Saturday, January 7, 2017

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Will & Patrick by Annabelle Jacobs


A Casual Thing #1
Summary:
Patrick Mason travels to Bristol to spend the summer with his brother, Ben. He’s cat sitting for the first two weeks while Ben goes on holiday. But Ben neglected to tell him he wouldn’t be doing it alone. Will Adams—Ben’s mate and Patrick’s long-time crush—is staying in Ben’s guest room while he waits to move into his new house after a breakup.

Against his better judgment, Patrick convinces Will that a little no-strings fun is just what they need. Patrick doesn’t want to get involved with a guy on the rebound, and Will isn’t interested in starting something serious with a student. But Patrick’s never been good at separating sex from feelings, and this time is no exception. As their weeks together draw to a close, they need to decide if they have something worth pursuing or if it’s really just a casual thing.

A Serious Thing #1.5
Summary:
Patrick has a plan, and he’ll go to great lengths to see it through.

After three weeks apart due to work and school commitments, he and Will are finally getting to spend some time together. Patrick is staying with Will over the Christmas holidays, and he intends to tell him how he feels on Christmas Day. It’s going to be perfect.

But of course, Patrick’s plans don’t always go smoothly….


 A Casual Thing #1
What a lovely contemporary friends-with-benefits(if their schedules work out)-turned-possible-romance.  When you find yourself crushing on your brother's best friend there's always the risk of not only hurting your heart but also to that friendship.  Annabelle Jacobs takes a light-hearted look at the trope when she introduces you to Will and Patrick.  Now, that's not saying there's no drama or moments of heartache, because there is but it's a wonderful balance to this love story.  Highly recommend A Casual Thing to those who are looking for a well written romantic comedy.

A Serious Thing #1.5
A wonderful holiday treat that finds both Will and Patrick wanting to let the other know just how they feel.  Timing is yet again a factor and it only heightens the moment everything finally aligns.  A great addition to my holiday library but as it is a sequel to A Casual Thing, you really should read book 1 first.

RATING: 


A Casual Thing #1
Chapter 1
“HEY,” PATRICK answered and put his phone on speaker, smiling as his brother’s voice filled the car.

“I hope you’re using handsfree. Mum’d kill me if I made you crash.”

Patrick rolled his eyes, even though Ben couldn’t see him. “Yes, I’m not stupid.” He indicated and pulled over into the slow lane, though, to be on the safe side. “I’m about twenty minutes from Bristol. Are you finishing work soon?”

Patrick heard the rustle of paper in the background and the sound of a drawer being closed.

“Yeah, I’m just leaving now.” Ben paused and a few shouts of “good-bye” and “enjoy your holiday” sounded before Ben spoke again. “Should be home before you get there. You remember how to get to the flat, don’t you?”

“Yep, M4, M32, and off at J1. I’ve got satnav for the rest of it.”

“Okay, well, call me if you get lost. Otherwise I’ll see you in a few.”

The line went dead, and Patrick grinned. He hadn’t seen his brother since Christmas, and just talking to him made Patrick feel more relaxed. Ben radiated calm. He was probably the most easygoing, laid-back person Patrick knew. Patrick’s roommate, Sean, wasn’t far behind him, which was part of the reason they got on so well, but Ben tended to put a person at ease the moment he entered the room. Patrick could do with a bit of that after the last few weeks.

He only made a couple of wrong turns before he spotted the sign for Ben’s road, and then he turned onto the street and parked outside the building. Ben lived in a two-bedroom flat on a large but nice housing estate just off the motorway—close enough to town so it didn’t cost too much in a taxi, but far enough out to get away from it all.

He had one of the ground-floor flats and already had the door open as Patrick walked down the path toward him. “Bloody hell, look at the state of you.” Ben grabbed the beanie from Patrick’s head and ruffled his hair, grinning. “Good to see you, though.” He pulled Patrick into a hug, almost crushing him in the process.

They had the same coloring—blue eyes and dark brown hair, although Ben’s curled where Patrick’s was straight—but Ben had about two inches on him, and at least a stone and a half in weight. Ben had always been sporty and played anything that involved a ball, whereas Patrick had stuck to running. He had shit coordination—an endless source of amusement to the rest of his family and friends—so he tended to avoid team sports. Patrick enjoyed watching them, though, which was just as well, considering Ben hardly bothered with any other channels except Sky Sports.

