Friday, February 07, 2014
Friday Free-For-All with Daisy Harris
After the Rain!
Thanks for showing up, guys! Below I have an excerpt from my upcoming release, After the Rain. If you comment below, you’ll be signed up for a pre-release giveaway! Whee!!!!
Preston Carter looked the same as he always had—tall, dark and slim in his designer suit. Like Henri’s cheating ex, the apartment behind him was similarly unchanged. The place was still gorgeous, with shades of tan and gold painted to contrast with the chrome accents on Preston’s furniture. Henri remembered exactly which color had been chosen to match what, since Preston had fought tooth and nail against Henri’s interior-design choices.
Too bad all Preston’s money hadn’t bought him taste.
“Thanks for finally deigning to show up,” Preston snapped, letting Henri in the door.
“You’re welcome, chéri.” Venom dripped from Henri’s voice. He set his backpack near the entrance, since Preston would give Henri a hard time if he brought anything into the pristine two-bedroom penthouse.
Henri tried not to be jealous. He’d be earning a full-time wage soon. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to afford a penthouse, but he’d get his own place. God, he was such an idiot for having insisted on paying Preston rent. If he’d saved up instead, he would have signed a lease on a new apartment by now instead of sleeping on his best friend’s couch.
He put a little sway in his step as he sauntered into the apartment. Six in the afternoon was early for a booty call, but he was hoping that was why Preston had asked him to come over. As much as Henri hated Preston for cheating, he missed the way Preston’s ass looked in Armani.
“So.” He took his time rotating, letting Preston see the goods. Henri had worn his skintight black jeans, the ones that left absolutely nothing to the imagination, and a T-shirt that was ripped artistically enough not to be completely slutty. He must have lost ten pounds in those days right after the breakup when all he could do was cry and watch television. Confidence swelled his chest and parts lower on his body when Henri spotted himself, looking heroin chic, in Preston’s wall mirror. “You wanted to see me?”
“Well, yes.” Preston rushed into his spare bedroom—the one where Henri’s desk had been when Henri still lived here. He came out with a small pile. Schoolbooks, a shirt Henri wasn’t even sure was his and a picture Henri’d had framed of the two of them together. Preston held them out, his face devoid of emotion. “Here.”
Henri took them, his gaze on the picture. They’d been at an art gallery, and Henri was laughing. The pain of seeing it hit him like a bullet to the heart. “You’re giving this back to me?”
“I thought you might want the frame.”
The deadpan way Preston said it, Henri didn’t know if he was serious, sarcastic or trying to be hurtful.
Henri set the stuff down, picked up the picture and walked into Preston’s kitchen to throw it in the trash.
“Well, that’s mature.” Preston followed behind him. “I’m surprised you didn’t smash it on the ground in a temper tantrum. That’s more your style, right?”
Henri’s eyes filled with tears, but he wiped them away before Preston could see. He hated Preston so f**king much because despite all the crap Preston had put him through, Henri still wanted him in the worst way.
How in the hell was Henri supposed to move on? A whole year they’d been together, and all Henri had to show for it was a storage locker full of s**t and mooching off Michael for his last month of college. That, and the occasional booty call.
“Was there any other reason you invited me over?” Henri gathered his strength, sniffing the moisture out of his nose and hoping his face hadn’t gotten too red. He turned to lean against the counter.
“Well, in fact, yes.” Preston’s eyes darted to the side. “I have to tell you something, but I’m warning you in advance—do not throw one of your tizzy fits, because it’s not a big deal.”
“Okay.” A window above the sink overlooked a garden at the center of Preston’s apartment complex, but otherwise the whole kitchen was steel and concrete. Henri wished they were doing this in the living room, where soft surfaces would dull the noise if Preston shouted. As it was, Henri stepped into the corner, between the fridge and Preston’s butcher block.
“I’ve contracted HSV2,” Preston said in clipped tones.
At first, all Henri heard was contract and some letters, so he thought Preston was talking about a business deal. Preston had always done that—sprung terminology on Henri to show him how useless Henri’s economics major would prove in the real world. Henri wracked his mind for the meaning. H…S…V… Wait…
“You mean herpes?” Henri’s belly tensed like he’d fallen twenty feet. He was glad he had a grip on the butcher block because his legs wobbled. “Like the STI?”
Oh my God, when was the last time we f**ked? We always used condoms, but… Henri’s mind went blank, panic hitting hard.
“Yes. Herpes Simplex 2. It’s very common. Twenty percent of adults…” Preston launched into a monologue like he was reading from a pamphlet. The words transmission rates and seroconversion were in there, knocking other scary concepts like health insurance and paying taxes down a peg in Henri’s list of Most Terrifying Things Ever.
“Are you serious?” Henri hissed. Talk about the worst graduation present ever. “Did you give it to me? Is that what you’re saying?”
“No.” Preston ran a hand through his highlighted and perfectly styled hair, the most frazzled Henri had seen him. “Probably not.”
“Probably not.” Henri pressed his forefinger and thumb into his eyes, watching spots dance behind his eyelids. “Then why—?”
