Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Worst Days 3.4

To read part 3.3 click here, or start from the beginning. Again, thanks to Luz for sending me a copy of this lost tome.
Not a minute later Fen appeared at the door. "Guests are arriving now," he informed me. He looked tense, even a little worried, and I had a sudden inexplicable urge to give him a reassuring hug. I resisted that urge, since that only complicated my indecision on whether or not to "get him out of the picture," as Samarra had put it. Also, it wasn't manly, and I had taken enough blows to my manliness in the past week already.

To ease my conscience, I asked, "Something wrong?" in a tone that said I didn't really care.

Fen immediately smoothed his expression to pleasantly neutral. "Of course not," he responded. "It is not a life-or-death situation, it's a party."

I cringed inwardly. If you only knew.

The first guest through the door, naturally, was Almus Tobergus and a new pair of slaves, both muscled men. Perhaps these were the soldiers of whom he had boasted in the park. They were wearing shock collars and sullen expressions, but shot quick smiles to each other when they saw me. I guess getting beaten up by a slave isn't good when one makes a living training other slaves.

I tried to make myself unobtrusive. To be honest, I had no idea what my purpose was at this party. Was I proof that Fenton White was real Nitkani, that he had the balls to trade in human flesh? I might have been eye candy, but I was even more uncomfortable with that idea, so I avoided eye contact and stayed in the background.

People poured through the door and I wandered around, avoiding Almus and Fen and Samarra, which was not an easy task. Alfevi wanted everyone to know who had designed my "terribly magnificent evening attire," and Samarra was sending me looks that said Find a place where we can talk. I pretended complete confusion, as if I couldn't read body language, and moseyed out of her sight looking pretty but stupid. Occasionally she would pop up in my peripheral vision and I would have to slink out of the room again. I finally snuck out to the conservatory and hid behind a large flowering plant of some sort to eat the appetizers I had filched.

"What are you doing here?" came Fen's voice from beside me. I jumped a near mile in the air and the appetizers flew out of my hands.

"What the fuck?" I sputtered. "Are you hiding at your own party?" Fen actually looked abashed, and I laughed softly. "You're the worst host ever."

"I would have said that I was looking for someone, or something. Ass."

"I'll kick it, if you're offering."

Fen's mouth turned up at a corner. "Smart ass. That's what I meant."

I elbowed him. When he smiled, it was hard not to like him at least a little bit.

"Oh hey," I snapped my fingers. "Mrs. Cupps told me not to take any wooden coins. Do you have money made of wood?"

Fen had to cover his mouth to keep his laughs quiet as a couple entered the conservatory and starting lip-locking passionately underneath a fern. "No, you idiot. It's an expression. If someone were offering you a gold-covered wooden coin, you'd be getting cheated, correct?"


"So, she was telling you not to take any offers the might look golden on the surface, but are actually made of wood," Fen explained. "All things are not as they seem, etcetera."

My thoughts immediately swung to sexy Samarra and her escape plan. I hadn't even thought about the flaws before. I couldn't stay in the trunk of a hovercar for very long, and once I got out then where would I be? I didn't want to be hunted down for murder as well as escaping, and if Samarra was going to off Alfevi (and possibly a chauffeur) I would be counted as an accessory. 

"Double damn," I swore softly.

Fen raised his eyebrows. "Already took some wooden coins, eh?"

"No." Not yet, at least. Something at the back of my brain told me that there was another reason I was skeptical of Samarra's plan, something that had a lot to do with a tingle at the top of my spine. I told that something to shut the fuck up.

"Is Almus bothering you yet?" Fen asked conversationally.

I didn't get why he was being so buddy-buddy with me all of a sudden, but I was willing to go with it. I realized how badly I missed Juniper and my family; nobody here save Gloria Cupps seemed to care much about my emotional health. Fen was being friendly, and not since my wedding day had I talked with a friend.

"I've been avoiding him," I admitted. "There was some overly enthusiastic space hockey fan in there, so I just talked to him whenever Tobergus got close."

"You mean Mr. Kraskow? The old bald man with the beaky nose and dead--goat breath?"

I smiled at the description. "The very one," I confirmed.

"Then what you meant to say is that you nodded occasionally while he talked," Fen corrected.

"Well," I mused, "he did ask me a lot of questions in-depth about secret team strategies."