“Can’t breathe.” Patrick dug his fingers into Ben’s ribs to make him let go, laughing when Ben flinched in response. “And fuck off. There’s nothing wrong with the way I look.” He gestured to his tight, long-sleeved T-shirt, skinny jeans, and Converse. They fit him well, snug in all the right places.

“I bet you look like every other student. Where’s your sense of originality?”

Patrick gave Ben a light shove and pushed past him into the flat. “Shut up and start fetching my stuff in from the car. I’m dying for a piss.” He turned and chucked his keys to his brother, grinning at the indignant look on his face.

“I’m regretting this already, just so you know. And you better have left most of your crap at Mum and Dad’s. I don’t want a flat full of your boxes.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

By the time Patrick finished in the toilet, Ben had grabbed the two bags and was coming into the lounge. “Is this all you brought? Not much for the whole summer.”

“There’s a few more bits in the car, but I’m only here for a couple of months, and it’s not like I can’t wash stuff.”

Ben raised an eyebrow. “I see living with Sean all these years has done some good after all.”

“Ugh,” Patrick groaned. He wasn’t that bad. “He’s my roommate, not my mum. He doesn’t make me do chores you know.” Sean was also his best friend, and three years of living together at university had made Patrick more self-sufficient, but he wasn’t about to admit it. “Anyway,” he said, walking down the hall as he spoke. “I’m assuming you’ve cleared out all your shit from the spare room?” Patrick looked back over his shoulder as he opened the door. Ben usually shoved anything he didn’t use in there until he either gave it to charity or took it down to the rubbish tip.

“Yeah, um… about that….” Ben let the sentence hang there as Patrick opened the door to the spare room and stopped in his tracks.

Okay, so it wasn’t full of Ben’s stuff, but it wasn’t empty either. The bed looked recently slept in, the quilt pulled up sort of straight but the pillows at odd angles, as though it had been made in a hurry. A couple of shirts hung on the wardrobe door, and the desk had a laptop on it and some toiletries that definitely belonged to a guy.

Ben appeared behind him, scratching at the back of his neck, but not looking particularly bothered. Patrick waved a hand around the room and raised his eyebrow. “I guess I’m not staying in here, then?”

“Sorry, it only happened a couple of weeks ago, and I forgot all about it. But he’s only here for another two weeks, so you can sleep in my room while I’m away.” Ben gestured to the door opposite and picked up Patrick’s bags again. “I’m off in the morning, so you only have to sleep on the sofa for one night.”

Patrick followed him, trying not to feel disappointed at not having the place to himself. He collapsed on Ben’s bed, making sure to hang his shoes over the edge. “So, who is it, then? Do I know him?” He narrowed his eyes, watching as Ben dropped both bags in front of the wardrobe and turned to face him. “It better not be someone old and boring who’s going to judge everything I do. Christ.” He threw his arm over his face and let out a put-upon sigh. “I might as well have stayed at home.”

“He’s not old. He’s a year older than me.”

“You’re old.”

“Shut the fuck up, or I will send you back home.” The bed dipped as Ben sat down. “And yes, you know him. He’s a good guy—I wouldn’t leave my little brother alone for two weeks with someone I didn’t trust completely.”

Patrick sat up and leaned on his elbows, taking in the slightly shifty expression on his brother’s face. Nothing normally fazed Ben, and he’d said that Patrick knew the guy and that Ben trusted him, so Patrick didn’t see what the problem could be. He liked to think he was pretty easy to get along with. He maybe had a lot of energy, which irritated some people, but he tried to tone it down with anyone other than close friends or family. Ben’s mates all knew him pretty well anyway—Patrick usually came down to Bristol for at least a few days every time he had a break from uni.

“Well, I’m assuming it’s one of your friends, and honestly, Ben, they’re a great bunch of lads, so I don’t get why you’re being weird.”

“I’m not being weird.”

