Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Teaser Tuesday IX

Here’s a treat for Teaser Tuesday! This is a selection from the long lost and lamented Project 1. (otherwise known as Avarice) This novel wasn’t trunked, no, not at all. It was sent to a farm in the country to live with a family that loves it very much. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Sorry for the length, but this is one of my favorite scenes. You shoulda seen the one that came before it, it was pretty pimp too. Too bad the overall plot of the book is unsalvageable as it stands now.

Ah well, maybe someday.


She was still buckling her sword on when she hit the deck to find her men already at the ropes, rigging the ship for fast running. “Rourke! Report!”

The old man greeted her with an unexpected grin, which stopped her in her tracks. “It ain’ tha Dread. It’s tha Asp.”

Jaysa took up the offered glass, to find a small two-masted ship coming up fast on their aft side. Rourke’s grin was contagious. Though it ran with no flag, she knew that ship. The small band of privateers made a point of harassing anyone they could catch, and they had chased the Avarice before with no luck. This would be fun. “Get her set, Rourke, I want to see them eat wake.”

The impending chase seemed to brighten everyone’s mood as the sleeping portion of the crew was roused to aid the rest. She could see Etienne already aloft in the riggings to keep a lookout, calling orders down to the crew below. Nite had thrown his hand in at the sails, Pascal tight on his heels like a little barnacle.

The crew of the Asp knew they had been seen, and like the Avarice, the ship was being prepared for a chase. Through her telescope, Jaysa watched the men scamper into the ropes as easily as walking on land, and laughed when she caught their captain staring back at her through his own spyglass. She gave a jaunty wave and received one in response. It was to be a lark then. To be sure, the pirates would rob them if they caught them – though they had little enough on board worth value – but in the end it was the chase that mattered, the thrill of flying over the waves after a long winter ashore.

She nudged Rourke away from the wheel with a wicked grin, and raised her voice. “Hard to port, boys, make ‘em work for it!” The answering roar from her men was the sweetest thing she had heard in months.

The Avarice responded as eagerly as the men, leaping across the smooth water ahead of the smaller ship. They were in flat open sea, and in a straight run, the Asp was lighter and would most likely catch them. But the larger Avarice plowed diagonal swathes across the wind and current, never letting the pirates draw alongside for fear of being crushed under. The crew and ship acted as one creature, the barked orders from Jaysa only serving as extra motivation. Even Pascal found himself a place next to Nite, doing his small part to keep the ship speeding along.

Jaysa lost herself in the moment, steering by instinct, calling out commands without truly thinking about it. This was what she loved, what she lived for. Nothing could stop her, not with the Avarice under full sail, not with the Lady’s waves calm and beckoning. She could feel the pull and tug of each rope on each billowing sail through the soles of her feet, feel the rudder buffeted by the hidden currents through her hands on the wheel. In all of it, the Avarice spoke to her, guided her, and together they were unstoppable.

Each time the Asp got within shouting distance, the Avarice would change course hard to the opposite side, leaving the smaller ship scrambling to catch up in the larger vessel’s wake. Some of Jaysa’s crew hung over the rear railing, cat calling and whooping to the Asp below, and the pirate crew yelled back jibes and taunts. Certainly, any of them could have opened fire with pistols or cannons at any time, but neither crew seemed to wish it, both finding joy in the contest the chase had become.

Why then, in the bright light of the noonday sun, was she suddenly freezing?

It was on their next turn to starboard that Jaysa heard the warning shout. “Ware to starboard!” Knowing very well that the Asp was on the port side and behind, she jerked her head in that direction to see what new threat approached. The sight chilled her to her very core.

The Dread loomed to their right, tattered sails full and barreling toward the embattled pair with deadly purpose. No matter what condition the rest of the haphazard vessel was in, there was no missing the gleaming spike adorning the prow.

