It's here! Release day is finally here! I bet you're all really pleased about that. :D
That's the trouble with social media; no matter how many times we share our news, there will be some people who miss it entirely whilst others are thinking enough of the constant bombardment already!
So, yeah - sorry if you fall in the bombardment camp.
The Making Of Us is a story I didn't foresee, but in truth, I realise now that - like When Skies Have Fallen - it's a story I needed to tell.
Back in 2014, when I wrote the first instalment of the Checking Him Out series, it was my first foray into writing M/M Romance, and it was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek, quirky story - and a one-off! It's my most-read story, helped in no small part by being free - I'd have made a 'real' bestsellers' list had it not been free.
Checking Him Out is about Sol and Adam - two British guys (competitive, annoying, alpha-male types) who meet in the US, fall in love and move back to England. In the epilogue, I wrote a scene about Noah (Adam's younger brother) and his new boyfriend Matty - as a contrast to show how far Sol and Adam had come. Readers asked for their story.
So...I wrote Taking Him On - Checking Him Out #2 - which is Noah and Matty's story. Again, it's M/M romance...in which Noah introduces us to his best mate Jesse, and Noah and Matty get a new housemate - Leigh.
For Sol and Adam fans, I also wrote Checking In - #3 - which covers the same events as Taking Him On but from Sol's point of view. In both stories, we get to see a little bit of Jesse and Leigh...
And readers asked for Jesse and Leigh's story.
What could I do but oblige? (And gladly.)
The Making Of Us has the same mix of quirky British humour and big things in life as the previous books (and novellas) in the series, and it is a romance (or a love story), but it's less in your face - on matters of sex, at least. With the exception of Hiding Out (#1.2), all the previous stories have been sexually explicit, because all of the other characters are body-confident, whereas Jesse is not.
Thus, in The Making Of Us, while you'll find many romantic moments as Jesse and Leigh get to know each other, and there's some intimacy along the way, this is also a story about Jesse learning to love himself.
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When English Lit. student Jesse Thomas meets Leigh Hunter, he has to reconsider a few assumptions he's made about himself.
Two years ago, Jesse joined Pride - the uni's LGBT+ society - to support best friend Noah, and Noah's boyfriend, Matty. As a straight, cismale ally, Jesse keeps a low profile - not difficult for someone as shy and body-conscious as he is.
Leigh Hunter is Noah and Matty's new housemate. Born with a life-threatening congenital condition, Leigh is intersex and identifies as queer - none of which alters Jesse's conviction that they are the most beautiful person in the world.
While Jesse and Leigh get to know each other, a new academic year begins in earnest, bringing with it the usual challenge of balancing work and play. Add in a week's holiday in Cornwall that Jesse and Leigh half-wish they hadn't agreed to, Jesse's unplanned involvement in the election of Pride's new officers, and some big decisions for Noah and Matty, it's going to be an interesting semester all round.
* * * * *
It was at that point I realised I wasn't alone, as in, Noah hadn't followed me out, but I could hear someone in the henhouse...singing to the hens. The door fully opened, and Leigh emerged, shielding their eyes against the patio lights.
"Hello." They were shrouded in shadow but it made no difference. At least my heart wasn't short of a good workout or ten.
"Yep." Urgh. Where the hell were my words? This was starting get really annoying. I'd liked Leigh from the start - not the instant attraction/choking incident...well, obviously, I liked them then, but I was only counting from when we were properly introduced, and I'd realised that Leigh was just as beautiful inside as out. At first, my nervousness made me talk too much, but Leigh was chatty, too, so we just kind of gabbled our way through conversations, and it had all been a bit giddy and out of control, but we were talking. Now, I couldn't think what to say at all, and I was sure it was getting worse.
"What's up?" Leigh advanced and stopped a couple of feet away, frowning inquisitively, mixed with a bit of concern. I pointed at my mouth. "Sore throat?" Leigh guessed, but that wasn't what I'd meant.
"Lip," I uttered.
"Oh!" Leigh laughed. It was enchanting, Leigh's laughter, a breathy 'hah' and a gasped inhalation over which their smile lingered. Honestly, sometimes I could've rolled my eyes at myself, because everything about Leigh was just...perfect. To me. They poked their tongue against the inside of their lip, flinching slightly.
"New piercing?" Woot! Actual words. Go, Jesse!
"Yeah. Got it done this afternoon. Do you like it?"
It was a perfect excuse to move closer, but my shoes seemed to have stuck themselves to the ground. I settled for nodding instead. "How many's that now?"
Leigh thought, at the same time reaching up a hand and feeling their way along one ear then the other, counting under their breath. "Eight? I think one's healed over. Has it?"
They stretched up towards me, but their hair was covering their ear. I clamped my lips between my teeth in an effort to make it less obvious that my breath was juddering with nerves. I lifted my hand and brushed Leigh's hair back, trying to stay focused on their ear, overwhelmed by their closeness, their soft hair tickling my fingers, the relative coolness of their skin where our hands touched...
"Three," I pushed out.
"Is there a hole at the top with nothing in it?"
That part of Leigh's ear was still in shadow. My fingers combed through the strands of hair - shiny midnight blue in the twilight - as I moved it behind Leigh's ear. "I think so."
"Eight, then," Leigh confirmed.
"It was meant to be a snakebite - " Leigh poked at the lip piercing again, same result as last time " - but it hurt like hell."
"A snakebite? What's that?" I hadn't moved my hand away. I wasn't sure I could.
"One on either side."
"Cool." I liked piercings. They were fun, and if I'd been slimmer, or less bothered about not being slimmer, I'd have probably got my eyebrow pierced, although...maybe it would draw attention away from the rest of me.
I couldn't recall if Leigh had piercings when I first met them. I was kind of overwhelmed, and everything had gone a bit hazy and soft focus. Whether Leigh had them or not, I'd still feel the same, but the nose stud was definitely recent.
Would the one on their lip make kissing more difficult? Why was I even thinking about that?
Leigh had kissed me once. On the cheek. It was the day Matty was assaulted - by his dad. Leigh needed a shot of hydrocortisone, which they self-administered and everything was fine, but they still should've gone to the hospital to get checked out. Of course, they refused to - I didn't blame them, to be honest, but I kept that to myself at the time - and so, I accompanied Leigh home and hung around until Adam and Sol got back.
It was the quickest kiss, and it had only been to say thanks, or maybe it had been more. I just didn't know. We were both pretty shy in that respect. What if we were both also waiting for the other to be bold enough to ask us out on a date, or make a move or something? We might never get any further than this disjointed conversing that seemed to have replaced the ease with which we used to chatter.
"I'd better go in," Leigh said.
"OK." Please don't.
They turned and walked back towards the house, taking their time - were waiting for me to stop them? As they reached the door, they paused and called, "D'you need a drink or anything?"
Oh! "Er...yes, please. Diet Coke?"
Leigh nodded and smiled. "Be right back."
"Thanks!" I shouted, but they'd already disappeared inside. I swear I was gonna be Jesse the Puddle by the time they got back - why did it have to be so damn hot? Why did they?
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Thanks for reading! :)