Today I am so pleased to welcome Layla Reyne to Joyfully Jay. Layla has come to talk to us about her latest release, Cask Strength, the second book in the Agents Irish and Whiskey series (which I reviewed here and loved). She has also brought along an exclusive excerpt and a great giveaway. Please join me in giving Layla a big welcome!
From the dedication at the beginning of Cask Strength to its final chapter, this second installment in the Agents Irish and Whiskey series is about finding home. And by “home” I don’t necessarily mean a house, a place, or one’s hometown. But rather, as I came to realize writing this book, and as our heroes come to realize living it, home is where and who your heart belongs to.
Aidan really struggles with the notion of home in Cask. At the end of Single Malt, he laid down the keep-things-casual rule with Jamie. In the early chapters of Cask, he retreats more, shoring up his defenses against the tidal wave of love that is Jamie. And of course it doesn’t work. He’s falling HARD for his new partner, but after the loss of the first love of his life, he’s not ready or willing to risk losing another. After another close call, Jamie’s casual mention of “home” in the excerpted scene, and Aidan’s instant reaction to it, sends Aidan into a tailspin, leading him to make some heartbreaking decisions about their increasingly not-casual personal relationship.
And then, BAM, Aidan and Jamie are confronted with “home” in their professional relationship as well. Working undercover on an identity theft case, they return to Jamie’s home, or rather, the home he left behind when he quit the NBA, joined the FBI, and moved to California. Back in North Carolina, they’re staying in Jamie’s house, Jamie is undercover as his “Whiskey Walker” baller persona, and he’s confronted with his ex-lover, who still carries a torch for him. All the trappings of home are right there for the taking, but it doesn’t feel like home to Jamie anymore and that confuses the hell out of him. Aidan is also a wreck, fearing he’ll lose Jamie to his old life and love and that what they’d started to build together, professionally and personally, before he let fear drive him away, will be over for good. In the end, Irish and Whiskey come to their senses and realize home isn’t so much about Jamie’s house in Charlotte, their jobs, or Aidan’s place in the Bay Area, but, for them, home is each other. The question remains, though… Is the foundation of their newly built home strong enough to withstand a major structural defect—the secret Jamie’s been keeping about Aidan’s late husband? Stay tuned!
The door swung closed behind him and Aidan rounded on Walker. “That wasn’t smart. He—”
The rest of his words were silenced by a searing openmouthed kiss that was anything but smart and everything Aidan needed after the day they’d had.
After another close call.
Walker moved between his legs, the hand at his neck drawing him up while the one on his ass lifted him against his strong, hard body. Powerless to resist, Aidan curled his legs around the backs of Walker’s thighs and, despite the pain in his back, curled his arms over Walker’s shoulders, locking him in a tight embrace. Fingers tunneling through silky brown locks, Aidan scraped his nails over Walker’s scalp, eliciting a growl of a different sort. He licked into Walker’s mouth, tongues tangling, tasting and savoring, swept under by the force of everything in his partner’s kiss.
Relief, life, need, love.
Wrenching their mouths apart, Aidan gasped for breath and rested his forehead against Walker’s.
“You okay to leave?” Walker asked.
Aidan nodded, bringing their lips in brushing distance again. “All clear.”
“Good. Let’s go home.”
Aidan’s panic ballooned, making him lightheaded.
His mind instantly went to the three-story Edwardian in Bernal Heights. Walker’s house, not his. Aidan knew the place as well as his own. Just like his intimate knowledge of Walker’s body. How fingers trailed over his scalp guaranteed a moan. How he liked fingers and teeth sinking into the tattoo on his chest. How he preferred to be taken hard and rough. Walker had the same knowledge of his wants and desires. How he liked to be kissed hungrily, blanketed by a big body, and touched possessively.
Home, body, life, love.
All of it could have been torn away today.
As the chief rightly stated, people had a nasty habit of dying around him.
Nelson and Rollins weren’t the only targets. He had the mottled bruise on his back to prove it.
Three attempts on his life. Two that could have also claimed Walker’s and the tattered remains of Aidan’s heart. He couldn’t go there again.
Time to throw up blockades.
Professionally, the FBI team of Aidan “Irish” Talley and Jameson “Whiskey” Walker is as good as it gets, closing cases faster than any team at the Bureau. Personally, it’s a different story. Aidan’s feelings for Jamie scare the hell out of him: he won’t risk losing another love no matter how heart-tripping the intimacy between them. And loss is a grim reality with the terrorist Renaud still on their trail, leaving a pile of bodies in his wake.
Going undercover on a new case gets them out of town and off the killer’s radar. They’re assigned to investigate an identity theft ring involving a college basketball team in Jamie’s home state, where Jamie’s past makes him perfect for the role of coach. But returning to the court brings more than old memories.
As secrets and shocking betrayals abound, none may be more dangerous than the one Jamie’s been keeping: a secret about the death of Aidan’s husband that could blow his partner’s world apart and destroy forever the fragile bonds of trust and love building between them.
2016 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist, Layla Reyne, was raised in North Carolina and now calls San Francisco home. She enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart pounding romance. She is the author of the <em>Agents Irish and Whiskey</em> romantic suspense series from Carina Press and a forthcoming sports romance duology with Riptide Publishing. When she’s not writing stories to excite her readers, she downloads too many books, watches too much television, and cooks too much food with her scientist husband, much to the delight of their smushed-face, leftover-loving dogs.
Layla has brought two copies of Single Malt (book 1 in the Agents Irish and Whiskey series) to give away to two lucky readers. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Saturday, May 6th at 11:59 pm EST.
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