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New Release Blitz: The Perils of Intimacy by Rick R. Reed

The Perils of Intimacy | Rick R. Reed

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 3, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 63,300

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Blurb

Mark believes he’s meeting Jimmy for the first time in the diner where he works, but he’s wrong. Mark has no recollection of their original encounter because the wholesome Jimmy of today couldn’t be more different than he was two years ago.

Back then, Jimmy sported multiple piercings and facial hair. He was painfully skinny—and a meth addict. The drug transformed him into a lying, conniving thief.

Mark doesn’t associate the memory of a hookup gone wrong with this fresh-faced twenty-something… but Jimmy knows.

Can Mark see Jimmy for the man he is now and not the addict he was? The answers depend on whether true love holds enough light to shine through the darkness of past mistakes.

Excerpt

The Perils of Intimacy
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

JIMMY

In romance novels, they call it meet-cute. If you’re not familiar with the term or even with romance novels for that matter, let me explain. Meet-cute is how our two protagonists, our star-crossed lovers, if you will, first encounter the other. It might involve an embarrassing moment, or some great coincidence, or something like a setup, or a blind date that goes horribly wrong and does not bode well for the future. See…it’s like there’s that day where everything changes, often in a funny way, and our two love interests begin their journey toward love.

You might look at how Marc Kelly and I met as a meet-cute experience. It went something like this:

Even though I’m a smart guy, at least I think so, I’ve never really had much in the way of education. High school diploma was about it. I always hated school and never did very well in it, which is why I currently wait tables at a little diner in the lower Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle. I’ve been at Becky’s Diner a few years now, since I managed to get my life back in order. And I have to admit I like it. Becky’s is the kind of place alcoholics end up at 5:00 a.m. for an eye-opener and, if their stomachs can handle it, maybe a couple of greasy fried eggs and some bacon. It’s the kind of joint that’s been in Queen Anne since the Depression and still looks like it—scuffed black-and-white tile floors, dark walls, red leatherette booths, and stools at the counter, many of them patched with duct tape. On the other side of the joint is a bar that’s even darker—the drinks are strong, and we get a lot of regulars. The pinball machine over there pretty much goes untouched. Same with the TV, which is always tuned to some twenty-four-hours news crap with the sound turned off. No one watches it. Everyone’s too busy nursing their drinks. Anyway, I wait tables in the diner part.

And I find myself digressing away from my meet-cute. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t really a meet-cute, but it makes for a good story. And that’s what romances are all about, right? Good stories? At least on paper…

Anyhoo, about two weeks ago, this one guy comes in about seven, seven thirty. That day there hasn’t been much of a breakfast rush—we’re busier on the weekends—and I’m chilling behind the counter, checking Facebook on my phone. Marc, as I’d later find out his name, walks in, observes the Seat Yourself sign, and does just that—in the last booth at the rear. Right away, I see the guy is old school, as he spreads out an edition—paper, no less!—of the Seattle Times. He looks around expectantly.

I wipe my hands on my apron and approach, my order pad in hand.

I give him my trademark grin, the one I hope will coax big tips out of even the stingiest customers. “Hey there… mornin’! What are you in the mood for?”

He looks me up and down, a little smile twitching. I pick up on the gaydar, the attraction, and pause a little mentally because two things strike me almost simultaneously.

One: This guy is a good bit older than my twenty-three, maybe even by as much as fifteen or twenty years, but he’s a hottie. DILF! His salt-and-pepper hair is full, nicely cut, side part, with more salt than pepper. He sports—rocks—a little goatee that’s all salt. It perfectly frames cupid’s bow lips. How’s that for romance talk? But it’s his eyes that floor me—so dark the pupils just about get lost in them. They grip me. They hold me. They make me wanna quiver.

Two: There’s something about this dude that rings a bell. Not so much in the lust department, although that’s definitely there in spades, but in the area of “Have we met before?” Because, yeah, he looks familiar. I just couldn’t place him—at least not then.

