Building a Home (Harrington Hills #2) – Excerpt

The pre-order for Building a Home will be up on Pride Publishing website on August 30th, so a week from now. To celebrate the upcoming release, today I’m sharing an excerpt from the book!

First, though, look at that pretty cover one more time:

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Dating a younger guy wasn’t anywhere in Zack’s plans,
but can he ignore the instincts of his wolf?

Zack Harrington noticed David Dewitt the day the guy showed up in Harrington Hills, but their first meeting was far from perfect. A few months later, Zack still can’t forget about him, and now that the two of them belong to the same pack, their paths cross even more. The problem is, David is barely twenty-two, and Zack still remembers how stupid he was at that age.

David knows he’s young, but he’s tired of hearing about it all the time. He’s not a kid, and he hates being treated like one, even—or especially—by the hot deputy sheriff. But as they get to know each other better and the sparks between them turn hotter, David’s willing to forgive and forget.

Can they move past the age difference and their own personal hang-ups? Or will they ultimately fall into a trap of miscommunication and hiding?

GR add

And here’s the excerpt:

David hadn’t cared about joining a new pack at first. He and Charlie had spent years without one and, as far as David was concerned, they would be fine like that going forward, too. But Charlie had really wanted this. And since he’d done so much for David in the past, saying yes, when Charlie had finally come to ask, was a no-brainer. David would never be able to fully pay off the debt to his brother, but he could do this.

By the time the Joining Ceremony rolled around, David was actually into the idea. After being invited to a few celebrations and getting to know the locals better, he was happy that if they were going to be a part of a pack, they would end up in this one. Most of the people he came into contact with in Harrington Hills seemed really nice.

And by ‘most of the people’, David meant everyone except Zachary Harrington, one of the sheriff’s deputies, whose picture could be in the dictionary under the definition of Hot and Angry.

They’d met during David’s first visit to the town, after he’d picked up a last-minute job for a wedding party. David had noticed Zack as soon as the man had gotten out of the sheriff’s cruiser and headed his way. The deputy was hot and very tall, and his uniform fit nicely over what looked like the body of a seasoned football player. David spent his days working in construction, and he could only dream of shoulders like that.

The spell had broken right after the guy had opened his mouth.

“You’re the boss here?” he’d asked in that disbelieving tone that always made David grit his teeth. He’d managed to be civil only because it had been his first day and the guy had worn a uniform. The fact that he’d introduced himself as Zachary Harrington helped as well.

They hadn’t exchanged more than a hello ever since, but David still couldn’t forget and move on. Any time he saw Zack now, he was torn between the impulse to walk away without looking back and a desire to confront him, to walk up to him and give him a piece of his mind about not assuming things about people.

Meanwhile, his wolf just wanted to rub his muzzle all over Zack.

Which he almost—almost—got to do during the Joining Ceremony. When the big, black wolf walked up to him and he looked into those clear blue eyes, David had no doubt about who it was. He felt like they stared at each other for a long time, but then Zack looked away and let out a huff that David didn’t know how to interpret. Did he have a problem with David joining the pack? Or was it something else? David wasn’t a pushover, and he had pissed off a few people over the years, but, as far as he knew, he didn’t usually rub people the wrong way right from the start.

He didn’t usually react to others like he did to Zack, either, though, so maybe they both were just destined for a collision of some kind.

But then Zack stepped closer and brushed his shoulder against David’s, and David had to push his claws into the ground to stop himself from dropping down. He drew a deep breath, hoping to calm himself, but then Zack’s scent hit him—metal and coffee, and something he couldn’t decipher—and it just made things worse. When Zack pulled back, David leaned slightly to the side to follow, but caught himself in time. He was in a very public place and he was the center of attention. It was the worst time to act crazy like that.

Available soon on Pride Publishing website

Press & Hold (D.C. Files #3) – The Excerpt

Press & Hold comes out in a week, so it’s time for an excerpt!

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Stevie Callan is the personal assistant of the White House Chief of Staff and knows all the reasons why dating someone from the press corps is a bad idea. Faced with all the British charm of one of the best reporters in D.C., Stevie’s resolve crumbles, but soon after he finally crosses the line they’ve been balancing on for months now, the news about his father’s illness put everything into question.

Will Newbrough hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Stevie for months and now it finally looks like they may get their shot. But with the new story that falls into his lap, he’s risking more than he imagined when Stevie gets dragged into the middle of it.

When everything they were afraid of becomes real, will there be anything left to recover?

*The book is a part of D.C. Files series and I believe it’s best to read it as a continuation, but it can also be read as a stand-alone.

 

THE EXCERPT

Will smiled as he stepped into Stevie’s domain and the smile only got bigger when he saw Stevie at the desk, clicking away on the computer.

“Trying to double the work flow?” Will asked and Stevie glanced up, corners of his lips twitching.

“I wish. I’m just finishing a few things.”

Will nodded and shoved his hands into his jacket pockets. “You’ll only be gone on Monday, right?”

Stevie nodded, looking back at the screen. “Yes. I’m flying back Monday night, and I’ll be here bright and early Tuesday morning.”

“Good,” Will said softly. “We’ll miss you.”

The tips of Stevie’s ears turned red and Will congratulated himself. Stevie looked very young and at the beginning of this administration people foolishly thought they could walk all over him to get to the Chief of Staff. But they were in for a surprise— Stevie Callan had been strict and protective of Sam’s time, and he had never hesitated to politely kick someone to the curb if needed. Will was delighted every time he got to see Stevie in action, see how he could go from an easy soft smile to a cold and unyielding stare. Stevie always tried to keep his cool while he worked, so every time Will managed to get a reaction—a blush or a bite on his lower lip—it felt like a victory. Like something special, just for him.

“Naomi will be here.” Stevie glanced up. “Don’t pester her while I’m gone.”

As if. “I don’t have any intentions of doing so.” Stevie had to know by now Will didn’t come over here to see the chief of staff ’s assistant. Will was not the most subtle guy on the planet.

“Good.”

Will nodded at the empty chair usually occupied by a Secret Service agent from Sam’s personal detail. “Michael’s gone for the day?”

“Probably.” Stevie had the ability to not give a straight answer to any of his questions that were even remotely related to Sam’s work. More often than not, he wouldn’t even tell Will things that were public knowledge. It would be frustrating if Will had actually been trying to pry something out of Stevie, but he hadn’t, for reasons he’d wasted months refusing to acknowledge.

“Great,” Will said, sitting on Michael’s chair and grinning at the look it got him. “Do you mind?”

Stevie stared at him for a long moment with raised eyebrows. “Are you going to behave?”

Do you want me to behave? Will wanted to ask, but he knew better. The last thing he needed was to scare Stevie off. “I always behave,” he said in the end.

It earned him a chuckle. “Sure you do.”

“Ouch.”

“Shut up.”

Stevie got back to work after that and Will stared. He’d wondered time and time again what it was about Stevie that made it impossible for Will to stop thinking about him. The man was handsome, no question about it, with his lithe body and light brown hair that framed his face in a way that softened the sharp lines of his jaw. He was shorter than Will, shorter than average, probably, but he never hesitated to stand toe to toe with anyone trying to steamroll him.

And then there was his smile. Will had finally decided that if he had to choose one thing, it would probably be just that— Stevie’s soft, dimpled smile. Will first saw it a few weeks after the inauguration when he was waiting for Liam Turner, the White House Press Secretary, in the lobby. He’d been checking his email to kill time, when he heard loud laughter coming from the entrance. Will’s head shot up and he watched Sam Daniels coming in with Stevie by his side and Michael shadowing them. Sam was the one laughing, the one who dragged the attention to them, but it was Stevie’s smile that made Will unable to look away. He’d seen Sam’s assistant before once or twice but it hadn’t been until that moment that he’d really noticed him. And once he had, he didn’t want to stop.

That was how it started. The next day Will found Stevie in the White House cafeteria and asked if he could join him. Stevie was obviously suspicious of his intentions and the initial conversation had been stilted, but Will’s stupid comment how the cafeteria staff had to be Republicans for sure, since they were clearly trying to get rid of them all, made Stevie snort and relax a fraction. Will had been coming up with excuses to see Stevie ever since, even if he didn’t really need one by now. At this point, everyone in the building knew Will was not wandering off to the restricted area to spy on the administration. Aside from a few weeks before the big announcement about the education reform, when they’d been trying to make sure there’d be no last minute leaks, most of the staff let him be.

“Stop staring,” Stevie told him, glancing at Will briefly before getting back to his filing.

Will sighed exaggeratedly. “‘Shut up,’ ‘stop staring,’ a guy could take it the wrong way, you know.”

“Or the right one,” Stevie threw back, but Will knew by now when he was teasing.

“I won’t see you till Tuesday.”

Stevie chuckled. “So you have to memorize me? You’re not going to forget what I look like in three days.”

Will nodded. “No. I definitely won’t.”

 

Leading Me Home Is Out! (+Excerpt)

As of today, Leading Me Home, the first book in Harrington Hills series, is available for Early Download at Pride Publishing website HERE.

You may also pre-order Leading Me Home on Amazon here: US | UK | DE | CA. The general release date is February 16th.

