A MelanieM Release Day Review: The Straight Boyfriend (Loving You #3) by Renae Kaye


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

the-straight-boyfriendAaron Hall has never been able to remain faithful to a single woman, and for most of his life, he’s dated two women at once. Recently his girlfriend tracked him down and knocked on his door—and his live-in girlfriend answered. Now he has no girlfriend and a mortgage he can’t pay by himself.

Vinnie Rosello needs to change his life—get a better job, stop drinking all his money away, find himself a serious boyfriend… and move out of his parents’ house. Aaron needs help with his expenses, so they become housemates.

Even though Aaron harbors some misconceptions about gay men and Vinnie misses his large Italian family, both men find comfort in their friendship. It’s a good arrangement until everything between them changes

Vinnie falls in love with Aaron, and Aaron is shocked to realize he feels the same. There’s only one problem—he’s still straight. He’ll have to overcome his fear of labels in order to love the man who’s captured his heart.

The Straight Boyfriend by Renae Kaye is another fascinating and outside-the-box offering from this wonderful author.  Kaye has looked past most pairings we think of when it comes to LGBTQIA couples and gone for the relationships that are defined more by the heart than by any easy sexuality.  Never has that been more apparent then with this series and this story.

It starts immediately with one character who comes from a polyamorous family.  Kaye gives this unorthodox family arrangement loving understanding and a wonderful treatment here.  We see the hurt and acceptance, inside and out, and the joys and stresses that come from growing up in a family where even a half brother has to be passed off as a “cousin”.  Vinnie Rosello emerges from this wildly unusual Rosello family as a completely believable person as does all his boisterous Italian brothers, sisters, mother, aunt and father.  Kaye has done her job as an author in making us understand them all, most importantly Vinnie, on his own for the first time.  When he  can’t sleep because he’s alone?  Yes, I can really see that.

Aaron Hall is also beautifully set down as a realistically layered man who’s had certain expectations about his life, from his sexuality to the way in which he expects to live his life.  But he is wonderfully elastic about those expectations in that he’s so willing to stretch his boundaries for friends and new people he likes.  Aaron is flexible.  And soon I believe he will find he needs an education in the term pansexual when his feelings grow towards Vinnie.  Its lovely, believable, and understandable.

Others need a definition of pansexual too, those who might think this story and relationship is a rebuke of the term bisexual.  I do not find this a repudiation of the term bisexual in any way.  I firmly believe that  some people can be and are pansexual and that Aaron is one of them.  Who does Aaron fall in love with? Vinnie.  Not men but Vinnie the person.  Pansexual…that’s someone who loves the person, not the gender or as the dictionary puts it “not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity’.  That’s Aaron.  If Aaron were bisexual, he would love both genders equally, be drawn sexually to both.  That’s not Aaron.  He wants only Vinnie.  That’s pansexual.  There’s a difference.

Does that mean this is a putdown of bisexuality?  Absolutely not. At least in my opinion.  For me, its Renae Kaye stretching boundaries again to show another type of relationship or if you slide Vinnie’s family in there, relationships, that families come in these days.  Love knows no boundaries.  Hmmm.  Where have I heard that before?  It used to be LGBT, then it was LGBTQ, then LGBTQIA and recently I believe I saw LGBTQIAA.  We keep growing and stretching to make it more inclusive, to broaden our ideas of acceptance and peoples sexuality.  Not to lessen it.

Wonderful stories like The Straight Boyfriend open our eyes to other peoples differences and let us understand them better.  It makes acceptance easier or it should.  I hadn’t thought about polyamory from a child’s standpoint until this story.  Kaye gave me a lot to think about.  The pansexuality?  That was already something I had always accepted but her reasoning of it through  Aaron was very believable.

I recommend this story, I think there are so many elements here that are positive and need to be heard.  In a time where there needs to be more acceptance, not less, here is one more voice trying to keep our boundaries ever widening and ever inclusive.

Cover Artist: Maria Fanning.  I thought the cover art bright and spot on with regard to the characters. 

Sales Links




Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Expected publication: November 21st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634777107 (ISBN13: 9781634777100)
Edition LanguageEnglish

SeriesLoving You – add to your Goodreads shelf here:

A Lila Release Day Review: Built for Pleasure by Thursday Euclid


Rating:  4 stars out of 5



 Retired military officer Malcolm Torvik runs a rehabilitation facility for malfunctioning pleasure cyborgs. When WLF-6759—Wolf—arrives at Reboot Camp, the former battle cyborg presents problems Malcolm’s never faced before. Most pleasure cyborgs are sensation junkies, constantly high on the chemicals sex releases into their bloodstream, but Wolf’s faulty refit means it’s spent a decade suffering through unwanted encounters—and sometimes fighting back despite the consequences.

