Make Waves Excerpt: Supplemental Oysters

First off? If you came here from LinkedIn, this is my PERSONAL blog… and this character, Max Scott? He has no filter and no boundaries. Read at your own risk. I’m not remotely joking. Also? He might be my favorite character. Judge me if if you will. And with that…

I try to maintain a neutral expression as I look over the menu. I never pay the check when Callen and I go out. Ever. And when I go out with Trey and Coley, it’s a casual thing. Nothing fancy. But with Callen, normally with the pricier places, they don’t put the prices on the menu. He just knows the prices going in, like it’s given to rich people with their birth certificates at the hospital. I guess he researches online, but whatever. I’ve seen the totals from time-to-time, and never have I thought any piece of food, no matter how tasty, was worth the money he’s spent on it.

Unlike other places, Per Se is proud of their products and what they charge for them. My eyes can’t seem to leave the numbers beside the Prix Fixe at the bottom of the page. It’s absolutely insane.

“Do you know what you want?” he asks, sitting in the seat next to me. “Or have any questions?”

Are you fucking out of your mind?

“Uhhh.” I scan the menu, seeing multiple items with the word supplemental beneath them–and what appear to be prices. “Does the word supplemental mean what I think it means?”

He laughs lightly. “Yes, Max. Get over it.”

“Oh, this is sooo shit’s not happening. Pinch me. Get me out of this… weird purgatorial dining hall, where the food is amazing but every entree is served with a side of immense remorse and the memories of your poor and unfortunate childhood and all the friends you left behind in Queens.”

“Funny, I’m having carrots with mine.”

I glare over at him and scan everything, doing some quick math. Leaning over and whispering to him, I ask, “So, you’re telling me that one of us–one of us–could end up spending 725 dollars on one meal?”

“That will probably be me, yes. You’re welcome to, but I know you don’t like foie gras.”

“I don’t even know what that is, so I’ll save you another 175,” I tell him, nodding my head in disbelief. I hold up my menu to shield my mouth from the rest of the dining room. “Wasteful,” I mouth silently.

“Worth it,” he says, taking my menu and holding my hand. He looks up at the waiter, who I didn’t even know had approached our table. “Max, did you want to start with the oysters or scallops?”

Knowing the scallops were supplemental, I feel immense guilt when I respond. “Scallops.” Oysters have never really been my thing.

“Two scallops. We’ll figure the rest out in the meantime.”

“Yes, Mr. McNare.”

“Babe,” he says, leaning in. “You know I don’t feel an ounce of guilt spending money like this. Just let it go, okay? Forget the prices. Forget the chef’s ego, because it’s obviously huge, right?”

I nod.

“Tell me you won’t remember this night.”

I run my fingers through my hair. “The shock has left a mark, yes. The way you look,” I tell him, giving him a once-over. I swallow, shake my head and sigh. “Very memorable, too. You look… like someone I shouldn’t be dating, that’s for sure. I mean, I finally get the Adonis thing. He’s definitely here. In the flesh. Let’s get you codpiece and call it a day.”

“Why the codpiece? In the statue, he’s completely nude.”

“Then…” I reach for his tie, but he stops me, laughing, before I get my hands on it.

“Behave.” He takes my hand again and holds his menu up in front of me. “Figure it out.”

“Already know.” He points out his guesses, nailing them all. “I’m too predictable.” I dip my head in shame.

“Just because I know what you eat doesn’t make you any less spontaneous. You keep me guessing all the time. Believe me. I wish I could do more of that.”

“I think you have lately.” I nod. “My birthday present? Come on. No clue.”

“Gifts don’t count. They’re supposed to be surprises.”

Our waiter delivers our first course and refills my water. “Thanks,” I tell him, smiling. Curiously, I compare my dish with Callen’s.

“Did you order a supplemental oyster?” I point to the offending shellfish on my plate that’s somehow arranged beautifully among the rest of the food.

He shakes his head.

“You want it?” I pick it up with my spoon and fork and start to pass it over to his plate. He stops me with his hand.

“No!” he says. “Don’t. Put it back.”

“Okay.” I shrug.

“Eat your scallops.” He points at my food with his fork just before he takes a bite. “Man. They’re amazing. Taste.”

“Maybe worth 50 supplemental bucks, but I don’t know about 60,” I tease him after eating one. He rolls his eyes. “Fifty-five, tops.”

“We can take it off his tip,” Callen says, looking at me with a straight face.

“Fuck that, he’s been super nice.” I take a drink and choke on my water, realizing the tip situation. “Do you tip 20 percent on top of the total bill?”

“At least, yes, Max.”

“Why am I doing social work when I could wait tables at a swanky place like this?”

“Well, you needed the waiter’s help putting the cloth napkin in your lap to eat; how many other etiquette rules do you think you’d have to catch up on?”

“Ahhh, fuck that.” Etiquette-wise, I know to speak softly and close to my boyfriend when I feel the need to curse. I can control it; but in context here, it’s definitely needed. “I didn’t need to do that with my napkin. I can feed myself with a 98 percent success rate of getting food into my mouth. Plus, my customers could behave how they wanted.”

