Today is my final 69, Dudes! post. For the past several Wednesdays, I've been posting page 69 from my full-length novels. Today, I'm sharing from my contemporary M/M romance Off the Beaten Path:
When Loose Id sent out a submissions call for vacation-themed stories, I decided to give it a shot. I knew immediately I wanted to explore an atypical vacation, something a bit, well, off the beaten path! This lead to research on what's known as a "volunteer vacation" where families, church groups, school groups, etc dedicate a vacation to renovating parks, building houses, clearing jogging/bike trails, cleaning beaches, or other service-oriented activities while enjoying the amenities the location has to offer. In my story, my characters combine a camping trip with clearing a hiking path and other "park restoration" activities. Problem is, one of them didn't exactly volunteer.
Off the Beaten Path was also a bit off-track for me in that it was my first non-yaoi M/M as well as my first "true" contemporary minus dark romance, paranormal, and/or the BDSM themes I explored in previous stories, paving the way for later works Sonoran Heat and Sagittarius Blues. In classic "opposites attract" fashion, I pitted semi-closeted lacrosse player Travis against outspoken vegan and gay activist Kyle. By page 69, Travis and Kyle are kinda/sorta getting along... especially after they woke up accidentally spooning in their tent in one scene, followed by no-strings-attached sex the next night. Here's their slightly educational conversation the morning after. Enjoy, and check back on Friday the 13th where I'm starting a special excerpt theme for my short stories that don't have a page 69. Thanks for all the comments everyone's offered the past several Wednesdays!
** BLURB **
Travis Bell is openly gay to family and friends, but as a college athlete, he chooses not to define himself by his sexuality. When he covers for a friend's misdeed, he's forced to renegotiate his future. Carefully. Or he's going to lose his coveted lacrosse scholarship. The last thing Travis plans on, however, is a "volunteer vacation" in the remote wilderness with members of Omega Beta Pi, aka Off the Beaten Path, a fraternity devoted to gay rights and environmental causes. To make matters worse, he must share a tent with Kyle, an opinionated activist who also happens to be the hottest guy Travis has ever met.
Kyle Schafer is a proud activist who disapproves of Travis's ignorance on issues affecting the environment and gay community. To his even greater annoyance, Kyle finds himself attracted to his shallow tentmate on a purely physical level. Travis goes against everything Kyle believes in, but that doesn't dampen the chemistry that sparks between them. Pretty soon, it looks like Travis isn't the only one who'll be going off the beaten path.
** EXCERPT **
Travis stressed throughout the morning over what would happen once he and Kyle went to bed that night, as anxious over what might transpire as he was of what might not. He channeled his nervous energy into clearing the last stretch of the path, the sound of the waterfall growing closer by the second as he battled the most thick, tangled growth yet. Raising the loppers high, he snipped off the low-hanging tree limbs that blocked his way.
At last, he reached the end of the path. Like a conquistador staking his claim, he speared the loppers into the earth, and then stepped out onto the bedrock ledge. The small waterfall loomed into view. A curtain of white spilled down a rocky slope, fanning into several cascades before dropping several feet below into a pool of aquamarine.
Travis stared down in wonder like an explorer who'd just discovered hidden treasure. "Wow," he mumbled. "It's beautiful."
"It sure is," Kyle said, finishing up behind him. He came up beside Travis and leaned on his rake. Their shoulders brushed, sending tiny shivers of sensation through Travis's limbs. "Look." Kyle pointed at a row of rocks where the pool fed into a shallow section of stream. A cluster of turtles lay basking in the sun, a few of them paired off in the quiet throes of mating.
"Must be nice," Travis said. "Lazing around all day by the waterfall, soaking up the rays, enjoying a little outdoor orgy without a care in the world."
Kyle chuckled. "Yeah, that's the life."
"You think any of those turtles are gay?"
"Maybe. Homosexual behavior has been observed in fifteen hundred animal species."
"Really? That few, huh?"
"Yeah. A percentage mate for life, too. Male swans have been known to breed with a female, then chase her away once she's laid the egg so he can raise the hatchling with another male. Kind of dispels the notion that animals only exhibit gay behavior in a show of dominance or when there isn't enough of the opposite sex to go around."
"Interesting." Duly impressed by Kyle's knowledge, Travis couldn't resist making light of it. "I'm all for backing the gay lifestyle with scientific data, but I have to ask: what scientist is hard up enough to watch that much animal sex?"
Kyle laughed again, his eyes crinkling. "Someone's got to take one for the team."
** Copyright 2009 by Katrina Strauss **
Off the Beaten Path is available in e-book at: