I don’t know what to say!

I don’t know if I should make posts when I update my novels, but I’m releasing new editions of everything. It’s going slower than I would like, but I recently released a new version of One Little Problem. I also did a new version of One Little Lie. 

I’m saying this because it gives me something to talk about, but now it seems kind of boring. Uh, there’s new covers too? Well, One Little Lie will have an updated cover, as soon as I can make the image in my mind viewable to other people. Fingers crossed.

This is something that got taken out of One Little Problem. Ryan and Luke are boyfriends who banter with each other. That’s all you need to know.

~

Ryan

“You’re sleeping on the couch tonight,” I informed him.

“We don’t live together.”

Maybe one day, my brain said, and I told it to shut up.

“Want to come over after school and pretend we do?” I waggled my eyebrows in a way experts would deem excessive. “We’ll play house.”

“Roleplay already?” he asked but didn’t say no.

Oh. “Do you have a French maid’s outfit?” I could get into that.

“Okay, I’m leaving now.” Luke gave me a quick peck on the lips and we went our separate ways.

Luke recently had an identity crisis of sorts. Hopefully not a midlife one because his lifespan needed to be much longer than that. More of the sexuality crisis kind. It took him a while to figure things out and it might not always have been the most fun, but I was a supportive boyfriend and stuff.

If there was any evidence to the contrary, then I didn’t remember it and didn’t want to be reminded, but Luke was on the other side of that now. He was cool and confident and awesome. Stronger.  Comfortable. Way hot. He was always that one, but in a new way.

Fashionably Late, scene from M/M romance

On every other Monday, I post deleted scenes and outtakes and whatnot from my novels. I’ve been doing this for a while, and I never stopped at all… okay, do you see where I’m going with this? If not, then yes, everything is going according to plan, and I’m awesome.

But it’s possible I stopped posting these for a while. I guess I don’t have to point it out. I could just pick up where I left off and pretend I never got off track… I believe in honesty and transparency or something? Mostly, I’ve already started writing this post, so I’m gonna keep going.

Here is a different version of a scene from One Little Lie. You don’t need any knowledge of this series to read this, but helpful information to know is: Ryan is here, he is queer, and actually, he’s not here. Because he’s late. Ryan is trying to meet his boyfriend before school starts, but he isn’t on time.

~

Ryan

Luke Chambers is the popular golden boy who charms teachers and parents, has an easy smile for everyone, and gets along with people. Basically, he’s completely different from me, but there’s just so much I like about him. You know, in a totally mature and reasonable manner and not like I’m some tween girl with a crush who writes his name in little hearts.

Just… he has a strong throwing arm and sandy blonde hair. And he’s my idiot boyfriend who is so fun to tease. He’s ridiculous, fun, and unexpectedly sweet. Sure, he’s unbearable like 40% of the time, but we can make out now. It’s easier to forgive anything after making out.

Maybe I  have a notebook full of doodles including his name, my name, and various versions of our names smushed together, surrounded by hearts and flowers. It’s kept at home where it’s safe. I’m a scientist. It started as an experiment where I wondered if people actually did stuff like that, and then it was kinda fun to write, “Ryan and Luke 5eva.” Somehow I filled up a bunch of pages or whatever. Shut up.

Let’s talk about something less embarrassing.

My sweet, considerate boyfriend was the reason I arrived at school early. That asshole. Already ten minutes behind schedule, I moved through the halls as quickly as possible without outright running. It would be just my luck to run into a hall monitor for the first time ever while my boyfriend waited for me, tapping his foot and furrowing his brow slightly in a frown that I’d want to kiss away, but he wouldn’t let me because he’d be cranky.

Did we even have hall monitors? Would there be a hall monitor before school started? Probably not. Okay, that was one less thing to worry about.

