Excerpt from Born in Sickness

Blurb

Luka Thomas is a God-fearing Christian. When his family moves to the Bible Belt right before his senior year of high school, he knows he’ll blend right in. Sort of. Being gay is a sin, so he’s not gay. He’s just…experimenting. 

Then he meets Harlan Sharp and begins to question everything he knew to be true. 

Harlan stopped believing in fairytales when the darkest days of his past left him scarred, angry, and questioning God’s motives. He doesn’t trust anyone, let alone Luka, who reminds Harlan of the very same person who hurt him. 

When blatantly ignoring all of Luka’s attempts at conversation doesn’t deter him, Harlan begins criticizing the one thing that Luka seems to believe wholeheartedly: his faith in God. 

With Luka’s incredibly strict step-father pressuring him to date a girl, he desperately makes a deal, but at what cost to his budding relationship with Harlan?  

The Take me to Church series is a real depiction of falling in love as a gay teen amidst the rampant homophobia of the south and the mental health issues many people face. It’s explicit in the way that life is. It’s raw, beautiful, and real. Readers will scream in anger and cry in pain, but also laugh in joy and healing as they grow with these characters.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

“Luka! It’s almost time for breakfast!” his mom yells from down stairs, and Luka ignores her. Instead he sighs as he looks in the mirror, debating about whether or not he should change his outfit for a third time. The first day of school is always nerve-wracking, but adding the extra stress of it being his first day at a new school and his senior year, it’s downright nauseating. Being an Army brat, he should be used to this by now, but he isn’t. It never gets easier. He has been to five different high schools alone, not to mention all of the various middle schools he has attended.

He remembers when his mom married Matt. He was happy for her. She seemed happy, and it meant he was getting a new dad. He had no idea at the time that he would be ripped away from all of his friends and everything he held dear. All of the schools and faces over the years have just kind of blended together, no one really standing out. He quickly learned not to allow himself to even get attached to anyone. He is so excited to go to college next fall so that maybe, just maybe, he can finally lay down some roots. Have actual friends that he won’t have to leave after a couple of months. He can dream.

He takes a deep breath, checking out his appearance again. He glances at the clock, knowing his mother will call him down to breakfast any minute now. He tugs at his shirt, not knowing what exactly the kids at his new school would be wearing. He then runs small fingers through his brown hair, going for a somewhat messy look.

“Luka! I told you it’s time for breakfast!” she shouts, again. He has to be down to breakfast at exactly the same time every single day. He hates it. His mom and stepdad are somewhat controlling. Well, his stepdad really, his mom just tries to keep the peace. He stares at his reflection again, hoping that he won’t stand out at this new school. He just wants to blend in until he is forced to move to the next location by Matt’s job. Who knows, maybe this time he will get to stay an entire school year.

“Luka William Thomas, don’t make your mother ask you again!” Matt’s booming voice travels up the stairs and into his room, making Luka wince.

“Yeah, sorry! I’m coming,” he calls back, turning and leaving his room then going down the stairs. He walks into the kitchen, where they always eat breakfast, to find his four sisters, mother, and Matt already sitting around the table.

“‘Bout time, Lu. You know we aren’t allowed to eat until everyone is down here and we say grace. I’m starving,” Lizzie moans. If Luka wasn’t in front of their parents, he would flip her off, but instead he just rolls his eyes and plops down in the open chair, avoiding Matt’s glare.

Everyone holds hands as Matt begins, “Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us to wake up this morning, and thank you for this meal. We thank you for our health and happiness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”

It’s the same every morning, so Luka mumbles his ‘Amen’ and starts eating right away, trying to avoid the small talk with his family if at all possible. No such luck, though.

“I signed you up for football,” his mom starts, glancing in his direction. He barely stops himself from rolling his eyes, knowing Matt would chastise him for it.

“Why?” Luka asks, through gritted teeth. He kind of likes the sport itself, being an active person, but he hates having to leave his team once Matt gets relocated. He would rather just avoid it all together.

“Because it is a good way to make friends, and it is a safe after-school activity for you to take part in,” his mom answers easily, her tone leaving no room for argument.

“Fine,” Luka grumbles, looking down at his plate of half-eaten food, suddenly not feeling hungry.

“First practice is today, after school. Your father talked to the coach yesterday since you already missed two-a-days, but he is willing to let you play, given you prove your skills. Don’t forget about it. We expect you home right after,” she says, and Luka knows. Of course he knows, he has had the same rule since he was a child. How dare he try to do anything fun after school that isn’t school-sponsored? He has never even been to a school dance because his parents fear that he may get drunk or lose his virginity. Their stupid rules didn’t do them any good, though, because he has already lost his virginity and been drunk.

“I know, Mom,” Luka tells her, suppressing yet another eye roll. Jesus, he will be lucky to make it through breakfast without getting grounded.

“Oh, and join your school’s Bible Club,” Matt adds, pointing one chubby finger at Luka.

“Sure,” Luka answers robotically because he is just done with this already, and he hasn’t even made it to school yet. He manages to evade the rest of the conversation, his parent’s attention turning to that of his little sisters. After he forces down enough food to appease his mother, he practically runs out the door and to his car, silently praying that no one from his family stops him. He lets out a sigh of relief when he is safely in his car, the door slamming behind him.

