Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Review Tour: Darcy by RJ Scott & Meredith Russell

Title: Darcy
Authors: RJ Scott & Meredith Russell
Series: Boyfriend for Hire #1
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: September 10, 2018
Cover Design: Meredith Russell
Summary:
Darcy’s newest assignment is to play the role of boyfriend to a wealthy socialite, but never expected the intense attraction to his date’s brother. Falling for Adrian is dangerous and certainly not part of the plan.

Adrian has been as unlucky in love as his sister, but he doesn’t approve of hiring a boyfriend, whatever the reason. Until he meets Darcy. Then he comes to realize that love can happen in the most unexpected of ways.

One week. That is all the two men needed to fall in lust, but will they have a lifetime to fall in love?


When Abby walks in looking to hire a boyfriend for a week, she didn't expect someone quite like Darcy.  When Darcy arrives to help Abby keep her family off her back for the week, he certainly didn't expect to meet Adrian.  When Adrian learned his sister was hiring a boyfriend for a family wedding, he never expected someone like Darcy to walk through the door.  Darcy has a way about him that changes everything but will the three of them be able to pull it off and will Darcy and Adrian find more than lust once the week is up?

Darcy, both the character and the book as a whole is just brilliantly fun.  As October nears and my reading tends to veer towards the macabre, Darcy is a wonderful way to "close down" my "non-spookified" listπŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰.  There is just the right amount of drama that keeps this from being a full-on rom-com but only just.  If the authors had added a couple of pratfalls and slapstick scenes I could easily picture Cary Grant as Darcy, Irene Dunne as Abby, and Randolph Scott as Adrian(for those unfamiliar with classic films they are the three lead actors in My Favorite Wife from 1940, rom-com at its finest).  Darcy may not be all laughs and giggles but it left me with more smiles than frowns.

The chemistry between Darcy, Abby, and Adrian is automatic and natural.  What I found to make the story standout was Adrian being in the know from the getgo, it really helped the connection be so much more believable as well as fun.    I should probably mention for those who find insta-love a major turn-off then this might be one you want to hold off on for awhile but not forever.  Now for me, when done well, insta-love is exceptional and in Darcy its definitely done well.  I just want to point out that if you don't believe insta-love can last well I'm living proof it can. My grandfather was discharged from the Army on New Year's Eve 1945, met my grandmother in January 1946 when he dropped his sister off at work, by Valentine's Day they were a definite item, by July they were wed, and still devoted to each other when he died in 1994.  So I love a well written tale of falling fast and by "well written" I mean believable which is what Darcy is: believable, not something you may see happen everyday but still doable.

I don't usually make a point to mention the epilogue but this one is just so lovely I had to give credit to the authors for adding it.  I won't say anything about what's in it but it fit perfectly, having read it I can't imagine the story without it.  I can't wait to see what RJ Scott & Meredith Russell bring us next in their new Boyfriends for Hire series.  Whether future installments will be as fun as Darcy or more angsty won't matter, even if its only half as well told it'll still be amazing, that's just how good I found this series opener to be.  Simply put, Darcy is satisfyingly fun entertainment from cover to cover that put a smile on my face and I couldn't ask for more than that.

RATING:


RJ Scott
RJ’s goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.

RJ is the author of the over one hundred novels and discovered romance in books at a very young age. She realized that if there wasn’t romance on the page, she could create it in her head, and is a lifelong writer.

She lives and works out of her home in the beautiful English countryside, spends her spare time reading, watching films, and enjoying time with her family.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit and has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

She’s always thrilled to hear from readers, bloggers and other writers. Please contact via the following links below.

Meredith Russell
Meredith Russell lives in the heart of England. An avid fan of many story genres, she enjoys nothing less than a happy ending. She believes in heroes and romance and strives to reflect this in her writing. Sharing her imagination and passion for stories and characters is a dream Meredith is excited to turn into reality.


RJ Scott
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Meredith Russell
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September 21 - MM Good Book Reviews 
September 26 - Padme's LibararyMainely Stories 

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Re-Readables 2018: RJ Scott


πŸ’•πŸ“šπŸ’™πŸ“šπŸ’šπŸ“šπŸ’›πŸ“šπŸ’œπŸ“šπŸ’•

I have never been one to do much re-reading, which is surprising because I can re-watch a movie or television show I love endlessly but books just never seemed to interest me for revisiting.  When they introduced audiobooks it gave me a chance to enjoy some of my favorites over and over.  The past few years I guess I've changed and there are some books that have become almost required re-reading, the summer wouldn't be complete without a revisit.