Fen nodded, "That's because he owns Gray Terror. He probably wanted to get the advantage future international games."

"Oh." I shrugged. "Guess it's a good thing I pretended I only knew about four words in Nitkan, and none of them having to do with space hockey."

Fen laughed at that, then sighed. "I need to get back and play the host," he groaned.

"Couldn't you send everyone to bed early?" I asked. "It is your house, after all."

"It's a thought," Fen agreed. "Meet me in the front hall in an hour. You can be my excuse to go to bed early."

I grimaced. I hoped that didn't mean I would be expected to put out. Before leaving our hiding spot Fen rubbed his hand over his mouth a couple of times, mussed up his hair, and jumped in place a few times.

"What the hell are you doing?" I asked him, cocking my head.

Fen gave me a dirty grin that nestled itself in the pit of my stomach. "I'm making it look like I was gone for a reason. You should do the same."

"No thanks," I said brightly. "I'm sure you'd look just as satisfied as if you had been out here jacking off."

Quicker than I could react, Fen had me in a headlock and was messing up my hair. 

"Hey!" I protested, trying to shove him off me. Fen covered my mouth with his hand to silence me, and I did the mature thing and licked him. He wiped my saliva onto my forehead, then let me loose. I scowled at him and he grinned.

"See? Now we both have an excuse."

I shoved him. "Pervert. What kind of host sneaks off to have sex in the middle of his own party?" I headed back to the house.

Fen shrugged innocently. "A rich, enigmatic Nitkani does," he responded, "then if he's extremely mysterious he'll act as though nothing had happened, and not touch his companion for the rest of the night."

"Thanks." I was almost genuine.

"You're welcome. Feel free to make eyes at me when my back is turned and sigh in excess."

"So you can be mysterious and a great lay?" I snorted. "That's just too much. I'm sorry. Alfevi's girls already asked me if you had a donkey dick."

Fen grinned, "You mean Tana and Riki? They have vivid imaginations."

I was surprised he knew their names. "I set them straight, of course."

"So they know for sure I have a donkey dick."

I punched him in the shoulder, but couldn't keep a laugh from bursting from my throat as we reentered the house. It drew a lot of attention to us, and I turned bright red and scuttled into the kitchen to escape the leers. Fen was probably stone-faced and composed, the bastard.

Luck deserted me when I got into the kitchen and found Samarra about to walk out the other door.

"There you are," she purred.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Power Plays Pt. 2

Everyone in this story is still the worst. Part 1 is here.
"I told Sasha that we'd go with her and Todd to the movie."

"What?" I look up from my computer. "It's Guys' Night. We're going to Sam's." This wouldn't have been news to Chrisette—the guys and I have been meeting up since we were fresh out of college. I've joined them less since Chrisette and I have been dating, but Wednesdays have always been reserved for Guys' Night. At least, that's what I've been thinking all this time.

Chrisette leans over the couch to kiss my neck. "No, it's Be a Good Boyfriend Night starring Jesse and Todd."

"Why?" I whine as I pull her into my lap. "I still hate that guy." The bastard might be dating another woman, but that hasn't prevented him from horning in on my relationship with my future wife. Or from fucking me that one time.

"And I'm pretty sure you're the only one who isn't over it," Chrisette laughs. I don't know exactly what Todd told her, but I simply said we got in a fight. Chrisette got mad at us both, but she told me she was just glad that the bruises would fade before the wedding. "You just haven't spent enough time with him. Todd has a really dry sense of humor."

"Like a sociopath."

Rolling her eyes, Chrisette pinches my nose. "Grow up, Jesse. It's not your fault if the guy just has more charm—"

My arms tighten around her waist. "More what?" I'm trying to sound like I don't care, because I know that Chrisette is mostly kidding. But still, why even say something like that? Sometimes it feels like Chrisette only makes these comparisons to piss me off.

"Baby," she continues, "you promised you would try to get along with him."

No such promise left my mouth, actually, but I did promise that I would stop complaining when she hung out with Todd. It was pretty much the least I could do after…the fucking. I wish there was another word for it, so I could separate it even further from what Chrisette and I do together.

"I'll try," I say anyway, because I feel like a bastard now.

Chrisette, however, isn't done. "Why don't you sit next to him during the movie?" she asks, stroking the underside of my chin.

