Flash Fic Friday

**When I got this week’s challenge, I was convinced the Admiral was stepping up the game.  This one was a tough one to piece together, and not at all easy to write.  For a fire, an obligation, and a childhood friend, here’s what I wrote.  Enjoy!**

My childhood home was nothing but a burned out ruin.  I’d been back in town for three days, and I told myself I hadn’t been by because I’d been dealing with everything that needed taking care of.  But it was a lie.  I hadn’t been by because I didn’t want to be standing on the winter brown grass, staring at the wreckage, and feeling nothing but relief.  Which was exactly what was happening, and I felt guilty as all hell for it.

I’d been seventeen and a newly minted high school graduate when I made my escape.  Packed up everything I cared about and drove clear across the country to get away from the physical abuse and language.  It was a wonder I even made it to the end of high school.  Far too many kids in my situation never did.  But my will was stronger than the people I had to call parents, and I got the fuck out of dodge with a high school diploma and the promise of higher education.  I’d never looked back.  Not once in fifteen years.  Until this fire that had destroyed the house I grew up in and had taken my mother’s life.

The funeral had been yesterday, and poorly attended.  But at least she was finally at rest.  She had never actively taken part in the beatings or the demeaning language, she’d been as much abused as I had, but she’d never put a stop to it either.  She never bundled me up and took me out of that situation.  And when my father had suddenly died my sophomore year in high school, she had started drinking.  She continued to ignore me and drank herself into a stupor every day, and that hadn’t been any better.

I wouldn’t have come at all except for the fact that I had to.  I was here only because I was unable to sort through some of the necessities from the other side of the country.  Because no matter what had happened in this house, no matter the way I’d grown up, it was still my responsibility and my obligation to handle the fall out.

And I would have avoided showing up at this spot except for the fact that the lawyer said I needed to meet the fire marshal.  Apparently he had some questions that only I could answer before he finished his investigation.  I didn’t know how I’d be able to answer them, but I was willing to do anything I had to in order to get business finished so I could go back home.

I heard a car door slam shut behind me but I didn’t turn.  Boots crunching on the gravel driveway, and then the sound changing to the thud of feet on grass, was the only indication he was coming nearer.  I took a deep breath as I heard him approach, steeled myself, and then turned.

And looked right into the eyes of my best friend from elementary school.

For all the years that had passed, there was no mistaking that face.  Angel Rivera might have grown up, but I knew without a doubt who he was.  And he was even more beautiful as man than he’d been as a ten year old boy.  Back then, he’d been the reason that I realized I liked boys, and I’d actually been grateful when middle school had caused us to drift a part.  Now as a tall, broad shouldered, and heavily muscled man, if I’d met him in a club, I would have dropped to my knees.

“Connor,” he said by way of greeting, his voice little more than a rumble.  He reached out a hand and I shook it, willing myself not to react in any way.

“I’m sorry for your loss.”  He sounded like he meant it.

“Thanks,” I responded quietly because it was what I was supposed to say.  We stood there for an awkward moment.  He looked good in his uniform, and I wasn’t actually all that surprised to see him.  He had always said he wanted to be a firefighter.  I shuffled my feet, and then cleared my throat.  “I’m not sure that I can be of any help to you.  I haven’t set foot inside that house in more than fifteen years.”

“I know,” he responded with a nod.  His gaze was fixed on me, and I did my best to hold it.  Was that a blush staining his cheeks, or just the glow from the setting sun?  “I, um, mostly just wanted to check on you.”

I was stunned into silence for a moment.  I dropped my gaze to the ground.  “So, it’s not about the fire investigation?”

I heard him blow out a breath.  “It’s a pretty open and shut case, actually.  Faulty wiring, an overloaded socket, and uh—” He cut himself off and my gaze jerked to his face.  I knew I saw embarrassment there, and he gave a sort of shrug.  He took a breath before soldiering on.  “And a lot of alcohol caused the fire to catch and burn quickly.  By the time anyone realized the house was on fire, it was fully engulfed.”

I nodded because the news didn’t surprise me at all.  “Did she suffer?”

I blinked, surprised at myself.  It wasn’t a question I’d thought to ask anyone before now, just accepting the news and trying to deal with everything.  But suddenly, hearing how the whole thing happened, I wanted to know.

