Welcome to our third week of celebrations for the amazing
In today's post, we'll look at the Love And Family series, plus a personal story Anyta has chosen to share. There's also another chance to win!
First up, Taboo For You
Sam’s freaking out. He’s 30 in three weeks. And what has he done in his twenties? It’s pretty simple math: nothing exciting at all. But hey, he has three weeks right? Maybe that’s just enough time to tick his way through a 20s Must Do List . . .
Luke’s freaking screwed. He’s come out to his family, and his friends. Except there’s a certain someone who doesn’t know yet: his neighbor of 7 years. Who also happens to be his best friend. Who Luke needs to tell the truth, but he just . . . can’t . . . seem to . . .
Jeremy’s freaking over-the-moon. It’s the countdown to his 15th birthday, and his goal is simple. No matter what, he’s going to spend heaps of time with saucy Suzy. But first he needs to get his over-protective, no-girlfriend-'cause-you’ll-get-her-pregnant parents off his back. And what better way than pretending he’s gay?
Sam, Luke, and Jeremy. Three guys who have a lot of history together, and a lot of future too—
—well, if they can sort out their issues, that is.
I wait for Sam at a table in the corner, next to the windows overlooking the busy street. It’s ten after twelve when he crosses the road with a ridiculous smile on his face. His hair is fashionably mussed and I swear his eyes are laughing. He’s practically skipping, and it makes my heart skip too.
I want him to be as excited to see me as I am to see him.
I stand up when he comes in and beckon him over. I’m nervous though, and I can feel it in the clamminess of my hands and the way I knock over my water glass as I sit.
Sam is on to it. He already has serviettes in his hand and is wiping up. Then he does something he’s never done before, and it goes right to my groin. He winks. “My waiting experience pays off for once.”
He laughs and I stumble over a “thanks.”
“What has you so cheerful today?” I ask, opening the menu and scanning over it without seeing a single thing.
He doesn’t say anything, just shrugs and smiles wider.
I look up at him and raise a brow.
He swallows, the smile still there, and focuses on the glass I tipped over. He spins it in circles. “I’m on holiday. I feel . . . so free.”
Boy does he deserve it too. I’m so happy for him, I can taste the freedom myself, and that wonderful free-fall feeling comes over me again. “And what are you going to do with your time?”
The waitress comes over and we order. When she’s left, Sam leans over the table conspiratorially. I lean in too.
“I have a list.”
I try not to smile, but I know it’s slipping out of my control. Even though I’m not touching it, I can feel his 20s Must-Do List in my pocket, warming me through my jeans. “Oh yeah?”
“Yeah. I’m going to make my way through it. Also, so long as you’re still on a sabbatical, we should, I don’t know, do more stuff together. Catch up, you know. Hey how do you feel about sharks?”
Truth? I’m not a fan. In fact, they scare the crap out of me. I don’t say that though. I shrug. “Oh yeah, you know. They’re just animals.” Animals that can freaking tear you apart with their massive, killer jaws.
“Want to swim with them with me?”
Leave the “with them” part out, and I am all there. “Hell yeah.”
He smiles, and I know swimming with sharks will be worth it.
Leaning back, he looks out the window and squints. “You wouldn’t happen to know who Kanye West is, would you?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“You do? How do you know this stuff?”
I lean back in my chair, feeling a glint of hope as I say, “I am almost a decade older than you are.” I hope my emphasis on decade hits him the way it’s meant to, and I think it has, because he flushes and glances toward the kitchens.
“What’s taking them so long?” he says, and begins fidgeting with his placemat.
It hasn’t been long at all, and I like knowing he’s just as nervous as I am. I want to reach out and take his hand and say I want to be your summer fling.
For all our summers, always.
But it’s too much at once, and I have to break into things more gently. I have to tell him about me—“Sam,” I say, shifting on my seat and looking down at the placemat in front of me, fingering the dragon indentations. “There’s something I want to talk to you about—”
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Second in the series, Made For You
Ben wants to find a new home.
