A Birthday Exerpt from Shocking Violet

I thought I would post an excerpt from Shocking Violet, my kinky queer polyamorous romance novel WIP, for my birthday, as a present for you.

As Zak has a birthday in the timeframe of the novel, that section seems like the best choice, given the occasion. Zaks birthday is a turning point in the story, in many ways. Both his birthday party, which happens earlier, and his actual birthday, which is what I want to share a bit of with you. He has a tradition of getting together with Jax on his birthday, December 22, and watching his most favorite Christmas movie, Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys. Those plans shift a bit in this excerpt, which doesn’t really reference Christmas but does include a celebration of Chanukah. (This novel takes place December-January, it’s got a bunch of holiday celebration in the midst of everything else going on.)

For context, Jax and Zak are best friends, and have a friends to lovers arc in this novel. (The fun of writing polyamorous  romances like this one is that I get to write multiple romance arcs!)  You can see them pining for each other in this excerpt. If you want to know more about these characters or read previous excerpts, you can find a synopsis and more excerpts here.

As a heads up, this excerpt includes a trauma survivor character getting triggered and managing being triggered, experiencing self blame around getting triggered, and obliquely referencing sexual abuse history. It also includes references to D/s. 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Jax

Jax had made a special trip after work to get gluten free birthday cupcakes for Zak. He knew that Zak would probably have plenty of food already there, but he wanted to bring him something special that he didn’t need to make himself. So a trip to the Lower East Side it was. He’d arranged to do a site visit at a program nearby so he could just walk to the bakery from there, and it wasn’t even snowing.

The bakery was surprisingly crowded, and he was glad he’d placed an order last week, because the case looked a bit sparse. It was such a surreal universe in there, like he’d travelled back to the 60s or something. This was Zak’s favorite gluten free bakery, and he remembered the last time he’d been here. Zak had dragged him after a rather depressing trip to a sex shop. He was nauseous afterwards, and Zak had insisted they try to walk it off, and get a treat after that ordeal. They’d stopped in here for gluten free cupcakes, and then had gone to Jax’s favorite Chinese restaurant and sat talking for hours. Jax had been avoiding this place, and the Chinese restaurant, since that day. For the last two years. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have come here today.

He had done that thing again, where the story he told everyone, of how he was just fine, had felt real enough that he’d believed it. He hadn’t remembered that he was limited now, in ways he hadn’t been before. He’d convinced himself he was just fine, didn’t need to avoid those pockets of New York that held these kinds of associations. When avoiding them was part of how he survived. Well, he had ignored that, so now he got to deal with the dysphoria, the flashes of memories. He’d brought it on himself.

He really didn’t want to bring this to Zak, though. Sure, Zak would understand, and be supportive, but Jax wanted to be in a better place than this before he showed up. Ok then. He stopped at a bodega and got a cup of tea, a sudoku book, and some cinnamon breath mints. If those things didn’t work, he’d try something else. He had a bunch of tricks up his sleeve.

He tried cinnamon first, while he was walking to the train. It helped some, especially in the cold, was one of the stims that really worked for him, just sharp enough to take all of his focus. When he got to the station, he tried the tea, and the warmth of it was good. Felt like comfort, like tending to himself, and made him breath slower. He felt his shoulders drift down a bit. Good.

Next, the sudoku. He sunk into it so deep, working the patterns of numbers using a chain of strategies that was satisfying in its repetition. That helped the most, really, to give his brain something else to focus on. He tried it with the cinnamon, and it took up all the space, there was nothing else. So much that he missed his stop, and had to take the train back in the other direction. That was okay, because he was in a much better place to celebrate Zak’s birthday now.

As he walked to Zak’s place from the train, he realized he was going to need to ask Zak if they could watch a different movie. He wasn’t up for a children’s film tonight, it would be too much of a risk when he was dealing with these kinds of flashbacks. They would figure it out. He hoped Zak wouldn’t be too disappointed.

