Excerpt Reveal – Not Pretending Anymore, Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward

April 8, 2021 | Posted in Excerpt | By

 

Title: Not Pretending Anymore
Authors: Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 12, 2021

 

Excited about Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland’s upcoming release, Not Pretending Anymore?
Check out this SNEAK PEEK of CHAPTER 1!

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Molly

 

“So, what do you do for a living?”
The woman drummed her fingers on her thigh. “I’m a musician.”
I glanced down at the renter’s application in my hand. Lyric Chords was the name listed at the top.
I bit my tongue and tried to keep an open mind. This was the twelfth woman I’d interviewed as a prospective roommate. Just because she had a few safety pins in her eyebrow and what looked like a dog collar around her neck didn’t mean I should rule her out.
“Oh. That’s nice. Are you a singer?”
Lyric shook her head. “Drummer. Do you know the dimensions of the bedroom I’ll be sleeping in? I have two sets of drums I need to fit.”
“Umm… I think it’s fourteen by fourteen. But you don’t practice at home, right? I wrote in my ad that I’m looking for a quiet roommate because I work nights.”
“I do. But no worries. I’ll practice in my room.”
My bedroom and my potential roommate’s bedroom shared a wall, so that was the end of interview number twelve. I sighed and forced a smile. “Thank you for coming. I have a few other people left to meet with before I decide. I’ll let you know.”
“Great.” The woman stood. “Also, I know your ad said two months’ rent up front, but I’m running a little short right now. Would one be okay?”
I smiled. “Sure, no problem.” Since you’re not going to be living here.
After Drummergirl, I interviewed two more candidates. One wanted her boyfriend to move into the room with her, even though my ad had specified I was only looking for a single. And the other arrived twenty minutes late, reeked of alcohol, and slurred her words…at three thirty in the afternoon.
Why in the hell was it so difficult to find a roommate in a city of almost three-million people? I needed my last interview of the day to be a miracle, or I was going to have to shell out money for another ad and start the entire process all over. And I definitely didn’t have the time or the funds for that. Rent was due in two weeks. If I got stuck paying the full amount on this place myself again, I’d be eating cat food for a month.
When my last appointment knocked right on time, I took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling, and asked the big guy in the sky for a little assistance.
Opening the door, I blinked a few times.

 

Uhhh. I think you answered the wrong prayer, God.

 

