White-Knuckled Moments is getting released on September 25 through Loose Id. I just got the cover in ye olde email inbox, and I’m pretty darn stoked. April Martinez is the artist, and she did a lovely job!
Cory’s life has a deadline, and he’s working hard to make the most of the time he has left. He knows he won’t be able to complete everything on his bucket list, but the first entry is the most important to him. He wants to come out to his intensely religious family so they’ll remember him a little more accurately once he’s gone.
When Tai falls for Cory, he does his best to convince Cory to date him. When he’s turned down flat, he talks Cory into a one night stand, knowing that once he gets under his coworker’s skin, Cory will want more. Much more. Tai knows that a relationship with Cory is going to be complicated, but he has some impressive persuasion techniques up his sleeve. He’s giving Cory the chance to fall in love—one thing that Cory has refused to add to his bucket list because he never thought it could happen.
Here’s a preview:
1. Come out to family.
I had a lot of entries on my bucket list, but that one was the most important to me. When my doctor told me that my last round of chemo hadn’t done anything and I had maybe twelve months to live, I decided to stop treatments altogether and chip away at my list. It wasn’t fancy—most items were doable without a ton of time and money—but it was long. I kept adding to it every time I thought of something I wanted to do, or needed to do, or was scared shitless to do. Maybe my subconscious thought that if I kept lengthening the list, I’d somehow lengthen my life, as well.
Some items were easy—number twenty-four involved touring a local brewery, and I’d crossed that off the first week I implemented the list. I’d gotten my passport (number sixty-two) and had so far failed to convince my older brother to drive me to Canada, so I could say I’d been out of the country (number twelve). Number eight, finding a real job, had been a bit trickier. I’d filled out applications for months before I got a call about a student position at the university library. Then there were things I’d never feasibly be able to do, but wanted to do anyway. Number ten was to get my master’s degree in something absolutely useless and number eighty-one was having a twenty-fifth birthday.
I was still working on how to complete number one. It scared me more than anything else I’d come up with so far. I came from a religious Republican farming family that had never set foot outside the Midwest, and they weren’t going to take it well. Sure, I could keep hiding myself, but I didn’t feel right dying with that kind of secret on my chest. I wanted my family to know exactly who I was before they all stood around my casket, eulogizing me until all my bad points were buried under heaps of empty platitudes and a mosaic of glorified memory. I was comfortably, quietly out at school. The state university I attended was large. Half the city’s population came from students, and the size gave me some anonymity. I had even managed a relationship my sophomore year.
I still felt like a shell of myself whenever I went home. I needed that to change, even if it meant disapproval from my parents.
* * * *
“Poltier?” Rachel, the woman in a knee-length corduroy skirt and a brown sweater who ruled over the circulation desk, called my name from the door of the library’s human resources office. She’d interviewed me the previous week and had been suitably impressed with my lack of a real résumé.
“Yes?” I sat up a little straighter and had the sudden urge to take off the stocking cap as she eyed it with a frown. I stopped myself in time—my head was still chemo-bald and covered in scars, and I was a little afraid that all the chemicals had scared my hair away permanently this time.
“Come with me. I’ll set you up with one of my evening kids. I have a ton of material for you to read—emergency manuals, how to work our software system, and the like—and if you have any questions, he can answer. He’ll also show you what to do and ease you into things. I’d appreciate it if you stayed until close. This will be one of your shifts once you’re trained up properly. I’d like you to see what you’re getting into.”
The library closed at twelve, and number twenty-five, watching a meteor shower, was also in the plans this evening. I’d brought a little blanket with me so I could sit on the large grassy lawn of central campus and watch.
“I can do that,” I said, following.
She led me to the large atrium, through the rows of public-use computers, and back behind the long counter that served as a circulation desk. Two students swiped cards and manned the scanners. She pointed to a chair next to the boy on the left. He had an androgynous Chinese face, and I felt my gut tighten a little as his dark gaze swung my way.
Oh yes. He was gorgeous.
“Tai, this is Cory Poltier. He’ll work the night shift with you Tuesdays and Fridays, so train him well. Cory, Tai Xie. He’s a senior and has been with the library for four years.”
A senior? Tai barely looked legal.
“Pleased to meet you,” he said, extending a slim hand. I shook it, and he held tightly as his gaze swept me from top to bottom.
“Um, you too.” I tried not to blush as he finished his inspection.
“Sit and read through those agonizingly boring binders,” Tai said. “You can stop me with questions later. In a few hours, when things slow down, you can try doing a little on your own.” He flashed me a brilliant grin before turning back to the line of students. “Next?”