The plan had been to meet at my locker, but I went to Luke’s anyway, figuring he gave up on me. I could already feel the pissed off vibes emanating from Luke as I turned onto the hallway where his locker was located. He was pretty good at hissy fits for someone who was supposedly macho and straight before me, but I doubted he’d take that as a compliment.

Flirting in cars with boys

And now for a scene from a first date. This is from One Little Word.

Helpful information: Our plucky protagonist Ryan is determined to have a good time with cool, cocky Zach despite Ryan being a giant loser who happens to have a black eye. He also has a fake boyfriend, so it’s hard to say which of those things will be a bigger hindrance. (It’s totally the fake boyfriend.)

~

Ryan

owlflatThe vehicle was old but not worn down, more vintage. A red sports car that wasn’t too flashy for a town like this as it was retro but still fit Zach’s personality.

“None of this was what I expected when I tried to imagine dating in this town,” I admitted while buckling my seat belt.

“Having a fake boyfriend and a real date?”

“Yeah, I imagined more sneaking around.” Not that I was complaining. This was preferable, black eye and all.

“Well, Luke helped us.”

I wasn’t sure about that.

“He’s taking a lot of the heat. I figured there wouldn’t be a better time than now to come out,” he explained while driving.

“Letting Luke take the fall? That’s kinda cold,” I joked.

He wasn’t sorry. “I’m kinda a jackass.”

“You get by on your charm.”

Zach grinned. “It does help.”

“Well, I don’t know if it’s working on me,” I said coyly. It totally worked on me.

“Oh really? Guess I’ll have to try harder.”

 

Everything is awkward, a true (fake) high school story

Previously on One Little Word, a totally straight boy and a not-at-all straight boy kissed each other to convince a teacher they’re dating, because a series of contrivances made this necessary. And now everything is awkward.

Only one of them knew the kiss was coming, which is part of the problem because the surprised boy can barely handle stuff he’s expecting when it comes to this fake dating arrangement. And also the two boys like each other, which is most of the problem. One boy doesn’t think mutual affection is possible and the other one doesn’t even know about his crush on a conscious level.

Because I feel like it would be annoying and boring if I posted the same summary every time, I instead make something up when necessary. So I’m not sure if that summation is confusing, but it at least sets up this deleted scene from One Little Word very well.

Side note: If for some reason I had to sum up One Little Word in five words, then “And now everything is awkward.” would work really well.

~

Ryan

1littleword - smallI could face Luke. Definitely. If he even showed up.

I sat at our usual table in the library in the corner farthest away from the librarian. The table was crammed in between shelves that housed history tomes no one ever touched.

I tried not to worry over whether Luke would be here or not. We usually met in the library and goofed around more than studied, but he hadn’t shown up the last few times after our kiss.

We were friends, I reminded myself. My attraction wasn’t real. Or it was, but it was also chemical. I understood that. I could get past that.

Dopamine production increases with attraction and makes the body loopy. Butterflies appear, feelings become more intense, and dopamine triggers similar responses to what crack cocaine creates.

Seriously, love was a drug, and it needed to be freaking outlawed so I would avoid overdosing and totally embarrassing myself.

I used my science brain whenever I could to make the mess of my life more palatable. There was herd mentality, which was why I was reduced to the sidelines of school. And survival of the fittest, so I hoped I never broke a bone again because I definitely wasn’t very fit.

Not like Luke.

While a little delirious and in a lot of pain, I possessed vague memories of him catching me when the loft floor collapsed. I remembered being pressed against his solid chest. Or maybe I’d dreamed about it so much it seemed like a memory now: those arms cradling me and holding me up.

Shit. Dealing with my insane crush seemed difficult enough when no one noticed me. Now everyone had seen me and the most popular guy in school making out.

I felt like an exhibit in a zoo as people kept staring at me. Normally, I’d have some witty comeback to make them blush and look away, but I was too lost in my own thoughts.

How should we handle this? Was there a way to handle this where I could still have Luke as a friend? Doubtful.

