way onto the field while I leaned back in the dugout and relaxed.

I’m invincible.