Title: The Veranda (Lavender Shores #3)
Author: Rosalind Abel
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 234
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Donovan Carlisle helps countless people in Lavender Shores with his skills as a therapist. It seems, however, that his ability to enable others to live their happiest life only works outside of himself. Donovan truly loves his life, but isn’t able to find a relationship that satisfies his heart’s craving. Maybe the problem is that the only man he wants is off-limits.
Spencer Epstein came to Lavender Shores to find himself. Instead, he married one of the local town beauties. He’d thought his prayers had finally been answered. Then, he met his pregnant fiancée’s brother. It turned out those answered prayers were just cruel twists of fate.
A decade later, after a divorce and crumbling of all Spencer thought was set in stone, he sees his brother-in-law at a masquerade sex party. He takes full advantage of the anonymity and acts on the desires he’s held at bay all those years. The problem is, those silent and frenzied moments didn’t satiate anything. The fire and heat between the two men only grows as secrets are uncovered and they must determine if the cost of their passion is too high.
In reading The Veranda, I couldn’t stop thinking of the old England Dan and John Ford Coley song:
It’s sad to belong to someone else, when the right one comes along, Yes, it’s sad to belong to someone else, when the right one comes along. Oh, I wake up in the night And I reached beside me, hopin’ you will be there but instead I find someone Who believe in me when I said “I’d always care.”
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Lavender Shores Series
Two minutes in and I needed to leave. I’d had a ton of fun two years ago, but tonight I wasn’t in the mood for a sex party. No matter how festive.
“I always figured Elle Woods was a top, but seriously? A bottom coming dressed up as Billy Elliot? Cliché much?” Paulie nudged my arm with his elbow, nearly causing me to spill my drink. “The use of the dog leash is pretty creative, though. Well, not creative, but fun. Definitely fun.”
I followed his gaze and found the pair through the wall of windows in the living room. A man in a tutu was bent over the patio table as Elle Woods fucked him from behind, every once in a while giving a tug on the dog leash wrapped around his neck. I narrowed my eyes, trying to make sense of the fuzzy brown thing bashing into Billy Elliot’s leg between thrusts. “Oh my God, is that a stuffed dog?”
Paulie giggled. “Bruiser Woods.”
“Excuse me?” I spared a glance but couldn’t keep my gaze away from the fornicating couple for too long. Maybe if I were in the right mood, the scene would be hot. But I wasn’t, and the two men playing dress-up felt like a freak show. Although, I was just as dressed up as they were. Kinda.
“Bruiser Woods. Elle’s Chihuahua.” Paulie huffed. “Are you kidding me? You’re a therapist for gay men and you don’t know your Legally Blonde characters? Obviously your clients aren’t aware of your deficiency, or they’d never pay whatever ridiculous hourly rate you charge.”
“Not all my clients are gay men, and I don’t….” I started to move away from the doorjamb I’d been leaning on when Billy Elliot’s face blossomed from red to deep purple. “Paulie, I think you might have a problem.” At that moment, Elle unwrapped the dog leash from Billy’s neck and swatted his ass. I watched for a second longer as Billy’s skin returned to a human color. I turned back to Paulie. “You sure this is a clean party? The sun’s not even down yet, and things are getting a bit carried away.”
He shrugged, seemingly unconcerned. “I should kick those two out. It’s only polite not to fuck outside until night, and they didn’t follow the costume rules. Neither of them even attempted a mash-up.” He winked. “But no drugs, rest assured. Only poppers and alcohol, my friend. I only play clean, rules of my house. However, I do have a tray of magic brownies hidden in the pantry, for my inner circle only. Of which, you are most definitely a part.”
“No, I’m good. Thanks.” I shook my head, gave a final glance at Elle and Billy, and sipped my piña colada, the straw catching on my wolf snout prosthetic. I studied Paulie. I loved the guy, and it had been a long time since we’d gotten to catch up. “Speaking of not following rules. Neither are you. You’re not even from a musical.”
