A Bluewater Bay Novel
Buck Ellis’s future seems pretty damn bright. With a full college scholarship in hand, he’s going to ditch Bluewater Bay and pave the way for his kid brother Charlie to do the same. The only fly in Buck’s ointment is his ten-year addiction to his best friend since second grade, his true love, and his Achilles heel: Ari Valentine, Mr. Least Likely to Succeed.
But then Buck’s mother dies, changing everything, and five years later, his future is still on hold. It’s a struggle to keep food on the table, a roof over their heads, and Charlie on the straight and narrow. Buck can’t afford any temptation, especially in the form of the newly returned, super hot, super confident, super successful television star Ari Valentine.
ADHD poster-child Ari Valentine left for Hollywood and lost everything, including his bad reputation. Then the breakthrough role of his skyrocketing career lands him back in Bluewater Bay, to the stunned disbelief of, well, everyone. But there’s only one person Ari longs to impress—the only person who ever really mattered to him, the person he left behind: Buck Ellis.
Read an Excerpt
There's Something About Ari
By L.B. Gregg, Sarah Frantz
Riptide PublishingCopyright © 2014 L.B. Gregg
All rights reserved.
I let the screen door slam and, skirting the backpack, soccer cleats, and skateboard Charlie had abandoned on the porch, settled into my mom's old glider, cup of coffee in one hand, bowl of Lucky Charms in the other. With an hour to spare before my next shift, there was just enough time to chill. I crossed my sock-covered feet on the railing and watched the slow unveiling of the Olympic mountain range in the distance.
The rain had stopped sometime before dawn, and the chilly morning air held a hint of brine. Mist cushioned the spindly pines that edged our tired neighborhood. Far above the clouds, the sun burned in the east. The last good days of fall were on us because, no lie, it was going to piss rain for the next six months.
Charlie appeared in the doorway, dressed in his usual morning apparel—cutoff, threadbare gray sweats and whatever shirt was in reach of his bed and passed the sniff test. The black wolf howling across today's T-shirt had taken over every available piece of real estate in Bluewater Bay, including the fronts, backs, and heads of the high school kids.
He was wrist deep in a family-sized sack of Tim's dill pickle–flavored potato chips, his personal breakfast of champions, and chomping openmouthed, bag crinkling, he nodded toward the house next door. "I see signs of life over there."
There hadn't been anyone at Mrs. Allen's in months. Not since she'd put the house on the market, packed her suitcases, and left for balmy Oregon. "You think it's intelligent life or what?"
He scoped out the vacant house. "Intelligence unknown."
"They're probably lost." I didn't bother looking.
Charlie sucked crumbs from his fingers. "The front door is open and a light's on in the kitchen. Nice car in the driveway. Not lost. I think they're showing the house."
"Showing it?" As much as I liked Mrs. Allen, her old place was about ten minutes shy of a meth lab. The For Sale sign hadn't attracted any would-be homeowners, despite the reversal of fortune in Bluewater Bay—or maybe because of it.
I checked, and the sleek black car parked by the detached garage was an S series Tesla. I'd never seen one in real life. Most of the Haves here in town drove European luxury cars. "Holy shit, that car is worth more than the entire house. Someone must really be lost."
"Nope. I'm telling you, something's going on over there." Charlie craned around the porch post.
"Anyone who drops nearly a hundred grand on a car you have to plug in is not moving to Fifth Street."
"It's not that bad here. I don't know why you keep saying it is." Charlie balled the empty chip bag and shot it into the trash can. "I could name twenty people, easy, who would love living on this street. It's homey."
"Not Hollywood people, and they're the only ones with the kind of cash it takes to buy a Tesla."
"Maybe someone's scouting a location for a shoot. If they film our place, they'd have to pay us too, right?"
"Maybe." I sipped coffee. "I wouldn't count on it."
"If production staffers drive those cars, sign me up."
"You better learn to drive first."
