Today I am so pleased to welcome Edmond Manning to Joyfully Jay. Edmond has share an exclusive excerpt from his new release, Come Back To Me. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Hello Joyfully Jay readers!
I’d like to share an exclusive excerpt today from the book I released this week, Come Back To Me. Although it’s the fifth book in my series, The Lost and Founds, it’s definitely new reader accessible. Without reading the previous books, you’ll miss out on the narrator’s history, and some plot details, but you don’t have to read anything else to enjoy this HEA romance.
What you need to know for this excerpt: narrator Vin Vanbly is on a weekend date with Mark Benson. Vin is thirty-eight, and Mark is twenty-four. The age difference bothers Vin a great deal. Mark has planned a Saturday afternoon surprise and refuses to tell Vin what it is…
We stop before Contelli’s, the bakery we passed this morning. The yellow-and-white awnings partially hide the block lettering painted in red on the giant glass front. Elegant wedding cakes and over-frosted birthday confections vie for attention on tiers in the showcase window, competing to win votes for categories like Best Dressed, Most Appealing Interior, and I Would Stick My Entire Face Into That.
“Go along with this.” Mark pulls the door open and says, “Hi.”
I hate surprises.
When I follow him inside, I discover the object of his “hi” to be a woman not much older than him, a thick braid down her back. She directs traffic, and after confirming we are together, gives me an odd look, smiles brightly, and allows us both to pass.
Mark knows where he’s going, bypassing the busy counter with its red-ticket numbers for service. We leave the front room, but not before I hear someone’s shrill voice rise above the murmuring din, “No, I’m thirty-four. I’ve got the number.” Popular place on a Saturday morning. Well, noonish. We follow a short hallway with a metal cart piled high with loaves of bread and other baked treats, second-string team, ready for easy restocking, I suppose. We emerge into a classroom of sorts, white-clothed tables arrayed around a teaching station, countertops, sinks, and high tech audiovisual equipment positioned over the preparation area. Obviously, they teach cooking classes here. I bet we’re here for a cooking glass. Okay, I can deal with that. I can deal.
Over his shoulder, Mark says, “When you told me you’d bought your plane ticket, the next day, I signed us up.”
Mark leads us to the instructor who suggests a table to adopt as our own. Is it my imagination, or did she throw me some shade, too? First, the front-room lady with the braid, and now her. Mark sits next to me, scoots his chair closer, and on top of the table, wraps my hand in his. “I’m having a good time today, Vin. Thank you.”
He’s having a good time? With me? I smile, still irritated and confused, but now the feelings are directed at me, not him. This thoughtful man planned a surprise as a thank-you, and instead of feeling gratitude, I can’t stop grousing to myself.
Relax and be a normal person, you idiot. Chill. Look around.
Everyone’s holding hands.
Young couples, mostly.
I know what kind of class this is.
Our instructor speaks. “A few folks are late, but we have to start on time, so, thank you for attending Contelli’s wedding cake taster. We found this class to be helpful for those of you considering different bakeries for your weddings, because you get to sample our best cakes. Of course, you’ll have to sit and do a full cake consultation if you choose Contelli’s, but this class really helps engaged couples discover our range. We will sign you up for private appointments after class. I’m Beatrice Duarte, and I’m one of Contelli’s senior associate bakers. I’ve personally been involved in creating every one of these cakes many times over, so I can address ingredients and presentation, everything. We’re on a tight schedule for six tastings, so rather than waste time previewing, I’ll just introduce each cake as we meet it, okay?”
She pauses to smile in such a controlled way, I bet her notes say Pause here to smile. I recognize fellow control freaks.
“Please hold off on questions until I have finished discussing each cake specifically. We will all taste all the cakes, and I have plenty of pictures from different angles, in three tiers, four tiers, whatever you like.”
I gaze around the room. They all think Mark and I are getting married.
“You should see your face right now, Vin.”
I glance over in time to see him snap a photo of me.
He puts his phone back into his jacket. “I’ll show you later. When you need a good laugh.”
“—but first, we always stand up and introduce ourselves. Tell us when your big day is.” Our instructor, Beatrice, pauses to smile. “Don’t add too much more because we have to stay on schedule.”
