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Time and distance have a way of sneaking up on feelings thought long buried.
The Bar Next Door, Book 2
Five years ago, Eli held the hand of his dying lover and made a promise he never intended to keep. Find someone new to love? Be happy? Fat chance. Eli’s happiness died that day. He’s doing well to put one foot in front of the other, much less risk his heart again.
The only thorn in his side is Asa, part-time waiter at The Bar Next Door, who can’t seem to take a hint.
After years of carrying more responsibility on his broad, cowboy shoulders than most people twice his age, Asa knows what he wants when he sees it. Eli. Shadows haunt the gorgeous older bartender, who also happens to be one of Asa’s bosses, but Asa doesn’t care about potential complications. He only wants to banish Eli’s ghosts—and bring Eli back to life.
Persistence, a little impatience, and Asa’s very wicked mouth go to work on Eli’s grumpy, prickly defenses. But Asa may have to block the door to love with his foot—or his heart—before Eli slams it in his face.
Warning: Beware of stubborn cowboys, sticky bar floors and hot sexy showers, eavesdropping cooks and well-meaning friends, Irish whiskey, and a young man who doesn’t understand the word no.
“You’re changing the schedule again?”
The voice startled Eli and he struggled to keep hold of his pencil. He hadn’t expected Asa for another half hour or so. The younger man was light on his feet. That he could sneak up on Eli was testament to just how deep in his own mind Eli often was. And what pissed him off most? His thoughts weren’t of Thad and all he’d lost. No, his thoughts were of Asa. His thoughts and his fantasies centered around Asa. Cocky and quiet. Contradictions from head to toe. It drove Eli nuts.
“I am,” Eli confirmed. “We’re going to be short-handed tomorrow night. We need you.”
“So you automatically assume I can work the late shift and close? Again?”
Eli gritted his teeth. He forgot smart-aleck in his rundown on the little pain in his ass. “Yeah. I automatically assume everything.” He felt belligerent, sounded belligerent, but when it came to Asa, Eli couldn’t seem to control his reactions to the man. “You’ve been closing for the past couple of weeks. Now you’ve got a problem with it?”
The tension in the small room jumped a few degrees but leveled off again just as quickly.
“Nope. I’m good. I don’t have plans and don’t have class until noon the next day.”
Asa was standing so close—right up against the back of Eli’s chair. He was leaning over Eli’s shoulder and his breath fanned Eli’s neck with each exhale. Tension coiled in Eli’s shoulders until he bolted up and out the office door. The late afternoon bar crowd was small. Things wouldn’t pick up for another few hours and he huffed out a frustrated breath. What he wouldn’t give for wall-to-wall cowboys, ranch hands, business men and college students. At least then he’d have a hell of a lot more to do that didn’t include having to escape Asa’s all too interested blue-eyed stare.
“Why do you avoid me?” Asa asked, close on Eli’s heels.
“I do nothing of the sort.”
“Bullshit,” Eli growled. He slipped behind the bar as fast as his booted feet would carry him, but damn if the punk wasn’t hot on his ass.
“See, you’re doin’ it now.” Asa’s tone was a little too cheerful for Eli’s taste. He was tired of clenching his jaw. He was tired of fighting the two things he wanted most: Asa…and Thad.
Only Thad was dead and Asa wasn’t. Only Thad had made Eli promise to keep living, to fall in love again.
And only Asa had stirred any kind of feelings in Eli since. Only Asa made him want to start doing more than simply getting up in the morning and going to sleep at night.
“I think it’s ’cause you like me,” Asa teased.
“I think you should get to work.”
“I think you want me.”
Inwardly, Eli nodded at Asa’s jab. The waiter had no idea just how much Eli wanted him. “I think you need to shut up or find another job.”
“I think you just need to know I want you too.”
Eli whipped around. “I’m warning you.” His heard the low, dangerous tone of his voice. He hadn’t gotten so worked up since… He shook his head. He wasn’t going to think about that night. “Get to work. That’s all I want. You.” He pointed at Asa. “Work.” He jerked his thumb toward the bar.