“Shit!” Jaysa spun the wheel without warning, jerking many off their feet and sending the boat reeling toward port again. She cut across the Asp’s path, barely missing crushing the smaller ship beneath the Avarice’s keel. The pirate captain jerked his wheel to starboard, and the pair of ships skimmed along each side of the Dread as it passed between them within touching distance.

Where the seven hells had it come from?! A ship could not just appear from no where on an empty sea, and yet Jaysa would swear to her dying day they had not been so involved in the chase as to miss its approach.

“Man the guns! Everyone out of the rigs!” The game had suddenly turned serious, and with the maneuvers that would be necessary, any unwary sailor could be pitched from the high ropes into the sea, a death sentence in these suddenly crowded waters.

There was a thump as Etienne hit the deck beside her, and the pair of them exchanged grim glances. “Get Pascal and Nite below.” The Basque sailor nodded and moved to give the order.

The captain dared a glance behind to see that the Dread had already come around from its near collision and was now moving to flank the Asp, herding the pirate vessel back toward the Avarice. Sweet Lady, they couldn’t truly think to take both ships?

The captain of the Asp darted his ship behind the Avarice abruptly, putting the larger ship between his and the Dread. In return, Jaysa cut her ship hard right, ducking the abrupt spray of water as she again passed within spitting distance of the ship of horrors. She had one glimpse of the Dread sailors, standing eerily silent at the rails of their own ship with the boundless patience of a stalking shark. She caught the sight of shark’s teeth, of impossibly large mouths beneath the same empty black eyes as the keshiel. Predators, merely waiting. A hook hit the port railing and caught, only to have its rope neatly severed by Selby’s belt knife. That was too close.

“We gotta split from tha Asp, they can only chase one a us!” Rourke appeared at her elbow, cudgel slung at his belt in preparation for battle.

He was right, she knew, but that still gave even odds that the Dread would pursue them instead of the Asp. And if the Asp could break free, she could easily outrun the Avarice, leaving the larger ship to its fate.

“We could fight them together. They cannot take both ships at once.” Etienne’s argument was also sound, save that it depended on the crew of the other ship stopping to aid once the battle was joined.

The odds were against them, and Jaysa liked it not. There was only one way to ensure that the Dread did not dog their wake all the way to Jeranthin.

“Port side gunners! Load ball and chain!” She heard the order passed from man to man down into the hold and took a firmer grip on the wheel. They only had one gun on that side. They would only get one shot.

“Those masts are too thick! The chains will not take them down!” Etienne was right. While a whirling ball and chain, fired from a cannon, would shatter smaller masts, the Dread was made of sterner stuff. Nevermind the common knowledge that the Dread was unsinkable, inescapable. “Jaysa, are you listening to me?”

She listened, of course, but her mind was set. The Dread could not be allowed to overtake the Avarice. She knew that Etienne and Rourke were exchanging worried glances behind her back, but she did not have time to explain. Nor did she want to try.

“Ready for hard to port!” The men on the decks below moved, shifted, taking positions to accomplish whatever their captain asked of them. Jaysa watched their wake, keeping the Asp and the Dread in her sights, waiting for just the right moment. It came. “Now!” The wheel spun under her hands and every man heaved at the ropes. With a tortured groan of timber and line, the Avarice turned broadside, not into the path of the Dread, but to face the Asp. She could hear the moment her men grasped her intent, the tumult of shouting changing to shock and incredulity.

“What are you doing?!” Etienne gaped at her in horror.

“Fire!” The order was passed and carried out, the gun below thundering in answer. Jaysa watched as the ball and chain, only a blur to her eyes, spun through the air to wrap around the Asp’s foremast with a sickening crunch of wood. For a heart stopping moment, she thought the shot had failed. Then the mast began to list and suddenly toppled, trapping who knew how many men beneath the fallen sails and lines. The smaller ship lagged behind them, crippled.

As she had hoped, the Dread dropped pursuit, circling back to descend on the Asp like sharks to blood. She watched for no longer than that, turning her attention back to her own vessel. They still had to get away.

