Today I am so pleased to welcome Garrett Leigh to Joyfully Jay. Garrett has come to share an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, Strays. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving Garrett a big welcome!
“Nero . . . Nero. Wake up? Please?”
Nero woke with a jump, heart racing, his throbbing hand curled into a fist so tight his knuckles screamed with a new pain. But then gentle fingers touched him, prying his hand open to lay a warm palm in his, a palm that carried a current strong enough to clear his blurred vision and reveal Lenny sitting on his bed. His seraphic face was full of apprehensive concern, and set off by a glittering nose stud that had definitely not been there the day before. Unless, of course, Nero was still dreaming and Lenny was about to evaporate into a puff of smoke, leaving in his place the grim, set features that were carved into the darkest part of Nero’s soul.
Nero wrenched his hand from Lenny’s and laid it over his stampeding heart. “What are you doing in here?”
“For jumping you last night. Don’t know what got into me.”
Lenny groaned softly. “Aw, don’t make me say it again. I’m embarrassed enough.”
He’s embarrassed? Nero searched his jumbled mind for any reason that emotion didn’t belong to him alone, but found none. “Don’t apologise. It was my fault.”
Lenny pursed his lips, marring their beautiful shape. Nero’s hand reached out, unbidden, and cupped his chin, his thumb swiping across Lenny’s mouth. “Don’t do that.”
“Let my shit get to you. I ain’t worth it.”
“Thanks for the warning, but I haven’t got many choices left, so I’m going to hold on to that one if it’s all the same to you.” Lenny’s gaze remained serious for a long moment, then the mischievous gleam returned to his eyes and he poked his tongue out, pushing Nero’s thumb away.
The childish gesture broke through the heavy air. Nero reclaimed his hand and scrubbed his face, wondering if he’d woken to a different world, even with the disquiet of some seriously disturbed sleep lingering in his chest. “What time is it?”
“Early. It’s still dark.”
“Yeah? Why are you up, then?”
“Couldn’t sleep.” Lenny bounced on the edge of the bed. “Too much sugar.”
Nero knew a white lie when he heard one, but let it slide. Lenny’s demons were his own. “What are you doing today?”
“No chance.” Nero picked up his phone. “You’re banned from the kitchen for twenty-four hours.”
“But I want to work.”
“I know, but I can’t let you. It’s not safe, especially if you’ve been up all night.” Nero’s phone lit up with a reminder that he was due in Vauxhall that morning, and his heart sank. Really? Today? “I’m not working downstairs either. I’ve got shit to do south of the river. You could come with me, if you want?”
Stupid question. Nero didn’t want to leave Lenny, but Lenny’s expression told him there was zero chance of him leaving the perceived safety of Pippa’s. “Will you be okay by yourself?”
Lenny yawned. “Haven’t got much choice if you won’t let me go downstairs.”
“I’m not saying you can’t go downstairs. You can go anywhere you want.”
“But not to work?”
“Not in the kitchen, no.”
“No point me going downstairs, then, is there?”
Nero sighed. He couldn’t think of a sensible reason for Lenny to hang around Pippa’s kitchen, but the thought of him pacing the flat all day, climbing the walls while his mind got the better of him . . . nah, that wasn’t right either. “How about you do something for me?”
“For you?” Lenny’s glum expression brightened. “What do you need?”
“Well, it’s not me really, it’s the business. Tom asked me if you might be interested in helping them design the Vauxhall project.”
“And the restaurant. He wants it kinda urban, like Misfits?”
Lenny nodded sagely, like people spouted that crap at him all the time. “They won’t want it totally like Misfits, though, will they? You guys never open the same restaurant twice. How about a cross between the hipster-concept thing and a proper old-school pizzeria?”
“Er . . . yeah?”
Lenny laughed just as the first strains of sunlight filtered through the curtains. “What does Tom want me to do?”
“No idea. He did mention that mural you sprayed all over Misfits, though.”
“Oh.” Lenny winced. “Was he hacked off?”
“Not that I could tell.” Nero looked around the room for the jeans he’d discarded the night before. “I’m going down Vauxhall this morning. I can take some photos?”
Lenny hummed thoughtfully. “Yeah, that would be good. Even if I sketch something that Tom hates, it’ll give me something to do.”
“Don’t bank on Tom hating stuff. Me and Cass got arseholed once and decided we wanted a falafel cart. I spent all that summer frying chickpeas outside Fabric in Shoreditch.”
“Yup. Made a fucking fortune too.”
“I’ll bet. I used to get pumpkin shawarmas from a cart at Euston Square. Couldn’t beat it after a night on the lash.”
“Anyway . . .” Nero clutched the duvet to himself and swung his legs out of bed.
Lenny blinked. “What?”
Nero shrugged awkwardly. “If I’m going anywhere, you’re gonna have to fuck off a minute, ’cause I’m kinda nekkid under here.”
Work, sleep, work, repeat. Nero’s lonely life suits him just fine until his best friend, Cass, asks him to take on a new apprentice—a beautiful young man who’s never set foot in a professional kitchen. Despite his irritation and his lifelong ability to shut the world out, Nero is mesmerised by the vibrant stray, especially when he learns what drove him to seek sanctuary on Nero’s battered old couch.
Lenny Mitchell is living under a cloud of fear. Pursued by a stalker, he has nowhere left to run until Nero offers him a port in a storm—a job at the hottest restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush. Kitchen life proves heady and addictive, and it’s not long before he finds himself falling hard and fast for the man who has taken him in.
Fast-forward a month and neither man can imagine life without the other, but one thing stands in their way: a lifetime of horrors Nero can’t bring himself to share with Lenny. Or can he? For the first time ever, happiness is there for the taking, and Nero must learn to embrace it before fate steps in and rips it away.
Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.
Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.
When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.
Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.
- Website: http://garrettleigh.com
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Garrett_Leigh
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/garrettleighbooks
- Cover art enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
To celebrate the release of Strays, one lucky winner will receive $25 in Riptide Publishing credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on April 1, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
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