πŸ’•πŸ“šπŸ’™πŸ“šπŸ’šπŸ“šπŸ’›πŸ“šπŸ’œπŸ“šπŸ’•




Overall Series 4th Re-Read Review 2018:
I seriously have no idea what more I can say about Texas that I haven't already.  This is the series that brought me into the world of published M/M genre so Jack & Riley Campbell-Hayes and the Double D universe will always hold a special place in my heart.  No matter how many times I read this series, I always smile, cry, laugh, and just completely escape into their world.  I may never experience that first time adrenaline rush but it still gets my blood pumping and heart racing.  Texas is not just Jack and Riley's journey, yes they are the primary leads but we also get to see their children, their family, their friends all navigate life on and off the ranch.  The Double D has a way of bringing people together, giving them hope and purpose, a fresh start, a place to grow and become who they are meant to be, but at the heart of each story is just that: heart.  When RJ Scott wrote The Heart of Texas, I doubt she had any idea what she started, how far it would go or how many people it would touch but I'm just glad she gave life to Jack and Riley and everything that came from their love.  This is one series that isn't getting old any time soon for me.

Blogger Note: To see my original reviews be sure to click on the above post links.

RATING: 



Overall Trilogy 1st Re-Read Review 2018:
When RJ Scott wrote Liam's journey in Texas Christmas(#5) and the trial in Texas Fall(#6) where we first saw Kyle, Gabriel, and Daniel, I knew that when she wrote their stories they wouldn't be all unicorn and rainbows, they would be stories of hurt, abuse, with tons of angst.  But I also knew that they would be stories of strength, overcoming the past, and happiness.  Kyle, Gabriel, and Daniel are hard stories to read but they are stories worth reading, worth the tears, worth the heartache because at their core they are stories of rebuilding, finding one's self-worth, finding your place in the world, and discovering that no matter how evil the world has been it can also be pretty great.  This is my first time re-reading this trilogy(okay I just re-read Kyle and Gabriel as Daniel was just released this year) and although it may not make my annual re-read list, it won't be the last time I re-visit the boys at Legacy Ranch.

Blogger Note: To see my original reviews be sure to click on the above post links.

RATING: 


Saturday's Series Spotlight: Montana
Part 1  /  Part 2

Overall Series 1st Re-Read Review 2018:
This was my first re-read of Montana and life on the Crooked Tree Ranch(only the first four as Second Chance Ranch was just released) but it won't be my last.  This is another series that may not be a yearly re-read but it'll cross my kindle again and again.  There are so many people involved in these five stories and although each one centers on a new pair, its definitely one that needs to be read in order.  I love how the ranch seems to collect people and gives them a home but its the people already on the ranch that holds everyone together and makes it a loving home.  Some of the entries are pure romance, others hold an edge of mystery, but there's always plenty going on to keep me entertained and coming back.

Blogger Note: To see my original reviews be sure to click on the above post links.

RATING: 

Author Bio:
RJ’s goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.

RJ is the author of the over one hundred novels and discovered romance in books at a very young age. She realized that if there wasn’t romance on the page, she could create it in her head, and is a lifelong writer.

She lives and works out of her home in the beautiful English countryside, spends her spare time reading, watching films, and enjoying time with her family.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit and has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

She’s always thrilled to hear from readers, bloggers and other writers. Please contact via the following links below.


B&N  /  INSTAGRAM  /  TUMBLR
AUDIBLE  /  FB GROUP  /  PINTEREST
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EMAIL: rj@rjscott.co.uk



Texas Series

Legacy Ranch Series

Montana Series

Blog Tour: Ride or Dye by Aimee Nicole Walker

Title: Ride or Dye
Author: Aimee Nicole Walker
Series: Curl Up and Dye Mysteries #6
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: September 12, 2018
Photographer: Wander Aguiar
Cover Design: Jay Aheer at Simply Defined Art
Summary:
Gabe and Josh Roman-Wyatt have been living life in the fast lane. Demanding jobs, precocious twin toddlers, an ever-growing circle of friends, and a menagerie of pets means their home is filled with love and laughter but very few quiet moments for the happy couple. Gabe’s solution is to plan a surprise vacation at a perfect hideaway where the two of them can slow things down and reconnect.

Tarlington House, a historic home located on Edisto Island in South Carolina, hosts an annual murder-mystery event which will allow Josh to use the skills he learned from his all-time favorite television detective to solve the case. The serene setting is perfect for fun days in the sun, passionate lovemaking under the stars, and a healthy wager between husbands to see who can plan the best date. But when the other guests arrive, the guys find themselves surrounded by liars and cheaters who will say or do anything to win, reminding them there’s no place like Blissville.

When a guest is killed during a vicious storm that knocks out the power and phone lines, Josh and Gabe’s murder mystery role-playing becomes a real-life whodunnit. Serve and protect will take on a deeper meaning for Gabe when he’s torn between upholding the law and protecting his husband from a ruthless killer.

Ride or Dye includes sexy sunrises, snarky banter, and swoon-worthy romance. It is the sixth and final book in the Curl Up and Dye Mysteries, which must be read in order. Ride or Dye contains sexually explicit material intended for adults 18 and older.


