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RELEASE DAY! READ THE ENTIRE FIRST CHAPTER HERE! As the Sun Sets (Love for the Seasons, 3) by RJ Jones

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RJ is back with the third installment of her Love for the Seasons series.

This story is about Scott (who features briefly in book one) a paediatric oncologist who burns out watching kids die in his care. He’s been celibate for a year. He’s emotionally broken and takes an A&E position in Brighton hoping a sea change is what he needs to get his life back in order. What he didn’t expect was to meet Ben, a childhood nurse with a clinically depressed dog. How does Ben help Scott pick his life up? Just how much of Scott’s history influences his day to day life? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Here’s the blurb:

A sea change could be just what the doctor ordered.

Doctor Scott Penney used to be a Paediatric Oncologist—until he burned out. Watching children suffer and die took its toll on his mental health. To cope, he used anonymous sex as an emotional crutch, thinking it was better than hitting the bottle. But that inevitably destroyed his relationship with the man he loved.

With his tail between his legs and a year’s worth of celibacy under his belt, Scott accepts a position as an Accident and Emergency consultant, leaving his career in oncology and London behind.

Ben Jenkins is a paediatric nurse who loves his seaside city, his job, and his faithful old Labrador, Happy. When he meets the new doctor, Ben falls for Scott’s kind-yet-reserved personality—not to mention his good looks. Scott is great with the children who come to the hospital, but Ben senses there’s more to Scott than meets the eye.

Scott tries to resist Ben’s sunny charm—Scott’s not boyfriend material, after all—but it’s impossible not to fall in love with the sad looking old dog and his charming owner. As Scott and Ben get closer and the weather heats up, tragedy strikes and Ben is left wondering how much of Scott’s history he actually knows.

For them to move forward, Ben must show Scott that no matter what happened in the past, a beautiful day can always start after the sun sets.

**This can be read as a standalone**

(Keep scrolling to read the entire first chapter)

 

Books #1 and #2 are now available on Kindle Unlimited.

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Buy links:

As the Leaves Fall   As the Ice Melts   As the Sun Sets

 

Chapter One:

HOW DO you know if you’ve made the right decision? What tells you to go left instead of right? Is the devil you know really any better, or is he just as fucked up as the other guy?

I could stay in London, stay in paediatric oncology—even though it sucked the life from me—and continue living a half-life. I had no partner and no desire. My sex life had become non-existent by choice. My passion for my work had been flushed down the toilet along with my relationship with Noah.

On the other hand, I had an offer to move to Brighton and start a new role as a consultant paediatrician in the Accident and Emergency department at the children’s hospital. Would I be happier there? Dealing with kids who had been in a car accident or unwittingly drank a bottle of cleaner didn’t mean I wouldn’t have to deal with kids dying. I may see less of it than I did in oncology, but…

Should I run away and start a new life by the sea? Was it running or knowing when to move on? Could it be as simple as taking an offer to get out of a city that was sucking my soul to the point I didn’t recognise myself anymore? Wasn’t the ocean supposed to be healing?

When I first received the offer from Brighton, I’d thought about telling Noah, but after the last time I saw him, I thought better of it. I didn’t know if I still loved him or not, but we’d been good together, and I missed the closeness, the intimacy, and the company. You couldn’t call what I’d done at the sauna intimate. It was fucking. Pure and simple. Well, maybe not so pure. But I had used anonymous sex like a drug to get out of my head after a bad shift the same way some people used drugs or alcohol.

I’d become addicted to the endorphin rush sex could bring, and I kept telling myself it was a better form of therapy than illicit substances or booze. Anonymous sex meant I went home to Noah feeling better about my day and not dwelling on the fact I had just told a young couple that their beloved child wasn’t responding to treatment and there was nothing else I could do. I was a doctor, for fuck’s sake. Unless they counted on a miracle, I was their last hope, and to watch that hope sputter and die in front of me killed a little part of my sanity each time.

Maybe drinking would have been less damaging, but I vowed to never touch alcohol.

