Incognito Blog Tour + Giveaway

You like blog tours? Like M/M Erotica? Yup! Yup! 🙂

Welcome to the Incognito Blog Tour

Presented by

Book Title: Incognito
Author: Miho Li
Genre: Contemporary, Erotica, Male/Male
Words: 25,377

Book Description:

“When Ren sees the new transfer student—Shin, black hair, storm-cloud-gray eyes, and more beautiful than any guy had a right to be—he makes it his mission to get to know him. Too bad Shin is about as sociable as fungus, and about as likable, too. But Ren isn’t good at giving up, so he takes on the challenge of cracking Shin’s titanium shell. What he finds underneath, though, is way more than he’s prepared to handle.

People are disappearing in Akita, and Shin might be behind it. As Ren’s feelings grow for the reserved man, so do the number of missing person reports, and Ren doesn’t know if their budding relationship is enough to withstand both the well of secrets and the organization Shin works for.”

Purchase: http://www.bookstrand.com/incognito

Excerpt:

There was a heavy sigh and then, “Ren, just go talk to him already.”

Ren’s gaze snapped back to his friends. He flicked shaggy blond hair out of his eye and said, “What?”

“Shin,” Hideyoshi said, making vague hand gestures at the student Ren had been ogling.

Shin had settled in the grass beside a tree and was propping a book open in his lap. Messy strands of black hair fell across his pale cheeks, and he brushed it back with fingers that were surprisingly elegant for a guy.

“Go talk to him.”

Shin Sarutobi was a newly transferred junior, and despite sharing several classes, Ren had yet to find the right opportunity to talk to him. Not because he was intimidated but because Shin treated everyone around him, professors and students alike, with what barely qualified as cool indifference. He spoke in class when necessary but otherwise remained removed from everyone else and, from what Ren could tell, preferred it that way.

The exception was Kyouya Tsutano. Kyouya had transferred in about a month before Shin. It had been a big deal, what with his family being corporate millionaires. Rumor had it Kyouya’s dad died recently, and he had returned to Akita to live with his uncle.

From the start, Kyouya and Shin had a volatile relationship—they always looked pissed just being near each other. Except Ren had overheard them arrange meetings, and Kyouya remained the only person to date Shin spoke with on a regular basis.

Naturally, Ren assumed they were sleeping together. He entertained the theory that Shin and Kyouya were trapped in an unhealthy relationship based on angry but mind-blowing sex.

He chose not to share this theory with his friends.

In any case, the fact remained that Shin was a jerk. A gorgeous jerk with ink-black hair, intense gray eyes, and long legs that made him one of the few students taller than Ren, but a jerk nonetheless. Ren watched as a line formed between Shin’s brows, and he glanced in the direction Kyouya had gone with a sour twist of his lips.

Shin was also a jerk in dire need of an intervention.

Ren nodded decisively. “I’m going to talk to him.”

Hideyoshi gave him a flat look before apparently deciding against voicing what he was thinking. Ren ignored him and crossed the lawn with purposeful strides toward Shin.

With blond hair and blue eyes thanks to his European half, Ren wasn’t used to making the first move. Shin, however, was definitely worth the exception.

“Hi,” Ren said. He didn’t believe in pick-up lines.

Shin didn’t acknowledge the greeting.

Ren cleared his throat, undeterred. “Your friend looked pissed.”

Shin’s gaze lifted, passing dismissively over Ren’s smiling face before returning to his book.

“Uh…your boyfriend?” Ren said, hedging for a response.

Without lowering his book, Shin turned his head and looked up at Ren with ill-concealed impatience. “Did you want something?”

Ren considered this. “Should I answer that honestly?” Because there were a great many things that Ren wanted, including but not limited to Shin spread out on his bed in nothing but a silk ribbon.

Maybe it was best not to be quite so forthcoming yet.

About the Author:

Miho grew up on horror, fantasy, and romance novels (although she hid the romance novels, considering she probably shouldn’t have been reading them at eleven years old). She started writing horror first, but these days, her work features more boys kissing boys than heads exploding, which everyone agrees is an improvement. She has a love of all things fantastical, and her favorite romances are the ones that don’t happen easily. Reading or writing about characters overcoming adversity in order to reach their happy endings, whether that’s together or not, is what fuels her love of the written word.

Find Miho online at:

Promo Posts & Giveaways at every stop, so be sure to follow the blog tour to the end!