Angel’s brown eyes softened.  “No.  She was asleep and the smoke got to her before the fire did.”

I nodded again.  He was being polite.  What he meant was that she was passed out drunk and she’s suffocated first.  Still, I found myself relieved to hear it.  For all her faults, I didn’t want her to burn to death.

We were quiet for a long moment.  Then Angel reached out with one hand to squeeze my shoulder, and his voice was soft and filled with apology when he said, “I didn’t realize what was happening to you, back then.  If I’d known…” he trailed off, and then looked me in the eye.  “Well, I don’t know what I would have done, but I would have tried to help.”

“Thanks,” I said sincerely.  The truth was he hadn’t known because I hadn’t let on.  I was good at hiding the physical bruises, and the times I was with him, I’d been happy.  The emotional stress was the last thing on my mind.

“What are you going to do now?” he asked.

I shook my head.  “Sell the land, I guess.  Put this last piece of my past to rest and go back home.”

He looked at me with an expression I couldn’t quite decipher.  “Or you can build a new house here, and replace all the bad with something good of your own making.”

I gaped because I had no idea what to do with that.

His laugh was gentle, and his smile bright.  “Come on, let’s go grab something to eat.  You can fill me in on what you’ve been doing with your life.”

“Angel—” I began, but he cut me off by taking my hand and giving a little tug.

“Come on, Connor.  Let’s start making some good memories.”

Suddenly, that sounded like exactly what I wanted to do.  And there was no one else on this planet I wanted to do it with.

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Special Flash Fic

**Today, in honor of my sister’s birthday, a special fic just for her.  Happy Birthday Sis!  May it be filled with awesome!**

I was running so unbelievably late.  Anxiety was making my motions clumsy, but I still rushed.  I should have been at the rink ten minutes ago, but if I was very lucky, and the traffic gods were with me, I’d still make it before the puck dropped.

Cellphone in my pocket, keys in my hand, I rushed toward the door, and only remembered at the last minute to grab the green and white jersey hanging by the door.  I was still tugging it over my head as I ran to the car.

I made it to the rink with only seconds to spare and I was never happier that I was such a fixture around the place that the security guards knew me.  John caught my attention as I waited in line, and he waved me through, letting me go through the wheelchair access gate.  I ignored the disgruntled shout from the few people still waiting to get through the gate and to their seats.

“Thanks, man,” I said fervently as I sidled by him.

“Anytime, Greg.  You know that.”  John gave a tip of his imaginary hat and I waved my thanks.

The Waitford Terrapins were a semi-professional hockey team, but they had a loyal fan base.  Most of the seats were filled.  I ran.  I had a permanent place right behind the team bench, and I’m sure Declan was already pissed that he hadn’t seen me there when the team had come out of the locker room.  Fortunately, I was welcomed on the “wives bench” even though Declan and I weren’t married and I was definitely not a woman.  Declan was the captain and the star and he didn’t take shit from anyone.  When he came out, he didn’t get much backlash.  It might have been different if he were playing in the pros, but here, it was something he could weather.

My ass hit the seat about three seconds before the puck dropped.

Declan was on fire today.  Not a single puck got by him, and by the end of the second period, the Terrapins had scored four times.  The opposing team’s coach was pissed.  My attention was drawn to his screaming even though I couldn’t make out the words.  Our boys had this in the bag if Declan kept up this frantic pace.  He was an outstanding goalie to begin with, but the Knights were the Terrapins biggest rivals and the competition between them was usually closer.  I couldn’t remember the last time this had happened.

“Your boy is in a mood today,” a soft voice murmured directly into my ear.  I turned to Alli with a grin.  Her husband was the center, and one of the team’s top scorers.  Three of those goals had been Brian’s.

“So is yours.”

She laughed, a deep rich sound, and shook her head.  “Not the same thing at all.  Brian’s mood is good.  What did you do to Declan? Or not do, I should ask.”  The last was said with a suggestive eyebrow waggle.  I rolled my eyes but I couldn’t help the grin.

“I don’t know what’s up his ass,” I admitted.  “But whatever it is, it’s making him mad enough to take it out on the puck.  Or at least make him hyper vigilant.”

