Ungrateful – a chapter from Dear Jon

I am currently re-reading all of my books. It’s not a selfish pursuit; I’m digging for “the past” to include in some future stuff. Whatever the reason, though, I stumble upon some parts of my books that I’m – well – super proud of. This chapter is one of those. If you haven’t read the entire Choisie series, this has a minor spoiler, but it’s nothing that should discourage you from checking out this excerpt.

I adore the brotherly love in this one from Dear Jon. Jon is the narrator, having a conversation with his younger brother, Will. Jon’s 19… I think Will’s 15 at this point. Spoiler: Jon and Livvy are apart for the summer…

Will has some existential questions for his older brother…
Jon has some pragmatic advice for him.

“Does God exist?” Will asks me after my shower Wednesday night. I’m a little taken aback by his question. Isn’t he too young to ask questions like that? 

I was thirteen. I think that’s right. I’d discussed it with my father before he passed away. I guess it’s time to ask existential questions, since he hasn’t before. Not of me, anyway. I hate to think what the answers would be if he’d asked Mom, or his father.

“Why do you ask?”

“I read the part about the Babel fish, and it says God doesn’t exist.”

“First of all, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, Will, The Hitchhiker’s Guide is fiction.”

“I know,” he says. “I’m not stupid… but it got me wondering. I’ve wondered before, but I wasn’t sure it was okay to wonder that.”

“Of course it’s okay to wonder things; to question things. Even things about God.”

“Well? Is he real?”

I smile at him, trying to remember the things my dad told me. He was a smart man with good advice, even if I ultimately didn’t share in his beliefs.

“It’s not really cut and dry like that,” I start. “It’s kind of like if I asked you the meaning of life.” He looks at his hands pensively. “I’m not asking you that, by the way. But, let’s say I did ask you that, and I asked Mom that and I asked Max that. I’d probably get three different answers, wouldn’t I?”

“But that’s an open-ended question,” he tells me brightly. I smile, proud that he sees a difference, even if it takes me off-topic. “I asked you a yes or no question.”

“I can only give you an open-ended response, though. Ask me if I believe in a god.”

“Do you?”

“I do.”

He nods his head, contemplating my response. “Why?”

“Good question.”

I first tell him about the conversation I had with my father. He’d met my dad before, but really had very little to do with him. Will has told me before that he thought my dad was cold, detached and hard to read. He was. But when we really got to talking about things he was passionate about, I felt closer to him.

My dad was very scholarly and well-educated. He believed in hard facts, and couldn’t muster any faith in anything, really, but especially not in God. “Evolution doesn’t lie,” he’d told me, and when I was younger, I immediately saw where he was coming from.

“But the fact that you can see evolutionary details in our solar system and planet and species doesn’t mean that there isn’t a god,” I explain to my brother. “In my mind, they can co-exist, and they do.”

“So your dad didn’t believe in God?”

“Nope,” I tell him plainly. “From what I can tell, he never did.”

“Is your dad in Hell?” Will asks, careful with his words.

“He certainly doesn’t think so,” I respond, “since he didn’t believe in Heaven or Hell.”

“But then he is in Hell, because he didn’t believe, right?”

“If you believe that, then you must believe in God…”

“I just…” he begins, looking conflicted. “It’s what we’re taught.”

“I know.” I say I know, but I wonder where he was ‘taught’ this. Not in school. Not in our home. “Who’s teaching you this?”

“My dad.” I look away so he doesn’t see the look of disgust on my face. His dad, the convicted felon, the man who knocked up my mother not once, but twice, and left her to raise their children on her own while he philandered and stole things and set a horrible example… his dad is the person teaching him about faith and God and Heaven and Hell. 

I should have been talking to my brothers about this a long time ago. No wonder Will’s confused. I finally look up at him and force a pleasant expression.

“So your dad,” he starts again, “do you think he’s in Hell?”

“No. I don’t think so. I’m not sure I believe in Hell.”

“But the Bible says that if you don’t believe in God, you go to Hell.”

“I understand that’s what the Bible says. I understand that my response contradicts traditional Christian beliefs, or the beliefs of many religions. But faith in a god goes beyond religions, right?”

“You keep saying ‘a’ god. Do you believe in more than one?”

Another interesting question. “I… I don’t know. I believe in a higher power, Will. I call it a god because I don’t really know any other word for it. When it comes to faith, there aren’t a whole lot of options in the minds of most people. You believe in God, or you don’t. So I believe in a god, who may or may not be someone else’s God.”

My brother looks very confused.

“You’re a Polytheist?”

“Whoa, little brother,” I laugh. “Did your dad teach you that word?”

“No, I learned about it in a mythology book I found. So, you believe there are other gods?” Maybe I haven’t given Will enough credit. Maybe he’s applying himself more than I realize.

“I don’t believe that my way of thinking is the only way of thinking, so I’m tolerant of others who do worship other gods, be it one or many. For me, though, if I had to give myself a name, I’d say I was a Deist. I believe in one higher power that created the world. I hope that there’s some sort of happy afterlife, but I don’t really know. No one in this life really knows.”

“Unless you believe the Bible.”

“Right,” I say. “And it’s perfectly fine if you do. I think the most important thing to take away from this conversation is that it’s all about your own personal relationship with God. Or gods. Or not,” I suggest, trying to let him understand that he has choices, but that he has to form his own beliefs. “I’ll still love you, no matter what, as long as you live your life honorably and do your best to not hurt others.”

He smiles, looking unburdened. “Do you pray?”

“Yes, I pray.”

“Do you think your dad prayed, at the end?”

“No. I don’t think he had a change of heart at all in those final moments. But I prayed. I don’t believe that we were put on this planet to live solitary lives, and I firmly believe the actions of others play a part in peoples’ destinies, on this planet and beyond. I believe other people are put here to help us, and to guide us in our paths. Honestly, Will, I didn’t always believe in God. When I first had this conversation with my dad, I walked away thinking he was right. But then I really got to know another person in my life who showed me there was something more.”

“It was Livvy, right?”

“It was you, Will. It was the friendship you showed me when my dad was sick. I had some really bad days. I’m sure you remember them. But I’d come home from the hospital, and you’d be here with a mitt, a ball, and a smile. After five minutes of playing catch, my spirits were lifted. I don’t think I ever would have gotten through those months, or the months after he died, without your friendship. Someone put you on this planet to intervene in my life. It wasn’t random. You reminded me that I had something to live for. And I always wanted to make sure you felt the same way.”

“I’m glad you’re my brother,” he says.

“Me, too. Do you feel better about things?”

“I feel better about questioning things,” Will answers. 

“I never believed in blind faith,” I admit. “I don’t think that’s in our DNA. But be your own man. You don’t have to believe what I do, or what your father does. But it’s important to believe in something. It’s important to feel convictions about something. Don’t spend your life in a fog. I don’t think you’ll be satisfied.”

“I know what I believe right now,” he says.

“What?” I ask, anxious for his personal philosophy.

“I believe I need to know what happens next with Zaphod and Arthur.”

“Maybe you’ll end up worshipping the Almighty Bob,” I suggest in jest.

“Who’s that?”

“Book five,” I tell him. “Keep reading.”

After he leaves, I finally settle in with Livvy’s eleventh letter. Ungrateful, it says at the bottom. Once again, when I think I could just set the note aside without reading it, I’m intrigued enough by the footnote to keep going.

I love you, Jon.

I have never been made to feel so ungrateful as I did the day that you scolded me for the things I said to my father.

I’ve told her before, I can’t make her feel things. It’s in her power to feel however she wants, and if she felt ungrateful, that was her conscience stepping in and trying to talk some sense into her. Lord knows I couldn’t.

The reality check was worse than a slap in the face would have been. Physical abuse would have been preferable than listening to you reprimand me for the horrible things I said to him. But I know you’re above that, and I know, for me, getting over a face slap would have been much easier than facing what I’d done.

Getting over that day shouldn’t have been easy for me, and it wasn’t.

Because my father is a gracious and loving man, he easily forgave me. I was thankful for that, but it took weeks for me to forgive myself. There are still days that I look back and remember the look on his face. On those days, when I wish I could just forget those moments, I address them head on. I make myself suffer a bit, and then work on forgiveness once more. It’s a never-ending process. I’m not allowed to forget, but I can forgive.

The process gives me perspective, though, and it makes me appreciate everything my family has done every time it happens.

In kind, it makes me appreciate you, too. Thanks for being honest enough with me to tell me how you felt; to tell me the truth as you saw it, because I know you saw it more clearly than anyone did. You changed me that day, and every day since, I’ve strived to be someone my parents would be proud of. Maybe in the details of my actions, they would scrutinize me and even be disappointed, but in the larger picture, I think they’d be proud of the person I’m changing into every day.

If her parents are proud of her betrayal to me, then I’ve underestimated them all.

Every day we’re apart, every day you don’t speak to me, you lose a little bit of me. I’m afraid by the time you decide to let me back into your life, you won’t know me at all. It’s a silly fear, isn’t it?

Silly because you don’t think it’s true, or silly because you don’t think I’ll ever let you into my life again? If it’s the latter, it’s not silly at all, Liv.

I’ve never taken you for granted, Jon. I never will.

We aren’t finished.


Not wanting to dwell on her letter, I go back into my brother’s room.

“Hey, about our conversation?”

“Yeah?” he asks, putting the book down.

“It’s about your dad. I was thinking…”

“About what?”

“I know your dad hasn’t done a whole lot for you to make you proud to have him as a father.” Will shakes his head. “I don’t have high opinions of him, and I know I’ve voiced that to you more often than I should have.”

“It’s true, though.”

