Today was hard for me to pick. I have several books to choose from which are set right in the middle of Winter and freezing cold.
I also had a new M/M release this week that has a Christmas theme and it takes place with snow and ice and cold and requires quite a bit of hot chocolate.
He’d hated to wake Adam, but Josh wanted to get him up to the house and out of the wintry mix that had started falling and the wind that had started blowing.
The first thing Adam had said to Josh was to ask to see his car. Josh was hesitant but knew he’d have to relent sometime. Adam would be upset and rightly so. The car was pretty damn banged up and would take some extensive work to get it fixed and drivable again.
The back end was in fine shape except for a few scratches that could be buffed out, but the front quarter panels and the hood…
“I can’t believe it looks like this.”
“The impact was pretty hard,” Josh said from beside Adam.
“I realize it was a hard hit, but, fuck, this is… I hadn’t imagined it would be this bad.”
“I’m sorry, man.”
“I just can’t believe this. I don’t know how much of this insurance is going to pay for or if they’re going to total it. I guess it’s time I call them.”
“Yeah. I’ve pulled out what I thought you might need after I got you out of the car.”
“You’ve been really good to me through all this, Josh. I don’t know how to repay you.”
“I’d have done it for—”
“Please don’t say you’d have done it for anyone,” Adam said, his eyes full of pleading. “I don’t think I could take it if you did.”
Josh nodded. He understood what it would feel like if Adam had said the same thing to him. They were wrapped up in each other, and it was more than the blowjob from earlier. “Okay.”
Adam looked at Josh, and Josh couldn’t look away. His skin was flushed, and the snow was starting to fall harder, though Josh didn’t think Adam even realized it. He hadn’t wanted to upset Adam by showing him the condition the car was in, but Adam’s smile and softly worded request would have melted a glacier.
“Will you, ah… Will you show me around a little?”
“Adam, it’s freezing and snowing.”
“So? I know you can’t be afraid to get wet and a little cold.”
“Of course not. I was just worried about you.”
“Well, stop. I’m a grown man. I’m sore, not at death’s door.”
“You sure seemed like you were when I found you a little while ago.”
“Just take me outside and show me around. Please. I want to see the trees.”
Josh held out his hand and didn’t have to wait long for Adam to take it, to lace their fingers together. Josh’s breath caught, and his eyes met Adam’s again immediately. The feeling coursing through him at the connection singed his nerve endings. His heart thumped double-time, and his cock started hardening. He was even having a hard time thinking straight. “Damn, what is this between us?” Josh asked, unwilling to name it himself.
“I don’t know. I mean, I think I know, but at the same time, I don’t know.”
“You’re the one who asked the question.”
Josh shook his head and led Adam out of the barn. “C’mon.” There was a wide swath cut through the center of the yard where Adam’s car had slid across the snow and ice crusted on top. He’d come in at an angle and missed the tree lot.
Adam stopped and turned his body one way, gazed around, then turned his body the other way and gazed some more. Josh tried to view things through Adam’s eyes, but he wasn’t sure if they saw the same things. Josh saw peace and comfort and home. What did Adam see?
“It’s really beautiful here.”
“It is.” The farm was located in a small valley with mountains to the west near Boone and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and north. Hills and trees and views that were breathtaking filled Josh’s sight and mind every day. He was happier than he could ever have imagined being, having this place to come home to after seeing so much destruction overseas.
They started walking again, and when they got to the edge of the sales lot, Adam removed his hand from Josh’s. Josh felt the loss, and his hand was suddenly cold, but not from the temperature outside. He missed Adam’s touch.
Adam moved through the trees slowly, winding his way through each of the rows. “I’ve never seen such perfect Christmas trees before.”
“We pride ourselves in having the very best. They’re full and fragrant. They are hardy too. With proper care, they’ll last longer than most other trees from other farms.”
“How long has your family been doing this?”
Snow covered the branches and bristles, and it was several inches deep on the ground. It was supposed to rain through the evening and right on until morning. The wind was picking up, blowing snow across their faces. The cold would turn biting soon, and even though it wasn’t yet dark, he would need to get Adam back inside shortly.
“My great-grandparents started the farm when they first got married. The land was a gift to my great-grandpa from his father, which had been in the family since before the Civil War.”
“And the house I’m convalescing in?”
“I grew up in it but live alone there. My parents built a house on up the road, on the other side of the nursery. Todd and Kelly have a place farther up the mountain. There are aunts and uncles and cousins all over these parts.”
