July 7, 2013 by Anne Tenino
Have you ever notice that the word “news” is simply “new” with an “s” on the end? It makes “old news” a bit of an oxymoron, but no one ever promised the world wasn’t moronic, I guess.
Anywho, I’m not appearing to tell you all that. I’m here to give you a little treat—an excerpt from Sweet Young Thang (out July 22). But first, you must suffer through news. If I can remember what I wanted to say.
Oh! I started a newsletter. To sign up, go here. If you’re familiar with my blogging history, I think it won’t be hard to believe me when I say I won’t send them out much. If you aren’t familiar with said history, you’ll just have to trust me (or not sign up, I suppose).
Also of note is this horrible picture of me, which shows the totally awesome chair I bought when I finished edits for SYT (my little reward). “A chair?” you ask. Yes, a chair, or, as I think of it now, my remote office. See, the husband makes me go camping, plus I like to sit outside in the summer and write there, so dammit, I’m doing it with a drink holder, an umbrella and a foot rest, (plus an insulated pocket in the other arm for snackies, and various compartments for whatever). My daughter took this picture. I hate it, but it makes me laugh.
There are other things, but I weary of trying to remember. Let’s just get on with the excerpt, shall we? I’m not going to set it up, other than to say it’s in Collin’s point of view.
(Here’s the buy link, in case you’re ready to commit.)
On Friday morning, Collin woke up to the bed swaying and bouncing under him, and his first thought was that the last guy he’d picked up at the Slaughterhouse—before Christmas break—was here to rock his world again. He opened his eyes just in time to watch some books topple off his desk in the dim daylight.
What the fuck?
His next thought was, I’d never take a guy back here. Not to Theta Alpha Gamma House, even though he didn’t currently have a roommate.
“Hey! I think it’s an earthquake!” Someone yelled from the hallway, then screamed, followed by a thud-thud-thud-thunk.
That thoroughly woke Collin up.
Holy shit, earthquake!
He half-fell out of bed, expecting to feel the floor jolting under him, but there was no sound or movement—even the dust motes had suspended all motion. The sudden stillness stifled him, gluing his butt to the carpet. Like something had thickened the air to jelly, encouraging him to blink in stupefaction.
He heard a moan from outside his room. Possibly from the bottom of the stairs? He fought off his inertia and scrambled up, reaching for the knob and yanking hard a couple of times before the door would open. The air swirled sluggishly as he ran the three feet to the right that brought him to the top of the stairs.
“Help!” Someone shouted from the bottom just as Collin reached it. The railing had cracked in half a few feet down, and some spindles were missing, along with some of the actual steps. Seriously scary-looking wooden spikes were poking out above the foyer, and the whole thing hung in mid-air.
What the hell did that?
As he started down the staircase, it creaked loudly. He hugged the wall, but he could see far enough over the side to make out Julian crouched over a pair of legs. One of them looked really, really wrong—legs couldn’t bend that way naturally, could they?
Even more alarming, he could swear he smelled smoke. “Oh, no,” he whispered, back sliding down the wall past the broken part of the banister.
Jules looked up at him, face pale and eyes open wide. “It’s Ricky, I think he’s injured.”
Uh, yeah. “Don’t move him,” Collin said out loud. “Do you smell anything?”
“What the hell?” Kyle’s voice came from above him, and Collin looked up to see him and a bunch of other guys looking down the stairs, gape-mouthed. Some stared at Collin and some peered into the foyer. “Shit . . . earthquake?” Kyle asked, looking uncertain. They all seemed as slow-moving as he’d been; being shaken awake had stunned the fraternity house occupants into a daze.
“I don’t think that was an earthquake,” Collin said. “Do you smell something burning?” He was past the break in the railing, so he gave up his caution and rushed down the last steps. He could hear Kyle and the other guys starting down the stairs. It sounded like a herd of very heavy lemmings rushing a cliff edge. One that creaked alarmingly.
Suddenly everyone was talking and moving in normal time. Jules stood up and waved Collin over, looking at him as if he could somehow fix things. Guys spilled into the entryway and under the stairs, shouted, moved into other rooms to check for damage. Collin knelt next to Ricky’s leg, but he wasn’t sure what to do next. He didn’t want to touch the guy’s knee—just looking at it made his skin crawl. He turned to ask how it felt, but Ricky’s eyes were scrunched tightly shut and his skin was white and dotted with sweat.
He took a guess that it didn’t feel good.
“Does anything hurt?” Kyle asked, coming up behind him and stepping over Ricky’s feet to kneel on the other side.
“I think it’s his leg,” Jules said. Kyle reached to probe the knee, but Ricky hissed.
He yanked his hand back. “Okay, no touching.”
“Dude, what the fuck is this?” Tank asked from under the stairwell, and out of the corner of his eye he saw a couple other guys join Tank. Whatever “this” was, they’d have to deal with it.
