• Thomas Elkin 1 – Elements of Retrofit Excerpt




    Looking out of my office window over the darkening New York City skyline, I could see my reflection in the wall of glass before me. Beyond the expensive suit and shoes, there was grey hair at my temples, my once-black hair was now salt and pepper, and there were creases at the corners of my eyes.

    Forty-four years old. Forty-four. How did that happen?

    It seemed like I’d missed half of my life. In many ways I had.

    The light on the intercom flashed. “Mr Elkin?”

    My receptionist was fifteen years older than me and had been my receptionist for ten years, since the day I’d started at the firm, and yet she never faltered in her professional etiquette.

    “Yes, Jennifer?”

    “Ryan is on line two. Would you prefer I take a message?”

    “No, it’s fine,” I told her. “I’ll take it.” I pressed the speaker button. “Ryan?”

    “Hey, Dad, yeah, it’s me.”

    “Anything wrong?” I asked. It was unusual for him to call the office. “Still coming for dinner?”

    “Yeah, yeah, it’s all good. Just about dinner,” he hedged, “I was just wondering if you’d mind if I brought someone?”

    This surprised me. Since his mother and I had separated, it’d taken a while for things to get back to normal between us.

    “Yes, of course, that’s fine,” I told him. “Someone special?”

    “Oh no, nothing like that,” he said with a laugh. I could hear muffled voices in the background. “Just ran into an old buddy from school. He just got into town, he’s by himself and I told him he could have dinner with us.”

    “Okay, that’s fine,” I said. Ryan was very social, and growing up, he had forever had a crew of friends who lived at our place as much as their own. I’d quite often get home late to a den of high-school kids pretending to be asleep. I looked at my watch. “See you soon.”

    I disconnected the call, and pressed Jennifer’s line. “Can you please order dinner for three to be delivered to my home address?”

    “Certainly,” she replied. “Thai? Italian? Japanese?”

    “You choose.”

    “Very well.”

    There was a soft click in my ear and I went back to staring at the evening skyline for another half an hour, before packing my laptop into my satchel and walking out of the door. Jennifer gave me a polite smile. “Japanese, delivered to your door at seven-thirty.”

    I smiled warmly at her. “Thank you, Jennifer.”

    “Have a good weekend, Mr Elkin,” she said, knowing I’d be working all weekend. I worked most weekends. “I’ve taken the liberty to have lunch ordered for you tomorrow. Security will bring it up.”

    “Don’t know what I’d do without you.”

    She smiled proudly. “Have a good evening, Mr Elkin. Give Ryan my best.”

    “I will.”

    I took the elevator from the top floor of executive offices down to the executive marble lobby, walked a block to the executive marble lobby of my apartment building, took the elevator to the executive suite on the top floor.

    Expensive. Polished. Predictable.

    Those three words just about summed me up.

    I’d been preoccupied lately, unsettled and lacking something. I’d quite often catch myself staring out the window for some lengths of time, not able to recall a single thought. Maybe I needed a vacation. Maybe I’d take one after this next big contract was done.

    I loved my job as an architect. Loved it. I loved the lines in structure, the quiet confidence in well-built, historical buildings, and I loved the superiority and functionality of modern design.

    I loved my apartment, had some good friends and I even had an amicable relationship with my ex-wife, all things considered. My relationship with my son was better, good even. We’d had a rough patch when his mother and I first separated five years ago, but now at twenty-two years of age, he could see all sides of the situation and had made peace with it. With me.

    I’d changed into jeans and a button-down shirt and poured my first glass of wine when there was a knock at the door. I checked my watch, and knowing the doorman would have sent Ryan straight up, I called out, “It’s unlocked.”

    “Hey, Dad,” Ryan called from the door. I could hear him mumble something else and I remembered he was bringing company. My top-floor apartment was a large, open floor bachelor pad and the kitchen ran along the inside wall, out of line of sight from the front door.

    “In the kitchen,” I called out. “You boys want a drink?”

    Ryan walked in, followed by a face I didn’t recognise at first. “Dad, do you remember Cooper Jones?” Ryan asked, by way of introduction. “We went to high school together.”

    The name yes, but he didn’t look a thing like I remembered. Gone was the gangly, awkward teenager, replaced by a fit-looking young man. He had messy short brown hair, a wide smile and mischief in his hazel eyes.

    “Yes, I remember,” I said, extending my hand for him to shake. “You just grew up.”

    Ryan rolled his eyes. “That’s what happens, Dad, when you don’t see someone for five years.”

    Cooper shook my hand firmly. “Nice to meet you, sir.”

    “Can I get you boys a drink?” I asked again. “Dinner will be here in about half an hour.”

