A Caryn Review: Love Me Louder by Christina Lee

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Rating:3.5 out of 5 stars

This is a new to me author, but I will definitely look into some of her other books.  This was was a nice, very mildly angsty, but overall sweet read.

Noah Dixon was an interesting character.  He was raised in a wealthy, privileged family, but after a childhood accident left him physically scarred – more on that later – his parents became overprotective and he pushed them and their lifestyle away.  He loved retail sales (that alone made him a pretty unusual guy!) and worked at a home furnishings store where he was their top salesman and had aspirations to manage the store someday, but overall he was pretty happy with his career, even though it didn’t live up to his parent’s more grandiose plans.  He wasn’t really satisfied with his love life, but he’d convinced himself that his scarring was always going to prevent anyone from falling in love with him.

Will Crossen used to work in the theater, which he loved, but when his mother’s schizophrenia started getting worse and her medical bills stacked up, he left it for a more stable paycheck at the same store where Noah worked.  That still wasn’t enough, so he also became an escort.  His clients usually don’t involve sex (at most, some kissing or mutual masturbation), but with his acting skills and good looks, he was successful enough to start making a dent in the medical bills.  He also moved in with his mother to keep an eye on her.  Both situations made him give up on dating completely, thinking there was no way to reconcile them with having a boyfriend.

When Noah got an invitation to a weekend long birthday party on Fire Island where he used to spend vacations as a child, he couldn’t say no because it was his best friend.  But he dreaded going, because in the past he always felt like a freak amidst all the beautiful gay men.  When he accidentally found out that Will worked for an escort agency, he didn’t really want to ask Will – at this point in the story they barely knew each other and had been more put off than attracted – but he did start thinking it might be the best way to make it through the weekend.  When he actually hired an escort, he was surprised to find it was Will, but over the course of the weekend they found that not only were their initial impressions of each other incorrect, but they actually got along well.  Noah found it natural that he would be attracted to Will, but wasn’t able to believe that it could possibly be mutual, despite what Will said or did.  The fact that they were in a financial relationship through the escort agency also muddied the waters.

Their relationship grew in a gradual, natural way after that, and the obstacles in their path were all completely realistic.  Friends, family, and co-workers were all part of their story, and I liked all of them.  Really, the only part of the story that I found unconvincing was how Noah felt about his scarring.  He could hide it, and function completely normally, to the point that people really didn’t even know it existed unless he took his shirt off.  To me, his conviction that he was hideous was too much.  Maybe to someone who lives in NYC, or on Fire Island, it would make more sense, because people are so extremely conscious of physical beauty there, but that level of superficiality just isn’t part of my world, so it was hard to understand.  One of the points of the book was that people shouldn’t be so superficial – not just in regards to physical attributes, but also to the “right” career, the “right” house, etc – and Will and Noah worked because they weren’t, so at least there was that.

Cover art by X-Potion is very generic and doesn’t say anything about the story.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 259 pages
Published June 27th 2018 by Christina Lee
ASINB07F3CW7SW
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Leaning Into Forever (Leaning Into #7) by Lane Hayes

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The best of one of my favorite series, by far, this one features our favorite queen, the Broadway tunes-singing Geordie, co-owner of Conrad Winery. Geordie appealed to me since we readers first met him, long before this story, but I totally fell head-over-heels in love with him here. And the man the author picked to love him back? Levi Yeager couldn’t be more perfect for him. 

As the blurb states: “Geordie de la Rosa is a legend among wine lovers in Napa Valley. His ultra-fabulous style paired with a penchant for leading impromptu sing-a-longs has made him a star attraction at Conrad Winery.” Four years after the death of his life partner, Mike, the man who originally founded the winery with Wes Conrad, Geordie still spends time in Mike’s secret garden, talking to him and mourning his loss. He can’t contemplate ever moving forward and is content with his life as it is. 