“Regardless. Harboring the negative energy toward him doesn’t help,” I explain. “It hinders you from believing he could change, and although we haven’t seen it yet, it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen.”

“It won’t.”

“Well, when did he start talking to you about God?”

“He’s talked about God for as long as I can remember. I think he only uses Him for forgiveness, you know? Like, he thinks he can get away with these things because he prays to God and confesses his sins. I know it says that in the Bible, but that’s one reason I don’t really believe in that. It seems false.”

My brother keeps surprising me with his insight. I’m so happy I get to spend this time with him and learn more about him.

“Yeah,” I admit softly. “But look at Mom. She’s been sober for a few months now. That’s change. That’s change that I never thought would come, either, but it has. And I have to support her and keep trying to encourage her to work for her sobriety. It’ll always be a struggle, but I think it’s important to accept that people can change, and to forgive them for what they’ve done in the past. It could still happen for your dad. It may not be something you can realistically hope for, but you know what? If you believe in prayer, it’s definitely something you can pray for. I always do.”

“Thanks, Jon,” he says.

“No problem,” I respond, giving him an encouraging grin as I start to leave the room.

“Can you forgive Livvy? Can she change?” he asks me, surprising me once again. I stop with my back to him, trying to formulate an answer for him.

“I don’t know, Will. I don’t know that I believe in her anymore.” When he doesn’t respond, I turn around to see if he heard me.

“I believe in her, Jon. I can pray for her.”

“Don’t waste your prayers on her,” I murmur quickly, spitefully.

“I think she made a mistake, that’s all,” he says.

“Have you been talking to her?” I ask, starting to get angry.

“No!” he says defensively. “But she loves you, Jon. I don’t know what I believe about a whole lot of things, but I do believe that.”

“Blind faith,” I mumble, dismissing his declaration.

“You don’t believe in blind faith,” he reminds me. “I’ve seen factual evidence. So have you. If you love her, you’ll forgive her.”

“Then by the process of deduction, I guess I don’t love her, because I won’t forgive a girl who won’t even apologize for what she did wrong.”

“If she’s not apologizing in all those letters, what’s she doing?”

“Manipulating me,” I tell him. “Which is probably all she’s ever done.”

“That’s not true,” Will says.

“You don’t know her,” I argue.

He frowns at me, and I think I’ve won the argument. I turn to leave once more. 

“If you think she doesn’t love you, Jon, then you don’t know her. And if you say you don’t love her, then I’m not sure I really know you.”

I glare at him hard, but he stares right back at me. “Go read your book.”

“Go read your letters,” he calls after me as I return to my room. “Harboring negative energy toward her doesn’t help!” he says loudly, provoking me to slam my door.

How dare he throw my own advice back at me! 

Dear Jon – ©2014 Lori L. Otto

Start the Choisie series today!

Surprise! My next book is coming early!

This is a super short post, but I want to let all the wonderful bloggy people know that I finished A Holland and a Fighter much sooner than I expected and decided to release it nearly a month early on Sunday, June 16.

As I’ve said in other social posts, this one is a love letter to the most devoted of readers. This isn’t a stand-alone by any means. To get the most out of it, read all the other books. The get quite a lot out of it, you at least need to read the Emi Lost and Found and Choisie series.

Now… the thing I must ask of all the readers is to NOT spoil this book for the ones who come behind you. Not in social posts, conversations on my page or ESPECIALLY in reviews. I’m begging you. And don’t read ahead, either. You’ll want to work your way into this organically and experience all the love and warmth and comfort that these characters will deliver.

So, if you haven’t preordered yet, make sure you do to be one of the first to read it when it goes live late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.

If you want to talk about it, buddy read or send me a private message on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or shoot me an email. I’ll be away from work next week doing family things but will likely have time to chat.

Lastly, brace yourself… and remember I love you all! This is one hell of a ride. ❤️

Make Waves Excerpt: Dinner at Mom’s

I haven’t put out snippets or anything for Make Waves, and I thought, “That’s not fair…” So, today’s the day I fix that. Here’s a scene with the Scott brothers and their mom. The narrator for this is Max.

The next night, Will, Jon and I are at Mom’s for dinner. She didn’t cook; Will brought something that smells amazing from Shea’s test kitchen. It doesn’t really matter what it is–I know it will be locally sourced, healthy and delicious.

Mom has more color in her face than I’ve seen in a while, and more energy, too. Even though I offer to set the table, she insists that I allow her to be useful while she can be.

While Will follows his wife’s specific instructions for reheating the dishes, Jon and I sit in the living room and catch up. “How’s home life?” I ask him. “All the girls?”

He nods. “We’re all good. Liv says hi. The girls miss you and Callen. You guys need to come over.”

“After the trip to Washington,” I tell him. “We’ll take them out to dinner or something.”

“Oh, they’d love that.”

“Any talk of… more kids?”

He laughs. “Livvy and Shea are plotting. They have a grand plan to raise one at the same time.” He rolls his eyes.

“You don’t want to have another one?”

“Oh, I’d like to… maybe try for a boy. I’d be fine with either. But Shea and Will aren’t ready yet. Sorry. Will isn’t ready yet. He’s going to go work with NASA and the Fermi team next year, and that may put him out of the country for a few months. He doesn’t want to leave Shea on her own.”

“Yeah, I forgot about that.”

“But our brother’s going to work with NASA,” he says, nodding with a prideful grin. I smile, too. “Are you looking forward to your trip? When do you leave?”

“Sunday morning, and fuck yeah. I cannot wait.”

“How’s your arm feel?”

I flex my fingers and wrist. “It’ll be fine,” I tell him with a cocky expression. “Holding a paddle’s easy. The motion only bothers it a little.”


“Why don’t you guys get off your asses and eat before I take it all?” Will says loudly from the kitchen.

“Will, stop,” Mom admonishes him, even though he was joking and neither of us took him seriously. Of course, we are going to the dining room table to get our fair share.

Jon offers Mom the chair between him and me, smirking at Will and me because we didn’t think of it first. It wasn’t that he was simply the first. Will and I were sitting down. We literally didn’t think of it.

“Thank you, Jonny,” she says.

“You’re welcome, Mom.”

“You look really nice today, Mom,” I tell her.

“I already told her that,” Will says, just to be troublesome.

“Me, too,” Jon pipes up.

“So? Can’t I tell her, too? I was gonna say so earlier, Mom, but Will wouldn’t shut his fat, fucking mouth.”

“Whoooooa!” Jon and Will both shout. Will shakes his head in mock disapproval.

She laughs at us.

“Sorry, Mom,” I say, smiling sheepishly and giving her a peck on the cheek.

“It wouldn’t be a family dinner without the cursing,” she says, patting my leg. “I gave up long ago. Can I say grace, though? To balance it out?”

She prays while the rest of us listen; she knows we all have our own beliefs or disbeliefs, and at this point in her life, she’s accepted all of us as we are. After switching churches about five years ago, her outward views changed, and love and tolerance became her new core values.

“Amen,” she says. Jon and I say it with her; Will nods.

All three of us make sure Mom has food on her plate before we take any, so at least we’re all in sync there. Once we all start eating, my mother glances at each of us and smiles.

“I got my results back yesterday.”

Jon sets down his fork. “Mom, I was going to go with you. You were supposed to call me.”

“I wanted to go alone, Jonny. It’s okay.”

She swallows and closes her eyes for a second; her lashes become wet with tears.

“What is it, Mom?” Will asks.

“There is good news,” she starts. “The TACE did what it was supposed to do. It shrank the tumors in my liver.”

“That’s great,” I say, holding her hand. It’s very cold.

She crinkles her nose and one of the tears drips down her cheek. “But the prognosis isn’t any better. In fact, my liver function is worse… he says one to three years.”

I bite my lip to keep from crying. My brothers maintain stoic looks.

“What can we do?” Jon asks. “What’s left?”

“He said we could go through another round of TACE in a few months and see if that can shrink it further–”

“Then we’ll do that.”

“But the damage is done.” She shakes her head, releasing my hand and taking her napkin to wipe her nose. “At the most, it could add six months. It’s a waste of money–”

“Money shouldn’t be a consideration here, Mom,” Will says. “Any of us can help you now. You just have to look past your pride.”

“I don’t want it!” she says loudly.

“I don’t care!” he argues. “I’ll find a way to give it to you. That’s not going to be the reaso–”

“The treatment, Will.” Her voice is soft. Her shoulders slump. “I don’t care about the money. I’m tired of feeling sick, and those treatments make me feel like I’ve poisoned myself. I feel better without them, regardless of what they do. They’re not helping like we want them to.”

“But you could have more time with us.” I stare at her, not understanding.

“What do you think that last six months is going to be like, honey? Do you expect quality time with me?”

“But you’ll have six more better months before that,” I argue, unable to stop the tears.

“Maybe,” she says. “Maybe. But then I have to endure months of the procedure again, and the illness and recovery from that again. Do you see how this works?

“Max, I don’t want to be a burden.”

“You wouldn’t be,” I tell her. Jon and Will seem to know something else.

“I’ll be a burden you love; a burden you won’t mind bearing, but a burden nonetheless. This is my fate, but, boys,” she says, now looking at all of us, “I wanted you all to know that I am grateful of how my life has turned out. I owe it all to you.” Jon hands her another tissue. “I was a burden you all hated before.”

“That’s not true,” Jon says. I shake my head. Will looks down at the table; we all know their relationship was much more strained than ours.

She huffs and smiles, waiting for Will to look up. When he finally does, she continues. “I love you.”

“I love you, too, Mom.” His eyes water as he starts tugging on his hair.

“I love all of you.”

“We love you,” Jon and I both tell her, hugging her from both sides.