    I had my wine, they opted for a beer, and Ryan told me how Cooper’s family had moved to Chicago and how he’d lost touch with him through college, but Cooper had come to New York City for the summer. He’d literally checked into his room and gone in search for something to eat when he ran into Ryan on the street who then pulled out his phone and called me to see if he could tag along for dinner.

    “Hope you don’t mind,” Cooper said with a smile. “I was only going to grab something passable as food from a 7-11 or something.”

    My nose scrunched up at the thought and Cooper laughed, telling me, “That’s the same reaction Ryan had.”

    Dinner arrived and as we ate, the two boys talked about people they knew. Although the conversation almost excluded me, I didn’t mind. It was good to see Ryan laugh, and their college stories were rather funny. Very different from me when I was twenty-two, that was certain.

    Ryan looked at me. “You’re quiet tonight, Dad.” He pulled at the label on his beer. “How’s things?”

    I think he wanted to know how things were with Peter, but didn’t want to ask outright in front of company. “Good,” I said, not about to say I was single again, after I told Peter I wasn’t interested. “Work’s been busy.”

    I think he took the message, because he gave a nod and went back to picking at his beer label.

    Changing the subject, I looked to Cooper. “So, what brings you back to New York?”

    “I have a summer internship,” he said. He was just about to speak again, but was interrupted by Ryan’s ringing phone.

    “Hey,” Ryan said loudly into his phone. “Hell yes, I’ll be there. I’m bringing an old friend of mine who just got into town… Okay, see ya soon.” Ryan clicked off the call and looked at Cooper. “Man, you have to come out with me tonight. We got tickets to the hottest new club.”

    Cooper shrugged and grinned. “Um, sure.”

    Ryan looked at me, somewhat apologetically. “Sorry, we’ll need to cut it short tonight. Hope you don’t mind.”

    “No, I don’t mind at all,” I told him. And I didn’t. Hell, at twenty-two I’d been married, with a baby on the way and a house in the ’burbs. It wasn’t until I’d almost hit forty that I’d realised what I’d missed out on, what I’d spent twenty-five years hiding…

    “Go out, have a great time,” I told them. “Be careful. And if you need a place to crash in the City, there’s always here.”

    “Thanks,” Ryan said with a genuine, appreciative smile. But then his brow creased. “You sure you don’t mind?”

    “Mind?” I scoffed. “I’m jealous!”

    He laughed, though I doubted he knew the underlying truth to my words. I was jealous. I was jealous he had a social life, I was jealous he still had his youth, without the weight of mistakes and life wearing him down.

    They left to spend their Friday night out doing God knew what while I tidied up after dinner, sat down with a glass of wine and opened my laptop, spending my Friday night working.


    * * * *


    I was in the office on Monday early, like always, and had forgotten about the intake of interns, until Jennifer buzzed me on the intercom. I looked up from the job specifications. “Yes, Jennifer.”

    “Sorry to interrupt, Mr Elkin,” she said. “If I could trouble you at my desk for a moment.”

    The only time Jennifer ever asked me to come to her desk was when she wanted me to have a visual of a client, or opposition, before I met them. “Sure,” I told her.

    Jennifer’s desk ran along the left-hand side of my double doors, which ensured no one got to see me without checking in with her first. I opened the door and she handed me a file, which I opened. “Interns,” she said quietly. “There are three to choose from, that’s them over there.” She looked pointedly toward the waiting room without moving her head.

    I looked over to see two young men and one woman, all keen to impress and impeccably dressed. Usually the four executive senior partners got to choose from the top four candidates, so I knew any of the three remaining candidates were good. I read through the very brief credential lists first, not even looking at names or gender. I just wanted talent.

    Academically, they were all relatively evenly matched, but it was then a name stood out. I glanced over at the suited man who I hadn’t even recognised as the kid who had dinner in my apartment just three nights ago.

    He looked different. Gone was the backpacker look, gone was the kid who drank beer and talked about drunken antics with my son.

    In his place was a professional, serious man, dressed in a well-tailored suit.

    Without another thought, without any thought, I looked at Jennifer, handed her the file and said two words that would change my life.

    “Cooper Jones.”



    You can order Elements of Retrofit now, to have delivered to your inbox as soon as it goes live HERE

  • LJ Harris is a guest author!

    I’ve known the lovely LJ Harris for a few years, and if memory serves correctly, it was her that urged me to join facebook back in my fanfic writing days.  So it’s an absolute pleasure to have her on my blog today! 


    Welcome! Another (awesome) Aussie in our midst! Tell us about you!

    Well I’m a mother and wife. I live and work in Canberra, and enjoy going to the movies and more than anything sitting down to a good book.

    When did you start writing?

