26 August 2016

Book Tour & Giveaway ~ Not A Game by Cardeno C.

Not a Game

An accidental meeting and a misunderstanding lead to a life-altering connection.

A new job, a new city, and hopefully a new life. When chubby gamer Oliver Barnaby receives a job offer from the best boutique game developer in the country, he leaves his family and his less than spectacular existence in Oklahoma without a seconds hesitation. Determined to change more than his career and his geography, Oliver implements a plan to finally land a boyfriend. Step one is improving his skills in the bedroom.

A life that looks perfect on paper, but feels empty in reality. Attractive, successful, charismatic Jaime Snow has a life other people envy. His already booming business is growing. He isnt lacking in friends. And he has no trouble finding a date. But theres an emptiness in Jaimes heart and a hole in his life that only the right man can fill.

An accidental meeting, a misunderstanding, and falling in love. When Oliver and Jaime end up at the same bar at the same time, they each see something they want in the other. Going to bed together that first night is easy. Building the lifetime relationship they both desperately crave will require trust, time, and a little misunderstanding.

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Not a Game Print

Excerpt

Chapter 1

He had chosen the bar because of its name: The Bookstore. It was clever and unusual and he had laughed internally at how happy his mother would be if he told her he was spending time at the Bookstore instead of in front of his computer. Olivers entire life, she had mourned the fact he wasnt a reader, and even though he had now moved two thousand miles away from their home in Oklahoma City, she still sent him books she was sure hed love. Maybe someday hed open one of them.

For now, he glanced down at the only book he had read countless times and adjusted it at the edge of his table to make the spine as visible as possible. The titleCodingwasnt as clever as the bar name, but the information and the way it was phrased had clicked perfectly in Olivers brain when he was a college freshman. He had long since moved past the information inside, but the textbook was the closest thing he had to a security blanket, so he had held onto it through four years of progressively more complicated computer science classes, three dead-end computer repair and technical support jobs, and a move to Seattle to finally, finally, live his dream developing video games. When he had to pick a way to identify himself to the stranger who would guide him on the last phase of his journey toward living the life he had always wanted, the first thing that came to Olivers mind was the book that had started it all.

With the spine facing the bar and walkway and his glass empty, Oliver had nothing left to do but wait or get his phone out to play a quick turn on Clash of Clans. He reached into his pocket almost before his brain had formulated the thought. A quick glance at his screen confirmed it was still twenty minutes shy of eight oclock. Oliver prided himself on timeliness, something his father had drummed into him since he was a boy, and after two months in Seattle, he hadnt yet gotten a handle on how long it took to get anywhere, so he had erred on the side of caution and ended up arriving half an hour early.

In his head, his mother lectured him about playing on his phone when he should be paying attention to people, but he was twenty-eight years old, and she was too far away to see him, so he ignored her and tried to lose himself in a game. Besides, taking his mind off why he was in that bar would stop him from falling headfirst into an anxiety attack, and even his mother would agree that was a good thing in a social setting. Not that she would ever have the chance to know about his plans that evening, because, despite how close they were, this was one activity Oliver absolutely would not share with his family. Or anyone else for that matter.

Nerves rising, he scratched his upper back through his shirt with one hand and his thigh with the other. Recognizing what he was doing, he forced his hands away before he broke the skin. Hoping for a distraction, he jerked his gaze toward his pop when, suddenly, from the corner of his eye, he noticed someone moving in his direction. Instinctively, Oliver grabbed the glass and scrunched over it, using the act of sipping from a straw as a shield to keep himself from staring at people who inevitably didnt notice him. But when the man didnt veer away and instead came closer, Oliver glanced up and realized the stranger was looking right at his book. Which meant he was either coming to tease the chubby nerd for having a textbook at a bar on a Friday night or

Oh my God. This is him. Oliver kept his head down but couldnt stop himself from flicking his gaze back and forth between his still empty glass and the approaching man.

Older than Oliver, but not too old, broad shoulders, light eyes, short dark hair, and a sculpted face. The man stopped right next to the table, waited for Oliver to look up, and then said, Interesting reading choice. He tapped the top of the cover and tried to meet Olivers gaze.

Even though this was one situation where Oliver couldnt be rejected or laughed at, he still struggled to speak to such a handsome man, and he definitely couldnt make eye contact with him. And now that he was close enough for Oliver to see him clearly, he definitely knew that was true. He set his gaze on the mans chin and took in his features.

The dark hair was brown but it had strands of chestnut at the top and flecks of silver in the sideburns, which extended to the bottom of his earlobe. The light eyes were green, a pale shade that still managed to look warm. And the broad shoulders topped a chest so muscular that it stretched the black T-shirt he wore underneath a well-fitted jacket. This guy was fantasy material, and Oliver couldnt believe he had gotten so lucky.

