Hi peeps! We have Alex Whitehall stopping by today with their new release Hard Truths, we have a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~
He can’t have the family he wants, but he may get the love he deserves.
Isaac didn’t expect to find love at his family’s Christmas dinner, but that was before he met his sister’s new fake boyfriend. Tall, muscular, and tattooed, Logan is what Isaac would love in a partner—and also everything his parents would hate in one. Not that they know Isaac’s gay.
That doesn’t stop him from dating Logan—unbeknownst to his parents, and with his sister’s approval after she fake dumps him. The pair dive into a whirlwind romance of motorcycle rides, cheesy puns, and hot sex. They meet each other’s friends and fill their time with happiness and laughter. It’s all perfect.
Until Isaac suggests they move in together, and Logan asks Isaac to come out to his parents. Isaac wants to, but he’s scared; he doesn’t want to lose his family. Unfortunately, he can’t see that his real family has been right beside him all along.
Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes: emotional abuse, explicit violence
At the time, I didn’t know that the hulking six-foot-four-inch tattooed biker wasn’t actually dating my sister. They were certainly being handsy enough with each other.
Handsy at our parents’ house, on Christmas Day. I stood to the side, studying my prim sister in her jeans and festive red sweater, wearing little jingle bell earrings and her hair all done up, and wondered if this was a dream.
He loomed above my five-eleven height and filled the entryway with broad shoulders and arms that could individually have picked me up. They were tattooed from his knuckles up to where they disappeared under his short-sleeved shirt, and more tattoos peeked out from the neckline of his shirt when he handed me his coat. The shirt, I should mention, was a plain black tee, snug against his bulging muscles. His hair was dark and short. Like, I’m-growing-it-out-from-shaved short.
When Sue—that’s my sister—introduced him to the family, he smiled warmly and held out his hand to shake mine with a firm, confident grip, then pulled my dad into a bro-hug and called him “Pops.”
My dad turned a funny color and mumbled what sounded less like a greeting than an insult.
Mom looked torn between being ecstatic that Sue had brought someone and horrified at the resulting date. She welcomed him into her house nonetheless, and he kicked off his boots before she had to ask. Maybe he’d seen the pile of shoes by the door—Dad and I never did get the hang of using the shoe rack—or maybe he wanted to show off his holey socks. They were very festive. Green, with reindeer who were obviously offering up some tail.
Unfortunately—fortunately?—my parents didn’t seem to notice. I, on the other hand, had to fight a smirk to keep them ignorant. I did not want to be the one to explain to my mom why I found those cute lil reindeer funny.
The toes of one sock wiggled, and my eyes went up—and up—over the tight squeeze of the jeans across his muscular thighs and then along his rippling torso to meet his brown eyes. They crinkled in the corners when he smiled, and I smiled back, still in shock but also enchanted.
Before my brain could process that—and the responding flutter that it sent through my body—Mom whisked everyone into the living room. I followed them in, definitely contemplating where this specimen of loveliness had come from and not staring at his ass.
See, he hadn’t been at Thanksgiving, when Mom had heckled Sue and me that we were nearing our thirties, so we needed to settle down and get married and have lots of kids for her to dote upon and spoil. Sue and I had shared looks, wondering why her grandkids would get either of those when her own kids definitely hadn’t. But we didn’t say anything. That was one thing we’d both learned quickly as kids: shut the fuck up.
Dad didn’t harp about the grandkids—he probably didn’t want the goddamn nuisances running around when he’d just gotten rid of his own—but he had complained that we never visited, I never helped him fix up the house, and Sue had, god forbid, gotten a second set of piercings in her ears. Thankfully once he got food and booze in him, he mostly watched football, by which I mean slept on the couch. Whatever, one less parent to deal with.
Three days after Thanksgiving, Mom and I received a text from Sue: I wanted to let you know I’ll be bringing my boyfriend to Christmas dinner. Didn’t want to rush him there for Thanksgiving, but we talked and xmas is good to go!
This had been a surprise, since I hadn’t known she was dating someone. And we weren’t hellishly close or anything, but if she was dating someone seriously enough to bring to Christmas dinner, then she should have told her big brother.
Having seen him, it all made sense: she was embarrassed of him. Or of us. It was a fifty-fifty on which it was, but he obviously came from a very different world than the one we lived in. For comparison’s sake, I should mention that while I was wearing jeans, like him, mine didn’t have holes, and I had on a button-down. My own hair was trimmed conservatively—longer on the top, buzzed along the sides—and combed to the side for today. I had no visible tattoos or piercings, while he had a bridge, lip, and ear piercing.