 At first Wolf’s rebellion frustrates Malcolm even as Wolf’s undeniable physical perfection draws him. Then Wolf’s unexpected vulnerability and need open a whole new dynamic between them, and Malcolm finds himself feeling far too much for something that isn’t even human. Or is it? Could Homo sapiens technica be just as human as Malcolm is? And if it is, what’s Malcolm supposed to do about it? Malcolm’s been alone for so long…. Is it possible he’s found love with a cyborg? How far will he go to ensure Wolf’s freedom? Malcolm knows what he must do—for both of them—but it might cost him much more than his comfortable life.

Built for Pleasure is a beautiful story. The first couple of chapters are strong and have a depth that goes beyond the amount of words used. The ideas are refreshing and interesting, keeping the reader engage and wanting to read the next page and the next. 

I love the idea behind Wolf’s and Malcolm’s meeting and how their relationship evolved even when by their society standards Wolf shouldn’t have the ability to create a friendship or anything more. And we get to see how Malcolm struggles to understand the differences between Wolf and the rest of the cyborgs.

This book is a wild ride. We get a bit of everything, from one-on-one scenes between the characters, to regal parties, and battle scenes. The author did an outstanding job building a world for this story, and including well-rounded characters to go with it. The way the cyborgs are integrated into the story and the everyday life of the citizens is an interesting take on traditional sci-fi books. 

I like that Malcolm was a middle-aged, retired military man with a good relationship with his family. They played an important role in molding the type of man he is. And Wolf is a character that will steal your heart. I love seeing how much he “matures” during the story and how he tries to do better, first for Malcolm, and then for himself. 

 If you like sci-fi stories with a good balance of romance and world-built elements, this story will be for you. The only thinks that didn’t work for me were some elements related to Wolf’s past, and a bit of a slow pace in the middle of the story. Other than that, this is a good story to read. 

There’s a lot to look at in the cover designed by Aaron Anderson, but the overall composition works well; even when it feels a bit generic.  All the elements are part of the story itself. 

Sale Links


Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages

 Published: November 21, 2016, Dreamspinner Press

ISBN: 1634779037 (ISBN13: 9781634779036)

> Edition Language: English


Sales Links: Pride Publishing | Amazon


Book Details:

ebook, 151 pages

Published: November 8, 2016 by Pride Publishing

ISBN: 9781786514790

Edition Language: English

A Stella Review: Tow Trucks & New Year’s Kisses by Lila Leigh Hunter


RATING 4 out of 5 stars

tow-trucks-new-years-kissesA Jag with out-of-state plates is the last car Scott DeLaney expected to find when answering a tow call as a favor to his drunken godson. But, the tall man in the fedora seems like a nice reward until Scott finds out the stranger’s destination. Yes, he’d take care of the brooding man, but he has a selfish reason for it.

Finding himself in a ditch after dodging a deer is the least of Patrick Samuels’s problems when his rescuer arrives, wearing a tuxedo and driving a hot pink flatbed. Perhaps his older brother’s scheme will benefit Patrick after all.

Who knew that a New Year’s kiss is far more efficient than any boardroom strategy to seal a deal?

Tow Trucks & New Year’s Kisses was my first book by Lila Leigh Hunter and I really liked it. I can’t wait to read more stories by this author.

Scott is forty four years old, he has an ex wife, Alissa and a daughter, Larisa, who is just getting to be proposed by his boyfriend at midnight of the New Year. Scott can’t miss this moment for nothing in the world, but then he found himself in the middle of a snowstorm to save the hot man with the fedora who ended his car in a ditch.

Patrick lives in San Diego, he is in Scott’s town to sign up the contract that will make him the new owner of Scott company. And then the man who steps down from the pick tow truck blindsides him, tall, geeky glasses and long beard wearing a tuxedo. Both of them have a party they need to attend, maybe the same one?

I quite enjoyed the story, I liked the writing and the plot, but the MCs won me over. The chemistry between them is immediate and really hot. The desire in their eyes is clear and the MCs’ smart mouths made their meeting funny. I liked how passionate they are. Although the story is just thirty pages long, surprisingly I get to know a lot about Scott and sadly nothing about Patrick. That’s why I’m hoping the author will give me more of them together, maybe about their new life in San Diego. They are too hot and cute together, I need to know more.

If your looking for a hot and funny quick story, give Tow Trucks & New Year’s Kisses a try. To me it was a lovely surprise.

The cover art by Natasha Snow is well done like everything this artist usually does and it fits Scott perfectly.

