Welcome to our first week of celebrating the amazing
In our first post, we will look at I Saw You First and Victim Of Love, plus Darien's favorite things. There's also a chance to win a book from the backlist.
First up, I Saw You First
Following a devastating childhood trauma, Jude Applegate has spent years picking up the pieces of his life and gluing them back together. Now, as an adult, his life is solid enough to begin taking some risks. So when an intriguing and handsome man asks him on a date, he says yes.
But then he’s forced to contend with the man’s brother, whose presence creates conflict, chaos, and confusion that threatens to upend the careful peace Jude’s spent years building.
Walt lifted his tank top and wiped sweat off his face, giving me a glimpse of his tanned belly. I’d always loved his stomach, even when we were kids. He had more hair there now, a thin dark trail below his navel. I forced my eyes to the ground until he dropped the shirt and was covered again. “It’s so hot here,” he said. “Weird, I can work outside on my house for hours and not get this hot.”
“It’s cooler out on the cliffside,” I said. “You’ll get used to the heat here. Just make sure you drink lots of water.”
Nodding, he still didn’t make a move to leave. Our gazes locked as we stood there in the silence of the forest. And just for a moment, I forgot he was my sworn enemy. I forgot that he didn’t remember me, didn’t know who the hell I was, or that he’d hurt me once. For a brief moment, being near him didn’t summon my rage. Instead, it felt good, normal, the way it used to years ago, before all the bad things happened.
He gave me a smile that made my breath catch, because it was so familiar. The secret smile I remembered from childhood. He used to smile at me like that sometimes in school when he caught me staring, and it felt like our own personal secret. But I hadn’t seen it in fifteen years, and suddenly my heart sped. And I was at a loss for words, so now we were back to awkwardly staring at each other.
“Don’t you have a date to get to?” He chuckled. “With my brother?”
“Yeah. I do.” I turned away, walking back toward the trail. A moment later I heard his footfalls, and he caught up to me. The two of us headed back toward the motel grounds.
Walt was quiet as we walked. But eventually, he muttered, “I’m sorry, Jude.”
My heart leapt to my throat. “Sorry for what?”
“That you have to put up with me here. I promise to stay out of your way and try to be invisible as much as possible. My personality obviously grates on you.”
“Don’t worry about it. You’re doing fine. Everyone seems to like you.”
“Yes. Even my sister likes you. Not that it pleases me any to say so.”
He frowned at me, then smiled when I chuckled. “Well, that’s something I guess. I liked everyone I’ve met here too.”
“Good. It should be fine then. We’ll get through it.”
Eventually stepping out of the woods and into the clearing, I could see his roommate Kelsey in the red truck parked over by the rec center. Walt stopped walking, but didn’t look at me, staring straight ahead as he asked, “What about you?”
I looked at his profile. “What about me?”
“Do you like me?”
I laughed. “Does it matter?”
“I guess not.”
“Okay. See you tomorrow.”
Walt started to walk away, then turned back. “Hey, Jude?”
“Watch yourself with Shea tonight.” He winked. “He had some choice dirty things to say about you on the phone. Better guard your virtue.”
My lips parted to speak, to tell him to shut his mouth, something. But he was already jogging away, slipping into the truck alongside Kelsey. I watched them drive off.
Choice dirty things. I wondered what they were. That same rush of pleasure and flattery I’d felt when Shea asked me out earlier shivered through me. But it was tinged with weirdness now, since the words had come from Walt. And that wink. Holy shit. At least, it seemed, he wasn’t trying to talk me out of dating his brother anymore. Maybe he’d decided I was worthy.
I was somewhat shaken when I arrived at my cabin, and got in the shower. It had been an emotional day. Hate, rage, frustration, I’d felt it all. But this confusion in me now was more powerful than all of it. Wally Cook, of all people, asking if I liked him. That would have been my chance, had I wanted to confess. To tell him no, I don’t like you. In fact, I hate you, you bastard. You ruined my life, and haven’t even got the decency to acknowledge doing it. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.
But something had changed today. Something that had lived inside me for so long, hard and coiled and burning, had loosened a little. An exhale of the breath I’d been holding for fifteen years. But now it seemed to have been replaced with something else. That confusion plagued me again as I prepared myself for a date. Confusion and...something else.