I ate a mouthful of cereal and kept my eye on the shadow poking around Mrs. Allen's living room. It passed the picture window before disappearing into the dining room. The layout of 183 Fifth Street was a twin to our own happy abode. The front door opened directly onto a staircase. To the left, the living room. The right, a dining room. Back of the house had an eat-in kitchen, a thin pantry, a small bedroom, and a door to the side yard. Upstairs were two undersized bedrooms flanking the only bathroom in the entire house. Simple, small, and dated. Pretty Spartan, all-around, but my mother's insurance had paid off our house, so we were staying put at least until Charlie graduated from college.
I couldn't peel my gaze away from the Tesla. "That car doesn't belong in this neighborhood."
"I don't know. Maybe Fifth Street is transitional now. If Mrs. Allen's house sells, we should definitely list ours."
"And where would we live?"
"Somewhere. I don't know." He shrugged. "We could make a lot of money on this place and find an apartment with a heated pool. No lawn to mow. No leaking roof. No complaining older brother."
"You just said this place isn't so bad." He knew nothing about personal finance. I hadn't either at that age. And I wouldn't sell the house because I'd never lived anywhere else. They'd probably bury me in the backyard under my old tree fort. "Pick a side, kid."
"We can't stay here forever."
"That's what you think."
He patted his stomach and belched. "Are there any pancakes? I'm starved."
Charlie consumed and burned a continuous stream of calories, engulfing the equivalent of one half of my paycheck each week. Every time he opened the pantry door and grabbed four cereal bars or an entire box of Waffle Crisp, or three apples and a yogurt, I heard the beep beep of the register scanner tallying up the order. $4.95 beep. $3.50 beep. $6.79 beep beep beep.
A blue Honda Fit turned onto Fifth Street, hooked a right into Mrs. Allen's driveway, and parked behind the Tesla. My stomach sank. I knew that car and the bombshell behind the wheel all too well. As Charlie had predicted, she did indeed work for the production people.
Chelsea Ray climbed her petite self out of the Honda, and my brother forgot all about furthering his breakfast. "Damn. She is so hot."
"Take it easy, tiger. Try to be cool and remember, she's twenty-four. You're not even on her radar."
After Chelsea dropped out of college, she and I had worked side by side at the coffee house until five weeks ago, when her dad landed her a "real" job. Officially a production assistant for Wolf's Landing, she was more like an assistant to an assistant. She still served as much coffee in her new job, but these days she earned four times the money.
Chelsea teetered across the drive to the bungalow's peeling front porch. Her polka dot dress gave her a retro Minnie Mouse vibe. She fluffed her considerable hair and adjusted her cleavage before knocking on the door—proof there was a dude wandering around inside the Allen house.
"I'm going to go check her out. It. I'm going to check it out." Charlie flushed, which was never a good look on a ginger. Nosiest of nosy neighbors, he flew down the steps to investigate, texting as he walked.
"Don't bother her. I'm pretty sure she's working."
My words had their usual effect on my kid brother as he shot me a backhanded wave. "It's good. She thinks I'm adorable." A grin underlined his voice. "Hey, Chels! You're out and about early today. That's a pretty dress. What's up?"
I simultaneously cringed and marveled at his guts. "Charlie ..."
Chelsea waved. "Hey, Buck! I'm so glad I caught you both at home. Come greet your new neighbor. He's moving in next weekend."
"My new what?" I glanced from the Tesla to the shitty Subaru parked in my own driveway and back to the sloping front porch on Mrs. Allen's lemon-yellow short sale. "Are you sure you've got the right address?"
"Yes. Of course I'm sure. I helped his agent with the closing."
I thought she meant real estate agent until it dawned on me she meant talent agent. We were going to have Hollywood next door. The street would be overrun with tourists. I'd have to put the bikes away, the skateboards, my paddleboard, and take down the tent. Great.
Chelsea batted her eyes at my brother. "You need to keep this on the down-low though, okay?" She waggled her finger like a scolding kindergarten teacher, a vibe sure to add fuel to his raging teenage hormone level. I'd need the hose soon. "No tweets, Snapchats, texts, Instagrams, Facebook. Nothing. I mean it."
"Tumblr?" Charlie asked innocently.
"Uh-uh. No. Got it?"
"Cross my heart." He did exactly that. "This I vow."