He pulls out his school schedule, glancing over it to see what he has first period. Choir. Fuck. Must be one of those stupid general courses every high school student has to take. Why couldn’t it be art or something? The rest of the classes seem fine. It looks like he is in Honors courses at this high school. His eyes rove down the list of courses: Physics, Chemistry, Pre-Calculus, Spanish, English, Creative Writing, and a free period.

He takes a deep breath before he puts the car into gear, making his way toward the location of the high school. It is a very small town, so the high school is equally as small. Hick-town, USA, it seems. When his mom enrolled him, she had said he would only have about 100 people in his entire class. That almost makes this worse. In bigger schools, it’s easy to blend in. Smaller schools are a whole different universe. Everyone knows everyone, so when a new kid comes along, that person is easily identifiable. This thought makes Luka feel sick all over again.

He parks his car in the student parking section of the lot and takes a few more calming breaths, trying to slow his racing heart before he steps out onto the pavement. As he typically does with all new schools, once he leaves the safety of his vehicle, he keeps his eyes down and starts walking, not wanting to be met with the staring and pointing that inevitably happens when people notice ‘the new kid’. He only glances up long enough to follow the signs for the main office, which is where he was told to go.

“Hi. I’m a new student here,” Luka tells the older lady at the front desk. She is wearing red, thick-rimmed glasses with lipstick to match. She smiles, and Luka notices a few lipstick stains on her teeth. Her hair is also red and teased up. The higher the hair, the closer to heaven, he supposes. She looks like she just strolled out of the 80s.

“Lukas Thomas?” she asks, her thick southern accent prominent as she types something into a computer that looks about as old as her. Well, maybe not that old, but still not as high tech as it could be.

“It’s actually Luka,” he corrects, rolling his eyes. He is so used to people getting his name wrong, but it will always annoy him just a bit. 

“Oh, I’m sorry, darlin’,” she apologizes, smiling again, her yellow teeth looking even more stained against the red dots of lipstick. 

“It’s okay, ma’am,” he answers politely, beginning to tap his fingers on the surface of her desk, needing a release for his nervous energy.

“Okay,” she says as she stands up from her desk, and for the first time, Luka notices she is also wearing something that looks like it is from the 80s. Jesus, he loves the decade, but this is a bit much. She walks around her desk and uses one long bony finger to motion for someone to come in. Luka turns to see a student with longish dark brown hair and deep brown eyes make his way through the glass door of the office, smiling at him. He returns the smile because at least this boy isn’t looking at him curiously like everyone else. 

“Luka. This is Ezra Carter. He is going to show you around a bit, then take you to your first class,” the woman says, gesturing towards the other boy.

“Hiya. Nice to meetcha,” Ezra greets, eyes crinkling with his smile. He grabs Luka’s outstretched hand for a shake, and Luka instantly likes him. Something about him seems warm and caring. Maybe they will be friends. Well, that is if Luka allows it. He hates the thought of leaving yet another person behind.

“Hi. Nice to meet you, too,” Luka returns, smiling as well.

“Come on. I’ll give you a quick tour. Shouldn’t take very long since the school ain’t very big. We have pretty much the same schedule, and I play football, too. I think that’s why they asked me to show ya around,” Ezra says, gesturing for Luka to follow him.

“Makes sense.”

“Yeah. So this is a super small school. Shouldn’t take you long to learn your way around. Let’s start with your locker,” Ezra starts, walking down a hallway to the right, lined with trophy cases. “You’ll find that you will be in class with generally the same people all day, every day. It’s based on test scores. They want to make sure kids are taking classes with other kids who are on their level, academically. The only classes that’ll differ are general courses, like foreign languages and fine arts.” 

Luka nods along, listening to Ezra ramble about the school and pointing out various things, mostly understanding him, even with his heavy accent. They get to Luka’s locker, where he successfully opens the combination lock, then they go on a quick tour. Luka is thankful that it seems class has already started, so he doesn’t have to deal with the staring.

“Alright, time to go to our first class, I suppose,” Ezra says with a chuckle, although Luka didn’t find the statement all that funny. They walk into the choir classroom and a hush falls instantly, all of the students’ eyes trained on them.

Chapter 2

Harlan hits the snooze button on his alarm for the fifth time that morning, not wanting to go to school at all. He groans, looking at the clock. He doesn’t have time to shower or anything before he has to catch the bus. Fuck. Why does school have to start so godsdamned early? He rubs his entire face in a weak attempt at waking himself up. He really should have gone to bed last night at a halfway decent time, but he was reading and didn’t want to stop. Not like there is anyone to make him go to bed anyways.

He rolls out of bed and finds the nearest pair of black skinny jeans laying on the floor. He stumbles to his dresser, pulling out one of his many black band t-shirts. He doesn’t even pay attention to which one it is as he pulls it over his mop of curls. He grabs all of his bracelets, putting them on one at a time, making sure they take up most of his forearms, covering his scars. Next, he puts on his necklaces, pulling them over his head so that they lay flat against his t-shirt. He slips each ring on, one by one, enjoying the feel of the cool metal against his skin.

He goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth, squinting at the harsh overhead light. He looks bad. Despite the fact that it’s summer, his skin is pale, and there are dark rings around his eyes. He shrugs at his reflection. He isn’t trying to impress anyone. No one will even notice him, like normal. He is just the weird kid. Most people at his school simply try to ignore his existence, or they are scared of him. They think he is a Satanist or something, going to cast a spell on them. He doesn’t care. It gets them to leave him the fuck alone.

