It’s been Forever – Have an Excerpt

So it’s been an unreasonable amount of time since I posted anything. Have a few thousand words of a draft from Chapter 16, “Kiddo”

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Ilya gave him what almost passed for a nervous smile, but there was still a heaviness lingering behind it. He didn’t comment any further though, and instead wrapped his long fingers around the brass knob and opened the door to Anya’s room.

“Anya, my darling… is okay to come in?” Ilya asked, and Zach could hear the tenderness in his voice. How could he have walked away from this? He looked from Ilya to the little girl in the middle of the room. A kid was so far out of the realm of possible outcomes he’d considered… but here she was.

“Hey there,” Zach said, crouching down to meet her on her terms.

She turned to him, giving him a once-over, then without preamble, she looked him dead in the eye and said, “Didja say sorry?”

Zach almost choked. He couldn’t help but admire her tenacity. “Yeah,” he managed to get out. “Yeah, kiddo. I did, just like you told me to.”

She nodded as if this clearly was the correct response, then carefully arranged her toys around her to make room for Zach. “Didja mean it? Papa says it – it needs ta – you need ta mean it if sorry counts.”

Zach glanced over at Ilya, wondering if him walking out and breaking Ilya’s heart had anything to do with this particular life lesson.

Anya was still looking at him expectantly.

“Yeah kiddo, I meant it. Your Papa… he’s the best. And I wasn’t – I didn’t treat him that way. Like he’s the best. That’s why I came here – to say I was sorry. He said I could meet you,” Zach added, chancing another glance at Ilya, who sat on the floor now, looking smaller than Zach had ever seen him. “Your dad,” Zach said, nodding at him, “he’s pretty great, huh?”

“Mm-hmm,” Anya said, splitting her attention between Zach and her toy dinosaurs. “He’s good. He flies me sometimes.”

What?

Ilya smiled softly and jumped in, explaining. “I pick her up and spin around, like plane.”

Zach smiled. “Papa’s strong, huh?”

“Mm-hmm. Pea-cos he plays hockey.”

Trust Ilya’s toddler to know the word ‘hockey’ already. “You know kiddo… I play hockey too.”

“Hockey’s best,” she said, nodding firmly as though this settled the matter.

Zach laughed out loud. He couldn’t help it. There was absolutely no doubt about who her father was. “Hockey is the best. Definitely. Dinosaurs are pretty awesome though,” he added, gesturing to the toys around her.

“Mm-hmm.”

They sat together in silence for a few minutes, then Ilya spoke. “Maybe Zach should –”

“’M havin’ a tea party,” Anya announced, looking up.

Zach hardly breathed. Sure Ilya had been about to tell him to leave, he froze, hoping that Anya would ask for him to be there. And he wanted to stay. The thought surprised him, but as soon as he consciously accepted it, he knew it was true. Maybe Ilya would let him stay if his daughter wanted it? He wanted to stay too.

“When is tea party, Anushka?” Ilya asked. “Soon?”

“Now,” she nodded, then her little eyebrows furrowed. “Not now. Right after now.”

“Right after now?” Ilya asked gently.

“Mm-hmm.” She pushed a stegosaurus into Zach’s hand. “If you wanna come, you can,” she offered, smiling at him.

Zach’s heart squeezed inside his chest. He knew right then that he would do anything to keep her smiling. She invited him to this tea party, where there would invariably be fake tea and weird imaginary food, and he might have to do a silly voice and understand toddler-speak laced with bits of Russian.

But she invited him. She wanted him there. And he wanted to be there, to watch her tell her stories and play and make her smile.

Not ten minutes ago though, he had promised Ilya not to push. Not to cross boundaries. He had promised to let Ilya set the pace. What he wanted didn’t matter so much right now. Zach couldn’t – wouldn’t – let himself break this promise so soon.

Instead of answering Anya right away, he turned to look at her father, raising one eyebrow in silent inquiry.

Ilya sighed and shrugged as if to say, do what you want.

Zach bit his lip. He was trying to do the right thing here. He smiled at Anya, lightly bumping the stegosaurus against her knee. “I want to, kiddo. But, since I’m a guest… we had better ask Papa if I can stay. He’s the best right? He’ll know what to do.”

“Please, Papa?”

Oh god… how could anyone on the planet resist those eyes?

“You’re sure is what you want?” Ilya asked her, gently tucking a curl behind her ear.

“Yeah. Zach can come.” She put her dinosaurs down and half-leaned, half-fell over, hugging Zach around the middle. She snuggled in, then wrinkled her nose. “Take a bath first. You can’t smell at my party.”

The bedroom was quiet for a few moments as Anya’s words sunk in for both of the grown men. Zach looked over at Ilya, afraid to say anything in case it made the other man kick him out, but he needn’t have worried. Another minute later and Ilya’s shoulders were shaking with laughter.

“She’s right, you know,” he managed to wheeze out. “You do kind of stink.”

“And you didn’t say anything because?” Zach was too relieved at not being kicked out to have room to be annoyed or embarrassed.