A man stood in my hallway—and not just any man, an absolutely gorgeous one with a perfect, straight nose, cheekbones to die for, a masculine, square jaw, full lips, tanned skin, and the sexiest chocolate brown, almond-shaped eyes I’d ever seen in my life.
“Uh. Can I help you?”
He flashed a killer smile, one that I immediately suspected had made countless women remove their panties.
“Hi. I have a four-thirty appointment with Molly Corrigan.”
“You do?” I had the last application in my hand and looked down at the name on the top. “I don’t think so. My appointment is with a D. Tate?”
He extended a hand. “That’s me. Declan Tate.”
“But…you’re…not a woman.”
He smiled again. “You’re correct. Very observant. I am most definitely not a woman. But my last roommate told me I should’ve been because I use moisturizer at night and cried at the end of Marley and Me. And if I’m being honest, I also got a little watery at the end of Toy Story, so maybe I’m a bit of a wuss. Either way, I think you should consider those my positive feminine qualities.”
I was thoroughly confused. “Umm… I’m sorry. You must’ve missed that my ad said female only.”
“Actually, I didn’t. But if you’ll give me just five minutes, I think I can convince you I would be a better roommate than a woman.”
I chuckled. “Let me get this straight… You hid your first name—what did you say it was again?”
“Declan.”
“Right. Declan. Anyway, you applied to an ad for a female roommate, intentionally deceiving the person who is going to decide if you get the room by leaving your first name off. And your strategy is to convince me I don’t really know what I want in less than five minutes? Do I have that right?”
He flashed that boyish charm again. “You sure do.”
I debated how to handle the situation. On one hand, he was going to waste my time, and I had done enough of that today. But on the other, my curiosity was definitely piqued. Something about his grin told me this could be amusing. Screw it. I had nothing better to do anyway.
I opened the door wider and stepped aside, holding my hand out for him to enter. “I’m setting the timer on my phone, and I’m getting a glass of wine before you start. I like a drink while I’m being entertained.”
Declan smirked and strolled into my apartment.
I motioned to the couch. “Have a seat. I’ll just be a minute.”
When I got to the kitchen, he called after me, “Hey, Mollz?”
I turned back. “Yes?”
“How about you make that two glasses of wine?”
I chuckled. “Sure. Why not, Decs.”
I poured a couple of glasses of pinot grigio and returned to the living room.
“Here you go. Hope you like white.”
“You see? We’re perfect together already. I prefer white over red.”
I brought my wine to my lips. “Yes, perfect. A match made in heaven. I think we might even be soul mates.”
Declan showed me his pearly whites once again. He really did have a great smile, nice teeth, too. Too bad he also had a penis. I knocked back half the contents of my glass and placed it on the coffee table. Picking up my cell, I swiped to the timer app and set it for five minutes.
I showed him the screen. “You ready?”
“I’m always ready.”
I pressed start, placed the phone face up on the coffee table between us, and folded my hands. “Go.”
“Okay. Well…what’s your favorite color?”
“My favorite color?”
Declan pointed to the timer. “Time’s a ticking, Molly. I’m going to need you to not repeat questions.”
I laughed. “Fine. My favorite color is pink.”
Declan reached into one of his pant pockets and pulled out a set of keys. The keychain had a bunch of pink beads with white letters between each one. The letters spelled out his name. “Mine too.”
I arched a brow. “Did you make that yourself?”
“No. My niece, Arianna, made it for me.”
“So how do I know that isn’t just Arianna’s favorite color?”
“Good point. Let’s move on. Your ad said you work nights.”
“That’s right. I’m a nurse. I work the night shift on the maternity ward.”
“So you sleep during the day, then?”
“I get off at seven, and I try to get to sleep as soon as I get home.”
He held his hand to his chest. “I work days. I leave for the gym by six and usually don’t get home until after seven at night. So the apartment will be quiet when you need it to be.”
I nodded. “Okay. I’ll give you that that would make you a good roommate. But most people work days, so it’s not really something that makes you too special.”
“Do you cook?” he said.
“Does macaroni and cheese count?”
“I grew up in a multigenerational Italian home. My nonna taught me how to make sauce from scratch.”
“So you’re going to cook for me?”
“If that’s what it takes to get this apartment, yes.”
“As tempting as that might be, there’s an Italian restaurant around the corner that makes great food. Funny enough, it’s called Nonna’s Place, and an actual nonna makes most of my meals. Not a knockoff.”
Declan took an exaggerated breath and blew it out. He glanced at the cell on the table. “Three minutes and thirty-eight seconds. I can see you’re not going to make this easy. How about you tell me why you can’t have a male roommate so I can address that head-on. Is it because of the toilet-seat thing? Because I have four older sisters, so I’m appropriately trained. When I was eight, I made the mistake of leaving it up once, and my sister sat down where I’d accidentally left a little pee. She dunked my head in the toilet bowl before she flushed. That was the last time I left the seat up.” He held up three fingers. “Scout’s honor. It won’t be an issue.”
I smiled. “It’s not because of the toilet thing.”
“Alright. So why don’t you want a male roommate, then?”
I’d actually never given much thought to why my roommate had to be female. It just seemed natural to have another woman sharing the apartment. “Well…I don’t really have a specific reason. I would just be more comfortable living with another woman. For example, I sleep in a T-shirt and underwear. When I get up to start the coffee, I don’t get dressed. It would be weird to do that in front of a man.”
“Why?”
“Why would it be weird to walk around with my ass cheeks on display in front of a man and not a woman?”
“Yes.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. It just would. I guess because the women I’ve lived with aren’t attracted to other women, so it doesn’t feel sexual in any way.”
“Ah. Now we’re getting to the crux of your issue. So you’re afraid of some sexual tension going on between you and me? Is it because I’m so handsome?”
“What? No! And aren’t you full of yourself, assuming I think you’re handsome, and I’m worried I won’t be able to control myself.”
“Just keeping it real, Mollz. You’re only giving me five minutes, so I’m trying to get to the heart of the reason.”
“I guess I just don’t want to feel like I have to cover up to come out of my bedroom. When I dry my hair, I wear a towel or a bra and underwear—that type of thing.”
“Would you feel you had to cover up if I told you I was gay?”