He finishes his minimal bathroom routine and goes down to the kitchen to grab an apple, not having time for actual breakfast. His mom has left him a note on the fridge, saying she is working both jobs today, so she won’t be home until late. He sighs, mentally preparing himself for another lonely evening. Maybe he will find something to get into, but probably not. 

He doesn’t know if his mom actually loves him or just does the minimum to keep him alive because she has to. She is never around, but to be fair, she is a single mom. Just to put food on the table for him and his sister, she has had to work two jobs since his dad left when he was younger. Things have been easier on her since Emma moved out, but she still works a lot.

He eats his apple as he makes his way to the bus stop, his friend Cadeon greeting him with a huge smile. Harlan just rolls his eyes, but allows his lips to curl into a soft smile. Cadeon is like an overexcited puppy, but he is Harlan’s best friend. His only friend, really. Cadeon is one of those rare people who is liked by everyone and can fit in with any crowd. He is friends with everyone at school and fits into all the cliques easily. He sticks with Harlan the most though, and it’s only because Harlan has told Cadeon all of his secrets. He is too nice to let Harlan always be alone.

“Hey, I didn’t think you’d make it,” Cadeon greets him, hugging his friend like he didn’t just see him yesterday. Cadeon knows that Harlan hates hugs, but that doesn’t stop him for a second.

“Yeah. I was up late last night,” Harlan responds, shrugging his hunched up shoulders.

“With a boy?” Cadeon asks with an exaggerated wink.

“Fuck off, and keep that shit down. I am trying to not die on my first day of school,” Harlan whispers, but Cadeon just rolls his eyes.

“Come on, you know I’d protect’cha.”

“If you could keep your big fucking mouth shut, then I wouldn’t need protection,” Harlan hisses, but there is no bite in his tone. He loves Cadeon too much to actually be mad. Not that he actually gives a flying fuck what people think of him. His sexuality would be just one more thing to add to the list of ‘weird’ if they were to know. He just doesn’t want to deal with that kind of crisis in his senior year. He would rather just move far away for college and become his own person; however, that’s probably not even in the cards for him. He can’t afford it. People like him don’t get to go to college. It’s as simple as that. 

“So what classes are you in?” Cadeon asks, talking over the screeching of the bus’ brakes as it pulls to a stop in front of them. They both get on, Cadeon heading straight to the back with Harlan hot on his heels. Cadeon greets everyone while Harlan tries not to make eye contact.

“Here,” Harlan says, thrusting his schedule at Cadeon.

“Fuck yeah, we have all the same classes except for Art!” Cadeon exclaims, clearly happy about this turn of events.

“Awesome. Maybe I won’t be terribly miserable,” Harlan says, closing his eyes and resting his head on the seat in front of him. He just wants to go back to bed. Cadeon chats on and on about how he hopes the first day of school is going to go. Harlan doesn’t even think Cadeon would realize it if he put his earbuds in to block out the noise, but he doesn’t want to do that to his friend. He may be an ass, but he isn’t that rude.

They get off the bus and walk to choir class together, stopping at Cadeon’s new locker on the way. Harlan doesn’t bother going to his. He didn’t bring anything except his ancient cell phone, a pen, a notebook, and the brown, leather-bound journal he takes everywhere with him. Harlan is actually looking forward to this class and creative writing, but he doesn’t voice this. He has had choir since the beginning of his high school career, even though he was only required to take it once. He enjoys music and singing. The ease of the class also provides a needed break from some of his harder ones, like Physics and Chemistry.

The room is set up with three rows of brown chairs all facing the front of the room. Harlan and Cadeon immediately go to the section where the baritones will be seated, familiar with the layout since they have both been in the class before. Mr. Tennant will probably make them test their vocal range again, since it can change with age, but both boys are pretty confident this is where they will end up. Cadeon keeps talking because he literally never shuts up. As more people begin to filter into the room, Cadeon greets each of them, starting a conversation. Seriously, how does he have the energy this early in the morning?

Harlan, for his part, just ignores everyone with his eyes trained firmly to the front of the room waiting for class to start, thinking about how boring this year is going to be. He contemplates, for the fourteenth time that morning, putting his ear buds in and drowning out everything with some rather loud music; however, class will start soon and Mr. Tennant would just make him turn it off. Sure enough, a few moments later the last bell rings, signaling the beginning of class. Mr. Tennant takes roll, then starts bringing each student up one by one to test their vocal range, assigning them the appropriate section afterward.

When it’s Harlan’s turn, he walks to the front of the room, hating the feeling of all eyes on him. Thankfully, the other students are allowed to talk amongst themselves while their peers are being tested. It still doesn’t ease his apprehension, though. Cadeon gives him a thumbs up, which kind of helps. 

He pushes down the anxiety making its way up his throat and walks over to the piano. Mr. Tennant does an excellent job of making it painless because he understands that not everyone is a good singer, nor do they like being in front of people. Mr. Tennant, however, has told Harlan on multiple occasions that he is a great singer, and he would give him a solo if he just asked. Harlan ignores his comments, being perfectly happy to just be the weird kid in the corner.

“Baritone,” Mr. Tennant starts with a smile, “but you can go as low as some bass notes. Well done.”

