The Novel Approach welcomes author Keira Andrews today on her Kick at the Darkness blog tour. Enjoy her guest post, then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win an e-copy of a book from her backlist.
I’ve always been a huge fan of “hate to love,” the trope wherein the main characters in a romance start off as enemies, or at least not on the best of terms. There are few things more satisfying to me than seeing two people who initially don’t like each other ending up madly in love.
Of course my favorite hate-to-love relationship has to be Lizzie Bennett and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. It makes me swoon every single time — especially when Colin Firth is involved! The movie version of Bridget Jones’s Diary is also high on my list for obvious reasons.
I recently read Harper Fox’s Brothers of the Wild North Sea, which was such a satisfying tale of hate to love. What’s your favorite? I’d love some suggestions!
In my new book, Kick at the Darkness, a terrifying virus is unleashed on humanity, turning normal people into killers. While not technically undead, they are zombies in spirit. My heroes, college student Parker, and the TA he can’t stand, Adam, are thrust together when life as they know it goes to hell in a handbasket…
Blurb: To live through the zombie apocalypse they have to survive each other first.
College freshman Parker Osborne is having the worst day ever. He humiliated himself trying to pick up a cute guy, he hasn’t made any friends at school, and his stupidly hot jerk of a TA gave him a crappy grade on his paper. He’s going to drop Adam Hawkins’ film class and start fresh tomorrow after he’s had a good sulk.
But Parker’s about to find out what a bad day really looks like—if he can survive the night.
A virus is unleashed, transforming infected people into zombie-like killers. After these quick and deadly creepers swarm campus, Parker only escapes thanks to Adam swooping him onto the back of his trusty motorcycle. Now they’re on the run—and stuck with each other.
When they’re not bickering, they’re fighting off the infected in a bloody battle for survival. Their only hope is to head east to Parker’s family, but orphaned Adam has a secret he’s not sure Parker will accept: he’s a werewolf. Can they trust each other enough to find some light in these dark days?
Excerpt: It all started falling apart in Film Noir from Bogart to Mulholland Drive.
“C-minus?” Parker blinked at the grade, stark and circled in red pen on the front of his paper. His stomach churned. This had to be some kind of mistake. Another student nudged him with her elbow, giving him a look until he backed away from the professor’s desk so the others could find their assignments in the pile. Scrolling through her phone, the middle-aged professor stood by the blackboard, which stretched across the front of the lecture hall. Squaring his shoulders, Parker approached.
“Um, excuse me?”
Professor Grindle glanced up. “Yes? Did you have a question?”
Parker thrust the paper toward her, the red cursive on it a damning indictment. He lowered his voice. “I got a C-minus.”
She skimmed over the three pages. “Did you read the comments from the TA? I think there are some excellent points you can keep in mind next time. More analysis and less plot summary, for a start. There’s another assignment this month. Don’t worry—you’ll get the hang of it…” She glanced at the paper. “Parker.”
Even though he knew there was no way she could remember all the names of new students, humiliation flashed through him. He’d almost been valedictorian at Westley Prep, but at Stanford he was no one.
She went on. “I’m sure Adam will be happy to help. Do you have his office hours? They’re on the front of the syllabus. He should be there this afternoon.”
“Look, I don’t…I’m a straight-A student. There must be some kind of mistake.”
The rest of the class was gone, and she scooped up the few remaining papers from the desk. “Why don’t you talk to Adam, and if you’re still unhappy, I’ll look it over for you. I’m sorry. I have to get to my next lecture.” Her shoes tap-tap-tapped as she strode out.
Parker shoved the offending assignment into his messenger bag, wishing he could burn it. Outside, he blinked at the sun and plopped down on the steps of the building, pulling out his phone. He quickly tapped out a message to Jason, his best friend at Westley.
Got a C-minus in a stupid movie class that was supposed to be easy. This is going to screw my GPA! I’m freaking out.
Jiggling his foot, he waited for Jason to reply, watching for the three little dots to appear. And waited.
Then he sent the same message to Jessica, who’d lived three doors down from him in Cambridge their whole lives. He waited again. He was tempted to call Eric in London, but his brother would be way too busy to talk to him about a stupid little college paper, and it was probably dinner time anyway. Although Eric would likely still be at work, trading stocks with the American markets.
Parker stared at his phone as if he could will a text from one of his friends to appear. It was ridiculous. He was being ridiculous. But the wave of loneliness was undeniable, and his breath stuttered. He’d been so excited to come to Stanford and strike out on his own, but it hadn’t been at all what he’d expected.