Jared slid his arms around Bryson’s waist and held him close and tight. Something had started cracking inside him when he and Bryson were quarreling with words last night, but that something kept right on fracturing, and soon all that hardness was going to fall away and he would be a vulnerable mess again. Bickering and squaring off with words was what they’d always done to settle disputes and arguments. It was familiar, comfortable, and it warmed him. The kiss hadn’t hurt either.
And while a day, a week, a month ago, he might have been annoyed at Walt showing up, that something cracking inside his chest extended to Walt as well. Jared’s hold on Bryson could be, or might be, construed as possessive. It wasn’t what he was feeling, though.
He was hungry, needy, wanting exactly what Bryson had suggested he wanted. To be between them, one in each of his holes, filling him, and surrounding him with their heat and lust and touches. He wanted them, wanted their love, and at least in his head, he could admit it.
But the last time he’d come clean about something, the last time he’d admitted how he felt about something, his father had decked him and called him every vile name not mentioned in the good book. He was a little gun-shy in the admission department.
“It’s a little cold out here to play. Maybe want to get the work done and then venture inside?”
The way Walt said the word “inside” set off every nerve ending from Jared’s brain to the soles of his feet. He wanted to bend over the middle railing of the pasture fence, putting himself into position for one man in front and one behind.
It might be cold out, but his cock was hard as stone.
“Maybe if you get off your high horse and help out, it’ll get done faster.”
“High horse?” Walt slowly dismounted. “My high horse?” His boots crunched on the snow and dead grass as he made his way, steady and sure, toward them. Bryson smirked, but Jared wasn’t sure how to take the look on Walt’s face. The closer he got, though, the more a smile broke out across his lips. Walt made a lunge at Bryson, but Bryson ducked out of Jared’s embrace and spun away.
When Walt caught up to him, Bryson was ready with… A snowball? Jared blinked. The snowball landed square in Walt’s stoic face. He wasn’t smiling anymore. No, he looked fit to be tied.
Another snowball flew, this time hitting Jared smack in the face. What the hell? He wiped the ice crystals from his eyes and cheeks just in time to see Walt tackle Bryson to the ground. The men laughed and wrestled, both losing footing and falling.
Jared just stood back and watched, unfamiliar feelings welling up inside. Lightness. Fun. He’d never really associated either with himself and definitely not with Walt, but his lovers—and yes, they were his lovers—looked to be having so much fun rolling around in the snow and ice, and mud found underneath.
If he just let go and stayed in the moment, he felt like a completely different person. He wasn’t so serious or so much in his own way. He liked this feeling, this energy, and this desire to be part of something bigger than his fears. It was how he’d been before that blasted dream so many months ago. He wanted out of his self-imposed exile and back in the warmth and decadence of male arms and hot, dirty sex.
For the moment, though… “Uh, how exactly is this getting the work on the fence done?” he asked when there was a lull in the laughter and he thought he might be heard. Both men looked over at him, their smiles falling, and for a moment, Jared felt bad about intruding on the fun when he’d rather be joining in. He hoped there would be time for it later. After the work. It was the one positive his father had taught him. Work before pleasure, because then pleasure could be enjoyed freely and without rush or guilt over things undone.
“You know, he’s right.”
“Yeah. He is. This really isn’t getting any work done.”
“No, it’s not.”
“We should do something about it.”
Walt stood first, then lowered a hand down to Bryson and helped him stand. They brushed their clothes off, but they were already soaked through. Walt took a step toward the four-wheeler Jared and Bryson had ridden out on, but at the last moment, detoured and made a move toward Jared. He had Jared flat on his back before he could catch his next breath.
The cold from the ground and the force of the impact took the following breath too. Bryson was on Walt’s back, working to pull him off Jared, but all he succeeded in doing was tangling them all together, as Walt’s hold on Jared was unforgiving in its strength.
“Two against one is totally unfair,” Jared huffed out, a grin breaking across his face.
“Maybe,” Bryson conceded. “I was trying to help though.”
Bryson pretended to think about it, but just grinned. “You, at first, but…” He casually lifted a shoulder. “I guess you could say it’s now two against one.”
“Fun though, yes?”
Jared rolled from beneath Walt, his hand under his ass a conscious move. His fingers gathered snow, and he tilted to the side, back toward the big Native American. Their lips met in a searing kiss, one hot enough it should have melted the ground beneath them, but then Walt’s lips were gone, a hiss issuing from them. Jared’s hand was empty of the snow because he’d worked it inside Walt’s jeans.