“Thanks,” Harlan mumbles, making his way back to his seat, feeling as though his cheeks are on fire at the compliment. Cadeon is called next, his results being a steady baritone. Before he knows it, everyone in the room is seated in their appropriate sections. Like normal, most of the girls are sopranos and a few are contraltos. Most of the boys are baritones, like him and Cadeon, with a few basses and tenors in the mix.

Mr. Tennant is in the front of the room beginning their lecture when the door opens. All eyes are immediately drawn to the pair entering the room. One guy Harlan recognizes as Ezra Carter. He is a jock and in his senior year as well. He has never explicitly made fun of Harlan, but he has also never really talked to him outside of the classroom. He has a good voice, though. His falsetto is killer. 

The other guy, however, Harlan doesn’t recognize, which is odd for a small town. He is quite attractive, even though he is preppy and clearly a jock. He is short with shapely legs, brown hair, lightly tanned skin, and freckles. His eyes, though. His eyes are a clear shade of blue, framed with ridiculously long eyelashes. Okay. He is cute. Very, very cute, but completely off limits. A guy like that would never even talk to Harlan, let alone actually date him. He is probably straight anyway, like everyone else in this godsforsaken town.

“Mr. Tennant,” Ezra addresses his teacher, “Sorry I’m late, sir. I was showin’ our new student around the school. This is Luka Thomas.” Ezra then goes to take a seat beside Cadeon, knowing that Mr. Tennant probably wouldn’t make him test his range.

“Hi, Luka. Nice to meet you. I’m glad you could join us this morning,” Mr. Tennant smiles reassuringly. “Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, then we can test your vocal range.”

Harlan watches a blush creep up Luka’s freckled cheeks, turning them the prettiest shade of dark pink, to match his lips. Luka doesn’t seem to want to do this, but he finally turns towards the class as a whole and gives them a tentative smile. 

“Hi,” he starts with a small wave. “As already established, my name’s Luka. I hate doing these things. I’m an Army brat, so I’ve moved around a lot. My family just moved here last weekend. I guess I will be playing football.” His voice is high and raspy, his accent very different from any Harlan has ever heard before, except on the television. He doesn’t really have an accent, that’s the thing. Everyone in this town sounds like a donkey eating an apple, but Luka is different. 

 “Very good. Come over here, and we can test your range to see where you will be seated,” Mr. Tennant instructs. Luka does as he is asked and makes his way to the piano at the front of the room. When he starts to sing, Harlan is mesmerized by it. His voice is the most beautiful kind of oxymoron. It is light and raspy, but somehow bright with great projection. He sounds how silk feels, and it gives Harlan shivers.

“Don’t see new kids very often ‘round here,” Cadeon’s voice breaks into his subconscious, effectively taking his attention away from Luka and his voice.

“What? Oh, no. We don’t. Seems like another jock, though, so he should fit right in,” Harlan replies, bitterness seeping into his tone.

“Ya never know, he may be different,” Cadeon observes, right as Mr. Tennant compliments Luka on his voice and seats him with the tenors of the class, on the other side of the room from the baritones.

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Excerpt from All Wrapped Up: A Holiday Novella

All Wrapped Up was created based on a prompt from a very good friend. I told her I would write it if she helped me with the gift ideas because I am absolutely horrible at picking gifts. Thankfully, she agreed, and this novella was born.

It was very challenging for me. In all honesty, it almost got scrapped halfway through because I thought the reader would find it boring due to the limited in-person interaction between the main characters. I kept writing, though, and was very pleased with the final result. It’s fluffy and fifthly, and seriously, that’s the best way to spend the holiday.

Below you will find an excerpt from All Wrapped Up. I chose these particular scenes because I thought it would give you all an idea of how very different these characters are. To give it some context, the main characters completed a survey for their university’s annual Secret Santa Gift Exchange. This excerpt takes you through their responses, then the first gift that is given. Click here to purchase All Wrapped Up. It’s only .99c!

“Did ya get your assignment?” Seamus asks, waking Nate again from yet another nap. He is going to have to change the fucking lock. They are a week away from Thanksgiving break, and Nate’s brain has already checked out, which is a fucking shame since finals are right around the corner. 

“Don’t know. Haven’t checked,” Nate mumbles, snuggling back down into his bed and closing his eyes again, hoping his annoying excuse of a roommate will get the picture. 

“Well, check. I wanna know!” Seamus exclaims, and Nate can feel it when his laptop is balanced precariously on his hip. Maybe breaking in a new roommate wouldn’t be so bad after all. Kill Seamus now, get a new roommate by next semester. Simple as that. No-fuss, no muss. Maybe his new roommate will let him fucking sleep and not make him fill out a stupid Secret Santa gift exchange. Who does Nate have to blow around here to get a decent fucking nap? Not Seamus that’s for fucking sure because that is just gross. 

“If I check, will you fuck off and let me go back to sleep?” Nate asks, not even opening his eyes. 

“Nate, it’s five in the afternoon. If you nap now, you’ll never sleep tonight.”

“What are you, my mother? We’re in college. There is no such thing as a sleep schedule,” Nate responds, finally opening his eyes just to glare at Seamus, but his roommate is unperturbed. Fucking asshole. Yes, a new roommate that hasn’t known him since they were five and is still very intimidated by Nate. That is all Nate wants for Christmas, a new fucking roommate. Maybe he should have put that on his fucking survey. Too bad Santa doesn’t exist.

