Exchange of Hearts
In Exchange of Hearts, Harrison and Levi venture out of their dorm room and travel to the Blue Mountains. Harrison’s family have a weekender there, and by some stroke of luck after Harrison’s parents must return to the city, the boys are left alone for an entire weekend.
I can picture the house, the farm, and the undulating hills, because I used to spend weekends there myself.
A lifetime ago, when I lived in Sydney, I dated a guy whose family had a weekender on a farm in Little Hartley, a small town in the Blue Mountains. We spent a few weekends there, and it was this place I imagined Harrison and Levi spent their memorable weekend together. The farm was a few hundred acres, there were horses and motorbikes, and it reminded me a great deal of the house I grew up in.
It had been years since I’d thought about that place and the memories there, and it was so nice to revisit. I love it when reading a book can snag an old memory, but I love it even more when writing a book does.
The Blue Mountains are a remarkable part of Australia. Not that the boys see much of it 😉 But the area, about two hours from Sydney, is a landmark of natural and cultural significance, and is one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations.
Eighteen-year-old Harrison Haddon has grown up alone. Surrounded by wealth, nannies, and material things, all he craves is the approval of his father. Sent away to the boarding school his father and grandfather attended, it’s assumed he will follow in their footsteps from Sydney’s prestigious Ivy League school straight into medical school.
But Harrison doesn’t want to be a doctor.
He dreams of music and classical piano. His only true happiness, his escape from the world expected of him, is dismissed by his intolerant and emotionally detached parents.
Levi Aston arrives from London for a three-month student exchange program. Free-spirited and confident in who he is and what he wants to do with his life, Levi convinces Harrison not give up on his dreams.
But convincing Harrison not to give up on his family might not be so easy.
I walked side by side with the blonde, well-dressed woman and ignored the looks and laughter from the other guys.
Along with our student advisor, Miss Goff, I’d been relegated as the welcoming committee to the new kid. As part of a student exchange program, a kid from England was joining the ever-so-prestigious St. Michael’s Boarding School for three months.
So, why me? Why did I get picked to go?
Because he was going to be my roommate. That was why.
As we got to the car, Miss Goff stopped. “Oh, I just remembered I left the file in my office. I’ll be right back, Harrison,” she told me. “Wait here. I won’t be a minute.”
As she turned and walked briskly back toward the building, I leaned against the car, knowing the other kids would soon start with the slurs and teasing. I looked up, and of course it was him I saw.
“Have fun with Miss Goff,” Carson taunted me suggestively. The other boys laughed. His personal entourage, of course they laughed. They were all rugby players, and I was the music nerd. Tall and thin, my dark hair made my skin look paler than it really was, with long piano-playing fingers, and I was usually alone—I was the opposite to their athletic builds and jock-pack mentality. Carson laughed the loudest. “No making out with the teacher at the airport, Haddon.”
I didn’t even bother with a comeback. Why fucking bother?
He knew damn well she wasn’t my type.
She. No, shes were not my type at all.
He knew this. He knew it damn fucking well. Because he and I had fooled around together. On the quiet, of course. In the darkened privacy of his room, only when he was certain there was no one else around, when it suited him.
Just kissing mostly, rubbing, dry humping—whatever the fuck you wanted to call it.
Making out. First base. Whatever.
It was after our last encounter that things changed.
It was about two in the morning and we’d been making out in his bed. We were both so hard, and he was whining and moaning as we writhed against one another. So I slipped my hand under the waistband of his boxers, and I gave him a hand job.
Skin on skin.
I wrapped my hand around his dick, pumped and squeezed him, and not a moment later he came.
It was the fucking hottest thing. Ever.
But afterwards, when his mind had cleared of his jizz-high, he was… different. He pulled away from me and suggested coldly I go back to my room.
It was too real for him.
I figured he just needed a day or two and then things would go back to normal.
But they didn’t. They got worse.
