World Plant a Vegetable Garden Day | The Hunger Gap

The hunger gap

Today it’s World Plant a Vegetable Garden Day, which means The Hunger Gap is turning two. When I wrote this, back in 2021, I had a bit of an Oh, shit, the world is going to collapse feeling. Can’t say it’s disappeared 😨

What would you do if you couldn’t get hold of what you needed to survive in the shops?

In The Hunger Gap, the world is farther gone than it is today, and everyone is hanging on by a thread. People are starving, there are regulations to keep everyone in check, and everyone living outside of the city line is supposed to grow enough food to feed themselves as well as those living in the city. 

Every week a controller is coming to collect the food those living in the countryside have produced, and if you can’t fill your quota, things will go to hell.

George lives outside the city limit and one day a new controller is showing up at his place, one he can’t bribe to look the other way.

The Hunger Gap


After years of the government taking everything he grows, homesteader George Vega has had enough. Food is scarce and people are starving. To provide for himself, he’ll need to break the law. Together with his next-door neighbor June, he sets up a system to hide food from the controller during his weekly collecting visits.

Axel Rowe won’t survive much longer. Every scrap of food he can get his hands on, he gives to his six-year-old daughter, but it isn’t nearly enough. Luck is on his side when he secures a job as a controller. He realizes taking the job will make people dislike him, but he has to eat.

George understands the danger he’s in when his old, lazy controller is replaced with a new, more observant one. Axel suspects there is something George is withholding, but when George takes care of him after nearly collapsing from hunger, Axel is more curious about how he’s able to keep food for himself than he’s interested in reporting him. George knows the risk, but after having looked into Axel’s desperate eyes, he’s compelled to take care of him. But can an outlaw homesteader have a relationship with the man who’s supposed to make sure he follows the law?

Buy links:

Dystopian M/M Romance: 23,976 words

JMS Books :: Amazon ::

Chapter 1

George Vega froze at the sound of a car rolling over the gravel in his yard. His heart stopped only to go into full gear a second later.

It was Tuesday, not Thursday.

He went up on tiptoe, leaned over the sink in the kitchen, and glanced toward the garage. Where were the hens? He’d let them roam free today to save on the feed. They didn’t have nearly enough, and not much was growing yet. Icy fear filled his veins. What if all of them had come down to the garden?

Holding his breath, he listened—no crowing from the roosters. It was only a matter of time, though. Even if they’d gone down on the other side of the hill, they could be heard. June, his next-door neighbor, was allowed one rooster. Hopefully, they wouldn’t crow at the same time.

Luna, his Bullmastiff mix, barked in the pen and he regretted having locked her up. If she’d been free in the yard, she’d have bought him a couple of minutes.

He pushed the dough back into the bowl where it had been rising. Harriet, his boss at the bakery, had given everyone some fresh yeast, claimed it was going in the trash. George was pretty sure it would’ve lasted longer, and the bakery could’ve used it, but they were still in the middle of the hunger gap, and June had three mouths to feed.

Harriet was a good woman.

Grabbing the bowl, he looked around. Where to hide it? If they were going to go through his cupboards, he was screwed. Last week, Harriet had given everyone four cups of flour—four cups were the weekly amount sanctioned by the government, but George had still bought four extra cups at the market, as had June. He’d used it for the dough, but if Douglas, the district’s controller, knew anything about baking, he’d realize it took flour to bake.

He could claim it had been in his food package, but flour seldom was. When he was lucky, he got some rolled oats, but most often he had to buy that too.

He placed the bowl on top of the refrigerator and hoped Douglas would think he stored it there and not look inside.

A quick look around had him freezing again. There were eggs in a basket on the counter. Why hadn’t he hidden them? Thirteen eggs—five more than he was allowed per week.

He grabbed the basket and rushed into the bathroom. Judging by Luna’s barks, they’d exited the car. He muttered a curse as he grabbed the towels off the rack, put the basket in the corner by the shower, and placed the towels on top of it. It looked like damp towels he’d carelessly thrown on the floor. He grimaced—he’d never throw towels on the floor, but Douglas didn’t know that.

As quickly as he could, he tore off his shirt and threw it over one of the kitchen chairs. Then he kicked off his shoes and socks and unbuttoned the top button on his jeans. Nearing the front door, he messed up his hair—not that it ever was styled.

