Tag Archives: expanded World of True North

Five more covers revealed for the Vino & Veritas series

Today we have the cover reveals for the next five books in the Expanded World of True North’s Vino & Veritas series.

There are books coming from Ana Ashley, E. Davies, Marley Valentine, Regina Kyle and Leslie McAdam

VV+#5+CR3

Series Page: https://hearteyespress.com/wotn#/vino-and-veritas/

Release Date: August 12th, 2021

Goodreads Series Page: https://www.goodreads.com/series/308145-vino-veritas

Stronghold | Ana Ashley

Vino & Veritas #14

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Pre-Order: Coming Soon

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3bW1VlY

Blurb

The last place Judson wants to be is back home in Burlington, living with his mother. Not so long ago he was a world-class chef with the lifestyle to prove it. Now he’s serving drinks and flying under the radar until he can get the hell out again. But when his childhood best friend reenters his life, looking finer than any entree at a Michelin five-star restaurant, he wonders if it’s time to update his menu of life choices.

Working through past wounds with Skyler won’t be easy, though–especially with a reality-show television camera following (not quite) their every move. When their loyalty is tested, will their newly built stronghold be sturdy enough to withstand the storm?

Stronghold is a sweet and sexy romance for childhood friends to lovers, with some creative use of maple syrup and a TV crew determined to keep appearing out of nowhere.

strong+hold+CS

Limelight | E. Davies

Vino & Veritas #15

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Pre-Order: Coming Soon

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3o1fxOW

Blurb

Save the bees, ride a rock star.

Formerly famous . . . and planning to keep it that way.

After my band kicked me out, I ran away to Vermont, changed my name, and kept my head down. So far, it’s working and nobody knows who I am. Or who I was. Until I see geeky poet Caleb stumbling through his first open mic night and I can’t help rescuing him. He’s as sweet as the honey my bees make and sexy enough to make me rethink so many things. But I can’t tell him my secret, or I’ll lose the anonymous life I worked so hard to build.

Everyone warns me he’s too good to be true.

I can’t believe a gorgeous, successful winemaker like Tag is into shy, geeky little accountant me. But he helps me blossom and believe in my talent, and works his way into my heart and my bed… not necessarily in that order. I’m falling for a man for the first time, and now I know what the missing number in my equation has always been.

When lies are revealed, though, someone’s going to get stung . . .

limelight+cs

Unforgettable | Marley Valentine

Vino & Veritas #16

14_V&V_Valentine_ebook_FINAL

Pre-Order: Coming Soon

Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2NVHpYG

Blurb

One night with Reeve Hale wasn’t enough. I knew it when I kissed him, I knew it when I slept with him, and I was certain of it when I walked out of his motel room the very next day.

So when the shy, gorgeous man is introduced as our newest employee at Vino and Veritas, I can’t help but conjure up all the ridiculous ways to convince him to repeat that unforgettable night. Like asking him to be my fake boyfriend at my sister’s upcoming wedding.

Only, I didn’t expect him to say yes.

Playing pretend shouldn’t feel this real. Especially when Reeve is planning on leaving Vermont after the summer.

We agreed to one night. We negotiated a fake relationship. But I’m the one who broke our terms. I wasn’t supposed to fall in love and he was never supposed to be so unforgettable.

unforgettable+cs

Showstopper | Regina Kyle

Vino & Veritas #17

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Pre-Order: Coming Soon

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3qz2xSv

Blurb

I swore I wouldn’t do this again. Mix sports, school, and sex. But right now the only thing standing between me and the NHL is six feet of frenemy packed into a pair of form-fitting jeans that have me thinking all kinds of things I shouldn’t. Mostly how to get him out of them.

I don’t just want Kolby. I need him. Because I’ve got to pass this theater class–yeah, I said theater–if I’m going to keep my spot on the team. When tutoring sessions turn into dates-not-dates over Shipley Cider at Vino and Veritas, I realize it’s going to be harder than I thought to keep my hands on my stick and off of Kolby. Worse, I think I might be falling for him. But I’m not ready for that. I want to keep this thing between us on the down-low for now.

But Kolby hates secrets. Especially his own . . .

showstopper+cs

Undone | Leslie McAdam

Vino & Veritas #18

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Pre-Order: Coming Soon

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3itUL9C

Blurb

My new roommate has the worst taste in men.

I mean, Murph’s special. He’s funny and flamboyant and full of life.

While I’m straight, even I can tell these guys aren’t good enough for him.