So when Wes asks him to take on a special project—consulting with the new owner of the vacant restaurant not far from the winery—he’s hard-pressed to refuse but isn’t terribly excited, especially when he learns the man is a former pro-baseball player. Ho hum. Even when he meets the gorgeous owner, Levi Yeager, and is surprised by his sudden desire for the man, he hesitates. But over time, Levi shows him a new side of himself and he accepts Geordie exactly as he is—show tunes and all—and it’s been four years since Geordie had that level of acceptance in his life. 

I won’t go into multiple details here but there’s so much about this story to love. There’s humor, much of it centered around Geordie’s OTT excitement about the pink Vespa Levi is driving. Yes, it’s his sister’s vehicle, but the fabulous Geordie grabs the pink helmet and enjoys every moment hanging onto Levi as they get around. There’s also plenty of humor between the men over their taste in music and Geordie’s sense of style, but under it all is Levi’s strong and steady wholehearted acceptance of the importance of Mike in Geordie’s life. 

I appreciated the fact that the author allowed the relationship to develop slowly. Slow burn is one of my favorite themes, as is older men, and Geordie finally admits he’s forty-three to Levi’s thirty-seven. Call me in heaven. I love these two together. Their dynamic was smooth and easy, and even when Levi’s ex came to town and when Geordie struggled with the J word and eventually had to admit he had feelings for Levi, the scenes were beautifully done.  And lest I forget, yes there are sex scenes and they do indeed sizzle, but they are not overdone. I’m coming to a new appreciation for authors who know when to stop and don’t put extra gratuitous sex scenes in a book just to titillate. 

The story is solid and Ms. Hayes had the perfect mix of emotions in this one. Geordie’s final words to Mike were both heartbreaking and heartwarming and had a small touch of humor. Just perfect! There’s definitely a HEA in this story and a chance for another story if Levi’s ex gets an opportunity to settle in the area, but if this is the end of the series, that’s fine. Leaning Into Forever was the best of the best. Very highly recommended. 

The cover by Reese Dante is similar to others in the series in that it features the torso of a man.  In this case, it’s a bare-chested, muscular chest and the background is the Napa Valley.  It’s the perfect depiction of Levi, who opens his restaurant next to Conrad Winery and falls in love with co-owner, Geordie. 

Sales Links:

AMAZON US

AMAZON UK

AMAZON AU 

Book Details:

ebook, 225 pages
Published June 29th 2018 by Lane Hayes (first published June 26th 2018)
Original TitleLeaning Into Forever
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesLeaning Into #7

An Alisa Review: A Desperate Love by J.D. Walker

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

The universe hates Mel Stokes. He quit his job, lost his boyfriend, and missed the last train, all in one night. And then, some guy tries to rob him after he walked miles to get home. In shoes that pinched his toes. Nope. Last straw. When a stranger witnesses his lowest life moment and gives him an offer he can’t ignore, what does Mel have to lose?

Working with good Samaritan Lenny Mitchen is the best and worst thing Mel has ever done. Because Lenny is kind and honorable, and there’s no way that Mel can ever erase the first impression of a desperate loser down on his luck, can he? So, he makes a decision, and hopes that maybe, he can turn things around, for a change.

But will it be enough to get what he really wants?

This was a nice sweet story.  Mel is having the worst day and when Lenny gives him the chance to move ahead he can’t refuse.  He just has to accept that there can never be any more between them.

I felt for Mel and everything was going wrong at the same time but he doesn’t completely give in to the depression he is starting to feel.  Lenny came along at the perfect time and Mel quickly gets to start moving forward again but I could feel his pain at how he felt Lenny saw him.  I loved watching Mel really make his life better with and after Lenny gives him a chance and their chance meeting a few months later give them both the chance to find the love they wanted.

The cover art by Written Ink Designs is nice and gives a nice visual for the story.

