Today, I welcome my friend Holly back to the blog. She’s here to talk about her brand spanking new release, and she brought an excerpt that both made me mad and broke my heart. Make sure to read it! But first, welcome Holly. It’s a pleasure to have you, as always ❤️
I’m back! Hello everyone, and thank you so much, Nell, for letting me steal a spot on your blog again. I was here a couple of weeks ago, talking about The Dragon Next Door, and now it’s time for Call Me Charles.
I wrote Call Me Charles for National Motorcycle Ride Day, which is celebrated on the second Saturday in October – so today! 🥳
For a brief moment, I played with the idea of writing a real biker story, but I don’t think I’d be able to pull it off. I mean, I’ve watched Sons of Anarchy, and, yes, there is a certain attraction to the whole anarchy thing (not to mention men wearing leather), isn’t there? But have you hung around a motorcycle club? Not the sharpest tools in the shed. Yes, I’m judgy.
And considering I can’t live without to-do lists and different coloured stick-its, I’m not sure they would like me much in a motorcycle club – at least not the Sons of Anarchy kind. Anarchy might seem alluring at a glance, but on what ClickUp lists do I fit the activities? Can I create templates to make things go smoother, you think? What do I write in my bujo?
And when it comes to books… I can’t say I’ve read many biker books at all. There is so much… pretence? I don’t know. Men in a group trying to maintain some macho culture seldom go down well with me.
Does it mean I don’t like motorcycles? No, I love going on a motorcycle. I don’t drive since I don’t have a driver’s license, but I love tagging along. And there is freedom in going on a bike. That’s what National Motorcycle Ride Day is all about – going for a ride and enjoy the freedom and autumn weather.
So in Call Me Charles, we have Hubert, who loves riding his bike, and we have Charles, who’s never been on one.
Twenty minutes later, Charles was standing where they’d parked Mikael’s car. It was gone.
He clutched the paddle, tears welling up in his eyes. He was frozen to the bone. It was as if his body didn’t know if it was hot or cold. It burned, and yet he was so cold he couldn’t control the shaking.
He didn’t feel his feet as he stumbled along the narrow gravel road in the direction of the paved one. They had to come back for him. They’d already had a couple of nights where it had dropped below freezing. They couldn’t leave him cold and wet with no means to get home.
And what was he to do with the paddleboard? The number of the renting company was written on it, but he didn’t have his phone.
A tear escaped the corner of his eye, and he angrily wiped it away with the back of the hand.
They had to come back.
He kept on walking, the gravel digging into his feet, but he hardly noticed. Exhaustion settled in his bones. What was he doing? Walking half-naked in the thickening dark.
Some time later, he reached the crossing where the gravel road ended and the country road following the coastline took over. Sighing, he looked in both directions. There was no traffic.
He should know in which direction to walk, but he wasn’t sure. In the end, he took to the right and walked along the side of the road.
An eternity later, the sound of an engine came closer. Charles dropped the board and waved the paddle. He took a step out into the road, but the car only honked and drove past him.
A sob escaped before he knew he was crying. His body ached, his joints burned, his teeth chattered, and he was getting dizzy. He hadn’t eaten, hadn’t had anything to drink for hours, and he had no idea where he was.
He walked and walked but the road looked the same. There was the occasional street lamp, but nothing indicating he was getting closer to the city. Was he walking in the wrong direction?
There was a vehicle coming closer. It didn’t sound like the car had.
Charles squinted at the only headlight—motorcycle? He stepped out into the grass next to the road, not wanting to get hit. He wore nothing reflective and it was truly dark now.
The motorbike passed him, and Charles continued his walk. Then the engine stopped.
Charles turned with a frown.
“Charles, is that you?”
Charles squinted at the figure dressed in black leather. He recognized the voice. “H-Hubert?” His teeth chattered, and he sucked in a shuddering breath.
“What the hell are you doing?” He rolled the bike to the side of the road, got off, and removed his helmet. Charles didn’t respond. He didn’t know what he was doing.
Why was he growling?
“Charlie.” He waved a hand in front of his eyes. “Are you high?”
Charles shook his head. “C-Cold.”