Paulie sucked in a breath. “Cinderella is a musical, you bitch.” He placed his wineglass on the bookcase next to him and spun around, hiking the countless yards of fabric of his ball gown around his waist, revealing his bare ass, which he shook in my direction as he grinned over his shoulder. “I had to special order this lion tail butt plug. My musical mash-up is subtle.” He dropped his skirt and lifted his chin in a truly princess manner.
“Oh, yeah. Subtlety has always been your trademark.” I grimaced. “And dear God, I hope my niece and nephews don’t ask to watch The Lion King anytime soon. I’m pretty sure Simba is ruined for me forever.”
“You’re no fun.” Paulie zigzagged his finger over my body. “I wasn’t going to mention it, considering I love you, but what is this getup you’re wearing? And don’t think I don’t know you chose the wolf face just so no one would know who you are.”
I didn’t even consider trying to deny it. Chances were low I’d run into someone I knew from Lavender Shores at my friend’s private party in his San Francisco mansion, but I wasn’t going to take the risk. Therapists were like preachers—people wanted to believe we were above such base desires. Even if I was a single gay man. Even if it was the beginning of Pride weekend. “I’m the wolf from Into the Woods.” I straightened my leather jacket. “And Danny Zuko from Grease.”
“Oh, sweet mother Patti LuPone. Grease? Why am I not surprised?” Paulie snatched my drink and placed it by his wine and began tugging off my jacket. I’d learned years ago to not fight him. “It’s bad enough that I had to stock pineapple juice for your ridiculous piña colada addiction, I refuse to have you pull a John Travolta. At least a boring one.” He yanked the sleeves off my arms. “Take off that ridiculous white T-shirt.”
“No, Paulie. I’m not going to stay. This was a mistake. Maybe next year.” I reached for my jacket.
He held it away, but the teasing had left his tone. “Donovan. I haven’t seen you in months. You can’t leave. You’re the one here who’s known me the longest.”
“Trying to tell me I’m old?” I attempted levity.
“No, darling. If you’re old, I’m old.” He cocked a brow and pointed at my salt-and-pepper hair with his free hand. “Though one of us is quickly qualifying as a silver fox.” He grinned. “Which goes well with the wolf face, come to think of it.” He leveled his gaze at me. “Take off the damn shirt.”
I took it off, stretching out the neck, avoiding my wolf snout. It was pointless to argue with Paulie, I wasn’t even sure why I tried.
He snatched it away, but gave me my jacket, which I put back on. “No matter what the gray might say, that body of yours could belong to a thirty-year-old.” Paulie ran a hand over my chest and down my stomach. “How is it you still don’t have a belly?” His gaze met mine, and there was a spark of longing.
If I didn’t know him so well, I wouldn’t have seen it. Maybe it was because we’d dated eons ago. Maybe it was my therapist abilities, but I saw it. And it stung. I also knew when he realized I’d noticed.
Paulie glanced over my shoulder, his gaze unfocused for a moment, then his eyes went wide. “Holy mother Patti LuPone indeed! I’ve found the man who’s going to take home my lion’s tail!”
Relieved to have his attention captured, I turned to see the poor guy who had no idea what he was in for. I spotted him instantly, though my shock made me take longer than it should’ve to turn back around. Connor Clark was a mountain of a man. Gorgeous, covered in equal measure with muscles and tattoos. Even though his face was painted green, he was easily discernible. Probably feeling my stare, he glanced my way. His eyes narrowed, he paused, checking out my body, then lifted his hazel eyes to mine again.
I whirled around and nearly hissed. “I thought you said no one from Lavender Shores was going to be here.”
Paulie still studied Connor. “That gorgeous hunk of meat is from Lavender Shores?”
“Yeah. And another member of a founding family.”
He rolled his eyes. “I swear that place is a cult with all its founding family bullshit.” His gaze traveled away, and I assumed he was watching Connor walk across the room. Thank God he wasn’t coming toward us. “I don’t know him, but I’m glad someone brought him. Now, I’m going to hunt that green-faced Elphaba down, see if he can’t help me hit the high note.”
I gripped Paulie’s arm, stopping him in his tracks. “Don’t you dare. I don’t need anyone from Lavender Shores knowing I’m here right now.”
