What does it take for Valentine’s-Day-hating Bryan Colby to discover that he really loves it? Meeting Officer Ben Collins, of course.
Bryan Colby doesn’t like Valentine’s Day. Despite being told by his close friends that he’s silly to fester over something that happened five years ago, he just can’t get excited as yet another Valentine’s Day approaches.
Bryan, a rising star at the local real estate office, prefers to work instead, but is assaulted while showing a vacant property. In the ambulance, he meets Officer Ben Collins and Bryan wastes no time in letting Ben know he finds him attractive and would like to get better acquainted with him, in every possible way.
At first wary of Bryan’s flirty, come-hither attitude, Ben eventually warms to Bryan’s charm, and agrees to meet him for a coffee. But circumstances outside their control change that date to a much more sensual meeting.
After all, it is Valentine’s Day week, and romance is most definitely in the air…
Reader advisory: This book contains references to parental abandonment. There are scenes involving mugging/assault, and armed robbery with hostage-taking. This book also includes a practical joke of a sexual nature.
General Release Date: 4th February 2020
Bryan Colby was not interested. In Valentine’s Day, that is. Particularly the Valentine’s Day party Tyler Kingman was trying to force him into going to. He’d said so a thousand times at least, but his best friend Tyler just didn’t seem to get it.
“Why do you hate Valentine’s Day so much?” he whined at Bryan as they made their way to Harry’s Place, their favorite bar, on Hope Street in Santa Barbara. Not a gay bar per se, but gay-friendly enough that they didn’t fear the locals would suddenly set upon them wielding torches and pitchforks.
“You know why, Tyler. Must I go over it again?”
“But it’s such a dumb reason, and one you should be able, at your age, to get over. C’mon, Bryan, it was years ago and it was only your sister’s idea of a practical joke, for cryin’ out loud.”
“She ruined it for me forever,” Bryan said, “and that is why I am not going with you to Jacob’s party. Besides, you shouldn’t be asking me to go with you. What about Daniel?”
“What about him?”
“He’s your beau, isn’t he?”
“Huh, some beau. He’s gonna be out of town on business that whole week, so that’s why I’m asking you to go with me.”
“Oh, it gets better!” Bryan’s laughter was distinctly hollow. “Now I’m being invited to a party I don’t want to go to, but only ’cause there’s no one else who’ll go with you.”
“Well, that’s one way of looking at it, I suppose.” Tyler punched Bryan’s arm lightly. “C’mon, best buddy. I really don’t want to show up on my own.”
“Why not? You’ll know everyone there, anyway.”
‘”Yeah, but there might be someone new for you to meet. You haven’t had a steady man in your life in…well, it’s been ages.”
“It’s been eight months,” Bryan said. “Not that I’ve been keeping tabs. Josh left last June, so this month, it’ll be eight.”
“That’s a long time to be celibate, Bryan.”
“Tell me.” They had reached Harry’s Place and Bryan held the door open to let Tyler pass through. This time of the day it was still quiet, just some country music playing from the jukebox at the far end of the bar.
“You ever hear from him?” Tyler asked as they waited for the bartender to notice them.
“Nope. And that’s the way it’s meant to be. We parted on okay terms, but without any promise to keep in touch…and he hasn’t.”
“Hi, boys!” Charlie Hutchins, one of the oldest bartenders in town, greeted them with his hand raised waiting for high-fives from them both. “So, what’ll it be?”
“Coronas, please, Charlie,” Tyler said after slapping his hand against Charlie’s big mitt. “How you been?”
“Pretty good.” He placed the two chilled bottles in front of them. “Jacob asked me to bartend at his shindig on Valentine’s. Guess I’ll see you both there?”
“Not me.” Bryan tipped the bottle to his lips and took a long swallow of the cold brew.
The lines on Charlie’s face deepened. “Why not? I thought, of all the guys that come in here, you’d be first in line to have a looksee at the talent.”
