Sunday, 3 July 2016

#samplesunday - THE TRUTH ABOUT RILEY, Part II . . . with Flash Sale 99c

Our #samplesunday today is The Truth about Riley. We featured The Truth about Riley only recently during pride month, but today we are bringing it to you again. We have a different sample chapter to tempt you, as well as the amazing price of only 99c for the coming week.

That's right, 1 week only - 99c!

So enjoy another look at MM Contemporary novel The Truth about Riley from Henrietta Clarke. 


Blurb

Riley Aylworth’s life has been completely devoid of intimate contact since a fire three years ago left him with horrific facial scarring, so when he finds an ad for a phone sex service, he decides to give it a call. Except that the number is not a phone sex service—it’s the revenge Cameron Kirkwood’s ex-boyfriend took on the uptight advertising executive after Cam forgot their anniversary and accidentally put him in the hospital. Needless to say, after thirty-nine disturbing calls seeking phone sex, Cameron is at the end of his tether and yells at his fortieth caller. What he doesn’t expect is for Riley to hit redial and yell right back.

The argument helps both Cameron and Riley vent about their issues, and when they’ve calmed down, they decide to exchange numbers and talk again. From this decision springs a friendship that, over time, grows into a gentle romance—all over the phone, because Riley is too scared to meet Cam in person. Showing a potential boyfriend his disfigured face is the fastest way to get rejected, right? Even a month of scorching hot phone sex can’t change his mind, no matter how hard Cam tries to persuade him that with their phone chemistry, the sex would be so much better in person.


Meanwhile, Cam is haunted by the scarred blond he seems to be seeing everywhere, and Riley can’t get the handsome brunet who always seems happy to see him out of his mind. It’s a shock to both men to realise that the guy they’re falling for over the phone is also the man who brightens their day with just a smile; but it’s one thing to let a stranger smile at you and quite another to let him close enough to see into your soul. If Riley can’t break down the walls in his mind and believe that Cameron loves him in spite of his scars, their relationship may be doomed before they’ve even had a chance to kiss.


Please enjoy this sample chapter from the book . . . 


CHAPTER ONE

CAMERON HAD TRIED for as long as possible to avoid changing his number, balking at the inconvenience of having to update everyone he knew both personally and professionally with the new number, but forty calls seeking phone sex were enough to try any man’s patience. It was a relief when he walked out of the Verizon store knowing he’d never receive such a call again. Ironically, the first person he wanted to call and tell this to was Lucky Number Forty.

He also wanted coffee, so Cam took a detour to his favorite coffee shop to pick up a latte to go, deciding he’d call Riley as he walked home. It was odd being there midmorning on a Saturday—normally Cam stopped in early on weekday mornings to grab a caffeine fix on the way to work. He felt oddly relaxed, knowing he had nowhere urgent to be afterwards, and instead of tapping his foot impatiently while he waited for his drink, he leaned back against the wall and surveyed The Coffee House’s clientele. His eyes passed over the mothers with young children and the gossiping girls—his personality and sexuality combined to make him just enough of a chauvinist for them not to interest him at all.

He lingered over a couple of tables of young men, idly testing out his gaydar on them, before his interest was piqued by the man in the back corner of the café. Seated alone, his table was cluttered with notebooks, colored pens, and a laptop, which Cam could tell at a glance was several years old. The man was absorbed in whatever he was typing, allowing Cam time to subtly study the delicate cheekbones and chin-length, stylishly cut honey-blond hair that just begged to have his fingers running through it.

He was distracted from his thoughts by his order being called, and in the moment that he began to turn away, the blond in the corner looked up suddenly, the movement turning the right side of his face into the light. Cameron froze, instantly horrified by the dark, blotchy scarring. His instinct was to look away, but when he tried, his eyes locked with clear blue ones heavy with resignation, as if Cam’s reaction was nothing more than he’d expected. Guiltily, Cam gave him a nervous smile, turning to pick up his drink and leave. When he reached the door, he glanced back, but the man was focused on his work again, and Cam felt strangely disappointed without knowing quite why. It wasn’t like he would’ve gone over and talked to the guy, right? Cameron was sufficiently aware of his own faults to know that looks were more important to him than they should be in a potential boyfriend.

The man in the café occupied his thoughts the whole way home, so Cameron didn’t actually get around to calling Riley until he was settled on the couch, the coffee cup long since abandoned in a convenient trash can. He felt strangely nervous about making the call, almost concerned that Riley would be able to read his mind and deem him a horrible person for his reaction to the guy in the coffee shop, whom try as he might, he couldn’t seem to get out of his mind.