“But I could have a good three years left in me, right? If tonight is any indication, I would say that’s definitely happening.” She picks up her fork and takes a bite. “I feel better than I have in a very long time.”

“That’s really good,” my oldest brother says, sighing. My brothers and I look at one another before we start eating again. I’m not as hungry as I was earlier, but I pick at the good food, forcing myself to eat it because I don’t want it to go to waste.

“There’s one last thing,” Mom says when we finish. “Jon, can you make some coffee? Decaf?”

“Uh… now?”

“Yes, please. I have some homemade zucchini bread in the oven, too, if you want to heat that up.”

The dining room table is still in the kitchen, so Jon isn’t too far while Mom continues talking.

“I want you two to reach out to your father.” She takes a sip of her water while Will and I stare at her, mouths agape. “Sometime. It doesn’t have to be now, but I will rest easy knowing that things are settled between you three.”

“As far as I’m concerned, Mom, things are settled,” Will says, standing and picking up his and Jon’s plates.

“Sit down,” she tells him. “Jonny can clear the table. You cooked.”

I look up to see Jon leaning against the counter, his arms crossed, his eyes on us. He’s not in any hurry to do chores. Even though he doesn’t share the same father Will and I do, he knows the pain The Asshole has caused us, and he will stand united in any decision we make.

He disowned me, Mom. Remember?” I ask. “Because I’m queer.”

“No, because he’s ignorant,” she argues. “I want you to be the bigger person.” When neither of us says anything, she continues. “I have his number. He lives in a trailer home in Divide, Colorado.”

“We know,” Will and I say.

“How do you know?”

“Doesn’t matter.” He shifts in his chair, leaning back. “All I can say is it’s Max’s call. It will always be Max’s decision, and I don’t have any say in the matter.”

“Hard pass.” I shake my head. “I’m dead to him; he’s dead to me.”

“But he’s not dead, and I’m afraid you’ll regret that decision when he is,” she says.

“Will he? If died, would he care?”

“Don’t even say that… but it doesn’t matter what he has to live with for eternity. I care about you.”

“Mom…” Everyone can hear the minor annoyance in my voice.

“It will put my mind at ease,” she says. “Even if you don’t believe in it, I still do.”

It’s not that I don’t believe in it; it’s that I have plenty of time to figure out what I believe, that’s all. I’m just not committing to anything yet.

I give it about two seconds’ thought. “I can’t, Mom.”

She looks at Will. “No.” He shakes his head.

Glancing up at my oldest brother, she pleads with him. “Jon, please do something?”

“Mom, there’s nothing I can say.” He goes back to making her coffee, and Will and I clear the table, trying not to let the awkwardness ruin our night.

Make Waves ©2019 Lori L. Otto 

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A look back at young Will


I’ve had a little trouble writing recently. I don’t think that comes as a surprise to anyone. So I decided to write something that was a little self-indulgent. Something that would make me feel good. I was happiest when I was writing Will, so I returned to him.

This is just a little short story in what may become a compilation. I have this title… Belong: Love Letters to the Hollands. The concept is that different characters would write about the moment that they were accepted into the Holland family. Since so many of my recent stories are about characters outside the family, yet so close to them, I thought it would be interesting to think of those solitary moments. Those days or nights that changed their lives.

I’m impulsively posting this tonight, and it’s not edited. I just wanted to share a little love with all of you. So here is Will’s love letter. 🙂 Enjoy.

[Spoilers ahead!]
Continue reading “A look back at young Will”

Excerpt: In the Wake of Wanting – “Dinner with the Hollands”

I mentioned (in my previous post) in the description of my upcoming book, In the Wake of Wanting, the flustered freshman that Trey Holland would meet. I didn’t mention that the flustered feeling would be contagious.

This excerpt brings back some of your favorites, if you’re a current reader of mine. (Livvy, Jon, Jack and Emi are all at dinner with Trey.) If you’re new to me, don’t worry. This novel is written as a stand-alone, so you’ll be given all the info you need to have. The ‘scene’ told from Trey’s perspective is below the graphic! Meet Cole–er, Coley!


“Hey,” my sister, Livvy, says. “Isn’t this when you get to mentor someone? Be an editor this semester to a newbie?”

“Yeah. I’m surprised you remember that.”

“So? What do you think of your mentee? Give me some details… name, qualifications, first impression.”

“Name is Coley…” I half-mumble.

“Cole?” my dad asks.

“Yeah,” I answer reflexively.

“And what do you think of him?”

“I, uh… I think he’ll be good,” I say. Fix it now, Trey. “He’s from Virginia. His dad’s a secret service agent assigned to the president, actually. His mom’s a cop in DC. They’re divorced, apparently.”

“How’s his writing?”

“He wouldn’t let me see his work. But he has to do that first impression assignment on me, so I’ll get to see something Wednesday. He’s obviously good enough to get on the Wit staff.”

“So, Trey, did he know who you were?” Mom asks.

“I mean, yeah, I guess so,” I answer vaguely. “He didn’t make a big deal out of it.”

The waiter delivers our salads. I stare at mine, knowing that I’m not going to be able to maintain a lie of this magnitude for an entire semester. I’m surprised they’re believing what I’m saying now, since I haven’t given anyone eye contact since I started answering them.

As soon as our waiter leaves, I continue the conversation. “She has a twin brother who’s deaf.”

“Who does?” my brother-in-law, Jon, asks.

“Cole.” I shake my head, still mentally berating myself for being unable to say her name.

“I thought you said she.”

I clear my throat. “Coley. Her name is Coley Fitzsimmons. It is a girl. She is a she.”

All the adults look at me curiously. “Is she, um… gender fluid?” Livvy asks, trying not to make a big deal about it. “Or transgender?” Everyone at the table smiles, showing their open-mindedness as they await my response.

“No,” I say as I exhale the breath I’d been holding in. “She’s a female, feminine girl. I don’t know why I was lying. Why I was saying he. Coley. That’s her name. And yes, she knows who I am, too. Everything else is true.”

Of course, my face is most definitely the color of the tomatoes in my salad. When I look up, everyone is still staring at me. “Is she getting under your skin, there, Trey?” Jon asks.

“What?” I ask, adamantly denying that she is. “No! No, no. She’s just my… I’m just her editor. That’s all it is. It’s just weird to be partnered with a girl. You know, we’re going to be working together a lot this semester. I don’t know how it’s going to go, that’s all. I expected a guy.”

“You were with a girl when you were the mentee, though,” my mom says. “It’s no different, right?”

“It’s very different,” I say defensively, having no rational reason why, though.

From In the Wake of Wanting ©2016 Lori L. Otto • unedited • content subject to change

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To Edie, from Daddy

So… Jon wanted to commemorate Edie’s first Valentine’s day, so he wrote her a little letter…

To my baby girl on her first Valentine’s Day,

When you’re five, a little kid will deliver your first Valentine. It will be a paper card with your favorite cartoon owl and a punny tagline like “Hoooo-hoooo loves you?” You’ll read it out loud when you get home, and it will make you laugh until your tummy hurts. You’ll sleep with it on your night stand, and forget about it after it falls under your bed late one night.

At eight, your suitor will up the ante. Your card will say, “I’m a sucker for you,” and it’ll include a handful of your favorite raspberry-flavored lollipops. When you get home from school, you’ll pin up the card onto your bulletin board next to the school picture your admirer gave to you–the one you hung right next to yours. You’ll add more glittery stickers around the two of you to draw more attention to the perfect couple that you are.

When you’re twelve, you’ll probably get your first piece of jewelry: a little bracelet with a heart on it, or maybe a necklace with a birthstone pendant, if they’re really paying attention. You might even receive a special hand-written note to you in a card that folds and closes in an envelope. You may not show that one to me and your mom. You’ll wear the jewelry until the metal leaves a little green ring on your skin, showing that it isn’t as real as you thought it was just about the same time you realize the love wasn’t, either.

You might get your first kiss at sixteen on Valentine’s Day–and no sooner, if your mother and I are lucky and did a decent job of raising you. And I can only hope you’ll be comfortable enough with us to share that news, too. Whoever you choose, that lucky person better be a smart kid, and respectful, and kind and caring. If they’re not any one of those things, bunny, find someone who’s good enough for you. No, not just good enough. Raise your standards. Find someone who is amazing and brings out all of your best qualities, just like your mother has done for me, and like I have done for her.

But today, my dearest Edie, on your first Valentine’s Day, I am here to give you your first Valentine. I hope when you’re older, you’ll cherish this as your best Valentine. The truth is, you stole my heart the moment you were born, and while I’ve recovered bits and pieces of it in the months that you and I have gotten to know each other better, it will never be the same. It’s grown fuller and learned to love in so many different ways since you came along. I’m a better man, and it’s all because of you, bunny. While I teach you things, I hope to keep learning from you, as well. You should have high standards of me, as a father, and hold me accountable, too.

I’m the man who loved you first. The one who loves you most. And the one who loves you best. Today, tomorrow, when you’re five, when you’re eight… Twelve… Sixteen… Thirty… Seventy… You get my point. Nothing you could do will ever change the way I feel about you. You’re a part of my heart, and I’m a part of yours. If you always remember that, you’ll know that I’m always nearby. I’m with you in all the decisions you make–good or bad. I share in everything you feel–all the joy and sadness. I will always be here for you, Edie.

With love,

A Max and Callen Christmas


This is a special little (6,000-word-little) scene I wrote for Glass Paper Ink Bookblog’s Christmas Extravaganza. It was featured there over the weekend, but I thought I’d go ahead and share it on the blog now for all the world to read. This little extra goes with my Love Like We Do series, and would take place after the books, chronologically.