Is this book yours?

Yes, Oliver said hoarsely and then cleared his throat. Its mine.

The mans forehead crinkled. He tilted his head to the side and stared at Oliver.

At first, the odd look discomforted him, but then Oliver remembered the social etiquette classes he had been forced to attend in middle school, and he realized where he had gone wrong.

Please have a seat, he said, raising his hand toward the empty chair across from him. Though his voice still shook more than he would have liked, it was a bolder invitation than he usually gave. Of course, usually men didnt approach him, especially incredibly handsome men, and usually people didnt want to hang out with him, and usually he didnt look up escort services and set up a meeting. So today was anything but Olivers usual.

Thanks. The man pulled back the empty chair, sat, and then scooted it forward. Im Jaime. He reached his hand out.

Oliver glanced down at the hand, blinked, and then remembered his manners. Im Oliver. He wiped his sweaty palm on his jeans, took Jaimes hand, and shook it. Oliver Barnaby.

Oh crap. Was giving his last name in this situation a bad idea? Oh well. If everything went as expected, Oliver would be spending time alone with this man, which would put him at more risk than sharing his name. He had made reservations at the hotel upstairs, which was expensive and not completely secure, but it had to be safer than bringing a stranger to his apartment.

So, Oliver Barnaby. Grinning, Jaime glanced at the book and arched his eyebrows. What are you doing here with this?

Straight to the point. In Jaimes line of work, being direct made sense, but Oliver wasnt skilled at holding an articulate conversation with a live human so he fidgeted in his seat. Well, uh He gulped.

Late night study session? The comment was teasing, but the tone held no malice and Jaimes expression, while most definitely amused, wasnt cruel.

Sorry. Im being silly. Oliver shook his head. We both know why were here so He drew in a deep breath. Im not sure how much he told you. He frowned and thought back to the brief phone call hed had with the man from the ad. Actually, I dont remember how much detail I gave him other than saying I needed someone experienced.

Experienced?

Uh-huh. Because, uh. He looked at Jaimes handsome face and once again lost the power of speech.

He hadnt thought through how the escort agency would interpret his request but now he realized they had taken it to mean Oliver wanted someone a bit older. As luck would have it, older men were very much Olivers type. Or they would be if he had a type. Someone probably needed to go on actual dates rather than just fantasize about them before he could say he had a type.

Oliver?

Oliver blinked.

You were saying you needed someone experienced?

Right. He bobbed his head. See the thing is, I didnt hire you for sex.

There was no missing the shock that crossed Jaimes face.

That didnt come out right. Oliver quickly backtracked. The last thing he wanted was for Jaime to think he was being stiffed because then hed get up and walk out and Oliver would have to start his search all over again. The odds of finding someone as attractive and nice as Jaime to teach him were so low they rounded to zero. I know what escort means and Im all set to pay you. I have the money. He patted his pocket and said an internal thank-you for his new companys generosity. What I meant was that I dont want to have sex with you.

Jaime chuckled and arched his eyebrows, but he didnt say anything.

Ugh. Oliver shook his head. I didnt mean that either. He raised his hand and moved it up and down in Jaimes direction. Look at you. Obviously, I want to have sex with you. But its not about eating the meal, its about learning to fish, you know?

I think Im getting the picture, but why dont you fill in the details? Jaime lowered his voice. And try to keep the whole paying for sex thing out of it. One side of his lips rose in a crooked smile. We are in public after all and not everything is legal in Washington.

Oh God. Oliver jerked his head from side to side, checking to see if anyone was close enough to hear him. The bar wasnt big and there were a decent number of customers, so someone probably had. He leaned forward, his belly squishing against the table. Do you think people will call the police? Should we leave?

No andJaimes smile shifted from amused to wickedeventually. But first, tell me about learning to fish. Jaime settled into his chair and crossed his arms over his chest, his biceps giving the gray suede jacket a workout. I assume we arent talking about the great outdoors, so what exactly are you hiring me to teach you?

When he had come up with the idea to hire an escort, Oliver had focused on how much it would cost, where to do it, and what hed be able to squeeze into one night. He had also spent a decent amount of time second-guessing his plan. But he had never considered how he would explain what he wanted to the man he paid to help him.

Do you guys have like, uh, confidentiality requirements? Oliver asked.

Jaime arched his eyebrows. Confidentiality?

Yeah. Oliver bobbed his head. What I tell you has to stay between us, right?

Well. Jaimes mouth turned up at the corners and then he licked his lips, coughed, and said, Im not a psychiatrist or an attorney, so theres not a licensing board out there keeping me honest, but Ill give you my word to keep this just between us. Hows that?