“THIS ISN’T THE CAR I rented,” I said to the agent at the front desk. “I requested a convertible Mini Cooper and was assured you would have one for me to pick up today. This,” I gestured to the Volkswagen Beetle, “is neither a Mini Cooper nor a convertible.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Roman-Wyatt, there’s obviously been a mistake. Another agent got the orders mixed up and gave your Mini to someone else this morning. I did call and ask them to return the car since they didn’t pay for the upgrade, but they’re halfway to Florida already.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose and inhaled slowly through it, exhaling through my mouth. I’d never be the flexible pretzel Josh was, but I was learning yoga basics to help manage stress. “I understand mistakes are made, but I’d like to know how you’re going to make this up to me?” The Beetle was cute, but there was no way in hell I was driving it all the way to the coast of South Carolina.

“I’m prepared to offer you an upgrade. We have a brand-new luxury vehicle with two moonroofs, top-of-the-line leather seats, and a killer stereo system. I’m willing to let you drive it at no additional cost to you.” “I’ll take it,” I said proudly. I had hoped to surprise Josh with a convertible Mini for this trip, but he wouldn’t turn up his nose at a luxury car. My mind was spinning with all the possibilities as I waited for them to bring the car around. Cadillac? BMW? Audi? I glanced up as a shiny, black minivan pulled up to the door and stopped. I felt sorry for the poor sucker who had to drive it. I don’t care how convenient it would be; a minivan was never going to be in my future.

The young employee who drove the car around the building entered the lobby and made a beeline straight for me. Maybe I needed to spend more time in the weight room if the guy looked at me and instantly thought soccer dad. I’d set him straight as soon as he tried to hand those keys off to me. “Are you Mr. Roman-Wyatt?”

“I am,” I acknowledged, expecting him to say my ride would be brought around next.

“Here are your keys,” he said, holding them out to me. “Let me show you some of the unique features the Chrysler Pacifica has to offer you, sir.”

“Hold up,” I said firmly. “The agent,” I turned and gestured to the counter which was conveniently unoccupied, “told me I was getting a luxury vehicle upgrade since your company gave the car I wanted to the wrong customer this morning.”

“Yeah?” he asked. “That’s a bummer. What did you choose?”

“A convertible Mini Cooper,” I replied.

“A Mini?” He looked me up and down like it was the last car he expected me to rent.

“It was a surprise for my husband.”

“Oh, well, I’m sorry we made a mistake, but I can assure you the Pacifica is the most luxurious minivan on the road.”

“Both my mother and mother-in-law own one to drive our kids around in, so I’m very familiar with it.”

“You’re all set then,” he said with a huge grin, dangling the keys in front of me. “Thanks,” I grudgingly said when I accepted the keys.




Author Bio:
I am a wife and mother to three kids, three dogs, and a cat. When I’m not dreaming up stories, I like to lose myself in a good book, cook or bake. I'm a girly tomboy who paints her fingernails while watching sports and yelling at the referees.

I will always choose the book over the movie. I believe in happily-ever-after. Love inspires everything that I do. Music keeps me sane.


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Ride of Dye #6

Series

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday Morning's Menu: With a Twist by K Evan Coles & Brigham Vaughn


Summary:
Getting dumped is never easy. Even though Will Martin Will knows that Carter is the love of Riley’s life, Will is left nursing a broken heart when his relationship with Riley ends. In an attempt to distract himself, Will throws in himself into teaching at NYU and writing. An invite from Riley to a speakeasy called Under helps Will begin to heal, and he finds himself enjoying both the drinks and the company.

Soon after, he’s shaken by news of his father’s cancer diagnosis and Will reluctantly returns to Long Island to see the man who disowned him after he was outed.

Sparks fly when Will meets his father’s mentee, Republican Senator David Mori, who is both mixed race and openly gay. Will is looking for a no-strings-attached fling and David is leery of getting involved with his mentor’s son, so they keep their affair a secret.

As his father’s health worsens, Will elects to remain in Garden City and his relationship with David grows beyond casual sex. Now, both men must decide how to bridge the divide between them.

Reader advisory: This book contains expressions of homophobia and racism by multiple secondary characters, references to disownment, and descriptions of terminal illness and death of secondary characters.

Series Summary:
Media mogul Jesse Murtagh and bartender Kyle McKee decide to go into business together and open Under Lock & Key, a speakeasy on the upper West Side of Manhattan. The bar, with its secret passphrases and craft liquor cocktails, becomes a sanctuary for Jesse and Kyle’s circle of friends, who gather once a month to catch up with each other and share their experiences.

Under is both hang out and haven for the men who spend time within its walls and their friendships build family ties that are sometimes missing from their own lives. 

Each book in the Speakeasy Series can be read as a standalone novel.


When Will Martin gets an invitation to a new club called Under from his ex, Riley, he never expected to really enjoy himself or the company but he does.  Upon receiving news that his father has been diagnosed with cancer he reluctantly returns to the family home to help his mother and sister care for him.  David Mori has looked up to Senator Martin as a mentor and friend so when he learns of the senator's cancer diagnosis he wants to help.  There's no denying the attraction between Will and David but will they let it become more?  Can Will forgive his father before its too late?

