Guess who’s visiting GraveTells today?! Amy Lane, Amy Lane!
Someday I’m going to tell all on a podcast about how I practically roasted author Amy Lane the first time we met (in front of several of her peers, of course), how I grilled her seriously hard about a scene in Vulnerable* that nearly made me want to throw my Kindle device across the room (that takes a lot, folks), and how she graciously just took it all (and gave a “yeah, I know, I’m sorry!” shrug). And that was that. I tried some of her other books, and I’ve been an Amy Lane cheerleader ever since.
Never read Ms. Lane?
You’re missing out. For starters, her m/m romance Selfie was so touching, I chose it as my 2016 Book of the Year. It made me laugh out loud and giggle and press my hands to my chest and straight up sob. But we’re not talking about her ridiculously long and oh-so-readable backlist today. Nope, today we’re celebrating author Amy Lane’s newest release, BONFIRES!
Today Amy is bringing us an exclusive excerpt, a little snippet of the book you’ll only find right here on GraveTells. BUT FIRST, more about Bonfires!
Ten years ago Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George lost his wife and moved to Colton, hoping growing up in a small town would be better for his children. He’s gotten to know his community, including Mr. Larkin, the bouncy, funny science teacher. But when Larx is dragged unwillingly into administration, he stops coaching the track team and starts running alone. Aaron—who thought life began and ended with his kids—is distracted by a glistening chest and a principal running on a dangerous road.
Larx has been living for his kids too—and for his students at Colton High. He’s not ready to be charmed by Aaron, but when they start running together, he comes to appreciate the deputy’s steadiness, humor, and complete understanding of Larx’s priorities. Children first, job second, his own interests a sad last.
It only takes one kiss for two men approaching fifty to start acting like teenagers in love, even amid all the responsibilities they shoulder. Then an act of violence puts their burgeoning relationship on hold. The adult responsibilities they’ve embraced are now instrumental in keeping their town from exploding. When things come to a head, they realize their newly forged family might be what keeps the world from spinning out of control.
Now, the excerpt below isn’t so much smokin’ hot as charmingly entertaining. Here’s a taste of Ms. Lane’s signature quirky wit…
An hour—it took an hour for Larx to finally leave the stadium. He was the last one out, and the bright lights hovering over the field had been turned off but still glowed redly in the dark as he trotted through the gate and locked the chain.
Aaron had moved his car up to the entrance, and Larx waved as he approached.
“Thanks for waiting for me,” he panted. “That took way longer than I thought!”
“Yeah, well, it’s a big circus—lotsa monkeys.”
Larx grinned. “And the big gorilla doesn’t have a chance,” he said before making oo-oo noises and scratching his pits.
“C’mon, big gorilla—let’s get you home.”
“Aw, man. I’m still hungry. Aren’t you still hungry?”
Aaron had to think about it. “Two hot dogs,” he said, as though Larx hadn’t been there.
“But… ice cream! And coffee! C’mon—Frosties and Fries is still open, and most of the kids’ll be gone. Whatya say?”
More time in Larx’s company? Not running? Not in the company of teenagers or old friends or an entire town?
“Sure. No ice cream for me, though. I’m still trying to lose twenty-five pounds.”
Larx looked disappointed for a moment, and then he perked up. “You can have some of mine. I’ll make it a double.”
Aaron had to laugh. “You’re incorrigible.” He clicked the lock of his SUV and gestured at Larx to get in. After Aaron had started the car and the heater—because the temp had dropped to the low fifties—Larx resumed the conversation like it had never paused.
“You heard Anthony—I’m the rebel without a cause. Incorrigible is in my job description.”
“Sure it is.” Just like charming and funny and dedicated.
“I don’t know what I have to do to prove to you I’m a bad boy,” Larx opined. “I mean, I’m a terrible fraud: friends with the sheriff’s deputy, principal, father, and underneath it all is a street punk with an attitude. It’s tragic!”
Aaron laughed at his foolishness and then thought about it. Maybe this wasn’t all foolishness. Maybe this was Larx trying to say something important.
“Because green peas,” Larx said quickly.
“Your kids must have been hellaciously confused,” Aaron chuckled. “Why is it so important that I believe you were a bad boy?”
And just like that, Larx’s irrepressible energy tamped down.
“Well,” he said like he was choosing his words, “because. Because if you tell someone something about yourself and they don’t believe you, they’re… they’re getting to know someone who’s not really you.”
Aaron sighed. “How about if I tell you I’m not that bright and just ask you to give me bad-boy details. Will that work?”
Larx laughed. “I was angry,” he said after a few moments. “My dad split, my mom was working all the time, and it was just my sister and me. But she got sick in my freshman year of high school, and God. I hated the fucking world. My grades dropped, I pissed off all my teachers—got arrested a few times. Petty theft, vandalism. Usual kid shit, you know?”
“What happened to change it around?” Aaron ached for him. Sure, it was a long time ago. But a long time ago, Aaron had met a pretty woman and fallen in love. He still missed her, even though he’d lived almost as long without her as he had with her.
“Two things, actually,” Larx said promptly. “One was that my sister went into remission in my junior year, and once she felt better, she began to kick my ass.”
“Did it stick?” Aaron asked, hoping.
“No.” Larx looked out the window as the highway sped by, the shadows weaving together under a clear sky. “She passed during my first year of college. And we knew it might happen. So I just spent those two years not being an asshole so all the time I had with her—that would be good time.”