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Pretending to date the guy he has a crush on?
Kevin’s sure he’s heading for a disaster. A broken heart, at least.

Kevin has been a lone wolf almost his entire life and he’s comfortable with that. Now that he no longer works for the guy he hated, Kevin has only one problem – his crush on his neighbor and best friend.

Taylor is the Alpha’s Son, the heir to the Harrington Pack. He left his hometown and moved to San Francisco as a rite of passage, but it was always temporary, since his place is in Harrington Hills with his pack. Now Taylor is heading back home for a wedding and since his mother threatens to set him up if he comes alone, he needs a date. Asking Kevin to be his pretend boyfriend sounds like a perfect solution.

What happens when they arrive in Harrington Hills and learn to see each other in a different light? With their relationship changing, can they drop the act and realize what they have is real?

 

THE EXCERPT

Two weeks into his unemployment, Kevin was yet to regret being fired. His sleep
schedule was finally somewhat stable and he enjoyed being at home every night, where his
main task was to catch up on all the shows he’d missed when he was tending the bar.
He was about to reach for the last slice of leftover pizza when he heard knocking on the
door. The familiar signal—two quick knocks followed by two more after a short pause—
meant Kevin already knew who was outside.
“Everything’s all right?” he asked as he opened the door and let Taylor in. They’d lived
next to each other for over a year and a half now, and they regularly dropped by each other’s
places at various hours of the day, but five to midnight was pretty late, even for them.
“Aren’t you supposed to be buried under the deadlines?”
“Two projects down, one to go.” Taylor flopped down onto the couch and grabbed the
last slice of pizza. “It’s cold,” he said, scrunching his nose, but that didn’t stop him from
taking a bite.
“No one forces you to eat it.” Kevin rolled his eyes and sat down in his place on the
couch. “What’s up? Deadline jitters?” He’d witnessed it happen countless of times by now.
There was always a point when the stress of running time hinged on the threshold of a
nervous breakdown and Taylor’s manic energy had to get out somehow. The fastest way to
deal with it would be to change and run as a wolf, but they were living in the middle of a city
not really known for its wolf population, so that option was rarely on the table.
“I got a call from home.” Taylor burrowed deeper into the couch cushions and Kevin
was sure that even if he weren’t a werewolf, he would be able to sense Taylor’s unease.
“Mom A has informed me that if I come to the wedding alone, she will stage an
intervention—in the form of presenting me to all eligible bachelors from our pack.”
Kevin told himself that the sudden roll in his stomach came from too much pizza and a
reaction to Taylor’s stress. It was most certainly not from anything even remotely close to
jealousy at the thought of a bunch of men fighting for Taylor’s attention. He put his feet on
the coffee table slowly. “Isn’t she going to be too busy with the wedding?”
Taylor finished chewing another bite before speaking again. “She’ll never be too busy to
try to bully me into dating.”
“Lovely,” Kevin muttered. He knew she was both Taylor’s mom and his pack’s Alpha,
but there should be some limits.
“I need to find someone to go with me.” Taylor stared at the ceiling. “Who do we know
that could do this?”
Kevin shook his head. “Stop it. It’s insane.”
“Most of my friends are taken, damn it,” Taylor continued as if he hadn’t heard him
and Kevin wondered if there was even any point in trying to reason with the crazy person
his best friend obviously was.
“You don’t need a date,” he tried one more time.
“Yes, I do. You don’t know my mother.”
Kevin sighed. “Listen, I get that you want to make your mother happy. She’s your
mom. She’s your Alpha. I get it. But you don’t have to do everything she wants you to do.”
He’d heard a lot of stories about Taylor’s family and pack, and they all seemed nice. It was
obvious Taylor cared about them. But sometimes it seemed like he didn’t see anything else.
“It’s just a wedding. You’re allowed to go alone.”
“I don’t want to go alone if I have to endure my mother’s terrible attempts at setting me
up.” Taylor winced. “She tried once, when I was in high school. Let’s just say it didn’t end up
well.”
“You’re not in high school anymore!”
Taylor shrugged. “I still don’t want to risk it.” Then he sat up straight. “Wait, you’re
free! You can come with me! That’s it, that’s the solution.”
Kevin gaped at him for a moment, frozen in place. What the hell?

_______

The book is available from Pride Publishing HERE.

SL Earthquake: Derek & Hayden – The Excerpt

My Storming Love: Earthquake story, Derek & Hayden, comes out in a week, so – as tradition dictates – it’s time for an excerpt!

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When two men with complicated past meet at the conference in Alaska, things are already on shaky ground.

