Author: Shea Balik
Genre: MMRomance, Gay
Release Date: July 20, 2016
I felt like I was floating as I once more walked down Main Street to meet with Eddie at Thick and Creamy for our interview. July is my birthday month. Yes, I celebrate the entire month long, and the opportunity to go back to Cedar Falls was the best present I could have ever asked for.
I chuckle as I pass each storefront, loving their names. They were all there, Doggie Style, Kiss of Leather, which just opened, High and Tight, Nice ‘N Rosy, not to mention all the shops across the street.
Finally, I reached Thick and Creamy. Opening the door, I nearly jumped out of my skin when a cry of, “Happy Birthday,” greeted me.
Tears sprang to my eyes as I saw all the characters that have become a part of my life were there with joy shining from their faces. I had to brace myself when Jesse launched himself into my arms for a fierce hug that left me unable to breathe as he wrapped his arms around me.
“Happy birthday, Shea,” Jesse said as he started bouncing just enough to force me to jump with him. “I can’t believe you’re here in time for us to celebrate your birthday.”
I knew Jesse had more enthusiasm than an excitable puppy but I’ve never gotten to see it firsthand. It was…intense and made me want to dance with abandon. I tilted my head back and laughed out loud, not caring what anyone thought of my uncoordinated moves.
But these men were family. They would never leave me to make a fool out of myself alone. The country music that had been playing in the background was turned up and the men joined right in while taking turns to hug me.
By the end of the song, Zane brought out a cake with enough candles to be considered a forest fire. A round of Happy Birthday was sung, with Jesse, Vail and Ethan easily heard above the others as they practically screamed the tune.
“Was it necessary to put all those candles on the cake?” I asked. Eyeing the flames, I knew I was never going to get them all blown out in one breath. There were just too many of them.
Jesse nodded enthusiastically. “Yes it was.” Then he waved a hand toward me as if dismissing my obvious dismay of having to face my age so glaringly. “Age is just a number, sweetie. You’re only as old as you feel.”
“Says the not-even-thirty-year-old,” I mumbled.
“Come on,” Vail said as he took my hand and brought me closer to the cake. “You need to blow these out before the whole place starts on fire,” he joked.
Seeing my glare, Vail stopped laughing, sort of. “Come on, honey. We’ll all help.”
“Don’t forget to make a wish,” Jesse called out. “And make sure it’s a good one, like you are inspired to write a whole other book about Parker and I.”
“Me,” Ryder corrected.
Jesse blinked at Ryder. “What?”
“You should have said Parker and me,” Ryder explained.
Jesse frowned. “Why would I want Shea to write a book about you and Parker?”
“No,” Ryder started to say then shook his head. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter.”
“If it doesn’t matter, why did you bring it up?” Jesse asked.
As the two bickered, all I could see was the wax of the candles dripping on top of the cake as they melted at an alarming rate. “Guys,” I said. “Can we blow out these candles before I have nothing to blow out?”
Just like a puppy, once a new stimulus was added, Jesse forgot all about the argument with Ryder. “Did you decide on a wish?” His eyes were dancing with merriment as he started to bounce. “Do I get another book where Parker and I fuck our brains out?”
There was a lot of laughter and several groans that followed that. But Parker stepped up to Jesse’s back and enfolded his husband in a hug. “Is this her wish or yours, angel?”
Jesse looked over his shoulder at Parker. “Why can’t it be both?”
“Sorry Jesse, but there are too many other characters who haven’t had their stories told, clamoring in my head.” I hated to see Jesse’s smile dim so I added. “But I promise to write you a second story as soon as I have time.” Which, with as many characters as there are chattering in my head, might be years, but Jesse didn’t need to know that.
Closing my eyes, I made my wish.
When I opened them, I counted to three. I, along with men who have shared their lives with me, blew out all of those candles in just one try. “See,” Vail said with a smirk. “I told you, you could do it.” Then he slapped the handle of a knife in my hand. “Now make a wish on the first cut so we can eat.”
I have had many wonderful and amazing birthdays, including my niece being born on my birthday, but never had I been so touched by what these men did for me. Living inside my own head made it more difficult to make friends, so to have these men go out of their way to throw me this party meant a lot.
Eating my cake, chocolate with white buttercream frosting, I made my way over to the man I was there to meet, Eddie. Just off to the side, as if he was still a bit nervous to be a part of the group, Eddie stood with his boyfriend, Axl, by his side feeding Eddie his cake.