Tyler cackled. “Good old Charlie. Always straight from the shoulder. No bullshit.”
“What he just said was bullshit!” Bryan snapped. “You know as well as I do there’ll be no talent there.”
“Hey, I’ll be there. What am I…chopped liver?”
Bryan forced out a chuckle at his friend’s pseudo-hurt expression. He patted his shoulder. “What I meant was there’ll be no new talent. You both know I’ve dated about half the guys that’ll be there over the years.”
Charlie sniggered. “Dated…that’s a different word for it.”
“Besides…” Bryan ignored the snark. “I don’t go to Valentine’s Day parties. Ever.”
Tyler sighed. “Yeah, yeah, we know. Ever since Cherise said she’d set you up with Harvey Waters, the college football quarterback, and it was really Kay Simpson in disguise.”
“Oh yeah.” Charlie sniggered again. “The one that looked like Brienne in Game of Thrones. Tall girl, big shoulders. She coulda fooled anyone into thinking she was a man. You still festering over that?”
“Okay, smart asses, listen up. Imagine yourselves in a crowded room. Everyone in on the ruse except you. Lights are dim and suddenly there he is. The guy you’ve been lusting over for a whole semester. He takes you in his arms and kisses you, tongue and everything. And fuck, I went for it. Kissing him back until everyone started hooting and giggling and the lights came back up and I’m on my ass with Kay grinning down at me and taking off the blond wig, and there’s Harvey himself laughing like a goddamn idiot. Tell me you wouldn’t feel humiliated. You wouldn’t tell them all to go fuck themselves and storm out and have to put up with days and days of people laughing behind your back? It took me a month before I could even be civil to Cherise, my own sister. I couldn’t believe she’d set me up like that.”
“Dude…” Tyler draped his arm around Bryan’s shoulders. “That was five years ago, and—”
“And you were in on it too! My best friend. I don’t know why I ever talked to you again. I should’ve punched you on the nose.”
Charlie was laughing so hard he had to excuse himself and go to the men’s room. Tyler patted Bryan’s shoulder before letting him go. “Like I said, it was a long time ago, and nothing like that is ever going to happen again. How can it? Cherise is too busy in Sacramento with her hubby and kids, Harvey lives in Seattle and Kay, bless her, is married to that lady prison warden in Folsom. Come on, Bryan. Go with me and I promise you’ll have a good time. You need a little diversion. You’re still in the dumps about Josh leaving you, and you have to get over it. You’re a good-looking guy, even if I have to say it, and I’m sure there’ll be one or two new faces at the party. Please, pretty please, go with me.”
As if sensing Bryan was weakening in his resolve to skip the party, Tyler cozied up to him again. “Pleeeaaase…”
“Oh, all right. But if it sucks, I’m not staying.”
“It won’t suck, I promise.”
“How the hell can you promise something like that?”
“Promise what?” Charlie, back from the restroom, asked, picking up some glasses to polish.
“Oh, he’s still grumping about the party,” Tyler told him.
Charlie grimaced. “Lighten up, man. You have to get over these Valentine’s Day blues you’re mired in. It’ll be a blast. I’ll be there tending bar. You can come talk to me if you’re shy.”
“I’m not shy.” Bryan sighed. “What I am is wondering why I agreed to go with you, Tyler. I just know some jerks are gonna say, ‘Remember that party when Kay Simpson French-kissed you, and you were totally trading saliva until you realized it wasn’t Harvey Waters. Ha ha ha!’” He groaned. “I can’t do it. Sorry, I take back what I said about going with you.”
“You can’t! Oh, come on, Bryan, stop being such a wimp.”
“Yeah, man up, boy,” Charlie growled. “You’re not a kid anymore. Besides, I’m betting most of the folks going to the party either don’t remember, or couldn’t care less about what happened five years ago. Go and enjoy. That’s an order.”
Bryan laughed. “Then I guess I have no choice. Never let it be said that I am not all man!”
Charlie and Tyler fairly doubled over after that statement.