Derek Warden is certain his boss sent him to cover the conference in the middle of nowhere, Alaska, to punish him for something. After an unpleasant phonecall from his father who tries to stop him from going, Derek is ready for the whole thing to be over before it even begins.
Hayden Shaw has been looking forward to this conference for months. The problem of fracking is very dear to his heart and he couldn’t wait to spend the long weekend with like-minded people.
Neither of them expected the big earthquake, but most importantly – they didn’t expect each other. Meeting again after over a decade may result in something even more surprising that the ground trembling under their feet.

THE EXCERPT

Derek Warden wouldn’t have called himself a city boy before, but now as he was driving through the Alaskan forest to a little resort in the middle of nowhere, he began to reconsider. He had nothing against nature and wilderness, but there was something spooky about the deserted road shadowed by the thick forest on both sides. Glancing up to the overcast sky, Derek almost wished he had somebody with him, until four crows suddenly flew from the trees on his left, screeching loudly, and he jolted in his seat.
Yeah, no. He was glad nobody was here to see that.
Derek wondered what he had done this time to piss off his boss so much, since he was sure sending him to this conference was her revenge for something. He had protested as soon as he heard the word “fracking”, knowing full well that his father would blow a gasket when he found out. Unfortunately, Jane had just rolled her eyes and told him to put on his big boy pants and stop worrying about his senator daddy. Derek had been tempted to tell her to shove it, but didn’t want to give her the satisfaction.
So here he was, on his way to waste most of his week listening to a bunch of environmentalists go on and on about the dangers of fracking. As if there was something new they could be saying that hadn’t been said a hundred times before or that he couldn’t pull from the web. Or from memory. God knew he had heard it all years ago.
A face he hadn’t thought about for years appeared in his mind and Derek tightened his grip on the wheel. Those were not memories he wanted to relive. His phone started ringing and Derek was glad for the distraction until he glanced at the screen and saw his father’s ID. He considered not picking up, but that would only delay the inevitable and at least now no one would overhear it. Derek turned off the music and pressed the green button.
“Hello, Father.”
“Please tell me you are not on your way to that bullshit conference!” One thing Derek and his dad had in common was that they both preferred to get right to the point; although Derek liked to believe his approach was less hostile than that of his father.
“I thought we talked about you spying on me,” he said, straightening in his seat. He rolled his shoulders to relax, since he didn’t want to be stiff all day tomorrow. His hip was going to give him hell anyway and that was more than enough.
“I wouldn’t need to keep tabs on my own son if he was smart
enough not to cause me problems.” “I’m not causing you any problems, I’m doing my job. It’s not like I’m working for The Washington Post, Jesus. And you’re not a freshman senator, something like this won’t even show up on
any radar.”
His father snorted. “Shows how much you know. This kind of thing always get noticed.”
“I’m not advocating for either side.” If he was to take a stand on fracking, his father wouldn’t like the results, but Derek wasn’t interested in starting another war.
“It’s political activism disguised as a scientific conference!”
“So it’s the kind that will never make the front page and you know it.” Less than five minutes of talking to his father and he already itched for a smoke. Dammit. “Is there anything else you wanted?”
“I wanted to remind you not to disappoint me again, but I should have known that’s too much to ask for.” His father ended the call and Derek was left to listen to the silence as he stared at the road ahead of him.
Some things would never change.

§ § § §

The resort looked dwarfed by the expanse of forest around it, but on the inside it turned out to be spacious. There were two big common rooms on the ground floor, separated by the lobby with a wide staircase and an elevator, and the restaurant in the back visible through the glass door. From what Derek could see at the first glance around the aread as he waited for the receptionist to end the call, there were about thirty people mingling around.
Yeah, Dad, a real threat to you and your fourth term, he thought and ran a hand over his buzz cut. Derek hoped he wasn’t going to be the only reporter here, but he wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be the case. Maybe the rest of his kind had better and less vindictive bosses.
“Good afternoon and welcome to the Alaskan Moonlight Resort, how can I help you?” The receptionist was a young woman, probably around twenty-five, and her name tag said “Susan” with a small drawing of a pine twig underneath the
name.
“Hi, my name is Derek Warden and I’m here for the conference.”
Her professional smile transformed as her eyebrows shot up. “You don’t look like a scientist.”
Derek swallowed a sigh and smirked instead. “I will take that as a compliment.”
Susan blinked a few times in quick succession and turned pink as if she just realized what she said. “It was meant like a compliment, since you stand out from the crowd. But I apologize,” she told him before turning to her computer. “I will check you in right away.”
Derek waited in silence, but when he took his key card from her, he smiled. “You were right, by the way. I’m not a scientist, I’m a reporter.”
She nodded politely, but he could tell she was still embarrassed. Well, he’d tried to be nice, there was nothing more he could do.
He picked his backpack from the ground and threw it over his shoulder. “Thank you,” he said to Susan before turning away.
“Mister Warden,” her voice stopped him and he faced her again. “Please be advised, we’ve been experiencing minor earthquakes in the last few days. It’s quite common around here, but can be surprising for the visitors from out of state.”
This trip’s just getting better and better. He thanked Susan and left her desk. He glanced at the key card sleeve. Room 203, and another pine twig drawing. Derek took a few steps to the staircase before he looked up as he heard someone going down the stairs quickly, only to come face-to-face with Hayden Shaw.
And that was the moment the ground started to shake.

