Flash Fic Friday–Jack and Ryan

Worth It is out on Sunday…but here’s a taste of Jack and Ryan.  This takes place about five years before Worth It.

I was not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination.  I loathed the idea of getting out of bed on a regular day.  And the thought of hauling my ass up before dawn on Black Friday made my skin crawl.  But I had no trouble bouncing out of bed at five o’clock that morning.  Because I was going to see Jack.

I hadn’t seen him in days.  Life on a Christmas tree farm was always busy, but this time of year meant for extra long days.  The past couple of weeks had been so hectic for my boyfriend that he’d barely had time for me.  I didn’t blame him for that.  And he’d always made a point to call me at the end of the day, even if it was just to tell me he loved me and that he missed me.  But now that the Christmas season had “officially” started, things would die down a little.  I knew he’d still be busy but all the preparations that had been taking up so much of his time were complete.

Jack’s family owned a Christmas tree farm.  The best one in the area.  People drove great distances just to get a Bennett Family tree.  They were of the highest quality and people knew they wouldn’t be disappointed if they bought their tree from Bennett’s.  Plus, it was the only place in a thirty mile radius where people could choose and cut their own trees.

I had worked for them this past summer.  Picking the pine cones off the trees that would be ready to sell this season was painstaking work and most of it had to be done by hand.  That was how Jack and I met.  His father had hired me and I’d been working for two days before I saw Jack for the first time.  I’d been up on a ladder, grabbing cones off of a eight-foot Douglas fir and he’d walked up to check on me.  Staring down at his gorgeous face, I was lost.  In that moment, I wanted him more than I’d ever wanted anything in my nineteen years.  And the lust that burned in his hazel eyes left me no doubt that he wanted me back.  Of course, he’d been reluctant at first.  Montana wasn’t exactly the most gay-friendly place.  The age difference had made him hesitant too—he was eight and half years older than I was—but I wouldn’t take no for an answer.  He liked to think he’d put up a fight, but really, it hadn’t taken me long to convince him that I was serious.  The past five months had been some of the best of my life.  Not counting the last five day when I hadn’t laid eyes on him and had barely heard his voice.

That would change today because Jack’s dad had hired me back for the next month.  I knew we would both be busy—helping people choose their trees, cut them down, cart them back, tie them to the tops of cars and hefting them into the back of pick-ups.  But we’d be in the same vicinity and he’d promised we’d be able to steal a few minutes alone.

I didn’t actually have to be at the farm until seven-thirty, but I arrived at six, hoping that we’d be able to start some of that alone time early.  The shop was already bustling with activity.  The farm didn’t officially open for business until eight—Jack had said it was so that those who wanted to get to the stores and take advantage of the Black Friday deals would have some time to do so. But all the employees were there, making sure everything was ready, that the tractors were gassed and the saws were in the wagons,  and putting on the finishing touches on the decorations in the gift shop and outside.  I spotted Jack’s sister Kate behind the counter and made a beeline for her.

She squealed when she saw me and gave me a tight hug when I was close enough.  Jack’s family loved me and was very accepting of our relationship.  Mine wasn’t so much.  When I’d cautiously broached the subject of spending part of Thanksgiving with Jack’s family, my mother had started to cry.  Both Jack and I decided that we could spend the holiday apart this year.  Keeping the peace was more important than making a statement right now.

“Ryan!  Missed you yesterday,” she said quietly as she let me go with a kiss to my cheek.  “Jack was mopey.  I wanted to smack him.”

I grinned.  I loved the idea that Jack had missed me.  He’d told me as much when we talked last night but it did my ego good to know it had shown.

“Where is he?” I asked, knowing my anxiousness was showing.

She smiled.  “Clearing the bigger trails.  We got enough snow yesterday that it needed to be done.  He’ll be back in a few minutes. Make yourself useful until he arrives.  Up the ladder with you!”

She pointed behind her where a twelve foot ladder was standing then held up the garland she’d just finished.  She had a knack for making them beautiful.  Bennett’s used boughs cut from their own trees to make them.  She’d wound twinkle lights on this one as well as red velvet ribbon and pinecones.  It was about eight feet long and gorgeous.  I gave her the appreciation it deserved, positioned the ladder and climbed up.  It took a few minutes, and I had to reposition the ladder three times, but we got it hung up.  With a flourish, I plugged in the lights to a socket hidden high on the wall.  She stepped back to admire it and made me adjust one of the hooks so it hung straighter.  I stayed up on the ladder until she was satisfied.