The pair was so sweet together, I almost hated to interrupt, but I needed to interview Eddie before it was time for me to go. A glance at my phone to find I only had a few minutes left, spurred me to approach Eddie and Axl.
“Eddie, Axl. It’s good to see the two of you have managed to find a way to get past your hang-ups so you can be together.” I had feared that wouldn’t happen as I had written Kiss of Leather. The two just hadn’t seemed like they’d be able to get out of their own heads long enough to see they were perfect together.
Pink infused Eddie’s cheeks as Axl chuckled and said, “Me too.” He placed a kiss to Eddie’s lips. His gaze heated as he repeated, “Me too.”
“I hate to do this, but I don’t have much time before I need to go and I still need to interview Eddie. Do you mind if I ask a few questions?” I asked.
Eddie straightened, his head bobbing up and down. “Of course. I’m sorry, I completely forgot you have to go soon. Ask away.”
SHEA: When I wrote Will’s story, most of his clumsiness faded away after he met Taden. Has the same thing happened for you?
EDDIE: Blushed furiously and glanced toward the floor as if he didn’t want to answer.
AXL: Eddie is amazing in all he does. If he has a few accidents now and then, it only makes him that much more endearing.
SHEA: I hated that I’d made Eddie so uncomfortable. Had I known he was still having issues, I wouldn’t have asked. Reaching out, I placed my hand on his arm. I’m sorry Eddie. I didn’t mean to bring up a bad subject.
EDDIE: Shrugged. It’s okay. I just wish I wasn’t always dropping things or, you know, tripping over air.
JESSE: Are you kidding? Jesse didn’t have any problem interrupting the interview. This man is up for Cedar Falls Man of the Year for all he’s managed to do to Betty Sue and the Mayor. I even tried to have a parade in his honor but Eddie refused.
EDDIE: Turned such a bright shade of red, I wondered if he would combust.
AXL: Jesse, this is Will’s interview. He agreed to this party for Shea’s sake, but only so long as you gave him privacy for the interview.
JESSE: Scowling. I was just trying to make sure Shea knew how proud we are of Eddie and wouldn’t want him to change anything about himself.
EDDIE: Smiled at Jesse. Thank you, Jesse. The two hugged before Jesse went back over to the party.
SHEA: You were uncomfortable in the beginning hanging out with the other men here. Do you still feel that way?
EDDIE: He smiled brightly. No. Those guys have become my best friends. Especially Will. We hang out all the time.
AXL: A rumble that sounded an awful lot like a growl came from Axl. They also get Eddie into trouble with their antics.
EDDIE: His grin grew bigger. They do at that. But it’s worth every spanking. Eddies eyes widened as he suddenly realized what he’d said in front of me. I mean…
AXL Chuckling. I think Shea understands exactly what you mean, baby.
SHEA: The alarm on my phone went off signaling it was time to wrap this up. Damn, I’m almost out of time. Let me ask one more question. Have you had any contact with your Uncle Ira recently?
JESSE: Laughing hysterically, he came up and threw his arm around my shoulders. Are…you…kidding? Jesse had trouble being understood around the laughter. His uncle came in just two days ago and…
AXL: Jesse. The warning in Axl’s voice would have made the devil pause, but not Jesse.
JESSE: As if Axl hadn’t said a word, Jesse continued. By the time Uncle Ira left he was covered in a mix of hot fudge and whipped cream with a jar of cherries. Jesse’s laughter had him bending over to catch his breath. I was here and saw every bit of it, and still can’t begin to explain how Eddie had managed it. He slapped his thigh. I’m telling you, this guy is going to get voted as Man of the Year.
By then the rest of the group was joining in on the laughter, even Eddie. It was good to see Eddie being able to laugh at his clumsiness without always running away. We all have those moments after all. Learning to laugh at them and move on makes life so much easier.
My second alarm went off.
“Sorry, guys, but I need to go if I’m going to make my flight home.” I hated having to leave. One day I was going to spend the night in Cedar Falls, just so I could spend more time with these men, whom I’ve come to love.
Hugs, waves and tears were all given before I managed to get out of Thick and Creamy and walk to my car. As I drove out of town, I smiled at the voices in my head, all begging for their stories to be told. I may not be able to stay in Cedar Falls for long, but I would be back. The characters demanded it.
~ Stalk the Author – Shea Balik ~
Shea’s “Kiss of Leather” Scavenger Hunt runs through July 31st. Join the event and join the hunt for a chance at over a dozen prizes that include ebooks, ice cream gift cards, and the items pictured below! https://www.facebook.com/events/1587424421563469/