Hi guys, we have Cass Lennox popping in today with her new release Growing Pains, we have a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~
Gigi Rosenberg is living his best life: performances in the big city, side gigs at a dance company, a successful drag act, and the boy of his childhood dreams who now adores him. Even if the boyfriend part isn’t the sparkly ride of passion he expected it to be, life is sweet. So when his sister’s wedding calls him back to his hometown, he sees an opportunity to show the hicks from his past how wrong they were about him. Only, his boyfriend isn’t quite on board.
Brock Stubbs left their hometown and his parents behind for a reason, and the prospect of facing them again is terrifying. He swore he’d never go back, but Gigi has made it clear refusal isn’t an option, and Brock will do nearly anything for him. There’s just one deal-breaker of a problem: Brock promised Gigi he was out to everyone, including his parents. He lied.
It’s magical to run into the sunset together, but staying the course takes work. For Gigi and Brock, going home feels like the finale of a long, disappointing year. Sometimes love isn’t all you need.
About Toronto Connections series!
The winters might be cold, but hearts are warm in Toronto. Canada’s largest city is home to a big lake, a big tower, and a big queer community. People here are trying to get by like everyone else: pay the bills, deal with life in the city, and maybe find some happiness along the way with someone who’s sweeter than maple candy and more constant than a Canadian’s love for Timmie’s coffee.
For some, falling in love is a real challenge. For others, falling is the easy part—it’s the happy ever after that proves a little more difficult. But in the end, love is worth every complication, misunderstanding, and occasional swear word.
Gigi Rosenberg sat in the driver’s seat of his rented car and glared through the windshield at his boyfriend. Brock stood in the driveway, hands in pockets, his face set to that miserable expression Gigi was starting to despise, not least because it always tugged at his heart, and definitely not least because Brock had been using it a lot lately.
And why the fuck was that again? Oh, let’s think.
Ire fully loaded, he lowered the driver’s-side window and leaned out. “Last chance, boyfriend!”
Brock seemed to curl in on himself. It would have been pathetic if he were any less built, those big shoulders rounding by his ears and his chiselled face dipping into his chest.
No, actually, even with the muscles it was still pathetic.
“I can’t,” Brock said.
Typical. Fucking typical.
A red haze clouded Gigi’s peripheral vision, and he slammed the car horn multiple times as he bellowed, “Fuck you!” Then he pulled his head back in, released the car from park, and began reversing down the driveway.
Unbelievable. Unbelievable. This had to be a sign right? Yeah. This is totally a sign that I’m meant to be wild and free and not attached to some overbuilt—he turned into the road—oversensitive—shifted into drive—overworked—stomped on the accelerator—asshole of a dude who would rather stay home than support his beloved boyfriend.
Gigi looked in the rearview mirror as Brock’s house fell farther behind him. In the backseat, he could see his duffel bag, suit bag, coat, Toronto gift hamper, wedding present, and snacks for the journey. Too many snacks, of course, because his supposed boyfriend wasn’t coming anymore.
He paused at the corner, then made a right. Brock’s street was behind him now, out of sight in the rearview mirror. At the next red light, he punched at the GPS and glared as it began chirruping directions to Highway 400.
Highway 400, which then turned into the Trans-Canada Highway. North on that for almost four hours of forest, then a turn off after Sudbury for another hour of more fucking forest. God, Gigi thought he’d never have to deal with nature again after leaving home, or if he did, it would be a nice distance away. Like Niagara Falls, all safe behind a viewing platform and some cliffs. Being in a car would help, sure, but he’d have to drive through kilometres and kilometres of goddamn trees and leaves and moose and shit, and all he’d get for his trouble was his hick hometown in the middle of Nowhere, Ontario. Alone.
After all, it wasn’t, like, important they go or anything. So what if his big sister, Sophie, was getting hitched to love-of-her-life and all-around-decent-heterosexual Alan, and Gigi was so excited and happy for her he could barely express it? Sure, no big. No big at all.
Seriously, didn’t Brock get what a big deal that was to him? To his family? Sophie deserved all the happiness he could imagine.