It’s a little sexy, and yes, it’s about a relationship between two guys, so chill. It’s love and it’s sweet.

I stare at Nolan sitting in the big, cushioned chair, his red suit stuffed with pillows, and ponder the little girl’s question to me. Shouldn’t Santa already be delivering presents to kids in other parts of the world by now? She’d made sure to remind me that it’s already morning in Asia.

Matty should have prepped us better for this volunteer gig for A Kinder New York.

“I’m pretty sure this is just a layover,” I tell her, swallowing. “Have you taken a plane before?” I ask her.


“It’s just like that.”

“But doesn’t Santa make his own schedule? Who’s he waiting on?” she asks.

This girl’s too smart to be in line for Santa. I look to her mother for help, but she’s busy reading something on an iPad, not even listening to us. I could just be honest with her now… rip off the Band-Aid.

“Reindeer,” I say suddenly, a stroke of brilliance coming to me. “The reindeer can’t go non-stop. Sure, Santa gets to sit on his ass and–”

“Ahem.” I glance up at the little girl’s mom glaring at me. Sure, now she listens to me.

“He gets to sit on his assss-tronomically big sleigh that holds all those toys all night, but the reindeer have to do all the work. So, yeah, they’re up on the roof right now, noshin’ on some reindeer kibble and stretchin’ their hooves.”

“Hooves don’t stretch.”

“Lookie there, Santa’s ready for you,” I say, walking her up to Santa-Nolan. “She’s a smart cookie,” I whisper in his ear.

“Amber, give the elf your toy for the poor kids.”

Before I help her up into Nolan’s lap, she gives me a colorful box that she can barely hold. “It’s a construction set for girls. Girls can build things, too.”

“Of course they can,” I say, nodding and taking the toy set from her. “Some little girl’s going to love this. Thank you!” After taking her place and starting to list the things she wants, I stand back with her mother for a second before delivering the gift to the tree.

“She can’t just like princesses like all the other girls,” her mom says to me, clearly disappointed.

“Just disown her at sixteen, like my dad did. Problem solved. Merry Christmas,” I tell her curtly.

“I didn’t mean… that.” She puts her tablet away and looks at me, horrified.

“I think Amber’s pretty cool. Nothing wrong with being different.”

“I’m sorry,” she says, and I can tell she genuinely means it. She moves closer to her daughter and listens to the list she gives to Santa. “Merry Christmas,” she says to me as I walk away.

“Easy there, Mascot,” Zaina says, setting down the gift under the tree that she’d collected at the same time I do. “That was a little harsh, wasn’t it?” she asks me, fixing my collar as I adjust her matching one. The costume shop obviously didn’t iron the tops we’re wearing before handing them out.

“I call it like I see it. I don’t bring a filter on holidays. Not even Christmas Eve,” I tell her with a wink.

“Fair enough.” She links her arm with mine and we walk back to the line together, undoubtedly looking completely ridiculous in our identical unisex elf outfits. It’s okay, though. As long as I’m in it with her, I’m having fun doing it.

I open my mouth to greet the next person in line, but she interrupts me before I can say anything. “Are you Max? The guy who’s dating Callen McNare?”

“On any other day, yes. Today, I’m Mascot the Elf, workin’ hard for Santa.”

“Oh, my God!” she squeals, rallying her tween friends to do the same. “So it’s true? Callen’s here?”

“I want to see Callen!”

“Callen’s here?”

I guess the fact that I–a guy–am dating Callen–another guy–doesn’t speak to the hormones of twelve and thirteen year old girls. They’re still going nuts over my boyfriend.

“What am I? Chopped reindeer liver?” I tease them, knowing I’m just as good looking as Callen. Screw that, I’m hotter than Callen any day of the week. Except today, when I’m dressed like an actual fairy. Today, I’m just cuter.

“We love you, too, Max!”

“Is Trey Holland here?” one of the girls asks. I glance over at Zaina. She’s heard her boyfriend’s name, and is already walking toward the conversation.

“Hey, look, here comes Zany the Elf!” I say, introducing her to the girls.

“He and Callen are working in the back today,” she answers for both of us apologetically.

“Can we see them? Pleeeeease?” they beg.

I scoff at their plea. “Trust me, you’ve got their better halves right here.” A few of the girls giggle.

“I like you better than Callen,” one of them says. “You’re funnier.”

“And I like you,” I tell her. “You get to see Santa first. Oh, and here, have a reindeer cupcake.” I take my favorite design off the stack and hand it to my admirer.

“I want a cupcake,” the other girls start to whine.

“Everyone gets a cupcake,” Trey’s uncle, Matty says, breaking up our conversation. “Hey, elves, let’s keep the line moving, please.”

“Nothing like being a second-rate significant-other, huh?” Zaina says as we walk to the next group of visitors with toys for the displaced children we’re collecting gifts for.

“Wow, you call yourself significant?” I tease her, finding a little boy with a big, plastic dump truck filled with a bunch of pieces in the back of it. After talking to him, I drop him off with Nolan and take the toy to the side of the tree where there’s room for it.

“Who’s making your toes curl?”

Unaware that anyone else was around, I drop the toy dump truck on the black and white marble-striped floor of The Mark Hotel lobby when I feel his hot breath on my neck.

“Damn it, Callen!” I exclaim, getting my red and green cap caught in the Christmas tree as I try to stand up.

He shushes me, laughing as he nods toward the families standing in line fifteen feet behind me. “Good thing you’re the elf. My big feet wouldn’t fit in those shoes.”

“For the millionth time,” I say, standing up straight to speak to him directly, “my feet are one size smaller than yours.” Zany looks over at me curiously as the white, fluffy ball at the end of her cap flops over her right eye. “And it’s no indication of the size of anything else,” I say loud enough for her to hear.

She presses her lips together to stifle a giggle, returning to the crowd after she places a few stuffed animals under the tree.

“I know, Max,” he says. “You’re just such an easy target in that costume.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not wearing it for you, okay?” I look down at the red, white and green striped tights that tuck into the black boots that coil at the toes and wonder how Trey convinced me to do this in the first place.

“They couldn’t get you a longer… shirt-thing?” he asks, looking around to make sure no one’s watching before he puts his hand at the top of one of the zig-zagged hems and tugs it down. “I can see your package, you know.”

“Well, the sign out front does say to bring unwrapped packages…” I tell him, looking up at him with a straight face. “Why are you out here bugging me, anyway? Shouldn’t you be in the back room, organizing toys and shit with Trey?”

“Can you try to watch your language?” He smirks at me, knowing I can’t help it.

“What are you gonna do about it?” I ask him, quirking a brow. “You gonna hurt me?”

“Shut up, Max,” he warns me, looking beyond me and turning red.

“Do it, Callen. Hurt me. Hurt me good.” I get turned on when I say it, even though I was just teasing him. The fact is, it’s been too long since I’ve said it for real. When his eyes settle back on me, the look in them is a direct reflection of mine. His tongue juts out of his mouth to moisten his lips, and for a a second, I forget where I am and start to take a step toward him.

“Move behind the tree, Callen.”

“The line goes behind the tree,” he says, shaking his head and running his hand through his short, blonde hair, clearly frustrated.

“Boys,” Matty says as he claps us both on the shoulders. “What’s going on?”

Callen’s eyes dart below my waist quickly. When I look down, I can see that the stupid triangular cut of the shirt is sticking straight out parallel to the floor.

“Matty, these fucking shirts–”

“Oh, Jesus Christ, Mascot, put that thing away,” he says, “and Callen, get to work. Stop being a distraction and doing… that… to my elf. It’s completely inappropriate.” He pushes my boyfriend toward the back room. “It’s Christmas Eve.”

I look at Matty. There’s no way in hell I’m facing the crowd like this. “Kids are gonna be frightened by this oversized candy-cane, man.” I angle my hands toward it as if I’m trying to show off a prize on a game show, causing Matty to swat frenetically at my arms to get me to stop.

“Take five minutes, but if I find out you went somewhere with Callen, I’ll make sure you’re taking the subway home in nothing but those pantyhose and that hat. You understand?”

“Yes, Matty.” He sure is uptight when he’s running the show.

Immediately, I go to find my boyfriend in a private room just off the lobby that they’re using as a staging area. Without being too obvious, he follows me. I make a gesture toward the men’s room, but he shakes his head. Turning a corner down an empty hallway, I lean my head against the wall and bang it four times, just wanting two minutes alone with him.

“Don’t do that,” he says, taking my hand and leading me farther down the hall to a small area where the wall juts in for two ornate doors. Taking one final look around, he pushes me against the wall, removes my glasses and hangs them on his long-sleeved St. Ignatius Spartan t-shirt, and kisses me roughly.

His skin is salty from sweating. He and Trey have been doing manual labor all afternoon while Zaina and I have been traipsing around in face paint and our silly costumes, looking like Christmas pixies and making little kids–and older ones, too–laugh.

“Watch out for my cheeks,” I say, not wanting Matty to know I was with him. Matty’s husband, Nolan, had meticulously painted red circles and black freckles on my face, and I didn’t want them to be smudged when I went back out there. Our Santa doubles as our makeup artist. He’s even busier than most.

“These?” Callen asks, grabbing my ass. The thin fabric of the tights allow me to feel every movement of his fingers, and they explore freely.

“This sucks, Callen,” I complain, running my hands through his hair. “I don’t think we’re ever going to get to be alone again.”

“I don’t either,” he says.

“Twice,” I remind him. “Twice, we’ve played our parents. Twice, we’ve been together. In four fucking months.”

“If it was just our parents, you know this wouldn’t be so hard.”

I’d still be this hard.”

