By the Rules (Evergreen Grove #3) by Elisabeth Staab
Release Date: 01/19/2016
Blurb: He thinks I want him because of the rumors around town. Because I think he's easy. I want AJ because he's AJ.
No liars. No suits. Absolutely no straight guys...
AJ Fabin's list of rules keeps him safe. Since getting kicked out of his parents' home and attacked by a former escorting client, his rules and his life in the tiny town of Evergreen Grove provide a quiet haven. He may be lonely, and he may stick out like a sore thumb, but the folks like him well enough. When he's not dodging his old pimp, things are peaceful.
Hayden Price is having a quarter-life crisis. Engaged to a woman he can't connect to and working a job he secretly hates, he comes to Evergreen Grove to help his mother through a health scare. Returning to his childhood home makes Hayden reevaluate a lot of things, including himself. When he meets AJ and finds he can't stand the mouthy jerk--almost as much as he can't stop thinking about him--he has a lot more to change than his career.
To be together, they'll both have to break all of their rules.
By the Rules is book 3 in the Evergreen Grove series, but reads as a standalone.
When I jogged past the window of Roy’s Gym this morning, I swore I was seeing things. I’ll admit to no one ever that I doubled back and went down Main Street a second time before stopping to stretch my quads. I needed to see this new version of AJ that ran so counter to my previous information about him.
What I knew so far was this snarky, colorful asshole of a kid. This punk with a young face and old eyes who I disliked on principle. Every time I’ve tried to get along, it’s gone sideways. Now I’ve got new information and, as if he’s a guy across from me at the closing table, I’m curious about what’s underneath the rainbow sweatshirt and skinny jeans.
A boxer? A boxer with a chest full of ink. No telling yet if this new information about him is useful, but it’s damn interesting.
I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t a lean chest covered in tribal tattoos and a pair of carved arms. As his friend or coach or whatever walks me into the gym, I can’t stop myself from visually tracing the dark waves and swirls that run over his pecs and down his sternum. This new visual of him knocks the breath out of me like that morning we crashed into each other outside the coffee shop.
When I get close, I can see that the thick ink is uneven in spots. Like someone painted lines over a bumpy road. On his stomach, jagged pink scars snake out from under the blackness, fanning like flames over the ridges of his abs, and disappearing into the waistband on his workout shorts.
I suck in a breath. Something happened to hurt him. That’s the most powerful observation of the obvious I’ve ever managed. But what? Those don’t look accidental. They look like—
“Take a picture, asshole. It’ll last longer.” AJ’s glare actually gives me the shivers. His gloved fists press against one another hard enough to make those lean biceps pop.
I bet I know who he’d rather be aiming those fists at, and it’s not the big guy who welcomed me in the door. “Just surprised to see you without all the bling.”
“And I’m shocked as hell to see you without a ridiculous power tie, but maybe we can all manage to soldier on.” The corner of his mouth lifts into something that’s either a smile or a sneer. He’s actually got a genuinely friendly smile—I saw him use it with my mom—but getting him to pull it out when nobody’s sick must be a rare feat. “So you know how to box or what?”
“I can hold my own.” I grin my ass off in the face of AJ’s responding scowl. Part of me is dying to say more. Negotiating a deal means being able to talk sports. Sometimes it means getting out on the golf course, or the tennis courts, or even being able to go a few rounds in the ring with someone who considers himself a badass.
Never got into golf. Boxing? I can definitely box.
Elisabeth Staab started hunting mutant hedgehogs back in 1842… Oops, wrong bio… Elisabeth Staab digs coffee, saucy stories, and sexy things that go bump in the night. Once, she ate dinner in a jail and liked it. She lives in the Washington DC area with her incredible family and does her best to juggle life while ignoring the laundry.
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