*
Buy links to various retailers HERE.
*
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And if you want to follow our entire series of stand-alones connected by the same earthquake, keep an eye on this page or on my Facebook, since I’ll be sharing the links to all the titles.

DC#1 Serve & Protect – The Excerpt

Serve & Protect comes out in a week!
I’m very excited and I can’t wait to hear what you think about this book. And since the clock is ticking and May 29th gets closer and closer, I’m sharing the excerpt below.

Serve and Protect Cover

What happens when you fall in love in the heart of politics?

Sam Daniels’ life turns upside down when he meets an amazing guy and gets a job offer he can’t refuse almost at the same time. Working in politics and sustaining any kind of personal life is never easy, but when you’re running a campaign to elect the first woman to the office of the President of the United States, it may become nearly impossible.
Blake Morin, after spending years as a SEAL, lives a quiet life with his daughter and he’s fine with that. He can’t deny the attraction between him and Sam, but is he ready to enter the world he used to avoid?

THE EXCERPT

Sam slid down in his booth at Seagal’s, the back of his neck resting on the top of the seat. He breathed out in relief and tried to will his muscles to relax just a little bit. The beer was getting warmer on the table, but he didn’t care. He just needed a break after a long day, that was it. Even warm beer couldn’t spoil the fact that he could sit here and do nothing for half an hour or so. Fifteen minutes, at the least.
Seagal’s was the only place close to his office without a TV, and Sam loved them for it. He couldn’t rest when there was news playing in the background.
“Bad day?” someone asked, and Sam looked up to see a tall guy standing next to the table with a beer in his hand.
“You know what they say.” Sam tilted his head and gestured for the man to sit down. The place was busy, so there weren’t a lot of empty chairs around, and Sam wasn’t an asshole. Besides, the guy was really hot—tall, with short, light brown hair and eyes Sam didn’t want to look away from. He straightened in his seat, trying to seem less like he had been chewed on by a dog. “The only easy day was yesterday.”
The guy sat down and raised his eyebrows. “SEALs say that. Did you serve?”
“Not in the military, no.” Sam shook his head. “I work in a senator’s office. You can say that we don’t have many easy todays either. Did you serve?”
“In the military, yes.” The corners of the guy’s lips turned up a little and Sam relaxed, smiling back. “SEAL, actually. Blake Morin.”
Sam shook the extended hand and there was maybe a two second delay when they just looked at each other. Maybe. “Sam Daniels.” He felt awake now, an adrenaline rush at the spark of interest was enough to wake him up.
“We don’t need to talk if you’re not up for it,” Blake offered, but Sam shook his head.
“I’m fine. It’s just one of those days that went on too long. I need to recharge before going home.” It was counter-intuitive for some people, but Blake nodded like he got it.
“At least it’s Friday tomorrow,” he said. “Or do you guys work around the clock?”
“We do when we have to. Not this weekend, though. It’s just…” Sam paused and shrugged, looking at the bottle he was holding, the label scratched at the corner.
“A bad day,” Blake finished for him and sat back in his seat, taking a sip of his beer.
Sam nodded. More like a string of bad days. He’d been feeling anxious and off balance for weeks now, and he figured that was the reason he found himself telling this complete stranger more than he normally would. More than the guy wanted to know, probably.
“My boss is retiring tomorrow and it’s…weird.” Sam picked at the label. “We’ve been working together pretty much since I came to D.C. It was easy in a way those constants in life are, you know?” He looked up and Blake nodded. “Now it ends, and I’m not sure what I’m going to do next.” He’d had a few months to come up with something, and he still had nothing.
“You don’t have to have the answer ready,” Blake pointed out.
Sam couldn’t help being a little jealous of how calm he sounded. Like it’s that easy. He shrugged. “Yeah, I know—”
“No, listen,” Blake interrupted. “Listen, I get it. Transition like that, it’s always hard, even if you do know what’s next.” He leaned forward, rested his elbows against the table, and caught Sam’s gaze. “When I signed my transfer papers, I knew what I was doing, I knew where I was going, but it still felt shitty at the beginning. It took me a while to find my footing again.”
Sam took a drink from his beer. Maybe it shouldn’t work, coming from a complete stranger, but he felt the tension in his shoulders easing up a little.
“Thanks,” he said, and then smirked, wanting to lighten up the mood. “I bet you didn’t expect to be giving pep talks when you came looking for a seat.”
“Maybe I didn’t come looking for a seat.” Blake smiled, showing his teeth, and Sam fixated on his lips for a second before the words registered. There was a surge of heat in his stomach that he hadn’t felt in far too long.
“Wow,” he murmured, hoping he wasn’t bright red. He didn’t have a poker face when it came to his personal life.
Blake took a sip of his beer, eyes not leaving Sam’s. “Too forward?”
“No!” Sam protested quickly. God, no. “No, just…surprising. Good surprise, though.”
Blake smiled again, softer this time, and sat back in the seat. “It’s been a long time since I did this.”
Sam felt warm all over. “Probably smart. It’s risky, after all, to come on to a guy in a bar.”
“I’m pretty sure I could take you.” Blake smirked.
Sam raised his eyebrows and felt the laughter escaping him.
Blake snorted. “I meant in a fight.”
“I’m sure you could take me, too.” Sam nodded. “In a fight.”
Blake’s gaze wandered to his lips for a moment and Sam shifted in his seat. Getting an erection in a bar is a bad, bad idea, he told himself as Blake looked him in the eye.
“Also, I wasn’t sure I was going to hit on you before I sat down. We could have just had a nice, easy conversation.”
“Are you sure now?” Sam asked. He forgot he’d been tired. He hadn’t felt this awake in weeks.
Blake nodded and smiled. “Yes. I’m sure now.”
Sam smiled back. “Good.”