“We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” a deep voice murmured below me.  My heart started pounding as warmth and joy filled my chest.  Jack.  I looked down and grinned.  God, he was just gorgeous.  Even with his hair sticking out from beneath the knitted cap and his cheeks flushed red from the cold.  I wanted to devour him.

I climbed down quickly and as soon as I was in reach, he grabbed my waist and pulled me off the ladder.  I tumbled into his arms.  He was bigger than me—both in height and in breadth and I loved it when he manhandled me.  He knew it too.  His lips were on mine before I could formulate a greeting, pressing me back until my back hit the wall.  I let him have his way, kissing him back.  His lips were cold but his mouth was so warm.  I was pretty sure I whimpered a little.  But that just revved him up further, and he ground his groin into mine.  I hitched a leg over his hip, wanting him closer.

“Jackson!” his dad’s voice shouted and Jack broke off the kiss.  He didn’t let me go though, just turned his head so we could both see his dad standing behind us.  He was a big man like Jack and I knew the scowl he had on his face was just pretend.

“Yes?” Jack asked, mockingly innocent.  He pressed his hips just a little closer to mine.  I bit my lip to keep the sound from escaping.

His dad gave an indulgent smile.  “I know you’ve missed Ryan, but there will be plenty of time for all that later.  There’s too much to do right now.  Kiss him again and then get back to work.”

“Dad said I have to kiss you again.”

“Uh huh,” I murmured as his lips descended.  I was pretty sure Mr. Bennett didn’t mean he should keep making out with me up against the back wall but I wasn’t about to protest.  I melted into his body and kissed him back with all the love that I felt.

Eventually, Jack’s better sense prevailed and he broke off the kiss.  He nuzzled his nose and lips along my jaw and I tilted my head to give him better access.  When he reached my ear, he placed a soft kiss to the hollow below it and then licked my earlobe.

“Christ, I’ve missed you, baby.  I know it’s only been a few days but it feels like forever.  Can’t wait to get you alone,” he punctuated the statement with a thrust of his hips that let me know exactly what he had in mind.  I moaned and distantly, I heard Kate giggle.  That seemed to break the mood and Jack reluctantly pulled back.

“That girl has an unnatural fascination with my love life,” he muttered, pressing one last quick kiss to my lips.  “Later.  I promise.  Later we’ll have some time just to ourselves.  I’m going to make you come so hard.”

I sucked in a breath.  My own hand hadn’t been much of a relief the past few days.  Never was now that I had Jack in my life. “Yes, please.”

He grinned and then gave me a playful smack on the ass, finally stepping away completely.  “You’ll probably be working in here with Kate because she adores you and wants the company.  But as soon as I can get away, I’ll steal you.”

I nodded fast.  That sounded good to me.  Jack’s sister was fun and only a year older than I was.  I enjoyed spending time with her.  But I couldn’t wait until I could finally have Jack to myself.

He reached out and cupped my face with one big hand, his thumb gently smoothing over my bottom lip.  His eyes were soft and tender when he smiled.  “I love you.”

My heart started beating double time, just as it always did when he said those words.  It was still kind of a new thing.  He’d fought tooth and nail to keep from falling in love with me.  I was headed for college in the future but we had plenty of time.  It wouldn’t be until next fall at the earliest.  If I even got off the wait-list.  That was still up in the air and I tried not think about it too much.

“I love you,” I responded, meaning it with every fiber of my being.  I loved the way he always sucked in a breath and grinned when I said it.  My Jack was a big romantic sap at heart.  He had a tough exterior but a gooey, marshmallow center.  He leaned in for one more kiss but I pushed him away when his dad yelled again.  He grinned a little sheepishly and turned away, striding out of the shop.

I watched him go, my heart just swelling with love and pride.  That was my man.  And if I had anything to say about it, he’d be mine forever.  I took a deep breath and settled down before turning to Kate.  She was wearing a big, dopey smile and I rolled my eyes.

With a clap of my hands, I said, “Okay, what do you want me to do?” And fervently hoped that whatever it was would keep me occupied until Jack returned.

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A Few Words

It seems that the way to mitigate the nerves is to work on new stuff.  At least, that’s what’s currently working for me.  Sunday will be here when it gets here–I have yet to develop the power to speed up time, though I assure you, I’ve been working on it–and there’s nothing I can do to change that.  In the meantime, I’m plotting out a new story.  Except, the thing is, I can’t figure out if it’s one big story…or two short ones.  There are times when it seems like two different tales.  And there are times when they kind of converge and mingle together, the story lines intertwined and the characters becoming the same people.  And before I can get anything on the page, I need to figure that out.