Bryson was kneeling off to the side, laughing.
“Think it’s funny, huh?” Walt growled, trying to get the ice from inside his pants. It dropped out from the bottom of his jeans. He reached his hand down the front and scooped out a rather large chunk of snow, which he promptly threw at Bryson.
But then, when he turned that look on Jared, Jared didn’t know whether to run or stand his ground. Revenge was written all through Walt’s eyes. A wicked tilt to his lips made Jared think of very naughty acts, and suddenly, though the play in the snow was fun, he couldn’t wait to get back in the house.
“I’ll be getting you for that, cowboy,” Walt said, promises and threats threaded through each word.
“I’m counting on it,” Jared replied. He found he meant it too. He couldn’t think of anything he wanted more in that moment other than for Walt to get him back, for Walt to punish him in some way for having played dirty enough to let loose a snowball over Walt.
I’m headed out to do some holiday shopping but y’all be sure to check out the following blogs for great snippets:
What pudding across the pond is traditionally eaten on Christmas day, and served with brandy sauce?
HOT WINTER KISS Releases 30th November 2012
Book four in the bestselling Irish Kisses series.
Tasty treats await you.
FLAME RATING: four
GENRE: contemporary romance
PAGE COUNT: 47
CONTENT: May to December / Tinsel Play / Irish Castle / Snowed In / Holiday Romance
Hot winter kisses to warm broken hearts….
Sick of tending to everyone else’s needs around the holidays, divorced barmaid and granny Sandra ferries it from London to Belfast. All she wants for Christmas is some peace with a romance story in front of a roaring fire in a remote Irish castle. What she gets is a most unexpected Christmas present from her friends at Bell’s—A 1Night Stand with a young Irishman.
Can she hack it in the real world of romance, or are life’s complications and treacherous snowstorms best left to the pages of a book?
Newly widowed Ardan Draighean owns Ballygalley castle. Once run as a hotel with his late wife, the stone building now serves as a home for him and his son. After hearing about Madame Eve’s matchmaking skills, he contacts her in search of the perfect match. Although much older than him—by fifteen years—Sandra is his ideal woman. He be damned if he’ll let a good story get in the way of his happy ever after with her.
Hot winter kisses are all this couple needs to stay warm this Christmas, but will the heat stay long after the magical season of mistletoe has finished?
habits at work. Yup. This trickery had Devlin written all over it. Insensitive bastard.
“Sandra? I’m from Ballygalley, here ta give ya a ride ta the castle. Bloody good job the barman recalled seeing ya. I’d never have found ya tucked way back here.”
A man loomed over her, his face shadowed by a knit hat pulled down to his temples; a hint of dark ginger peeked through the wool.
He rubbed his hands together then blew on them. “Let’s get a move on, shall we?”
Christmas lametta tinsel from above reflected across his smoldering, indigo glare. His brow furrowed and a glint of impatience flickered in his eyes. He rubbed at his stubbled face, and she could have sworn she heard the gentle sweep of thick whiskers brushing his palm. Her ex used to do the same thing when he was deep in thought. A tightening in her throat stalled her.
“Not got all night.” He pulled out her chair, nearly knocking her flying.
“Let me put my things away, first, eh?” She fisted her hands and puckered her mouth. Dude might be one sexy man to look at, but his romance hero qualities stopped there. Would make a good cover model, though.
“Is that one of them digital contraptions for fake books or a digital tablet thing?”
“Fake? I assure you, e-books are as real as any paper ones. They still contain pages with stories to share. Honestly.” Her ex would have said something similar about the new technology. She tsked at the silly notion and gathered her things. “And you’re younger than me. Twenty six, twenty seven…at a guess, so you should be all for the electronic age.”
“None of ya business, mind, but I’m thirty three. And digital books ain’t real because ya can’t hold them or smell them. End of discussion. Now, are ya hitching this ride with me, or not?”
“If you quit your attitude, I’d be most grateful to travel with you. But if you carry on being an ass, you can forget it.”
“Ya know I’m going out of me way here. Didn’t have ta pick ya up.” “Right. Fine. Let’s go.” Sandra stood and strutted toward the exit. “Forgetting something?” He yelled over the bar racket.
