Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Excerpt: Hard Feelings - Prologue

In honor of our upcoming release, Hard Feelings, Morgan James and I would like to share with you the following excerpt. 

“Wait! Hold the elevator!” A long tanned arm shot out and prevented the doors from closing. Then the person attached to it followed, still wet from his spiky brown hair to the red sandals that matched his board shorts.
Yet more proof God hated Rylan Williams: Red Shorts, the surfer whose body he’d been perving on for the past hour, was none other than the kid who'd fallen asleep in his lecture. He barely looked old enough to rent a hotel room, never mind attend a graphic design conference, but he had a conference badge clipped to his shorts: Miller J. A few of the letters had blurred where water had dripped on them. At least he hadn’t worn it in the ocean.
To make matters worse, his face matched his body: hot brown eyes framed with thick lashes, pert nose, and that wide mouth that seemed inclined to smirk. He even had the perfect amount of chest hair.
Rylan gritted his teeth and wondered why the universe hated him.

“Thanks,” the kid said sheepishly. “Can’t believe I forgot my towel.”
And he was an idiot. Figured. The first person Rylan had felt any stirring of attraction to in a year and he had nothing but air between his ears.
When Rylan made no move to reply, the kid shifted from foot to foot, then leaned across him to push the button for his floor. His warm, damp chest (and associated hair) brushed Rylan’s bare arm.
The elevator doors closed again and the car began to move.
Just two minutes, Rylan told himself. Two minutes and he could get out of here. Maybe he’d even jerk off in the shower before he got to packing. Two minutes and he could be alone again. Like always.
So naturally the lights flickered and the elevator juddered to a halt.
Fuckity fuck. Just wonderful. Rylan leaned in to jab at the Help button, and a cheerful voice answered a few seconds later. “Hello! According to our systems, you’ve stopped moving, yes?”
Rylan grunted.
“Yup, but we’ve still got the lights,” said Miller, formerly Red.
“Good, good. How many of you are there?”
“Two.” Apparently Miller had nominated himself spokesperson.
“Any medical issues we should be aware of?”
Miller turned to Rylan and arched an eyebrow. Rylan shook his head.
“No, no issues here,” Miller said.
“Good, that’s great. Look, we’re having some technical difficulties. It looks like it might be a while before we can get you out.” The voice turned apologetic. “A half an hour, at least.”
“Fuck,” Rylan muttered.
Miller looked at him with that eyebrow again. Rylan just pursed his lips in response.
“Well, you better settle in. We’ll update you when we can.”
Then the cheerful technician hung up, leaving Rylan alone with Miller.
Miller swung his arms a bit and snapped his fingers before offering his hand to Rylan. “So, I’m Miller. Nice to meet you.”
Rylan stared at it and made a noncommittal noise. The last thing he wanted was to get into a conversation with this guy. He was having enough trouble today as it was. He didn’t need to spend the next thirty minutes chatting about whatever asinine thing Miller wanted to chat about while Rylan’s body still wanted to bend him over. Stupid libido.
Miller huffed and moved—dropping his hand, most likely.
Rylan scowled at the buttons. They had failed him.
“Dude, you can relax a little. We’ll be fine.” Like Rylan didn’t know that. “Once, at Stanford, I got stuck in an elevator for three hours. I was bored as fuck, but I survived.”
Rylan looked over. Miller flashed him a grin.
And of course it just kept getting worse. Miller was some rich kid from California who’d probably bought his way here. Which would certainly explain how someone his age ended up at a professional conference.
“So, you going to introduce yourself?” Miller grinned a little, flirty. “If you don’t, I’m going to have to keep calling you Pretty Eyes in my head. I mean, are those even real?”
Rylan had his father’s bright blue eyes. He didn’t smile back.
They stood in silence for a while longer. “Boy, you’re grumpy,” Miller said almost under his breath.
Rylan kept silent, annoyed. This man needed to ask his name? He’d been at Rylan’s panel; how could he not know? Apparently Rylan wasn’t just boring, he was forgettable. “You’d know my name if you’d stayed awake today.” The words tumbled out unbidden. Rylan gritted his teeth, embarrassed to have spoken.
Miller’s eyes went wide. “Oh man! Was that you? Dude, I’m sorry! Just my luck to get stuck in an elevator with the guy whose talk I fell asleep during today.” He looked a bit ashamed but not very embarrassed. “Sorry about that! You have to know it wasn’t you! I’m not actually an artist. I’m a programmer. I kind of wandered into the wrong room.”
Great, just great. The insults just kept piling up.
“The art I saw before my bad choices caught up with me seemed nice?”
Rylan glared harder at the buttons. Jesus, what had he ever done to deserve this? His day hadn’t been the greatest, but it had been a hell of a lot less depressing before the hot guy on the beach decided to be the same guy who kept insulting him all day long.
“Okay, so I don’t know much about art,” Miller mumbled. He was starting to sound put out. “Are you going to talk to me at some point? Or are you just going to glare at the buttons? Because I got to tell you, thirty minutes of quiet time in a box without the Internet does not sound like my idea of fun.”