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 5,633 words

Published: May 26, 2018 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781634866842

Edition Language: English

Wulf Francu Godgluck on Author Confessions and his release The Wulf Chronicles (guest post, excerpt, and giveaway)

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 The Wulf Chronicles Tour Banner

The Wulf Chronicles

Wulf Chron Book 1

Wulf Francu Godgluck

Gay Fantasy

Release Date: 06.11.18

The Wulf Chronicles Cover

 

COVER DESIGN:  KELLIE @ BOOK COVER BY DESIGN https://www.bookcoverbydesign.co.uk/

 

AMAZON US: https://amzn.to/2tTz2jo

AMAZON UK: https://amzn.to/2KI5uPo

1 THE WULF CHRONICLES 3D Image of Book Cover

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Wulf Francú Godgluck here today talking about his release The Wulf Chronicles.  Welcome, Wulf.

♦︎

10 Author Confessions from Wulf Francú Godgluck

Hi everyone, I want to thank Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for the opportunity of a guest post.

Em Denning tagged me in a FB post of #authorconfessions. Though I think it calls for me to post five confessions of me as an author, I’m gonna bump it up to ten for you guys.

So without further ado, here is my ten author confessions, or more correctly, it’s time to get real.

ONE

While writing a book, or self-editing (revisions) it, before I send it off to my editor, I look up similar book with the same tropes and story lines to compare them to my current WIP. With the last one, The Wulf Chronicles, I looked up a lot of werewolf books (not shifters, because there are no #Shiftershere in WulfChron) I wanted to see and compare the actual transformation. Now this has always bother me about werewolf, lycan and shifter books, why the transformation from human to beast is always brushed off or written in such a short line or paragraph, with very limited or no description. I wanted to do this right, because ultimately the transformation is as much part of being a werewolf/lycan/shifter as is being the beast.

TWO

Death carries very prominent and heavy themes throughout most of my books. Why? Because ultimately it is my biggest fear, something I spend way too much time pondering about, it’s both fascinating and terrifying. Not so much a death in itself, but the question of what happens afterwards, do we stay conscious, where do we go, are we reincarnated or do we all join some linked celestial consciousness, or the more scarier possibility; do we just become nothing after death, no thought, no conscious?

THREE

I cry while writing my characters’ death scenes. Because I know I’m saying goodbye to these characters, and it’s not a factor of but “you only met them a few month ago,” no, most of my books that are out, the characters have been with me for years and years before I even write their story.  So writing their death, hurts a lot. These aren’t just characters to me, they are in some strange way friends, almost family. And there was one character’s death that still haunts me to this day, and probably always will. All I will say about them is, we have yet to meet the man responsible for thinking that character’s life.

FOUR

I need to write in absolute isolation, I can’t write while my husbaer is around, nor while anyone else is around. I get totally grumpy and growly, my creative process feels disjointed and I struggle to find my mojo while I know there’s someone else in the apartment. Even if the husbaer was to sit in the bedroom with the door closed, I still can’t focus, but strangely enough, background noise, like cars in the street, sirens or dogs barking doesn’t bother me.

FIVE

I listen to dark, very dark ambient sounds and music as well as dark chanting and ritual industrial music while I write, even during sex scenes and fluffy scene, I need something by Cryo Chamber or Marilyn Manson playing in the background. And Cryo Chamber is one of my go to writing music to listen to while working, I should probably start paying them part of my royalties for it.  What is dark ambient, for those that don’t know?

Dark ambient is a genre of post-industrial music that features an ominous, dark droning and often gloomy, monumental or catacombal atmosphere, partially with discordant overtones. It shows similarities towards ambient music, a genre that has been cited as a main influence by many dark ambient artists, both conceptually and compositionally. Although mostly electronically generated, dark ambient also includes the sampling of hand-played instruments and semi-acoustic recording procedures, and is strongly related to ritual industrial music.

SIX

I have major issues with how dark romance seems to be portrayed these days in the romance genre in general. Many authors and readers believe that grotesque, vast amounts of violence, rape, dubcon and noncon as well as taboos means that they are writing dark. It’s not.

Dark was once use to refer to the emotional psyche, question ourselves and our morals, enticing and exploring our darker nature, it had more to do with the psychological aspect and the darker corners of the mind, soul and heart than it had anything to do with sexual acts, physicality or the depravity.

Am I saying that violence, rape, dubcon and noncon and taboos etc. can’t be considered dark romance?