Born n bred Brit, JoAnne Kenrick grew up in a wee sea-side town in North Wales and has enjoyed a variety of vocations such as holistic healer, window dresser, and ghost tour guide. Having lived in Wales, England, and Scotland with her dear family, she finally escaped the dull British summers to reside in sunny Australia. After two years, they moved to the States where she endured three harsh winters in Minnesota. She now lives in North Carolina with her husband, two kids and two puddy cats. When they aren’t demanding her attention, or jumping on her head, she strums away on the keys of her little laptop, creating worlds and adventures she could only ever dream of. Come across the pond and faraway….with JoAnne Kenrick! www.joannekenrick.com
Author’s Choice. I always love and hate this one. Choosing is always difficult…
But, I think in the spirit of the season and winter and cold (in some places), we’ll go with something that lends itself to a little warming up…
Jane walked away from the large window in the kitchen that overlooked downtown. Edward was out with his mystery man and Jane couldn’t wait to find out who it was. She had a feeling she knew the man, but Edward hadn’t talked about anyone in recent weeks. Not that she would have been paying much attention. It wasn’t until he arranged the set up with Graham that she’d started coming out of her fog.
“Right,” she whispered to herself. With a nervous but determined stride, she went into her bedroom.
The closets in the loft were huge, walk-in style that more than one person at a time could occupy. It was one of the reasons she and Edward had bought it. He had more clothes and shoes than any woman she knew, and he used every inch of his closet, part of hers, and part of the one they used for storage.
She pulled out the box from the back corner of her closet before she could change her mind. It was time to get over it with and move on. There were days she forgot it was stashed in the back corner and there were other days when it tormented the crap out of her. And score another point for Edward. Dumping Cowboy Surfer into her lap, while deceptive, was very motivating.
Her relationship with Phillip had been the first long-term one she’d had since college. She had to admit that though it hadn’t been all warm and fuzzy, there’d been a certain pleasantness that had worked for them. She didn’t know she needed passion and heat, didn’t know anything had been missing on her side. Now that she’d met Cowboy Surfer, she wanted to explore all those things his kiss brought to life. She wanted more of those tingles, more of those ripples through the deepest part of her.
His kiss had been brief — just a touch of his lips to hers — but the shot of heat between her legs and the triple-time thumping of her heart in her chest had been enough to send her running. She hadn’t been able to shake it, either on the drive home or in the time since she’d arrived home. And him showing up…well, that just added sexual fuel to a fire she wasn’t quite sure what to do with or how to put out.
Right now though, the box and its contents had to go. She hadn’t opened it since the day Phillip had left it at her door, and she was ready to purge Phillip and the memories of him, her humiliation at his electronic dumping, everything associated with their relationship.
So, what was she supposed to do with it? There wasn’t a fireplace for her to burn it all. There was the Dumpster behind the building she could toss it in. Would that be healing enough? In a poetic kind of way perhaps. Tossing away the material of their relationship as he’d tossed her away. Yes, that might work. Had he really tossed her away, though, or had he simply moved on to something that might work better for him? And why was she suddenly questioning everything?
She’d have to walk across the alley and…on second thought, no. She wasn’t fond of the alley in the daytime, so no way was she going out there in the dark. What was she going to do? Put it back in the closet?
An image of Graham popped into her head, the heat from his body, the scent of him, the look in his eyes when he’d lifted his head from kissing her… “Oh hell no, the box has to go.”
Her only other option was the roof. She and Edward had a patio set and one of those small outdoor fire pits, but she’d never used it on her own. Did they have any firewood? Or was the thing gas powered? Damn, she didn’t know. She set the box on a barstool. In the kitchen, she started rummaging through the junk drawer looking for the instruction manual for the fire pit. Could she put the stuff in it without burning the whole building down?
The knock on the door caught her off guard and without thinking, she opened it. “Graham. What are you doing here again?”
“I brought dinner.” To prove the truth of his statement, he held up the pizza box he held in one hand. In his other hand he held a soda bottle.
The scents of cheese and tomato sauce wafted through the open doorway. Dammit. Jane hung her head and shook it, but quickly looked up again. “I don’t suppose you’ll take no for an answer again, huh?”
“Nope.” He walked in when she stepped back. She was defeated and she knew it. Edward had her number and it appeared he’d shared that inside information with Graham.
She shut the door. “I did make it clear though that I’m not dating.”
“You did, but I don’t think I believe you. Not completely, at least.”
“Nope. You might not be dating anyone else, but I think you want to date me.”
