Today I am so pleased to welcome Eliot Grayson to Joyfully Jay. Eliot has come to share an exclusive excerpt from The One Decent Thing. Eliot has also brought along some copies to give away. Please join me in giving Eliot a big welcome!
My throat was so dry I had to swallow twice before I could get a single word out of my mouth. “You should get in,” I managed. Aidan stared at me, his face bloodless and ashen in spite of his tan. His massive shoulders filled the door.
Oh God, what the hell was I doing? He’d been a jerk in high school, sneering and laughing at me and at anyone else who had something about them that tickled his fancy. He was a loser: got bad grades, played sports enough to get some jock cred but never practiced enough to really shine, and ended up in a dead-end job right out of school with no prospects and no ambition.
And now he’d been in prison for four years. Who knew what he’d seen and done? What he’d become in there. He might kill me the minute he had the chance. Beat the ever-loving shit out of me for the way I’d ruined his life before he even got it started.
Which was why I was there, of course. It was my fault. I owed him. And maybe I’d been too much of a coward to ever get in touch while he was incarcerated, but in spite of everything he’d done to me in school — well, he was here because he’d offered me a ride and a place to stay when I had nowhere to go. When I had worse than nowhere to go; when I was about to make the kind of mistake you heard about watching one of those missing persons TV shows with the grim-voiced narrators. So here I was, to give him a ride and a place to stay.
Symmetry. It appealed to me, even though getting myself here had taken two panic attacks and half a Xanax, and it looked like I was about to have a third attack, plus the other half of the pill.
If Aidan wanted to beat me up, I probably deserved it.
“Please just get in,” I whispered, and flashed back to that night, when he’d all but begged me to get in his car and go somewhere safe.
His jaw tightened, and something dark flashed through his eyes. Maybe he was remembering the same thing. I jumped as he tossed the bag in his hand into the footwell and climbed in after, my little car rocking and settling from his weight. He shut the door and pulled on his seatbelt in oddly careful motions, like he was afraid to make any sudden movements. Or like he was keeping himself in check.
The car felt too small for both of us, completely filled by his bulk and his presence and the miasma of my terror and doubt. I shifted into reverse and let up the parking brake. Aidan stared straight ahead, his lips pressed into a thin line, his fists clenched on his thighs.
He had huge fists. Cracked knuckles. Calluses on the sides of his fingers. Those were hands that could break me in half.
No going back now. If I made a fuss, or showed even the slightest sign of the strain I was under, those guards might pull him out of the car and take him back in. Do something worse. How would I know? I’d never been closer to a prison before than the signs along the highway that told me not to pick up hitchhikers.
Not that that was a worry right now. Instead of picking up someone dangerous on the side of the road, I’d gone straight to the source.
I backed out of the parking space, turned, and made my way to the gate. My ID was checked again, the guards visually inspected Aidan, and they looked in the back seat and had me pop my trunk, even though I’d been under the watchful eyes of at least three prison staff the whole time I’d been there.
Finally, finally, they waved us through, and I followed the long drive down the hill and toward the access road that ran alongside the freeway.
I clenched my fingers around the steering wheel so hard they ached. The hum of the engine and the faint whispery buffeting of gusts of wind were the only sounds; I strained my ears, but I couldn’t even hear Aidan breathing. It was like he’d gone catatonic.
It was hard to imagine what he must be feeling. Shock, probably, and his own brand of fear. Disbelief, maybe. I wanted so badly to feel nothing but sympathy myself, rather than the toxic stew of negativity currently turning my stomach into a heavy ball.
After a couple of miles I stopped at a stop sign. If I went right, I could get on the freeway and head south, back to Santa Rafaela, the little coastal town a few miles from my hometown where I lived and went to school. Left, and there was a Starbucks. Easy choice. A minute later I pulled into the parking lot and turned the key in the ignition.
Silence fell. Without the engine running, it was oppressive.
“Is this where you let me out?” I flailed so hard I nearly smacked myself in the face. Aidan had spoken quietly, but he’d picked up his plastic bag off the floor and was holding it in a death grip in his lap. He hadn’t looked at me, and was gazing down at it like it held the ultimate answers to everything.
“Forty-two.” It came out without any input from my brain, and then I started to laugh, high-pitched and a little hysterical-sounding.