Sales Links

NineStar Press



Published November 21st 2016 by NineStar Press

Kindle Edition, 34 pages


Edition Language English

Release Day Blitz for ‘Tow Trucks & New Year’s Kisses (Cupcakes & Brews #1) ‘ by Lila Leigh Hunter (giveaway)


Tow Trucks Banner

Title: Tow Trucks & New Year’s Kisses

Series: Cupcakes & Brews, #1

Author: Lila Leigh Hunter

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 21, 2016

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 10,100 words

Genre: Romance, Gay, Pansexual, Cisgender

Add to Goodreads



A Jag with out-of-state plates is the last car Scott DeLaney expected to find when answering a tow call as a favor to his drunken godson. But, the tall man in the fedora seems like a nice reward until Scott finds out the stranger’s destination. Yes, he’d take care of the brooding man, but he has a selfish reason for it.

Finding himself in a ditch after dodging a deer is the least of Patrick Samuels’s problems when his rescuer arrives, wearing a tuxedo and driving a hot pink flatbed. Perhaps his older brother’s scheme will benefit Patrick after all.

Who knew that a New Year’s kiss is far more efficient than any boardroom strategy to seal a deal?


The rumble of an engine brought him back to his cold predicament. He adjusted his fedora and covered his mouth with his scarf as he moved closer to his brother’s Jag to signal the newcomer. It had been thirty-nine minutes. At least they had arrived before he froze his balls off. The truck lights illuminated the area, making Patrick cover his eyes. It took him a moment to readjust to the dark night after moving out of its reach. The flatbed was better than he had expected in a small town in the Valley. He did a double take when he realized it was hot pink, not exactly your everyday color. Well, that’s what he could see without being blinded again, anyway. The driver’s door opened, and Patrick moved closer. Before he could acknowledge the driver, Patrick ran out of words. A tall man in a well-tailored tuxedo stepped out of the truck, the lights reflecting on the shiny tips of his dress shoes. Patrick continued to gawk since the man was putting on some type of dirty work coat. He moved even closer, wanting to examine his savior’s features. They seemed to be about the same height, but the trucker had broader shoulders. Patrick was mesmerized by the geeky glasses and the long beard that concealed a hint of a smile. He wanted to run his tongue over the man’s thin upper lip and feel the coarse hairs partially hiding it.

The thwack of the closing door startled him back to reality, and the knowing smirk on the other man’s face made his body warm up for the first time that night. “About time,” he said, trying to cover his discomfort. He followed the trucker’s movements as he checked the time.

“I quoted you forty-five minutes, Mr. Samuels. I arrived with three minutes to spare.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Patrick said over his shoulder as he made his way back to the car. “You know you’re a little overdressed to respond to a tow call, right?”

“You’re correct, Mr. Samuels, but my superhero cape is at the dry cleaners. The tux will have to do for now.”

Patrick turned to berate the smartass but collided with him instead. The trucker held Patrick’s biceps, preventing him from falling, and once again, Patrick stared at the man’s lips. He shook his head to break the connection and winced at the pain instead. The cold and the bruises were getting to his brain

“You need to be careful, Mr. Samuels. You don’t want to hurt yourself any further.” The tow driver released one of Patrick’s biceps and traced Patrick’s bruised cheek with a long, cold finger.

Patrick shivered and immediately pulled away from the wanted but unnerving touch. “If you’re done manhandling me, Mr…”

“You forgot my name already? It’s Scott, baby face,” Scott said before tapping Patrick’s fedora.

The vibration traveled all the way to Patrick’s cock and back up to his nipples. The cold had been forgotten too. Even so, Patrick couldn’t believe his traitorous body’s response to the man’s forwardness. Yeah, if they were anywhere else, he’d be the one propositioning Mr. Scott, but they were in the middle of the boonies, for God’s sake. He couldn’t be that desperate. After looking into those hazel eyes again, he might have to change his opinion.

“No matter how much I’m enjoying this, we need to get moving before we have to ring in the New Year inside the truck.”

©2016 Lila Leigh Hunter
All Rights Reserved


NineStar Press | Amazon | Allromance eBooks/OmnitLit | Barnes & Noble Kobo | iTunes | Smashwords

Tow Trucks Teaser

Meet the Author

Lila Leigh Hunter is the pen name of a Puerto Rican author with a hyphenated surname. Born and raised on the island, Lila grew up making up stories her siblings pretended to like. But no matter what they say, as the youngest of six, she’s still their mom’s favorite. According to the dusty diplomas on her wall, she’s an architectural designer living in Southern Texas with her husband and four military brats.

She spends most of her free time writing homoerotic romances about middle-aged men finding happiness and the rest hiding from pesky house chores. When outside of her cave, she likes to observe people and try to guess their stories. Sometimes she wishes the voices in her head were real; going out with the boys in her books sounds like a plan made in heaven.