“You’re an idiot, Max,” he says, but he can’t hide the sexy smile I bring out of him.

“You love me this way,” I say, shrugging. “And you left it wide open for that comment, come on,” I say. The fact of the matter is, we can’t go anywhere without people following us around, taking pictures of us, or posting our whereabouts on tabloid sites. It’s the most stressful relationship of my life, no doubt, but he’s still one of my best friends. We have so much fun hanging out and talking to each other that I have no regrets in dating one of the most well-known guys my age in Manhattan… but I still go mad sometimes with how badly I want to be with him. “It’s kind of sick that you’re turned on by an elf, by the way.”

“You always have an elfish look to you,” Callen says. “It’s your long lashes… and your nose.”

“Fuck you, my nose is cute,” I argue with him, touching the tip of it.

“I never said it wasn’t. It is cute. A little button nose. You have very youthful features, that’s all I’m saying.”

“Yeah, because my ears are anything but pointy.”

“Your ears are perfect, Max,” he says softly, kissing my right one.

“I know they are.”

“Careful, your vanity’s showing.”

“Callen McNare!” I hear my best friend, Trey, yelling from the end of the hallway. “I know your parents have hundreds of missing posters left over at your house, and the only reason I’m not calling them right now to have them deliver some to this hotel is because I can smell your Dolce & Gabbana cologne from here!”

I stick my arm out to my side and point my middle finger skyward, saluting Trey.

“Hey, Mascot!”

“Hi, Trey! Thirty seconds!” I holler back to him. “And don’t say a word to Matty!”

“Fine,” I hear him say stubbornly.

I bring my hand to the back of my boyfriend’s neck and start to massage his tense muscles. “When I sit on Santa-Nolan’s lap–”

“Please don’t,” he says, interrupting me.

“Well, if I did, I’d tell him the only thing I wanted was one night alone with you. And not a night at your house where we pretend to have a sleep-over with Trey, and he finds something to occupy his time for a few hours in another part of your mansion… I mean a real night alone with you.”

“I’ll return the Diamondback.”

“Wait. What?” I ask him, looking up at him with wide eyes.

“That bike you wanted?” He smiles and takes my hands into his. “Yeah, I bought it. I got one for me, too.”

“Well, shit, that may solve all our problems! We’ll just ride until no one can find us…” I say dreamily. He laughs. “I can’t believe you got me the bike…”

“Why wouldn’t you get what you wanted for Christmas?” he asks me.

My eyes shift to the floor. “I don’t know… a lifetime of disappointment has prepared me for that, I guess.” I can count on one hand the number of Christmases I’ve actually received what I asked for. Granted, I was born into a poor family, so I was predisposed to be set up for that sort of let down. Fortunately, the past few years have been better since Jon’s been making money.

“Well, you’re at least getting the bike. I can’t promise you the night alone… but the first opportunity I see, I will seize it, trust me, Max. I want it, too.”

“Thanks, Callen.”

“Love you, Max.”

“Love you, too.” We kiss again, this one sweeter.

“You okay to go back out there?”

I look down and check myself. “Yeah.”

“I’ll try to leave you alone…”

“Please don’t,” I tell him, taking my glasses from his shirt and putting them on. He bites his lip. He’s developed this thing for me in my glasses these days, which is why I only wear them now instead of my contacts. I think he likes my sexy, nerdy vibe. He really likes it when I’ve got them on and my shirt off. Something about the juxtaposition of my newly defined muscles and my geeky specs.

“Okay, I won’t.” He gives me another quick peck on the lips and walks next to me back to his temporary stock room, holding my hand the whole way. I pull down my elf shirt, cursing it under my breath, before I return to the ornately decorated lobby to continue meeting kids and taking their toys.

“You’ve been with Callen,” Zany accuses me, eyeing me suspiciously.

“How can you tell?”

“You have that dumb smile on your face.”

“Nothing dumb about this smile,” I tell her, grinning about as big as I possibly can.

“No fair. Did you see Tria?”

“Don’t think he wanted to see me,” I comment, walking up to the next family in line. “He’s all business, your boyfriend…” I whisper to her.

“That’s Trey,” she says to me as she walks back by me, stopping to readjust her grip on two video gaming systems.

“That’s you, too, come to think of it,” I tease her as I take my gift to the tree.

She meets me there. “Well, we are here to work. We’re volunteering for A Kinder New York. Matty’s counting on us, you know? So are all the kids who wouldn’t have a holiday without our help.”

“I know, I know. That’s how Trey suckered me and Callen into this all-night gig.”

“It’s for a good cause, and it’s the organization that brought Callen home. Don’t forget that.”

“I would never forget that,” I tell her. “Hey,” I say, looking toward the check-in counter. “Zany, look.”

“What?” she asks, taking my hand and pulling me back toward the line.

“No, look! Is that my brother?”

“Where? No,” she says, not even stopping to check.

“That looks like Jon from the back.”

“Why would Jon be at The Mark Hotel on Christmas Eve?” Zaina asks, blowing me off. “He’s home with Livvy and the baby. Or didn’t you say they were doing something with the Hollands tonight?”

“No, they’re doing their family thing tomorrow, since Trey’s going to be here all night. They figured Edie’d never know Santa came the day after on her first Christmas.”

“That’s right. And you guys did your family thing last night? Here, help me with these scooters,” she says, giving me a task. I swear that’s my oldest brother.


“You didn’t tell me what you got.”

“I did, too,” I tell her, stopping her and looking in her eyes. “We had a very long conversation about the red leather jacket Jon got me. And remember I told you about the rainbow-colored dart board Will found while he was on tour?”

“Oh, right.” I finish pushing the scooter to the tree and step toward the counter, looking for the man I saw a minute ago. He’s gone. “Were you distracting me?” I ask her suspiciously.

“I don’t know what you mean. Go help that little boy with the broken leg, Mascot. He’s struggling with his crutches.”

“Fine, Zany.”

After finding out Cary injured himself playing hockey, I have a ten minute side conversation with the seven-year-old about his burgeoning sports career before Matty gives me his death stare and I take the kid up to see Santa. As he hobbles up the red carpet-lined path, he confesses to me softly that he doesn’t actually believe in Santa Claus, but he doesn’t think he’ll get big presents anymore if he admits that to his parents. He found out three years ago, but Santa’s the only one who gives him the “good stuff.”

I wish him luck and take the wagon that his mother had been towing behind her to the tree. In it are about thirty new baseballs. I remember a number of Christmases when just waking up to one of those balls would have made it the best holiday of my life.

“Santa’s sick today, Max.” I’ll never forget that feeling. I’d believed my mother, and actually felt bad for the jolly old man for the rest of my Christmas vacation. It wasn’t until I went back to school that I started questioning things. Santa had been well enough to visit all the other kids in my class. When I’d asked Will and Jon about it that afternoon, they’d both produced for me presents that they said they’d found waiting on the doorstep for me when they’d gotten home from school. There was a card, too. Santa apologized that my gifts were late.

I don’t remember what the gifts were now. The only other thing I remember from that day was that when I asked Will what he got from Santa, he’d said, “that old fat man doesn’t give a shit about me.” Jon had smacked him on the back of the head.

“Daydreaming about someone’s balls?” I blink twice out of my reverie and chuckle at Callen, who’s collecting more toys from the tree.

“You know it.”

“Let me have that wagon.” He deliberately closes his fingers around mine before I let go of the handle. His taut arm muscles strain, his grip purposefully tight. I trace my finger up his arm quickly and smile coyly at him. “I’m sure we’ll find a few more minutes tonight to do a little fooling around.”

“Not if Trey and Zany and Matty have anything to say about it,” I argue.

“I’ve got to take these things to the back. Looks like your line’s almost clear. Then you get to come help us organize and wrap presents.”

“And I get to put on normal fucking clothes, thank God.”

“That room is almost entirely full. I have no idea how we’re going to get everything done. We’ll definitely be up all night.”

“Yeah, there’s no way we’re getting out of doing any work,” I tell him, dejected. “See you in a few.”

After handing out the final cupcakes, we say good night to the last of the kids and ceremoniously wave goodbye to Santa, letting Nolan leave before the rest of us since he has a sleigh to catch. Once all the kids are cleared out, Nolan corrals all the volunteers from the back, bringing everyone to the lobby where we’ve been staged all night.

“Alright, everyone. You guys have done an amazing job so far. All of my elves were perfect!” Matty exclaims, coming over to me–of course–and pinching my cheek. I glare at him, which just encourages him to pinch the other one. The only good thing that comes out of it is that he now has makeup caked in his fingers. “Everyone give yourselves a round of applause.”

We all clap for the hours of work we’ve put in today for Matty’s organization.

“We’ve literally collected hundreds of toys today,” Nolan says, looking at a clipboard that Trey has handed him. “Our back room staff has been keeping everything organized in different areas in a meeting room on the second floor. Everyone who’s working the overnight, you’ll be assigned a section to work in. We’ll bring you wrapping paper and bags and ribbon and tape and scissors and everything you need to make things pretty.”

“And if you can’t wrap pretty,” Matty says, “you need to learn quick, or you’ll be on trash and box duty. Wrapping’s easy. Just slow down and take your time. Remember that we have all night. Vans will start picking up the gifts at seven in the morning. You’ve got ten hours.

“So, everyone who’s only signed up until nine, you’re free to go! Get one of the reserved cupcakes on your way out, and have a very Merry Christmas, happy holidays, etcetera… Thank you for your kindness!

“Overnighters, let’s take fifteen. Elves, feel free to change into something less… elven.”

“Max, Callen,” Trey says, grasping Zaina’s hand, “can you guys help us with a few boxes of supplies? We need to take them to storage on another floor to make sure they don’t get mixed in with the rest of the gifts.”