“What?” I turned my head, and Aidan’s face was right there, turned toward me at last. He had such interesting eyes, a light brown that was almost golden. They’d always given him a striking appearance in contrast with his black hair. Striking, and attractive, and almost mesmerizing, even when they were alight with malicious mischief. Now they were narrowed in something I hoped wasn’t murderous rage. “What the fuck?”
“Sorry, sorry, I just — look, I’m really nervous. I’m sorry. I mean, you looked like you were — I can’t explain it. I’m sorry.”
Aidan listened to my babbling without so much as blinking. “That’s from the Hitchhiker’s Guide.”
I nodded, bewildered. Aidan Morrison had read it? He’d read anything?
Maybe that thought showed on my face, because he let out a short, bitter-sounding laugh. “I read it insi— last year. I think. I couldn’t get the next book.”
I could see him, standing in a dingy prison library and asking for the next book in the series, only to be told it wasn’t there. He’d lost even the ability to read a decades-old book that you could find in a used bookstore or download in like, two seconds, because of me. The full reality of what I’d done to him hadn’t sunk in until that moment. I slumped back in my seat.
“Aidan. I’m so, so sorry. I can’t — I’m sorry.” I scrubbed my hands over my face. “I’m not going to ask you to forgive me, but —”
“Is that why you’re here?” he demanded, his voice rising. “To get me to what, absolve you? Are you out of your fucking mind?” That was almost a shout. I cringed back, trying to get as far from him as I could, scrabbling for the seatbelt release. If I could just get out of the car, I could run into the Starbucks, wait there until he left…and then his big hand landed on my arm, and I froze, all my joints locking up. He sucked in a deep, gasping breath. “Sebastian.” His voice had gone quiet again. “C’mon, look at me.”
I lifted my head slowly. He was leaning back too, out of my personal space except for that huge, warm hand wrapped around my wrist. “I know you can’t,” I whispered. “That’s what I was saying.”
“You’re wrong, because there’s nothing to forgive you for.” He met my eyes steadily. “You did something stupid. But you didn’t call the cops, you didn’t press charges, you didn’t testify against me. You know what the last thing I remember is, when they were arresting me?” I shook my head, and he half-smiled. “You yelling about how I hadn’t hurt you.”
Everyone says kindness costs nothing. It’s a lie. Kindness can cost you everything.
The only decent thing my high school bully ever did for me got him sent to prison. Aidan was a jerk, but he saved me from making the worst mistake of my life, and in return, my parents ruined him. Now that he’s out, I’m determined to make amends. No matter what he needs, no matter how long it takes, I will make it all up to him. But first I’ll have to figure out how to hide my attraction to my sexy, confusing new roommate.
Saving him cost me everything. I have nothing and no one—except Sebastian. He’s determined to make good on a debt I never asked him to repay. He’s offering me money, a place to stay, and help adjusting to life on the outside. But all I’m really wondering is … who can save Sebastian from me—the desperate, bisexual ex-con who probably wants more from him than he’s willing to give?
The One Decent Thing is an M/M new adult bisexual romance with lots of heat, angst, and physics jokes.
Buy link: Amazon
I’m an editor by day and a romance writer by night, at least on a good day. I’m more of a procrastinator by day and despairing eater of chocolate by night when inspiration doesn’t flow and my day-job clients are driving me to insanity. Go ahead and guess which of these is more common.
My steady childhood diet of pulp science fiction, classic tales of adventure, and romance novels surreptitiously borrowed from my grandmother eventually led me to writing; I picked up my first M/M romance a few years ago and I’ve been enjoying the genre as a reader and an author ever since.
Eliot has brought three copies of The One Decent Thing to give away to three lucky readers. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Friday, January 31st at 11:59 pm ET.
- By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
- Winners will be selected by random number. No purchase necessary to win. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
- If you win, you must respond to my email within 48 hours or another winner may be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay.
- Winners may be announced on the blog following the contest. By entering the contest you are agreeing to allow your name to be posted and promoted as the contest winner by Joyfully Jay.
- Prizes will be distributed following the giveaway either by Joyfully Jay or the person/organization donating the prize.
- All book prizes are in electronic format unless otherwise specified.
- By entering you are agreeing to hold Joyfully Jay harmless if the prize or giveaway in some way negatively impacts the winner.
- Readers may only enter once for each contest. Duplicate entries for the same giveaway will be ignored. In the event of technical problems with the blog during the contest, every effort will be made to extend the contest deadline to allow for additional entries.
- Void where prohibited by law.