Ethan is a levelheaded, some might say ‘antisocial’, young artist-entrepreneur with a love for quirky taxidermy. He is close to graduating high school and at a crossroads. All he wants is to develop his business further, yet all his parents want is for him to go to law school. That is more than enough problems for Ethan, so any kind of love life is off his agenda. That is until Robert Hunter, the quarterback of the football team, comes crashing into him. Literally.
Robert drifts along in high school. He has good grades, he’s getting ready for med school, he’s even leaving potentially problematic dating until college. He’s gay, not ashamed of it, but he doesn’t want to stir up any trouble. His carefully laid plans might just go completely off the rails though, when he drinks too much at a party and causes irreversible damage to Ethan, the school’s weirdo.
Robert has to face the fact that maybe he isn’t the good guy he always considered himself to be. And maybe he doesn’t want to go to med school. And maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t actually want to wait with dating until college.
Themes: First love, virginity, bullying, fitting in, entrepreneurship, disability, high school, jock/goth, taxidermy, artist, blackmail
Erotic content: explicit sex scenes, dub-con
Genre: New Adult gay romance
Length: ~ 90,000 words (Standalone novel, no cliffhanger.)
Ethan didn’t want to take part in the primitive mating ritual going on inside the house. With the music loud as thunder, he felt he was much better off outside where he sat on the porch with a token red cup. As a single weasel in a rat house, he felt as out of place as ever. He wondered if he had made the right decision going out tonight. He didn’t socialize much so a party seemed like a good opportunity to have some fun with people who were supposedly his friends, but all he could think of were the things he’d rather be doing. Like stuffing a squirrel or something. No, really, stuffing a squirrel for his new taxidermy project had been on his mind quite a lot. In contrast, the party wasn’t all that much fun, though he did find himself some entertainment. There was a reason for him to sit on the porch of all places, and it wasn’t the need to escape yet another Katy Perry hit single.
From his strategic spot, Ethan was watching Robert Hunter. The glow from the fire gave Rob’s skin a healthy tint, which only made Ethan wonder what the rest of that bulky body looked like beneath all the clothes. He never imagined actually dating Rob. It would have been silly with the guy being straight as a flagpole, and Ethan himself was too young and busy to be tied down to a guy anyway. But watching… watching was good.
He sank farther into his hoodie to protect himself from the chilly air and raised the cup to hide his face when one of the jocks pulled on Rob’s sweater, exposing the perfect abs in the process. That hard six-pack belonged in an underwear ad, and now that Ethan was looking at it, he could practically see the honey-colored skin breaking out in goose bumps. He squeezed his hands around the cup but that didn’t stop him from feeling a phantom touch on his fingertips. It made Ethan shiver, but he never stopped watching Rob get free and flash his friends that trademark grin. If there was anything about Robert Hunter’s looks that was not perfect, it was one of his fangs, slightly crooked at the edge of his smile. But that tiny imperfection always remained in the background, with the whole package attracting 90 percent of the female student population. Rob was the quarterback of their high school’s football team but also a decent student, with a smile so contagious Ethan felt both overwhelmed and happy looking at it. Add to that a gorgeous, athletic body, eyes so bright they seemed almost celadon, and big, veiny hands, and you had the most eligible bachelor at school. The guy was so perfect it bordered on ridiculous.
The crowd around Rob consisted mostly of other football players and their girlfriends, who were only invited here because they were friends with birthday boy’s sister, Kelly. She was a slim girl with bright blonde hair and a stud in her nose. She was pretty enough for the popular crowd to accept her despite her somewhat alternative, artsy style. Ethan watched her sneak up on Rob and dip her hands under his shirt, tickling him with a half-drunk chuckle. Rob laughed out loud but playfully slapped her hand away and finished his drink in one go. Rob’s face was reddened from the alcohol he’d drunk so far. Ethan pulled his knees even higher up to his chin and watched the group, surprised by the composition of the image in front of him. Rob was in the center, and most of his friends focused on him with just a few guys at the flanks talking to one another. It occurred to Ethan that the setup was a bit like the positioning of characters in Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’. A diorama of stuffed rodents dressed up in letter sweaters and posed like in the famous fresco could sell. He needed to add this new project to his never ending ‘to-do’ list.
He smiled to himself at the idea and drank some beer from his cup, only to realize Pat (or ‘Pat the Rat’ as Ethan liked to think of him) was looking his way.