Giveaway Time!

The giveaway is a eBook copy of Incognito by Miho Li. Simply leave a comment and you’re in!
*A comment here also enters you into the Mid-Month Commentator giveaway!

Teaser Tuesday: The Watchman of Ephraim by Gerard de Marigny

A few weeks ago, I met Gerard de Marigny, debut author of The Watchman of Ephraim. We exchanged a few emails. I have to say, he’s quite the conversationalist. 🙂 He had a few ideas he plans to share with us next time he’s’ around. Until, he’s sharing a chapter from his novel. Thank you for the goodie, Mr. de Marigny.

Cris De Niro worked his way up to the top of the hedge fund world. Yet, all of his money couldn’t protect him from losing his wife on 9/11. 10 years passed since the tragedy. De Niro and his sons relocated to a sprawling ranch near Las Vegas. Turning to his faith to overcome his anguish, De Niro now lives for a higher purpose. From a biblical passage, he reads about the “Watchman of Ephraim,” a defender who kept watch over the land. De Niro decides to acquire a lackluster counter-terrorism agency in order to transform it into a modern-day version of The Watchman for the United States but there’s not a moment to lose.

Aref Sami Zamani is planning a terrorist attack on American soil – codenamed “Antioch,” a plot to detonate a nuke over the city of Las Vegas. The Watchman uncovers a connection between Zamani and a Mexican drug cartel but their agent goes missing before they can learn more. That’s because Zamani has a spy working for The Watchman. Strange events start to unfold near the Nogales border crossing. References are discovered to something the Mexicans are calling “Noche Del Espantada” …Fright Night,” but can it mean something else?

September 11, 2011 and the sun hasn’t risen yet in Las Vegas or Nogales. Antioch is in motion! At the border, Noche Del Espantada has begun and there are intruders at De Niro’s ranch. De Niro has to protect his sons and someone new in his life, Dr. Moriah Stevens. She too, lost her spouse on 9/11. Moriah finds herself in love with De Niro but his devotion to his wife is proving too powerful for him, even after 10 years. It’s the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil and unless De Niro and his new team are successful, the day will be known as “The 2nd 9/11.”

Chapter 1

World Trade Center Mall
New York, New York
8:30a.m., Tuesday, September 11, 2001
(16 minutes before terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into Tower One)

The shopkeeper smiled at the handsome, well-tailored customer as she finished tying a ribbon around the box of long-stemmed roses he picked out. She noticed his wedding ring and could surmise for whom the flowers were intended. The earthy woman’s ruddy cheeks glowed with satisfaction as she affixed the final touch to her handiwork – a big red bow – to the top and center of the lid.

“Will this be cash or charge?”

De Niro handed over his American Express black card as he flipped his cell phone open and hit an auto-dial button.

The shopkeeper raised her eyebrows when she examined the oddly-colored card and read the famous last name embossed onto it. After swiping it through the terminal, her blue eyes sparkled with curiosity as she handed it back to him. De Niro knew the look on her face well. He’d seen it countless times before, and though he bore little resemblance to the legendary actor with the same last name, curiosity got the better of most people.

If I had a dollar for every time someone gibed me with the famous line, “You talkin’ to me …” … I can only imagine what it’s like to – be – Robert De Niro.

Smiling politely, he answered her question before she even asked it.

“No relation.”

Born Cristiano Stephen De Niro, De Niro had long ago given up teasing people by telling them, “We’re cousins.”

After deciding whether she should believe him or not, the shopkeeper flashed De Niro a knowing glance. Handing him the box, she added a little too loudly for his comfort, “I understand, Mr. De Niro.”

De Niro rolled his eyes and with a few curious stares from other customers, made a quick exit from the store.

Located behind the “Twin Towers,” the florist shop was nestled in the far corner of the concourse, the largest shopping center in Manhattan. The WTC Mall was also a main stop for a number of trains including the PATH that carried people into the city from New Jersey as well as the N, R, 1 and 9 lines that ran from Brooklyn and Queens to uptown. As he passed the entrance to the PATH train platform heading for the Tower One lobby, De Niro detected the familiar smell of the subway below. It brought to mind his harried youth, when he took the train from Brooklyn to uptown to go to work.

The smell of the subway and over-cooked pretzels will always remind me of Manhattan.

