Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love Hurts: A Valentine's Day freebie story!

Happy Valentine's Day! Instead of chocolates or flowers, I figured I'd give you something you could actually use--- sweet teenage angst. (With a playlist, because everyone knows Valentine's Day should involve music!) *g* 

A little background: Zeke and Hatcher are the main characters in the YA book I'm working on, Incoming Credits. This short picks up about six months after that book ends. The short and the book are both written in first person from Zeke's perspective.


Love Hurts

I scowled at the phone, dropping it on my bed without erasing the voice mail. If Hatcher thought he could just apologize his way out of this one, he was sorely mistaken. Sorely being the operative word.

Three hours ago, I'd stormed out of Hatcher’s dorm room with my proverbial tail between my legs, and he'd been calling and texting nonstop ever since. Not that I'd answered any of them.

The phone beeped with yet another incoming text. I ignored it. It was probably just another variation on the I'm sorry messages he'd been sending every twenty minutes or so.

I shifted on the bed, dislodging the makeshift ice pack my roommate Chris had made me before he'd left for his date. Unlike some people who shall remain nameless, he was taking the safe route, going with dinner and a romantic walk through the park for his Valentine's Day date.

That's what I'd wanted to do, but no, Hatcher wanted to try something new. It'll be fun, he'd said. What could go wrong, it'll be fine, he'd said.

I glared down at Ziploc bag resting on my crotch. It hadn't been fine.

The Tylenol I'd taken when I'd gotten home had helped, but it was starting to throb more. That probably meant it was time for another dose. More ice would probably help, too. But did it hurt enough to justify putting on pants and limping down to the ice machine in the basement? No sir, it did not.

Just the thought of rough fabric touching the burn made me cringe. Sitting through class was going to be fun tomorrow. It would have been okay if it had been anything other than my drafting class. Most professors didn't really care what you wore, but Professor Arnold had a dress code in his syllabus. The first week of class a girl had been thrown out for wearing sweatpants with the university logo on them, so I didn't think my tattered plaid pajama pants—the softest pants I owned and the only thing I would even consider letting close to my crotch right now—would fare any better.


It was nearly midnight when my phone pinged with an email from Hatcher. I was expecting a lengthy apology, given the number of times he'd been texting and calling, but it was just a few words and a link.

I clicked on the link, my lips curving up into a grin despite my best effort to frown as I read the playlist name: “Love Hurts.”

Hell yes, it did. The track listings made me smile, too. I’d always been amused by Hatcher’s dark sense of humor, and this was no exception.

Love Hurts, Nazareth
It Hurts Like Hell, Aretha Franklin
Why Does It Hurt So Bad, Whitney Houston
Hurt like Mine, The Black Keys
Sex on Fire, Kings of Leon
King of Pain, The Police
Burning Love, Elvis Presley
Sexual Healing, Marvin Gaye

It was definitely an eclectic list, and I had to give Hatcher points for creativity. It didn't make the burn hurt any less, but something in my chest eased a bit. I hated fighting with Hatcher, even when I was the one instigating it. And it hadn't really been his fault—it had been an honest mistake, but my embarrassment had made it worse.

Really, I was probably most upset by the fact that he'd thought our sex life was boring. I mean, it's not like either of us have much experience, but I'd thought things were good. What was I supposed to think when his big Valentine's Day surprise ended up being a box of things to spice up our sex life? That doesn't happen when your partner is satisfied, right?

