Love in the Pacific Northwest, Book 4
A gender-fluid cutie, a workaholic hottie, and a hookup gone right.
No romantic relationship could ever compete with my dream job. Sure, it gets lonely, but that’s what occasional hookups are for. Work-life balance? Who cares? I certainly don’t. Until chest pains bring me to my knees and land me in the emergency room.
It’s a wake-up call I can’t afford to ignore.
When my well-meaning family encourages me to make some major life changes, like hiring a meditation and physiotherapist, whatever that is, I’m worried enough to agree.
Imagine my surprise when my practitioner turns out to be the hookup I haven’t been able to forget.
What’s a fabulously vivacious gender-fluid beauty to do when stress is high and Prince Charmings aren’t lined up at their door? Head to the club to recharge my sparkle on the dance floor. I have no intention of hooking up with anyone. Hookups are not my thing.
Then I see the slightly older hottie in the Tom Ford suit, and all my self-restraint goes up in a blast of glitter.
When it turns out he’s my new meditation client and my friend’s older brother, I’m sure the universe is messing with me.
Because mixing business with pleasure is a huge no-no.
So why does my heart keep shouting yes?
Free Me is a low-angst, opposites attract, worlds collide, LGBTQ contemporary romance. It contains no cheating, and a guaranteed HEA.
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“He looks ridiculous. Men aren’t supposed to wear makeup or dress like that.”
I close my eyes and breathe deeply, letting the words flow through and past me. The same two women from the other room are on the other side of the display, and I know I’m meant to hear their comments. Rather than give them the satisfaction of a reaction, I continue to take pictures of the plants and ignore them.
Blake’s hand grips my arm and I glance up from my phone. I swear he’s about to crash through the ferns and throttle the woman, so I stand up and take his hand, lacing our fingers together. “Ohhh! Blake, look! These are so beautiful. So many colors!” I pull him toward some vibrant flowers and read the small sign. “Guzmania. Can you tell me about this one?”
There’s anger in his voice, but also concern, and I adore him for that—but it’s ultimately unproductive, so I ignore it. “My favorites are the coral ones. So beautiful!” When he doesn’t say anything else, I walk further into the room. “Oh yikes!” I point at a vicious-looking plant. “These are scary.” I make a production of reading the little plaque. “Dyckia.” I snort. “I’m all about the dick, but that’s too much.”
Blake relents and huffs out a small chuckle. “They are rather sharp looking.”
“They are.” I press against him, brushing the tip of my nose along the edge of his ear. “I prefer a softer touch.”
He pulls me into him, resting his forehead against mine. “You’re amazing. You know that?”
“Yes, I do.” I grin, and Blake sighs and tries to smile. I cup his jaw with my palm and gently urge him to look at me. “Let it go, Darling. They’re speaking from a place of fear and ignorance.”
“You shouldn’t have to put up with that.”
Before he says anything else, I cut him off with a kiss. “I could try to educate them. I could be angry, or hurt, or have any number of reactions, but nothing I’d say or do would change their minds. Not here. Not coming from me. And trying would only damage me. They wouldn’t care.” His scowl says he clearly doesn’t agree. “Blake, trust me. I’ve been dealing with this for years. As a flamboyant, brazenly out gay boy, I was harassed, threatened, spit on, punched, and called every name you can imagine by bullies at school. As an adult, it’s been easier, but there are still vocal bigots.” I gesture in the direction of the snarky women.
“It’s been more difficult as I’ve embraced my gender fluidity, but I am who I am and I won’t let their negativity rule how I live my life.” I look into his eyes and smile. “It’s a choice I’ve made. If I wanted to, I could blend in. I could probably pass. But doing that would crush my soul. So to spite every close minded bigot, I live loud and proud and authentically. And most times it works out fine.” He holds my gaze, not saying anything, but I can see the wheels turning in his mind. I appreciate that he’s thinking about things rather than acting on his anger. I kiss him on the cheek, grab his hand, leading him around the row and back the way we came. “Let’s go see the other two rooms.”
I walk out to the bedroom balcony and look down at the patio. Blake is lounging by the pool in swim trunks and sunglasses, reading a book. He looks incredibly relaxed, and it makes my heart happy. “Hey, handsome.” He glances up and his face breaks into a wide grin. Okay, yes, we’ve been together for a few months, but his smile still makes my insides all melty and warm. “You want to come in and eat, or should I bring the food out?”