I give her a look. "Are you serious?"

She shrugs. "It's not a big deal, Jesse. Don't be so immature."

I pinch her nose lightly. "You know what they say: Resist the devil."

She rolls her eyes. "You dope."

Although Chrisette doesn't pressure me after that, I'm ninety-percent sure that she's still secretly devising a way for me and Todd to become super best buddies forever. More important than anything is being good to my fiancé, though. If we’re going to spend our lives together I’ll have to make some sacrifices; god knows Chrisette has. I text the guys to say that I'm not coming over and grab my wallet.

Chrisette and I have our tickets, drinks, and popcorn before the others show up. I could care less about the movie we’re seeing; it’s some Wes Anderson bullcrap where everything is supposed to be cute. I liked maybe one of his movies before that got old.


Cold chills run down my spine at the sound of the most heinous voice in existence. I turn around to see Todd and poor Sasha.

"Ooh, I like your new glasses!" Chrisette exclaims, throwing her arms around Todd.

Sasha chuckles. "I know, right? He's like a sexy German architect."

Since nobody's paying attention to me I curl my lip. Todd has these really light-colored eyes that make him look like he's always planning something nefarious. The glasses only emphasize that. He sees me glaring at him and winks.

Chrisette is so thrilled that her two best friends are dating, as she tells me multiple times while we wait for Sasha and the jackass to get snacks. "Don't they make a cute couple?"

"Totes adorbs!" I reply with a straight face. I could be smoking a cigar right now, watching the birth of Heisenberg.

She pulls my head down to plant a kiss on my mouth. "Thanks for being a good boyfriend, even if you are a grump right now."

My conscience smacks me over the head a few times. I should be on my best behavior—I'm the only one in this relationship to have actually slept with fucking Todd. Chrisette's soft lips are some comfort. In the battle for her heart, I'm currently winning. Suck it, Todd. You and your architect glasses can fucking suck it.

"Why don't you fine ladies sit in the middle?" I suggest when we walk in the theatre.

Sasha holds up her giant cup. "I am gonna have to pee in, like, thirty minutes. You don't want me on the inside."

Todd laughs. "Why do you even bother?"

Sasha nudges him with her elbow. "Because you'll tell me what I missed."

Chrisette squeezes my hand, and I look down at her. She whispers, "They are so perfect for each other." I don't know; I have a hard time seeing it as anything except a sexual predator and his next tasty victim. Sasha doesn't deserve whatever misery he ends up sending her way.

But whatever, the point is that I am not sitting next to the smug bastard. I head into the row. It’s a small concession to let Todd sit next to my fiancé.

As the lights dim Chrisette pulls a flask from her coat.

"Is it really going to be that bad?" I joke, and she flashes me a naughty little smile. Chrisette takes a swig and passes it down the line.

Todd accepts it and looks over at me. "None for you?" he asks like we're friends.

"My man doesn't drink," Chrisette replies, saving me from having to address the douchebag directly.

Sasha leans forward in surprise. "I didn't know that," she exclaims as she takes the flask from Todd, who's wincing dramatically at whatever Chrisette put in there. "Why not?"

"Family history," Chrisette answers for me again. I guess that's the clearest summary. Then she adds, "His dad is basically a hobo now."

Sasha gives an awkward I know, right? kind of laugh, but Todd just looks at me extra hard for a second there. Thank god the previews start and there's no chance for Chrisette to reveal any more of my history to Sasha and the guy she's fucking. Chrisette settles into me when I put my arm around her, and I relax for a few minutes. At least, until the credits are almost over and both Sasha and she decided they absolutely have to pee right now, immediately, or burst. "Scoot over," Chrisette whispers and I look at her in surprise.

"Just come back here," I whisper back, but Sasha makes exaggerated shooing motions.

"We are both going to have to get up again," Sasha points out, and Todd obediently scoots over to the seat next to mine. Chrisette flashes me a smug little grin.

I send her a text. R u fucking kidding me. Chrisette turns her phone off.

The movie is cute. That’s all there is to say about it, with all the color coordinating and repetitive dialogue and weird characters. I might have been able enjoy it if I had been sitting next to Chrisette. Being cut off from the rest of the group by Todd’s shoulders as he leans over to whisper to the ladies is fucking annoying. It’s just…this isn’t a nice theatre. The seats are really close together, as in sharing an armrest that of course Todd takes over because he’s a prick. And I can smell him; I think he bathes in cologne. Even though I'm burning up I leave my coat on, just to have more barriers between my skin and the asshole sitting next to me.

