A Sneak Peek into Falling Faster
Does what happens in LA stay in LA, or can they find a way to fit into each other's universes?
The Falling series
For Ty Allen, a trip to Los Angeles for a comic book collectors convention with his friends is the perfect place for the Buffalo based artist to hunt down rare issues for his collection, and take a much needed break. When he falls onto a display table, taking it down with him, and is saved from bodily injury by a man dressed as a popular comic book character, the trip takes an intriguing turn. One look into the dark eyes and sexy smile of the masked man with the lightning fast reflexes, and Ty wants to learn more.
Rock musician Craig Simms spends his spare time in a mask and a cape, bringing happiness to sick children in LA through his foundation. When he dives in to rescue Ty from a close call with the concrete floor, he ends up wrapped around the cutest guy he’s ever seen. As they work together to clean up his wrecked display, he’s drawn to Ty’s friendly, sweet nature, and doesn't want their interaction to end.
A whirlwind weekend of chemistry and connection has them free-falling into something bigger than they'd anticipated. Ty is like a perfect melody for Craig’s weary heart, and for Ty, Craig shifts every experience from muted tones to vibrant hues. But when the weekend is over, does what happens at the comic convention stay at the comic convention, or can they find a way to fit into each other's universes?
Ty Allen flipped through the row of colorful comic books, gaze jumping between the issue numbers on the books and the numbers on the printed list he’d compiled. Finding everything on his wish list would likely be too much to hope for, even at the largest comic book collectors convention on the West Coast, but if he could score at least a few issues before the weekend ended, he’d consider the entire trip to LA well worth the cost of the plane tickets and hotel room fees.
Sounds came from every direction of the crowded convention center’s vast hall. The convention had drawn people from every corner of the country. Excited exclamations over items scored mixed with weary tones of exhausted defeat, and it was only day one of the con.
He reached the end of the bin. Nothing he needed. Ty turned away from the table.
A sea of people wove around the grid pattern of vendors like traffic escaping the city for a holiday weekend. He scanned the tables covered with comic books, memorabilia, artwork, clothing, and fashion accessories until he spotted his friends standing a few vendors away.
Having them along for the trip eliminated the loneliness that usually accompanied his forays to various cities for conventions, but their frequent PDAs were a tough reminder of his solo relationship status.
"Ty!" Slater Knox’s red Flash T-shirt stretched across his muscular chest and rivaled his ginger hair. He held up a comic book in a protective bag like it was a trophy and a triumphant grin lit up his face. "Look what I found."
"No way." Ty scanned the rare edition’s yellow and green cover. A thin blade of envy twisted in his gut, but he smiled and focused on happiness for his friend. That issue was one of the most coveted of those missing from his own collection. "Want to discuss a trade?"
Slater’s eyes bulged for a moment before he laughed and shook his head. "Are you kidding? I’ve been looking for this issue for years."
"Same." But he rolled his shoulders and shrugged away the disappointment. The convention still had two and a half days to go. Plenty of time left in his quest to find a hidden gem like one of the other rare comic books on his list. And if he didn’t have any luck by Sunday afternoon, he’d drown his sorrows by buying something fun and impractical.
Noah Alzado, Slater’s boyfriend, slung his arm around Slater’s waist. "Sorry, Ty. The guy who sold it to me said it was the only copy he had.
No idea if he was bluffing though. I didn’t know you wanted it too. We can go back to see if there’s another one."
"I doubt he’d have another, but I’ll check out his table anyway. Maybe he’ll have something else I need. I haven’t made it anywhere close to that side of the room yet."
"Did you find anything on your list?"
Shaking his head, he pulled the sketchbook from his bag and then flipped through the pages. "I got an idea for the project Slater and I are doing and wanted to get it down before I lost it. Have a look."
The project, a collaboration sparked by Slater’s idea for a comic book series about a hockey player who gained superhero powers, had taken over most of Ty’s free time for the last few months, as they took advantage of the hockey season’s summer break. Most of their sessions, held at Slater and Noah’s place, ended up with Ty crashing on their couch or stumbling to the spare bedroom at the end of a late night. At this point, he felt like their extra, sometimes absent, roommate.
Noah’s eyes widened as he scanned the sketch. "You did all of that in the hour since we last saw you? Damn, you’re talented."