Rylan couldn’t find it in him to be surprised that Miller didn’t like silences. He certainly seemed to like the sound of his own voice.
“Not a talker, eh.” Miller sighed and sat on the floor.
Rylan glanced over. Miller was leaning against the elevator wall, resting his forearms on his bent knees, his head tilted back. His throat was exposed again. Rylan looked back to the buttons when Miller started to turn his way.
Time ticked by in silence. Miller cleared his throat. “So, any particular reason you don’t like me?”
Rylan turned to this strange man incredulously. “Aside from the fact that you fell asleep during my presentation and think my art is ‘nice’?”
“Well when you say it in that tone of voice…. Look, I said I was sorry. And that I don’t know anything about art.”
“Well, that’s obvious,” Rylan snorted.
Miller narrowed his eyes. “Look, I’m trying to be friendly here to pass the time. No reason to bite my head off.”
“I didn’t bite your head off.”
“No, of course not, you just snapped at me and glared, even though I’ve tried to be nice. You need to lighten up, man. You’re in Hawaii! This is practically paradise.”
That brought Rylan’s scowl back. He hated when people told him that, like being thoughtful was a bad thing. “And you’re nosy and annoying. I don’t see why getting stuck in here with you means I have to talk to you.”
“Because it’s polite. Jesus. Do you always just get your way because of your face?”
“I mean, you’ve got the tall, dark, and stubbly jawline thing going for you, but you’re kind of an ass. Just wondering why you’ve never learned any manners.”
Rylan flushed. God, this insufferable kid. Why did this always happen to him? Sometimes Rylan’s greatest talent seemed to be finding guys who thought his only redeeming value was in his good looks.
And he had learned manners, he just didn’t feel the need to use them with snobby rude rich kids. “Just because I don’t want to chat—”
“Right, like you weren’t giving me dagger eyes the moment I got on this elevator. What is your problem? Sure, I fell asleep, but come on, that happens when you give lectures at conferences. You can’t take shit so seriously.”
Rylan flexed his fingers. He wouldn’t let this kid goad him into… whatever he was trying to goad him into. “You’ve known me for thirty seconds. You don’t get to tell me how to live my life.”
Miller flicked his gaze toward the ceiling and shook his head minutely. “Whatever,” he huffed under his breath, just loud enough for Rylan to hear. “Don’t get your panties in a twist.”
And just—fuck. Rylan leaned back against the wall of the elevator, feet shoulder-width apart, as heat rose to his face. He’d been humiliated enough for one day. He didn’t need this stupid kid noticing Rylan’s semi on top of everything else. With Rylan’s luck, he’d turn out to be a homophobe and they’d end up taking swings at each other, and then Rylan would be stuck in a holding cell with him all night instead of an elevator, and he’d never get off.
Jesus fuck, really? Even that thought wouldn’t make his cock shut up.
“God, you’re such a child.” The words slipped out before Rylan could think better of them. In a way it was true: Miller was definitely baiting him. But the surprising breadth of his shoulders, the set of his jaw, the confident, casual splay of his knees where he slouched on the floor? Those were anything but childlike.
“Excuse you,” Miller said, narrowing his eyes again, “but you’re the dick who won’t even make small talk or, you know, tell me his name to help the time pass.”
But the way the color had drained from his face told Rylan he’d hit the mark. “How old are you, anyway?” he asked, trying to make his once-over look critical instead of approving. “Twenty? You’re probably not even here for the conference. What, your boss offer to take you to Hawaii, just one condition?”
Blood flooded back to the kid’s face with a vengeance, and his eyes glinted. “Yeah, maybe,” he said, his voice hard. “You jealous?” He drew his gaze down Rylan’s body, lingering at his crotch.
Miller leaned forward, his full lips curved up in a smirk. “That’s it, huh? Yeah, you seem a little tense. What’s the matter, no one can stand to be in the same room with you long enough to suck your dick?”
And that was it—Rylan snapped. “Maybe you should do it if you’re so bored. You’re stuck here either way.”
He couldn’t believe the words that had just come out of his mouth. Under other circumstances he would’ve been appalled.
These particular circumstances involved Miller looking at him openmouthed in shock for half a second before adjusting the splay of his legs like… like he was suddenly uncomfortable, and not because Rylan was being an asshole.
Miller licked his lips and Rylan’s mouth went dry. “I’m not sucking your dick until you tell me your name.”
Holy fuck. Was this really happening? Rylan swallowed, holding Miller’s gaze as Miller shifted again, folding his knees under himself now. The movement pulled at the hem of his board shorts, causing them to slip farther down his hips, exposing a strip of porcelain-white skin bisected by a thickening trail of hair. “It’s Rylan.”
“Rylan,” Miller repeated, shuffling closer. “I’d say I’m pleased to meet you, but I think we both know that’s a lie.”
“Shut up.”
“Hmm.” With a knowing smirk, Miller reached for Rylan’s fly. “Let’s see if you have something worth shutting up over first.”