Heartscape by Garrett Leigh
Release Date: March 22, 2021
Purchase here: https://geni.us/AmazonHeartscape
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Vino & Veritas Series Page: https://hearteyespress.com/wotn#/vino-and-veritas/
Cover Design: Christine Coffey
From award-winning author Garrett Leigh comes a gorgeous new romance in the True North world! Think: great food, burly men and good times. Beards are optional but encouraged.
I’m not the obvious choice to run Burlington’s coolest wine bar—quiet, brooding, clueless about tannin content, and always one wrong turn away from another downward spiral.
But no one seems to mind that I’m a wreck. Besides me. I just focus on getting through each shift until the night a beautiful stranger appears, looking as lost and damaged as I feel.
When a mutual friend calls in a favor, the sexy newcomer winds up crashing on my couch. I don’t know if it’s his melodic Cornish accent, or his ocean blue eyes, or the rock-hard body with the mysterious scars, but I get the feeling whatever happened to him runs far deeper than those wounds.
Having Jax in my home makes my chest warm. Makes me shiver. Makes me want more. But I’ve got a pile of baggage and I don’t want to be a burden on anyone let alone a man who seems to have enough demons of his own.
Our chemistry is off the charts. His arms feel like home. The last thing I want is to screw this up. Is it wrong to hope we can heal each other? Or will one of us die trying?
HEARTSCAPE is a heartfelt MM friends-to-lovers romance in the True North world, with a brooding bartender, a rugged outdoorsman, sweet angst and lots of Shipley cider. Triggers: contains mentions of depression, suicidal ideation and PTSD recovery.
A steady stream of drink orders keeps me busy for a solid half hour, but that doesn’t stop me from noticing Whit moving around the room to flirt with guys. Ultimately, from what I can see, he strikes out and wanders back to me during a lull.
He sits at a stool and bangs his head on the countertop.
A laugh bubbles out of me. “I don’t know how hygienic that is.”
Whit’s lips turn down. “You work here.”
“Eww.” Whit wipes his forehead. “Is being gay always this hard?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“I have to admit, this isn’t exactly what I was expecting.”
I lean my hip against the bar. “What were you expecting?”
“I dunno? For guys to see how hot I am and ask to blow me in the bathroom or something?”
A full-blown laugh falls from my lips this time. I have to admit, the dude is funny even if he’s not trying to be.
“So glad my misery is entertaining to you.”
“Where are all the easy men who want all the gay sex and no strings or names?”
I purse my lips. “Maybe it’s like that in big cities? The scene is low-key here. I mean, all bars by nature have that hookup culture, but if you’re looking for boys in booty shorts and orgies, you’re definitely in the wrong place. When Harrison opened V and V, he wanted to create a safe and queer-friendly environment that everyone could enjoy.”
“Is everything about gay people in mainstream media wrong?”
He pushes his empty closer to me. “Can I get another cider?”
“Sure.” I switch them out.
The night isn’t super busy, but the work is steady. I leave him again to serve others but keep stealing glances at him. It’s confusing. Objectively speaking, he’s a good-looking guy. His intriguing eye color is a draw in itself, along with his dimples when he smiles. His suit doesn’t make him look like your typical college hockey player. It’s a mystery why he’s striking out.
Jake reappears at Whit’s side, and Whit’s face lights up. Then Whit’s mouth moves a hundred miles a minute, and Jake’s eyes gloss over.
I can’t hear what Whit’s saying, but I think I’ve found the reason why he’s not having any luck.
Jake turns his head toward me and mouths, “Help.”
Super-bartender to the rescue. Not all heroes wear capes. I give Jake a new drink. “Whit here’s too young for you.”
Jake gives me a grateful look and moves away quickly.
“Oh, age isn’t a big deal to me,” Whit calls after him.
If possible, Jake moves faster.
“You don’t want to date that guy anyway. He’s in here all the time trying to score.”
“Aww, that sounds perfect for what I need.”
I cock my head.
“I can’t be a virgin when I graduate in the spring. That’s sad. I mean, ideally, I won’t be a virgin by my next birthday which is in seven weeks, but I’m willing to be flexible.”
“This has been your opening line to guys tonight, I’m guessing?”
“Well … I told myself not to talk, but then, I don’t know, isn’t that something you should disclose? It feels like something you should tell someone. Because, they have to be, like, gentle and shit, and it’s not like gay sex is something you jump into, right?”
“Again, I wouldn’t know. But has anyone ever told you that you talk a little too much and maybe say things you don’t need to put out there right away?”
“Well, we’ve only met twice, and oversharing and boundary crossing seems to be a common theme.”
Whit groans. “I’m fucking this up.”
“You really aren’t. You’re just coming on a little strong. You’re hot—I mean, I’m guessing. Everyone keeps staring at you and checking you out. It’s your mouth that’s holding you back.”
“So I just have to fill my mouth with something other than words.”
His words make my straight cock twitch a little. Ah, blowjobs. Oh, how I’ve missed thee. I point at him. “That. Right there. Lead with that.”
Whit glares at me, and I have to say his tough face is kind of laughable.
“Or every time you feel yourself rambling, take a drink,” I suggest.
Whit’s head falls to the bar again. “I’ll die of alcohol poisoning.”
It’s not my fault a laugh escapes. Seriously, I can’t tell if this guy is entertaining or plain sad.
He lifts his head. “You should be my wingman.”
I should do what now? “As tempting as that is, I kinda have a job to do already.”
“Yeah, but that’s why you’ll be good at it. You know people, and you’ve seen things.”
“I’m straight, remember? I know nothing about gay hookups. I’d tell you to go on dates and make them feel special before trying to get them into bed.”
“Is it against gay law to go on dates and make each other feel special?”
I throw up my hands. “I don’t know. Which is exactly why I shouldn’t be your wingman.”
“Worth a shot.” Whit finishes off his cider. He stands, and I think he’s going to go back to mingling, but he takes his coat off his chair and puts it on. “Thanks for the drinks.”