When he pushed past the stunned and no-longer-smiling man, he hoped he wouldn’t have to get into this again. His fantasies and dreams of Asa needed to stay private. They were keeping him sane, as strange as that was for him to understand. But he didn’t need anyone knowing about them, especially Asa. It was bad enough he felt he was cheating on Thad, even though finding someone else was Thad’s deathbed wish. Damn dead man. Eli would love to wrap his hands around Thad’s shoulders and shake him. He’d love to beg him to explain why he wanted Eli to keep on living. There wasn’t a day that had gone by since Thad’s death that Eli hadn’t wanted to die too.
He shut himself back in the office and picked up his pencil. He sent it flying across the room and watched it bounce off the wall and clatter on the wooden floor.
Asa could never know how Eli felt about him.
Eli had no interest or intention of fulfilling his promise to Thad, no matter the tug Asa had on Eli.
“Asa, will you grab the last of the tumblers off that back table?”
Those were the only words Eli had spoken to him all night since he’d stormed off to the office. Anytime Asa needed anything from Eli, he asked and the deed was done without a sound, gesture, or grimace. Nothing. What he wouldn’t give to take back whatever he’d done or said to send Eli over the edge. He didn’t care much for the chasm that grew between them as the night wore on. That hadn’t been his intention at all with his teasing. He’d only hoped to get Eli to smile or laugh, something that would crack the stony facade he always seemed to put up.
“Sure, boss,” he said lightly.
“Make sure to wipe it down too. Those yahoos were back there for several hours tonight.”
“Got it.” Did the man not think Asa knew how to do the job? And what the hell was up with scheduling them together the last few nights? Asa didn’t have an issue closing the bar with Eli—he just wasn’t sure why he was suddenly the chosen one. A small smile stretched his lips. It wasn’t the first and it wouldn’t be the last time he’d wonder if Eli returned his feelings. He didn’t know what was up with Eli and why he held everyone—especially Asa—at arm’s length, but Asa wasn’t planning on giving up either. He wanted Eli, even if he was grumpy most of the time. There was something riding him, something keeping him from getting close to anyone other than Malachi, the other bar owner, and Asa wished he knew what it was.
He grabbed the glasses from the table and made sure to wipe down the surface. Twice. The second time in a big show of effort so Eli wouldn’t have reason to question whether or not he’d done what he was told. The floor around the chairs was sticky and Asa didn’t want to know why, shuddering at the possibilities. Anything from sodas to spunk. All kinds of things took place in the back of a bar where no one could see unless they were right up on you.
“Everything all right?” Eli asked when Asa set the glasses on the bar top.
“Sure. Why wouldn’t it be?”
Asa shrugged. “Okay.” He headed for the back and returned with the mop bucket. Eli didn’t say anything else, but Asa knew if he turned his head, he’d find Eli staring a hole in his back. The soapy water in the bucket was clean to start with, but as the mopping concluded some minutes later, it was nothing but a dingy gray. This and the bathrooms were the parts of closing he could do without. He’d rather be in the kitchen washing a mountain of dishes than cleaning a bar bathroom.
“You ’bout done?”
Asa turned. Eli was half sitting, half leaning against one of the stools with his arms crossed over his chest, one booted foot hanging by the heel on a low rung. Eli’s hat sat low on his forehead and Asa nearly came in his jeans. Eli was the hottest man he’d ever wanted, and he’d wanted many men. He could admit to having been a slut—though a very safe slut when he first came out a few years ago—wanting to taste and touch and lick every gay cowboy he could get his greedy hands on. He could top or bottom, but what he really loved was a man’s arms tight around him, a rough whispered Southern drawl, a bit of facial scruff and a gruff voice. Give him all that and he was putty. Eli fit the bill perfectly.
“Yeah. Just gotta dump the water and I’ll be ready.”
“I gave you tomorrow night off.”
Asa whipped his head around. “What? Why? I don’t need it.” Eli was pulling even further away. Shit. The boss man was going to drive him completely insane.
Eli shrugged and tipped his hat back. “We don’t need you.”
“We? Or you?”
“Boy, I’m telling you now, you don’t want to go there.”
“Why not? Afraid of me?”
“Turn that question around.”
Asa scoffed. “You don’t scare me, Eli, and the all business all the time boss routine isn’t going to work.”
“I should scare you.”
“You scare yourself and you’re scared of me.”
