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Lamont Price’s romance novels have been a hit for the past few years. With his gorgeous looks, kind heart, and tender disposition, Lamont is the darling of Lavender Shores. He’s the guy everyone wants to be their best friend, the guy everyone wants to protect. But even with his success and the love of his family, Lamont feels hidden from those around him. Maybe the first step is attending a writing conference and revealing the man behind his pen name….
Tyler Dixon survives off his beauty and charm. From cover model to runway fashion to weekend arm candy, Tyler’s prices aren’t cheap. While his appearance is taking him places, his life as an artist has little more than flatlined. When an author hires him to appear as the face of her brand, Tyler thinks it’s just one more job. Little does he know another writer is going to steal all of his attention.
Escaping the conference to find some breathing room, Lamont runs into Tyler at a bar. Casual conversation leads to Lamont revealing his family’s obsession with helping him find love. It’s not a big deal to Tyler, who has played the role of boyfriend for other people in the past. Before either of them can rethink the situation, Tyler is in Lavender Shores meeting Lamont’s family. Though they’re only pretending to be in a relationship, the chemistry that ignites between them is anything but imaginary…
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Lamont Price is in the middle of attending his first romance novel conference, and finally revealed himself as the man behind successful novelist Ginger Peach. It’s all a little more than he bargained for. In a move of desperation, he sneaks out of the hotel, away from the conference, and takes shelter in a nearby bar. He thought he’d be alone, but ends up running into one of the cover models who’d put on quite the show earlier in the day….
I paused when I reached City Grille. The kid wasn’t joking. The suit was out of place. It looked like the same would be said of a health inspector. However, that guaranteed none of the romance conference attendees would darken the doors of this place. Perfect.
I walked in, hidden at last. If anybody dared to look at me, I might’ve felt as on display as I had earlier. Well, no, not quite. No one did. So, whether I fit in or not in my suit didn’t really matter.
I headed toward the bar, looking for an empty seat. Finding one, I made my way, then halted. The man beside the barstool was wearing a suit as well. And he was turning around to look at me.
He might have been pure sex halfway naked as he’d gyrated in front of a crowd, but he was also movie-star classic in a suit. I didn’t even care about suits, but he looked like he could be a James Bond. And suddenly I desperately wanted to be a Bond girl.
Whoa. Whoa—when was the last time I’d felt like that? I didn’t even have a memory. I was aware of attractive people all the time, but I’d managed to kill my sex drive eons ago. At the sight of him, I discovered some little aspect had survived the extermination.
He smiled and gave a little wave, making me realize I’d been standing there for far too long and most definitely looked like I was mid-aneurysm. “Come sit by me. Please. I felt a little out of place in this suit, but I hadn’t wanted to take the time to change. I had to get out of there.”
My nerves spiking, I slid in next to him. I hadn’t noticed him at the party. “Tell me about it. I thought my agent was never going to look away long enough for me to take off.”
“Doesn’t your agent work for you and not the other way around?”
I shrugged. “You know, I think that’s how it’s supposed to work.”
The bartender walked by, and the model reached out to stop him. “Hey, I’m getting a drink for a friend here.” He tipped his foam-filled glass at me. “Beer work for you? They don’t have anything craft, but desperate times and all.”
“You don’t need to get me—”
He cut me off with a look.
He wanted to buy me a beer? “Sure, whatever kind you have is great.”
The bartender didn’t wait for further confirmation but was back with the beer before I’d even gotten out of my jacket.
“Wow, dude. You’ve got some guns.”
“Wha—” Oh, guns. Right. Duh. “Uhm, thanks. You, ah… do too.”
He gave an unconcerned expression. “Part of the job. But you’re a writer. I wouldn’t expect a body like that on somebody pounding keys all day. But shit, you’re totally stacked.”
Was he flirting? No. Not flirting. Straight guys always commented on muscles and stuff, didn’t they? And they most definitely said things like dude and stacked and guns. At least when I wrote straight guys into romances they did.
I didn’t have a clue how to respond. So I changed the subject. “I’m surprised my agent didn’t force me to bring one of my cover models. I didn’t even know that was a thing.”
“Well, I know some authors don’t like it. They feel like the writers who bring models are trying to steal attention away.” He shrugged. “Which, I guess, they are. It worked for Cheryl today, in any case.” He shot a wicked smile. “At least until you did your thing. That was epic! Totally epic.” He pulled out his phone. “Have you checked out Twitter? You’re practically trending. And with this crowd you are. Everything’s all about Ginger Peach being a man. The whole romance world is fighting. Half of them saying they’re never going to read your work again, the other half defending your rights to use whatever pen name however you want. You’re going to sell like gangbusters for the next several months.”
