Flash Fic Friday

**Here’s episode 3. You can catch up by following this link. Enjoy!**

Kyle had a date.

I was weirdly edgy and restless. I’d grown used to hanging out with him in the evening, winding down, shooting the shit, enjoying our fire and our pond. The reason for the hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach was as easily explained as that. For weeks we’d been spending our evenings together, and since I didn’t get that tonight, everything felt off. Unsettled.

I tried to remember what I’d done before Kyle. After a shower and dinner, I used to sit down in front of the TV and watch whatever until I was tired enough to sleep. But there was nothing on TV tonight. Nothing to hold my interest anyway. I flicked aimlessly through the channels. All the way up to the top until they started over, and then did it again. And again. My agitation grew because what the hell? A few weeks with Kyle and I suddenly couldn’t entertain myself anymore. That was bullshit.

The phone rang, loud in the room, and I scrambled to answer it. I was stupidly pleased when I saw Kyle’s face on the screen. It was a shot I’d playfully snapped, and the firelight danced on his features, making his eyes shine.

“Hey.”

“H-hey. Uh.” Kyle’s voice shook, and I sat up straight. “Uh, can you come get me?”

I was on my feet before I even thought about it. “Yeah. Of course. What’s the matter?”

Kyle drew a ragged breath. “He, uh…he didn’t understand the word no. I got away but…” I heard a small whimper. “I need a lift.”

Rage boiled in my veins but I managed to keep it out of my voice. “I’m coming.”

“Shit. Lift. I should have called a Lyft or an Uber or…never mind, Asher. I’ll just–”

“No!” My voice came out loud and harsh, and I softened it immediately. “I’m coming. Are you somewhere safe?”

“Yeah.” He blew out a breath, and I knew I didn’t imagine the relief in that one word. “I’m at a diner. Plenty of people. I’m okay.”

Thank God for that. “Which one?”

He told me, his voice a little surer, and I relaxed.

“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. Okay?”

“Okay. Thanks, Ash.”

I drove faster than I should have, and maybe ran a red light or two, but I was anxious to get to him. I didn’t like the way he sounded, and I was worried. Whatever that rat bastard had done to him had shaken him up, and I’d be sure the asshole got what he deserved. After I made sure Kyle was okay.

The diner was brightly lit, and I saw him the moment I pulled open the door. I beelined right for him, and he looked up as I approached. The tears in his eyes were a surprise, but the utter relief I saw on his face was a gift. I grabbed his wrist as soon as I got close enough, and yanked him out of the chair and right into my arms. I squeezed him tightly, pressing his body into mine, and held him. His breathing was harsh against my neck, but he hugged me back just as tightly. I rubbed up and down his spine, wanting to soothe.

He made a noise and I literally felt him calm and settle under my touch. After a moment, I chanced a whisper into his hair. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” Another breath shuddered out, ghosting on my skin, and it made me shiver. He sucked in a breath and then eased out of my hold. “I’m all right.”

I looked down at him, and that’s when I noticed the red mark on his cheek. I grabbed his chin, and narrowed my eyes as I tilted his face.

“I’ll kill the fucker,” I growled.

“Hey, no.” Kyle wrapped a hand around my wrist, and buried the fingers of his other hand in my shirt. “He didn’t hit me.”

My scoff let him know I didn’t believe him.

He gave me a tremulous smile, and something else, some other emotion I couldn’t name, seeped into his eyes. “He didn’t. I swear. I fell when I was running away. This wasn’t him.”

I released my hold on Kyle’s chin, and then slid that hand around the back of his neck, holding him lightly. I stared at him, and I saw the truth of it in his eyes. Okay then. Maybe the asshole hadn’t hit Kyle, but that didn’t mean he didn’t deserve retribution.

“What happened?” I asked softly.

Kyle shrugged, and his expression turned sad. “Just…I don’t know. We were getting along fine, and then he was suddenly all over me. I said no, but he didn’t seem to think I meant it. I finally managed to get him off me and left. But he drove, so I was stuck and…” He shrugged again. “Can we go home?”

“Yeah, of course.” I didn’t want to let him go, but I needed to so we could walk to my truck. I pulled away slowly, but stayed close as we headed outside. I opened the door for him, helped him up, and then made sure he was seated before shutting the door and jogging around to the other side. Kyle closed his eyes and leaned back against the seat as I pulled into traffic.