“Can’t Zany and I change first?” I ask.

“After,” Trey says. “This will just take a minute, I promise.”

“Yeah, you wouldn’t be making people wait if it was your junk squished in peppermint hooker stockings.”

“My poor Mascot,” Callen says, laughing as he puts his arm around me.

“Zai, you look hot,” Trey says to her as they push a hand truck of boxes toward one of the elevators.

“Yeah, clearly this unisex outfit is geared more toward the ladies,” I comment, following my friends and wondering what they need help with since they’re pushing everything on a cart. “What’s my purpose here?” I ask when we get on the elevator. Callen taps the button for the third floor, but Trey hits a different one.

“What’s on twelve?” Callen asks.

“The storage room we’re going to.”

“It’s on one of the guest room floors?”

The elevator opens on the third floor, but no one makes a move to get out, since we’re still trying to figure out where exactly we’re going.

“Yeah,” Trey says, turning around to face the wall of the elevator.

“You lie.” I grab him by the shoulder and turn him around as the elevator starts moving again. He’s the worst liar I know. “What’s on the twelfth floor, Trey?”

“A storage room, Dyo,” Zany says sweetly, stepping in between me and my best friend. She hasn’t called me that nickname since Mascot took its place a few months ago. She’s lying, too, and she’s normally a damn good liar.

“What’s going on?” Callen asks. Both of our friends stay silent until we reach the twelfth floor. When the doors open, Trey hurriedly pushes the dolly out, leading the way for the rest of us.

“Twelve-oh-seven,” he murmurs, rounding a corner. “There we go.” I stop walking when I see a crowd gathered at the end of the hallway.

“Whaaaaat the fuck are our siblings doing here?” I ask Trey, seeing Will, Jon, and Livvy all standing in front of a room. “Callen, what’s going on?”

“Don’t ask me!” he says, walking a step behind me when I finally start moving again.

“Holy shit, what are you wearing?” Will asks me, running his hand over his stubbled jawline and eyeing me from head to toe.

“A fucking superhero costume, what does it look like, genius?” I ask him, the actual genius of the family. I guess, technically, both of my brothers are. “Why are you here?”

“Merry Christmas, Max and Callen,” Trey says, opening the largest of the boxes on the push cart and pulling out two suitcases.

“Merry Christmas,” my family chimes in, and Zaina does, too, adding a little applause to her greeting.

“I’m not quite sure I get what’s happening,” Callen says.

“Yeah, me, neither, because your uncles are waiting for the two of us to come back downstairs and wrap presents for the next ten hours.”

“Is he?” Zaina says with a funny grin.

Trey picks up a clipboard and hands it to me. “You see, I convinced you guys to sign up for the overnight. You told your parents you were doing the overnight… but I told Matty you were only staying until nine. So your alibi’s solid.”

“No way…” I say, grasping Callen’s hand tightly. I can’t believe what I’m hearing.

“The room’s under my name,” Jon tells me. “Please don’t wreck the place.”

“I didn’t even have to sit on Nolan’s lap!” I exclaim. Callen backhands me in the chest. “Fucking best Christmas present ever. But please still give me the bike.”

“You’re getting the bike,” he assures me.

“I packed you some clothes,” Will tells me.

“And I stole some stuff from your house when I was at your family’s Christmas party last weekend, Callen,” Trey admits. “I really thought I was going to be arrested or chased down by your guard dogs.”

“Yeah, I guess we need to tighten up security,” Callen jokes with him.

“I don’t ever want to go through your underwear drawer again, though.”

“Sorry, man, but thanks for doing that.”

“And I packed you both a little present,” Zaina says. “Just something special for Christmas.”

“You didn’t have to do that, Zany,” I tell her.

I go to both of my brothers and Livvy and give them all hugs, thanking them for the gift.

“You’re welcome, but this was all Trey’s idea,” Livvy says.

I smile at my best friend and hold my arms out wide. “Come give your peppermint hooker fairy a big hug.”

“Oh, Max, really?”

“I owe you one!” I say, grabbing him in a bearhug and squeezing him tightly. “Thank you so much for this.” Callen descends on us both, getting in on the action.

“Wanna join us?” Callen teases Trey.

“Fuck that, Callen, I said ALONE,” I remind my boyfriend, messing with him.

“As tempting as your offer is, I do have to go wrap presents for the next ten hours.”

“Man, when you could have finagled your way into something like this for you and Zany?! It’s brilliant!” I say, stunned that he wouldn’t take advantage of his own master scheming. Granted, it’s way beyond what I thought innocent, rule-abiding Trey Holland would have come up with.

“You know it’s not like that with us,” Zaina says, taking Trey’s hand in hers. “When we’re ready, we’ll find a way to be alone–”

“And we won’t have to hide it from anyone,” my best friend adds.

“My sweet, little brother,” Livvy says, throwing her arms around his waist and looking up at Trey. He’s nearly a full foot taller than she is.

“Unlike our cursing, obnoxious, sexually-active one…” Jon says.

“He’s barely sexually-active,” Will says as an aside to our oldest brother. “Cut the kid some slack.”

“Can we go back to the obnoxious part?” I interrupt, holding my finger up, but no one’s listening to me.

“No, but we’re helping him along here now,” Jon says.

“They’re in a committed relationship,” Livvy cuts in.

“Yeah, none of us had a problem with this when we were sixteen,” Will says.

“If Mom catches wind of this, we’re all dead. That’s all I’m saying,” Jon clarifies. “Use protection, that’s all I care about.”

“I packed some,” Will says, winking at me.

“Thanks, Will.”

“I’ve got you covered, Mascot.”

“Literally,” I say to him, earning groans from everyone. Callen puts his arms around me and pulls me into his chest.

“You left yourself wide open for that, Will,” he says, sticking up for me.

“I did,” my brother concedes. “Anyway.” He checks his watch. “She’s probably wondering where we are,” he says to Livvy and Jon.

“Yeah, we have reservations up the street. Oh, and room service is bringing you guys dinner in twenty minutes,” Jon tells me. “I figured you’d be starving.”


“Thank you.”

“So, you guys are expected downstairs at ten in the morning for the volunteer breakfast,” Trey says as everyone heads back toward the elevator. “Meet me on the second floor and I’ll put your suitcases in my car.”

“Have a good night, guys.”

“Merry Christmas!”

Callen and I had just enough time to shower before our food was delivered. After dinner, we open the cards attached to the wrapped presents that Zaina had stuck in each of our suitcases. There were explicit instructions on each envelope that said to read the cards first.

Go to a different room and put these on. Then let the games begin. Merry Christmas. What does yours say?” I ask Callen.

Go to a different room and put these on, then take the reins and have some fun. Merry Christmas. Shit. Why am I suddenly frightened by what’s in these boxes?”

“Suck it up. I’ll take the small bathroom,” I say with a smile, nearly running with my gift and tearing off the paper on the way. I can’t even contain my laughter when I see what’s folded inside the box. I take out the underwear and hold them up, examining both sides and feeling my cheeks turn the color of the plastic red nose attached to the front of them. “Oh, fuck!” I say as the little orb lights up when I touch it. “No fucking way!” I strip down to nothing and quickly put them on, looking at myself in the mirror and chuckling at the ridiculousness of it all.

“I’m not wearing these!” I hear Callen yell from across the suite.

“You’re wearing them or you’re wearing nothing at all!” I holler back.

“Nothing at all is fine.” He’s right outside the door now.

“Please just put them on so I can see what she got you. Are you a reindeer, too?”

“Oh, hell, no,” he says. “Get out here.”

“Let me know when you’ve got yours on and I will,” I bargain with him.

“I don’t want to, Max.”

“You really think we’re going to have these on for that long anyway?”

He’s quiet for a few seconds. “Good point. No pictures.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Wait, before you come out–”

“I came out months ago, love,” I tease him.

“Yeah,” he says, ignoring me and continuing his question. “Why in the world would Zaina even think to buy us shit like this?”

“You know she’s going through a guy-on-guy romance novel phase,” I say to him. “I told you that… she thinks we’re hot…”

“Oh, Jesus. To think she knows we’re wearing these…”

“We’re never admitting to wearing these, Callen. Gag gifts. We never took ‘em out of the boxes.” We have to get our lies straight.

“Wait, does Trey know she reads gay erotica?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Straight-laced Trey has a girl with a little kink.” I can hear the smirk in his voice. “Come on. Get your reindeer ass out here,” he says.

“You’re ready?”

“Yeah.” I turn around and open the door, showing him my ass first and saving the best asset for last. “Oh, my god, there’s a tail on yours.” He yanks it, attempting to pull me toward him by it. I stretch, glancing behind me to see his skimpy undies with a Santa face, a white beard hanging from the growing underside of them.

“Oh, those are bad,” I say. “What’d your card say? Take the reins and have some fun? Santa’s gonna get him some reindeer love tonight,” I say, wiggling my eyebrows and turning to face him. “And this isn’t just any reindeer.” I take a step away from him so he can see the full picture.

“I’m riding Rudolph tonight, huh?”

“Want to touch his nose?” I ask, looking down at the perfectly placed globe. Callen grins and reaches his hand out, ready to palm me, but the second his warm hand touches the reindeer nose, it glows red, and he shirks away from it, bursting out in laughter.

“I’ll guide your sleigh tonight, Santa,” I tell him, trying to flirt, but then shaking my head at how incredibly stupid that sounded. “Just come with me to the fucking bedroom.”

“Yes, deer,” Callen says.

“Ha!” I laugh, turning around and high-fiving him for the Max-worthy pun. He wraps his arms around my waist, slowing my gait to the bedroom, but I don’t mind as he starts kissing my shoulders.