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Open Endings – Excerpt

With two weeks until Open Endings comes out, I think it’s the right time to share the excerpt with all of you.

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Here’s the blurb one more time:

A man walks into a recruitment office… and nothing goes according to plan.

Matt Holston, soon-to-be college graduate, tries to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. One of his ideas? US Marine Corps. But when he goes to the recruitment office to learn more about a possible military career, he meets a guy who is a complete opposite of what Matt imagined a recruitment officer should be.
Cole Perry had suffered PTSD after his second tour overseas and now he just wants to get to the end of his contract. Transferred from his old unit, he’s a glorified office clerk, as he calls himself, but what he’s definitely not is a guy who would help anybody make the same mistake he did.
So what makes Matt come back to see Cole again if not the spiel about serving his country?

And here’s the excerpt:

Cole heard the knocking on the entrance door, but he ignored it. He made sure to lock the door behind Todd and MacKenzie this time and turn the “Back at 1300” sign. He wasn’t going to sit at the front just to guard the office. If the person at the door was determined, they could wait—he glanced at the time—twenty-five more minutes.
Knocking came again, and again, so Cole got up, irritated. When he entered the main office and saw the red-haired guy from a few days back, the irritation turned into apprehension and he halted in his step. On one hand, Cole was glad to see him, which surprised the hell out of him, but on the other, if he was back, it meant he was still interested in joining the Corps, and that… Well, that didn’t sit well with Cole at all.
It’s not your call, he thought to himself, and moved to open the door and let the guy in.
“Decided to ignore my advice after all?” Cole said, closing the door behind him.
The guy shook his head. “No, I didn’t. I just,” he hesitated. “Uhm, I’m Matt… Matthew. Hi.”
Matthew. He could finally put a name to the face and stop calling him “the guy” in his head. “Cole. Hey.”
Matthew lifted the bag of Chinese takeout he was holding. “I wanted to say ‘thank you’ for talking to me that day, I really appreciate it. And I remembered you didn’t go out for lunch, so I decided to check if you’d be hungry and consider lunch that came to you instead.”
Cole raised his eyebrows. “How do you know I don’t just eat later on?” He didn’t. He usually made do with sandwiches or a power bar. But he wanted to see what Matthew would say. Cole hadn’t expected to see him ever again and now that he was here, with Chinese takeout no less, it piqued Cole’s curiosity.
“I decided to take my chances,” Matthew said, lowering the bag, but not backing away. “So? May I offer you lunch as a thank you?”
For a few seconds they just looked at each other and neither moved. Cole noticed how Matthew’s loose frame was different than his tense posture from last time. In the end, Cole thought, what the hell. He nodded. “Sure. Come on, let’s go to my office, it’s out back.”
Matthew’s answering smile stirred in Cole something he hadn’t felt in a long, long time. Don’t be stupid, Perry, he told himself, shaking his head. “Coffee?” he offered.
“No, thanks, I’ve had two already.” Matthew sat down on the chair in front of Cole’s desk and put out all the boxes. “Chicken? Pork? Egg rolls?”
“Either one is fine,” Cole told him, clearing the desk of the papers and sinking down in his chair. His appetite was a prickly bitch most days, but now the smell of food made his stomach growl with anticipation.
Matthew handed him pork with rice and chopsticks then sat back. “What do you do here, if you’re not handling potential recruits?”
Cole shrugged. “Data administration. Which is as glamorous as it sounds,” he said with a smirk. He was a glorified office clerk, but he didn’t care much about that. It sure beat other things he used to do.
“You weren’t always a data administrator, were you?” Matthew asked, surveying the room, his chopsticks twitching in the air. He seemed to catch himself after a moment, because he looked at Cole with a grimace. “Sorry, that’s probably not a good question to ask. I just thought you wouldn’t warn me like you did, if you… If it was about a boring desk job.”