“Oh the ego.” Graham grinned, megawatt, and set the pizza box on the counter.
“Why are you insisting on having dinner?”
“You need to eat.”
“Well, I’m busy and don’t have time,” She grumbled and went back to rifling through the drawer she’d been in previously, hoping he’d get the hint if she ignored him. Looking anywhere, including in a drawer, was better than looking at him. The damn man was right, at least in the wanting him sense. Dating, though, had nothing to do with what she wanted to do with him.
Not yet anyway.
Where had Edward put the damn instructions? Could they be on the roof in the storage bench with all their outdoor eating supplies? It would be logical, much more so than them being stuck here in the kitchen. She slammed the drawer shut after she put everything back in then counted to a hundred. She didn’t want to face Graham again yet and the truth of how much she did in fact want him. She didn’t trust herself around him. Her heavily fortified defenses weren’t so strong when she was around him. Infatuation at first sight was new to her and she hadn’t had time to process it.
When she finally did turn toward him, he’d taken his coat off and laid it over the end of the counter. He still wore a dark blue sweater, and another pair of jeans that hugged his hips and thighs. Then there were the boots… Oh God. He was impeccable, stylish, and she, wasn’t. Oh God.
“Ready to eat, or talk, or…?”
Jane lifted an eyebrow. “Or?”
“Mmm hmmm. Or.”
Yeah, no. She so didn’t need to know what he meant by “or.” Maybe she could bore the shit out of him during dinner so he’d leave and she could dispose of the box o’crap in peace. But, if she did that, what were the chances he’d want to see her again? Which was the whole point; purging the past so she could have a fucking fantastic present with the Cowboy Surfer standing just over there looking smug and hot and more yummy than the pizza smelled.
“What are you looking for? Can I help?”
“Nothing and no.”
She pulled a couple of plates from the cabinet beside the fridge and snagged clean glasses from the dish drain. “So, Graham, what do you do? For a living, that is.”
He took the glasses from her and laughed. Again. Though this time she was sure it wasn’t at her. That was progress and a good thing. What wasn’t a good thing was the thought she could listen to him laugh all day and night and never tire of it. It was rich and deep, matching the rest of him.
She watched him in her kitchen. He dwarfed everything, including her. He was so tall compared to her five feet four and if he stood in the middle of the small space, he could probably touch each surface without having to move. He depressed the button on the ice maker, filling the glasses with ice cubes. She should tell him she preferred crushed just to irritate him.
He turned toward her and put the glasses on the counter, then opened the bottle of soda he’d brought as well. “I write articles for travel magazines and other publications.”
Well, she’d have never pegged him as the writing sort. He looked like he belonged on horseback, on a motorcycle, or on a surfboard, but not behind a desk writing articles. “Travel writing, huh? That’s got to be interesting.”
“It is.” He set her glass up on the bar and opened the box of pizza. “I get to try a lot of new things and see a lot of new places. It keeps life fresh. I’ll have to bring you with me sometime.”
Oh, he didn’t need to say something like that. She’d love to go with him, anywhere, everywhere, so long as there was a bed and a naked him. Funny things were going on inside her and between her legs, yet all he did was put pizza on two plates, and talk to her. She picked up one of the plates and glasses. “I think you need to leave right after dinner.” Before I tackle you to the floor, have my way with you, and believe every word out of your beautiful mouth.
When she walked around to the other side of the counter, her eyes lit on the box. Oh shit. The frustrating man had made her forget all about it. She didn’t want to call attention to it and she didn’t want him asking her about it, not that she thought he’d care, but still… Setting her food and drink on the bar, she reached for the box and dumped it haphazardly into her purple chair.
He slid onto a barstool. “No, you don’t.”
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
Taking a bite of his pizza, he winked at her. The insufferable man winked at her. What the hell? She wasn’t going to be able to resist him if he kept acting all hot and sexy and interested. And that’s all it was, right, just an act? Right.
But if that was so, then why had he come back?
She glared at him as he ate, seemingly unconcerned with their little disagreement, unlike her who was completely obsessed with it. When he reached for another slice, she watched the movement of his hand, his long, tan fingers, and the way they gripped the crust to pull the piece away from the rest of the pie. What would it feel like to have those fingers pull on her nipples, wrap themselves in her hair and tug, dig deep between her legs?
She mentally shook herself. He had her all twisted up inside and wanting things she’d never really cared about wanting before.
Sex was just sex.
