Today I am so pleased to welcome Keira Andrews back to Joyfully Jay. Keira has come to share the cover for her upcoming release, Valor on the Move. She has also brought along an excerpt to share and a copy to give away. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
So first off, here is the cover…
At the foot of the stairs, Shane checked his watch. Eleven fifty-nine.
He held his walkie to his mouth for his report. “Checking in. Valor secure. Over and out.”
The radio crackled. “Ten-four.”
Aside from the one night by the river—which Shane tried very hard not to think about—it had been four nights now that he’d slipped up to the third floor at midnight to eat Rafa’s creations and linger far too long listening to the kid talk.
He should think of him as Valor or Rafael, but the nickname always came to mind first now. Which was fine—most everyone called Valor that. But it wasn’t his role to be spending this much time with his protectee up in that kitchen.
And it definitely wasn’t his role to be hugging him. Even if he’d been ridiculously relieved that Rafa was okay after he’d toppled off the rock. Of course I was relieved. Keeping him in one piece is my damn job. That’s all it was. Yet it had felt alarmingly natural as they’d laughed to wrap Rafa in his arms.
He sighed. Good thing he had the next day off before rotating to the day shift. Alan would be back too, and things would return to normal.
But Shane couldn’t stop the pang that echoed through him at the idea of not spending time with Rafa alone anymore. He’d really enjoyed their late-night talks and tasting sessions. Maybe a little too much.
Not that anything had happened, but girlfriend or not, there was no question in Shane’s mind now that Rafael Castillo was gay, or at least bi. The desire practically came off the kid in waves. Shane should never have mentioned his own sexuality, but he hadn’t thought about it at the time as being an issue. Not that it was an issue now. But the kid clearly had a crush on him.
On one hand, it was sweet and harmless. Rafael Castillo was likely closeted and lonely, and Shane didn’t want to hurt his feelings. But he was treading on dangerous ground. A situation like this could blow up in his face. Aside from a few unfortunate incidents involving alcohol and prostitutes on foreign details, there hadn’t been any scandals in the service the past decade. He sure as hell wasn’t going to cause one now by encouraging this crush and having it go south.
Especially since that dangerous ground was becoming more and more treacherous by the day. It was harmless enough for Rafa to have a crush on him. It sure as hell wasn’t for Shane to have a crush of his own. And of course he didn’t. The idea was absolutely absurd.
Yet that night at the river, when Rafa had touched him—only an innocent touch of his hand on Shane’s arm—Shane had felt it right down to his balls. And on the drive back to the White House, he’d been compelled to share an embarrassing story about falling in a pool at a barbecue in college while trying to balance a case of beer on his head. It had made Rafa laugh and wrinkle up his nose, and Shane wanted to tell him more personal stories.
He shook his head. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d met someone and wanted to spend so much time with them. Of course the irony was that he’d be spending hours a day with Rafa, and it was time to get his shit together and stop blurring the lines.
But he couldn’t just not show tonight—not when Rafa was making avocado soup because it was Shane’s favorite. He could imagine how Rafa’s face would fall if he didn’t show. As he started up the stairs, his pulse fluttered uneasily. Christ. What do I have to be nervous about? Go eat the soup and call it a day.
The smell of roasting tomatoes—and mmm, bacon—filled the third floor. Shane stopped in the doorway as he reached the kitchen and watched Rafa ladle soup into a bowl with great concentration. Rafa wore jeans and a worn green T-shirt, with flip-flops on his feet. His hair was unfortunately still slicked down, and Shane wondered if he’d ever see it curly again with a strange pang of regret. The denim hugged Rafa’s slim hips and the curve of his ass, and Shane mused about what kind of underwear Rafa had on…
As heat rushed through him, Shane jerked his gaze up and cleared his throat.
Rafa’s face lit up as he glanced over. “Oh! Hey, Shane. The soup’s almost ready. I’ve just got to…” He reached for a small bowl. “I cooked and diced a few strips of bacon as garnish. Thought it was worth a try.”
“Bacon’s always worth a try.”
Rafa laughed. “That’s what I figured. And I made the roasted tomatoes and basil again, but this time with Boursin instead of goat cheese. So you can tell me which one’s better. But here, soup first.” He thrust out a spoon and handed Shane the bowl.
“Aren’t you going to have any?” Shane hesitated. Rafa had a habit of just watching him intently, and it could be unnerving at times. Largely because he looked at Shane like Fred Flintstone eyeing a rack of brontosaurus ribs.
“Oh, yeah.” Rafa went back to ladling.
Shane took a mouthful of the soup. “Mmm. Damn, that’s good.” The creaminess of the cold avocado and the salty hint of warm bacon was perfect.
Nodding, Shane had another spoonful. And another. As he ate, Rafa talked. Everyone thought of him as so quiet, but once he got going, he wasn’t so shy, and he had a lot of interesting things to say.
“And we’re talking about the actual King of England here. I seriously almost tripped him in the entrance hall. But he was just like, ‘Steady on, old chap. Pip, pip,’ or something ridiculously British. And this other time, you won’t believe what I saw in the Blue Room.”
Shane chuckled as Rafa continued. Rafa talked with his hands, his voice never getting very loud, but his eyes sparkling. His teeth were even and white, and gleamed as he smiled.
“Oh, I watched that movie—Endless Summer? You’re right, it was really cool even though it was old.”
“Glad to hear it. It’s dated, but it’s a classic.” Why should he care if Rafa liked the movie or not? It made no sense whatsoever, but Shane was pleased. “There was a sequel too. From the nineties, I think. Kelly Slater’s early era.”