I'm going to jump right out of the gate with this one by saying be sure you have a healthy supply of kleenex handy for this one.  I'm glad we get to learn Will's story.  When we met him in the author's Tidal duology, I can't say I really warmed to him but the deck was stacked against him as far as trying to find happiness with Riley Porter-Wright so I was excited to see his own journey to the HEA(if that's what he's destined forπŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰).  I was really intrigued to see the inner thoughts of an openly gay, mixed race Republican, I can't speak from personal experience but I think the authors were probably pretty spot-on with some of the attitudes David faced.

As my mother's 24/7 caregiver for the past 20+ years I have to say I was a little saddened that it seemed like Will was making all the sacrifices.  With a Twist may be Will and David's love story but I think it's more Will's journey of finding happiness with love, family, and friends.  So on one hand it seems likely that Will would be doing all the life changes but if I was him, I would have a seed of resentment starting in me from doing so, but maybe that's just me and my Irish-Dutch-German stubbornnessπŸ˜‰.  I know David's not really in a position to make the same level of sacrifices at this time but I do believe he is the kind of person who will when the time comes, that time just wasn't within the pages of the story.

Now, having said that you are probably thinking that I didn't like the story.  You could not be further from the truth.  Oh no, I loved With a Twist(and look forward to more adventures and journeys in the Speakeasy series).  Truth is that I was so pulled into Will's relationship with his dad that at times I forgot this was a love story between Will and David.  David is the kind of politician that I think we all want speaking for us: he listens to his constituents and not just the party hullabaloo.  Even though I may not have agreed with Will's level of sacrifice I do love that he grows and discovers that not everything is as we remember it to be, for a stubborn man he is open to learn(reluctantly at times).  I don't think there's any doubt where the couple will end up but the journey getting there is what Twist is all about and for that journey you'll need to read this one for yourself, no spoilers from meπŸ˜‰.

Vaughn & Cole bring to life a horribly mismatched couple that couldn't be more perfect for each other.  Shows us that it takes time and sometimes time isn't always on our side, it might seem cliche but "making the most of the time we have" is an important lesson we all need to be reminded about.  With a Twist is a heartbreaking tale of words we can't take back, regrets because we're too stubborn to step first, and time lost.  But its also a heartwarming tale of reaching out, discovering new friends, and making up for lost time.  Simply put, this is a remarkably entertaining read that will leave you completely enthralled from cover to cover. Truth is, I think that despite my feelings on Will's sacrifices, finding myself so sucked in to the story and not wanting to say goodbye to Will and David says more to the authors' talents than anything I can put into words.

RATING:


June 2014
Will Martin set down his empty mug and flipped to the next page of the New York Times. A familiar profile caught his attention and, despite his better judgment, he read the caption below the photo of two smiling and laughing men in tuxedos.

The year’s hottest gay couple cut a fine figure at the Met premiere last night. Riley Porter-Wright and Carter Hamilton are still going strong. The couple appeared oblivious to those around them as they talked during intermission. They were joined by the former Mrs. Hamilton, who seems to have forgiven Mr. Porter-Wright for stepping into her place. Also there was her new paramour, Robert… The ex-Mrs. Porter-Wright was nowhere to be seen. The couple have been spotted at—

Annoyed, Will threw the newspaper on the coffee table. Everywhere he turned there were reminders of his ex-boyfriend Riley’s happiness with his new love. Well, long-time love, really. Will had competed with Riley’s best friend, Carter, the entire time they’d been together.

But how could Will have competed with a man Riley had loved since college? Riley had left his wife to explore his bisexuality and Carter had ultimately done the same. Will had been foolish for thinking he could offer Riley more than a man who had known him for a decade and a half could.

Will scrubbed a hand through his hair and stood. I need a change of scenery right now, he thought and glanced around the living room of his stylish Manhattan condo.

His laptop screen glowed at him from his desk by the windows. He’d planned to take the morning off and enjoy the gorgeous early June weather, but with edits looming over him and reminders of Riley lurking around the edges of his consciousness, relaxation seemed out of the question.

“Fine, fine,” Will muttered under his breath. “Work it is.”

He filled his cup with coffee, doctored it with cream and sugar and took a seat at his desk. He pulled up his manuscript and scrolled to the place he’d left off—Bernard Schwartz’s appointment as Chief Counsel of the House Legislative Oversight Subcommittee.

Half an hour later, Will’s phone trilled on the desk and he blinked to clear the haze from his brain. Riley flashed across the screen. Speak of the devil, he thought, then immediately chastised himself. Riley wasn’t the problem. Riley loving Carter instead of Will wasn’t even the major issue. Will’s habit of falling for emotionally unavailable men then struggling to get over them was something he desperately needed to change.

Not wanting his ex to sense the turmoil in his head, Will made sure to keep his tone pleasant. “Hey, Riley.”

“Hey, Will. How have you been?”

“Good. Making solid progress on my book.” Will sat back in his chair.

“Oh, that’s right, you’re not teaching during the summer semester, are you?”

