Welcome to our first week of celebrating the absolutely fabulous
In today's post, we'll look at Mark Cooper versus America, and Brandon Mills vs. The V-Card which were co-written with JA Rock, plus a list of Lisa's favorite things. All the way at the end will be a chance to win either of today's featured books.
Mark Cooper vs. America
Mark Cooper is angry, homesick, and about to take his stepdad’s dubious advice and rush Prescott College’s biggest party fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi. Greek life is as foreign to Aussie transplant Mark as Pennsylvania’s snowstorms and bear sightings. So, when the fraternity extends Mark a bid, Mark vows to get himself kicked out by the end of pledge period. But then he’s drawn into Alpha Delt’s feud with a neighboring fraternity.
Studious Deacon Holt is disappointed to learn Mark’s pledging Alpha Delt, his fraternity Phi Sigma Kappa’s sworn enemy. Mark is too beautiful for Deacon to pass up an invitation for sex, but beyond sex, Deacon’s not sure. He wants a relationship, but a difficult family situation prevents him from pursuing anything beyond his studies.
Mark and Deacon’s affair heats up as the war between their fraternities escalates. They explore kinks they didn’t know they had while keeping their liaison a secret from their brothers. But what Romeo and Juliet didn’t teach these star-crossed lovers is how to move beyond sex and into a place where they share more than a bed. That’s something they’ll have to figure out on their own—if the friction between their houses, and between Mark and America, doesn’t tear them apart.
This is an excerpt from Mark Cooper versus America, by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock. It’s the first in our Prescott College series, and features the very out-of-his-depth Australian Mark Cooper, and his friendly local bartender and fellow student—and soon-to-be-boyfriend—Deacon Holt
“So,” Deacon said when Mark Cooper sidled up to the bar. “I see you’re pledging.”
Mark tapped the badge on his polo. “Apparently.”
“Want a Coke?”
“I want something a lot stronger, but I’ll settle for that,” Mark said.
If Deacon wasn’t mistaken, Mark was buzzed already. Not totally, but definitely on his way there. “Shouldn’t you be running around naked or something by now?”
Mark grinned at him. “If you like.”
Well, that was more than a blip on the old gaydar. That was straight to DEFCON One, and man the battle stations. And there was at least one part of Deacon that was standing to attention. He leaned on the bar. “I meant, surely they’ve got some stupid, humiliating, and possibly dangerous activity lined up for you back on campus.”
“Actually,” Mark said, placing his wallet on the bar, “they sent me grocery shopping.”
Deacon raised his eyebrows. Mark was unencumbered by groceries of any sort.
“And condom shopping, and fuzzy-pink-cat shopping, and some other shit that I’ve already forgotten.” Mark sipped his Coke and shrugged helplessly. “What can you do, hey?”
“Well, you could go shopping,” Deacon suggested.
“Yeah, I’m not going to do that.”
Deacon laughed. “Aiming to go down in history as the pledge who flunks out the fastest?”
“Oh, sure,” Mark said. “I’m a high achiever.” He sighed. “Okay, so maybe I don’t want to flunk out straightaway, but I’m not going to bend over and let them fuck me every which way to Sunday for the next however long this takes.”
There was another image Deacon didn’t need. “You know, Alpha Delta is not exactly the right place to express your individuality.”
Mar tugged at the collar of his polo shirt. “I noticed that.”
Deacon would have laughed, except he had the feeling that Mark really didn’t understand what he’d gotten himself into. He was going to get the shit hazed out of him by those assholes. “Just be careful, okay? They’re…bullies.”
Actually, a couple of them were sadistic fucks who got off on their own sense of entitlement. And turned their pledges into sadistic fucks who picked up a sense of entitlement somewhere along the way. Because they were rich, popular, and they ruled the campus. Deacon liked to think that in a few years, out in the real world, they’d learn a thing or two, but he suspected guys like that never did. Bullies in school, and bullies in the boardroom, what was the difference?
“I can look after myself,” Mark said, sounding offended.