That question gave me pause. Would I? I wasn’t sure. “Are you?”
“Fuck, no. I was just trying to pinpoint your issue. Is it the fact that I’m a man, or the fact that I might admire your ass if it were on display? Sounds like it’s the latter. So let me put your mind at ease: I won’t.”
I felt oddly offended. “What’s wrong with my ass?”
He chuckled. “I wouldn’t know. I haven’t looked. You know why?”
“Why?”
“Because I’m in love with someone else.”
As insane as it was, I felt a pang of jealousy. “Oh. Well, why aren’t you moving in with her?”
“Because she doesn’t return the feelings…yet. So basically, if your concern about having a guy for a roommate is that he’s going to be checking you out, you have nothing to worry about with me. I’m a one-woman man. If you want, I can give you the numbers of some of my exes for references. I’m no cheater.”
Hmmm… “I don’t know…”
Declan looked down at the clock. Thirty-one seconds were left. “We’re running out of time, so we need to speed things up. How about if I just give you the facts you need to know?”
“That would be good.”
“I’m twenty-eight years old. I make six figures. My credit score is eight hundred and ten, and I have references from previous landlords. I’m neat and clean up after myself. I’m not home a lot, but when I am, I’m pretty quiet. I’m also damn good with a hammer.” He glanced around my apartment and pointed at a hole I’d accidentally made in the wall when I flung the closet door open too hard. “I can spackle that and put on a door stopper so it won’t happen again.” He pointed to the kitchen. “And those cabinets are pretty tall. I’m six foot one. No more having to stand on a chair to reach something on the top shelf. And—”
The timer on the stopwatch buzzed.
“Can I just say one last thing?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“I’ll share my Hulu and Netflix passwords. I have the premium Hulu account.”
I laughed. “Well, those are some pretty enticing qualities for a roommate.”
He smiled. “So I’m in?”
I sighed. “I’m sorry. While I appreciate your tenacity, unfortunately, you’re not. Though I interviewed fourteen other people today, and I have to say, you do seem like you’ll make some other lucky person a fantastic roomie.”
Declan frowned, but nodded. “I figured it was worth a shot. This is a great building, and I work right around the corner. It’s hard to find an apartment where it’s only a six-month commitment.”
“My lease is up then, and I haven’t decided if I’m going to extend or not.”
“See? That’s another reason I’d be perfect. I’m only in town for six more months.”
“I’m sorry. This is definitely a case of it’s me and not you.”
He picked up his wine and guzzled it down before standing and extending his hand. “I appreciate you giving me your time. And thanks for the pinot.”
We shook. “It was nice to meet you, Declan.”
After I walked him out, I shut the door and leaned back against it. What a shame; he really seemed like a nice guy and the best candidate I’d met by a mile. I was just about to go wallow in another glass of alcohol when there was a knock at my door. Checking the peephole before opening, I found Declan standing there.
“I forgot something important,” he said.
“Oh? What’s that?”
He took out his wallet and produced a photo of a nun. “This is my sister Catherine, and it’s not a costume from Halloween. She’s a legit nun. How bad can a person be if his sister is a nun?”
I laughed. “Is this the sister who dunked your head in the toilet?”
He grinned. “It is, actually.”
“Well, I’m not sure there’s a direct correlation between your sister deciding to dedicate her life to the church and you being a good person. Though, even if I take your word for it, it still doesn’t change my answer.”
Declan’s shoulders drooped. “Had to try. She tells me her being a nun won’t get me into heaven. Thought maybe it was good for something.”
“Goodbye, Declan.”
“Later, Mollz.”
***
“So…how’s the roommate search going?” Emma poured a cup of coffee and sat down at the small table in our break room.
I sighed. “Why is it so hard to find a normal person these days? I’ve interviewed more than a dozen people, and not one suitable candidate.”
“Did you post an ad on the employee bulletin board, like I suggested?”
I shook my head. “I don’t want another nurse or tech. It makes it weird at work if things don’t work out.”
“Maybe Dr. Dandy will apply.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “I heard he’s sleeping on Dr. Cohen’s couch until he finds a place.”
That information certainly perked me up. “Really? Will and whatshername broke up?”
“Yup. Lisa in X-ray told me Dr. Cohen told her he’s staying with him. Apparently he and the wannabe actress are finito.”
“Wow.”
Emma smiled. “Yup. And fair warning, my friend… I’m allowing a ten-day grace period for him to grieve the end of a year-long relationship. But after that, I’m going to be up your butt making sure you let the man know you’re interested. He’s not going to be on the market for long, and you missed your opportunity last time he was single. You can’t keep pining for the guy.”
Of course she was right. And while I felt elated that Will was back on the market, the thought of coming clean to him about my feelings made me want to throw up. Will Daniels—or as Emma called him, Dr. Dandy, because of his last name and uncanny resemblance to a male model named David Gandy—and I had been good friends for four years now. We’d started on the very same day at the hospital and had gone through orientation together. I’d had a boyfriend back then, and he’d been seeing a girl from med school at the time, so even though I’d always thought he was insanely handsome, things didn’t bloom until two years ago. And most of the time since then, he’d been seeing one woman or another. Emma was right that the man never seemed to stay single for long.
“He’s going to be at happy hour this Friday night,” I said. “A few of the crew from CCU are meeting up over at McBride’s. I’m curious to hear what he says about the breakup.”
“Does he know you’re looking for a roommate?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Well, he needs a place to sleep, and you need a roomie.” Emma shrugged. “Timing is everything. Maybe it’s fate and he’ll move in and take care of two of your needs.”
“I think your imagination might be getting ahead of itself. Why don’t we start by seeing if things are really over with him and whatshername? They’ve split up a few times, but he always winds up going back.”
“Okay. But I have a good feeling about you two.”
“Could you possibly have a good feeling about me finding a roommate instead? I just had to pay for another damn ad.”
Emma shook her head. “I can’t believe you didn’t find one decent candidate.”
Remembering my last interview, I said, “Actually there was one who would’ve been perfect—great credit score, neat, cooks, leaves early in the morning, and works long days.”
“So why didn’t you take her?”
“Because she was a he.”