Hey, Cameron! You called!” Riley answered on the third ring, sounding pleasantly surprised. The background sounds drifting down the line suggested that Cameron hadn’t caught him at home.

“Did you think I wouldn’t?” Somehow, that idea hurt.

I wasn’t sure. You were pretty judgmental at times last night, and I figured, cold light of day and all that.

“I’m sorry; I know I can be judgmental sometimes,” Cam felt compelled to apologize. “I’m afraid I have many, many failings, as Chris didn’t hesitate to remind me when he dropped by to pick up his stuff once he was out of the hospital. That’s pretty much when the big break-up fight happened. In the hospital, it was more like Chris just ranting. Not that I blame him.”

Everyone has failings, Cam, that’s what makes us human. At least you’re man enough to admit it, which is more than most.”

“You’re really smart, you know that?”

Thank you.” Riley sounded pleased. “It’s just common sense though, or life experience or whatever.

“And how many years of that do you have, sixty?” Riley didn’t sound that old, but you never knew over the telephone.

Gee, thanks. It’s nice to know I sound like a grandpa. I’m twenty-seven, if you must know. How many years of insulting people do you have?

“Enough to know better.”

That’s no kind of answer.”

“Yes it is—it’s an evasive one.”

Smartass.

Cameron couldn’t help but chuckle at that.

“Thirty-one,” he confessed.

So there’s hope for you yet.

“What are you, a therapist or something?” Actually, that wouldn’t surprise Cam.

Depends on how you look at life,” Riley responded cryptically. “I’m a writer in my spare time; some would say that reading is therapy without stigma.

At the mention of “writer,” Cam found his thoughts wandering back to the man in the coffee shop, and he sighed.

“Yeah, sure,” he responded distractedly, searching for a change of subject. “So what do you do with the rest of your time? C’mon, you know my last name and my job and that free time is pretty much a myth for me; give me some consideration?”

Riley chuckled. “I work from home translating gay romance books into Italian. My mamma’s Italian, so she made sure I grew up bilingual. I might be persuaded to trade my surname for some more information about you.

“What do you want to know?” There was something about Riley’s voice that just invited confidences, and Cam was pretty sure he’d answer any question without really thinking about it.

Hmm, I don’t know—boxers or briefs?

“The hell kind of question is that?” Okay, so maybe not any question.

Riley laughed, and Cameron decided he liked the sound so much he’d have to do his best to make sure he heard it again.

Just seeing if you miss being a phone sex line.

“Yeah, about that . . .” Cam frowned. “I actually called to tell you I’d changed my number. How did you know it was me?”

You’re the only person I’ve given my number to recently.

The thought made Cameron smile, though the matter-of-fact way in which the statement was made gave him pause.

“I want to say ‘awesome,’ but I’m guessing from your tone that it’s not a good thing.”

It is what it is.” There was a shrug audible in Riley’s voice. “So, if you’re not going to tell me what underwear you prefer, answer me this—where’s your perfect holiday destination?

“Why do you want to know that?”

It’s as good a way as any to get to know a man.