“You’re a kid and my decision is based on nothing more than we are fully staffed tomorrow night.”
“You weren’t earlier.” Asa called Eli’s bluff.
“We are now.” Eli was nothing, if not stubborn.
“You can try to get rid of me all you want, but I’m not going anywhere.”
“I can fire you.”
“True. But you can’t keep me from coming back as a customer.”
Eli’s cheek twitched. Irritation. Asa had become inordinately good at pushing Eli’s buttons. It hadn’t been on purpose at first, but for weeks now, Eli had made it way too easy. Now Asa didn’t even have to try to worm his way under Eli’s skin.
“Just take the night off. Go out with friends. Have a good time. We’ll see you on your next shift.”
“What’s with all the ‘we’ and ‘we’ll’ crap? Don’t you mean you? You will see me on my next shift?”
“I’ll see you, but others will be here as well. Don’t take everything quite so personal. Nothing is meant by anything.”
“You’re kidding yourself, Eli. You know it and I know it. Every bit of it is personal. This attraction between us is very personal.”
Make sure to pick up your copy today!
Eli’s Promise is the second book in The Bar Next Door series. It follows part-owner and bartender Eli as he struggles with his feelings for the young, hot buck Asa as well as his feelings about letting go of his lover Thad who’d passed away several years ago.
Eli is rough. He’s scared to let go and he’s scared to take a chance. This book is about the deathbed promise he made and the steps he takes or doesn’t take to fulfill it.
It’s also full of sass and vinegar. Malachi and Danny make appearances and all in all it was a fun book to write, hard at times, emotional, but fun.
Here’s a little (unedited still) taste…
Asa. God. How did the boy do that? How was he able to sneak up on Eli like that all the fucking time? “This has got to stop.”
Malachi laughed. “You’ve been off your game and out of the game for a while now.” He clapped a hand on Eli’s shoulder and headed out of the office. “I think it’s time you get back in it.”
Eli nodded and waited until Malachi was gone before he turned to face the man he wanted more than he wanted his the next breath. He held that air captive as he got a look at Asa.
Sweat dripped from his brow and the T-shirt he wore was plastered to his tan skin. Jeans hung low and his scuffed boots were crossed at his ankles. He could see the tail end of a red and white bandana hanging from a ripped back pocket and when Eli finished his perusal and met the bright green eyes again, a knowing smirk crossed Asa’s full lips.
“I don’t think you’ve been quite so frank in looking at me before. I think I kinda like it.”
“Yeah well, don’t let it go to your head.”
“Which head would that be?”
Eli chose to ignore the bait. He didn’t want to but it was best for the time being that he do so. “What are you doing here?”
“Unloading the beer.”
“Malachi said it wouldn’t be here for a couple hours.”
“Seems like it. He’s been helping you out, you realize that, right?”
“I do. It wasn’t a subtle helping out. He seemed to know when you needed the extra shove or push.”
The next words were going to be hard for him to part with… “I’m glad he has.” And then it was his turn to smile when Asa’s eyes widened. He moved toward the desk and leaned back against the solid wood surface. “This isn’t easy for me, Asa.” He tried for a casual stance, but found his hands tightly gripping the edges.
“I know. I mean, I don’t know, but, I know something isn’t easy for you.”
Eli nodded. Here goes nothing. “His name was Thad…” And down the road he went, sharing with Asa the details about the only man he’d ever loved, and at the time, the only man he could ever see himself loving and living life with. He kept his eyes on Asa, unwilling to break the contact, unwilling to forget who he was talking to, unwilling to get lost in the memories. It wasn’t easy and through some parts—he was close to breaking down—but he got it all out.
“How did he die?”
“Motorcycle accident. Car came out of nowhere. Thad was always trying something new and he’d always wanted to get a bike. They said the helmet was what kept him alive for the few days he lived afterward, but really, in the end it didn’t matter.”
The voice was soft, tender and nearly his undoing. “Thank you.” He found he meant it too. He wasn’t sure he felt that way in the past when people said those words, but he did with Asa.
“I don’t want to take his place,” Asa said, coming to stand in between Eli’s parted thighs.
“I know you don’t. I—”
“I just want you to give me a chance. You said he was my age when he died. I’m not him though, Eli. I’m me and I’m here, alive, and I want you.”
