By the Rules, Evergreen Grove Book 3
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He thinks I want him because of the rumors around town. Because I think he’s easy. I want AJ, because he’s AJ.
No liars. No suits. Absolutely no straight guys…
AJ Fabin’s list of rules keeps him safe. Since getting kicked out of his parents’ home and attacked by a former escorting client, his rules and his life in the tiny town of Evergreen Grove provide a quiet haven. He may be lonely, and he may stick out like a sore thumb, but the folks like him well enough. When he’s not dodging his old pimp, things are peaceful.
Hayden Price is having a quarter-life crisis. Engaged to a woman he can’t connect to and working a job he secretly hates, he comes to Evergreen Grove to help his mother through a health scare. Returning to his childhood home makes Hayden reevaluate a lot of things, including himself. When he meets AJ and finds he can’t stand the mouthy jerk—almost as much as he can’t stop thinking about him—he has a lot more to change than his career.
To be together, they’ll both have to break all of their rules.
By the Rules is book 3 in the Evergreen Grove series, but reads as a standalone.
Cover photography by Michael Stokes
Cover design by Babski Creative Studios
Cover model – Brad Greiner
When I left, it was a pin dot of a town going nowhere. Nobody in it would go anywhere. Nobody would ever change. My mom came here looking for someplace affordable and “simple” after things didn’t work out with my dad. I left senior year of high school because I was afraid I’d become a casualty of all that simplicity. I saw the buzz of city life and the success my father’s company had achieved. I wanted that kind of power.
I needed to be powerful.
Now, standing outside of Delia’s Bakery and Café at closing time, I can see the town has gone somewhere after all. Maybe not leaps and bounds in the grand scheme, but somewhere. From Mom’s little bakery to a tidy convenience store, a bar & grill, and a Laundromat, most of these shops on Main are new or spruced-up. I have to admit, Delia’s Bakery and Café looks cozy sitting among them. When she opened a few years ago, I told her this backwards little town wouldn’t give a shit about gourmet coffee and fancy muffins.
One more way I’ve been wrong. One more way I’ve been a shitty son.
“Trouble?” Mouthy AJ appears at my shoulder with a smile on his face and his hands jammed in his pockets. I don’t know how long he’s been there. Wasn’t paying attention. Didn’t hear him coming. Awesome.
“Man, what is your deal? Are you some kind of rainbow ninja or something?” I hope that the way I’m wildly gesturing to his colorful clothing hides the fact that he honestly did startle the crap out of me. I’m also hoping he didn’t overhear my conversation with Meg, because I probably didn’t come off sounding too great.
He’s just some kid my mom knows. His opinion of me should matter less than not at all. Still, for some reason it bothers me that he might think I’d be an asshole. I’m not even honestly jealous about Meg and Stephan. I don’t like being played though, and I don’t like feeling stupid. If she’s moved on, I wish she’d say so.
Aside from the ego bruises, the idea of Meg screwing another guy doesn’t elicit much reaction. More like it would be a relief to finally end this protracted charade. What does that say about me?
“Hmm.” AJ rubs his hand thoughtfully over his messy blond hair. The strands ruffle and stand up at odd angles. “Rainbow Ninjas. I’d join that rock band. At the least, I’d grab a ticket and a beer to hear them play.”
I’m not sure what the guy’s talking about, but I actually find his weird-ass comment kind of funny. Not that I say so, because I’m still hanging on to my dislike. Even though it’s generally bad business to hold a grudge. You never know who can become an important contact.
I guess I can give getting along a shot. I did promise my mom. “Buddy, it’s a little early to be drinking.”
The blue in his eyes catches hold of the setting sun when he smiles. In spite of his punk look and his disheveled hair, the halo of light around him makes him look a little too golden boy. So much I kind of want to go back to hating him when he shrugs and says, “Hey, it’s five o’clock somewhere. Oh. Wait. It’s actually already five here.”