Patrick gave him his best “yeah right” look and sat up a bit. “Seriously, I won’t have a problem sharing with any of them,” he said, nudging Ben with his shoulder. “Well, except Will maybe, but that’s only because—”

Patrick stopped, the words dying on his tongue as he noticed Ben wince.

“No.” He jumped off the bed, fisting his hands in his hair. “No fucking way. Ben, please tell me you’re not leaving me alone for two weeks with the guy I have a huge unrequited, and frankly, embarrassing, crush on?”

Ben shrugged. “He needed somewhere to stay. I’d sort of forgotten you had the hots for him.”

“How could you forget?” Patrick paced in front of the bed. “The last time I was here, I tried to climb into his lap and told him how hot he was. In front of his boyfriend.”

“Oh yeah.” Ben grinned, and Patrick stopped his pacing to punch him on the arm.

“It’s not funny.”

“It was hilarious.” Ben ducked out of the way when Patrick tried to punch him again. “Look, you were drunk. We all were. He doesn’t hold it against you.”

“But he won’t have forgotten.” The whole thing still made Patrick cringe every time he thought about it. He may have been drunk, but sadly not drunk enough to wipe the horrifying experience from his brain.

“Sit down. I think you might be overreacting just a tad.” Ben even used his finger and thumb to demonstrate how much he thought Patrick was overreacting before grabbing Patrick’s arm and yanking him back down onto the bed.

Patrick sighed. Fine. Maybe he was being overly dramatic, but come on. This was Will. Tall, dark, and handsome, and as easygoing as Ben. He oozed charm and made you want to curl up with him somewhere warm and never ever move. Well, that last part could just be Patrick.

Fuck.

He was going to make such an arse of himself. He flopped onto the bed and covered his face. “I hate you. You are the worst brother ever.”

Ben laughed as he tugged on Patrick’s hand until he was forced to sit up. “Don’t be such a drama queen, and come and help me get the rest of your things.” He slung an arm around Patrick’s shoulders and gave him a squeeze. “It’ll be fine. Will knows you’re coming. I told him this morning. He’s looking forward to seeing you again.”

“Yeah, I’m sure.”


IT DIDN’T take long for them to get the last of Patrick’s stuff in from his car and dump it into Ben’s bedroom. Patrick made them mugs of tea, and Ben grabbed a packet of chocolate digestives from a bag their mum had sent down.

“Why does Will need to stay with you, then?” Patrick asked, hissing a little when Cleo, Ben’s cat, dug her claws into his thigh. He carefully extracted them and ran his hand down her back, the black fur soft under his fingers. “I thought he was happily shacked up with what’s-his-name?”

It appeared to be Ben’s turn to roll his eyes this time. “Darren. You’ve met him loads of times.”

“Whatever. So why isn’t Darren here too, then?” A sudden thought occurred to him—the spare room had a double bed—but fuck no, Ben would never do that to him. “Please tell me he’s not going to be staying here as well?”

“Jesus, what do you take me for? Of course not.” Ben shook his head as he reached for his mug. “They split up, and the lease on the flat is up, so Will has bought a place round the corner. But it won’t be ready for another two weeks.”

“Wait, what?”

“Which bit didn’t you understand?” The smirk on Ben’s face told Patrick he knew exactly what Patrick was referring to. “Oh, didn’t I mention that Will and Darren were no longer together?”

Patrick shook his head, words eluding him as he began to view the next two weeks in a whole new light.

“Sorry.” Ben dipped a biscuit in his tea, not looking remotely sorry, as he settled back into his chair.

Before Patrick had a chance to reply, the sound of a key in Ben’s front door had them both turning toward the lounge entrance. The door wasn’t closed all the way, and they could hear Will rustling about in the small hallway, but couldn’t see him yet. Patrick felt his heart rate ramp up and his cheeks heat, which was absolutely ridiculous—he was twenty-two, not sixteen. His leg began to bounce a little, and Ben sat up to put his hand on Patrick’s knee to stop it, only removing it when Patrick slapped it away and glared at him.

“Hey.” Will smiled as he stepped into the lounge, eyes brightening a little as his gaze landed on Patrick. “You made it, then.”

