Hi guys! We have Santino Hassell popping in today with his new release Concourse, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant giveaway, so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~
Ashton Townsend is the most famous celebutante of Manhattan’s glitterati. The black sheep of his wealthy family, he’s known for his club appearances, Instagram account, and sex tape. Most people can’t imagine him wanting for anything, but Ashton yearns for friendship, respect, and the love of his best friend—amateur boxer Valdrin Leka.
Val’s relationship with Ashton is complicated. As the son of Ashton’s beloved nanny, Val has always bounced between resenting Ashton and regarding him as his best friend. And then there’s the sexual attraction between them that Val tries so hard to ignore.
When Ashton flees his glitzy lifestyle, he finds refuge with Val in the Bronx. Between Val’s training for an upcoming fight and dodging paparazzi, they succumb to their need for each other. But before they can figure out what it all means—and what they want to do about it—the world drags them out of their haven, revealing a secret Val has kept for years. Now, Ashton has to decide whether to once again envelop himself in his party-boy persona, or to trust in the only man who’s ever seen the real him.
Brett tasted like cigarettes and champagne, but I ignored the unpleasant combination and thought about something else. The warm summer breeze, the distant sound of the ocean lapping at the shore, and the fact that Val was behind me. Val was watching me. Watching this.
I turned my face, and Brett’s lips skewed sloppily across my cheek. Years of practice kept me from cringing.
“I’m sorry,” I said, bowing my head. Hair spilled forward, and his hands flew up to push the strands away. They fell through his fingers like blond water, and I knew he loved the sensation. There were three things that made me desirable to Brett Decker: my long hair, my fine-boned face, and how delicate and slight I appeared beneath the safety of loose cloth or layers. Brett liked his boys weak and pretty, the way he imagined most women should be. It made him feel less queer for wanting to nail me. Sometimes, I wished he’d meet Meredith Stone or Stephanie Quinones so they could tear him to pieces for being such a sexist pig. Other times, I wished I could do it myself.
“Why are you leaving already?” he asked. “It’s early.”
“It’s nearly five.” I peered at him through my hair, biting my lip just the way he liked. His eyes dropped to my mouth, and he moved closer. “I’m feeling really unwell. I tried to tell you before . . .”
A glimmer of frustration crossed his face. “You look fine. I’ve been waiting to see you for days.”
“I’m on antibiotics,” I protested. “I only forced myself to come so I could see you, even for a little while. But I’m so tired now.”
“Sleep here,” he said automatically. “That’s what I’d planned.”
My mouth curved up. “You planned to fuck me all night. That’s not really sleeping . . .”
“Sleep after, and I’ll take care of you in the morning.”
“And get you sick?” I shook my head, adopting another sad expression. “I was bedridden for five days, darling. Can you miss that much time at the office?”
His growing frown made it clear contracting a mysterious and invented illness wasn’t something he could fit into his schedule, so he conceded by brutally kissing me again. His fingers dug in too hard, his teeth clashing against mine too violently. It felt more like an assault than a sign of affection. Judging by the heavy and disgusted sigh drifting over from Val’s car, it was obvious he concurred.
Brett ripped away, breathing hard. “Is that your driver?”
I shook my head. “A friend.”
Brett’s attention shifted to Val’s car, and the gears began to churn. Estimating the Blue Book value of a fifteen-year-old dented Camry, likely trying to see Val inside and only catching a glimpse of eyes so green they shone like emeralds. Wondering who he was. Why he’d decided to make his impatience so clear . . .
“I woke him up and begged a ride,” I explained, cocking my head. “My usual driver is also sick, so . . .”
Brett lost interest and went back to groping me. One hand clamped around my wrist as he guided me down the wide staircase, simultaneously treating me like a toddler while doing his best to exert his dominance. So interesting how many men like Brett I’d met in my life. Very odd how they called me beautiful, perfect, fragile like porcelain, and spent every moment making it clear that they wanted to control me.
He nudged me closer to the car, and I made a soft sound of pleasure at the unwanted help. I let him kiss me again with Val only three feet away. His irritation swarmed audibly like a disturbed beehive, and my stomach knotted. Don’t say anything. Please don’t start anything.
“I’ll call you,” I promised Brett. “We’ll see each other soon.”
“We better. I’m not in the habit of waiting.” Brett gave me a slow once-over. “But you’re worth it.”