“Not going to eat?” He nodded toward the untouched food in front of her.
She had to admit the pizza smelled heavenly and man, did she love ooey-gooey pepperoni and extra cheese pizza. She could have dinner with him and then she would usher him out the door. No harm, no foul.
She’d never eaten so fast in her life. She had a cursory taste of the cheese and the sauce, the pepperoni which had a slight spicy kick to it, and the crunchy but chewy crust. She gulped down her drink, too. “Done. Are you finished?”
“Not by a long shot.” He glanced down at her plate, then started chewing slower. “So, what’s in the box you were in such a hurry to move?”
She shrugged and feigned nonchalance. “Nothing.”
“You sure? ‘Cause you seem pretty protective of it. Does it have all your naughty girl lingerie in it?”
“You wish.” Jane got up and took her plate around to the sink and suddenly wished she had some naughty girl lingerie. Damn man put all sorts of impractical ideas in her head. She wanted another piece of pizza, but…oh what the hell. She picked up another piece and ate it at a slower pace, savoring the deliciousness.
“Yes, I do wish. Very much so. If it’s not naughty nighties, then what’s in it?”
“Nothing I want to talk about.”
He regarded her silently for a minute that almost had her squirming before nodding his head. “Okay. I won’t ask again.”
“At least not tonight. I’ve got other plans.”
The last was said as he reached over and wiped the tomato sauce from the side of her mouth. She was so tempted to lick it off his finger, but bit her tongue holding back a groan while watching him do it instead. “I’ve got other plans as well. So, thank you for dinner, but it’s time for you to go. Again. For good this time. No coming back tomorrow night with dessert.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that.” He got up as well and followed her, but when she went to open the door for him, he kept going into the living area, his boots echoing on the wood floors. “What are you doing?” Then her gaze lowered to his ass in those denims and every nerve in her body came alive. It had to be illegal to look that hot.
As she stood there, resolved to usher him out despite his effect on her, he proceeded to move the box from her chair and take a seat.
“Why are you sitting down? I said you should leave.”
Please stop by the following blogs to see what they have in store for you…
It’s been a while, yeah? I simply needed a break, but for the next few months I’m back. This snippet is about celebration. I’ll have to pull out Ink Spots for this I think… It’s the closest I have to a celebration of any kind at this time.
Mandi glanced around when Jaz pulled into the Katz parking lot. “What are we doing here? I don’t work tonight.” The lot was fairly empty save for a few cars she recognized, a few trucks she didn’t and a few bikes she’d like to get to know really well.
“No, you don’t, but… I sorta do.”
She turned surprised eyes on him. “You do? Since when did Jackie hire you back on?”
He shrugged. “It’s a special event. I won’t be working long, and when I’m done, we can go if you want.”
Uh-huh. “So let me get this straight. Jackie gives me the awesome birthday present of you and the weekend off, but then she asks you to work a special event?”
“Yeah.” He pulled into a spot in front of the building and put the Charger in park. “Feel free to take it up with her.”
“I will be happy to.”
Jaz grinned across at her and got out of the car. He was acting a little weird, and truth be told, it was making her a little uneasy. He walked around and opened her door, helping her out, and kept hold of her hand.
His palm was a little clammy and there was a slight tremble in his fingers, but when she chanced a glance up to his face, it betrayed nothing. Yeah, something was going on. That uneasy feeling was churning in her belly and she didn’t like it.
Jaz opened the door to Katz for her and followed her inside. It was dark, there was no sound, there were no people, no—
Okay, there were people. Lots of them. And lights and noise and… Her hands flew to her mouth and she took an unconscious step back and found the solid body of Jaz behind her. He wrapped an arm around the front of her shoulders and held her tight against him. “Oh god.”
Mandi’s heart skittered to a stop then picked up speed. A surprise party. For her.
Jackie and her megawatt smile had come to hug her, and Mandi wrapped her arms tight around her friend. “I can’t believe you did this.”
“I don’t know why not. You’ve never had a surprise party and, well, now you have.”
It was true. She’d never had one, and while a small part of her had always secretly hoped for one, she’d truly never expected one. Ever. “How long have you been planning this?”
“Since you said you’d come work for me for a while.”
“You couldn’t have known I’d fall for him.”
“No, I had no idea you’d rather have a badass than a buttoned-up suit, but I should have. He was just the icing on the cake, so to speak, once I realized the attraction ran both ways.”