Alli gave me a speculative glare, but then just shook her head.  “Maybe you should do it more often then.”

I threw up my hands. “You know what?  It could have absolutely nothing to do with me.”

Her snort was very unladylike.  “Not likely.  Declan only gets this riled up over you.”

I didn’t bother responding because she was absolutely right.

***

I was leaning against the concrete wall across from the locker room and watching it empty of every player except for my boyfriend.  Strictly speaking, I wasn’t allowed back here, but everyone always turned a blind eye.  I considered myself lucky, and took advantage of that every chance I got.  I loved seeing Declan right after a game, fresh from the shower and lugging his hockey bag.  Besides, with the way the Terrapins had shut out the Knights—the other team hadn’t managed a single goal—Declan was sure to be in a fantastic mood.

When he finally emerged and I took one look at his face, I knew I was wrong.

“What’s the matter?” I asked cautiously, pushing off the wall.

His scowl deepened.  “Really?”

I frowned at his sarcastic tone.  That really wasn’t like him.  “What the hell, Dec?”

He shook his head and pushed past me.  I scrambled to catch up, grabbing onto the strap of his bag and giving it a tug so he would stop.  His thunderous expression was enough to give me pause, though I knew he would never hurt me.

“Where the fuck were you?” he hissed.

I blinked.  “When?  What?”

“I looked for you.  I always look for you.  And you weren’t there.”

“I was there!  Right where I always am.”  I shook my head. “I was late, yes.  But I was there.”  I knew he had seen me, because I sat right behind the glass, and there was no way he could miss me.  Besides, I had waved to him and gotten the head tip in response.

“Yeah, but—” he cut himself off, blew out a breath, and hung his head.  “Fuck.  I’m sorry.  It’s just…”  He took a second to gather his thoughts, and then looked up at me.  “Pregame rituals, you know?  That moment before I step onto the ice and we lock eyes.  I need that.”

I knew he was superstitious.  A lot of players were.  Declan was worse than most.  He only washed his socks on Tuesday, always put his pads on in the same order, banged his stick against the goal post three times before the start of every period, and never put his helmet on until the last possible second.  But I honestly had no idea that our little moment was a part of that.

I reached up and took his face in my hands.  “So you were angry at me?”

“I was worried,” he admitted, a little sheepishly.  “You’re never not there.  I was worried something happened to you.  And then I saw you and I got pissed I didn’t get my moment.”

I nodded because what else could I do?  “I’m sorry I worried you.  But it was just one of those days.  I couldn’t get myself together.”  I let my grin turn cheeky.  “Besides, you played like a maniac today.  Maybe me being late is good for your game?”

“I’d rather play like shit and know you were safe,” he said fervently.  He closed his eyes for a second and swallowed hard.  “I love you.”

I grinned at him, then stood up on tiptoe.  “I love you too.  Let’s go home.”

He let me take his bag, and then looped his arm around my shoulders.  I knew I was forgiven for being late, and that was all that mattered.  Tomorrow was soon enough to point out that me being late had secured the Terrapins a place in the semi-finals.

The Fickle Muse

Or perhaps it’s me that’s fickle.  When it comes to writing, I’m not entirely sure.  In other parts of my life, when I feel the need to bounce around to different things–and each thing is my new favorite–I know it’s me.  Perhaps, here, it’s a combination of both the muse and me being fickle.

Often, when I finish one story, get it to the point where it’s ready to go, I have this period of mourning where I’m not ready to start something new because I’m just not ready to let go of what I just finished.  Last time that lasted for a good long while, and I just couldn’t settle into any new story.  I’d start something, get a couple thousand words, or ten thousand, and I’d just hit a wall.  It happened over and over again last year, and basically the second half of the year was terrible writing-wise.  I got very little accomplished and the muse kept sending me new ideas, and I was a mess.  Until finally there was one story that sparked and caught flame, and I managed to finish and entire novella.

But now it appears to be happening again.  Story done, I almost immediately jumped into something new, a plot that has been swimming around in my brain for a year or more.  I began to get it on the page, but I haven’t written a word on it in more than a week.  And there’s this other thing that’s going on in my brain too.  Two other things, if I’m honest.  And I alternate between “Oh!  I should write that!” and the first one I started.  It’s definitely tricky to get my brain to settle.  And I’m letting other responsibilities push my writing to the side instead of dutifully making time to write.