“Hey, Edward! You got a cup of blood there?” Pat laughed at his own unrefined joke. Ethan rolled his eyes. Ah, the perks of being goth in the state of Washington. Worst thing was that he wasn’t even all that flamboyant. No fake fangs, no black makeup, none of that wearing a cape to school shit. He did have long black hair, pale skin, and an affection for morbid jewelry, but that was hardly a crime.
“Nope, it’s full of come. Wanna try some?” Ethan yelled back.
Pat’s broad, unpleasant face reddened, and he scowled, shaking his head. “Save it, fag.”
Chris, the biggest guy on the football team, hurried to slap the back of Pat’s head. It was starting to become the school meme since he’d become obnoxiously gay-friendly after his sister came out several months ago.
“What did you say?”
Pat scowled at him, but at least his attention was off Ethan. “Oh, come on! He’s the one talking about cups of spunk. It’s disgusting!” Pat spat to the ground.
Ethan swallowed hard, and when he looked up, Rob’s eyes were on him. Fuck. He shouldn’t have baited Pat. Now Robert, who probably hadn’t acknowledged Ethan’s existence before, would forever associate him with ‘come-drinking fag’. Great. Just perfect.
Chris was slowly getting up on somewhat wobbly feet, and two of his friends were already tensing up, as if prepared to hold him back. “Fuck that, told you there will be no fag-jokes around me!”
Pat spread his arms like a rabid gorilla. “Dude, your sister’s a chick. No one minds two chicks making out!”
Ethan wanted to barf out the little beer he’d had have so far.
Another one of the jocks stood up in front of Chris. “Yeah, come on. Like, I don’t care if he’s a fag or not. What matters is that he’s Edward.”
Ethan got up with a sneer, his skull a closed pot of boiling brains. “I’m not. Fucking. Edward!”
“See, he’s getting sparkly already!” Pat laughed and took a few steps closer.
Robert rolled his perfect pale eyes. “You’d have to wait till morning to see more of it anyway, so come back here.”
Chris, who apparently had no problems with bullying that wasn’t related to sexual orientation, laughed so hard he spilled some beer on his shirt. He wiped it up with a string of curse words on his lips.
“Hey, where you going, sparkly boy?” Pat asked when Ethan tried to sneak away from the porch while the jocks kept themselves busy. No such luck.
“Piss off,” Ethan snarled, wishing he’d never come to this party in the first place. Keiran, the birthday boy, who considered Ethan part of his social circles despite not talking to him much at school, was probably having fun in the hot tub anyway. Surrounded by all the girls with piercings and crazy-colored hair the town had to offer, and having already forgotten that Ethan was even present. When Ethan got invited, he thought that maybe Keiran was bisexual or something, but that turned out to be a dead end. Story of his life.
“I think he’s afraid of something. Werewolves?” Chris laughed like a madman, only to raise his head and let out a low, throaty howl that could make one’s skin crawl in the dark. Ethan was not amused, even less so when the other football players joined in, throwing their heads back and howling so loudly, the base rhythm coming from inside the house drowned in their voices. Ethan inched closer to the door, but his blood ran cold when one of the jocks ran up to block his way with his huge form.
He was not about to wait to find out what they were actually capable of when drunk. Maybe he wasn’t as fit as they were, but he wasn’t all that useless either so he did the first thing that popped into his mind.
Ethan rushed to the side of the porch, jumped over the wooden railing, and with his heart pounding as if it really were a pack of wolves pursuing him, he sprinted toward the trees around the house, hoping he could lose the hunters in the dark. He was now the little black weasel hunted by a pack of rats on steroids, and no one would help him. All he could depend on was the hope that his body was quick and nimble enough to escape.
The loud howls, laughs, and yelling told him that it might not have been a good move. Like a pack of hounds, the big bulks of muscle chased after him into the dark forest that smelled of rotting leaves and cold. He ran as fast as he could, dodging trees and closing his eyes at the last moment, just as something scratched the side of his face. All he could see were the familiar shapes made somehow eerie by the moonlight, but it was too late to go back with the wolves having smelled blood.
“Run, Edward, run if you want to keep your pants!” howled Pat wit a loud cackle.
Ethan’s blood boiled, and fear pumped adrenaline into his veins. Pat was the kind of guy who would actually do something like stripping someone naked in the snow and leaving them in the forest. The mere idea of Rob seeing him humiliated like that made Ethan run even faster. His muscles ached already, but he wouldn’t give up. He would not be a victim.