I would have rolled my eyes, but I couldn't get them past the high-tech vehicle parked in the pitted driveway. "If your guy wants to keep his residence on the DL, he should sell the car."
"Once he's moved in, I'm sure he'll utilize the garage like any good neighbor." My Subaru received a snotty glance from Miss Ray. Then she dropped the bullshit. "It's not like he's got a fire truck covered with flags sitting on the lawn, for crap's sake. It's just a car, Buck."
"Sure it is." The chick drove a Fit, so I wouldn't waste my breath on car talk. Why anyone would buy Mrs. Allen's house, let alone someone who could clearly afford a loftier address, escaped me.
And then the screen door opened, and my question was answered. My heart took a nosedive. I thought for a second I'd lost my mind as our new neighbor filled the doorway, but I only lost hold of my spoon. Milk splashed my pants. I was too busy gaping at the man on the porch to care.
Ari Valentine. He'd come home.
He welcomed Chelsea with his rascally smile and a quick handshake, like five years ago he hadn't hopped a bus to LA with the money he'd "borrowed" from me on the same goddamn afternoon my mom died.
He sported a neatly trimmed, made-for-TV beard. I bet every whisker was accounted for. It didn't take a genius to figure out why he'd come back to Bluewater Bay—actor, hello—but what the fuck was he doing here? On my street? In Mrs. Allen's sorry house? Next door to me. He sure as shit would have recognized the address when he'd signed those papers.
I buttoned up the whirl of emotions before mortifying self-awareness—the very hallmark of every conversation I'd had with Ari since turning fifteen—returned.
Charlie took the steps at full speed and tripped over his gargantuan feet. His brand-new cell phone hit the ground, probably cracking another screen. I didn't know who said, "No fucking way," but whoever did took the words right out of my mouth.
My kid brother corralled his newly grown feet and shoved a palm at our neighbor like he was wielding a two-by-four. "Ari? Holy shit. It's really you? I had no idea you were back. Man. Wow. Wow. You look great." His voice cracked, and my heart softened a little. "I don't know if you remember me? I'm Charlie?"
Ari and I used to lock Charlie in a dog crate until he barked to be let out. We fed him sand on more than one occasion, and dressed him as a turd for Halloween after convincing my mother he was a chocolate cookie. Who could forget such a willing victim to all our good-natured abuse?
Ari pulled my brother into a bear hug. "Remember? You were such a pain in the ass. How could I forget?" Ari's voice had thickened since high school, and while the two of them patted each other on the back and grinned, I picked marshmallow moons and stars off my pants and flicked them over the railing. Unlike my brother, I could control myself.
Ari gave Charlie the once-over. "Jesus. Wow. Holy mackerel. You look exactly like your brother."
"I wish. He didn't get cursed with this hair." Charlie shot me an embarrassed smile, and I braced myself as our new neighbor followed Charlie's gaze.
He'd been eighteen the last time I saw him in the flesh. Two arrests under his belt, and fighting an addiction to Adderall, he'd barely topped five and a half feet when he skipped town. He'd been a skinny, hyperactive, dyslexic delinquent who quit school just shy of graduation.
Apparently, he'd sprouted in California. Maybe all he'd lacked as a child was sunshine. As I cataloged every difference in him, the changes in my own appearance registered in Ari's open gaze. I was wearing pajama pants and a sweatshirt. Unshaven, hair standing up, I probably looked like a fucking hobo.
We weren't the same people, not by appearance, and not by what life had dealt us.
Charlie realized the larger implications of Ari Valentine's appearance in Bluewater Bay, and he flipped his lid. "Wait. This means ... Are you on the show now? You're on Wolf's Landing? That's awesome. Congrats, man. I hadn't heard, and I'm pretty plugged in. I mean I'm even wearing the T-shirt." Charlie retrieved his phone and frowned at the screen, confirming we'd be stopping by the mall next paycheck. He wheeled on Chelsea. "How long have you known? Why didn't you tell me? You're really good at keeping secrets."