Oh, and I was white. He . . . wasn’t. At least he didn’t appear white. Not white enough for my white-bread parents. Not that they’d say anything to his olive-toned face.
“So, what work do you do, Logan?” my dad asked with an edge to his voice, like he was hoping to embarrass him.
“Oh, freelance.” Logan paused, then smirked. “You know, when I’ve got the time. This one keeps me busy.”
He smacked my sister’s ass and she giggled. The image was burned into my memory, despite my best attempts to scrub it away.
My father grunted. “What kind of freelancing do you do?”
“Whatever needs done. I’ve worked in warehouses, helped fill out security teams. Jobs where they’re hiring for brawn.” His eyebrows rose. “You ain’t hirin’, are you?”
“No! No. Nothing of the sort.” Could Logan hear the disgust in his voice?
“Oh. Too bad.” Obviously not. Logan shrugged, and his gaze slid to me. “What work do you do?”
My dick didn’t know if it was going to be set on fire or shrivel from the gleam in his eyes, which seemed fifty percent Go ahead, try to impress me and fifty percent I bet I could pin you against the wall with only one arm.
Okay, that last one might have been my imagination. My very active imagination. Oh shit, there’d been a question. “I design websites.”
His eyes went from challenging striptease to sparkling interest in a second flat, but quickly dimmed to indifference. Had I imagined it? “Oh. That must earn you bank.”
“I do well enough.” I shrugged, fighting down the heat that his gaze flared to life on my skin. “It’s a fairly competitive field with a lot of fresh blood coming in, so I have to work hard to stay current and keep my job, and sometimes the hours can be grueling. But I love the work.” Was I babbling? No one wanted to hear that much about my job. “So how’d you two meet?”
Logan swung an arm around my sister’s shoulders, and she giggled again. I’d never seen her giggle so much. That was a good thing if it meant she was happy.
“Well,” Logan said, pausing only briefly to nuzzle against Sue’s neck and set off a fresh set of giggles, “I saw her profile on one of those dating sites and I messaged her and it was love at first contact.” He chuckled lewdly, and it took me a moment to get what he was saying. I’d need to drink a lot tonight to scrub that thought from my mind as well. “It grew from there.”
“So you met online,” my dad said, his nose scrunching with distaste.
“Yeah, that’s how everyone meets these days, Dad,” Sue said, tilting her head onto Logan’s shoulder and smiling widely. “How else was I going to meet someone like Logan?”
Dad would probably have said she shouldn’t be meeting someone like Logan, but Mom announced that dinner was ready. Thank fuck.
Or I thought I should be thankful. Wrong holiday though.
“Would you like some green beans, Logan?” my mom asked him, offering the casserole up.
“Thanks, Mom, but I prefer meat.”
Was I the only one who saw him flash that grin at me? Was I imagining it? Was he flirting with me in front of my sister and family?
“Oh,” my mom said. “Well, there’s plenty of turkey.”
“I’m sure enough to fill me up.”
Okay, I didn’t expect my parents to get that reference, but certainly Sue—I glanced at her, but she was grinning like a fool as she piled mashed potatoes on her plate—or not. Maybe it was all in my head. Especially since Logan was putting helpings of peas, stuffing, and both sorts of potatoes on his plate. He obviously ate more than meat.
Then why had he said he preferred meat?
You know what? Whatever. He was my sister’s boyfriend. If he wanted to make tasteless, stupid jokes in front of my parents, that was fine. She didn’t seem bothered by it.
I tried to ignore him, but it was hard with him sitting directly across from me at the table. He had hellishly long legs, and his feet kept bumping mine. My legs were long enough that I couldn’t tuck them under my own seat, so it was just something we had to deal with.
Least his presence meant I also didn’t have to deal with my mom pressuring Sue and me to bring significant others to family events. She wasn’t going to tell Sue to bring someone else, and after Logan, she likely wouldn’t rush me into anything either. Not that I thought Logan didn’t have a shot. They’d warm to him. Probably. They lived in a closed-off little world, but they weren’t bad people. Or rather, I liked to think they weren’t.
But maybe if I believed that, I would have told them I was gay. As it was, I didn’t have any plans to tell them until I had a good reason to rock the boat and earn their potential ire. That reason would be a boyfriend who lasted long enough to be dragged to one of these gatherings. Hopefully someone as attractive as Logan, or else my sister would forever rub it in my face that she had better luck with guys.
