Shy, hapless High School Sophomore Ryan Miyashi seems to be caught in the orbit of a true force of nature—his new boyfriend, Tanner Cruz. It seems that wherever Tanner goes, tumult and good-natured chaos follow and Ryan is pulled along for the ride, yet Tanner always seems to come up smelling like a rose. Despite the trouble that the pair get into, Ryan is starting to realize that maybe he’s just a little better off with a bit more spontaneity in his life—even if it does involve the occasional night in jail or getting thrown out of bars. There is something unusual about the hunky, charismatic jock, but until Ryan can figure it out, he simply calls it the Tanner Effect. What’s the worst that could happen?
“Ryan! Your ride is here!”
Dad was calling to me from downstairs. It was Monday morning, I was still fretting over my clothes, and Tanner Cruz was downstairs in his pickup. I was wearing a long-sleeved, light yellow button-down, and a pair of khakis. The blaring of the horn told me I’d run out of time to change my mind.
Looking in the mirror, I saw that the zit on my chin had pretty well run its course, but a new one seemed to be getting started on my cheek, just to the left of my nose. I ran a comb through my hair, trying to smooth down my bed-head, picked up my back-pack, took a deep breath and started downstairs.
Hurrying down the stairs, I checked my pockets. House key? Check. Wallet? Check. Phone? Check. Obnoxious idiot jock, laying on the horn? Double-check.
Which brings me to the subject of Tanner Cruz. Tanner was an absolute stud-muffin. Seventeen, a junior, a little over six-feet, he was a blond-haired, blue-eyed, ripped-to-shreds one-hundred-eighty-pound walking wet dream. And he seemed to like me.
So, what’s the problem, right? For starters, I was an immature, hopelessly shy, nerdy fifteen-year-old sophomore. What’s more, I was still way in the closet. Aside from my brother Arnie, Tanner was the only one who knew.
As you might imagine, it made me a little panicky whenever he hovered around me at school. I finally relented and agreed to let him drive me to school.
I darted through the kitchen, grabbed my sack lunch, and headed through the living room to the front entry hall.
“G’bye!” I shouted as I went out the front door. I heard muffled replies from other parts of the house. Heading down the walk, I saw Tanner turn and flash his megawatt smile through the passenger window of the truck.
“Hey, bud,” he said in his Texas twang as I pulled open the door.
As I climbed in, he turned down the shit-kicker station he had on the radio. And yes, there are shit-kicker stations in the Bay Area.
“Nice shirt,” he said. My stomach did a little flip-flop.
“Buckle up,” he said, way too cheerfully.
Tanner turned the radio back up and tapped his fingers on the wheel in time to the music. He was wearing his usual outfit—boot-cut jeans over his cowboy boots and a designer t-shirt. Today it was Holliston, and I tried to keep from staring at his magnificent biceps and the way they bounced and twitched as he drove. He left his t-shirts untucked, and every time he’d make a turn, I’d be rewarded with a peek of skin just above the waist. Occasionally, he’d look over and catch me staring and instantly flash all two thousand teeth. Flip-flop.
Nothing more was said until we pulled into a space in the school lot. Tanner turned off the engine, twisted in my direction and placed his long arm on the seat-back behind me.
“I been thinkin’,” he said.
Tanner grinned and playfully squeezed the back of my neck with his big hand.
“You’re funny,” he said. “But seriously, I was thinking about how I might be making you a little uncomfortable.”
This was stunning—Tanner was actually considering the feelings of someone else.
“What do you mean?”
“C’mon, Ry-Ry, I know how hard it was for you to let me drive you to school.”
“No, it wasn’t…”
Tanner cocked his head and gave me a serious look.
“Okay, it was,” I admitted. Damn those baby-blues.
“Like I said, I was thinking,” he continued, “until you’re ready, why don’t we tell everyone that you’re tutoring this big, dumb jock? That shouldn’t be hard for people to believe, you being like this mega-genius and all.”
I had to think about that for a moment—this was much cleverer than anything I’d expected from Tanner. He cocked his head one more time and fluttered his eyelashes, and before I could stop myself, it just slipped out.
“Okay,” I said.
No, no, no. This wouldn’t do. I had to stay away from this guy. Get ahold of yourself, Ryan. Think!
“Except,” I began. Tanner furrowed his brow. “You have to stop bugging me at school.”
Tanner turned away for a moment and pursed his lips, obviously straining what few brain cells he had.
“And you’ll let me keep driving you to school every day?” More eyelash fluttering.
Tanner turned to get out of the truck, but before he did, he reached down patted my knee, his smile getting even more impossibly brilliant.