Title: Original Sin
Series: Sinners Duet #1
Author: Elizabeth Miller
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: January 17, 2022
Deadly. Dangerous. A beautiful sinner.
Luca Mancini is an assassin with a dark past and a darker scar crushing more than his good looks.
He said goodbye to his soul. I said hello to an unfamiliar stirring deep inside.
Some people call him monster. I have to call him mine.
The capo de capi, the greatest king of all time, forces Luca to marry me—his defiant daughter.
Watch her, he commands of Luca. Control her and make her obey the family motto: loyalty above all else.
But I have other plans.
They involve retribution for my mother’s death and freedom from this God forsaken underworld.
Luca has a choice. Fight by my side, or crumble with the rest of the kingdom.
I want revenge. Luca wants me.
A mafia war brought us together.
Will his vow to my father tear us apart?
Love is power, sinning inevitable.
And for the king to fall a woman must rise to reign—or die trying.
I’m about to take my shot at the throne.
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“What am I doing?” I growled through my frustration.
“Looking at me like that.”
“Like you hate me, but you don’t. I know you don’t.”
Her fingers curled into my shirt, and my eyes dropped to the hold she had on me. I couldn’t trust myself to look at her, or the torment I knew I’d find in her face. But her shaking breath returned my attention to her lips, the bottom glistening wet from her tongue that ran along its length. Why wouldn’t she let this go? Let me go? Why’d she have to force this confrontation when we could’ve just kept on denying the static in the air when we passed, even at a distance?
“Mio salvatore,” she said softly.
It tore me up inside when she called me that, and I couldn’t meet her gaze. I watched her mouth form words that made my chest ache with the same kind of pain quivering through her voice.
“For so long you’ve ignored me. Every time we could’ve connected, you turned your head so you wouldn’t have to see me. But I’m begging you, please. See me now, Luca.”
I pushed from the wall, wrenching from the grip she had on my soul. She captured what was left of it two million minutes ago with a look, a heart-stopping, wide-eyed, pulse-pounding look. I’ve made myself hate her ever since, and we both needed a reminder of my revulsion.
“Oh, I have, Vivienne. I’ve seen you grow from a caged bird into this delicate woman hiding in that church and behind smiles at the shelter. Acts of absolution for the mob princess to feel better about Daddy’s work.”
“Go to hell.”
I caught her wrist a second before her palm made contact with my face. Twisting her arm around her lower back, I tugged her to my chest. She was pissed, spitting fire from cold eyes when I hid my feelings under a mask of indifference. I couldn’t care about her. The way things were going with this family, she wouldn’t make it to her twenty-fourth birthday. The boss’ daughter was not my concern. Finito. Fatto. The end.
“Grow up, Vivi. Learn how to use the Glock before strapping it to your thigh and staring dumbstruck at the men gunning you down. Look around, open your eyes. Simone’s dead and that means there are new rules. A new world order. No one is protecting you now.”
I thought she’d hiss and scratch from my warning. Instead, enough time passed for anger to simmer into something else altogether. Something hot and intense and undefined. Something that felt like once in a lifetime, and really fucking stupid. An illicit chill danced over my skin. I ached for Vivienne, to taste her mouth and the long line of her neck. Our mirrored breathing heaved together as she eased against my grip, molding along the hard lines of my body. We were at war with each other. One minute furious, the next desperate to connect. The reaction was baffling, and I hated chaos.
“Now you’re wrong.” Her whisper wafted along my throat. She was much too soft and tempting, and the dumbest situation I had ever gotten myself into. “You gave me your protection at the funeral.”
I sighed, releasing her. “This again.”
She stepped into my space. “You’re after my truth, and I seek yours. Why did you come for me? You should’ve stayed with my father, or at the very least secured Stefano or Dante’s safety. But you didn’t. Why?”
As if magnetic attraction forced the connection, she traced the line of my scar—drawing my blood to pool beneath her fingers. I closed my eyes for a second, then retreated from her touch.
“You don’t know what you ask for, Vivienne. I’m not who you think I am. I’m not—”
Amongst other things.
I nodded. “And you would do well to remember the warning.”
She sought the truth. I gave it with a scowl, leaving her alone even when the monster within me wanted her to follow.
Writer, wife, mother, and gummy bear lover. An author of romantic suspense and contemporary romance, Elizabeth Miller brings readers the perfect combination of heart, humor, and heat in every book.