In two weeks and two days, my happy little novella Pumpkin Rolls and Porn Sounds releases, and it’s been a year since anything I’ve published has hit the shelves.  It’s exciting and scary, because of course I want people to like it. And I hope to go not as long between releases this time. But we shall see.  I’m not as prolific a writer as I expected to be.  See, before I was published, I was writing a lot more.  I didn’t have trouble getting words on the page.  But now it’s a different ball game, so to speak, and the pressure I put on myself is bigger than I expected.  I’m trying to be logical, or rather not entirely emotional, but it’s not an easy thing.  Everyone says “Just write.  Tell your story.  Put it on the page.”  And everyone is right.  But I don’t always find that I’m capable of it.  And that is frustrating.

Anyway!  In the meantime, while I struggle to put an entire story on the page, we have the flash fics and that will hopefully tide you over.  Three of the Fridays in February feature Joshua and Will, and while I don’t think you’ll have to have read Pumpkin Rolls and Porn Sounds in order for them to make sense, I’m certain it will help.  And yes, that was a shameless plug to please go buy my book on February 11th.  😀

Flash Fic Friday

**The Admiral issued the challenge: pickles, a movie, and Schenectady.  And for a bit, I was, admittedly, stumped.  And then, as the ideas often do, it hit me.  So here you go.  Enjoy!**

 

I stood in front of the refrigerator, the glow from the light inside the only illumination in the dark kitchen.  I was feeling peckish, but I wasn’t actually hungry.  I peered inside, perusing the contents, trying to decide what I wanted to eat.  A glass jar caught my attention.  Aha!  Perfect.  I snatched it up and didn’t bother to close the door as I twisted off the lid and reached inside.

“Dan?  Honey?” my boyfriend of three years called out.  “Want to watch a movie?”

“Can we watch Frozen?” I called back, teasing.  I nearly dropped the jar in mirth at Hank’s disgruntled murmur.

“I already have one picked out,” he yelled.

I shook my head.  No doubt something with a lot of action and explosions.  I sighed quietly. “I’m eating!”

His laugh was loud and boisterous, and I loved hearing it every time, even if it was at my expense.  “Bring it with you.”

I shut the door with my hip, left the lid on a counter, grabbed a paper towel to use as a napkin, and sauntered into the living room.  Hank was sprawled out on his couch, his massive seventy inch TV ready to play whatever movie he’d chosen and the remote in his hand.  I hoped he hadn’t turned on the surround sound.  It definitely made for a better viewing experience, but my ears always rang for hours afterwards from all the mayhem and destruction.

Hank quirked an eyebrow.  “Pickles?”

I shrugged, and plopped down next to him.  I liked pickles.  They were one of my favorite treats.  These were whole, and I pulled another one out of the jar, sliding it between my lips and sucking off the juice while keeping my gaze fixed on Hank.  He swallowed hard, but an amused grin lifted his lips as he shook his head.  He nudged me with his foot.

“Eat your damn pickle and watch the movie.”

I waggled my eyebrows, and then crunched down as I turned my attention to the screen.  Hank pointed the remote at the screen, and a second later, the movie started.  Where I expected opening credits, there was nothing but a blue screen for a few moments, and then a home video started playing.

“Hey!  That’s from our trip to Schenectady!”

“Yeah,” Hank rumbled.

I finished eating my pickle as I watched the screen.  Several months earlier, we’d spent two weeks visiting with his family in the picturesque town.  I’d loved playing tourist, and even now, I couldn’t be embarrassed about my giddy actions on screen.  It had been a blast.  I was amused at my effervescent behavior as I fawned over some of the old buildings in the historic part of town.

The camera panned to the right, and then focused in on Hank’s face.  I sucked in a breath.  On screen, his attention was fixed on ridiculous me, but his expression was filled with such love and affection that it took my breath away.  I didn’t often see him looking at me like that.  Sure, when we were in bed, I got those lovey and sultry looks.  But out in the open?  It didn’t happen much.  It was a good thing I didn’t notice that day or I probably would have tackled him and taken him right there on the street.

