Today’s the official release day of the Deep Secrets and Hope bundle from Harmony Ink Press! To celebrate, instead of posting a teaser from a single book, I’m sharing very short snippets from each of the six in the series.
I was halfway in love with Taffy Sweet. As a man, he was gorgeous. Blond hair so close to white that I suspected it was bleached, usually in a spiky style that made my fingers itch to touch it. I was pretty sure his eyes were blue, though the lighting used in the confessionals made it hard to tell. I couldn’t deny my attraction to him.
And as a queen, she was just plain beautiful, though sometimes in unconventional ways. Some of her costumes took goth up to eleven, going above and beyond the types of things even the hardcore goths at my school wore, while others were so frilly and poofy they practically gave me high blood sugar. That was the main reason I was rooting for her to win. The other queens were pretty much one-note. Taffy proved every week that she could change herself to match her mood or the moods of the judges.
I wanted to meet her when I grew up. Scratch that. I wanted to be her when I grew up.
I put the phone back in my pocket and groaned. I couldn’t win. If I’d stuck to my plans with Evan, Mami would have been upset. And then Papi would have gotten on my case for upsetting her.
Now I would only have about half an hour with Evan, which would make him unhappy. He knew how important my family was to me, so he wouldn’t be too upset. But I’d promised him I would go to his place after practice and stay for supper because his mom had to work late, and now I had to break my promise.
Sometimes I wondered why he bothered going out with me. He had to hide it from everyone else, and half the time I ended up saying something stupid or breaking plans with him so people wouldn’t find out.
I wanted to be worth the effort for him, and I doubted I was. But he was beyond worth it for me.
I’d sworn again. I hadn’t meant to, but I couldn’t help it. Everything was pissing me off, and Kendra wasn’t even close to helping. I wanted to smack her to get it through her head that she was being an idiot, but I didn’t think that would be a good idea.
The fact that I kept talking and thinking about smacking people worried me. No matter how angry I got, I wasn’t violent. Except sometimes with my brothers, but that was usually because they started it.
“You have a lot to be angry about.” Kendra still looked and sounded completely calm.
I didn’t get how she could be that way. I was furious. She should have felt something.
“Yeah, well, I was fine until November,” I said. That was when Guillermo had realized Jim had done something to me. He’d stuck his nose right in it, first persuading me to tell him what had happened, then convincing me to report it so Jim wouldn’t do it to anyone else.
I should have refused. It wasn’t up to me to save every freaking girl in Massachusetts from the guy. Sometimes I hated Guillermo for making me speak up, but he’d had my back ever since.
My train of thought went right off the tracks. I bit my lip again and turned to look at her.
She nodded. “Yeah, you’re my girlfriend. You’ve been twitchy about changing in front of me since the first time I invited you over to try things on, though.”
“Right.” I held up my hand. “This kind of doesn’t make any sense in my brain, and I’m trying to translate it to say it. I’m failing.”
“You don’t have to explain.” She held out her hand. “Come here.”
I sat beside her and took her hand. My hand was sweaty, of course, because why would it have been as cool and dry as hers? She was Chastaine Rollo. Always calm, cool, and collected, even when people called her names and talked behind her back. I was just Holly McCormack, the wallflower drama geek.
“Is it because you’re afraid I’ll see you naked and be overcome with lust?” Chastaine said.
I cracked up laughing, partly at the way she said it and partly at the idea she would lust after someone who looked like me.
A while after Delia returned from lunch, a bunch of people my age invaded the shop. I was running the register while Delia did some paperwork in the back.
Even though Delia had told me the art club would be coming in, I hadn’t expected a dozen kids. They spread out around the place as much as they could, picking up supplies and flipping through sketchbooks.
Gut aching, I tried to breathe. I didn’t know that any of them had heard about me. Maybe they hadn’t. And Delia was right. They wouldn’t see a monster when they looked at me. Just a guy like them.
I was afraid to deal with them, though. What if they’d seen my name or picture online? I wasn’t supposed to leave the register unattended, but I quickly stumbled through the curtain into the back room.
“Get back out there,” Delia said without looking up from the papers on her desk.
“I can’t.” I gasped and choked on thin air. Coughing hurt my throat, but I could handle pain. It gave me something solid to hold onto.
Mom walked over to the chair at my desk but didn’t sit. “This is becoming a problem, Man-Shik. When your father and I approved the friendship with Jim, we assumed the situation would settle down once people learned the whole story. And we feel badly for him. Despite what he did, if he’s paid the price and wants to start over, he should have the chance. He’s only your age.”
I braced myself. “But?”
“But issues keep cropping up. I’m not sure it’s good for you to be involved.”
That was pretty much what I’d expected her to say. No matter what she thought about Jim, I was her son. I was the one she had to protect. And the one who had to make sure our family didn’t get a bad reputation around town, though neither of my parents would ever have said so.
I tore a piece of paper out of my notebook and stuck it in my book to keep my place, then set the closed book beside me. This discussion was going to take a while.