Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art: Reese Dante
Series: Toronto Tales – Book 3
Release Date: September 4, 2013
Audio narrated by Tristan James.
Thirty-five-year-old Rick Haviland is a well-respected speech pathologist, but while his friends are all settling into relationships, he refuses to give up his no-strings-attached club boy sex life. For him, relationships are dangerous; he’s got a secret to hide. When he meets Ian O’Donnell, an account manager with a local tabloid, Rick figures his personal rules for relationships should be enough to keep him safe from more than a one-night stand.
When Ian comes out of the closet, tired of anonymous hook-ups and keeping secrets from his large Catholic family, Rick is right there, and he’s just the sort of man Ian might like to get to know better.Their attraction is immediate, electric and mutual. Ian convinces Rick to break more and more of his rules, and his defenses crumble. But someone watches, someone who’d like to see this new relationship fail. When Ian’s job becomes a means to expose Rick’s secret, it could destroy both their careers and their hearts.
Toronto Tales is set in the city of my birth, and where I lived most of my life. The guys in these stories are just every day guys, wanting what everyone else does – friends, family, someone to love. They find their happily ever after… eventually!
Excerpt -- WARNING: Content may be explicit, sexual or offensive. Read at your own risk, and only if you are over 18
FROWNING, Rick Haviland smoothed a hand over his abs. Sure, the pink T-shirt was as tight as his clubbing clothes, but it was faded, ratty as anything, and practically falling apart. Then again, he was only going over to his friend Davy’s house to help him and Davy’s new boyfriend, Kurt, paint their house. Sure as shit, he didn’t want to get any of his normal clothes covered in paint, but he also wanted to look good.
Partly because the perennial club boy was what his friends expected, and partly—perhaps stupidly—because of Kurt.
Kurt was a gorgeous cop, who unfortunately belonged—lips, cock, and asshole—to Davy. Despite some rather aggressive flirting before Kurt and Davy got together, Rick wouldn’t have actually slept with the sexy detective, no matter how often he appeared in his fantasies. The second he’d laid eyes on Kurt, he’d labeled Kurt as a keeper. Rick didn’t have sex with keepers. Keepers couldn’t be trusted, nor could a keeper trust him. He’d seen first-hand how badly relationships could fuck people up, and he was already fucked up enough without adding heartbreak or worse.
That didn’t mean he wouldn’t like an appreciative look or two from Kurt. Maybe a quick grope. Surely Davy wouldn’t begrudge him that. Kurt had been recently shot in the line of duty and the whole wounded hero thing worked for him. While Kurt had been in the hospital, though, Rick had been too scared for his friend to even flirt. He didn’t quite know how Davy could stand tying his life to a guy with such a dangerous job. Relationships were plenty hazardous all on their own.
The doorbell rang, shaking him out of the contemplation of his outfit. He ran downstairs, even though he was probably just going to get suckered into some theological argument with those cute boys the Mormons insisted on sending out to “spread the word.” Rick should never answer the damn door for them, but he relished engaging with young men who didn’t quite have the wits to debate properly, and he never seemed to have the strength to shut the door until both sides were thoroughly frustrated. Still, with a shirt so tight his nipples would probably rip the fabric if they hardened up, maybe he’d succeed in enticing one of them into his lair.
Rick swung the door open, hip thrust to the side, the better to display his groin.
“Rick,” Oscar breathed, gaze dropping exactly where he’d intended, even if Oscar hadn’t been the intended target.
“Oscar. This is a surprise.” Rick blinked. They’d had sex last night at Oscar’s and Rick had left shortly after midnight. Showing up on his doorstep less than twelve hours later was unusual, to say the least. Then again, as a medical resident, his hours were often weird.
Oscar stepped right into Rick’s personal space, then proceeded to get a whole lot more personal with his ass, taking a firm grip on each cheek.
“Didn’t I wear you out last night?” Rick asked.
The hard cock pressing into his stomach and the lips on his neck were answer enough, and the answer was a clear and definitive no.
Oscar undulated against him, and Rick’s breath came a little short.
“You should have stayed last night.” The warm breath from Oscar’s whisper made Rick shiver, but the words sent a chill down his spine. He didn’t do overnights. He didn’t let any of his fuck buddies stay at his place either, no matter how fucked out they were.