Release Date: January 17
Bush pilot Bridget Shanahan runs from responsibility like a child runs from a dentist appointment, but when her brother leaves the familyâs airfield in her hands, she knows itâs time to step up and behave like a Responsible Adultâ¢. So of course thatâs when Archer Ellison III blows into her tiny town of Captivity, Alaska, every inch the hot-as-hell mistake that most definitely belongs in her past. Been there, done that, and didnât even get to keep the commemorative sweatshirt.
Archer has only ever had two goals. Now that heâs built his own empire outside his fatherâs company, he can move on to goal #2âwinning back the one who got away by whatever means necessary. He knows it wonât be easy. Bridget Shanahan is older, wiser, more self-assured, and jaw-droppingly stunningâ¦and doing everything she can to pretend the scorching chemistry between them doesnât exist.
But fate is on his side. After an impulsive bet that would have sent Archer packing goes awry, Bridget is officially stuck with him. Which is really inconvenient, since falling for Archer again is the least responsible thing she could do.
Meet Samanthe Beck
Wine lover, sleep fanatic, and USA Today Bestselling Author of sexy contemporary romance novels, Samanthe Beck lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her long-suffering husband, Charles, and their turbo-son, Hud. Throw in a furry ninja assassin named Gander, a few hundred Nerf blasters, one electric guitar, (with amp!), andâ¦wellâ¦you get the picture.
When not dreaming up fun, fan-your-cheeks ways to get her characters to happy-ever-after, she searches for the perfect cabernet to pair with ASMR podcasts.
Connect with Samanthe Beck
Series: Dracon Mates Series
Titles: Mate of Magic, Mate of Ice, Mate of Fire, Mate of Chaos
Author: Siren Allen
Genre: Paranormal Romance
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His touch awakens the monster inside her.
There’s a darkness inside Ciera Duvai that’s begging to be released. Every day, she struggles to keep the evil at bay. When a naughty encounter with a dragon causes her to lose her skirt and her control, her true identity is revealed.
She’s pretty sure the dragon in question is her mate. Dragons are an unforgiving lot, but, he’s her mate, he has to forgive her for all the crimes she doesn’t even remember committing. Right? Wrong! He wants her dead and Ciera isn’t going down without a fight. It’s time to show her mate that her monster is bigger than his.
Her touch excites the monster inside him.
Edmund Dracon is losing his mind. He’s gone too long without a mate and the loneliness had taken a toll on his sanity. His inner dragon has consumed his thoughts and is slowly taking over his body. Soon, he’ll have to be put down or he’ll become a threat to everyone.
There’s only one creature who can save him from himself: his mate. When he finds her sneaking out of his castle, he thinks the Fates have finally answered his prayers, that is, until he finds out who and what she really is.
Allowing her to live would be an act of treason.
Yet, now that he’s touched her, killing her doesn’t seem right.
Edmund has a tough decision to make: protect a mate he doesn't trust or protect his brethren?
His touch melts the ice surrounding her heart.
Mya Leggett’s plan is simple: help a hurt dragon back to his castle and be rewarded for her efforts. Everyone knows dragons have treasures. Once she’s paid, she’ll use the money to pay off her and her twin sister’s debt. She hadn’t planned on being told she couldn’t leave the castle once she entered it.
She definitely hadn’t planned on learning that the wounded dragon she helped, was actually the alpha of all dragon shifters. To make matters worse, he thinks she’s his mate. Her… a vampire, a creature of the night who doesn’t believe in sex or love. How can she prove to a determined beast that she isn’t the female he needs?
Her touch makes him want to claim her in the most primitive way.
Zane Dracon’s plan is simple: bring his mate to his castle, then convince her to stay there, forever. He expected her to fall in love with him instantly. He’s the alpha, the most feared creature in Velahn, the strongest dragon that’s ever lived. He can protect and provide for her better than any other creature in Velahn.
Yet, she isn’t impressed with his strength and his fighting skills. It’s going to take more to win her over. However, he doesn’t know how to give her more. He knows how to fight. He knows how to protect. But, he doesn’t know how to love.
Will a vampire who’s never felt desire and a dragon who doesn’t know how to love be able to make it work? Find out in this naughty novella.
*This is a short story with no cliffhanger.*
His touch awakened a part of her she never knew existed.
Kya Leggett’s mission is simple: save her twin sister from the fire-breathing bastards at the Dracon Castle. She hadn’t planned on having one of those bastards show interest in her. She definitely hadn’t planned on letting him touch her in ways that left her gasping for air. Is his interest in her legit? Or is it meant to distract her from what’s really going on at the castle of dragons?
