Even hot messes need a happily ever after.
With the quiet help of his wealthy family, Sebastian “Baz” Acker has successfully kept his painful past at bay. But as the end of college draws near, his friends—his buffer zone—are preparing to move on, while his own life is at a crippling standstill.With loneliness bearing down on him, Baz hooks up—then opens up—with Elijah Prince, the guy Baz took a bullet for last year. The aftershocks of their one-night stand leave giant cracks in Baz’s carefully constructed armor. For the first time, the prospect isn’t terrifying.
Accustomed to escaping his demons by withdrawing into his imagination, Elijah isn’t used to having a happy herd of friends. He’s even less comfortable as the object of a notorious playboy’s affections. Yet all signs seem to indicate this time happiness might be within his grasp. When Baz’s mother runs for a highly sought-after public office, the media hounds drag Baz’s and Elijah’s pasts into the light. In the blinding glare, Baz and Elijah face the ultimate test: discovering if they’re stronger together…or apart.
Warning: Contains sex in a Tesla, sex in a cupboard, sex under a piano, kinky role play, and a cappella RuPaul songs. Just a couple of boys groping, battling, then finally loving their way to becoming men.
I absolutely loved this story. I haven’t read the first two books in the series so I was a tiny bit confused at the beginning. But there was enough explanation of events I could figure out the major points. Baz and Elijah are so broken. They’ve both had to deal with so much adversity and homophobia in their short lives. They both have such baggage to handle before they can be together. But you can tell how much they love each other well before they’re ready to admit it. I really liked how Baz and Elijah compare each other to movie characters for their relationship. It was very sweet and now I want to see that movie. The amount of emotion in this book exploded and I could feel right along with the characters when they had panic attacks or were full of love. The characters surrounding Baz and Elijah are an amazing family and support. But my favorite was getting to see Ed and Laurie again. How I have missed those two men. I can’t wait for the re-release of that book later in the year. My favorite scene is the anime role playing scene. It’s so freaking hot. But the very end of the scene is the best part. The best line though is when Elijah is describing how he understand what trans means. “It wasn’t putting on drag. It was God putting it on you without your consent.” So much truth. I fell in love with Lejla and hope like heck she gets her own story. I will definitely be going back to read the first two books in the series because I have to after reading this one.
Howl’s Moving Castle was Elijah’s favorite movie, but it always made him sad.
He’d glue his eyeballs shut before he watched any of Kelly Davidson’s Disney pap, but Diana Wynne Jones’s story was genius and Hayao Miyazaki could right all the wrongs of the world. That the movie happened to have romantic shading was a side effect. That this side effect always got under his skin was an annoyance to be endured. Sometimes enduring was harder than other times, though, and once Mina fell asleep, he got off the couch she’d converted to a bed for him, slipped into her flip-flops and padded down the garage apartment stairs to have a cigarette.
Naturally, as he lit up at the foot of the stairs, a car pulled into the drive, and Baz stepped out of it.
The headlights cut across him as the sleek black car retreated, so there wasn’t any point in trying to hide. Ashing into the bushes, Elijah rested a hip on the wall and stared at Baz, waiting to see what happened next.
Hands in his pockets, Baz leaned on a decorative lamppost beside some lattice fencing. “Hey. How’s it going?”
Elijah took a slow, careful drag before blowing the smoke out of the corner of his mouth. “Sorry—were you talking to me?”
“Yeah.” Baz shoved his hands deeper and nodded at the main house. “Um—hey. I know we haven’t…said much to each other lately. And this is the wrong way to go about it, but…I have to ask you something. A favor.”
Normally the broody-male routine would at least give Elijah a cheap thrill, but the one-eighty from complete cold shoulder to aw-shucks, I’m such an awkward hot mess, please forgive me because I need something pissed Elijah off. “No worries. People fuck me, act like I’m a syphilitic leper, then ask for a favor all the time. Just keep me abreast of where we are. Maybe we can come up with a signal.”
The bastard had the nerve to laugh. “You’re right. It would be stupid to ask. I’ll figure out something else.”
For a moment, snark deserted Elijah, panic and raw loneliness overcoming him as he realized Baz was about to turn him loose after one goddamned exchange. Angling across the sidewalk, Elijah cut Baz off before he could disappear into the garage.