In days to come, Cole would wonder what made him tell the truth to a guy he hardly knew. Whatever it was, he did just that. Abridged version, of course, but still. “I wasn’t.” He shrugged. “I was infantry, did two tours. Hated the second one the majority of the time. Came back, went on leave, then my head started fucking me up,” he spoke calmly, eating his food. He got used to the way his emotions just turned themselves off sometimes a long time ago, but he suspected it might be weird to watch. His mother felt the need to cry anytime he did it. “When I got back to the base, I managed to get transferred to California.” He smirked at Matthew. “Data administrator, at your service.”
Matthew was staring at him, unblinking.
“I suddenly see a lot of perks of this job,” he said and lowered his head. It was Cole’s turn to stare. And then he laughed.
Matthew lifted his head and smiled back, uncertain.
“I did, too,” Cole said, still amused.
“What about quitting all together?” Matthew asked, coming back to his food.
Cole shook his head. “I’ve got five months left.” Four months and three weeks.
“Ah.” Matthew nodded. “Do you know what you want to do when you get out?”
“Besides taking a long vacation? Not really.” Cole shrugged. “I will figure something out.” He tilted his head. “What about you? What are your plans if not the Corps?”
Matthew shifted in his seat and started tapping his chopsticks against the box. “No plans yet.”
“What’s wrong with where you are now?” Cole asked. “You’re obviously looking for something,” he added at Matthew’s questioning look. “So I’m asking, what’s wrong with now?”
It was Matthew’s turn to shrug. “Nothing is wrong exactly. I’m graduating from college in a few months, so I’m trying to figure out what to do next.”
“Should I ask, how’s that going?”
Matthew snorted. “Better not.”
“Okay.” Cole said, finishing his pork. He grabbed one egg roll from the box between them. He really was hungry, who would have thought?
“Thanks,” Matthew said, voice quieter, and he didn’t meet his eyes when Cole glanced at him.
Cole wasn’t sure exactly what Matthew was thanking him for, but he didn’t want to push the issue. “Sure thing,” he said in the end, stopping himself before adding, “Anytime.”

___________________________

Open Endings comes out on July 3rd from MLR Press.

Running Off the Edge – Read the First Chapter Here

With only a week left until Running Off the Edge will be published, I’m posting the first chapter of the story below. I hope you like it!

RunningOfftheEdge_200

Here’s the blurb one more time:

After the knee injury, Liam O’Connor, the former gold medalist, is no longer able to compete at the Olympics. He’s in Sochi as an assistant coach for another male figure skater and hopes to avoid Eric Lanney as much as possible.

Meanwhile Eric is back to compete for gold in pair skating, but is that the only thing that will be important to him? Maybe when the former lovers meet again in Russia, they will both learn that a gold medal isn’t the greatest prize you can win at the Winter Olympics.

 

And here’s the first chapter:

 

Liam looked around the mayhem that was the Olympic Village. People seemed to be going in every possible direction, and at least half of them apparently felt the need to bump into him along the way.

“How did I let you talk me into this?” he asked the woman responsible for him being in Russia at all.

“I told you that I’m not letting you lie in bed and cry into your ice cream for months and that you’re going with me.” Paula shrugged, pulling her hat down over her ears. “There might’ve been shouting.”

Liam nodded. “Yeah, sounds about right. Still, maybe my bed would have been a better choice after all.” No crowds. No cold. No reminders all over the place about what might have been. Liam switched from his right leg to the left and tried not to wince.

“As if you weren’t going to be glued to the ESPN broadcasts. This is better, trust me. Now shut up and tell me where we’re going. This map is useless.” Paula threw the piece of paper at his chest.

“I’ve got it,” Liam said after looking at the map and then at the surrounding area. “Come on.”

They moved through the crowd and finally found the sign pointing them to “Hall B2” where there was going to be an orientation meeting for the whole US team in about fifteen minutes.

