Hi guys, we have L.B. Gregg stopping by today with her new release With This Bling, we have a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway so enjoy the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~
With This Bling
Caesar Romano’s catering career is doing better than he’d ever dreamed. And so is his love life—even if his boyfriend’s house in Staten Island is way too far from civilization for his liking. But then in short order, Caesar is duped into helping his cousin propose, is tricked by his best friend and business partner into appearing on live television, and is harassed by a thug-like personal trainer and his far too beautiful wife. In fact, Caesar is almost too busy to notice that something is troubling his PI boyfriend, Dan Albright.
Laid-back, open, charming—that’s the impression hunky former NYPD Detective Dan Albright gives everyone. Caesar can add sexually adventurous and a bit of an exhibitionist. But he also knows that Dan is hiding something—something dark and a little dangerous—and when Dan’s silence over his mysterious past threatens to harm them both, it’s Caesar’s turn to save the day.
But then again, a break-in, a gallery party, an heirloom ring, a new suit, and a stalker with bad BO are all just a typical week for Caesar Romano.
Before I could smooth my hair, a bell rang. I thought the noise came from my cell phone, and I glanced around the empty room. “What the hell was that?”
“Sounded like a doorbell to me.”
I honestly didn’t remember there being a bell at Dan’s since I’d never rung it and no one ever visited. “I think someone’s at the door. That’s strange.”
“Why’s that strange?”
“I don’t know. It just is.” The bell rang again, and I tightened my towel and went to take a look. “No one ever comes to the house.”
Actually, that was kind of odd. Dan worked from his home office, when he wasn’t out and about investigating people’s personal business, but I’d never seen a client. I hadn’t seen a family member, either. Or a neighbor. Nada. He didn’t even use GrubHub.
“Who is it?” Joey asked around a mouthful of something.
“Hang on.” The peephole revealed a fish-eye view of a blue-eyed white guy who glared at the door, clipboard in hand. The man lifted his arm and whiffed his pit, then winced, leaving me less than eager to open the door. “I don’t know. I think it’s a service guy.”
His uniform consisted of a rumpled baby-shit-green tie-and-shirt combo that mirrored the van at the curb. He also bore the telltale signs of today’s promised high heat and humidity in the form of sweat rings. “Joey. I’ll call you back.”
“Yeah. Okay. Good luck. Ciao.”
The stranger rapped on the front door—the impatient jerk—but I wasn’t about to let him in. I wasn’t born yesterday. That guy could be a serial killer for all I knew. Or a tax collector. Or worse. A salesman. Not to mention, I was naked.
I latched the security chain before cracking the door a scant inch. “May I help you?”
He frowned when he saw me and double-checked the placard on the side of the door. Dan’s grandparents’ name still graced the house. Green. “Is this the Albright residence?”
“You don’t know? What house number are you looking for?” Haughtier than intended, but he’d rung twice and rapped once, and in my book he bordered on rude.
The man eyed his clipboard. “Look. I’m here for the cable. I need to reset the converter on the receiver box and update critical software. For the TV.”
“Uh—” He sounded so legit. I had zero knowledge of critical converters or cable boxes for that matter. Except I could have sworn Dan had a satellite dish bolted on the roof next to the bathroom dormer. “Could you hold for a minute? Thank you.”
I slapped the door shut and texted the current homeowner of Chez Green. Cable guy is here.
Short, to the point, and I hoped to God Dan answered. Jogging in eighty-five degree heat and swamp-level humidity meant he could have stroked out somewhere. I would have.
The cable guy stewed on the front step, and I raced to the second floor, my rib twinging, the towel flapping.
Photos of Dan’s family, none of whom I’d met, lined the upstairs hall. Like much of the house, the paint and wallpaper were dated, and the furnishings consisted of old pieces inherited from his grandparents after they’d left for sunnier climes, and new pieces Dan had purchased from God only knew where. The combination felt masculine and made his house homey.
My phone vibrated as Dan texted back. Wrong house.
I really don’t have time for this, I typed. He asked for you by name. Albright.
Before I could get to the master bedroom to find some pants, there came another knock on the front door, followed by the bell again. In case it wasn’t clear our visitor had some place he needed to be. Like who didn’t? What the hell with that guy?
The urge to cover my naked ass outweighed any social expectation, but Dan replied, Tell him to fuck off. So, dutiful, underappreciated boyfriend that I am, I turned around to do as I was bid.
I texted, Not helpful. And for the record, he’s a total asshole.
At the door, the security chain allowed the same measly inch. The dark-ringed stare of the cable guy greeted me. Green wasn’t doing his complexion any favors, and I didn’t let his rudeness deter me from my course of action, although, holy cow, the breeze shifted and I could smell him. My eyes watered. He reeked with an almost clinical level of body odor. He spat, “Seriously, guy. I have a job to do.”