“No, I decided to focus on my writing. I’m in the midst of edits, so I’ll be spending the summer cursing at a computer screen while I try not to tear my hair out.”

“What a rewarding career,” Riley said teasingly.

Will chuckled and relaxed a little. He’d always enjoyed Riley’s sense of humor. “I must be a masochist for voluntarily subjecting myself to college students and editors.” Will taught legal history at New York University and had published a handful of well-regarded books on the topic. He suspected Riley hadn’t called to ask about his writing, however. “How’s work? Is your father still pretending you don’t exist at the office?”

“I think he’s hoping I’ll leave Porter-Wright Publishing, to be honest. He and Geneva were polite when Carter and I took the kids to the company picnic but I’m sure it’s only because they were afraid of looking bad.”

“Appearances above all else,” Will muttered. He and Riley had always had that in common. Although at least Will spoke to his mother occasionally and kept in contact with his sister, Olivia. Riley’s relationship with his parents was far worse. “How are things with you and Carter? And the little Hamiltons?”

“Really good.” Will could hear the smile in Riley’s voice. “We all spent last weekend in Southampton at the beach house.”

Riley sounded so happy every time they talked about Carter and his kids. Will’s heart ached, knowing he could never have made Riley that happy, but on the whole he was glad Riley had found the contentment he’d searched for.

“Anyway,” Riley interrupted his thoughts, “I called for a reason. You know Jesse Murtagh and Kyle McKee, right?”

“Vaguely. I met them at Carter’s birthday and Jesse again at your holiday party last winter.”

“Right. Well, they’re opening a speakeasy in a week or so.”

Will laughed. “A speakeasy? That’s intriguing.”

“It’s basically ready to go, and they’ve been inviting friends in to see it and try the cocktails. I called to see if you would like to meet me there tonight. I thought we could grab some drinks and catch up.”

“Just you?”

Riley hesitated. “No. Carter will be there with Jesse and Kyle. Along with six or eight of our friends.”

Will stifled a sigh. “Riley…”

“Hey, I know it’s going to be awkward. But it’s been six months. You and I are doing pretty well with our friendship. So, stop being a fucker and come.”

Will couldn’t prevent the laugh that escaped him. “Well, when you word it that way, how can I possibly resist?”

“No, I don’t mean to be glib. I know this isn’t easy for you, but I don’t want to lose you as a friend.” Riley sounded earnest. “I’m asking a lot, but I’d like for you to be able to hang out with all of us. And hey, maybe you’ll meet the perfect guy there.”

Will snorted. “I’m definitely not looking for the last part, but sure, I’ll come. What time and where am I meeting you?”

* * * * *

Later that evening, Will glanced around Lock & Key, a pub on the edge of the upper West Side in Morningside Heights, where Riley had arranged for them to meet. The floors were scuffed and slightly gritty under his feet and the tables and chairs had seen better days. The pub was entirely ordinary and not at all what Will had expected.

“Have dive bars become your thing?” he asked, mystified.

Riley laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “This is not our destination for the night. Someone Kyle used to work with owns Lock & Key. The speakeasy is underneath.”

Will raised an eyebrow. “Under Lock & Key? Clever.”

“What can I say, my friends are punny.” Riley grinned. “Come on, follow me.” He strode to the end of the bar and opened an unmarked door. Will followed more slowly. At the end of a hallway was an old-fashioned phone mounted on the wall.

Riley picked it up and spoke. “Let me in, you fucker.” He fell silent for a moment then tipped his head back and laughed. “That is the passphrase, you jackass!”

Riley hung up the handset and turned to Will, merriment clearly written across his face. “Jesse,” he said, as if that was explanation enough.

In truth, it probably was. Jesse Murtagh was one of a kind. Part of a powerful media family in Manhattan, he was also pansexual and the biggest flirt Will had ever encountered. Not to mention charming and incredibly handsome—no wonder Carter had been attracted to him. Like Will, Jesse had been left in Riley and Carter’s wake once they’d decided to get together, but Will suspected Jesse had been far less affected.

“Are you coming down or what?” A door opened at the end of the hall and Jesse appeared, a smile lighting his face and making his bright blue eyes twinkle. He glanced over at Will and gave him an appreciative grin.

“Glad you could join us tonight, Will. You’re looking good.”

Will chuckled and stepped forward to offer Jesse his hand. “It’s good to see you too.” Irrepressible flirt notwithstanding, Jesse had a compelling presence. Broad shoulders capped off a tall, lean body and the closely-cropped beard he sported framed full lips. Not Will’s type, but easy on the eyes.

“Think you can manage to not storm off this time?” Jesse asked, raking a hand through his dark-blond hair.

Riley groaned. “Jes…”

Will smiled, despite his stab of discomfort at the reminder of the dramatic ending to his and Riley’s relationship six months prior at a Christmas party. Will had finally realized the futility of his feelings for Riley that night and caused a scene in front of a small group of their combined friends, including Jesse and Carter. Ugh. It hadn’t been one of his finer moments.

“I think I can behave tonight,” he said aloud. “So, a speakeasy, huh? What made you decide to open that?”

