Sigh. Man, I love holiday novellas. I love reading them. I love writing them. I love the magic glow of family and friends and good cheer, the wallowing in sentimentality and hope and love. Yeah, it’s pretty much my favorite thing.
With REAL WORLD, Tom and Reese are back. We left them happy at the end of OFF CAMPUS, but still in college and figuring out how their relationship would work going forward. And I needed these two to get their forever HEA. But even more than that, I wanted to show how two people who love each other can struggle with the work a relationship takes, and still find themselves madly in love after making it through the rough patches.
Enjoy! And scroll down for a smexy excerpt…
When talking fails, it’s time to break out the big guns.
Bend or Break, Book 5
Five years ago, Tom Worthington busted his ass to overcome the fear and paranoia that led him to withdraw from the world and nearly lose his boyfriend. He never thought he’d find himself right back there, shutting Reese out, keeping secrets again.
Reese Anders is ready to try anything to get Tom to talk: if he can’t seduce his boyfriend with food, he’ll get Tom to open up in bed. But even Tom’s confession that his dad is getting out of prison soon doesn’t clear the air between them. And as the holidays approach, intensive mentoring from a new British boss creates more distractions, until Reese is keeping secrets of his own.
At a company Christmas party, it only takes Tom one look at Reese’s new boss to figure out how much danger their relationship is in. But he’s not about to let the connection that started all those years ago at Carlisle come to an end. It’s time to deal with their problems like adults. Face to face. Or back to front. Starting in the bedroom.
Warning: This book contains two adorable guys with way too many secrets, conciliatory rigatoni, a bedroom lesson on the power of multitasking, and indisputable evidence on what makes the perfect holiday HEA.
Buy REAL WORLD at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, ARebooks or at the Samhain website!
I’m at a whole bunch of blogs with this release, with giveaways happening at various stops. I’ll update the links as they go live:
Heroes & Heartbreakers – With some of my favorite proposals & wedding scenes.
Joyfully Jay – In which I gush over romance series about extended groups of friends.
Just Love Romance – An interview about Tom and Reese, upcoming releases, and the only wrong answer to the question, “What’s your favorite deep dish pizza in Chicago?”
Boys in Our Books – I rec all kinds of terrific books in this interview!
Sinfully – I rave about some of my favorite romances featuring food, glorious food.
All About Romance – Holiday romances are my jam. An eclectic mix of m/f and m/m stories.
Bayou Book Junkie – Tom and Reese get interviewed!
My blog! – I go completely overboard with even more holiday romances. I mean, completely.
Binge on Books – This interview is a podcast, which was so much fun!
In REAL WORLD, Tom and Reese are both going through difficulties they’re reluctant to share with each other. But couples can communicate in more than one way…
Dinner was a verbal two-step that only Reese knew was a dance, as he tried to open up avenues of conversation that would encourage Tom to talk to him. Halfway through the meal, though, Reese asked himself why he was playing this game instead of straight up asking Tom what was going on.
He figured out the answer to his own question before he finished his wine.
I want him to want to talk to me. Why does it feel like it doesn’t count as much if I have to flat-out ask him to tell me what’s wrong?
For the rest of the meal, Reese sat quietly, lost in his own head. Tom roused himself as Reese remained silent, thanking him for the meal and asking him questions about his day at work. But the effort fell short.
“Sorry I’m so distracted,” Tom said after losing track of the conversation again, reaching out to touch the back of Reese’s hand. “Sounds like a pretty cool opportunity with the Marketing guys. I’m happy for you.”
For whatever reason, they were having a hard time making a connection with words. But that hand on Reese’s wrist reminded him that words weren’t the only way they knew how to connect…
After they’d finished dinner, Tom didn’t let Reese back in the kitchen, pushing him out of the room with a proprietary hand on his ass and a kiss behind his ear. “You cooked. I clean. Go. Watch a movie. Read a book.”
“Take a bath,” Reese murmured, and Tom stilled behind him.
Take a bath meant something specific. Something special.
Before he could breathe, Tom pressed against his back, one arm wrapping over Reese’s chest to pull them tightly together. Reese tipped his head back, luxuriating in the feeling of being held so close. For a long time, being held had felt like being trapped, triggering panic and nausea that left him shaking and sick. Years of work had taken him through the healing, getting him from simply being able to tolerate touch like this—which had felt like a triumph at the time—to being able to enjoy it.
When Tom spoke, Reese could hear him and feel him, the words rumbling in Tom’s chest against his back. “Yes. Yes. Take a bath.”
The water in the tub was scalding. Reese cupped a hand over his delicate bits, easing himself down into the heat that felt so good on his legs and back, but was a bit too too at first for his poor cock and balls. But he didn’t want the water to grow cold too quickly. He wanted to linger, to soak and melt in the oil-slicked water that smelled like lemon and musk. Tom always sniffed and snuffled at his neck until Reese giggled, claiming Reese smelled like furniture polish, but Reese liked it and the scent soothed his nerves.
He scrubbed at all the places that needed scrubbing. While the tub was filling, he’d done a quick job on the inside bits too, not worried about perfection—they weren’t making a porno—but wanting his everything to be as friendly and welcoming as possible.
Halfway through his bath, there was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” he said, appreciating as always that Tom was the kind of guy who would still knock after four years together, and not barge in on a boy in the tub.
But Tom didn’t come in all the way, only poked his head around the door and swept the tiny room with a glance before saying “I thought so” and pulling the door shut behind him again.
“What?” Reese called out to him, but there was no answer.
Five minutes later, though, another knock and repeated permission to enter. Tom edged the door open with his foot and entered the room holding the tray they used for those Sunday breakfasts in bed. Only this time it was covered with all of their tea-light holders and glass-jarred candles.
Tom had brought him romance.
After setting the tray on the counter next to the sink, Tom flicked the switch off, plunging the room into a darkness lit only by the flickering constellation of lights at his waist.
Reese leaned his head back against the hand towel he’d rolled up and used as a neck rest, sinking a little farther into the water.
One by one, Tom lifted the candles off the tray and set them around Reese. On the far corners of the tub, on the lid of the toilet seat, one tea light in the inset soap holder in the shower wall. Flickering yellow light reflected on the iridescent slashes of bath oil and water.
When he was done, Tom stood over Reese, looking down at him, so quiet and serious. Reese eyed his own pale, thin body, distorted under the smooth skin of water disturbed only by his breathing. He wondered sometimes what Tom saw when he looked at him. Because Reese liked his own face well enough, but his body was nothing special. Not like Tom’s glossy, golden muscles and strong limbs. Reese’s cock lay against his thigh, soft in the hot bath, and that didn’t look special either, although Reese liked the way his dick looked when it was hard. Strong, straight, with balls that didn’t distract from the main focus. He swished an arm through the water and broke the smooth surface, shattering his body into a hundred wobbly lines.
Tom pulled one of the poofy balls off the shower rack and sat on the floor next to the tub. He dunked the poof in the water and then lathered it up. The sharp tang of their citrus shower gel filled the air. Tom held out a hand.
Reese gave him his own.
In total silence, Tom washed him. Reese didn’t say a word, not even to mention he’d already done this himself. Because there was something different about having Tom do it to him. The washing wasn’t the point. The touching was. The lighting up and sensitizing of every inch of his skin, gently scraped to a heightened awareness by the slow strokes of a foamy poof up and down his limbs until he tingled all over.