Excerpt: Petrichor

Breaking the Rules

“Hello, you guys all know me pretty well. We’ve been going to group therapy together for a long time. I started coming right after my diagnosis, and you’ve all been a great help to me, and I lost my leg along the way, lost people I thought of as friends, became closer to my family—a lot has happened in the past two years, and I’m still going to need you guys, but I’m happy to say, that as of my last test, and the results I got yesterday, I’m clear on cancer,” Ian Reid says, standing at the front of the room, and his smile is like nothing Greg Jones has ever seen before. It’s like a flower slowly blooming under the light of the sun, and it’s not the first time Greg has seen that image in his mind when thinking about Ian since he joined this support group for anyone affected by cancer in anyway.

The room applauds Ian’s announcement, and some people go to hug him or shake his hand, but Greg waits, waits for the group to break apart. Then Greg taps Ian on the shoulder and stops him before he goes for refreshments. Greg hugs him, making sure not to linger too long, not wanting to give away his massive crush in a room full of people, especially as some people in the group follow the rule of no dating among group members. Greg plans to break that rule, but not right away.

“Thank you for not telling anyone after I told you. I wanted you to know because you’ve been such a great friend, but everyone else I wanted to tell all at once. I’m just so happy. I mean, you know my story.” He runs a hand over his short hair, only just growing back after he lost it all to treatment. Greg’s lost his, too, and it hasn’t grown back. Ian had broken his leg and found out he had bone cancer. He’d had to have the leg removed, and it was his mother who’d found the group for him. “If I can do anything at all for you,” Ian went on, “just let me know.”

And that was exactly the kind of opening Greg had been hoping for. “Actually, I do have a favour I wanted to ask you,” Greg admits.

“Of course, anything. You’re one of my best friends, Greg. You’ve helped me keep upbeat; you got me to go see a doctor when I was depressed. No one else convinced me to do that, not my family, not people I knew before the cancer. I would do a hell of a lot for you, even if it’s illegal,” Ian says, and he sounds so serious, it makes Greg feel strange. It’s hard to explain. It’s not like he didn’t know he was Ian’s friend, and he knows he’s helped Ian, but hearing Ian say it like that makes his insides flutter.

“Why would it be illegal?” Greg frowns.

“I don’t know, but you seem really nervous about it, so I figured you needed to rob a bank or something.” Ian shrugs.

“As expensive as treatment is, I don’t need to rob a bank quite yet. But I am nervous; I have my first nude modelling job since—well, how do I put this delicately?—since they cut off one of my balls and I lost all my hair. And while the lack of body hair won’t be an issue, I am kind of worried about the rest of it. Everyone said they’re cool with it, but I don’t think this photographer has ever liked me, so it’d be reassuring to have a friendly face there.”

“You want me to come with you?”

“Yeah, if you’re free this Friday, I’d really appreciate it. I’ve regained the weight I lost during chemo, my muscle definition is almost back to what it was, but I had what you once called Fabio hair before. Now I’m bald, and no one apart from my doctors and my brother have seen my dick since they removed my ball.” Greg is honestly terrified about the photo shoot but trying to play it cool. He’s been a model since he was a kid, and focusing on nude modelling since he turned eighteen ten years ago.



love and cake

When his sister had come to the bakery to tell him and his partner, Ash, that her boyfriend had proposed, Rowan had happily offered to bake something tasty and pretty for her engagement party.

Now, back home, he’s up to his elbows in recipe books and starting to regret his offer .

“Have you narrowed it down?” Ash asks.

He hadn’t actually asked if Ash would be okay with helping when he had made the offer, but Rowan is lucky—he has an amazing boyfriend who had offered to help him out the moment Rowan had agreed to the party..

“Well… I’m thinking something simple would be best, like vanilla cupcakes with that vanilla frosting everyone likes so much, or chocolate cupcakes. Everyone likes chocolate. Maybe with buttercream frosting or cream cheese frosting on top, or… maybe something fruity?” He frowns at the recipes he’s been looking at—they are all successful recipes designed, tested, and worked on together by him and Ash.

“So… that’s a no to narrowing it down.” Ash chuckles.

“Kind of… the list was even bigger before, but I want this to be perfect,” Rowan says, groaning.

He knows a lot of guys who don’t get on that well with their siblings, but Rowan has always had fun with his sister. They’re friends. She was the first person he told when he realised he was gay, and he’d introduced Ash to her before their parents—her approval had meant a lot to him, and Ash had seemed to win it easily.

“Have you checked to see if anyone is vegan or has any food allergies?” Ash asks.

“Oh, shit.” Rowan moans this time.

“So that’s a big no,” Ash says, laughing as he drops down next to Rowan, who is sprawled on the floor. He rubs the tension bunching between Rowan’s shoulders with one hand. Ash is a big tall guy with fiery red hair, green eyes, and he’s covered in freckles, freckles Rowan likes to count with his tongue. He’s also tall, broad, and muscular, and strong enough to sling around huge industrial sized bags of flour.

Rowan isn’t a small guy at five nine, but back in the day, he was called a twink fairly often, largely for his white-blond hair and blue eyes, and the fact he’s not all that broad. Now he’s older, he doesn’t get as many pretty boy comments. It’s not like he hated being known as a pretty boy, but he’s more comfortable in his skin now, more at home with who he is. And he likes the way Ash looks at him, like he’s slightly stunned every time.

Ash is sexy as hell, and his strong hands have a way of making him melt. He’s still stressed about this cupcake business, but Ash’s touch does make him feel a little better, and more physically relaxed.

“I can call your sister,” Ash says, “take some of the stress off you, if you want.”

“I’ll text her, give her time to ask her guests if there are any special needs I need to know about. She’s not the one in charge of the party anyway. My mom and her future mother-in-law are.” Rowan yawns, too lazy to get up from the floor, where he is sat, surrounded by recipes. To get his cell phone, he stretches as far as he can until he reaches the edge of the coffee table where he snags his cell phone.

“Being a bride must be stressful, so it’s good that they’re helping her out,” Ash says as he smiles when Rowan begins texting.

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