“Come on. Just see who you got.” Seamus smiles, looking pointedly at Nate’s computer, still balancing on his hip. After a few minutes of a staring contest, Nate finally rolls his eyes and sighs, grabbing his laptop and sitting upon his bed. He makes quick work of logging into his school email, finding the survey results as the first item in his inbox. 

“Okay. I’m doing it,” Nate grumbles, skimming over this person’s answers. 

  1. Number Assigned: 28
  2. Sex: I thought we were past these types of questions. I am a male, and I identify as one. However, I tend to like things that are more on the ‘feminine’ side. 
  3. Major: Pre-Law
  4. Why did you choose that major: I want to help people who can’t help themselves. Many people can’t afford a lawyer, so oftentimes, social injustices exist in our system. If you are poor, you are more likely to go to prison because you couldn’t afford a lawyer. This can lead to false imprisonment simply because you are from a lower socioeconomic status. It’s not fair, and I would like to change that. I have also considered changing my major, but I’m not sure.    
  5. Favorite Food: Avocados. There is just so much you can do with them, and they are so healthy. You can put them in a smoothie, have them on toast, or even eat them in sushi. 
  6. Favorite Drink: Water. It’s good for you and allows your skin to stay hydrated. If I had to pick something other than water, I think I would go with Matcha tea. It has healing and energizing properties and is better for you than coffee. It is also rich in antioxidants, fiber, chlorophyll, and vitamins. 
  7. Hobby: Playing guitar and writing music. I learned to play the guitar when I was thirteen and started writing music when I was sixteen. I am also learning to play the piano, but I’m not that good yet. I usually participate in open mic nights at bars around campus. I also love karaoke. 
  8. Favorite Movie: The Notebook. That one is easy. It is such a beautifully heartbreaking love story. I hope someday to find a love like that. One that will last throughout the ages. 
  9. Favorite Book: Harry Potter Series. It has been my favorite since my sister read me the first one when I was 8 years old. Some of my favorite memories are of her reading them to me, then finally getting old enough to read them myself. I own all of them in three different versions. I am a Ravenclaw, in case you were wondering.  
  10. Favorite Store: Gucci, but that obviously won’t work for this since they don’t have anything below around 200 dollars (yes, I realize how pretentious that sounds). I just have expensive taste, I guess. But I would be happy with literally anything from Walmart, the Dollar Store, or Target. It’s the thought that counts. 
  11. Favorite TV show to binge-watch on Netflix: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know it’s considered a ‘chick show, but I love it so much. I just think it is so well done and thought out. It is a feminist masterpiece that takes a traditionally male character and puts a blonde female cheerleader in his place. It completely flips the gender roles and does it in a believable way. She feels like the weight of the world is on her shoulders, but she keeps fighting. That is the best part of the whole thing. That she keeps fighting and winning even though she feels guilty for all of her misdeeds. It teaches young girls that they can be a badass and still have emotions. They don’t need to be like a man because they are perfect being themselves.    
  12. Favorite genre of music/band: Rock and Indy, but I will listen to anything as long as it makes me feel something. My favorite band is probably Fleetwood Mac if I had to pick only one. 
  13. Favorite Holiday Memory: One time, my mom fell and hurt her leg right before we were supposed to host our family’s holiday get together. She always cooks for everything. She couldn’t really cook when her leg was hurt. We couldn’t expect her to stand in pain for hours. That would be cruel. My brother, sister, and I stepped in to help her. She sat at the table and drank wine the entire time. She got increasingly more drunk as the day wore on, and she walked my siblings and me through the steps of each dish. It was pretty disastrous by the last dish since she was so drunk, she couldn’t remember her name, let alone a recipe. At one point, she even told us to use a cup of salt instead of flour; thankfully, we figured that one out. By the end of it, we were giggling, and we had made a mess. It was the best holiday ever because we spent all of it altogether in the kitchen, just chatting. It was lovely, even though my mom was hurt. When the family came over, it was great because the kitchen was a mess, we had food all over us, and mom was drunk. They didn’t know what to think, but we all just laughed at their reactions and eventually ate the food. 
  14. Favorite Sports Team/ Sport: Quidditch I know that doesn’t count. Maybe yoga? Does that count? I just started doing yoga for my body, but it also helps my mind. I hope you will try it out sometime. I am just, truthfully, not that into sports, but I do love running and yoga. It keeps me limber and healthy. 
  15. Shirt size: Medium or small. I have a long torso, so it’s sometimes hard to tell. 
  16. Favorite Color: Pink because it’s pretty, and everyone should feel pretty. 
  17. What is one thing about you that most people don’t know: Sometimes I get really anxious when I have to speak or perform publicly. Most people think I am charismatic and charming or whatever, but I still get stage fright sometimes. Not many others know that about me, though. 
  18. Favorite Scent: Sunshine? I know this isn’t technically a scent, but I love the smell of a warm day. It just makes me feel so happy and warm, just the smell alone. 
  19. Favorite chocolate/sweet: Ferrero Rocher probably. I love hazelnut, and because it is mixed with chocolate, it makes it that much better.  
  20. Favorite holiday song: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. I just love how upbeat and peppy it is. Like you want to get up and dance to it. It isn’t boring like other Christmas songs. My family and I always played it growing up on Christmas Eve as we wrapped some presents and sang and danced along. 
  21. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why: I will actually be going to Europe during my break, just to visit for the first time. My mom doesn’t want me to go alone, but I think I am going to. It seems fun, and I love learning about cultures and exploring different cities. I can’t think past that for the moment. I am really looking forward to it. 