Still, with Oscar’s talented lips and tongue making hash of his determination not to arrive at the painting party late, he decided to ignore the words. Oscar knew the score. Rick had been very careful to explain that their only relationship would be sexual.
Oscar’s hand wormed its way into the front of Rick’s jeans, cupping his burgeoning erection, fingers wriggling below his balls.
Clutching Oscar’s firm butt, Rick consigned his good intentions to the heated flames of his libido. He was definitely going to be late to Davy and Kurt’s painting party. For the best reason: getting laid by a guy who knew what he was doing.
“Or I could have come here last night. Stayed over.” Oscar ended his sentence with a firm bite on Rick’s earlobe.
Rick froze. Surely this was Oscar’s lame attempt at erotic talk and not his only fuck buddy turning into a keeper before his eyes.
Oscar continued to stroke him, keeping his cock interested, which Rick went along with, even though he wasn’t sure this was a good idea.
“Uh, Oscar….” Rick pushed halfheartedly at Oscar’s shoulder.
Pulling his head back, Oscar looked deeply into Rick’s eyes. “I think we should move in together.”
The completely unwelcome sentiment gave Rick the strength to push away.
Goddammit! Rick normally had a number of regular fuck buddies, all carefully selected to be good in the sack, careful with their sexual health and have zero interest in a relationship. Oscar was the only one he had in rotation right now after he’d terminated Ivan’s fuck buddy status. Ivan, at least, had recognized that Rick wasn’t able to provide any emotional connection, but unlike most of Rick’s regulars, they’d remained friends. Oscar wasn’t going there. Especially not with this full frontal assault.
“Oscar, we’re not moving in together. I don’t do relationships, remember?”
He had rules to keep this from happening. Most times, he lost guys because they eventually decided they wanted to settle down, but they rarely asked to do so with him. He never met their families and always made sure he had transportation if they met somewhere.
The man reached for him, arms like tentacles as Rick danced to evade them.
“C’mon, Rick. I know you’re not seeing anyone else right now. We’re already practically in a relationship.”
Rick’s eyebrows rose into his hairline. He might not know much about relationships, but just because neither of them was seeing anyone else didn’t automatically make this a relationship. But that was exactly why he was so pissed. The older he got, the harder it was to find appropriate guys to put into rotation and now he was going to be left in the unfortunate position of… auditioning. He should probably be more enthused, but mostly he was resenting Oscar something fierce for putting him in this position, by turning into not only a keeper but one who wanted to keep Rick.
“Are you crazy? It takes more than a few fucks and a lack of competition to make a relationship. You need to go.”
Oscar gave him a wounded look that was presumably meant to be cute, but Rick was done.
“Rick, baby. We could be so good together. And the fucks were epic.”
How exactly had a guy who sounded like a stoned surfer managed to make it through medical school, anyway?
“No. Out. Don’t call me. No strings, no relationships. You need to go.” Rick squared his shoulders and crossed his arms, hoping to look as closed off as possible.
Oscar’s eyes widened, and his cheeks reddened. “But I think I love you.”
Rick rolled his eyes. “Ridiculous. If you want a boyfriend, go out and get one. You’re a catch, you won’t be single long, but I’m not that guy.”
In love with him? Please. He shoved Oscar out of the doorway and slammed the door shut, locking the deadbolts. Leaning against it, he waited for the inevitable pounding, signifying Oscar hadn’t given up. He only had to wait seconds, but it was still enough of a shock to start his own heart pounding.
Oscar called his name, cajoled, begged. Rick’s phone rang and rang. He groaned. If Oscar made him change his phone number, he was going to be plenty pissed. First thing he was doing was blocking Oscar’s number.
Ten minutes passed like this, and Rick had just started to wonder if he should call the police when Oscar’s car finally squealed out of his driveway. Rick was going to need to calm down a bit before he drove over to Davy and Kurt’s place. He slid to the floor, waiting for his pulse to return to normal.
He’d have to rush if he didn’t want to be too late. Lateness would require explanations. If he’d been late because he was getting laid, that would have been one thing, but he didn’t want to explain the Oscar fiasco to his friends. They probably would have told him to give Oscar a chance, but there was no way that was happening.