“Put on a suit and come down. This is my big plan for the day.” He gestures to the pool area and waves his book.
I lean my elbows on the railing and grin down at him. “If you’re trying to seduce me, it’s working.”
“Excellent. Step one in my evil plan is complete. Now come down here. I missed you.”
“Be down in a sec!” I hurry inside, strip out of my work clothes, then lather myself in the sunscreen that smells like coconut. Blake loves the scent, and I love how he nuzzles my neck when I use it. I pull on my tiniest black and white print swim briefs, grab a beach towel from the closet and the food bags from the kitchen counter, and hurry down to the game room and out to the patio. “Should we eat at the table or on the loungers like heathens?”
Blake glances up from his book and his eyes lock on my tiny swimsuit. I do a slow spin, giving him a good view of my ass. “Like?”
He pulls his sunglasses to the end of his nose and peers over them. “That’s new.” His voice is thick with lust. Oh, yeah. Mission accomplished.
“It is! And it’s so adorable!”
Blake licks his lips. “And so tiny.”
“I had a feeling you might like it.” I skip past him to the table and deposit the bags.
Blake practically growls and grabs my hips the moment I put the bags down. “Come here.”
I laugh as he manhandles me, hauling me close and inhaling my skin. He drags his nose across my abdomen and my cock stirs, eager to join in the fun, but my stomach growls with hunger. “Mmm. I’m fully on board with whatever you’re planning here, Darling, but we should eat before the food gets cold.”
Blake bites my hip. “We can heat it up.”
My laugh quickly turns to a gasp as his tongue teases above the edge of my suit. It’s all I can do not to press his head a few inches lower. “Blake, Darling, I have souvlaki and Greek salad.”
He hums and sits back, waggling his eyebrows at me. “You know I love Greek.”
I snort at his double entendre. “As do I, my darling. So let’s eat.” I wink at him. “Then we can eat.”
His chuckle warms every part of me. He pushes to his feet with a sigh. “If we must, we must.”
“We must.” I press up on my tiptoes and pucker up.
He obliges me, but turns my expected quick press of lips into a lingering kiss that curls my toes and has me second-guessing my stance on eating first. As I’m about to give in, he lets me go and pats my backside. “C’mon. Let’s feed you so we can move on to other enjoyable things.”
I loved this novel, Stef and Blake were perfect for each other.
I actually forgot I’d met Stef in Choose Me and that I found them a bit over-the-top, but that was more for the sake of their brother Jules who has bad anxiety and I wondered how on earth he managed to cope with their very outgoing nature. In Free me, I got to know Stef properly and I am so glad I did because behind that outgoing nature of theirs and their obvious fabulousness is also hiding an insecure part of them that wonders if they are too much for anyone to truly love. They’ve had past partners who have told them this and after a while a small part of them has started to believe it.
Blake was a workaholic who loved his family, most of who I remember from past books but who had no one to share his life and thought he didn’t need anyone. Until Stef, from their first combustable meeting in a club that was supposed to be a one night stand, to their business arrangement when Blake hires Stef to help him with meditation and relaxation after a health scare, they both know there is something special between them.
I adored both Stef and Blake and really loved seeing their relationship develop. Stef was a great character and I liked and appreciated learning more about gender fluidity, binary and non binary and the forms it can take. I loved how Blake was both eager and willing to learn more about Stef’s gender fluidity and how easily he accepted everything about them and wanted them to embrace every part of themselves including encouraging Stef to dress exactly as they felt on the day regardless of if they thought others might not approve. If only more people in the world could be so accepting of others and their differences it would be a much nicer place to exist.
This was a really lovely low angst romance that I thoroughly enjoyed. While it can definitely be read as a standalone, I encourage you to read the rest of the series and meet the other great characters. I can’t wait for the next book.
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About the Author
Beck is a non-binary writer of sweet, sexy, LGBTQ happily ever afters. They live in the Northeastern United States with their two adorable dogs. Weekdays are spent working their day job, but nights and weekends are devoted to writing stories involving hot characters, favorite tropes, and happy endings. Any additional time includes reading, laughing with friends, drinking red wine, and playing D&D. If there’s cake involved at any point it’s a win!
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