Bliss Bakery series
When horror novelist Jack Kramer is guilted into joining his best friend’s softball team, he’s not expecting to come face to face with the inspiration for his next novel. But one look at Gabriel Spencer, and his muse is off and running. Good thing, too, as his deadline is looming.
Bakery assistant Gabriel abhors anything with blood and gore, but he’s intrigued by Jack and agrees to help the sexy author. He’s not expecting the white hot attraction that builds every moment they are together, or how to handle dating someone who pushes him so far outside his comfort zone.
Happiness versus horror, sunlight versus shadows, early riser versus night owl, the men couldn’t be more different. Opposites attract, but are they too dissimilar to write their own happy ever after?
Originally featured in Love Is All: Romance Anthology, Volume 2, this story has been revised and expanded.
READ AN EXCERPT
He wasn’t touching the boyfriend line, not at all. Shane had already told him Gabe was single, not that he’d tell Gabriel. “I like living alone. No one is there to get annoyed when I stay up all night writing. There isn’t anyone there to compromise with or answer to or disappoint.” The disappointment was the hardest to deal with. Experience was a cruel teacher. He was better off being alone. “There’s a lot of freedom in it.”
“There’s a lot of loneliness too.” Gabriel’s words hung in the air, heavy and weary. Then he glanced at Jack and the vulnerability in his gaze faded as determination took over. “But you’re right, not having to constantly give in to keep the peace is a nice thing.”
Jack followed him to the fridge. “Is that how it was with your brothers?”
“I really don’t want to talk about my family anymore.” He pulled out butter and cream cheese and handed them to Jack. “Set them down for me?”
“Sure. What do you want to talk about?”
“You.” Gabriel pinned him in place with a stare that was part heated, part hungry. As Jack retreated, Gabe advanced, carrying eggs back to the counter. “Why horror?”
Jack placed the chilled items down. He’d shared his story with friends and readers many times, but telling it to Gabriel wasn’t easy. “When I was in middle school, I was the shortest, skinniest kid in the class. I was clumsy and awkward, and in advanced classes. I got bullied. A lot.”
“I’m sorry that happened to you.” Voice gentle, Gabriel laid a hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Kids can be jerks. Some of them never outgrow it.”
He soaked in the warmth of the touch and his nerves relaxed under that sympathetic gaze. “That’s true. I started writing stories where really bad things would happen to the kids torturing me.”
“I can see how that would be cathartic.”
“It was.” Jack toyed with the bottle of vanilla, spinning it in his hands. “And that’s how I found horror. I liked writing and I was good at it. I liked being able to completely control the world.”
With a gentle squeeze, Gabriel removed his hand. He dumped the butter into a mixer. “My oldest brother was basically a bully to the rest of us. I never imagined anything bad happening to him, but when he ended up with poison ivy in some really bad places one summer after he’d hidden my bike in the woods, I was pretty happy about that.”
Jack snorted and set the bottle down. “He sounds like a jerk.”
“He is. When I was six and he was ten, he told me that our parents had moved away because of me. I was a pretty trusting kid, so I fell for it. I was scared and upset, and then he’s laughing at me. He was an asshole. The stories I could tell you…”
Sympathy and and the desire to protect surged through him, and Jack placed a hand on Gabe’s arm. “Want me to kill him off in the book?”
Gabriel opened his mouth, then closed it. His muscles flexed under Jack’s hand. “I’d have to get back to you on that. I’m tempted to say yes, but I’m really not a violent person.”
“More of a lover than a fighter?” Half-kidding, and not expecting a response, Jack lifted his hand. Heat flooded into him when Gabriel’s hand came down over his, holding it in place.
“I guess you could say that.” A small smile playing at his lips, Gabriel closed the distance between them. “You look more like a lover too. With your hair curling around your face, you remind me of an eighteenth century poet. Like Byron, or Shelley, or Keats.”
Mouth gone dry, Jack licked his lips. Gabriel’s gaze darted to his mouth and Jack’s heartbeat quickened. “I… You read much poetry?”
Gabriel tipped his head closer and leaned in like he was sharing a secret. “And the sunlight clasps the earth, and the moonbeams kiss the sea: what is all this sweet work worth, if thou kiss not me?”
Warmth flooded his body at the almost whispered words, the flames stoked higher by Gabriel’s thumb tracing a pattern on his skin. “I’ll take that quote from Love’s Philosophy as a yes.”
“What can I say? I have a soft spot for the romantic poets.” The corners of his mouth lifted and Gabriel raised his other hand to Jack’s chest. He brushed at a smear of flour in slow, deliberate strokes as he held Jack’s gaze.
Desire burned bright. He was more attracted to Gabriel than he’d been to anyone in ages. Character inspiration aside, the discoveries of the person beneath the handsome exterior were like gleaming gems, he wanted to keep digging and finding more.
Giving in to his earlier urge to touch Gabriel’s beard, Jack cupped his cheek. It was as soft as he’d imagined. Slowly, he ran his finger over Gabriel’s lips. Soft and warm, they parted the slightest bit. His blood sang with the temptation to go further and bring their mouths together, to push inside that wet heat and discover Gabriel’s flavor. To feel that sculpted body pressed against his own. To indulge and savor the way that Gabriel’s gaze demanded.
But voices carrying from the front room were a sharp reminder that they weren’t alone.
Gabriel’s gaze flicked to the door. He shook himself and covered Jack’s hand and slowly drew it away from his face. “We, ah, have a cake to make.”
“Right.” Swallowing hard, Jack stepped back and straightened his shirt. Business, not pleasure.
But he wanted both.