Building Forever by Kelly Jensen
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date (Print & Ebook): October 15th, 2018
Subgenre: Contemporary Romance
Riptide Publishing: https://riptidepublishing.com/collections/series-this-time-forever/products/building-forever-1
A new town, a new neighbor, and a new chance to build a forever.
Charlie King is doing fine. Sure, he’s a widower raising a teenage daughter who just got her first boyfriend, his book series isn’t writing itself, and he has a crush on his new neighbor — the guy next door. But everything’s just fine.
Simon Lynley is doing better. He moved to Bethlehem to fall out of love and rebuild his career. An affair with his neighbor isn’t part of the plan, but the attraction between them is too hard to ignore.
But when Simon’s ex follows him to Pennsylvania seeking reconciliation, and Charlie’s life starts to feel like a video on repeat, everything comes apart. Charlie worries that he’s failing as a father, and Simon is a distraction he can’t afford. Meanwhile Simon doesn’t know if he could survive being left again, and he hasn’t come all this way to make the same mistakes. But despite their fears, it’s only together that they’ll find the strength to slay old foes and build the forever they’ve been waiting for.
Teaser Excerpt 1:
Charlie needed to think his idea through, and that meant putting on his running shoes. His calves complained as he stretched, and his lower back tried to convince him that couch surfing was a better form of exercise. Never mind the fact that Sunday’s post-pancake nap-a-thon was probably responsible for every twinge back there.
By the time he got to the corner, he felt less like a jar of marbles being shaken too hard. When he got to the end of Bierys Bridge Road, his stride had lengthened and his breath had fallen into a regular rhythm. A sort-of path alongside Monocacy Creek meandered all the way into Bethlehem. He didn’t usually run that far, but with as much thinking as he had to do, he needed to put a few miles beneath his shoe soles.
The dense canopy blocked most of the sun, and cool mist rose from the water. Charlie dropped into that space where his legs did one thing, his mind another. He breathed and ran and drifted. The outline of book six floated through his head, a tangled mess. He picked at the snags, one by one, until a couple pulled free. Then his thoughts turned to Olivia and The Boy. Justin. He’d gotten a name on Sunday, but neither a description nor address.
Over the past four days, his imagination had crossed Charles Manson with Donald Trump. Justin probably wasn’t a serial killer or the face of American lunacy, but any man left alone with his thoughts for too long got dangerous and maudlin. He dismissed Manson Trump, and tried to imagine a younger face. An innocent face.
And pictured Simon from next door. Damn, if Justin looked like that, he and his daughter were both in trouble.
Pausing, he leaned against a tree to stretch out his calves and hamstrings again. Bent each leg behind him to loosen his thighs a little. His breathing was good. Not shallow, not ragged. Sweat clung to the back of his neck.
Every time he blinked, he saw Simon’s face.
Then it clicked. Simon loosely resembled Jory Ondel—or close to how Charlie had imagined him, anyway. Jory was the hookup from book three. Charlie remembered the twist in his stomach when he’d submitted the pages to Shelly. He’d fully expected her to veto the idea, but she hadn’t. She’d loved Jory. His subplot had been great.
The idea of bringing Jory back, of expanding his story, was curiously exciting. What Charlie couldn’t decide was whether he liked it because of his own curiosity about Simon, or if Jory represented something deeper. Something he’d put aside nearly eighteen years ago upon hearing the words: I’m pregnant.
A breeze tickled the sweat at his nape. Charlie pushed off the tree and started running back the way he’d come. By the time he got home, he had a new plan for book six. A plan that rekindled his enthusiasm for Kaze and his retirement.
If only life was as easy to plot.
Teaser Excerpt #2:
“How’s your hand?”
Charlie lifted his bandaged palm and peered at it. “Okay. Hurts.” He flexed the hand. “I can still move it.” He scooted forward, dropping his feet to the ground, and stood. “I’m going to head back next door. Thanks for . . .” He wound his injured hand through the air once, wincing as he did so.
He hadn’t touched the coffee Simon had made for him.
Pressing his lips together, Simon stood next to him and nodded. “Sure. Anytime you want to poke a hole in your hand, I’m here.”
A half smile plucked at Charlie’s mouth. He snorted. “Right.” He glanced at the coffee and picked the cup up. Took a careful sip. His eyebrows rose. “This is good.”
“You can take it with you if you want.”
A slightly wider smile. “Nothing says welcome to the neighborhood like a mad man digging up your bushes. And now my blood is in your sink and your coffee mug is going to be forever lost somewhere in my kitchen.”
Simon’s return smile felt disproportionately wide. It wasn’t because of the bandaging and coffee, it was Charlie trusting him with something so personal and precious. Simon hadn’t even been able to offer any advice, but Charlie already seemed lighter. And, Lord, it had felt good to listen to someone else’s troubles for a change. Made his own seem less.
