My friend Noah Steele has a new mm romance out: Racing Into Love.
Aiden Reed is stuck in a major boy rut.
Every date ends in something worse than disaster—boredom.
That is, until star racer Derrek Luna crashes the end of a terrible date at Aiden’s cozy bookstore. Derrek’s confident charm and killer good looks throw Aiden’s quiet, cautious world into chaos when he says he wants a shot at Aiden’s heart.
Derrek is sure Aiden is different. He’s sure Aiden won’t just vanish without a word. Not like the others did. But the closer Derrek gets to the man who charmed him without a word from across a crowded room, the more his life on the track threatens to keep them apart.
Aiden is ready to take the risk—he thinks.
What if Aiden’s panic attacks scare Derrek away?
What if Derrek’s ghosts come back to haunt him?
…what if it doesn’t matter because they’re already in love?
Racing into Love is an instalove romantic drama ready and waiting to take you from zero to sixty with every turn of the page.
It was incredible how slow a day could feel while expecting something unexpected. Work dragged on as I ducked out of sight to check my phone whenever I could. At first it was only during lulls between customers, but as the store got busier I found myself looking down at my phone behind the register between every customer.
When an older woman in a hurry berated me for running the store so slowly, I put an employee behind the register and tried to clear my mind shelving new books. I was leaving the store in capable hands for the weekend, but I didn’t want my staff to be there for hours setting up shelves and table displays with customers floating around.
My stomach twisted itself into angry knots when I thought about having to keep my mind off Derrek’s lack of reply without work to keep me occupied. Falling asleep last night was harder than I wanted to admit. It had been a while since thinking about a boy kept me awake. If only he hadn’t sent that first reply right away only to ignore me ten minutes later. If he wasn’t interested, why reply at all? Isn’t that what guys did if they just didn’t want to see you? I didn’t even think Iwas completely interested.
After all, I only sent that first message to prove to myself I could.
But then I took all those selfies…for him. My only real life interaction with Derrek left me undoubtedly red-faced and far more embarrassed than having my date walk out on me.
He was cocky. He was rude.
He was interesting.
I huffed as I carried a small box of books to a display in one of the front windows, pulling old books off the promotional racks to showcase a selection of new ones. The store’s theme for the month was “Hot for the Holidays,” perfect for readers looking for something different in time for December. When I felt the gentle buzz of my phone in my pocket, my breathing quickened. Finally, I thought.
Olly:Finishing some edits. Late lunch at Elevensies in 10min?
I shoved my phone out of sight again and abandoned the display, rushing into the back for my jacket. Elevensies was a great restaurant three short blocks from Bay Window Books. They had the bestburgers, and I was definitely in the mood for great food and great company. Oliver wasn’t at the restaurant when I arrived, so I went ahead to my usual booth and pulled out my phone while I waited.
He must have been running late, so I didn’t look up when someone stopped beside my booth without sitting down. I paled when I recognized the man’s jacket.
“Are you always staring at that thing?” Derrek said as he slid into the booth across the table. He put down a take-out container and picked up my glass of water, taking a sip. Stone-faced, I put down my phone and crossed my arms.
“Only when I’m waiting for someone to confirm dinner plans.”
Derrek’s smug expression softened as he leaned back into the cushiony seat and knit his brows together, as if confused, before clapping a hand over his mouth.
“Wait, it didn’t send? Let me see,” he said, holding out his other hand to take my phone. I pushed it across the table toward him at the same time he turned his hand around to pick it up.
I could feel the hair on my arms stand up as his fingers brushed against the back of my hand. He lingered there for a few extra seconds, his face quiet and unreadable as he ran his thumb back and forth along the backs of my fingers, his rough, tan skin contrasting mine, soft and pale. A low breath escaped my lips as his hand broke away from mine and his eyes focused on the screen now in front of him. I was suddenly really glad that Oliver was running late.
“Shit,” he said, having opened Knight to view our message thread. “Aiden, I’m sorry. I really thought it sent.” His voice was different than it was on the night we met at the bookstore. It was different even from just moments ago when he came to sit at my booth. Lower. Softer. I leaned forward over the table and propped my chin up with one arm, hiding the other as I clenched a tight fist out of sight under the table.
It was time to take a chance.