Looking back—hindsight is a wonderful thing—I couldn’t even say I enjoyed the sex at the sauna all that much. I’d been safe, always, but the men I’d been with—and God knew there were many—had been nothing but substitute hands. Which, when I thought of Noah and how much we’d been in love, made my infidelity all the more foolish and shortsighted.

When Noah kicked me out for the last time, I hit rock bottom. Unless I wanted to end up like my parents and self-destruct, I knew I had to reassess my life and stop going to the sauna. My inability to distance myself emotionally while working in the paediatric oncology department still sucked the life from me, but I had stopped using sex as a distraction. Instead, I cried. I got angry at the world and threw things around my flat in frustration and cursed God for giving babies cancer their little immune systems had no chance of fighting. Then I cried some more, retreating into myself. After all that, I got up the next morning and prayed it would be a good day.

But there were some happy times in amongst all the crap. My job could be rewarding and fulfilling. Not every child I saw succumbed to the disease, and I revelled in the way some patients seemed to take on the world, as well as the cancer, and win. Those were the times that made me look forward to going to work, knowing I could help save a life and save the parents from the heartbreak of burying a child.

That was what drove me.

I’d always wanted to work with kids, had always understood them. They could be brutally honest and innocent as hell at the same time. I hadn’t yet met a child I couldn’t talk to. When I was initially offered the position in oncology four years ago, I jumped at the chance, keen to get my hands dirty and kick cancer’s arse. I was ambitious—if a little naïve—and ready to take on the world. It was almost an obsession to give the patients the best chance of survival I could. I did everything I could to stop cancer ravaging their little bodies. I studied new treatment methods, researched what alternative medicines other countries were trialling, and subscribed to every relevant medical journal I could.

But despite doing everything humanly possible, sometimes it wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t just the loss of young lives that had sent me over the edge. It was the loss of my chosen career. As much as I hated cancer, I also loved it. I loved the complexity of it and how it seemed determined to outsmart the medicine I threw at it. Sometimes I won, which made me feel like I’d not only saved a life, but saved the entire world. In the eyes of the parents, I had. I’d saved their world, and to me, there was no greater joy.

So, when I stumbled upon the A&E position at the children’s hospital in Brighton advertised through the BMA website, I thought why the fuck not? I could still help kids, maybe save a life or two. Because God knew, trying to help kids with cancer was slowly killing me.

Maybe trying to save a kid’s life and actually succeeding more often than not would enable me to be me again. I may be able to have a taste of that same joy once more. Maybe the salty air and wide-open ocean would do me some good. Maybe I could have sex again. Then again, maybe not. It’d been close to a year since I’d been touched by another man. I wasn’t sure I knew what to do anymore.

Decisions. Which was the best one?

Stay or go?

London or Brighton?

Only time would tell if I’d made the right choice, I guess.

I signed the contract.

I wondered briefly if Noah was still with that guy with the long hair.

I shook my head. It no longer mattered.

I couldn’t go back now anyway.

 

I FOUND a small flat not far from Brighton Marina and a short walk to the hospital. After spending most of the day unpacking, I took a walk along the beachfront, sure I’d find a chippie nearby so I could grab some dinner. I had unpacked most of the kitchen items but had yet to come across the crockery. I’d find that box eventually.

I walked almost all the way to the pier before I came across some shops. Most of what I’d seen on my walk so far were mansions and upmarket apartments overlooking the beach. As summer was fast approaching, the weather wasn’t too cold but I still needed a jacket and scarf, and I hoped the nearest chip shop had the heat going. I must’ve walked into the gay part of town, as a few rainbow flags flew proudly from the odd flat window and storefront. I should’ve done some research on the area before I committed to the move, but my head hadn’t been in the right place. When I signed the employment contract, I didn’t care where I went, as long as I left London and oncology behind.

I truly hoped the wide-open spaces of the coast was what I needed.