    I’ve been writing seriously for the past 4 years now. Up until then I only wrote a little poetry once in a while.

    How did you find the m/m genre?

    I’d never read anything until about 3 years ago when I came across a story about a gay guy who set himself the challenge of going after straight men exclusively, and the moment I read it, I was hooked. I haven’t looked back since.

    What do you like to read when you’re not writing?

    Oh definitely reading. Nothing pleases me more than immersing myself in a world of someone else’s creation. I also play a mean game of poker and have won an occasional freeroll tournament in my time.

    Tell us three random facts about you that your readers don’t know.

    I’m a sucker for cheesy 80’s movies – you know the ones. 16 Candles, Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club.

    I have zero patience. Seriously, I don’t even have time to squeeze the toothpaste to the top of the tube some days.

    I’m allergic to horses, dogs, cats, and I have come to discover, buffalo. We were at a restaurant that had a buffalo head on the wall right near our table, and I couldn’t stop sneezing and wheezing lol.

    Tell us all about your book Heart of Glass, and where can people find it? Where can we find you? (amazon links, GR links, blog link etc)

    When I decided to submit a short story as part of the Second Chances anthology, I wanted to come up with characters that had lead lives that weren’t necessarily what they’d envisioned, but had instead ended up with due to circumstance.

    Here are the details:

    Heart of Glass

    Published by

    Bottom Drawer Publications




    Days after arriving in Australia for a working holiday, Zack Doherty is blindsided by the connection he instantly feels to Heath Connors, but circumstances don’t work in their favour. Zack is uncharacteristically forward in pushing Heath to accept a date when fate gives him a second opportunity.

    Heath has only recently had the courage to admit his true self, walking away from his marriage and a good job when he could no longer lie to himself. The attraction he feels for a stranger that fleetingly crossed his path confirms he made the right choice.

    Will Zack be the one to mend Heath’s heart of glass?



    Zack Doherty

    IT WAS EARLY on Friday morning, and I was beat. Ever since I’d touched down in Sydney on Tuesday, I’d been sleeping during the day and lying awake at night, having not quite adjusted to the time difference. Although the jet lag was literally killing me, I needed to start the newest phase of my life, and my first plan of action was to get the hell out of bed and look for a job.

    I already missed the life I’d built back in San Francisco—my family and friends, even my crappy job at a local bar I’d taken after cutbacks forced me to leave the job I loved.  But after suffering a bad break-up with Trent Forster, the man I thought I’d one day marry until I found him in bed with his ex-boyfriend, I had needed a little time and a lot of space to rethink the direction my life was headed.

    It had been more than six months since that day, yet I still hadn’t managed to move on. Everywhere I’d looked, Trent had been there; our social circles colliding so often that his and his lover’s presence had worn me down. Eventually deciding enough was enough, I’d packed my bags, my tail tucked firmly between my legs, and departed for Australia for a working holiday, leaving behind the only life I’d ever known.

    My father had returned here to Canberra, south-west of Sydney, the place he was born, when I’d moved out of the house to finish college, a year or so after he and Mom divorced. I was looking forward to not only making a fresh start but also reconnecting with him, having only managed to visit a mere handful of times since he’d returned here ten long years ago. I was giving myself six months to find a job, and if I liked it, I’d probably end up extending my stay and finding a place of my own.

    Dad had returned to the job he loved since coming home. It was the very same job he’d had when he first met Mom—working in public affairs for the US Embassy—and it kept him extremely busy. So busy, in fact, that he rarely had the opportunity to take his beloved Mustang out for a spin, especially since the Embassy provided him with a car for work purposes. I’d only been in the house for a few minutes when he handed me the keys to the Candy Apple Red ’67 Fastback, telling me it needed to be driven around town from time to time to keep it in running order.

    After a quick reviving shower and shave, I grabbed the car keys from the dish on the sideboard, happy that I finally had the chance to oblige him.

    It had been five years since I’d sat behind the wheel of this particular vehicle. No matter how many times I opened the door and jumped in, the familiar smell of tobacco, mint, and leather never failed to invoke many happy memories … so many, in fact, that I had a hard time keeping a smile off my face whenever I slipped into the driver’s seat and turned the key.

    But when I decided to go for a drive and check out Dad’s place of work, stopping off at the store on the way to buy a newspaper so I could check out the local job market, I thanked the gods for their gift, because if not for my father’s generosity, I’d never have encountered … him.

    He was washing car windows at the traffic lights. He was tall, tanned, and lean with broad shoulders. I could tell his hair was long, thick, and wavy by the wisps of light brown hair that peeked out every which way from underneath his black, woollen hat. A smattering of stubble across his jaw and his long, narrow nose enhanced his features perfectly, and when I caught sight of his bright blue eyes as he moved closer, the most beautiful eyes I’d ever seen, roving over the entire car before they met with mine, I was hooked in an instant.