“I…” He tried to muster some objections, his tried and true lines of defense, but nothing came out. When he closed his mouth, Asa kissed him—sweet. It was so different than their other encounters and Eli savored the mere feel of Asa’s lips touching his.
“You’ve been through so much and you’re pretty young, too, to have gone through it. And look. You’re alive too.”
Eli just nodded. He didn’t have any words to add. Asa was right. He’d buried his lover and his hopes and dreams all at the same time before he was twenty-five. He’d had to grow up in a short span because the days were going to go by no matter what he wanted, even if that included dying too.
Thad woulda been so pissed had Eli taken his own life. “He made me promise that I’d find someone new one day.”
Eli smiled. It was bittersweet, but it was the first smile he’d been able to offer when speaking of those last moments. “Yeah. He said he w-wouldn’t let go of the pain until I promised him that I’d find someone someday and let them love me.” As he spoke, Asa pried his fingers free of the desk and looped them through his belt loops. Eli gripped the thin pieces of denim as though they were the only things keeping him there.
“Hold onto me now. You can do the same thing. You can let go of the pain and hold on to me.”
The words, so kind and genuine, broke him. The kiss that followed made him hungry. The tears he didn’t even realize were falling were wiped away by rough, workman’s hands.
He pulled Asa closer, deep into the opening of his legs. They were both hard and warmth spread through his chest, his belly and he tangled his tongue with the younger man’s. Asa gave as good as he got and met each thrust with a parry of his own.
“Do you remember what I promised you?” Asa urged the question out through barely moving lips. He hadn’t lifted his head by much and Eli could see brown and copper flecks in the irises of Asa’s eyes.
“I do.” At the suggestion, his cock pulsed behind the placket of his jeans.
“Good.” Asa nudged himself at Eli. “See? This is what you do to me. Only you, Eli.”
“Asa, I…” But his words died when Asa dropped to his knees in front of the desk. His mouth dried up like a desert and he couldn’t do more than helplessly watch. He braced his hands again as Asa pulled at the button and let the zipper down.
This book has a release date of December 10th.
Y’all have a great day!
Drunken confessions. Sobering friendship. And two cowboys gambling on love…
The Bar Next Door, Book 1
Could he love me? Malachi has wanted to know the answer since his best friend, Daniel, confessed to being gay. He has never forgotten that long-ago conversation, or the secret hope that another confession would follow: that Daniel is in love with him.
Daniel is—and always has been—in love with Malachi. But how is he supposed to share that information without risking the only friendship that has ever mattered to him? He couldn’t handle it if he were kicked out of Malachi’s life. The best Daniel could do was move home to Texas, buy a little rundown ranch to work outside Austin, and visit the watering hole where Malachi tends bar.
Malachi knows that something heavy is riding his friend and he’s tired of watching Daniel’s downward spiral of too much beer and too many meaningless flings. Enough is enough.
Except, when he gets Daniel home and some strong coffee down his gullet, the truth comes pouring out. A truth that nearly knocks Malachi out of his boots.
Courage like that doesn’t come easy…and Malachi can only pray his answer is enough to turn lifelong friends into forever lovers.
Warning: This little tale tries to contain a gay bar, a lot of beer, a hot cowboy with a pitchfork, another one with a serious addiction to boots and coffee, and a secret yearning between the two for hot blooded, can’t wait to get naked, just leave your boots on sex. Oh, and there are doughnuts…
Last call at The Bar Next Door. In about an hour, Malachi could go home. Cleanup would be handled by Eli. Per their deal, Malachi would open the bar in the afternoon and Eli would lock the door at the end of the night.
Much as he loved the bar, he sometimes loved leaving it just as much. Especially tonight. Danny was here again and almost too drunk to sit steady on the barstool, and way the hell too drunk to stand, walk or drive himself home. All grown up and hotter than fire, tempting every man and woman with his crooked smile, his whipcord frame and his bright green eyes. When he was sober, that is. When he was drunk, though, as he seemed to be more often than not lately, he was all grown up and acting like a teenage kid, full of angst and sadness.
“C’mon. Time for you to go.” Malachi ‘Mal’ Rhalston, part owner of The Bar Next Door and Danny’s best friend, picked up Danny’s half empty glass of whiskey.