Chelsea sighed. "Well, I did sign a confidentiality clause, so yeah, it's my job. And not five seconds ago you promised to keep cool, Charlie Ellis." Her attention swiveled to me, lounging on the glider, my feet still indolently perched on the rail, not a fig to give. If only I could wipe that smug look off her face, because she was enjoying this scene, no matter how professional she claimed to be, or how cool I pretended to act.
Ari was the one to break the tension. He grinned wide and waved like a little kid, hand flapping in the wind. "Hey! Hi! How's it going, Buck?"
"It's going." I mean, what in fuck-all did he think I would say? I missed you, man? Or something poignant? If anyone in the world knew my tolerance for public chitchat was nil, he did. He also knew I'd never willingly leave my perch and go say hello. When had I ever?
Maybe I hadn't changed so much after all.
Ari left the yellow porch, moving with the same languid confidence I remembered. Every inch the TV star, he screamed package. His jeans were too expensive for the Pacific Northwest, and the shoes would melt in the rain, or land him on his ass in a patch of moss. His haircut must have cost ... a lot more than mine, and he prowled across the yard like he'd been born part werewolf. No wasted energy. He probably reserved that for the gym.
He looked fan-fucking-tastic.
I wiped my mouth on the back of my sleeve and brushed the last few Lucky Charms from my pants. "Someone's going to steal your car in this neighborhood, or don't you remember?"
"How could I forget? It's my neighborhood now too." He climbed my porch steps, the railing vibrating under his footfalls, and because social norms dictated I should stand, I did. I was still taller by a scant couple inches
A smile gleamed in Ari's eyes, and he shook his head as if he couldn't get over how great it was to be standing on my porch amongst the clutter of our everyday lives. Today. Right now. Right here. Next to me. Ta da. "It's been so long. Jesus. I don't even know ... You look fucking great, Buck. Just. Wow. Great. Better than ever."
His gaze swept me top to bottom, and bet your ass I looked great. I'd lost twenty-five pounds since high school. Although these days my hair was out of control. "I was going to say the same thing to you. You're all grown-up."
Christ, I sounded like the dirty old man of Fifth Street, but Ari didn't seem to notice. "I had one of those growth spurts they warned my mother about. Five inches in one year. It hurt to sleep at night, and I couldn't stop eating. I'd never been so hungry in my life."
I believed it. He'd been the smallest kid in first grade, and smallest in the ninth—by a long shot. When we were thirteen, his mother, in one of her rare lucid moments, dragged him by ferry to the growth clinic in Seattle. To be "evaluated." They'd measured, poked, and x-rayed him, and finally, the doctors declared him to be a "late bloomer"—officially. Then they'd sent her a bill for two thousand dollars, and Ari hadn't grown any taller.
"Charlie's going through that bottomless pit thing now, actually." I nodded toward the Allen house where my brother continued to ply his charm on Chelsea. "So, right next door, huh?"
"Yeah. I thought I'd surprise you." What did he even mean? "It's awesome, isn't it? We're neighbors. I always loved these houses with their view of the mountains and the covered porches, and Mrs. Allen's place felt like the right fit. Small. Close to the center of town. I can walk everywhere." The peeling monstrosity practically glowed in the dark, but to a kid from the worst part of town, her house had probably seemed like a mansion. "It's next door to people I like. And the house is yellow. My favorite. I won't have to change the paint."
He chuckled. Fucking chuckled. And his laugh was real and rough, and his lips were full, and his teeth blinding. I felt utterly out of my depth as all the secret feelings I'd capped from high school threatened to spill over the lid.
Back then, I'd died small deaths every time he looked at me, or talked to me, or slept on the floor of my bedroom, or borrowed a fucking pen. God. He made me cold. He made me hot. Sweaty. Sick. Happy. Sad. Horny. Ashamed. Sad. The whole fucking enchilada. Squared. It hadn't made sense then, because I'd been so afraid, so terrified of making a fatal error and losing him forever. I hadn't made sense then. I'd reached the point when we were sixteen that I couldn't be in the same room with him.
And in the long run, it hadn't mattered. He'd left anyway. It took me years to get over that loss. I couldn't let this new and improved Ari, with his stubbly beard and white teeth and warm laugh and charming Hollywood self, under my skin again.