 

 

★★★
 

 

Excited? We are too!

 

 

RELEASING APRIL 12th!

 

 

PRE-ORDER LINKS

 

Please note: There will not be an Amazon ebook pre-order, but it will be available on in Kindle Unlimited on Amazon on release day.

 

Sign up for Vi and Penelope’s mailing list now and be the first one notified when it goes live!

 

 

PENELOPE WARD

 

Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance. 

 

She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism. 
With over two million books sold, she is a 21-time New York Times bestseller and the author of over twenty novels. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages and can be found in bookstores around the world.

 

VI KEELAND

 

Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author. With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-five languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.

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New Release, Exclusive Excerpt, Review & *Giveaway* – Changing the Rules, Catherine Bybee

March 23, 2021 | Posted in Excerpt, Giveaway, Release Day Blitz, Review | By

 

Title: Changing the Rules

Author: Catherine Bybee

Release Date: March 23, 2021

Publisher: Montlake 

Exclusive Excerpt from Changing the Rules by Catherine Bybee

 

“Wow, why are you girls all dolled up?” Lars asked before he sat down. 

 

“Jax has a date,” Claire announced. 

 

“What’s your excuse?” Cooper asked. “Do you have a date, too?” His eyes walked up and down her body. She was wearing a dress, which she didn’t often do unless she was painting the town with her best friend. 

 

But sometimes, when she’d been cooped up too long and hadn’t been able to shop or let her hair down, or be something other than a girl trapped in a world she didn’t want . . . yeah, at those times she needed to get out. It was her release valve. 

 

Jax started to laugh. 

 

And laugh. 

 

Claire followed Cooper’s gaze in Jax’s direction. 

 

“Claire doesn’t date!” 

 

The hair on her neck started to stand on end. 