He hadn’t been to the Trade Center in awhile but De Niro could see some things hadn’t changed – his call wasn’t going through – so he disconnected it and tried again. Being there brought back so many memories of when he first met his wife, Lisa. At the time, she worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, the world-famous bond house. Lisa landed her job with Cantor right out of college and worked her way up the ladder, eventually becoming the firm’s chief market analyst. Lisa and Cris both knew God had a hand in their meeting despite the fact they didn’t get off to the best start.

De Niro blushed with embarrassment whenever he thought about how they met. It was at a cocktail hour that kicked off an investment conference in San Francisco, where they both were scheduled to speak. He arrived late and had just walked into the reception area. Lisa greeted him and introduced herself in her usual, confident manner. He offered his hand to her and began to introduce himself, when she interrupted him with just a touch of sarcasm.

“I know who you are.”

Winking, she glanced over his head and walked away. De Niro was perplexed until he noticed that he was standing directly under a ten-foot billboard poster of himself, complete with his name in bold, printed under his picture. Apparently, someone working for the event’s promotion department thought it was a brilliant idea to plaster the behemoth posters all over the conference center.

After catching up to Lisa, De Niro asked her to dinner. He remembered it like it was yesterday. Before that, he was used to taking women out who were either interested in talking about themselves the whole night or turning the date into a Fortune magazine interview about his net worth. Lisa, on the other hand, captivated him from the start. She was a total knockout but didn’t seem preoccupied with her looks; he liked that in a woman. Unlike the vain model-types that ordered a salad and picked the croutons out for fear of gaining an ounce, Lisa had a hearty appetite.

Not only did she polish off what was on her plate; she asked me if I was gonna finish what was on mine!

When he told her to have at it, she casually reached across with her fork, as if they knew each other forever. Savoring the fish from his dish made her flash that beautiful smile of hers. It beamed as much from her golden eyes as from her mouth and was accented with a dimple she said she inherited from her granddad. She proceeded to talk about everything except the two of them, from sports – they both loved the Yankees; he was an avid Oakland Raiders fan, she hated them, to politics – they were both conservative; she was outspoken and active, he mostly kept his views to himself, to how many kids she pictured having when she married – incredibly, they both wanted four.

De Niro recalled how the entire evening passed and she never uttered a word about what she did for a living. When he asked her why, she simply said, “That’s what I do … it’s not who I am.” De Niro was well aware though, from listening to her speak at the conference, that she knew her stuff. In fact, he teased her that if things didn’t work out between them romantically, he was interested in hiring her as a consultant. Without missing a beat, Lisa gibed back that, either way, she didn’t come cheap.

Find The Watchman of Ephraim by Gerard de Marigny at:

Barnes & Nobles

The Book Depository

Smashwords

Amazon

Signed Hardcovers and Paperbacks

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About the Gerard de Marigny

Gerard de Marigny (pronounced “de-Mar-E-nee”) has been a successful musician and entrepreneur and now intends to bring his passion for his faith and writing together, in his novels. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, Gerard was the lead guitarist for a rock band that sold many thousands of records all over the world. His band won the “Best New Video” award on MTV in1983, but a life-threatening illness (cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) and an epiphany of faith inspired him to leave that lifestyle and devote himself to “living his faith.”

Gerard continued writing music for TV and a movie, while branching out and starting his own businesses in the transportation and financial industries. Yet, his lifelong ambition was to bring to life righteous characters that would inspire others.

In 2007, Gerard was awarded the prestigious Fischer Family Scholarship for the Arts from Penn State University, for a 5,000-word autobiographical work he was commissioned to write.

In 2011, he completed his debut novel, THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM, a political thriller which is book one of his WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM series.

Visit Gerard de Marigny’s Website

Teaser Tuesday: Where He Belongs by Rachel Haimowitz

Happy 4th of July everyone… or rather the day after.

Exciting news for my writing buddy, Rachel Haimowitz. Last week, her latest work, Where He Belongs hit the shelves. A few months ago, I reviewed Anchored (see here), which I loved. Guess what? Nah. I’ll just tell ya. Ms. Haimowitz is sharing an awesome short from Where He Belongs, which is from the same series as Anchored. Pretty great timing also, since many of us are still recovering from the festivities from last night.

The hottest name in network news is Daniel Halstrom. He is a sensation, a rising star. He is also a slave, owned wholly and completely by NewWorld Media.