From there the scene shifted to the previous Christmas, me sitting on the floor in front of Hank’s legs as I opened the Christmas gift he’d gotten me.  A handmade cuckoo clock painted to look like a scene from the Black Forest.  It was a replica, but it was stunning, and I’d squealed like a little girl when I opened it.  I wasn’t embarrassed about that either.

The scene shifted again, more of our lives over the past three years, clips of videos interspersed with pictures, and a song, our song, started playing on the soundtrack.  Pickles forgotten, I threw myself sideways into Hank’s arms though I couldn’t tear my attention from the TV.  Hank just gave a little rumble of contentment and pulled me in tight.

It took me a few minutes to realize that it was our time together in reverse.  It was like watching our courtship play backwards, and my eyes got wet.  Neither of us were perfect, and we’d had some rough times, but we were committed to each other and we’d worked through them.  This, on the screen, was showing our best times together.  And I was amazed at how often Hank had been captured wearing that look of adoration on his face as he looked at me.  The farther back it went, I kept expecting that look to change, but it never did.

Then the final picture came up just as the song came to a close.  It was the night we met, and I’d been a little drunk, but not overly so.  Despite that, I was standing on the table in our friend Pete’s living room, it had been his birthday party, and singing at the top of my lungs.  The look of carefree abandon on my face was amusing, but what caught my attention was the corner of the picture.  Hank was standing off to the side, staring at me with that exact same look on his face.  If I recalled correctly, it wasn’t until after my exhibition that Hank and I had officially met.

The screen went black, and I turned fast.  Fast enough that I caught the look on his face.  And for once, he didn’t try to hide it.  I dove in, kissing him for all I was worth, and only pulling back when I needed more air.

“I love you,” I breathed, searching his face.  I was overwhelmed and touched and I didn’t know what else to say.

“As you can see,” he started, then had to stop and clear his throat.  “I’ve loved you from the moment I laid eyes on you.”

I nodded fast, and leaned forward to kiss him again.  But he held me off with one hand.  With the other, he reached behind his head and picked up something from the end table.  He flipped open the little hinged box and then set it on his chest.  I looked down to see two platinum rings nestled on black velvet.

“Yes,” I breathed.

His breath whooshed out on a chuckle.  “I haven’t asked yet.”

“Yes anyway.”

“Good.  I want to look at you like that for the rest of my life.”

Flash Fic Special

**A little Admiral shaped birdie told me about a birthday today.  And he may have mentioned Marines.  Happy Birthday, Shell!  May it be filled with joy and awesome!**

The office was quiet, the phones not ringing non-stop for once, and I idly twirled in my chair with my head leaned back.  It was making me dizzy but I didn’t care.  My heart hurt and everything else was secondary.

Seventeen months, fourteen days, and eleven hours since the last time I saw him.  The sporadic tweets, phone calls, and Skype sessions weren’t enough.  I was relieved and grateful every time I got a chance to talk to him, to know he was well and whole and alive, but the separation and the distance were wearing on me.  I knew it was a possibility from the moment we started dating.  He could be deployed at any time, sent into a war zone or some other country.  And I could do nothing but wait and worry and pray that he would come home to me alive.

It was the only downside of being the boyfriend of a Marine, but it was a big one.  At least I took comfort in the fact that if something happened to him now, I’d be informed.  When we’d started dating, DADT had still been in effect.  Thank God things had changed.

“What’s up, buttercup?”

Shell’s warm brown eyes smiled down at me, her red hair falling into her face as she peered at me from above.  She looked odd upside down, and I couldn’t help the grin, even if it was half-hearted.

She plonked herself in her chair—her desk was next to mine—and used her foot to turn my chair so we were facing each other.  Her expression became concerned the longer she studied me.   I tried for a more genuine smile.  I failed.

“Wes?”  Shell’s tone was soft, filled with worry.  I heaved a sigh.

“Jared didn’t call last night.  He was supposed to.”  Saying it out loud made the worry return full force.  It wasn’t the first time he’d missed a check in.  There was no telling when he’d be sent on a mission or if he’d have to unexpectedly go silent.  He usually let me know if he could, but that wasn’t always possible.  Even knowing that, it didn’t stop the fear and the worry that the worst had happened.

