It is our pleasure to have a new up and coming Author with us today - Val Francis
Starting out with Val's first book - Bombay Bushie
Rural firefighter, Zech Larsson, would sooner run headlong into a raging bushfire than into another relationship. Catching sight of their latest recruit, a young, Anglo-Indian guy with a head of long black curls and kissable lips, instant attraction warns Zech that he is in trouble, more so as he happens to be straight.
Exiled to Kolar Creek by his father when he was caught attempting to lose his virginity with another boy, Nathan Harris finds the idea of life in this small country town uninviting—that is until he gets an eyeful of Zech in his uniform. Sudden Nathan knows that the Rural Fire Brigade needs his services.
In Kolar Creek, the temperature is heating up, and when Nathan’s training is left in Zech’s hands, a clash is inevitable. Faced with the temptation that this younger man presents, soon other factors come into play and neither of their lives will ever be the same again.
“I have no intention of changing my mind so you’d better just suck it up, chief.” I knew I could be stubborn, but tonight I had definitely excelled myself—Zech Larsson at his best.
“Why in God’s name are you behaving like a total arsehole, Zech?”
“Maybe because I don’t want to disappoint you, mate?” We’d been at it for over half an hour, and hell had a better chance of freezing over than we had of reaching an agreement. Scott and I were a couple of bulls, locked horn to horn in combat, neither of us willing to budge an inch. Both too pigheaded for our own good. The thing is, we’re best mates, though you’d never guess it from the way we act sometimes. I stood there, my arms folded across my chest, leaning against the wall of our cupboard-sized office. I’d cemented my unyielding expression in place for no other reason than to piss Scott off until he caved in, and I had my way.
“What have you got against the guy, Zech?”
A bloody good question, I thought as I glanced through the window between the office and the main shed in the hope of getting another look at the guy. The problem happened to be less about the Brigade’s newest recruit and more about my own reaction to him, not that I could tell Scott. “You want a reason, mate? Maybe you ought to take a real hard look at him. The guy would have trouble lifting a tissue to his nose, let alone anything heavier.”
“Jesus wept!” Scott muttered under his breath.
I pretended not to hear him and went on. “The bloke wouldn’t have the strength to drag a hose around the fire ground, let alone dig firebreaks or handle a chainsaw and all the other shit we expect of a crew. You want to ask the rest of the guys to carry him?” I saw how Scott had stiffened up as he heard me out.
“Would you care to tell me something Zech, for argument’s sake, the last time you took a real hard look at the rest of the Brigade’s membership?”
Sure, I knew what he meant, but did my best not to show it. I played for time. “You’re trying to say, Chief?” I routinely called him chief whenever I wanted to be sarcastic, it had the effect of pissing him off big time.
“We’d be lucky if a quarter of the members fitted these mysterious criteria you’ve plucked out of your arse, Zech. Why don’t you give me a better reason? Or is that the best you can manage?”
Against the ropes, and unable to wriggle my way out, I decided to stall for time. “Look, mate, I have a training session to run, so we’ll have to finish this later.”
“Like hell, we will, Zech. We finish it now!”
Scott, following my example, crossed his arms as if to show me that backing down was not an option. Arsehole. “Okay then, Chief. You want another reason? I’ll give you one. Training wise, he’ll be three months behind the rest of the newbies.”
“So?” Scott raised his eyebrows.
I’d lost it. “Don’t say so in that tone, it’s bloody annoying.” I drew a quick breath. “I’m the one who does the training, so it’s me... muggins here.” I dramatically stabbed a finger at my chest and emphasised the me factor. “I’ll be the one expected to get him up to speed.”
“I’ve warned him, and he knows he’ll be behind the others.”
“Looks like you’ve sorted it, mate. The only thing left is for you to tell me how I’ll have the time to do this catch up with the guy.” I laughed, but not a nice laugh.
“He’ll fit in with you, Zech. Just tell him a time, and he’ll be here.”
“Nice!” Me holding back had to be counted as something of an achievement. Finally, I became incapable of restraint and lost it completely. “Like maybe I have so much spare time for it?” A casual shrug of the shoulders emphasised the question—not that I expected an answer. “Like everyone in Kolar Creek knows first-hand how totally pathetic Zech Larsson is. And I am talking everyone here, Scott. I’m the poor sod who doesn’t have a life of his own outside of the Brigade and his work. I guess, in fact, I’d put money on it that every bugger in town gets a good laugh at my expense. Poor old Zech Larsson, sitting on his arse every night with only the television for company. Such a tragic bastard.” I’d meant to sound ironic, but my declaration had gone way beyond emotional blackmail as a means of winning an argument. Now, with the floodgates open, I had trouble closing them. “I guess I’m just a miserable, lonely sod who has bugger all else in his life.” There, as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I instinctively waited for Scott to remember we were best mates and reassure me that I wasn’t being fair to myself. But the reassurances never came, and his silence stretched tighter than a rubber band.
“Well, Zech?” he said finally.
“What do you bloody mean... well?” Now the argument had less to do with a new recruit to the Brigade and everything to do with the state, or rather the non-existence of my private life.