    I had to suppress a laugh when I noticed he was wearing one of those god-awful green glow-in-the-dark vests, and as he stood there, holding a squeegee in his hand and looking at me like I was something to eat, a strange but exhilarating combination of embarrassment and elation flowed through my every cell. Even as the light turned green and the traffic began to move, I continued to devour every inch of him. Shooting him a nervous wink for good measure, I watched as he turned and walked away, his ass swaying hypnotically with every step he took. It was in that moment as I sat there, ogling the most handsome man I’d ever laid eyes on, that I felt as though I’d been struck by lightning.

    Purchase Links:







    Where else can we find you?







    Fb author page:


  • Lily G. Blunt guest post!

    Five minutes with Lily G Blunt

    Tell us about you.

    I live in sunny Northamptonshire in the UK with hubs and my two twenty-something “children”.  I taught in primary schools for over twenty-five years before discovering the wonderful world of m/m fiction.

    When did you start writing?

    Surprisingly, I discovered m/m novels through Twilight about four years ago.

    As a teacher, I never set out to become an author. Although I often had story ideas whirling around my head, I never wrote them down. But after reading slash Twilight fanfiction for a few months, I suddenly had an idea in the middle of the night, and wrote my first two chapters the following day.  It was during my summer holiday and I remember thinking “Why am I wasting my time on this?” I posted on FanFiction.net and added some more chapters over the following months, which were het. I have since rewritten this story, deleting the het scenes. The story is now called Heartbeat and it’s still on my FF profile (sue273).  I started Oxford Blues during a bout of insomnia. This story rapidly gained followers and introduced me to many friends in the Twilight fandom. Other stories followed, along with a wider readership and, after joining Facebook, I met up with many people who encouraged and helped me along the way.

     Why self-publishing?

    I edited some of my stories, and then sent them to a couple of publishers, but they weren’t interested in writing that had been previously offered as fanfiction. I have to thank Tee Baggins because she suggested self-publishing, helped guide me to all the right places, and held my hand as I published my first book. I decided to publish my own fiction myself, as it’s so much quicker than waiting on a publisher.

    Best advice you’ve ever been told?

    Life is too short to stuff a mushroom.

    Seriously, your best form of advertising is your next novel. So keep writing …

     Craziest thing you’ve ever done?

    Not necessarily crazy, but this altered the course of my life. I ruptured my Achilles tendon while barn dancing. I didn’t do it on purpose!  In fact, I almost didn’t go to the party that evening because I was feeling ill, but it was a friend’s fiftieth birthday and I thought I couldn’t let her down. As a result, I spent the next three months at home in plaster and a wheelchair. It was during this time I discovered Twilight, YouTube and fanfiction. I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for that evening! Now that is crazy!

    Three random facts about you that your readers don’t know?

    I make and post gay-themed videos on YouTube and Vimeo.

    I have a Shetland sheepdog called Barney.

    For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to perform a gymnastic routine on a beam.

     What’s next for Lily G Blunt?

    I plan to complete my three fanfiction works in progress that I put on hold while writing my latest novel. I’m also writing a story using Van Gogh’s paintings and Don Maclean’s Vincent as my inspiration.

    Tell us about your latest release.

    Boys_on_Film_Cover_for_Kindle Lily G Blunt


    It tells the story of Stefan, a porn star who is confused about his  sexuality, and Nate, an unpublished author of gay erotica.

    Set in an opulent house in San Diego that also serves as a porn studio, the story follows Stefan as he falls in love with Nate, a budding author from England, and in the process comes out as gay. Despite working in a gay porn studio and having sex with his best buddy, Dan, on a regular basis, Stefan outwardly claims to be straight, although he enjoys the sex and substantial pay he earns from his gay videos. This changes when he meets Nate, who has been given the opportunity to observe the inner workings of Blue House Film Studios to add realism to his latest erotic novel.

    Where can we buy it?

    Boys on Film by Lily. G. Blunt

    Where can we find you?


    Thanks so much for dropping by!!

  • Nagron + obsession = fanfic

    Yep, I wrote a fanfic.

    Given my obsession with Spartacus and Nagron, it was only ever a matter of time, really.  I thought I’d left the wonderful realms of fanfic, but apparently not.  During my I-think-I-broke-my-brain lapse – and my inability to focus on any of my WIP’s – I wrote a little story in the Spartacus world of Agron and Nasir.

    It was stress-free writing, but still allowing words to flow and for me to flex some muscles I’d thought long forgotten.  I think I could be ready to start on my other stories again… fingers crossed, anyway.