THE small, neatly kept bungalow wasn’t haunted. It wasn’t the haven of serial killers or infested with cockroaches. Yet Ian O’Donnell’s belly churned and sweat slicked his palms at the thought of ringing the bell. The only scary thing inside was his baby brother, Kurt, who’d fallen in love with a man named Davy, and shocked the family by announcing he was gay at his own fucking birthday party.
No one was upset or angry or hateful. No one except Ian. He’d fled the party, avoiding Kurt and the rest of the family for months. It wasn’t the first time Ian had thought the baby of the family had it easier than the rest of them, but it was the first time he’d let those insidious feelings interfere in his relationship with his brother. Then his stupid brother got himself shot in the line of duty, and Ian’s bruised feelings ceased to matter. All that mattered was fixing things with Kurt, if only he knew how.
Flicking a glance to the cars in the driveway as he paced on the sidewalk, he wasn’t sure if it would be easier or harder to confess to Kurt when other people were around. As tempting as it was to go home and wait for another time, he’d driven by dozens of times since Kurt had been released from the hospital, and this was the first time he’d been able to talk himself out of the car.
Kurt had to forgive him, even though Ian had been a selfish, self-absorbed idiot. If Ian had irreparably damaged his relationship with his brother, it would leave a hole in his life that could never be filled, and he’d have only himself to blame.
With a deep breath, he strode up the driveway and rang the doorbell.
A slender disheveled man led him into the house, led him to Kurt.
There were other men in the room, and the scent of fresh paint was heavy in the air, but it all barely registered.
“What are you doing here?” His baby brother stood, and was immediately flanked by a dark-haired man and a blond. One of them must be Davy.
Ian didn’t know how to answer the almost angry question. He wanted to hug Kurt, but he didn’t know if the gesture would be welcome or even painful. Ian had gone to the hospital, but only entered the room when Kurt was sleeping, unable to face his brother and his own shame. The faint creases beside Kurt’s mouth spoke of hurts still endured, and it killed Ian to see his brother in pain.
Kurt looked… better than he had in the hospital, but considering Kurt had long been taller and more muscular than Ian, the weight he’d lost after being injured had left him appearing almost frail. Ian wanted to turn around and flee, but he couldn’t.
“Oh my God, Kurt! He’s one of your brothers?” The incredulous tone briefly directed Ian’s attention to the small blond man standing next to his brother. Ian sucked in a breath. The guy was fucking adorable. A threadbare pale-pink T-shirt stretched across a well-formed chest and abs. The guy wasn’t muscular by any stretch, but he looked strong and compact, like a ballet dancer. The neck of the shirt had a small hole that Ian wanted to wiggle a finger into and yank, ripping the shirt away and baring golden skin. The somewhat looser, paint-splattered jeans might prove more of problem, but there was a rip at the top of one thigh that suggested all kinds of things to Ian.
“Please tell me he’s gay too.” There was no mistaking the interest in both voice and eyes, and despite the task that had brought Ian here, he couldn’t stop himself from holding the blond’s gaze. If they were in a club, it would be a matter of minutes before they found themselves in the bathroom, back room, or alley. Unless, of course, this was Davy, the man his brother had moved in with. In which case, he hoped the guy wasn’t the type to follow through on the promise in his eyes.
“He’s straight,” Kurt said with almost no inflection in his voice.
Here it was. Already. The moment of truth. Ian wanted to puke.
But the truth was all he had. The only thing that could mend the breach. The truth he’d never told anyone who knew his full name, much less which superhero he liked to dress up as when he was a kid.
The blond squealed in a vamped-up expression of enthusiasm that boded well for a good fuck, but his dick had to take a backseat to fixing things with his brother. The brother who stared at him as though he thought Ian was playing a particularly cruel joke. Kurt’s lips thinned, his stern cop face in stark evidence, and he grabbed Ian by the arm, steering him to the basement entrance. Kurt released his tight grip and gestured for Ian to precede him down the stairs.
Ian descended into darkness, the creaky stairs almost a soundtrack of him going to his doom.
“Hey, you aren’t bringing me down here to kill me or anything, are you?”
Kurt snorted. “I should, you idiot.”
“Dirt floors to bury my body in?” Ian couldn’t stop from pushing.
“Not fucking hardly. This is our home gym.”
