Loving Him by Drea Roman
Book 1 of the Hearts Intertwined Series

Now available in paperback!!!
Available on Amazon & KU:  mybook.to/LovingHim
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About the book:

A successful large sculpture artist, Black has drive, focus, and a friendly backyard squirrel to keep him company. What he doesn’t have is a personal life. Memories of a life shattering disaster make him close the door on any possibilities of love and affection. But when a sweet and charming new man breezes into his life, Black faces a choice. Keep hiding from his past or face the pain and risk his soul for love again. 

Aubrey Davies designs parks all over the U.S. When he lands in Oakland, his life collides with that of a gorgeous artist who fascinates and confuses him. When Black blows hot, Aubrey revels in the fire. When Black blows cold, Aubrey bleeds from the freeze. Will Aubrey’s steadfast love penetrate Black’s final emotional walls? Or will both men shatter their hearts on the jagged rocks of Black’s past, a past he so desperately wants to hide? 

Loving Him is a 100k word contemporary mm romance and the first entry in the Hearts Intertwined series. Be ready for sexy movie references, a wise and mischievous squirrel, and a sweet HEA. 


About the Author:

Drea Roman is an over-educated lady with many pets and too many jobs.

Loving Him is book 1 in the Hearts Intertwined Series. Book 2, all fingers and toes crossed, will publish in 2019. A novella, Saving Him, is book 1.5 in the series. It will be available in early 2019. Writing plans for the new year also include two omegaverse/mpreg series.

I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram under Drea Roman. Join my FB reader group, Drea’s Dirty Divas, for special stories and reading opportunities.

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Exclusive Excerpt:
All rights reserved: Drea Roman 2018

Chapter 1

The moment I see him sitting alone at a corner table, with his attention focused on the papers in his left hand and his right gripped around a coffee cup, I’m smitten.  Even though he is halfway across the sunlit room from me, I can clearly see his face in profile as he blows on the coffee in his mug.  His coloring is perfectly matched, creamy white skin, not too pale, but the kind that would freckle or burn but never tan. His dark auburn brown hair is cut in a tidy, well-mannered style, long enough to grip if the need arose. And, oh man, the need started rising in me as soon as I laid eyes on him. 

He suddenly looks up and turns his head as if sensing my presence.  His lips part into a sweet and welcoming smile, and I feel a warmth spread through me I’d never felt before in my life. The physical attraction is instantaneous, and if the widening of his crisp green eyes when they first meet mine is any indication, the feeling is most definitely mutual. But that isn’t what causes that sunny, fizzy happiness to flow immediately through my bloodstream. There is something else about him, an innate goodness shining through, and I arch toward it, body and soul, like a sunflower follows the sun’s progress across the sky.

I walk toward him, completely forgetting my original mission to grab a cup of coffee before getting down to business.  Stopping about a foot away from his table, I relish how his head tips back so he can look me in the eyes.  As he stands to greet me, I can see he is a little bit shorter than my own 6’2″ height, probably around 5’11”, which I’ve always found to be the perfect height difference. I won’t tower over him and can easily stare into his crisp green eyes. I am so enamored with his presence that I do not quite catch the first words he says in greeting. We hadn’t exchanged descriptions, but I knew he was there for me. It really wouldn’t have mattered if he was my work meeting or not. I would have stopped and sat at his table anyway. He was like my opposite magnetic pole, pulling me toward him on an elemental level. 

“Mr. Black?” He must have said my name twice before I noticed. I smile, and I can only say the devil made me do it because as soon as his hand reaches out to shake mine, I grab it and hold it firmly and purposely well beyond the appropriate amount of time. He doesn’t try to disengage from me, but I can see a faint blush stealing across his features as his eyes drop to our joined hands. Lowering my voice to a purring growl, I say, “You must be Aubrey Davies.” I see his pulse tick up in his neck, and I have to stop myself from leaning into his space and latching my mouth onto that spot. I know he saw me looking at his neck, and he must have read the desire in my eyes because his flash darker for a moment and he licks his lips. 

I barely stifle a groan then reality suddenly returns, reminding me of our location and the purpose of this meeting, which is work, not eating this man up with my eyes and wishing it was my lips doing the exploring. I reluctantly release his hand and immediately thrust both of mine through my loose hair. It is a self-soothing gesture, but from the way his eyes follow my hands, I can tell he wishes he could replace my hands with his own. Shit, I have to shake myself out of this or this meeting will go nowhere but the backseat of my car.  I’m taking much too long to respond to whatever question he asked me, so he calls my name again.

“Mr. Black?”

“It’s just Black,” I reply as I pull out the seat across from him and settle myself into it as he sits himself back down in his.

“But you go by your full name with your art?” 

“Yes, I do, but please do call me Black.” 

“So, you’re the artist known as Black, huh?” 

I can’t help but grin at that. “Well, I guess I am.” 

“One day you’re going to have to change your name,” he says, tilting his head playfully to the right as a sweet smile settles on his lips.

“And why is that?” 

“So you can call yourself the artist formerly known as Black.” 