He watched groups of people laughing and talking on the lawn. Other students rushed by him on the steps, and Parker wondered if they’d made friends. He sat there with his C-minus, and felt utterly, pathetically alone. Jesus Christ. Don’t start crying, you loser.
Jason and Jessica were busy at Penn State and NYU. Before college they’d often spent hours texting each other, and it had rarely taken more than a minute for a response. But in the month since school had started, he’d barely heard from them. Jason was rushing a frat, and Jessica seemed to have a non-stop schedule of classes and partying.
After what felt like an eternity, his phone buzzed, and Parker’s heart leapt.
Dude, you need to unclench. You’ll be fine. It’s not a big deal. School just started.
Parker sighed. Jason had never cared much for academics, much to his parents’ chagrin. He would never understand how big a deal it was that Parker had a C-minus. In a movie class he’d only taken for the allegedly easy grade.
Jason texted again:
Go get laid. There have got to be plenty of hot guys at Stanford. Later, dude.
There was no word from Jessica, and Parker tapped out a text to Jason:
Yeah, you’re right. Thx. Later.
Jason was right—he needed to get laid. Parker admittedly hadn’t really tried, but he was already overwhelmed with homework. He had no idea how his friends were going out so much when he needed to spend every spare hour studying to keep up. School had always come easily to him, but college felt like being tossed out of the wading pool and into the deep end.
Still though, he should make an effort to meet someone. Maybe he needed to check out Grindr or one of those gay hookup apps and put up his picture. Yes, that would be more productive than feeling sorry for himself. He tapped his camera to face him and ran a hand through his short hair.
It was dirty blond, not the golden color his brother had been blessed with. Parker had bleached it once at Jessica’s insistence, but he’d felt incredibly stupid, like he was trying to be in a boy band, or was a big Draco Malfoy fanboy. Either way, it wasn’t a good look. So he didn’t mind his hair, but wished his eyes were something other than ordinary brown. Jess had suggested blue contacts, but he’d put his foot down.
Parker took a selfie, forcing a smile. His wide mouth was decent—his lips could have been a little thicker, but they were nice and red without looking like he wore lipstick. A good cocksucking mouth if he did say so himself. His teeth were white and straight thanks to a small fortune in orthodontics when he was a kid, and his nose was small and inoffensive. He took a few more pics, but hesitated when he went to download Grindr in the app store.
What if no one wants to date me? Or even fuck me?
He thought he was cute enough, but what if no one else did? There were a ton of hot guys at Stanford. What if he put up his picture and there were only crickets in return? It hadn’t even happened yet, and already the promise of humiliation churned his stomach. He slipped his phone away. He’d download the app later.
Parker sighed. Ugh, he had to go deal with this bullshit grade. His throat was scratchy, and he guzzled a bottle of water on his way to the building nearby where the TA for the movie class had his office. With every step, the failure seemed to seep into him another inch, and with it mortification and a growing resentment. It wasn’t fair. He had math and statistics pre-reqs for his economics major to worry about—this dumb elective wasn’t supposed to be actual work.
I suck. I should have worked harder. What will Dad say if he finds out?
He climbed up to the office level at the top of the four-story building and scanned the nameplates beside each door. His sneakers squeaked on the floor, and it felt preternaturally quiet. At the end of the hall, Parker found the name he was looking for, written on a piece of folded paper and fitted into the nameplate slot.
Adam Hawkins: Film and Media Studies
Parker scoffed to himself. Film and Media Studies. It wasn’t like it was a real academic discipline. This Adam Hawkins was likely a pretentious douchebag who wore black turtlenecks and horn-rimmed glasses. He probably drank tea and had a minor in existential philosophy. He—
The door opened. “Oh, hello. Can I help you?”
His throat gone completely dry, Parker could only croak. “Uh…”
Adam Hawkins did not wear horn-rimmed glasses.
The jury was still out on whether he had turtlenecks in his wardrobe, but at the moment he was wearing a black leather jacket over a light blue button-up and jeans. He was a few inches taller than Parker’s own five-nine, and the leather stretched over broad shoulders. His thick black hair was short and lustrous—it freaking gleamed—and his facial hair was artfully scruffy, just the right length to make Parker wonder what it would feel like against his skin.
He watched Parker with hazel eyes that were strangely golden. “Did you need some help?”
“I’m…” Parker tried to ignore the lust humming in his veins and get it together. “C-minus.”
Cheeks hot, Parker grabbed the paper from his bag and held it up, refocusing on his anger. “That’s what you gave me on my assignment, and it’s not fair.” God, he was whining, and he should leave. Cut his losses. Man up.