“I thought you should know.” Haughtily, Preston looked down his Roman nose. “You may want to get tested. If you do get lesions, I figured you’d want to know what they are.”
“Lesions?” Henri focused his awareness on lower parts of his body, the parts that were currently sucking into his groin and trembling in fear. Was that tingling he felt? He knew tingling and itching were the first signs.
He scratched his balls though his jeans. Okay, he did itch a little, but maybe that was because he hadn’t had a chance to groom lately. Michael complained if Henri took more than five minutes in the shower.
Henri gathered his strength so he wouldn’t turn into a simpering, weeping mess. He couldn’t f**king handle this, not with finals and everything else. “So, why do I probably not have it? Because I know you were f**king around before you broke it off with me.”
“Oh my God, you bitch. I’m sick of you bringing that up.” Preston slammed his hand on the counter and used every inch of height he had on Henri to seem intimidating.
Henri shrank farther into his spot of relative safety, twisting his hips behind the wood of the rolling butcher block. Experience had shown it didn’t do any good to talk to Preston when he was like this.
“Our last encounter was over two weeks ago.” Preston tossed his head back so his hair ruffled on his forehead.
Had it been that long? Henri had been so busy scrambling for a place to stay that he hadn’t realized. No wonder Michael was getting on Henri’s last nerve with his control-freak rules. Michael was probably upping his annoying factor to get Henri to take the hint and move out.
“So, there’s no way you could have given it to me?”
“My doctor said the prodromal phase is ten days.”
Henri’s pulse beat in his temple. “What does that mean?”
Preston snorted, like he thought Henri was an idiot. “Since we had sex more than ten days before I was symptomatic, and we used condoms, it’s very unlikely you contracted it.”
“Unlikely?” Henri held the word tight to his chest, trying to figure out what it meant. Less likely than certain, more likely than not?
“So, what about Jayson?” Henri wasn’t thrilled with the man now taking up the other half of Preston’s king-sized, memory-foam bed, but he didn’t hate the guy. As far as he was concerned, Preston was the cheater.
“He hadn’t had an outbreak in years.”
The words sank in—Preston had known Jayson had the virus and had taken Henri to bed anyway.
Henri gasped like Preston had punched him.
He’d trusted Preston, thought of him as the grownup in their relationship. Preston may not have always been nice, but he was supposed to make the smart decisions so Henri wouldn’t have to worry.
If lightning had struck, Henri wouldn’t have noticed. Betrayal brought tears to his eyes, sliced through to his heart. He pushed Preston out of the way.
“Jesus, Hen.” Preston caught him by the arm. He glared down at Henri as if somehow all of this was Henri’s fault. “Don’t go running out to do anything stupid.”
“The only stupid thing I’ve done here is wasting a year of my life on you.” Henri broke away and made it halfway down the hall before he realized Preston wasn’t chasing him. Preston always had before—every time Henri stormed out of the apartment.
By the time Henri was a block away, walking on shaking legs, he realized why Preston hadn’t bothered. Things between them were really over.
Henri collapsed on the bench at the bus stop, dropping his swollen backpack to the ground. City traffic streamed by, and the sun shined. Birds chirped on the crisp spring evening, as if the whole city were celebrating the end of the school year while Henri got thrown under the wheels of a bus.
He dragged a deep breath in, ignoring the smell of exhaust and focusing instead on the freshly cut grass. He blew out until his lungs were empty and his heartbeat slowed to a reasonable thrum. Henri needed to come up with a plan.
Call the health center, sign up, get tested.
Once he found out the results… Well, after that, he’d figure out what came next.
“That is such bulls**t.” Soleil marched across her apartment, the apartment they’d shared when they first moved to Seattle. “You know damn well that men don’t suddenly ‘turn’ gay.” She used air quotes, bottom lip thrust forward in a pout. Funny, that pout and that attitude had been the things about her that turned Logan on when they were first together. He wished like hell he could still muster the energy to find her cute.
“It’s not bulls**t.” Paying more attention than strictly needed, Logan shoved his firefighting manuals on top of the rest of his books. “It’s somethin’ I’d been thinkin’ about for a while. You know that.”
“I know you say you like d**k. You moved out like you were going to live some queer lifestyle. Four months later, babe, and where’s the beef?” She shook her head, scoffing. “You ain’t done s**t with a man.”
He kept his growl to a minimum, letting it escape through his nose like a dragon breathing out fire. “Not sure why you care.” Angrily, he folded the top of the box and started packing the next one.
He should have known she would lay into him the first chance she got. No wonder she’d been bugging him for weeks to come pick up the last of his textbooks. Since he’d gone through training all over again in Seattle, Logan could have done without his TEEX Fire Recruit Academy stuff. And he certainly could have done without his lack of a sex life being dissected by his ex-girlfriend. “I haven’t had time.”
It was bad enough Soleil had kept all the furniture they’d brought up from Texas when they’d moved—he hadn’t asked for his parents’ old couch back, and it still lay in the middle of her living room, across from the big-screen TV Logan had put on his credit card—but he didn’t get why she demanded his balls in a sling every time she saw him.
He’d apologized a hundred times and hadn’t asked for his half of the security deposit back…why couldn’t she let it go?