“Oh great, I got a rich, gay, hipster dude who wants to change the world. Fucking winning,” Nate says sarcastically after he skims over the answers, not even bothering to read the long-winded ones because he doesn’t have time to read a fucking book. 

“You’re gay. Plus, how do you even know he’s gay? I think you’re jumping to conclusions just to be an asshole, Nate,” Seamus responds, pointing at him threateningly. Nate knows he could take him, though. He is quick and scrappy, whereas Seamus is far too nice to do any actual harm. 

“His favorite movie is The Notebook. His favorite color is pink, and when asked about his sex, he went into this whole spiel about gender conformity, for fuck’s sake. The dude is gay,” Nate defends, voice getting higher with each answer he lists off. Nate knows gay when he sees it, or in this case, reads it. He has been gay his entire life, after all, so he is no stranger to it. His gaydar is impressive, even if he does say so himself.

“Give him a chance. He could be fun. You’re just grumpy because you didn’t nap,” Seamus argues, and Nate can’t exactly tell him he’s wrong. He may be right, but Nate also would never admit that. He just bets this person talks slow, based on the rambling nature of his answers. Suddenly, he has a brilliant plan as to what he wants the first present to be. It should be easy enough, but it just may make him an asshole. 

____________

“They’re here, Z! Oh my God! I’m so nervous. Why am I nervous?” Roman exclaims, jumping when he sees a new email in his school inbox labeled ‘Secret Santa Survey Exchange.’ He hovers his mouse over it but doesn’t click. His fingers are shaking with anticipation, hoping that whoever he is paired with has a good sense of humor.

Zac just laughs at Roman’s antics, shaking his head and pulling out his phone so that he can look at the survey without actually getting on his laptop. Roman wants his computer, though, feeling like he can understand it better on a bigger screen. He knows that it is stupid, but he can’t help it. He just wants to make sure he gets every detail down. 

He takes a deep breath and opens the email, reading each answer carefully.  

  1. Number Assigned: 28
  2. Sex: Yes. The answer is always yes, and I am a male.  
  3. Major: Theatre 
  4. Why did you choose that Major: Because I like to make people laugh
  5. Favorite Food: Anything greasy and can cure a hangover
  6. Favorite Drink: Coffee or Yorkshire Tea. I need caffeine.
  7. Hobby: I play piano, occasionally. I also love soccer and video games. Video games count as a hobby, right? If you don’t think so, you’re wrong.
  8. Favorite Movie: Grease 
  9. Favorite Book: Don’t read. It’s against my religion.
  10. Favorite Store: Dick’s Sporting Goods. Adidas is my favorite athletic brand. What can I say… I love dicks. 
  11. Favorite genre of music/band: I like a little bit of everything. Mostly punk rock, but I want it to sound interesting. 
  12. Favorite TV show to binge-watch on Netflix: Friends
  13. Favorite Holiday Memory: Staying up late with my mom to help her wrap my sister’s presents the night before because, of course, she put it off. She usually let me have wine or beer with her, then we would get to wrapping, getting them all done at like 3 am only for them to be ripping it all off again 2 hours later. We had the best conversations those nights. 
  14. Favorite Sports Team/ Sport: I love soccer even though it’s not big in the US. My grandmother still lives in the UK, so I grew up with it. My favorite team is the Doncaster Rovers.
  15. Shirt Size: Small, but I sometimes like to wear my clothes baggy
  16. Favorite Color: Blue 
  17. What is one thing about you that most people don’t know: I spent my summers in England with my grandparents growing up, so when I am drunk or tired, I will sometimes slip into an English accent. Random AF, I know.
  18. Favorite Scent: Tobacco… if you think that’s weird, you can fuck right off 
  19. Favorite chocolate/sweet: Maltesers, they are hard to find in the US, but my grandparents always gave them to me as a special treat. 
  20. Favorite Holiday song: Santa Baby hahaha
  21. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why: I think I would go back to Doncaster to visit my grandma. She is getting old, and we don’t know how much longer she will be with us. It would be nice to see her again. 

“Well?” Zac asks, snapping Roman out of his read over of the person’s answers for the fifth time. 

“I think I’m in love,” Roman responds, laughing at the mystery man’s answer for favorite scent. He is sassy, and Roman likes him already. 

“Isn’t that a bit soon. You don’t even know if he’s gay,” Zac reasons, giving Roman a very confused look. 

“His favorite movie is Grease,” Roman points out, and when Zac still doesn’t look convinced, he then adds, “His favorite store is Dick’s Sporting Goods because and I quote ‘what can I say… I love dicks’.” Zac’s mouth drops open at the statement, and Roman allows a wide grin to take over his face. 

“Okay, maybe you got me there,” Zac concedes, nodding his head at Roman once he finally closes his mouth. “But I still think it is a bit too early for love.” He chuckles with the statement, but Roman isn’t so sure. When he looks back down at the guy’s answers. His chest flutters and his stomach does a weird jumping thing. 

“What’s the first gift category?” Roman asks, mind already whirring with possibilities. He has the sudden urge to spoil this person, but he knows there is a limit to how much he is allowed to spend. Maybe he can exceed that just a tiny little bit, though. 