I kept stealing glances at him as I drove. The streetlights flashed across his face, temporarily lighting up his features. He looked like an angel, his skin flawless and perfect, his dark lashes resting against his cheeks. I wanted to reach out and touch him, rub my thumb along the sharp crease of his cheekbone, or across the fullness of his bottom lip.

What the hell?

I was grateful he was okay. That’s all this was. Just relief that he was well and whole and hadn’t been hurt.

Even as I thought it, I knew that was wrong. I was grateful he was okay, but that’s wasn’t all it was. It took me the last five minutes of our journey to put a name to the feelings swimming around in my gut.

Holy fuck, I had feelings for Kyle.

I pulled into the driveway and stopped a little harder than necessary. The jerk of the truck shook him, and he sat up straight. He blinked as he peered around, and then turned a smile on me.

“Thanks for coming to get me. I really appreciate it. I needed you. To come for me, I mean.”

He opened the door and hopped down before I could say anything and I scrambled after him, dogging his steps up onto his porch. He shot me a curious glance, but let me take his keys from him and open his door. Kyle sighed wearily as he toed off his shoes, and I hung his keys on the little hook by the door where I knew he liked to keep them.

“You need anything?”

Kyle shook his head, then winced a little. “Maybe some ibuprofen. And sleep.”

“Go lie down,” I ordered, already heading for the kitchen. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

He gave me a confused look, but did as I said. I got a bottle of water out of his fridge, then put some ice in a plastic bag and wrapped it in a dish towel. After a stop in the bathroom for the pain killer, I headed into his bedroom. Kyle was just pulling on his T-shirt, and I got a glimpse of his smooth stomach before it disappeared beneath the cotton. He slipped under the covers before he looked up and noticed me there.

I handed him the pills and water, and watched him take them before I sat on the edge of the mattress and held the ice to his face. Kyle gasped at the cold, and then gave me a small, sweet smile.

“It’s really not that bad.”

I shrugged one shoulder. “This will help. You don’t want it to swell or bruise.”

Kyle put his hand over mine where I held the ice pack and I felt electricity dance along my skin. He squeezed my fingers, and then I slowly slid my hand free.

“Thanks for taking care of me.”

“Always.” The word was out of my mouth before I thought it, and Kyle’s dark gaze widened at it. But he didn’t say anything. And neither did I. I didn’t want to take it back, but I didn’t know how to go forward either. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know if I should.

“Make sure you lock the door on your way out.”

I was being dismissed. Part of me rebelled at the thought, wanting to stay and make sure he was okay. But the other part realized that Kyle wanted some time alone. And I didn’t know what to do with myself in the moment anyway. I stood, and then before I could second guess myself, leaned down and kissed his forehead.

“Sleep well. I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said gruffly, and then I turned and left.

It wasn’t until I was back in my own house that I let myself think about what happened and what I was feeling. The jealousy earlier tonight that I’d played off as an interruption of my routine. The swoop in my stomach every time he smiled at me. The way he smelled and the way I loved listening to him ramble. It all coalesced into one shining realization.

I sat down hard on my couch, letting the thought seep into my brain and settled there.

I wasn’t straight. I was bisexual. And I wanted Kyle.

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Flash Fic Friday

**Asher and Kyle continued. Read Part 1 here if you missed it. Enjoy!**

I’d bought my half of the duplex ten years ago, and in the past decade, I’d had several neighbors. Kyle was, by far, the best one. I never heard him. We only saw each other if we left or arrived at the same time, and then he always had a cheery wave and greeting for me. Sometimes we talked for a few minutes as we walked to our front doors. But never more than that.

Which is why I was surprised to answer the door one evening and find him standing there. He was wearing a smile that lit up his face, and holding two bottles of local microbrew that I loved. He held one out to me, and I took it with a hearty thanks.

“So,” he said, leaning back against he railing of my porch. “I noticed by the sticker on your truck that you’re a landscaper.” He gestured with his bottle toward the logo on the driver’s side door.

I squinted at him as I took a pull from the bottle. The beer went down smooth, hoppy and delicious, with just a hint of a citrus aftertaste. “Mhmm.”