After paying for my fish and chips, I took my meal down to the beach and sat on the edge of the promenade wall. I wasn’t far from Brighton’s famous pier, and I made a mental note to explore the area more thoroughly after I settled into the flat. I didn’t start work for another week, which gave me plenty of time to check out my new neighbourhood and surrounding area.

Tearing open the chip shop paper, a waft of salt and vinegar threatened to knock me over. It was heaven, and my stomach rumbled loudly after not eating all day. I had lost weight over the last year. There were a lot of days I couldn’t bear the thought of food, and I hoped this was another aspect of life I would be able to eventually enjoy again. I was a mess, but I knew how to fix myself and get back the old me, and as I sat on the beach, dinner in hand and the breeze making sure summer stayed away for a little bit longer, I was confident this was the break I needed.

Closing my eyes, I breathed in the fresh salty air, filling my lungs and mentally purging everything that was my old life in London on an exhale. I opened my eyes, stared out at the churning waves, then dug into my dinner.

I’d nearly finished eating when I saw a guy running along the beach with his dog. There weren’t that many people about, the cold obviously keeping them at bay, but this guy seemed to revel in the wind as he ran. I couldn’t see his features. He wasn’t running fast but his dog appeared to be slowing down. The guy coaxed his dog along with the odd pat on his leg and an encouraging “come on, Happy” but Happy was having none of it. With a final lurch, Happy flopped on the beach, all four limbs spread out as he panted into the pebbles. The guy waved at his dog and kept running. Was he just going to leave his dog on the beach? What if Happy decided to wander off? Surely he was about to turn around and come back for his companion? But, no. He kept going and Happy continued to lie on the pebbles.

With my dinner finished, I should have started the walk back to my new flat, but I didn’t want to leave Happy alone, scared he’d be left behind or roam up to the road and into traffic. My mind wandered. What would I do if the guy didn’t come back? Where could I take Happy? Was there a shelter nearby? I couldn’t have him in my flat, the lease didn’t allow it. Happy got up and sniffed around, occasionally digging then rolling in whatever he’d managed to dig up while I tried to come up with a solution for him. He lay on his back in the pebbles, his feet in the air, and I thought he was about to start rolling in something again, but when he didn’t move, I realised he must’ve fallen asleep. About ten minutes later, Happy rolled over and sniffed around once more. He seemed calm and content to stay in roughly the same spot his owner had left him. It was only a few more minutes before Happy’s tail started going ten to the dozen. I glanced up the beach and saw Happy’s owner running back, minus his shirt, which I could see swaying from the back of his shorts where he’d tucked it in the waistband. Happy didn’t move—except his tail was still wagging madly—till his owner ran past and Happy trotted beside him again. The guy reached down and scratched the dog’s ears while he loped along.

I watched until they ran out of sight.

 

THE FOLLOWING day, after finishing my unpacking and sorting out my flat, I walked along the beach again. This time I found a kebab shop and I sat in the same spot I had yesterday while I ate. Today was a bit warmer but the breeze was still cool, and I huddled in my jacket as I devoured the garlicky goodness. It was lucky I didn’t have someone to go home to. My breath would be awful.

Just as I was about to head home, I saw Happy running beside his owner again. Sure enough, the large dog came to a slow halt and spread out on the beach as his owner continued running. I watched Happy for a while. He seemed a cheerful sort of dog as the occasional passer-by stopped and gave him a pat. That was probably how he got his name. I had always wanted a dog, but my working hours were long and unpredictable. Still, it’d be nice to go home to someone again.

After throwing my rubbish in a nearby bin, I wandered over to meet Happy. When I got closer, I could see he was an old Labrador. His golden coat was matted with the grit he’d been rolling in and his muzzle showed a hint of grey. When I approached, Happy looked up at me with large, sad brown eyes and a droopy mouth. Now I wondered how he got his name. He looked downright miserable.