I’d been working myself into knots about this mess all day. Just when I was ready to let myself relax because Luke wouldn’t show up, there he was.

He looked as delectable as I remembered.

Dropping down in the seat next, he pretended everything was normal and he hadn’t been keeping his distance. I couldn’t blame him. I blamed Lydia, not that she noticed or cared about any of my frosty looks at lunch.

Had I been aware Luke was going to kiss me to avoid Mrs. Sharp’s wrath, I would have talked him out of it. I knew it would cause him to freak out, but he hadn’t consulted me. Lydia had somehow convinced him not to. She wanted Luke obviously and he wanted her too. Everyone knew that, so why was hurting me a necessary step in the process?

I tried to conceal a dreamy sigh as I got to drink in the sight of Luke up close once again. His blonde hair looked soft as ever, and I thought it was getting a bit longer. He wore a blue, long-sleeved shirt that stretched over his broad shoulders. He looked frantic but still smiled at me. I went lightheaded for a second. He looked so good and the dimples hadn’t even made an appearance.

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.

Zach! Should I add more? Zach, again!

You know how I post outtakes from my fiction every other Monday? Great, that’s what this is.

Sometimes I post longer sections… and sometimes I don’t. That’s what this is. A longer or short section. Duh.

This is a little bit about Zach from the One More Thing universe, a character I love and often just start writing about whenever he appears.

Then I remember, oh yeah, this scene isn’t just a bunch of information about Zach Ahmad. Which means, regrettably, I have to take out the big chunk of Zach stuff that’s just there intruding on the rest.

If Zach were a real person, he would probably object to the point of everything not being about him. However, he’s also probably happy to be a scene stealer.

Luke

Zach being serious? That was unnatural, almost scary. He could dress up as himself for Halloween, just wearing the glasses he needs and hates wearing and saying smart or heartfelt things about people and the world, and it would terrify everyone. Or at least me.

He’d never do that though, wear the glasses.

I wasn’t as cocky as Zach. I wasn’t sure anyone could be, and especially not his best friend, the combined forces of egos that big might cause a tornado or something.

~

This has been some deleted content from One New Start.

 

A brief oral history of farming and other more interesting things

Can you call something an oral history if it’s in someone’s mind? An oral mental history.

Hi. Hola. Bonjour.

(I don’t know how to spell bonjour, and the spell checker thing offered ‘bourbon instead, which I know is wrong, but I was tempted to put anyway.)

Now that we got the greetings out of the way, here’s some fiction! Some of this is in One Little Lie, and some of it is extra.

