Too Stupid to Live by Anne Tenino
It isn't true love until someone gets hurt.
Sam’s a new man. Yes, he’s still too tall, too skinny, too dorky, too gay, and has that unfortunate addiction to romance novels, but he’s wised up. His One True Love is certainly still out there, but he knows now that real life is nothing like fiction. He’s cultivated the necessary fortitude to say “no” to the next Mr. Wrong, no matter how hot, exciting, and/or erotic-novel-worthy he may be.
Until he meets Ian.
Ian’s a new man. He’s pain-free, has escaped the job he hated and the family who stifled him, and is now—possibly—ready to dip his toe into the sea of relationships. He’s going to be cautious, though, maybe start with someone who knows the score and isn’t looking for anything too complicated. Someone with experience and simple needs that largely revolve around the bedroom.
Until he meets Sam.
Sam’s convinced that Ian is no one’s Mr. Right. Ian’s sure that Sam isn’t his type. They can’t both be wrong . . . can they?
Excerpt found on Riptide Publishing's page“Sam took a shortcut through a park located smack between the campus bookstore and his place, walking all over leaf-strewn grass he probably shouldn’t have, clutching the book he’d hidden under his plaid shirt-jacket. He just needed to get to his apartment before he saw someone he knew.
If he ran into someone he knew, they’d expect him to stop and talk, because that’s the kind of guy he was: the smiley, friendly, talky kind. Then, because he didn’t have his backpack—mental note, bring backpack next time—they’d want to know what he was clutching away so furtively, guiltily, under his jacket. And—in spite of aspiring to an MFA in writing—he could never seem to come up with a plausible lie in truly dire situations.
At which point he’d have to make a break for it. Dammit, he was wearing those cool lumberjack boots he’d bought the last time he’d visited Nik in Whitetail Rock, and—newsflash—they sucked for running.
They looked good with plaid shirt-jackets, though.
A shouted “Hey!” interrupted his riotous thoughts.
He knew, he just knew, they were shouting at him. And he had a romance novel hidden under his shirt. A romance novel with a lurid cover featuring a bare-chested, kilt-wearing man on horseback, clutching a saloon-girl-cum-fair-maiden to his brawny chest.
“Hey! Get the hell off the field!”
Crap. Sam ran, hunching to protect the book, stumbling in an ungainly sideways sort of run.
He looked back over his shoulder. A whole pack of brawny Highlanders was chasing him. Sure, they had jeans on, and only some of them were bare-chested, but they all had that meaner-than-hell-Scot look in their eyes. It wouldn’t have surprised Sam in the least if their knobby-yet-manly knees had been flashing under yards of plaid.
The leader of the clan made Robert the Bruce look like a little nellie boy. He was tall, thickly muscled, and light haired, with scruff Sam could see from ten yards away while running and looking backward over his shoulder. He had one of those brows that bordered on hairy Neanderthal, but somehow looked macho and sexy. His mouth was open, screaming some kind of battle cry, and he was gaining on Sam. Reaching out to grab him.
Sam slowed, considering the merits of letting the sexy Highlander catch him. Then his self-preservation instinct kicked in. He faced forward, clutched the book tighter, and put on some speed.
That was when some projectile clocked him in the back of the head. It nearly sent him into a somersault. His legs couldn’t keep up with the forward momentum of his upper body. His knees gave and he pitched forward, throwing out his hands to catch himself.
Which was, of course, when he lost his grip on the book and dropped it. Actually, it was more of a fling than a drop. Sam lay there, cheek on the cold, damp autumnal grass, front getting soaked with dew, stunned and blinking at his book a few feet in front of him.Verdant, his brain supplied. Your romance novel is lying in a verdant field of grass, longing for its reader. A weird-looking, snub-nosed white football wobbled its way into his field of vision and came to a rocking halt.
Knees dropped onto the grass next to his head, jolting him. Sam strained his eyeballs upward and saw the brawny, shirtless Highlander who’d been leading the pack panting and scowling down at him. His sexy faux-Highlander muscles were straining and his chest was rising and falling rapidly. He had a veritable forest of caramel chest hair.
He made the best living, breathing (panting) romance novel cover Sam had ever seen. Macho and manly and stern and, oh man. Sam sighed. Guys like this were never gay. They were always the ones chasing the homos.
At that point it occurred to him to wonder why they’d been chasing him. “What are you doing?” he gurgled. His sluggish brain suddenly started calling out the anxiety attack.
The guy panted a couple of breaths before growling, “Playing smear-the-queer. Waddaya think? We’re playing rugby!” He huffed derisively, then turned away. Sam saw him reach for the football, his hand hesitating over the book.