I scratched his ears. “Hello, Happy. I see you’ve been rolling around getting dirty again.” Happy pushed his head into my hand and thwapped his tail before rolling onto his back. “Does that mean you want a tummy rub?” I took his muffled grunt as a yes and knelt down to rub the soft fur of his belly. Happy lapped it up. He may have looked clinically depressed, but his wagging tail and soft grunting told me a different story.

A few minutes later, Happy rolled over, got to his feet, and stared up the beach. I was being completely ignored, so I guessed he had had enough of me. When Happy’s tail started swishing, I looked up to see Happy’s owner returning from his run. He was still a fair way off, but I could tell it was him just by how excited Happy had become. That was my cue to leave.

I scratched the old Lab’s ears and gave him a pat on his rump. “See you next time, Happy. Be good.”

I headed towards the road for the walk home. I’d been in Brighton for two days, and it didn’t escape me that the longest conversation I’d had so far was with a dog.

The following day I walked along the beach a little earlier and explored that part of the city. Brighton Pier was bustling with late-April tourists.

From a distance the pier was huge, but it wasn’t until you were on it that you realised just how large the wooden structure was. There were roller coasters and fun rides, games arcades and restaurants, dodgem cars and a carousel. It was a kid’s dream and a parent’s budget nightmare. Standing against the railing, I watched kids of all ages run about, driving their folks crazy. I spotted an elderly couple sitting on a bench eating ice cream. There were people holding hands as they ambled around, arms heavy with bags full of their purchases and winnings. Everyone was smiling and laughing, and I couldn’t help but feel… not happy as such, but more relaxed and content as the late sun warmed me. I vowed to come back to the pier when the weather was a little better and spend the day.

Yes, moving to Brighton had so far been a good thing. I could breathe a little bit easier.

When I stepped off the pier, I saw Happy lying on the beach in his usual position; his owner was far off in the distance still running the other way. I knelt down beside him and said hello before rubbing his belly. Happy stood and licked my hand, his rough tongue scraping over my skin, before nuzzling his snout in my chest then lifting up to lick my face. He still looked miserable, though. Maybe it was just his way. Happy sat next to me and we looked out at the ocean together as I ran my hand down his back and over his fur. Before long, Happy stood and moved away, his focus directed down the shoreline. I knew his owner was returning from his run, and again I took that as my cue to head home. With a light scratch of Happy’s ears, I said goodbye, then walked home feeling lighter than I had for months.

Happy and I continued our routine for the next three days, then it was time for me to start my job at the A&E department at the children’s hospital.

I told myself I wasn’t nervous.

 

 

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RELEASE DAY! As the Ice Melts by RJ Jones

Two weeks ago saw the release of book #1 in RJ’s Love for the Seasons series, As the Leaves Fall which is getting some rave reviews. Today, we here at Two Men are so excited to announce the release of the second in this wonderful series set in England. If you haven’t checked out book #1 yet, you can purchase As the Leaves Fall here.

Amazon   All Romance   Smashwords   iBooks   Barnes & Noble

 

But today we are here to celebrate the release of the second in the series, As the Ice Melts. Isn’t the cover gorgeous? Keep reading for the blurb and exclusive excerpt.

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Blurb…

As hearts begin to thaw, a betrayal of trust threatens to put out the flames.

When Marcus McDonald receives a formal warning from his employer, he knows it’s time to tuck tail and head home to Manchester. His medical condition forces him to keep people at arm’s length, and it wouldn’t be the first time his temperament has landed him in trouble.

All Adam Radney wants is some time to paint, but his father’s death, leaving Adam and his mum up to their ears in debt, means taking on two jobs. Working at the family’s run-down Manchester fish and chip shop, Adam is confronted by a new, surly face in town and instantly dislikes the icy newcomer. So what if he pushes all of Adam’s hot buttons?

When the ice melts and things heat up between Marcus and Adam, Adam thinks all his dreams have come true. With Marcus’s help, new customers arrive and the chip shop starts to flourish, easing Adam’s mind. But when Adam puts all his trust in Marcus on the busiest night the shop has seen in years, thing go awry and it leaves Adam with more questions than answers.