We hold the look for a couple of seconds longer than the average waiter and customer would, and I can put my finger on this dance—it’s called flirting. Gives me the warm and fuzzies inside, except for that nagging feeling that I know him from somewhere.

And when you have a past like mine, you want to be careful with shit like that. Because I’ve not always been the best person, to say the least. Anyway, that’s something I’ve learned not to dwell on.

Can’t undo the past!

All that stuff took, like, thirty seconds to go down. The guy speaks, “I’ll have coffee and a cinnamon roll.”

I pull a pencil from behind my ear. Not sure I’ll need it, but just in case. “We’re all out of cinnamon rolls,” I say.

He grins, flips a page in the Times. Doesn’t look up at me as he says, “Okay, then. I’ll have tea.” He flips another page. “And a cinnamon roll.”

I chuckle. “We’re all out of cinnamon rolls.”

He nods and looks like he’s taking what I just put down to heart. “Okay, uh, how about a glass of milk and…a cinnamon roll.”

I shake my head. “Dude, I just told you—we’re all out of cinnamon rolls. Sold out during the breakfast rush. But I’ll tell you a little trade secret.” I lean close to his ear and notice a very nice aroma coming off him—something tangy, piney, and manly. “The cinnamon rolls come from the QFC off Mercer. You can buy a four-pack for what you pay for one here.”

“Okay,” he says, looking into my eyes with those killer dark eyes. Those lashes! Man! “Just bring me a cinnamon roll.”

I shake my head and then tuck the pencil back behind my ear. I start to head away, saying over my shoulder as I go, “You let me know when you’re ready.”

I can’t decide if the guy is a cornball, a total asshole, or incredibly charming. He’s probably a little of all three. And I feel a little flutter in my heart that tells me our little meet-cute encounter, which I’ve come to learn he lifted from some old public television kid’s show, means he has his hooks in me.

Smitten.

And yet there’s that nagging feeling I’ve met him somewhere before…and a darkness hides behind the notion that contradicts the fluttery feeling I get when I look at this hunk. In fact, that nagging recognition makes me a little sick.

It’ll come to me. Or it won’t. And something inside, a self-protective part maybe, hopes for the latter. They say ignorance is bliss, right?

He calls after me, “You do poached eggs? Runny?”

I turn. “We do anything. Two?”

He holds up two fingers and nods. “With coffee, no toast, no potatoes, fruit on the side if you got it.”

I jot down the order. “No cinnamon roll?”

He just laughs and begins reading the paper.

When is a meet-cute not a meet-cute?

When you’ve met before.

And my gut drops a couple of inches as I remember where I met him before.

I don’t want to go there. That was a different time. A different me. And there was nothing cute about it.

But I remember this guy because I felt something for him then. And I feel something for him now.

And it could never work.

Could it?

I watch from the corner of my eye as Cinnamon Roll, as I’ve dubbed him, downs his low-carb breakfast. How someone can eat poached eggs without any toast is beyond me, but it takes all kinds.

“You got a thing for him or what?” Matilda Blake, the other server on duty, whispers to me. She pauses just behind me with three plates balanced on two arms. I smell pancakes, bacon, and the sage aroma of sausage.

I turn a little to grin. “What?”

“Ah, don’t play innocent with me, Mister. I could see the lust in your eyes from fifty paces.”

I shrug. “Guilty. Maybe. A little.”

She laughs, and it’s a sound like a bell tinkling. Matilda doesn’t even reach five feet and probably doesn’t top ninety pounds, but she’s a workhorse like you wouldn’t believe. She has short, spiked blonde hair and numerous tattoos. On the weekends she plays in an all-girl metal band called Two Spirit. And in my head, I call her Tinker Bell, because that’s who she looks like to me. She takes off to serve her customers, but not without prompting me to “Go over and talk to him.”