From the second he laid eyes on her, Drax Dracon knew Kya belonged to him.
She’s everything he asked the Fates for: a passionate warrior female who is beautiful inside and out. Now, all he has to do is convince her that she belongs with him at the Dracon Castle. Will she accept him as her mate, or will his fire be too much for her to handle?
His touch unleashes the chaos inside of her.
Which is the main reason Hell is avoiding Asher Dracon. The other reason is that his touch makes her long for a forever she knows they can never have. Though she's tried telling him that, her stubborn dragon is determined to prove her wrong. Hell has seen the future. She knows how their love story ends. If rejecting him will save his life, she's prepared to do just that. What she isn't prepared for is how wonderful being with him feels. He's the only male who can handle her chaos. Unfortunately, it's her chaos that will be his downfall if they stay together.
Siren Allen is an author of paranormal and fantasy romance. She resides in southern Mississippi with her husband.
Wine Country King
An awkward silence hung over the room, the clicking of the silverware on ceramic the only relief from the unspoken tension. Her pulse hammered in her throat––she couldn’t handle it. “So how did everything go this afternoon?”
Jack set down his fork and finally looked at her, his jaw tight, his eyes unreadable. “You’re right. There is nowhere to stay within twenty-five miles, and I can’t commute that far. So…” He shrugged and sipped his wine.
Time to return them to stable footing. Humor was her go-to. “So, you’re admitting that I was right and you were wrong?” She flashed a toothy grin.
His severe expression relaxed, and he chuckled. “I admit nothing. I still wish I’d been able to negotiate with the landlord and help him find a different option, but it is what it is.”
“Exactly. I was right.” She saluted him with her glass. “How delicious is this halibut?” The flaky white fish was perfectly prepared, with the appropriate amount of seasoning. Jack loved excellent food as much as she did.
He clinked his glass against hers, the muscles in his powerful forearm flexing. “You were definitely right about the fish. And I appreciate not having to think about groceries or anything tonight. It’s been a long day.”
“Well, I know our schedules are both super hectic and we probably won’t see each other every night, so I figured I’d treat to welcome you to town.” And squelch the sliver of guilt she couldn’t shake off. But how could she have turned Kyle’s sick father away?
“About that. How’s that going to work with me sleeping out here and the dresser in the bedroom? I can’t exactly barge into the room if I get back later than you.” A crease appeared between his dark eyebrows.
She sighed. It was awkward. Even if she had looked at him like a brother–and that ship had sailed in high school––sharing the space with another person wasn’t going to be easy. Add in the attraction factor and the damn gray sweatpants and she was in trouble.
“Why don’t you leave most of your clothes in the bedroom and keep your pajamas––”
“Pajamas?” The dimple in his right cheek deepened before he burst out laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
He shook his head. “I left my Star Wars footie pajamas in storage, so I guess I’ll have to improvise.”
She waved a hand. “Surely you have something to sleep in?” She’d buy him a head-to-toe flannel onesie to cover all that smooth skin.
“Well, I’ve lived alone for over a decade, so no, I don’t have pajamas. Will boxers work?” His leaf-green eyes lit with mischief.
“And a t-shirt. Boxers and a t-shirt.” No way would she survive seeing that carved torso on the regular. And please god let them be baggy boxers, not those snug boxer briefs.
He smirked. “Maybe. It’s basically summer up here, Campbell. I’m not going to sweat to death. You’ll be in the other room anyway. So, does this mean you wear pajamas?”
She sniffed. “We do have air-conditioning, as you may have noticed. And of course I have pajamas. What if there was a fire in the middle of the night and I had to run outside? I like to be prepared.”
Title: Cocky Tech God
A Cocky Hero Club Novel
Author: Roe Valentine
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: January 16, 2022
Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward are excited to bring you the Cocky Hero Club: original works from various authors inspired by Keeland and Ward's New York Times bestselling Cocky Bastard series.
When I left Manhattan to go to a technology conference in the Cayman Islands, only to run right into my competitor Hansen, AKA the Tech God, I should have known things would get complicated.
We were both there to land the cybersecurity contract for Morgan Financial Holdings, and neither of us were willing to play nice.
But I didn’t expect things to get so messy when the hotel screwed up our reservations and I ended up having to share the same hotel room with Hansen.
If only he wasn’t so good looking, and if only the last two years of our flirting hadn’t led to a big question: to hook up or not to hook up.
Guess what…we did.
There were rules in place, though. Unfortunately, neither of us liked rules—we were like two peas in a pod.