Nope. Not gonna.
Oblivious to the war raging inside me, Ari leaned against the railing, eyeballing the sporting equipment strewn across our porch, and prattled on. "It is really good to be back in town and to see you again. Man. We should go kayaking. Maybe take a hike before the rain sets in." He crossed his arms across his considerable chest and sighed at the mountains. "The view from this porch is still breathtaking. I bet it never gets old."
He was the breathtaking one, with the Olympian mountain range serving as a perfect backdrop.
Excerpted from There's Something About Ari by L.B. Gregg, Sarah Frantz. Copyright © 2014 L.B. Gregg. Excerpted by permission of Riptide Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsAbout There's Something About Ari,
Prologue: With My Feet on the Ground,
Chapter 1: Short Sale,
Chapter 2: Address Unknown,
Chapter 3: Neighbros,
Chapter 4: Scooby-Dooby-Doo,
Chapter 5: Inside Out,
Chapter 6: 7-Eleven,
Chapter 7: A Bottle of Rain,
Also by L.B. Gregg,
About the Author,
Enjoy this Book?,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Way too short at like 75 pages.
I love stories about kids who meet in grade school and became best friends, only to have life knock you around, until once again you're face to face. In a nutshell that's Buck and Ari. The author's descriptions of Ari as a little kid were priceless and made me adore him from the get-go. Since I had so much fun with the first book in the 'Bluewater Bay' series, I was confident that Buck and Ari would win me over. "He’d been eighteen the last time I saw him in the flesh. Two arrests under his belt, and fighting an addiction to Adderall, he’d barely topped five and a half feet when he skipped town. He’d been a skinny, hyperactive, dyslexic delinquent who quit school just shy of graduation....We weren’t the same people, not by appearance, and not by what life had dealt us." A friendship that strong, born on the backs of two misfit kids, can't resist reconnecting. And, when Ari comes out to Buck......well, there's a whole lot of explaining needing to be done. Actually, there's a lot of pursuing, by Ari, and stuttering, stammering, and trying not to lose his heart, again, by Buck. Very entertaining! "I’ll never be sorry that I make you crazy. You’ve made me crazy my whole life, Buck. It’s the least I can do in return.” A wonderful, sweet, nostalgic look at love! NOTE: This book was provided by Riptide Publishing for the purpose of a review.
The second in the series, I was so pleased with the first that I jumped into this one. This is a very different story than the first – and let me say that is one of the BEST things about multi-authored series. Each book is a reflection of the series and the author who wrote it. That said, I think this book would have been better if it had been longer. This is the story of unrequited love and having it land right in your lap after four years of thinking it’s gone forever. I liked Ari – his positive look at life, even with all the crap life’s sent him. And Buck was okay – I think he could have been better. It was like the book would have been fantastic if it had been twice as long, so we could have truly gotten inside both their heads. The chapters seemed disjointed as though something should have happened between one and the next and we never found out what. I wanted to love it, but in the end, it was just liked. It would be fantastic to see things from Ari’s point of view, because that man’s been through hell and yet, he seems to bounce back. Reviewed by a-nony-mouse for Crystal’s Many Reviewers **Copy provided for review**
*Squee* Friends to lovers one of my favorite themes. Now add it's written by L.B. Gregg and you know it should be a jem. Buck Ellis has always loved his best friend Ari Valentine but when he needed his friend the most Ari leaves town leaving Buck alone to take care of his brother and deal with his lost dreams. As Ari has been away he has started to make something of himself as an actor but has always missed his home and his best friend. With the opportunity to star in a show back in his home town Bluewater Bay, he jumps at the opportunity and buys the house next door to his old best friend. Buck is a bit bitter about his current state of life , so when his past ends up on his doorstep he has a hard time dealing with it, as well as his past unrequited love for his old best friend. Ari pretty much forces himself back into Buck's life. Buck maybe resistent but when he finds out why Ari left he starts to soften a bit. Even though he softens he keeps his guard up until he finds out that maybe his past feelings weren't so unrequited. Now that their pasts are revealed, Buck is still guarding his heart scared he will get hurt again but with Ari by his side he's forced to let him in and love and be loved like he has always wanted. Gah! Just a sweet story about second chances and friends to lovers. L.B. Gregg has such a gift and getting you ensnared into the story and capturing all the emotions in such a short read. Thank you L.B. Gregg for getting me out of my reading funk for a bit with your MM loving.