I was drawn back into reality by Logan’s foot bumping mine. Again.
“Yeah, so then I told the mofo—sorry, um, asshole—where he could stick it,” Logan said, wrapping up a story I’d obviously missed.
“Oh. That’s. That’s . . .” My mom couldn’t seem to finish.
“A stupid way to handle it. Why not call the police?” my dad asked, as if he knew the answer.
“Naw, the po-po would have thrown me back in jail, man.”
Dad huffed derisively, shook his head, and returned his gaze to his plate.
Silence loomed across the table.
I took another bite of food. I wasn’t even sure what it was. “Mom, the turkey turned out great this year. Not dry at all. Did you do something different?”
And yes, insulting my mother’s cooking probably wasn’t the best line of conversation, but I’d panicked.
Mom huffed. “I did the exact same thing I do every year, but this time I didn’t buy a turkey full of antibiotics and chemicals and whatever else they load them with, so that must be why it turned out so well. I always knew all those drugs in the meat couldn’t be good for us.”
And yet she hadn’t seemed to mind feeding it to us for the last twenty-some-odd years.
“Mom, I don’t think those chemicals affect the moistness of the turkey,” Sue chimed in.
“Well, I’ve done it the same every year and this year it’s better, so I don’t know what to tell you.”
“Cheers.” I raised my glass and took a drink before anyone joined me. Logan downed a good half of his wineglass, and Sue seemed to be smirking behind her glass of water.
I really needed to have a talk with her alone today.
It didn’t seem likely that I would get a chance, though. Logan was glued to her hip—not that I could blame him. I wouldn’t want to be left alone with my family either. When she and I volunteered to clean up, Logan followed us into the kitchen. My sister insisted a guest shouldn’t be put to work, so he leaned against the counter watching us. I could feel his gaze prickling the back of my neck as Sue and I washed, rinsed, and dried.
“So,” I said, “how long have you two been dating?”
“Oh god, Isaac, not the third degree from you too?”
I sighed. “Sorry for making conversation.”
“In that case, when are you going to bring a little wifey home?”
Behind us, Logan snorted what sounded like a chuckle.
“Shove it,” I grumbled.
“Exactly. How about you tell me more stories about that client from hell with the president who changed his mind every time you gave him updates?”
Yeah, bitching about work was the easiest thing to do, and I was glad to, especially if it meant not talking about my nonexistent love life and my super-nonexistent straight love life. Not to mention I had enough stories about this particular client that I could have filled the entire cleaning-up time with them. Actually, I probably could have filled the entire day with stories of this asshole—may he never hire my company again, please—but I wasn’t that self-centered. I gave a few of the best ones, then asked about her business. She’d opened one of those yoga/women’s fitness/massage studios and was always complaining about not having enough customers and how WASPish the ones she had were. I got the impression she enjoyed the complaining, because she glowed whenever she talked about her baby.
So we chatted about nothing in particular and definitely nothing important with Logan lurking over our shoulders—and my sister’s obvious desire not to talk about him. Then the dishes were put away.
We all tromped back into the living room—and woke Dad up—to exchange presents.
Can I say that it’s kinda awkward to buy a present for someone you’ve never met? But you can’t not get a gift for your sister’s boyfriend at Christmas when he’s going to be sitting there. We all piled onto the sofas—Logan and Sue on the love seat; Mom, Dad, and I on the couch—then Mom leaped to her feet and began handing out the presents under the tree while Sue and I moved as little as possible from our spots to hand out the gifts we’d brought.
To his credit, Logan looked surprised to be getting gifts. And damn, his smile of instantaneous joy was gorgeous. Wide, pearly whites flashing, skin glowing. “Thank you,” he said when my mom handed him two little boxes, one of which I would bet was a gift card tied around something heavy.
Then I handed him what I’d gotten, and his eyebrow quirked a bit more playfully. “Thank you. This is unexpected.”
I tried to just smile, sit back on the couch, and not get lost in those eyes. I hadn’t noticed before, but his eyes were stormy gray rather than brown. Quite fetching. Plus the crinkles at the corners were still as alluring as they’d been on first meeting him— And I needed to stop staring at my sister’s boyfriend. I pulled my small pile of presents onto my lap, sorting through the ones wrapped with perfection and the two from Sue in gift bags because she and I shared the inability to wrap anything that wasn’t a book or a DVD. It made it super obvious when we were or weren’t giving the other one of those things.