Adam Hawkins opened the door wider and stepped aside. He simply said, “Okay.” He sat behind his desk and glanced at the round clock on the wall. “My office hours are over, but…” There was a buzzing from his pocket, and he held up a hand to Parker as he answered his cell. “Hi, Tina. Yeah. I’ll be there soon. Okay.” He smiled. “Yeah. You too.” He hung up.
“Look, if you have to go meet your girlfriend or whatever, it’s fine,” Parker muttered.
“She’s running late, so I can stay for a few minutes. You’re obviously upset and—”
“I’m not upset!” Parker perched on the guest chair, his foot tapping restlessly. “I just think there’s been a mistake. I don’t get C-minuses. Ever.”
“You’re a freshman?” Adam reached for the paper and looked it over.
He nodded. “Economics major, but I’m pre-law.”
Adam continued reading through the assignment before handing it back. “A lot of people think film studies will be an easy elective. You’re clearly intelligent, but this paper reads as though you wrote it in fifteen minutes the morning it was due and didn’t even watch Laura.”
“I watched it!” Okay, so he watched clips on YouTube and read the Wiki synopsis. That totally counted. He got the gist. Like he was supposed to spend his time watching old movies instead of actually studying? He was already up to his eyeballs in readings. “I’m sure the professor will see that I at least deserve a B.”
Adam’s eyebrow arched. “Will she? You seem sure of yourself.”
“Well, I told you. I don’t get C-minuses. I won the state spelling bee when I was nine. I presented for our model UN at prep school and met the Secretary of State! I don’t…I’m better than this.”
“I’m sure you are. For the next assignment, do the work and put some thought into it, and your grade will reflect that.”
Parker knew he was right, but all he could see was the C- on the paper, taunting him. Third week of classes, and he was already coming up short. It felt like all his failures were symbolized by this one grade. He could just imagine what his father would say. “This is what happens when you don’t concentrate. Eric never—”
“I’m not changing it.” Adam’s declaration jolted Parker from his thought.
Pulse racing, Parker tried to keep the desperation from his voice. “My GPA has always been perfect. Except one time. But that can’t happen again. I can’t get a C-minus. You have to change it.”
“Do I?” Adam laughed. He actually laughed.
Parker felt hot all over, and knew this was all spinning out of control. He needed to cut his losses and leave with a scrap of dignity, but he couldn’t stop indignation from slamming through him. “Don’t laugh at me! Who do you think you are? This isn’t even a real academic subject.”
Adam only regarded him with a raised eyebrow. “I think I’m the TA who’s not changing your grade, no matter how much entitled crap you throw at him. So suck it up and learn something from it.”
Parker wanted to leap up and run away, but he was frozen on his chair, flushed and ashamed in the silence that followed.
Adam sighed, and his tone softened. “I bet you were valedictorian, right? Smartest kid at your school? But Stanford isn’t high school. It can be a tough transition.”
His cheeks flushed again. No, he wasn’t valedictorian. He was salutatorian—a.k.a. second place, a.k.a. loser—thanks to Greg Mason’s record-breaking perfect fucking score on the calculus final. Like always, Parker came up short, and now he had a C-minus, and he didn’t have any friends out here, and he hated himself more than he ever had. He should be able to let this go.
“You’re going to have to work hard in every class. Even if you think it’s a Mickey Mouse course. I know it can be a real shock when things don’t come easily for the first time in your life.”
Parker lashed out. “I’ve always worked hard. I am working hard! All I do is study. The important stuff, anyway. I’m going to be a lawyer. What are you going to be?”
Adam’s face was impassive. “I’m getting my MFA in documentary filmmaking.”
“You’ll probably end up working for some crappy reality show,” Parker muttered. He was being a dick, but at the moment he didn’t care enough to bite his tongue.
Pushing back his chair, Adam stood. “If that’s all, I have things to do besides get attitude from a lazy freshman who expects everything handed to him on a silver platter.”
Parker jumped to his feet. “You don’t know me.”
“I know your type. I’ve met a thousand—” he picked up the paper and read the name on the front, “Parker Osbornes in my life.”
Snatching the paper back, Parker tried to think of something to say. He blurted, “I’m dropping this stupid class.”
Adam eyed him evenly. “Okay.” Then he started scrolling through his phone. After a few moments he glanced up. “Was there something else?”
Teeth gritted, Parker spun on his heel. Mortification warred with anger as he tore the paper in half and stuffed it in a garbage can on his way out of the building. He pulled out his phone to check the time and skipped into a jog with a muttered curse. His stats lecture started in two minutes and he was never going to make it on time. It wasn’t even noon, and he was so ready to go to bed and be done with this craptacular day.
Copyright © Keira Andrews
About the Author: After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”