A flush crept into his cheeks. "Thanks."
Slater leaned down and peered at the page. "I love it. The clashing of the hero and villain facing off on the ice would be a great scene to start off the next issue in the series."
"I thought that too." Thinking along the same lines worked well for their plans for the series.
Slater held up his hand for a high-five. "Awesome."
Ty raised his in response, laughing when he missed the connection.
From his place in the middle of their trio, Noah laid his hands on both of their shoulders. "I’m proud of you guys. Working hard even when you’re on vacation."
Slater bent his head and kissed Noah on the temple. "We’ll try to keep the work to a minimum. I know this convention isn’t your thing or your idea of a mini-vacation, but I’m glad you’re here."
Love shined bright in Noah’s eyes. "Are you kidding? I’m loving watching you get so excited over everything here."
The two of them together were sweet. Besides being boyfriends, they were best friends, roommates, and teammates on Buffalo’s pro hockey team, the Bedlam.
Ty flipped the sketchbook closed and tried to ignore the stab of loneliness. Work had consumed all of his time. Maybe when they got back home, he could take some time from his schedule and try to get back out there and meet someone new.
Noah turned to him and swung a friendly arm around Ty’s shoulder. "Let’s find one of the books on your list."
"Thanks. I appreciate having a second set of eyes and hands to check." Ty fell in step beside Noah and allowed him to lead.
In the six months that Ty had been friends with the couple, he appreciated how they always looked out for him. He’d met Slater first, at a bar when they were both nursing broken hearts, and had bonded over a shared love of comic books. Lucky for Slater, he and Noah had worked out their problems. And lucky for Ty, he’d gained two supportive friends.
They wound their way to the far side of the room.
Slater paused beside a giant poster of a retro Superman comic. "We need to get a selfie with this. Come on."
Ty crowded in close and grinned at the image of the trio on Slater’s phone. "I want a copy of this."
"Sure." Slater clicked a few photos, then sent one to Ty’s phone.
The vibration in his pocket alerted Ty to the text. He murmured his thanks then grabbed hold of Slater’s phone. "Let me get a wider range shot of you and Noah, so you get the whole poster."
Gaze on the screen, he backed up several steps. His foot and lower leg connected with something solid and Ty fell backward. Fear flipped through his stomach. The phone dropped away as his hands flew up. Seconds seemed to stretch out. He caught the looks of horror on Slater and Noah’s faces and their dash toward him. Too late to help.
His back slammed into hard and unyielding metal—a table—and then it tipped with him. Breath caught in his lungs. The ceiling rushed by amid the sounds of chairs scraping the ground and footsteps pounding. Legs in the air, he tucked his chin to his chest and cradled his head with his arms. A storm of colorful pamphlets rained around him.
His meeting with the concrete floor was imminent.
He braced for impact and wished he embodied any one of the superhero powers he’d given his characters.
"I’ve got you." A deep voice called out.
The swish of a dark cape obscured Ty’s vision. Strong arms wrapped around him, and a hard body softened Ty’s landing.
His back bowed as they hit the floor, and he winced at the pull in his muscles. The stranger’s hold ensured that Ty’s head stayed safely away from the unforgiving concrete. He lay, gasping for breath, heart beat galloping away in his chest, strong enough that the stranger could probably feel it through the gloves he wore.
"You okay?" That deep voice spoke again.
"Yeah, thanks. Are you?" Ty craned his neck, but couldn’t see more than bits of black costume.
Slater jumped over the upended table. "Ty! Are you okay?"
"Yeah." He reached for his friend’s extended hand and allowed himself to be gently pulled up.
Beside Slater, Noah reached to help Ty’s rescuer.
Ty turned. And stared. His mouth fell open.
He’d been rescued by… Batman.
"No freaking way." He shook himself and dropped to his knees, holding out a hand to assist in hauling the man from the floor. The guy’s Batman costume looked like one of the top of the line models. He’d briefly priced those last Halloween before learning that his ex had no
intention of joining him at the comic book store’s party. He’d gone alone as the Joker. "Um, wow. Dude, thanks for saving me."
Brown eyes, as warm as whiskey, peered at him from behind the mask. A smile curved lips marred by a scar that ran the length from his lower lip to the cleft in his chin. "Anytime."