I’m also plotting the next book in the series, that will follow Postcards.  At the moment, I have three different sets of MCs and their stories. I like series.  I think in series.  I have no idea if it will actually work out, not at this point.  But I have the boys and they are talking.  I just have to see if they have stories worth telling.   

And I’m dithering over editing Postcards.  I’ve barely read past the first couple of chapters and have only made a few small changes and fixes thus far.  I’m not sure what has me so nervous about reading it through.  Except, of course, I’m afraid of it sucking.  And afraid that if it does suck, I won’t be able to fix it. I need to just section off some time and read it through.  And then I’ll know.

Worth It is out on Sunday, December 1st.  Tune in here on Friday November 29th for a glimpse into the lives of the main characters, Jack and Ryan, before Worth It takes place.  And keep tuning in for Flash Fic Fridays to see what happens next!

Enjoy the holiday, for those who celebrate it.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Happy Hanukkah!

Nerves

I was nervous when I first submitted Worth It for consideration.

I was nervous while waiting to hear whether or not it would be accepted.

I was nervous after I knew it had been accepted and I was waiting for edits.

I was nervous doing the edits.

I was nervous during all the little extra bits that go along with being a first time author.

This whole process has been nerve wracking.  Incredibly exciting.  A dream come true.  But nerve wracking.

But nothing compares to this last stretch waiting for the story to be released.  Just six more days and my first published story will be out there.  I wonder if other authors have experienced this same thing with the first time their stories were about to be out there in the world.  I wonder if this feeling will ever go away.  I’m constantly bouncing back and forth between sheer, overwhelming excitement and unmitigated, unadulterated terror.

Six days, and it’ll be available for public consumption.  I’m terribly nervous.  I do hope a few people like it.

Flash Fic Friday

I had been in a meeting all morning so I hadn’t been able to check the text when my phone vibrated in my pocket.  Finally free, I pulled my phone out and thumbed in the password while I walked back to my desk.  I saw it was from my boyfriend and smiled.  Until I actually read the text.

I learned today that I like girls.

What?  That didn’t make any kind of sense.  He was  as gay as I was and had known it since he was seven years old.  I smirked, thinking it was some kind of joke.

Really? I sent back.  A couple of minutes passed before I got the response.

Mhmm.

Still assuming he was yanking my chain, or that he would have a funny story to follow, I played along.  Is that so?  You got anyone in mind?

He didn’t respond.  For the next two hours, I obsessively checked my phone, waiting for him to write back.  The longer it went on, him not responding, the more I started to freak out.  Had he been serious?    Had he actually discovered that he liked girls?  Was he trying to tell me that he didn’t want to be with me anymore?  I started to get angry.  If that was the case, it was a shit thing to tell me over text.  I thought we were closer than that!  Sure, we’d only been dating for nine months, but the last six we’d been exclusive.  I thought we were building something special together.  And now he was just throwing that away by telling me he liked girls over text message?!  I was all I could do not to call him and demand answers right that second!

I nearly had a heart attack when my phone finally vibrated again.  I snatched it up.

What?

What what? I wrote back.  I hoped he could tell I was seething with anger just by my words.

Do I have anyone in mind for what?

The snort that escaped was not amused.  For the girl you like.

There were just a few seconds of silence before a new message popped up.  I like girls???!!!???!!!

Wha?  He seemed genuinely surprised by that, if the excessive punctuation was anything to go by.  I scrolled back up through the messages until I got to the first one he sent.  My face turned red and I started laughing as quietly as possible when I read what he had actually wrote.

Ha!  You said grits!  Not girls!

The phone started ringing in my hand.  I turned my back to the rest of the office so that I could answer it.  It all seemed incredibly funny now that I knew I had read the word wrong.

“You seriously thought I suddenly started liking girls?” he growled.  I couldn’t contain my grin.

“I’m sorry.  I guess I forgot how to read.  This whole time–grits, not girls!” The laughter started bubbling up again and I pressed my knuckles to my mouth to keep it inside.  Some of my coworkers were on the phone with customers and it wouldn’t do for them to have to explain why there was suddenly hysterical laughter ringing through the office.

He gave a heavy sigh.  “And knowing you, you were all kinds of pissed off, thinking I made some huge revelation over text.”

He was right, of course.  But I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that.  “Hey!  This was a big revelation.  Grits!  You like grits!”

“Christian,” he said, his tone full of warning.  I barely contained the whimper.   I loved it when he got firm and growly.  It never failed to get me hot and bothered.  I wiggled in my seat a little and started  going over the projection reports in my head to get things to go down.  It wouldn’t do to sport a hard-on at work.