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Love Mythology & Romance? Check out Labyrinth by Alex Beecroft (giveaway)



Labyrinth by Alex Beecroft
iptide Publishing
Cover by: Simoné

Release Date:  November 21, 2016

Read an Excerpt/Buy it Here

About Labyrinth

Kikeru, the child of a priestess at the sacred temple of Knossos in ancient Crete, believes that the goddesses are laughing at him. They expect him to choose whether he is a man or a woman, when he’s both. They expect him to choose whether to be a husband to a wife, or a celibate priestess in the temple, when all he wants to do is invent things and be with the person he loves.

Unfortunately, that person is Rusa, the handsome ship owner who is most decidedly a man and therefore off-limits no matter what he chooses. And did he mention that the goddesses also expect him to avert war with the Greeks?

The Greeks have an army. Kikeru has his mother, Maja, who is pressuring him to give her grandchildren; Jadikira, Rusa’s pregnant daughter; and superstitious Rusa, who is terrified of what the goddesses will think of him being in love with one of their chosen ones.

It’s a tall order to save Crete from conquest, win his love, and keep both halves of himself. Luckily, at least the daemons are on his side.

Labyrinth is now available from Riptide Publishing! http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/labyrinth

About Alex Beecroft

Alex Beecroft is an English author best known for historical fiction, notably Age of Sail, featuring gay characters and romantic storylines. Her novels and shorter works include paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary fiction.

Beecroft won Linden Bay Romance’s (now Samhain Publishing) Starlight Writing Competition in 2007 with her first novel, Captain’s Surrender, making it her first published book. On the subject of writing gay romance, Beecroft has appeared in the Charleston City PaperLA Weekly, the New Haven Advocate, the Baltimore City Paper, and The Other Paper. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association of the UK and an occasional reviewer for the blog Speak Its Name, which highlights historical gay fiction.

Alex was born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and grew up in the wild countryside of the English Peak District. She lives with her husband and two children in a little village near Cambridge and tries to avoid being mistaken for a tourist.

Alex is only intermittently present in the real world. She has led a Saxon shield wall into battle, toiled as a Georgian kitchen maid, and recently taken up an 800-year-old form of English folk dance, but she still hasn’t learned to operate a mobile phone.

She is represented by Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Literary Agency.

Connect with Alex:



To celebrate the release of Labyrinth, one lucky winner will receive their choice of an eBook off Alex’s backlist! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 26, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

In the Spotlight: Andrew Grey on Writing and his release The Playmaker (Dreamspinner Author Guest Blog)



The Playmaker byAndrew Grey
reamspinner Press

Cover art by L.C. Chase
Release Date: November 18, 2016

Sales Links



Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Andrew Grey here today to talk about writing, inspiration and his latest novel, The Playmaker.  Welcome, Andrew.

Sometimes its hard to know exactly where a story comes from.  For me ideas spark from so many places.  But this story came to me as I was watching a football game at a friends house and one of the color announcers was talking about how one a particular player had a reputation for disorganization off the field.  After that I didn’t pay attention to the game any longer because I was already thinking about Monty and Hunter.  Sometimes ideas come to me that quickly and other times they develop slowly.  When they spring forth as rapidly as The Playmaker did all I can do is write them down as quickly as I can so I can capture all the rich idea goodness.  Ideas for stories have a shelf life.  If you don’t do something with them they fade away.  For me ideas come and go, but the one that started The Playmaker, I held on tight to.  I really hope you enjoy the fruit of that idea.



Professional football player Hunter Davis is learning that saying he’s gay is very different from actively being in a relationship with another man—especially in the eyes of his teammates and fans. So when Hunter needs a personal assistant to keep him organized, he asks for a woman to prevent tongues from wagging.

Montgomery Willis badly needs to find work before he loses everything. There’s just one position at the agency where he applies, but the problem is, he’s not a woman. And he knows nothing about football. Still, Hunter gives him a chance, but only because Monty’s desperate.

Monty soon proves his worth by saving Hunter’s bacon on an important promotional shoot, and Hunter realizes he might have someone special working for him—in more ways than one. Monty’s feelings come to the surface during an outing in the park when Hunter decides to teach Monty a bit about the game, and pictures surface of them in some questionable positions. Hunter is reminded that knowing he’s gay and seeing evidence in the papers is very different for the other players, and he might have to choose between two loves: football and Monty.


You need to go now, Monty said from the doorway. And when you get the chance, we should go over some of this paperwork in the office. A lot of it appears to be garbage and junk mail that I shredded, but there is other stuff I wanted to check with you about before I destroy it.

Okay. Put the things to go through aside.

