M/M Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 11.14.19
He’s Mr. Right Now, but for how long?
When Russ suffers a Thanksgiving disaster, his gorgeous neighbor Esteban is there to save the day. And after an innocent mix-up leads to the former Hollywood hottie playing the role of Russ’s date, Russ thinks scoring Esteban as his fake boyfriend is a huge win. The newly discharged marine is healing inside and out and could use some holiday cheer.
For his part, Esteban is intrigued by his big, bad neighbor. He likes how his matchmaking cat brings out an unexpected caring side of Russ. Desire flares as the reasons to continue their ruse pile up for both men.
And pretending feels so good. From chocolaty kisses to late night cuddles, their burgeoning friendship is getting cozier and cozier. But as the end date for their little deception looms, all the real feelings they’ve tried to ignore come tumbling in. Each must decide whether they have what it takes to ring in the New Year as a couple.
Mr. Right Now is a stand-alone holiday novella with sweet, low-angst feels, spicy love scenes, and foodie inspired, quirky Oregon romance with a military flavor. Happy ending guaranteed with no cliffhangers!
Tags: neighbors-to-lovers, fake boyfriend, holiday romance, friends-to-lovers
Russ didn’t consider himself an angry guy, but as he carried the blackened and flaking skillet out to the trash, he was seriously considering violence toward the misbehaving onions that had transformed from raw to charred before he could save his pan. The mess was far too gross for pitching into his small under-the-sink can.
Adrenaline pumping more than it needed to be, he heaved the pan into the shared dumpster for his condo community where it landed with a satisfying clang. “Take that, Thanksgiving.”
Now he needed to go back into his place and decide how to cope with the loss of his one large skillet. If he didn’t pass out from the stench first. He sagged against the fence surrounding the dumpster and took some deep breaths.
“Problem?” A familiar, deep voice asked.
Hell. Of course, he wasn’t alone in his humiliation. No, his next-door neighbor was right there, neat white bag of trash in hand. And not the older woman who occupied the condo on the corner. This would have to be the hot neighbor, Esteban.
With his full head of dark hair shot through with silver strands, lush mouth, chiseled features, and lean build, Esteban always managed to look like a magazine spread of forty-something Hollywood heartthrobs. He even looked good taking out the trash. Today he was wearing a black T-shirt advertising last year’s Pride Run, turquoise running shoes, and gray shorts way too short for the dreary November Portland weather.
“Not really.” Russ tried for a casual tone.
“Trying out for the next Olympic shotput team? Or did that pan commit some unpardonable offense?” Esteban laughed lightly, in his usual good humor.
His voice was as Hollywood-worthy as the rest of him, rich and sinful even when teasing. Nothing seemed to faze him, not his escape-artist cat, not the continual parking issues for their condo complex, not mail mix-ups, and not Russ taking his frustrations out on his cookware.
“The second. Ruined my stuffing before it even got started.” He groaned, hating how the explanation sounded, but also not one to lie simply for the sake of looking better. Even if Hot Neighbor Esteban was totally worth a white lie or two.
“There’s a joke there…” A smile teased the edges of Esteban’s full mouth. “Let me guess, your family assigned you a dish you’ve never made before to bring to dinner?”
“Worse.” Might as well confess everything. “I’m supposed to be hosting. And I was supposed to have help, but then my…boyfriend broke up with me last night, and now I’m on my own.”
It still felt weird, that word “boyfriend” on his tongue, even when he was almost certain that Esteban, the guy his Realtor had described as a “hot, gay, former movie star,” wouldn’t care. Heck, if he was honest, that descriptor, plus the convenient single-story layout, had sold him on the condo several months back.
“Oh, man. He seriously left you hanging, didn’t he?” Eyebrows creasing, Esteban shook his head. “Didn’t he even leave you a cookbook or a menu for the meal?”
“Nope. Just me and Chef Google. Tried to make a plan this morning.” Russ tried for an upbeat tone again. “There’s apparently a limit to what cooking videos can teach on the fly.”
“Yeah, there is. Is there anything I could do to help?” Esteban seemed sincere in the offer, voice warm and sympathy clear in his brown eyes.
It was the kind of offer Russ would ordinarily turn down. He was a former marine, and he liked to think he could handle himself in most situations. As a result, he didn’t like relying too much on strangers, or even friends, and he’d gotten a little too good at distancing himself from well-meaning buddies from the military.
But Thanksgiving meant these were not ordinary times. He was well and totally screwed for hosting dinner.
“Do you have a large nonstick skillet I could borrow?” he asked. “Most stores are probably closed, and even for the ones that are open, by the time I go and come back…”
“I’ve got you.” Esteban clapped him on the shoulder, strong grip that belied his lean build.
The rumors were probably right about Esteban’s movie-star career. He was one of those perfectly proportioned people—neither tall nor short, shoulders more in keeping with his running habit than linebacker-wide, slim torso, toned legs, and long, elegant fingers that always made Russ feel that much bulkier and clumsier.
“I…uh… Can I get it now? I’ll bring it back later. And if another disaster happens—”
“It won’t.” Laughing again, Esteban shivered as a breeze whipped through their corner of the courtyard.
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Russ admitted, trying his best to ignore the impulse to warm up Esteban. Between his electric touch and the adorable way his cheeks went pink in the chilly wind, there was no denying Esteban’s appeal, even if Russ had sworn just last night that he was over attractive guys forever. “But I’ll replace it if it gets ruined.”
“Appreciated, but I’m coming with the pan. I can get you started sautéing without torching anything at least. You need another onion? I’ve got plenty.”
“You want to help me?” Russ blinked. This was…unexpected.
About the Author
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer. Mr. Right Now joins her many other critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance series and stand-alone titles. To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, check out her website: www.annabethalbert.com or connect with Annabeth on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify! Also, be sure to sign up for her newsletter for free ficlets, bonus reads, and contests. The fan group, Annabeth’s Angels, on Facebook is also a great place for bonus content and exclusive contests.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and particularly loves uncovering unique main characters. In her personal life, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two active children.
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