I glanced at his screen but only caught a few lines before looking up at him. And oh, look at that—green. His eyes were crystalline green. I gave a little shake of my head.
“Well, I know that’s what my agent wanted. To be honest, it makes me a little nauseated. It just feels icky.”
“Nah.” He smacked me on the shoulder. “It’s part of the game. You do what you gotta do.”
Okay, definitely straight. With a smack on the shoulder like that. And his touch didn’t linger at all. Although, what was I thinking? Just because he wasn’t flirting with me didn’t mean he wasn’t gay. Up close I realized he was as young as I’d thought. Maybe twenty-eight, if I squinted. Maybe. Probably more like twenty-four. Most twenty-four-year-olds aren’t hunting down forty-five-year-old men to hook up with. And while I was on that train of thought, and, what was I thinking? There was not going to be hooking up, regardless of whether the guy was twenty-four or forty-four.
“You don’t recognize me, do you?”
That threw me off. Not that it would take much after the shithole of the day. If I’d ever met this man before, I wouldn’t have forgotten. No possible way. Dead libido or not. “I don’t think we’ve met.”
He chuckled, straight, brilliant white teeth flashing, as he shook his head. “No, we haven’t. But I am on the cover of one of your books. The Alpha’s Lust.” He held out his hands. “I’m your werewolf, apparently.”
I sucked in a breath and felt my cheeks heat. Now that he said it, I wasn’t sure how I hadn’t placed him. The publisher had found the cover for that particular book before I’d even written half. After seeing his image, writing the sex scenes had been a challenge. Well, not a challenge, but more inspired. That was definitely not something I could tell him, though. Instead I stuck out my hand. “Then I guess I need to thank you. That’s one of my bestsellers. And undoubtedly because of the cover.”
“You’re most welcome.” He took my hand, gave it a shake, and this time he held on for a heartbeat. At least I thought he did. “It’s nice to finally meet the famous Miss Ginger Peach in person.”
I flinched. “Oh shit, I didn’t even introduce myself, did I? My real name is Lamont Price. I’m not actually Gin—” Goddammit. “Never mind. You probably figured that out.”
He laughed again. And just like when he had been onstage, though he was completely clothed, he seemed utterly at ease, completely confident, and enjoying simply being alive. “Yes, I figured you were a little bit too rugged to pull off Ginger Peach, unless your parents were abnormally cruel.”
I could almost see my father naming me that as a baby. It wouldn’t have been meant to be cruel. But it certainly sounded like something he would’ve done. I supposed I should count my lucky stars that hadn’t been my fate. I suddenly became aware that the model wasn’t offering his name in return. I couldn’t tell if it was intentional or just an oversight. “And you? Do you have a name?”
Hesitation. There was definitely hesitation. And the first shadow I’d seen crossed his features. It disappeared quickly, though. “Tyler.” He stuck out his hand again, all charm returning. “I’m Tyler Dixon. Nice to meet you, Lamont.”
And again, I could’ve sworn he held my hand a little longer than typical.
Though it made absolutely no sense, and though I was so out of practice even training wheels wouldn’t have kept me from a crash and burn, I was pretty certain Tyler was attracted to me.
Tyler. The name fit him. I liked it.
And holy shit, I almost said that out loud.
His eyes widened. “Shit. Uhm….” He looked a bit flustered. “That’s my real name, but my working name is Tate Dallas. So, if you hear that name, that’s also who I am. My version of a pen name. No one here, except for Cheryl Lee, knows my real name.”
“No problem. If it comes up, I’ll refer to you as Tate.” I could swear he hadn’t meant to tell me his real name. Not that I had any room to judge on that. “Well, after today I suppose you can all call me Lamont or Ginger, now we’re one and the same.” God, that sounded stupid. Telling the hot guy to call me Ginger.
Like an answer from heaven, my phone vibrated in my pocket, and I pulled it out. It really was an answer to a prayer, as I didn’t even need to make up an excuse. “Sorry, text from my dad. He knew I was nervous about today. I’m sure he’s been waiting by the phone.”
“No big deal. Please, answer him.”
Most of the time I would never be that rude, but I needed the distraction.
Hey son! Since I haven’t heard from you, I’m going to assume you took my advice and went to the party this evening. Please don’t check your phone. You’d better be dancing. See you at the baby shower when you’re back in town. And, just so you know, I have a surprise for you.
I groaned. “Well, shit.” I knew exactly what that meant. What it always meant.
“Your dad not okay?”
I glanced at Tyler. I’d forgotten I wasn’t alone. “Oh, no. There’s just a family thing, and my father is going to try to set me up. Again.” Wow, I really had been off guard if I was admitting that so easily.
Tyler’s brows popped. “You’re single?”