“Oh, no you fucking don’t. You do not ignore me for five weeks, rub your toe in the dirt and say you need something from me, then bail when I bleed off some hurt.”
He shut his eyes as he winced at letting the word hurt escape his filter.
Setting his jaw, Elijah glared into the depths of Baz’s sunglasses and planted his flag. “You’re not going anywhere. We’re having this out. Right here. Right now.”
Baz held up his hands, shoulders sagging in defeat. “Seriously, not tonight. I’m tapped out.”
Baz tried for an end run, but Elijah reinserted himself in the way. “Fine. You can go hide in your cave and brood, as soon as you tell me what you were going to ask me.”
The weary-moppet act fell away as Baz bared his teeth. “Changed my mind. Not asking you for anything, ever. Back the fuck off.”
“Fuck you and your goddamned moods. Fine, asshole. I don’t want to know what you were going to tell me. Probably that you had a fucking hangnail. Well, suck on it. I’ll make it easy to never ask me for anything, ever. I’m not spending one more ass-tastic minute in this house so long as you’re in it, and I’m sure as fuck not living here. Not for the summer, not the school year, not for the goddamned zombie apocalypse. I’ll stay with Pastor, and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll stay at the Kiss My Ass Motel.”
It was a line demanding a dramatic exit, but Elijah didn’t know where the hell to go. If he went upstairs, he couldn’t have another cigarette, plus if Baz followed him, he’d wake Mina. If Baz didn’t follow…
Fuck. This. Elijah shoved the cigarette between his lips and stormed down the alley to who the fuck knew where. In his pajama pants.
Baz grabbed Elijah, knocking his cigarette into the gravel. Pushing Elijah against the garage, flattening one arm above his head, Baz used his other hand to pin Elijah’s shoulder in place.
Elijah shut his eyes in a slow blink, masking a shiver of want before cloaking himself in outrage once more. “What the hell—”
“Shut. Up.” Baz loosened his grip, but not by much. The dark holes of his glasses bore into Elijah. His jaw was tight, the cords of his neck tense. The aw-shucks routine was gone, as was the edge. Now he was merely raw and wrecked. “I’m sorry. I don’t have anything to say, except I’m an ass and you deserve better.”
It was true. Nobody fucking deserved this. But wrecked Baz was Elijah’s kryptonite. “I would have simply put out, you know. You’re the one who paraded us in front of everyone we know. They keep making sad eyes at me because I was dumped. Which is fucking cold, because I told you I got it was a one-off. I didn’t think we were fucking dating, but I thought we’d at least progressed to eye contact in the hallway.”
Baz sagged, body curving around Elijah as he let his forehead hit the siding of the garage. “It’s stupid. I fucked up. It was a real asshole move to volunteer you after the way I’ve treated you. I’m—sorry.”
Baz’s body went rigid, lips thinning into a line. “I can’t take you yelling at me any more tonight.”
Wrecked Baz was fading, which meant so was Elijah’s empathy. “Tough. Tell me anyway.”
Baz stared at Elijah, expression blank. Those fucking glasses. “If I tell you, you’ll move into the White House? As soon as possible?”
Yes, because it had been so much bullshit, his defiant insistence he would go off and live anywhere else. Except he wasn’t giving in so easily. “I’ll think about it.”
“No. If I tell you, you’re moving in. Tomorrow.” Elijah let go of Baz to fold his arms over his chest. “I’ll think about it.” Baz scowled and mimicked Elijah’s pose. And said nothing, only stared at Elijah,
waiting for him to fold. Jesusgod, Elijah wanted to shake the fucker. “Why the hell do you care if I move in or not?” “Because I care, all right?” He ran a hand through his hair, and the filtered gold light
played over his face, casting shadows, making him seem like a demon emerging from hell to glimpse heaven. “Because you should be here. They want you here. You wanted to be here, until I fucked up. I want you here.” When he glared at Elijah, the streetlight glinted on his rims, completing the demonic image. “Snark all you need to, but it’s true. So get it over with, then agree you’ll move in, and I’ll tell you what I was going to ask you. You’ll get testy about that too, which is fine. I’ll stand here, and you can hurl whatever you want at me. But first you’re promising to move in.”