Larx looked at him, and his teeth flashed whitely in the dark. “You didn’t invent cancer.”
“What was the second thing?”
“My high school principal. Johnny Erickson. Great guy. Must have saved my ass from expulsion a dozen times. He’d bring me into his office and talk to me—just talk to me. Like a human. And he started to promise that if I stayed out of trouble, I could be an office TA and we could spend more time talking and less time with him chewing my ass.”
“Good guy,” Aaron said.
“So why’d you fight so hard not to be principal?”
Aaron caught the double take from the corner of his eye and grinned. “You obviously admired the guy—why didn’t you want to be just like him?”
“’Cause I couldn’t,” Larx said, like it was that simple. “Erickson, he was the best. I couldn’t measure up. I mean… just, no way. And every administrator I ever had, I fought tooth and nail. You know the drill—they’re all ‘test scores, numbers, rules!’ I was all ‘feed the kids, teach the kids, and the rules can go fuck!’”
“How’d that work out for you?” Aaron asked, voice soft.
“I’d rather not talk about that right now.”
Aaron’s stomach went cold, and every instinct as a law enforcement officer started to whisper that here—here was where the real story was.
But they were close. Their conversation in the car—this was one of the most intimate things Aaron had experienced in ten years.
“So what about you?” Larx asked into the quiet. “Law and order all your life?”
“Not that it did me much good,” Aaron acknowledged. “Out of school, into the military, folks were so proud. Got a wife, had kids, folks passed away, wife died in a car wreck—and following the rules got me three kids who are probably worse for having me as a father.”
“No!” Larx protested, and some of the passion was back in his voice. “That’s not true. Kirby adores you. I know Maureen thought the world of you. Don’t give up on your oldest. She’s just… you know. Like me. Angry. She’s going to regret every bad thing she says. And you need to keep stretching out the olive branch, because you never know when she’ll take it.”
“I sent her like twelve kitten videos,” Aaron said. “Nothin’.”
“Well, you know. Maybe try puppies. Or alpacas. Or bunnies. Or, you know, anime.”
“You know—Japanese animation. Christiana is nuts about it. I’ll get her to send me some pictures you can forward.”
Aaron had to laugh. “You know, not that your help isn’t appreciated—”
“I’m not giving up,” Larx said, eyes gleaming in the darkness. “Seriously. We can’t have our steadfast Deputy George feeling defeated! Where would the town get its hope!”
“From its dedicated principal, of course,” Aaron said gallantly, and Larx’s belly laugh was his reward.
“So you’ll keep trying?”
Of course he would. “As long as you keep running with me in the mornings,” Aaron said, because hey, he was a shameless opportunist.
“Deal. Tomorrow too?”
Aaron groaned. “God, don’t you ever sleep in?”
“Well, I’ll be honest. If I don’t run tomorrow, I’m pulling up my summer garden, so it’s probably more responsible to let you get some shut-eye.”
“I work late shift tomorrow night anyway,” Aaron admitted. “We all sort of spread out during the weekends so nobody sacrifices all of the family reunions and such.”
“And you probably go to church on Sunday.” Larx sounded dispirited.
“Nope. Do you?”
“God no!” He giggled then, probably getting the irony of the blasphemy after he said it. “No. No church for the Larkin family. I’m surprised about you, though.”
Aaron thought about it carefully. Religions made or broke relationships sometimes. “It’s not that I don’t believe,” he said after a few moments. They came to Frosties and Fries, and he pulled in to park, making sure they had a good half hour before closing time so he could at least finish the conversation. “I mean, there’s a higher power. There must be. I saw it in my wife’s eyes, you know? In our children. But I get tired. I get tired of people using their symbol—and I don’t give a rat’s ass which one—like a get-out-of-asshole-free card. That thing around your neck does not give you a free pass to judge while you go around and kick kittens and smack orphans, you know?”
“I do know,” Larx said. “But wow.”
“Wow what?” Aaron looked at him, hoping not to see censure or criticism.
Larx’s smile reassured him. “I was just going to say my family was Methodist when I was a kid, and they didn’t have a church up here, so I didn’t feel comfy to go.”
Aaron laughed. “Well, that too, except Unitarian.”
“Oooh—even your church was fancy.”
Aaron sighed and decided for a little more honesty. “Besides. Once my wife died, I… I was angry too. Not so much anymore, but like you said. Not feeling it.”
“Well, good to know. Want to come help me with my garden if I’m not done?”
“What’s my reward?”
Larx appeared to think about it. “Well, I’ve got the last of the squash, and some tomatoes, and I think there’s some tubers I haven’t mined yet. And you say your chickens are still laying, and I traded some canned tomatoes to that little artisan dairy that serves at the B and B’s—”
“That’s the one. Anyway. I’ve got fresh cheese and hamburger that remembers when it was a real cow. I don’t know what all that will become, but between me and Christiana, it should be something that doesn’t suck.”
“So no spaghilli?” Aaron asked, getting out of his car while Larx howled in outrage.
About the author
Amy Lane has two kids in college, two gradeschoolers in soccer, two cats, and two Chi-who-whats at large. She lives in a crumbling crapmansion with most of the children and a bemused spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and gay romance–and if you accidentally make eye contact, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.
What did you think? Let’s chat!
Did you like the excerpt? Are you already an AmyLaniac? Do you love gay romance? Leave a comment below! <3
PSSST! If you’re going to RT2017, find her! She’s giving out hot chocolate and coasters as swag! So perfect…
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