Posted by Book Loving Pixies
By the Rules
(Evergreen Grove #3)
by Elisabeth Staab
Release Date: 1/19/2016
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.
You know that movie where the devastatingly handsome billionaire falls head over heels for the former rent-boy with a heart of gold and they ride off into the sunset with their limo, their unicorn collection, and a cuddly little Bichon Frise?
Okay, me neither.
Nobody’s ever gonna make that movie, because nobody would buy the premise. Not even if Julia Roberts does make the prospect look all kinds of glittery-ever-after on camera. And for real, I’m telling you I could rock a string of diamonds just as well as her (I could!), even if you wouldn’t catch me dead in an evening gown. Or doing a douche who drives a five-speed penis-mobile.
Well…maybe it would depend on the penis-mobile.
God bless Richard Gere’s fine ass in a three-piece, though. I may have a rule against dating a guy like the one he plays in Pretty Woman, but there’s nothing wrong with a little fantasy. Like a big ol’ slab of red velvet cake, it may not be healthy for you to eat, but looking doesn’t cost any calories.
Rule #1: Watch out for rich guys in business attire. They’re sleek, gorgeous, and powerful looking, like jungle cats, and as likely to take a chunk out of you when your back is turned.
Rules aside, Gere’s chiseled cheekbones help me stay awake when I’m stuck behind my ratty, wood-paneled check-in desk, working dusk to dawn at The Grove Inn. Not much else going on at night in the speck of a town that is Evergreen Grove, NC.
Once in an extremely blue moon we get a flurry of activity after dark like a tired traveler or two, but mostly it’s me, my laptop, and my movie marathons. Next up is An Officer and a Gentleman, because I’m all about indulging a good movie star crush. Gotta get my feel-goods where I can.
“Did you shower already?”
He sniffs like the concept is beneath him. “I’ll shower at home.” He’s limping when he walks over to grab his backpack.
That ankle’s hurting him and it’s my fault. I was an ass for trying to show him up. “Hey, listen. Sorry about knocking you down like that. Really.” I close the gap between us to offer a hand, but he doesn’t even make a show of accepting. I don’t really know what to do with that. In my world, you shake a guy’s hand. For appearances if nothing else. For the sake of politeness. So you don’t burn bridges with a contact you might need later.
AJ and I clearly aren’t playing by the same set of rules.
He looks down at my hand. “It’s boxing. It happens. I’ll be fine. Don’t let it keep you up at night.” Except he winces when he takes another step. He doesn’t want me to know he’s in pain.
That limp of his drives the guilt I was already feeling deeper into my gut. “Hey.” I pull on his arm to get his attention. “Stop. Are you planning to walk to that motel where you work? It’s all the way on the edge of town. Why don’t you come with me to my mom’s? It’s closer, and then I can give you some ibuprofen and a ride.”
My grabbing hand pulls AJ’s shirt down and to the side, exposing a piece of one of his tattoos. I noticed it before—one of those dancing guys with a flute—whaddyacallit? A Kokopelli.
“Isn’t this a fertility symbol?”
“I prefer to think of him as a traveling gigolo. Seemed to fit at the time, Suit.” When AJ lets out a heavy breath and our eyes meet, I realize I’ve been running my fingers over the black lines on his chest without thinking—or permission.
Shit. I pull my hand back. The heat of his skin seeping into mine reminds me of things better left in the past.
I clear my throat. “Sorry. I didn’t—I was only curious. About the ink.” Jesus, that was a shitty slip and an even shittier save attempt. There are rules about these things with guys. Touching should be brief, impersonal, and possibly pain-inducing. Unless somebody died.
AJ hasn’t moved and hasn’t responded to my offer of a lift home. In order to fill the silence, I decide to ask, “Hey, I was wondering. Those tattoos…”
What are they covering? Where did you get those scars?
AJ lunges, putting us molecules from being chest to chest. Hard, chilly blasts of air conditioning remind me that he’s fully dressed and I’m wearing nothing but an undersized towel that is currently holding on with sheer luck and probably not enough determination.
“Yeah, I’ll bet you were wondering. I’ll bet you’re curious about a lot of things, aren’t you, Suit?” He looks me up and down appraisingly. I assume he’s trying to make me uncomfortable.
BLP REVIEW – Tracy
Oooops, I did it again….. I read a book from a series without realising it! I really do need to pay attention when I sign up for ARCs – but when I was offered the chance to read Elisabeth Staab’s book by Anna over at Herding Cats & Burning Soup I jumped at the chance ‘cos the gal hasn’t steered me wrong with her book suggestions before now!
Anyhoo, the small fact that I hadn’t read the first two books didn’t in any way detract from my enjoyment of By The Rules and has given me another series to go back and start from the beginning, even knowing how things have turned out for the respective lead characters. I’m definitely gonna check out more of Elisbeth’s books when I clear my ARC list ‘cos I really like her writing style.
I’ve read m/m before and for the most part enjoyed it – especially those written by some of my fave authors – and if I’m being honest, By The Rules kinda surprised me, in a really good way.
There’s something hot and sexy about two guys falling for each other and getting together. Hayden & AJ’s story was no exception but there was more to their story than just sexual attraction, heat and sex!
AJ is a larger than life, confident mouthy guy who doesn’t care what people think of him or his brightly coloured trainers. Hayden is a confident, successful control freak who lives to work. Or are they?!?!
By The Rules is a story with depth. It showed how people can often seem to be one thing when they are really something completely different.
Most of the focus of the story was on the guys actually getting to know each other. Hayden had so many layers to peel from the rainbow unicorn that was AJ to find the ‘real’ Mr Fabin while our sparkly blonde had to overcome his dislike of, and preconceived ideas about, the ‘Suit’.
There were a few twists and unexpected turns that kept me wondering just how things were gonna go for our couple. The story flowed really well, had some excellent banter and one liners which had me laughing out loud at times.
I give By The Rules 5 sparkly unicorn stars!!! *****
About the Author
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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