He pushed open the door and stumbled out as if in a hurry, wincing as the gravel dug into his bare feet. The cold had him shivering.

“What’s going on?” He frowned at the scrawny man watching him—not Douglas. Ice filled his veins. It was the car of a controller, and there was a bored-looking guard following the man.

The man was at least a head shorter than George, starved, and with clothes that had more holes than fabric.

George held on to his glare. The man might be starving, but he was still a controller—the right hand of the government. He might look harmless, but the guard standing two steps behind him wasn’t. The machine gun slung over his shoulder was ancient, but George didn’t doubt its efficiency. Old didn’t mean useless.

“Erm… Are you George Vega?” The man looked ready to faint, his blue eyes wide.

“It’s not Thursday. I was in bed.”

The man’s eyes widened, but he tried to conceal it by looking at the paper in his hand. It had to have been folded a hundred times.

“You’re a baker.”

George grunted in reply. “I start early. I stay awake after work on Thursdays to greet you because I have to. Today is not Thursday.”

“I’m sorry for the inconvenience—” George did his best not to react, and when the guard snorted, the man dropped his gaze to the gravel. As if reminding himself he was a controller, he straightened his back and met George’s gaze full-on. “I’m taking over from Mr. Miller. Today, I’m traveling the route to know what to expect on Thursday.”

George could lose himself in those blue eyes if he allowed him to. “Is that so?”

Fuck, fuck, fuck. Douglas was a drunk with no knowledge of either plants or animals. He took George’s weekly payment without argument, and it was only occasionally he demanded more than the minimum toll.

“Can you show me around?”

No. George crossed his arms over his naked chest. “I’m sleeping.”

The man’s gaze slid down to the still unbuttoned jeans, only to jerk away. “You’re awake now. It won’t take many minutes. It says here you have three hens. That’s one more than allowed. We’ll have to increase your weekly food toll.”

George fought not to give any outward reaction other than narrowing his eyes. An increased toll would leave him starving. “One of them is old and isn’t laying more than the occasional egg. I keep her for the sake of the others. Two hens are too few to have a happy group. They need to be three.”

“Then you should increase your number and register as a farmer.” The man didn’t meet his eyes.

“I’m a baker.” Being registered as a farmer would triple what he owed every week. There was no way he could grow enough to sustain that, especially not now in the middle of the hunger gap. “Douglas agreed to let me keep her since the few extra eggs she gives in a year goes to the town market.”

He tried to appear annoyed and confident at the same time. Controllers could sense fear—though he doubted this one had developed the skill. He was convinced Douglas had put the extra eggs he gave him to keep up the appearance of having three hens in his own pocket—most likely traded them for booze. Perhaps he could get this new guy to agree to a similar trade. He had to find his weakness. With Douglas, it was alcohol. This man didn’t strike him as a drunk, but there had to be something else that would make him sway.

One adult was allowed a maximum of seven eggs, he got one extra because he was a homesteader and provided eggs for the market. Every child was allowed two eggs. One egg equaled one point in the food system. How many points you got depended on how many days you worked. Every person with a salary was allowed to buy what they needed—if they could find it—but you weren’t allowed to have more than the weekly quota. The system was skewed, and far too many ended up with no eggs at all.

“Can I see them?”

Shit. On Thursdays, he made sure to have three of the larger hens pecking around the yard. Now, he didn’t know where they were. Why had he let them out? What would he do if the controller spotted a group of ten hens scratching around?

Hopefully, they were all in the forest garden, or maybe they’d gone back home into the hidden one.

“They might have run off when you drove up with the car. Let me put on shoes.” He limped over the gravel and then made quick work of the stairs. He flicked his wrist so the door would close before the controller made it up the stairs, rushed into the kitchen, and grabbed the shoes and socks he’d kicked off before going out. He was about to hit the light switch to turn off the growing lights in the hidden garden—and hopefully warn June—when the man appeared in the doorway to the kitchen.

“What are you doing?” He frowned at George.

“Grabbing a shirt.” He gestured at the shirt he’d slung over the kitchen chair. “It’s cold in the barn.”

* * * *

 Axel Rowe wanted to lean against the doorpost. The entire room spun around him, but he couldn’t appear weak. He hadn’t eaten for two days; he had given everything to his six-year-old daughter, Mira. It was pure luck Douglas Miller had been caught trading meat meant for the food market for whiskey down at the docks.