I’d been feeling a low-grade arousal ever since Walt winked and said what he did about Shea before leaving. What he said…and the way he said it. Choice dirty things. It turned me on. Better guard your virtue. I was still turned on. And it was definitely the words of a Cook boy that got me that way. I just wasn’t sure which Cook boy. And that was a problem. Potentially a big fucking problem.
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Second in today's line-up, Victim Of Love
Young lab scientist Olsen Westergard has worked long and hard to create order and stability in his life, and believes he’s finally content. But when he goes on a summer holiday trip with his friends, they try to rouse him from his customary caution, urging him to remedy his extended sexual dry spell. Their fumbled efforts to hook him up validate Olsen’s guess that he likely won’t meet the type of guy he’s looking for on this trip. Or rather, the type of guy he thinks he’s looking for.
But when a solo late night beach walk leads to a heated encounter with a drunken stranger, Olsen unexpectedly finds himself overwhelmed with turbulent desires—made worse when he later discovers the stranger’s surprising identity, and that ready or not, they’re about to get to know each other a whole lot better.
Beck glanced out at the water. “How long do you think they’re gonna be out paddling and jet skiing and what have you?”
“I don’t know. Probably a while. Why?”
My stomach lurched. Back to his room...that I was down with. Smoking a joint, well, not really my thing. “Um, you brought drugs?”
“Drugs? It’s just weed, Olsen.”
“I know, but I only did it once. In college. I got really paranoid. I spent like two hours in my dorm room looking at all my stuff, worried that people must think I’m pretentious because I had way too many magazine subscriptions.”
Beck frowned, then chuckled. “Oh. You wild man. Ease up on those National Geographics, baby, people are starting to talk.”
I fell into laughter, admiring the way Beck’s nose wrinkled when he smiled. That’s when I knew I was in trouble. The moment you start thinking every laugh line and hair follicle on a person’s body is pure perfection, you’re already halfway to the danger zone. I should have realized it at the pool yesterday when I was mooning over his damn feet. “So?” he said.
“I don’t know. Is it safe to do that here? It’s still illegal after all.”
“Olsen, come on, it’s just weed. What do you think is gonna happen? Samuel L. Jackson’s gonna come barging in with a shotgun? We’re at a high end beach resort. And we’ll be in my room, blinds closed.”
I tightened my lips, thinking it over. “So you’re a pothead who peddles mummy heads and has a degree in fine arts.”
“I’m not a pothead. I smoke once in a while. Like when I’m on vacation. It just enhances things.” He paused. “Makes sex better, too.”
A flock of delirious butterflies took flight in my intestines, my throat tightening.
“Olsen. You’re staring at me. You’re supposed to be answering a question.”
“I think I forgot the question.”
That got me a smile. “Do you want to go back to my room and smoke a joint?”
“Uh...” I scratched my chin. Everything about this man intimidated me. And everything about him enchanted me. “Maybe?”
He leaned closer to me. “Maybe I should rephrase the question then, because it doesn’t seem to be getting through your thick, slightly sunburned head. Olsen. Do you want to go back to my room and fuck?”
I inhaled sharply. Sitting up straight, I stared out at the ocean for a long moment, heat pooling in my groin. Finally, I nodded. “Yeah, okay.”
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Darien's favorite things:
- Food – Italian. Grew up with Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s in the North End of Boston, so pasta and sauce etc. means comfort.
- Drink – Tequila and red wine for naughty drinks. Otherwise just water.
- Music – Very diverse tastes, from jazz and classical to thrashy and experimental.
- Movie – Moonstruck is perfection.
- Book – The first four books in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles changed my life when I was younger. Will worship her forever.
- Candy – Not big on sweets but anything with coconut in it.
- Place to go – Woods, as often as possible.
- Place to Vacation – Cape Cod
- Place to blow $100 – Provincetown, Mass.
- Favorite accessory – Love obnoxiously nerdy novelty tee shirts, have way too many.
- Favorite restaurant – Waterman Grille, Providence RI
More about the author:
Darien Cox lives in New England and enjoys using romantic fiction to explore the intensity, insanity, humor, and chaos that accompanies Cupid’s arrow.
Thanks for joining us to celebrate this fabulous author with us. Come back next week for more of Darien's book, five little-known facts, and another chance to win.
Until then, happy reading!