His grin turned mischievous. “So I have to wonder, why haven’t you done anything with the backyard?”

I laughed and shook my head. The duplexes shared both a front and back yard, and I had a deal with the guy who owned Kyle’s house that I’d split yard work with his tenant. The family that had lived there before Kyle had mowed the back, because they took their kids out there to play, and I’d taken care of the front. I knew the backyard was overgrown. The hedges were ridiculous, but I’d never felt the need to go back there. The pavers that acted as a patio out my back door were far enough, and only because I kept the grill out there.

I shrugged. “Don’t spend too much time out there. And I guess I get enough of it at work.”

It was his turn to squint. “But I would think, if you love your job, you’d want to take care of your own place. Unless you don’t?”

“No, I do,” I assured him. I took another drink, trying to think of what to say. “It’s satisfying right down to my bones. And I enjoy every part of the process. But like I said, I’m never out there. Plus, the last people had kids, and I didn’t want them to ruin all of my hard work.”

He nodded. “Makes sense. So, would you mind if I did some stuff out there?”

I shook my head and straightened up from where I’d been leaning against the door frame. “Knock yourself out. What did you have in mind?”

His whole face brightened, and he practically leaped off the porch, beckoning me with his free hand. “Come on, I’ll show you.”

I followed along in his bouncing wake, amused by his enthusiasm. He was always full of energy whenever I saw him, whether that was six o’clock in the morning, or eleven o’clock at night. I didn’t know where he got it all, but I was happy to be apart of it. He jogged the last few steps around the house, and by the time I turned the corner, he was standing in the middle of the patio with his arms spread wide.

“Okay, so.” His grin got even bigger and I was afraid it would hurt his face. “Obviously trim the bushes and cut the grass. That’s the first thing. But also, I was thinking of getting those big cement planters, right? I mean, I only lease, so I’d want to take them with me if I ever left. With bright colored flowers, though I don’t know what kind, to bring some color back here. And I would put them around the patio.” He gestured, making sweeping motions with his hands. “I’d love a fire pit right here.” He pointed to the edge of the patio. “And I’d get some great furniture out here. Loungers and a table. Oh! And over here.” He jogged to the edge on my side of he patio. “I know it’s your half, but man, this would be the perfect spot for a pond. I’ve been researching, and there are above ground pond kit thingies. If you wouldn’t mind me taking some space up, I’d love to do that.”

I stared at him, my breath catching in my throat. His joy was infectious, and I could see everything as he’d laid it out. He made it sound perfect, like an oasis, and if I had that kind of space back here, I’d sure as hell spend more time out here. For a minute, I felt foolish that I’d never done anything more than the basics in the back.

“Sounds great,” I said, and I had to clear my throat. “I’ll help.”

Kyle went still, and then slowly turned around to face me. “You don’t have to. I mean, that’s not why I talked to you. I just…you know, thought I should get your approval before I do anything. Since half of this is yours.”

“No, I want to. Help, I mean. It’ll be great. Together we can make a great space.”

The smile on his face made my heart pound.

***

We’d made plans to get started on the backyard that weekend, but when a mix up at my job site had me calling it an early day on Friday, I got started early. Saturday morning, I met him outside at eight like we agreed. Kyle was standing in the middle of the patio, his hand over his mouth. When I walked out my back door, he turned wide eyes on me.

“What?”

“You…” he gestured, first to the fire pit I’d installed, and then to the hole I’d dug. “That’s…you.”

I shrugged, ridiculously pleased for some reason that he was overwhelmed. I could see how much he loved it already, and that made me stupidly happy.

“Well, if we’re going to put in a pond, we might as well do it right. I have the stuff in the truck to line it, and the pump. But I needed more daylight to do it. I thought I’d do that while you did the hedges and the grass, and then we can head to the garden center and get your planters, flowers, and potting soil. Sound like a plan?”

He nodded mutely. I hid my grin.

“The mower and shit are in the shed.” I jerked my chin to the back of the yard. “Get to it. We’re burning daylight.”

He nodded again, and I could swear I saw him wipe his eyes when he turned away. I ignored that, not knowing what to do with it, and went to get the crap for the pond out of my truck.