I had to yell at one date, toss another one out the door, and throw a beer in another’s face.

Kind of embarrassing, really. I don’t know what’s gotten into me.

I ask my sister what’s wrong with me and she says I’m jealous.

Jealous? Please. Me?

Come on.

Only thing is, I hate the thought of Murph kissing any guy. Ever.

Except, maybe … me?

Undone is a contemporary m/m romance about a dreamy insurance agent that might not be as straight as he thinks, an adorable bartender who adds sparkle wherever he goes, and maybe one or two jokes about swords.

undone+cs

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For more information about the Expanded World of True North series from Sarina Bowen and Heart Eyes Press make sure to check out the website

https://hearteyespress.com/

VV5+CR

Three More Vino & Veritas Releases Out Today

Today there are three more books out in Sarina Bowen’s Expanded World of True North‘s Vino & Veritas setting from Rhys Everly, Kate Hawthorne and A.E. Wasp

Series Page: https://hearteyespress.com/wotn#/vino-and-veritas

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Insatiable | Rhys Everly

Vino & Veritas #11

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Release Date: May 10th, 2021

Universal Link: https://geni.us/AmazonInsatiable

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/35VqhrX

READ MY REVIEW

Blurb

It was just a bet . . . until feelings got involved.

This job sucks but someone’s got to do it. My readers expect me to chronicle my very real, very steamy encounters in my novels. I’d never want to disappoint my fans, but the creative well has run a bit dry. Burlington, Vermont, seems like a good place to fill it up. This town offers a tempting array of artists, craftsmen, farmers, lumbersexuals . . . and so many beards.

But no one prepared me for Brody. He’s young. He’s hot. He’s definitely a grump. And he’s getting under my skin. Where I want him is under my bedsheets.

When my friend bets I’ll never be able to get Brody there, I make winning my mission. Turns out being with Brody is more than a plot device. He’s so very wrong for my life . . .  but is he right for my heart?

Insatiable is a standalone book in the Vino & Veritas series by Heart Eyes Press and contains a big/small, grumpy/sunshine pairing, a bed-hopping author, a jilted sugarmaker and a reluctant fake relationship.

Insatiable+-+Destination

Excerpt

“And? Have you found the object of your ‘affection’ yet?” Harrison asks. “Current company excluded, of course.”

I shrug and turn around, taking in the bookshop, but someone outside catches my attention, coming out of a restaurant across the street.

Brody Mercier. I’d love to see him sprawled out in my bed, hanging onto my lips as if they are sweeter than maple, and have him shout out my name as I take him six ways to Sunday, effectively turning that frown upside down.

“I think I have,” I say, looking back at my friend with a smirk.

Harrison checks over his shoulder for who I’d been looking at, then turns back to me in horror.

“Oh God. No. Leave the poor man alone. He’s got enough to deal with without you chasing after him,” he says.

I take another sip of my coffee—delicious, by the way—and sit back on the stool.

“The way I see it, he’s got a bad case of the sadsies and could use a…smile,” I say. Or a dick in his mouth. Same difference.

“You’re an idiot.”

Harrison shakes his head, and Oz grimaces.

“What? You think you can get him? Good luck with that. That man has been in a rut for three months now,” he says.

“Is that a challenge?” I say, addressing both of them.

Harrison rolls his eyes and sips his coffee.

“Do you ever not…um…think with your dick?” Oz asks.

“Probably not,” I say.

“I know you’ve had a lot of ‘adventures,’ but Brody Mercier isn’t the type to fall under your spell. He almost got married for crying out loud,” Oz says.

“All the more reason to have some fun and rebound. Hard,” I say. “Hey! That could be the title of my next book. Hard Rebound with the Sugarmaker.”

“I still don’t think Brody is a guy who will want a quickie in the restroom or a BJ behind the bushes.”

“Maybe not at first.”

“Maybe not ever,” Oz counters.

“Wanna bet on it?” I ask, the cogs already turning in my head.

I love nothing if not a challenge, and from the sound—and look of it—Brody Mercier may just be exactly what I need to get me out of my own rut. And we can both have fun in the process. And a bestseller at the end of it.

That’ll show those bloody critics.

“Bet on it?” Oz asks, hesitantly.

“Yeah. Bet. You say I can’t get him, and I’m telling you that I can have him in my bed by the end of the month, if not the week.”

“Gosh, I knew you based your stories on real life, but I didn’t realize all you think about is sex. When was the last time you went without sex for longer than a week?” Oz asks, leaning forward, a hand under his chin, brown eyes staring right at mine.