“So,” Paula started, not looking up from her phone. “What do you think, should I go say hi to Eric when we get there, or should I let him do the work and find his mother?”

Liam loved Paula for a lot of reasons, and one of them was how she handled the whole Liam-and-Eric situation right from the start to the bad falling out and beyond. She made sure to keep in contact with Liam through the years, and a few months ago, she was the one who came to his apartment and told him to get his shit together. She made him an assistant coach on her team and dragged his ass to Sochi. He knew that Paula was giving him an out right now, a chance to avoid Eric that much longer. But there was no use in prolonging it; they were going to meet at some point, especially since the entire skating team had rooms on the same floor at their hotel. And it wasn’t like Liam was ever going to be ready.

“You should definitely make him work for it,” he told her. “Comes with mom privileges.”

Paula smiled at him and nodded. “Fine by me.”

When they came in to the big auditorium, it was already half-full, and it took them a long moment to locate Neil.

“Hi, Coach, hi, Liam!” Neil’s legs were bouncing, and Liam looked pointedly at the big coffee cup in Neil’s hand. “Hey, don’t judge, I’ve been awake for eighteen hours.”

“I’m not saying anything.” Liam sat down next to him. For all intents and purposes, he should probably hate Neil at least a little. The youngest guy on the skating team, Neil took — earned, was given — a place that up until about six months ago Liam saw as his own. And that was a bitter pill to swallow, no question about it, but in the end, Neil was a really nice, hard-working, and talented guy, and Paula was a great coach. They both deserved to be here.

And Liam just had to suck it up.

“You better not be, or you’re not getting your own,” Neil said and took out the container from beneath his seat. There was a cinnamon latte for him and a double espresso for Paula.

“My man.” Liam inhaled the sweet smell of his coffee. Next to him, Paula was taking back all the bad things she’d said to Neil in the past.

“And what can I do to earn such approval, oh mother of mine?” came from behind them.

Oh. Here we go. Liam clasped his hands around the coffee cup before he made himself look up. Eric was hugging Paula and laughing at something she said, and God, he looked so good. Liam hadn’t seen him in four years. He was guilty of watching every damn competition Eric was in during that time, but television makes you look different. And in Eric’s case, television just made him look more serious, older. Now he wasn’t performing, and he was completely relaxed, grinning. He reminded Liam of the boy he once knew and fell in love with. It almost made Liam forget the last four years.

Almost. Because the moment his eyes landed on Liam, Eric’s smile lost all its warmth and turned into a polite, public one. Liam wondered how his own face looked right now.

“Hi, Liam. Hi, Neil.”

A nod. Not even a handshake, just a nod. It wasn’t supposed to hurt that much anymore, for God’s sake. Get it together, O’Connor.

“Eric.” Liam nodded and then leaned out of his seat to look at the woman standing behind Eric, the other half of their skating duo. “Hello, Andrea.”

“Hi, Liam,” she said, smiling at him, and he wished he could offer her a sincere one in return. “It’s good to see you.”

“Thank you.” And because someone somewhere decided to give Liam a break, the speaker decided to start the orientation.

“Hello, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Richard Walker, and I’m the coordinator of the US team for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Please, let me tell you about the upcoming events and arrangements, and then there’ll be room for questions.”

And he took off, covering everything from the opening ceremony to the menu preferences. Then there was time for the usual safety speech, and after covering all the typical points, Walker looked down at his notes and set them aside.

Liam would bet he knew what was coming.

“I was also obligated to remind you to respect the laws of the country that’s hosting us right now, regardless of your personal feelings.”

“Only for a millionth time,” Liam muttered, but Neil wasn’t keeping it quiet. He stood up.

“So it’s a no for gay sex on the podium, then?”

Half the room laughed, and Liam shook his head, amused. He punched Neil in the thigh lightly and grinned at Neil’s wink. When Liam turned to Paula, though, he saw Eric’s face and the way he was looking at him. It was a look Liam remembered well, and it wasn’t a good memory. But before he could say anything, tell Eric off once and for all, the short, blond guy from the bobsled team shouted, “Name the time and any other place, cutie.”

The room burst out laughing once again, while Neil turned red and sat down quickly. Walker patted the microphone to silence them all.

“Gentlemen, please.” He picked up his notes again. “Let’s just focus on the competition, okay? Remember why we’re here.”

“We’re not the ones bringing this stupid damn topic up again and again,” Liam said quietly so that only the few people next to him could hear it. Neil nodded his agreement. Liam purposefully didn’t look in Eric’s direction.

_____________

Running Off the Edge is coming out on February 7th from MLR Press.
It’s out! You can buy it here: MLR Books