After considering the response and his alternatives for a couple of seconds, Oliver said, That works.

Glad we got the preliminaries out of the way. Jaime smiled. Tell me what you need, Oliver.

When he said Olivers name, Jaimes voice dropped, going deeper and raspier. The tone sent a pang through Olivers gut and reminded him why this man got paid to do what he did. That made what Oliver had to say even more humiliating, but he didnt want his life in Seattle to be like his life in Oklahoma, so he pushed through the shame and forced himself to speak.

Im pretty sure Im bad in bed and I want help with that. He bit his lip. Real help. Not what people brag about online. He had read endless blogs and subscribed to chat rooms, but loath as he was to admit it, the internet didnt have all the answers.

Looking surprised, Jaime blinked a few times, cleared his throat, and then said, Why do you think youre bad in bed?

That question was easy to answer. My ex told me.

The good-natured, amused expression disappeared from Jaimes face. Your ex sounds like a dick. Find someone else and forget about him.

Thats just it. I cant find someone else. Realizing he sounded whiney, Oliver took a moment to breathe. He sat up straight, rolled his neck, and then ruined his attempt at looking confident by slumping. People never like me in real life. Im twenty-eight and Ted was the only guy whos ever been willing to sleep with me. That was four years ago. His voice shook. I need help.

Hey. Jaimes eyes softened, and he leaned forward, curling his hand around Olivers forearm. Its going to be okay. I promise.

Jaimes touch was ten times more potent than his voice, and suddenly, Oliver wanted to follow through on his plans for the night because of something entirely unrelated to learning and improving himself. He stayed perfectly still, letting the pleasurable feelings wash over him until Jaime removed his hand. And then the floodgates opened.

I just moved to Seattle in August. Did I tell you that already? I want things to be different here. I got this great job making lots of money, and I have my own apartment, but thats not enough. Im going to join a gym so I can lose weight, because I know guys arent going to be interested in me like this. He waved his hand up and down beside his too fat, too flabby body. Ill never be good-looking like you, but hopefully exercise will help, and I can diet too and then maybe someone will be interested, but then what? At some point well end up in bed and then hell never want to see me again. He took a deep breath, his heart racing. Thats why I hired you. I need to get better, so if I actually find someone whos interested, I can hold on to him. He squeezed and released his hands and stared at Jaime, hoping hed understand.

All right, Jaime said calmly. I hear you and Im not turning you down. He looked at Oliver meaningfully, only continuing after Oliver nodded in understanding. We can get out of here and do this, but before we do, I want you to know that not every guy is into gym bunnies or twinks. Youre really good-looking, Oliver.

Youre getting paid to say that, Oliver mumbled, dropping his gaze from Jaimes eyes. Even that part of him was attractivelayers of green far more interesting than Olivers own boring brown.

No, Im not. Jaimes jaw ticced as he spoke, and he sounded so firm that Oliver would have believed him if he hadnt found the man through an escort ad.

Its fine, Oliver said. Im past worrying about being pathetic for paying for sex. He sighed and dragged his fingers through his hair, hoping he wasnt making the too long strands stick out in weird directions. Actually, it helps. Id never have the nerve to talk to a guy like you in real life, even if it was just to answer a question about directions or something. He rolled his eyes at his own shortcomings. Knowing you cant laugh at me or judge me or turn me down makes this better. It made it possible. Thats all I need. Dont worry about the fake compliments.

It wasnt fake.

Of course it was. Oliver was good-looking in the same way the bar was a bookstore. But that didnt matter and Jaime sounded angry, so Oliver stopped arguing and refocused the conversation on the reason they were both in the Bookstore that wasnt actually a bookstore. I reserved a room upstairs in the hotel.

Jaime pulled his eyebrows together and narrowed his eyes and, for a horrible moment, Oliver was sure he had changed his mind and he was about to leave. Oliver was about to plead for another chance, but then Jaimes face smoothed and he rose from his chair.

Lead the way, Oliver. Im looking forward tohe dragged his gaze over Olivers body, his expression unlike any Oliver previously had seen directed at himfishing with you.

About The Author

Cardeno C - Logo Cardeno C. - CC to friends - is a hopeless romantic who wants to add a lot of happiness and a few "awwws" into a reader's day. Writing is a nice break from real life as a corporate type and volunteer work with gay rights organizations. Cardeno's stories range from sweet to intense, contemporary to paranormal, long to short, but they always include strong relationships and walks into the happily-ever- after sunset.

Cardeno's Home, Family, and Mates series have received awards from Love Romances and More Golden Roses, Rainbow Awards, the Goodreads M/M Romance Group, and various reviewers. But even more special to CC are heartfelt reactions from readers, like, "You bring joy and love and make it part of the every day."

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