Getting to know Riley? Now that sounded like a great idea.

~~~

Graphic sex in first person perspective—yes or no?

Cameron blinked, shook his head, and decided that he couldn’t have heard that right.

“You know, most people when they answer the phone just say ‘hello.’”

Riley’s answering chuckle suggested that possibly Cam’s ears weren’t deceiving him after all.

Cam, I’m a writer. I’m not ‘most people.’ If I accidentally answer the phone in the middle of a train of thought, I’m going to carry on thinking out loud.

“‘Accidentally,’ huh?” That hurt more than Cameron was willing to admit having only known the guy a couple weeks.

Accidentally,” Riley agreed. “My brain said ‘Riley, finish this train of thought first’ and my hand said ‘but dude, it’s Cameron’ and reached for the phone. What have you done to my motor reflexes and where do I go to reverse that?

Cam laughed, and forgiveness was easy to find. “Are all writers such smooth talkers?”

Don’t generalize,” Riley scolded. “How would you feel if I asked ‘Are all advertising executives sleazy assholes?’ Asking that is like asking ‘Do all women like pink?’ Liking pink has nothing to do with being a woman. It’s to do with being an individual.

“Well that’s me told.” For a moment, Cam had thought that Riley was flirting with him, but in light of that response, it was probably just wishful thinking.

I’m sorry. Stereotyping is such a touchy subject for me that I can start ranting at the slightest hint of it. And for the record, I also get upset at the notion that you have to be a woman to like pink.

Cameron chuckled. “I feel like I owe you an apology, and I’m not even sure what for. How can I make it up to you—let you rave for a half hour about the color pink, or start this conversation from scratch and see if I can get through it without tripping your stereotyping sensors this time?”

Ooh, tough decision! I’ll go for the second one, I think.” Riley was clearly amused, and it made Cameron smile.

“I need coffee,” he told Riley, making a detour into the Starbucks he was passing. “I may need two hands for the next three minutes. Don’t go anywhere, and in three minutes’ time, listen to your hands when they tell you to pick up.”

His thumb was halfway to the “end call” button when Riley’s laugh arrested him.

Yes sir! Would that be three minutes exactly?

Cameron glanced between the line and his watch and grinned. “Count on it.”

Oh, believe me, I will.”

It turned out that getting coffee within three minutes was an impossibility, even when you were second in the queue. Cameron was still waiting for his drink at the end of the counter when the third minute ended, but the wait would be so much more interesting with Riley to entertain him, and so he activated the speed dial anyway.

Exactly three minutes—I’m impressed.

Cameron laughed. “You counted?”

And if I did? Don’t try to tell me that you didn’t.

“Okay, you got me.”

Cam would have been more relaxed now that he didn’t have to watch the second hand if it weren’t for the baby at the nearest table, which had started screaming at approximately the same moment that Riley had answered the call. It wasn’t just a hungry protest either, but that ear-splitting wail that permeated every molecule of air and made the listener’s ears ring, so overpowering that the awful sound even seemed to be echoing from his phone.

To distract himself from the horrible noise, Cameron leaned back against the counter and surveyed the café. He was faintly surprised to notice the blond guy from The Coffee House, not sitting in the shadows this time but in the sunshine by the window. The light brought the scarring into sharp relief, and Cameron held back a wince with difficulty, forcing himself to focus instead on the man’s smile. Happy and relaxed, it was a smile Cam knew he’d be remembering, if only because anyone who could look that relaxed in the face of the screaming baby din had to be halfway to a saint.

So, did you happen to find an answer to my question in the last three minutes?

Riley’s voice recalled Cameron to the gently teasing conversation he was enjoying, and he turned away from the enigmatic blond to pick up his coffee.

“Funnily enough, no. I happened to find a cup of coffee, and the answer was not written anywhere on the cup. Unless the answer to your question is Cameron. Written,” he wrinkled his nose, “with a little heart. Oh Jesus, I think the barista has a crush on me.”

Cute?

Across the café, the something blond waggled his eyebrows, and Cam had to laugh at how well a stranger’s miscellaneous action fitted in with his own conversation.

“Female,” he told Riley, shifting the phone to tuck it between his ear and shoulder so he had a hand free to open the door.

That’s too bad. By my calculation, you’re about due a rebound.

“You’re just assuming I haven’t had sex since I broke up with Chris.” Cameron summoned every ounce of self-righteousness he possessed, hoping it would cover up the truth in the statement. They hadn’t had sex for a couple of weeks before the break-up, as it happened. Rushing to meet the deadline on a big campaign could really take it out of a guy, and coming home to a snippy and critical other half didn’t do much to lift a flagging libido.

You don’t have phone sex with strangers, Cam—is it so far a stretch to think that you probably don’t have one night stands with them either? I mean, hell, you can’t catch HIV from phone sex . . .

“Actually, it’s more of an intimacy thing,” Cam told Riley honestly. “I mean, a one-night stand you can just close your eyes, keep quiet, and it hardly even matters if you say the wrong name. Phone sex . . . well, all you have is words. It’s kind of like baring your soul, right? And you have to be pretty damn trusting to do that with a total stranger. I’m just too damn cynical.” He laughed shortly. “Or uptight, as my boss would say.”

~~~

“I don’t think it’s uptight to want phone sex to be special, Cam.” The Riley of three years ago might have thought that, but getting permanently and visibly injured in a fire did wonders to change a guy’s perspective. By this point, intimacy was starting to sound damn good, and for the first time in his life Riley found himself wanting to be part of a couple. He, Riley Aylworth, who in the past had always fled from the mention of a third date.

Cam’s only answer was to sigh, and Riley echoed the sound.

“You know, this is getting depressing. We need a happy topic—like clowns. Tell me what you think of clowns.”

That got him the laugh he was searching for, and Riley grinned.

To tell you the truth, clowns freak me out just a tiny bit.

“Coulrophobia,” Riley told him with a chuckle. “It’s actually pretty common. As is bananaphobia.”

Fear of bananas? Get out!

“It’s true! Seriously, my friend Dale has it. People used to torment him in college because they thought it was funny. It was effectively the equivalent of putting a tarantula in an arachnophobic’s bathroom—not cool.”