Is there anything else you need before you go? The doorbell rang, and Monty hurried to the front door. Oh thank goodness, Monty practically squealed, and Hunter wondered what was going on. He followed and saw Monty cradling two boxes in his arms. Youre a lifesaver. Monty closed the door and practically ran into him.

Whats all this? And why are you receiving deliveries here? he demanded, his hands on his hips.

Monty looked like hed been slapped. Its some things Helen sent over for me. He stepped back and seemed to shrink. She said Id need a laptop and a phone. He set the boxes down, opened one box and pulled out a brand new iPhone and then an iBook computer from the other, still in their packaging.

Oh. Hunter stalked away, feeling like an ass, but he wasnt going to let Monty see that. He grabbed his jacket and felt Monty looking him over. What? He glanced down at himself.

Can we see if you have a shirt at least that doesnt look like something worn by Richie Cunningham? Hunter wasnt sure what was so terrible about a plaid button-up and khakis.

I have to go. He slipped on his jacket.

You have five minutes. I was pushing you to be early.

Hunter huffedhed been doing that a lot latelyclimbed the stairs, and took off his jacket as he stalked down the hallway. He went to his room with Monty right behind him and opened the closet.

Monty peered inside and turned back to him, looking aghast. My God. He moved hangers aside and continued until he reached the very end of the closet. Thank God. There is something decent in here. Monty pulled out a shirt that Hunter couldnt remember having, and handed it to him. Put this on. I bet it will look nice on you. There isnt anything I can do with the pants, but at least.

Hunter unbuttoned his shirt, and Monty went silent. Hunter took the new one off the hanger and shrugged it on. When he turned back to Monty, he glanced away quickly. How does it feel?

Soft. Hunter buttoned it up and then started to tuck it in.

No. Leave it out. It will look better, and the silk is way more appealing than those pants. Monty smoothed out the shirt and rolled up the cuffs, then stepped back and smiled. Now you look like a million bucks. Monty tossed him the jacket. Go get em.

Youre coming with me, Hunter said, and Monty squeaked and hurried out of the room and down the stairs. When Hunter caught up with him, he was pulling the phone out of its case and shoving it into his bag.


About the Author

Andrew grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation.

Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing)  He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Author Links

For Other Works by Andrew

(Please Be Sure To Stop by His Website to See All of His Works)

**** Disclosure of Material: Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words received a copy of this book from RBTL Book Promotions and the Author/Publisher with the hope that I will leave my Unbiased Opinion. STRW was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”. *****

Sometimes You Fall, Sometimes You Fly…Check out Gravity by Juliann Rich (LGBT YA romance tour and giveaway)


Young Adult Romance (LGBT)

Date Published:  11-15-2016

Publisher:  Bold Strokes Books

Sometimes you fly. Sometimes you fall.


A dream at Olympic gold in ski jumping. It’s a dream that’s been the exclusive property of male Olympic athletes.

Until now.

For seventeen-year-old Ellie Engebretsen, the 2011 decision to include women’s ski jumping in the Olympics is a game changer. She’d love to bring home the gold for her father, a former Olympic hopeful whose dreams were blown along with his knees on an ill-timed landing. But can she defy the pull of gravity that draws her to Kate Moreau, her biggest competition and the girl of her dreams?

How can Ellie soar through the air when all she feels like doing is falling hard?