***

It had taken us the whole weekend, but the backyard was done. Snapdragons, petunias, and marigolds were planted in long, rectangular planters strategically placed around the patio. We had a fire in the pit, and I’d grilled steaks that we’d enjoyed sitting at his new table. The night air was cool, but not cold, and we sat in the silence–save for the crackling fire, the burbling pond, and the occasional cricket–and just enjoyed the space.

Kyle reached out, put a hand on my arm, and squeezed. His touch felt like a brand, and I savored the warmth.

“Thank you Asher,” he said reverently. “This is…this is perfect. Exactly what I wanted.”

“You’re welcome,” I responded softly. My heart was thumping again, and I didn’t know why I was so happy that he was happy. I shook my head, tipped my bottle at him in salute, and then smiled. “Any time.”

And I meant it.

Flash Fic Friday

*Here’s part 1 of the serial story! I’ll tag them all so they’ll be easy to find. And in upcoming weeks, I’ll link back in case you need to catch up. So without further ado, meet Asher and Kyle. Enjoy!*

“Goddamn motherless son of a wonky titbasket!”

The curse was creative. I had to give him that. The questions was, though, why was it being shouted outside my house?

I’d just finished my workout, so I was sweaty and hot. But I put down the water bottle and headed outside to see what the commotion was about. The Uhaul parked next door explained part of it. The other half of the duplex had been empty for months–ever since the family with two screaming toddlers moved out–and I’d relished the silence. But apparently that was changing today.

He was standing on the ramp stretched from the back of the truck to the front porch. The broken box spilling half of its contents on the muddy ground explained the curse. I stood for a moment, just taking in the scene. The frustrated man had his hands in his dark hair, knuckles white, as he breathed deeply. Trying for calm? Probably. He was smaller than me, leaner and shorter, and it looked like he was alone. I felt bad for the dude.

I pushed my sweaty hair out of my eyes, then jogged closer.

“Hey, need some help?”

He squawked and turned quickly, nearly losing his balance and toppling off the ramp. I ran, but he righted himself before I made it across the yard to him. He pressed his hand to his chest, his brown eyes wide.

“Jesus Christ, you scared me.”

I tried for an apologetic grin. “Sorry.”

He flapped a hand at me. “It’s okay.” Then he looked down at the mess, sighed heavily, and dropped his hands. “Fuck.”

I had to check the grin. “Basically. Really, you need some help?”

He bit his lip, and looked into the truck. I was close enough now that I could see it was still pretty packed. Boxes and bags filled every available space, tucked in tightly around a couch, several dressers, and what looked like a dismantled table and matching chairs. He shook his head.

“I don’t want to impose.”

The way he said it, with a bit of hesitancy, made it known that he would really like the help but he didn’t want to ask. Since I offered, I figured he was off the hook. I started picking up the bedding that had fallen out of the box, wadding it around itself until I had a makeshift sack.

“No imposition. I’m not busy, and we are neighbors after all. Let me help.”

He eyed me for a long moment, before he heaved another sigh. “Thanks. I really appreciate it.”

“No problem. You can pay me in pizza and beer when we’re done.” I shot him a grin. “That’s the customary payment for helping someone move.”

He laughed, and I liked the sound. “You got it.”

I waited until he retrieved another box, then followed him into the house with my bundle. I knew where the bedroom was, since his house was the mirror opposite of mine, but I thought maybe he’d want to wash the sheets and blankets I held, considering they’d been on the ground. I took the whole thing into the laundry room off the kitchen, then met him back in the entryway.

“Thanks.” His voice was softer, and now that we were close, I could see how tired he was. His big, dark eye were lined, and had bags underneath big enough to be luggage. His T-shirt sported a faded rainbow, and hung off his frame. Put together, it gave him a careworn look.

“You’re welcome.” I took a step back, putting some distance between us, because I knew I probably stunk. But I held out a hand. “I’m Asher.”

“Nice to meet you. My name’s Kyle.”

We shook, and then I gestured for him to proceed me out the door. When we were both tromping up the ramp, I said, “So Kyle. Don’t you have any friends that were willing to help?”

