IT'S HERE IT'S HERE!!!!!!!!
*blushes* Oh...sorry...but my very first solo release (*gasps* not that type of release—I do that solo...um...yeah, TMI *hangs head and giggles*) okay—back on track...my very first solo release is out and about! And you know what...I've got the full first chapter here for your enjoyment!
Hope you enjoy...*big BIG smiles*
pssst *whispers in your ear* remember...this may be book two - and reading book one will definitely increase your pleasure *sighs*...this can be a stand alone book...*winks*
Ritchie won't admit that he's heartbroken. Emery won't accept less than all of Ritchie's affection. How will meticulous Emery win snarky Ritchie for his own?
Ritchie Lymings is wallowing in self-pity after seeing the man he loves—his best friend—reunited with his arch enemy. He's drowning his sorrows in coffee and caramel when an irritating stranger barges into his life, determined to make him smile. Even if this interloper is too dense to understand his faux pas, Ritchie figures he may be good for a quickie to get his mind off of his immediate situation. A simple round of love 'em and leave 'em sounds promising.
Emery Hutchins recognizes Ritchie immediately when he stops for his morning coffee and breakfast. His friend Ryder had been telling him stories about "the infuriating twit" for years. Fate and coincidence were two things that normally gave Emery cause for pause, but he couldn't let this opportunity pass him by. Unable to relinquish control to fate though, he immediately devises a plan to make the deliciously snarky Ritchie his own, one hundred percent completely.
But for these two diverse personalities there is one major problem. How can Ritchie's attitude and Emery's meticulousness blend together, or is this an oil and water mess?
Ritchie hunkered over his caramel latte and stared out the front window of the Starbucks. He didn't know why he tried to see Ryder's place from here. He couldn't change anything. He'd just delivered his best friend and the love of his life, Harlan Mychels, straight into the arms of his arch nemesis, Ryder Halloway.
Harlan loved Ryder, and as much as it pained Ritchie to drive him the two hours to get here, he’d done the right thing. He never stood a chance with Har even before that pain in the ass came into the picture. He damn sure didn't want a chance with Har after the pain in the ass got kicked to the curb seven years ago. He was nobody's second choice.
He was fucking Ritchie Lymings, for Christ's sake. He took a backseat to no one.
He "humphed" to himself and took another sip of coffee. Yeah, being Ritchie Lymings had really gotten him far in life. Sitting here at a coffee shop nursing his heartache over a frou-frou cup of joe. But damn did he hurt. When he received that call from Har last week, his heart had burst like an overinflated balloon. Honestly, what's the PC thing to say when the one man you want calls you up to say that the love of his life was back in the picture? Despite the pain, he did the role of best friend justice and told Har the truth. Then he took the day off work to drive Har the two hour trip down here.
Now he sat and waited on the off chance that the two imbeciles fucked it up yet again. In all honesty, it should have never gotten this far. Harlan should have allowed the idiot a chance to explain seven years ago. Hell, Ryder had even graced Ritchie's doorstep with his presence demanding answers about Harlan's whereabouts a week after the break-up. Considering they hated each other, that was a ballsy move.
He mentally sighed and drained his cup. He hated self-pity, but he couldn't help it. He knew that this was the end of an era with Har. He'd still have the title of best friend, of course, that would never change. But now he'd be the annoying single best friend sitting on the sidelines watching the happy couple frolicking in the meadow, smiling and waving at him. Yeah, over dramatization maybe, but visualizing them holding hands skipping about in a flowery meadow made him smirk.
"Oh wow, and here I feared the worst, that you would never break through that dark look and smile. Now that I've seen your smile, I'm pretty sure I never want to see you without it."
Snapping out of his daydream, Ritchie turned to the intruding voice and set eyes on the sexiest man he'd seen in a long time. Short golden hair on the sides, longer in front, clear silver-blue eyes, high forehead, and pouty cupid's bow lips. Hot damn, he's a god.
After a few tense seconds, Ritchie finally found his voice and attempted to put it to good use. "Can I help you?" Okay, not good use, but use at least.
"Most definitely, in so many ways too."
Ritchie's brows drew together and he couldn't hold back the growl. "Excuse me?"
The man smiled, wide and easy. "I wondered if I could share this table with you? This place gets busy in the blink of an eye. Plus I seem to have bought two coffees and two scones so I was thinking we could have breakfast together." And with that, he placed two cups and the single plate with two cinnamon chip scones he had meticulously juggled onto the table. He then proceeded to make himself at home in the chair across from Ritchie.
Ritchie glanced around and noted at least three empty tables, and pointedly glared back at his interloper.