This is not a story about a girl who found the courage to come out as gay.
Wrong girl. Wrong book.
Sorry. (Not really.)
This is a story about a ski jumper—me. And an auburn-haired girl—Kate. And the biggest
jump of all.
Ask any ski jumper and they’ll tell you a truth that never airs on ESPN.
None of us jumps for the judges. Or the scores. Or to nail some fucking form.
We jump for those four, five, six seconds of airtime. Against the rush of the wind, despite
the hard ground beneath us, we jump.
And in the jumping, we fly free.
So no, this isn’t a story about a girl who found the courage to come out as gay.
Wrong girl. Wrong book.
Sorry. (Not really).
This is a story about a girl who found the courage to jump, to fly, and—for a brief, precious
time—to be free.
But here’s the thing.
All flights come to an end.
Ask any ski jumper and they’ll tell you that’s another truth that never airs on ESPN.
For better. For worse. Gravity always wins.
It’s all about resistance.
Until it’s not.
Chapter One
I need to throw myself off a mountain. I need to push myself until the only pain I have is in
my body. That pain, I know. That pain, I can handle. Unfortunately, all I’ve got is Freefall, a
steep vertical wall covered in ice and snow on the sheer north face of Moose Mountain at Lutsen
resort. It’s a Minnesota mountain. In other words, a glorified hill, but it will have to do.
I stab the snow with my poles and laugh aloud, an angry burst of breath crystallizing in the
night air.
The price of falling is never free.
A girl in a pale blue jacket and rented skis zooms past me without pausing long enough to
take in the view or assess the danger. Happens every year during the week between Christmas
and New Year’s. Some dumb tourist gets lost or cocky and tackles a black diamond run. It never
ends well, but it does keep the ski patrol employed.
I aim my left ski straight down and, in one fluid motion, push against my poles and kick off
with my right ski. The black-green blur of the evergreen trees to my right and left pick up speed
as I do. Stark against the snow and strong, they refuse to shed so much as one needle in the coldass
Minnesota winter.
The text. The text. The goddamn text. Never meant for my eyes. Impossible to forget.
Be an evergreen, I blink and tell myself. Shed nothing.
But I’m not an evergreen and the stinging hotness edges down my cheek where it freezes, an
icy pimple of pain, and eventually falls onto the snow beneath me. I’m used to leaving a bit of
myself on the slopes, but not like this.
Crying over a broken heart is for the girls who count calories, not push-ups. Girls who drink
lattes, not whiskey shots. Girls who spend their Sundays in the mall, not throwing themselves
down ice-covered mountains. I plant my pole and kick against the beaten-down bed of snow,
promising myself that the frozen tear, now forever a part of Freefall, is the last I will shed for
Ahead of me I spot the girl in the blue jacket. She’s crouched low, head tucked, like she’s in
some goddamn hurry to have her death wish come true. Fucking idiot. Freefall isn’t for skiers
who want a vacation break from their lives. Freefall is for people who need to face death to feel
The girl in the blue jacket is coming up on Freefall’s rough patch where rocks jut out
without warning. To make it worse I’m not seeing the sparkle of diamonds in the snow that
indicates fresh powder. I’m seeing a flat whitish-blue patch that means only one thing. Ice.
“Oh, shit,” I say, my boots biting into my calves as I try to slow down. This girl doesn’t
know she’s about five seconds away from having a search and rescue party thrown in her honor
as she hits the ice patch at full speed. I cringe, but then she’s cutting through it with sharp left
and right turns, leaning forward (forward!) until she clears it and reaches the bottom. She doesn’t
stop there to catch her breath or count her blessings or scratch off one of her nine lives. Most
skiers have nothing left when they hit the bottom of Freefall and have to ice skate Valley Run,
the trail that leads to the front of Moose Mountain, but not this girl. She harnesses her
momentum and lets it propel her over Valley Run until she disappears from sight.
Well, shit. No way am I letting a girl like that ski my mountain without at least knowing her
name. I bury my poles in my armpits and crouch low for maximum speed. The broken crusts of
ice, compliments of mystery girl, are annoying but nothing I can’t handle, and when I hit the
bottom of Freefall, I, too, fly onto Valley Run, my eyes searching for a bit of pale blue until I
spot her already standing in line for the lift that leads to Eagle Ridge. Impossible. She must have
taken Valley Run at record speed, which means I have to as well if I’m going to ride with her up
the lift that leads to the top of Eagle Mountain. I’m puffing when I ski up to the two skiers
between the girl in the blue jacket and me, but a tap on the shoulder and a toss of my head sends
them scurrying behind me. I don’t often play the Eleanor Engebretsen card, but this is a special
occasion, and I claim my place next to the mystery girl who isn’t even breathing hard, though her
cheeks are a sexy shade of red.
The ski lift carries the two people in front of us up, up, and away and we ski-shuffle onto the
lift pad. She chooses the left and I go to the right. The chair hits the back of my knees and then I
am sitting next to this girl, arms and hips and shoulders touching, and she’s futzing with her
goggles while I’m being swept away.
I should talk to her. I want to talk to her. I have a million questions to ask her, but my brain