I busy myself filling ketchup bottles and the salt and pepper shakers I’ve removed from empty tables, but I keep an eye on Cinnamon Roll. His food is gone and the newspaper’s been abandoned and he’s staring off into space. I shudder because I wonder if he’s recognized me and is thinking about our last encounter, a little over two years ago, at his place on Dexter Avenue.

But no, that couldn’t be possible, could it? I’m a different person now, inside and out. Back then I was twenty, twenty-five pounds lighter than my current one hundred and sixty-five. I had a septum piercing like Ferdinand the Bull. My hair, which is now cut high and tight and is reddish brown, was long back then, bleached blond, dirty, and tangled up in dreadlocks that reached down almost to my waist. My skin had, I’m sure, a pasty and unhealthy pallor.

That person doesn’t even exist anymore, and even though it’s only been two years, I look completely different today. He’s probably just thinking about his day or something.

Right?

I walk over to his table, a little nervous that he’d come to and look at me with an accusing glare. There’d be a scene. And maybe I’d end up getting fired or something. Thinking back to what I did to him, I deserve it.

But when I approach his table, all he does is smile. And that smile melts my heart. It did back then too. Just not enough to keep me from my desperate and dark ways.

“You need anything else?”

He looks down at his paper and back up at me. A blush rises to his cheeks, and I gotta say it—there’s nothing more adorable than this face staring up at me right now. He looks like he wants to say something, but all that comes out is “The check? I gotta get to work. If I don’t get out of here and on the bus, I’m going to be late.”

“Oh?” I cock my head. “What do you do?”

“You don’t want to know. Government contracts. Health care. Downtown. Websites, e-mail, so-called social media from a health-care perspective. Writing boring newsletters.” He laughs. “Not the astronaut I thought I’d be back in kindergarten.”

“Yeah. Well, I always dreamed I’d work in a diner. And look at me. Dreams do come true!” I tap my chest. “Living proof!” We stare at one another for a moment. My heart pounds for a variety of reasons, both sublime and shameful. “I’ll get your check.”

I turn and go to total up his modest bill. My hands are shaking just a tiny bit. There’s this dark shadow of shame hanging over me that I try my best to banish. I remind myself that shadows are made by light and that I should direct my thoughts toward the light, not the darkness.

I look over at him once more. He’s staring off into space again, and I take note of his clothes—the blue-and-white checked button-down shirt, the navy cardigan, the jeans with the rip in the knee of the left leg, the awesome wing tips, maroon and navy. He looks hipster professional. In the two years since I’ve seen him, he’s hardly changed a bit. A little grayer maybe, but essentially the same guy. I get a quick vision of a big black leather headboard, framed in dark wood. A box on the dresser containing valuables…

His name comes to me in full. Marc Kelly. Simple. Solid. Like him. A good guy who never deserved what I gave him.

I should leave him alone. I know I should. No good can come from this.

A little voice inside reminds me I’m a changed person, one who loves himself, and I shouldn’t beat myself up anymore. I should forgive myself and believe I’m deserving, especially now, of a man like this.

Still, it’s with a lot of qualms that I write, near the bottom of his eighteen dollars and sixty-five cents total, Jimmy Kilpatrick (206) 555-9407. I pause for a moment, thinking I should tear this ticket up and write a new one.

No. I put one foot in front of the other, walk over to him, and set it in front of him. “You can pay up front. Thanks for stopping by.”

I hurry away before he even has a chance to look down at the check or up at me. I head right through the kitchen and out the back door, where I stand outside by the dumpster in gray and drizzly February air and light up a smoke with shaking hands.

I think I have to release my wishes, to let them float away on the gray plume I exhale. I need to have faith—I remind myself—that everything will unfold just the way it should.

About the Author

RickRReed-524x749

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed draws inspiration from the lives of gay men to craft stories that quicken the heartbeat, engage emotions, and keep the pages turning. Although he dabbles in horror, dark suspense, and comedy, his attention always returns to the power of love.

