Read an Excerpt
Three Simple Words
The Kingston Ale House Series
By A. J. Pine, Karen Grove
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 A.J. Pine
All rights reserved.
"I think we have time for a couple more questions," Wes said as he looked out onto a sea of smiling, beautiful faces. One of the perks of the job for sure.
A hand shot up from the center of the crowd, and Wes nodded toward the woman. She stood, blond waves tumbling over her shoulders and directing his eyes right to where her breasts swelled beneath her shape-hugging sweater.
His lips curved upward. She glanced down to where his gaze rested below her eyes and offered a coy smile of her own. Then she surveyed his form, starting from his head and traveling lazily to just below the belt. She raised her brows with what felt to him like approval. She glanced up, and he met her stare with unabashed boldness.
"You ... have a question?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered without hesitation. "Your hero, Ethan, is a very skilled lover in Down This Road. Tell me, do you write from experience or just base those scenes on extensive — research?"
He flashed her a roguish smile and leaned back against the signing table, running a hand through his light brown waves.
"I like to think of experience as research," he said. "And I'm always looking to learn something new — for the sake of the next book, of course."
The woman narrowed her stare and pressed her lips into a knowing smile.
"The oral sex!" a petite brunette with a pixie cut blurted from her seat before he could ask for the last question, and gasps and murmurs echoed among the seated crowd. "The oral sex scenes were my favorite," she said with a slight tremble in her voice. "He wasn't just a skilled lover but an attentive one. I think that's one of the reasons why all those women were forgiving of his inability to commit. Because — because —"
"The oral sex," Wes said, finishing her thought, and she nodded vigorously.
His agent, Max, shot up from his stool at the bar. "And, that's it for questions, ladies. Let's give Mr. Hartley here a few minutes to grab a drink, and then he'll be signing for those of you who purchased books."
Max ushered him toward the bar as he thanked the crowd for their patience.
"You really are an asshole," Max said. "Seriously. You've fucking ruined sex for those of us with wives and partners who expect us to be able to do what Ethan can do. If you didn't pack houses like this with readers willing to throw their money at you, I'd cut you loose right now."
Wes ordered his drink and laughed. "I could do a how-to manual next if you want. Maybe a YouTube video? Or how about this? If you're doing it wrong, ask her how the hell you can do it right."
"Fuck you," Max said. "It's not that easy."
Wes raised a brow. "Have you ever asked your wife what she likes?"
Max laughed. "You mean other than her personal shopper at Bloomingdales?" He went silent for a moment, and then his eyes widened. "Jesus, you're a genius, Hartley."
Wes took a slow sip of his drink. "True — but I don't follow."
Max pulled his phone from his pocket and began hammering out a text. When he finished he looked at Wes again. "I just told her I'm meeting her at Bloomingdale's after my breakfast meeting tomorrow. In a fitting room. Where I'm prepared to ask her what she'd like."
Wes laughed and shook his head. "That's one way to go about it. Feel free to bring the book if you want to reference a specific scene."
"Speaking of books ..." Max said, but Wes cut him off.
"There's a line at the signing table. I'll catch you after?"
He didn't wait for Max's response. He was on too much of a high from the Q&A. Now wasn't the time to get into book two — or the current lack thereof. He had a line of women waiting for him, and he wasn't one to disappoint.
Wes scrawled his name across the title page along with his signature phrase, "Enjoy the journey." He slid the book back to the woman, enjoying the flush that grew in her cheeks as her hand accidentally brushed his.
"Thanks for coming out tonight," he said, lifting his rocks glass in a gesture of cheers before he threw back what was left of his scotch. The woman from the Q&A — the one so curious about his research — bit her lip and smiled, glancing behind her to the handful of other women still in line. When she looked back at him, she swiped a tongue over her painted bottom lip and tucked her blond waves behind her ear.
"Will you be staying for drinks after the signing?" she asked, her tone full of innocence, but her blue eyes brimming with heat.
Wes noted his empty glass and gave her one of his patented "Wes Hartley author" grins.
"It does look like I'm in need of a refill," he said.
She pressed her hands to the table and leaned forward, whispering in his ear, "Then I guess I'll see you at the bar."
"I guess you will."
No sooner had she ducked out of line than the next woman placed her book on the signing table. "Can I get a picture with you?" she asked.
"Oooh, I'll take it for you!" the woman behind her said. "If you'll take one of me and Wes with my phone when you're done!"
And there she was — the woman without a question at all who just wanted to talk oral sex — rounding the table before he had time to think. And then she slid onto his goddamn lap. Wes glanced toward the bar where Max still sat, and the man raised both a brow and a glass. Wes shrugged. This was the part of the job he'd never get tired of.
He encouraged the woman to wrap her arms around his neck, then tilted her down into an almost kiss.