Oh, fuck my life. Sam scrunched his eyes shut. Other feet pounded up around him, and voices asked if he was all right and What the fuck? Sam held his breath, waiting for the shaming to begin.
When he felt something shoved roughly under his side, his eyes popped open, and he looked into the smiling, patronizing face of the Highlander. His fingers brushed against Sam’s ribcage as he pulled his hand away.
Sam smiled tentatively. The Highlander shook his head in disgust, except he was smiling, just a little. “You all right?” he asked.
“Uh. Yeah.” Sam stared dumbly. Was that a chorus of angels he heard? The sounds of the other players faded away as Sam met his Highlander’s mossy green eyes. He felt asomething lock into place inside his chest. Click.
It appeared to be a one-sided revelation.
His Highlander gazed back at him with some emotion in his eyes. It was . . . confusion. Confusion quickly becoming something more like condescension. He lifted his hand, still on his knees in the grass beside Sam, reaching for him as if in slow motion. Sam realized with horror that the Highlander was going to give him a conciliatory pat on the head and then stand up and walk away. Didn’t he feel the click, too? How completely unfair that Sam should know instantly that this man was his destiny, but his stupid Highlander had no clue.
Poor, naïve hero. He wouldn’t know what hit him when he finally fell in love. Sam almost felt sorry for him. Almost. It was hard to feel sorry for some bastard who was about to pat your head and dismiss you, soul mate or not.
“Ian!” One of his Highlander’s clan, um, teammates was suddenly standing there, shaking the Highlander’s shoulder.
Ian. His name is Ian. Sam sighed.
The Highlander—Ian—dropped his hand and looked away from Sam. “Yeah?”
“C’mon, man, you gonna play or what?”
Ian looked back at Sam for a second. “Yeah. Just give me a minute.” The guys on the team started to wander away while Ian reached again for Sam.
At first Sam thought he was going to get the head pat after all, but Ian held out his hand, palm up. As if he wanted Sam to take it.
Sam stared at the hand a second, then looked back up at Ian. He was an ideal romance novel hero, in Sam’s humble (yet well-read) opinion. All those muscles and that curly hair on his chest. Sprinkles of gold above his nipples, thicker on his massive, blocky pectorals. Who knew blocky was so hot? Guh. The hair, though. Sublime. Thinner on the sides but growing in toward his center, a line of it defining his sternum, swirling around his navel, arrowing toward his groin. Happy trails to you . . .
Ian snorted out a laugh, and Sam jerked his head off the ground. Ian was laughing at him, one side of his mouth curled up.
Oops. Sam might have let the ogling get out of control.
“You need help getting up, or what? C’mon, we wanna play.” In a lower voice, he added, “Put your eyes back in your head.”
Oh. Sam felt his face get hot as he reached out and took Ian’s hand. The way this was going, it would be his only chance to touch his Highlander. Ian pulled him up so fast, he went from prone to standing with no stops in between.
“Jeez, you’re strong.” And you, Sam, are a conversational reject.
Ian just snorted that laugh again and looked at him. Standing, they were about the same height. That was kind of unusual. It made Sam’s insides clench.
“You all right, kid?”
Kid? Oh! A pet name. “Um, yeah, think so.”
“Let me see your eyes,” he said, getting in Sam’s face. Sam swallowed and held his breath while Ian scrutinized him carefully for something. Studying his eyes. They were his best feature, which wasn’t saying much in his opinion. He’d never had someone pay quite this much attention to them, though. “Yeah,” Ian muttered. “Same size.”
“Uh . . .?”
“Your pupils. That ball hit you pretty hard. You might want to go to urgent care and get your head checked out, but you look all right to me.” Ian shrugged, then added, “Not that I’m a professional.”
“Oh.” Sparkling small talk, there. “Um, my name’s Sam.”
Ian looked smirky, but held out a hand for him to shake. “Ian.”
“Yeah, I caught that. Um, you know . . .” The blood started pounding in Sam’s ears. Was he really doing this? He pretty much had to; it was the job of any successful romance protagonist. Sam wanted to be a successful romance protagonist, especially in this particular plotline. “Why don’t you let me buy you a cup of coffee or something? Kind of a thank you.”
Saying thank you with coffee. All the best heroes did it.
Ian eyed Sam, suddenly cautious. “What makes you think I’d be into a date with a guy?”
The click. “Oh, uh . . . Straight guys don’t usually realize when I’m, you know, um . . . when I’m checking them out.” Sam waved at Ian’s naked, sculpted, hairy chest. Yum. “Or they get all, you know . . .ˮ Sam bared his teeth and faux-growled instead of continuing.