“A week? Jeez. Does anyone go through such torture?” I ask.

Harrison lets out a surprised wow next to me, but both Oz and I ignore him.

“I’ll tell you what. I’ll bet you can’t get him into bed, and if you lose…” Oz scratches his chin and purses his lips before he speaks again. “If you lose, you can’t have sex for three months.”

A knot forms in my throat, and I start coughing on the coffee dregs still in my mouth.

“What the hell? Three months? That’s plain torture.”

Oz stands up straight again and shrugs.

“Well, if you’re scared—”

“I’m not scared,” I say before he can even finish. “Why would I be? I can get him like that.” I click my fingers, and the snap seems to give me back my confidence.

Getting guys in my bed is what I do. I never fail. The guy to resist me hasn’t been born yet. And Brody Mercier is no exception. He may be a challenge, but he’ll be begging for my cock before long.

“If you say so,” Oz smirks. “But if you lose, you go celibate. Three months.”

“Fine. I lose, I go celibate.” A shudder passes over my entire body at the mere suggestion. “But if you lose, I get your respect for my skills and charm.”

Oz raises an eyebrow and crosses his arms.

“That’s it? That’s all you want from me? Respect? I thought you were going to ask for something naughtier. You, Mr. Graves, surprise me. And…” He reaches for my hand and we shake on it. “You’ve got yourself a deal.”

Insatiable+-+Kiss

Daybreak | Kate Hawthorne

Vino & Veritas #12

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Universal Link: https://geni.us/AmazonDaybreak

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/38YImHR

READ MY REVIEW

Blurb

When a sunny young musician gets stranded with a grumpy mechanic during a snowstorm, a lack of heat is the least of their problems…

Liam Luckett is on an adventure. He’s dropped out of his Master’s program without telling his overbearing parents and set off on a road trip across the country. Armed with little more than his guitar, he’s looking for his best life. He never expected his car to break down in the middle of nowhere Vermont with a huge storm pending, leaving him stranded and at the mercy of a hunky local mechanic.

Jasper Cunningham is in a holding pattern. Three years after the death of his husband, he still hasn’t moved on. A hot, younger, stranded tourist is exactly the sort of complication this mechanic has been avoiding. But he also can’t leave him in the snow. He brings Liam home and lets him sleep on the couch. The air is heavy with more than snow, and when the power goes out, the two men become closer than either of them expects.

Every silken note Liam sings on that guitar thaws Jasper’s heart a little.  Suddenly, Liam’s itchy feet aren’t so eager to move on. When their feelings get too big to ignore, the bond they’ve formed is tested. Will daybreak leave them going their separate ways?

This opposites-attract, hurt/comfort romance features a grumpy widower who is only soft for one specific blue-eyed musician, a remote farmhouse, a friendly dog, and enough snow to knock the power out until love catches fire. 

Daybreak+-+Future+Past

Excerpt

I reached up and wiped my face, and Liam laughed, standing up and coming around the table. He batted my hands away and notched himself between my spread thighs. He reached up and swiped his fingers over my cheeks, looking down at me with eyes that looked a little scared and a little sad. 

“That’ll do,” he said, threading his fingers through my hair.

A rumbling groan fell from my mouth and I leaned into the touch. He kept touching me, working his fingers from my hairline to the back of my head over and over until I felt heavy and hazy with sleep.

“You were out there awhile,” he murmured, “considering you only crossed one thing off your list.”

I sighed and rolled my neck, pressing my forehead against his stomach and bracketing my hands around his slender hips. 

“I finished your car,” I told him.

“So…” His voice was barely louder than a whisper. “So, it’s all fixed, then?” 

“Fixed.” 

The confirmation had my chest tightening, my organs suddenly too big for my ribs, the curved bones constricting around my lungs, my heart.

“You gonna take off?” I asked, even though the words sliced my tongue as I forced them out.

“Uhm…” Liam joined his fingers together at the back of my head, tight enough that I couldn’t not be aware of the pressure he used to hold our bodies together. “Not quite yet, if that’s okay with you.” 

“Yeah.” I breathed in the smell of my soap on his skin. “That’s okay with me.”

Daybreak+-+Touch

Heartsong | A.E. Wasp

Vino & Veritas #13

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Universal Link: https://geni.us/AmazonHeartsong

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3bRqTTq

READ MY REVIEW

Blurb

The best music comes from the heart.