The jokes, the taunting. It had been over three months now, and he still made fun of me. Although I could see it in his eyes, as he was saying hurtful things, his eyes were saying sorry.
And I couldn’t bring myself to say anything back. I just… couldn’t.
“You ready, Harrison?” Miss Goff’s voice startled me. She had a manila folder in her hand. “We’d better go if we’re going to be there when the plane arrives. We don’t want to be late.”
After we got into the car, she handed me the folder and then pulled out onto Ryde Road traffic, heading toward the city. I held the folder in my hands, not even bothering to open it. I couldn’t care fucking less about some foreign exchange student. If I had to put up with a roommate, I didn’t want to look at his face for any longer than necessary.
Miss Goff sensed my mood. “Don’t worry about those boys,” she told me. “People like Carson Sinclair aren’t worth your time.”
I snorted. If only she knew.
We drove for a few minutes in silence. Then she asked, “How’s the music coming along?”
We discussed my music for the rest of the drive. It was an easy subject for me, my love of piano, even though she knew I couldn’t make a career out of it. But thankfully before too much longer, we were walking into Sydney Airport’s International terminal.
I figured this kid would take a while to get through customs and there’d be some kind of paperwork to fill out—I was also guessing you couldn’t just walk into the airport and take some random kid. So presuming it was gonna take a while, I told Miss Goff, “I’m just going to grab a Coke. Can I get you anything?”
She was distracted enough, double-checking the board of flight numbers and arrival gates, and without looking at me, she shook her head. “No, thank you,” she said, before reminding me, like I was five years old and not eighteen, not to wander off, not to go too far, and to come straight back.
I grabbed a drink, and keeping an eye on Miss Goff every now and then, I browsed through magazine racks. There was nothing really worth looking at—a nice one with Hugh Jackman on the cover, but I noticed two guys near the wall looking at a map. Obviously backpackers or hikers or something. They were dressed in cargos and T-shirts, hiking shoes; young, fit, healthy.
I picked up a magazine and pretended to read it, but really I was just checking the two guys out. I didn’t often get the opportunity to perv on guys, so I took my time.
Only they caught me staring, smiled politely and moved on. They walked past some other guy who seemed to have been watching me watching them, because he was trying not to laugh.
He was cute too; tall as me, blond-brown messy hair, blue eyes, pale skin, and his pink lips gave him a nice smile. He looked fit but not like the football meatheads back at school.
I wasn’t embarrassed to have been caught looking—even in full school uniform, no one here knew me, and Miss Goff was nowhere in sight. So I decided to play it up. I looked him up and down, shrugged one shoulder, gave him one raised eyebrow and half a smirk.
He grinned, then turned his head quickly like someone called his name.
Exactly like someone called his name.
Like Miss Goff.
Oh, you have got to be fucking kidding me!
That was him?
My roommate for the next three months was the guy I just checked out?
I watched—like a slow motion car crash—as Miss Goff greeted him and offered to take his suitcase. She looked up, saw me, and called me over. His eyes followed hers, and when he saw it was me, his eyes widened, and he grinned like the Cheshire fucking cat.
I stuffed the magazine back in the rack and walked over, wishing the world would end in the next two seconds.
No such luck.
“Levi Aston?” Miss Goff said.
“Yes, Miss,” he said with a posh British accent and a smile.
She grinned. “We’d like to welcome you to Sydney, Australia. St. Michael’s is proud to have you,” she said. Then she looked at me, “This is Harrison Haddon. He’s a boarder. He’ll be your roommate and can show you around the school.”
Levi extended his hand and looked at me with a knowing smirk. “Hello, Harrison.”
Fuck. My. Life.
“Hello,” I said, shaking his hand for as long as was considered polite, then let it drop.
I was in such deep shit.
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About the Author
N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance.
She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way.
She is many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.
She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things…but likes it even more when they fall in love.
She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.
She’s been writing ever since…
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