    The link to the story is  Remaining Days


    At the end of War of the Damned, final episode Victory, Agron and Nasir walked into a new life. This is a continuation – two months after burying Spartacus, they find themselves in the lands East of the Rhine, in a place they might call home.

    It is canon, so if you’ve not seen the show the story might not make a great deal of sense.  

    Now for some pic spam (I don’t own these, or make them. I give full credit to the awesome people who did).  I got them from my tumblr dash, so please feel free to check it out and the amazing people who post their work <3   Tumblr link

    Some Nagron love…

    tumblr_mqeq46VkrV1rvecw0o7_250     tumblr_mqeq46VkrV1rvecw0o5_250

    nagron 3

    One of my favourite scenes…  so much is unsaid *sigh*

    Some Agron profile/neck porn… because JFC… 


    Some Agron sigh… because he’s the master of snark.

    Agron sigh 1     agron wtf1

    agron wtf    

    tumblr_mqcvpnEyve1qfcvcuo2_250 (1)

     The most awful of scenes…

    agron crucified 1  agron crucified 3 agron crucified   agron crucified 4


    dan no h8

    Thanks to all who’ve read my little fanfic already, and thanks to all the amazing people who have shared kind words during my little hiatus. I love you all more than words can say.  <3 

  • Pitch by Will Parkinson


    I’d really love to welcome Will to my blog.  Will Parkinson is the real life man I named Blindside’s Will Parkinson after (he pestered me to write it until I gave in 😉 )  And he is very excited about his latest release, Pitch, and I’m honoured to have him here.  He’s here to tell you all about Pitch. 

    About Will…

    WILL PARKINSON believes that no matter what obstacles are thrown in the path of young love, it will always find a way to win in the end. He wants his characters to have their happily ever after, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to come easily.
    None of this would have happened if he had followed the advice he was given many years ago. “What are you wasting your time on that for? It’s never going to amount to anything.” He believed it for the longest time, abandoning characters he’d created in his childhood.
    He picked up his very first m/m story by a writer named Eden Winters, who was an absolute joy when they corresponded. She asked him if he wrote and he told her the story. Eden explained to Will that the voices in his head would never go away and how he needed to let them out. With that thought in mind, Will put e-pen to e-paper once more. It was truly a liberating experience and one he has no intention of giving up again.

    Now for the Interview:

    Will, I’m so glad I could share in this exciting new release, and I’m glad you’re here on my blog. Tell us more about you. What led you to become a writer?

    When I was a kid I enjoyed writing. I would do handwritten stories (there were no computers when I was a kid) that were about 130 pages. I loved creating the worlds and directing the characters in the direction I needed them to go (though I have to admit, may times they went off on their own). It was thrilling when I finished my first story (Free at Last) and started on another (The Triad). I’d written four or five stories, each one with different characters who were parts of my personality. Of course, since no one knew I was gay, I couldn’t very well share them. When I wrote a story that I could share, I took it to my father who was…let’s just say he wasn’t very supportive. When you’re 14 and you’re being told that you’re wasting your time, it hurts. I stopped writing altogether for many years.

    When I read the book ‘The Telling’ by Eden Winters, I fell in love with the m/m genre. I wrote to Eden to tell her how much I enjoyed the story, thinking I’d never hear back from her (yeah, I assumed that writers were like rock stars and even if you wrote them, you’d never get an answer unless it was a form letter). I was shocked a day or two later when she wrote and told me how much my letter meant to her. We started conversing and she asked if I wrote. I told her my tale of woe, and she listened patiently. Then went on to explain that the stories and characters never go away and that I needed to let them out.

     From that encouragement, I started writing again and found I still loved it, even after all those years. I shared my story with Eden and she said she thought it was very good. From those humble beginnings came Pitch. 

    You write YA as well. Tell us about that.

    I actually write Young Adult and Adult (as Parker Williams) stories. I like YA because it’s something I would have loved to see when I was a kid. Characters who were like me, unsure of their place in the world, feeling alone. I think YA books with a positive message are vital to development for young people.

    What do you hope your readers gain from Pitch?

    Pitch isn’t exactly a normal story. There is triumph and tragedy. A lot of bad things to overcome. One character in particular has an impact on the story that sets the stage for another story currently in the works called Wet Paint. For everything Pitch is (or at least what I hope it is), Wet Paint will be more. I’ve already had people crying over some bits that I’ve shared.

    When people read Pitch, I hope they come away with the feeling that Taylor grew as a character and a person. That his road wasn’t easy, but with the help of his friends he might just make it out okay.

    Blurb for Pitch

    The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor’s life. He’s had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.

    Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend.

    Excerpt from Pitch

    TAYLOR ANDREWS glanced toward the door and noticed a young man, shoulders hunched, waiting outside the classroom. As he continued to stare, the newcomer took a deep breath, threw back his shoulders, and lifted his head before he stepped into Mrs. Wagner’s homeroom. He walked with purpose toward the front of the classroom and handed the teacher a sheet of paper without saying a word.
    After a brief moment of studying the paper, Mrs. Wagner smiled at the young man before turning to the students filling the desks of her classroom. “Class, this is Jackson Kern. It’s his first day here, and I need a volunteer to help him get acclimated.”
    Taylor looked at the new guy and felt his face heat. He grabbed his ever-present sketchpad from his backpack, his desire to capture this stranger’s likeness overwhelming. The guy was… well, gorgeous. Taylor’s hands flew over the paper as he took in Jackson Kern’s beautiful well-sculpted face, rich chocolate-brown eyes, and dark, thick hair. He had a toned body, maybe a swimmer? God, what he wouldn’t give to….
    “I’ll show him around, Mrs. Wagner,” Becca Monroe offered brightly, interrupting Taylor’s wayward thoughts.
    “Thank you, Becca,” Mrs. Wagner said with a smile before turning to the newest addition to the class. “Jackson, please take a seat. Becca will walk with you and show you the building and where your classes will be. If you have any questions, just ask her.”
    “Yes, ma’am, thank you,” the new kid replied. Taylor noted how polite Jackson was, unlike most of the guys in his tenth-grade class.

    Jackson parked his tall, lanky body in the seat next to Becca and started talking. Taylor watched as Becca’s eyes roamed over Jackson’s frame, and she licked her lips. He could tell she was already on the prowl. She was a pretty enough girl, if you liked them. Long reddish-brown hair, big green eyes, and a big… ego.
    She was hot and she knew it. She was also the kind of girl who was only out for one thing. Herself. She was junior varsity head cheerleader, something his best friend, Benny Peters, always had a lot of fun commenting on. She’d dated the captains of most of the sports teams, always switching to a new guy at the beginning of the season.
    “Damn lucky girl,” Taylor muttered. If he hadn’t been enjoying the sight of the new boy, he’d have volunteered for guide duty. Oh, the things he wanted to show him… not that he had any experience; he’d never even kissed another boy. He worked hard at trying not to look at other guys. The thought of being outed in high school scared him, so much so that he’d sometimes have panic attacks when he thought about it—clammy skin, problems breathing, feeling faint. He hated those, really hated not being in control. It always made him feel weak and needy.
    The bell rang, startling Taylor out of his reverie, and the students moved like cattle, heading off to their next class. Taylor scowled when he saw Becca take the new guy by the arm and lead him from the classroom. As they passed he heard Jackson ask, “Do you know who I talk to about the baseball team?”
    “What position do you play, Jackson?” Becca asked excitedly, ignoring Jackson’s question.
    “I’m a pitcher.”
    Taylor could hear the excitement in Becca’s voice, and he knew the reason. Baseball tryouts would be in the next week or two, and she needed a new ball-playing boyfriend since her ex, Cody Daniels, graduated. It was as if she’d won the freaking lottery.
    Jackson was hot and he played sports. For Becca that was definitely the best of both worlds.

    Taylor chuckled. Oh, how he’d love to be that boy’s catcher.
    But damn, Becca was probably going to be all over that anyway.
    Not that he’d ever have a shot with someone like Jackson.
    According to Benny, he wasn’t bad-looking. Benny often said he was jealous of Taylor’s curly blond hair, which he himself despised.
    Besides, Taylor thought, Benny’s straight. What does he know?
    Jackson was probably three inches taller than Taylor’s five foot eight, but it wasn’t his height that bothered him as much as the extra weight. He was no one special, and someone like Jackson Kern would never give him the time of day. That’s just how things went.
    Over the next week, Taylor would see Jackson throughout the school. Other than homeroom they didn’t have any classes together, but he noticed him in the hallway or heading to the gym. Taylor’s heart fluttered every time he caught a glimpse of Jackson. He loved the way his lip curled when he was amused or the way he arched an eyebrow when he seemed to be curious about something. The thing that struck him most, though, was the fact that Jackson was so poised and confident when he was with a group. People hung on his every word. It almost seemed like he was holding court. People just tended to gravitate to Jackson. His rich baritone voice had a soothing, hypnotic effect on Taylor from a distance. He couldn’t help but wonder what it did to the people Jackson was actually talking with. He watched Jackson in the school’s weight room one afternoon and stood transfixed as the muscles in Jackson’s chest and arms strained with every repetition. Taylor began to sweat and unconsciously licked his lips as he watched Jackson working his leg muscles. His pulse raced when Jackson pulled off his shirt, the dusting of dark hair across the expanse of his chest matted from sweat. Taylor swore he could smell Jackson’s scent, musky but sweet. He wanted to get closer but knew it would seem weird, so he reluctantly tore himself away and went back to class.
    Taylor was envious of Jackson’s build. He studied his own body in the mirror and sighed. He was plump. That was the only way to describe it. There was no muscle definition. He tried to maintain his weight but couldn’t resist pizza. He’d tried to work out with Benny, who seemed obsessed with his body, but it just wasn’t  for him. Taylor sighed heavily. He was so far out of Jackson Kern’s league, he’d never have a shot with someone like him, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy the view.