Of course he could. He was an angry little bunny, remember? He was also the kid who’d lied to his mother about the great birthday party his gazillion new friends were throwing him. Angry little bunny, Deacon knew, had a very brittle shell. Not brittle enough that he wouldn’t be able to land a couple of good punches if he ever found out about the bunny thing, though.
“I didn’t say you couldn’t look after yourself,” Deacon told him. “I just told you to be careful.”
“Okay.” Mark didn’t look at him for a while. Then, when he did, his gaze was more guarded than it had been. “I can, though.”
It was like arguing with a three-year-old.
“I’m sure you can.”
Mark lit a cigarette and glowered at the floor.
Deacon busied himself around the place, wiping down the bar, serving a woman who came in, tipping out the ashtrays.
“So,” Mark said when Deacon found his way down the back to Mark’s end of the bar again.
Deacon reached for his empty glass. “Another one?”
“I actually came here to get laid,” Mark said. “Wanna help me out with that?”
Deacon almost dropped the glass. He stared at Mark, wondering if this was part of pledge week now. He could just imagine the Alpha Delts sniggering as they came up with something as outrageous as propositioning a guy. But there was no hint of a smirk in Mark’s face. Was it possibly a straightforward question? Well, not straight, but sure as hell forward.
“I think maybe you’ve had too much to drink,” he said at last.
“I think maybe I’ve had just the right amount,” Mark countered. He showed Deacon his palms. “If you don’t want to, it’s no biggie. I just thought you might be interested.”
“I might be,” Deacon said. “But you’ve had too much to drink.”
Mark mulled that over. Then he grinned. “I’d better have another Coke, then, and sober up before you finish work.”
Deacon shook his head, smiled, and thought briefly about telling Mark to leave. Then he rethought that and went and got him another Coke.
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Secondly, we have Brandon Mills vs. The V-Card:
Smart, shy Prescott sophomore Brandon Mills is working hard to overcome his troubled past and be normal. With the help of his friends Mark and Deacon, and his brothers at Phi Sigma Kappa, he’s slowly coming out of his shell. But when he accidentally drenches a freshman in orange soda, he faces something he’s not ready for: a boy crushing on him.
Alex Kekoa pledges Phi Sig because it has everything he wants: a house full of nerds who won’t tease him for being smart, a dog, and Brandon Mills. Brandon is just the type of guy Alex needs to help fulfill his college ambition: losing his virginity. Except Alex doesn’t know that Brandon can’t stand to touch or be touched.
When Alex and Brandon are drafted onto the Phi Sig Academic Challenge team, their mutual attraction grows. If there’s anyone who can help Brandon discover it feels good to touch and kiss, maybe it’s klutzy Alex with his cute glasses and his dinosaur obsession. But as the competition--and their relationship--heats up, Alex’s determination not to die a virgin clashes with Brandon’s vow of lifelong celibacy, forcing them to examine what’s truly important to each of them about love.
This is an excerpt from Brandon Mills versus the V-Card, by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock. It’s the second in our Prescott college series. Brandon is painfully shy and dealing with a traumatic past, and Alex is painfully awkward, but fast food and a shared love of dinosaurs lead to something sweet and new for both of them.
“Why do I have to pretend I want something I don’t just to make other people happy?” Brandon sounded furious. And was it Alex’s imagination, or was Brandon suddenly closer to him? Their gazes locked, and Brandon’s hand trembled in the diminished space between them. “Why can’t I do what I want?”
He was breathing hard, his face inches from Alex’s. Alex definitely wanted to wait this one out in case he was misreading…
Okay. Brandon’s lips were on his. Brandon was kissing him—kissing him! And now it was okay to kiss back. Had to be. Alex groped blindly, knocking the fast-food bag onto the floor, until his hand landed on the back of Brandon’s head. Brandon dropped the carton of fries and they spilled across the desk. Alex stepped forward and accidentally crushed the fast-food bag. Brandon’s lips were soft, and his hair was soft, and his teeth scraped Alex’s lower lip just a little. Alex needed to remember all this for later, but it was happening so fast.