Jesse held open the door and allowed Riley and Will to precede him down another long, narrow hallway. “Why not? Kyle wanted to open a bar. We looked at a ton of locations and were bored by all of them, but when our friend Matt mentioned the space under Lock & Key, it all fell into place. Who doesn’t want to own an underground, secret bar?”

“I can’t say it’s ever crossed my mind,” Will admitted. They reached the end of the hall and Riley pushed open another unmarked door to reveal a stairwell. Although well-lit, the walls were painted black and totally bare.

“This is the problem with you, Will,” Jesse said. “You’re so buttoned up. You need to live a little.”

“Well I’m spending the evening at a speakeasy with you,” Will said as he followed Riley down the stairs. “Will that do for now?”

Jesse laughed. “TouchΓ©.”

Riley pushed open a door at the bottom of the steps and the sight of the bar rendered Will mute.

In sharp contrast to the run-down bar above, the speakeasy was stylish and welcoming. Open shelves on the walls were filled with bottles of liquor. Inlaid floors were topped with sleek leather and metal furniture, and candles in votives glowed on the tables. The mellow music and subdued lighting lent the space an atmosphere of sophisticated relaxation.

Astonished, Will glanced over at Jesse. “This is incredible. I’m impressed.”

“You have good taste, I’ll give you that.” Jesse grasped his shoulder and squeezed. “C’mon, let me get you a drink.”

As Will crossed the room to the bar, Riley slipped into a spot beside Carter on the leather sofa. Will tried to hide a wince as Carter reached for Riley’s knee and squeezed it without pausing in conversation.

“Wistful or vaguely nauseated?” Jesse asked as he took a seat on one of the bar stools.

Will glanced at him. “Excuse me?”

“Was the look because you wish you had that with Riley or because you’re grossed out by two people being disgustingly in love?”

“A little of both, I suppose.” Will had nothing against relationships, but they were starting to seem like a pipe dream for him.

A man appeared behind the bar and Will easily recognized him as Carter’s friend, Kyle.

“Will, right?” he said, holding out a hand. “Kyle McKee.”

“Yeah, hi. We met at Carter’s birthday dinner.”

Kyle smiled. “It’s nice to see you again.”

They shook and Will gave Kyle a once-over. Kyle was easily six feet tall, with broad shoulders, thick dark hair trimmed short on the sides, and heavy but well-groomed brows over dark eyes. Unlike Jesse, Kyle was very much Will’s type. Except for the suspenders he wore over his crisp gray shirt and his rolled-up sleeves. Kyle pulled them off better than most, but the look screamed hipster too much for Will’s tastes.

“Great place you have here.” Will glanced around. “I like it.”

“Thanks.” Kyle’s eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled. “I’m pleased to hear it. A speakeasy wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I told Jesse I wanted to open a bar, but I’m glad I decided to go for it.”

Jesse grinned. “When will all of you learn my ideas are always brilliant?”

“Probably never.” Kyle turned back to Will. “So, what can I get you? We have a wide selection of beer, wine and cocktails.” He slid a leather-bound book in Will’s direction.

Will perused it for a moment before he closed the cover. “You know what? Surprise me. Make me a cocktail.”

“Hmm. I can do that. Anything you particularly dislike?”

“Anything too sweet. And Amaretto.”

Kyle scrutinized Will for a moment before his eyes gleamed. “Got it.”

Will watched with interest as Kyle pulled a glass out of the freezer and mixed together cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. A few moments later, Kyle poured it into a glass, topped it with a twist of lemon and slid the drink across the bar to him. “Sidecar. Tell me what you think.”

Will raised the glass to his lips and took a sip. He found the drink refreshingly cold and a perfect blend of sour and sweet with a fresh citrusy taste balanced nicely by the cognac. “That’s delicious.”

Kyle grinned. “Excellent.”

“C’mon.” Jesse picked up a tumbler filled with amber-colored liquid and a large spherical ice cube. It clinked pleasantly as he moved. “Let’s go hang out with the guys.”

The majority of the patrons were part of Riley and Carter’s group, spread out across two leather sofas and a handful of chairs that made a square seating area around a finely crafted wood coffee table. Riley leaned forward and set his martini glass down. Will placed his own drink on a table and pulled up a chair.

“Everyone, this is Will Martin. Some of you met him at Carter’s birthday and a few of you met him over the holidays. I’ll introduce everyone, though.”

Will gave him a brief smile. “Thanks.”

“You know Carter, obviously.” Carter nodded in greeting and Will returned it. “Next to Carter is his sister, Audrey.” A tan blonde woman gave him a smile over a martini glass filled with something frothy and yellow. “And Audrey’s husband, Max.” An attractive, bearded man with brown hair and light brown eyes raised a pilsner glass in greeting.

Riley continued around the circle. “Gale, Jarrod, Henry and Miles are friends of Carter’s.” The men waved and murmured their hellos.

“You seem outnumbered here, Audrey,” Will said.

