It’s release day! Nesting Habits is now available on Amazon & for the first time you can read free on KU! If you’re in the mood for angst & some heat, you might like this story.
Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite!
Saturday. He should be finishing cleanup on his apartment. It comprised half of the basement, and the water had invaded enough to soak the rugs and just about everything within four inches of the floor. Instead, he was stretched out on his stomach in the damp grass behind his tripod, staring through his Canon EOS 5D Mark III with the EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III telephoto zoom lens. A hummingbird zipped back and forth across the yard on a different trajectory each time, gathering materials for her nest, and Phil shot her construction work. He didn’t have to lie in the grass—the bird probably wouldn’t have cared if he walked around searching for a better angle—but he wanted to see how far away he could get and still freeze her wings. It wouldn’t be easy, but he had the time.
She zipped away and over the fence seconds before he heard someone coming up behind him. Jerry would have called first, but Phil’s pocket hadn’t vibrated. His chest tightened, and he knew he should start employing strategies to avoid a full-on panic attack, but then two things happened at once.
Lee’s voice said, “Hey, Phil,” and a jeans-clad bottom dropped onto the grass beside his head. “What’re you up to? Or maybe I should ask what you’re doing down here.”
He turned his head just enough to see Lee’s knee peeking through a hole in his jeans, and then he dropped his face into the crook of his elbow. After a few slow deep breaths, he lifted his head, and Lee was still there. Phil looked up farther, and there was that smile again, making him sweat.
“Geez, did I mess up your shot? Sorry about that. I don’t see what you’re shooting, though.”
Steady; breathe; rehearse. “It’s o-okay. Sh-she’ll come back. Lee.”
“Who? It’s an animal, right? Not some girl next door, right?” Lee laughed, but it wasn’t the same one he used before. He wasn’t breathing through it.
Phil rose onto his elbows and turned on the view screen. He felt Lee’s eyes on his fingers as he scrolled back to a shot worthy of sharing. Close enough, anyway.
He pointed at the screen, and before he could move out of the way, Lee stretched out beside him and zeroed in on the screen. Phil gasped when Lee leaned so their shoulders and upper arms touched. He was busy processing the sensation of having someone touch him casually—even through the fabric of his shirt, he was reduced to staving off the hyperventilation he feared was inevitable—so he missed what Lee was saying. Lee was close, so close, but his voice was far away.
“Hey, Phil? You okay?”
Lee moved away, just far enough so their bodies weren’t touching anymore.
Phil nodded but couldn’t make himself turn to look at Lee.
“Your pictures, they’re amazing.” Lee said, his voice calm and steady and filled with sincere awe. “What’s this in her beak?”
Lee carefully scrolled forward, and Phil realized Lee had thumbed through all the pictures from that morning and some from last evening as well. He’d been out of it longer than he thought.
“It’s a spiderweb. Hummingbirds use them to build their nests.”
Two sentences. Phil couldn’t remember when he’d last gotten two sentences out just the way he’d intended. He smiled and raised his eyes to Lee’s. They seemed to mirror what he was feeling. Relief; happiness; desire. The next thing he knew, Lee’s lips brushed his lightly. Phil trembled but didn’t pull away. Pride in his perfect speech along with the giddy feeling inspired by Lee’s smile allowed Phil to give in to desire, just for a moment, to take a chance it would end well. Lee leaned toward him, but not so their shoulders touched, and kissed him just a few seconds longer. He kept his mouth almost completely closed, but Phil tasted a hint of hot chocolate. Or maybe the heat came from Lee.
“Whoa,” Lee sighed as much as said.
For a moment they just breathed. Lee sounded like he’d just run up the stairs. He crossed his arms on the grass and rested his cheek on them. His arm strained the sleeve of his T-shirt. That smile was back.
This book was previously released as The Nesting Habits of Strange Birds; content has not been significantly altered.