won’t work. It’s too busy trying to figure out how to steal sideways glances at her without
getting busted. The first glance confirms what I suspected. No pro would be caught dead in
rented skis and some off-brand jacket probably bought at Walmart. The second glance reveals a
mess of auburn curls trying to escape a hand-knitted hat. The third glance gets me busted, but not
until after I’ve checked out her long eyelashes dusted with snow, her full nibble-worthy lips, her
slight overbite that makes her perfectly imperfect.
I was wrong.
So wrong.
This girl has all the right equipment.
“Hello, I’m up here.” She looks at me until I pull my gaze off her body. A puff of smoke
from her breath hits the freezing air and obscures her face for one second. Long enough for me to
realize I like looking at her face. “I’m Kate Moreau.”
“Ellie.” I should say more, explain why I’ve been checking her out, but my brain has quit
“It’s my first time at Lutsen. How about you?” Kate tries to rescue me from the awkward
moment, but I hate small talk. Though I’m willing to listen to Kate’s voice for hours, as long as I
don’t have to respond.
I stare through the V of my skis at the ski run and the tiny zooming skiers beneath us. I stare
ahead at the gray-blue expanse of Lake Superior that begins at the foot of Lutsen and spreads
across all of Minnesota’s North Shore, ending who knows where. I stare at my knee, my boot,
the clump of snow stuck to my ski—anything but the girl sitting next to me—and try to think of
something clever to say.
“I asked if this is your first time at Lutsen, too.” Kate looks at me, waiting for an answer I
obviously should give her, but once again I’m rescued because the chairlift bounces to a stop and
the bar lifts up. Kate quick steps it to the left while I stand there like an idiot and get my ass
smacked before I realize I need to make a move.
“Uh, K-Kate?” My tongue, my fucking tongue. Such a traitor.
“Yeah?” She turns to look at me.
“It’s my first time skiing Lutsen, too.” I have no idea why I’m lying. No, that’s another lie. I
know perfectly well why I’m lying to Kate. Because I wish it was my first time. I’d give
anything to start over.
“Cool. I’m heading to Mogen. Want to join me?” Kate asks and I notice her eyes for the first
time. Gray streaked with slivers of pale blue. Little crinkles of skin around the corners. It makes
me want to hear her laugh.
“Yeah, sure. Love to,” I lie for the second time.
Mogen is Lutsen’s terrain park. It’s infested with snowboarders and peppered with deformed
hills that insult real ski jumps. It’s also Blair’s favorite run and I can’t think of Mogen without
thinking of Blair. And I can’t think of Blair. Not yet.
I am about to suggest another run, any other run, but Kate is a moving blur and, like on
Freefall, she doesn’t stop when she hits the top of Mogen. Someone really should tell her she’s
missing the best views, but that someone isn’t going to be me.
I kick off and follow Kate. The run splits and she heads to the right toward a quarter-pipe
jump. She slices through a swarm of snowboarders in a way that makes me proud to know her,
even if it has only been for three whole minutes. I watch Kate approach the jump. I watch for the
telltale signs that signals an amateur: A split second of hesitation. Surrendering to the reflex to
pull back. Veering off at the last minute. But Kate does none of those as she takes the jump and
somersaults through the air like she exists beyond the rules of gravity, and when she sticks a
perfect landing, I forget how to breathe.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Kate fist pumps the air and whoops for joy, and then it’s
my turn to take her breath away. I shift my weight and aim straight for the quarter-pipe jump. My
repertoire plays through my mind. A flatspin, an alley-oop, a twister? As usual, my body makes
the decision for me. A Lincoln Loop it is. I bury my poles in my armpits and crouch low. The
quarter-pipe rushes me and I feel it, the moment when my muscles take over. Wind slaps me
across the face. My stomach presses against my spine. The sky tilts and then—
Images flood my mind.
A soft body, the ins and outs of which I know better than my own.
Laughing eyes. Lying eyes.
Long dark brown hair that bleeds blond. Ombré, she calls it. I should have known better than
to fall for a girl who couldn’t even be faithful to one hair color.
Blair. Blair. Goddamn Blair. Never meant for my heart. Impossible to forget.
My muscles contract. All of me contracts. The earth tilts on its axis. Fast and out of control,
a wash of white. It’s a different kind of fall, but like the others, it isn’t free.
When the sparkling white starts to spin away, I spot Kate’s face hovering above me and I
pray to die right there at the foot of the quarter-pipe jump on Mogen.
“Oh my God, are you okay?” Kate asks.
I lie in the me-shaped indentation of snow, wriggling toes and bending wrists and trying to
suck in air through lungs that have betrayed me as well. “Yeah, I think so.”
Kate grabs my hand. “Let me help you up.” She pulls me into a one-legged perch. I look for
my other ski and spot it a few feet away, skewering a mogul. A sharp pain hits like a punch to
the gut. I double over and grab my side. First Blair and now this—boffing a jump that on any
other day would have been my bitch. The world wobbles again.
“Hey.” Kate reaches out an arm and I grasp it like a kid in SkiWee holding onto the T-bar
for dear life. “You sure you’re okay?”
The pain begins to subside until I can straighten and look into her eyes. “Yeah, I’m fine.