Their hands met and clasped, and together with Noah’s help, pulled the guy to standing.
"I…" Ty dragged his gaze away and surveyed the damage he’d caused.
In addition to the table and what appeared to be hundreds of pamphlets covering the floor, he’d knocked over posters, two life-sized superhero cutouts, and a tablet.
Embarrassment blanketed him. Heat flushing through his body, Ty raked a hand through his hair and blew out a breath. "I’m sorry. I’ll help clean it all up."
"Hurricane Ty strikes again." Slater’s smile was kind as he wrapped his arm around Ty’s shoulder.
Ty elbowed Slater in the stomach, then took two steps to close the distance between himself and the stranger. "As my buddy said, I’m Ty. Did you get hurt?"
"Craig. And I’m fine." Craig clasped Ty’s hand again. "I think you tripped over one of my boxes, so what happened was my fault. It must have gotten pushed out from beneath the table."
Soft leather encased his hand in a secure grip. He had to tilt his head back a bit to meet Craig’s gaze which put the man somewhere in the six-one or six-two range. Craig smiled again, and sparks of attraction tingled in Ty’s core. He wanted the mask gone so he could see all of Craig, uninterrupted. "I should’ve been watching where I was going."
"Let’s call it even."
Ty nodded and released his hold. He felt unsteady. Either Craig had dazzled him or he was still feeling the surge of adrenaline from his fall. "Uh, these are my friends Slater and Noah."
As the men shook hands, Ty crouched and began gathering pamphlets. They advertised a foundation that sent volunteers dressed as superheroes to visit sick children in hospitals, give safety talks at schools, and other charitable endeavors. And Craig, in his costume, was right there on the cover.
Ty felt even worse.
"Um, Ty." Slater’s hesitant voice pulled his attention.
He glanced to his left. His sketchbook had come out of his bag during the fall and landed in a large puddle of coffee. The cup and lid lay beside the tan pool. Horror and panic flashed as he made his way to the book. Coffee dripped from the pages. Parts of sketches had bled. Pages stuck together. He pressed his hand to his forehead. "Come on, no."
"I’ll grab a bunch of paper towels from the restroom." Noah sprinted away.
Craig crouched beside Ty and rested his hand on Ty’s shoulder. "I’m sorry. Is any of it salvageable? It seems I owe you a sketchbook."
"And I guess I owe you a coffee." Ty sat back on his heels and fought through the tangles of feelings. Everything could be drawn again. He was lucky that the entire book hadn’t been ruined.
Noah returned with a wad of towels. "Here."
"Thanks." He wiped the book down, pressed the towels between the pages, and then tucked the book into his bag. Time to get back to restoring order to the chaos he’d caused. "Craig, I’m so sorry about all of this. I can be a bit of a walking disaster."
"Hence, the nickname." Slater righted the table. "But we love you, Ty."
Craig once again helped Ty to his feet. "Then I guess you might need a superhero around all the time?"
"I wouldn’t turn one away." That spark returned and flashed brighter. Craig’s fingers tightened for a moment before he let go of Ty’s hand. Blowing out a breath, Ty forced himself to focus on the mess, not on flirting. He glanced at his T-shirt and jeans. No coffee splashes, thank goodness.
They gathered the pamphlets and Ty spent time straightening the stacks until they were perfectly aligned. He worked side by side with Craig, asking questions about the charity, while Slater and Noah helped fix the cutouts and captured wayward papers that had drifted into the foot traffic.
When everything had been set back in its proper place, Ty glanced at Craig, not ready to say goodbye. "All done. It’s like I was never here. Sorry again that I was a human wrecking ball."
"I’m not. Ending up with you in my arms was the best thing I’ve had happen in a long time." Craig took at step closer. "If you’re not busy…"
"Yes?" He responded too quickly, but he didn’t care, as long as those four words would be followed by something that kept him in Craig’s company.
Craig gestured at the display. "I’m finished my shift here. And I’d like to make up for your sketchbook. Can I offer you a ride in the Batmobile? It’s parked outside."
Ty gaped at him. "The Batmobile? Are you kidding? You have the Batmobile?"