Even though happiness apparently meant holding the wedding in their hometown because Maney in the autumn was lovely and beautiful and she wanted her poor fiancé to see where she came from.
Please. She wanted to rub her yummy fiancé and big, fancy wedding in the faces of all those hometown hosers, the ones who’d told her she’d be lucky to get a boyfriend, let alone a husband, especially with a brother like hers. Part of him was ecstatic at the idea of helping her, and another part was scared shitless.
Brock might have been grumpy as shit most of the way there, but his grumpy company was always better than no company at all. And no company was what the journey now promised.
No, wait. That’s good. Fuck him.
His fingers tightened on the steering wheel.
Thing was, he’d had such hopes for rest stops. “Rest” stops where they rested their mouths on each other’s dick and maybe swapped drivers. But no, he wasn’t even going to get pit stop blowjobs now.
It almost made him pull into the nearest parking lot to turn around.
What the hell was Brock’s problem? Okay, he hated their putrefied waste of an ex-hometown as much as Gigi did, but he’d definitely had an easier time of it there as a teenager, and he wouldn’t be the only openly gay guy there this time around. Gigi remembered their teen years like they were yesterday, and he knew Brock did too, but those years were gone. Past. Freaking Sean Penn to Guy Ritchie to Independent Madonna. All Brock had said was that he didn’t want to go back there ever, and not even Gigi’s sister’s wedding was enough incentive, apparently.
Did other divas ever have to put up with shit like this? Probably. He could see Guy Ritchie being all whiny and clingy and Madonna having to bitch-slap his English ass into behaving. But they were divorced now, so obviously she hadn’t put up with whatever bullshit he’d dished. Beyoncé and Jay Z had been tight . . . but then Lemonade had happened. Nah, Kylie did things right: all gorgeous boy toys and nothing long-term. Smart girl.
Actually, he was seeing a pattern there that he wasn’t entirely sure he liked.
The passenger seat was empty and it seemed wrong, but Gigi elected to ignore that and focus on the drive, on getting the car through Toronto’s Friday traffic. It was just before lunchtime but somehow still bad. The red haze faded from the edges of his vision the closer he got to Highway 400.
He hadn’t even left Toronto, yet the 400 still felt too close to home.
If he were being honest—and Gigi prided himself on knowing exactly when to be honest and when bullshittery was needed—he couldn’t blame Brock. Going back to their hometown, The Place Where Death Went to Be Bored, was in their top-five Things They Never Wanted to Do. It was also in their top-three things of Stuff I’ll Only Do With You.
For him it was a no-brainer: he’d left the relentless homophobia of his adolescence behind and was so uninterested in visiting it, he might as well wrap it in grey and stripes and call it a police cell.
Brock, though, was being totally closemouthed about whatever his exact problem was. Who knew what it could be? From what little he’d mentioned over the year and three months they’d been dating, and the fact that Gigi had never heard him speak to or mention his parents, Gigi guessed that it had something to do with Brock’s family. But he’d never said anything, so Gigi didn’t actually know.
And when that lousy, traitorous wimp had dropped that I can’t this morning, shut down and pulled out—and not in a sexy way—it had really hurt. Gigi was furious and fucked—also not in the good way. There wasn’t even an excuse this time. Just I can’t. If Gigi could make himself go—not like he had a choice or anything—Brock could put on his big-boy pants and come with.
Gigi’s fingers were all tight on the wheel again, knuckles showing white. Oooh, that couldn’t be good for his skin. Age showed in the hands. He took a few deep breaths, forcing his hands to relax.
All right. So. He was going all toned, sexy, fabulous, and alone.
Well, if Kylie and Gaga could do it, so could he.
He flipped his hair—not that there was much to flip, but that wasn’t the point—and at another red light, dug around for his iPod. If he was going to be driving for the next five-ish hours without any prospects of blowjobs or bitching about this stupid hometown wedding, he needed the next best thing: spiritual sisterly support. He found the iPod and stuck the cable into the car’s USB port.
The synthetic opening of Lady Gaga’s “Applause” beat into his car and Gigi grinned. Yes.