I don’t think you need a lot of background information to understand this scene, but just in case, Ryan and his dad are going to build a barn. Maybe. Ryan’s dad is trying to teach him things, and because Ryan is Ryan, it’s not going great.

 ~~~

barnrainbow

It was a nice spring afternoon. My father and I stood outside in the light with nothing around to provide shade, but the sun felt nice on my skin. We were out back on our property, surveying the spot where our old barn used to be. Did this count as exercise? I was totally going to count this as exercise.

My dad’s family used to have their own farm, but it took a lot of work. The Miller operation used to be family owned and run, so there wasn’t a big budget to hire new staff with once the number of family members dwindled. Grandpa came from a bigger family, but Dad only had a brother who didn’t live in the area anymore. I was an only child, and Mom had died when I was young.

We didn’t have livestock anymore but that could change once we had a barn again. Dad had traded favors with a bunch of guys he knew to help knock the old structure down after he, Luke, and me attempted it ourselves, and he paid a crew to remove the remains.

There were some supplies at our feet like a big sketch pad, pencils, a tape measurer, and even a freaking protractor that was metal and different from the one I had to get for school. My dad owned a protractor. I really needed to mock him for that.

Before I could, he turned to me and asked, “So what’s the first thing we should do?”

“Go inside and order a pizza?” I suggested even though I didn’t have much hope the answer would be yes.

Dad sighed, though it was more for show than out of true annoyance. He had a pretty high tolerance for annoyance, which he had me to thank for. “I’m going to force this knowledge into your brain one way or another,” he informed me. “So you could at least cooperate.”

Learning about blueprints and construction probably wasn’t the worst idea in the world. I already had some experience as I built a dunk tank for a science project, and there were all kinds of engineering jobs out there in the mythical Real World for science nerds like me that might require these skills.

Still, being totally obtuse made this way more fun for me. I feigned obliviousness. “It’s a barn. Build a big square and put some dividers in it, how hard could that be?”

Dad smacked me lightly on the head. “You can’t even understand how dumb you sound right now.”

Father of the Year, right there.

 

Add don’t die to the end of all of these, a bucket list by Ryan Miller

I never run out of words to think, write, type, or other things you can do with words, until the moment I am supposed to use them for a purpose. Besides writing books, because that would be bad for an author to have trouble coming up with words.

Words are an important part of books. That was me either being super obvious or providing you with helpful information if you somehow had no idea what a book was.

The reason I couldn’t come up with anything to say for a moment is because it’s hard to know what to talk about when discussing a list of random, unrelated activities. Other than, hello, this is a list of random, unrelated activities.

Ryan comes up with a bucket list or a list of things to try or very dangerous ideas in One New Start.

Here are some items from the list that didn’t make it in, along with some that probably did, but don’t ask me to tell you the difference.

Ryan’s bucket list for senior year! *jazz hands*

Learn sweet dances and dance moves for prom
Play chicken in a tractor
Fire guns in the air like Yosemite Sam
Teach a robot how to love
Make friends with a robot
Dine and dash if that’s possible without the guilt eating me alive
Eradicate all guilt from the world without thinking of the consequences
Think of the consequences, go on an emotional journey
Write a book about my experiences while bringing back guilt
Be drag queen for a night? Include Zach, so he wont make fun of me if I’m an ugly girl.
Find perfect drag name.
Ryan… gender neutral, but not very exciting.
Go hunting if it’s not too gross and if there’s a way I won’t die.
Eat something deep fried at a fair and don’t die
Ride all the rides at an amusement park
Go to space
Drive over the grand canyon
Break a board in half with sweet karate moves
Make friends with a lion

More on Mondays, deleted scene

There’s a part in One Little Lie where there’s a Very Gay Double Date, and I had fun writing it, which is probably why there’s so much of it. Here’s a deleted scene.

Things to know: Ryan and Luke are dating. So are Lydia and Alicia. They’re in the car, heading to a gay club.

~

Ryan

Lydia and I had our differences, but I’d never loved her more. Her bad attitude and attempt to ruin our night meant that I wasn’t the one doing anything stupid. I was actually kinda relaxed. It was hard not to be. I got to sit in the front because my boyfriend was driving. That was one of those little, totally insignificant things I never thought I’d get to do in high school; the kind of thing I wanted because I didn’t think I could have. Gotta say, it wasn’t bad.

The scenery outside was miles of boring, flat farmland, so I looked at Luke instead. Orange light spilled in the car then faded and the shadows played across his face. He occasionally took my hand and held it while he drove. Totally unsafe but I couldn’t protest. I was too busy being happy and soaking up this moment in case the first double date nerves came back.

sunset.jpeg

“Um, Ryan,” came Alicia’s voice from the backseat, “Did you want any of our beverages? Because now is the time as, uh, we’ve almost drank them all.” ‘We’ was more like Lydia but I didn’t call her on it and declined a drink.

I got high on life. Which sounded lame, but I just didn’t drink very often. I had poor reflexes and an inability to keep my thoughts to myself at the best of times, so I didn’t need help from alcohol to make a fool of myself.

“It’s okay, you can drink,” Luke told me.

I eyed him. “You’re just saying that so you can take advantage of me,” I accused. Though if that was the case, why was I objecting? He could totally get me drunk and take advantage of me.

He rolled his eyes. “I mean it; you’re a fun drunk.” Maybe I was warming up to alcohol.

I turned around to look at the girls and perhaps ask for some of the alcohol, but Lydia had her head tipped back as she drained the rest of the liquid. The long, pale line of her neck didn’t do anything for me, but it distracted Alicia enough that she didn’t notice my gaze. Huh. How did that work? She liked the way Lydia looked but didn’t want to do anything about it?

Well, probably. You didn’t have to want to hump something to appreciate its aesthetic value, otherwise museums and art galleries would be really weird.

I turned back to Luke. “No, if you’re not drinking I won’t either. Solidarity boo.”

Luke’s hand went from the wheel to land on my thigh, squeezing once and then pulling away. That moment was way better than booze.

~

More on Mondays: Now with More Puppy

My dog didn’t get a lot of exercise or outside time today because it’s been gloomy and rainy all day, so perhaps I should have expected when we went out on the deck and it started raining. As I’m in the process of moving in and outside, and this is the second time I’ve done that while trying to write this blog post, I’m not even gonna try to connect what I’m saying now to anything relevant.

Sometimes I say something and then immediately contradict myself, which is a Ryan thing. Ryan is from the novel I’m about to share an extended scene from. See, now the random stuff I’m talking about is related!

Additionally, it’s hard to think of stuff to say when there is a nearby dog barking her head off. Not really sure what she’s barking at, because she’s looking up. She does bark at birds, but there aren’t any birds, or planes, or flying men with capes.

She doesn’t like stay inside days. I’d say she gets crazy, but really she gets crazier, which is also a Ryan thing.

Have I posted a picture of my dog yet? I’m asking in a rhetorical manner because I’m totally about to regardless of what the answer is.

img_20190809_192106022

This sums up her current mood pretty well.

img_20190809_192034450

But this works too.

Okay, only one more I swear, I need one where she doesn’t look miserable.

img_20190809_192052803

Man, she’s great. Even though she’s barking again.

Without further ado, unless I think of more ado, here is something from One New Start. Available now! Which is new development, which is why exclamation. !!!

In this part, Ryan and Luke are boyfriends about to have an adventure. The adventure involves devious behavior and being up to no good. There are many reasons Ryan would be a bad criminal, and some of them are mentioned here.