After all, what happens on a tropical island, stays on a tropical island. Right?
But our competition took a turn, and what happened next was something neither of us wanted to leave behind.
Cocky Tech God is a close proximity/competitors to lovers romance inspired by Stuck-Up Suit.
Roe Valentine was born into the right family. Not only does the name Valentine suit her, but her grandmother, unknowingly, introduced the young Ms. Valentine to her first romance novel. She calls herself a romantic at heart and believes that love conquerors all.
The Texas native attempted to write her first contemporary romance novel when she was nineteen years old. That attempt didn’t take, but her story has a happy ending. She kept pursuing the dream until she landed her first publishing contract in 2013.
When not busy writing love stories, Roe can often be found reading in a variety of genres, streaming all the tru crime documentaries, popping a bottle of champagne, and pretending to workout. Enjoying margaritas with some girl-talk isn’t unusual for her either. Also, she is obsessed with her hairless sphynx cats. Meow! For a night in, she and her partner are known to grill in the backyard or veg with days’ worth of snacks.
She writes steamy office and close proximity romance novels. Always HEA.
Roe loves meeting readers and authors alike! Find her on every platform.
COCKY HERO CLUB
Check Yes, No, or Maybe
Elliot beamed victoriously. “Get that sexy little ass up, go find yourself a guy, and ask him to buy you a drink.” He scooted close, throwing an arm over my shoulders. “And that delectable thing,” I followed the manicured, freshly painted fingernail to a man at the opposite end of the bar, “has had his eyes on you all night.”
I didn’t remember the exact details, but I did remember the guy’s good looks. Maybe some hipster glasses and sideswept dirty-blonde hair? Who cared? My liquid courage had my ass getting up and strutting to Mr. Sexy Thing. His eyes followed each move I made, inflating my ego the closer I got.
Heat hit my cheeks, cock standing at attention when he took a drink, staring over his glasses’ frame. Those eyes were wild. Hungry. And I was the lucky fucker getting devoured by them.
Damn, he really is watching. I nearly stopped and returned to my seat. Through the haze, I remembered thinking I’d never been looked at like that. Should I really be doing this? I glanced at Declan who’d found me and glared like he was daring me to keep going. Confidence renewed, I picked up the pace.
“Hey there,” I said, leaning a hip against the bar.
Mr. Mystery raised his eyes to meet mine. “And hello to you, too.” Even through the fogginess, I recalled the timbre of his voice.
Holy shit, and I thought Declan had a hot tone. Compared to this guy, Declan … well, didn’t compare. This guy blew my ex’s sophistication and cockiness away with only one sentence!
Before I lost my nerve, I asked, “So, you come here often?” Did I really just say that! “I mean…” Oh, come on, he only said hello! Get a fucking grip!
“I know what you meant,” he said with a laugh. “No, I’m just visiting.” With the grace of a wildcat, he turned his attention back to his drink, tongue teasing the liquid on his lower lip. “Why? Do you come here often?”
“What? No. I mean…” My heart pounded in my ears. I wasn’t sure if it was his mocking or the sexy way he looked me over, but the confidence I’d built up slowly deteriorated. I was in “quit with the small talk and fuck me” mode in two seconds. How had he turned everything around with only a few words? “If you aren’t from here … where … are you, um…”
God, what is wrong with me?
“Miami,” he replied. “Why don’t you join me? Perhaps allow me to buy you a drink to calm your nerves?”
I did what Elliot dared me to, but I wasn’t ready to let Mr. Hipster Frames charm me out of my jeans.
Time to take back over. I sat and leaned on my forearms, gingerly letting my knee brush his in an “I’m open for business” manner. “Sure, but only if you play a game with me. Win and you can buy me a drink.”
“And if I lose?” he replied, clearly enjoying the challenge.
I shrugged a shoulder. “Then I walk.”
“Hmm.” A devious smile curved his lips. “Sounds good.” The glasses came off. I watched him close them, set them down, and turn to face me. Thick lashes and dark green bedroom eyes pierced through the Scotch-induced amnesia. “But, how about we up the ante? How about if I win, I buy you a drink and get you to come home with me?”
A gasp escaped me, piercing my lust-addled brain. It was like he read my mind—or maybe my actions, I wasn’t sure at that point—though I was too nervous to ask him for the last part. “O-okay. If you lose?”
The devious smirk widened. “I let you use me to make whoever is sitting at that table,” he gestured his head and eyes to my ex, “incredibly jealous, and you can walk. Deal?”