The night crept by as I read about responding to fire alarms and how to move books in case of flooding, and when I got bored, I watched Tai scan books and collect fines. The constant trickle of students died down to nearly nothing during the last hour, and Tai made small talk and showed me shelves of books that professors had put on reserve.
He had this habit of turning his wrist upward and stroking it with the fingers of his other hand when he was explaining something in detail. The movement was slow and sensual, and my thoughts swung from library-related things to how, exactly, that touch would feel along my wrist or neck or thighs or other very, very needy parts of me. I found myself in a sweet hell every time he bent over my shoulder or accidentally brushed my arm.
“You catch on quickly. I think you’re ready to go on shift with me,” Tai said as we waited at the front doors. The other circulation student had made her excuses and slipped out a few minutes early. Security was checking to make sure nobody had stayed in the building, and we’d just finished shutting down our computer system. I dug through my backpack to find the little blanket I’d brought for staring at the night sky.
“It went better than I thought it would. How often does it get that slow?”
“This late at night, it’s usually this dead. The weeks before and the weeks of midterms and finals are always busy, but the rest of the time, you’ll be able to do a little homework during the late shift.”
“Oh nice.” I pulled the rolled-up flannel blanket from my bag and tucked it under one arm.
“What’s that for?” Tai peered down at the brown fabric.
“There’s a meteor shower going on tonight. I’m going to camp out on central campus and watch for a few hours.”
“Really? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.” Tai looked through the glass doors, blinking up at the sky.
“We’ll need to move farther away from the security lights before we can see anything,” I said.
“Is it okay if I tag along?” He looked nervous, all of a sudden. Shy.
“Yeah. That’s fine.” I don’t know why I agreed. I’d had a partial erection for the whole six-hour shift just from sitting next to him, and I didn’t need to complicate my life by lusting after a coworker, but something about Tai made me want to stay near him.
Security chose that moment to come down the stairs.
“That’s our cue to go,” Tai said, pushing the door open. “Come on.”
We walked slowly out to the large hill that marked the center of campus. Buildings ringed the grassy park, but they were far enough away for us to get a good look at the sky. I snapped the blanket open and settled it over the grass before parking myself firmly on one side. Tai sat down a little closer to me than he needed to be, and I tried not to show how much he affected me. My skin prickled at the light brush of his arm against mine, and I sprawled backward to put a little space between us.
The moon was no more than a sliver, and I picked out half a dozen constellations as I stared up at the sky. I looked over at Tai, only to find him staring at me instead of looking for telltale streaks of meteors.
“I like you,” he said. “I know it’s sudden, and I know it’s silly, but I really like you.”
He leaned over me and pressed his soft lips to mine. His head tilted to one side, and I could see a sliver of the night sky above him. His hand stroked along my jawline, fingers tentative in their exploration. I gave in for a moment, torn between taking the kiss somewhere fiercer and pushing Tai away to protect my fragile mind. After a few second of submitting to the intensity of his kiss, I stopped moving. A meteor sparked overhead and left a shimmering trail of light across the part of the sky I could still see.
I wished I could have this. I wished so hard my heart ached.
Tai pulled away as soon as he realized I’d stopped kissing him back.
“Did I read you wrong?” His eyebrows knit together, and fine lines of worry appeared around his eyes, but his fingers never left my face.
“No, you didn’t,” I said, reaching up to touch his hand. “And I want to, but I can’t.”
“Why? Are you already in a relationship? Are you not out? What’s up?”
“I’m single, and I’m out—here at least, not at home yet—but I have a lot of complications in my life that would screw up a relationship, and a one-night stand with a coworker is a terrible idea. The job means a lot to me. I don’t want things to get all thorny.”
Tai sighed and pulled away. He lay down next to me, this time with too much distance between us.
“I’m sorry.” I think I apologized more to myself than to Tai. He reached over and squeezed my arm.
“I can’t promise not to keep chasing after you, but I’ll back off when you want me to back off. I’ll try not to make things too weird. Damn it, Cory. You’re exactly what I want in a boyfriend.”
“You’ve known me for six hours. How can you tell?”
“I just know. Like you know. You like me too.” His voice was firm, leaving no room for doubt. I couldn’t refute his statement without lying, so I kept my mouth shut.
Another streak of light caught my attention, and I pointed up.
“Oh! Beautiful.” He laughed a little, though the sound held a whole host of emotions that weren’t all positive.
We lay quietly, side by side, as the sky lit up for nearly an hour. When we parted, we parted as coworkers. At least that’s what I kept telling myself when I got home and jerked off to the memory of that too-brief kiss.