She had two wrapped gifts and a bag from me this year. She grinned as she picked up one of the totally-a-DVD’s and shook it like a little kid. “I wonder what this could be?”
“It’s actually a gift card in an empty DVD case that I’ll need back, so the joke’s on you!”
“Hah! I’m totally using that next year.”
Finally my mom finished handing out presents and returned to her seat, and we—as we did every year—each opened a gift from youngest to oldest before it became a free-for-all. As excited as I was to open my presents and watch my family open what I’d bought them, my eyes kept being drawn to Logan as he unwrapped what we’d gotten him. The first thing was a simple jewelry box with a gift card to Dunkin’ Donuts, and the second was a box of hot chocolate mix with a Target gift card taped to it.
As silly as those gifts were, he smiled and said thank you. He did this thing when he seemed a little embarrassed, where he rubbed the top of his head. I wanted to joke that he’d go bald if he did that too often, but then it’d be obvious I had been staring, so instead I kept staring as he opened my gift.
Did I mention that it’s really hard to buy a present for someone you’ve never met, especially when your beloved sister’s idea of helpful hints is whatever and gift cards and he likes coffee—which explained my parents’ gifts to him.
Mine weren’t much better. I’d gotten him a high-end bag of ground coffee that I loved—and saved for my weekend cups so I could truly savor it, because damnit was pricy—and a mug that had seemed like a good idea at the time, but with my parents sitting here watching, I was beginning to second-guess giving it to someone I didn’t know.
He pulled the mug out of the bag, took a second to read it, then burst out laughing. When he’d finished, he glanced up at me and his grin was bright enough to burn my retinas. “Thanks, it’s perfect. I love foxes.”
Warmth flooded through my veins, and I was about ready to break out in a sweat.
“What is it?” my mom asked, and I prepared for the worst.
“It’s a mug from Isaac.” He held up the mug that read For [image of a fox] sake. “I don’t know how he knew I liked foxes, but thanks.”
My mom’s brow scrunched, and I could see her struggling to figure out the mug. I hoped she never would. To that end, I distracted her by thanking her for the button-down she’d gotten me. It didn’t matter that I only wore them at work or when visiting on the holidays—at least it meant I rarely had to go out and buy my own. She didn’t believe in toys or fun things as presents now that we were adults.
My sister, on the other hand, had bought me an anime series called Kids on the Slope, which my mom would probably think was a children’s show because it was animated. I was fine with her thinking that, or else she might start wondering about shows Sue’d gotten me previous years.
Finally all the presents were opened and shuffled out of the way. My dad settled in for his nap and turned the TV on, which cued my mom to invite the rest of us to the tiny kitchen table for a game of cards.
And that was when it happened.
I wasn’t sure how we ended up there, but my mom and Sue were in the kitchen down the hall and around the corner. Coming back from the bathroom, I was passing Logan in what had suddenly become a narrow hallway. Well, his shoulders were really broad.
I stopped and turned sideways, back to the wall so we’d fit, and then he was standing in front of me, far closer than necessary, not touching me but not arm’s-length away, and damn he was tall and fit.
And smiling in a way that was not sweet or innocent at all. “Thanks for the Christmas presents. I very much appreciate it.”
He totally casually put out a hand against the wall, pinning me from continuing toward the kitchen.
I swallowed, and heat flooded my face and other places not my face. “Hey, sure. I mean, we—I want you to feel welcome if my sister’s serious about you.”
His chuckle was downright dirty, and I swore he leaned in a little closer. “Honestly? I liked the mug, and your sister’s sweet, but I’d rather be unwrapping you this Christmas.”
In case I hadn’t gotten his implication—which I absolutely had—his hand touched my hip, slipped over my ass, gave a squeeze for good measure, and was gone just as quickly. Then I was alone in the hallway, not sure when he’d vanished, trying to get my racing heart under control.
Had that really happened? Had that really fucking happened? Sue’s boyfriend had hit on me? In my parents’ house. On Christmas. With my sister a stone’s throw away. Oh god. I had to tell her. I had to let her know before they got any more serious. Maybe he was joking. Maybe it was a misunderstanding—although I wasn’t sure how I could misinterpret his hand on my ass. Maybe they had an open relationship?
But how many relationships were open enough to involve one person fucking both siblings? I definitely didn’t want to fuck a guy that was fucking my sister.
Well, I wanted to fuck the guy, but not if he was fucking my sister.