“Are you sweating?” Todd asks once.

I don’t answer. Part of me wants to give Chrisette a huge I told you so, since sitting two people together in a
theater is not going to make them friends. The instant the credits roll I stand up.

"I'm gonna go pee," I tell Chrisette, not because I actually need to go, but because I'm a raw fucking nerve and I
need to escape. It turns out to be a stupid idea; not ten seconds after I stop in front of a urinal Todd walks into the bathroom.

Todd ignores every other fucking urinal in order to pee at the one right next to mine. This fucking guy. I'm not going to get into a literal pissing contest with him. Our dicks are pretty much the same size. I know this already; there's nothing fucking intimidating about whipping out your cock in front of someone who's already seen it. Without even zipping up I head into a stall. Thank God the asshole doesn't try to follow me in there.

It's lame, but because I can't make myself piss I flush the toilet and listen for the sound of the sink. When the hand dryer goes off I step out. Another bad idea, because Todd turns around and immediately backs me into the stall.

"Your girlfriend is waiting on you," I bite out, cursing myself for getting so intimidated by someone walking fast at me. I could have just moved out of the way. I'm a fucking pussy.

Todd yanks open my jeans and shoves his hand inside. "So's yours."

"Fuck you," I start to say, but a bunch of guys come into the bathroom then, so Todd pulls my face into his neck to muffle it. It is easier with his cheek against one ear and his shoulder against the other. I can pretend that I'm dreaming, that I'm not in a public restroom getting jerked off by my fiancée's straight-ish best friend.

"Lift your feet," Todd whispers harshly. Because I know exactly what I would've done if I'd ever noticed two pairs of adult shoes in a bathroom stall, I let Todd wrap my legs around his waist and brace my back against the wall.

The toilet keeps flushing as the sensor picks up our shifting bodies. That's okay, I guess. It masks the sound of my heavy breathing as Todd's hand glides up and down my cock. He spits on his hand once, looking me straight in the eyes. I want to punch him, but someone would notice.

It's so fucking wrong that I'm hard. Even though I can't help liking the feel of a hand on my dick, it makes me mad. Todd looks so fucking smug right now, his eyes narrowed behind his stupid glasses and smiling when I have to start breathing through my mouth.

"That's it," he says triumphantly when my hips take over and I start fucking his hand. He rubs his thumb over the head whenever it bumps past his fist. It's a shock to my system every time. My feet lock together behind his back, the better to fucking hump his hand with. Oh my god, I want to come. I know it makes me a disgusting human being, but I have to come. Grabbing Todd's shoulders I press my back against the wall; it's cool through my coat, not enough to distract me from the tingling fullness in my balls. I'm gonna fucking come.

Goddam it, I don't want this. I knock Todd's hand off my cock and for a brief moment my feet touch the ground, but he shoves my arm out of his way again and claps his other palm over my mouth. My hips starts that arrhythmic thrust and Todd bites my throat. All I can do is try to breath through my nose and not spasm. My heels dig hard into the backs of Todd's thighs as I start to fuck his hand desperately. I need something to hold onto, something solid so that I don't fly everywhere. It’s on me in a heartbeat—I’m coming, the deep gut-wrenching climax that takes me over. Todd just barely catches the back of my head, cracking his knuckles against the wall as I start shaking. Oh my god, I'm coming so hard, shooting hot, shooting clear, shooting fast with stars behind my eyelids because I can’t keep them open.

When my head clears a second later I realize that I'm wrapped around Todd like a fucking koala. He's going, "Shh, shh, shh." Am I a crying baby? Fuck you, man. Still panting hard, I put my feet down, bracing my hands on the walls for balance. Todd backs up so I can stand on the toilet seat and zip up. He just folds his arms like no big deal, then when I'm mostly de-jizzed he peeks out the stall door and exits.

Deep breath. Count to three. I climb down from the toilet seat and go to the sink. I wish I could wash my dick, my neck, the back of my head—anything that asshole touched. I settle for washing my hands. Todd is leaning against one of the stall dividers, smugly watching me.

"What?" I ask testily.

