Monday, September 24, 2012
In Defense of Beta Heroes
I harbor a secret love of the less-than-alpha-male. Having known (and dated) a fair number of alpha types, I know that what can be incredibly appealing on the one hand can also lead to the kind of domineering attitude that makes me cringe.
Now, I’m not talking about the hard-core opposite who sits in the corner at a party and can’t look someone in the eyes and can’t make a decision to save their life. No, I’m talking about the beta male. The one who is quicker to a verbal solution than a physical one. The guy who’s more likely to make you swoon by the way he looks at you than make you run for cover where he’ll hunt you down, drag you out by the hair and throw you over his shoulder. He’s the one who’s slow to anger and quick to a smile.
To me, the alpha male is more like the pretty one you adore from afar or have a crazy-hot one-night stand with where the beta is the guy you take home to meet the family and the heat burns steady instead of flaring and burning out. In fiction though, betas are often neglected in favor of their more drag-you-back-to-their-cave companions.
When I set about writing Love & Other Indoor Sports, one of the things I wanted to do was kind of shake up those stereotypes. But that meant that I needed a typical alpha-male and a typical beta-male—and then I took just a trait or two and swapped them out.
What resulted was a pair of the kind of heroes I love—the kind that could be real and still loveable. More than anything, that’s what I want out of every hero I create, from the soccer coach next door to one of Santa’s elves to a vampire with questionable motives. I hope you find two of them in the pages of Love & Other Indoor Sports.
Cupid still has a lot to learn, and this time he's heading to college to do it.
Griffin and Colby were shoved together by fate during a fraternity hazing game of spin the bottle but, in a world deserted by Cupid, fear and uncertainty pushed them apart. Now, twelve years later, they're getting a second chance with each other. A woman in Colby's life, however, doesn't like what she sees as competition for his affections, and she's willing to ruin both men if they don't bow to her demands. After all this time, are they willing to risk everything for a chance at happiness, or are they destined to lose each other again?
Cupid won't give up easily though. He has one last game for them to play and, this time, it's winner take all.
This campus seemed to bring out the stupid in Colby though, had from the beginning. It started during his own freshman year, back when he was still in the closet with the door firmly shut. What had he been smoking that he thought rushing a fraternity would be a good idea? Whatever it was, he’d jumped on the Greek bandwagon with both feet. Then he’d met Jacob Griffin, and he knew he was screwed—and not in the good way.
It didn’t matter that he wanted to keep his secret. He was drawn to the big muscly football player in ways he couldn’t understand, regardless of the fact he soon found out Jacob had a girlfriend—a dancer no less. When the time came to choose a frat to pledge, Colby had followed him through the doors of Delta Chi.
But when fate had determined that the two of them end up paired for that ridiculous game of spin-the-bottle, he knew he’d never be able to keep his sexual orientation a secret. He’d wanted to kiss Jacob all through rush. Shit, he’d wanted to do more than that, but he’d convinced himself he could just be the guy’s friend. Now, forced into the kiss, he knew at the very least Jacob would figure it out. He couldn’t pretend the others wouldn’t see how much he wanted it, how much he’d likely enjoy it.
He wouldn’t be able to fool any of them, which meant he had to walk away. But he’d be damned if he was going to do it without taking full advantage of the kiss. Colby had never been the guy who pretended to be straight by dating girls, but he’d never kissed a straight guy before either. His only experience was with others just as terrified of who they were as he was. As he stepped toward Jacob, he trembled, unsure what to expect. Considering the circumstances, the last thing he’d expected was for it to change his world.
He’d gone into the kiss hard and fast, desperate to make the most of those precious sixty seconds. For the first time in his life, he’d been bold about what he wanted, commanding all of Jacob’s attention from that first touch, almost daring him to pull away, but neither of them did.
To this day, Colby remembered the way Jacob’s lips had parted beneath his, even as the football player shuddered. Their tongues slid against each other, tasting of beer and forbidden fruit. Sixty seconds hadn’t been nearly long enough. In twelve years, Colby had never had another kiss like it.
He ran his tongue over his lips like he could still taste it, but it wasn’t there. It’d never be there again. Shoulders slumping, he sighed and opened his eyes. His breath caught, and Colby wondered fleetingly if the ball that caught him in the head earlier had done serious damage because he had to be dreaming.
Across the expanse of the gym he met the steady green gaze of the very man he’d thought he would only ever see in his memory. Jacob’s jet-black hair was only a touch longer than the military style he’d worn in college. That plus the form fitting rust-colored V-neck sweater over a pale gray t-shirt confirmed Jacob was still the perfect model for respectability.
He looked almost exactly the same, and suddenly Colby remembered precisely what forbidden fruit tasted like.
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