No, that’s not it, the issue I’m having here is, it’s the lack of focus on the emotional side and the destruction of character’s morals or the stripping away of their humanity that is causing the confusion among readers and authors. But genres are constantly changing, the romance we read and write today was not the same type of romance that was being read and written ten, twenty, fifty, years ago.

I think the bigger issue here is with me, myself; struggling to accept how the genre is changing.

SEVEN

I don’t plot, I don’t outline, I know as much about the characters as the reader does when they first open the book, sure the characters have been by my side, whispering into my ear for years but I don’t know the story of them until I start writing. Yes, I understand their personalities, quarks and mannerisms that makes them them, but even I don’t know their deeps secretes until I put them down into words. What I do know before hand is how each and every one of these characters’ story will end. I know the ending of every manuscript or story arch I am working on before I know the beginning.

EIGHT

I hate being interrupted, especially once I’m in my flow of writing, or trying to get into my flow of writing, it can for example pull me out of a whole day of writing. I start early in the morning, and that is a very crucial time for me, if I don’t find my flow and mojo in the morning I know beforehand if words will flow from me for the rest of the day or not, (this is maybe one of the major factors why it takes me so long to finish a book.) And when I do have my mojo going being interrupted can spoil my entire flow, so much so that the rest of the day is lost, because getting into that flow and mojo is not an easy thing.

NINE

I hate, HATE having to write sex scenes, I hate it more than most authors hate to write the evil blurbs. It’s exhausting, frustrating and annoying to no end. I cringe every time I have to write one, it’s one of the things in writing that also takes up most of my time, one sex scene took me an entire month to write, because I am so anal about details and showing instead of telling. My sex scenes tend to be a whole chapter long, between 7-10k words. If I could get away with fade to black or even no sex scenes in my books I would, but I think readers would crucify me for it. I also hate books that have sex scene, upon sex scene, upon sex scene, I mostly skim over 90% of those while reading.

TEN

I rarely take photos of myself anymore, its way I have the same damn photos circulating my profile for the last six years, the reason? I suffer from severe plaque psoriasis, it’s so bad that it’s on my face now, and about 85% of my body. It’s not a fact that I feel insecure about it, I’ve been living with it for twenty four years, I have accepted it, it’s more a fact of making other people feel uncomfortable around me.

I can’t move without flakes of dead skin dropping off of me. In high school the comments I use to get from kids ranged from; AIDS boy to scale kid to reptile. Then being gay on top of that, in a community where beauty standards are so vain was hard. I can’t wear white because if I do, I risk the chance of blood staining the material, and if I wear black, well flakes, flakes of dead skin everywhere. I also have to be selective of the type of material and the thickness. If it’s too rough it will irritate my skin, if it’s too thick, it’s like I’m wearing four coats of thick wool; see, psoriasis is not a f*&^ing skin condition or disease.

Screw every doctor and dermatologist that says so. Psoriasis is an immune disorder, my immune system is basically on overdrive, hence why I very rarely get sick, and when I do I tend to recover quicker, cuts and bruises heal faster and my nails and hair grow quicker than a normal person does.

Psoriasis is identified by scales and itchy, dry patches on the skin, hence why so many associate it with a skin condition, the reason for this is, my skin cells reproduce quicker than normal, so the patches of flaky skin is basically just dead skin that needs to be shed.  What’s that got to do with too thick clothing, well the patches I do have are on fire, see when we are sick we get a fever, the fever is basically a sign that your immune system is responding and fighting back, If I were to place my hand on a patch of Psoriasis and a normal aria of skin is next it, one can clearly feel the different temperatures between the two, so yeah, thick textiles is just gonna make me feel hot.    

I have grown a thicker skin than most people, living with Psoriasis. Employers won’t take me on for a job because of my psoriasis, hence why I threw myself and am trying to create a steady income from writing. Treatment is costly to keep it under control and manageable, and unfortunately it needs to come straight out of my own pocket, we do have medical aid (medical insurance) but most of the creams I use are considered cosmetic and beauty products, and not covered by our medical aid. Heliotherapy alone for one month’s worth of four sessions would deplete our medical savings for the entire year completely. It’s an ongoing struggle I have to live with every day and the itching, man, the itching. You know when you have a cut or wound or even sunburn and it itches because it healing, that’s basically your body trying to shed the dead skin cells, now try to imagine feeling that every second of every day over your entire body. It’s enough to make most people irritated or crazy.   