“Am so surprise to see you, I’m not notice right away,” Ilya said, still laughing. Zach was so glad to see that smile again. He didn’t care that it was at his expense.

“I’m notice now though,” Ilya continued. “You really come straight from game, didn’t you?”

Zach knew Ilya so well, but the expression painted across his face was unreadable. The emotions shifted behind his eyes so quickly that Zach couldn’t get a grip on them before they changed again. He still wasn’t sure how Ilya felt about the whole run-away-from-the-game thing… and yeah, maybe it had been a supremely stupid thing to do… honestly, he couldn’t even say that it sounded like a good idea at the time. At the time, he hadn’t been a conscious choice. Ilya had been hurt, or at least Zach had thought he was. Ilya needed him. His brain had stopped working after that.

“Yeah,” he said finally, his eyes meeting Ilya’s. “Yeah, I did.”

The Russian was silent for a moment, looking shocked, touched, and exasperated. Zach hoped this was okay. After another moment that was probably shorter than the five years it felt like, Ilya smiled.

“You hear Princess… if you’re coming to tea party, you’re need shower. And new clothes.”

Progress and Excerpt

So…. I’m about 17k into the 6th draft here… but it’s the 1st draft with all the new characters spliced in. (I’ve got ~28k written of the old stuff… so I’m actually making good progress with the editing.)

I’ve got 7 chapters’ worth of stuff that’s edited now, out of 15. Then I get to start writing NEW WORDS. (Okay, I have actually started writing the new words… when I’m bored. At my desk. I’m writing two parts of this book at the same time. Madness. Lunacy, I tell you.)

Anyway. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 4, “The ‘L’ Word”

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“So. You and Pasta.”

“I still can’t believe he lets you guys call him that.”

“He likes it.”

“So I’ve noticed. You’d better be glad he does, he could take you apart if you ever made him angry.”

“You would know about him taking people apart, I guess.”

“Did Elias Henderson Gary just make a dirty joke? Call the papers, I demand space on page fucking one.”

“Haha, Zach. Seriously, I’m glad you guys are spending time together. He’s happy.”

“Thanks, Henders. It’s not serious though, we’re just… you know. It’s not like it’s a real relationship.”

“You both fly cross-country twice a month.”

“So would you if the sex was that good. You share that sweet condo with Derby, you don’t have to rack up the frequent flyer miles.”

“I still travel for roadies. And you two skype as often as we do.”

“He’s pretty to look at.”

“Your pets are friends. In real life and on Instagram.”

“If you’re gonna talk shit about my snake, Henders, our friendship really will be over.”

“Sorry. Darwin’s adorable.”

“Damn fucking straight he is.”

“I saw the posts with the ‘American Tail’ costumes. Nice.”

“Pasta thought that was so great. Russian mice in New York. I think it’s his new favorite movie. He said it was representing both of us. The pics were his idea. Now he wants to go as Feivel for Halloween next month.”

“Are you flying here for that?”

“Maybe. I’d kill to see him in that costume.”

“Okay, Zach. Just… whatever you two are calling this, make sure you’re on the same page.”

“He knows. I’ve said from the beginning, I don’t do relationships. Well. Y’know. Whatever we were or are… whatever it was. No offense, but it didn’t work out for either of us. Best not to go down that road again, right?”

“I know, Zach. And I agree with you, we weren’t… well, we just weren’t. Not really. And even though we figured that out the hard way, I’d like to think we’re past the worst of it.”

“Just look at us, all adulting and shit, bro.”

“Ha, next thing you know, we’ll be yelling at kids to get off our lawns. Just… whatever you guys started as, and whatever you are now… I know you. And him. And I care about both of you. I just want both of you to be happy.”

“Sure, man. It’s not like he’s my fucking boyfriend though, Henders. We’re not a couple. I know you’re practically married to Derby, and I’m really happy it’s working out. For reals, I am. But it’s not for everyone, okay?”

“Okay.”

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Inciting Incident

inciting-incident

So the thing that gets the ball rolling here is Ilya deciding to come out… and Zachary deciding to come out… on the same day. At the same time.

They didn’t plan this.

No really, they didn’t. Because they don’t actually know each other.

But you know the press. Two NHL stars kicking down the closet door on the same night? Clearly something going on between them. They must be absolutely in love, no matter how many times they deny it.

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Planning this out is hard, as the two (technically three, if you count Zach’s before and after-game pressers) conferences are on opposite coasts, with a 3hr time difference between them.

And looking up the average time for an NHL game, what the schedules would realistically be, when puck drop actually happens… a whole bunch of stuff. And the subsequent twitter DMs these two send each other afterwards.

Thank goodness for excel.

Mustangs

mustangs-main-6

And here’s the big six for the Greensboro Mustangs! Ilya is the main guy here, but he loves his team very much, so expect to see them around. Watch out for Remy… he may be small, but he’s fast!

Ilya, “Pasta”: 6’5″
Peter, “Remy”: 5’8″
Elias, “Elly”: 6’0″
Casper (who actually goes by his given name): 6’1″
Hugo, “Karlo”: 5’11”
Isak, “Stromy”: 6’2″