The body chocolate Hatcher had ordered from some sex shop online hadn't said it should be heated up, but we'd kind of figured it was like a jar of hot fudge. He hadn't even put it in for that long—less than a minute, for sure. But it had been more than hot enough to burn me when he'd drizzled it on.
Thank God he hadn't put it on my dick. Having a burn on the skin in the crease of my thigh was bad enough. I couldn't imagine how much worse it would feel in an even more sensitive area.
I lifted the blanket and moved the ice pack aside, looking at the angry red burn again. The chocolate had been hot enough to cause my skin to blister, but it wasn't the worst burn I'd ever had. I'd done worse to myself taking things out of the oven. Then again, those burns had been on my hands. Not my groin.
Even with most of the ice melted, the bag felt nice against my skin, so I put it back. Chris wasn't coming back tonight, so I didn't need to worry about pants until tomorrow morning.
I settled back against the pillows, careful not to dislodge my ice pack, and plugged my headphones into my phone. I hit play, grinning when the first song started.
Hatcher had texted a few more times, but I still wasn't ready to talk to him, even though I'd already forgiven him.
Let him suffer a little.


Figured you'd still be asleep.”

I startled awake at Hatcher’s voice, nearly falling off my precarious perch on the edge of my bed. I must have fallen asleep listening to his playlist. It took me a minute to realize that the room wasn't dark anymore. Sunlight poured in from the blinds that I'd forgotten to close last night.

Oh shit. It was morning.

Fuck, fuck, fuck!”

I scrambled to get up. The Ziploc bag that had been full of ice last night fell to the floor and burst open, splattering both of us with cold water.

Hatcher grabbed me by my shoulders and stopped me from face planting onto the floor, but I squirmed against his hold.

I have class!” I muttered, wiping the droplets of water off my face with the back of my hand once he let me go.

You had class,” he said, his grin entirely too smug for this hour of the morning. I didn't have time for this. Professor Arnold locked the doors of the lecture hall at precisely 8:01 a.m. and didn't let latecomers in. He only allowed one unexcused absence all semester; I wasn't going to waste mine in February.

His words sunk in a beat later, and I looked over at the alarm clock on my nightstand. Fuck. It was almost nine.

I stopped fighting against Hatcher's hold and slumped back against my wet pillow. “Shit. I'm fucked.”

Hatcher grinned, and even in my panicked and still pained state, my pulse kicked up a notch. We hadn't had sex last night, what with the body chocolate fiasco, and it had been days since the last time we'd gotten off together. Even though I didn't feel remotely like having sex, I'd missed that smile and all the dark promise it held.

Yeah, you would be fucked, if I hadn't gone to your professor with the note from your doctor,” Hatcher drawled.

If I hadn't—what did you do?” I asked, terrified. Professor Arnold was not the type to just accept an excuse—he'd call to check on the validity of the note, and then I'd be in trouble for lying as well as ditching class. My scholarships required a high GPA and no ethics violations. “Oh my God, I'm going to get thrown out of school.”

The smile slid off Hatcher's face, and he sat on the bed next to me, his hands coming down to grab mine. “Hey, no. It was a real doctor's note. I have some cream for your burn, too. And Dr. Hanson wants to actually see you in person in a few days, or sooner if the cream doesn't help.”

Dr. Hanson?”

Hatcher grinned sheepishly. “My doctor here in town.”

Ah, of course. Hatcher's richer-than-Midas parents wouldn't stoop to letting him see a campus doctor at the health center like everyone else. It made sense that he'd have a personal doctor here. Though he hadn't been sick once all year. When had he met Dr. Hanson?

You know your doctor well enough to get him to write notes and give you a prescription for a patient he hasn't even seen?”

Hatcher's family might be crazy rich, but there had to be a limit to what money could buy, right? Surely they weren't paying off doctors now.

His sister went to school with my aunt, I think. We know him somehow, at least. And I have seen him. I had a physical in September when school started. Mom insisted.” He tossed the tube of burn cream to me. “It's not a prescription. Just regular over-the-counter stuff that his nurse recommended. You're supposed to use it three times a day.”

I rolled my eyes but uncapped it anyway. I'd been too panicked about missing class to notice the pain when I'd woken up, but it was definitely there now. The skin felt tender, and it pulled and stung every time I moved. “Is there anywhere in the world you could go that your family doesn't have some sort of connections?”

