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

Scenes from a WIP

For some reason ‘scenes’ sounds better even though this is really a scene from a work in a progress. The story this piece is from is currently called ‘Instalove.’ I don’t think much introduction is needed because this is from the beginning of the book. I suppose one helpful tidbit is that magic is real. Avery Ward is a normal guy from a magical family, and he is at lunch trying to focus on his upcoming plans and not on a cute boy.

~

Christian Reyes had a laugh that was music to my ears. Sitting what felt like an entire continent away from him, I could still swear I heard that laugh despite the noise and chatter in the cafeteria. I tried to keep my eyes planted firmly on my own table but would glance at him every few minutes anyway. Chris, because he said no one but his grandmother called him Christian, was hard to look away from.

I forced my focus to the discussion at hand. We were discussing me, after all.

No wonder I had trouble concentrating. That’s what my sister Stella would say. Gods, Avery, it’s like you try to be so boring and plain on purpose. My sister Stella was rude.

“Vote for Avery Ward, he’ll turn mystery meat into gold,” Jonah Harris said, staring at the dark colored sludge on his plate, pushing it around instead of eating it. I only sighed and offered him half of my sandwich. “We can add in a tiny disclaimer,” he added while happily taking the food. “Asterisk, Avery contracts out for magical feats.”

Yeah, because that was the part I had a problem with.

I didn’t have to veto the idea. Heather Redding did instead. “Okay, that doesn’t even make sense, Jonah.”

There were a bunch of us at the long, narrow table, my usual crowd, and someone who wasn’t involved in the discussion made a comment about how Jonah not making sense actually made a lot of sense because it was Jonah. Our foursome sat at the end of the table this time as we discussed my campaign for student council, something the rest of my friends weren’t a part of aside from when they would cast a vote for me.

“Who cares whether it makes sense?” Jonah argued. “The takeaway there is free gold.

I didn’t want to reject his idea, as some half-remembered thought about how all ideas were good ideas in brainstorming sessions rattled around in my mind. Even though this was a terrible idea, but my three closest friends were acting as free campaign staff, so I wanted to encourage them… I also wanted them to have better ideas.

“It still doesn’t solve the problem of what to eat for lunch,” Dae Park interjected quietly. …Was that what we were supposed to be talking about? Did I even have control over what we had for lunch as Student Council President? Probably not, but still, my big platform was, what, school lunch sucks?

…Maybe Stella had a point.

“People can buy lunch with the free gold,” Jonah argued to Dae, then turned to include us all. “Guys, how can you not get this?” He paused for effect before carrying on while making an emphatic gesture with his hand. “Free gold!”

This was not very helpful, but it was at least somewhat relevant to what we were trying to discuss, so I should jump in and get us back on track before Jonah really got carried away. My eyes drifted towards the center of the room instead, where the owner of the melodic laugh sat.

If this square-shaped room had its edges sanded away and was a world onto itself, which it pretty much was even without more circular dimensions, then the table Chris sat at was probably North America. Flashy, the biggest and best, and pretty great all things considered, but not exactly as great as many of the inhabitants thought. All the popular, pretty athletes sat at his table and he certainly fit among them.

Chris Reyes, however, lived up to the hype. He was the best of the best. The Latino Captain America, a shining example of how right genetics and personality can occasionally go. Chris wore a long-sleeved red shirt, one I don’t think I’d seen him in before. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to him, the reason I couldn’t help but stare at the way it hugged his shoulders. Or maybe someone had cast a spell and I was now part bull, drawn to the color against my will.

Maybe Chris Reyes was just super attractive.

I shouldn’t be watching him! My friends are being kind enough to dedicate their lunch break to talking about me and my extracurricular ambitions. If this school was a world, my table would be, I don’t know, somewhere in Europe probably, but not the whole continent. Or if it was a continent, maybe Australia. You knew it existed and was a neat enough place, maybe even somewhere to visit, but it wasn’t the center of attention.

Heather nudged me and drew me out of my impromptu geography class. “Please talk some sense into him before he gets too carried away with this.” She nodded her head at Jonah.

“Wait, wait, are unicorns a thing?” Jonah asked, getting carried away. “We should totally bring in some unicorns.” He saw our expressions. “Okay, right, one thing at a time.” He nodded decisively. “Free gold.”

“Alchemy is a specific kind of magic and isn’t really allowed,” I informed him. I kept my explanation short as I bit into a cherry tomato from my salad. I didn’t always have salad for lunch, except for when my family’s garden in our backyard yielded fresh produce. The tomatoes, cucumber, and spinach leaves in my salad seemed especially delicious. Maybe because of the labor put into making the vegetables grow, or possibly because of the spell cast for a bountiful harvest. I guess Stella had her uses.

No one questioned my statement about alchemy, which was good because I had nothing to follow it up with. They trusted my statement since I was the only one that came from a magical family, and what I said might even be true. People making free gold would be disastrous for the world economy or something. My parents would know more, but I wasn’t going to ask them and find out. I didn’t have powers, so I didn’t have to worry about the rules governing them.