Patrick managed to smile back and squeak out a “yes,” before quickly taking a drink of his tea to occupy his mouth. He clearly couldn’t be trusted to speak right now.

“It’s good to see you, again.” Will strolled into the kitchen and flicked on the kettle. The open-plan layout of the flat meant Patrick had a great view, and he took the opportunity to look his fill. Will ran a hand through his hair—shorter at the sides and back than Patrick remembered—shaking some water out of it. “Got caught in the bloody rain as I left.” He looked back over his shoulder. “Anyone need a top up?” he added, turning around to face them.

Ben lifted his mug up a bit. “No, mate, we’re good.”

“Okay, then,” he said walking over to them. He was all broad shoulders and stubble, dark eyes and warmth, and fuck it all, Patrick was in such deep shit. “I’m just going to go and get changed while the kettle boils.” He met Patrick’s gaze and smiled again before heading off to his bedroom.

Patrick swallowed.

“Oi,” Ben whispered and poked him with his toes. “Close your mouth. I don’t want any drool on my cushions.”

“Oh piss off. This is all your fault.”

Ben leaned forward a little and motioned for Patrick to do the same. Patrick barely resisted rolling his eyes, because it wasn’t like Will would hear them. He had his bedroom door shut, and they weren’t exactly shouting, but he shuffled along the sofa and leaned forward anyway. “What?”

“Look, I wanted to say….” He paused, and Patrick felt a flare of excitement about what Ben could possibly want to tell him. Maybe he had some inside tips about how to get into Will’s pants and—yeah, just no. That was wrong on so many levels.

“What?”

Ben grinned and sat back in the chair. “Don’t have sex in my bed.”

Patrick looked at him, wrinkling his nose. “What? I’ve just bloody got here. It’s not like I’ve got someone lined up for the minute you leave.”

The door to the guest bedroom started to open, and Ben nodded toward it. “I’m just saying, do it in Will’s bed and not mine.”

Patrick almost choked on his tea, making Ben laugh as the door opened and Will walked back out. His brother could be such a dick sometimes. How had he forgotten this? Patrick’s cheeks were on fire; he felt the heat seeping down toward his neck, and—fuck it—he was going to have sex all over his brother’s room if it killed him.

“What’s so funny?” Will asked, straightening out his unfairly fitted T-shirt.

Patrick shot Ben a warning glance, hoping Ben wouldn’t embarrass him any more. Ben winked at him and gave a tiny shake of his head, making Patrick relax enough to finish his tea.

“I was telling Patrick that he’s on litter tray duty while I’m gone.”

Will eyed the cat now sprawled on her back beside Patrick. “Oh thank fuck for that.” Cleo opened one eye, as though she knew they were talking about her, and fixed him with a glare. “Your cat hates me. There’s no way I was gonna clean up her shit.”

Patrick idly stroked along Cleo’s belly, smiling as she began to purr. “Yeah right,” Patrick muttered, watching the way she stretched out her paws. “I don’t believe that for a minute. Everyone loves you.” He didn’t realize what he’d said until Ben coughed, and Will leaned over to ruffle Patrick’s hair.

“Thanks, mate. See, Ben. Even your own brother prefers me.” Will thankfully moved away toward the kitchen, leaving Patrick to try and sink into the sofa and out of sight.

“Um… that’s not what I said. I just meant… you know….” Patrick gestured down at the cat, not that Will could see him, he had his head in the fridge, probably searching for milk. “I can’t imagine someone hating you.” God, he needed to shut up.

Ben kicked him in the shin to get his attention, mouthing, “Smooth,” and trying not to laugh.

Will glanced over at him then, milk in one hand as he shut the fridge. He smiled and winked, and fuck, Patrick would need to leave the room soon. “Thanks. I think Cleo is the exception.”

True to form, when Will came over to sit down, she hissed at him and disappeared under the dining room table. Patrick watched her go, unable to keep the grin off his face. “Wow, she really does hate you.” He laughed and felt some of the tension drain away as Ben began to rib Will about cats having excellent taste. The two of them bantered back and forth, Patrick joining in as he began to feel more comfortable and less like a love-struck teen. Maybe these next two weeks wouldn’t be that bad after all.