And there you have it, ten author confession for a crazy person.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

They come to me in the night, creeping into my head. Their voices are all different, their stories all dissimilar, but they keep saying the same thing…

“Show us, tell us to the world. Bring us into yours, and make us known.”

Then I sit and they take over. They tell their tales of love, loss and sinister misfortune, not all of them get a happy ending, but they are pleased when their part is written.

I sometimes find myself lost in my own mind; a world very similar to our own yet so different. Things don’t go bump in the night—they squeal, and crawl under your skin, making you grind your teeth, and your stomach turn over and put your nerves on edge. Then there’s the drama. Oh, the drama!

I write because I must! There is so much inside of me that needs to get out. So many stories to tell, characters that want to be heard, and hearts lost and won. Words and art are my way of bringing my world to others. I enjoy telling tales of the human condition but working in elements of the supernatural. Werewolves, Vampires, Zombies, Witches and the unexplainable all set against the human world or worlds of their own.

Wulf Francú Godgluck hails from South Africa. His work is not for the faint-hearted! In his books, you’ll find… all the beasties with their nasty claws and teeth, and some you didn’t even know existed. But the monsters aren’t all real. Some live inside us. Who knows what he will make you discover about yourself, lurking in your heart, behind the closed walls of the deep, black recesses where no light penetrates? Wulf will steal your heart and never give it back. More than likely, he’ll pin it to the wall with a bobby pin and sit there sipping his tea while you writhe and squeal on the floor… STILL sure you want to read a Wulf Godgluck book?

Contact & Media Info Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

The Wulf Chronicles. Now available on Amazon: https://goo.gl/pWWi65

SYNOPSIS

What if werewolves were real?

What if one of them was different?

What if you were a defective werewolf?

This is not the story of how one night I got bitten and my life changed. Nor is it the story of how I went on a savage killing spree that left me tormented with guilt and dread the next morning.

No.

This is the story of a boy, a boy who’s spent his life running from the shadows of monsters. A boy who never understood why the world hated him with so much odium. Why his mother would throw away her only life to protect his. Why he was never allowed to have friends. Why he never had the childhood every child should. Why he was never allowed to cherish happiness.

This is the story of a boy becoming himself, embracing his vulnerability and learning to accept and love.

This is a story about a werewolf, trying to find the answers to why he was born defective.

And maybe that’s the very reason I become the main course on the menu.

The Wulf Chronicles Teaser 1

 

EXCERPT

A lycan’s sexual orientation was a completely nonproblematic topic. Most lycans, before meeting and knowing the gender of their mates, tended to be bisexual, however, there were the few cases, as with Leo, where a lycan knew beforehand what gender they were drawn to. And, luckily, the mating call was never cruel in that regard.

Contrary to how prejudice and discriminatory the Council and lycan community’s views on females were, homosexuality had never fazed the lycan race. It was part of their ancestry, as natural and accepting as bleeding.

“Go,”she growled at him, “before you shatter my stoic façade and have me in tears. I’m honored to know this beautiful thing is happening in my presence.”

Leo smiled, turned, and ascended the stairs, his grin fading as he neared the bathroom the Beta occupied.

He clutched the doorknob, squeezing his eyelids and drawing in a shaky breath, willing himself to calm down.

The knob ripped from under Leo’s grasp as the door swung open, the momentum of Cooler’s movements and of Leo’s stumble at the abrupt occurrence, sent them colliding into each other.

Cooler grabbed Leo by the throat and shoved him against the bathroom wall, his one eye glowing a furious blue fire as he glared up at him.

“If the pretty puppy wanted a kiss, all he had to do was whimper.”