Mandi looked in the direction Jaz had gone. As soon as Jackie had come forward, he’d squeezed Mandi and kissed the top of her head, telling her he’d be back shortly. He went off to talk to his friends and they were… She turned her attention back to Jackie. “What are they doing?”
“It’s part of your surprise. You didn’t know they had a band?”
A band? “No. I didn’t know.”
“Oh yeah. Jaz is their drummer. He’s pretty damn good too. Hell, he’s pretty damn good at everything he’s ever tried. Creative little shit. No matter what it is, he can turn it into gold. He’s got so much talent. He couldn’t sit still when he got out of jail. Between working for me and tattooing at the shop, there were still hours left in the day. Usually the middle of the night or the crack of dawn. I don’t think he slept more than a couple hours at a time.
“He came to me a few months after he got out and said he would like to learn to play the drums. I bought him his first set, which we had to have custom designed because of his size, and I guess you could say the rest is history. He started taking lessons early mornings from the local high school music teacher and after awhile, he was on his own with it. The teacher said he didn’t have anything else to teach him. Jaz had the technique. He also has an ear that can hear any beat, any cadence, and play it after only a few bars of listening to it. About a year or so ago, he and Vinter and Dallon came up with the band idea. They’re not bad for a garage band.”
“I had no idea.” He was a musician, a drummer no less. That explained a few things, she thought with an inner smile. It especially explained his coordination when he played with her body using both hands. How he could touch her with such finesse, with such precision. Just thinking about it, the way he could manipulate her responses…
“I think for him it is. He might look gruff and mean, but he’s a marshmallow inside.”
A damn lusty-hot-as-fucking-hell-she-was-surprised-he-hadn’t-melted-from-the-inside-out marshmallow. “I’m not sure he’d appreciate you saying that.”
Jackie laughed. “No, probably not, but so long as only you and I know I said it, it’s all good.” She took Mandi by the hand and started walking. “Let’s introduce you to a few people.”
“Might be a good idea.”
She was summarily introduced to Elise who was Vinter’s girlfriend and Carrie who was Dallon’s. Mandi had met both Vinter and Dallon over the past few months, but hadn’t met the women in their lives. Turned out, Elise had just moved closer to the small town after meeting Vinter in his bar, or was it Dallon’s bar?
“They all own it. Just like they all own the tattoo parlor. They split it three ways.”
“Oh. Well, what does Vinter do if Jaz runs the tattoo place and Dallon runs the bar?”
The blush that covered Elise from the opening in the low-cut blouse to her sweet, heart-shaped face was priceless. And telling. Mandi couldn’t help but blush herself, feeling the heat creep up. She couldn’t stop herself from glancing around for Jaz. Her eyes locked onto his from across the room and how the hell she read what his look said, she’d never know.
He was in front of her before she caught her breath, and he didn’t even give her the chance to excuse herself from the conversation she’d been having. He had her down the back hallway and his mouth on hers, his tongue between her lips, her body hiked up the wall and her legs wrapped around him…
Damn, but he took her breath away.
“You can’t look at me like that,” he growled at her.
“Like you can’t get enough.”
“Well, I can’t, but I didn’t think that’s what that look said.”
“Trust me, that’s exactly what that look said.”
“Okay, so does that mean I can’t look at you at all then? ’Cause I’m pretty sure I always look at you like I can’t get enough.”
Jaz laughed and thrust upward slightly. Damn they both had way too many clothes on.
Now y’all please take a few minutes and visit the following blogs for more awesome snippets:
Hi! Big thanks to Lissa for having me! Do you love athlete heroes? Which sports? Ever since I was in high school, sports romances have always been an auto-buy for me. Whether Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Football players or Rachel Gibson’s Hockey Players or a host of others, my keeper shelf has long been filled with tons of sports romances (bargain book alert: SEP’s classic It Had to be You and Gibson’s first hockey romance are both available super cheap right now in e-book). Which sports romances are on your keeper self?
While I love reading about the team sports like baseball and football, I’m not big on following actual teams. I live in the Pacific Northwest where the college teams dominate, but I went to school back in the Midwest—I don’t have any particular loyalty to our local teams. As far as watching sports, the Olympics have always been my Super Bowl. One of my first crushes was on swimmer Matt Biondi–long before Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, this 6’7″ American dominated the pool–and his iconic good looks (and teeny tiny suit!) made a permanent impression on my teenage fantasies.
