Title: All or Nothing
Author: Riina Y.T.
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: October 7, 2019
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, snowstorm, stranded, college students, slow burn, family, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Poconos
SynopsisWhen shy sociology student Remington Belotti finds himself stuck on campus two days before Christmas, the handsome and untouchable Carter McCormack unexpectedly offers him a ride home. Having secretly longed for Carter’s attention for over a year, his sudden interest, along with the kind gesture, gives Remmy hope that his attraction might be returned, after all.
On their way to Remy’s hometown, they encounter bad weather and are overtaken by an unforgiving blizzard, leaving them stranded along the highway. The sparks of attraction fly in the safety of Carter’s car, where they share heartfelt confessions along with body heat and gummy bears. When they check into a motel for the night, their electrifying bond deepens, and their shared time might just bring Remmy and Carter the Christmas surprise they could only have dreamed of.
ExcerptAll or Nothing
Riina Y.T. © 2019
All Rights Reserved
Picking up my bike keys might have been the most irresponsible decision I ever made. But, I pep talked myself, over the years you collected enough experience so there’s no need to worry. After all, I was confident in my riding skills. I might even make it on time if I left right now. Already packed and dressed in my biking gear, I’d been pacing restlessly around the room for the past twenty minutes or so, going through all the options left.
I couldn’t afford a last minute plane ticket, and the Greyhound was already fully booked. I’d checked, reloading the website repeatedly to make sure it wasn’t a glitch. Not wanting to hitchhike with a total stranger and risk ending up in the middle of nowhere, likely in a million pieces, the only way I’d be able to make it home now was my motorcycle. The current conditions weren’t so bad here in Allentown, but I was fairly certain the roads would be a real pain farther east.
Sure, I could call my parents and explain my situation, and they’d probably do everything humanly possible to arrange a flight for me or something. Maybe send one of my uncles or brothers-in-law to get me. My pride wouldn’t let me dial their numbers though. I was an adult now, independent and all that, as much as one gets to be at college anyway. I’d feel like a failure if I ran to Mom and Dad, asking them to fix this, like I’d let them down. And besides, a big family like ours didn’t have the luxury of wasting money on an expensive plane ticket or an unnecessary roundtrip to Pennsylvania.
Maybe I was being irrational, but I never wanted to be a disappointment to them, and Mom would never forgive me if I missed Christmas with the family. Everyone would be there: my aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. If I’m being honest, the holidays were a nightmare for my introverted self, but I never failed to put on my best smiles for Mom and Dad. A couple of hours with my extended family was as exhausting as a twenty-four-hour lecture on criminal justice would likely be, but I’d sit through our dinners—noisy kid cousins and all—any day. There was nothing more important than family in the Bellotti household.
I startled when my phone vibrated between my fingers. Impatiently swiping my thumb across the glaring screen, I prayed the message was from someone who’d read my Facebook posts. Instead, a text from Mom asked if Cody and I were already on our way. I couldn’t tell her the truth or else she’d worry too much. Cody was on the other side of the hall, lying in bed with a high fever and an ear infection. Both of us were from Connecticut, so we’d arranged to carpool for the holidays like we did in freshman year. I never imagined I’d end up stranded on campus.
Ignoring Mom’s message, I opened the Facebook app for the nth time to make sure I hadn’t missed a reply or instant message. I’d asked for a ride, posting to my profile and the group site for my sociology class, hoping someone was still around campus and planning to head east. Nothing. Luck didn’t seem to be on my side.
All right then. I slid my phone into the breast pocket of my leather jacket, pulled on my gloves, shouldered my backpack, and with a last look around the silent room, switched off the lights and stepped into the eerily empty corridor.
The late afternoon air was crisp, and I caught my breath the moment I stepped outside. Snow crunched and squeaked underfoot as I hurried along the sidewalk. A gust of wind whipped wild flurries against my face, and my nose froze right along with the naked winter trees lining the roadside and everything else around me.
As soon as I reached my motorcycle, I set about getting everything ready for the road. The metallic-blue Yamaha was my first; my one and only love. Thunder, I’d named her, because she was loud and fast and had been a birthday present from Dad when I got my license at sixteen. During my last visit home, he’d gotten her a new set of winter tires and some neat accessories. He loved spoiling my bike, and I’m sure I must’ve gotten my love for motorcycling from him, much to Mom’s dismay. She was constantly worried something might happen to either of us, as if cars were much safer. Similar to the fear of flying—irrational but a primal and elemental emotion.
Gusts of icy wind blew wickedly against my face, and I huffed a curse. The cold was already creeping in, despite my layers and layers of winter gear. I’d also exchanged my enormous suitcase for my MOTOTREK backpack, bringing only a handful of my favorite pullovers, jeans, and very few necessities. I still had most of my things back home, so there was no need to overpack.
I’d already set Thunder up for a little ice and snow when the temperatures had begun to drop more rapidly. We hadn’t had much snowfall yet, but looking her over now, I was quite positive she’d ride smoothly. My bike had never let me down before, and I was counting on her to get me safely to New London even if we’d encounter harsher conditions along the way.
She had to make it.
I was about to check on the new heated handles when the sound of heavy footsteps startled me. I turned fast. Cold wind blew in my face, and I jumped at the shadowy figure stepping closer. I looked up into a pair of familiar azure eyes and cursed silently.
Of course, it was Carter Mc–freaking–Cormack. The universe must have it out for me.
He was all dressed up in startling whites and silvers, and fluffy brown fur lined his coat. A cascade of snowflakes danced around his perfect, diamond-shaped face, reluctantly making their way down to earth. Behind him, frosted trees danced to a wild breeze, and with his snow-white and furred coat he reminded me of a handsome ice prince right off the pages of a fairytale book.
“Hey, Remmy,” he said casually and stepped closer out of the shadows of the trees and into the yellow glow of the streetlamp.
“Carter? What are you doing here?” I tipped my head back, blinking snowflakes out of my eyes. Not only did he have a few inches on my five foot ten, he was also broader and stronger. Seriously though. What was he doing here? Carter was the last person I’d expected to run into. I was sure he’d been long gone by now like everybody else. Home. Surrounded by family, Christmas cheer and…his boyfriend. Ugh. I couldn’t stop the jealousy rocking through me every time I thought about him and Travis together.
Carter blinked. Then his eyes widened. “Whoa, Remmy! What happened to your hair?” He lifted a hand as if he was about to reach out but stopped halfway and dropped his arm to his side.
Oh boy. Carter was also the last person I wanted to see me with bright blue-green bangs plastered wildly across my forehead. My cheeks were heating fast, and I swallowed with difficulty. I shouldn’t have been this embarrassed; I was used to people staring at me because of my colorful choices when it came to clothes and accessories, but the result of my latest dye job had surprised even me. The turquoise came out pretty intense.
I shrugged, stammering, “I…Um…You know.” Self-consciously, I brushed my fingers through the thick flop of freshly dyed hair and shoved it out of my eyes, back under the helmet. The attempt was useless; my bangs were long, but not long enough to stay put when I wanted them to.
“Color happened,” I added, hopelessly mumbling a weak explanation when he kept gawking at me with those wide, brilliant blue eyes. I shivered, but it had nothing to do with the cold this time.