If he hadn’t, Axel never would have gotten the job, and therefore not been registered as a contributor to society. If you didn’t have a job, you weren’t given any food.

How he’d bring everyone’s weekly quota to the Friday market, he didn’t know. He’d never been a person people listened to, and he wasn’t sure he could take food from starving people, but he had to learn. It was his job.

Hopefully, the guard going with him everywhere would make people pay what they owed. He wasn’t a big enough fool to believe the guard would help him. He was there to make sure Axel didn’t steal from the town’s food toll as much as to make sure no one threatened Axel.

He focused on the man, George Vega—tall and dark-haired and in far better shape than Axel had ever been. He had strong arms, and while he was thin, he wasn’t malnourished. How could he not be malnourished? These days everyone was starving.

“Is one meal part of your employment contract?” Axel wished he could’ve gotten a job which included a meal—but few jobs did—then he wouldn’t have to eat at home, and Mira could have it all.

Mr. Vega narrowed his almost black eyes. “Yes. Bread for breakfast every day.”

“Even on days you’re not working?” Axel almost swayed as he realized how a benefit like that would have changed his life.

“I’m working seven days a week.”

Axel stared. Seven days a week? Few jobs were seven days a week. His was only three, one extra this week, but that was only because it was his first day and he was supposed to get to know the route—still, it would earn him the middle-sized food package this week. It would save his and Mira’s lives.

The small food package he’d get every week was more than he’d had before, but only half as much food as George was entitled to, plus he got breakfast every day. Axel would get the extra child package, but there never was much in them, not nearly enough to feed Mira for a week.

He pushed down the resentment wanting to bubble up. He couldn’t work seven days a week. He had a child to take care of. Having this job would make their lives better, perhaps not as good as Mr. Vega’s life, but better than it had been.

“So you get meals every day.”

Something flickered in Mr. Vega’s eyes, but then they hardened. “Yes.”

Axel nodded. “The barn?”

Mr. Vega glanced out the kitchen window. “I think the hens ran off into the woods, but I can show you where I keep them.”

Axel nodded. As Mr. Vega pulled the shirt over his head, he did his best not to notice how his muscles moved, but it was hard to look away. Axel looked like a skeleton next to him.

“Let’s go.”

Axel nodded, and right as he turned to head for the front door, Mr. Vega flicked a light switch on the kitchen wall. Maybe he was turning on the light in the barn? He didn’t ask. It was his right to inspect everything on the property, and one day he would, but right now it was a struggle to stay upright. They’d check the barn, so Mr. Vega would know he’d monitor his small farmstead, but then he needed to sit.

Axel hadn’t been in a barn in about thirty years. He’d spent the summers with his grandmother as a child, and she’d had a small farm similar to this. But that had been before the economy collapsed, before people were starving. Axel hadn’t paid much attention, there had been food in abundance, and no weekly controls or food tolls.

“I keep them here.” Mr. Vega gestured at a small stall with a couple of laying boxes in the corner and a roosting bar on the opposite wall. Axel didn’t know much about keeping hens, but it looked a bit too clean compared to the vague memories he had of his grandmother’s chicken coop. “See, there is one now.” He gestured at a bird coming in through the door. Axel frowned. He knew nothing about hens, but the one strutting around by the barn door looked more like a rooster than a hen.

Mr. Vega took a few hasty steps in its direction, and it hurried off. “Oh, she ran off.”

Of course, it did. Mr. Vega had intentionally scared it off. Axel frowned at him. A crow cut through the air. “That’s a rooster.”


“The crowing. I might not know a lot about homesteading, Mr. Vega, but that sound, it’s a rooster.”

“It’s June’s rooster. She’s allowed one.”

For a second, Axel wanted to argue. He couldn’t appear weak. Before he accused Mr. Vega of anything, he glanced down at his paper. June Stone, George Vega’s next-door neighbor, was granted three hens and one rooster. She was a single mother of three and was allowed to keep fourteen eggs a week—seven eggs, as every adult was allowed, then two per child, and one extra because she was a homesteader. He assumed she was allowed the extra hen so she would cover her own consumption. He still didn’t understand the rules. Many seemed as if they’d been made on a whim and then never changed.

Mr. Vega, for example, could keep eight eggs for himself, not a single more, but on Friday when he got in line for his food package at the town square, he could be given seven eggs, and then he’d have the right to them. If Axel dropped by on a control and found fifteen eggs, Mr. Vega would be punished. It made no sense.