But before he was a star, he was a frightened child from a bad place with a promising, if limited, future ahead of him. In The New Kid, young Daniel begins his schooling. Then, for a slave, the simple pleasure of a Bathroom Break is sometimes the only pleasure to be had. Later, Daniel doesn’t know it, but A Chance Encounter might be the most important of his life. Next, in Camera Obscura, one of Daniel’s colleagues reflects on the fact that as much as the camera may show, it can hide even more. Finally, when you’re a slave, Independence Day is just another day.


Independence Day

 

I’ve never quite known what to make of this day, this celebration of the nation’s independence. On the one hand, there’s a party, time off for most of us, and a magnificent fireworks display we get to watch from the roof of our West Side dormitory. It’s one of the few nights a year the InfoGlobe slaves can drink—can get drunk, even, but don’t expect an ounce of sympathy for hangovers in the morning—can dance and sing and gorge ourselves on barbecue and just… relax. On the other hand, we’re slaves, and ‘independence’ is just another empty word. It doesn’t really apply to us.

I think too much, I know. Nobody else looks sad tonight. Nobody else looks introspective. Yet, as I stare out over the sparkling lights of Midtown, I can’t help but wonder how different my life would really be if the British still ruled the colonies. The beer in my hand would be warm, perhaps, but I’d still be a slave, still be doing someone else’s work and calling someone else master. All our vaunted democracy, our taxation with representation, means nothing to me. Nothing at all. I can’t vote. I can’t even testify in court without a judiciary waiver. After all, I don’t pay taxes. I’m nothing to the IRS but a corporate write-off, a dependant.

I wonder if the slaves in England are tax deductible, too.

I take a swig of my beer and lean out over the lip of the roof. It’s a long, long way down to the pavement. If I had my way, I’d be watching the fireworks from the South Street Seaport tonight, one tiny speck among the noise and the heat and the crowd, elbowing for a spot with a view on the overpass while I drank my beer.

No… if I really had my way, I’d be watching the fireworks with Victor, curled up somewhere quiet and alone, not worried about how late we stay out or how drunk we get or where we have to be tomorrow or who catches us making love. But Victor is gone, taken I-don’t-know-where, and I need to find a way to let go of him because he’s never coming back, and wishing after what you can’t have will only get you beaten.

Fifteen floors below, couples walk by hand in hand, laughing and kissing and pointing up at the shows in the sky. There are no bracelets around their wrists. Celebration comes easy to them.

I dangle my half-empty beer bottle over the edge and wonder what would happen if I dropped it on their heads. But I’m not a cruel person, and I know, deep down, that I could never do such a thing. I couldn’t even go to jail for it; slaves aren’t independent enough to serve time for their crimes. No, InfoGlobe would be fined, almost certainly sued. And me? Beaten to within an inch of my life, I bet. Maybe even put down if I hurt them badly enough. And if it were me instead of some bottle going splat on the pavement? Would anyone miss me? Or would I just be some negative number on a balance sheet somewhere, one less disposable reporter to send into danger zones for a story? I turn away from the edge with a disgusted grunt, finish my beer in one long gulp, and toss the bottle in the recycling before I get any more ideas.

Behind me, the fireworks grow more intense. Last year, I watched them with Victor. We snuck off into some dark corner and necked for an hour before the show began while everyone else was busy getting trashed and stuffing themselves full of hotdogs. Fuck, I miss him. I hope he’s all right. Why won’t they tell me where they sent him? It’s not like I could go after him, like any of us could go anywhere they didn’t want us to. I just want to know. Don’t I have that right, at least?

But no, no, of course I don’t. And I never will. And I’d best get used to that sooner rather than later, because wishing for things you can’t have…

But it’s more complicated than that, isn’t it? It’s not just about them. No, it’s about me. It’s about finding my own small measure of independence. Independence from want, independence from fear, independence from unhappiness. It might start out a lie at first, but eventually it wouldn’t be. Eventually, I’d fool even myself.

The finale has begun, and I turn back to the fireworks, grab another beer off the table, and smile at a supervisor who eyes me like the expensive piece of property I am. My grin feels fake, but it won’t always be, not if I keep doing it long enough. I turn my eyes skyward and chase the image of Victor from my head with another long swig of beer. Happy fucking Fourth of July, I think, toasting the city with my bitter drink. Happy Independence Day.