“It’s true, isn’t it?”
My Real Boyfriend - Short Story
When the front door opened and the guy standing there was dressed in nothing but his underwear, Gus somehow knew he would be in for a sizzling summer.
Ed’s vacation means a Gold Coast apartment for the summer. He’s suffering from a social anxiety disorder so he sees and speaks to nobody for the duration—other than his cousin Elmo who’s a leech that he can’t seem to get rid of. For Ed, as a big-time author, summer means working on his next best seller.
Gus, an American from North Carolina, is a male nurse at The Gold Coast Hospital. When a patient pleads with him to break the news of his hospitalization to his cousin, Gus agrees.
Opening his door to a stranger is almost a first for Ed. The visitor’s accent, before he so much as catches a glimpse of him, is enough to get Ed excited. When he does see him, he reckons that the guy is hot enough to make his hospital scrubs sizzle. Suddenly, for Ed, the summer is looking up, while for Gus, he wonders why the strange guy is answering his door dressed only in his underwear.
I gave him full marks for persistence. Fortunately, seven years of nursing had given me immunity to hot guys with inflated egos asking me out. They were invariably after the same thing, and I had no interest in one night stands. “It’s the same answer that I gave you last time, Elmo, and telling me what a cute American accent I have will alter nothing.” I spared him my opinion that he acted far too fem for my tastes, plus the non-negotiable fact that I didn’t date guys who partied on drugs.
“Can you at least tell me when I’ll be released?” he whined.
“Same as the last time you asked me. You’ll need to wait for the doctor. Anyway, why are you in such a rush to escape?”
“Shit, I’m up from Sydney on summer vacation and meant to be having fun…you think I want to spend all my time in here?”
Raising my eyebrows, I behaved unprofessionally by being judgmental. “You ought to have thought of that before taking those pills from some guy you didn’t even know.”
Elmo smirked. “Don’t you ever have fun?”
“If you call ending up in hospital fun, then no, I don’t.” I was rapidly losing my patience with him. I glanced at my watch. “Anyway, if you don’t mind, my shift ended five minutes ago.”
Elmo suddenly appeared apologetic. “Sorry…what did you say your name was?”
“Nurse McCauley,” I snapped. I just wanted to get home. Not that I had anything or anyone to rush home to.
“No, tell me your first name.”
“It’s Gus,” I admitted reluctantly.
“Well, Gus…would you mind doing me a small favor?” he asked.
“A favor?” I became immediately suspicious. “Specifically, what type of favor?” I asked.
“I need to let my cousin know what happened. When I collapsed at the club, some prick took off with my phone, and it has all my numbers in it. Ed, my cousin, he’s leased this stunning apartment for the summer, and he’s letting me stay with him.”
“So?” I had no idea where I fitted into this.
“I’ve got to let him know where I am. Ed sort of worries a lot…too much.”
Where do people get the idea that because I’m a nurse, my caring extends beyond the ward?
“Give the police his details, and they’ll let him know.”
“No, not the police.” Elmo reacted too quickly.
“A problem?” My mind immediately thought drugs, that sort of stuff.
“It’s not what you’re thinking, Gus.”
I smiled. “How do you know, Elmo…you psychic or something?”
“No, it’s your face, it kind of gives you away.”
“Point taken.” I let it drop for a moment and then asked, “So…why not the police?”
“Well…” Elmo hesitated. “Ed is a bit different and has trouble relating to people.”
I thought about it for a moment, then said, “I’m sure the police would deal with it sensitively.”
“The cops would freak him out.” Elmo shook his head. “I can think of one way that might work…” He shot me a beseeching look.
Would you bet a thousand dollars on your boyfriend being faithful? Charlie did.
A friendly card game, an off-the-cuff boast about his boyfriend, and Charlie creates his worst nightmare. Off overseas for six months, he brags that Mac will be completely faithful. When his best friend Braden voices his skepticism, Charlie has no choice but to put his money where his mouth is.
But how do you prove that a guy’s been unfaithful? Braden knows how…he’ll seduce Mac to win the bet. Unfortunately for Charlie, Braden is a top shelf, successful advertising executive who’s used to winning and to cap it all, he also happens to be one hell of a promiscuous bastard.
“For all your intelligence, Charlie, you can’t see beyond the end of your nose.”
“And how do you reach that conclusion?”
“The age difference. You’re trying to pretend to yourself it’ll have a zero impact on what happens while you’re away, but I beg to differ. You are destined to get hurt, Mister Brown, and knowing how much you have emotionally invested in your relationship, you’ll get hurt bad.”
“Our ages weren’t an issue to date, so I don’t see why anything about our relationship should suddenly unravel.”
Braden had the feeling he’d been bashing his head against a brick wall. “It’s called the Pacific Ocean, Charlie…distance will make a difference.”
“Mac and I have covered it.”
“I’m so happy to hear that, buddy.” Time to try another tack, he decided. “How often do you guys have sex?” It sounded almost casual, unimportant, the way that he asked.
“That’s none of your bleeding business, Braden.”