Her eyes crinkle at the corners. “For what? Falling? It happens.” Kate yanks her hat off and
a mop of wavy auburn hair tumbles around her face.
“Thanks for picking me up.” Jesus! Did I say that? “From the ground, I mean. From the
ground. You know, where you found me and…picked me up.”
Kate laughs and I realize maybe Jack was right. She usually is when it comes to girls. Jack
is my butch best friend whose real name is Lisa Marie, but she’ll kick you in the balls if you call
her that. Doesn’t matter whether you have balls or not. She earned the nickname Jack when she
came out, all at once and without giving a shit. Like that kid’s toy, the one with the clown that
couldn’t take the pressure anymore and had to pop out of the damned box. That’s Jack. Happy to
be out, but always looking for the next box to pop into. Which, according to Jack, is precisely
what I need to do to get over Blair.
Step one: Get a little tourist pussy. The sooner, the better.
Jack’s words, not mine, and even though Jack can be crude, she’s also brilliant as hell. She’s
got it all planned out—how I can get over my cheating girlfriend. She even named her master
plan The Blair Bitch Project, but so far I’ve yet to find a tourist willing to sign up for some
meaningless, heartbreak-erasing revenge sex. Still, Jack’s plan is devious in a way that makes me
sad she and I have zero chemistry, because I sure as hell love how her mind works.
I steal another glance at Kate. There’s a sexy little glint in her eyes and a half smile on her
face that could be interpreted as flirty. As Jack would say, no time like the present to get down
with The Blair Bitch Project.
“How about I buy you a cocoa as a thank you?” Heat surges on my face until I’m certain I
look like a friggin’ stop sign. Round and red and telling Kate to stop, to not cross this lane.
Talk about a contradiction.
“I don’t think so,” Kate says and my stomach tightens. “But you could buy me a burger and
fries to go with that cocoa.”
“You got it.”
Kate looks down the hill at my ski sticking out of the mogul. “Be right back.” She skis over
and yanks out my ski, then side steps her way back up Mogen. She drops the ski in front of me
and I step into the binding. “You’re lucky. You could have really hurt yourself.”
It’s subtle, but it’s there. Kate’s assumption that I couldn’t handle the quarter-pipe jump, and
it stings. So much I almost tell her I followed her down Freefall. That it was easy! That I’m
Eleanor Engebretsen, the Eleanor Engebretsen, for crying out loud, and that I’m only off balance
because my ex-girlfriend sent the wrong lover a text. But instinct tells me to shut the fuck up, so
I do.
Kate surveys the slope and shakes her head. “We’re going to take it slow and skip the rest of
the jumps. If you get in trouble, for God’s sake, sit your ass down and yell for help. Got it?”
“Yeah.” My ego takes a hit, but my libido surges. “I got it.”
“Okay, then. Follow me.” And she’s off.
One quick dart toward the moguls would clarify things once and for all, and yeah, it’s
tempting. But then Kate looks back at me, and it strikes me that following this girl might lead me
exactly where I want to go.
As promised, Kate takes it slow, hugging the curves of the hill in a way that makes me see
more than just her body. I see her form, the way she uses the slope and the pull of the hill to her
advantage. The way she reacts without thought or fear. Three minutes down the hill, I’m pretty
sure Kate’s talent is more born than trained. Five minutes down, I’m certain it doesn’t matter.
“We made it!” Kate says when we reach Rosie’s Chalet. She’s too polite to say what she
really means—that I made it, miracle of miracles. She slides her rented skis into the rack and
smiles at me.
“Thanks to you.” I lay it on thick as I slide my Rossignols next to Kate’s skis. “C’mon.
You’ve earned that burger and fries.”
“Don’t forget the cocoa.” Kate grins as she takes off her gloves and shoves them in her
“Absolutely not,” I promise her.
We walk toward Rosie’s, where cocoa is going to be served, hopefully with a heavy
sprinkling of sweet talk. Kate holds the door for me and I walk forward, my attention
momentarily drawn to her long fingers circled with silver rings and her neatly trimmed nails.
It’s impossible to stop my imagination from fast-forwarding as we step into the women’s
locker room to ditch our jackets and clunky ski boots. I sit on a bench and bend over to unclamp
my buckles. It’s the perfect vantage point to steal more glances at Kate as she unzips her jacket,
but she catches me and smiles a Mona Lisa smile. Indecipherable. Infuriating. My stocking feet
hit the floor and soak up the snow that has dripped in clumps from my boots and turned to
puddles. I shiver.
“What’s wrong?” Kate asks me.
“Nothing.” I tell her. “Just cold feet. I’ll warm up soon enough.”
She laughs like she’s reading between all my stupid lines. I put on my tennis shoes and lead
Kate upstairs to Rosie’s. Of course, getting her on my turf is only the first part of my plan. The
next part depends on whether or not Jack is working the front desk at Eagle Ridge Lodge. She’d
better be. Otherwise The Blair Bitch Project is dead in the water before I can give Kate a reason
to take off all those rings.



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Advanced Praise for Gravity:

“A spicy novel about two young women daring to fly free in life and love while accurately depicting the thrill of ski jumping!”

~ Sarah Hendrickson, Olympic Ski Jumper and member of the US Ski Team Women’s Ski Jumping Team

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