“Then you’d lose all the other customers who come here expecting a certain level of decorum.”

“And fuck them.”

When I’m finished with my scallops, I put my knife and fork on my plate properly to signal that the waiter can take my plate–both at 4:20. Like that was hard to remember.

When Gerald comes, though, he only takes Callen’s plate. “Didn’t I do it right?” I ask.

“I guess you didn’t finish,” he says. “That supplemental oyster is still there. I know you hate for things to go to waste. Maybe Gerald knows that about you, too. You’re pretty outspoken with your environmentalism.”

“Seriously? You eat it. I don’t want it. I’ll gag.”

“How can you gag over an oyster when you can take me so easily?” he asks. I glare at him. “Open it and I’ll take it. It’s already cracked. You just have to pry it up.”

I pick up my utensils again and stick the fork into it, expecting a little bit of a struggle. There’s really no prying; it easily lifts.

And there’s no oyster.

Read the rest on May 1! Preorder now! Make Waves ©2019 Lori L. Otto

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 

Are you ready to read? Get Love Like We Do (side a), Love Like We Do (side b), (It Happened) One Friday and In the Wake of Wanting… or check out ALL of my books!

Pre-order Make Waves today!

Make Waves is coming!

Yes, we have a release date! On May 1, you will FINALLY get a new full-length novel after two and a half years. I know, I’m a horrible person for making you wait so long.

Make Waves will be available exclusively on Kindle and paperback, so if you’d like to preorder the ebook, go right ahead!

Here are the details about my first release of this year:

On a humid, spring morning in New York City, the love affair between a young man and his hometown began to fade with the notification of favorable surf conditions on the other side of the country and a breakfast of leftover guac on stale bread.

Max Scott has been waiting for a sign to leave ever since.

He’s not worried about his family and friends. They won’t be roadblocks to his relocation; they barely missed him while he put in four years at Long Beach State. And his job? Crash test dummies are treated better. They probably get paid more, too.

But things are happening that make it difficult to leave anytime soon.

There’s his mother. After finally getting clean, cancer took up residence in her body, and she doesn’t have much time left. Max won’t leave her behind.

There’s Callen, his boyfriend of seven years. Next summer, he’s set to take over his dad’s company, which is based in Manhattan. That could create a 3,000-mile complication.

There’s the state of the country. After four repressive years, a standout candidate for president is a senator based in NYC. He’s younger, single and gay. Max is inspired to help elect the nation’s first queen.

Hiding the restlessness bubbling just beneath the surface, Max finds himself caught between a placid routine of the life he’s accustomed to and the wild, raging curiosity of what’s waiting on the other side.

He just needs that push off the deep end.

Make Waves is the first in a two-book duet.

Author’s Note: Before reading this book, it is recommended that you at least read the following books: Love Like We Do (side a), Love Like We Do (side b), (It Happened) One Friday and In the Wake of Wanting.

MakeWavesFinalCoverRGB small

If you’re excited, let me know in the comments!

A book as free as love should be…

Love Like We Do (side a) is FREE Monday, October 31, and Tuesday, November 1. FREE. It’s never been free before, and it will probably never be free again.

Love Like We Do (side a)
Exclusively on Kindle

Love Like We Do is a coming-of-age, coming-out story of two teenage boys. If you’ve seen all the recent chatter about In the Wake of Wanting–or if you’ve read it–Love Like We Do (side a) features the first glimpse of Trey Holland as a young adult. Here, he is sixteen and one of two narrators on the periphery of this love story, relating what it’s like when he discovers that not only are his two best friends gay, but they’re in love with one another.

The second narrator is Jon Scott, the older brother of Max Rosser. It’s a shock when Jon finds out his youngest brother is gay, but he is fully supportive and works hard to bridge the gap widening in his family due to his mother’s overzealous spirituality and Max’s homosexuality.

When Max’s boyfriend, Callen McNare, disappears, it prompts a nationwide search and weeks of self-discovery for Max, his family and his friends.

Once you’ve finished Side A, you’ll want to read Side B, which allows Max and Callen to tell the story from their points of view. The series is eye-opening, heartbreaking and life-affirming.

Love Like We Do (side b)
Exclusively on Kindle


What’s to come…

I was thinking today about all the books I have in the works… and they’ve been the same books for about six months now, so I thought I’d just put it out there with a VERY rough timeline so you could all see what’s on my plate. Remember: I said very ROUGH timeline, so none of the dates mean much of anything. They’re just estimates. Anything could happen and knock everything off-kilter.

The dates in parenthesis are estimated publication dates.


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!

Kindle Readers: Preorder Love Like We Do today for a discount!


The preorder price for both books in the Love Like We Do series is $1 cheaper than the regular sale price! Preorder both, and save $2!

To get your copies of Love Like We Do for your Kindle for just $2.99 each, click the links below!