Lance has loved Arthur for nearly a thousand years but has never had the courage to act on it—till now.
After being away at college for a year, Lance Lotte returns to Avalon, Kentucky, for the summer. Due to self-imposed isolation, he hasn’t seen anyone in months, but all that changes when Arthur—his closest friend, and the love of his life—shows up to his new job with a big toothy grin. The last time Lance saw Arthur, the two had not parted on the best of terms—with Arthur’s father finding them asleep on his bed, and physically wrenching Lance away from Arthur. The incident put a strain on their relationship, and convinced Lance that they will never be allowed to be together.
But then Arthur sends Lance a text one night, telling him that he’s in love with him—a text Lance rereads at least a hundred times, but isn’t brave enough to mention when they’re alone. Lance has fought his attraction to Arthur for the past five years because as a budding brujo, he believes in magick, destiny and fate—that everything happens for a reason—that nothing good will come of an Arthur Pendragon-Lance A. Lotte pairing.
With the help of his sister, Gwen Lotte, Arthur and two twins visiting their uncle for the summer, Mordy and Morgan Lafayette, Lance learns the true meaning of friendship, and just how far he will go to save the people he loves.
Reader advisory: This book contains instances of dead-naming and transphobia, mentions of child abuse, suicide, drug abuse, and overdose. There are mentions of child disappearance/kidnapping, religious persecution, racial profiling, racism, homophobia and violence.
General Release Date: 28th April 2020
No one expected me to come home this summer.
Hell, I didn’t expect to come home this summer.
Until a week ago, I had been apartment hunting in Lexington, looking for a one-room studio with a balcony and fire escape—maybe next to a park, certainly something close to campus. But rent is so outrageous in this college town that it just wouldn’t be worth it. So when Gwen asked me to come home, to spend my summer vacation in Avalon, it didn’t take much convincing. I was on a bus within hours of our phone call.
On the second day after my arrival, I decided to look for a job. Luckily, my old boss from a summer job I’d had in high school offered me a new position at Camelot Crafts, a little hole-in-the-wall store that sells scrapbooking materials to Sunday school teachers and bored housewives. I accepted the position immediately…but now that I’ve completed an entire shift, I’m not sure it was the right decision.
The boredom might literally kill me.
Gwen isn’t being helpful, either. She was supposed to text me around three to let me know when she would be here to pick me up, but she hasn’t responded to any of my texts.
Because she is a flaky asshole. This is just like her. Classic Gwen.
When it comes time for me to leave, I look down at my phone once more to see if Gwen has texted me. She hasn’t. So I make the decision to walk home instead. I throw on my hoodie, grab my black side bag and make my way to the front door.
I look down at my feet. Wearing Converse to work was a bad idea.
Standing outside next to an old, rusted pickup that’s more rust than actual metal is my best friend from high school, Arthur. Our eyes meet and he dashes over to the door to greet me. I wave once behind the tempered glass. Sometimes my sister can be such an asshole, I swear.
After I lock the door from the outside and turn around, Arthur scoops me into his arms with lightning speed. He’s enormous now, muscles everywhere, a mountain of a man, the boy I once knew wholly lost to long days of manual labor.
“I see that Gwen texted you instead of me,” I say, gently untangling myself from his bear hug. “How very responsible of her. Is this your noble steed?”
Arthur grins and pats the side of the truck. “He is. I call him Percy. Do you wanna lift?”
Of course I have to say yes, because I live like seven miles from the shop, and because Arthur is looking at me with the most beautiful, dreamy brown eyes I have ever seen, knowing full well just how bewitching they are. I shrug.
“Yeah, I guess,” I say. “What’s her excuse this time?”
“No excuse,” Arthur admits. “I just wanted to see you, is all. You look good, by the way. I feel like I haven’t seen you in like a year.”
That’s because it has been a year, but I don’t tell him that. “Yeah,” I reply. “It’s been a while since I came home.” Arthur helps me into the truck, then rushes to his side and opens the door in a frenzy.
“You gonna be all right there?” I ask, pushing a safety helmet onto the floorboard.
Arthur removes his orange protective vest and runs a hand through the top of his blond, sun-bleached hair before starting the truck. “I’m better than all right. I’m great. Goddamn, I can’t believe you’re actually here,” he says. “Queenie told me you were thinking of moving to Lexington.”
“I do live there,” I say, trying to pull the seat belt across my lap, but it snags, and I have trouble getting the strap to release. Arthur slides over real close and takes the belt into his hands.
“You know what I mean,” he says. “Here, let me get that for you. It’s not the best truck in the world, but it gets me from point a to point b. There ya go.”
