The Novel Approach is pleased to welcome author Sherrie Henry today, as our final guest in the Countdown to GayRomLit Celebration.
To bring things to a close, Sherrie is offering the chance for one lucky reader to win an e-copy of her new book Two Red Leaves, the sequel to last year’s Last of the Summer Tomatoes. To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment here by Midnight Pacific Time on Wednesday, October 15, 2014. One winner will be selected at random on Thursday, the 16th, and notified via email for prize delivery.
THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED
Blurb: After attempting a long-distance relationship, Kyle and Sam realize they don’t want to be with anyone else and decide to take the next step. But living together brings more challenges than they had anticipated.
After a summer back at the farm, Kyle and Sam move in together while Sam starts an internship in the city and Kyle continues with art school. Farm life’s left them ill prepared for dealing with each other’s idiosyncrasies, but they have no intention of giving up on each other. To succeed, they’ll need to learn to compromise, but everything gets more complicated when Kyle’s mother unexpectedly leaves her abusive husband and vows to be the mother Kyle has always wanted.
When the realities of living as a gay couple settle over them, they’re faced with the ultimate test of their commitment. Whether they’re ready or not, the moment has arrived when Kyle and Sam must sink or swim.
Excerpt: KYLE DRUMMED the fingers of his free hand against his thigh. He and Sam had been waiting for over an hour at the clinic, Sam holding his other hand tightly. He knew there wasn’t going to be a problem with either of them, but to placate Sam, he’d agreed to the testing. He looked around the room at a lot of people like the two of them, all waiting nervously for the nurse to call them. He could tell a few of the women were “working girls,” and he had to admit he was glad they were at least trying to take care of themselves. There were a few college-aged guys and an older gay couple to complete the array of humanity in this nondescript green-painted, cinder-block building.
A few minutes later, his name was called. Sam gave his hand a kiss. Kyle raised an eyebrow. “You aren’t coming?”
“This is supposed to be private.”
Kyle rolled his eyes. “You are kidding, right?” He tugged at Sam’s arm. “Come on, we’re doing this together. Unless….” Kyle cocked his head. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”
Sam stood up and towered over Kyle. “No!”
“Then why the reluctance to go with me?” Kyle heard his name being called again.
“I… I’m not sure.”
Kyle pulled Sam toward the nurse. “Then come on.”
The nurse looked up from her clipboard. “Kyle?”
Kyle nodded. “That’s me.”
She acknowledged Sam. “And your friend?”
“Sam Johnson. We came in together; you should have both of our intake forms.”
The nurse thumbed to the next page on the clipboard. “Yep, he’s next. You two doing this together?”
Kyle squeezed Sam’s hand. “If that’s okay?”
The nurse shrugged. “It’s okay. You two are a couple? Do you want couples counseling?”
Sam pinched the bridge of his nose. Kyle nudged him. “Not sure if we need it, but yeah, this is something we need to do as a couple.”
The nurse marked on both his and Sam’s form. “Follow me.” She led them into a windowless room and motioned for Kyle to sit in a chair that had oversized armrests. “The phlebotomist will be in soon.” She looked over the chart, knitting her brows. “Is there something you didn’t put on the form? You… from what you’ve indicated, you’re not at risk at all.”
Kyle hung his coat on a hook, then sat down in the chair, feeling his cheeks get a little warm. He hadn’t really discussed what he and Sam did in their intimate moments with anyone before. He looked up at Sam, gently rubbing Sam’s forearm. “Just want to be sure. We… we have been exposed to um, body fluids, just not through, uh, anal sex.”
“It’s just been the two of you?”
Kyle could feel Sam stiffen. “For me, yes, just with, um… him. But Sam….” Kyle’s voice drifted off. Sam had admitted he’d done “things” with other guys, just never mentioned how many.
Sam cleared his throat. “No penetration, but yeah, um… exposure, I guess, to, um, four guys—well, five including Kyle.”
The nurse made a notation on one of the forms. “Did either of you engage in oral sex, either with each other or”—she looked over at Sam—“one of your other partners?”
Kyle didn’t think his cheeks could get any hotter. He looked everywhere but at Sam or the nurse. Deep down he knew she wasn’t prying, she wasn’t judging, she just needed the information for the files, but it still made him uneasy. He couldn’t even begin to think about talking about this stuff with Nurse Sally back… well, home. The Johnson farm was definitely his home now. He shifted in his chair. “Yes, ma’am.”
Kyle could hear Sam take a deep breath and shift his weight. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to hear from him. He knew Sam had had some experience before dating him, and knew body fluids had been involved, but yeah… to actually know Sam had been that intimate with others….
“Two of them.”
Kyle felt conflicted; at least the oral sex hadn’t been with all four of the other guys Sam had dated.
The nurse made more notations. “Any cold sores or mouth lesions?”
Kyle and Sam answered at the same time. “No.”
“So risk to exposure is extremely low.”
Sam shrugged; Kyle swallowed down the sick feeling in his throat. “I guess so.”
The nurse made a couple more notations. “I understand wanting to be one hundred percent sure. We’ll take blood and run the tests; you should have results within two to three days, if not sooner.” She stood up, placing the clipboard into the slot on the door. “I’ll be back after the phlebotomist takes the blood to go over some HIV and STD education.” She closed the door behind her.
