This one’s actually out now, lol. Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk. This is the one that I donated to the Absolute Write anthology two years ago. I got the rights back a while ago, but haven’t been in the headspace to do anything with it until recently. It’s $1.49 if you want to buy it, or free through Kindle Unlimited. (I’m also going to apologize for the formatting in the excerpt–Wordpress and I aren’t getting along right now.)
“Watch your head, Henry!”
“Why—ow!” I rubbed underneath the bright yellow hard hat Jaime had made me put on. Who takes a bookworm spelunking on their birthday? Apparently, my boyfriend. I glared at him.
“Come on, relax. You’ll love it, once we get there.” Jaime grinned at me, that charming let’s-go-get-into-trouble grin that had first seduced me away from my desk, then bit by bit had carved its way into my heart.
I sighed and followed him farther into the cave. The light from our headlamps splashed about us, giving us glimpses of the damp gray rock curving overhead. The ceiling was getting lower and lower.
He turned, and I was blown away again by how much I wanted him. Almost three years now, and it had never changed. It was just like that first day, when he’d walked into the Office of Admissions at Manford Community College, where I worked, and it was all I could do not to lunge across the counter and tackle him to the floor. I still got that feeling sometimes, when he came through the door of our house, whistling cheerfully. Some days, he didn’t make it much farther than the entryway.
“C’mon, it doesn’t get much lower. You’ll be fine. It’s all good.”
“Define good.” I’m claustrophobic—not terribly so, but enough that I was very aware of the tons of rock hanging over my head, just waiting for the perfect time to fall down and bury me. Jaime doesn’t notice things like that.He’s your typical outdoorsman, with hair sun-bleached from hiking and weekend home improvement projects, and the start of crow’s feet around his gorgeous hazel eyes. His body was lean and muscled from wrestling car engines and other heavy automotive parts into places they didn’t want to go. Me, I’m your typical nerd. No glasses—thank God—since the surgery, but my hair is a brown that is just brown and my eyes are a blue that is just blue. I’m not as tall as Jaime, or as muscled. He likes hiking and exploring. My idea of a well-spent afternoon is my comfy chair on the porch with a good book.
When we first started dating, I hadn’t expected it to last long. Funny thing, though—our differences are less different than our similarities. We’re both early birds who like leisurely breakfasts. He likes to do laundry, especially if he can put it out on a clothesline. Me, I hate laundry—damn stuff never ends. But, dishes—I can get into doing dishes. We both like a tidy house. And, since I bought him those headphones, I can read in peace with my head in his lap while he saves the known world from the digital enemies of the future.
We get along. Therefore, because he was so excited about this little excursion, I was tempting fate and Mother Nature by invading the grand old dame’s insides. She is so going to get me—I might as well paint a target on my back right now and get it over with.
“You know I’m only doing this because you asked me, right?” I reached forward to take the hand he held out to me. The feel of his calluses against my own less work-worn hands made me catch my breath. Suddenly, I was willing to do just about anything to have this whole thing over, so we could go home and I could feel those calluses slide over other portions of my anatomy. God, how I loved his hands.
“You’re doing great. It’s not far now.” He helped me across the slick stones, holding me up when my feet slipped in the damp, and wrapping an arm around my waist. Once, my feet went out completely from underneath me on the slippery rock and I fell. My hero, Jaime, caught me just in time to keep me from becoming a—not so—virgin sacrifice to the gods of the earth. (Yes, I know, we’ve all fallen. But we were in a cave. With stalactites, and rock, and danger. You never know when a sudden shock will set off a landfall. And I am not athletic enough to run away from one.)
If I hadn’t been almost completely speechless with both nerves and desire at that point, I would have begged out loud to go home. From my point of view, this was as bad as playground sports when I was a kid—always too slow, always in the way. The dweeb. Jaime made it different, both more and less scary at the same time. I didn’t want to do it, but I also didn’t want to disappoint him.
I took a deep breath, and Jaime took a kiss, which was a very nice way to end a breath. I tried to keep the kiss going, but he was determined to drag me farther into the abyss, so I sighed and made sure I got to keep one of hishands for my trouble. He grinned at me, as if he knew what I was thinking, but it was worth it.