 

“I date.” 

 

Jax leaned her head back and laughed. “No, what you do doesn’t classify as dating.” 

 

Much as Claire wanted to disagree, she knew her friend spoke the truth. It wasn’t that she had an aversion to dating, there just didn’t seem to be enough datable guys out there. 

 

“What the hell does that mean?” Cooper’s tone was anything but happy as he asked the question. 

 

Claire was about to ask why he cared when Neil stepped forward. “Are we done with the chitchat and ready to work?” 

 

“Technically this is my day off.” 

 

Neil’s expression told Claire he wasn’t amused. 

 

Cooper looked like he had more to say, but kept his lips shut. Lars patted Cooper on the back as he walked by. “I need coffee.” 

 

“There’s a fresh pot in the surveillance room,” Claire informed him. 

 

“We start in ten,” Neil said before heading to his office. 

 

Once the door was closed, Cooper slid beside Claire. “Mind elaborating about this ‘doesn’t date’ thing?” 

 

“Why are you so interested?” And why was Cooper standing so close and watching her as if an expression was going to give something away? 

 

When his eyes dropped to her lips, her belly did a little twist. 

 

It was then that her brain started to short-circuit and the coffee felt bitter in the back of her throat. 

 

There were two reasons a man stared at a woman’s lips. 

 

The first was if they were a family member or possibly a gay friend that wanted to comment on the shade of lipstick. 

 

And the second . . . he wanted to kiss her. 

 

She blinked several times. 

 

Cooper wanted to taste her. 

 

The realization of that fact had her head spinning. Then, because she couldn’t stop herself from looking, she took in his lips, and then the expression on his face. 

 

So many things clicked together. With them, a thousand questions. 

 

Lars pushed through the door from the surveillance room talking and had Cooper taking a step back. “Have you met the new guy?” 

 

Claire’s eyes stayed on Cooper. “Yes, I have.” 

 

Cooper blinked and turned away. “I have not.” 

 

A few more steps and Cooper walked into the other room. 

 

“What the actual hell?” Claire asked the universe out loud. 

 

Lars walked by, oblivious to what had just happened. 

 

“What?” 

 

Claire glanced over at Jax to see her soft smile. 

 

In German, Claire asked, “Did you see that?” 

 

“I felt the static in the room,” Jax replied. 

 

“You know it’s rude to speak in a different language, right?” Lars said. Jax shook her head and went back to writing on the whiteboard. “Sorry,” she replied in English. 

***

Summary 

As an employee of MacBain Security and Solutions, Claire Kelly can certainly hold her own. Armed with an impressive set of covert skills, she’s more than prepared to tackle any job that comes her way…except one involving Cooper Lockman.

Cooper and Claire used to work together before his feelings for her sent him packing to Europe for six long years. But now he’s back and determined to ignore the still-smoldering heat that lingers between them.

Their current mission: go undercover together at a California high school to root out the mastermind behind a prostitution ring targeting young girls. The closer they get to the truth and the closer they get to each other, however, the deadlier their task becomes. As Claire and Cooper risk their lives to bring down their target, will their hearts be the final casualties?

Kara's Review

5 out of 5 stars

Changing the Rules is the first book in the Richter series by Catherine Bybee. We met Claire and Cooper in Say it Again and I was so happy when I heard they were getting a book! I loved Claire as soon as she said “Put it away Cooper. You’re too old for me.” And not only that, we get to see Neil, Gwen and Sasha again. I was so engaged with this story that I didn’t want to put it down.  Claire isn’t a kid anymore. She’s grown up, working for Neil and loving her job. Cooper left town for six years and now he’s back. Claire hasn’t seen him since and she’s so happy to have her friend back. But Cooper can’t hide his feeling for Claire anymore and when she sees what everyone else sees, she can’t stop thinking about him. They have a job to do though and she’s going undercover as a student and he as a teacher. While they are at school it’s business, but after Cooper is just glad she’s not eighteen anymore. They have a serious job to do, tracking down a group of sex trafficking people, some of which might be teachers or undercover cops. I didn’t even know who to trust! I had my favorites and prayed it wasn’t them! I loved Claire’s teenage antics and her confidence and attitude. Cooper was swoonworthy as he put it all on the line with Claire. His honesty just made him sexier! And then she was saying “Put it away Cooper. We don’t have time for that right now.” I’m already loving the secondary characters and can’t wait for more from this series (Give me Leo!) Overall, I loved Cooper and Claire. There were fun, hilarious, sexy and sweet!

