Welcome everyone to Big Backlist Weekend! First, are you here for the Is It Summer Yet Blog Hop? Click HERE.
Are you a BBW veteran or virgin? BBW is a fun way to meet some of the best authors around and to win Free Books from those authors.
My guest today is Eli Easton! I am such a FAN! Eli can’t write stories fast enough for me. The one she’s giving away is a favorite. (Actually, both Eli and I are away at the Dreamspinner Author’s Workshop this weekend, but we’ll be watching and waving to you.)
Here’s how BBW works. You leave a comment. Uh, that’s all. One comment enters you to win in both drawings. There will be 2 winners. If you have the book you win, we will work something out (and if you have all my books or Eli’s books already, we will find another prize) Ready? Here we go!
When physics grad student Fielding Monroe and skirt-chaser and football player Mick Colman become college housemates, they’re both in for a whole new education. Mick looks out for the absent-minded genius, and he helps Fielding clean up his appearance and discover all the silly pleasures his strict upbringing as a child prodigy denied him. They become best friends.
It’s all well and good until they run into a cheerleader who calls Mick the ‘best kisser on campus.’ Fielding has never been kissed, and he decides Mick and only Mick can teach him how it’s done. After all, the physics department’s Christmas party is coming up with its dreaded mistletoe. Fielding wants to impress his peers and look cool for once in his life. The thing about Fielding is, once he locks onto an idea, it’s almost impossible to get him to change his mind. And he just doesn’t understand why his straight best friend would have a problem providing a little demonstration.
Mick knows kissing is a dangerous game. If he gives in, it would take a miracle for the thing not to turn into a disaster. Then again, if the kissing lessons get out of hand they can always blame it on the mistletoe.
“Oh, look!” Fielding said. “They have a new latte flavor—‘Santa’s Death by Peppermint.’ I’m getting that.”
It was the second of December and we were waiting in line at The Coffee Clatch. The campus coffee joint was bedecked and bedazzled with holiday spirit including colored mini-lights, tiny, fuzzy Santa hats on all the espresso machine handles, and displays of giant holiday cookies. Great. Fielding would be bouncing off the walls on a sugar high all month long.
“Do you have any idea how much many carbs are probably in that latte?” I asked. It was more or less a hypothetical question.
“Lots and lots,” Fielding answered enthusiastically. “Oooh! Cookies.”
I was about to get more serious about my sugar lecture when someone pressed into my back. By the feel of the soft curves along my spine that someone was female. Normally that would have been a good thing, but I wasn’t seeing anyone at the moment, and I didn’t care to be sexually accosted in a coffee shop while trying to talk my best friend. More to the point, before I’d had my morning pick me up. A little annoyed, I turned to see who it was.
A slim blonde in blue eye shadow and a tight pink sweater smiled up at me. She had her hand on my arm.
“Hey, Mick,” she gushed. “Long time no see.”
I recognized her, despite the lack of a perky red and white uniform. It was Regina, a Cornell football cheerleader. Had we ever messed around? I had to actually think about it for a second. But no, we hadn’t. Regina had been into Dylan McDermont when I was on the team. But the appreciative look in her eyes made it clear that Dylan was now buried in the Cemetery of Abandoned Interests. Probably right next to subtlety.
“Hi, Regina. Uh… this is my housemate, Fielding.”
“Hello,” Fielding said.
Regina gave Fielding a quick once over. That was followed by a polite smile and disinterested hello before she turned her attention back to lucky me.
“I can’t believe you quit the team!” Regina put on a cute little pout. “The girls were just chatting the other day about how much we miss seeing your fine ass on the field.”
What do you say to something like that? Why yes, I do have a fine ass, thanks for noticing? or Maybe you and my ass can work out another arrangement?
I went with, “I decided I needed to focus on my studies.”
“Well, you are missed. I was hoping to get to know you better. In fact, the girls were just talking about you at dinner the other night. There seemed to be a general consensus that…” Regina paused, looking coy. “…that you’re the best kisser on campus.”
A surprised huff escaped me. It sounded appropriately dubious.
“I was sort of hoping to test that theory for myself.” Regina blushed prettily at her own boldness and slid her hand from my arm to my chest.