Twenty-four-year-old Ben McCormick is the primary caregiver for his brother Milo after their parents’ death. A year into the job, he’s totally got the hang of it. Mostly. Sort of. Not at all?
Defeated and thoroughly chastised for his lack in parenting skills at teacher-parent night, Ben slumps away with the resolve to finally get his life sorted: be a better role model, and sell their parents’ house for a fresh start.
But first, he needs to spruce up his house to hit the market. He’s no DIY king, but Milo’s hot-as-hell woodwork teacher is…
Jack wants an old home to fix.
Thirty-nine-year-old Jack Pecker is waiting for the home of his dreams to come on the market in the summer. What better way to wait the interim months than working on a small renovation gig?
Only trouble is, the gig is for the McCormick brothers. And working in close quarters to red-haired Ben McCormick won’t be easy. Not with the attraction that simmers between them. Attraction Ben makes no effort to hide.
But Jack’s professional. Dating a parent is highly discouraged at Kresley Intermediate, and he’d never cross the lines…
Ben and Jack. Two guys searching for a home – – a home that might just be where their hearts lead them.
For the first Saturday in a long time, I feel on top of the world. I didn’t have to work today, and Milo’s been in a bright mood since waking up in his old room. His infectious spirit is still going strong this evening as we truck our way around the rocky bays toward Eastbourne.
Jack drives, flannel shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Milo fidgets in the middle between us, his floppy hair peach with the setting sun streaming through the windshield.
I pinch the last piece of Caramello chocolate bar, feeling it squish slightly under the wrapper. I grill Milo. “Which bird likes to follow you in the bush?”
“Follow up question: why does it follow you in the bush?”
Milo rolls his eyes. “It wants the insects that our boots stir up, duh.”
“One other fact, and you score the last piece of Caramello bar.”
Playing fair? Not in Milo’s vocabulary. He bats his puppy-dog eyes and goes in for the kill. “You’re my fantail.”
Ha! “Because I chase after you all the time?”
“Because Fanta, fantail. It just sounds right.”
Aww, I like my brother.
He’s the best.
Milo stuffs the chocolate in his mouth as if he didn’t just eat three squares.
Jack shakes his head at us. The sunset makes him glow and he’s starting to sport a beard. “I have no words for you two.”
“Gotta love us, Mr. Woodpecker,” Milo squeezes out.
I hook Jack’s attention over Milo’s head. “We gotta bird-christen the kid. What do you reckon?”
“I’m a Kiwi,” Milo says.
“We’re all Kiwis,” Jack says. “Doesn’t count.”
I love that Jack takes part so enthusiastically. A keen hop bursts in my veins, and I headlock Milo and give him a noogie. He shrieks and giggles. “You need something more apt—” My gaze flickers toward the street where Jack is slowing down, and I shriek.
“Penguins! At the penguin crossing.” Milo takes the words right out of my mouth. “This never happens.”
I clutch Milo’s arms. “Oh fuck. They’re so cute.”
Milo leans forward, eyes tracking the tiny birds as they waddle across the road to their nests. “I want to nuzzle my face in their bellies.”
“If I haven’t nuzzled them all first—”
Jack turns toward us, hand resting on the steering wheel, secret smile simmering in his pinched eyes.
I lift a brow, and he resettles himself, facing forward. He clears his throat. “I suppose I have to get in line if I want to nuzzle?”
A laugh wallops out of me at his unexpected participation in our silliness.
The penguins disappear into the vegetation at the side of the road. Jack rolls his truck forward and takes the last few turns slowly. We park before a playground that’s flanked by a coastal café with a wide grassy area and a rocky shoreline.
Dusk shivers over calm seas and layers the world in pink. Lights twinkle in the bustling café and the chorus of conversations tinkers toward us.
A second car pulls into the parking spot next to ours. Their windows are cracked, and the salty, oily smell of fish ’n’ chips makes my mouth water.