His brother clicked on the lights, illuminating a room completely filled with gym equipment. For a moment, the home gym distracted him. Going to the gym wasn’t his favorite activity—Kurt was the workout freak in the family—but he could easily see working out on the roomful of high-end equipment he saw.
“Oh my God, Kurt. This is incredible.” Was Davy also a workout freak, or was this room all Kurt’s?
“Quit stalling. What the fuck is going on?”
God, hadn’t he said enough already? Did he have to spell it out and draw diagrams?
“Seriously, Ian, what did you mean up there?” Kurt looked mad enough to hit him. Even the recent bullet wound probably wouldn’t prevent Kurt from damaging Ian rather badly if he chose to.
Diagrams and spelling, it was. Ian began to pace, trying to choose the best starting point.
“I… I’m gay too.”
Kurt frowned. “What about all those girls? Those strippers?”
His family all thought he was a complete slut. Dogging after anything with a skirt—at least in their presence. On his own, though, he was just as much of a slut, but if they didn’t have a dick, he never gave them a second glance.
“I could ask you the same thing. You had girlfriends.” But Kurt had had the courage to do what Ian never had, and Ian hadn’t been able to stop himself from hating his brother, just a little bit, for that.
“So you’re just figuring this out?” The faint hint of skepticism in Kurt’s tone told Ian he hadn’t fixed things, not yet. Kurt still thought he might be the butt of a joke, like when they were kids. They had five other siblings but only the three youngest—he, Kurt, and Dylan—ever seemed to take endless fascination in tormenting each other. This, though, was not the topic to choose for that sort of joke. Ian knew better than most and he would never do that to Kurt, so it pained him that Kurt didn’t trust him not to.
“No, I had it figured out for a while. Years. The women were just a cover.”
He’d been hiding his sexuality almost twenty years now, afraid to let anyone, even those closest to him, know that deep dark secret. When Kurt had come out to their family—with no repercussions at all—it had broken Ian somewhere inside. Aside from a myriad of negative emotions that had welled up as a result of keeping his orientation a completely unnecessary secret, he’d resented the fuck out of Kurt. He’d let his jealousy and anger override all good sense, and now all he was left with was shame and guilt.
“Years? Are you fucking serious? What the hell?”
“I was afraid. I thought I’d lose everyone. So I hid it. When you told me, all… smug… and confident, I thought you’d figured it out and were mocking me. Then, when I realized you were telling the truth, and everyone accepted it without any problems, I was mad at you.” Ian’s gaze dropped to his feet, unable to face the censure that had to be in Kurt’s eyes. His baby brother had been the brave one, paving the way for him, and he’d still been a fucking coward.
“Come here.” Kurt dragged him into a hug. Ian didn’t deserve Kurt’s forgiveness, but he’d take it. He clung to Kurt’s strong shoulders, eyes burning. He swallowed a sob and buried his face in Kurt’s shirt. Staying away from his family had been lonely, but not talking to Kurt and Dylan regularly had been almost unbearable.
His brother coaxed him down onto a vinyl-covered bench, and they sat in silence for a few moments while Ian composed himself.
“Are you going to tell everyone?”
“Yeah. It was killing me, pretending. I can’t believe you had the guts to just say it at your own birthday party.” As soon as he’d retrieved his balls from wherever they’d disappeared, Ian had decided it was time to come clean. Kurt was only the first stop. Their mom had a family dinner every Sunday. Not all of the siblings and their kids showed up every week, but Ian didn’t care who was there. His parents were next on his list. After that, the other five siblings should be a breeze.
“Well, I had some incentive. Did you see my boyfriend?” Kurt grinned.
Ian smiled in response and wiped at his wet eyes. “The cute little blond in the pink shirt?” The blond had been the hottest guy in a roomful of hot guys, so it only made sense that Kurt had already laid claim to him.
“You got a boyfriend of your own?”
“No, just a lot of one-night stands.” A lot. He didn’t know a damn thing about boyfriends.
“Well, come on upstairs. Let me introduce you to Rick.”
“Rick?” The blond didn’t much look like a Rick, but it would be an easy name for him to call out while fucking.
“The cute blond in the pink shirt. My Davy is the tall dark-haired one.”
“Let’s go. I’m going to stay and help, if that’s okay.”