"A replica, not one used in the movies or TV show. It belongs to the foundation. Whoever is dressed as Batman drives it when visiting the kids. It adds to the fantasy." With a smile, he waved at someone behind Ty. "I have to return it to the foundation’s headquarters. Come take a drive with me."
"Um, yes, absolutely. I’m there." But then he thought about his friends. "I know Slater would love to see it, if you don’t mind."
"Slater would like to see what?" His friend walked up behind them.
"Craig has a replica of the Batmobile outside."
"Seriously?" Slater’s eyes lit up. "Let’s go. I can’t wait to see it."
Noah slipped an arm around Slater’s waist. "You’ve made his year, Craig."
Slater shook his head. "No. Noah, you’ve made my year, but yeah, Craig, this will be a close second."
Ty crossed his arms over his chest and feigned indignation. "And what about me?"
"You’re my best new friend?"
Shaking his head, he shouldered his bag and then nudged his shoulder into Slater’s arm. "I guess I’ll take it."
Two people in costumes, a man and woman dressed as Black Panther and Captain Marvel, arrived at the booth. Craig introduced them as his replacements and explained that each volunteer from the foundation would be taking a turn at the table over the length of the convention.
Ty fell in step beside Craig. Minutes later, they emerged from the building. Bright, blinding sunlight greeted them. Wincing, Ty shaded his eyes and nodded his thanks at Craig for holding the door.
The Batmobile gleamed in the sunshine, black and sleek and amazing.
"It’s…" His fingers itched to touch the car. Ty glanced from the car to Craig and back again. "I don’t even have words for it."
"I do." Slater reverently ran a hand along the hood. "It’s awesome."
The tips of Craig’s fingers brushed Ty’s forearm. "You can touch it. Or get in. Whatever you want."
The spark from the contact zipped right to his core. For a moment, Ty held still, gaze locked on Craig’s warm brown eyes. suspended by the fireworks erupting through his system. When Craig lowered his hand and gestured to the car, Ty opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat.
He ran his palms along the steering wheel and checked out all the gauges and buttons. "It’s so freaking real. I can picture us zooming off to fight crime somewhere."
"Right?" Phone raised, Slater took photo after photo. "You should start thinking about your superhero name."
Craig smiled and leaned on the hood. "I kind of like The Hurricane."
"Appropriate considering the levels of destruction they cause and Ty’s love of the villains," Noah added as he worked his way around the car, phone in hand.
"Ha ha." But Ty grinned and climbed out of the car to let Slater have a turn in the front seat.
Noah stood in front of the car, phone raised, taking picture after picture. "Looking good, Slater. Don’t worry, Ty, I got a bunch with you sitting there too."
Ty gaped at him, touched. No matter how many time Noah had done considerate things, both little and big, Ty was continually surprised and didn’t expect it. "Thanks."
Slater swapped the driver seat for the passenger seat. "Craig’s taking me for a spin around the parking lot."
"I’ll take a video," Noah promised as Craig climbed in and roared the engine. After they’d taken off, he glanced at Ty. "Thanks for including us in this. You didn’t have to do that."
"Are you kidding? I couldn’t have just gone with Craig and not shared this with you guys. I knew how much this would mean to Slater."
"You don’t even know how much. We found a place out here that does exotic car rentals and they actually have replica just like this one, but it wasn’t available this weekend. Slater was pretty bummed. So, this is really special."
Ty watched Craig’s profile as the car zipped around in a loop. "And it wouldn’t have happened at all if I hadn’t literally crashed into Craig’s space today."
Noah laid a hand on Ty’s arm. "You shouldn’t label yourself as a walking disaster, Ty. You beat yourself up too much."
"Besides, I think Craig likes you just as you are."
The car came to a stop in front of them. Slater hopped out, wearing a mile-wide grin. "All yours, Ty."
Ty took a moment to capture the image of Craig in the costume and the car in his mind. Things like this didn’t happen to him. Ever. With a heady rush of anticipation, he bade his friends goodbye and climbed in.
Craig smiled and brushed a finger along the back of Ty’s hand. "Ready to go?"
"I’m ready for anything."
Ty and Craig's story was originally part of the Love Is All, vol. 3 anthology. It has since been expanded, and will be available at your favorite book retailer soon.
Visit Falling Faster's page for another excerpt and teasers.