“Open house is just up the hill behind us,” Jack says across the bonnet.
I cringe, because I haven’t quite told Milo why we came out here.
“Open house?” Milo says on cue.
Jack continues, unaware that I used underhand methods to make this trip happen. “It’s a nice family home overlooking the sea—”
“No-no-no-no,” Milo chants under his breath.
“No hot chocolate,” Milo snaps.
I mouth ‘please.’
Jack hesitantly accepts my request. Once he’s inside, Milo storms past me and I follow him onto the lumpy grass. The sea stretches behind Milo in tangerine. The hills on the other side of Wellington crown his head. He steers his pouting face toward the playground.
A minute passes, and then, “You told me we’re here for the penguins.”
“‘And stuff’ is an ice cream on the beach, not forcing a new home down my throat.”
“It’s not our new home. I’m learning what to look out for, so when we do buy one, you have a bedroom with a ceiling that doesn’t cave in on you.”
“I hope it does cave in. I don’t want to move.”
“Well, we have to eventually.”
“So you brought me here under false preteens?”
“It’s my religious belief that older brothers are the worst people to have ever been born.”
“Tough luck, bucko.”
“I want you to disappear.”
“Well, we don’t always get what we want.”
“Maybe you just need to want it hard enough.”
I sigh. I glimpse Jack returning with paper cups in hand. God if I ever needed coffee, it’s now. “If I want it really hard, you’ll go to bed when I tell you to without me bribing you first?”
“If you want it so bad, you gotta act like it. Do something. Don’t get pissy at me because you’re a shitty parent.”
I rock back with the blow and catch Jack’s approaching step stall.
Hurt and embarrassment punch through me.
Milo storms off toward the playground, and I whirl around and kick a lumpy weed. The couple in the car watch me, and my cheeks burn.
Jack sets two coffee cups on a nearby bench. He crosses to me with a down-to-earth gait and clasps my shoulder with a reassuring squeeze. It’s more than I deserve.
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A Personal Story
At first, I wondered, what story I could share here – I’m not the biggest sharer. Not super active on social media, either. But then I realized – of course I share parts of myself all the time, through my books. Whether that’s Zane from Pisces Hooks Taurus who struggles with self-confidence and confidence in his work, or the fact that I’m in the happy position to live my own great romance, and that many of my husband’s quirks have made it into my characters.
But one part of my life that I’ve struggled with a lot recently is being a parent to beautiful, active, very different and very demanding boys, ages 10 and 3. Being a parent is such a trip, giving you the greatest highs but also the greatest doubts. Constantly being “on” and vigilant, and at the same time often bored out of your mind and off in your thoughts. And the question hanging over all it: am I fucking up? Am I ruining their lives? Why don’t they eat any vegetables? Are they too media obsessed? But how can I even have a shower if I don’t put on a cartoon?
And then they do the sweetest things. Like my big son, drawing Minecraft characters of himself and his little brother to print them on a T-Shirt. Like my little son, who loves nothing more than cooking with his Papa, and who’s so proud he can stir the pasta sauce. And both of them, squashing me under a mountain of hugs.
What I’m saying: being a parent is the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s much harder than I ever imagined, because these little people need you at your best, and you’re not prepared for it. At all. And have all your own stuff to deal with. Need to calm the 10th fight of the evening? Try that after getting your beta reader’s feedback that will mean scrapping a third of a book you’ve written.
Of course, this trip of parenting makes its way into my books. Family is a big and recurring theme (see: “rock”, “nest”, “True Colors”, “Taboo For You”), and my beautiful pre-teen son certainly inspired a big part of Milo from my latest book, “Made For You”. Like Ben, I struggle to be the role model for my children, but like Ben, I try again every day.
About the author:
I write a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy. My books have been translated into German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Thai.
Thank you for celebrating this fabulous author with us. Come back next week for more of Anyta's book, our author interview, and one more chance to win.
Until then, happy reading!