Shell’s gave me a supportive smile.  “I’m sure he’s fine.”  Her voice was firm, as if she was trying to convince us both.  But she knew what I was going through.  She was married to a Marine, even if her husband was currently stationed at the nearby base.

“Yeah, I know.”

She shook her head.  “No, don’t.  He’s fine.  I know it.”

There was something in her voice, a conviction, which made me sit up straight and squint at her.  She knew more than she was letting on.  I opened my mouth to demand answers when a commotion by the doors caught my attention.  I couldn’t see what was going on exactly, but I went quiet, trying to hear.

Shell had no such boundaries.  She jumped to her feet, then grabbed my wrist and tugged me up.  I had no choice but to trail behind her as dragged me through the maze of desks.  I tried to shake her loose, but damn that woman had a strong grip.

The desks stopped right before the lobby area, and it was only when we reached the carpeted expanse that she let me go.  I rubbed my wrist where her nails had dug into my skin and aimed a scowl at her.  The smirk on her face gave me pause, and slowly, I turned in the direction she was staring.

The dress blues registered first, the uniform snug to a well-muscled frame.  The highly polished shoes, the cover tucked under his arm, I took it all in unconsciously, not even registering for a moment who stood before me.  The instant I recognized the face, my heart dropped into my stomach only to immediately bounce back into my throat.

Corporal Jared Connors stood there, looking a little worse for the wear but hale, healthy, and whole.  Tears filled my eyes, and my heart started pounding.

“What?  How?  What?”

Jared just grinned.

I threw myself at him, squeezing him tight with both arms and legs.  He was real.  He was here.  I didn’t know how it was possible but the feel of him against me, his smell and his warmth, it wasn’t my imagination.  He held me so tightly I couldn’t draw breath, but it didn’t matter.  I hadn’t been breathing while he was gone anyway, a few more minutes wasn’t going to matter.  I buried my face in his neck and just cried.

“Hey baby,” his voice was low and soft and the most perfect thing I had ever heard in my life.

“What are you doing here?” I blurted, my voice sounding nasally.

“I was granted leave.  So I came home.”  He set me back on my feet and took my face in his hands.  “Needed to see you.”

I sniffed loudly, my gaze roving all over that beloved face.  “And you didn’t tell me?”  It was an accusation but it just made him laugh.  I’d been wrong before.  That was the most perfect sound.

“Surprise.”

Whatever my reply would have been was lost in a spine tingling, toe curling, knee weakening kiss.   Later when I saw the video someone had taken, I would notice the love shining in his eyes, the way I clung to him as if I’d never let him go, the entire office bursting into applause and cheers.  But in that moment, my entire focus was on the man in my arms, grateful and happy and loving that he was with me again.

Flash Fic Friday

**An alliteration from the Admiral this week: Amsterdam, anchovies, and anger management classes. Now, I love me some alliteration, but this one took some thought.  Enjoy!**

“Ray?”

I smiled at the sound of my boyfriend’s voice.  I loved it when he came home to me.  “Kitchen!”

Kyle walked in carrying a pizza box.  My stomach rumbled, and he gave me a full out grin.  But the moment he placed the box on the counter and flipped open the lid, my hunger fled.  I fixed him with a harsh glare.

“Anchovies?” I hissed.

He blinked.  “Only on half.”

It didn’t matter.  They were disgusting, and the smell got everywhere.  He liked them, but I fucking hated them.  And now I couldn’t eat my damn pizza.

“That’s just great!” I shouted.  “I’m fucking starving, and you ruined dinner!”

He tried for a smile.  “It’s like Amsterdam all over again.”

“That wasn’t my fucking fault!” I raged.  His attempt at humor wasn’t appreciated.  I was beyond pissed.  “And fuck you for bringing it up!”

Kyle’s face became a mask, showing no emotion.  Very slowly he reached out and flipped the lid of the box closed.  The he looked at me with dead eyes.  “Yeah.  Okay.”

He turned and walked right out of the house.  I watched him go before picking up a glass and hurling it at the wall.  It shattered with a satisfying crunch.  I stood there, breathing heavily, anger pouring through my veins.