He laughed a little, a short aborted sound, and shook his head. “Too busy. I didn’t give them enough notice. Once the house next door to me blew up, I decided to move fast. I didn’t have time to round up a moving posse.”

I froze. “Blew up?” I couldn’t keep the incredulity out of my tone.

Kyle waved his hand again. “Just a little explosion.”

I stared at him, automatically taking the box he handed me but not taking my gaze off him. He turned and retrieved a bag, but when he looked back at me and saw me staring, he cocked an eyebrow.

“What?”

I shook my head. “You can’t just put that out there and not explain.”

“They were cooking meth.”

My expression must have shown my shock, because he laughed again. “Just a little batch. So only a little explosion. But no way was I staying around after that. So I gave notice, and found this place, and paid extra so I could move in right away. I think the landlord was happy to have someone reputable, because he said it had been vacant for a while, and he didn’t give me too much of a fuss when I asked.” He cocked his head to the side. “Are you going to earn your pizza and get moving?”

I chuckled and turned, heading back into the house. “And don’t forget the beer!”

***

It took us the better part of three hours, but we worked well together so the time flew. I went back to my house to shower and change, and by the time I knocked on Kyle’s door, he had hot pizza and cold beer waiting on his newly reassembled table. Boxes and bags were still stacked everywhere, but it would take him a while to settle in.

Kyle gave me a huge smile when he let me in, but neither of us said much until after we’d both sated ourselves with several slices and a long neck apiece. He sat back in his chair, and patted his stomach.

“The pizza alone is worth moving to the neighborhood.”

I grinned. “It’s good. I order from them at least once a week.”

He shot me a look as he stood up. Kyle threw out the garbage before he turned back to me, resting a hip against the counter. “Not much of a cook?”

I snorted. “Hell no. I burn water. If I ever find a woman to put up with me enough to live with me, I hope she’ll want to cook.”

Something flickered over his face, but it was gone before I could put a name to it. Then he smiled and shrugged, and crossed the floor to pick up the few remaining pieces and put them in the fridge.

“Tomorrow’s breakfast.” He laughed. “I love to cook. Maybe sometime I’ll make you a meal.”

“You any good?”

Kyle scoffed. “I should hope so. My mother is a gourmet chef, and she taught me everything she knew. I think she was determined to give me that skill, knowing that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

I saw it then, the little flinch, and it took me a second to work out why. He was gay, and he was worried about what I’d think or say. Or do. But he didn’t have to be.

“You won’t have any problem snagging a man then.” I paused, considering. “Unless you already have one.”

He breathed out a soft sigh, and his smile was sweet. “Not at the moment. Not for a while, actually.” He shooed the thought away, a quick flap of his hand. “But I’m not worried about it. Yet. I’m not even thirty, not for another year. I’ve got plenty of time.”

I studied him for a moment. I thought he was younger than that. I only had five years on him, but his skin was smooth and clear, showing none of the age mine did. Of course, I worked outside and the sun had done a number on me.

“Anyway, Asher, I really appreciate your help today. If there’s anything I can do to repay you, just let me know.”

“You already did.” I held up the beer in salute. “But if you want to be a good neighbor, then don’t throw any wild parties, and keep the noise down. That’s all it takes to make me happy.”

Kyle snorted out a laugh, and then tossed his empty bottle into the recycle bin. “You’re easy.”

I waggled my eyebrows. “You have no idea.”

We said goodbye a few minutes later. He thanked me again for the help, I thanked him for the pizza, and left him standing on his front porch. Our gazes caught when I looked back at him before opening my own door, and we stayed like that for a long moment. The wind picked up, and a lock of his hair blew across his forehead. Kyle really was a very pretty man. He was funny and kind. I had no doubt he’d find someone to love him someday.

I lifted my hand in a wave, and went into my house.

Something Different

Starting this week, I’m going to do a something a little bit different with Flash Fic Friday.

You may have noticed they’ve been absent for, well, pretty much the whole year. I’ve been having a bit of writer’s block in general, and I’ve been having trouble working through it. There’s plenty of stuff I need to write, stuff I want to write, but I haven’t been able to get my brain to cooperate much. So! I’ve decided to help that along, I’m going to start a serial story here on the blog. It’ll run for, probably, 8 weeks (or so) and tell an entire story.