“Yes, sir?” My voice was a little breathy.  It couldn’t be helped.

His answering chuckle was downright seductive.  I rolled my chair forward until my lap was hidden under the edge of my desk and spread my knees to give myself a little room.  I really needed to hang up the phone and go back to the reports.  There was nothing sexy about spreadsheets.

“When I get to your place tonight, I’ll show you just how much I don’t like girls,” he promised.  He knew exactly what he was doing and he was making it worse on purpose.  I really did whimper then.  He gave another low, delicious laugh and hung up.  I thunked my head down on the desk and breathed through my nose, trying to calming my raging libido.  Once I had myself back under control, I sat up again and smirked before I sent one last text.

I’ll make sure to have grits.

Postcards and That Other Thing

I got brave last night and actually opened up Postcards.  I haven’t looked at it since I put the last punctuation mark on the page nine days ago.  It’s…not bad.

I’m actually sort of cringing about the amount of work that needs to be done on it.  I definitely think I can clean it up and make it ready for a test run with my betas.  I’m just not sure how long that’s going to take.  The good news is that it has good bones.  It’s a solid story underneath.  I just need to finesse it a bit.  Okay, a lot.  But there are parts that made me grin, parts that I liked a lot, and then some parts that made me wrinkle my nose.  I didn’t do much fixing yet, mostly just seeing what needed to get done.  It’ll be quiet a task, that’s for sure.

In the meantime, I saw an open submission call that really piqued my interest.  The dead line is only two months away though.  I’m going to try and see if I can get the plot bunny on the page and develop it into a real story.  There’s a lot going on in my life right now though, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to get it ready in time.  It might be a fun exercise anyway, though.  Even if I don’t get it done in time, that doesn’t mean the story doesn’t need to be told, you know?  When there’s a lot going on in my head, sometimes I need to get things out on the page to make room for other stuff.  Then, either the story develops into a whole tale…or it dies a dignified death.  Neither thing is bad.  And the good thing about this plot bunny is it would take place in the Highlands of Scotland.  And I’m very, very lucky to have me an inside source.  If I got anything wrong, she’d tell me flat out how to fix it.  So at least I know the details would be accurate. 🙂

At any rate, I’m still writing and editing and fixing.  And  it still feels very good.  And with my first release on the horizon, I’m giddy with anticipation and excited to keep all the good feelings going.  I write because I must.  But I also love the hell out of it.  Even when I’m frustrated beyond belief.

Covers and Edits

Heartwarming_postcard_front_DSPPaul Richmond is a bit of a genius, isn’t he?  I think it’s sweet, and rather perfect for the anthology as a whole.  That’s the cover of Heartwarming.  Release is just two weeks away, people.  13 days actually.  If you’ve already bought the whole anthology, then the first one will arrive in your inbox on Sunday, December 1st.  If you just want to buy individual titles, they’ll all be available for purchase on that day as well.  It’s a fantastic mix of stories.  You can purchase the whole thing here.

WorthIt_FBThumbHere’s the blurb for Worth It:

Jackson Bennett and Ryan Hennigan met and fell in love while Ryan worked on Jack’s family’s Christmas tree farm. Back then, Jack broke his own heart by convincing Ryan to leave and pursue his future. Ryan went, but only after they made a pact to reunite after Ryan graduated from college. Now, five years later, it’s time, but Jack is convinced Ryan won’t show—and when he does, Jack is certain Ryan can’t possibly want to stay. Ryan, however, has no intention of being anywhere other than in Jack’s arms. But he faces a hurdle he never expected: proving to Jack they can have each other without having to sacrifice their dreams.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

In other news, I received the first edit on my next release.  It’s always a bit of a nerve wracking experience.  Now, this is only my second time on the merry-go-round, and I like to think I learned a little from my first trip.  So that part’s a bit easier.  But even though it makes me nervous, I also sort of love it.  Seeing the changes needing to be made and really thinking about what the story is, making it say exactly what I want it to say to convey the story as it should be, is kind of an awesome process.  I’m working on it now and hopefully will be done tonight.

In another couple of days, I’ll be taking another stab at my WIP, tentatively titled Postcards.  That one is going to be a big mess to sort out.  But I like to think I’m up to the challenge.  I hope anyway.  At the very least, it’s another step on my journey to becoming a better writer.  I certainly want to keep improving.  It’s the only way I’ll be able to share the stories in my head with the world.

Flash Fic Friday

I was totally stalking him.