He emphatically did not think about Brock, or Brock’s expression as Gigi had yelled at him, or how tense and monosyllabic Brock had been in the last two weeks. Nope. And, okay, his phone chimed and lit up repeatedly beside him on the passenger seat, but like hell he was going to check it. He was driving and he was going to Maney and nothing was going to stop him.
He reached the junction that fed onto the 401 Expressway, the road that would then feed onto Highway 400. Fuck. Here we go.
Something ticked over in his brain, and before he’d realized it, he pulled off the road, into the parking lot of the Yorkdale mall, and stopped in the first bay he saw.
Deep breaths. Centre yourself. Think about this.
What was he doing? Was he really going to go back to Maney alone? Okay, Sophie and his parents would be there, and it was only for four days, but they wouldn’t be with him all day. They’d be focused on the wedding, not on dealing with any shit from the neighbours or from people he’d known at school.
Gigi could handle himself. He’d been handling himself since he was twelve and Turk Rogers had caught him reading men’s health magazines in the only bookstore in town. He was twenty-five now and a queen. If he wanted to, he could go full Priscilla on their asses, stroll down Main in a frock and ten-inch stilettos, and use those stilettos to punch holes in anyone who so much as looked at him wrong. Maney was going to get Gigi LaMore, because his queen was who he channelled these days, who he really was, not shy, scared, chubby Toby Rosenberg. Toby was long gone.
The problem was, no one else would see him as Gigi. They’d still call him Toby, still know him as the gay kid who ate his feelings and did theatre and sang too much. He didn’t mind his family calling him that, because they loved him, but having no one else there who knew and appreciated Gigi as his full and complete self was going to be hard.
Brock knew him. Brock loved him.
Or so he said.
Gigi felt tears threatening, and leaned forward to rest his forehead against the wheel. Fuck. He did need Brock. He really did. Why the hell couldn’t Brock be there for him? What was four days of crazy and a wedding? Four days.
Maybe Gigi could have tried to persuade him instead of throwing down a Mariah and driving away. Brock’s expression was starting to seem less selfish and weak, and more scared stupid. Still stupid, because they’d had a year to discuss this. A year. And all Brock had said was yes to going, right up until he’d said no.
Maybe Gigi should reconsider that last chance thing.
His phone buzzed again, and he picked it up. Fifteen missed calls from Brock. Three messages. Gigi didn’t even read them, he just called Brock.
“Thank God,” Brock answered. “Babe, I’m sorry.”
The anger was back, but it was caught up in a bucketload of relief. “Sorry isn’t good enough, but I’m glad you called.”
“I know.” Brock hesitated. “I have never seen you that angry. Not when we had to cancel Montreal. Not even when Woody’s dropped your show during makeup.”
And that really had been some bullshit. But it was liveable bullshit. And Brock didn’t get to use Montreal like that. “Hey, we cancelled Montreal because you had to work. Again.”
“Fuck you for bringing that back up again, by the way. This is not Montreal. This is my sister’s wedding. This is not a weekend trip or a fancy restaurant or one of my shows. And by the way, I’m over you cancelling that shit too. If you tell me right now that you couldn’t go to my sister’s wedding because of work, I will fucking end you when I get back.”
Brock took a deep breath. “It’s not work. It’s not.”
His voice quivered slightly. “I promised myself I wouldn’t go back there. Not for anything.”
“So did I, but life’s a bitch, honey.” Gigi paused. “Not for anything? Not even for me? What about what we talked about? You and me, together. Remember that?”
Brock was silent.
“So, not even for me. Thanks a lot, boyfriend.” Tears were close again. Gigi sat back against his seat, staring out at the parking lot. He hated this. He really, really hated these kinds of conversations. “What are we doing?”
“What do you mean?”
“What is this? I’m sitting in fucking Yorkdale, staring at cars—by myself—because you can’t man up and visit the shithole that is our hometown. I hate it too, but I’m doing it, and I’m the one who got more shit for being gay there than you ever did.”
“I’m not done yet. What I can’t do is explain to my sister why my boyfriend isn’t going to be there, because all I got is his principles are more important than my family, and that’s too crappy a reason to give her, by the way. Because I’m wondering if it’s not something more like he doesn’t want to be seen with his femmy queen boyfriend in public there. Because why else would my boyfriend of over a year keep cancelling on me? Why do you keep doing that?”
