Hello, everyone! I’m the McKay half of Ari McKay, and I’d like to thank Divine Magazine for hosting us on our blog tour to launch our new book, Fortune’s Slings and Cupid’s Arrows. It’s the second book in our Lawyers in Love trilogy, and while characters from the first book – Santa’s Naughty Helper – make an appearance, each book in the trilogy is a stand-alone romance.
For this stop of the tour, I’d like to share an exclusive excerpt. I hope you all enjoy!
The smile faded from Cal’s face as he moved past Dane into the living room. Dane had seen Cal in court before, and he recognized the set of his shoulders from when Cal was preparing himself to argue a difficult case. “I saw the paper. Somehow the thought of running pointlessly around in circles after that seemed particularly ironic.”
Dane gestured to the gray leather sofa, which was a designer piece in the same stark, modern style as everything else in his apartment. Randolph had set him up in the place after he finished law school and began working at the family firm. Dane hadn’t even gotten to decorate; instead, Randolph hired an interior decorator to make the apartment look the way Randolph thought it should look. There was a lot of gray, white, and stainless steel, and it felt like a showplace rather than a home to Dane. He hadn’t bothered to personalize the place, not even with photos, because Randolph would have criticized him for “ruining” the decor.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” he said as he sat down on one end of the sofa.
Cal took off his leather jacket, tossing it carelessly over a chair before taking the other end of the sofa. But he turned his body toward Dane, and the expression on his face was almost imploring. “I have to know if this engagement is really what you want.”
Cal was his best friend, and Dane couldn’t lie to him. Besides, Cal knew how controlling Randolph was, so the truth shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“Father thinks it’s time I got married,” Dane said, clasping his hands together tightly. “He thinks Portia is a good choice.”
“I don’t give a damn what your father thinks, and he can go to hell,” Cal replied. He sighed, then scooted closer to Dane so he could rest his hand on Dane’s shoulder. “I care about what you think. You’ve never mentioned this woman’s name. Not once.”
Dane knew he ought to shrug off Cal’s hand, but he didn’t want to. He needed the comfort of Cal’s solid strength even though Cal’s touch made him feel things he shouldn’t.
“We haven’t known each other long,” Dane said. “She’s a cardiologist. Originally from some ridiculously wealthy family in Texas. She moved here because of a job opportunity. Father presented me with a list of candidates, and she seemed like the best one.”
The truth was, Dane had chosen her because she was thirty-two, which meant she was only two years younger than him instead of ten to twelve years younger like the others on the list. She was also focused on her career, and she’d admitted to Dane she had only considered the match because it was easier than carving time out of her busy and erratic work schedule to try to meet people.
Cal looked stunned. “A list? Really? You’re going to spend the rest of your life with someone you picked off your father’s list?”
“Why not?” Dane gave an insouciant shrug. “I haven’t found a wife on my own. She’s a nice woman from a good family. I’m sure we’ll do fine together.”
And maybe if he said it often enough, he’d start to believe it himself.
“You would settle for doing fine with a nice woman?” Cal’s voice was low and husky. “You deserve so much more, Dane. You deserve passion. You deserve… love.”
Dane swallowed hard against the tightness in his throat. He wanted love, but he’d known he could never have it since he was twelve years old and first realized he was gay. For years, he’d tried to convince himself that he was bisexual, but he wasn’t. He could have sex with women, but he didn’t desire them. Eventually, he’d stopped trying to talk himself into enjoying sex and avoided the issue by focusing on his job rather than his social life.
“I’m his only son,” Dane said softly, turning his gaze down to his white-knuckled hands. “The only child, really, since Ellen and Karen cut ties with him. It’s up to me to carry on the Coulter name.”
Cal’s hand tightened on his shoulder. “Your sisters were lucky to get out when they did. You don’t owe that old man a damned thing just because he happened to donate an ounce or two of semen to your conception. He hasn’t given you anything but grief about it since the moment you were born.” Cal drew in a deep breath, and Dane got the feeling he was reining himself in from saying more about Randolph. “It’s up to you to do what you can to find happiness, like your sisters have. Even if you have to fight for it.”
Dane tried to imagine what would happen if he called off the engagement, and the thought of Randolph’s explosive wrath followed by relentless grinding as Randolph tried to force Dane back in line made Dane shudder. He’d learned early in life that it was better for him to keep his head down and go along with whatever Randolph wanted.
The only time he’d ever gone against Randolph’s wishes was in remaining friends with Cal. But as much as Randolph harped at him about it, Dane refused to give up Cal. Sometimes when he was with Cal, he felt strong, felt like he could take control of his life. But reality set in soon enough, reminding him that he had little control over anything except his cases, which was one more reason he devoted himself to his job.
Part of him envied his sisters. They were probably better off. He didn’t know because he hadn’t seen them in years, but he hoped it was true. If nothing else, they were free of Randolph, and that alone had to make being disowned worthwhile. But Dane couldn’t bear to think of leaving his mother without an ally. Diana Coulter had already lost two children because of Randolph, and if Dane got himself disowned as well, she would have no one.
“I can’t,” he said, unable to look at Cal when he said it. No doubt Cal would consider him weak and spineless, and he didn’t want to see disappointment—or worse, disgust—in Cal’s eyes.
Cal was quiet for a moment, and then he moved his hand from Dane’s shoulder. Dane felt Cal’s fingers under his chin, gently urging his head around. There was neither disgust nor disappointment in Cal’s green eyes; instead Cal looked hesitant, which was unusual.
“Can’t you?” he asked softly. “Even though you could have anyone you wanted? Even if you could have… me?”’
Successful attorneys Dane Coulter and Cal Monroe are rivals in the courtroom and friends behind the scenes. But can they be more?
Cal’s always carried a torch for Dane, but Dane is so deep in the closet, he can’t even admit that he might be gay. His father, a raging homophobe who rules the family with an iron fist, forces Dane into an engagement—to a woman. Dane goes along with it to keep the peace and protect his mother, but for Cal, it’s the last straw.
He can’t let Dane make a mistake that could ruin the rest of his life, and he only knows one surefire way to make Dane admit what’s in his heart. But confessing his feelings to his friend could backfire, driving a wedge between them. And even then, the choice must be Dane’s—to live the life his father wants, or to give up everything he has for a chance at happiness in Cal’s arms.
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Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.
Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.
McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ari-Mckay/266185570179748