Each couple ignores these directions, regularly introducing details like, “We met in college,” or mentioning the church where the ceremony will take place. A few ramble longer, detailing their careers or saying what Contelli’s deli dish they love best, which prompts our Beatrice to smile and cross her arms, approaching them until they feel her presence and wrap up their introductions.
There’s another gay couple in the room, Joe and Craig. The one guy is kinda bearish. Both have beards. They follow her instructions, leaving out extraneous details, clearly not interested in making a flirty impression as previous couples have done. Good job, men. I appreciate their rule-following. Maybe Mark and I can get away with saying next to nothing.
She’s coming. I should stand.
Mark pops out of his chair and says, “Hi, I’m Mark Benson.”
“This is my fiancé, Vin Vanbly. It’s a funny name, isn’t it? Sounds made up.”
“Vin was my high school science teacher.”
Amidst a few audible gasps, I jump to my feet. “No, we never—I mean, we never—”
“Oh, god no,” Mark says, linking his arm through mine. “That would have been creepy. I just thought he was hot, and lusted after him from the back row. I got a C in his class. No, we met online a few years later on Daddyhunt. The website.”
I feel myself blush crimson red. “That’s not—I like all ages of guys, not just really young guys. I’ve been with men of different ages—a lot of men. Also, he’s kidding about meeting on Daddyhunt. I don’t even have a profile on that one.”
Joe and Craig dip their heads, ashamed we currently represent the gays. Did I just announce I’m a whore to this entire room? With men of any age? And by promising I don’t have a Daddyhunt subscription, didn’t I absolutely guarantee they all think I do? Disapproval hangs thick in the air, and Mark tugs me back down. Our introduction is over. We have killed the jubilant spirit among the soon-to-be-wed.
I feel sick.
Beatrice has been inching steadily closer, arms crossed, bearing the thin-lipped smile reserved for over-talkers. I know she senses the awkwardness we’ve created, and if she’s truly a control freak like me, she won’t allow discomfort to ruin this sales event. If I were her, I wouldn’t move on until I’d cleaned up this mess.
In a thick voice, she says, “When’s the big date?”
“Oh, it was April 1st. Next year.” Mark stands again. “But Vin cancelled it. We have to set a new date. He said he’s not ready for marriage.”
More gasps are heard.
Okay, now I’m irritated.
I hate surprises!
I stand up. “Look, I’m not—it’s nothing against Mark. He’s amazing.”
“I’ll bet,” mutters a nearby groom, who is immediately elbowed by his red-haired bride, her face never breaking the frozen smile facing in our direction.
“Mark is an amazing man,” I say stronger. “He’s smart and kind. Great with people. It’s not him. I’m not sure marriage is for me. I mean, I don’t think I’d be good at it. And the odds you don’t divorce in three years are almost, what, thirty-five percent these days? Even with both people believing in the sanctity of marriage, let alone someone like me—”
I survey the disbelief on the faces of my classmates.
I just spoke out against the sanctity of marriage at a wedding cake tasting. One of the Other Gays drops his head in his hands, his back facing me in silent judgment. And who humiliates their fiancé like I just did? Who does that with such disregard?
I am the worst person ever.
After years of lying, scheming, and dangerous manipulation, Vin Vanbly finally gets what’s coming to him: love.
How can he survive unstoppable, uncontrollable love when his very nature demands he control everything? Clues about his one true love—tantalizingly hinted at in each of the books in The Lost and Founds series—come together in four life-changing stories.
In No Kings, a sex hookup with a parking lot stranger reveals more about Vin’s life as a Lost King and his destiny than he could have dreamed. In King Fitch, Vin meets the last king in his long legacy, one final weekend before he withdraws from the world to an anonymous Latin American jungle. The Lost Ones recounts a terrifying kidnapping by street thugs from Vin’s past. In King Malcolm the Restorer, Vin’s mysterious relationship with his older brother—and the soul-crushing secret which drew them together—is finally revealed.
Through it all, Vin Vanbly struggles to survive. But what if he is destined for more than mere survival? Is he finally ready to embrace the truth and remember who he was always meant to be? Once there were a tribe where every man was the one true king and every woman the one true queen…
Amazon link: https://amzn.com/B01KCSKU9K