Excerpt…

When we got downstairs and out into the freezing cold, I bundled Marcus awkwardly into the passenger seat of my old banger. His arms and legs didn’t seem to want to move properly. While I drove, his head fell against the window.

“Where can I take you?” I asked.

Without lifting his head or opening his eyes, he mumbled, “I can crash at Colin’s place till morning. He won’t mind.” He jerked upright then and grasped his head in his hands, presumably to stop it spinning. “Shit. They’ve gone away for the weekend. I knew there was a reason why I picked tonight to drink. I’ll have to go home.”

“Will Gran be awake?”

“No, but it won’t matter. I’m not capable of being that quiet. Oh God, she’s going to kill me. If it wasn’t for my mother, I’d be able to get away with this shit.”

I wondered why he lived with his gran and not his parents. “What’s wrong with your mother?”

“She’s an addict,” Marcus stated simply.

I whipped my head towards him so quickly I nearly passed out. “What have you taken?” I demanded, trying to keep my eye on the road.

“Fuck. Nothing. I swear. I had a few cocktails. That’s all. I know better than to take anything else.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Really? Why are you so out of it if you’ve only had a few drinks?”

“I… I’m on medication, and I’m not supposed to drink. I haven’t had a drink in nearly two years, okay?” His tone turned bitter. “Sue me; I just wanted to get out of my head for a bit.”

“God. You’re stupider than I thought.”

Marcus flinched and turned away from me, hunching in on himself against the door. I could see his reflection in the window, and although he had his eyes closed, a lone tear slipped down his cheek. I felt like an arse.

“Where am I taking you?” I asked after a while. I was nearly home, which was just around the corner from Gran’s so I could have taken him there, but it didn’t seem to be the option he wanted.

Marcus blew a short breath through his teeth. “I don’t know. Just let me out. I’ll walk around until I’m better; then I’ll head home.”

“Do you know how cold it is?” I wouldn’t let a cat out in this weather, let alone a drunk and very fuckable young, gay man. “You can sleep on my sofa. Just don’t vomit.”

Marcus turned and faced me, gratitude shining in his baby blues. “Thank you.”

After parking on the street, I helped him up the three flights and settled him on the couch. I untied his boots, and when I handed him a pillow, he grabbed my wrist and pulled me down. Suddenly his face was right there, his lips an inch away from mine, soft, plump, and a little rosy from the cold. I watched as his tongue darted out to wet them a little. Just when I was about to pull away and go to bed, Marcus closed the distance and moved his mouth hesitantly against mine. A brush of warm lips sent electrifying signals to my dick. He tasted sweeter than I thought he would. He opened and I let myself fall in, but only briefly. I straightened and moved away, pulling my shirt down to cover the skin his fingers had brushed just a second before.

“I want you to fuck me.” Marcus looked up at me from his position on the couch, his eyes hooded with lust, or meds and alcohol. I couldn’t tell which.

“I’m not fucking you,” I stated.

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t like you.”

Marcus cringed a little, but his features quickly straightened. “You don’t have to like someone to fuck them.”

“No, you don’t, but it goes a long way to actually wanting to.”

“You know, my arse is so tight, if I squeeze my butt cheeks together I could rip your dick off.”

I huffed. Could this guy be any ruder? “That’s good to know. Not making me want to fuck you any more. Now go to sleep. I want you out of here before I wake up.”

As I stomped down the hallway to my room, I swear I heard Marcus mumble, “And I’m not stupid.”

Amazon   All Romance   Smashwords   iBooks   Barnes & Noble

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Love for the Seasons by RJ Jones

Title: As the Leaves Fall AND As the Ice Melts
Series: Love for the Seasons 1 & 2
Author: R.J. Jones
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: March 18, 2016 and April 1, 2016

The perfect job or the perfect man. Surely Aiden and Noah can have both, right? 