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About the Author

New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee has written twenty-eight books that have collectively sold more than five million copies and have been translated into more than eighteen languages. Raised in Washington State, Bybee moved to Southern California in the hope of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Not Quite Series, the Weekday Brides Series, the Most Likely To Series, and the First Wives Series.

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New Release, Review & Excerpt – Featherbed, Annabeth Albert

March 17, 2021 | Posted in Excerpt, New Release, Review | By

Release Date: March 15, 2021
Purchase here: https://geni.us/AmazonFeatherbed
Add to Goodreads here: https://bit.ly/3mKWKXJ
Vino & Veritas Series Page: https://hearteyespress.com/wotn#/vino-and-veritas/

Cover Design: Christine Coffey

Blurb:

When a bookworm on borrowed time meets a younger, free-spirited chicken farmer, sparks and feathers fly…
Harrison Phillip Fletcher, III isn’t supposed to be here. Not in Burlington, Vermont, not running Vino & Veritas, a quaint inclusive bookstore and wine bar, and definitely not still alive, at forty-two. Also not supposed to be here? An unexpected delivery of chickens.

Finn Barnes knows chickens. The burly organic farmer knows all about rare breed poultry, but dealing with a hot, older bookseller is an entirely different matter. City slicker types like Harrison never end up staying in Vermont for the long-term.

They should steer clear of each other. But the flare of attraction is mutual. And somehow amid book discussions and farm tours, they discover plenty in common. Now they’re stealing kisses in Finn’s barn, sneaking out like teens, and burning up the sheets.

What starts as a fling brings very real feelings for two lonely souls, but a future together seems as unlikely as chickens in a bookstore. Feathers may be flying, but learning to trust takes time neither may have. Can they take a leap of faith together before it’s too late?

Featherbed is a stand-alone novel in Sarina Bowen’s World of True North. This opposites-attract, age-gap romance features a low-angst, fluffy—and feathery—romp as a fish out of water discovers the home he never thought he’d find.

 

Kara's Review

5 out of 5 stars

Featherbed is Annabeth Albert’s newest fun, sexy romance with an older bookstore owner and a young chicken farmer. I love a good age gap romance and this one was so good! This is a standalone in Sarina Bowen’s World of True North. All of these books are going to be awesome! This is Finn, the sexy farmer and Harrison, the new to Vermont bookstore/wine bar owner. A mix-up with a chicken delivery brings these two together and the instant attraction keeps them coming back for more. Excuses to see each other again. Brief, hot kisses that lead to more. But they are both so busy so it’s just going to be casual. Until it’s not. Finn is afraid Harrison won’t be able to stick it out in Vermont. Harrison has anxiety about his future. But can they work past their fears and admit it’s more than they asked for? It’s actually everything. I love this story! It was funny and sexy and sweet and a little dirty and I don’t mean the chickens! I loved the way Finn and Harrison bantered and just meshed their lives without even really knowing it. It’s a feel good romance with fun characters, family, sexiness, books and cute little animals. What’s not to love!

 

Excerpt

“What’s next?” Harrison was so serious that I wasn’t sure whether he meant us or the shelf project, but I couldn’t resist messing with him a little.

“Screwing,” I deadpanned.

Predictably, Harrison made a sputtering noise. “Pardon?”

“With a drill, Harry.” I held up the trusty cordless I’d retrieved. “With a drill.”

“No one calls me Harry.” His mouth pursed. I wanted to kiss it. Perversely, the more uptight he got, the more I wanted to unravel him.

“Not even your mom?” I found the correct drill bit for the project and slotted it in.

“Ha.” Harrison had locked his gaze on my hands in a way that made me both self-conscious and more than a little turned-on. “I call her Mom only because she dislikes the formality of Mother.”