That easy breezy grin didn't falter and the man didn't miss a beat. "That table wobbles, almost spilled a whole cup of their hazelnut all over me the other morning." He pointed to empty table number one. Then he directed his finger at empty table number two. "Sitting right next to that table you'll find Mrs. Glein. She's a widow and sweet as pie, but keeps insisting I meet with this mysterious grandson of hers named Stevie. Now considering she only has one grandchild, a beautiful woman named Stephanie, I figure she wants to convert me. I would rather skip that conversation this morning." Ritchie glanced over at the old lady. She smiled widely at the stranger and he waved and nodded back in acknowledgment.
Then he turned his attention to the third table that now housed two students with their laptops. "And darn if I didn't just miss that table by a millisecond. Good thing I got this seat when I did, huh?"
Ritchie took another sip of his coffee, trying to process how to lose this guy. He was obviously ill in some department no matter how hot he might be. Ritchie tilted his cup all the way back, then remembered it was empty. He set the mug back down a little too heavily causing a loud clacking noise that caused many of the patrons to look up with disapproving glares.
Then he looked back at his company, who held the extra steaming cup out to him. "Caramel latte, I believe?"
Begrudgingly, Ritchie took the cup and sipped some more. Damn near everything could be solved with the blessed combination of coffee and caramel. Staring into those clear silver-blue eyes from across the table, he stressed the damn near part.
"So, to what do I owe the great honor of your company?"
Grinning (of course, Ritchie mentally rolled his eyes) the man said, "You can owe the great honor to the fact that I didn't want to eat breakfast alone. Usually I don't mind, but when I noticed you so melancholy I decided today I minded."
Ritchie nodded. "Ah, I get it now. You're one of those do-gooders that just has to stick his nose where it isn't wanted. Come to turn my frown upside down, have you? Thanks, I appreciate the pity, but I'm doing just fine pitying myself. Don't need your help."
"But you did need my coffee and you do need to eat something." He placed one of the scones on a napkin in front of Ritchie.
"What are you, my mother?"
He winked at Ritchie. "Not exactly, I don't have the proper equipment for that. Though now I think I should start pitying myself that you didn't notice." And for the first time throughout this whole weird interaction, the stranger's smile turned into an exaggerated version of a pout.
Ritchie rolled his eyes for real this time, and against his will, he felt himself smirking in response to that pout.
"Ah ha!" Not surprisingly the pout disappeared. "I knew I would break down your defenses eventually. So who is he?"
"Excuse me?" Hadn't he already said that during this conversation?
"Who's the guy that's got you all knotted up? Only way for someone to look that downcast is when love's involved. Since you aren't all pissy and mad, well, not any more than what I assume's the norm for you," the man chuckled at his own joke, "I have to deduce that it's unrequited love. The guy obviously doesn't understand what a joyful gem you are. So I repeat, who is he? Shall I hunt him down and explain the error of his ways?" He popped a bit of scone into his mouth and managed to smile through the closed-mouth chewing process.
"I'm sorry, am I putting off a vibe saying that I'm a people person or something? Because if so, I need to fix my vibe-o-meter. What makes you think it's a guy anyway?"
The stranger held up his finger in a "wait a minute" gesture and washed down his scone with his black coffee. "Oh no, you're all about the 'stay the fuck away' vibes. I would say your vibe-o-meter's working perfectly. You didn't blink."
"Then why're you here? I didn't blink?"
"Because your sad face called to me, screamed actually. I want you happy. When I mentioned Mrs. Glein and her ruthless plan to convert me, you didn't blink. So where do you hail from, since you aren't a resident of my town?"
Ritchie felt like he had to hold his head to keep up with this conversation. "Huh?"
"Well, you don't appear local, so where do you reside? Where do you lay that pretty head of yours down at night? Where do you toss your shoes off as soon as you saunter through the front door?"
"So you just happen to know everyone who lives in this town?"
The faux shocked expression failed to impress Ritchie, though the hand to the heart added a nice personal touch. "But of course!"
"No not really, silly. Considering that you have a road map next to you with an FSU key ring sitting on top of it I'm assuming you're from upstate. Either that or you're one of those tourist people that collects key chains." He leaned to his side and didn't even attempt to hide the fact he perused Ritchie's attire. "Nope, we get lots of tourists driving through here. You don't fit the bill."
"And you're still sitting here, why?"
He popped the last piece of his scone in his mouth and chewed slowly while smiling at Ritchie. After washing it down with the rest of his coffee, he grabbed the map, making the keys jangle to the table. Then he borrowed a pen from a passing employee and proceeded to write on Ritchie's property.
Before Ritchie could settle on an appropriately snarky comment, the folded paper landed on the table in front of him and the guy stood and collected his empty cup. "I'm not anymore. Enjoy your scone, catch you around." A wink and he disappeared into the hustle that Starbucks became on a weekday morning.
Shell shocked, Ritchie picked up the paper and read the elegant cursive writing:
Keep smiling. It really looks good on you.
But if you have trouble finding your smile, call and I'll help.
Underneath the note, a number that shared his area code awaited him. Ritchie took the first bite of his scone. And smiled.