Paulie grimaced. “You know, you’re a little self-absorbed for being a therapist. Trust me, darling, I don’t plan on bringing you up while I get into that man’s pants. And don’t worry, that stupid wolf face makes you unrecognizable. Even I wouldn’t have known it was you if you weren’t drinking a piña colada and had stick-in-the-mud written all over you.” He kissed my cheek, smacked my ass, and took off to hunt his man.
After a few moments pretending to study the titles in the bookcase, I retrieved my drink from beside Paulie’s abandoned wine, and slowly turned around. Not seeing Paulie or Connor anywhere, I relaxed a bit. I spared a glance toward the lavish backyard. Elle and Elliot had vacated the area, thank God.
Despite the previously fucking couple and Paulie’s pursuit of Connor, the masquerade had yet to turn into true bathhouse quality. It was part of the reason I enjoyed attending the annual Pride kickoff party once in a while. On one hand, it was everything I stood against. Paulie’s crowd was the A-list of San Francisco gays’ A-list, but that very quality provided some safety. Lavender Shores, even if it was A-list, was a different monster entirely. And despite Connor’s presence, the two rarely crossed. And even by San Francisco standards, the guests were gay men of status. Lawyers, judges, politicians, actors, the Richie Riches of the city. Men who liked to get down and dirty just like the rest of us but held fast to the “walls never talk” rule. This was a safe place to play and still be professional the next day.
I sipped my piña colada and indulged my natural state of being; I observed. While Lavender Shores didn’t lack for cash, even its largest homes had a cozy charm to them. Not here. Paulie’s mansion was decked in gold, marble, fur, and museum-quality art. And nearly all the costumed yet half-naked men walking around, lounging on the expensive furniture, and pressing each other up against linen wallpaper, were just as exclusive. Not all had perfect bodies, but each was primped, plucked, and pampered. And like every party I’d attended, most were unrecognizable behind masks and costumes.
This could’ve been my life. Twenty years ago, I thought Paulie and I were going to be together forever. But Lavender Shores had called. Or at least a few of the people in it. And I’d been growing increasingly uncomfortable with Paulie’s and my open relationship. I didn’t have a problem with open relationships, in theory. However, as I watched the beautiful men filling Paulie’s house, the idea of one appealed to me even less than it had all those years before.
But I was single. So very, very single. And the last time I’d had sex…. I started to think back and realized just how long it had been. Whoa. I’d be lucky if I could even remember what went where.
I should take the opportunity. It would be my only chance during Pride. I had to be back in Lavender Shores for the next two days. And I didn’t sleep around at home. Ever.
The idea left me feeling lonely. I couldn’t even pinpoint why. Maybe the thought of what could’ve been with Paulie all these years… no. No, that train of thought didn’t go to happy places. Who knew why? Some therapist I was. Couldn’t even determine the source of my own emotions. But I knew enough that I should listen to them.
With a sigh, I left my spot by the bookcase, paused to grab Paulie’s wine, and took the glasses to the bar in the ballroom. Yeah, ballroom. Something the homes in Lavender Shores definitely didn’t have. I’d made the right decision moving home after Paulie. Even if I didn’t feel like it at this very moment.
I considered trying to find Paulie before I left. He’d carried off my T-shirt. But if he’d convinced Connor to free him of his lion’s tail, then I needed to stay away. I could zip up my jacket and be fine. Hell, I could stop by a Target on my way home and pick up a shirt if I was that worried about it.
Actually, that wasn’t a half-bad idea. I’d had a couple drinks. I could take a cab to purchase a shirt and by the time I was back, I’d be more than fine to make the hour drive back to Lavender Shores.
I was in the process of zipping up my jacket and had almost made it to the front door when a man stepped in my path and put his hand on my chest. A white Phantom of the Opera mask covered half his face. The other side was striped with tan, white, and black makeup and fur. Cat ears protruded from his dark brown hair. Phantom of the Opera and Cats. He was a walking Andrew Lloyd Webber wet dream. This was the man Paulie should be with. They were his favorite musicals. I hated everything Webber did.