His smile brightened. “The Winthrops haven't made a lot of inroads in Asia. Want to move to Singapore?”

I laughed. “Not even a little. So I need to go see your doctor?”

That was going to cost me a pretty penny, I was sure. I doubted my Mom's crappy health insurance was going to cover a doctor that Hatcher saw. I still had some savings from working at the camp over the summer. I couldn't call home and ask Mom for money—especially since she'd want to know how I got injured in the first place.

Hatcher watched me dab on the cream with obvious interest. I flushed, remembering that I was completely naked. Not that I hadn't been naked in front of him before. Just not this casually. I'd always insisted on sleeping in at least a pair of boxers, since both of us have roommates.

He's on retainer.”

Seriously? That was a thing? I thought only lawyers were on retainer. Hell, I wasn't even entirely sure what that meant.

Hatcher seemed to pick up on my confusion. “My parents pay him a fee to make sure he's available whenever I might need him. This kind of visit is covered in that. Most minor things are.”

God. I shouldn't be surprised, but Hatcher was so normal that it was easy to forget just how wealthy his family was. Even when we'd been at Winthrop Prep together, he and Leighton had been so much more down to earth than the rest of the blue bloods. Here at Cornell, the divide between heir to the Winthrop fortune Hatcher and normal Hatcher was even more stark. He acted just like everyone else. Except for having a doctor on retainer, apparently.

Oh,” I muttered, swallowing thickly. “Right. Erm, thanks.”

Don't be weird about it,” he said dismissively. “Besides, it's kind of my fault you're hurt anyway.”

If his interpretation of kind of was completely, then yes. I gave him a dirty look but chose to let it go.

Though next time Hatcher had an idea for how to spice things up in the bedroom, I was going to insist he be the guinea pig.

So,” Hatcher said brightly, nodding to my phone where it sat on the mattress next to my pillow. The earphones were still attached, making it obvious what I'd been doing when I'd fallen asleep. “What did you think?”

I snorted. “I think the last one was a bit optimistic. If you think I’m going to let you anywhere near my –”

He leaned in and kissed me, cutting me off mid sentence. I couldn't complain. Kissing Hatcher was one of my favorite things in the world, and he was being careful not to lean on me and aggravate my burn. I brought my hands up and buried them in his hair, letting him lead the kiss.

My cheeks were flushed by the time he finally pulled back. “Was that an apology?” I asked, earning a huff from him.

Would you accept it if it was, unlike the dozens of others I offered you last night?”

My blush deepened, this time out of embarrassment. I'd been really angry last night, but after sleeping on it I could see how ridiculous it had been to just storm out of his dorm room and not answer any of his calls.


His smirk softened, and he peeked down at the burn. It looked worse than it had last night, but it actually felt better, especially after using the cream he'd brought. I wasn't going to be rushing into my skinny jeans anytime soon, but I was pretty sure I could stomach wearing sweats without wanting to die. That was progress.

I really am sorry. I should have read the directions, but I was just too excited to use it. I wanted to make you feel good.”

The confession took me off guard. “Really? It's not because you think sex with me is boring?”

Hatcher gaped at me. “What? No! That's what you thought?”

Relief flooded through me. I hadn't realized just how worried I was that Hatcher was getting tired of me until just now. Things between us had gotten off to such a rocky start that we couldn't even agree on how long we'd been dating. I count from the day I actually realized we were dating—six months. But Hatcher counts from the day we started our little friends with benefits arrangement, since he said he thought we'd been dating all along—seven months.

Either way, it had been plenty of time for someone as gorgeous and amazing as Hatcher to realize he was wasting his time with someone as ordinary as me.

Yeah. I mean, what was I supposed to think? You say you have big Valentine's Day plans for us, and then you pull out this box of stuff...”

I trailed off, not sure how to explain how I'd felt when I'd seen the silk scarves and padded handcuffs. There had been a vibrator, too, but I'd been too mortified to really process that. When he'd asked me what I wanted to try first, I'd grabbed the body chocolate because it was the only thing in there that I knew what to do with.