THEY WERE definitely going to be that bad.

As soon as they’d finished eating one of the huge frozen lasagnas courtesy of Patrick’s mum, Ben yawned and stood up. “Right, I’m off to bed. Got to pack a few bits first and then be up too fucking early.” He grabbed his plate and took it into the kitchen before coming to stand behind the sofa. “You still all right to give me a lift to the airport?” He clapped a hand on Patrick’s shoulder as he met his gaze.

Patrick rested his head back on the cushions and nodded. “Yeah, ’course. What time do you need to leave?”

“Flight leaves at six forty-five, so I said I’d meet the others a couple of hours before. Leave about four?”

“That is way too fucking early.” Patrick yawned at the thought of it. “But, yeah, that’s fine. Give me a prod in the morning, make sure I’m up in time to have a cuppa first.”

Ben smiled and gave him a gentle shove. “It’ll be my pleasure to wake you up.”

“Yeah, whatever. Go to bed.”

Ben ruffled Patrick’s hair as he left, making sure to leave it as messy as he could and laughing as Patrick told him to fuck off. He’d have to get it cut if people kept messing with it. Fuckers. Patrick was still smiling as Ben closed his bedroom door, but then it dawned on him that he and Will were now alone, and suddenly Patrick couldn’t think of anything to say. All the relaxed feelings of a few minutes ago disappeared, and Patrick felt the tension begin to seep back into the room. He hoped to God he was the only one who could feel it.

Will usually had no trouble putting everyone at ease, and Patrick needed him to hold up most of the conversation until he could get rid of his stupid nervousness. He had no business being like this. It wasn’t as though he didn’t know Will. Despite Patrick’s long-standing crush, he’d never had any trouble getting along with Will before. They always had a laugh, and Patrick liked talking to him.

But Will had never been single before. There’d never been the slightest chance that anything could happen between them—not that it would now; Patrick wasn’t stupid. There were far too many reasons, not least of all, he was almost positive Will didn’t see him like that—Patrick would probably always be Ben’s younger brother to Will. But now, in the back of Patrick’s mind, he couldn’t help but think there was no boyfriend standing in his way. It made him uneasy, and from the look on Will’s face, Will could tell.

After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, Will sat forward, rested his forearms on his thighs, and clasped his hands. Patrick waited expectantly, hoping like fuck Will wasn’t about to give him “the talk.” He didn’t think he’d been that obvious.

“I’m sorry about taking your room,” Will said finally, and it was the last thing Patrick had been expecting, so he frowned.

“What?”

“I know Ben forgot to tell you I’d be here, so I imagine you weren’t expecting to end up on the sofa.”

“Yeah, but that’s only for one night.” Shit. Will looked guilty. Patrick knew he’d been acting a little off, and Will obviously thought it was because Patrick was pissed off at him. “I’m not bothered, honest.”

Will looked pointedly at Ben’s sofa, which probably wasn’t going to be all that comfortable to sleep on, now that Patrick thought about it.

“Point taken.” Patrick laughed and forced himself to shake off his weird feelings. He might not get to spend the next fourteen days in Will’s bed—which would be the ideal scenario—but they could definitely have a good time. Patrick refused to feel awkward for the whole two weeks. “Ben’s sofa sucks to sleep on, but like I said, it’s only for one night. I’m not bothered about you having the guest room. I mean, have you seen the bed in Ben’s room? It’s fucking huge.”

Will smirked, and Patrick mentally kicked himself for talking about anything bed-related with Will. His mind was likely to go to places it really shouldn’t if he didn’t want to embarrass himself. “Anyway,” he forged ahead, ignoring the way he felt a little hot all over. “What I mean is that I don’t mind you being here. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to being here on my own anyway.” That may have been a barefaced lie before, but things change. “It’ll be nice to have some company.”

“Thanks.” Will’s smile was soft and genuine this time, and Patrick immediately returned it. “The last few months have been a bit shit, and I didn’t want to spend four weeks in a B and B.” He stood and stretched, and Patrick tried not to look at the strip of skin exposed where Will’s T-shirt rode up. He also tried to ignore the dark hair peeking over the top of Will’s pajama bottoms, but he failed. Miserably. “I think I’ll turn in too. Night.” He squeezed Patrick’s shoulder as he walked past.