“Whereas you love the formality. I get it. Harry.” I put deliberate emphasis on the nickname, so that I could categorize all the different shades of pink and purple he was turning. Besides, it was a good distraction from how his shrewd eyes made me feel.

“I said—”

“You’re fun to harass.” I grinned at him, which earned me an eye roll in return.

“I try. Now give me something to do.”

“Okay, okay. Back to work. You can help by measuring to mark each of the screw holes.”

“Why do construction terms always sound so suggestive?”

“Because you have a dirty mind, Harry.” I gave him an exaggerated leer.

“You better stop that.” He didn’t sound particularly convincing.

“Stop teasing or stop looking at you?” Laughing, I waggled the drill in his direction. “I’ll remind you that I’m the one holding power tools.”

“So you are.” Harrison kept holding my gaze, eyes soft and expectant behind his glasses, tongue darting out to lick at his lips. In that moment, he was infinitely appealing and nothing at all like Astin.

Maybe I’d been mistaken in thinking he was a branch of the same tree of rich dudes who had no issues taking what they wanted. Like him, Astin had favored designer clothing, pricey-looking watches, and the same luxury brand car, and had also dropped clues about inheritances. But unlike Astin, there was a certain humility to Harrison, and he didn’t try to tell me how to do my job.

Oh, Harrison was still a city slicker, and probably not sticking around, but he wasn’t an entitled asshole either. He wanted to kiss me. That want was all over his face, but so was his restraint. As with the woodworking, he’d let me lead. He’d wait for me to make my move and didn’t have a ready arsenal of slick lines. His uncertainty was perhaps the most charming thing about him.

And so, still meeting his eyes, I set the drill back down on the workbench. “No power tools now. You still want to shut me up?”

I stepped closer, in case he had any doubt as to my intent. He smelled good. Expensive, like someone had married delicate herbs and leather scents in an aftershave that probably cost more than a year’s supply of my soap.

“Yeah. I think I do.” His cultured voice had gone husky, but still contained that vulnerability I found so damn intoxicating.

“Show me.” Touching the sleeve of his waffle-knit sweater, I turned him toward me. There. I’d made my move. The next was his.

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New Release, Excerpt, Review & *Giveaway* – Starting From the Top, Lane Hayes

March 14, 2021 | Posted in Excerpt, Giveaway, New Release, Review | By

Title: Starting From The Top

Series: Starting From, #5

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: March 8, 2021

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 83k

Genre: Romance, Age Gap, Rock and Roll, Hurt and Comfort, Bisexual, Contemporary Romance

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Synopsis

The guitarist, the dad, and a band on the rise…

Johnny

A quiet place to live and some time to recharge before my band heads out on the road again sounds amazing. I wouldn’t mind a distraction too, but my new neighbor is off-limits. There are rules about not getting involved with your bandmate’s ex, right? And Sean isn’t my type anyway. He’s too bossy, too commanding, and he has way too much baggage. I’ve learned that it’s best to let go of the heavy stuff. So why am I so drawn to him?

Sean

Coming out later in life has taught me to protect my privacy at all costs. And while juggling a handful of businesses and two kids isn’t easy, I excel at the art of multitasking and keeping everything separate. But Johnny blurs those lines. He’s easy-going, sweet-natured, and cool. In short, he’s everything I’m not. I want to know all about him…starting from the top.

Excerpt

The cheery sound of family fun drifted through the house…the dog barking, cupboards closing, and a girlish squeal of delight. And more dog barking.

I chuckled at the chaotic homey cacophony. I would never have envisioned this was Sean’s life. He’d always seemed like a badass boss to me—not a man who’d wear an apron to bake cupcakes with his daughter while his son had a guitar lesson. His chocolate mussed hair and concerned parental frown made him look goofy and yet very…endearing. In a hot dad way.

Okay. Definitely time to go. I reached for the knob just as Sean did.

“I’ll walk you out,” he insisted, holding the door open.

I stepped onto the porch and blinked against the bright afternoon sun at the hilltop view of the city. “Wow. This is nice.”

“Yeah,” he agreed absently. “How was he?”

“Amazing. The next Chuck Berry.”