    TAYLOR glanced over at Benny, comfortably stretched out on the sofa, thumbing through Taylor’s latest sketches. At six foot one and weighing in at nearly 215 pounds, Benny had always been one of Taylor’s favorite sketch subjects. His eyes were the coolest brown color with small flecks of gold in them. His sandy hair was always cut short, but not like a buzz cut, which Taylor had to admit was his favorite kind of haircut.
    Benny had always stood up for Taylor and it was that fact which made Benny the only one Taylor had come out to. No matter what else happened between the two, Taylor was sure Benny would always be there for him.
    “Benny, what would you say if I told you I was crushing?”
    Taylor asked, sitting up on his bed and tossing a rolled-up pair of socks into the laundry basket.
    Benny met Taylor’s eyes as he laid the sketches across his chest. “I’d say who this time? Already over… what was his name?
    Mason? Dixon? Something southern.”
    “His name was Caleb,” Taylor groaned, rolling his eyes. “And he was a jerk. Remember how he humiliated and made Toby cry when he came into the locker room and found Caleb throwing his clothes into the shower?”
    “Yeah, I remember. I was the one who got him something to wear for the rest of the day. I can’t stand bullies,” Benny snarled.
    “So who has your undies in a bunch this time?
    “I’m talking about the new guy, Jackson Kern. There’s just something about him. He’s… I dunno, different. He’s not loud or annoying. He seems really laid-back. And he’s totally hot. He just seems… perfect.” Taylor sighed wistfully. “I can’t imagine him ever doing a mean thing to anyone.”

    Benny tried to suppress a snort. “And how long is this one going to last? A month? Two tops. You go through crushes faster than I go through underwear.”
    “When you change them twice a year that’s not too difficult,”
    Taylor snickered.
    Taylor was surprised when Benny hit him with a pillow, and the fight was on. He grabbed the other pillow and swung at Benny, who dodged and laughed. For such a big guy, Benny was surprisingly agile. They smacked each other around, laughing all the while, until Taylor cried uncle.
    After they were exhausted, Benny turned to him and said with a sympathetic smile, “Taylor, talk to the guy. Pretty much the worst that could happen is he’s not interested.”
    Taylor stared glumly up at the ceiling, his thoughts turning once more to Jackson. “No, the worst that could happen is he’s a homophobic asshat who wants to kick the crap out of me.”
    “Yeah,” Benny observed thoughtfully, “but at least he’d touch you. That’s more than you’ve ever gotten before.” He gave Taylor a gleeful grin, as if waiting for the comment to sink in fully.
    And as soon as it did, Taylor lunged at Benny, and the fight was back on. Once Benny succeeded in pinning Taylor, his expression turned serious as he said, “Look, just be cool. Don’t obsess. If you want to impress him, show him the pictures you drew of him. You’re really good at doing these.”
    Taylor’s cheeks heated. He could never show his work to Jackson. He didn’t think they were good enough to share with anyone other than Benny. He’d been puttering around with drawing for years. He had several sketchpads full of various things that caught his eye. He loved to do drawings of nature scenes, people, and animals. He’d done several of Trip, his Siberian husky, before the poor dog died that still brought tears when Taylor looked at them. It was just a hobby, though. His father always told him he needed a real career and constantly reminded him that art wouldn’t amount to anything in the real world. He shook his head sadly. No, there was no way Jackson would ever see his work.

