The Art of Hero Worship by Mia Kerick
Re-Release Date: October 29th 2018
Published by: Ninestar Press
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance, LGBT, New Adult
Saving the one who once saved me.
College junior Liam Norcross is a hero. He willingly, even eagerly, risks his life to save a stranger as a murderous, deranged shooter moves methodically through the darkened theater on the Batcheldor College campus, randomly killing innocent men, women, and children.
The stranger he saves is college freshman Jason Tripp. Jase loses everything in the shooting: his girlfriend, who dies on the floor beside him, and his grip on emotional security. He struggles to regain a sense of safety in the world, finally leaving college to seek refuge in his hometown.
An inexplicable bond forms between the two men in the chaos and horror of the theater, and Liam fights to bring Jase back to the world he ran away from. When Jase returns to school, they’re drawn together as soulmates, and soon Liam and Jase fall into a turbulent romantic relationship. However, the rocky path to love cannot be smoothed until Jase rescues his hero in return by delving into his shady past and solving the mystery of Liam’s compulsion to be everybody’s savior.
…It seems as if so much time has passed since the first bullet whizzed past my right ear…that for a month or a year—or for my entire lifetime—I’ve been waiting for the gunshots to stop. But a tiny voice inside my head suggests that I’ve been in this living hell for less than five minutes, at most.
Right after the shooting started, but before I lost Ginny, I caught a glimpse of the gunman’s silhouette against the bright stage. He’d seemed huge in his dark baggy clothing. He towered over the audience, or maybe it just seemed that way because he was pointing a gun at us. I recognized the shooter from seeing him around campus. And when I saw his face profiled in the light—the bulging forehead, prominent nose, and receding chin—a name had sped through my brain, but soon the name was as lost to me as my girlfriend’s lax hand.
The gunman doesn’t say a word; his weapon does the talking. And the deafening popping sounds are closer again, like the gun has something it wants to say to me personally…something like, “You’re gonna die today, Jason.”
“I’m gonna push on your back really hard, and I want you to squeeze as much of your body underneath the chairs as you can, got it?” The voice seems to come from a million miles away, but it’s coming from right behind me. On top of me, really. I feel his breath on the back of my neck.
“Are we going to die?” I’m not sure if I ask this or if it comes from the lips of the little old lady who’d been sitting on the other side of Ginny at the start of the play. The old lady who told us she’d come to the Harrison Theater to see her granddaughter play Ophelia in the Shakespeare in the Spring Performance Series, not to die in a hail of bullets. I know that Ginny didn’t ask the question, though. She’s been silent since the second volley of gunshots when her head slumped over unnaturally onto my shoulder, and by instinct, I’d pulled her to the floor.
Batcheldor College’s small theater has been called “an acoustic gem,” and right now, it’s ringing with the erratic sounds of screaming and moaning and crying and shouting and shooting. But most impressive is the resounding silence of the gunman, which speaks louder than words, or gunshots, ever could.
All in all, it’s noisy and confusing and crazy…the Beatles’ tune “Helter Skelter” comes to mind. This is not how I want to die. Mostly because I don’t want to die!
The guy on my back is poking a single finger into the blood on my head, then twisting in such a way that I think he’s reaching to his back…like maybe he’s smearing my blood there. I’m distracted from his action by the squealing of the fire alarm, and I find my blurry mind wondering if, in addition to the problem of a crazed gunman, we also have a fire to put out.
Would I prefer my death be a result of hungry flames or a hail of bullets?
“We’re gonna survive; just stay still. Completely still. ’Kay?” I feel the pressure on my back that he promised me, and even though it hurts to have my belly pushed into the metal rungs at the base of the seats in front of us, I feel strangely safe. He speaks into my ear. “Play dead, dude.”
No, I’m not even remotely safe. But thankfully, I play dead far better than my dog Goliath did when I tried to teach him that trick at the age of seven.
