Sneak peek at new gay romance

In romcom terms, Zach Ahmad is the playboy who never falls in love. Here he is living his best life at the start of Falling in Love (and Other Bad Ideas).

Zach

Some people thought there were no guarantees in life. Those people hadn’t met Macy Owens. As far as sure things went, her level equaled water being wet or my best friends saying moronic stuff. Simply put, the girl was easy. Did I seem too mean? Game respected game. And me? I was easy, breezy, beautiful—no, that was something else.  

While rejection seemed unlikely, I couldn’t go out looking average. If flirting and having fun were official sports, I would be a major leaguer. My professional pride prompted me to be at my best. Checking my reflection in the glass door of the restaurant I stood in front of, I spotted a handsome bastard. Me, of course. I also thought I saw this guy I used to hook up with working inside, but no, I was the pretty one.

We should take a moment to admire my soft, lovingly moisturized brown skin free of pores. Or my expertly styled dark hair, athletic body, and cunning smirk. And as a high school senior, I swaggered around like I ruled the world. Though to be fair, I did that even before this year. Dressed in tight jeans and a snug old baseball t-shirt, the total Zach package was, in a word, irresistible.

This rural town lacked an abundance of dining options, but this establishment was one of the mid-priced chain restaurants we did have called, I don’t know, Bland White People Restaurant. My company for the evening wanted to eat here before the fun part, so she selected this place. I agreed because she had a belly button ring and her parents weren’t home for the weekend.

I typically won contests of style, but Macy bested me in the fashionably late game we were apparently playing. The guy I used to hook up with, Brendan Carver, tended bar for the evening, so I went to speak to him. Recently 21, he took classes at a local community college, had insane upper body strength, and I probably couldn’t list anymore facts regarding him. Fortunately, I arrived in front of him at the bar.

“Want a drink?” he asked.

I grinned. “Oh forward, I like that in a man.”

He rolled his eyes. “I’m the bartender.”

“Another great quality,” I enthused in fine form. I could go from zero to flirty quicker than a snap of the fingers.

Crossing his arms, he wouldn’t play. “Knock it off.”

Pouting slightly, I told him, “I forgot you’re no fun.”

Brendan went back to work, which I expected. We hadn’t hooked up in a while. Several guys I used to fool around with were more careful when near me in public. It made sense as I came out while they were still in the closet. Sitting on a barstool, I could still enjoy the view in front of me. A view which was…. okay, mostly average. In looks and in that watching a guy slice lemons wasn’t exactly the highlight of my life.

The assembly line which produced Midwest farm boy types gave Brendan a no-nonsense set to his jawline along with plain brown hair and eyes. A boring picture suited to this boring town. Except for his muscles, which were glorious. His sturdy frame exuded strength from working on his family farm and wrestling all through high school. Hey, I knew more facts. Guess he got a second job here.

Brendan had never been much of a talker, and no temper went with his strength typically. However, if provoked in the right way, or if I asked very, very nicely, then things could get interesting. This one time—

“Stop it,” he ordered, feeling my stare.

Innocence wasn’t well suited to me, but I tried my best.  “I’m not doing anything.”

“Stop it,” he repeated.

“Is that any way to talk to a paying customer?” I scolded lightly.

“You haven’t ordered anything yet.”

Don’t mind if I do. “I’ll have a margarita on the rocks with a double shot of tequila.”

“Nice try.” Yes, I was 18, not 21, and— “We both know how you get with tequila in you.” Oh, well look who came out to play.

Eyes locking, focus narrowing, the atmosphere between us became positively smoldering. I smirked, body going loose and inviting. He did the opposite, crossing his arms as his face closed off. Yet his eyes radiated heat. If the bar weren’t in the way, one of us would be closing the distance between our bodies. Well, I wouldn’t let a little obstacle like that stop me. I reached out and—

“I told you to knock that off,” he spoke gruffly, side stepping my hand.

“You started it this time.”

“High school boys are so juvenile.”