Leo swallowed against the clutched grip squeezing his windpipe, any response stuck in his throat. Cooler leaned in close, released Leo’s neck, and cupped the back of his head, pulling him down before sealing their lips together.

Fire screamed through him, heat gnawed to the tips of Leo’s fingertips and toes as Cooler wrenched open Leo’s lips with nip of his teeth, shoving his fat tongue into Leo’s mouth…

No one said a lycan claiming his mate was a pretty event.

The kiss that followed was a soft and gentle devastation of sweet hunger.

Cooler’s lips were pure lightning against Leo’s, every hair on his body pulsated to attention. His growl simmered through their mouths, giving Leo ample knowledge of how much power resided within his mate, the vibration, a thunder, rattled him to his soul.

He didn’t dare touch Cooler. Just because they were sucking lips, didn’t mean the Beta had accepted Leo as his.

Cooler pulled back, his eye a bone-chilling dark as he glared up into Leo’s gaze.

Fat fingers slid from behind Leo’s neck, mapping their way along his cheek to brush over his lips, only to catch him by the chin.

Leo closed his eyes, both needing and dreading the words about to spill from his mate.

But time stretched, and it stretched, and it stretched as he waited.

His lips moved involuntarily, quivering, ready to speak, but only a whimper undulated through him. Cooler grunted, halting Leo’s tongue and washing hot air up into Leo’s face, reminding him of how close the Beta’s lips were to his own.

His insides squirmed, anticipating, hoping and wanting Cooler to bless him with another taste.

No kiss came, no words either. Only the scent of his mate. A spicy, intoxicating, rugged musk. Prime Bloods tended to have a heavier, far more domineering scent than half-breeds. That and, of course, the raw power they emanated were the only physical truths that set them apart.

Wulf Logo

They come to me in the night, creeping into my head. Their voices are all different, their stories all dissimilar, but they keep saying the same thing…

“Show us, tell us to the world. Bring us into yours, and make us known.”

Then I sit and they take over. They tell their tales of love, loss and sinister misfortune, not all of them get a happy ending, but they are pleased when their part is written.

I sometimes find myself lost in my own mind; a world very similar to our own yet so different. Things don’t go bump in the night—they squeal, and crawl under your skin, making you grind your teeth, and your stomach turn over and put your nerves on edge. Then there’s the drama. Oh, the drama!

I write because I must! There is so much inside of me that needs to get out. So many stories to tell, characters that want to be heard, and hearts lost and won. Words and art are my way of bringing my world to others. I enjoy telling tales of the human condition but working in elements of the supernatural. Werewolves, Vampires, Zombies, Witches and the unexplainable all set against the human world or worlds of their own.

Wulf Francú Godgluck hails from South Africa. His work is not for the faint-hearted! In his books, you’ll find… all the beasties with their nasty claws and teeth, and some you didn’t even know existed. But the monsters aren’t all real. Some live inside us. Who knows what he will make you discover about yourself, lurking in your heart, behind the closed walls of the deep, black recesses where no light penetrates? Wulf will steal your heart and never give it back. More than likely, he’ll pin it to the wall with a bobby pin and sit there sipping his tea while you writhe and squeal on the floor… STILL sure you want to read a Wulf Godgluck book?

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

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Blog Tour for Leaning Into Forever (Leaning Into #7) by Lane Hayes (excerpt and giveaway)

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LEANING INTO FOREVER

Leaning Into Series Book 7

LANE HAYES

M/M ROMANCE

RELEASE DATE: 06.26.18

Leaning Into Forever Cover

COVER ARTIST: REESE DANTE

AMAZON US

AMAZON UK

AMAZON AU 

BLURB 

Geordie De La Rosa is a legend among wine lovers in Napa Valley. His ultra-fabulous style paired with a penchant for leading impromptu sing-a-longs has made him a star attraction at Conrad Winery. Co-owning a well-respected winery was never Geordie’s aspiration but he likes the niche he’s made for himself. He won’t deny that his job and his friends have helped ease his heartache and grief after the death of his longtime partner.