“Sweet and merciful Lady, Jaysa, what have you done?” Etienne still stared at her, face pale beneath his dark hair. “Those men…”

“Those men aren’t mine. And mine are still alive.”

An explosion sounded behind them. Perhaps the Asp had fired their small guns in an attempt to stave off boarding. But dead in the water as they were, there would be no escaping the Dread’s mad crew. More than one man leaned out over the rails, trying to see behind them, murmurs of disbelief replacing the cacophony of impending battle. Jaysa never turned to look back. She did not want to see what fate she had condemned them to. “We run full sail to Jeranthin, all watches.” They could not afford to stop now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Actual Post About Writing

I know, I'm stunned too.

It's no secret that I've been stuck on the Son of DD for weeks (*coughmonthscough*). And I've struggled, and cursed, and sulked. I've polled fellow writers for their secrets to kicking writer's block.

And the thing that resonates the most with me is the one thing I already knew (deep down). When you're stuck, it's because there's some flaw in what you're working with.

So tonight, while kiddo was at karate and I had time to sit and listen to both brain cells misfire, I promised myself that I would figure out just where I went wrong.

Ultimately, I decided I was just unhappy with the pacing. It was taking too long to get to the rat killing (metaphorically, for all you rat lovers out there). So, how to speed it up? By killing my darlings, of course.

So, rest in peace, Mr. Brian Ericson, hippy storekeeper, wearer of hemp, and purveyor of gourmet jerky. The world, she never knew ya. This poor fellow had the misfortune to really not matter to the story. He only shows up once, served as color barely, then vanishes never to be seen again. Therefore, he doesn't really need to be there.

The result of the murder of poor Mr. Ericson is that I shall be hacking and slashing a HUGE chunk out of chapter 3, and smushing chapter 4 into it. Therefore, the interesting bits of chapter 4 will serve to start the action MUCH earlier than before, and maybe I can jar my brain cells into action.

I'm seriously considering starting a cemetary, just for the characters that were killed in the making of this book.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Teaser Tuesday Ocho

That time of the week again! This teaser is a direct continuation of Teaser 4 from a few weeks ago. It’s another excerpt from the one and only chapter I have written on Tactile, and I think it shows a bit more of the world I have in my head for this book/series. (and yes, for those Canadian readers, I know that the whole “restraining order” thing isn’t quite how it works in Canada, but I’m having to fudge things just a teeny bit. Mea culpa)

And since I brought it up, would a small detail like this be a deal breaker for you as a reader? As a writer, I know that most readers would chalk this up to me (the author) doing shoddy research (or no research), when in fact, I DID do the research, but I had to alter reality a bit to make it work for my world. It bothers me that someone might think I didn't care (stupid American, trying to make Canada look like US North).

Then again, I could just be touchy.


“Corporal Redfield. To what do I owe the distinct displeasure?”

“Kate.” He offered a polite nod and smile, the dimple in his left cheek showing briefly. “You’re looking well.”

“Considering the last time you saw me, I was just coming out of a ten-day coma, I’m not sure that’s saying much. Don’t I have a restraining order against you?”

“It expired last month.” He actually looked apologetic. Maybe he should have called to remind me why I hated him, so I’d have remembered to reapply for the order.

All I had to do was stand in the doorway, and he couldn’t come in. It was that easy. Even James Redfield wouldn’t breach etiquette enough to touch me. But that would trap the little Constable inside, and honestly, I was afraid she’d cry. I stepped back inside, leaving Redfield to follow me if he wanted. Of course he wanted.

Raleigh bared his teeth as the tall Corporal stepped through the door. Apparently I’m the only one who realized the dog was smiling and not growling. Little Constable Sikes ducked behind her superior. I’m not an empath, and even I could feel the waves of relief coming off of her.

“He’s not going to bite, is he?” Redfield eyed my dog warily.

“Not if I don’t tell him to.” I went to stand near the fireplace and Raleigh, and with one hand, I made the visual command for Raleigh to lie down. The big dog flopped down on my foot with a sigh. “I don’t know what you want, Corporal, but you should go ask someone else.”