The shots are already earsplitting, and growing louder, as the shooter’s heading our way. I’m so fucking scared I tremble as if I’m having a seizure, and I promised the guy lying on top of me that I’d stay still. I concentrate on taking short shallow breaths, one after another, in my effort to stop shaking. To stay frozen—the way my heart has been since I pulled Ginny to the floor and promptly let go of her hand so I could curl up into a tight fetal ball.
Somebody near me sits up, scrambles to his knees, and impulsively crawls toward the far aisle.
“Bang, bang…you’re dead.” The voice comes from directly above me; it’s blank and monotone and controlled. The snicker that follows is chilling. I want nothing more than to throw the big guy off my back and run like hell toward the double doors, but I just keep on going with the short, shallow breaths and stay as still as I’ve ever been in my life. The guy on top of me is totally exposed; I can’t move because if I do, I’ll cheat him out of his life, for sure. Which is so not cool when he’s trying to save mine.
I smell blood. Never noticed the smell of blood before. It reminds me of Grandma’s penny collection…if it got spilled onto the sticky floor of the theater. The scent of old copper is everywhere like wet pennies strewn all around me on the floor.
Shooter’s practically on top of us now. Don’t move…don’t move…don’t move…
“Dear God, help me!” This request seems to catch the shooter’s attention, and he turns around and steps away from us. I curse myself for feeling as relieved as I do.
We wait and it seems like forever. We wait as voices beg and plead and pray and he shuts them up with bullets. We wait as the sound of shots moves to the front left near the exit, where I figure he’s shooting at anyone who tries to get out through the double doors.
And then, for a second, it’s quiet.
“Now…” The big guy whispers, but the sound seems to blast into my left ear. “We have to make our move now.” Before I agree, the heaviness of his body lifts and I feel cold and exposed. “This is our chance to get outta here…”
His hand is attached to the back of my wrist, clutching me so hard I’ll have fingerprint bruises for a week…if I live so long.
“Come on! Get up!”
“Ginny…” I whisper back. “I can’t leave Ginny.”
He reaches out to touch the flesh mound in the center of the pool of blood and whispers firmly, “Ginny’s already gone.” He releases my wrist just long enough to adjust his grip. “I worked here last year. I know how to get away. Come on…”
☆ Exclusive Excerpt ☆
“You’re no monster,” I whisper when he rolls off me, both of us sweaty and satisfied, but I see that troubled expression in his eyes.
“You’re no monster,” I say as he gently pushes me beneath the spray of hot water, after soaping up my entire body in his usual attentive manner. Because I can see the suffering on his face.
“You’re no monster,” I tell him between spoons full of butterscotch ice cream that he’s feeding me in the ice cream parlor downtown, because his guilt is showing again.
“You are not a monster, Liam.” Time and again, he hears these words from me, because I know he hasn’t fully forgiven himself for something that doesn’t even require forgiveness. All he did was save himself instead of die trying to save his little sister. I plan to give him the absolution he thinks he needs, which his parents refused him.
Meet the Author
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—one in law school, another a professional dancer, a third studying at Mia’s alma mater, Boston College, and her lone son off to Syracuse. (Yes, there is Atlantic Coast Conference rivalry within the family.) She publishes LGBTQ romances when not editing National Honor Society essays, offering opinions on college and law school applications, helping to create dance bios, and reviewing English papers. Her husband of twenty-five years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about this, as it is a sensitive subject.
Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships. She has a great affinity for the tortured hero in literature, and as a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with tales of tortured heroes and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. Now she publishes her work—it’s an alternate place to stash her stories.
Her books have been featured in Kirkus Reviews magazine and have won Rainbow Awards for Best Transgender Contemporary Romance and Best YA Lesbian Fiction, a Reader Views’ Book by Book Publicity Literary Award, the Jack Eadon Award for Best Book in Contemporary Drama, an Indie Fab Award, a First Place Royal Dragonfly Award for Cultural Diversity, a First Place Story Monsters Purple Dragonfly Award for YA Fiction, among others.
Mia Kerick is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology. Contact Mia at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit at http://www.miakerickya.com to see what is going on in Mia’s world.
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