I love the human element in the Olympics—the struggle to peak at just the right time and the toil of training for years against all odds. The little human interest pieces and behind-the-scenes segments are my crack. Thus, when I saw the call for an Olympics Anthology, I knew I had to do a story.
I chose a long-distance swimmer for my story in part because I wanted to create a character apart from the current crop of headline grabbers, but also because I’m fascinated by the guys who put in hundreds of hours of training for one of swimming’s most grueling, thankless races. These swimmers hang out on the fringes of one the summer Olympic’s marquee sports.
And my hero likes it that way. He likes that his race doesn’t often make prime-time broadcasts and that he can leave the press to the hotshot swimmers who like the limelight. But what happens when an attention-hating hero ends up unexpectedly in the spotlight? Swimming the Distance is my answer:
When denial turns to deception, love may not be enough to keep Kyle and Bodhan’s relationship afloat. Hours before leaving for the Olympics, Kyle Christopher discovers that his long-time boyfriend, an Olympic long distance swimmer, has done an interview where he denied being gay. Despite sharing a home and a dog with Kyle, three-time Olympian Bodhan Petrov isn’t ready to come out publicly. After Bodhan’s lies start stacking up, Kyle’s not sure he can keep waiting quietly in the shadows. When their estrangement takes a toll on Bodhan’s performance, both must decide where their priorities lay once and for all.
Want a sneak peek at Kyle and Bodhan? Here’s an excerpt from their flight to London:
“You still mad at me?” Even bathed in shadows, Kyle could make out the sheepish expression on Bohdan’s face. His hand kept up a steady massage of Kyle’s knee.
“A little.” Each pass of Bohdan’s strong hand chased away more of Kyle’s anger.
“You know, I met you in a gay bar.”
“You did indeed.” Heat spread though Kyle at the memory. Bohdan seemed to have something to prove, but Kyle didn’t know what. Maybe that he wasn’t a complete closet case. Or that Kyle was being unreasonable. “When was the last time we went out?”
Bohdan scowled and removed his hand. “It’s easier when it’s not an Olympic year. The press ignores me.”
Kyle shook his head and went back to staring out the window at nothing. He wasn’t sure exactly when things had shifted. They’d fallen into a relationship with the kind of ease Kyle had never experienced — things went from fucking to cooking dinner together and falling asleep watching Discovery Channel marathons to let-me-clear-space-in-the-dresser-for-your-socks ridiculously, wonderfully quick. But sometime after Bohdan won his first World Championship, after most of his clothes lived at Kyle’s house, after they’d vacationed together, rehabbed the bathroom, and talked about the future in not-so-vague terms, Bohdan’s paranoia had crept in. Winning his second Worlds and the “Olympic Year” push had only made things worse.
“Maybe once this blows over, we can go back to Blue Moon. Make a night of it — get a hotel room downtown and everything. Wanna pretend we’re strangers and pick me up?” Bohdan’s whisper interrupted Kyle’s sulk.
“I seem to remember it working differently last time.” God, that had been one of the biggest rushes of Kyle’s life, coming off the dance floor and colliding into an intense, muscle-bound stranger who seemed to step straight out of his fantasies.
“Yeah. You’re pretty irresistible.” Bohdan returned his hand to Kyle’s thigh, giving him a squeeze. “I saw your red hair from across the bar and then you shook that ass…I was toast.”
The plane bounced again, hitting another turbulent patch. Kyle flinched. Bohdan’s hand moved from Kyle’s thigh to grip his hand, rubbing in gentle circles.
“We’ll be okay.”
Kyle knew Bohdan meant more than just the flight, so he squeezed back. “Yeah.” Or at least, I hope so.
“You should try to rest.” Bohdan tilted his head, concern in his eyes. The only light was the emergency strip along the floor.
Everyone else in first class seemed to be asleep. Kyle flipped up the armrest between their seats. He could almost pretend they were on their couch. Only at home he’d have his head on Bohdan’s chest with his strong arms draped around him. Whereas here he settled for hand holding, knowing it might be Bohdan’s most daring act for the next two weeks.
“That feels nice,” he whispered as Bohdan massaged the fleshy spot between his thumb and forefinger.
“Yeah?” Bohdan scooted closer so their thighs rubbed. He wasn’t quite cuddling, but he’d definitely crossed the straight-guy-personal-space boundary. “I bet I could help you sleep.”
I’ll giveaway an e-copy of the book away to one commenter. Just answer the question I asked earlier in the post: Which sports romances are on your keeper self?