I immediately adore his silliness. I laugh lightly in response, and his smile widens, his brilliant emerald eyes crinkling up in the corners and twinkling.  But we are here for a reason other than flirting, though I would rather flirt at this precise moment than discuss business. 

“So, you are the new park planner?” 

“That I am, Mr. Black.” He looks at his papers for something. When his eyes raise to mine, I’m caught in his clear green gaze. “Or may I call you Ian?” 

I stiffen at the name and am caught in a wave of unwelcome memories. Aubrey must have noticed my face freeze because his eyes cloud with concern. He automatically reaches across the space between us to place his hand over the fist I didn’t realize I had clenched on the edge of the table. In a lowered voice, he asks, “Are you alright?”

I swallow hard and drop my eyes to where his hand is covering mine. I’m relieved he doesn’t move it because the warmth of his palm against the back of my hand is calming the chaos of my mind.  

“It’s just Black,” I manage to croak out, embarrassment flooding my system. Aubrey’s eyes are kind, and he nods gently.  He pats my hand once, pulling his own back and dropping it into his lap. He smiles at me softly and reshuffles his papers, deftly changing the subject while at the same time acknowledging my preference for names. 

“As you know, Black, the city has commissioned a large metal statue from your studio. We are meeting today to finalize the plans for the design, construction timeline, and placement for the statue.” His eyes return to his paperwork. “I’ve been given a list of possible designs, none of which would require further approval.” 

Having recovered my composure, due in large part to his kindness, I interrupt. “I’ve had a few new ideas about the design.” He lifts his eyes, and a happy smile crosses his face. Sunshine, his smile is like sunshine. 

“Luckily for you, I have the authority to approve. What do you have in mind?”

I’m captivated by his easy demeanor. I must take too long to respond while my eyes never leave his face. I swear I see that faint blush again, and I’m practically giddy with excitement over it. He raises his eyebrows expectantly, teasingly, and I can’t help my widening grin. 

“Plants, native plants,” I answer, and he seems momentarily confused as if he’s forgotten his own question. “The statue will be of a native plant, probably some sort of cactus or a succulent. I’ve done them before, including several for cities throughout the Southwest. While we may have more trees in Oakland, those types of plants thrive here, too.  My plant sculptures have been particularly popular in Arizona. I did several for Tucson and one for Phoenix. I have photos of the finished sculptures, before and after erection. Would you like to see them?” I purposely threw in the word “erection” and I am not disappointed by his reaction. He is most definitely blushing now. As I hold his gaze, I am grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

He swallows hard and shakes his head lightly, then grins, acknowledging I got him by tipping his chin toward me briefly.  He looks down at his papers again, skimming through a few before looking back at me.  

“What do you think the city wants?”

I literally shudder.  “A cowboy on a horse.  That is what I did for them last time, but never again.”

“Out of curiosity, what’s wrong with cowboys and horses?  They are pretty popular out here.” 

“Beside the fact that they’re hokey as fuck?  They are generic, boring, and, to be quite honest, a waste of my time.  I’ve done one, and that was plenty.  I’m more interested in the natural world and how I can represent that through metal.” I sigh as I scrub a hand over my face and the scruff across my jaw.

“No offense toward Frederic Remington,” I continue now that I seem to have his attention back on my words, “but I am not making another cowboy and horse monstrosity. If that is why the city hired me, they can stick it where the sun don’t shine; and, yes, I mean it literally. They can literally shove that heinous excuse for art up their asses before I will make another one like it.” I’m grinning, but I’m serious. Aubrey looks bemused.             

“Well,” he responds, sounding thoughtful as he taps his finger against his chin, “that would require gallons of lube. And I can’t see the city authorizing the expense.” He smiles, his eyes again twinkling. “I’m sure I can get the approval for your design easily, especially since it will be an original.” He nods, “Yep, everyone’s ass will be protected, don’t you even worry about it.” 

A laugh is startled out of me and a look of pride flashes across Aubrey’s face. I fall a little more in lust with him than I already was. But, I’m pretty sure, it isn’t only lust.  “You don’t have a filter, do you?” My remark caught Aubrey as he was taking another drink of his coffee, causing him to sputter and barely avoid choking.  He swallows hard, accidentally thunking his mug hard on the table.  Since he is clearly not dying from my inappropriately timed comment, I press my advantage.  I allow a slow smile to creep across my face as I stare into his eyes, which have widened in surprise.  “I like it. I like it a lot.”

***

You are not blushing, I tell the misbehaving capillaries in my face. You are not blushing, I admonish them, to no avail, as I feel the heat diffuse across my face. Black is grinning like the asshole he surely is. Yes, he’s definitely laughing at me.  His grin is devastating and handsome, soul shaking and so warm and welcoming, like a bubble bath.  I clear my throat and shake my head as I realize I’ve been staring at his face for longer than is polite or in any way “hetero-conscious.” 

“Like what you see?” He drawls at me and his smile grows impossibly wider. Yep, he has my number, and damn it all if I’m not starting to blush again.

Get it under control, Aubrey! I sternly and a little bit desperately chastise myself. The man is hot with all capital letters, but work comes first. But then, maybe play, the naughty part of my soul whispers to me, he looks awfully fun. 