It only occurred to him after a while that he’d left the howling pack far behind him. He’d never outrun Robert Hunter on the football field while the guy was at the top of his game, but it seemed that drunk jocks weren’t as much of a threat as he’d thought. He bent in half and put his hands on his thighs, panting for all the air he didn’t realize he needed. His heart wouldn’t stop drumming in his chest.
The wind was slowly moving the treetops high above him back and forth, filling the air with a loud rustling, but the chill was welcome and worked like a balm on his aching lungs and strained muscles.
And then something hit his back, making the brown leaves on the ground come at Ethan with the speed of light.
“Got you, Ed,” groaned a breathless voice just as the big, heavy body of a football player molded itself to his back.
Ethan screamed as he fell but then went completely silent with panic when he realized which footballer he had been caught by. Even the cold ground couldn’t help the heat flushing Ethan’s face. Rob Hunter was spread out on top of him, and Ethan had no idea what to do about it. As much as he would like to claim otherwise, it wasn’t beneath Ethan to fantasize about a configuration like this one. What he’d imagined though, was a cozy bed and kisses, not a shove to the ground.
Rob’s body shook with laughter, sending vibrations all over Ethan’s back and ass, now pinned under Rob’s hips. This was a porn scenario waiting to happen. Only this wasn’t porno so Ethan wouldn’t get any.
“Rawr, I got you, Edward. What do I get for letting you go?” Rob asked in that warm baritone. His speech was only slightly slurred, but Ethan could easily smell beer on his breath.
Ethan whimpered and started struggling underneath Rob’s heavy body. What had he done to deserve this?
“Get off, you jerk.” It came out less stern than Ethan would have wished, but it would do. With the way Robert smelled, with his body heat on top and sheer closeness, Ethan needed to get out ASAP, or he would get a boner and become the laughing stock of the whole school.
“Don’t be like that. I won.” Rob slowly rolled off him with a silly grin Ethan could see in the sparse moonlight. “I’d be eating you now if I were a real wolf,” he said matter-of-factly.
Ethan swallowed, struggling to get up with his knees soft as butter. He’d love to kiss that handsome smile, even if Rob was an ass. “Won in what?” he hissed. “Chasing me through the woods with a pack of jocks and threatening me with God knows what? You really are an overachiever.”
“Oh, come on. It’s all plain good fun. Don’t be so stuck-up.” Rob rose from the ground, patting his jeans to get off some of the dirt.
Ethan gritted his teeth. He supposed it could be fun if he were six feet tall and had a bunch of equally large friends at his side, instead of being a short and slim loner. “I never asked for this so-called fun!” Without thinking much, Ethan shoved at Rob’s chest and bounced off with Rob standing there like a rock.
“Jeez, don’t be so whiny,” growled Rob and shoved back, sending Ethan off like a catapult.
Ethan barely held his ground, but came right back at the lump of a man with a vicious punch at his chest that made his hand hurt. “Don’t you dare call me that!” Ethan was short, but not willowy and hated being underestimated. He’d rather get punched in the face by Rob than have the guy consider him a wimp.
“The fuck?” Rob grabbed his wrists, looming over him like a menace as he forced Ethan back with a single movement. “You’re only gonna hurt yourself like this,” he said with a snort.
Ethan struggled in the grip as he was forced to take a few steps back. This was exactly why he hated confrontation, hated social interactions, and hated people. He groaned, trying to push back, but it was no use. “I’m fine!” He could hardly breathe from the tension. Dead animals never gave him such grief.
“Maybe you should lose your pants as a warning then?” growled Rob.
Ethan’s face pulsed with heat, and it had to be adrenaline and fear that helped him free one of his hands and hit Rob’s arm again. He was never going to any stupid party ever again. “Fuck off!”
In response, Rob pushed him back so hard Ethan spun in the air on his way to the ground. Breath caught in his throat when he noticed a dark shape right below him, but just as he pushed his arms forward, a sharp pain stabbed through his skull and everything became dark.
Breann (Boy Meets Boy Reviews) – 4,5 stars
Stephen (Hearts on Fire Reviews) – 4 stars
C.E. Case (Inked Rainbow) – 5 stars
Multitasking Mommas – 4.5 stars
Rhonda (Love Bytes) – 4 stars
Rhonda (Love Bytes Reviews) – 4 stars