A whiff of sweat and dirt from a hard day’s work fills my nostrils when he brushes against my stomach, and I have to talk myself out of closing my eyes and savoring the intoxicating scent. Arthur smells so good, so familiar. He hugs me again and tells me how glad he is that I’m here, with him, in his truck. That he hopes we can spend all summer together. I doubt it, because my body dysphoria is a roadblock on a route riddled with endless repairs, and I’m not sure Arthur would understand how to navigate all the signs and detours, but I keep that part to myself and nod instead. I sigh.
On the drive to my house, Arthur and I discuss school—his graduating, my upcoming junior year. He graduated two weeks ago. I know this because I follow him on Instagram, and every single picture he posted that day had a different girl in it. I suddenly feel guilty and think about how he attended my high school graduation with a smile. But I’ve always been kind of petty, I guess, and I just couldn’t bring myself to see him, not when I’m a mess, a crippling mass of confusion and heat.
“Well,” he says, reeling me back into the conversation. “At least that’s over. I’m just glad that I don’t have to take any more stupid tests for a while. You know what I mean?”
I nod, and watch him drive up the hill that I’ve called home for nearly twelve years now. “Yeah, I feel that,” I say. “College is nothing but tests and papers. It can be really shitty sometimes. But hey,” I reply, suddenly remembering, “Gwen tells me that you have your own place now. Look at you being an adult and everything, mister construction worker.”
Arthur laughs and places an arm across my chest while the truck takes a sharp left turn. I briefly consider leaning into his arm, but think better of it. I don’t want him to think I’m a weirdo.
“Okay,” he says, both hands now on the steering wheel. “It’s a goddamn trailer. We ain’t talkin’ about no palace here. Sturgill’s Mobile Homes, you know, by that used tire store? And construction sure beats the hell out of unpaid volunteer work. At least I’m getting good money outta this.”
While Arthur talks about his new job, I watch his lips move, how he bites on the inside of his cheek, how he licks his lips twice, how his bottom lip trembles every time he says my name. Watching him speak never gets old.
“Oh, yeah,” I say, finally. “Gwen mentioned a bonfire tonight, and something about a seance, maybe? I’m not sure I’m really ready for that. You know how people get at these things, especially when they’re drinking. They take Ouija boards way too fuckin’ seriously, and fights always break out because someone gets freaked out.”
Arthur slumps slightly and makes a noise. “Pretty please,” he says. “With sugar on top? I haven’t seen you in forever. Don’t you want to hang out with me? Didn’t you miss me at all?”
Other than Gwen, Arthur is the only person in Avalon I care about, and it’s been that way for the past five years, but any time he gets brought up, or the status of our friendship gets brought up, I choke and have a difficult time verbalizing a response.
“I did miss you,” I say, my mouth suddenly dry. “But you know how I feel about her bonfires. The music is always terrible and loud, and you can’t hear anyone talk. Everyone’s drunk and being obnoxious, touching you and stuff.”
“I’ll stand real close to you so that you can hear me, and we can hang out on the porch if it gets to be too much. I won’t let anyone lay a finger on you. Or we can check it out and leave if things get dumb. Please, Lance.”
I love this man, and I have been in love with him since my junior year of high school. The perpetual sincerity in his voice shakes my steel core every time.
“All right,” I say, caving in without putting up much of a fight. “But I swear, if someone calls me Linda, I’m out of there immediately. Do you hear me?”
“We don’t have to stay the entire time if you don’t want. I just want to hang out with you.”
Against my better judgment, I agree to let him shower and change clothes before heading to the bonfire, but now that we’re here in the trailer park, I’m not so sure it was a good idea.
Arthur pulls into the gravel driveway of a small mobile home, then hops out of his truck and hastily opens my door. His excitement is a little jarring, honestly, because I am not used to bright, bubbly personalities, not after having been away at college for the past year. I’m used to keeping my eyes glued to the sidewalk and walking with my earbuds in, to avoid any unnecessary—or necessary—conversations.
Arthur helps me down from the truck and hugs me again, this time pressing his chest against mine.
“I’ve missed you so much,” he says. His voice cracks a little, like he’s about to cry. “You have no idea.”
Word Count: 80,693
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Jackson Garton spent his formative years in the Appalachian region of the United States, and has chosen to call Kentucky 'home' for the past twenty years. As a queer trans person living in this part of the country, he possesses a rather unique perspective, and this can be observed throughout the fantastical stories he tells. He also has a strong penchant for cats, tea, and the arcane.
Find Jackson on Instagram and on his blog.
Reviewed by Love Bytes Reviews
Linda identifies as Lance. He is also undergoing hormonal and operation changes. As such, for years, he wasn’t in a good emotional place and continues to have issues. The adopted sibling of the L...
Read more reviews