 


Aiden Turner’s world flipped upside down when his vengeful ex-boyfriend destroyed a major project, costing his uncle’s architectural firm an important client. Feeling guilty, Aiden has since sworn off all romantic involvement with anyone he works with. 

Noah Walker is getting ready to interview for his dream role when he catches Aiden’s eye on the London Tube. They strike up a conversation, and even though the attraction sizzles between them, Noah must decline the offer of a morning coffee. The interview is crucial, and he needs to focus on getting the job, not getting a date. 

When Aiden discovers the enigmatic man on the train is the same man he is interviewing, he is torn. But he knows Noah is the right man for the job, and he attempts to put some professional distance between them. However, it’s not long before Noah makes his way under Aiden’s skin. 

Neither man can afford to risk their employment, but keeping their relationship a secret takes its toll. When things get ugly, they need to decide what’s more important—or if the job is worth the sacrifice. 
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As hearts begin to thaw, a betrayal of trust threatens to put out the flames. 

 

When Marcus McDonald receives a formal warning from his employer, he knows it’s time to tuck tail and head home to Manchester. His medical condition forces him to keep people at arm’s length, and it wouldn’t be the first time his temperament has landed him in trouble. 

 

All Adam Radney wants is some time to paint, but his father’s death, leaving Adam and his mum up to their ears in debt, means taking on two jobs. Working at the family’s run-down Manchester fish and chip shop, Adam is confronted by a new, surly face in town and instantly dislikes the icy newcomer. So what if he pushes all of Adam’s hot buttons?

 

 

 

When the ice melts and things heat up between Marcus and Adam, Adam thinks all his dreams have come true. With Marcus’s help, new customers arrive and the chip shop starts to flourish, easing Adam’s mind. But when Adam puts all his trust in Marcus on the busiest night the shop has seen in years, thing go awry and it leaves Adam with more questions than answers.

 
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“This book is a great example of why I love M/M romance books.” – Goodreads Reviewer for As the Leaves Fall

“This is a fun, easy read that will keep you entertained all the way through.” – Alpha Book Club for As the Leaves Fall

“When I finish reading this the first thing to come to my mind was WOW this was really really good!” – Goodreads Reviewer for As the Ice Melts

As the Leaves Fall

 