Axel took a deep breath as a wave of dizziness hit him. “Ms. Stone lives on the other side of the hill.” He tried to focus on the conversation, and not on Mr. Vega or the rules.

Mr. Vega nodded. “Yes, but birds roam, and our properties border each other. We have a fence between them, but we’ll hear the rooster. And sometimes they fly over the fence.”

Axel wasn’t sure he believed him, but he let it go for now. He straightened his back and met Mr. Vega’s gaze. “I’ll be back on Thursday, Mr. Vega. I expect you to have everything ready for me when I come.”

They walked out of the barn and toward the car where the guard was waiting. What was the point of having him if he stayed by the car when Axel inspected the property?

“It’ll be eggs.”

“What?” Axel blinked, having lost himself in his head again. For a second, he thought Mr. Vega would smile, but then he scowled instead.

“My payment this week. It’ll be eggs.”

“Oh, no vegetables?” He looked around the garden bed closest to the car. What he wouldn’t give for something fresh. He hadn’t had anything green in months.

“We’re in the hunger gap, Mr.…”

“Rowe, Axel Rowe.” Damn, should he have introduced himself when he arrived? Probably.

“There won’t be any vegetables for weeks. The government hasn’t decided yet how many seeds we’re allowed this year.”

They hadn’t? But it was already April. From what Axel could remember, his grandmother had the windowsills packed with seedlings in April. Maybe he remembered wrong.

“What’s this then?” He gestured at the plants taking over the garden bed.

“Chicken weed.”


“It doesn’t count as chicken food.”

Axel nodded. “And that?” He pointed at some leaves coming up through the soil.

“Bishop weed.”

There it was again, a flicker of something too quickly concealed for Axel to know if it was there or if he imagined it.

“Is it edible?”

“It’s not poisonous. Can’t have poisonous plants growing where the hens peck around. I wouldn’t survive if they died.”

Axel assumed he was telling the truth. The hens would help a good deal to keep Mr. Vega fed. A quick glance at the record before he’d exited the car had told him, Mr. Vega most often paid his toll in eggs.

Mr. Vega turned toward the house, effectively preventing Axel from asking more questions. “See you on Thursday, Mr. Rowe.”

Axel nodded and climbed into the car.

Naked Gardening Day | Perfect Rows

He grabbed a lemon, cut it in half, and opened his window. If Ca

It’s been a year, people! Can you believe it? I guess a lot has happened since this time last year, but now we’ve reached this fine day. Take off your clothes! It’s time to get naked in the garden! 😆

World Naked Gardening Day was yesterday, but I was busy with the Fire Dragon then, so we’ll just have to live with the shame of knowing we’re a little bit late.

I wrote Perfect Rows as part of a collaboration. Nell Iris, A.L. Lester, K.L. Noone and Amy Specter wrote a story each for this day as well. And in September we’ll do it again! Not about World Naked Gardening Day. We’ll do World Letter Writing Day instead, and I have an idea niggling at the back of my mind. I just need to finish adding zucchinis to people’s porches first 😁

Perfect Rows is a contemporary, enemies-to-lovers story, and the whole purpose of it is to get naked in the garden, so… 

Perfect Rows

perfectrowsEverything would’ve been perfect if Grayson Dawe hadn’t been forced to share his garden with Camden Hensley. Grayson has everything he needs in life – a job, friends, a house he loves, and a garden. He wants to grow enough vegetables to cover his needs over the summer, and he has a plan for how to achieve it.

Camden Hensley loves his garden. He loves beautiful flowers in perfect rows, sweet scents and buzzing bees, but his neighbor, Grayson, messes everything up. He mixes vegetables with flowers in the growing beds and is incapable of placing plants in straight lines. And when Cam pulls out the plants growing in the wrong place, Grayson snarls at him.

Grayson doesn’t want to fight with Camden, but he’s completely unreasonable. Cam only wants Grayson to stop creating chaos and to grow flowers instead of vegetables. Neither of them is willing to back down, and days in the garden usually end in shouting matches, at least until Grayson realizes he can shut Cam up by kissing him. But will they ever be able to agree about what plants should grow where?