You are such a dork.
“True that.” Ian looked away from Sam, crossing his arms over his chest. Oooh, veiny forearms, and biceps like citrus fruits. Sam stared, and Ian finally said in a low voice, “Listen, kid, you’re not really my type. Sorry, but . . .” He shrugged.
Sam’s stomach bottomed out. He couldn’t quite meet Ian’s eyes. “Oh, that’s not—I mean, I didn’t figure I was, just . . . I really wanted to say thank you.” Jesus, getting shot down was excruciating. It had never happened to him before. Probably because he’d never asked anyone out before.
It was unlikely he would in the future, either, based on this experience.
“There, you said it. You’re welcome. Now go get checked out. And don’t forget your book.” Ian looked back down on the ground, where the impression of Sam was still fresh in the grass. His romance novel lay about where his heart had been.
Sam felt his face go redder. He bent over and snatched up the book, tucking it into his jacket. “Thanks,” he mumbled, not looking at Ian. Shot down and humiliated. Twice.
Ian laughed shortly. It wasn’t a mean laugh, exactly. Just a sardonic one. “You’re welcome. Go on, Sam.” My name, he said my name. “And stay off the field from now on, okay?”
Sam watched him walk off. He only meant it to be a glance, but Ian’s back was mesmerizing. Yeah, he was sexy, but his skin was a mass of shiny smooth splotches mixed in with swirling scar tissue below his shoulder blades, all the way down, disappearing into his jeans. Three or four different shades of pink and tan. Parallel to his spine just above the small of his back was an incision scar. Dark brown and graphic, maybe five inches long.
Oh! My Highlander’s been wounded. A scarred man, looking for the one person who can help his heart heal.
Sam caught himself before he clutched his chest from the angst of it all. He was a fool. A geeky, not-very-attractive fool. A too-tall twink of a fool who didn’t get the time of day from hot muscle bears. If he were cute and small and blond (as opposed to towering, underweight, and bland), maybe Ian would want to tie him up and have his way. But Sam wasn’t.
He looked down sadly at his book, then covered the heroine’s face and most of her cleavage with his thumb and gazed at the Highlander beside her. He seemed so two-dimensional.
Just you and me, buddy. You’re all the Highlander I’m gonna get.
“Hey, kid!” someone shouted. “Get the hell off the field!”
SO Cute! I can totally see the guy on the cover of this book as the geeky, dorky guy Sam from this story :)
Always with his head in the clouds -
OH and if you like Highlander romance novels - men in kilts... yeah, this one will really have you thinking of a new Role Play with your significant other :)
Loved it! Sam is a sweetheart, once you get past his too skinny and too tall looks, you'll see his over the top gay and lovable attitude. Once he loves he loves with his whole heart body and soul.
Sam had his heads in the clouds - or on his newest Highlander novel while he was cutting through a field - he got hit by the football and knocked down. His newest book went flying.
That's when Sam met Ian -
Now Ian is a different story. He lived most of his life in the closet. Sure he knew he preferred men , but with his father breathing down his neck, the Homophobic people from work, it was just easier to laugh and pretend he was looking for women. He even dated a few and tried to "make sure" But Ian knew living this life was a lie.
After his accident, he was finally healed up and ready to move on. He decided he was tired of living his life as a lie.
But when he saw that geeky guy laying on the ground, he knew he wasn't going to stoop down to that level. After all, Ian was a big guy, good looking and could have his pick at anyone. why would he settle for someone who looked like Sam??
Sam had never asked anyone out before, but when Ian shot him down - it hurt.
Moving on to Nic and Jurgen's "singles only gay house warming party" :)
Ian and Sam were thrown towards each other again. Only this time it was Nic, Sam's BFF who was trying to distract Ian from everyone BUT Sam -
Then Jurgen , Ian's cousin,also Nic's partner, was doing whatever he could to keep Ian and Sam from getting together. Even so much as letting Ian know that Sam was off limits.
Jurgen knew about Ian's past, and knew that Sam was looking for love, not a one night - But Ian couldn't help it. There was something ... just "cute" in the way Sam blushed every time they caught each other's eyes across the room.
With a little help, these two finally get together. Sam knows it's his heart on the line, and he knows that he will probably wake up alone, but there was something with Ian that all Romance novels talked about.. that spark :)
Love how Sam always referred to his Highlander books for comparison.
Ian was a great guy, he just had a hard time getting to where he needed to be.
The romance was great, the chemistry between these two was hot and the story was all around a fun book to read :)