Sean Anderson has spent his life waiting to get the hell out of West Virginia. His plans got derailed when his dad shipped him off to “pray the gay away,” but he’s over it, ready to prove that he’s a grown-ass man who can take care of himself. Of course, he’d have a better chance convincing himself if he could stop lusting after his grumpy roommate.

Army veteran Cooper Hill returned to Vermont minus one leg and one career, but determined to build a new life. When an army buddy asks Cooper to keep an eye on his nephew, a junior at the local college, Cooper can’t say no. He’s expecting a sheltered kid. What he gets is a gorgeous young man whose brilliant poetry gives voice to everything Cooper’s been trying to express. He wants Sean more than he’s ever wanted anything. And somehow, miraculously, Sean wants him too.

But wanting each other isn’t the same as being good for each other . . . especially when past pain threatens to write its own verse in their song.

A stand-alone novel in Sarina Bowen’s True North world, HEARTSONG contains first love, found family, kisses around the campfire, and two caring men who discover they make beautiful music together.

Heartsong+-+Bones

Excerpt

Head down against the driving rain, body hunched over the injured dog, I don’t see the taillight of the car pulling out of a parking spot until it’s almost too late. Oh fuck. I close my eyes, turn the dog away, and brace for the impact.

Strong hands clamp down on my upper arms and yank me back. My back slams against a hard, broad chest, and then all three of us, me, my rescuer and the dog, are stumbling into the back bumper of a minivan.

The hands around my arms tighten, and I lean against this stranger’s body for a second. The guy is almost the same height as me, but much broader, his chest wide and warm against my wet back. The feel of stubble against my cheek and warm breath blowing over my ear makes me shiver.

“Sean?” he says, voice deep and smooth.

Oh, holy hell. Can it be?

“Cooper, get the hell in here!” a second man calls from behind us.

A’course it is.

I straighten up and try to pull away. I swear his hands tighten on my arms, tugging me back against him for a glorious but far too brief moment before he lets me go. When I look over my shoulder at him, our eyes meet and my words lock in my throat as a sizzle of electricity shoots down my spine. It’s so real, I swear lighting must have touched ground somewhere. By the way his eyes widen, Cooper feels it, too.

I can’t hear anything except our breathing and the rain pounding on the gravel parking lot, soaking my thin t-shirt, and plastering Cooper’s hair to his head.

In my arms, the dog whimpers, and still I can’t look away from Cooper’s piercing gaze. What the hell is going on?

He starts to speak, and I sway towards him, holding my breath.

Those dark, intense eyes narrow and he scowls. “Don’t you fucking know how to drive?”

Speechless, I reel back and he grabs my arm again to keep me from losing my balance.

“Jesus Christ,” the older man says. “Don’t either one of you idiots have the sense God gave a goose? Get the hell inside.”

Cooper drops my arm like it’s scalding him, and I tear my gaze away from his angry face. An older guy with dark-brown skin, grey beard, and salt-and-pepper dreadlocks tied behind his neck waves at us from the open doors of the diner.

Grateful for the save, I walk carefully to the doors and into the diner.

“What happened?” the man asks as I pass him.

“This kid hit a dog and then almost got hit by a car himself,” Cooper answers from behind me.

“Are you always such a dick or is today special?” I snap at him.

Heartsong+-+Off+limits

Series Page

https://shor.by/vino-and-veritas

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Release Blitz: Two more Vino & Veritas stories are out today

Today we have two more Release Blitz for the Vino & Veritas series in the Expanded World of True North from Laurel Greer and Jay Hogan

Series Link: https://hearteyespress.com/wotn#/vino-and-veritas/

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Turnabout | Laurel Greer

Vino & Veritas #9

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Universal Link: https://geni.us/AmazonTurnabout

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/35VpOWG

Shorby: https://shor.by/vino-and-veritas

READ MY REVIEW

Blurb

I don’t have time for an unplanned visit home to help out in my father’s struggling letterpress shop. My stint in Vermont will have to be short, for a couple of reasons:

One, I’m a busy executive trying to climb the corporate ladder.

Two, my ex is still my dad’s right-hand man in the shop. And I am not over him.

Nothing has changed at the Burlington shop. Auden still has his infuriatingly sexy Scottish accent. He’s still hot, and still stubborn. Between operating the antique press with his shirtsleeves rolled up, and moonlighting at Burlington’s hottest inclusive wine bar, he pushes every one of my attraction buttons.

My falling-in-love-again buttons, too. Except I’m his polar opposite. I love change, and taking chances. Everything he avoids in life.