Strange, I thought it was tattooed on my forehead. “Yes, which is something my family can’t seem to accept.” And this was the very last thing I wanted to talk about with the magnificent male specimen of the cover model variety. Not that I had anything else to talk about, or that it mattered what he thought of me ultimately. I pulled an overused note out of my playbook and turned the conversation to him. “So, do you do this kind of thing a lot? Travel to book conventions and such? Do you do other types of modeling?”
Tyler wasn’t fazed by the abrupt switch. “I do several types of modeling, but a fair amount of book covers.” He took a sip of beer and then leaned his elbow on the bar. I coveted his ability to look so at ease. “I actually really like doing these conventions. Unless you’re doing runway, which I haven’t done much of, you don’t get the live interaction with fans and such. It’s nice. Although, it can wear you down pretty quick, so I make sure I steal away at least one hour of the day, even put it in my contract. Today was the busiest day, so I didn’t get that hour until right now.”
“You only get an hour break each day? What do you do the rest of the time? Do you have to go to every panel?”
He shook his head. “No, but I do have to stay within so many feet of my author. And be part of her brand for the weekend. Or in Cheryl’s case, part of the brand for her entire career. I’m on nearly every one of her book covers. I have my own room, but it’s even in the contract that I’m not allowed to bring anyone else in there, if you know what I mean. I belong to her brand. Period.”
Well, shit. Him mentioning having someone in his hotel room did something to me. Or at least did something to make my pants tighter.
Ridiculous. He said he couldn’t bring someone to his room. And even if he could, it wouldn’t be me.
But under contract? I’d never heard of such a thing. Maybe it was commonplace, maybe it wasn’t. With this being my first conference, I didn’t know how any of it worked. But that sounded strange and felt a little gross. Although I really wasn’t sure why. Tyler was getting paid, so it wasn’t like he was being forced to do anything against his will. “So you get paid by the hour for just being here?”
“Yeah.” Tyler nodded. “Pretty sweet deal. It’s not only book conventions. Sometimes there are parties here in LA that they need to have….” He grimaced. “Sorry, I know this is going to sound arrogant, and I don’t mean it that way, but it is what it is. But sometimes the parties need to have a certain number of attractive people, so they pay people like me to attend.” Another shrug. “I mean, what other kind of job can you have where you’re paid to go to parties, drink champagne, or take your shirt off in front of a bunch of romance readers?”
“I’ve never heard of being paid to go to parties.” LA was a weird place. So different from Lavender Shores. When the notion hit me, I literally sat up straighter and turned to face Tyler. Too quickly to play it off as casual. Even so, I stopped myself from saying the words, realizing how they would sound.
Tyler flinched at my sudden movement but smiled good-naturedly. “Looks like someone just had an idea.”
I shook my head. I couldn’t play it off, but I didn’t have to admit what I was thinking either. “No, sorry, stupid idea.”
“I might be a model, Lamont, but it doesn’t mean my brain is empty. I can put two and two together pretty quickly.” He looked at me through narrowed eyes, and any degree of flirting I thought I’d picked up on was gone, maybe it had never been there. “Are you in need of my services?”
He’d read my mind. “Your services?” Surely he couldn’t actually be okay with what I was thinking. Then I realized. Dear God, I was so stupid. Of course that’s not what he meant. I shook my head. “No, actually. I doubt I’ll do another conference in a long time, if ever.” Well, shit, now it sounded as though I was rejecting him or felt I was better than him or something. “But if I ever do go to another conference, I’ll talk to my agent and see if having you be part of our booth would be doable. If nothing else, it would sure sell a lot more copies of The Alpha’s Lust.”
Tyler slouched, almost looking disappointed. “Oh, for some reason I thought maybe you had an event you needed me to show up at. Maybe that thing for your family. You know, so you don’t have to deal with being set up one more time.”
I stared at him, not even trying to mask my reaction. That was exactly what had flicked through my mind. The crazy, disrespectful, absolutely insane idea. “You would do that?”
“Sure. Wouldn’t be the first time.”
“Yeah.” Like it was the most normal thing in the world. “Lots of people need to have a boyfriend for the weekend.
Well, holy shit.
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Rosalind Abel grew up tending chickens alongside her sweet and faithful Chow, Lord Elgin. While her fantasy of writing novels was born during her teen years, she never would have dreamed she’d one day publish steamy romances about gorgeous men. However, sometimes life turns out better than planned.In between crafting scorching sex scenes and helping her men find their soul mates, Rosalind enjoys cooking, collecting toys, and making the best damn scrapbooks in the world (this claim hasn’t been proven, but she’s willing to put good money on it).
She adores MM Romance, the power it has to sweep the reader away into worlds filled with passion, steam, and love. Rosalind also enjoys her collection of plot bunnies and welcomes new fuzzy ones into her home all the time, so feel free to send any adorable ones her way.
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