She gasped. "This is just like that first time in Natasha's apartment where Ethan tells her the relationship can't move forward and then he lays her out on the butcher block table and —"
"The oral sex," Wes said.
She swallowed hard, apparently unable to respond as she squirmed against his thighs.
"Say cheese!" the other woman said, and he flashed his grin toward the phone aimed in their direction.
No. He'd sure as hell never get tired of this.
Max was gone by the time the signing had ended, no doubt only there to make sure he sold a respectable amount. Judging by the fact that the bookseller had to return to the shop to grab more stock, he'd say he had. But the text his agent had sent still hung in the air.
Don't fuck anyone who might fuck up your sales. Send me that new manuscript ASAP. And call me when you get to Chicago. I still think you're crazy as hell for leaving New York, but who am I other than the guy who sends you those big, fat checks? Just remember what we have riding on book two.
Looked like Max didn't need to continue their conversation face-to-face. All that had to be said was right there.
Wes looked up from his phone to find the blonde who'd offered to buy his next drink waiting on a stool with two rocks glasses in front of her, crystal clear liquid in each.
"I'm a vodka girl myself," she said. "I hope that's okay."
Wes smiled. "I'm not a picky man," he said, lifting one of the glasses to his lips and taking a sip. Heat spread from his tongue to his throat and straight to his core.
"You a New Yorker?" he asked, and she gave him a coy smile.
"I'm from Philly, actually. Took the train up just for your event. Heading back home in the morning." She drank. "Look, I don't do things like this. Ever. But your book — it just ... You're Ethan, right? Meandering down this road and never really finding what you want? I mean, that's the title. Down This Road."
"It's a story," he said, voice steady. "Make believe," he teased. Because this was where he always drew the line, letting on how much autobiography actually seeped into fiction.
"Well ... all those relationships?" she said. "All of them ending ... and the hero resigning himself to being alone? Ugh." She shuddered. "So. Many. Feels."
He laughed and held up his glass. "To feels, then," he said.
They clinked their glasses together then drained the rest of their drinks.
"Excuse me, Mr. Hartley?"
The voice came from behind. He turned to see the brunette pixie who'd been in his lap only thirty minutes before.
He raised his brows.
"I was hoping I could buy you a drink?"
A blonde to his left, brunette to his right, and they wanted to buy more than just his books. Who was he to say no?
"I guess it's a party now," he said, and surprisingly both women smiled.
"Another round," the blonde said to the bartender. "Plus one." She glanced back at the other woman.
And then it was like a swarm — the bar flooded with the women who'd stayed past the end of the scheduled event. Drinks were poured, drank, and Wes was in his element, at his best when he was the star of the show.
When it was well past midnight, he finally broke from the small crowd that remained.
"I need to head out, ladies, but it has been a lovely evening."
There were audible awwws and visible pouts.
"You're leaving? A-alone?"
The brunette pixie's eyes were wide, and he chuckled softly at the memory of her blurting oral sex during his Q&A.
"Sorry to disappoint," he said, though the disappointment was really his. "But I thank everyone for a spectacular night."
He gave the small party a nod and backed away, offering them one final, appreciative grin.
Because he wasn't an idiot. He was grateful for all of the attention and knew it could end as quickly as it began. But for now the show was over, because Wes Hartley wasn't headed back to his New York apartment. He was headed home.CHAPTER 2
The Playboy — Why We Love to Hate Him (and then love him)
by HappyEverAfter admin | Leave a comment
Annie tapped her finger against her bottom lip as she read over yesterday's post, pausing at the last line.
It is in the heroine that we see the playboy redeemed — that he is, in fact, capable of love. And it's in this trope we see love truly does conquer all. And that, my friends, is why we love to hate — and then fall in love with — the player hero in romance. As always, it's time to share, so lay it on me. Who's your favorite romance playboy?
She took a deep breath. After all, she knew her posts were good, that they were always on point with current discussions in romance. That's how the HappyEverAfter blog was born and how she'd amassed a 5k following. Sure, it was modest in the grand scheme of things, but she'd started the blog for herself once she'd fallen in hard love with romance and found she needed an outlet. Now she had daily conversations about her favorite genre — albeit with people she'd never met — and the blog filled a void she hadn't been able to before. But the comments — it was always terrifying to read the first few. Did her readers agree? Disagree? Had a romance resistant troll hunted her down just to make trouble? While the latter rarely happened, it was an inherent truth of the book blogging community, which was why she kept a hefty folder of "Haters gonna hate" memes on her desktop — always her favorite troll reply.
HEAlove says: So much yes to this post. I adore the player because his redemption is everything. I have to say, though, that my favorite one is a bit unconventional. I'm head over heels for Ethan in Wes Hartley's DOWN THIS ROAD. Like, I can't get that book out of my head. Tell me you're going to review it here because I'm dying to hear what you think!