“I’ll take a stab it would be at least three or four times a week.” Eyeballing Charlie, he got a buzz out of still being able to embarrass him. “Five, maybe if we include a Sunday morning wake-up call…or am I being generous?”
“We have enough. Are you happy?” Charlie snapped, perhaps in the hope of shutting Braden up.
“Really, Charlie…five?” He raised his eyebrows. It was all he could do not to laugh at the expression of indignation.
“Bugger off, Braden, I’d hate to think what your tally would be.”
Beware Of The Bears - A Short Story
Ed didn’t want to make the trip to begin with, and now Gus will be made to suffer.
If anything could go wrong, it did. Now, arriving at their resort high in the Rockies there’s little sign that things will get any better. If things were bad for Ed, there is far worse in store for Gus, who has no idea what’s about to hit him.
“It’s not for me, and I know it’s the color I want.” Gus insisted, arguing all the while, unable to loosen the twink’s grip on his arm. “I guess you get paid mostly on commission?” His thinly veiled insult had zero effect. The salesman remained as determined as ever.
Likely used to having insults leveled at him on a regular basis, the guy evidently had a thick skin. He applied his insincere sales-mode smile. “You do realize the outfit you’ve on right now is so totally wrong and you don’t do yourself any favors by wearing it…in fact, I’m surprised you’ve even been let in the store dressed in those clothes.”
Unsurprisingly, Gus became offended by the camp assistant's opinion of his dress. “If you’d been traveling for the number of hours I have, on your butt in a cramped aircraft seat designed to make sardines look comfortable, you’d find what I’m wearing perfect for the frigging journey.” Gus vented his anger.
“Sorry, sweety, I didn’t mean it as anything personal…just remarking your body deserves the best.” The man scanned Gus’ body without bothering to pretend his interest had less to do with clothes and more to do with getting them off him. “Maybe we could meet up when I finish here, and I’ll show you around Vail.”
In any other circumstances, Gus would have smiled and been kind in his rebuff of the unwanted advances. “I guess your tour of Vail would likely include a visit to your apartment…to see the view?”
The shop assistant visibly brightened at his suggestion. “Now, why didn’t I think of that one?” He smirked and said, “I’ve got this new bed that needs breaking in…”
Before Gus could respond, a voice behind him said, “The only th-th-thing g-g-going t-t-to get broken is your f-fucking b-b-body.”
The sight of Ed angry was one to behold, it certainly did something for the sassy sales clerk who appeared to have suddenly lost interest in Gus.
“You talking to me now, Ed?”
“C-c-course I am.” As if to prove it, he approached Gus, stood on tiptoe and kissed him full on the lips. “O-k-k-k-kay?”
It couldn’t be anything but okay as far as Gus was concerned.
“T-target.” Ed then slapped his cellphone into Gus’ hand and led the way through the store to the street. “Uber,” he ordered.
Life is full of exciting opportunities and unless we are careful, all too often, too late we discover others we have either missed or been too afraid to grasp. Some years back I had the chance to live on a property in Central Queensland for a year. At the time, being newly arrived from the UK, I had no idea what the real outback would be like. My vision of Australia outside of Sydney and its surrounds had been shaped by Chips Rafferty movies and reading the Neville Shute novel, “A Town Like Alice.” The drive from Sydney to the property, hour after hour of traveling for almost three days through a drought-stricken landscape opened my eyes to the enormity of the country. Absent were any reminders of the verdant green fields of the UK countryside, my new home proved to be less forgiving. Finally arriving at the property, the lessons began. The challenge of saddling up a horse that doesn’t want to be saddled was inevitably followed by two more tests. Getting up on the beast proved to be doable though managing to stay up there turned out to be less so. With thousands of sheep lambing at the time, I soon learned which end of the sheep was for eating and which was for… Perhaps the most important lesson learned in the Bush was not to get too friendly or try making pets of an animal that might be a lamb roast on your dinner table the next day. Eventually heading back to Sydney fate would have it that I never made it that far as I fell in love with Brisbane on the way. It was destined to become my home apart from a three year period when I worked overseas and shorter periods when for work reasons I had to spend time living in Sydney.
Apart from earning a living, I have also enjoyed stage acting, relishing the opportunity to stand there in front of an audience and become a different character for an hour or two. I guess that at heart I must be a bit of an egotist. At the same time, writing for the stage earned me enough dollars to starve. Since then, I’ve worked at a lot of different things, traveled extensively in Australia and overseas, painted and led a full life. These days, living on the Gold Coast in Eastern Australia, I’ve finally returned to writing. Spending six days a week at the keyboard, transferring imagined characters and their stories to the page, I’ve discovered a renewed passion for writing fiction, this time for M/M Romance. When not typing away, my partner and I will mostly be found either with our dog, Barney, taking long walks by the ocean or traveling the world somewhere in search of new experiences. Hopefully, you will read and enjoy my work, and I would, in all honesty, appreciate your feedback. As one last thought, I’m a lover of the insightful quotes of the writer, Jack London. There is one that I hope I can to some degree apply to the characters I write about.
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