When Brandon pulled away, Alex froze, sure that he had still managed to do something wrong, even though Brandon had 100 percent initiated that.
“Oh shit,” Brandon whispered. He moved toward the door, and Alex gaped. No way—no way—was Brandon going to kiss and run. But Brandon stopped and fished something out of his pocket. Something small and plastic. He handed it to Alex. “I got you this.” Alex took the object. A dinosaur. Not just any dinosaur. A Sinosauropteryx. “I have to go. I have an eight a.m. class.” He left the room.
Totally fucking left.
A few seconds later, he was back.
“No, actually, you leave. This is my room.”
“No!” Alex surprised himself with the force of his tone. “If you kiss me, you have to talk to me about it. You have to tell me whether we’re ever going to do that again.”
“I don’t know.” Brandon sounded so agonized that Alex almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
“What’s the problem?” Alex asked boldly. “In the closet? Worried about fry breath? Something about me?”
Brandon closed his eyes.
“Tell me,” Alex said. “I’m not stupid. And I won’t—I won’t be a dick about it, whatever it is. You can trust me. Please?”
Brandon shook his head.
“I’m not letting you give me a dinosaur and run away!” Dinosaurs fucking meant something.
Still no response.
“You have two options.” Alex willed his courage to hold, because he had a feeling he knew which one Brandon would pick. “One: Talk to me. Let me stay here, and talk to me. Two: Agree to take my spot on the team. I’ll leave, and we can pretend this didn’t happen—again. If that’s what you want.”
Alex wanted Brandon to talk to him. But more than that, he wanted Brandon to have someone, even if it wasn’t Alex. So if Brandon doing Academic Challenge meant he’d be out there interacting with people and having fun instead of holed up in his room reading about Keynesian economics, then good.
Brandon had a third option, which was to tell Alex to fuck off. Alex wondered how far Brandon would go to get him out of his room. He imagined Brandon calling the neighbors for backup and a couple of muscular Alpha Delts braving former enemy territory to remove Alex from the premises. Imagined the Phi Sigs telling Alex maybe it was best if he dropped out of the pledge process—that staging a one-man sit-in to get a boy you liked to talk to you wasn’t really model Phi Sig behavior.
With a sigh, Brandon sank onto the edge of the mattress. Put his face in his hands. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” he said softly. Alex’s chest tightened in sympathy. “With you, or at Prescott. Or…anywhere. Anything.” He blew a loud, frustrated breath into his hands. “And this is the first time I’ve kissed a guy. Well, second. I mean, you’re the first guy I’ve kissed.”
Which was awesome.
Alex waited a moment. Hovered a hand tentatively near Brandon’s shoulder. “Is that it?”
Brandon lifted his head. “What do you mean, is that it?”
Alex flinched back. “I thought you had, like, some dark secret or something.” Alex braced himself and put his hand on Brandon’s shoulder. Brandon didn’t murder him or anything, so yay. In his other hand, Alex clutched the dinosaur. “I don’t know what I’m doing either. I just know I like you.”
“I like you too.” Brandon lowered his head again. “I mean, if there was anyone I could do this with, maybe it would be you. But I can’t.”
“Oh. Wait, do what?”
“Whatever…whatever this is.”
“Oh.” Alex sat on the bed beside him. Opened his hand to look at his dinosaur. “I don’t really know what this is either.” He caught Brandon’s gaze. “Not this this. This is a Sinosauropteryx, the first non-avian dinosaur to be found with feathers. It was discovered in China in 1996, where it’s called a Zhonghuá lóng niǎo. That means China dragon bird.”
Brandon gave an awkward laugh. “Shit. You need to be on the Academic Challenge team, Alex.”
Alex felt warm. Some of it was embarrassment—spouting dinosaur facts had ceased to be cool at about age eight—but mostly it was because he liked how Brandon said his name. “It would be cool if we were on the team together.”
“Yeah.” Spots of color appeared in Brandon’s cheeks.