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Don’t miss the other events for Ms. Haimowitz’s release party. Giveaways, excerpts and more, oh my! Hit the schedule here.

Find Where He Belongs by Rachel Haimowitz at:

Storm Moon Press *** Preferred Point of Sale

Smashwords

 

Find Anchored at:

Amazon

The Book Depository

Barnes & Nobles

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About the Rachel Haimowitz

Rachel is an M/M erotic romance author and a freelance writer and editor. She’s also a sadist with a pesky conscience, shamelessly silly, and quite proudly pervish. Fortunately, all those things make writing a lot more fun for her . . . if not so much for her characters.

She originally dipped her toes into cable news and book publishing, decided the water was cold and smelled kinda funny, and moved on to helping would-be authors polish and publish, writing for websites and magazines, and ghostwriting nonfiction.

Her first novel, Counterpoint: Book One of Song of the Fallen, released in August of 2010 with Guiltless Pleasure Publishing. Things pretty much spiraled from there, and now she plans to release four or five new stories each year. She loves playing with shorts and novellas just as much as sinking her claws into the worldbuilding fun of a novel.

When she’s not writing about hot guys getting it on (or just plain getting it; her characters rarely escape a story unscathed), she loves to read, hike, camp, sing, perform in community theater, and glue captions to cats. She also has a particular fondness for her very needy dog, her even needier cat, and shouting at kids to get off her lawn.

You can find Rachel at RachelHaimowitz.com, tweeting as RachelHaimowitz, chatting in the Goodreads forums, and blogging at Rachel-Haimowitz.blogspot.com. She loves to hear from folks, so feel free to drop her a line anytime at metarachel (at) gmail (dot) com.

Teaser Tuesday: I Loved You First by Reena Jacobs

My stomach does that tops- turvy thing once in awhile with I Loved You First coming to an end. I have just a few scenes left to polished I Loved You first and before it’ll be it’s ready for an editor. Today, I thought I’d offer my readership a little teaser–the first chapter. Though I’ve had a sample edit, I haven’t corrected any of the errors since I’ll be sending this same sample to other editors to see if our style matches. So, if you find errors, please be forgiving and overlook them. In fact, please don’t even mention them. 🙂 That’ll be for the editors who do a sample edit. The anticipated release date for I Loved You First is August 2011. Until then, you can add it to your to-read list on Goodreads. And if you haven’t checked out the rewards for my upcoming Kickstarter Compaign, please do. 🙂

A little about I Loved You First:

My best friend was more than just a best friend to me. Three words summed it up: I heart him. I’d never tell him though. I wasn’t stupid. Besides, what he’d told no one, but me, was a little something I wished I could forget… or ignore. He was gay. I guess gay wouldn’t be bad if I wasn’t so in love with him. Now it was just cruel.

Stereotypes run amok in this college love story: Parties, alcohol, hookups, and breakups. Alexandria Carmichael may find it a bit much as she deals with the unreturned love from the boy who completes her. When all is revealed, not only does she risk losing her best friend forever, but also herself. Without her childhood companion for support, Alexandria takes a journey of self-discovery but fears what she’ll find at the end.

Chapter One

The music blared throughout the house at full blast–Pretty People by Dexter Freebish. Yep, that pretty much summed it up. They surrounded me. Only thing, I didn’t want to be like them. Sometimes I was just so tired of the games the so-called “pretty people” played. Yet here I was, the girl hiding in a corner, decorating a wall.

The party was in full swing. Already people had consumed enough alcohol to loosen inhibitions but not enough to send them puking over the balcony. It’d get there though. I’d been to enough of these parties to know it was only a matter of time.

Through the mass of bodies, I could just make out the guys in the kitchen guzzling beer bongs. A few of the more slutty chicks hung off to the side laughing and cheering them on. Once in a while, one of the braver girls joined in and make a mess of her outfit. The whole thing was stupid, and they’d certainly regret it in the morning.

So why was I here?

The answer pushed through the crowd–my best friend, Seth. BFF since I’d saved him from a beat down in the first grade. Well, actually, I’d bitten the girl’s arm who’d bullied him. Nothing like a nip to send a kid crying. I’d gotten in trouble but earned a forever friend in the process. Totally worth it.

Seth chatted to random frat boys as he made his way to me. He was one of the “pretty people.” Sandy blond hair, blue eyes, six foot, and a rising star on the baseball team–he was what girls wanted, and he knew it.

I, on the other hand, was just his sidekick. Nearly invisible. I didn’t mind so much. It was the same role I’d played in high school. Why should college be any different? He got me into all the good parties I’d preferred to avoid, and I stood by his side as his gossip buddy.

“Here, Alex.” Seth pressed a plastic cup of frothy something into my hand. “This is great, huh?”

I shrugged. “Yeah, I guess.”

He grinned a toothpaste smile and punched me lightly on the shoulder. “You’re such a party crasher.”

No. I would just rather be anywhere but here. I took a sip of my urine colored drink, wishing it were a soda instead.

“Oh great. Here comes Cheyenne.” Seth down his drink like he needed fortification. No doubt he did. His Adam’s apple bobbed with each gulp, like a buoy on the waves. He took one look at his empty cup then at my full one. I handed it to him, not sure why I took the first taste anyway. After all, I was the DD.

“Thanks.” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and leaned close, whispering in my ear. “I wish she’d just leave me the hell alone.”

I dittoed his sentiments exactly–but for different reasons. My best friend was more than just a best friend to me. Three words summed it up: I heart him. I’d never tell him though. I wasn’t stupid. Besides, what he’d told no one but me was a little something I wished I could forget… or ignore. He was gay. Gay wouldn’t be bad if I wasn’t so in love with him. Now it was just cruel.

Of course that didn’t stop him from playing the dating game. Oh no. He was all into burning through the girls. After all, we couldn’t have our All American Jock batting for the other team.

I felt for him; I really did. But at the same time, I was bitter. Yeah, I admit it. It hurt watching him with other girls, wishing it was me instead. I wanted him for myself but knew I’d never have him. So, I settled for the next best thing–being by his side… being the one he shared his hopes and dreams with. What more could a girl in love ask for?

Cheyenne Gordon–cheerleader extraordinaire stepped up to the plate with her personal entourage creating a semi-circle around us. It didn’t matter she was a third-year student and we were only freshmen. Young. Old. Every girl wanted a little “sumpin sumpin” with Seth.

She gave me a cursory glance before turning her attentions to my buddy.

Like I said, sidekick. Worthy of notice, but not that much. I blended into the background, the official fly on the wall. Times like this I felt like nothing more than Seth’s mascot.

“Hey, Cheyenne.” Seth gave her the full smile. I’d told him a million times he should major in drama. He really did have talent. I hadn’t even known about his little secret until he’d told me in ninth grade. By then, the girls had started to take notice of his beach boy looks. I guess my best friend just couldn’t take the pressure of impersonating straight folks and had to get it off his back.

We’d talked about him coming out of the closet, but in reality we both knew pigs would fly first. He couldn’t even bring himself to tell his father. I understood in a way. His dad, Brandon Richards, was everything Seth wanted to be. Mr. Richards really was a great dad–never missed a school event. Even I’d hate to disappoint him. Then again, considering how supportive the guy was, I doubt Seth had much to worry about. But then it was Seth’s secret to share and mine to keep for him.

Talking to Cheyenne, Seth made all the right moves.  A nod at the appropriate moment, a quick peek at her near non-existent breasts, then the hand on her hip.

I knew the routine, but those touches belonged to me. Hadn’t I waited long enough? My only consolation was the fact it’d all lead to nothing. He’d probably date her–for appearance sake. It’d last for a few weeks–longer if things stayed platonic. When it turned serious, he’d brush her off like dirt on his jersey after a home run. Yesterday’s old news. It was the way things always played out.

Cheyenne twirled her dull brown hair around her fingers. I knew the girl thought she was cute. But really, my wavy black hair was better. Genetics–a combination of a black mom and white dad gave me kickass hair. Of course no one would ever know since I kept it in a single braid going down my back. I’d learned at an early age people couldn’t keep their hands to themselves. If I let my hair loose, they were all over it. If I could ever find my voice, I’d scream respect the bubble.

My mom was convinced one day everyone would be like me–dark hair, olive skin.

“So you wanna get something to eat?” Cheyenne stepped closer, bringing her body flush with Seth’s. I envisioned myself snatching her away by her scraggy hair.

Seth looked at me. “Alex?”

All eyes drifted to me.

“I guess.” Bummer. My voice squeaked. Heat spread through my body, concentrating on my face and chest.

“Alright. Let’s go,” Seth said and set the empty cups in a nearby planter.