The whole thing was so insane Elijah didn’t know where to start. He considered giving him the finger and escaping up the stairs, at this point ready to wake up Mina and let her keep his demon at bay.
Except Baz had sunk to wrecked again. Sighing, Elijah pulled out a cigarette and scowled at Baz as he lit it. When Baz motioned for the pack, Elijah arched an eyebrow. “They’re GPC menthols.”
“I’ll buy you a carton of Davidoffs tomorrow, but for now, let me at the damn nicotine.”
Elijah had no idea what the fuck a Davidoff was. Probably some rich-person cigarette. Rolling his eyes, he passed over the pack and the lighter. Baz tapped out a cigarette, lit it and took a long, slow drag. He made a slight face as he exhaled, but he gave no commentary on the poor quality of Elijah’s tobacco.
“I can’t get into the full details, but the short version is my mom is making me haul ass to Chicago this weekend for some fancy fundraiser. She wants me to have a…date. She tried to set me up with someone herself, but I told her no.” He ashed the tip of his cigarette. “I kind of…told her I’d bring you.”
By the middle of the speech, Elijah had seen this coming, but the admission still left him dizzy. He smoked for almost a minute before replying. “So it’s a joke, right? I’m supposed to be the bumpkin you use to—”
“What? No. No.” Baz frowned at him, annoyed. “Why the fuck—how much of an asshole do you think I am?”
Elijah blew smoke at his face.
Baz held up his hands and grimaced before sucking on his own cigarette with intensity. “Fine. I had that coming. I’m a jerk. And you’re going to tell me no. I don’t have any idea how to convince you, because you turn me so goddamn inside out I’m not going to try. But fuck this idea I’d make fun of you.”
Why did you say you’d bring me? “I don’t have the right clothes.” Baz waved this away. “Whatever. I’d buy the clothes.” “I don’t know how the forks work and whatnot.” “It’s probably not a fork-focused thing, and if it is, learning that takes ten minutes.” Baz
glanced at Elijah as he drew once more on his cigarette. “These are your only objections? Forks and clothes?”
The night was warm, but Elijah hugged himself as if he were cold. “Why don’t you ask Aaron? He’d look good on your arm.”
“Giles would deck me.”
Giles would deck him. Elijah dropped his cigarette on the ground and rubbed it out with his toe. He immediately lit up a new one. “I work this weekend.”
“I’ll help you find someone to cover.” “I don’t know anyone in Chicago. If you abandon me, I have nowhere to go.” “I won’t abandon you. But if I were to, you’ll be driving my car. You could drive yourself here. If you want backup, I’ll toss in a five-hundred-dollar prepaid Visa card.” Elijah’s lungs were protesting from too much nicotine, but he kept smoking anyway. “This isn’t a joke. You really did ignore me for over a month, then ask me to be your date to the prom.” “Fundraiser. And, yes. Sorry.”
This was way too Carrie for comfort. Elijah scrambled out of the metaphor. “I can’t. Sid never went to a fundraiser with Nancy. It’s not in our script. Sorry.” “Sid and Nancy is not our script. Neither one of us is very punk rock.” He tapped his leg thoughtfully, making the smoke tendril from his cigarette dance. “Can’t find a better metaphor. Trying to build something off the fundraiser thing, but all I can get is The Princess Diaries.”
The streetlight caught Baz’s hair, making the brown gleam almost blond. The breeze ruffled it at the same time, sending some cottonwood whorls like magical dust around him.
“Howl,” Elijah said before he could stop his mouth. “You’re Howl Pendragon.”
Baz grinned. “Ha. Now that metaphor I like. With the Tesla as my moving castle? Howl doesn’t drive either. And you’re Sophie. Refusing to see your own beauty, blocking any attempts to undo your curse.”
Elijah glowered. “You expect me to get your heart back for you from a fire demon? Or be your servant while you run around making girls cry?”
“I’ll do my own cleaning, and Calcifer can keep my heart in the fireplace. Unless you agree to go with me to Chicago. Then I’ll put it in the frunk.”
Baz smiled, making the Howl’s Moving Castle theme soar in Elijah’s head. His heart was on the ground between them. “Okay,” he said.
And that was that.
Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family.
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