Alex stood suddenly. He went to Brandon’s desk and picked up his Protoceratops. Then he sat again, and held it out to Brandon.
Brandon took it, smiling slightly. “What’s this for?”
Alex shrugged. “I guess, um, if you don’t want to do anything else, we could play dinosaurs?”
For a second he thought Brandon would laugh in his face, but that smile of his didn’t distort into something mocking. It remained there, slightly wistful and tinged with a sadness that Alex didn’t understand, but felt as well. Brandon hurt, and it made Alex ache too.
Alex shifted so that space opened up on the bed between them.
This was dumb, and they both knew it, but somehow Alex didn’t think that Brandon would throw him out now.
They ate Brandon’s fries while their dinosaurs battled for supremacy on the comforter.
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things weird words:
I had no idea what to do when I was asked to provide a list of favourites. That’s way too wide a scope! I need boundaries! Then, when I was cleaning—an almost unprecedented event—I found one of my old index books, and in it was a collection of words. Either words I mix up (like amiable, amicable and amenable) or foreign words or phrases I’ve come across (ab urba condita), or words that are just plain interesting and weird. Here’s a list of my favourite ten weird words, in no particular order and for no particular reason:
Elflocks - also called fairy locks. Tangles in the hair put there by fairies, while you’re sleeping.
Agelast - a person who never laughs. I wonder if such a person ever really existed.
Erinaceous - like a hedgehog. I love the specificity of this word. Like, how often do you compare a thing to a hedgehog? Often enough that it needs it own word? Apparently!
Mooncalf - a born fool, dolt. One who idles time away. I feel like I was born to be a mooncalf. It sounds so relaxing.
Infandous - unspeakable, or too terrible to be mentioned. The infandous Voldemort.
Qualtagh - the first person who sees you after leaving the house. This is like the hedgehog word. So wonderfully specific. It makes me think that maybe there’s some sort of tradition or superstition associated with it, like a first footer, but I have no idea!
Oubliette - a dungeon, the only entrance being through the top. From the French oublier, to forget. I wonder who is doing the forgetting here. The person who had the prisoner put in the dungeon, or the prisoner himself, locked away in the dark.
Offing - the part of the sea that can be seen from the shore. In the offing - likely to happen soon. I love this one, because I know what the expression in the offing means in a general sense, but had no idea where it actually came from.
Quire - two dozen sheets of paper. I like this one because it’s great for Scrabble. Also, because I feel it’s one of those words that we’ve probably only stopped using in the last generation or so. Bye bye, quire!
Wanweird - an unhappy fate. I just love the sound of this one.
More about Lisa Henry:
Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters.
Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn't know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she's too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
Other books by Lisa Henry:
The Two Gentleman of Altona (Playing the Fool #1), with J.A. Rock
The Merchant of Death (Playing the Fool #2), with J.A. Rock
Tempest (Playing the Fool #3), with J.A. Rock
Fallout, with M. Caspian
Fall on Your Knees, with J.A Rock – part of the Rated: XXXmas Anthology
Bliss, with Heidi Belleau
Tin Man, with Heidi Belleau.
Another Man's Treasure, with J.A. Rock
When All The World Sleeps, with J.A. Rock
The King of Dublin, with Heidi Belleau
Mark Cooper versus America (Prescott College #1), with J.A. Rock.
Brandon Mills versus the V-Card (Prescott College #2), with J.A. Rock
The Good Boy (The Boy #1), with J.A. Rock
The Naughty Boy (The Boy #1.5), with J.A. Rock
The Boy Who Belonged (The Boy #2), with J.A. Rock
Stealing Innocents, writing as Cari Waites.
The Dreams You Made in the Dirt - a free short.
Falling Away - a free short.
The Last Rebellion - a free short.
One lucky winner will receive an e-copy of either
Mark Cooper versus America or Brandon Mills vs. The V-Card
Thanks for celebrating with us. We hope you enjoyed being here. Come back next week for more of Lisa's books, five little-known things about her, and another chance to win.
Until then, happy reading!