When we get to the bed, we both look out the window and notice other windows across the street. I don’t think either of us have ever moved faster in our lives to close the curtains.

“That would have been the most embarrassing tabloid story we’ve ever been involved in,” he says, leaning against a chair. “I’m pretty sure we’d both have to quit school.”

“Fuck that, we’d have to move to another country.” I sit down on the bed.

“One without the internet.”

My eyes flicker down Callen’s body and linger. “It’s Christmas Eve,” I say to him.

“I know,” he says, walking toward me.

“I think Santa has better things to do than to be hanging around you.”

“Is that what you think?” I nod my head. “Like what?”

“Giving people what they want,” I say softly, looking him in the eye as I tuck my fingers under the black waistband of his underwear and push them down his muscular legs. His arms wrap around me and down my body, and I can tell his fingers of one hand are pinching the reindeer tail while his other hand tucks beneath my underwear. He angles his head to ensure full, deep kisses as he brings my body closer to his.

“And I already know what you want…” he says as he takes a breath.

“In case you didn’t, though, I think Rudolph’s giving a hint.” We both look down to see the red, glowing nose, getting up close and personal with Callen. He moves his hands to my side and plants kisses on my neck and chest, then drags them further down my body as he kneels in front of me.

Finally, he takes the orb in between his teeth and grips my hips tightly, moving me to the edge of the bed. I stop breathing in anticipation of his next move. His tongue encircles Rudolph’s fucking nose, driving me fucking crazy.

“Callen, Jesus,” I say, grabbing his blonde hair in my fists. “You’re killing me.”

“No more reindeer games?” he asks.

“Clever,” I tell him, hoping that particular Christmas carol doesn’t stay in my head while my boyfriend and I have our first true night alone. “And no.”

“Okay,” he says softly, removing Zaina’s gift from my body and standing up to kiss me.

I break away from his lips but hold him close, feeling my heart pound wildly against his chest. “Callen, this is already the best Christmas of my life,” I tell him. “I just want you to know that.”

“We haven’t done anything yet,” he says as he nudges me onto the bed. I scoot back, making room for him.

“I’ve got my night alone with you.” I reach my hand out to him. He gets on his knees and climbs on the bed toward me. “That’s what I wanted.”

“You wanted more than that,” he says, leaning over and taking off my glasses. After setting them on the nightstand, he returns to me, kissing my torso. “I guess I’ll have to top the best Christmas of your life with the best night of your life… in the same night. I bet I can do that,” he boasts.

“Hmmm,” I say, challenging him and laying back on my arms, watching him settle between my legs. “Good luck with that.”

His hands trace down my V muscle that he often admires when we’re swimming together. “No luck needed. Merry Christmas, Max.”

“Thanks for the best night of my life,” I tell him, “until I get the bike.”

He stops what he’s doing and glares at me, but one side of his lip curls up. I smile back at him playfully so he knows I’m kidding. “Either way, at least I’m responsible for giving you the best night of your life.”

“It’s tonight,” I whisper to him an assurance and push myself off the bed toward him. He sits up to meet me in another kiss. I don’t want there to be any doubt.

“Good,” he says, putting his hands on the back of my neck and dragging his thumbs against my cheekbones as he looks into my eyes.

“Merry Christmas, Callen.”

©2015 Lori L. Otto

Love Like We Do (Side B) comes out today!


The whole series is out now! Nook and iBooks readers: DO NOT WAIT to get your copies. After Thursday, this series will only be available on Kindle for 90 days!

Here’s a little snippet from one of Max’s chapters in Love Like We Do (Side B):

“You’re not wearing that shirt out today, are you?”

I look down at the graphic curiously before glancing back up. “Planned on it. Yeah.”

“Max, why?”

“It’s a rainbow, Mom. A natural occurrence caused by light being dispersed and refracted by rain. A rainbow never hurt anyone.”

“It hurts me.”

“Why?” I challenge her.

“You know you’re not wearing it as a statement of support for Mother Nature, Max. You know the rainbow symbolizes something else.”

“What does it symbolize?”

She returns to the stove and starts cooking her own breakfast while I begin eating mine.

“Gay pride,” she says softly.

I smile, but she’s not looking at me to see it. “And how does gay pride hurt you?”

“I’m just finding it hard to be proud of this.”

At first, her comment kind of stings, but then I think about what she said. “You don’t have to be proud of it. You probably never felt pride in Jon and Will simply because they’re straight. It is an odd thing for a mother to be proud of. I get it. You get a pass on this one, Mom. I don’t need you to be proud of me for being gay.

“But today, I take pride in the fact that I am because people think that I should hide it, and I don’t want to anymore. So I’ll wear the rainbow. You don’t have to.”

She turns off the stovetop and scrapes her eggs into the sink. “I don’t understand why you have to make such a big deal out of it, that’s all.”

“Why do I have to make such a big deal out of it?” I ask her. “I didn’t, Mom. I would have been happy to keep it all between me and Callen. But then the media got involved, and Callen’s mother fueled the fire, and suddenly it’s the only thing anyone cares about. It’s almost a bigger story than Callen being missing at all. That’s pretty fucked up.”

“Maxwell Nicholas Rosser!”

“Well, isn’t it?”

“Just because you’re declaring your sexual independence today–or whatever you’re doing–doesn’t mean you’re free to break all the rules of our household. That word is off limits here!”

“Sorry, Mom. It’s messed up. And my point is that it would have been nice to keep our private life private, but I guess that’s the price of being involved with Callen McNare anyway. It should be our decision to come out on our terms. I would rather just get it out there so people will stop hiding in bushes to try to catch me doing something to prove it to the world. It’s better for my sanity and safer for me, too.”

She busies herself with the dishes while I finish my breakfast. “Weren’t you going to eat, Mom?”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Mom, come on.”

“Do you have any idea how hard this is on me?”

“No, I guess I don’t.”

After putting away the dishes, she leans against the counter and folds her arms across her chest. “I have to endure empathetic stares and endless questions at work already about this. I work at a very conservative company, Max. This is worse than a cancer diagnosis. They can treat cancer.”

“You would rather I have cancer. Is that what I’m hearing?”

She shakes her head. “Of course not. Of course I don’t want you to have cancer, but in a way, I think this is an untreatable affliction. People pity me. I feel sorry for myself,” she admits with tears in her eyes. “I pray every night for you to wake up and realize your mistake, or for me to wake up from the nightmare.”

My heart begins to race as the anger builds. I get up to grab my phone. “Don’t call Will,” she says, reading my mind. “We don’t need him here.”

“I need him. I thought we were past this. I thought you were doing better.”

“Can’t you and I have a conversation about things without you needing a buffer? You’re obviously an adult now, Max. I know this is painful for you to hear, but I need to get it off my chest and I won’t be able to with the intimidation tactics employed by your brother.”

“If you’re going to make me listen to that shit, you’re going to have to let me speak freely. Uncensored.”

“Deal. But you should know your fancy new school won’t let you talk like that.”

“I have a few weeks before I start school. I’m getting it out of my system.”

“Max, what am I supposed to tell people?”

“What people? These people you work with?”

“Those people… the people at church, at Bible study, my meetings.”

“You don’t have to tell them anything if you don’t want to, Mom,” I tell her. “Again, you don’t go to those places and talk about how straight Will and Jon are, do you?”

“Well, I talk about Jon and Livvy and my granddaughter all the time. I show them pictures. I’m proud of them. And most of them know the struggles I have with Will. We’re all just waiting for the right girl to come along. So I do talk to them about their relationships. You boys are my life. Outside of work, church and my meetings, I don’t have a personal life anymore. I made too many mistakes of my own over the years.

“So how do I talk about you?”

“Well, soon you won’t have to deliver the news that I’m gay. The media will have that part handled. So you can dodge that bullet. And right now, the guy I like is in hiding somewhere because he anticipated his parents’ intolerance of the situation, and he knew he couldn’t live under their roof like that. He didn’t think they’d want him living in their home, and with the way his mom’s been, I’m not sure they wouldn’t have kicked him out.

“I honestly didn’t think you’d react like this. I thought you’d love me unconditionally–”

“I do love you, Max. Don’t question that.”

“I don’t feel loved right now. When you tell me you think I’m sick, or that me being gay is your worst nightmare, those don’t make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. This isn’t a sickness. It’s biology.

“It’d be like if I were born with blue eyes, and you had some aversion to blue eyes, and then you told me you hated kids with blue eyes–to my face! I couldn’t change my eye color. They’re always going to be blue.

“I could wear contacts to cover them up. I could hide them from you. But deep down, I’d know they were blue and I’d know there’s nothing wrong with their color. In fact, I’d like the color. I wouldn’t know how to have any other color eyes. Blue eyes would be all I would know.

“But every day I’d wake up, look in the mirror, and the first thing I’d think is how much you like Will and Jon’s brown eyes better than my blue ones. How do you think that would make me feel?”

She looks at me with a frown.

“This is the same thing, Mom. I like guys. I don’t know any other way to be. I’ve been this way my whole life, and I was born like this. It’s in my genes… all of this was determined way before I had any say in anything in this world.”

“So you’re saying I made you this way?” she asks, seemingly offended.

“I am. You made me into this human being with two arms, two legs, one brain, two brown eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth, an additional appendage that I’m grateful for, two lungs, some other internal organs, and a heart, with the natural inclination to be attracted to guys and the capacity to love and care for another human being. Shame on you.