He didn’t seem to be. He mostly just seemed happy to see Jax, and glad they were celebrating his birthday together. Zak ran through options, and the best one seemed to be an old Katherine Hepburn movie, a romantic comedy with Cary Grant. Jax was up for that; he hadn’t seen this one yet, but had heard wonderful things.

He’d brought his menorah, and they set it up on the table by the window. Zak stood so close Jax could feel the heat radiating from his body. He fumbled a few times, getting the candles set up, more than usual even. He finally got them set up, and began to light them, going slow because there were only two, and two blessings to sing. Zak didn’t sing, just stood there solemnly, almost leaning into Jax, sharing the moment with him. He didn’t seem to notice that Jax’s hand was trembling. It seemed to take forever to get the shamash to stay in its holder, but he finally did it, and went into the second blessing.

“Happy Chanukah,” Zak said softly.

“Happy Chanukah, Zak,” Jax said, and handed him the present he had brought for him, a trio of one act plays about AIDS from the 80s that Zak had been complaining he couldn’t get his hands on. Zak’s face when he tore off the wrapper was amazing, this electric joy in his eyes and those dimples making an appearance. Zak handed him his usual holiday gift, these amazing cookies that he baked himself, always packing them in a tin with a dragon stenciled on it for Jax, though everyone else seemed to get much more generic tins. Jax was pretty sure Zak stenciled on the dragons himself, though each year they were different. He gave Zak a big hug, and could tell that he startled him, because he held very still, like he didn’t want to do anything to make the hug stop, but he leaned into Jax’s chest with his cheek. Jax held him for a moment, breathing slow, resting his own cheek on the top of Zak’s head. Then he whispered thank you, and ended the hug.

Zak had also made an amazing feast. Latkes, and this chicken soup with meat so tender it made Jax swoon. He’d gotten Jax’s favorite pickles, too. And made cheesy popcorn from scratch, Jax’s favorite. Comfort food. Not just any comfort food, but Jax’s comfort food. So, what Zak wanted to do most on his own birthday was provide Jax comfort. Oh. This shouldn’t be a surprise, but, it really was, actually. He hadn’t put it together quite like that before. After all this time, there were still things to learn about his best friend, after all.

He really didn’t want to lose this friendship. Jax knew he tended to try to keep things the same as much as he could. And sometimes they did need to change. The newness with Violet, trying D/s in a new way, that had been this tremendous thing, had opened him up somehow. That was why he’d taken the risk with Rickie. Well, that and the conversation he’d had with Zak. The change with Rickie, it was good, really good. Was this another thing that also needed to change?

As they sat there, cuddled on the couch watching some of the best banter Jax had ever seen, he thought about it. What if it did need to change? What if it had already started to change? It kind of felt like maybe it had. He was seeing Zak differently now, and wasn’t sure he could stop. He’d put away this possibility long ago, but that had been cuz he’d thought he’d blown it. What if he hadn’t, it just hadn’t been the right time?

Cary Grant and Kate Hepburn were bickering when Zak adjusted his position to lie on the couch, and rested his head on Jax’s thigh. Before Jax even thought about it, his hand was in the boy’s hair, stroking it gently. It was like every single part of him that was touching Zak was acutely aware and full of electrical impulses zinging around, especially his fingertips moving through Zak’s hair. He lost the movie entirely, lost everything in the room, was certain he couldn’t make words if he tried, all of him was focused on these places of physical connection. His breathing slowed, and he closed his eyes to just concentrate on the feel of Zak’s cheek on his thigh, Zak’s hair under his hand. His heart filled with this rightness, this quiet certainty. He wanted to dominate this man. He had wanted to for so damn long. They had layers of relationship already. This was just another layer. He resolved to bring it up with Zak tonight, after the movie ended. Except Zak got there first.

2 thoughts on “A Birthday Exerpt from Shocking Violet

  1. What a treat! so into it; i haven’t visited romance or erotic narratives for a while and this went Zing! feels realistic, so smoothly moving in narrative through errands and daily activity reflections. yay!

    and Happy Birthday! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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