She grinned at him. “I’m not complaining. My brother has some very good-looking friends.”

Her husband elbowed her. “What am I? Chopped liver?”

“Never, darling. But I see you every day.”

Kyle seated himself at an empty chair across the group. “You’re a law professor, right, Will?”

Will nodded and took a sip of his drink. “Yes, at NYU. I’m spending the summer working on my latest book.”

“What do you write?” Max asked. “I’d love to hear about it.”

Will chuckled. “You may regret you asked, but I’m currently writing about the Chief Counsel of the House Legislative Oversight Subcommittee.”

“So, political law then?”

“I couldn’t totally avoid the family business,” Will said dryly.

Audrey frowned. “You have a family member who’s a politician?”

“My father.” Will made a face. “And a Republican at that.”

“How does that work at family dinners?” Audrey asked. “I thought my parents and Carter were bad, but at least they’re not pushing discriminatory legislation.”

“I haven’t spoken to him since college, to be honest.” Will took a fortifying sip of his sidecar. “I see my mother and sister on occasion, but never when he’s around.”

Riley shot him a sympathetic smile.

“Sorry to pry,” Audrey said with an apologetic glance. “I’ve been battling my parents about them shutting Carter out and that’s difficult enough.”

“Ancient history.” Will waved off her apology. “What do you do, Audrey?”

“I chair several philanthropic organizations. And I recently got involved with PFLAG.” She exchanged a look with her brother.

Jesse leaned forward. “Beautiful and socially aware? Be still, my beating heart. If Max hadn’t met you first…” Jesse took a sip of his drink. “That goes both ways, Max.”

Max chuckled and Carter rolled his eyes. “We’ve had this discussion before, Jesse. No hitting on my sister or my brother-in-law, please. And definitely not both at once.”

A chorus of laughter rose. Riley chimed in with a humorous comment as Will relaxed back in his chair and sipped his drink, enjoying the banter flying around the room. He’d been far too antisocial since the breakup and he was glad he’d taken Riley up on his invitation.

* * * * *

A few hours later, Will reluctantly excused himself. He’d had a wonderful time and had enjoyed the witty conversation. It had left him feeling lighter and more relaxed than he had in a while. “I’m going to head home. I have an early game of racquetball planned with Charles tomorrow. I had a great night,” Will said. “Thanks for inviting me, Riley. Carter.”

“I’m glad you came,” Carter said with a nod. He offered Will a sincere smile that crinkled the corners of his hazel eyes and Will grudgingly admitted he could see Carter’s appeal. His jealousy had blinded him too much to appreciate Carter’s broad-shouldered, long-legged build and handsome face before.

Will said goodnight to everyone and Jesse stood to shake his hand. “Please come back any time. I’ll add your name to the list, so even if Kyle and I aren’t here, you’ll be let in. We do have a seat limit of forty and try to keep private events on the smaller side, but feel free to bring a friend or two. Especially if they’re hot and single.” He winked. “And maybe save that for when I’m here.”

“Jesse!” Carter sounded exasperated and Will couldn’t hide his smile.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” he said.

“We’re trying to turn this into a regular thing,” Kyle said. “Riley and I had the idea of meeting here the third Thursday of every month. Nothing formal, and if you can’t make it, no problem, but it would be great if you could join us.”

“I’ll try to make it,” Will said. “And thanks for a great evening. You make a mean sidecar.”

“Any time,” Kyle responded.

Will turned to leave. “I’ll walk you up,” Riley said. He fell into step behind Will.

“Tell Charles I said hi,” Riley said as they walked up the stairs.

“I will.”

“How are he and Gabe doing?”

“Good. They’re both pretty busy right now. Charles is teaching classes this summer and Gabe is looking into opening another restaurant.” Charles was an ex of Will’s, and one of his closest friends and a colleague at NYU. Charles had married Gabe the summer before, and Gabe owned a high-end Vietnamese restaurant in Tribeca, not far from Will’s home.

“You’re welcome to bring them to Under anytime,” Riley said. “If you think they’d be okay with that.”

Will pushed open the door leading into Lock & Key. “I’m sure Gabe will be. Charles is still holding a bit of a grudge,” he said. Will and Riley’s breakup had rocked Riley’s friendship with Gabe and Charles.

Riley sighed. “I deserve it.”

“No, I should talk to him. You and I have mended some fences. There’s no reason he needs to continue to shut you out.” Will walked through the exit of the bar and turned to Riley when they stepped onto the sidewalk out front. “Thanks for inviting me tonight.”

“I’m glad you came. I know it was asking a lot but—”

Will cut off Riley’s statement. “I meant it when I said I wanted us to be friends. You’re happy with Carter and I’m happy for you. Honestly, it’s been great hanging out with you guys and your friends.”

“I’m relieved to hear it,” Riley said with a smile. He leaned in, then hesitated and Will closed the distance to hug him.

“Have a good night, Riley.”

“Night, Will.”

Riley disappeared back through the door of Lock & Key and Will sighed. Hugging Riley left him with a bittersweet feeling, but he was glad he’d come to check out the speakeasy. And he’d meant it when he said he’d try to come back on Thursday evenings in the future. He’d needed some time to lick his wounds and recover, but his self-imposed isolation only made his loneliness worse.

He glanced up and down the street. There wasn’t a cab in sight so he pulled out his phone and brought up the Lyft app. He leaned against the wall of the brick building while he waited and a few minutes later a car slid to a stop in front of him.

Will made small-talk with the driver as the car traveled from Morningside Heights back to Tribeca. When they got caught in a traffic snarl near Central Park West because of a protest, Will took out his phone to kill the time. He was scrolling through articles on a news app when his phone vibrated in his hand.

Mom flashed across the screen and he hesitated before he accepted the call.

“Hey, Mom,” he answered.

“Will.” Agnes Martin’s voice sounded strained, with none of the usual groomed sophistication it typically held.

He straightened. “Is something wrong?”

“Will, your father…” Her breath hitched. “I have some news. Your father has been ill lately.”

Serves the old bastard right, Will thought grimly. “Ill?” he said aloud.

“Tired, losing weight, stomach pain. At first, we blamed his stress. He’s been working so hard lately—”

Yeah, probably passing more anti-LGBT legislation, Will thought.

“But when we noticed some yellowing of his eyes, we got concerned. We were hopeful it was a gallbladder issue, but after some testing, we were referred to an oncologist.”

His breath caught. Oncologist? Shit. “He has cancer?”

“Yes. He has something called a—a non-functioning neuroendocrine tumor. Pancreatic cancer. It’s quite large and the doctors are concerned it’s spread to some nearby lymph nodes. It’s stage III and the—the prognosis isn’t good.”

Will took a moment to let the words sink in, but didn’t feel much of anything about the news. A wave of guilt washed over him. “I’m sorry, Mom,” he said gently. She loved his father and while Will had many, many issues with William Martin Sr. as a father and an elected official, he had always treated Will’s mother well. There had never been a hint of infidelity and after Agnes had suffered a serious car accident years ago, Bill hadn’t left her side until she’d recovered. “I know how hard this must be for you.”

His mother sniffled. “I can’t lose him. I know you and your father have your…differences but—”

“We don’t have differences,” he retorted. Any goodwill he’d felt dissipated. “He detests me. He thinks I am less deserving of the same basic human rights he affords everyone else. That’s more than an ideological difference, Mom, that’s a complete lack of respect for me as a human being.”

“Come to Garden City,” she blurted out and the words rang in his ear for several seconds before he could process them.

“What? You must be kidding,” he said. “You can’t think I’d come to Long Island to sit by his deathbed and hold his hand.” He winced. His cruel words served only to remind Agnes her husband was probably dying. “I’m sorry, Mom, but I can’t do it. I can’t pretend like everything is fine between us. We haven’t spoken in over ten years and it’s not only because I’m pissed at him. He’s the one who cut me out of his life, remember?”

“He wants you here,” she said softly. Agnes had used the same tone during Will’s years growing when she tried to get him to do something he didn’t want to do.

Will sat back in his seat. “Really?”

“I asked him if you could come home and he said yes.”

Well, that was more plausible than Will’s father specifically asking for him to come home. He sighed. “I-I don’t know. I suppose I could come for a long weekend or something. School’s out and I could work on my edits while I’m there.”

Agnes went silent for a moment. “I hoped you’d stay longer. Your father is undergoing surgery next week, but it’ll be exhausting for all of us. If the surgery doesn’t work, we may only have a few months left with him.” Her voice broke.

“You want me to spend the entire summer in Long Island?” he asked, incredulous.

“Please, Will. If you won’t come for your father, come home for Olivia and me. Your sister and I need you. We can’t do this alone.”

Will glanced out of the window, surprised the bright lights of the city were blurred by tears. He wasn’t sure who they were for.

“I’ll think about it, Mom.”





K Evan Coles
K. Evan Coles is a mother and tech pirate by day and a writer by night. She is a dreamer who, with a little hard work and a lot of good coffee, coaxes words out of her head and onto paper.

K. lives in the northeast United States, where she complains bitterly about the winters, but truly loves the region and its diverse, tenacious and deceptively compassionate people. You’ll usually find K. nerding out over books, movies and television with friends and family. She’s especially proud to be raising her son as part of a new generation of unabashed geeks.

K.’s books explore LGBTQ+ romance in contemporary settings.

Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn is on the adventure of a lifetime as a full-time writer. She devours books at an alarming rate and hasn’t let her short arms and long torso stop her from doing yoga.  She makes a killer key lime pie, hates green peppers, and loves wine tasting tours. A collector of vintage Nancy Drew books and green glassware, she enjoys poking around in antique shops and refinishing thrift store furniture. An avid photographer, she dreams of traveling the world and she can’t wait to discover everything else life has to offer her.

Her books range from short stories to novellas. They explore gay, lesbian, and polyamorous romance in contemporary settings.


K Evan Coles
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