“So if your message hadsent,” I started, “what would it have said?” My mouth split into a coy smile as I watched the tension on Derrek’s face. His expression soon mirrored mine, and I tried to keep my body still. Before I could react, Derrek sprung from his seat, swiped his take-out from the table and held out an arm, palm open.
“Forget about Friday night,” he said. “We’re leaving together. Now. Come on.”
“I—what? Hey!” I shouted as Derrek pulled me to my feet and took a step forward, coming so close to my face that our noses were practically touching. His smooth, dark brown eyes sent another shiver through my bones.
With a playful wink, he tightened his grip on my hand and took off toward the door, leaving me to flail behind him as I tried to stop from tumbling into his backside, taking us both to the ground.
Derrek didn’t let his pace drop for a second as we barreled through the front doors to Elevensies and continued on down the block, stomping on crunchy leaves and weaving through pedestrians as he led me through a tangle of city streets. I took in cold, painful mouthfuls of air when we finally stopped our mad dash at the back door to a tall tower of condominiums.
“Wha—hey, I’m not coming home with you. This is our first date.”
“Well it’s a good thing our first date is gonna be a rooftop picnic then,” he replied.
Derrek pulled open the door and gestured for me to walk in first, then led me through a posh elevator lobby, where we immediately caught an elevator going up. He mashed the button for the topmost penthouse floor excitedly as I leaned against the mirror along the back wall.
I wondered how much money he made to be living somewhere so obviously expensive. It wasn’t far from Bay Window Books, which meant it was just under an hour on foot from my place, but the difference between his building and the one I lived in was almost staggering.
The roof was covered in a spattering of small puddles and collections of still-wet leaves from the recent rain. I followed Derrek along a short path that led to a small, covered patio, where he tapped the fob on his keyring to open the door and switch on the heat. Before following him into the patio, I thumbed a quick text to Oliver. I felt bad for getting swept away from our lunch plans so suddenly.
Aiden:Got pulled away at the last minute! I’M SORRY! Dinner’s on me later.
“I love this place,” Derrek said as I walked in, slumping backwards into a black cushioned seat. “I think I spend more time up here than I do in my apartment.”
I walked over to sit across from him, pulling my coat up over my mouth. Until the heat kicked in, it was still a picnic in late fall. I tapped my foot nervously while he worked to set the table from his take-out bag.
A burger and fries.
“Awesome,” I said, leaning forward to start on some fries. “This is the best thing on their menu. Tomato, lettuce, bacon, cheddar—”
“And a ton of extra mushrooms,” he finished. I laughed.
“Yeah, for me,” I said, swiping Derrek’s plastic fork from the now-empty bag to spear a stray mushroom from the container and pop it into my mouth.
Derrek snatched the fork from my hand, using it along with a flimsy plastic knife to split the burger messily in two. When he was finished, he scooped up his half and sat next to me as I snatched a few more fries from the container.
We sat together in silence for a few minutes while we chewed. More than once, we both began speaking at the same time, stopping again to avoid talking over each other. The heat had finally kicked in strong enough for us to take off our jackets. As he pulled his off, Derrek spoke.
“So, a bookstore, huh?”
I pulled off my coat and curled it over my arms into my lap.
“Yeah,” I said, exhaling slowly. “It’s not bad.”
“Doesn’t sound like it’s good, either,” Derrek said, crossing his arms over his chest. I chewed on my bottom lip for a moment before meeting his eyes.
“It’s more out of obligation? I got comfortable there and just…kept going. I sort of inherited it from the last owner when she died. I was close with her and her grandson. He didn’t want it, but he didn’t want it in a stranger’s hands, either. Oliver convinced me to keep it open. Said I should put my publishing degree to use instead of interning all over the place for shit money.”
“Oliver sounds like a smart guy. He’s the guy who talked to you after your date last week?”
I frowned at him as I leaned forward to pick up my half of the burger before it got cold.
“Yes. You don’t have to keep probing, Derrek. I already told you he’s just a friend.” At that, I thought I saw a hint of red on Derrek’s tanned cheeks. He wasn’t invincible. I could make him just as nervous as he made me.
Before I could lift the burger to take a bite, Derrek reached out an arm to stop my own and sprang forward next to me, his lips meeting mine in a rough kiss. My eyes grew wide before I closed them and leaned into the kiss, the burger slipping from my suddenly loose grip to splat back into the container on the table. His body moved to climb over mine as I pushed my jacket from my lap.