Levi Yeager excels at the art of reinventing himself. He’s been a minor league baseball player, a college coach and now a restaurant owner. The problem is he doesn’t know anything about the food business. And when his chef quits unexpectedly, he’s afraid his new venture is doomed. But Levi isn’t a quitter. It may be the only thing he has in common with the beautiful, sassy man from the neighboring winery who agrees to help get his new business up and running. Neither man counts on their fast friendship or the wild attraction they feel for each other. However, they know they won’t stand a chance until they let go of the past and lean into forever.

Leaning Into Forever Teaser 1

Leaning Into Forever Teaser 2

EXCERPT

“I can’t decide what to sing. The Sound of Music is always a winner, but perhaps I should try—”

Grease,” Levi suggested out of the fucking blue. He chuckled when I jumped, and then he handed me a napkin to clean the burgundy liquid that sloshed over the rim of my wineglass.

“Where the hell did you come from? And why are you always sneaking up on me?” I asked irritably as I wrapped the napkin around the stem of my glass.

“I didn’t sneak up on you. You asked for a music suggestion, and I gave you one.”

“I wasn’t asking your opinion,” I huffed without heat. “I was talking to myself.”

“Again?”

“I’m always talking to myself.”

I lifted my glass to my lips to hide my involuntary hum of approval. Damn, he cleaned up nicely. His slicked-back hair and close-shaven hint of a beard went well with his white oxford button-down shirt, houndstooth blazer, and snug designer jeans. And holy hell…cowboy boots.

“People are gonna think you’re weird if you keep that up,” he singsonged playfully.

“I hope so. Weird is the ultimate badge of honor.” I raised my glass in a mock toast then gave him a lascivious once-over that was too flirty to be taken seriously. “You look very handsome. I wouldn’t think to pair a sophisticated jacket with ranch chic and yet, somehow you’ve made it work.”

Levi crossed his arms and leaned against the wall with a slow-growing grin. The latent sensuality in the lazy upturn of his full lips fascinated me. Or maybe it was the cowboy boots.

“Thanks. I think.”

“Anytime. I should go.” I shoved my glass into his free hand then flung my yellow scarf over my shoulder and pinched my cheeks to add a touch of natural color before bowing theatrically. “Adieu. My audience awaits.”

“Hang on.” He stepped in front of me before I could escape. “I want to talk to you for a second.”

The billowy sleeves of my black tunic fluttered as I motioned for him to hurry. “What is it?”

“I didn’t have a chance to thank you for helping me out today. The stuffed jalapeños were a hit. And they went well with the wine.”

“You’re welcome. I know my peppers, and I know my Pinot. You were smart to print out a sample menu for La Vid. The font was all wrong, but it was still a nice touch,” I enthused. “Now excuse me while I—”

Levi grabbed my elbow to stop me. “La Vid?”

“It’s just a suggestion, of course, but I think a touch of Spanish flair would be well-received. Every other business in this town has the word vine or wine in it. La Vid would stand out. Think about it.”

“I will. What was wrong with the font?” he asked, furrowing his brow.

I grabbed my drink from his hand and took a small sip. “You used Helvetica, Levi. That’s almost as boring as Times New Roman.”

It didn’t seem possible, but his forehead creased a little more as his frown deepened. “At no point in my life did I ever think I’d ask this question at a party but…what font would you suggest?”

“Andale or Century Gothic. Or better yet, Monaco,” I replied without hesitation. “Something classy yet understated and sophisticated. That’s what you’re going for with your restaurant, correct?”

“Yes. Exactly. Wes told me you’re responsible for the overall aesthetic at Conrad Winery. Are you a budding designer on top of being a cabaret singer?”

I grinned at his teasing tone. “Yes and no. I have zero training in either endeavor, but I’m pretty damn good at both if I do say so myself.”

“And modest too,” he quipped.

“Modesty will get you nowhere. If you want something, you’d better speak up before someone else swoops in.”

“Agreed. I want something.” Levi inched closer, seeming suddenly larger than life. His shoulders were broader, and his expression was more intense.

“What do you want?”

“You.”

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Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in an almost empty nest.

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