Over anchovies.

Fuck.

I knew better than this.  My temper had always gotten the better of me, and I’d overreacted on more than one occasion.  It had landed me in jail, and I served three months.  I’d done the anger management classes, took the lessons to heart, and really changed myself.  But lately, the anger had been welling up and I’d been letting my temper leak out.

Tonight I’d exploded over pizza.  That was fucking ridiculous.  I got the broom and dust pan, and quickly cleared up the mess I’d made.  When I was finished, I closed my eyes, found my center, and did some deep breathing.  Now that I’d gotten myself back under control, I felt ashamed at my behavior.

I grabbed my keys from the counter, and hustled out of the house to go track Kyle down.  He’d stuck by me through the worst of it.  I’d never laid a hand on him, and I never would, but he’d endured me screaming and railing.  I’d ruined our vacation in Amsterdam last year and he still hadn’t left me.  I needed to fix this and fast.

It turned out I didn’t have to go far.  Kyle was sitting on the porch steps, and I saw him stiffen when he heard the front door open. He didn’t turn around.  I kept my steps careful and slow as I approached him, then sat down next to him leaving plenty of space.

“I’m sorry,” I said, my voice low and full of contrition.

“I know,” he murmured.  He didn’t look at me.

I felt like shit.  As I should.  There was no excuse for my behavior and I didn’t bother to try.  “I love you.”

He nodded, and then repeated, “I know.”

“I know I’ve been grumpy lately—“

His unamused snort interrupted me, and I had to give a self-deprecating chuckle.

“All right, I’ve been an ass lately, and behaving awfully.”  I took a deep breath and focused all my attention on him.  “I’ll get back into the classes.  Clearly I need to work the program again.”

Kyle blew out a breath and his shoulders relaxed, his posture opening up.  I might be an asshole, with serious anger issues, but I never lied.  He knew I would get back into anger management classes if I said I would.

“Thank you.”  His voice was soft.  He shook his head, and then finally looked at me.  “I know how much you hate anchovies.  I shouldn’t have gotten them at all.”

“No.”  My denial was quick.  “Don’t take any of this on yourself.  That whole scene back there was all me.”

He nodded.  “Yeah, but I’m not talking about that.  Yes, your reaction was completely uncalled for and disproportionate to the situation.  Which is why you’re going to start the classes again and be reminded how to deal.”  He glanced up at me for conformation, and I nodded fast.  He smiled.  “What I’m talking about is me being rather thoughtless.  I should have gotten two pizzas.”

I smiled at that.  It was one of the many reasons I loved him so much.  Kyle never shirked responsibility.  And while he wasn’t in any way to blame for the way I reacted, I really appreciated that he was willing to admit he wasn’t perfect.  I slid across the step until we were pressed up against each other.

“I’ll call my counselor in the morning and see when and where I can go, okay?”

“Thank you,” he said again.  He snuggled into my side, and I lifted an arm to pull him close.  We’d be all right.  I was going to make sure of it.  Kyle gave a content sounding sigh and then said, “I love you.”

“I love you,” I responded fervently.  I dropped a kiss in his hair, taking a second to inhale the scent of his shampoo. Then I pulled back and looked him in the eye.  “Wanna go out for Chinese?”

Coming Soon!

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Ta da!  Check out this amazing, beautiful cover courtesy of the amazing AngstyG!  Pumpkin Rolls and Porn Sounds releases February 11th.  I’m so thrilled, and I can’t wait for you to check out these boys because I just love them.

Here’s the Blurb:

Will Grant only attends the PFLAG meeting because his mother guilts him into it. But the instant he hears the night’s speaker, Will is glad he showed up. Joshua Rhinehardt is dynamic and engaging. Although Joshua isn’t physically Will’s type, Will can’t get the man out of his head.
 
Joshua may be comfortable in his own skin, but it isn’t often men like Will are attracted to him, and he’s not comfortable changing for someone else. He wants to make a life with Will, but his own insecurities keep getting in the way. 

Will’s unwavering acceptance helps Joshua see that when two people connect, physical appearance just might not matter at all.

And if you’re so inclined, you can preorder it here.