He’s the award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction and is forever at work on yet another book. Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…”

Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his beloved husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

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The Perils of Intimacy Now Available

Release Blitz: After Hours by Emjay Haze

After Hours | Emjay Haze | After Hours #1

 Publisher:  NineStar Press
Release Date: April 9, 2018
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 90300
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, Contemporary,romance,waiter,nightclub,businessman,chef

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Synopsis

Alex Michaels is a successful manager for a Wall-Street financial firm and lives in a beautiful hi-rise apartment overlooking Central Park. Anyone looking in from the outside would say Alex has it made, especially his working-class parents who wanted more for their only son.
Nick is working his way through graduate school with dreams of becoming a teacher so he can help kids like himself. With his parents cutting him off and leaving him with nothing but a student apartment and low self-esteem, he’s determined to make something of himself in spite of them.
Even Nick’s club friends think Alex is too good for him, but Alex keeps showing Nick how worthy he is. Alex learns a lot from Nick, too—how not to give up on his dreams.

Excerpt

After Hours
Emjay Haze © 2018
All Rights Reserved
 
Chapter One
“Please come to my office for a minute,” the mid-regional director bellowed, his voice deep with authority, causing Alex to redirect himself from heading to his own office. He followed the older gentleman around the corner and down the long hallway to the executive suites.
He’d hoped to be there one day himself but had a long claw to go. Yes, claw. That’s how you got ahead in this place.
 
Alex had been a manager at the Manhattan financial advising firm for the last four years, having been promoted from sales where he’d landed out of grad school. They called it middle management for a reason. You were stuck right in the center, with twenty employees always needing your attention, and upper management wanting a little more blood. It was exhausting.
 
He shouldn’t really complain. His job paid the bills for a very nice Manhattan apartment three blocks from Central Park with a gorgeous view of the city. He’d become what his parents had dreamed for him, in every way. Robert and Martha Michaels lived on the outskirts of St. Louis. They both had decent jobs, but a lack of college education had kept them from the “good life,” as they called it, and they wanted more for their only
son.
 
“Come in, Alex.” Mr. Kensington motioned for Alex to enter his spacious corner office with the big windows, which overlooked the New York skyline. It was breathtaking, and a little intimidating.
 
“Thank you, Mr. Kensington.”
 
“I think it’s time you called me Mitchell.” Mr. Kensington flashed him a wide grin. Alex wondered if his friends called him Mitch. He glanced at the distinguished gray-haired gentleman with the thousand-dollar suit. Mitchell it is.
 
“Thank you, M—Mitchell.”
 
“Have a seat, Alex.” His smile disappeared. He was all business.
 
Alex took a deep breath and sat in the leather-upholstered chair in front of Mr. Kensington’s mahogany desk. His boss sat behind it in an even larger chair that would have sucked Alex in if he’d tried to sit in it, yet Mr. Kensington sat ramrod straight. Alex couldn’t imagine what this was about as the seconds ticked away. Maybe he was getting
fired. He gulped.
 
“Alex, I value your work here at the firm.”
 
“Thank you, sir.” A bead of sweat formed at the base of his hairline.
 
Mr. Kensington glared at him, knitting his eyebrows together.
 
“Mitchell,” Alex squeaked. That would take some getting used to.
 
Mr. Kensington stood up, appearing even more intimidating as Alex craned his neck to meet his gaze. “Due to business booming, we’re expanding the operation, Alex, and I’d like you to be a part of a new division.”
 
Alex’s eyes grew wide. Did this mean a promotion? Was he finally getting an executive position? He sat straighter, waiting for the man to make his point.
 
“As you know, middle manager is the most important position in this firm,” Mr. Kensington said, pacing back and forth in front of Alex. “You have responsibilities on both ends. It’s not easy finding someone who fits so well in that position, with the respect of both upper management and his employees.”
 
Where the heck was this heading? It didn’t sound like a promotion.
 
“And you are a good manager, Alex,” he continued. “Your troops like you, and they’re productive. That’s a huge accomplishment for anyone.”
 