Ohhhh, you are a cruel, cruel woman Ms. Gregg. I cannot believe that you gave us a television-style fade-to-black ending. That was so not nice … lol. While this is only the second book in the Bluewater Bay series, I am completely enamored with the series so far. In There’s Something About Ari, we meet Buck and Ari – both are men who grew up in Bluewater Bay, but whose lives took entirely different paths. Buck never left Bluewater Bay; he gave up his scholarship in order to take care of his younger brother when their mother died. In contrast, Ari fled Bluewater Bay, found his way to Hollywood and broke into acting. Buck is bewildered when he learns that Ari is not only returning to Bluewater Bay for a role in Wolf’s Landing, but he’s also moving in next door. Ari was Buck’s best friend growing up and as their past is revealed it is easy to understand his reaction to Ari’s return. What Ari did not know was that Buck is gay and was in love with him – something Buck never revealed in fear of losing his best friend. But Buck learns that he was not the only one keeping secrets back then and his world is turned upside down when Ari tells him why he left. But is an understanding of the past enough for these two to be able to move forward toward a future together? I loved both Buck and Ari. Ari’s outgoing personality and quirks made him easy to love. Although much more reserved, I found Buck just as lovable. He made a huge sacrifice to insure his brother had stability in his life when their mother died – it was a situation that no 18 year-old kid should ever have to deal with, yet he did so automatically. As much as I liked the guys individually, it was their chemistry and Ari’s pursuit of reestablishing their friendship that make There’s Something About Ari a 5-star read for me. Even if Ms. Greg only treated us to one sex scene, it was a hot one. Actually, considering how much damage had to be repaired to their relationship, the lack of sex was actually appropriate – no matter how much I wanted more sexy fun times between the two. I absolutely loved this book and is has been added to my reread list. I am looking forward to my next stop in Bluewater Bay already. I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Reviewed by Angela at Crystal's Many Reviewers!
There's Something About Ari, (A Bluewater Bay Story), L.B. Gregg Review from Jeannie Zelos book review I seem to be coming to the Bluewater Bay books out of order, but as each are standalones so its not a problem. This time we meet one of the TV series stars Ari, and resident Buck. They were best friends at school but then Ari left suddenly, and at the same time Buck became responsible for his younger bother when their remaining parent, their mother, died suddenly. He was just 18 and terrified that Charlie would be taken from him, so he’s worked hard at making a stable, solid home for him, giving up his full scholarship in writing to work in a coffee shop and support them both. He’s 23 now and his perfect ordered, but dull world has been turned upside down by Ari’s return. These two remind me of Sam and Aaron (Men of Smithfield 5) with Buck being like the solid, responsible Sam, who’s given up his dreams to do the responsible thing, and then gets his life exploded by the irrepressible Aaron. Ari does the same to Buck. Bucks been secretly in love with him since they were teens but never told him he was gay, then Ari left before he had a chance. Since then after a wild year Buck has been whiter that white and concentrated wholly on Charlie. Now it’s five years later, Ari’s back and he just won’t leave him alone, won’t take the cold shoulder Buck gives him, won’t just ignore Buck however hard he tries to shrug him off. Buck is still feeling irritated at the lack of contact, left behind while Ari moved on but he doesn’t know the full story, only that he felt abandoned by his best friend disappearing like that. Its a shortish read, but I know about Bluewater Bay by now, so much of the background and characters doesn’t need to be covered and we can go straight into the story. It’s a really sensitive read, where we see just how much Buck gave up for Charlie, though he doesn’t regret any of it. Ari too has things he hasn’t told Buck, and they both have things to learn about their perceptions of the past before they can move forward. Stars: Five from me, an excellent addition to the series. ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