SPENCER & ASSOCIATES was located on floors twenty-six through twenty-eight of a gleaming new office tower on Portland Place. I entered the lift with a crowd of workers, all going to different companies within the building. My hands were clammy and my stomach kept doing flips.
When I reached the twenty-eighth floor, I pushed the glass door open and was greeted by a forty-something woman with a kind smile, her brunette hair in a loose bun. She sat behind a wide oak desk that housed dual monitors that gleamed with that just-polished shine.
“Good morning. I’m Noah Walker. I have an appointment at 9.30. I know I’m a little early but I was hoping I could study my notes while I waited.” Desperate much?
“Good morning, Mr Walker. I’m Sally. Mr Turner is expecting you. Would you like a tea or coffee while you wait?”
“No, thank you. I don’t think my nerves could handle anything in my stomach right now.”
Sally smiled sweetly. “Mr Turner is a big softie. He may seem intimidating but I can assure you, it’s all an act. You have nothing to worry about. Sure you don’t want that cuppa? It might help settle your tummy.”
“You’re right, it might do the trick. Thank you.”
“Take a seat and I’ll bring it to you. Mr Turner hasn’t arrived yet and neither has his 9 a.m. It will be quiet enough for you.” Sally gestured to the spacious waiting area, complete with leather armchairs, low tables and evenly spaced magazines. It also had an expansive view over the city.
I took a seat and watched London bustle below for a few minutes before Sally returned with my tea. “Here you are, Mr Walker. I hope it’s to your liking.”
“I’m sure it’s great. Thank you.”
Sally nodded and left me to my notes as I got a feel for the space around me. This was where my office would be if I landed the role. Building and Design shared the floor with the upper executives. Surveying, Printing and Production, Property Development and Interior Design all shared the twenty-seventh floor while the main reception and other divisions were housed on the floor below that. Sally was efficient and friendly, and I assumed she acted as a personal assistant to someone while being the receptionist for the twenty-eighth floor.
The executive offices were what I’d expected from a company of this calibre. No expense had been spared on the luxury fittings, and fresh flower arrangements dotted the waiting area and wide reception desk. But it wasn’t ostentatious. It was tasteful and understated. Around the meeting area, frosted timber-framed glass doors indicated client meeting rooms, and I presumed the wide corridor to the left of Sally’s workstation led to the individual offices. Sally’s tea wasn’t helping as I took in the atmosphere. If anything, I was even more jittery, and it hit home how much I wanted the position.
I went over my interview answers for a while until I heard the main door open. “Hello. I’m Toby Franks. I have a 9 a.m. appointment with Mr Turner.”
His voice sounded vaguely familiar so I looked up to see the guy from the Tube who Aiden had bumped into.
Toby declined Sally’s offer of a tea, then took a seat near me and nodded a greeting. I smiled slightly, then studied him covertly while I pretended to study my notes. He lounged in the chair as if he owned it, full of cocky confidence as he flipped the screens on his phone and sucked on a takeaway coffee. I had a weird sense that Toby was my direct competition. If he was, and if he came across as much of an arsehole as he did on the Tube, then perhaps I had a better chance than I thought. But surely if he had showed that side of himself in the previous interviews, he wouldn’t have made it this far. Then again, maybe this Toby Franks was just the right type of confident twat to be a good working match with Mr Turner.
I needed something stronger than Sally’s tea.
I continued reading, trying not to think about my competition, when the main door opened again. I glanced up out of curiosity and saw Aiden chatting casually with Sally. My stomach flipped again, but for a completely different reason. Maybe I could get that coffee with him after all. He took a sip from his Starbucks disposable cup as Sally handed him some files. He smiled and laughed quietly at something she said, but I couldn’t hear what was exchanged. Aiden turned towards the waiting area, and our gazes locked as they had earlier that morning. I felt a familiar burst of electricity spark between us. His eyes went wide then softened when he smiled and moved towards me. Then he noticed Toby sitting there and stopped in his tracks. He regarded the two files in his hand, which I now suspected belonged to myself and Mr Franks, and walked back to Sally. He handed her one of the files and gave her an instruction that had her picking up the phone, dialing quickly. Aiden pulled himself to his full height, all casualness gone, and stalked back to the waiting area, concentrating narrowed eyes on Toby Franks.
When Toby realised Aiden was heading straight for him, he stood and held out his hand. “Mr Turner? I’m Toby Franks. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
I didn’t know what surprised me more—that Aiden was the Mr Turner I was interviewing with that morning, or that Toby Franks hadn’t recognised Aiden from the Tube. The glare Aiden sent Toby had me wanting to break open the popcorn and enjoy the show.
As the Ice Melts