“I’m gay, Mom, but I’m more than that. I’ll be known for more than that. Right now it seems like it’s the only thing people care about. The only topic of conversation. Change the subject on people. If they ask if I’m gay, tell them yes, but then tell them I’m a lifeguard. Or that I’m going to some new school this fall. Or getting back into sports. I promise, I’ll do plenty of things with my life that you’ll want to talk about. Good things.”

“Oh, my sweet Max,” she says with a smile, putting her hand over mine.

“Bigger picture, Mom, okay? But when the time comes, and I bring a guy around that I really like–whether it’s Callen or someone else–I hope someday you’ll feel comfortable showing these people pictures of us. Love is love. It can never be ugly or hateful, no matter how many people try to put that spin on it.”

Love Like We Do (Side B) ©2015 Lori L. Otto

Did you miss yesterday’s post? Or do you still want more info?

To get your copies of Love Like We Do, click the links below!

Early reviews are in on Goodreads. Read them for Side A and Side B now!

**One last thing. The title page may say “Draft Edition: September 2015” but it’s just because I failed to update that to “First Edition: October 2015.” The version you have is the final copy, don’t worry. 🙂

Love Like We Do is OUT!

The wait is finally over! If you preordered Love Like We Do (Side A), it should be waiting for you on your Kindle or iPad right now! If not, it’s available for sale on Amazon, iBooks or Nook. (If you read on the latter two platforms, you only have two days to buy the books! After that, they’ll be going into the Kindle Select program for 90 days.)


Haven’t heard of the Love Like We Do series yet? It’s a coming-of-age, coming-out story of two 16-year-old boys. Don’t go labeling it right off the bat, though. This series isn’t simply for teens, and it isn’t only for LGBT readers. These books are for everyone. They’re about confidence, self-awareness, acceptance, truth, misconceptions, bigotry, friendship, family, and–most importantly–love.


Trey Holland has been friends with Max Rosser and Callen McNare for years. While Trey and Callen both date girls from their private school, Max always has known he was different; and last year at his public school, his teammates began suspecting he was, too. Even though Trey has always been the common link between Max and Callen, he’s unaware that something more has been happening between his two best friends. When the news finally comes out, all of their relationships are tested.


After their secret is exposed one night, Callen disappears. Max confides in his oldest brother that he suspects Callen ran away, unwilling or unable to accept the fact that he’s gay. Jon Scott, Max’s brother, helps to guide him through the most crucial time of his young life: coming out to their mother, to his father, and to his best friend of eight years. It has also become Jon’s responsibility to ensure Max’s safety in an environment that’s still unwilling to fully accept Max for who he is.


With the help of his brothers and friends, Max learns that he is much stronger than he once thought he was. Love Like We Do (Side A) is the first of two books in this series. This novel tells the story from Trey and Jon’s points of view–the outsider’s perspective.


Tomorrow, Love Like We Do (Side B) will be released. It will give you Max and Callen’s side of the story. The frustration of their hidden relationship burns steadily at the beginning. Once separated, the boys understand how their past way of doing things won’t work in the future. Callen watches from a distance, admiring the courage that Max displays in dealing with the fallout back home. He wonders if he has the backbone to stand up to his parents and the confidence needed to move forward with a relationship with Max.


To get your copies of Love Like We Do, click the links below!

Oh! One last thing! If you’re a Choisie series fan, the ebook of Love Like We Do (Side A) has a 7500-word short story of the day that Isaiah learns the news that he has a daughter!! You won’t want to miss that!

Get Contessa while it’s free!

I inadvertently put Contessa on sale yesterday–for free. I didn’t know it until I checked my stats, and it showed I had over a hundred free downloads. I thought about putting it back at its regular price, but then I decided I’d just let it be. Contessa‘s one of my favorites, and I want more people to read it. (Sadly, I know that most people don’t read the free books they download, which is why I’m not going to do free books anymore after this, but that’s another post for another day.) Anyway! How about a snippet from Contessa to go with this sweet little graphic? It’s one of my favorite Jon/Livvy kisses in the book. Enjoy!


“Hey, Ray!” Jon’s uncle comes out from behind the bar to give him a hug.

“Happy birthday and congratulations! Ivy League, man! I can’t believe it. Your dad would have been so proud of you.”

“Yeah,” Jon says. “I think so.”

“I know so. He’s smiling down on you right now, and he’d be buying you this drink if he were here. Derrick, I need three tequila shots down here,” Ray says to a younger bartender. “The best we’ve got.”

“Okay, boss,” he answers.

“Uncle Ray, this is my girlfriend, Olivia.”

“It’s a little dark for sunglasses, honey,” he says with a warm smile.

“She lives in those, Ray. I just don’t argue anymore,” Jon speaks up for me.

“It’s nice to meet you,” I tell him.

“I need to check your IDs,” he says quietly. “Just for show, but in case someone’s watching.”

“Sure,” Jon says after taking a deep breath.

“I don’t want anything to drink,” I say quickly.

“Honey, I gotta ID anyone who comes in here.”

“Uncle Ray, just… it’s fine, Liv. He’s not going to say anything.”

I glare at Jon, but he can’t see my eyes through the sunglasses. I think about walking out of the bar, but he truly is happier than I’ve seen him, and I don’t want to be the one to spoil it. I pull my wallet out of my bag and give the bartender my ID card. He flashes a light on it to see it clearly. He studies mine for a few seconds, and then looks up at Jon. “Well, look at you. Ivy League and high-society.”

“Whatever,” Jon says, taking my ID back from his uncle quickly.

“Livvy Holland,” he says to me. “Your daddy know you’re here?”

“Absolutely not,” Jon answers again. “Mum’s the word. I just want her here to celebrate with me.”

“Got it,” Ray says. “Is this your first time in a bar, Livvy?”

“Yes,” I say with a small smile.

He picks up the three shots at the bar and hands one to Jon and one to me.

“Well, welcome. And congrats, Jonny. Good job, all around.”

“Thanks,” Jon says. “This is for you, Dad,” he adds, looking up toward the ceiling, caught up in the moment. The guys set their glasses down on the bar first before shooting them. I take a taste, cringing at the flavor.

“Olivia,” Jon says as I sip it down.

“Ow, that burns,” I croak.

“That was a lot for you, baby. I’m not sure that was a good idea.”

“Well, why’d you give it to me?” I ask with a shrug. “Plus, you’re not going to get accepted into Columbia every day. So you’re right, we should celebrate. Another?”

“Not for you, Missy,” Ray says. “Two more down here, Derrick.” He and Jon do one more shot each. The younger bartender has set down a large glass of water with a lemon in it, too–next to another shot of tequila. He winks at me as he walks away. I take it quickly, while Jon isn’t looking. The liquid sloshes onto my shirt sleeve as I drink it. This one burns even more.

“Liv!” Jon says, surprised. “Where’d you get that?”

“That other guy–Derrick. He gave it to me!” I laugh. “What, was I supposed to decline it? That would have been rude!”

He groans loudly, picking up the glass of water. Jon takes a sip of it before handing it to me.

“Please, drink this now,” he says, clearly worried. “This was so not my intention. Your dad will murder me. Forget Columbia. I’ll be in jail by morning.”

“Jon,” I giggle.

“Drink,” he repeats the order, serious. “Thanks, Ray.”

“You’re welcome, kid. I’m so proud of you.” His uncle hugs him once more.

“I think we’re gonna go get a quick bite to eat,” Jon says as he watches me suck down the water. “Have you eaten?”

“No. We’re supposed to have dinner together tonight, remember?”

“I was just wondering how drunk you’re going to be before we make it to the restaurant.”

“I’m not drunk.”

“You will be.”

“It was two drinks!”

“Drink,” he instructs once more. “They were two potent drinks on an empty stomach of a tiny girl.” He pokes me in the stomach as I gulp the water down, then takes the half-empty glass from me and sets it on the bar.

“I’m not a little girl.”

“I didn’t say that, first of all. And I certainly didn’t mean it that way, Olivia.” He stares at my lips. “Don’t get all pouty. There just aren’t a lot of places that alcohol can go in there except straight into your bloodstream.”

“I. Am. Fine.” In truth, I feel a little uneven, but I like it.

“There’s a taco shop two doors down,” Jon’s uncle suggests. “Tell them you’re my nephew. They owe me.”

“Thanks.” He guides me out of the bar, and I take his hand and start walking back the way we came. “This way,” he says with a soft tug. I trip into him, feeling a little unsteady. He wraps his arms around me tightly. “I wish you hadn’t done that,” he says softly.

I look at him curiously. “You watched him hand it to me,” I argue with him.

“The first one, yeah, but you said you didn’t want anything. I thought that meant you wouldn’t drink anything.”

“I thought you wanted me to.”

“Liv, what have I told you? I don’t want you to do anything you’re not comfortable with–”

I stop him from saying anything more by kissing him with no restraint. He takes a few steps backward to get out of the middle of the sidewalk, never letting up on the grasp around my body. He picks me up and sets me down on a step so we’re standing at nearly exactly the same height. He quickly takes off my cap and sunglasses, throwing them haphazardly onto the ground behind me. His arms return to hold me, his hands move down my back, finally settling deep into the pockets of my jeans, and he pulls me into him. I whimper quietly as I hold his head next to mine, one hand playing with his ear, the other toying with the short hair at the nape of his neck. I press my fingers into his scalp.

A slight moan forms in the back of his throat as he kisses my neck, then ducks his head next to my shoulder, taking quick breaths.

“Are you okay?” I ask as I softly run my fingers through his hair.

“No,” he whispers.


“New rule, Liv. No more tequila for you until you tell me we can go back to my apartment. Or better yet, Donna’s apartment.”

I laugh quietly to myself. “I don’t think it’s the tequila.”

“And I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.”

Contessa ©2012 Lori L. Otto