50s Mixed Tape Anthology
This anthology includes my story, Rush Around the Clock.
Patient soul Finn McMurphy teaches music and drama to middle schoolers. By the time he’s finished with after-school rehearsals and the private lessons he teaches to make ends meet, he’s too exhausted to think about dating or even hanging out with friends. He’s resigned to life with his music, his students and his ludicrously spoiled Yorkies.
Then he meets Crawford Bixby. Crawford may be the most perfect man Finn has ever met—kind, good with kids, gorgeous and completely unconcerned with Finn’s lack of ability to be coherent around him. Finn falls hard for him, but he’s terrified of what he feels. Will he be able to step out of the controlled world he’s created for himself and take a chance on love, or will he keep making excuses—rehearsals, papers to grade, dogs to walk—and push Crawford away?
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Finn McMurphy sat on his front porch grading an abysmal set of essays written by his music appreciation students. Some of them didn’t seem capable of writing a complete sentence despite having made it to eighth grade in an elite private school. He sighed and gazed out at his sunny yard. Daffodils, irises and his two lilac bushes were blooming, and he wished he could enjoy the beautiful spring weather. He’d thought working on the porch would at least make him feel as if he were taking part in the season rather than ignoring the beauty around him to grade homework. Perhaps the spring air would even help him psych himself up for rehearsals for the musical his principal had asked him to put together at the last minute.
He’d wanted to say no, to explain how busy he already was, but he knew the man was looking for any excuse to get rid of him. The principal detested that Finn was openly gay. He didn’t want him influencing students with his wicked ways, but the school’s board members weren’t willing to back the principal in getting rid of Finn without just cause. Not because they were concerned about Finn’s feelings or his right to a job no matter his sexual orientation—the board just didn’t want to deal with a scandal. On the whole, the parents at Langston Academy weren’t as liberal as the average Asheville citizens, but there were plenty of families who’d raise a fuss on Finn’s behalf, thank goodness.
Finn sighed. He was going to make the musical work even if it killed him. He wasn’t about to let that smug blowhard of a principal have anything to hold over him, but it meant working even harder for no more compensation. He already had to teach private lessons and play at weddings and other special occasions to make ends meet. He was still paying off medical bills from his mother’s long illness, and he was determined to hold onto the house he’d grown up in.
He reached down absently to pat Yip, one of the ludicrously spoiled Yorkies he’d inherited when his mother passed away. He scratched her ears as she pawed at Finn’s leg, begging to be held.
Suddenly, Yip took off across the porch closely followed by her brother Yap. They bounced up and down at the gate that stretched across the porch steps, earning their names with rapid-fire, high-pitched barks.
A man—a tall, broad-shouldered, blond-haired man with an ass to die for—was walking past. Yip and Yap were always on guard for intruders, but they usually saved their current level of ruckus for their particular enemies, a dachshund who lived a block over and the next-door neighbour’s Persian cat.
But something about the man had sparked their ire, and they were determined to use all seven pounds of their tiny bodies to bring him down.
The gate rattled as the dogs jumped against it. Then it tilted outward and before Finn could steady it, the gate fell, and the dogs were off, streaking across the yard, two furry blurs on the war path.
Finn tripped over the gate, nearly breaking his neck, as he tried to catch his two little monsters.
The stranger extended his hand, probably thinking Yip and Yap were going to make friends with him, poor hapless soul. They only made friends after barking at someone for several hours and holding out until they’d received a succession of bribes, typically ending with the penultimate weapon in doggy seduction, bacon.
Yip and Yap leapt at the man, bouncing almost up to his waist and snapping at him. Rather than looking annoyed, the man just laughed at them.
“I’m so sorry,” Finn called. “Yip. Yap, come here right now.”
The dogs ignored him as usual. He wished he had their leash. He’d never be able to hold both of them when they were squirming to get loose.
“Yip. Yap. Come!” They didn’t even turn their heads. “Cookies!”
Both dogs turned and ran to him.
He didn’t actually have cookies, which the dogs were crazy for, but he did have a few of their favourite treats in his pocket. He held out his hand and they gobbled up the little chicken-flavoured bits. He scooped up Yap, but Yip raced back to the sinfully gorgeous man who was now studying Finn with an intensity that made him shiver. Why hadn’t the man high-tailed it out of there the second the little monsters were off him? Finn probably would have.