Is he for real? He knows what I am up to and doesn’t care? I can’t put this guy in any category on my checklist so far.
Every alarm, red flag, and warning sign went off in my brain. The last thing I remembered was telling him he had a deal.
I slide my arms under her small frame and easily lift her from the snow. Her dead weight settles against my chest, and a gust of wind batters us with a blast of icy flakes.
Memories come with it…swirling in my head the way the snow does around us.
Another body in my arms.
A hopeless struggle to survive.
The look of death staring back at me.
Clenching my jaw, I shake away the visions and concentrate on the moment. I need to get her warmed up and settled in at the cabin and get back out here for the firewood before it’s too bad out here for me to come to get it. While I’m used to the unpleasant weather here, it doesn’t mean I want to get stuck outside during shit like this.
And while all I may want is to disappear out here and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist, it seems fate has other plans. There’s no one else to help her.
The very real weight of the situation rests heavily on my shoulders, and I glance down at the limp body in my arms.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen a woman, I almost forgot how beautiful they are. Soft, pale skin, perfect bow lips, thick, dark lashes spread across her wind-reddened, high cheekbones. It almost makes me miss being part of the world.
But the slightly blue tint to her lips and a big shake of my head bring me back to reality.
Get out of your fucking head and get moving, asshole.
The snow isn’t going to let up anytime soon, and it will only get worse the longer I stand here staring at this poor woman like a fucking idiot. That’s what happens when someone lives alone for as long as I have—I get lost in my own head too long with no way out.
I set out through the growing drifts toward the cabin, fighting the brutal wind and biting snow with each step. By the time it comes into view on the other side of the clearing, it’s practically a white-out. There’s no way she would have survived or been able to find the cabin if she hadn’t stumbled upon me.
It may already be too late.
All I can do now is try to warm her up and hope the sheriff can get up the mountain to bring her to the clinic in town for real treatment before we’re completely snowed in.
Cara Dee’s THEIR BOY is on sale for a limited time! Check it out and be sure to grab your copy today!
Title: Their Boy
Author: Cara Dee
Genre: MM Romance
About Their Boy:
Left all alone in the world—and in a very big house—after the loss of his parents, Kit Damien has struggled to find his place in society and in the kink community he longs to be a more active part of.
Daddy Doms Colt and Lucas have been a happy, committed couple for eight years. But two Tops need a bottom, and their quest for a Little to make their lives complete has led them to Kit’s empty doorstep.
But just as with his physical wounds, Kit’s emotional scars won’t heal overnight. Colt and Lucas must challenge him at every turn to force him to open up and let them in, to let them use their own individual methods to make him whole again. Together, the three will embark on a journey to learn about true love, growing up, the importance of sprinkles, and the rules of The Game that can make them all winners.
The Game Series is a BDSM series with gay pairings where romance meets the reality of kink. Sometimes we fall for someone we don’t match with, sometimes vanilla business gets in the way of kinky pleasure, and sometimes we have to compromise and push ourselves to overcome trauma and insecurities. No matter what, two things are certain. This is not a perfect world, and life never turns out the way you planned.
When the doorbell rang, I stuttered a curse and took a shaky breath. Great start, stuttering before I’d even opened the door. This could only get worse. I skidded out of the kitchen and ran a hand through my hair. Then I adjusted the collar on my shirt—crap, should I have put on a tie? No, this was casual. I was pretty sure. Fuck.
“Please like me,” I whispered, reaching the entryway. After wiping my hands along my thighs, I opened the door. And my heart stopped. No, no, no, no! Why was he here? Why, oh, fucking why?
I barely registered the polite smile on Lucas’s face. I was stuck on the damn fighter pilot. Colt stood there, with a freaking USAF ball cap on, and he was eating sushi from a to-go container.
My cheeks felt like they caught on fire.
Lucas snagged my attention when he removed his sunglasses, and then I was kind of trapped in his steely gray eyes.
“It’s good to see you again, Kit.” Lucas flashed that infectious smile I remembered from the munch, and I swallowed dryly.
“Y-you too,” I stammered. No, seriously, shoot me! I took a breath and stepped to the side so they could enter.
“I hope you don’t mind I brought Colt,” he replied as he passed me. “He was curious.”
I gnashed my teeth and mustered a tentative glance at Colt, who flashed me a faint smirk and chewed on a piece of sushi.
“I had to see the Raptor kid again.” His smirk widened, and he walked past me too.
I was toast. This was not what I signed up for.