Christmas dinner was sitting like a lava lamp in my stomach.
I whipped out my phone and flipped to my sister’s text thread. Um, your boyfriend grabbed my ass.
Probably not the most eloquent, but I was still standing in the hallway rubbing where his hand had been, and I might not have been getting enough blood to my brain to formulate coherent thoughts.
My phone pinged.
Did you like it? she replied.
Did you read what I fucking wrote? Your boyfriend hit on me! I hoped she could sense how hard I was hitting those digital keys.
Don’t worry. I’ll talk to you later about it. Come back and play cards. Mom is trying to both tell me to break up with Logan and to have a boyfriend, and it’s painful.
I stared at her text long enough that Logan passed me in the hall again on his way back to the kitchen. He didn’t stop and grope me—no, I wasn’t disappointed—but moved along like nothing had happened.
And my sister was telling me not to worry about it. I was starting to question her relationship with Logan. Mostly in all caps as internet abbreviations, like WTF, WTH, and OMG.
I followed Logan to the kitchen and my family and the cards. The only open seat was the one across from him. I wanted to glare at Sue, as if this was her fault, but sat instead. A few seconds later, I realized his feet bumping into mine under the table earlier hadn’t been an accident.
“So what game do you want to play?”
“Poker’s the only one I’m familiar with,” Logan said. Because of course. He winked. “And we could make it interesting.”
“I, um, I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” my mom said, and I agreed.
Mostly because Strip Poker With Logan was the sole game on my mind, and that was so horribly inappropriate that the shock of my own thoughts was the only thing keeping my boner in check.
“Blackjack?” Logan suggested.
Sue laughed and bumped her shoulder against his. “Don’t worry, we’ll teach you Kings in the Corner.”
What followed was a surprisingly tame, enjoyable game of Kings in the Corner. Logan cut back on lewd comments and shifted to fake betting, commenting on his homies, and making another reference to having been in prison.
My mom got quieter and quieter as the game continued.
I, on the other hand, kept studying Logan and Sue and was beginning to pick up on other things. Like how they weren’t being nearly as handsy now. Had Sue taken my warning to heart and gotten mad at him? But no, she hadn’t seemed concerned, and it wasn’t like she was pushing away his advances. Instead, over the course of the hour, they’d shifted from disgustingly cute couple in love to two friends hanging out with family.
And then it dawned on me.
Between games, I escaped to the bathroom so I could text her. Holy shit you brought a fake date to Christmas.
Her response was delayed enough that I worried I’d have to leave the bathroom or else people would begin to suspect my intestines had exploded.
But finally: I have *no* idea what you’re talking about 😉
Holy shit. My sister had brought a fake date to Christmas.
Which opened up a whole other set of questions.
Why? How did they meet? How did one go about finding a fake date for the holidays? HolidayHunkHunter.com? Why hadn’t she told me about this?
Well, I reasoned, finishing up in the bathroom, if she had told me, I’d have wanted to bring someone. And that would have looked suspicious. Especially since I’d have brought a man, which would have opened more than a can of worms. Maybe it was best that she hadn’t told me after all.
If there are two types of people in the world, Alex Whitehall probably isn’t one of them, despite being a person. Their favorite pastimes include reading, horseback riding, sleeping, watching geek-tastic television, knitting, eating, and running. And wasting time on the internet. And spending glorious evenings laughing with friends.
While Alex prefers sleeping over doing anything else (except maybe eating), sometimes they emerge from the cave to be social and to hunt for food at the local market. They can be found blogging, reading, and tending after their aloe plants.
Connect with Alex:
- Twitter: @AlexWhitehall
- Email: AlexDWhitehall@gmail.com
- Blogging: blogspot.com
- Tumblr: alexwhitehall.tumblr.com
Win a ‘Oh For ‘Fox’ Sake’ mug! (US only)
Win an ecopy from Alex Whitehall’s backlist titles! (International winner only)
This mug appears in Hard Truths as one of the first presents that Isaac buys Logan. It’s similar to a mug I have myself (that my friend bought me and that might have inspired the gift)! The order will be shipped directly from the buyer, so you have to be willing to share your physical address with the buyer and myself. You can choose either size and any of the fox images. https://www.etsy.com/listing/573454042/oh-for-fox-sake-coffee-mug-custom-fox
Due to prohibitive shipping costs, this prize is only open to within the US. For international readers, indicate as such and you’ll have a chance to win a digital copy of your choice from my backlist.
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