Rafa’s face lit up. “Kelly Slater? He’s a legend. I still have a poster of him in my room.” He laughed nervously. “Wow. That sounds super lame. It’s from when we first moved in. I just haven’t bothered taking it down. I’m not…I don’t put up posters anymore.”
“It’s okay. My old room at my folks’ house was like a time machine.” As the words left his mouth, he tensed. He never talked about his parents, but with Rafa the words somehow just came out. Somehow it felt…safe. Shane kept his gaze on his shoes.
But Rafa didn’t push the subject, instead simply saying, “Thanks for understanding. Okay, that’s totally next on my list. Have you seen Riding Giants? Laird Hamilton was a beast. I wonder if he still surfs. He’s gotta be sixty-five by now.”
Shane breathed easily again. “Probably. He’ll still be out there when he needs a walker.”
“Hey, did you ever surf Rincon in Santa Barbara? I saw a thing on TV about the point break there. Looks so cool.”
“No, but I did the Trestles when I could catch a ride. About half an hour south of Laguna, and it was a trek to get to the beach. Some gnarly breaks, though. It was worth it.”
Rafa burst out laughing and raised his hand. “I’m sorry.”
Shane found himself smiling. “What’s so funny?”
“Hearing the word ‘gnarly’ come out of your mouth.”
“Fair enough,” Shane laughed. “But hodads don’t get to make fun.”
“Wait, what’s a hodad?” Rafa popped a piece of tomato in his mouth.
Shane watched as he swallowed. “Uh, it’s…a hodad is a non-surfer, but one who hangs at the beach. A poser.”
“Hey, I’m not a poser!” Rafa puffed up with mock anger. “Trust me, I’ll be surfing my ass off in the new year. I’ll be a, what do they call it? A grommet?”
“You’re a little old for a grommet, but just don’t be a kook.”
“What’s a kook? I definitely don’t want to be that.” Rafa was serious again, looking like he was ready to take mental notes.
“A newbie who causes trouble. Gets in the way and doesn’t follow the rules. Wherever you end up surfing, make sure you find out how the locals operate. Don’t get in anyone’s way.”
Rafa nodded. “I won’t.” He ate a bite of tomato and bread. “I think I prefer the goat cheese.”
“Me too. Boursin is nice, but I think the goat cheese was more… It didn’t compete with the basil.”
“More neutral, but in a good way.” Nodding, Rafa flipped open his notebook and jotted down a line. He toyed with his soup spoon, swirling it through his bowl. “Did you have a favorite spot at Laguna?”
The old ache was still there, but Shane smiled. “Brooks Street. Swells were usually just right. Not ankle busters, but not too big. Plus, Maddie’s is there. Not much more than a shack, but she’s got the best slushees. I’d have a watermelon-pistachio every day.” His smile faded. “Long time ago now.”
“It sounds awesome. So, you didn’t do the big waves? No riding giants for you?”
“Nah. I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t want to end up with a sand facial.” He grimaced. “I went over the falls once at the Trestles—wiped out over the front of my board as the wave broke. Got dragged along the bottom.”
“Ouch. Were you hurt?”
“A little. Got a cool scar I showed off to all my friends. It wasn’t so bad.” He remembered how Jimmy Newton had blown him afterward behind the Carl’s Jr. The day had ended pretty well, all things considered.
Rafa’s eyes lit up. “Can I see it?” His cheeks flushed. “Um, I mean if you can show me. Like, if it’s on your hand or something. Forget it. That was stupid to ask.”
“It’s okay.” Tugging at his tie, Shane undid the top button on his shirt and pulled down his collar to show the pale, jagged scar at the juncture of his neck and right shoulder. “Coral did a number on me.”
“Whoa.” Rafa stepped close, leaning in. The puff of his exhalation was warm on Shane’s skin. “That must have hurt.”
They were standing only a whisper apart, and Shane’s breath caught in his throat as Rafa traced the three-inch mark with his fingertip, running it up and then down. A shiver raced down Shane’s spine.
What the fuck am I doing?
Will Shane and Rafa’s secret attraction bloom into love? Find out September 9, 2015, in Valor on the Move!
He’d give his life to protect the president’s son. But he never expected to risk his heart.
Growing up gay in the White House hasn’t been easy for Rafael Castillo. Codenamed “Valor” by the Secret Service, Rafa feels anything but brave as he hides in the closet and tries to stay below the radar in his last year of college. His father’s presidency is almost over, and he just needs to stick to his carefully crafted plan. Once his family’s out of the spotlight, he can be honest with his conservative parents about his sexuality and his dream of being a chef. It’s definitely not part of Rafa’s plan to get a new Secret Service agent who’s a walking wet dream, but he’s made it this long keeping his desires to himself. Besides, it’s not like Shane Kendrick would even look at him twice if it wasn’t his job.
Shane’s worked his way up through the Secret Service ranks, and while protecting the president’s shy, boring son isn’t his dream White House assignment, it’s an easy enough task since no one pays Rafa much attention. He discovers there’s a vibrant young man beneath the timid public shell, and while he knows Rafa has a crush on him, he assures himself it’s harmless. Shane’s never had room for romance in his life, and he’d certainly never cross that line with a protectee. Keeping Rafa safe at any cost is Shane’s mission. But as Rafa gets under his skin, will they both put their hearts on the line?
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal, and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”
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Keira has brought an ARC copy of Valor on the Move to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Friday, August 21st at 11:59 pm EST.
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