Jonah frowned down at his food. “You could at least tell me when lunch is gonna suck.” If I did possess any latent mystical abilities, my biggest skill was an innate knowledge of what quality the cafeteria food would be on a given day.

“You could just get the printout and see for yourself,” Heather said with all the sass she could muster. It was a lot of sass. Yeah, anyone could also judge the cafeteria menu themselves by getting a menu, so it wasn’t a very useful talent.

Heather and Jonah got off topic snarking at each other in their usual fashion, so I was free to tune out after sharing the standard, commiserating glance of ‘why are we the only sane ones’ or ‘why are friends with them’ with Dae; I couldn’t figure out which one it was as my attention was happily pulled away, back towards Chris Reyes.

Physically, the tall athlete had broad shoulders and caramel skin with a trim midsection and very lickable abs, which I knew from experience. His shoulders hinted that he played football, but that was just a coincidence, since soccer was his game and he happened to serve as a kicker for the football team. All this meant his legs were phenomenal. His long, lithe legs and muscular thighs were all the proof anyone needed that God or Magic or whatever was real.

One Little Lie

I’m hard at work on One Little Lie, the sequel to One Little Word. My writing process isn’t very glamorous, it’s just a lot of flailing internally, telling myself to write faster, and curling into a ball and crying because I really hate editing.

I’ll be sending out early copies to beta readers who want to provide feedback, and you can sign up for that here. I’m sending out the beta copies in August even if that means emailing them at 11:59 pm on Aug. 31. I  also hope to post a preview soon on Amazon.

For now, I’ll just post the beginning of One Little Lie.

~~~

“Hey, gay boy!” The taunt came as I walked briskly through the school doors. What a way to start the day. Small town bullies had so few targets when almost everyone in our farming community was the same, so the out gay kid known as me was a perfect choice.

Rural Lake Forest (which had neither lake nor forest) was a small city that unfortunately for me felt like a small town. But I didn’t have time to cater to this moron heckling me today. “Hi there, repressed jock,” I replied breezily while attempting to stroll past him.

“Where are you rushing off to, princess?” the bully asked with a sneer, stepping in front of me.

I smiled thinly. “You should really be careful about what you say. You never know who might overhear.” And there’s no way I was pretending to date this guy. You might wonder if that was even an option. You’d be surprised. But that was a story another day.

He scoffed. “I don’t need life lessons from a fairy.”

Being negative so early in the morning would surely earn him bad karma, but it wasn’t my job to stick around and teach him to be a better person. Was that uncharitable? Did my unwillingness to be kind even to those who were mean to me ensure that I would have bad karma too?

Screw it, it was too early for karma.

I resumed walking and the guy jumped out of my way so that he wouldn’t have to get up close and personal with the queer kid. Also because I had two coffees in my hand and he didn’t want to wear them. As I passed him, he said, “We weren’t done yet.” The jerk actually sounded a little sad; he was probably happy to catch me alone.

Now that I hung around with the captain of the baseball team, Luke Chambers, there was less bullying. Reduced bullying and fewer hostile stares meant more me time, which was great since me is my favorite person in the world. Though Luke was quickly gaining ground.

“Sorry,” I apologized quickly, pausing for a moment against my better judgement. My boyfriend Luke was turning me into a softie as I almost felt bad for ruining this asshole’s fun. Remaining cynical and jaded by the world when dating such a dreamboat was a challenge. Oh god, did I use dreamboat in my inner monologue? I’ve been corrupted.

The bully snorted. “Whatever, fag.” Yep, no reason to feel bad.

“That’s the spirit,” I said and tried to go on my merry way.

“You aren’t even going to play along?” he asked with a frown. “You used to.”

True but that was a defense mechanism as I used my words to fluster bullies and then run away. I didn’t have an overwhelming amount of strength. I worked on our family farm, sure, but my diet consisted mainly of sarcasm and root beer and I spent my free time in my favorite science teacher’s classroom.

I told the jock, “I have more important things to do now.”

“Like being queer?” he smirked and held up a hand for someone to high five him for his verbal genius before realizing his friends weren’t around.

“Is everything okay here?” The words were said by a sharp voice. After the quick click of heels, the owner of said voice, the aptly named Mrs. Sharp, was standing next to us and viewing us with keen eyes. She came by too late to hear anything, that was how it usually went, but she made an educated guess that we weren’t best buds.

The stature of this teacher in her early 30’s wasn’t intimidating, but her no-nonsense attitude, cold stare, and hair always pulled tightly into a severe bun made her the instructor that students never dared challenge.

The wannabe bully made a quick getaway and I wanted to follow, but Mrs. Sharp stopped me with her soul sucking gaze and I stood frozen while contemplating the best way to lie to this teacher who could snap me in half with just the powers of her mind.

What a way to start the day.