“I did.” He fished a manila folder out of his coat, and it was my turn to be wary. Nothing good ever came out of those folders. “I wouldn’t come to you if I hadn’t exhausted all other options. You’re the strongest tactile in the world.”

“Marissa Day is the strongest tactile in the world.” Weak argument, I knew. Marissa had been in a constant vegetative state for the last two years, Su-Pressed out of her gourd. Sometimes, our minds just break under the strain. I was just waiting for my turn, really.

“I actually contacted her people. There’s been no change.” Redfield looked around my living room for a place to sit, and I saw the frustration when he realized he couldn’t. No touching my stuff, you know the rules. “I also contacted Sister Selena, and her people have promised to have her get back to me sometime in the next six to eight weeks.”

I rolled my eyes. Sarah Moore, more popularly known as Sister Selena, was the worst kind of charlatan, mostly because she possessed a considerable talent. Instead of using it for the greater good, she exploited desperate people, and turned the whole thing into a three ring circus complete with fog machines, dramatic lighting, and a theme song. “Jason Vandermeer, then.”

“Very funny.”

“Why is that funny?” I frowned at him.

The corporal blinked at me in obvious surprise. “God, you haven’t heard.”

“Heard what?”

He sighed, running a hand through his close-cropped hair. “Jason Vandermeer was committed two months ago. He tried to amputate his own left hand with a band saw. He’s actually in the same facility with Marissa.”

I sank onto the arm of my sofa with lead in my stomach. God… It had been coming for a long time. Even Jason had known that. Male psychics were uncommon and never lasted as long as the females. No one knew why. Jason was almost thirty. I had started to hope he would beat the odds. “No…I hadn’t heard…” Raleigh, sensing my distress, pushed his head into my lap and I sank my hands into his thick fur to anchor myself. Warm doggy thoughts trickled through my skin, simple and content. No one else had touched him, to contaminate his fur with their own psychic taint.

Redfield came over to crouch in front of me, careful not to touch my furniture or myself. “I’m sorry, Kate. I truly thought you knew.” The sympathy in his eyes was genuine. I could tell that much.

Powerful psychics were rare. Very few had the mental fortitude to exist with other people’s lives streaming through their heads. We were an elite community, one that was never as much fun as it looked on the outside. More than that, I could count on one hand the number of friends I had in the flesh (not counting strictly online acquaintances) and Jason had been one of them. No, he wasn’t dead, but if they’d committed him, his mind was likely beyond recovery. My tiny world had just gotten a little smaller.

“Kate, I wouldn’t ask this of you, but I’m out of options unless I go to RAPT, and that’s going to take time we don’t have. Please, at least look?” He laid the folder on my coffee table and stood, giving me room.

He was right. The Refuge Agency for the Psychically Talented would tie him up in paperwork that would make Sister Selena look like a tea party before they would give him the identities of any other helpful psychics.

“Raleigh, fetch please.” The big malamute went out of his way to shoulder the good officers aside, and returned from the kitchen with my rubber gloves dangling from his jaws.

Protected as much as I could be, I flipped open the folder.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pardon me while I geek out

It's fairly common knowledge that I'm a rabid Torchwood fan. I'll pause while you all shake your heads and pretend not to know me.

And for any out there who SHARE my addiction, you probably know that this "season" is really going to be a 5-part mini series, airing on July 20th. You may also know that they showed a sneak preview of the first part this past weekend, and all hail the blogosphere, but someone who was there wrote out a really great synopsis of it. Bless them.

Now, don't click that link unless you really really REALLY wanna know what happens. Really really REALLY.

Just sayin'.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Humor

Can I get an amen?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Teaser Tuesday Lucky 7

With internet and home phone on the fritz at the moment, I am reduced to posting from the public library. (there are SCARY people here! And I don't mean just me!) To tide you over until regular blog posting can resume, here's another Teaser from Peacemaker. It's a bit long, but I just kept wanting to include more!