Man. As a freshman, I so would have been all over that. I would have been thanking my lucky stars and my insides would have been auditioning for Riverdance.
Shut up. My parents made me go once. Not a lot of big attractions come to central Pennsylvania.
Anyway, Regina was cute and enthusiastic, and that sweater showed off her C cups to perfection. But getting girls had never been an issue for me. I inherited dirty blond hair and blue eyes from my mom and a rough, lumpy face from my dad. I’d been told I looked like Daniel Craig. I didn’t get the appeal, but I wasn’t exactly sorry for it. Still, by my junior year of high school getting girls became less of an issue than getting rid of them. And Regina was setting off big red warning lights in my head.
“Sorry, I’m seeing someone,” I said, giving Regina a regretful smile. “But it was really great running into you. Say hi to the other girls for me.”
The people in front of us moved and we were up to place our order. Thank the god of awkward moments.
It was a decent enough day considering that it was December in Ithaca, New York, so we took our drinks outside and sat at the fountain. I had my usual hot green tea with soy milk. Fielding had ignored my warning and settled down with his sweet Santa sludge. I’d learned to pick my battles and I let go of this one. He looked too happy for me to be a Scrooge about a little holiday treat.
“Why’d you tell Regina you were seeing someone?” Fielding asked, as soon as we sat down.
Inwardly I sighed. I’d had a feeling I wouldn’t get out of that encounter unscathed. “It’s called a little white lie, Bud. The truth would have been rude: I’m not interested, buzz off.”
“Ah! I see.” Fielding smirked. “Away with thee, thou silver-tongued succubus.”
I laughed. “Piss off, oh ye of the cleavage-which-shall-not-be-touched.”
Fielding chuckled, a low hearty rumbling which made me grin. My science geek housemate hadn’t grown up with a lot of laughter. But Fielding laughed now. He did a lot of things now that he hadn’t when we’d first moved in together. I felt pretty damn good about that.
“But why should her cleavage not be touched?”
I shrugged. “Been there. Done that. Have the T-shirt.”
Fielding blinked at me, a frown of confusion on his brow. “You slept with her? But she said she wanted to test the theory about your—”
Damn. Fielding missed nothing.
“I didn’t sleep with her. Girls like her.” And really, having a thing with three members of the Cornell football cheerleading squad was more than enough for any man. More than that, and I’d seriously have to seek counseling.
Fielding still looked puzzled. He was going to dig some more, I could tell. Because Fielding never let anything go until he’d dissected it to pieces.
“So anyway, you have a late lab tonight?” I asked, artfully changing the subject.
“It’s Tuesday the last time I looked,” Fielding said dryly, as if I should have his schedule memorized. I did, but any port in a storm.
“Right. I’ll plan on dinner around seven, then. There are still two servings of chicken casserole in the freezer. So don’t fill up on Snickers and Pringles from the snack machine, okay?”
I tried to catch Fielding’s eyes to get a confirmation of that, or at least a sign that he’d heard me. It was not unusual for the things I said to go in one ear, get lost in the vast contortions of Fielding’s massive intellect, and never make it to central processing. But Fielding wasn’t gazing off into space, mind on some physics problem or another. No, he was looking at me. More specifically, Fielding was looking at my mouth. He was intently looking at my mouth, a frown of concentration furrowing his brow. He sucked on his bottom lip.
Christ. Something hot rolled over in my stomach. It felt like uneasiness that maybe shared a condo wall with terror. And maybe arousal lived a couple of doors down. It was not a good feeling. I took a hasty drink of green tea, trying to hide my mouth from Fielding’s gaze. It also kept me from screaming like a little girl.
Covering up my mouth seemed to work, because Fielding broke off staring at it and met my gaze instead. There was a light in his eyes that I didn’t care for at all. When Fielding’s eyes said Eureka! it was rarely a good thing.
“Bye,” Fielding said abruptly. He pulled on his backpack and hurried away, head down.