“As soon as I’m well, we’ll be together.”
“Promise me, Ashton.”
Reaching behind me, I curled my fingers around the door handle. My escape was so close, but Brett was still watching, waiting, and figuring me out. I prided myself on being a good actor, on giving men what they wanted and whispering sweet lies in their ears, but this one was smart. Smart enough to know why I was spending time with him, but not quite catching on to why I was fleeing before following through on the planned seduction. Like most people who were familiar with my name, he probably expected me to be capable of anything, fucking anyone, and not letting it keep me up at night.
“Next time,” I said, still smiling and looking at him beneath my lashes. “I won’t disappoint you.”
From the car, I heard a muttered, “Jesus Christ,” but Brett was oblivious as he stared me down, likely thinking about all the things he wanted to do with me. He’d told me some of them after our first encounter—a business dinner where my role had been to draw his attention, hold his gaze, and leave him wanting to know more about me. Easiest assignment ever, and it had helped when he’d mentioned his gay nephew who was having trouble adjusting to being out in a wealthy family. I’d instantly become intrigued, earnestly asking for details and showing true concern after learning the kid had run way from home.
I’d thought our conversation had been purposeful, so I’d given him my number in the hopes we could continue it later, and maybe I could help in ways other than letting him get in my pants. His messages had focused on his concern for a while before they’d turned into pleas to see me again, earnest messages about his loneliness, and then more explicit messages about what he could do to me in the bedroom. Cock shots had uploaded pretty soon after.
The whole thing still gave me the creeps because I couldn’t decide if he’d used his nephew as a lure, or whether his lust and his concern weren’t mutually exclusive. I hoped they weren’t. Or that the kid wasn’t just a story he’d made up.
Brett relinquished his hold on me, and by the time I’d slid into the passenger’s seat of Val’s car, weariness had settled in my bones. The locks clicked loud enough to startle me in the silence because there was no music playing, which was uncharacteristic. Val always had the station set on one that played nineties hip-hop and R&B. I stole a glance at him while buckling my seat belt, and grimaced. Even with his face cast in shadows, those green eyes were flashing judgment as he gripped the steering wheel.
“You’re so fucking fake.”
Scoffing, Val looked away. He took off fast enough to burn rubber, steering back toward the gate and leaving Brett’s colossal mansion in our dust. It felt freeing, except for the way I could still taste him and feel the imprint of his hands on my skin.
“Do you have any gum?”
“Trying to get the scumbag out of your mouth?”
“He’s not a scumbag,” I said. “Well, I don’t think so. Not entirely.”
“Uh-huh.” Val felt around in the center console, found a pack of gum, and tossed it at me. “He’s a scumbag, and he’s old as hell. AARP style.”
I popped the tablet of gum into my mouth and snorted a laugh. “You’re so dramatic.”
“Yeah, right, I’m the dramatic one.” Val slumped back in the driver’s seat, driving one-handed, his other hand slack on the center console. Oh so tempting . . . “Was there a reason for him to drag you around like a ragdoll?”
“Older guys usually treat me like a fragile young thing they have to lead around.”
Val didn’t need to speak for me to pick up on the overprotective streak that had led to him installing Find My iPhone on my phone several years ago. Not that I’d protested. Things were better now, but there had been a time when I’d been in constant need of finding. A time when I’d been reckless with myself and others because no one had seemed to give a damn about anything I did. My brothers were the ones who brought value to the family. I’d been the embarrassment. So I’d done whatever, whenever, and then vanished until someone found me. Usually Valdrin.
I gave up on resistance and grabbed his hand, bringing it to my lips. I kissed each swollen and busted knuckle and watched him the entire time. Waiting for a twinge of something, discomfort or irritation, but he just shook his head. I didn’t know what was more disappointing—that the sparks I sometimes felt between us were likely nonexistent or that he seemed to think I was this affectionate with everybody.
“I thought you were over this, Ashton.”
“Over what?” I asked between kisses. “Partying? Drinking? Begging you to rescue me?”
He pulled his hand away. “Over letting old pervy men use you.”
“He’s not even old. He’s maybe forty-five.”
“Right.” Val’s eyes flicked over to me, scanning up and down, before returning to the road. “Do you want me to go through the list of older rich motherfuckers you let defile you in the past ten years?”