Buy links:

Contemporary Gay Romance: 16,427 words 

JMS Books :: Amazon ::

Chapter 1

Grayson Dawe walked through the garden. The spring night was cool, and the scent of lilacs clung to the air. His shoulders ached from a long day at work, and he was sweaty and had paint in his hair since he’d forgotten to put his cap back on after the breakfast break. The beer he and Ryan, his best friend and colleague, had grabbed after work had turned into three, and now it was getting dark.

He crouched to look at the plants in the raised bed. He had great plans for the garden this year. His goal was to not have to buy any vegetables at all from May to… he hoped September, but time would tell. He still had a lot to learn, and he had to share with Camden.

As soon as the thought flitted through his mind, he glared at the house that had belonged to his grandmother’s sister. He’d loved coming here as a child. They had two cottage-style houses facing each other, and between them was a big kitchen garden they’d shared.

As a child, he’d thought the garden was huge, and it was big, but not the maze of beds he remembered it as. It was like one of those Victorian kitchen gardens with beds surrounded by gravel paths. Some years ago, when Granny’s joints gave her too much trouble to handle being on her knees, he and Ryan had turned every plot into a raised bed. It had taken ages, but it was worth it. They’d built brick walls tall enough for her to sit on, and he could still picture her there with her hands in the dirt and a big smile on her lips.

He missed her.

His great grandfather had bought the land, built the houses, and then given it all to his two daughters. They’d raised their families there, sharing space and resources. When his great-aunt had died, his uncle had sold her house, and they’d struck some weird deal with his grandmother so they still shared the garden. It had been much easier if they’d divided the property, then Grayson wouldn’t have to share a garden with Camden fucking Hensley. Annoying little shit.

Grayson had moved in last spring after Granny had passed away, and they’d gotten off on the wrong foot right from the start. He had plans for the garden, Cam had plans for the garden, but they weren’t the same plans.

Camden wanted flowers, wanted the garden to look pretty and to have everything in perfect rows. Grayson wanted food and didn’t give a shit about how it looked.

He strolled along the garden bed, smiling at a small tomato plant sticking up in the middle of the radishes. There was another one right in the middle of the pak choi he’d planted. He assumed they came from the compost. He composted everything he possibly could, and last year he’d had volunteer potatoes that had to have come from the compost. They’d grown right in the middle of the strawberries and had driven Camden mad.

He loved getting bonus potatoes, but the biggest joy was watching Cam glare at the plant every time he walked past it.

Grayson would have to do his best to protect the stray tomatoes, it was free food, and nature didn’t grow in strict lines.

Cam would pull them out if he got the chance.

Grayson glared at Camden’s house again. A light shone in the kitchen, and his stomach rumbled as he pictured Cam cooking in there.

He needed food, and he needed a shower. Abandoning the tomato plants, he headed for the door. He stopped by the raised bed closest to his house and plucked some lettuce and carefully pulled a couple of turnips from the soil. He wasn’t a big fan of turnips, but since he was challenging himself not to buy any vegetables, he needed early and fast-growing kinds, and turnips, sadly, fit the bill. Roasted turnips weren’t bad, and he’d thawed some chicken to go with them.

Peeling, rinsing, and chopping, he soon had the food in the oven and rushed into the bathroom for a quick shower. The day melted away with the suds running down his body, and he groaned as he rolled his head to loosen his tense neck muscles. He’d been painting ceilings all day and looking up for hours on end caused strain.

Turning off the water, he stepped out of the shower stall and grabbed a towel. He dried his face and looked into the misty mirror, unable to see anything. Reaching over to the window, he pushed it open. The cool air wrapping around him made him shiver and right as he was about to step away from the window, he spotted movement in the garden. Camden.

His fair hair shone in the dark as he squatted and— Grayson cursed as he pulled something from the garden bed. Oh, hell no!

The bathroom door banged against the wall as he pushed it open. He ran down the stairs, crossed the kitchen, and yanked the door open. His bare feet hit the gravel path between the raised beds, but he couldn’t let the pain of the small stones digging into his feet stop him.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” The towel caught in one of the rosebushes. Grayson yanked, but when it didn’t come loose, he dropped it. “Leave those tomatoes be!”

Camden stood, his eyes wide and his mouth open as he looked Grayson up and down. “Grayson.” His voice wasn’t more than a whisper, and Grayson noted he looked a little disheveled—Cam never looked disheveled. He was a suit and tie kind of person. His hair always cut at a perfect length and his hands always clean. Long slim fingers with neatly cut nails. Grayson spent more time secretly watching those hands than any sane person should.