“Is that right?” Years of dealing with jerks as a gallery assistant allowed me to mask any discomfort. I offered him the tight, condescending smile that had turned Dan on to no end. “So sorry, but you’ll have to reschedule. What was your name again? Perhaps you could leave your card?”
“Do you know how long it takes to get an appointment? Weeks.” He clicked his pen emphatically, and a bead of sweat shook free from his forehead. His shimmery brow wrinkled as he studied the clipboard again, and when his gaze returned, he poked his Bic through the door and tapped the flimsy chain. He could have lifted it easily. I read the threat. “You need to sign.”
“I’m not signing anything.” And I wasn’t opening the door for a pushy, smelly stranger. “Leave your paperwork in the box. Oh. And fuck off.” I banged the door shut and hit the stairs at a run.
I would have hopped in the shower for a second rinse, but we had a meeting with a mother-of-a-bride at ten thirty, and my trip to Manhattan would take a solid hour from the bus stop. Plus, I hadn’t had the most important meal of the day yet, and I needed to allow some time for grabbing a snack.
I headed directly into the master bedroom. Dan had gone for blue and brown in his home décor choices, with heavy furniture, simple blinds, and a throw rug. Soft sheets still rumpled the bed, and the scent of cologne and sex lingered. Nothing had changed.
He’d cleared a drawer for me a few weeks back. A sweet gesture that warmed my cold heart, but Jesus H. Christ, Staten Island seemed farther away from work every time I braved the commute. I’d ridden the train from Brooklyn to the Village for years, and that ride was as hot, loud, uncomfortable, and dirty, but the dirt from home felt less . . . dirty than the dirt here.
I opened the drawer to grab a clean pair of underwear, and a metallic clang broke the serenity of the house. The noise rang from the backyard, and was immediately followed by a thin silence.
Someone had opened the gate. Probably, it was of no consequence. Maybe Dan had finished his run early and had cut through the backyard. Or a neighbor kid needed to retrieve a ball or something. Those were reasonable assumptions, so I dropped the towel, and as I did, the gate squeaked closed.
Just to make sure there wasn’t anything criminal going on, I went to investigate. Then I’d brush away all these distractions, get dressed, and walk down the hill to catch the X10. The walk would count as my workout.
I flipped the light in Dan’s snug, retro bathroom and cracked the aged wooden blinds. Pale sky floated above the empty postage-stamp back-to-back yards of suburbia. There were no alleyways connecting the houses, like on our street in Brooklyn, only clotheslines, fences, sheds, and meager swimming pools. The neighbor’s dog barked, but Dan’s yard was empty. Even the birds and the squirrels had vanished.
Satisfied things were as dull as ever, I left the blinds open and readied myself for work. Dan’s medicine cabinet held my toothbrush, but I swiped his deodorant, cologne, and toothpaste. The haunting odor of the cable guy had me dousing myself liberally with Armani. When I closed the mirrored door—son of a bitch, and speak of the fucking devil—the cable guy teetered past the bathroom window.
I almost had a fucking heart attack.
He didn’t glance through the window, and he couldn’t see inside because of the blinds anyway. How he’d climbed onto the roof without a ladder was beyond me, unless he’d carried a ladder around the house, or shimmied the gutter pipe, or was half ninja.
Maybe he had a quota from the cable company and, as a sweat-soaked self-starter, he’d taken the initiative. Maybe his employer had given him permission to be on the roof. Maybe they had carte blanche. I wasn’t a homeowner. I had a degree in art history, and like most twenty-eight-year-old college graduates, I owned nothing and owed the farm. I hadn’t a clue, but surely there were protocols that separated “service call” from “trespassing.”
The guy could actually be checking the converter box for critical software upgrades, but on further reflection, those words rang hollow. Whichever, he was a total asshole and shouldn’t be on the roof.
As an ex–law enforcement officer, Dan took precautions. Locks secured every window and door, and he’d wired the place to the hilt. I’d worked in the gallery world for years, and I’d grown familiar with the ins and outs of various alarm keypads. My own family didn’t bother with fancy security companies. We relied on brute strength, intimidation, and the local neighborhood watch. More like a witch hunt than a watch, but effective nonetheless. And, when pressed, Romanos were swift to drive intruders away with the swing of a Louisville Slugger. There wasn’t a bat in Dan’s home, so I opted for his alarm.
I retrieved my cell from the dresser as the jerk on the roof did whatever asshole thing he was hell-bent on doing. I should have checked, but something—call it intuition—had me moving with haste to the stairs, phoning Dan as I descended. Having had my fair share of incidents in the past two months, I knew to call, but first I’d have to deal with Dan’s I don’t fucking believe this.
“Hey,” he panted, and he wasn’t the only one gasping. My lungs creaked from all the exertion.
“Question.” I swallowed. “Do you—”
“What’s wrong with your voice? Did you do something to your rib again? You’re making that kicked-puppy sound. The one you make when you’re in pain but you won’t tell me and I have to slip Vicodin into your milkshake. What are you doing?”