Sean sighed grumpily. “Less sarcasm, please.”

“Sorry, Dad.” I snickered. “He was great. I mean, he sucked, but I think he had fun. I told him to keep the guitar and practice on his own. If you want me to come back, I will.”

“Really? That’s good.” He stared at the horizon for a moment before glancing my way. “I wanted to—why are you smiling at me?”

“You’re fuckin’ covered in chocolate. It’s in your ear.” I made a face and tugged at my own ear.

He gestured at the apron. “Baking isn’t my thing.”

I flashed a megawatt grin at him. “Sure, it is. Are you decorating those cupcakes with anything besides frosting?”

“Sprinkles. You’re welcome to join us.”

“Thanks, but I don’t want to crash your family time.”

Sean inclined his head. “So…did he talk to you?”

“It took a little coaxing. Full disclosure…we played video games before we picked up the guitars. You’re not paying me, so I don’t really feel guilty. I just don’t want you to think it was a jam session from the start.”

“I know.”

“You know?” I repeated.

“I snuck in to see how you were doing. Hulk let you down. You might want to go with Iron Man or Captain America next time.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” I snort-laughed, then sobered. “As for Parker…he’s a good kid. He’s shy, reserved, and likes organization. He seems like the kind of person who excels at things he can control. I bet he builds killer Lego sets. He might learn a few songs, but I doubt he’s a savant. You never know, though. Kids are sponges. They pick up stuff you and I would never catch.”

“That’s true. I’m impressed. And you’re right…about everything. He keeps a lot inside. He’s always been that way. Very thoughtful and methodical. He sets a high bar for himself. He likes to get things right the first time. He does well in school, but he’s struggling with the transition to junior high. His old friends tried out for sports and he opted not to. It’s left him feeling ostracized and alone. Hormones don’t help. I thought it might be good for him to spend time with someone cool who—”

“Cooler than you?”

“Well, let’s not get crazy.” Sean flipped the corner of his apron and let out a self-deprecating laugh. “I just…thanks for doing this. I appreciate it.”

“No problem. Hey, if he really is interested, we can do this regularly. My schedule is light for the next couple of months, but it’ll get crazy again in late spring.”

“I’ll call you.”

“Text me. I hate phone calls.” I held out my right hand and snatched it away a second later, narrowing my gaze. “You have frosting on your nose.”

“My nose?” He wiped his hand over the apron, then across the tip of his nose. “Did I get it?”

“No. Come here. Let me help you.” I stepped into his space and brushed the sugary goodness away.

“Did you get it?” he asked in a huskier than normal tone.

“Yeah, but it’s on your ear and your chin and…”

“Where else?”

“Here.”

I ran the pad of my thumb under this bottom lip. “Got it.”

I didn’t move. I should have, but something held me in place. I studied his features, noting the flecks in his eyes. I wondered what color they were…gold, green, brown? I traced a line at the corner of his mouth, rubbing the scruff of his neatly-trimmed beard. I stared at his full lips for a long moment before meeting his gaze. Then I inched closer and…kissed him.

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Kara's Review

5 out of 5 stars

Starting from the Top is the fifth book in the Starting From series by the talented Lane Hayes. I have read so many books by Lane and every one becomes my new favorite. Her writing just keeps getting better and better. I’m seriously in love in love with Johnny and Sean. Johnny is young, fun, talented, but he had a hard childhood and he doesn’t see himself as famous. Sean is older, has kids and needs to have control over everything in his life or he’s afraid it’s all going to fall apart. What starts out as a fun thing that’s just physical, turns into something more meaningful. They become friends. Johnny spends time with Sean and his kids. They talk about themselves, their lives. What they want. But what happens when feelings change? When it’s more than just fun? Oh my! I couldn’t get enough of this story! I loved how Johnny saw the world and that he learned and grew just from being with Sean. I loved how Sean lightened up and relaxed more and actually let Johnny in. And Parker and Penny, they were so funny and real! This is the perfect age-gap, rock star, family fun book!

Meet the Author 

 

 Lane Hayes loves a good romance! An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016, 2017, and 2018-2019 Rainbow Awards.

She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a not quite empty nest.

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