Work hard, stay anonymous and don’t expect much. That’s resort housekeeper Mark Sintorella’s philosophy of life. After being kicked out of his family home at sixteen for being gay, Mark knows what it takes to survive. But how is he going to stay anonymous when he wants to be recognized as a great fashion designer? And how can he control his expectations when he’s desperately attracted to Ashton Armitage, the son of the fifth richest man in America? If Ash doesn’t find a woman to marry he’s going to lose his inheritance, but he can’t seem to resist the beautiful kid who cleans fireplaces while hiding behind a black cap and heavy glasses. And then this crazy elf of a man, Carstairs Pennymaker, has Mark running around looking like a fashion model wearing gorgeous women’s clothes. The clock strikes twelve and the wedding follows the ball. Two beautiful princesses line up for attention. But one isn’t interested and one isn’t a woman. Who will be the bride? Will the shoe fit? Only his fairy godmother knows for sure.
Pennymaker turned and looked at Mark. “What are you working on?”
“Excuse me? I, uh, have to clean some fireplaces this morning. You know they keep the rooms cool just so they can use them? Makes work for me.”
“That’s not what I mean, of course.” He turned back to the rack, pushed some jeans aside. “Aha!” His hand shot through the garments to the dress form. He made an opening in the clothes and stepped through to stand beside the red dress. “Perfect. Just beautiful. What a talent.”
The little man beamed at him. “You have exceptional design skills.”
God, it was hard to not be flattered. “Thank you, sir.” But how had the man known to look for the dress? Who told him?
Pennymaker walked over to the chair and sat. Creak. Hopefully the tiny man wouldn’t strain the old wood too much. “I would like to show that dress to some people.”
“Let’s say some potential investors.”
No. He couldn’t get excited. “Uh, really, sir? You’re in the clothing business?”
“I’m in many businesses, my boy.”
Okay, try not to be suspicious. “How did you know I was a clothing designer?”
The little man waved a hand. “That lovely T-shirt, of course.”
“No one told you?”
“Who would tell me?”
Had him there.
Pennymaker stepped back and surveyed the dress. “Now, who is your model?”
What? Mark cocked his head.
“Who did you set the dress form to?”
“Oh, uh, myself. I, uh, don’t have anyone else. I’m pretty slim so it works.”
“Perfect. Perfect. When do you have to be at work?”
This conversation was crazy. “In about an hour. This is my morning off. Unless they need me, of course.”
“Good. Put on the dress.”
“We’re going for a little walk through the hotel. You’ll be my…niece. Go on, go on.” He made a shooing gesture with his hands.
Mark shook his head. “Sir, I know I fit the dress to me but that’s because I don’t have anyone else. I’m not a transvestite.”
“Never said you were, dear boy. But these people I want to have see the dress will be much more amenable to taking your designs seriously if they think of the idea themselves rather than my telling them. That’s how we all are, now isn’t it? So I want them to see the clothes. We don’t have another model and we don’t want anyone else in on our secret.”
Secret? “What if someone recognizes me?”
Pennymaker cocked his head. “That is very unlikely. You do a good job making yourself plain and unmemorable with your cap and glasses.”
Mark felt the blush. Shoot. The man had him dead to rights.
“Besides, people see what they expect and they certainly don’t expect to see Mark Sintorella in a dress. Now, put it on.”
Mark stepped behind the rack of clothing. He stripped to his boxer briefs and stopped. What the hell was he doing? He could jeopardize his job for this crazy-assed little guy with his hair-brained scheme.
The voice came from the other side of the clothes. “Do you have it on?”
“Sir, I don’t mean to be rude, but are you sure about this? I really need the money I get from working here.”
“Tut tut, my boy. Hurry. I want to make one tour around the lobby and public rooms before you start your shift. Times a’wastin’. ”
Mark pulled the dress over his head and let it fall into place. The skirt was just full enough to swing when he walked so no one would notice his cock under it. “Uh, I don’t have any boobs.”
“Let me see.”
“See what? What I haven’t got?” He stepped out.
Pennymaker looked at him studiously. “Gorgeous. You don’t have breasts but then neither do some women to speak of. I’m more concerned about the hairy legs. Go shave, quickly.”
“What? Sir, I don’t think so…”
“This won’t be your only modeling assignment I suspect so think of it as a long-term investment. Consider that brilliant young model who walks the catwalks in both male and female shows. You’re at least his equal in beauty.”
“No buts. This is your future. Now go!”
Hope you enjoyed the nibble! Leave a comment. Winners will be chosen on Monday. Thank you for visiting BBW!