“Don’t kill the volunteer plants.”

Camden frowned. “The what?”

“The self-sown plants, don’t touch them.”

Camden stared at him. “Aren’t you… erm… cold?”

Heat climbed Grayson’s face, but he hoped it was too dark for Cam to notice. “Don’t kill the plants.”

“It was in the wrong place.”

“There is no wrong place. If it’s there, it’s because nature wants it there, so leave it be.”

“Nature wants—”

“Put it back.”

Camden’s back stiffened. “I will not put it back.” He twisted his fingers and snapped the plant.

Grayson growled, curling his hands into fists and taking deep breaths. “It could’ve given us plenty of tomatoes.”

“It was in the wrong place.”

“There is no wrong place!” He took another deep breath. “Look. I know you’re stubborn and thick-headed—”

“Oh yeah, I’m thick-headed? At least I finished school.”

Grayson winced. The familiar pain laced through him, and he slumped his shoulders. He wasn’t up to Camden’s standards, but surely, they could live next to each other without fighting. “Can’t we just divide the garden?”

“No. Both the barbecue area, the garden shed, and the greenhouse would be on your half of the garden. That’s not fair.”

“The beds. Can’t we divide the beds? Half are yours to do what you want and half are mine.” It would make it a lot harder to grow all the vegetables he’d planned to grow. The greenhouse was filled with seedlings he’d planned to transplant to the beds this weekend, and not all of them would fit if he only could use half the beds, but it was better than nothing.

He shivered as he tried to make out Cam’s expression in the dark.

“No. The clematis and the lavender are on your side.”

“Fuck the flowers! I don’t have to have the beds closest to my house. Pick half of them as yours, and I’ll take the rest. And I want to discuss chickens again.”

“No chickens.” Camden crossed his arms over his chest.

“Fuck you, Cam.” He turned around and stomped off. The towel tore as he yanked it from the rosebush, but he didn’t care. He had to leave before he said something he’d regret.

* * * *

Camden Hensley watched Grayson stalk off and blew out a breath. That was one fine ass; too bad it was attached to an ass. The garden could be lovely, it was lovely, but it could be truly beautiful if Grayson could only find it in himself to be a little more organized. Everything was higgledy-piggledy with Grayson. Everything. The way he dressed, the mess in his car—he mixed black T-shirts with white when he washed, for fuck’s sake. Though, Cam guessed he should be glad he washed at all.

A painter.

Who wanted to paint walls all day? And this obsession with chickens… He shook his head. It had started as soon as Grayson had moved in. He hadn’t been there more than a day or two before he’d approached Cam about wanting to build a chicken coop.

They would not have chickens running around, roosters crowing at dawn—no, thank you.

Cam loved his home, loved the garden, and the peace that came with living outside the city. But everything had been so much better when Frances had been alive. She’d been an adorable little lady and instead of criticizing everything Camden did in the garden, she’d been pleased.

He couldn’t believe Grayson was her grandson. They were nothing alike—not in appearance, not in manner, and Frances had never snarled at him. She baked cookies and used them as bribes to get him to sit with her in the garden and chat for a bit. She was easygoing, satisfied with life, and it was a welcome break from the ugliness of the world.

The garden had been his oasis until Grayson had moved in. Loud, demanding Grayson. He towered over Camden as if he believed his size would intimidate him. It did, but he’d never admit it.

Cam remembered Grayson from school, though he doubted Grayson remembered him. He’d been the rail-thin kid in the corner with unwashed clothes whose mother forgot to pack lunch on field day. She forgot to serve dinner too, but it wasn’t as obvious as the lack of lunch on field day.

Grayson had been wild. Not mean, but loud, though Camden had been terrified of him. He’d spent more time roaming the corridors than he had attending lessons, and then one day he’d been gone. Cam didn’t know what had happened, but someone had said he was working at his uncle’s painting firm, and since he was a painter now, Camden assumed the rumor had been true. He’d been fifteen then, so Grayson had been sixteen.

Camden looked at the house Grayson had stormed off to. Twenty-one years of painting walls, no wonder he was growling all the time. Cam would’ve died of boredom. Perhaps he should give in on the chickens simply to give Grayson something new in his life—no. No chickens. No noise. No mess. If Grayson wanted more excitement in his life, he could go back to school and get himself a better job.