Though clearly I hadn't, since I didn't stop him from putting the damn thing in the microwave.

It came as a package,” Hatcher said, his own cheeks stained pink. “The website said it was a Valentine's Day exploration kit. There were these hokey coupons, too. For sex and other things, like candlelit dinners. It wasn't because I think sex with you is boring, Zeke. I don't. But I've never been in a relationship with someone before, and I kind of panicked about what to do for Valentine's Day. Leighton recommended this sex toy site, and I swear to God, this box of things was the least scary thing on it.”

Hatcher's sister was one of my best friends, but she was a menace. Of course she'd suggest sex toys for Valentine's Day. God damn Leighton. I'd have to yell at her next time we Skyped.

Or better yet, open up that vibrator and then give her details about using it on her brother. That would teach her.

My dick actually twitched a bit at the thought of going through the box of toys now that I realized Hatcher was just as overwhelmed by them as I was. And finding out that he hadn't gotten them because he thought I was bad at sex helped, too. Now that I wasn't panicking about him dumping me or worrying that I didn't satisfy him, I could see how most of the things could actually be kind of fun. Not today, of course. They all seemed to require a flexibility that I just didn't have right now. But maybe soon.

The thin sheet covering my lap didn't hide much, and Hatcher noticed my interest pretty quickly. His eyebrows rose. “Really?”

I shrugged. “Maybe the last song on the playlist wasn't that optimistic,” I said, grinning when he leaned in closer and kissed me.

What time is Chris back?”

He usually didn't come back to the room til after lunch, which meant we had plenty of time. I didn't think my injury was going to let us get too crazy, but that didn't mean we couldn't mess around.

He's got an 11 a.m. class, and he'll probably hang out on campus after for a bit,” I said, shifting over carefully to give Hatcher some room to settle in on the bed.

He darted in and kissed me on the nose. “So since Valentine's Day didn't go so well for us, so I was thinking maybe we could do something tonight.”

I arched a brow at him. “Valentine’s Day, the sequel?”

Too much pressure. There are all these expectations for Valentine's Day. It's bound to be another disaster. How about we celebrate President's Day instead?”

I snorted out a laugh. “Because nothing says sexytimes like President's Day?”

Well, it is the biggest mattress buying day of the year,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

I shook my head and drew him in for another kiss. “You're ridiculous. Happy President's Day.”

I could feel his smile against my lips. “Happiest President's Day ever,” he murmured.


Incoming Credits

When Zeke's life at the exclusive boarding school he attends is already hard enough  with the stigma of being a scholarship student and an art nerd, so being forced out of the closet is the last thing he needs. Getting outed because someone heard him mooning over the school's resident golden boy? Even worse.

High school ends in a blaze of misery for Zeke, but that doesn't matter because he's on his way to Cornell. He'll start over where no one knows him, and he'll finally be able to be himself. He's so anxious to get started that he enrolls in a summer program that offers incoming freshmen the chance to earn a few credits and a stipend for helping out with a summer camp.

Zeke figured it would be easy to get over his crush on Hatcher when he didn't have to see his stupidly perfect face every day. Unfortunately, that's just a hypothesis...because Hatcher's at Cornell, too, and he's suddenly interested in talking to Zeke.

Zeke finds himself falling even harder for Hatcher as their summer progresses. And surprisingly, Hatcher's not just another pretty face. He's smart and funny, and it turns out that boarding school was awful for him, too. He'd had money and popularity, but he hadn't had many actual friends. It's a learning curve for both of them, especially when Zeke learns that Hatcher is gay. Helping him out of the closet is easy, especially when Zeke offers to show him the ropes, so to speak, in a strictly friends-with-benefits situation. Things get complicated when feelings get introduced, and Zeke ends up learning just as much about himself as he does about Hatcher.
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