“I don’t mean to. I want to do well at my job. You know that.” Brock sighed. “I’m sorry. I’ll try harder, and I won’t drop plans again. I promise, it’s nothing to do with you. I love you exactly the way you are.”
Gigi had heard that before. He’d heard that the first night they’d gotten together, one year and a summer ago, and he’d heard it since, and somehow it no longer meant anything. “Yeah? Prove it.”
A note of anger appeared in Brock’s voice now. “What do you mean, ‘prove it’? Haven’t I already done that?”
Crap. That hadn’t come out right. Deep breaths. Collect and try again. “Look. Babe. What I mean is that this is important. You don’t cancel a wedding unless it’s an emergency, and this isn’t. People in relationships don’t do that to each other. So this thing that’s happening right now? It doesn’t feel like a relationship.” As soon as he’d said it, Gigi realized with a shudder how true it was. “You’ve been a grumpy asshole for how long now? Since you graduated? And you won’t tell me why. You don’t tell me anything. You just work and let me come over to suck your dick and cook food. You’re not happy. And I’m not happy. And now you’re letting me down big time, and I’m tired of all of it. Is this how we are now?”
Brock was quiet for what felt like a long time before he said, “Are you . . . are you breaking up with me?”
Oh please. “Like hell I’m showing up unattached at my sister’s wedding. I’m going to Maney and telling them all about my hot boyfriend and sweet job so they see how awesome my life is, then I’m going to come back and dump your ass.”
Which he was angry enough to do right now. When Sophie’d announced the engagement last year—and once Gigi had stopped flipping his shit at the location of the wedding—he’d slowly concluded that maybe this wasn’t an entirely bad thing. He’d pictured returning home, all toned and sexy and fabulous, with his gorgeous boyfriend on his arm, showing off just how wrong everyone there was about him and his sister and Brock. He wanted to fuck his boyfriend in the room he’d had as a bullied, outcast teenager. He wanted the dumb hicks who’d tortured him to see him happy and out and attached. He wanted to dance with Brock at his sister’s reception. It would totally bring things full circle.
And if he couldn’t do those things, he was going to do the next best thing and lie through his winningest smile with a pic of his boyfriend at the ready on his phone.
But, damn it, he really wanted to do those things.
He also wanted to take everything back. Brock had a quaver in his voice that Gigi hadn’t heard in a long time, which had him checking himself. Had it really come to this? Was he really going to dump Brock over this? What was he doing?
Gigi cast back over the last year. The last three months or so had fucking sucked, like seriously sucked, but it’d started out so well. How had they reached this point?
Regardless of good beginnings, they couldn’t keep going. Not like this. So now was as good a time as ever to—
“No.” Brock’s voice growled through the phone. Goose bumps rose on Gigi’s skin. Oooh, he knew that voice. He likedthat voice.
“No to everything you just said. I don’t know if you’re trying to threaten me or manipulate me, but there is absolutely no way I want to break up with you, babe.” His voice lost the edginess. “Are you really that unhappy with me?”
A lump lodged in Gigi’s throat. “I don’t want to go to Maney. If I have to go, I want to go with you. You keep saying that you have my back, but you’re not here and I don’t understand why. I feel like you haven’t been with me for months now.”
A long silence followed his words.
Read more at: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/growing-pains (Just click the excerpt tab)
Cass Lennox is a permanent expat who has lived in more countries than she cares to admit to and suffers from a chronic case of wanderlust as a result. She started writing stories at the tender age of eleven, but would be the first to say that the early years are best left forgotten and unread. A great believer in happy endings, she arrived at queer romance via fantasy, science fiction, literary fiction, and manga, and she can’t believe it took her that long. Her specialties are diverse characters, gooey happy ever afters, and brownies. She’s currently sequestered in a valley in southeast England.
Connect with Cass:
- Blog: casslennox.wordpress.com/
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/Cass-Lennox-1704635609768647/
- Twitter: twitter.com/CassLennox