About the Author:
Romance Across the Spectrum.
I’m often awkwardly silent or, if the topic interests me, a chronic rambler. In other words, I can discuss writing forever and ever. Fiction, in particular. The love story—while a huge draw and constantly present—is secondary for me, because there’s so much more to writing romance fiction than just making two (or more) people fall in love and have hot sex.
There’s a world to build, characters to develop, interests to create, and a topic or two to research thoroughly.
Every book is a challenge for me, an opportunity to learn something new, and a puzzle to piece together. I want my characters to come to life, and the only way I know to do that is to give them substance—passions, history, goals, quirks, and strong opinions—and to let them evolve.
I want my men and women to be relatable. That means allowing room for everyday problems and, for lack of a better word, flaws. My characters will never be perfect.
Wait…this was supposed to be about me, not my writing.
I'm a writey person who loves to write. Always wanderlusting, twitterpating, kinking, cooking, baking, and geeking. There’s time for hockey and family, too. But mostly, I just love to write.
All the links you could need in one place: https://www.caradeewrites.com/cdwlandingpage
Connect with the Author:
The Other Brother
The next day I’m out surfing early. The waves are gentler today, and while the rides aren’t as intense, it’s crazy-cool being out with the early sun glinting off the water and the fresh salt air giving my nostrils a spring clean.
I’m about to head in when I notice a lone runner on the beach. As the figure draws closer, I recognize the lean build and curly hair.
Okay, so maybe I time my exit from the water so I intercept him. But hey, it’s a long, lonely fifty-feet walk back to the house. It’s natural to want some company.
Cody stops at the start of the path, leaning forward to rest his hands on his legs as he recovers his breath. He’s wearing a close-fitting T-shirt that shows off his biceps.
“Hey.” Yep, I should win awards for the most original opening line. I stand there, dripping in my wetsuit, sand caking my feet.
“Hey,” he pants. He straightens and pulls up his T-shirt to wipe his forehead, giving me a view of his muscled, tanned stomach.
“Heading back to the house now?” I keep my voice casual.
“I’ll be your security detail if you want.”
“Thanks, there are lots of bandits in the dunes,” he says in such a deadpan voice that it takes me a few seconds to realize he’s joking.
“Gotta watch out for those bandits.” My reply is a few seconds too late and a few levels too feeble as I step into stride next to him. The sandy path cuts through the dunes.
“So, do you surf?” I ask.
“Nah, I’ve never learned.”
“You spend your summers here, and you’ve never learned to surf?”
I snort. Making sure as much derision as possible is contained in the snort.
Cody raises his eyebrow. “Bodyboarding doesn’t cut it with you?”
“Nah. It’s like saying Jimi Hendrix and Justin Bieber are both equal musicians. Or… like Mozart and whoever was the crappy but popular composer back in his time.”
“I get the Jimi Hendrix/Bieber comparison,” Cody says. “You don’t need to put it into classical music terms.”
“That’s good, because I don’t know shit about classical music,” I say. “You dig Hendrix?”
“I play a few songs of his. Mainly on the guitar.”
“You play guitar as well?”
“Yeah. You ever played an instrument?”
“Does the recorder in third grade count?”
He flashes me a smile. “Kind of like bodyboarding counts as surfing.”
We’ve reached the house now. The sun is hitting the front windows, turning them into gleaming pools of gold light. But the yard is still in shadows.
“Wetsuit off, right?” I say.
“Yeah, there’s a hose around here somewhere you can use to wash down.”
He rummages around by the side of the house and emerges holding a hose.
I strip my wetsuit off. If there’s one thing it’s impossible to look coordinated doing, it’s removing a wetsuit. Luckily, I’ve got board shorts on underneath so I’m spared the indignity of possible shrinkage on full display.
“Damn, that’s cold.” I spray myself with the frigid water.
Cody’s standing there, immobile. He studies the ground, not looking at me.
Because I’m in control of the hose, I can’t help flicking water in his direction. He raises his gaze to mine, his eyes narrowing.
“You looked like you needed to cool off,” I say.
“Thanks,” he replies dryly.
I turn off the hose.
“Race you for the first shower,” I say, taking off through the door.
I’m not expecting Cody to engage, but then I hear footsteps on the floorboards behind me in the kitchen, and he’s right on my tail as I streak through the living room.
We’re side-by-side on the stairs, jostling each other with our elbows.
He slips ahead when we reach the hallway, but I tackle him to slow his momentum, and we both crash into the bathroom door at the same time and slide down it, laughing through our panting.