Arachnophobia is kind of logical though; I mean, I don’t have it, but I can see why people are afraid of spiders. I mean, there are over a thousand poisonous varieties. But bananas? What’s there to be afraid of about a banana?

“You’ve never seen Monty Python, have you?”

Cameron’s responding eye-roll was practically audible. “I mean, what’s there to be afraid of when the bananas don’t have guns? Or pointed sticks, or gooseberries.

“It’s the smell, mostly; often the sight as well. I get the smell thing though; bananas do stink. But c’mon, don’t tell me you don’t have any irrational phobias. Make my day and tell me you have triskaidekaphobia, please! Or, no, better—arachibutyrophobia.”

Okay, did you swallow the phobia dictionary?” Cameron sounded amused, and Riley winced, especially glad that the other man could not see him. When you went from clubbing four or five nights a week to spending most of your time hiding at home, boredom was a predictable side effect.
It took a little effort to keep his tone light as he answered, but Riley thought he managed okay.

“If you don’t give me a proper answer in the next ten seconds, I’m going to assume that’s a ‘yes’ to arachibutyrophobia.”

Counting down again, huh? This is getting to be a bizarre kind of habit.

“Already counting,” Riley teased back. “You have three seconds left. Two, one—”

No!” Cameron cut in, robbing Riley of his chance to hit zero. “No, I don’t have . . . either of those. Or even coulrophobia—I’m not scared of clowns; they just freak me out a little. I could totally hold my own in a fight against one, though.

“So?” Riley prompted, sensing that there was a real answer on the brink of being confessed.

Nuh-uh. I don’t confess my deepest darkest secrets without getting something in return. Your last name would be good.

Riley had hoped Cameron would forget about pushing for his last name after the time he’d spent neatly dodging divulging the information in their second phone call, but apparently not. He’d have to find another tactic, because if Cam knew his last name he’d be able to Google him—oh, the perils of modern technology!—and though Riley didn’t think there were any pictures online of his scarring, it wasn’t a chance he was willing to take. He did know, however, that there were plenty of pictures around of his vain pre-scarring days, and he certainly didn’t want Cameron getting a hold of those and thinking him sexy when he emphatically wasn’t. No, Riley was enjoying talking to the other man far too much to have the threat of being seen hanging over him.

“Pyrophobia,” he deflected now, voice quiet, and when Cam replied, his voice too was low and serious.

Fear of fire. I guess that’s logical enough. Okay then, my big unmanly confession: mice. I’m terrified of mice.

“Really? You’re afraid of mice?” It was all Riley could do not to laugh because his faceless mental image of Cameron was of someone tall and strong and capable—not someone who leaped on the counter at the sight of a mouse like Charlotte’s “gay straight” boyfriend in Sex and the City.

Hey, those suckers are evil!” Cam’s protest was laughing, though, and Riley figured it was okay to join in.

“Okay, you really did just make my day. Mice? That’s awesome.”

Oh, shut up!” Cam groused. “So are you actually going to explain triskaiwhatsitphobia and arachiwhatyaphobia to me, or do I have to look them up when I get home?

“Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number thirteen. I’ve always found it quite lucky, myself. There’s a slight chance I have just a touch of hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia though.”

Fear the number six hundred sixty six?” Cameron guessed, voice wry, and Riley chuckled.

“The link between them that obvious, huh?”

That and the repetition of ‘hex,’” Cameron agreed. “So,arachiwhatyaphobia? I’m guessing it doesn’t actually have anything to do with spiders . . .

“Urgh, I should hope not!” Riley shivered. “Arachibutyrophobia is fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth, and I guess you’re off peanuts already, but I have to tell you—the day I find a spider in the peanut butter jar is the day I stop eating it for good.”

Touch of arachnophobia there?” Cameron teased, and Riley chuckled.

“No. But an aversion to eating spiders is just good sense, right?”

Okay, I’ll give you that one. And I have to say I am impressed by your knowledge of phobias. Do you have a favorite? Not to have, I mean, just as a word or a concept.

Riley didn’t even have to think about that one. “Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. I just love that the proper name for a phobia of really long words is one of the longest words in the English language. It’s adorably ironic, kind of in the same way that there’s an S in ‘lisp’—which, by the way, is probably my weirdest turn-on.”

Is it, indeed? Now we’re really getting somewhere on the whole ‘getting to know you’ front. Though for the record, I still find it weird that I don’t know your last name.

“My last name does not define me. The sum of my parts is greater than my last name. Trust me, you’re getting a better deal,” Riley responded with all the dignity he could muster.