He glanced at the house again. Had Grayson put on clothes? Probably sweats and a holey T-shirt, a paint-stained holey T-shirt.

Release Day | Saved by the Bear

It’s release day!!! I’m so behind it’s crazy, and all stories and characters are spinning in my head, and I hardly know which one I’m talking about LOL. Today, the focus is on Saved by the Bear, which is the shortest story so far this year, 14.9k words.

I wrote it for Tell A Story Day which is celebrated on April 27th, and it’s about Frode who inherits a book with Will Tell Your Story written on the cover. Frode thinks it’s creepy but is laughing at himself later on when he opens the book and only sees blank pages. That is until a sentence appears.

The book tells his story, just as promised. The problem is when it reaches the current day and then shows his death the day after.

Frode doesn’t know what to do, so to avoid dying, he knocks on his neighbour’s door and asks for help. He has no idea his neighbour is a bear shifter. How could he?

Saved by the Bear

saved by the bearWould knowing how you die change the way you live?

Frode Hall inherits a book that promises to tell his story, and it does. It starts with a recap of his childhood, leads him through his teens and into adult life. Then it turns a page and shows how he dies in a car crash the following day. Frode panics, but can he trust the book? It’s showing a huge Grizzly sneaking around the garden, and there are no bears in the garden, only Imre, his neighbor.

By not being in his car when the predicted car crash was to take place, he survives another day. But someone has learned he has the book, and it’s showing ninjas breaking into his apartment to get it. Unsure of what to do, Frode turns to Imre. Frode doesn’t know what to believe about his growling and talk of mates, but he trusts Imre to help him. They leave the city in a hurry, but will the book give them enough warning to keep them alive or will their journey end in a gruesome prophecy?

Buy links:

Paranormal Gay Romance: 14,970 words

JMS Books :: Amazon ::

Chapter 1

Frode Hall double-checked the lock on the front door of his apartment. It wouldn’t keep Imre Warrick, his downstairs neighbor, out if he wanted in, but it made him feel better.

He didn’t believe Imre would break in. He growled and grunted every time Frode was nearby, which was way more often than it should have been, but he hadn’t shown any tendencies of wanting to hurt him.

Imre had a sixth sense for when Frode would enter the building. He was the biggest man Frode had ever had the pleasure of being wary of, but he was convinced it was his imagination that painted Imre in a bad light.

And things could’ve gone spectacularly bad a couple of weeks ago when Dario had found his apartment. He wasn’t hiding from Dario, but he hadn’t let him know where he’d gone either.

When Dario had banged on his door and shouted at Frode to let him in, Frode had opened but not moved out of the way. He didn’t want to be alone with Dario behind closed doors ever again. Then Imre had come up the stairs. He hadn’t spoken, but by a miracle, Dario had left.

If Imre was the biggest man Frode had the pleasure of being wary of, Dario was the first man he’d been afraid of, at least in his adult life. He had no idea how things could’ve gone as badly as they had.

Dario had swept him off his feet. He’d been kind and charming and made Frode want to do everything he asked for. It was fine in the beginning, but then Dario had wanted him to do things he wasn’t comfortable with, had wanted him to stop seeing his friends and family, had wanted him to dress a certain way, to eat and drink what Dario wanted him to eat and drink, and so on.

Like one of those horror stories you read about in the paper, and Frode was too ashamed of having bought Dario’s lies to talk to anyone about it.

The final straw had been when he’d lied about having had coffee—Frode loved coffee—and Dario had slapped him hard enough to split his lip and then smashed all their cups on the kitchen floor. He’d told Frode to clean it up since it was his fault Dario had been forced to destroy the cups.

With a stinging cheek, a pulsing lip, the taste of blood on his tongue, and tears running down his cheeks, Frode had cleaned up the mess. The next day, he’d called every number of every landlord he could find. It didn’t matter where he moved, but he had to get out.

He’d finally gotten hold of Julieta Bedolla, a rapid-talking woman who had a small flat that had been vacated the day before despite there being two months left on the tenant’s contract. It wasn’t until Frode had signed the lease for six months, she told him the reason the previous renter had moved was because the downstairs neighbor scared away all their friends when they came to visit.

Luckily—perhaps not the word he’d used a few weeks ago—he didn’t have any friends left for Imre to scare.

