The wonderful K.A. Mitchell has provided us with an exclusive excerpt and a peek into Zeb’s psyche. Be sure to pick up Bad Influence, now available.
Can a future be built from pieces of a broken past?
Jordan Barnett is dead, killed as much by the rejection of his first love at his moment of greatest need as by his ultraconservative parents’ effort to deprogram the gay away.
In his place is Silver, a streetwise survivor who’s spent the last three years becoming untouchable… except to those willing to pay for the privilege. He’s determined not to let betrayal find him again, and that means never forging bonds that can be broken.
No matter how hard he tried, Zebadiah Harris couldn’t outrun his guilt over abandoning his young lover—not even by leaving the country. Now, almost the moment he sets foot back in Baltimore, he discovers Silver on a street corner in a bad part of town. His effort to make amends lands them both in jail, where Silver plans a seductive form of vengeance. But using a heart as a stepping-stone is no way to move past the one man he can’t forgive, let alone forget….
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Bad in Baltimore Series
Thank you so much for letting me come by to talk about Bad Influence. I am a sucker for second chance romances, but when I started this one, I wasn’t sure these guys would make it to getting their second chance. The backstory they gave me was pretty loaded. But Silver is one determined character and even though he has plenty of reasons to be gun-shy, he still loves Zeb.
If you’ve looked at the blurb or my infographic, you can tell that Silver has a whole baggage carousel full of issues, not the least of which is the history he has with Zeb. But when Silver finds himself stranded in the middle of the night, he knows that this time, Zeb will be there for him, even if they still have a lot to work out.
Silver’s ass had barely landed in the Pontiac’s passenger seat when Zeb blurted, “You’re bleeding. What happened?”
Silver looked down at his elbow. It had slowed to a seep, but yeah, it was a mess. “It’s fine. Scraped it on a wall.” The trip north a couple of blocks had been uneventful. Silver had moved fast and kept his head down, and he’d found an open minimart in a strip mall.
“There’s a first aid kit under your seat.”
Silver reached down and found the plastic bin. Homemade and so loaded Silver noticed a suture kit and tourniquet. Zeb hadn’t been so Boy Scout prepared back then. He’d been all OCD about keeping track of things in his little notebook, but this had-his-shit-together-in-a-crisis Zeb was a guy Silver had never seen before. Maybe living in Haiti had a bigger effect than he’d thought.
“Thanks.” He gritted his teeth and used an alcohol pad to clean the spot. It wasn’t too bad—until it was—and he hissed.
“We could stop and get some water.”
“Not if you don’t leave this parking lot.”
Silver wanted his answer to sting with sarcasm, but Zeb’s response was so him, a laugh slipped out. “You’ll break the law to talk on the phone, but I have to wear a seat belt?”
“I trust my driving. Not everyone else’s.”
Silver pulled the belt across with a sigh so loud he almost missed Zeb’s soft “I want you safe.”
There was that word again. How did everyone come to believe they knew what was best for Silver?
“We’re still sitting here,” he pointed out.
“Where am I taking you?”
Was Zeb asking if Silver wanted to come home with him? He had to squeeze the pad hard against his scrape so the pain would shut away the idea of climbing into Zeb’s bed. The most horrible part was realizing the longing wasn’t centered in Silver’s dick, but higher. Something hollow right below his ribs, like the constant gnaw of hunger he remembered from when he’d been living on the street. The thought of being pressed up close to Zeb’s skin, the familiar arms around him, the brush of hair against his neck. The idea hurt worse than when Silver had smelled fried food back then. Because there was no way he was ever going to be able to feed this rumble of want.
“Oh. Back to Quinn’s. I’m still staying with them.”
Zeb nodded and tapped on the screen stuck to the dashboard.
Despite the lack of a question, Silver found himself saying, “I just went out. It wasn’t—I didn’t run away or anything.” He almost bit his lip to avoid the rush of explanations. I had permission. He didn’t need permission. He was an adult—had been on his own since seventeen. “I could have called Quinn, but he’s already done so much.”
“He’s a good person. He and Eli both.”