Well ... not a troll, but not what she was hoping for. Annie read on.
Bookluvr says: Ditto HEAlove! I just finished DTR last night and ugh! Total book hangover. Ethan is so the player I love to hate — and then fall for in the end.
11: 25 a.m.
She rolled her eyes. Surely the next example would be someone other than Ethan from Down This Road.
Romreader says: Okay, so I know this book doesn't follow the conventional "rules" of romance, but how can you not swoon for Ethan? Every woman he's with thinks she's got everything she ever wanted. He's cocky, arrogant, and an amazing lover. So what if he doesn't believe in the HEA and leaves them all? When he does, he unwittingly leaves a piece of himself behind, too, because no matter how much he tries to keep them out when he has sex with them, he lets himself feel. SPOILER WARNING, but since we all read (Annie tell us you read!!!), I don't care that he ends up alone or that he broke my heart with every heart he broke. He's ridic sexy, and he made me feel all of the feels. Ethan FTW!
15 more replies ...
Annie stifled a scream. It would be one thing if the author was some nameless, arrogant ass. But she'd known him once — long ago. And he'd grown into this arrogant ass who was distorting her poor romance readers' views of a good love story. She pushed back from her desk with too much force, her rolling chair catching the lip of the rug and sending her toppling over.
"I'm okay!" she said, springing to her feet, only to have Brynn — her best friend and account manager — spin toward her and raise a brow.
"You read the comments," Brynn said drily.
Annie righted her chair and plopped back down into it. "Ihave to read the comments. It's my blog. I write the posts. I read the comments. And I reply. It's called good blogger etiquette," she said. She used her heels to scoot her chair back to the desk. "Plus, it's also free advertising for Two Stories, and you know how much we need that."
Brynn winced. If anyone knew how hard it was to keep an independent bookstore afloat, it was the woman who made the bank deposits each day.
"Okay," Brynn said. "You've got a point there. But what's got your panties in a bunch this morning? I think someone needs a caramel apple cider run."
Annie huffed out a breath. "I do need a cider, but first things first. You know that post that went live yesterday, the one about the playboy hero trope?" Brynn nodded. "Well, I always ask for a reader response at the end, so naturally I asked them to share their favorite playboy heroes."
Brynn nodded again. "I'm liking where this is going. Ready to add them all to my TBR."
Annie shook her head. "Do you remember that book by my brother's old high school friend, Wes Hartley?"
Brynn threw back her head and laughed. "The one who said he had to get out of Chicago, that only New York was the creative epicenter for young artists?" Brynn rolled her eyes and groaned. "You hated that one! Oh God. Don't tell me your blog is an inadvertent love fest for the book you love to hate."
Annie groaned. "You know I don't love to hate anything. Especially in public. I'm a bookseller. I talk about books I love but never disparage those I don't. But, crap. I guess Down This Road has had a resurgence in sales from the paperback release because more than half my comments were about the readers' undying love for the hero, Ethan." She cleared her throat. "And I use the term hero lightly. Because, duh — no happily ever after — and I can't even feel bad for him. He brings it all upon himself. I just — no. Hard no on that book."
"Tell me how you really feel," Brynn said with a grin.
Annie threw her hands in the air. "I know you don't share my affinity for the romance novel, but geez!" She was up and pacing now. "You still get it."
"Get what?" Brynn asked with brows raised.
"That love can, in fact, conquer all if you're not such an idiot that you refuse to let it in."
Brynn crossed her arms. "Like me and Jamie were for ten years."
"Yes!" Annie halted mid-pace. "You guys were 100 percent, certifiable, bona fide idiots."
Brynn opened her mouth to protest but then pressed her lips back together. "You're right. We were the worst. But now we're the best." A dreamy smile took over her features.
"Exactly!" Annie pointed at her friend. "Just like all good romance heroes and heroines, when you two were ready to say 'fuck you' to fear and open yourselves up to the possibility of something more —"
"Fireworks," Brynn interrupted. "It was fireworks."
Annie held her head high. "Thanks to me giving you guys a push — and what I know was an epically romantic road trip." She collapsed back into her chair. "That's what's wrong with Wes Hartley's not-a-romance. This maddening character, Ethan, has women swooning for him right and left, almost all of them saying they love him — and he never returns the sentiment. Other than some pretty sensational sex scenes ..." She fanned herself. After all, she would give credit where credit was due. "... Ethan, the not-a-romance-hero, is the most shallow, vapid, self-serving fictional human I've ever read. He takes and takes and takes but claims he cannot give."
Excerpted from Three Simple Words by A. J. Pine, Karen Grove. Copyright © 2016 A.J. Pine. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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