THERE WAS a lull in the evening’s trade, and we had only two customers waiting, and five phone orders to wrap up. I wasn’t worried. There was always a small break between the times people ate their dinner. Some liked it later than others.
I’d been watching a guy through the glass front door who’d been standing outside the shop. He’d glanced at the faded sign in the window then walked away. Now he was back, looking up and down the street, before eyeing the sign again. I wondered if he was going to enter or not.
“Mum. Do you know who that is?” I asked, nodding my head towards the door.
Mum frowned. “No. Doesn’t look like a regular. What do you think he’s doing?”
“I have no idea.” I was hoping he wasn’t trying to get up the nerve to rob us.
The guy walked away again, only to return five minutes later, and this time he actually entered the shop.
He shook his hoodie off and stomped his feet on the mat, dislodging the dirt and ice from his pricey-looking black boots. If he’d been a criminal, he wouldn’t have taken the time to dust off. I couldn’t see where he’d be hiding a weapon, either; his dark blue jeans were practically painted on.
Maybe he was lost. If he was I would’ve loved to help him find his way. This guy tweaked all my buttons, and I couldn’t help but take in his lean form, slim hips, and dishevelled dark blond hair. Designer stubble on a pretty face and I was pretty much a goner.
His icy, blue eyes met mine, and his plump lips pulled into a tight line as he approached the counter.
“Are you Rodney?” he practically snapped at me.
I bristled. Who did he think he was? “Who’s asking?”
“Gran told me to go to the chippie around the block and order her usual, only double. At first I thought she was having me on, but I’ve walked around two blocks and you’re the only chip shop around. She said Rodney would know what her normal order was, ’cause I have no fucking idea. So again, are you Rodney?”
“Did you read the sign?”
“I can’t bloody see the sign, the paint’s all faded. You should do something about that, you know. People will think you’re a run-down drug house or something, which is why I’ve been wandering the streets for the past half hour. Do you know how cold it is?”
Mr Shithead glanced around the shop with a look of disgust. The shop needed a lick of paint, and not just the sign in the window. The wallpaper was peeling, and no matter how many times Mum and I scrubbed the floor, it was always going to be a stained mess.
I reined in my temper. “Gran, you say. From Forbes Road?”
“You know Gran?”
“Obviously.”
He looked down his nose at me, which was quite a feat considering our height difference. “Well, I know you’re not her grandson. How do you know her?”
I bristled again. What an arsehole. “How do you think? She comes in every week and orders the same each time. We all love Gran here. And just how do you know her?” I was hoping he hadn’t just robbed the poor lady blind on her way here. She always walked the same route at the same time of night, so she’d be easy prey for a thug who knew what he was doing.
“Because I’m her grandson. Unlike you.”
“Ahh, you must be Mark.” It was hard to picture. Gran was lovely and sweet, the way most doting grandmothers were. She told it like it was, but she was never rude. This guy couldn’t possibly have been related to her.
His eyes flashed in obvious annoyance. “Marcus. How do you know?”
“You haven’t been listening, have you?” You dumbarse. “Gran comes in each week. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know her a bit. She speaks about you a lot.” I gave him a not-so-subtle once-over. “Some big shot in London, apparently.”
“Well, Rod.” Marcus sniffed. “Gran would like her usual, only doubled. How long will it take?”
“Who’s paying?”
“What?”
“Who’s paying? You or Gran?”
“Me. Why?”
“That’ll be ten quid.”
Marcus’s eyebrows drew together. He pulled his wallet from his back pocket and searched through the large stash of bills, seemingly looking for a tenner. He handed me a five.
“And the rest of it. That’s only a fiver.”
Marcus’s features went from frustrated arsehole to red and embarrassed in a nanosecond. He pulled a twenty out, handed it to me without a word, and then sat down to wait for his order.
I left it till he sat on the farthest chair from me before I asked, “Did you not want your change?”
Marcus came over and I handed him his notes. He wouldn’t look at me, and it appeared all his bravado had fled. He seemed vulnerable and exposed, and I had the distinct feeling he would’ve slunk out if he didn’t have to wait for his food. Without looking at the money, he stuffed it back into his wallet. I could’ve given him anything and he wouldn’t have known.
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RJ started as a reader and eventually made the progression to reviewing. It wasn’t until two men popped into her thoughts, insisting on telling her their story that she started to write. It started with one scene. A hot and dirty one in the shower.

 


 

RJ’s initial thought was if she could write their scene then they’d shut up and allow her to concentrate on other aspects of the day. That shower scene was 3000 words long and three hours of work. But they didn’t shut up. They told her their entire story and she didn’t sleep for days. Sometimes she couldn’t keep up with what they were telling her and she had to keep a notebook by the bed.

Whilst RJ was writing their story a side character decided he needed his story told too. Then other characters followed suit.
You see the problem? If RJ ever wants to sleep again then she needs to write.
RJ is a wife and a mother to two boys. Even her dog is a boy.
She is surrounded by males.

RJ writes emotionally charged, character driven romances. Her guys will always get their HEA, but it will never be easy.

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