He wasn’t even aware that he was dreaming until the Indian woman walked out of the doorway next to him, glancing about the town curiously. All sound faded away, leaving the two of them alone in the morning’s first light.

“You again?” She gave him a smile, pointing toward the mountains. “No, not this time. I don’t know how you’re doing this, but you either tell me what you want, or go away and leave me in peace.”

She pointed again, her smile fading into an insistent frown.

Caleb stood, and the chair beneath him vanished as if it had never been. “No. I’ve had enough of your folk for the time being. Lacking in hospitality, I must say.”

A look of frustration crossed her lovely face, and she seemed to be debating something. Finally, she held her hand out to him, asking him to take it with a pleading look.

“You’re not going to leave me alone, are you? Every time I close my eyes, you’re going to come walking into my dreams until I do what you want.”

She stepped closer, offering both hands now, silently begging him to take them.

With a resigned sigh, Caleb placed his hands in hers.

They were in the mountains, that much was clear. Walking hand in hand, she led him down a rocky path that meandered aimlessly through the tall trees. She had no regard for the darkness of the night, save to smile each time she heard a night bird call.

As the trail headed steadily upward, Caleb climbed beside her, realizing belatedly that all his aches and pains had faded. He felt like he could have climbed the entire mountain, and the one beyond that as well. She tugged at his hand as he lagged behind in his reverie, and he walked faster to catch up.

“Where are you taking me?” She didn’t answer, which was no more than he’d expected. “What is so important?”

She turned and pressed a finger to her lips, imploring him to silence, and walked on.

It felt like they walked for hours, wending their way up the mountain, climbing through rocky crags and twisted gnarled pines by the end. Caleb could tell they were nearing their destination, because she motioned for him to stay and crept ahead, disappearing from view for some time.

When she returned, she again motioned for him to be silent, her grim face telling him how serious this was. Then she led him forward.

They crouched at the top of a rocky outcropping, looking down in to a vast chasm in the mountainside. A few hardy bushes clung to the steep sides, but for the most part it was a graveyard of fallen, shattered boulders, a river of jagged stone flowing through a deep canyon.

Nothing stirred. No birds flew over head, no agile mountain goats braved the peaks. It was deathly still.

The woman reached a hand out, passing it lightly over Caleb’s scarred eye. The touch was gentle, almost a lover’s caress, and when she was done, she pointed again into the rocky abyss.

A giant slumbered there. He had not been there only moments before, but he was there, now. Made of the same rock as the chasm itself, the behemoth slumbered at the bottom of the canyon, cradled as tenderly as any child. His face was formed of chiseled boulders, hard planes of granite and shale. The full moon caught crystals of quartz on his surface, and he sparkled. His craggy hands could have crushed an entire house with little effort, and the entire mountain vibrated with the force of his breathing.

Sleepily, the massive creature shifted its shoulders, barely moving at all, and further down the mountain, a rocky avalanche crushed all that lay before it.

Oh how Caleb wanted to ask her what the giant was, but he suddenly understood the danger. God forbid that thing should wake and find them there.

The woman rested her hand on his arm, her eyes asking if he’d seen enough. He nodded, and they were suddenly gone from that place, returned to the thick of the forest.

“What the hell was that thing?”

Once again, she did not answer, and motioned him to follow. Their trek this time was faster, and she stopped them in a thicket of dense foliage. Pushing one branch aside, she pointed ahead.

This time, Caleb knew just where he was. They looked down on the nullstone mine, and he could even see the small rise where he’d watched them the night before. There was no one visible, but the sounds of picks on stone were loud in this strange dream stillness, sharp enough to hurt his ears and make his teeth ache in his head.

Tink-tink-TINK! On and on it went, even when he pressed his hands over his ears. Tink-tink-TINK! TINK-TINK-TINK!

He felt it before he heard it, rising up through the soles of his feet, shuddering through his hips into his chest, where his heart went cold with a deep primal fear. And when the roar reached them, the trees themselves bent nearly double in terror. The great rock giant was bellowing in pain.

