Cover & Excerpt Reveal:
BACK TO CENTER
By Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood
BACK TO CENTER
Mohegan U Hockey #2
by Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood
Cover & Excerpt Reveal
Release Date: February 1, 2023
Cate Ashwood Designs
Model: Aaron Anderson
Genre: M/M Sports Romance
Trope: Friends to lovers, coach/player, single dad, unexpected love, redemption, depression, physical/emotional abuse by parents, HEA
There are ways to get ahead in college hockey, but having a meltdown, trying to get rid of your coach, and stalking his boyfriend isn’t one of them. Is it really a surprise that I wound up in a hospital facing my demons instead of getting ready to play for the pros and taking care of my baby? I needed the world’s biggest redo, but the probability of a second chance was about the same as…
Jack Rogan walking through the door. But there he was! Jack was one of my coaches, and I was pretty sure he was straight. His easy laugh and sympathetic ear put a smile on my face. He made me believe I could turn my life around. But as much as I liked him, I knew I had to put my fantasies aside. With obligations to meet and amends to make, I didn’t have time to obsess about a guy who was out of my reach.
So why did I say yes when he offered me a place to stay while I got on my feet?
I was done with relationships. A fractured heart had made sure my walls were high, and my shields were strong. There wasn’t a man I couldn’t resist—until Eckie.
After driving everyone away in an avalanche of self-destruction, he was getting much needed help, and I wondered if I should go see him. A single visit turned into the best part of every day, and I was hooked. When I was with Eckie, the world made sense again. There were only two years separating us, but since I was one of his coaches, spending time together was dangerous. If we kept it up, who knew what I might do?
Maybe something brilliant, like asking him to stay with me when he left the hospital. I knew it was risky, and I told myself I was only being a friend. But the truth was, I liked feeling things again.
Eckie was seeking redemption; Jack was trying to do the right thing. Neither planned on anything beyond friendship. Will following their hearts leave them worse than before, or will they find what they’ve needed all along?
Back to Center is a story of redemption and the unexpected love a man finds in a friend he never knew he’d have. It also includes exciting hockey, a coach/player dynamic, great communication, unquenchable longing giving way to irrepressible heat, an adorable baby, and a perfect HEA.
Content warnings for depression and physical/emotional abuse by parents. The abuse happened in the past, but knowing about it may be difficult for some.
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“How do you feel about things now?” Eckie asked. “You’re a brilliant coach, but it’s probably not too late to get into the NHL. You’d be a free agent.”
“I don’t think I want that. Once I decided not to sign, everything in my life improved. I know how much you want to play, so you may not understand, but I want to teach players, enable them to do their best.” I hesitated before adding, “And I want plenty of time to love somebody if I’m lucky enough to get the chance.”
A smile touched his lips. “You’re too amazing not to have that in your future.”
My mouth went dry, but I had to ask. “Are you upset because I didn’t tell you about my depression sooner? I wasn’t trying to hide it from you, I swear. It’s just that you were working so hard on your own problems, and I didn’t want to interfere with that.” My voice fluttered, so I stopped long enough to swallow. “To be honest, I was also afraid if I told you, you might not believe I liked you. I didn’t want you to think there was some other reason I was visiting.”
“Like feeling sorry for me?”
“That was never it, not one time. I came to see you because I wanted to. When there was a day I couldn’t make it, I was uneasy until I saw you again. Do you believe me?”
“Yes. You’re telling me things now, and I understand why you didn’t before.”
I blew out a relieved breath. “Thank you.”
“On the days you couldn’t come to visit, I felt empty. I like you, too, which brings up something I’ve been meaning to ask.”
Someone yelled in the distance, but neither of us moved. Eckie’s eyes looked like shiny black onyxes as he shifted toward me. “Do you like girls, Jack?”
My heart thumped, but not in a bad way. He’d given me the opening I needed. “Yes, but not how I think you mean it. I’m gay.”
I was glad to get it out there, but when he remained quiet, I prickled. Was it not what he wanted to hear? Whatever I expected from him, it wasn’t silence. “What the hell?” I snapped. “You ask me something like that, and when I answer, all you have to say is ‘wow’?”
“Whoa! Easy, Jack.”
“I’ve been wanting to tell you, looking for the right time. I don’t want you to think I’m ashamed of it or tried to hide it from you. Just like with my depression, I didn’t say anything because you had your hands full taking care of yourself, and I didn’t want you to think I was…”
He hiked an eyebrow.
“I didn’t want you thinking I was there to hit on you. My feelings about you are much deeper than that.”
Eckie still didn’t say anything, and I got irritated again. “I wanted to tell you, but the longer I waited, the harder it was. Now it’s out there, and I’m glad you asked me, but you don’t have anything to say? Why the hell did you bring it up?” I ran out of steam and waited for a response, wondering what he’d do if I kissed him.
His lips twitched, and he looked like he was waiting for me to start yelling again. When I didn’t, he leaned closer. “Are you done now?”
Embarrassed by my outburst, I nodded.
“Good, because I have things to say.”
I nodded again.
“First, I’ve been hoping you’re gay, because you’ll never know how much I’ve wanted to—”
All at once, his lips were on mine. Soft and warm, they tasted like cherry lip balm. We wrapped our arms around each other while we sneaked breaths and hummed softly. I hoped the moment would last forever, but he drew away too soon. “I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.”
Breathless, I whispered, “Glad you did it, then.”
He licked my lips and kissed me again. I opened for him, moaning while he explored, and birds sang nearby while we held each other. He smiled when we parted. “That’s only a little of what I have to say, but it couldn’t wait. Are you okay with this?”
My heart fluttered. “Perfect.”
He broadened his smile into a grin, looking as happy as I felt. “I’m glad we agree. Why don’t we go find someplace to eat? I’m starved, and we can talk more there.”
BACK TO CENTER: Copyright © 2023 Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood. All rights reserved.
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CRACKS IN THE ICE
Mohegan U Hockey #1
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About the Authors
Ryan Taylor met his husband and co-author, Joshua Harwood, in law school. They live in a suburb of Washington, DC, and share their home with a big, cuddly German shepherd. Ryan and Josh love to travel. In addition, Ryan also enjoys swimming, and Josh likes to putter in the garden whenever he can. They began writing to celebrate the romance they were so lucky to find with each other, and the sharing soon developed into a passion for telling stories about love between out and proud men.
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