Jules leaned forward and gripped Kyle’s shoulder, nearly pushing him over onto the mangled limb. “Can you do anything for him? Is he going to be all right? Is it his leg?”
Ricky moaned, and Collin barely stopped himself from telling Julian to stop being such a drama queen. Maybe he was in shock. Or just being his stupid self.
“How am I supposed to know? He needs an ambulance.” Kyle shook Jules’s hand off, turning to look up at him. “We need to call 911.”
“Oh!” Jules nodded vigorously. “Someone should do that.” Then he dropped down to kneel next to Ricky’s head.
Kyle looked up at Collin, raising an eyebrow.
He was about to stand up and find the house phone when the door to the basement burst open, and Turbo and Danny spilled out into the hall off the foyer—they must have fallen asleep in the TV room again. They hacked and waved their arms around, like they were trying to clear something out of the air.
Possibly the smoke pouring into the house from behind them.
Turbo heaved in a breath. “Fire—” hack, hack “—Explosion. Furnace. Dudes!”
In spite of lots of the guys being hung over, the frat house was evacuated surprisingly fast without a lot of wailing or freaking out. Collin even managed to throw on shoes and grab his jacket from the entryway. For once he appreciated Julian’s insistence that they leave those things by the front door. Tank packed Ricky out over his shoulder—there was some wailing going on there, but it was totally understandable. Even Billings’s pet chameleon, Snake, made it out.
“We really shouldn’t have moved him,” Kyle said while he and Collin followed Tank across the street to the lawn of the Nu Omicron Mu sorority. “He could have a spinal injury.”
“What else were we gonna do? Leave him in a burning building?”
By the time Tank set Ricky down on the lawn of the sorority, the dude was making enough noise to assure Kyle that he still possessed a fully functioning nervous system and was capable of feeling pain.
One of the Nu Omicron Mu girls had called 911, so Collin didn’t have to after all. Instead, he ended up helping Kyle try to keep Ricky . . . well, “comfortable” seemed like a lot to hope for. They just aimed for no screaming. Crying was acceptable.
“The ambulance will be here soon,” Collin said for the third time. This time he could hear sirens, though, so it wasn’t a lie.
Ricky groaned, and more tears leaked down his cheeks. Maybe they should give him whiskey? Collin turned to ask the sorority girl talking to Kyle about it and heard her say, “—and I told them I thought it might be a bomb.”
“What?” Kyle yelled, red in the face.
Why would she think someone had tried to blow them up?
“You seriously thought someone’s that pissed off we have an openly gay fraternity brother? That they’d bomb us?”
Oh, no. Collin went suddenly cold all over, thinking about his conversation last night with Monty.
The girl planted her hands on her hips and leaned forward, right into Kyle’s face. “Well, considering the boom I heard this morning and the way the last Greek Council meeting went, yeah, I think it’s possible.”
Kyle looked away, muttering curse words under his breath and turning even redder.
Collin stood up and asked calmly, “Kyle, how did the council meeting go?” And why hadn’t he said anything? He knew Collin had a stake in this shit. They all did.
Kyle ran a hand through his hair and wouldn’t look at him. “Not very well.”
Collin gritted his teeth. “Kyyyyle . . .”
“Later, okay?” Kyle gave him a pleading look. “Let’s get through this and I’ll tell you later.”
Collin pointed at him. “You better. I need to know.” So much for all that work convincing Monty that Brad coming out and the new policy wasn’t going to be a problem. This could be a fucking disaster.
Kyle’s hand landing on his shoulder startled him, and he looked up from the grass he’d been staring blindly at. “We’ll figure this out, I swear, but we gotta get through this situation first. Maybe she’s overreacting.” Kyle jerked his head slightly toward the sorority girl, who was watching them, arms crossed and shaking her head. Kyle lowered his voice. “I know how important this is to you.”
Important? His uncle believing that gay was okay was absolutely necessary to Collin’s own future.
“Does someone need a paramedic?”
Collin whirled around to see a man coming through the crowd toward them. A fireman in navy blue cargo pants and a white uniform shirt under a navy jacket, carrying an oversized duffle, another fireman—whoops, firewoman. Firefighter? Whatever, she was walking along just behind him.
The guy in front seemed to take in the scene, first looking at Kyle, then zeroing in on Ricky. Just as he reached them, he glanced at Collin, then away. When their eyes met, Collin absently noted that he was cute. More than cute. Sexy.
Suddenly, eyes widening in what Collin thought for sure was recognition, the firefighter looked at him again.
They didn’t know each other. Did they? He remembered every guy he’d ever been with before. Didn’t he? Collin shook off the weird momentary pang in his chest, whatever the hell it was. He couldn’t afford to stress out now; Ricky still needed him and the frat was burning to ashes.
The firefighter—paramedic?—dropped his gaze and looked back down at Ricky. “So, I guess he’s the patient?”