He gives me a small mean smile. "You make the cutest little cum faces."


Todd's new glasses go skittering across the floor and he almost falls over. My palm stings. Oh, shit, I split his lip. Godammit, why don't I think? Todd retrieves his glasses and inspects them, licking the blood from his mouth. My gut instinct is to apologize, I feel the urge to show no signs of weakness.

"Bro, I think you walked into the wall on your way out," I say. "Must be the new prescription."

That earns me one of those standard Todd side-eyes. "Sure," he replies, "and I'll let you kiss it and make it better."

I shake my head slowly. This is a fucking public place.

"Okay, then you slapped me."

Deep breath in. One. Two. Three. Deep breath out. I march over and grab him roughly by the chin and the back of his neck. I plant a quick peck on his already-red cheek, but of course before I pull back all the way Todd grabs my wrists. I half expected this.

"Kiss it nicely."

I know he means his lip. Ugh. I force my fingers to relax, imagine that it's Chrisette…God, that makes it worse. I'd never hit her. Todd can't just let me get it over with; he puts his hand on the back of my neck and his tongue on mine. I taste blood.

The door swings open and we jump apart. "All better," I say, and Todd leaves. I wash my mouth out. When I rejoin the group Sasha and Chrisette both smack me.

"Ow! What's that for?"

"When someone gets injured, Jesse, you offer to help instead of laughing your ass off," Chrisette says

"Is that what I did?" I reply, giving Todd a disapproving look.

Sasha looks at her snake of a boyfriend. "Are you playing the victim again?"

Todd shrugs. "I'm an opportunist."

"You're a pity whore," Sasha retorts, and I stop feeling so sorry for her. Maybe she knows what she's getting into.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Windshield Incident Pt. 4 Published

It's here on Smashwords.

The part of the year when work swallows me is coming to a close, so I'm looking forward to finishing some of the abundant unfinished stories. The "Power Plays" story has a bunch more to it—I think I just like writing about idiots—and "Will" and "Olive Juice" are almost complete. Then it will be time, yea verily and forsooth, to dust off some of the brain breakers. When Andy's neighbor meets his parents…I managed to make it super boring the first couple of tries. But, godammit, that's got to get done because I promised someone a free copy once upon a time.

In the meantime, enjoy the end of Grant and Ryder's tale. Feel free to leave comments here; I miiiiiiiiiight have been drunk while I was proofreading it. Allegedly.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Will 2

The explanation for this section is here. There's some clunkiness ahead that need to be addressed…unless you can't tell where it is.

As much as I wanted to pretend like things are all cool, the next day school was just weird. I felt like everyone just knew, somehow, that Will had kissed me yesterday. He could have texted me sorry, but he didn't, and so even though I knew I shouldn't think this way a small part of me doubted that he was sorry at all. Maybe he was gay and just felt like he couldn't tell anyone. Or maybe it had been so long since hed gotten some that everything just kind of spilled out when I stepped forward to close the door after him. There was a spiky cloud over my head. What if Cassie told in spite of her promise? It would get around so fast. I'd never been bullied, but I could imagine that it would suck. Or maybe the gay kids here didn't have to deal with that since no one really cared. Maybe I should corner one of them and ask, just in case.

Will didn't look at me the whole day. He laughed when I made a joke and he talked to Josh plenty, but not even once did his black cartoon eyes lift to meet mine. It made me feel super guilty for some reason, like me freaking out at home had somehow passed through the ether to reach Will, and he knew and felt even worse than I did and was punishing himself for kissing me. It's not like we had been in a fight. I knew how to come back from those, but how could we possibly get past the goodbye peck at my door yesterday? So, I fell back on old habits and invited Will over after school.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Excerpt from "Couldn't"

After "Shouldn't" (Friday) and "Wouldn't" (Saturday) comes the Sunday wrap-up. My goal is to keep Richard's voice consistent even as he gets more comfortable with having Cody around.

“Can I ask you a question?”


“Do you love me?” Cody asks.

Ah, yes. He’s a teenager. I prop myself up on my elbow. “In what sense?”

He glances off to the side. “Like…you know.”

Making my voice as gentle as possible, I reply, “Cody, just because our bodies fit each other doesn’t mean our minds or our hearts do. Of course I care about you, and I want you to be happy, but…”

“You don’t love me,” Cody finishes sourly.

