(Painted Bay, #3)
Publication date: February 10th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance
Karma. You reap what you sow, and KANE MARTIN isn’t looking for forgiveness. But the arrival of ABE TYLER in Painted Bay has Kane dreaming of the impossible. The sexy, silver fox choreographer is determined to pull Kane out from the shadows, but Abe’s career isn’t about to shift to Painted Bay, and Kane’s life is in neat little boxes for a reason.
A past he isn’t proud of.
A family he’s walked away from.
A job he doesn’t deserve.
A secret he’s ashamed of.
But life’s dance can make for unexpected partners, and learning to trust and keep up with the footwork is the name of the game.
Two steps forward, one step back.
It takes two to tango.
Trigger Warning: Contains references to past abuse and bullying.
The pattering rain grew heavy on the iron roof and my thoughts ran to the beautiful guy I’d glimpsed in the window above the garage the night before. His name was Kane, apparently. He worked with Fox and Leroy and rented the bedsit, and I wondered why Judah had made no mention of him when he’d given me a rundown on virtually the entire town.
Even in the gloom and lit only by the reflected porch light, Kane’s stunning good looks and shoulder-length sun-bleached locks belonged on the cover of a surfing magazine, not manning a boat on a mussel farm. Just the memory had my cock thickening in my hand. Nope. I dropped it with a groan. Way too creepy since I was surely gonna have to talk to the guy at some point.
Get a life, Abraham.
The click of claws on wood made their way up the hall and a black nose pushed my door open. I scooted back and patted the bed. “Come on, gorgeous.”
Mack pushed through and jumped on the bed, quickly settling in a big lump behind my knees. Prue followed soon after, curling her small feline body into a ball between Mack’s front paws.
“So that’s how it’s going to be, huh?” I scratched Mack behind the ears. “Why do I sense I’m being played here? Are you normally allowed on the bed?”
They both ignored me.
“Okay, you get a free pass this time, but I’m taking it under advisement. One word from your daddies and this is all over. Now move over, you’re hogging the blankets and there’s a dirty paw print on my damn sheet. I th—” I jumped at the loud knock on the front door right outside my bedroom.
At this hour? I got up on one elbow to peek through the window. Huh. Surfer boy himself. But with no answering footsteps from Leroy and Fox’s bedroom, I figured they were still . . . occupied.
“Guess I’m it.” I threw back the covers and bounced out of bed, shivering with the sudden wash of cold over my bed-warm skin. “Shit.” I glanced down at my black briefs, then briefly considered my still-unpacked bag before pulling the spare blanket around my waist instead and hotfooting it to the front door. The glacial blast when I hauled it open almost knocked me sideways and instantly pebbled my skin.
“Damn, that’s cold.” I fumbled the blanket up under my armpits but not before I noticed Kane’s eyes bug out of their sockets. “Sorry.” I motioned back down the hall. “It’s just me. Leroy and Fox are . . .” I snorted in amusement. “Well, they’re likely having a lot more fun than either of us and getting a damn sight warmer in the process. How can I help you? It’s Kane, right?”
Kane nodded, still staring at my naked chest, and for some ridiculous reason, my cheeks warmed. Oh, for fuck’s sake. I was far too old and comfortable in my own skin for that rubbish. I danced for a living and there wasn’t a square inch of my skin that hadn’t come under intense scrutiny at one time or another. Age might’ve frayed me around the edges a bit—I wasn’t as tight or streamlined as I used to be—but I didn’t suck for a forty-two-year-old who was pushing middle age and with a perilous fondness for pasta.
“Kane? Hello?” I sucked in a breath laced with a strong hit of ocean salt.
“Um.” He licked his lips and his gaze shot up as if suddenly aware he’d been staring, and I got a good look at his eyes for the first time. They were the clearest, deepest blue, like those tropical lagoons you drooled over in tourist brochures. Although that’s where the similarity ended as they jackrabbited nervously across my face, making me wonder what the hell I’d done to unnerve the guy.
“I, um, came to drop off the food,” he muttered, still not meeting my eyes. “For Mack.” He dropped the weighty bag of dog food on the deck at my feet, pulled up the waistband of his jeans, and turned to leave.
“Wait.” My hand shot out. “We haven’t met. I’m Abe Tyler. I’m staying with Leroy and Fox while I help Judah out with his class recital.”
Kane stared at my hand for a second like it might bite him, and his grasp when it came was cool, dry, and very short. “Hi. I’m Kane Martin.” He blushed prettily. “But then . . . you obviously know that.” Once again, those magnetic-blue eyes flitted away, and I realised Kane was older than the whole surfer vibe indicated—closer to thirty than twenty.
“Yeah, Leroy mentioned your name and that you worked with them. It was you at the window last night, right?” I inclined my head toward the bedsit, prolonging an unnecessary conversation that was turning me into a human popsicle. But the man in front of me was as gorgeous as I remembered, and a man’s balls worked strange magic on his brain that way. “We, ah, waved.” I bit back a smile and he blushed. He fucking blushed.
Kane tugged at his jeans, then glanced up at the bedsit and sighed. “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to be nosy—” He hesitated and the flush deepened. “Yeah, total lie. It’s a small town, you know?” He dropped his gaze and scuffed the sole of his boot on the old plank deck worn smooth with age.
I chuckled. “I get it. I came from a small town too.” I willed him to look at me, wanting another moment with those cobalt eyes and the cut-glass cheekbones with a spray of freckles like someone had thrown chocolate hail and only a few had stuck—a darkly sweet and all-too-inviting constellation.
“Really?” He finally met my gaze. “I thought you hailed from Wellington?”
I shook my head. “We moved to Wellington when I was eight. But I was actually born in Reefton on the South Island. You don’t get much more small-town New Zealand than that. Couldn’t wait to leave, to be honest.”
His lips quirked up, soft and red and . . . fuck me, I wanted nothing more than to kiss them. They were the only soft thing about Kane. Like his cheekbones and the hollow beneath them, everything else seemed a little too sharp, a little too thin, a little too . . . hungry. Like the tips of his shoulders that poked through his sweater and the outline of his clavicle at its neck. The bulky knit hung loose on a narrow frame over a pair of jeans that seemed perilously close to falling from his hips, judging by the number of times he hauled them up. I felt the ridiculous urge to sit him down and feed some meat onto those bones.
Heart, humour and keeping it real.
Jay is a 2020 Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Gay Romance and her book Off Balance was the 2021 New Zealand Romance Book of the Year.
She is a New Zealand author writing mm romance and romantic suspense, primarily set in New Zealand. She writes character driven romances with lots of humour, a good dose of reality and a splash of angst. She's travelled extensively, lived in many countries, and in a past life she was a critical care nurse, nurse educator and counsellor. Jay is owned by a huge Maine Coon cat and a gorgeous Cocker Spaniel
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