“It has not been ten years,” I protested. “I would have been fourteen. I didn’t start sleeping with older guys until I was sixteen.”
“Whatever, Ashton. Every old bastard on the board of Townsend Telecom has had a piece of you, and I thought you were over playing these stupid games.” Val glared straight ahead, his shoulders hunching as the car sped along toward the Long Island Expressway. There were no other cars on the road, and his features were only illuminated by random street lights that lit on his stubbled jaw, the slope of his nose, and his short dark hair. Although it was longer since I’d last seen him. “When are you going to find something else to do with yourself besides keeping a tally of how many straight billionaires you can seduce?”
My back straightened, and I ripped my starved gaze away from his face. The relief I felt in his presence crumbled until I was wrapping my arms around myself and turning slightly away to lean against the door. There was nothing but darkness outside, so I rolled down the window and rested my head against the open frame. The wind tore at my hair, whipping blond strands out into the night. I pretended the strength of the wind could blow away the remnants of Brett’s touch and jumped when a strong hand slid up to brace against the column of my neck.
I knew Val was trying to guide me away from the window so he could close it and keep talking to me, but I didn’t move. Having his fingers on me was much nicer than hearing his angry words. He must have understood that, because his attempts to pull me in devolved into him massaging the side and back of my neck until I was a puddle of contentment. Luckily, the rush of the wind and purr of the engine hid my sighs of pleasure.
When Val finally retracted his hand, I followed. Shifting over the center console to lean my head against his neck and press into his side, forcing him to drape his arm around my shoulders. Déjà vu hit me suddenly, and I saw us together in this very same car on the weekend of my eighteenth birthday. Summertime in the Hamptons, and an unchaperoned party so lavish that it’d been overwhelming. I’d gotten drunk fast, and Val had been there because I’d begged him, hiding in the pool house with an Xbox, until I’d crawled into his lap crying about having no friends but him. He’d driven me away from my own party and we’d sped down this same highway with me sniffling into his shirt. And then he’d taken me home, fallen asleep tangled up with me, and I’d woken up so turned on I’d nearly lost my mind.
God, I’d been pathetic for the majority of my life. So desperate for him to see me as something besides a whiny rich kid he had to take care of, and always failing. I had been a whiny rich kid. Now, I was a messy one. Not exactly boyfriend material, which had been my secret desire since we’d been ten.
My eyes closed as the memories washed over me, and I pressed a light kiss against his shoulder. He didn’t react, so I trailed feathery brushes of my lips all over him—a line up the junction of his neck and shoulder, to his jaw—as he guided the car along the highway. His shoulders didn’t tense until my lips brushed the corner of his mouth, which is when I realized he’d been fighting tonight.
“Your lip is busted,” I said in his ear. “Are you okay?”
“Did you win?” I asked, not keeping the disapproval from my own tone. “If you’re going to hurt my favorite person’s face, you better be winning.”
I felt more than saw his smile. “Yeah, I won.”
I traced his puffy lower lip with my thumb and found where it was split. “Does it hurt?”
He smiled again, bigger this time, and turned his face just enough for me to kiss the part of his lip that was split. When he didn’t shove me away like he always did, I flicked my tongue against it.
Two things happened at once—Val’s lips parted and a horn blared loud enough to startle me into releasing an alarmed cry. I scooted back into my seat as Val twisted the wheel to swerve into the other lane and around a car with broken taillights. I leaned out the window and flipped him off.
“Fix your fucking lights, dickhead!”
I ducked back inside and rolled up the window as Val’s laughter filled the car.
“You’re ridiculous,” he said, shoulders shaking. “Slurring drunkenly about someone else’s bad driving.”
“That’s really dangerous,” I said indignantly. “And I’m not even that drunk.”
He was still laughing, but he grabbed my shoulder and hauled me close to him again. I’d honestly expected him to yell at me for distracting him while driving, but instead he pressed a brief kiss to my forehead and kept his arm around me.
He squeezed my shoulder. “I like it when you’re my Ashton and not that other guy.”
I closed my eyes again. “I know.”
Read more at: https://riptidepublishing.com/titles/concourse (just click the excerpt tab)
Santino was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed grunge kid, then a transient twentysomething, and eventually transformed into a guy who spends his days and nights writing romance with an edge.
Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of LGBT fiction that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.
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