    STANDING by the bleachers near the dugout, Taylor couldn’t help but wonder why he was there. Baseball tryouts held no interest for him. In fact, he’d always found the game kind of stupid, yet here he was. His gaze landed on Jackson Kern. Yeah, that was something he really wanted, to see Jackson play the game.
    Jackson took the center thingy… the mound or whatever it’s called. Taylor had spent a good deal of time reading about baseball.
    He figured he should know something about it, just in case Jackson ever spoke to him. Still, he was having a hard time wrapping his head around all the rules and terms. Didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try, though. He pulled out his sketchbook and did a few rough outlines, wanting to fill them out later. Jackson threw a few pitches to the catcher, loosening up. Mitch Daniels, Cody’s younger brother, stepped up and tapped his bat on the ground. Jackson brought his arms up near his chest, struck a pose, and shook his head slightly.
    After a moment he leaned back and threw the ball. It went straight across the plate at blinding speed. Mitch swung at it and missed completely. When Jackson finished the inning, allowing no hits, he marched back to the dugout; the coach’s jaw fell open as he rushed out to meet Jackson.
    “Kid, what’s your name?”
    “Jackson, sir. My friends call me Jax.”
    “Well, Jax, if you can throw like that with consistency, you’re gonna be our ace. I can tell,” the coach said, practically drooling over the young prospect.
    Taylor thought he saw Jackson… Jax blush. By the end of the tryouts, not one person had hit anything Jackson threw. When the coach told him he had a spot, Jackson smiled so big and wide, Taylor was sure his heart would stop. Then Becca came running over and threw her arms around the team’s new pitcher. Taylor turned in disgust and started shuffling away, pausing to take a last look at Jackson. He was all hot and sweaty, and it looked really, really good on him. Taylor knew that’s what he was going to be thinking about when he went to bed.

    TAYLOR found himself drawn to watch the practices. He kept trying to tell himself it was stupid, and he knew it was, but he really enjoyed watching Jackson. He’d been going to watch practice every day for two weeks when he saw Jackson turn in his direction. For just a second he thought, more like hoped, that Jackson was looking at him. His eyes locked on Jackson, and his mouth went dry, wishing that he’d come over to him, put his arms around him, whisper in his ear… but then the guy turned and walked over to the rest of the team, clearing the field for the next inning. Taylor’s heart sank, realizing it was all wishful thinking on his part.

    “COME on, Taylor, crack a book. I came over to study, not to watch you stare at the ceiling,” Benny huffed, pushing a pile of laundry off the chair and parking himself at the desk. “And would it kill you to clean up a little bit? This place is a sty, man.”
    Taylor never even registered the reproach in Benny’s voice.
    All he could think about was Jackson.
    “Benny, I’m going nuts. I know it’s never gonna go anywhere, but I can’t stop going to see him,” Taylor groaned.
    Benny stared at him, eyes wide. “Wow, never saw you this bad before. You’d always crush for a few weeks and then see some new hottie that made you forget the old one. Maybe you really do have it bad for this guy,” Benny muttered.
    Swinging his legs over, Taylor sat on the edge of the bed, grinning with excitement. “You’ve got no idea. Yesterday morning I saw him with a smear of toothpaste in the corner of his mouth. I swear it was one of the hottest things I’d ever seen, and I just wanted to lick it off.”
    Benny’s lips tightened into a grimace. “Toothpaste is hot?
    God, you’re so weird, Taylor. I hope you won’t be upset if I don’t admit to knowing you when we’re in public.”

    Taylor smirked, remembering everything with vivid detail. “It was hot! If it wasn’t for the fact that Becca rubbed it off for him, which really pissed me off, by the way, I’d have stared at it all day.”
    “So he and Becca are together?” Benny asked, putting the book down and finally turning to face Taylor.
    “Yeah, I guess. She’s always hanging on him and hugging him. It’s totally disgusting,” Taylor sneered.
    “Because it’s what you want to be doing?” Benny wondered aloud, keeping his voice low.
    “Maybe.” Taylor sighed. “Either way, this just reinforces my dislike of public displays of affection.”
    “So when are you gonna finally talk to him? How hard can it really be?” Benny asked patiently.
    Taylor could see the look of pity on his friend’s face, but he snapped, “Well, you get a girl to notice you and then come back and give me some pointers, okay?”
    Taylor knew it wasn’t fair. Benny was all about his schoolwork. His parents were always so strict about everything, and the schoolwork had to come first.
    Benny quirked an eyebrow and stared at Taylor condescendingly. “I don’t need a girl to notice me, Tay. I’m not the one who needs validation. Maybe you should just join the monks.
    I’m sure then you’ll get plenty of hot action,” Benny chuckled as he opened his math book. There was going to be a stupid quiz tomorrow, which, naturally, Benny was going to ace. He always aced them. Benny’s grades were important to him. As it stood Benny had a near-perfect GPA and would likely be valedictorian as a senior.
    He and Benny had been the best of friends since kindergarten.
    Taylor knew Benny would do almost anything for him, even if it included telling him things about himself he really didn’t want to hear, especially when it was the truth. Taylor knew he was a chicken, but he also knew unrequited love would be better than being humiliated in front of or by Jackson.


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