“Umm…” Zac looks at his phone for a few minutes before looking back up. “The first category is food.” Roman bites his lip, mind whirling with ideas. He could go for something simple and easy, but he doesn’t want that. He wants his gift to be unique, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of time. The gifts are due in two weeks, so he needs to find them quickly. 

“Where are you going?” Zac asks, staring at Roman as if he has lost his mind. He may have, but that’s not the point. The point is, he has a gift to find, and it may be nearly impossible to find it. He needs to start now. 

“Going to get the first gift, and maybe the others if inspiration strikes,” Roman responds, slipping on his jacket and grabbing his keys, wallet, and cell phone from his desk. 

“You have two weeks, though,” Zac argues, the line between his brows deepening, becoming more pronounced as he draws them in confusion.

“May take me awhile. Don’t wait up,” Roman responds, then waves and is out the door. 

___________

Two Weeks Later… 

“Hi, I am here to deliver the Secret Santa Gift Exchange’s first round of presents. Is this the room of Nate and Seamus,” a cheerful girl asks when Nate opens the door after hearing a knock. She looks far too peppy, with a too-wide smile and black thick-rimmed glasses. She is wearing bright red lipstick and a Santa hat. She is even wearing an ugly Christmas sweater, and Nate kind of wants to smother her with it. 

“Yeah. I’m Nate,” he answers.

“Okay. I just need you to sign here, and I will give you and your roommate your gifts,” she replies, still fucking smiling. Don’t her cheeks hurt? Jesus. She shoves a clipboard at him, and he signs his name by his and Seamus’ room number. She then hands him two small packages. 

“Thanks.” He takes them from her, and places them in one arm then rubs his eyes tiredly. He needs to take his contacts out; his eyes are getting itchy from overwear. She waves then wheels her cart full of packages over to the next door. He kicks his own door shut with one barefoot before he even hears her knock on their neighbor’s door. 

“Ooohhh, it’s the presents!” Seamus exclaims, pushing his homework to the side and rubbing his hands together excitedly. Nate chuckles, remembering what he had bought for his Secret Santa. The gift labeled for him is in a smallish sized box, maybe big enough for a large mug. It is wrapped carefully in brown paper with pink designs. 

Nate can actually feel them under his fingers since they are embossed into the paper. Around it is a pink ribbon interlaced with a brown one, both tied into a bow. Nate shakes it, his curiosity starting to peak, but it doesn’t make a sound. He throws Seamus’ gift to him, without even looking up, too interested in his own present to pay attention. 

“Aren’t you gonna open it?” Seamus asks, and Nate can hear the confusion in his voice. 

“It’s almost too pretty to open,” Nate responds, barely above a whisper. He just can’t believe someone would waste so much time and energy on something so trivial. He has no idea what it could be, and a warmness is already spreading throughout his chest. However, his guilt over his own chosen present is threatening to strangle him. He looks at the tag, rubbing his finger gently over the messy all caps letters of his Secret Santa. 

To: Number 28

All the Love: Your Secret Santa 

“For fuck’s sake, just open it,” Seamus yells, pulling Nate out of his thoughts. He throws a pillow at Seamus because that’s what he deserves and rips into the pretty wrapping paper. Inside is a plain white box with obvious hand-drawn trees, snowflakes, snowmen, and all things Christmas-y on every side, and Nate is even more confused. On top, in the same messy scrawl, it reads, ‘Hope these bring good memories. Enjoy XX’ in big, bold letters, written in what is clearly green sharpie. 

He pulls the lid off the box carefully, his breath hitching when he registers what’s inside. He blinks back tears as he pulls the plastic-wrapped item out, memories from summers long ago flooding back to him. The smell of his grandparent’s house on warm summer days and the rainy ones, too. Playing football with his younger sisters in the back garden. The taste of his nan’s cooking, but she would always sneak him some of these before dinner even though his mom said it would ruin his appetite. All of them come flooding back like a tidal wave, and Nate wants to cry from it all. 

“Oh, my God. How did he find these? I haven’t even been able to find them anywhere. I didn’t even think they were sold in the US!” Nate exclaims, carefully pulling out the bag of Maltesers from the box, eyes lighting up like a kid on Christmas. Nate supposes it is almost Christmas, but he never expected to get such a special gift, especially from a stranger. 

Suddenly a wave of guilt hits him over the ‘presents’ he bought for his Secret Santa, making him feel sick to his stomach. Fuck. He feels like a total asshole, which is saying a lot because Nate rarely feels guilty. It’s too late to do anything about today’s present, but he may be able to exchange the one for Wednesday and Friday if he plays his cards right, but first, he needs to get new ones. 

“Wow. That’s awesome, Nate,” Seamus responds, holding a bag of coffee in his hand, but Nate barely registers it. His mind is racing with gift ideas, scenarios, and a plan. One that he is going to have to pull off in twenty-four hours. He is also going to have to sweet talk the exchange people. He has to at least try after such a thoughtful gift from the mystery man. Nate grabs his keys, coat, wallet, and cell phone off the desk, shoving some of the items into the pocket of his sweatpants. “Where the fuck are you going?” Seamus asks, breaking into his thoughts. 

