Happy Hump Day!
Today, my guest is fellow Dreamspinner author, CJane Elliott. She’s brought an excerpt from her upcoming release, which sounds great and is available for pre-order (hint, hint). I hope you’ll all help me make her feel welcome.
Thank you, Charley, for this opportunity to talk about Serpentine Walls.
Hello all, I’m CJane Elliott and my novel Serpentine Walls is being released by Dreamspinner Press on October 30th. I’ve published three novellas through Dreamspinner but this is my first novel-length work and I’m excited to share it with everyone.
The novel is a contemporary romance set at the University of Virginia, my alma mater.
Reeling from the news that his parents are divorcing, Pete Morgan starts his junior year at college cynical about love and commitment. Although his new openness to one-night stands does wonders for his sex life, fighting his romantic nature proves harder than he’d anticipated. He soon finds himself pining for a glamorous senior, Aidan, who doesn’t mind taking Pete to bed but shows no interest in commitment—at least not with Pete. And Pete’s attempt at a “friends-with-benefits” relationship with sophomore Jed leaves Pete feeling empty.
One bright spot in Pete’s year is Matthew, an easygoing graduate student who assists Pete in making his first film. Matthew has some baggage too, and has sworn off relationships and sex altogether, so Pete feels safe to enjoy their friendship. But he falls for Matthew anyway, not able to fight his growing conviction that Matthew is the perfect guy for him. Even if Pete can accept that he made a mistake when he turned his back on relationships, that doesn’t mean Matthew will feel the same. With a few life lessons under his belt, Pete’s ready to take a chance on love. As he finds the courage to bare his heart to Matthew, he can only hope that Matthew will take a chance with him.
I see that there’s been a discussion of heroes on Charley’s blog lately.
Pete is the “hero of the tale” but he’s just a college-aged guy who has his share of flaws. He doesn’t understand himself too well as the story begins and although he’s basically a nice person, he acts like a dick without even realizing it. As my first editor commented, “I definitely wanted to smack him upside the head more than a few times.”
For instance, he starts a “friends-with-benefits” relationship with a nice guy named Jed. Jed is really into Pete and Pete isn’t interested in more, but Pete tries to ignore Jed’s growing attachment because he doesn’t want to give up having regular sex and playing video games.
Pete’s cousin, Bud, who is the one who introduced the two, confronts Pete about what he’s doing. They are in Pete’s car driving home for Christmas break.
“Hey, but I’ll see you on Christmas Eve, bro.” Bud’s parents had hosted a huge party for family and friends every Christmas Eve for as long as Pete could remember. “You and Jed.”
Bud stared at him like he was dense. “Jed—your boyfriend? He’s gotta meet the family sometime.”
“Jed isn’t my boyfriend. Wait—you didn’t invite him…?
“’Course I did!” Bud said, indignant. “I don’t care what you call him; you guys have been hooking up for months, right?”
“That doesn’t make him my boyfriend! Crap. Why’d you have to invite him to the family Christmas party?”
“Well, what is he then? What—you too good for Jed? You can’t bring him around?
You’re such a snob, Pete.
“No, I’m serious, man. You finally get someone who likes you—a normal guy, not one of those—”
“Bud, shut the fuck up. If you say one more thing, I’m gonna smash your face in.” Pete said this knowing that threats never stopped Bud, and, true to form, he barreled ahead, crossing his arms over his chest with a belligerent scowl.
“All I’m sayin’ is you finally get a guy who’s into you and you blow him off. For what? That Aidan guy? Gimme a break.”
Pete gripped the steering wheel, wanting to pull over and punch Bud out, although he’d never actually do that. He couldn’t pull over anyway. They were trapped on I-66, surrounded by wall-to-wall automobiles, and there was no escaping Bud’s continuing diatribe.
“I don’t even know what you see in that asshole. He fucks everyone in sight. You’re better than him, bro, even if you’re a dumbass at times.”
“Can we stop talking about this?” Pete said through gritted teeth.
“Yeah, fine. But I got one more thing to say. If you don’t think you’re boyfriends with Jed, you should tell him, ’cause he thinks you are. And I ain’t disinviting him from the Christmas party. That’s just rude.”
Stony silence. Pete didn’t stop Bud this time when he leaned over and changed the radio to the country station. He was suddenly in the mood for “Achy Breaky Heart” and all that other lachrymose shit. Yeah, and maybe he was a snob, because he didn’t think either Bud or Jed even knew what “lachrymose” meant, but fuck it. I am who I am.
Not the main point, Morgan. Okay, the main point was Jed. He liked him—Jed played a mean video game and was fun to hang out with. And, yes, they’d been having sex—not exactly regularly, but off and on since September. Someone like Angie could misconstrue that, but Jed was a guy. A gay guy! “Friends with benefits,” right?
So what? argued an opposing voice, as a vision of Jed’s double bed and shy smile arose in his mind. What makes gay guys exempt from wanting a relationship? He was not going to dwell on his next memory: Aidan, naked on top of the coverlet, telling him, You want someone to love. Aidan had that all wrong. (But he’s not as big of an asshole as you think, Bud.)
Back to Jed, Pete knew there had been signs of Jed getting attached to him since the beginning. But tell him they weren’t boyfriends? Pete could just imagine that conversation:
— Uh, Jed, it’s come to my attention that you think we’re boyfriends, and I just wanna let you know that we’re not. ’Kay?
— Oh. Sure, Pete. Thanks for letting me know. Wanna play Mortal Kombat?
And what if he brought it up, and Jed looked at him like he was nuts because Bud had gotten it all wrong? As his cousin who’d been stuck with him all their lives, Pete was aware that the likelihood of Bud getting shit wrong, especially when it came to people and relationships, was high.
So, what’s the plan? Ignore it and hope it goes away? That sounded good to Pete. Jed hadn’t brought it up, so he sure as hell wasn’t going to. He had a week before the Christmas party; he’d think about it later. That resolved, Pete cut off Blake Shelton and turned the music back to his R&B station.
Oh, Pete. I’m glad to report that he grows and learns so much throughout the story. And poor Jed. I’m planning to write a follow-up novel where Jed gets his happy ending, but it’s not to be in this book.
More About CJane Elliott
After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.
To get the book with the full adventures of Pete and friends, go here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4336