“Derrek,” I mumbled as we came up for air, “Derrek, wait.” He grunted softly as our lips parted again, my face burning from both the heat of his mouth and the burn of his light stubble. Derrek moved to stand up in front of me. I shuffled uncomfortably, being eye-level with the growing bulge in his jeans. I looked up at him, his eyes hungry to continue.
Oh, fuck it, I thought as I opened my mouth to say something. Instead, I grabbed his hand and pulled myself up to meet him in another kiss. I’d kissed other boys on first dates—hell, I’d done a lot more than justkiss on first dates—but I didn’t want things to burn out with Derrek.
I knew almost nothing about him and he was already more interesting to me than every guy I’d met recently.
My hands gripped firmly at his tight waist while his arms pulled me closer to his chest. I could feel him push his tongue forward every few seconds, eager to meet mine, but I resisted. He pushed me back to sit on the cushioned leather again with a rough thud, his eyes flashing with excitement. I had no doubt he saw something similar in mine. As I swung my leg over to straddle him on the bench, we were rudely interrupted by my phone ringing on the table beside us.
“Don’t answer it,” Derrek said as I twisted around to check the call.
Shit. It was the number for the bookstore.
“It’s work! I have to get this,” I said. I was probably already away from the store for too long. It had been an hour and I still had an abandoned book display to finish arranging. I took the call several steps away from Derrek, who was furiously jackhammering his leg, waiting for me to hang up. He came over to me as I pocketed my phone and hugged me from behind.
“Can’t you just skip out on the rest of your day?” he said, his voice sweet in my ear. He was hardly two inches taller than me, but it was enough. I turned to face him.
“We don’t all rake in the kind of money that lets us live in penthouses, Derrek. Besides, I’m not working this weekend.”
His eyes grew bright at my words.
“Great! Come and watch me race!” I froze as he reached into my pocket, waving my phone in the air until I unlocked it for him to add his number and send himself a text to save mine.
“I’ll text you the details,” he said, sliding my phone back into my pocket.
“So you’re an athlete!” I said excitedly, already imagining Derrek sweaty after a long run. I walked to the bench for my jacket, sliding it on in a hurry. The store had conveniently gotten very busy while I was away.
“Not exactly,” he said, following me across the patio. “I’m a race car driver.”
My stomach flipped.
“Oh. I—okay, sure, see you Sunday.”
Derrek and I locked eyes silently for a moment as I passed him for the patio door in a hurry.
“Aiden, are you okay?” he asked cautiously.
“I’m fine,” I said, smiling through the concern. With a free hand, I instinctively reached for my lower back and ran my fingers over a small bump under my clothes he must have felt when we kissed. He stopped me as I approached the door.
“Listen,” he started, but I pressed a finger to his lips to stop him.
“I don’t know what this is, Derrek,” I said. “We just met.”
“I know,” he replied. “But there’s something here, Aiden.”
“It’s been a day. It’s been one short lunch date,” I said, trying to keep my voice flat. Of coursethere was already something between us. Being dragged off down the street running for a sudden lunch with someone who was practically a stranger—I had never done anything like that before.
It was exciting. Hewas exciting.
This time he cut me off with a finger over my lips. His hand was warm.
“Just come and watch me race. It’s why I’m in the city right now, anyway. I just want to know if I might have another reason to stay.”
We stood by the door staring at each other as my phone began to ring again in my pocket. Pulling his hand away from my face, I kissed him before opening the door and dashing through. As I walked, I turned around and called out to him.
The last thing I saw before turning to head back to work was a bright smile spread across Derrek’s face.
I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew I was all in…and it scared me.
Noah Steele is an out and proud gay author based in Toronto, Canada. His debut new adult instalove gay romance series, Cut to the Feeling, is the start of a journey to share stories featuring queer characters getting the happy endings they deserve.
He believes that queerness is strength, and the gay men at the heart of his books embody that strength without experiencing queerness as a roadblock to happiness.
Like Noah, they’re out, proud, and thriving in their whirlwind romantic adventures! When he’s not writing, Noah is an avid video gamer and gym-goer.
Facebook Page: https://facebook.com/booksbynoah
Facebook Fan Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/262193684461728/