High above them, near the cloud-covered peak, the mountain was moving. Great sheets of shale and granite were shifting, sliding, gathering momentum as they plunged down.

“We have to run! Go, go!” He tugged at his companion, urging her to run, but she only looked at him with sad eyes. And he knew there was no where they could hide. “What do we do? We have to do something!”

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gratuitous Video Post

Ok, I was just introduced to these, and I think I sprained something laughing. What if song lyrics actually described what was happening in their videos? So here, enjoy.

There are more literal videos. Search Youtube for them. It will be good.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A series of random events

I have totally lost track of what emotion I should be feeling right now. Here are the events of the day:

*Ex calls to say "Your mom's hubby had a stroke last night."
*I get a good few minutes of WTF????
*I call mother, to find out it was a minor stroke, he's fine and they're running tests. I also complain loud and long about finding this out from my EX of all people.
*MY hubby calls from work to say they caught a shoplifter, and regales me with his deeds of valor. A much needed humor break.
*Call mother again, she gets to come home tomorrow. Yay! Her hubby, however, is going to have to have some kind of surgery on his cartoid artery. We just don't know what or when yet.
*Spend the next half an hour, calling everyone ELSE that needs this info.

I have decided that we need to implement a phone tree, this is BS.

Oh! And random edit to add that Torchwood's season 3 is apparently going to hit BBC America on July 20th. At last, I have something to count down to. (Now if I can get Gita to DVR it for me, 'cause I don't have cable)

And one more edit for the Dance of Joy!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Blind Leading the Stupid

There are days when I seriously question how we came to be the dominant species on the planet. (and there are other days when I'm pretty sure this isn't even my planet at all, in which case would my secret alien parents please come back and get me?)

I think my day can best be described with this clip from the BBC series Torchwood (of which I am a rabid fan. It's embarrassing really) Today, I totally felt like poor Ianto.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Teaser Tuesday Sex! (no really, it's six in Swedish)

I've been a horrible blog-owner this past week. Real life has...not been good. But we're adapting, rolling with the punches, all that sort of thing. Remember that rant about writers writing during stress? Well, that's me, and I'm failing miserably.

In an effort to maintain a sense of normalcy, I'm going to go ahead and post a Teaser. This is probably the worst kind of teaser, because it's the ONLY thing I have written for this particular piece of work. No build up, no lead in. I only have the vaguest idea of what came before to bring these two characters to this place. It was just something that was stuck in my head and needed to come out.

If I ever finished this, it would be a YA urban fantasy revolving around the reincarnation of King Arthur and his knights, with my own personal twist, which you'll catch in the excerpt. Yes, the Lance in the snippet is THAT Lance. And Quen is...more than he ever dreamed.


He rested his hand on my shoulder, and I felt it all the way to the soles of my feet. “Dude, did I do something to piss you off?”

“No.” He just needed to go away. I couldn’t deal with the end of the world and him too. I kept my eyes firmly on my sneakers and my hands clenched at my sides.

“You sure? ‘Cause you’re acting like you wanna take my head off.” Dammit, why didn’t he take his hand away? He was standing close enough that I could smell his cologne, the same one that half the team wore, but on him it was different.

I didn’t want it to be different. I didn’t want him to be different. Why couldn’t he just be like all the other guys? Why couldn’t I? The unfairness of it all made me snap, when I really hadn’t meant to. “I’m fine! I just need to be left the fuck alone right now!” Need to breathe, without you staring at me with those gorgeous freaking eyes.

“Oh. Ok.” His hand left my shoulder, and I could hear the puzzled hurt in his voice. “Um…you’ve got my cell if you need anything, I guess.”

Gravel crunched under his feet as he walked away, and I felt like the world’s biggest asshole. It wasn’t his fault I was fucked up in the head, or that I was some big reincarnated legend. We were still supposed to be friends if nothing else. Teammates. “Lance!”

He stopped and turned to meet my gaze, one brow raised curiously.