RICK slapped a roller, soaked with paint, against the wall, causing a little back spray. God, he was such an idiot. He stroked the roller up and down until he’d used up the paint on the roller, then set it back in the tray before trying to wipe at the lemon-yellow spatters on his arms. He only succeeded in streaking the yellow along his forearms.
He wasn’t sure why he’d been so damned flippant about Ian’s coming-out statement. He, better than anyone, knew how hard it could be. Of course, the guy had to have some idea about how his revelation would be received, given that the revelation was to an already gay brother who had moved in with his boyfriend. Davy had told him that Kurt and his brother had been estranged for a couple of months, thinking it had something to do with Kurt coming out, but Kurt was a very private person and Rick hadn’t heard anything more. For all he knew, the estrangement had been over something entirely different. Family stuff wasn’t any of Rick’s business, although he might make an exception in Ian’s case.
Assuming Ian didn’t hate him for acting like a shallow idiot. Rick had played up the oversexed club boy as soon as he’d seen Ian, and reacted before he’d had a chance to realize what import Ian’s words held for anyone besides his own cock.
Rick had always had a little crush on Kurt, with that stern cop exterior and those puffed-up muscles. But Ian was like a refined, polished, better-looking version of Kurt, with dark hair instead of auburn and pale-blue eyes instead of dark blue, and in great shape.
“Hey, Rick.” Kurt’s deep voice had him spinning around, and like his thoughts had conjured him up, there was Ian.
“Uh, hey.” No, he wasn’t digging himself out of his hole with that stellar oration.
“Rick, this is my brother, Ian. Ian, this is my friend, Rick.”
Ian’s red-rimmed eyes and the shy vulnerability in his expression tugged at something deep inside Rick. Even if Ian was a keeper like Kurt, Rick couldn’t bring himself to brush Ian off. Not after his thoughtlessness earlier.
He extended his hand. “Nice to meet you, Ian.”
Ian gripped his hand. “Nice to meet you too.” The heat was back, the heat he’d sworn he’d seen earlier when Ian had raked his gaze from Rick’s head to his toes, and especially one particular bit in between. Ian held his hand for longer than customary and rubbed at the inside of Rick’s wrist before he let go. Goose bumps flared along Rick’s arm at the telling, yet subtle, touch.
Ian turned to his brother. “I think I’ll stay in here, help Rick.”
Kurt rolled his eyes and left. Rick’s heart picked up its pace at the realization they were alone.
“So, I’m pretty sure the paint’s supposed to go on the wall.” Ian grinned, and the shyness disappeared in a flash as he reached out and swiped a finger along Rick’s cheek, down his neck, and to his collarbone.
Blood rose under his skin, heating him and plumping his cock. The combination of embarrassment and sudden, fierce arousal was disorienting but not entirely unpleasant.
“Maybe you need to show me how it’s done.” Rick’s voice had dropped, and the dilation of Ian’s pupils, narrowing the ring of gorgeous blue iris, told him that neither of them was too interested in painting. Good thing that Rick’s earlier irritation had caused him to work fast and as a result the kitchen was nearly done.
Ian wiggled a finger into a hole in Rick’s shirt, and the unexpected contact with the skin on his chest pushed his cock into full, throbbing arousal.
“Maybe I do. Because I think you’ve ruined this shirt.” Ian’s words were accompanied by a tearing sound as he dragged his finger down. He didn’t go far, and the rip wasn’t that much bigger than it had been before, but it was almost like Rick was naked. A glance at Ian’s groin confirmed that they were well on their way to some mutual pleasure. Rick wanted to flick open Ian’s jeans and suck him down, right here in Davy’s kitchen. Only problem was, if Davy didn’t kill them for having sex here, Kurt would probably shoot off some of his very important bits. For a gorgeous hunk of a gay cop, Kurt was alarmingly prudish.
Once they were alone, would Ian rip his shirt right off? It wasn’t as easy as it looked in porn, but Rick shivered at the thought of having it done.
Ian stepped closer and palmed his cock. Rick groaned and bucked his hips into the warm, welcome pressure.
“Want to get out of here?” Rick copied Ian’s grip and was rewarded by a moan.
“Yes, but I did say I’d help.” Ian frowned and stepped back, separating them.