“Thank you, s—Mitchell.” Alex took a deep breath, waiting for him to get to his fucking point.
 
Mr. Kensington came around his desk and walked behind Alex. Stopping, he placed his hand on Alex’s shoulder. “I am appointing you manager of the new Celebrities account division, so you will be taking some of the most important accounts this company currently has, as well as acquiring new ones. You will report to the new divisional director, Karl Morrison, from our west coast branch.”
 
Karl Morrison, who the fuck was that?
Another middle manager getting his big promotion? Alex seethed, but kept it
cool on the outside. “What does this mean for me, sir?” He tried smiling, but
it came out as more of a sneer with his teeth clenched. Fortunately, Mr.
Kensington was still behind him.
 
“A ten thousand dollar a year increase and larger staff,” Mr. Kensington said as he slithered back behind his desk. “You will manage our most prestigious division, Alex.”
 
As a middle manager and not an executive. He worked up a more believable smile. “Thank you, s—Mitchell.”
 
Mr. Kensington nodded. “You deserve it, son. Karl will arrive later this month, so you have some time to wrap up your current accounts. You will also choose staff to bring with you—oh, and please see Human Resources for your requirements for the new positions.”
 
So, I do the work and Mr. Karl Morrison swoops in next month and gets what should be my corner office. “I won’t let you down, sir.”
 
He smiled and nodded, as if to say I know you won’t. “Oh, and Barbara will order business cards with your new title.” Mitchell sat down behind his desk again.
 
“New title?” Did I miss something?
 
“Senior Manager. Congratulations, Alex.”
 
Alex faked a smile. “Thank you, sir.” It was still middle management. He should be ecstatic. Mr. Kensington could have passed on him completely. So, why did he feel like punching him in the face?
 
Mr. Kensington dismissed him by standing up and motioning to the door. Alex also stood and shook his hand, thanking him once more and attempting a more believable smile. At least it was more money,
and it might be interesting work at that. He wondered if this was the success his parents intended for him when they made him quit culinary school at the end of his first year and go to a real college for a business degree. Stuck in middle management for the rest of his life. God, he sounded pathetic—and ungrateful.
 
Alex walked back to his windowless office and sighed as he sat down on the much smaller and less comfortable fabric chair at his plain oak desk. Would he ever get a nice chair like Mr. Kensington—err, Mitchell?
 
The day was almost over, and he couldn’t wait for that clock to strike five. He had nowhere to go, unfortunately, but he liked the quiet after everyone left for the day. No snotty salesman knocking on his door asking for a day off or a better commission structure. No director buzzing his phone asking where the weekly report was. He put his elbows on his desk and rubbed his fingers through his hair. He usually waited for the cleaning guy who always had a good story to tell. Maybe he should go home, or better, go out and get laid.
 
As if the gods had heard him, there was a rap on the door and his beautiful secretary, Belinda, peeked her head in. “Hey, boss. A few of us girls are going out tonight to a club and thought you might join us.”
 
Alex pictured an overcrowded dance club where horny straight guys hit on his coworkers while he sat and brooded over his gin and tonic or something that said straight-boy. “Uh, no, thanks, Belinda. You guys have a great time, though.”
 
“Oh, no,” she said, walking into his office. “We picked this club for you.” She shook her finger at him and winked.
 
“You’re going to a gay club for me?” He raised an eyebrow. He had never hidden his sexuality from his assistant.
 
“No, silly. We wanted to go anyway, but honestly, it’s better if we take a gay man with us.” She froze. “Yeah, that didn’t come out quite right.” She straightened her skirt and regrouped, apparently searching for her next words. “We want you to come with us. You’ll
have a great time, I promise.”
 
Alex chuckled, shaking his head. “Might be exactly what I need. I’m in.”
 
“Good. You work too hard. Maybe you’ll meet a nice man—and get lucky.” She wiggled her eyebrows.
 