~~~

Ryan

Still not going along with the incognito part of the plan, or being very bad at it if he was, Luke used his turn signal and still hadn’t cut the lights as we approached our destination. Yet he told me, “We probably shouldn’t talk when we get out.”

“I’ve been practicing my whispering voice!”

I didn’t try to whisper that, so it’s okay I said it at a volume that made Luke wince.

“It’s still too loud,” he assured me. The car slowed down.

“You haven’t even heard it.”

“Still, I’m right, aren’t I?” he replied without taking his eyes off the road.

… My vocal chords just weren’t capable of whispering. Luke didn’t have to be so accurate. “Stupid Luke,” I grumbled.

“You said that out loud,” he pointed out.

“I’m aware, stupid Luke.”

“May be stupid Luke, but I’m your Genius.” Oh pet names, my only weakness besides all the other ones. Luke slowed the car and parked, giving me a grin.

I glared. “No, this is dangerous and wrong and hot, not sweet!

He shrugged. “Can’t help being sweet, just who I am.”

We got out of the car.

The plan was to go in, get the job done, and get out. Smash and grab. Well, no grabbing. We would save the grabbing for later, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. We’d just smash. Wait, that was dirty too, wasn’t it? Everything was dirty these days, what was wrong with people?

This might not have helped with the tough, ruthless thing I was trying to do, but Luke and I held hands while we worked our way through the darkness. I could try going it alone… I’d fall over a zillion times. Also, Luke’s hand in mine. I may be a criminal now, but I wasn’t gonna turn down a good thing.