I’ve finally got my brain working enough for this. Plus, I think it’ll be a fun exercise, as once a post is published, I won’t be able to change what I’ve written. (Okay, technically I can, but I won’t.) So if I write myself into a corner, I’ll have to write my way out again.

Tune in tomorrow for the first installment!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A day devoted to celebrating love. While I think that should happen every day, it’s nice to have a special occasion to celebrate it too. Whether you’re doing so with your significant other(s) or someone new or a book and a glass of wine, I hope you have a wonderful day.

Dreamspinner Press and JMS are both having 30% off sales! Go grab a new book (or several), take advantage of the sale, and find some fictional people to fall in love with!

And may I remind you that I have a Valentine’s Day story? Sean and Hunter fall in love in Love at Roades End.

Sean Newvine is looking forward to his weekend at Roades End Inn so he can review his stay there for inclusion on his travel website. What he never expects is for the owner, Hunter Roades, to capture his attention from the very start.

The only problem is Hunter thinks Sean’s been sent by his brother on a blind date so that Hunter doesn’t have to spend Valentine’s Day alone. Once the awkward misunderstanding is resolved, Sean is charmed by Hunter’s formality and hospitality. And when they have a chance to really talk, sparks fly.

A passion-filled night has them both wanting more, but Hunter pulls away knowing Sean doesn’t live in town and the distance might be more than they can overcome. Sean and Hunter must figure out if they can make it work for longer than one night, or if their chance at love will end at Roades End Inn before it can begin.

Buy Links: Dreamspinner/AmazonKobo

Alex and Matt

If you’d like the flash fics featuring Alex and Matt from Hero Worship in a downloadable file, I have now put it together! The stories are all the same (with typo corrections) as the ones featured here on the blog. But now they are all together, with a cover, that you can get in any format you wish. Since I’m only able to put up PDFs on this site, that’s available on the Freebies page in the Books tab at the top. But if you’d prefer mobi or ePub, just drop me a note and I will happily email that to you.

I’ve said before that Alex and Matt are two of my favorite guys, and I’ve loved revisiting them. And now you can have their complete journey at your fingertips.

Happily Overwhelmed

So recently I release two stories. Within a few days of each other. Again. It wasn’t exactly on purpose, but when you’re working with two different amazing publishers, it can happen. Of course, the first time it was the same publisher. And when it happens yet again in April, it’ll be both publisher but…anyway.

It’s a little overwhelming.

Also overwhelming is the wonderful and lovely reviews I’ve gotten for both Hero Worship and Ghost of a Chance. Readers are really enjoying them, and that makes me incredibly happy because it means I’ve done my job. All I want is to tell good, entertaining stories. And it seems like, for the most part, I’ve done that.

I’m not so good at promo, and I’m trying to get better. But I’m so grateful for everyone who has seen and purchased all my recent releases.

So a quick note about the Flash Fic Fridays. You may have noticed that one didn’t go up this past Friday, which is highly unusual when I’ve had a release. But there are a couple of reasons for that. The first is that Matt and Alex, from Hero Worship, already have five shorts to their names. Since the story is a rerelease, with just a bit of tweaking and polishing and still the same story, I already had their next stages. You can find all their shorts linked on the short stories page with the blurb and buy links. I’m thinking of putting all their shorts together in a free downloadable format. That way, anyone who wants to carry around Matt and Alex’s continuation can do so.

The second is in regards to Blake and Derek. I thought long and hard about whether to write them a flash or two, but I ran into a couple of obstacles. The first is that their story, as it is, is fairly complete. But the second, and the most important, is that Blake and Derek continue to show up as the series goes on. We get to see them a lot as the series continues. And because of that, I was having a hard time coming up with a story that didn’t inadvertently spoil upcoming story lines. So I’m not saying never with them, but I’m definitely saying not right now. We may see them, and other couples from Requiem Inc. once the series is complete. Or at least further along.

At any rate, there are buy links in the books page at the top for all my books and stories. So if you’re looking for a good, feel good, happy read, I’d be honored if you’d check them out.

And this Friday, we’ll have a flash fic featuring some new characters and a plot bunny put in my ear that I’m going to try to write.

And maybe that’ll help me get some writing mojo back.