Belinda had worked for Alex ever since he moved to management. She was in her early thirties, single, and she had a lot of friends at the firm. The tall, fiery redhead had long, wavy hair and big blue eyes, and was well-endowed in all the areas that straight men found attractive.
Alex thought she liked working for him mainly because he didn’t undress her with his eyes every time she walked into the room. She’d practically told him that one night as she was heading out and one of the supervisors was leaving Alex’s office. He’d given her a creepy once-over as he passed her. She’d rolled her eyes and entered Alex’s office, shutting the door behind her. Then she’d spilled her troubles.
 
Alex was empathetic, and she’d thanked him for treating her like a human. They’d become friends after that, but never took it outside the office. It might be fun having a night out with the girls.
He didn’t want to do anything that would have them all talking about him at the watercooler the next morning, though. That shit could get around quickly. No, he’d have to keep it PG. Still, it would be nice to get out and watch cute boys on the dance floor, even if they were only dancing with his friends. He hadn’t done that since college.
 
Alex shut down his computer and followed Belinda into the elevator. “We’re meeting everyone in the lobby,” she explained as three women Alex recognized but barely knew barreled over to them.
 
“Alex, this is Hannah from accounting, Jill, Mr. Lawson’s admin, and Barb, you know.”
 
“Hi, Alex,” Barb said. She was Mr. Kensington’s assistant. “Congratulations on the promotion.” He had spoken with her many times, but never on a personal level.
 
“What?” Alex hadn’t thought of his move from manager to senior manager as a promotion. “Oh, thanks. I’m thrilled.” He hoped he sounded convincing.
 
“What’s this?” Belinda hadn’t heard yet, because Alex hadn’t told her. He felt like shit.
 
“They offered me senior manager with a new division. I found out earlier today before you walked in my office. Sorry, I should have told you.”
 
“That’s awesome, boss. Does that mean…?”
 
“You’re coming with me,” he said. “I couldn’t do my job without you, Bels.”
 
“Oh, thank God. I’d hate having to break in a new boss.” Her tone was flippant, but Alex knew better. She didn’t want to have someone with authority ogling her all day. He stifled a chuckle.
 
“Well, come on, ladies. I see you’ve been looking forward to this all day.”
 
He groaned as they chatted excitedly all the way to the parking garage. He hoped he wouldn’t embarrass himself. Why did he think going out with coworkers to a gay club was a good idea?
 
Alex drove Belinda and Barbara, while the other two followed them in Jill’s car. This way, Belinda explained, if Alex wanted to leave early, or later, then he’d have his own car and the four women could drive back to the office together. He wasn’t planning on taking anyone home tonight. Not with witnesses to discuss it at work the next day.
 
They pulled up to the curb outside the club. Alex got an immediate case of nerves as he stepped out of his car.
 
“Look at this place,” Belinda said, following him. “We’re gonna have a blast.”

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Meet the Author

Emjay Haze is a pen name for a wife, mother, and writer of gay romance. She resides in Northern Virginia with her husband, two teenagers, a new puppy, cat, gecko, and several fish. She always loved writing and fell in love with the genre seven years ago after discovering the world of fanfiction.

She went back to school to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing from SNHU where she graduated in April, 2015, with a renewed desire of making her dreams of becoming a published author come true.

She has a wide and diverse work history in the fields of travel, hotel management, high-tech communications, web development, real estate, and the nonprofit health care industry where she has held positions such as travel agent, hotel concierge, web programmer, Realtor, account manager, and many, many others, giving her a varied and unique set of experiences that she draws upon in her stories and characters. Her interests include music and pop culture, and she is an advocate for the LGBT community.

Her stories delve into all types of romantic relationships, regardless of sexuality, with a focus on first times and new encounters in a lighthearted style with a goal to gain a diverse readership and broaden the minds of those who might not normally pick up an LGBTQ romance because it’s more about the person than the sexuality. She’ll take you on a roller-coaster journey, but you’ll always get a happy ending.

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