My brain told my body to step around him. I was heading home. Well, I was going to sober up and head home. My body didn’t listen. And I was pretty sure the Phantom-Cat man’s body was to blame. Or maybe it was the cat portion, as I could swear he was giving off pheromones. Whatever was happening chemically was helped along by the sight of him. He wore a long black cape and black pants, but in between? Solid muscle, tan skin, completely hairless. Primped and plucked and pampered—and in this case, obviously waxed clean. Though I typically liked a man with a hairy chest like my own, there was something about the hidden face combined with the suit pants and the cape framing his body that made the smooth skin intoxicating.
Or maybe it was the touch of his hand on my chest.
It had been so long since I’d been touched. Though Paulie had put his hand to my chest in a similar way only minutes before, this was different. There was heat in this man’s touch… desire. And force. There wasn’t a request as he pushed against me with one hand and used his other to roam over my stomach muscles. It was a demand.
Following his lead without even thinking, I stepped backward until I hit the wall of the foyer. We were the only two people in the entrance, and I glanced out the oval glass of the front door. Dusk was falling, and I had no doubt that with the lighting of the house, we were completely visible from the street. The high-walled backyard was one thing, but a street show?
My hesitation was cut off as the man gripped both sides of my jacket, pulled it over my shoulders and down to my elbows, trapping my arms at my sides. Simultaneously, he lowered his head and captured my left nipple between his teeth, causing me to hiss. Then he released it and ran his tongue over my chest and up my neck.
Any chance I’d had at protesting vanished, not that there’d been a chance at all. I went slack against the wall, panting instantly.
His tongue trailed over my jawline, his breath hot against my skin. Hands roaming over my chest and stomach battled to pull my attention away from what his lips were doing. The heat between us nearly radiated. Every inch of my skin was on fire. My cock achingly full in my pants. My brain fuzzier than anything the rum was responsible for. He pulled away slightly, and I thought he was going to kiss me. Wanted him to kiss me.
I swear he wanted the same thing, but he jerked away, then returned to my neck. The wolf prosthetic. Damn it. I’d forgotten. I started to reach up to rip it off my face, no longer caring if I was recognized, but my range of motion was limited by my jacket. I tried to jerk an arm free, but the man began fumbling with my belt and all thought of kissing the stranger flitted away. I let my head fall back against the wall and closed my eyes.
His hands were unsteady and he had to use both to unfasten my belt.
That lack of contact was enough to let my brain clear for a moment. I was leaving. I needed to leave. I remembered that much. Though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.
His hands were back on me, but they didn’t feel right. The contact lost the heat it had mere moments before.
I looked down. Not his hands. Another man had joined us, one of his hands moving over my chest, the other stroking his erection. I shook my head, starting to protest, but I didn’t have the chance. The first man let go of my belt and lightly pushed the newcomer’s hands off me and shook his head.
“Come on, dude. Suck both of us off at the same time.” The man waggled his erection.
I glanced down at the sound of the man’s voice. There was something familiar. Or maybe just a tone or tenor that called to me.
“It’s a sex party, asshole. Have some fun.” The other man reached out to touch me again, and I shook my head, still not able to move my arm.
“No. He said no.” I hadn’t really meant to say that. I’d meant to say no, but no to both of them. Just a no. But again, my body wasn’t following any of my brain’s directions.
“Lame.” The man took a step back. “I’m still going to watch.”
I didn’t care. It was enough that he’d stopped touching me. I focused on the man on his knees. He didn’t look at me. “Keep going.”
Without waiting, he unzipped my pants, pulled them down mid-thigh and then did the same with my underwear, trapping my legs as securely as my arms. I thought I heard him exhale a breath that sounded like awe at the sight of my cock, but his reaction was cut off as he engulfed my dick in his mouth.
I let out a startled cry.
“Fuck yeah, dude. Take his big dick.”
I glared at the other man, having already forgotten he was there. Maybe I should’ve been thankful for him. Without his annoying presence, I probably would’ve orgasmed the second the blowjob began.
The onlooker was eclipsed once more by the man at my feet, who began to bob up and down on my cock, running his tongue up my shaft, around my head, and then swallowing once more.