Friends to lovers stories are one of my favorite themes and it's on full display here as readers witness the heartwarming yet heartbreaking journey to HEA between Ari and Buck.The quiet town of Bluewater Bay is getting noisier as Hollywood continues to invade in this second installment in the series that put a smile on my face and charmed me from the very first page to the last.It's not a perfect story though it kept me completely enthralled with its delightful main characters, a cast of colorful and memorable secondary characters, and unrelenting sexual tension. Buck was always thought of as the good boy and Ari the bad one with his hyperactivity and chaotic home life but they were a perfect match.From the moment he laid eyes on Ari, Buck sensed their connection and knew their friendship would be life-changing.From an early age Buck knew he was different and it isolated him but Ari never shied away from him and it drew Buck even closer to him.They shared many things but Buck's sexuality, and his unspoken feelings for Ari, along with Ari's unsafe home life wasn't among them and ultimately drove them apart.Five years later has them living lives they never expected with feelings just as complicated as before.The death of his mother kept Buck from going to college and put his writing career on the back burner as he stayed home to care for his brother.He's still a good boy but the grief at first led him to partying and sex with nameless men that he's now embarassed by.He's now completely reformed but his life is now lonely and boring with each day the same as the next.He seems lost and Ari's return gives him the jolt he needs to start living again.The time for what-ifs is over!I adored Buck and his unabashed opinions of himself.He's sweet and loyal and truly cares for his brother Charlie with interactions that are playful and sweet, realistic of brothers.I felt sympathetic for all the emotional burdens he's carried since his mother's death and happy he finally has someone to support him. Ari went through a lot of turmoil growing up as his mother had mental problems and his hyperactivity led to drug addiction.He was spiraling downward after becoming homeless and betrayed Buck horribly when he left with nothing but a hasty note, but he's come back stronger and ready to admit his own feelings that he always kept well-hidden.Living next door to Buck provides lots of temptation and the sexual tension between them leaps off the page.Ari is utterly charming and sexy.I liked seeing him take charge and push Buck into moving forward with his dreams.He's a survivor and I wish we'd gotten a bigger picture into his life as he played a big part in Buck's life from the beginning. The connection between Buck and Ari is intense as it teemed with sexual tension and all the pent-up feelings related to that.Their banter is realistic and heart-rending at times and helped immerse me in their verbal foreplay.Though their sexual encounters are few they're powerful for all the joy and promise of forever that they represent.They're a strong couple who got put through the emotional wringer with us along for the ride.The secondary characters were just as entertaining and memorable, particularly Charlie who was funny in an outspoken way and I'd definitely love to see more of him!This story kept me charmed from the first page but frustrated by a quickly wrapped-up conclusion, but ultimately is an immensely satisfying read.
3.5 stars out of 5 In this second installment of Bluewater Bay, there was not much happening on the set of Wolf’s Landing but there was a nice look at the local coffee shop – Stomping Grounds. Isn’t that an interesting name for a coffee house? Buck Ellis, one of the featured characters, is a manager at Stomping Grounds, and Ari Valentine, the other featured character, once worked there too. This is a rather interesting coffee house owned and run by Tori who appears to be everyone’s confidant and/or mentor. Buck and Ari have been friends since grade school. That is until they entered high school and began to discover their sexuality. High School is such a volatile time. So much happening, and in this case, even more than was known. This was actually a rather nice portrayal of a friendship that drifted apart due to miscommunication, misunderstanding, life in general, and just plain growing up. But then as they grew and learned about self in particular and the world in general, coming home and reconnecting with what is really important – family – even if it is family of the heart. Though a short and fast read, it was satisfying. Characters were well developed with an interesting cast of secondary characters adding to the story. The story moved mostly okay, but I did find a bit jerky, skipping from one day to a week later. At least this happened with chapter breaks, so was acceptable, if not smooth. Since this is a Bluewater Bay story there are cameo appearances by Levi – a star on Wolf’s Landing and the director Anna from Starstruck, but emphasis on cameo. This is very much a stand-alone read. I am still loving Bluewater Bay and eagerly await the next story. I receive a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.