“Hey, asshole. I wasn’t done with that,” Danny said, louder than necessary.
Mal held up the glass and swirled the amber-colored liquid against the sides. “This? You weren’t done with this?” Mal looked at it. “It is a bad idea to waste such good whiskey, isn’t it?” He downed it himself in one swallow, feeling the burn all the way to his soul. Danny wasn’t the only one suffering, but he always liked to think he was. Selfish prick.
Danny squinted and though he was trying for menacing, it just came across comical. Mal had to bite his lip to keep from laughing.
“I was right. You are an asshole,” Danny murmured. It was said without heat or rancor, only a weariness that hurt Mal to hear.
Mal smiled his typical bartender smile. It wasn’t one he usually gave Danny, being they were the best of friends and all, but right now, it was all he could muster. “Never said I wasn’t.”
He wiped down the bar in the immediate area of Danny. The man never wore cologne but had a spicy, earthy scent all his own that Mal would be able to pick out anywhere. He didn’t know if anyone else could smell it and it didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that he could, that he knew Danny so well…
He mentally shook himself and focused his attention once again on Danny, on his face. “So, what had you in here tonight, tyin’ one on?”
“Same shit, different day.”
One thing Mal always admired about Danny was the fact that the man could be stinkin’ drunk and still speak without slurs or ripples in his words. Most men in the bar who got that blasted couldn’t string the syllables of their own names together, much less carry on an actual conversation. To talk to Danny, one wouldn’t know he was fifteen sheets to the wind, aside from the lack of balance and the smell of his breath.
“Which shit would that be? Job shit or man shit?”
Danny was working a place a few miles outside town. It’d been a surprise to Mal when he’d bought it, considering neither of them had ever wanted to run the ranch they’d grown up on.
The Double M Double D was the name of their childhood home. Danny and his father had lived on one side of the ridge that ran through the middle, while Mal and his father lived on the other. They worked it from the moment they could walk. Their fathers knew the boys didn’t want the place, so when Mal went off to college and Danny to the military, they sold it. The two older men retired to Wyoming and started a dude ranch with half the sale money and split the other half between Mal and Danny. There’d been more than enough to do and buy nearly anything either of them had wanted.
“Man.” Danny spat the word with disgust and Mal wiped the bar again just to be on the safe side. “It’s always about a man.”
“Things not work out with that pretty thing you carted out of here the other night?” The glare Danny leveled at Mal would have frightened a lesser man. Mal wasn’t now nor had he ever been scared of Danny. Their friendship went back too far. They knew everything about one another. Danny, drunk or sober, wouldn’t hurt anyone unless it was to protect someone else and he sure as hell would never strike Mal.
“You should know the answer to that one.” Mal did know, and secretly, whether it was the right thing or not, he was glad. Danny always did do things the hard way.
“Then why do you bother?”
“Can’t have who I really want.” The words were miserably spoken, full of sadness and resignation. Mal understood exactly what it meant and felt like to want someone so much and not be able to have them. He’d been dealing with it most his life, having realized he was both gay and in love with his best friend fairly early on, but hearing those words from Danny… Well, it was the first time the other man had admitted he felt something for someone.
“You mean there is someone? A serious someone?” He desperately wanted to ask who had Danny all fucked in the head and drinking the desire away every night. He wanted to know who had been lucky enough to garner Danny’s romantic interest so he could help the guy get his head out of his ass. Danny was special and deserved someone just as… Mal should know.
Truth be told, he’d always wanted to be the man Danny fell in love with. Unrequited love was a bitch. At the same time, how could he expect anything at all when he’d never come clean about his own feelings?
“Jesus, Mal. Where the hell have you been? Of course there’s a serious someone. You think I like fucking a different ass every other week? I thought you of all people would… Shit. I’m outta here.”
“I’ve been trying to get your ass outta here for ten minutes.” Mal laughed at Danny’s confused look and hoped he’d pulled it off as nothing more than friendly. “Last call, remember?”
Mal didn’t comment, though he wanted to ask if Danny’s words were an offer because he’d sure like to accept. Instead, he went around the side of the bar and helped his friend to stand. “Who is he?”