Heaving a sigh, he slumped on the ratty couch he’d picked up at the thrift store. It had been a weird day. He’d been halfway through his first cup of coffee and had been staring at the toast he was working up to take a bite of when his phone rang.

The woman calling claimed to be Norman Hall’s lawyer. Norman was Frode’s dad’s uncle, and he hadn’t had any contact with his dad’s side of the family, his dad included, since he was a teen.

The attorney had told Frode to come to her office, and since it was his day off work, he had. Norman had died peacefully in his bed two months prior, and Frode was one of the heirs named in his will. Frode hadn’t believed her. He hadn’t spoken to Norman since his parents’ divorce, and he’d believed him long gone already.

The lawyer handed him a flat paper box. Inside was a set of keys, some papers about an old cabin in Draymoor, which was about ninety miles outside of Pinedale, and an old leather-bound book with brass-colored letters forming the phrase Will Tell Your Story. Frode stared at the book, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end, while the lawyer kept talking as if nothing had happened. He shut the box and shuddered before forcing himself to listen to what she was saying.

She apologized for not having gone to the cabin to check. She believed it was still standing but in need of fixing. The way she grimaced gave Frode a sinking feeling. The damn cabin would cost him a fortune, he was sure of it. Maybe he could sell it. There was some land attached to it, so perhaps it was worth something.

When he’d exited her office, he’d had a voicemail from his father. He’d made sure to block the number, but what the heck was he doing calling Frode? Maybe he too had inherited something, but it was no reason for him to call.

It was all too surreal for him to deal with right now. Instead, he reached for the box with the book. Part of him wanted to grab it and never let go while another wanted to throw the entire box out the window, making keys, papers, and the book disappear.

Now his heart was hammering in his chest as he opened the box. His hands shook as he reached inside.

It was the creepiest, most glorious book he’d ever seen. A shiver went through him as he stroked the cover. Will Tell Your Story. Nonsense.

Carefully, he opened the book and stared at the first page.

It was blank.

What the fuck? A laugh bubbled out of him. An unwritten book. He slumped against the backrest. A diary. He was so silly. All day he’d been buzzing with anxiety over the freaking book. Will Tell Your Story made sense if you wrote your story in it.

Frode had never kept a diary in his entire life, but maybe he should. Maybe this was a push from the universe. Why the hell had Norman wanted him to have it? An unwritten diary.

He bent the pages and allowed them to fall one at a time—blank, blank, blank.

A sentence.

He almost dropped the book, then tried to find the place again where he’d seen something written. The pages turned on their own to the middle of the book where he read Frode Hall sat on his ratty couch in embellished writing.

He stared. Could Norman have guessed he’d sit on a couch when he opened the book?

The words changed. His heart beat fast as he read.

Around him, the apartment spun, his stomach lurching as if he was on a roller coaster, and Frode was watching himself from above. The words on the page changed again, but before he could read them, he shrieked and slapped the book shut.

He hadn’t more than closed his lips around the shriek before feet shook the staircase.

“Frode!” Imre banged on his front door. “Frode, open up.”

Oh, shit. Frode put the book back into the box and went into the hallway.

He stared at the ugly brown apartment door as it shook under Imre’s assault. “I’m okay.”

The banging stopped. “Open.”

“I’m okay.” This time, he whispered it.

“I want to see for myself, so please open. I won’t come inside.”

Frode’s heart picked up speed again. Were the doors so thin Imre could hear him whispering through them? He unlocked the door and opened it to a small gap. “It was a spider. I don’t like spiders.”

Imre gave him an unimpressed look. His blond hair was tousled, and he was dressed in nothing but worn jeans and a black tank top, despite the chilly April temperatures. He looked like a Norse god, which was highly unfair considering Frode was the one with Scandinavian blood in his veins.

“A spider?” Imre didn’t look like he believed him.

“Yes, a spider. I squashed it.”

Silence stretched. “A spider?” This time, he spoke slowly.

“Yes.” Frode dragged it out. “I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

“You screamed.”

Taking a deep breath, Frode nodded. “Sorry.”

Imre studied him until Frode squirmed.

“Let me know if you see more, and I’ll help you.” He turned around and walked down the stairs, barefoot, leaving Frode to gape at his descending back. Had the mean-looking Norse god below offered to kill spiders for him? Maybe Frode had misjudged the level of meanness.