“That’s not what you said when we—”

“I have another customer.” He left to bring a man at the other end of the bar his check. I watched Brendan’s green work shirt stretch taut over his big shoulders when Macy found me.

“Are we eating at the bar?” she asked as Brendan finished with his customer and came back our way.

“Nope.” I nodded over to him. “Just trying to sweettalk the barkeep here into parting with some of his finest or cheapest liquor, but he refuses.”

“I see. Maybe I could convince him?” She pushed her cleavage out towards him.

“Not a chance,” he answered without taking the bait.

“I’ll go get us a table,” she said to me and left.

“I see why you two get along,” Brendan noted.

I feigned offense. “If you’re implying that me or my lady friend are promiscuous—”

“I wouldn’t say anything of the sort about a nice girl I don’t even know.” He looked around before getting out a shot glass and filling it with tequila. “You though.” He slid the shot to me discreetly. “You’re a slut,” he said with a wink, his voice as dark and rich as the top shelf whiskey behind him.

“It pays off.” I down the drink quickly, feeling the heat of it in my throat, liquor seeming potent when coupled with his gaze. I took a breath, nodding to him and preparing to leave to go find my date.

“Hey, wait. Did you know I got accepted to Brown?”

“Mazel tov,” I responded, ignoring how the words felt somewhat unsettling on my tongue due to a complicated situation that had virtually nothing to do with me.

“Yep, so next week, I’m telling my parents I’m ga—” His eyes scanned our surroundings, afraid of being overheard. “Well, you know what I’m telling them.”

“I understand.” It would suck if someone overheard him here and outed him right before he planned on doing it himself.

“Anyway,” he spoke while bestowing me with the gift of another shot. “If you wanna get together after the big announcement? We could do something. You can help me celebrate if it goes well, or distract me if it doesn’t.”

This shot tasted even better than the first, head swimming pleasantly with liquor and ideas for our future encounter. I nodded my assent. “See you then.”

I went to join my date for the evening. I knew I was good, but setting up plans to hook up with one person while on a date with someone else?  Sometimes I even surprised myself. And these two people were both good times, and they weren’t looking for anything serious from me, exactly what I was looking for from them.

Basically, I was the best. My life was the best. Everything was incredible and not at all boring… okay. Occasionally, a stray thought about where I went from here entered my mind. How did one improve upon perfection?

Whatever. Life was good. And if I had to choose between life being good but boring or terrible but interesting, well. Luke once told me never to answer that question. It might be the only time he said something sensible enough to listen to.

-Order your copy here. The book comes out on Oct. 18

Stuff that totally won’t go wrong

Do fake relationships ever happen in real life? Maybe! I mean… probably not, right? My guess would be no, but I’m the one who asked you the question, so I don’t have to have the answers.

And I’m talking, like, romcom pretend boyfriends scenarios only, where a successful professional has to go to their exes wedding but can’t get a date for zany reasons and must pretend to be in love with their sworn enemy. Less bearding because the world is terrible and more Hallmark movie plot stuff where everybody falls in love at the end.

The fake boyfriends trope is used in One Little Word. Then there’s a fake girlfriend and a real boyfriend in One Little Lie. So naturally for One Little Problem, it was time to switch it up. Fake break ups! Is that a thing? In real life or in fiction? Whatever.

Okay, so Ryan wants to pretend to break up because the natural answer when your parents don’t approve of your significant other is ‘lie about it.’ I think I started that sentence with sarcastic intent, but actually, that is so the logical answer. Especially if you’re a teenager and in a romcom, which is a yes to both for Ryan.

Ryan’s boyfriend Luke isn’t as sure about this plan. So this is him debating.

~

Luke

On the way home from the game, the last light from the day disappeared while the bus carrying the team headed back to school. Zach and I had a spot in the back while Joey sat across from us, asleep and stretched over his whole seat.

I thought about sleeping too until Zach spoke. “Maybe Ryan isn’t as bulletproof as you are these days.”

Huh, where had that come from? “He’s been handling haters way more than I have.”

“And maybe that’s taken a toll,” he suggested.