“Night.” Patrick sank back into the sofa cushions with a groan, a warm feeling settling deep in his belly.

He was so totally fucked.

A Serious Thing #1.5
Chapter 1
“WHEN ARE you coming down to Bristol?” Ben’s voice sounded tinny and far away.

Patrick paused, wondering what his brother was doing. “Am I on speakerphone?”

“Yeah, I’m making a sandwich.”

Patrick wedged his phone between his ear and his shoulder as he locked the door. Sean had left about an hour ago—spending the Christmas break at his parents’ house—and Patrick was running late. He hitched his bag higher on his shoulder and slipped his keys into his back pocket. “I’m going to Mum and Dad’s first.” There’d been a smattering of snow the night before, and Patrick toed at the flakes clinging to the grass. “Will is away on that training course until the twenty-second, so I’m coming down when he gets back.”

Ben hummed down the line. “Oh yeah. What a pain in the arse. Who runs a course that close to Christmas? You’d think they’d all be winding down by now.”

“Will wasn’t too pleased about it.”

“No, I know. He was moaning about it all last week.”

Patrick wasn’t too thrilled either. He’d not seen Will for the last two weekends, and they’d both been looking forward to spending nearly three weeks together. But now Will was stuck in London, and Patrick had promised to go and see his parents for a bit. “At least this way Mum isn’t too mad about me spending Christmas with Will.”

“I thought you’d be taking him to meet the in-laws?”

Patrick blushed. He could tell Ben was grinning without needing to see his face, and was suddenly glad Ben couldn’t see him either.

“Fuck off. We’re not that bad.”

Ben snorted. “Uh-huh.”

Patrick walked down the path to the road where he’d parked and didn’t bother to say anything else, because yes, they probably were that bad to the casual observer.

Ben already teased him mercilessly for being so whipped; he didn’t need to give him any more ammunition. Patrick didn’t care, though. Will was awesome.

“You still there?” Ben sounded loud in his ear this time. He must have taken him off speaker.

“Yep.”

“Seriously, though, Pat. Have you told him how you feel yet?”

Patrick sighed. “He knows.”

“Are you sure?” Ben had his serious Dad voice on, and Patrick rolled his eyes. “In my experience, people still like to be told these things, and Will is no exception.”

“Yeah, yeah.” He opened the boot and shoved his bags inside.

Ben had gone suspiciously silent, like he did when he was thinking about something. “Patrick?”

“What?”

“Are you waiting to tell him at Christmas?”

“No.” Patrick shook his head out of habit, but his voice wavered a little, giving him away.

“Oh my God, you are!” Ben crowed. “You cheesy motherfucker.”

Patrick’s shoulders slumped. He’d wanted to tell Will so many times, but their weekends were always rushed, trying to pack enough into those two days to last them for the week they spent apart. He wanted it to be special.

“Hey.” Ben didn’t sound as though he was laughing anymore, but Patrick was still embarrassed.

“You think it’s a shitty idea, don’t you?”

“No, that’s not what I said.” He paused, and Patrick imagined him running a hand through his hair while he thought about how to phrase his next words. “Cheesy and clich├ęd? Yes. But you two are sickeningly sweet.”

“We are not,” Patrick grumbled. He opened the car door and got in. “We have hot, raunchy sex all the time. Nothing sweet about us.”

“Fuck you. Stop that.”

Patrick grinned.

“I can hear you smiling, you arse. What have I told you? Your sex life comes strictly under ‘things your brother never needs to know about.’”

“Sorry.”

“Sure you are. Look, the reason I called was to invite you down for a couple of days. You can stay with me until Will gets back. I don’t get to see you much these days, now you’re shacked up with my best friend.”

Patrick hesitated before starting the engine. Despite spending nearly every weekend in Bristol, he hadn’t seen that much of Ben. “I told Mum I’d stay until the twenty-second, but I’m sure she won’t mind if I leave a day or two earlier to come and see you. So yeah, that’d be great.”