Hubert cursed. “Why aren’t you dressed? Where are your friends?”
Charles shrugged, and to his horror, a tear trickled down his cheek. He wiped it away and prayed Hubert wouldn’t comment on it.
“Oh, honey, what happened?” Hubert grabbed the paddle, pulled it out of Charles’s hand, and wrapped an arm around him. The leather was cold against his wet T-shirt and skin and didn’t offer any of the heat Charles needed.
“They left me on the beach.”
Hubert was quiet for several seconds. “Where are your clothes?”
Charlie shrugged—or tried to, his muscles weren’t cooperating.
“We need to get you somewhere warm. How long have you been walking wet and without clothes?”
Filling his lungs, Charles tried to think. “S-Since b-before dark.”
“For fuck’s sake.” Hubert increased the distance between them and rubbed his arms. “Why aren’t you dressed?”
“They had me paddle boarding.” He gestured at the board.
Another growl followed.
“I didn’t know where to leave it.”
“Fuck the board!”
“B-But it’s rented. I h-have to return it.”
Hubert groaned. “Charles—” Hubert never called him Charles. “—they rented the board, not you. Let them deal with it.”
“Why did you call me Charles?”
“You want me to call you Charles.”
Charles nodded. “But you never do.”
“I didn’t, no, but then they came, and they called you Charlie despite you wanting to be called Charles.”
Charles giggled. He didn’t know why, but it spilled out through his chattering teeth. Hubert who always called him Charlie wouldn’t because Connor called him Charlie? It didn’t make sense.
Hubert smiled. “You’re adorable, but I think we need to get you warm sooner rather than later.”
Charles nodded. He’d love to get warm, but how?
“I live a few minutes’ ride up this road, but I fear you’ll freeze to death on the bike.” Hubert’s gaze traveled his body from his wet hair to his dirty toes. Unzipping his jacket, he shook it off. “Here.” He held it up so Charles could stick his arms in, but he couldn’t get himself to let go of the paddleboard.
“Put it to the side of the road. I’ll come back for it while you take a shower, okay?”
Charles nodded and put the board by the side of the road as instructed. Then he pushed his arms through the sleeves of the jacket. It was warm but so stiff and heavy he couldn’t move.
“It’s not a good fit, but better than nothing.” Hubert zipped up. “If we crash, we’re toast, but I’ll drive really fucking slow, and you’re wearing the helmet.”
Charles looked at him. He’d never been on a motorcycle, he liked living too much.
“It’ll be cold as fuck, but it’s only a few minutes, okay?”
Charles nodded. He didn’t think he could get any colder.
It turned out he could. Once Hubert had helped him onto the bike and got them rolling, Charles realized that while he’d been frozen before, the natural wind was nothing compared to being on a bike.
He hugged Hubert hard and curled up as much as he could behind him. Hubert didn’t go fast, part of Charlie was aware of it, and yet they flew down the road. They passed the gravel road Charles had walked from the beach and continued on. The night was thick, the air cold, and Charles was floating. A sense of weightlessness filled his chest.
Charles Bowman was having a bad day even before his friends showed up to kidnap him for his birthday. He lost his nametag, missed the bus, and was late for his shift in the sandwich shop, but that isn’t the worst. The worst is he’s accidentally been poisoning Hubert, the owner of the candy shop across from the sandwich shop, with gluten despite Hubert ordering gluten-free sandwiches.
When Charles finds himself soaking wet on a deserted road in the chilling October night, the worst gets an entirely new meaning. But right as he’s about to give up, Hubert comes driving on his motorcycle. Being responsible for gluten poisoning aside, Charles has never been as glad to see his knight in black leather, but is going home with Hubert a good idea? Or will the worst get even worse?
Contemporary Gay Romance: 15,071 words
According to Holly Day, no day should go by uncelebrated and all of them deserve a story. If she’ll have the time to write them remains to be seen. She lives in rural Sweden with a husband, four children, more pets than most, and wouldn’t last a day without coffee.
Holly gets up at the crack of dawn most days of the week to write gay romance stories. She believes in equality in fiction and in real life. Diversity matters. Representation matters. Visibility matters. We can change the world one story at the time.
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