A man’s sweater was draped over the couch’s armrest, so clearly she was seeing someone else. It wasn’t any of her business where he stuck his d**k.
Calmly as he could, Logan taped the first box closed. “I’ll be out of here in a second.” He grabbed another row of books off the shelf, high school yearbooks he’d want to toss in the recycling bin if it wasn’t for the pictures of him and Soleil at prom. Someday, he might want those memories, even though at the moment he could have gone the rest of his life without laying eyes on her again.
“Yeah. Whatever.” Soleil’s voice broke as she turned away. Her shoulders trembled under her dark curls, and her head hung forward like she was crying.
“You okay?” He couldn’t tell if this was another one of her mood swings, but he’d never been able to handle seeing her cry. Hit by a fresh rush of guilt, he rose out of his crouch and touched her shoulder. Her flesh was soft under his hand, and she smelled familiar—like a bouquet of flowers picked from his mom’s garden. Logan wanted to sob right along with her.
“Yeah.” She wiped her face with the back of her hand. With the mocha color of her skin, her face didn’t redden, not even when she cried, but her nose and eyes were puffy. “I’m fine.”
She dropped to her knees and rearranged the books on the shelves, filling in the empty spaces left by his stuff. “But you know, if you didn’t want to be with me, you could have just said it. You didn’t have to come up with this whole gay thing as a cover.” She grabbed a vase off a higher shelf and placed it where the firefighting manuals had been. She didn’t bother to dust first. “I’m a big girl.” Soleil sniffed away the last of her tears, her voice stuffy. “I can handle the truth. If you didn’t love me—”
“Of course I loved you.” Logan rubbed his face in frustration. They’d had this conversation too many f**king times already. He was sick of it. “I still do.” He reached for her, but she pulled away, striding out of the living room and into the kitchen.
“Whatever.” She must have turned on the sink faucet because the sound of water running filled the apartment. “But I’ll ask again—if you think you’re gay, why haven’t you done anything about it?”
“I’m not twenty-one yet.” He ran packing tape across the top of the second box. “I can’t go to bars.” Truth was he was scared s**tless. The gay guys he saw around town were all sleek and hip, with their noses in the air. Logan didn’t know how to talk to any of them much less ask for a date.
Logan knew one gay guy, but they worked together. Tomas was hot, though. Friendly, usually smiling. Maybe Logan should man up and ask him out.
“Like that matters.” Soleil came back from the kitchen with a glass of water. For a second, Logan thought she’d brought it for him since he was parched, but then she drank it in one swallow. “I’d think if you really were gay, you’d have a boyfriend by now. Or maybe three or four of them. After all the time I wasted dating you—”
“I’m sorry, okay?” he ended up shouting, and Logan cleared his throat to lower his voice. He hated losing his temper, but they’d had this argument too many times to count. He was done. Finished. He was gay, and he didn’t want to date Soleil or any other girl. Hell, he didn’t want to date anyone ever again. “It doesn’t matter what I’ve done. I’m not straight, and I’m sorry I didn’t know that when we got together, but, Jesus, I was fifteen!”
She snorted her disagreement, her arms crossed and her posture tense. Thankfully she didn’t fight back. She could have pointed out that was five years ago, and that Logan had had plenty of time to figure out he was gay in the time in between.
Soleil didn’t say any of it because she didn’t need to. She’d said it all before.
Box packed, he stood. At six-three he towered over her five-foot-five frame, and the distance between them had never seemed farther.
“I wish I didn’t hate you so much. I really do.” Soleil glared up at him with red-rimmed eyes. She went into her bedroom—the bedroom they’d shared when they were together—and slammed the door.
The sound hung in the air while Logan let out a shaky breath.
Never again. Relationships were more trouble than they were worth. Anyway, it was pretty f**king obvious he sucked as a boyfriend.
Henri’s list of bad exes is as long as his arm, but nothing prepared him for his latest, heart-stomping breakup. He thought he couldn’t feel more abandoned, until his ride for a group camping trip bails, leaving him stuck driving for hours with a guy who is absolutely not his type.
After breaking up with his girlfriend of five years, firefighter Logan is working up the nerve to explore his interest in men. He knows he’s gay. He just hasn’t had the guts to do anything about it...until now.
Henri’s big-city attitude and tight jeans push every last one of Logan’s buttons, and when he and Henri have to share a tent, Logan is thrilled. He should have realized Pacific Northwest weather would get wet—forcing them to strip naked.
Though the steam between them is thicker than coastal fog, Henri’s not sure he can let himself fall for another man. Not even the guy who finally treats him right.
Warning: Contains bad ex-boyfriends, even worse weather, and more than your average amount of sex in a tent. May not be suitable for those with germ phobias, outdoor aversions or fear of damp shoes.
Birkenstock-wearing glamour girl and mother of two by immaculate conception, Daisy Harris still isn't sure if she writes erotica. Her romances start out innocently enough. However, her characters behave like complete sluts. Much to Miss Harris's dismay the sex tends to get completely out of hand.
She writes about fantastical creatures and about young men getting their freak on, and she's never missed an episode of The Walking Dead.