“Awesome. Just give me a call when you’re on your way.”

“All right. See you soon.”

“Bye.”

Patrick set his phone on the seat next to him and bit his lip. As much as he was looking forward to seeing everyone for Christmas, he still had all his presents to buy, and he had no idea what to get for Will. Maybe Ben could help with that? Patrick would have to pick his brains when he got down there—he wanted this Christmas to be perfect.


SIX DAYS later Patrick was pulling up on the street outside his brother’s flat—car full of presents his parents had sent down, and a few Patrick had bought. It’d be strange not spending Christmas with his parents, but they’d still have Ben. Patrick planned on going back up the day after Boxing Day, hopefully with Will in tow. He just needed to ask him first.

His phone rang as he was getting out of the car—Will’s name flashed up on the screen. Patrick smiled as he answered. “Hey.”

“Hey. Are you at Ben’s yet?”

“Yeah, just got here. Where are you? Shouldn’t you be busy learning new things?”

Will laughed softly in Patrick’s ear, and Patrick’s chest tightened. He missed hearing that in person. “We’ve stopped for an early lunch, so I snuck out to call you.” Will let out a long sigh, and Patrick felt his frustration. “I really wish I was there.”

“Yeah, me too.”

They were both silent, and three little words were on the tip of Patrick’s tongue. He’d waited this long, though; he wasn’t going to say it over the bloody phone.

Voices sounded in the background on Will’s end, and he sighed again. “I need to go, but I’ll call you later when I’m back at the hotel.”

“Okay.”

“Bye, Patrick.”

“Bye.”

Patrick let his head rest against the back of his seat and closed his eyes. The last few times he’d spoken to Will, it always felt like something was missing when they ended the call. He was pretty sure he knew how Will felt about him, but maybe Ben was right. Patrick wanted to hear Will say it as badly as he needed to say it to Will.

He jumped in his seat when someone banged on his car window, and he opened his eyes to find Ben grinning at him.

“Are you planning on getting out anytime soon?”

Patrick gave him the finger and opened his door quickly enough that Ben had to jump out of the way or risk being hit.

“Wanker.”

“Don’t scare me, then.” He pulled Ben into a hug and let himself sink into it. He’d missed this too. “It’s good to see you.”

“Yeah, you too.”

Ben helped him with his stuff and led the way to his front door. “So what do you want to do this afternoon?” He glanced back as he spoke, and it was Patrick’s turn to grin. Ben was going to hate him.

“I need to go Christmas shopping for Will.”

Author Bio:
Annabelle Jacobs lives in the South West of England with her husband, three rowdy children, and two cats.

An avid reader of fantasy herself for many years, Annabelle now spends her days writing her own stories. They're usually either fantasy or paranormal fiction, because she loves building worlds filled with magical creatures, and creating stories full of action and adventure. Her characters may have a tough time of it—fighting enemies and adversity—but they always find love in the end.

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A Casual Think #1
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A Special Thing #1.5
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All Jazzed Up by Tracy Ellen

Title: All Jazzed Up
Author: Tracy Ellen
Series: Love, Lies, & Ninja Missions #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: December 15, 2016

Summary:
A pretend marriage. A real desire. Being friends with no benefits has never been hotter! Jazy Axelrod’s in love with the hunky man-whore Max Byrd, who also happens to be her best guyfriend! Even worse, Jazy soon gets Max isn't into her that way. But Max has problems, too. A woman is trying to trap him into marriage. Max begs for Jazy's help. Jazy decides to give Max more than he ever bargained for. Can Jazy seduce the cynical player in just a few short weeks to believe in her, and happily-ever-after? Or does Jazy learn real love needs no convincing? A stand-alone HEA romance.


“I can have sex with other men when we’re married, right?”

“Hell no you can’t have sex,” Max ground out between clenched teeth. “We’re supposed to be newlyweds in love. What if Angela found out?” He shook his head at my puffed out lower lip. “I’d have to divorce you. That would defeat the whole purpose of everything, now wouldn’t it?”