“Someone,” Danny said softly. The one word sounded so dejected that Mal’s heart ached, and he longed to tell him how he felt, but fear kept the words clogged inside. He knew Danny well enough that if he took the chance now to tell him that there was someone he wanted too, Danny would just think it was to make him feel better and not feel so alone. That would be part of it, but not the ultimate reason. Mal was tired of carrying it around.
“Does he know?” Mal asked, walking Danny toward the door. He looked over his shoulder at Eli to find the other man staring after them. Eli nodded and Mal returned the gesture in silent acknowledgement.
“The boy toy? Yes. I called him the other guy’s name during a blow job.”
Mal winced. “Not good. But I meant the serious man. Does he know how you feel about him?”
“No. Not good to call a twink or anyone else some other guy’s name,” Danny agreed. “They can get vicious. I still have the scratch marks to prove it. And no, Mr. Serious doesn’t know.”
The cab driver had the door open at the curb and Mal helped Danny get settled inside. “How’d you get here tonight?”
“Okay.” Mal knelt on the sidewalk and looked at his friend, doing his best to school his own features into a mask of support. He didn’t know if he was relieved or disappointed that he wouldn’t need to take Danny’s truck out to the ranch. “Maybe you should tell him. At least get it out in the open, Danny.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he wanted to bite his tongue. It wasn’t the first time he wondered if he should take his own advice and tell Danny the truth.
Danny slowly shook his head. “I’d lose him if he knew,” he said, dropping his head backward and closing his eyes. “Can’t lose him. Can’t lose…”
Other than Mal himself, who could Danny know so well and whose friendship meant so much to him that a confession would tear their friendship apart? Maybe someone from when he was in the Army? Again, Mal wanted to ask but didn’t. He wasn’t sure he wanted the answer if his own name didn’t pass through Danny’s lips.
“How can you lose him if he doesn’t even know how you feel?” Mal stood after a few seconds when Danny had no response.
Malachi closed the door and spoke to the cab driver, paying him in advance and giving him directions out to Danny’s place. He paid a little extra for the driver to make sure Danny got inside safely.
He turned away without watching the taillights disappear. Danny would sober up and everything would be fine. It always was after a binge like this. His friend would be back tomorrow night, all smiles and ready to pick up the next little toy to warm his bed.
Available now at Samhain Publishing (It’ll eventually be available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and All Romance eBooks)
Last week, I went on a little blog tour to promote my newly released and upcoming M/M books, Double Up and Malachi’s Word. There’s another one coming as well in December. I wanted to let readers know that I was going to be releasing and writing more M/M in the future and I wanted to let them know some of my reasons for writing it and for reading it.
I tweeted and Facebook posted about the blog tour, but as it begins to wind down and all, I wanted to post the links here on the blog incase any of you wish to go read and comment.
1. Delighted Reader
2. Daydreaming Book Reviews
3. The Smutty Kitty
4. Erotica For All
If you have a chance, go by those 4 blogs and have a read…
Oh, and here’s a peek at the new M/M banner Kendra Egert created for me. I’ll be using it soon…
It’s been a very long month. I know it’s only the 15th but I’m telling y’all, it has been a very long, hell of a month.
I have done multiple rounds of edits on both Malachi’s Word and Double Up. I’ve written half of the holiday book for Loose Id, More Than This. I have several more days to write the second half. I also have 2 other stories I’m working on. One is being written, the other is a chapter by chapter edit and revision with the help of a reader/blogger/friend who recently sent me an email about the characters in my books and how she relates to them. It was inspiring to say the least…
I’ve been up late, way outside of my usual routine. I’m to the point of exhaustion and…wait for it…even coffee isn’t helping. I know. I know. But it’ll get better and coffee will be working its magic again soon.
In the meantime, y’all will notice over the next couple months that this here blog will have a lot more activity though not all from me. Brandy, with a little help from me, has scheduled guests to come visit. And while she’s been doing that, she’s also scheduled be to go forth and blog elsewhere in several small blog tours. One in October to celebrate the release of Double Up and one in November to celebrate the print release of Twisted Up.
For now, that’s all I’ve got. I need to get to work… Several thousand words to add to the WIP before kick-off at noon of my Florida State Seminoles.
Y’all have a good one.