Aww, c’mon! How can I look for your books if you won’t tell me your last name?

“I use a pen name,” Riley informed him, never more thankful than now that he did. “If you really want to check out my books—although that freaks me out a little, I have to say—look up Roberto P. Carter.”

Freaks you out? Why?” Cameron sounded genuinely curious, and Riley frowned as he contemplated his empty coffee mug, internally debating whether to refresh it or to head home. A glance at the screen of his cell phone shocked him with the knowledge that he’d been talking to Cam for over twenty minutes—it had felt like no time at all.

“I don’t know, exactly,” he concluded eventually with a shrug. “It’s nothing personal—I get slightly freaked by the idea of anyone I know reading my books. It’s almost easier to take feedback when it’s anonymous. The more you know a person, the more their opinion matters, y’know?”

Yeah.” Cam’s voice was soft, and Riley allowed himself one moment of weakness to mentally swoon at it. “But thanks. I like that my opinion matters. I haven’t felt like that for a long time.

“No?” It sounded like they were drifting back into deep and heartfelt territory, and with a last glance back to ensure the safety of his laptop, Riley headed for the counter. If Cam was going to pour his heart out again, Riley wanted to be sitting in comfort with coffee rather than walking down the street struggling to hear. That was no way to treat anyone’s problems.

~~~

Cameron shook his head, not caring that Riley couldn’t see. “No.” He switched the phone to his other hand so he could unlock his front door with his right, and that made him smile with the realization of how long he must have been talking to Riley. “I mean, when I was with Chris, he’d ask for my opinion, but it was always like he was asking because he was supposed to ask, y’know? And if I disagreed with him, he had this sort of eyebrow-lift and eye-roll thing he’d perfected, like he was saying with one swift facial expression ‘what a fool.’”

He sounds lovely.” Riley’s tone was dry.

“He could be,” Cam defended. “He could be so sweet, but yeah, it was tempered a bit by how opinionated he was. He wasn’t always easy to talk to because of that. Not like you. I don’t know what it is about you, Riley, but somehow I just seem to find myself telling you things I never expected to tell anyone. You’re not secretly a hypnotist by any chance, are you?”

Riley’s laugh warmed him inside, happy and relaxed in a way that reminded him of The Coffee House blond’s smile.

Nope, rest assured that you’re telling me these things of your own free will. Personally, I’d put it down to it having been too long since you’ve had someone really listen to you. I’m gathering that Chris was maybe a little too self-centered to fill that role in the way that you need, but isn’t there anyone else? Parents, friends, siblings?

Cameron snorted, flopping down onto the couch and resting his head against the back. “Only child. And my parents are . . . how can I put this delicately? Conservative.”

“Oh. Shit, Cam, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Cameron shrugged. “I’ve had nearly a decade to get over it. At least I was done with college when I told them, so I dodged that financial bullet.”

Still. It’s not something anyone should have to deal with, Cam. And ten years ago? No wonder you’re in dire need of someone to talk to. Your friends are the macho grunting kind, I take it?

“You could say that.” No need for Riley to know that Cam had embarrassingly little in the way of friends these days. He sounded pathetic enough as it was. “So what about you? Anything you need to vent about? You’ve been a willing ear for me what, twice, three times now? I feel like I should return the favor.”

It was clear from Riley’s voice when he responded that he was smiling, and that went a long way toward erasing Cameron’s frown.

Thanks for the offer. I appreciate it, honestly. But right now there’s nothing I want to vent about. I vented to my mother only this morning, so I’m all vented out for the day. I could go for more miscellaneous information though—what haven’t we covered yet? I know—ice cream. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Somehow, that easy question struck him as being totally Riley, and Cam couldn’t help but laugh.

“You’re going to think me really boring, but vanilla,” he answered. “I know it’s what everyone thinks of as plain, but when done right it’s just so creamy and rich. Mmm!”

Okay, I can see your point. Of course, when done badly it’s just dire. Not like chocolate. There’s just no way to screw up chocolate—” Riley’s voice trailed off as a sharp beep filtered down the line, then he swore under his breath. “Shit. Sorry, Cam, my cell battery is about to die, and guess which idiot left his charger at home this morning?

“It’s okay,” Cameron reassured him, biting back a sigh as he surveyed his cold apartment, shivering in anticipation of how empty it would seem when Riley hung up. “I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”

Count on it.” Another beep, and then Riley was gone.


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And if you missed the first sample chapter on June 5, check it out here:

samplesunday-the-truth-about-riley

The Truth about Riley is available in e-book and print from all major sellers. Details for The Truth about Riley, including sellers' links, are at:

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