“Shit!” I accidentally say. In shock that I’ve spoken aloud, my eyes shoot up to his face. I hadn’t even realized I’d dropped my gaze. Now I’m staring into his dark brown eyes, completely mortified, my cheeks probably glowing like Rudolph’s nose.

“Shit!” I accidentally say again. “Damn it!” 

Then he laughs, a strong, welcoming sound which oddly relaxes me, and I laugh, too.

“Drinks tonight, then?” he asks.

He’s completely and smoothly sidestepped the whole “I’m gay, are you too?” conversation, and I’m more relieved than I’ve been in my entire life. And also, a hell of a lot more turned on. 

“Yeah, that sounds great,” I reply, my voice sounding squeaky and a little bit high. I swallow, purposely lowering my voice as I struggle to get myself under control. My voice now comes out breathily, which in this case is an improvement, even if it clearly comes across as interested. “Yes, I would like that. Do you have any place in mind? I’m new here, you know.” 

He looks unbelievably relieved which calms me down considerably. How could a man who looks like an artist’s rendering of Odysseus-all tall, tight muscle, with shoulder-length black hair, dark brown eyes you could drown in, and a smile he must have stolen off an angel or Lucifer-ever be nervous about landing a date?  Now my mind thinks it’s a date and I have to back up the mental trolley a bit. He just asked you out to drinks, not to elope to Greece and go skinny dipping in Ouzo with him.      

My eyes are roaming over his face, and if I couldn’t tell he was equally eyeing me, I would probably go up in flames from embarrassment. For a moment, we stare at each other, but all awkwardness seems to have evaporated.  I notice the dark five o’clock shadow across his jaw.  It’s nine a.m. and he looks sharp otherwise with a tight black T-shirt tucked into black jeans that reveal his powerful thighs and probably cup his ass beautifully.  But I haven’t been favored with that view yet.  I think leaving the shadow along his jaw was a choice.  An image perhaps, it definitely goes with his shoulder length black waves.  When he stroked his hands through his hair earlier, I’d had to stop myself from getting up and replacing those hands with mine.  Yeah, I’m in real trouble here.  

I clear my throat and realize we have been staring at each other, without talking for at least a full minute.  I lean a little closer myself, drawn in by him.  I can smell his cologne and coffee, and his eyes look like bittersweet chocolate from this vantage point.  He leans forward as well, and we seem like opposite magnets, pulled toward one another.  A soft smile plays on his lips, and it’s different than the smiles he has favored me with thus far.  It has a shy and earnest quality to it, and my heart flip flops over.  This man is very dangerous to me, and I couldn’t be happier to find out exactly how.

“Do you like wine?” he asks softly.  Our faces are dangerously close together now, especially considering we met two seconds ago.  I take another breath of his unique mixture of scent and pull myself back into my chair.  He mirrors my move and leans back in his chair.  The devilish grin is back on his face, and I grin ridiculously.  

“Of course, I do.”

“Well then, I know where I’m taking you tonight.”

“Good.  I can’t wait to find out.” Even though I’ve known him less than half an hour, I’d let him take me just about anywhere.

***

Aubrey looked like a goddamn work of art and I wanted him to be my art. Realizing the depth of my reaction to a man I met a mere hour ago should have freaked me out, or at least given me pause. But, it didn’t. I refused to consider why. Just for the moment, I will let myself just be. I will feel this…thing… for lack of a better word, and let it float me up out of the cavern of my despair for a while. I won’t over think it,. I’ll just go with the fizzy joy of sunshine that sparks through my bloodstream when his eyes meet mine. No need to think beyond that. I’m resolved, I realize, a little stunned. 

I look up from the coffee cup and glance at my watch, only to notice I’ve been staring into my mug for the better part of half an hour. Ironing out the details of my contract with the city hadn’t taken long, and after that, I didn’t have a reason to delay Aubrey from his tasks for the day.  From the full planner he had on the table, his day must be packed.  Mine, on the other hand, is quite free, unless I want to start sketching that cactus, which I don’t.  I don’t want to do anything other than think about Aubrey.  

His yellow tie had stood out brightly against his blue button down.  The color fit him, I muse, sunshine and sunflowers. If I were to paint him, I would have to incorporate sunflowers. Pulling in a sharp breath at the direction of my thoughts, I shake my head to clear it. I haven’t thought about painting in years, and I won’t be treading down that road of thought now, especially not when I have someone so much more appealing to think about.  

Aubrey left as soon as we settled on the wine bar for tonight. I grin as I scoop up the cold coffee cup, unfold myself from the seat, and saunter over to the dirty bin near the condiment nook. I deposit my half full cup in the plastic container, a rare occurrence of lax caffeine consumption, and head out the door. The warm sunshine hits my face, and I’m sure my smile would look sweet to anyone who saw it. The sunshine feels like Aubrey’s gaze, and I’m over the moon with joy that I will see him again in a few short hours. I fish my keys out of my jeans pocket and walk briskly to my car. A few short hours, I assure myself. Then, I’m having wine with Aubrey Davies.

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