“Should I take a cup in return, like a hostage?” he asked.
Charlie smiled. “It always starts small. Just a coffee cup at first. Then it’s a ladder and power tools. Eventually, we won’t know whose stuff is whose.”
Why did that sound so nice?
“Thanks again.” Charlie clapped his undamaged hand to Simon’s upper arm. Twice, his hand staying put the second time.
An awkward moment swelled between them, where nothing was said, but thoughts clamored and the air crystalized, ringing with intent.
Would they step in and hug?
Step away and nod?
Move together and . . .
Simon glanced up from staring at Charlie’s mouth. Shit. His chest tightened, locking all of his breath inside his lungs. Charlie’s forehead wrinkled briefly. His fingers tightened on Simon’s arm.
Then Charlie let go and stepped back. Producing a wavering half smile, he raised the coffee cup in salute, and left.
Teaser Excerpt #3:
“I wanted to thank you for the flower. I’m, ah, assuming it was you.”
Charlie’s smile widened a fraction. “You need some color in your house. And something bent.” His eyes widened briefly. “Curved, or not straight. Crap. This is why I shouldn’t talk. I’m really bad at this talking thing.”
One corner of Simon’s mouth curled upward. “Are you trying to tell me I’m not gay enough?”
Charlie moved to cover his face with his hands, nearly braining himself with the hammer. Bracing his forearm across his forehead instead, he breathed into a pause, quietly, steadily. Then he dropped his arm, and leveled a direct look at Simon. “I’m sorry I barged into your space, and messed it up with my clumsy come-on. I didn’t stop to ask if you were into guys, or take into account the fact you might have lost someone. Or might not even, you know, want to . . . whatever with me. I just got it into my head that I needed to know what it would be like to kiss you, to kiss any guy—not that you were the most handy one. It’s your eyes. They’re so damn blue, and I haven’t thought about anyone on a daily basis in so long, and I had to know.”
His face was red, and the quiet breathing had accelerated into a soft gasping, as though Charlie had just finished a run. Simon stepped in, closing the distance between them, and paused for long enough for Charlie to step back, dodge aside, or simply raise a hand. Say no. He stiffened a little, eyes widening, but otherwise remained still.
“Any guy?” Simon arched an eyebrow.
“You in particular.”
“Why the ice cream?”
Charlie’s eyelids fluttered, briefly. “Because there’s no way anyone can eat ice cream and feel sad.”
Oh God. Simon’s next breath shook slightly. “The puzzle?”
“Because you needed time to think, and something to do with your hands.”
“What are you trying to tell me?”
They were standing so close together that the straightening of Charlie’s shoulders was a twitch at the periphery of Simon’s vision. The thunk at their feet would be the hammer. Then Charlie was leaning in, a hand rising to curl behind Simon’s neck. He paused there, for the space of a single breath, before pressing his lips to Simon’s in a gentle kiss.
A whisper passed between them, a susurrus of words. Simon didn’t bother figuring them out; he tucked his free hand behind Charlie’s shoulder and pulled him closer, angled his head slightly, and deepened the sweet, tentative kiss.
Charlie’s lips were the sort a man might dream about. Full and plump and utterly distracting. Simon kissed both before tending the top and bottom in turn, exploring the mouth he’d fantasized about. The tip of Charlie’s tongue sent a tingling burn across his skin. He shivered. Goose bumps prickled his nape, his shoulders, his arms. The kiss deepened again, becoming less tentative, less question, more statement.
Simon stroked his hand down Charlie’s arm. The sharp, clean scent of Charlie’s sweat filled his senses. The taste of Charlie thrilled his tongue. Prickling skin gave way to keen-edged arousal. A southward rush of blood.
Head light, thoughts swimming, Simon pulled away. Just his lips. Charlie chased him, caught him in another kiss, and Simon got lost somewhere on the way to reason, answering the surer flick of Charlie’s tongue, the sweetly satisfied exhalation of breath.
Charlie bumped into him, nudging him backward. Simon broke out of the kiss again, stepping away to lessen the chance of losing himself a second time. Third time. The sun could have set and the stars come out. A year might have passed by. As he stood there, panting, gaze locked with one of deep and velvety brown, only the weight of the small pot in one hand served as a reminder of why he’d come next door.
Surely it hadn’t been for a kiss.
He’d have traveled much farther for this kiss.
Quotes about the book:
“Jensen’s talent for world-building and memorable, unique secondary characters are on full display here in this fabulous series starter. Deeply felt emotions and a lovely romance have me eager for more in this world!”
Annabeth Albert, author of Out of Uniform series
“Moving and well written, Building Forever will leave you with a mansion-sized smile.”
Sarina Bowen, USA Today bestselling author of Goodbye Paradise.
About the Author:
If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.
Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, co-written with Jenn Burke. Some of what she writes is speculative in nature, but mostly it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.
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