No, that would never do. Ian’s cock had felt like a work of art and Rick was ready to worship.
“There’s only one wall left here in the kitchen. And there are at least four other guys besides Davy working in the rest of the house.”
Ian’s lips curled up in a feral grin that left Rick breathless. “Then find me a roller and let’s get this wall finished.”
IN RECORD time, the two of them finished painting the kitchen and cleaned the rollers, despite the number of gropes and grabs that took place between them. Rick was ready to blow, and he suspected as soon as he and Ian were alone, the first orgasm would be fucking quick. Since he intended to have more than one with this man tonight, the speed of the first one didn’t matter.
“Looks great.” Ian wasn’t looking at the walls, and Rick couldn’t help but preen, just a little, under the admiring regard.
“Ready to get out of here?”
“Yes.” Ian’s single word was heartfelt and emphatic. Rick wasn’t sure he’d ever been this horny or desperate for a man. Sure, Oscar had revved him up a bit earlier, but he’d never wanted Oscar with this intensity. This lust was all for Ian and Rick wanted to spend hours slaking it.
“Where to?” Rick wasn’t about to offer his own place; Ian better not have a roommate.
They slipped out the back door and rounded the house without running into any of the others. Rick stared at his car in dismay. Somehow, he’d gotten boxed in, which defeated the whole purpose of them slipping out without saying good-bye. Neither of them wanted to deal with whatever ribbing would be coming their way because neither his nor Ian’s erections had deflated. Any one of his friends would know where they were going.
“You want to text me the address? I’ll follow as soon as I get my car out.”
Ian pressed him up against the side of… someone’s car. Rick was too focused on Ian to pay attention to color, make, or model. “Just come with me. I’ll drive you back later.”
Then Ian wiggled his hips, and Rick’s cock jerked. He never did this. Never left himself without transportation, but this was Kurt’s brother. He gazed into Ian’s mesmerizing blue eyes, inexplicably tempted to kiss the man. Surely he could make an exception. For the transportation. Kissing was still off the menu. Kissing involved an intimacy that led men to become keepers.
“Okay, fine. Let’s go.” Strangely, he didn’t have a moment of regret for breaking his transportation rule, but they needed to get out of here before he broke any other rules.
USING a firm grip on Rick’s ass, Ian guided—or practically shoved—Rick into his condo. He wanted Rick naked and in his bed immediately.
“Nice place you have here.” Rick’s voice was breathless and he was totally lying because Ian hadn’t even turned on the lights.
“Thanks.” Ian bit down on the back of Rick’s neck and was rewarded by a moan.
“Show me your bedroom.”
Yeah, like that was in question. He had a couch that might be really good for fucking over, but while he’d been in the closet, he’d never felt comfortable bringing a guy over, certain that one of his many siblings or even a coworker would find out. The thought of having a naked Rick in his bed, on his sheets, had him so hard he might be able to bust through his fly from the sheer blood pressure alone.
He wrapped both arms around Rick from behind, one hand atop the denim-covered bulge of Rick’s erection and the other worming underneath Rick’s T-shirt to find the warm, fuzzy skin of Rick’s belly. An animalistic sound of want escaped Rick’s lips and Ian’s already shaky control wavered. Without letting go of Rick, Ian managed to maneuver them into his bedroom.
Once they were in sight of the bed, Rick wiggled out of his embrace and whipped off his shirt.
“Strip, Ian, for God’s sake. You’ve been driving me crazy for hours.”
(c) KC Burn 2013
4.5 Stars from Caroline at Prism Book Alliance! (audio version) “Like the previous two books in this series this is not an easy or straight forward love story.”
4 Stars from JustJen at The Blogger Girls! “It was difficult to not feel for Rick after hearing about his past, and I warmed up to him much more after that. I loved watching him learn to trust Ian and come out of his shell.”
4 Stars from Christy at Rainbow Book Reviews! This was a very sweet and heartbreaking love story.
5 sweet peas from Kiwi at Mrs Condit & Friends Read Books! “All of the books in this series are must reads.”
4 stars from J9 at The Romance Reviews! “CAST OFF is a good addition to a wonderful series with strong leads and a tender romance.”
4 stars from Tina at The Novel Approach! “I highly recommend this book, as well as the first two Toronto Tales; Cop Out and Cover up.”