So why am I trying to convince him to reach for more than we’ve ever dreamed of—the possibility of forever?

Turnabout is a second-chance romance with interfering family, groveling, and a large helping of artisan stationery geekery.

16

Excerpt

He lifts a dark eyebrow. “I said, I want to work with someone willing to wallow with paper and design. Tease out the one-of-a-kind magic.”

His voice is quiet, soothing. It demands I take a deep breath and get out of my feelings.

“I’ve been reminded of how much of an art it is,” I say. “And that I can get by, but you—you have a gift.”

Rosy splotches bloom on his cheeks. “You know what you’re doing, too.”

“I don’t have the rhythm of it like you do. The innate… mastery, I guess. The relationship.”

Auden tilts his head and looks out the front window.

“What?” I ask. “He’s not coming back.”

“I know, but hearing the words rhythm and mastery and relationship when it comes to using a press… I’m looking for locusts, frogs, horsemen—any sign of the apocalypse.”

“Fuck off,” I mutter.

Rhythm, mastery.

When he repeats the words like that, I’m not thinking of cast iron machines—I’m thinking about sex.

I can’t believe he didn’t call me on how filthy that sounded.

He’s biting his lip, still a little pink in the face.

Okay, maybe he’s thinking it, at least.

“I could show you,” he says.

Meeting his gaze is like swimming in a lake, when you dive down, down on a bright day, and you have the dark depths below, and the streams of light from above, and it blends around you like you’re wearing a crown of green water and sunlight.

Holy fuck. He’s too much sometimes.

“Come here.” He crooks a finger for me to meet him at the Chandler and Price.

Definitely too much.

I join him anyway.

He takes my left hand and places it on the small shelf on the front of the press where we’d normally collect the cards during a run. The wood is smooth. And it would feel exactly like palming a flat piece of wood always does, except his big hand covers mine.

“Artisanry demands that relationship.” His voice is insanely low, but he’s only inches from me, so I don’t miss a syllable.

“I’m not an—”

“You have the artistic talent. You just need a little patience.” He puts his other hand on my right hip and positions me square to the press. He taps his toe against my heel, a silent command to put my foot on the treadle.

“We’re missing some parts.” Paper. Ink. The frame. Everything that actually turns into a product.

“We’re not making anything.” He’s at an angle to me. If he leaned forward three inches, his dick would be pressed into my hip. His left hand is still holding mine to the shelf. The other is a heavy weight just below my waist.

“I don’t understand,” I say.

“Just watch it, Carter.” He sounds amused. “You want to know every quirk. And not to try to learn when you’re rushing through eight jobs at once. When you have time to go easy.”

“Really.”

“Really,” he says. “Grip the wood with your other hand, too.”

Grip the wood? You’re fucking with me.”

“A little.” I can’t see his face from where he is behind me, but I hear his smirk.

A little? A lot. I grab hold of the shelf anyway.

“Just work the treadle,” he says.

I press my toe into the pedal, making the flywheel whir.

“And listen,” he says. “Watch.”

I do that, too.

I’ve been so damn busy since I got here—paper in, paper out, paper in, paper out—I haven’t actually watched anything I’ve done.

The rollers, mesmerizing as they glide over the circular, iron platen.

“What color’s the ink?” Auden’s hand tightens on my hip. His breath tickles the side of my neck.

There is no ink.

“Green,” I say. I can’t get that sunlit lake off my mind.

(I don’t want to. Ever.)

My tie… Why am I wearing something meant to restrict my airflow? I want to loosen it, but Auden told me to keep my hands on the shelf, so I’m keeping my hands on the goddamn shelf.

“Hear anything in the flywheel?” he says.

Just the whir and clicks and whuffs it normally makes. “Should I be?”

“Nothing unusual, but the more you know the sounds of it, the more you know exactly when to feed the paper.” He taps the top of my hand once. Twice. Again. Matching it up to some sensory memory that’s so ingrained in him, he probably dreams in that rhythm.

Anchored by his touch, I’m the one who leans in the three inches. My shoulder, touching his chest. His breath, much more than a tickle. A caress.

“It’s a pulse,” he murmurs, so gruff, the consonants and vowels mix together. His fingers brush the hollow above my shirt collar. My knees wobble.

“A pulse.” I tilt my head to the side, exposing my neck.

“Aye.” Bending his head, his lips land on the same sensitive spot.

My head’s turning faster than the flywheel.

“Auden.”

“See? You know the rhythm.”

Oh god, I don’t know anything right now.