“Jesus, I hope you’re not going to be this grouchy when we’re married. I thought since you get to have a pregnant girlfriend running around, I could have a little dick on the side, too.” I laughed a little and corrected, “Well, not a little dick, but some dick.” At his continued glare, I spread my hands palm up with a belabored sigh of acceptance. “Okay, okay, but if I can’t have sex, then you can’t have sex.”

“Neither of us can fuck during our marriage.”

After he delivered that F bomb, we stared at each other in shocked silence for a few moments.

Max recovered first, tugging slightly on the collar of his shirt and clearing his throat. “So we agree. It’s a marriage of friends with no benefits.” Max shrugged, as if it was no big deal that his cock saw ten times the action of your average penis on the streets.

Double shit. I closed my eyes for a second at his words, trying to imagine months and months with no sex. I’ve gone nearly insane after these last four days of erotic dreams, even the odd one.

I try to be a good friend to those I care about. But what was I getting out of this damn deal, other than the guarantee of carpel tunnel in both wrists from a future filled with massive amounts of masturbation?

I nodded jerkily.

“Was that a yes?” Max demanded in a pissed tone.

“Yes, dammit.” Not that I blamed him for being irritable, since I was also feeling the pinch of the no sex rule already. “What about my big money?”

“What about it?” Not missing beat, Max went on, “Since we’ll be living together, I’ll pay all our living expenses. Agreed?”

Putting a hand to my forehead at what living together meant, I moaned, “Oh dear God.” I dropped my hand and sighed in defeat. I didn’t eat much or use much electricity, so Max’s normal bills wouldn’t increase much, wherever we lived. “Okay, agreed.”

Still somewhat reeling that I’d actually said yes to his idiotic scheme, but seeing no way out now that I’d given my word, I wriggled in my seat feeling incredibly put upon. Whenever I feel put upon, I tend to get belligerent.

Max laughed, but there was a challenging edge to his voice. “Why do you look mad if you agree?”

I blurted, “I’m not teasing about the money. I think it’s only fair I be compensated for my role as your wife.” At his blank stare, I continued hurriedly, “I mean, I know we’re friends, and generally I wouldn’t charge a friend for help, but I’m putting myself at your disposal for ten months. Ten months! I’m giving you all my time and my acting skills.” Thinking of the no sex mandate, I choked out, “I’m putting my whole life on hold to help you.”

Eyes unreadable, Max responded evenly, “True. So what do you think is fair compensation for posing as my wife for ten months?”

A straight jacket in a fucking insane asylum was the correct answer, but I replied briskly in a business-like manner, “A new furnace, a new roof, new insulation for my house, a new fridge,” I glanced at my wrists, thought for a second of my pitiful health insurance plan, and went for it all before I lost my nerve, “and some cash set aside for possible future surgeries.”

He raised his brows at that but only murmured, “How much cash you talking?”

“Umm,” I scrambled to recall my deductibles, “uh, five thousand?”

“You don’t sound sure.”

“I’m sure.” I nodded, as if I hadn’t noticed his small smile.

He shrugged. “Deal.”

“Good.” I nodded brusquely again.

Letting out a breath at his easy agreement, I didn’t care if Max was amused. I was happy the negotiations were over--asking for money did not come easy for me.

In the past, James Byrd had offered me business loans to get ahead. Max had offered me cash, no strings attached. I’d stubbornly refused both of them. I liked standing on my own two feet. My take has always been accepting money from friends was the quickest way to lose them, but this was different. This marriage to Max will be the job from hell and I’ll deserve every penny.

Author Bio:
Tracy Ellen was born in Indiana to middle-class parents, the third out of five hellions. She often used her supernatural powers to compel her family members to listen to her talk and tell stories. When that tough crowd laughed of their own free will, Tracy knew the world would someday, somehow be her stage. Now she’s a full-time writer living her dream. Tracy’s resided in the Midwest her whole life--in a small town, on a farm, and in the big city. Currently, she lives in the suburbs of St Paul, Minnesota with her husband and family. Stay in touch by checking out Tracy’s website, and then signing up for her monthly newsletter to be notified of new books coming your way, giveaways, and exclusive content. She also has a fetish about giving fun surprise gifts to her lovely newsletter members every edition. (Hint: She hopes that entices you to her website.)



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