I knew it and I knew it was wrong.  But I couldn’t seem to help myself.  And really, I could blame him entirely.  He was the one that had the same exact routine every work day and made it so easy for me to happen to be at the same places he was.  And he was just gorgeous, with thick dark hair and light blue eyes.  He always wore a suit and it wasn’t off the rack either.  It had been tailored to fit his tall and broad frame.  He made my mouth water but I was still trying to get up the courage to talk to him.

Every morning, he walked into the coffee shop on the corner between 7:15 and 7:21.  He walked to the counter, ordered a large black coffee and a blueberry muffin, and then sat at one of the tables in the corner by the window to eat the muffin and answer emails on his phone.  It was by complete chance that I happened to be in line behind him one morning and the overly friendly barista had told me with a conspiratorial wink that he ordered the same thing every day.  I made sure I was there the next morning to witness it myself.  And then I made a point to be there and sitting at a nearby table every morning for the past three months.

It wasn’t so odd that we happened to have our breakfast at the same café every morning.  Downtown wasn’t exactly lousy with these kinds of shops, at least not so close to the courthouse.  This one was pretty much it and they did a swift business.  So I was comfortable that my stalking went unnoticed.  At least in the mornings.

Lunchtime was a bit more obvious.  He always went to the sub shop on the ground floor of the courthouse.  Again, it was coincidence that I did too.  When I had seen him there a handful of times over a couple of weeks, I asked Jerry, who worked the counter, if the guy came in a lot.  Jerry had rolled his eyes as he answered, “Yes, every damn day.  Always gets the same sandwich too.”  So I started eating there everyday as well.

It had been going on for a couple of months before I realized that the man, whom I thought had been oblivious, had actually been paying attention.  For two days in a row, when he walked into the coffee shop and then the sub shop later that afternoon, he purposefully looked for me.  And when his eyes landed on me, he gave a satisfied little smirk before he went on with his business and ignored me.  But those few seconds that our eyes were connected made my heart flutter.  Of course, I’d been the idiot that had been following him around on purpose.  I was sure he thought me some kind of freak.

The next day, I skipped the coffee shop entirely.  I told myself that I had to let my quirky little obsession go, that it wasn’t cool to be stalking him like I was.  And then I purposely went to the sub shop an hour later than my regular time so I would miss him.  I’d grown accustomed to eating the delicious sandwich everyday.  I fully intended to buy my sub and then going back to my desk to eat it.

But Jerry pulled out his phone and sent a few texts before he even took my order.  Then he took a really long time putting together my sandwich.  I knew he was doing it on purpose—I’d watched him throw together one of his masterpieces in seconds—but I couldn’t figure out why.  And then I felt a tap on my shoulder that made me jump.  I whipped around and came face to face with the guy I’d been stalking for months.

He gave me a smile. “Missed you at breakfast this morning.”

I gasped.  Opened my mouth.  Shut it again.  I had no idea what to say.  It didn’t seem to matter that I’d suddenly been struck mute because he kept talking.

“I thought you were just running late, even though you hadn’t missed a breakfast in three months.  But when you didn’t show up to lunch either, I started to worry.  Only Jerry told me he saw you walking through the lobby this morning.  So he promised to let me know if you showed up.”

I blushed.  I could feel my entire face and neck heat up.  I tried to duck my head, turn away, something, but he caught my arm and when I turned back to look at him his smile was gentle.

“My name is Seth, by the way.”

“Luke,” I managed, finally getting my tongue unstuck from the roof of my mouth.  “I’m Luke.”

“Luke,” he repeated.  Then his grin became blinding and I was sure that if I hadn’t been leaning against the counter, my knees would have stopped supporting me.  “It’s nice to finally know the name of  my stalker.”

“I’m sorry,” I stammered out.  “I shouldn’t have been—“

He cut me off with a quick dismissive motion of his hand.  “I’m flattered, actually.  For a while I thought it was just coincidence.  Then, when I realized it wasn’t, I was waiting for you to introduce yourself.  Today, I realized I’d have to take matters into my own hands.”  Seth took a step closer so that we were almost touching.  “How about you let me buy you lunch and then we can discuss where we’ll go to dinner?”

“I’ve been stalking you,” I blurted.  The blush on my cheeks intensified.  My next words were mumbled, “Why would you want to have lunch or dinner with me?”

God, I loved his smile.  He gave a little shrug.  “You were subtle.  You weren’t creepy.  And I admire your dedication.  I’d like to get to know you.  See if the attraction goes beyond just the physical.”

I felt the smile spread across my face.  I nodded.  Who knew my stalking would pay off?