How do I put this so that this man-boy can understand? “You’re looking in the wrong place,” I say. “If your parents are hurting your feelings, you can’t use sex to fix that. When this happens again, which is likely given your history of bullheadedness, are you going to start fixating on another authority figure? Sex doesn’t ‘fix’ anything. It’s our bodies’ expression of a chemical reaction that tells our reproductive systems—”

“That’s not what I meant,” Cody interrupts. “Just…I know you could tell I liked you.”

I bonk him on the head. “Yeah, you drew pictures of us fucking on your homework. That’s not subtle.”

He smiles reluctantly. “Before that. I thought you could tell.”

I have to choose my words very carefully. “It’s always easier not to wonder.”

That must have been the right answer—who knows how Cody interprets it—because his gaze lifts to meet mine. “I didn’t know if you’d let me in,” he confesses.

Rolling my eyes, I retort, “I couldn’t leave you out in that weather, no matter how much you harrassed me.”

Cody grins and rolls to match my posture. “You knew what would happen, though,” he says slyly.

Some might argue that I did. How, though, would I have ever reckoned that I would be watching the clock with a heavy heart? “Don’t assume that human kindness is an invitation for anal sex, moron,” I snap, and make as though to leave the warm confines of my sheets. Cody reaches for my waist; I’m not surprised when he draws me to fit inside the curve of his body.

I remind him, “No more. As it is I’ll be sore for days.”

He pulls my chin toward him for a kiss. “You can teach me instead,” he offers as though it’s a stellar bargain. “Expand my horizons, Mr. Hale.”

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Windshield Incident Pt. 4 Sneak Peek

One of my favorite elements of The Windshield Incident has been Grant's everyman-ness. He doesn't automatically get jokes, or pick up on body language, or figure out the motivations of others. He's not terribly introspective or intelligent, as opposed to characters like Tucker Jones (who spends most of his day inside his own head) or even Aaron of Watching Him Back. My challenge for this latest installment was to let Grant grow up a little without losing the basic elements of who he is: friendly yet socially awkward, a long-term planner, easily caught off guard, and the type of guy to blend into the background.

Sarah and I were at a coffee shop in Springfield when I saw him. “Oh my god,” I said before I could stop myself.

Sarah turned to follow my line of sight. “What? What?”

Clearing my head with a shake, I tried to shrug it off. “No, I’m just surprised. The junkyard dog of my high school is in line.”

She laughed, showing off her pretty white teeth. “Which one is he?”


His hair was shorter now, more clean cut, but he had the kind of scruff that was either a bitch to maintain or he literally hadn’t shaved in two days. A pair of aviator sunglasses hung from the neck of his shirt, pulling it down just enough to show a smattering of fur on his chest. The leather jacket wasn’t the exact one he had worn in high school, but it probably smelled the same.

“The big guy with the Tigers shirt,” Sarah suggested. I glanced at the linebacker-gone-to-seed type she indicated.

“Nope. Don’t think bully, think anathema.”

She nodded her head at the front of the line. “Ordering now, neck tattoos, looks like he'd surprise you with a golden shower.”

That earned a chuckle. “Okay, the kind of anathema who still gets laid a whole, whole lot. Like an unreal amount. Boatloads.”

“Oh! Then him.” Sarah subtly pointed to Ryder Vance.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Very First Part of the Short Story Currently Known as Prom Night

It has been over a decade since I spent any time around high school girls, so I have no idea if this is an accurate representation of how they think or act. Whatever.

“Oh my god, seriously?” Kenzie squeals, piercing the refectory buzz. When you attend a fancy schmancy private school, you don’t call it a cafeteria. Flipping her smooth brown hair over her shoulder Kenzie leans in close. “He asked you?”

I give her a look. “Please. You know it doesn’t mean anything. We’re practically siblings.”

“But it’s senior effing prom,” she counters emphatically. “Josh could go with anyone, and he picked you.”

I know there’s more coming, but so is Josh and the rest of the upper echelon. “Shut up,” I say as a preventative measure.

“His childhood friend.” She clasps her hands over her heart.

“Shut up.”

“The love that has been right beside him all along.”

“Shut.” I kick at Kenzie under the table. “Up.”

“Hi!” she says brightly as Josh reaches our table.