“Look, I’m sorry, I’m a dick. I just…there’s shit going on and…”

“You know you can talk to me, right?” He came back, tilting his head to look down into my face. “I mean, you can tell me anything.”

I shook my head. “There’s just…some heavy stuff, and I can’t go into it, really... I just gotta get my head wrapped around it, y’know? Get it sorted.”
A faint frown crossed his face. I wondered if he knew his green eyes got two shades darker when he did that. “And you can’t do that when I’m around? I thought we were friends, Quen.”

“We are.”

“You’re not acting like it. You don’t push your friends away like this. When the heavy shit comes down, that’s when you need them the most.”

“I know that, I really do, I swear, and as soon as I get this all figured out…”

“Then I’ll help you figure it out.”

He tried to reach for me again, to put a comforting hand on my shoulder, and I just couldn’t take it again. I took a step back, trying to pretend like I wasn’t half running away. “You can’t!”

His jaw clenched. “Why the hell not? I’m a dumb jock? Can’t grasp this deep intellectual bullshit you got happening in your life?”

“I didn’t say that!”

“Then what the hell is your problem? Why are you trying to get rid of me?”

“Because I can’t think when you’re around!” His eyes got wide, and only then did I realize that I’d spoken out loud. My face went hot, and I turned and walked away as fast as I could. I tried to pretend I didn’t hear his footsteps on the gravel, catching up at a fast trot.


“Go away, Lance.” Please, just go away so I can find a hole to sink into.

“No way.” He caught my arm, jerked me to a stop. I yanked my arm out of his grip, but I held my ground. “What did you mean?”

I prayed for a black sorcerer to show up and incinerate me, but no one was obliging. “Nothing. I didn’t say anything, you didn’t hear anything.” I stared him down, daring him to dispute my version of events. Maybe, if he’d just let it go, I could salvage this.

I didn’t expect him to laugh. Sure, it took him a few moments of searching my face, and it was only a small chuckle, but I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. Nausea rolled in my throat, watching him shake his head in amusement. That was me, the laughingstock of Avalon High.

“I’m a freakin’ idiot.” It took me a bit to really process what he’d said. It wasn’t what I’d expected.

“Excuse me?” This was the part where he was supposed to look disgusted, call me names, let everyone in the school know I was a fag. He wasn’t supposed to stand there, just smiling and showing off his dimples.

“I didn’t know, man.” He ran a hand through his sandy hair, his cheeks turning faintly pink. “Seriously, I thought… I thought it was just me.”

“You…wait, what?”

Lance shook his head, stepping back to lean against the brick wall. “Man, I’ve been watching you since the day you got here. I just…y’know, I don’t assume. I figured you were into Gwen.”

My brain was having a problem catching up to events. “You…you’re into guys.”

He shrugged. “I like both.” He grinned a little. “I’da asked you out weeks ago if I’da known.”

I couldn’t think of a single coherent thing to say, so I just stared at him. Apparently, long enough to make him squirm. “You gonna say anything?”

“I…don’t have a freakin’ clue what to say.” The absurdity of the situation hit me, and suddenly I was laughing. A moment later, Lance was laughing with me. We howled until our sides hurt and we just plain ran out of air.

Lance leaned against the wall, looking at me, still shaking with sporadic chuckles. All I could do was grin back at him. “We’re both freakin’ idiots.”

“Yup, we are,” I agreed.

He pushed off the wall, stepping closer, and reached out to me again, this time to take my hand. His thumb brushed across the back of my knuckles. “Listen…”
There was a humming in my ears, and I had the absurd fear it was going to make me miss whatever he was going to say next. I could feel my heart beating somewhere around the neighborhood of my throat, and all I could do was watch his tan hand, holding mine.

Too late, I realized the humming wasn’t inside my head. With a crash, the lightning bolt exploded the trashcan at the end of the alley.

For terrifying moments, I was deaf and blind. Then the pain seeped into the back of my skull where it had collided with the brick wall. Everything smelled like burned hair.