Nate is startled at first. He had almost forgotten Seamus was even in the room, too wrapped up in his memories and guilt. Nate glances at the bag of Maltesers he left lying on his bed, then looks back at Seamus. “I have some presents I need to buy. You touch those, and I will kill you,” Nate warns, then he is out the door, off to go and pull every string he can.

Thank you all for reading the excerpt from All Wrapped Up. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. If you would like to chat, feel free to follow me on my social media platforms below. I would love to hear from you.

Excerpt from Cool for the Summer

As I mentioned in my previous blog, The Birth of my First Book, the first scene I had thought of for Cool for the Summer was the one where Gabriel first sees Xander dancing at a party. For the next few days, Cool for the Summer is being offered for FREE on Amazon Kindle. You don’t even need a Kindle to read it. You can just down load the free app from the app store. Below, is an excerpt from that first scene in my brain. Hope you enjoy it enough to give the book a chance.

Two hours later, Gabriel has his third drink in hand, a cup filled with some concoction labeled ‘jungle juice’ and is feeling on the good side of drunk. He is standing with Darien who is talking to a group of people about musical interests, of fucking course. He has honestly kind of checked out of the conversation, preferring to look around the room to people-watch. He is standing in the kitchen, which gives him a great view of the living room and even some of the porch. 

He lets his eyes wander slowly over his surroundings, observing people’s drunken behavior with amusement. One girl is already looking completely shit-faced and is being led outside by her friends. If it was some dude doing the leading, Gabriel would have intervened, but he figures she is in good hands with her friends. His eyes slowly track their way to the makeshift dance floor. The beginning chords of Cool for the Summer by Demi Lovato begin to play through the speakers. 

The first thing he notices are gold boots. Shiny, pointed-toe gold boots on large feet. His eyes slowly work their way up very long, very lean legs in a pair of obscenely tight skinny jeans. The person’s torso is covered, if you could call it that, in a sheer black shirt with pink flowers, only about two and a half buttons done up. The shirt allows a torso and arms full of stark black tattoos to peek through. 

Next, he sees dark, black, wavy hair brushing the shoulders of the sheer shirt. It reminds Gabriel of the ocean at night, a certain darkness about it that is both scary and beautiful. Suddenly, Gabriel wants to go swimming. His hair looks like it would be soft to the touch and makes him want to run his fingers through it. Finally, Gabriel’s eyes land on the person’s face, and fuck. He has full pink lips, a strong jawline with a cleft chin, and hazel eyes with bright gold flecks that stand out, even across the distance. They match his boots. He is smiling, his teeth straight and white.  

Goldie, as Gabriel begins referring to him in his head, is dancing with two girls. His long legs are moving to a beat of their own while his hips bump and grind with everyone else. His arms are thrown above his head, and his forehead is glistening with a light sheen of sweat. He is, quite possibly, the most beautiful person Gabriel has ever seen, from an objective standpoint. Gabriel’s alcohol-addled brain doesn’t process the fact that he has been checking out a guy for the past few minutes.  

Gabriel continues to watch the man’s body sway with the crowd around him. bump and grind with the others around him. Every now and then, Gabriel sees a pretty pink tongue peek out to wet his plump lips. Occasionally, he will throw his head back with the song to expose the long column of his neck that Gabriel wants to mark. When the song begins to come to a close, Goldie’s hazel eyes lock with his own.

__________

Xander is just drunk enough to allow two of his female friends to lead him out to the makeshift dance floor of the house party, so for the past few minutes, he has been bumping and grinding to the music. He lets his eyes scan the crowd of people dancing around him, then surveys the rest of the partygoers until they land on a very attractive man that is surrounded by a small group of people. He has a red cup resting in his hand while pretending to be interested in the conversation that is going on in the small group around him. 

The man is dressed in a simple outfit that hugs his curvy frame perfectly. His lightly tanned arms are littered with tattoos. Xander’s eyes linger on some, but there doesn’t seem to be a theme among them. It’s almost like his arms are a sketch pad that represents his life. His shirt looks old and worn, the collar stretched from repeated wearings. The dip of his shirt reveals prominent collarbones and a partial view of a scripted tattoo scrawled across the skin there that Xander very much wants to uncover. He can’t quite make out what it says, but he has the sudden urge to trace the words with his tongue. Finally, his gaze settles on the man’s face. He has a wide jaw, firm but thick lips, and the most beautiful gray eyes Xander has ever seen. They look like the ocean on a stormy day, and Xander wants to drown in them. 

Xander notices the man’s gaze is starting to move toward the dance floor when the song changes, so Xander, always the performer, decides to put on a show. He begins to move his hips and legs seductively to the beat of the music, careful to avoid the gaze of the stranger. He knows he is attractive and knows his best assets, so he plays them up. He licks and bites his full lips, flips his hair, and exposes his long neck in the hope that his gray-eyed man is actually watching. As the last lines of the song pound through the speaker, he decides to chance a glance only for his gaze to lock with those same gray eyes from across the room. 

After the song ends, Xander finds himself politely excusing himself from his friends on the dance floor. He notices the man has looked away and seems to have engrossed himself in the conversation of the group around him. Xander doesn’t want to just fling himself into the conversation, especially since he doesn’t recognize anyone in the group. He was forced to the party by his roommate, Conner, who is a music major, but is glad he came since it has been a good celebration for the end of the semester.

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I hope you all enjoyed this small excerpt. I may add more to my blog in the future. Thank you for reading! Follow me on my social media for more!