“What makes you think I’m doing anything? I’m doing nothing. I’m fine.” Just winded from the stairs. “Did you maybe schedule the cable company and forget?” I peered through the peephole again. Empty step, sprinkler sprinkling, birds slurping worms, kids on scooters, fishbowl suburbia. Check. Nothing had changed.
“Negative. I don’t have cable.”
“Huh. That’s unnerving, because there’s a guy on your roof.”
“What roof? Who’s on the roof? My roof?” A sharp inhale told me his jog had ratcheted to a flat run. “What do you mean?”
“I mean the cable guy climbed onto your house after I told him to leave. I’m just letting you know.” A thump from somewhere above and I flipped the plastic lid on the alarm panel, revealing the keypad. Pretty straightforward. P for police and the * sign together and I’d scare any prowler out of his pants and onto the lawn. “I have the situation under control.”
“The hell you do. Is he still there? You’re not kidding, right?”
“No. I am not kidding—you always ask me that. Why would I kid?” It was difficult keeping exasperation from my voice, but I managed valiantly. “How do I know what he’s doing? I’m not watching, although I can see his van from the window. It’s on the street. I’m hitting the alarm. Heads-up. Also chop-chop. I’m going to be late for work.”
“Yes. Hit the fucking alarm.”
An earsplitting eeeeeeee breached the peaceful splendor of Chez Albright.
I scurried to the kitchen as Dan yelled, “I’m two blocks from the house. You still there?”
“Yes, of course.”—eeeeeeee—“Where would I go? He’s out there. So I’m in here. Dial it down. I’m fine.”
“You need to leave the house.”
“That’s not going to happen.” I checked the window. “There are kids on the sidewalk. I don’t want a scene.”
“I think that train left the station—”
The cable guy fell from the roof in a flutter of green shirttails. He landed catlike in the grass directly in front of the kitchen window. “Holy crap.”
Dan panted, “What? Talk to me.”
The man popped effortlessly to his feet and hiked a rather utilitarian black backpack over his shoulder. Anyone else would have broken an arm or an ankle falling from that height, but no. The bastard didn’t even bother to check himself. Far less fatigued than he first appeared at Dan’s doorstep, he was nonetheless sopping in sweat. His gaze caught mine and he fucking bowed—the dick—then he flipped me off, mouthing, Fuck you, and darted under the clothesline. “I . . . don’t believe this guy.”
He vaulted the fence like a goddamn superhero. “My God. He’s like Batman.”
“What the— Did you say Batman?”
I shouted over the alarm, “He looked right at me! That asshole, but holy crap, he’s totally parkour. I’ve never seen anything like him. I don’t think you can catch him.”
“Thank you for the vote of confidence.”
The guy cut through the neighbor’s backyard and disappeared around the corner of a garage as the house alarm clanged my head like a gong. I pressed a finger against my ear. “He’s gone. Wow. Where are you? If you come through the back—”
Any hope the intruder would run smack into Dan coming from the opposite direction was dashed as the front door burst open and my hero announced, “I’m here. Where is he?”
“Gone. I told you. Jesus, the guy could move.” I tossed my phone on the counter. I wasn’t sure what my next move should be, so I let Dan lead. He braced one hand against the wall, gasping for air—which didn’t seem entirely heroic—and stabbed at the keypad with his index finger. The alarm ceased and, thank God, I could hear myself think again. Summer heat met AC, and a wave of tepid air blew through the living room.
“FYI, I move too.” Dan sucked wind. “I sprinted up that fucking hill.”
He swiped his forehead and joined me in the kitchen, his Shakespeare in the Park T-shirt soaked to his skin. Unlike the intruder, he wore his perspiration very well. Face flushed, hale and hearty in loose-fitting black running shorts, he flipped the backdoor locks and disappeared down the steps.
I followed a few paces behind, watching as he scoped the backyard. “He’s not here.”
“I can see that.”
He glared at the kitchen roof where two stubby dormers were connected by a thin outcropping of architectural tiles. One dormer held the bath window, the other the guest room window. Bolted between the dormers? A long-nosed satellite dish.
Dan looked ready to scale the brick and poke around for clues, or climb for a better vantage point of the cable guy’s escape route, but his outdoor inspection lasted two seconds. He stared at me briefly, dark brows knitted together, before stomping back into the kitchen. He scrubbed at his damp hair, leaving finger-wide furrows. At least his breathing was somewhat under control.
– Read more at: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/with-this-bling (Just click the excerpt tab)
When not working from her home in the rolling hills of Northwestern Connecticut, author L.B. Gregg can be spotted in coffee shops from Berlin to Singapore to Panama–sipping lattes and writing sweet, hot, often funny, stories about men who love men.
For more info on L.B., because surely one can never get too much of a good thing, you can follow her on her preferred social media, Facebook. You can also e-mail L.B. at lbgregg at lbgregg dot com, visit her website www.lbgregg.com, be her GoodReads pal or follow her sporadic appearances on twitter.