Silver heard an unspoken comparison in Zeb’s words. As if the persons in this car didn’t measure up. Did Zeb expect Silver to gush gratitude about the ride so Zeb could feel like a good person?
“I met Eli a few years ago. He’s really loyal to his friends.”
“I noticed.” Zeb’s dry humor reminded Silver of Jamie’s description of the courthouse lobby.
Silver found himself smiling. “I wouldn’t fuck with him. He fights dirty.”
“Never tell me the odds.” Zeb’s Han Solo quote made the emptiness ache again, this time for the taste of popcorn and the DVD of The Empire Strikes Back playing on Zeb’s TV, Silver’s head in Zeb’s lap, Zeb’s fingers playing with Silver’s hair.
“He might be the size of an Ewok, but he’s more like Boba Fett.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
Which reminded Silver of Eli’s dogged bounty hunter intensity. He’d be sure to ask if Silver had said something about tutoring him for the GED.
Silver rubbed his hands along his jeans. “My lawyer”—the word felt weird in his mouth, especially since the guy was Gavin’s lawyer—“said I should be able to show the judge I’m working to get a GED.”
“You didn’t finish school?” Zeb made it sound like an unheard-of crime.
The tone snapped something inside Silver, and it came pouring out. “For fuck’s sake, don’t you listen? Ever? After you shut the door in my face, I got what cash I could from friends, which you obviously weren’t, and took a bus to Baltimore. There wasn’t exactly time while I was homeless to do The Littlest Hustler Goes to School. Though it might have been the title of one of the pornos I did. I can’t keep track of them all.” He clenched his teeth together to stop the words. He hadn’t meant to tell Zeb about it like that. If at all. It didn’t fit the plan. But being around Zeb made it too easy to forget there’d ever been a need to lock himself away.
Silver had lost control of more than his voice. He realized he’d shut his eyes, zeroing in on how much it had hurt. The door slammed in his face. He felt pressure on his body. Imagining himself watching the movie again, he looked down and saw the two of them in a Burger King parking lot, and Silver had wrapped his arms around himself as he curled up against the car door.
When Zeb spoke, it forced away the detachment, dragged Silver back into his body, but the close-up view didn’t help Silver figure out the expression on Zeb’s face as he said, “I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
At least he sounded like he meant it this time, voice quiet and measured. Then a sharper, “God, I’m so sorry.”
Silver didn’t know whether he should be relieved or disappointed Zeb didn’t make any effort to reach over, offer comfort or apology in a touch.
“Drive. Before we end up in jail again.”
They merged onto the interstate, and the heavy silence in the car, the rush of sound, and hum of tires made Silver suddenly so tired he shivered with it.
Zeb cranked off the AC. The loss of cold air made Silver sleepier. He could just let it go. Take the loser adult-ed classes. Never see Zeb again. It would be easier. But why should anything be easy on Zeb?
It wasn’t until they’d turned onto Quinn’s street that Silver threw it all out there. “I said the stuff about the GED because I needed to review the stuff before the test and thought you could help with the math part.”
“You want me to help you study for it?”
It had been exactly what the fuck Silver had just said. He nodded.
Under the streetlight, Zeb’s smile was soft and real. “Thank you. I’d like to help. Very much.”
K.A. Mitchell discovered the magic of writing at an early age when she learned that a carefully crayoned note of apology sent to the kitchen in a toy truck would earn her a reprieve from banishment to her room. Her career as a spin-control artist was cut short when her family moved to a two-story house and her trucks would not roll safely down the stairs. Around the same time, she decided that Ken and G.I. Joe made a much cuter couple than Ken and Barbie and was perplexed when invitations to play Barbie dropped off. She never stopped making stuff up, though, and was thrilled to find out that people would pay her to do it. Although the men in her stories usually carry more emotional baggage than even LAX can lose in a year, she guarantees they always find their sexy way to a happy ending.
K.A. loves to hear from her readers. You can email her at email@example.com. She is often found talking about her imaginary friends on Twitter @ka_mitchell.Blog GoodReads Twitter Website Amazon Library More Reviews