Kyle took a deep breath. “So, um, four others?”
Sam looked up at the ceiling. “I do have a healthy libido. And was at college for a year before I met you.”
“I’m not judging. I guess we should have talked more about this sooner. I… I know you said no sex until you had a more committed relationship, but I guess I didn’t even think about you and others, you know, um, being intimate.”
“Which is why I kinda freaked there yesterday after what Hank said.”
Kyle reached for Sam’s hand. “And you heard what the nurse said, ‘very low risk for exposure to just about anything,’ right?”
“I know, I just…. It would only take a hangnail….”
“And you know that’s almost statistically impossible for any virus to be transmitted like that.”
“But it’s still plausible.”
“Yeah, so is getting HIV from a mosquito. Barely plausible and statistically impossible.”
“So call me a worrier.”
Kyle squeezed his hand. “You’re a worrier. You’re like your mother.”
Another nurse walked in, grabbing the clipboard from the door. “Kyle?” Kyle raised his free hand. “Great. Let’s get this over with.” He sat his kit down. “Roll up your sleeve.”
Kyle couldn’t watch as the nurse took his blood. Only as he felt the rubber band being released from his arm did he even dare take a peek.
“You did just fine.” The nurse put a Band-Aid over the puncture, then labeled the vials and made notes on the chart. “Now, you’re Sam? You ready?”
Sam nodded and exchanged places with Kyle. The nurse took his blood, labeled it, and made the same notes. “Good. Got you both. We’re actually ahead of schedule today. You might have the results tomorrow. You live together? I notice you both put the same address.”
Kyle spoke up. “We’re together for another week, then Sam goes back to Albany.”
“And you want both of your results sent to this local address?” He turned to face Sam. “Or would you like yours sent to Albany?”
“Here’s fine. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
The nurse made a couple of notes. “Okay, the results will be sent to the local address. Do you two have any questions? Do you want counseling on safe sex?”
Kyle figured he looked like his cheeks were sunburned at this point. “No, thanks. We… we know what to do.”
The nurse plucked a couple of brochures from the display. “Here, take these. If you have any questions, our toll-free number is listed.”
Kyle pocketed the brochures. “Thanks.”
“Have a good afternoon. Please see the receptionist on your way out.” The nurse left the room, this time leaving the door open.
“Guess we should head home.” Sam shoved his hands in his pockets.
“Yeah. I’m a bit hungry. We can stop and get some Chinese food if you want. I need to get my paycheck anyway.”
“Sounds good.” Sam handed Kyle his jacket.
They headed out of the room, walking in silence to the waiting room. They both signed out, still not saying anything to each other. It wasn’t until they got back to Kyle’s room after getting Chinese food that Kyle spoke up.
“How intimate did you get with your other… were they boyfriends?”
Sam took a deep breath. “Yeah, I’d consider them boyfriends.” He nervously ran his fingers through his hair. “I didn’t do anything with them I haven’t done with you. I’m not one to mess around, you know that.”
“I know, it’s just…. You barely mention your past. We are going to make a go of this, right? Just you and me? No one else?” Kyle’s heart started to pound. He wasn’t really sure what Sam’s answer might be.
“Of course!” Sam grasped Kyle’s shoulders. “I meant it. I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I did go out on a few dates, but each time someone tried to get intimate, I… I wanted it to be you.”
Kyle reached up to cup Sam’s face. “I know. Same here. But… it’s going to be a whole semester before we can see each other again.”
Sam grinned. “You’re worth the wait. You know, I might be able to get a weekend away to come to the city. Can’t promise anything. But in the meantime, not saying I won’t go out with friends, but that’s it, just friends.”
“I don’t expect you to become a hermit, you know.”
“Just making it clear. You are my boyfriend, and I intend to honor that. Unless… you want to date others?”
“No, not at all. Just don’t expect me to live like a hermit either. I… I go to this great LGBT support group. We go out as friends all the time.”
“That’s great! I’m glad you found friends. I sometimes attend a similar group up at Albany.” Sam pulled Kyle into a hug. “Know this. None of my previous boyfriends compare to you. You are the tops.”
Kyle smiled. “Don’t have much to compare you to, but you’re the tops as well.”
Sam leaned in, giving Kyle a kiss. “I have always said I’d wait to be in a committed relationship to have sex. I want to commit to you, and… I want it to be you, when we both are ready.”
Kyle swallowed. “I… I want that too. I’m just not sure when that might be. I still have… you know, issues with the whole sex thing.”
“I get that. Hank really screwed you up, so much so that even if you were straight you probably would have trouble with sex.”
“Probably. He truly has issues.”
“You ain’t kidding.” Sam kissed Kyle again, prodding a bit deeper until tongues met. Things were definitely getting a little hot when… Sam’s stomach rumbled. He pulled back and gave a small chuckle. “Okay, time to stop the lovefest here and eat.”
Kyle looked down, trying to suppress a laugh of his own. “You and your stomach. Food it is.” He kissed Sam’s nose and pulled away.
“Maybe afterwards we can pick up where we left off.”
“Sounds like a plan.”