“Holy shit, yes.” God, it had been so long. Despite the distraction, I wasn’t going to last long. I adjusted so I could move my arm a bit and reached out, palming the man’s head, accidentally smashing one of the cat ears. I couldn’t feel where his glued-on cat fur ended and his hair began.
It didn’t matter, I held the back of his head as I began to thrust, fucking his face.
The man watching us continued to groan, making louder noises than either of us, and I was vaguely aware that he was jerking off.
I didn’t care. I looked down, watching my cock move in and out of those beautiful lips. I wasn’t going to last no matter how much I wanted to. Shit, I so didn’t want this to be over. I warned him, as much as I didn’t want to do that either. “I’m about to come.”
Blue eyes met mine for the first time, and I saw recognition. He looked away before I could place him and increased his speed on my dick, making it clear he wanted my load.
The building orgasm captured me completely, taking away every thought. Of those blue eyes, of any melancholy Paulie had brought with him, of the man crying out his own orgasm a few feet away. I held the back of the man’s head still and tight against me as I thrust into his mouth. One time, then another. Then with a cry, I came. The orgasm surging through me with enough force that I released the man’s head, and would’ve crashed to the floor if I hadn’t already been pinned to the wall.
The man’s throat constricted around my cock, and then he choked. Poor guy probably hadn’t counted on such a pent-up load. He attempted to take my cock deeper once more, but choked again and pulled off my dick. He sputtered, and sucked in a panting breath. He lifted an arm and wiped at the mess I’d made over his mouth. At the motion, his cape slid over his shoulder, and my heart shuddered to a stop at the sight of the ugly tattoo on his shoulder blade.
“God, that was fucking hot.” The observer sounded nearly as out of breath as I was.
“And you’d better clean up the mess you made over my hardwood floor, Clint.” Paulie’s voice cut into the scene, startling me. His tone turned playful. “And look at you, Wolfy Danny Zuko. Guess you’re not such a stick-in-the-mud after all.”
The man at my feet scrambled to a standing position, his cape back in place, though he still wiped at his mouth. I tried to meet his gaze, but he wouldn’t look at me.
“I’ll clean it up. Just let me take care of this guy’s cock first.” The third man, Clint, it seemed, took a step forward.
The Opera-Cat man flinched away.
No. Not Opera-Cat man. Spencer.
I should’ve realized at the sight of his blue eyes. I’d been too caught up in the moment. But that tattoo had made things all too clear.
Spencer shook his head and darted into the other room.
“Hey, come back, dude!”
“God, Clint, could you sound more desperate?” Paulie’s mocking tone brought the attention back to him.
Clint glared. “What’s the point of me wearing a mask if you’re going to announce my name, Paulie? For fuck’s sake.” He stepped over his load on the floor. “Clean it up yourself. I’m gonna go find that Phantom guy.” He followed Spencer.
“Did he…? What the fuck…?” Paulie stared after him, openmouthed. He glanced at me. “Glad you got your rocks off, sweetie. You needed it. But you’ll have to excuse me. I have a bitch to kill.” He followed the same path Spencer and Clint had taken.
I stared out the window to the street, so overcome with emotions that none of them could get a solid hold.
Finally, panic settled in.
Fuck. What the fuck had I just done?
I hadn’t known. Hadn’t realized.
Suddenly I remembered I was still standing there, pants around my knees, cock, now completely soft and attempting to hide in shame, out there for the world to see. I yanked up my pants and didn’t even bother with the belt before I rushed through the front door.
My car. I needed to find my car and get the hell outta there.
In the back of my mind, a warning went off about the two piña coladas. I ignored it. I was sober.
I could’ve had ten drinks and been clear as a bell.
But then again, I supposed that made sense. Realizing your sister’s husband had just given you a blowjob was enough to scare anyone back to sobriety.
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.
Amazon Author page: http://amzn.to/2qoiuLC
Facebook Author page: http://bit.ly/2rH8C4o
Rosalind Abel Website: http://www.rosalindabel.com
Rosalind Abel Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2v6iuXI
Lavender Shores Website: http://www.lavendershores.com
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