“But—”

“Doesn’t have to seem like it has.” He gave me an important look, like he would know. Guess he would, him and Ryan were the same way. Pretending like nothing bothered them, both much better at it than me. I was only good at it when untested. But it didn’t seem like that with Ryan as much because he let his guard down around me a lot more than Zach did.

“Maybe he just wants to enjoy being with you or something lame like that,” Zach said with a frown like just the thought of it was too sappy for him. “This could be a way to do that.”

“You think pretending to break up is a good idea?”

Zach shrugged. “No opinion, really. Might be entertaining.” I rolled my eyes. He continued. “But you might be focusing on the wrong thing. The method is breaking up, but the point is being together with less hassle.”

“So then why didn’t we do that before?”

“Might not have been able to handle it.” He sneered a little like he couldn’t help it as he said, “You guys seem totally disgusting now.”

“Thanks.” I grinned, totally unashamed.

“And pretty stable. Just, I think he means well with this suggestion? Maybe consider it? Yeah, you don’t care what anyone else thinks. Your parents will come around or they won’t. Nothing can hurt you. Maybe because you’re on the baseball team and you have a bunch of friends or you have both your parents alive but just because Ryan talks a good game, maybe it’s not as easy for him.”

Guess that was possible. Maybe I felt confident and like nothing could stop me because this whole coming out thing had sucked so much and I still survived it, but Ryan had come out a while ago. No been outed. By me. He hadn’t been ready for it either. Super annoying that Zach might have a point but just because Ryan had been dealing with haters for a while that didn’t mean it was the same when the haters in question were our parents.

I might understand that pretty well. I’d never not had my parents in my corner. Until now. Maybe it was worse for Ryan, because it was only him and his dad. This could be a really stupid idea, no it probably was, but I guess I didn’t blame him. Not getting along with your parent or parents on something so big was rough and if a little lying could change that…

I sat in my room by myself after I got home, staring at my phone. Here I was, sitting here considering it. Hadn’t done anything else once since I got home. Wasn’t really a breakup, but the idea still made me nervous. We’d talked about this once before and Ryan was so against it then. But that was back when I didn’t know I was bi and we wanted my parents off my back because they didn’t know I was bi either and now we all knew. Knowledge was power. I’d heard that before, so it must be true.

There was a knock on the door. “Do I need to come in there?” Lydia asked.

Zach told her? “You don’t think it’s a terrible idea?”

“I think I’m not having this conversation with a closed door… even though its probably about as smart as you.” Lydia never missed a chance to take a shot at me, which meant that she didn’t think this was the most terrible idea in the world or she wouldn’t have hesitated to tell me so.

“Go away, Lydia.”

I took a long, deep breath and leaned back in my chair. Idly glancing around my room, I realized my mom had been in here. She did that sometimes to get my laundry, but no, it was still there in the corner. She had definitely been in here though or my dad had. Some of the posters I had on my wall were gone. The ones that were just a baseball player like Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. Come on, Manny Machado wasn’t even attractive! He had a certain charm, I guess, but he was no Bryce Harper.

…I didn’t even realize Harper was hot until right now, but yeah, I wanted that posted back. And also the one I had of Chris Evans as Captain America, which, huh. Maybe I always found him hot and just didn’t know it.

Alright, I had to do my own laundry now and maybe get a lock so my parents couldn’t come in and try to de-gay everything. Maybe getting my parents off my back would make things easier not just for me but Ryan too and he was the one who wanted to do it.

Ryan had, like, 90 million thoughts bouncing around his head at any given time, so while he’s super smart, sometimes he doesn’t verbalize everything into words I understand, but it’s okay, because I’m learning how to read him. I didn’t like thinking about Ryan leaving for the summer. He probably didn’t either. And we couldn’t do anything about that, but there was this other problem and he wanted to fix it. So then, the him leaving thing would still suck but maybe suck less because we would get to spend more time together before the sucking part happened.

…I should not have thought of it like that. I wanted the sucking part to happen but the good sucking part, not the bad sucking part—you know what? I’m just going to call Ryan.