“Well…” Cheyenne looked at me, hesitation written all over her face. “We kinda don’t have room for everyone.”

Quick tally–Seth, Cheyenne, her three groupies, and me. Unless she had a mini-van–

“That’s okay. I brought my bike.” Seth nodded to the helmets I guarded–another one of my invisible girl lackey chores. “We’ll meet you there.”

Cheyenne bit her lip, and I could see the wheels turning in her mini-brain. She pouted. “Fine.”

I tried to hold back a grin. I think I succeeded. Cheyenne frowned at me. Okay, maybe my lips curled a little. But really, I could be happy over little things, right?

Cheyenne turned to Seth and found her smile again. “Gretel’s, okay?”

A shrug from me and Seth said, “Sure.”

“Great.” Cheyenne left, taking team cheerleader with her.

Seth took a deep breath and released it. “Let’s do this thing.”

As glad as I was to escape the crowd of funky bodies, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. “I don’t know why you always go along. You could say no, you know.”

The are-we-really-going-to-get-into-it-now look Seth gave was all I need to drop the matter, at least for now.

On our way out, Bruce Derrick stopped Seth on the porch with a slide of the hand and knuckle bump. “‘Sup, dude.”

“Heading to Gretel’s. Wanna join?” My friend knew how to play it cool. Seth had never told me, but I wasn’t fooled. He had a secret crush on Bruce. I saw it in the stray glances, the look of longing for something just out of reach; the same kind I probably gave my good buddy when he wasn’t watching. Yeah. I got that. Totally.

Bruce would probably kick Seth’s ass, if he got a whiff. He could do it too.

The guy was at least six-three and ripped. I’d seen him enough times without his shirt to know.

Seth was big into dragging me to Bruce’s football practices. His excuse–he liked football, and freshmen couldn’t try out for sports at Van Buren University, so might as well enjoy his time in the bleachers while he had the chance.

Yeah, whatever. We’d never gone to the football practices in high school. So what changed? Simple–Bruce wasn’t a showcase in our school. Not being into football and all, my best guess was the guy was a receiver or something.

Bruce planted a hand on Seth’s shoulder and leaned close as if bestowing a great secret. Bruce’s dark hair mixed with Seth’s light. God how I wished Seth would get in close with me like that. “Look, I can put in a good word for you to coach.  I’ve seen you toss a pretty good ball, you can run, catch. He might let you try out for the team if you can get in some practice, bulk up a little.”

“I don’t know. Baseball’s my thing.” Seth actually flushed as he gave a shy grin.

After all these years, I should have been immune. But really, he was just too yummy. I yearned to rest my head against his chest and run my fingers through the soft hair at the nape of his neck.

“Think about it, man.” Bruce slapped Seth on the shoulder. “See ya.”

Seth stood entranced as Bruce walked off. The boy had it hard. Though the football stud was too bulky for me, I could see the appeal he might have for Seth.

At 5’1″, I was still clawing my way to 100 pounds. Seth was more than enough for me. I knew from the hugs I’d snuck here and there, that I fit comfortably in my buddies arms. No doubt, he’d want a guy who could do the same for him–a guy like Bruce. I couldn’t blame him really, not when it felt so good.

“Come on. Let’s go.” I didn’t wait for him to follow as I headed to Seth’s Kawasaki.

It was obvious Mr. Googly-Eyes needed a little time to get over his crush. That was fine. I could wait. The longer we wasted here, the less time I had to spend with Cheerleader Cheyenne. I pulled my helmet on, loving the snug fit, and swung my leg over the seat.

Alright. Enough was enough. My boy might be able to pass the love-struck look for deep thought. But if he kept it up, eventually someone would catch on to his little secret.

I snapped my fingers and held out a hand. “Keys.”

Seth moped over, dropped them in my palm, and got on behind.

I loved when he road bitch. The warmth of his body pressed tight against my back, his hands around my middle. Yeah–this was the life. I should have felt bad about taking pleasure in something meant to be innocent, but I was too busy loving it to care. Seth laid his chin on my shoulder. We’d probably beat the cheer squad to the diner–the benefits of being able to weave through the cars on a motorcycle.

I took off with a jerk. Seth hated when I did that, but it forced him to grip me even tighter. He scooted forward with his thighs encasing mine, and his groin pressed against my butt. I smiled as we left the college scene behind and headed toward the city.

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