Brooks Johnson’s Words To Live By: When returning to Licking Thicket, TN, for the first time in ten years to reunite with your nosy neighbors, heart-broken ex-girlfriend, and matchmaking mama who never quite believed you were gay, it’s best to bring a fake boyfriend as backup... Just don’t be surprised when your ex-girlfriend does the same. And when her incredibly hot fake boyfriend becomes the one island of calm in a sea of bovine-based insanity, it’s best to exercise caution… especially when he pushes you up against the rough barn wall to check you very thoroughly for splinters... Just don’t be surprised if you fall head-over-hooves in love with him.
Cover Designer: Cate Ashwood
I slunk down the hall like I was a kid again, afraid of being caught, and I snuck glances at the backyard out the window to make sure my mother and Ava weren’t coming… which was how I nearly ran into a person standing in the hall by the kitchen.
“Oh my God!” I said, grabbing the person—a man, definitely a man, though much less bulky than me—by the shoulders. “I’m so sorry. I was, ah… distracted.”
And if I hadn’t been before, I certainly was once I got a look at him. Holy shit.
“No, sorry, my bad,” the guy said. He straightened his black T-shirt and brushed an unruly mop of wavy, brown-gold hair away from his magnetic blue eyes. “I was distracted too.”
He motioned toward the pictures on the hallway wall—a collection of bovine-inspired artwork my mother had begun before I was born—and shook his head wordlessly. I felt my face heat.
“Ah. Yeah, it’s quite a theme, isn’t it?” I said. “Cows in flower crowns?”
“I can’t tell if it’s horrible, or wonderful, or both.”
“Both,” I decided. “Most things are.”
He turned to give me a quick, startled smile, and I realized belatedly that while he’d been staring at the wall, I’d been staring at him.
Honestly, there was a lot to look at. Besides the sexy, untamed hair, the man had sharp, intelligent eyes that looked like they missed nothing, high, rounded cheekbones, a scruffy jaw, and plush, pink lips, like a master sculptor had perfectly softened all his other features to balance the intensity of his eyes. His body was lithe, leanly muscled, and delightfully warm. He had a little silver hoop in his left ear, a freckle in the hollow of his throat, and a stack of bracelets up one wrist. He could’ve been anywhere from fifteen to thirty years old. I felt a pulse of awareness in my gut.
Please don’t be fifteen, please don’t be fifteen.
“Are you okay?” he asked, frowning at me in concern.
Damn it all, I was still staring.
“Yeah, no, totally. Just, um.” I cleared my throat. My mother’s art display was the last place on earth I’d expected to meet someone as striking as this. Why did this have to happen while I was a giant, sweaty mess? “Making sure you are.”
“Oh.” His expression cleared, and his lips twitched. Apparently, I was still staring at his lips. “I’m fine. Except that I stepped out of the bathroom down here and this cow started staring into my soul.”
I had to force myself to look away from him and focus on the cow painting, but when I did…
I laughed out loud. “It really is. That cow knows exactly what you’re thinking right now.”
The man gasped, and the sound went straight to my balls. “You think? In that case, that cow needs to mind her fucking business before she gets corrupted.” He looked me up and down, from my messy, sweaty hair to my sneakers, and I’d swear the smile he gave me was pure flirtation.
The smile I gave him in return sure as hell was.
This kind of thing never happened to me. Ever.
“Have you ever seen a real cow?” I asked, because I was the fucking king of suave conversation.
Jesus Christ, how had I ever managed to have sex with anyone?
“A real cow? Obviously,” the guy said, folding his arms over his chest. I couldn’t help but notice the defined muscles in his chest and arms. He was shorter than I was but definitely not scrawny. Fuck he was sexy. He smirked. “Don’t I look like a country boy?”
I laughed, feeling all the stress from the day start to fall away.
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After enjoying creative writing as a child, Lucy didn’t write her first novel until she was over 40 years old. Her debut novel, Borrowing Blue, was published in the autumn of 2016. Lucy has an English Literature degree from Vanderbilt University, but that doesn’t hold a candle to the years and years of staying up all night reading tantalizing novels on her own. She has three children, plays tennis, and hates folding laundry. While her husband is no shmoopy romance hero, he is very good at math, cooks a mean lasagne, has gorgeous eyes, looks hot in his business clothes, and makes her laugh every single day.
Lucy hopes you enjoy sexy heroes as much as she does. Happy reading!
May is an M/M author who lives in Boston. She spends her days raising three incredibly sarcastic children, finding inventive ways to drive her husband crazy, planning beach vacations, avoiding the gym, reading M/M romance, and occasionally writing it. She also writes MF romance as Maisy Archer.