15

Unguarded | Jay Hogan

Vino & Veritas #10

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Universal Link: https://geni.us/AmazonUnguarded

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2M3qdiU

Shorby: https://shor.by/vino-and-veritas

READ MY REVIEW

Blurb

I fled Boston and my cheating jerk of an ex with three hundred dollars and a lip gloss in my pocket. Waking up the next day in Burlington, Vermont, with a crick in my back and a frozen ass wasn’t exactly in the plan. If there was one. Which there wasn’t. Story of my life.

Three hours later and I’ve been hired as temporary help in the local veterinary and grooming clinic, which is kind of impressive since I know zip about animals and even less about grooming. But one thing I do know—I’m crushing hard on the sexy, absent-minded vet I work for.

My life is a hot mess. The last thing I need is another relationship. Emmett pushes all my buttons, but he isn’t out. He’s overwhelmed with a business to run and a son to look after and the kind of domestic life I never thought I wanted.

I should walk away.

But Emmett believes in me, and I might just be starting to believe in myself. As different as we are, is it possible we’re exactly what the other needs?

13

Excerpt

The final client of the morning was a grumbling, overweight Pekingese cross named Charles, with an attitude to rival Genghis Khan and an owner who refused to come in with her dog because she didn’t want the nippy little demon to associate her with any discomfort.

Under instruction from Ivy, Tai had the growling, muzzled dog wrapped in a towel and pinioned against his stomach, his expression caught somewhere between are-you-fucking-kidding-me and abject terror.

I told him what we were about to do and he stared at me in wide-eyed disbelief. “You did not just say you were going to milk this little guy’s anal glands?”

I swallowed a laugh. “I believe those were my exact words.”

His gaze flicked down to the squirming dog, then back up. “Do I even want to ask why?”

I shrugged and pulled on some gloves. “The anal glands are two little sacs on either side of the rectum. Normally they get expressed every time the dog poops. Helps mark his territory.”

“Oh. My. God.” Tai rolled his eyes dramatically. “I think I dated a guy like that once.”

Ivy snorted while I grappled with an influx of images involving Tai with another guy and that whole territorial marking thing. I snapped the second glove on my wrist like an elastic band, hoping the pain might shock some sense into me.

It didn’t.

Tai got his freak under control and tucked Charles firmly back against his stomach. It was the first time I’d ever been jealous of the mutt.

“I know I’m going to regret asking this,” he said, wrinkling his nose. “But what happens when things don’t get expressed, on the whole anal-gland front? And I can’t believe I just said that.”

“Welcome to my world.” Ivy appeared from the supply room.

I caught Tai’s eye and waggled my eyebrows. He was hella fun to tease. “I’m so glad you asked that question. If they don’t get expressed naturally, not helped by poor diet and excess weight, then the glands can block and get smelly and painful. They can even form an abscess that can burst onto the skin.”

Tai’s mouth dropped open in horror. “Holy crap. And also—another date of mine.”

I gave a strangled laugh and realized I hadn’t had so much fun at work since . . . well yeah, it had been a while.

“Damn, that’s disgusting. The poor thing.” Tai lifted Charles to smooch him safely around the back of his ears. “We need to talk about your diet young man,” he cooed to the dog who, miracle of miracles, appeared to calm. “Fiber is the key, plus plenty of water and attention to timing. Clean, screened, and fit for a queen.” He glanced up with a wicked grin. “Right, Mr. Vet?”

Ivy coughed loudly, while every semi-functioning neuron in my body focused on only one thing that shall not be mentioned.

“I, yeah . . . I guess,” I managed to croak. “Although maybe not the screening thing, not for dogs.”

Tai lifted Charles to eyeball him. “Safety first.”

Ivy joined us at the table. “Okay, you two. Let’s get this done so I can spritz the room. Keep a firm grip,” she told Tai.

His eyes widened. “This is going to smell worse than I thought, isn’t it?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Think fishy.”

Tai got a tight hold on the wriggling dog. “Huh? Not my first guess. Okay, I’m ready. I have to say, it feels a little like an initiation.”

I flashed him an encouraging smile. “You’ll be fine. Now hold that tail up.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew, and sure enough—

He snorted. “Not the first time I’ve been told that.”

I shook my head, gently squeezed, and . . .

“Whoa.” He gave a long blink and jerked his head around and out of the way. “Ewww, Charles. That’s some nasty shit right there.”

I grinned from ear to ear, pretty much as I had from the minute Tai had walked into my clinic. I was so fucked.

12

Out-Now

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