Hi guys! We have Garrett Leigh popping in today with her new release House of Cards, we have a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! <3 ~Pixie~
House of Cards
Calum Hardy’s life has unravelled. Reeling from the betrayal of a man he once loved, he boards a train heading south, with no real idea where he’s going except a world away from London.
Brix Lusmoore can hardly believe his eyes when he spots one of his oldest friends outside Truro station. He hasn’t seen Calum since he fled the capital himself four years ago, harbouring a life-changing secret. But despite the years of silence, their old bond remains, warm and true—and layered with simmering heat they’ve never forgotten.
Calum takes refuge with Brix and a job at his Porthkennack tattoo shop. Bit by bit, he rebuilds his life, but both men carry the ghosts of the past, and it will take more than a rekindled friendship and the magic of the Cornish coast to chase them away.
Welcome to Porthkennack, a charming Cornish seaside town with a long and sometimes sinister history. Legend says King Arthur’s Black Knight built the fort on the headland here, and it’s a certainty that the town was founded on the proceeds of smuggling, piracy on the high seas, and the deliberate wrecking of cargo ships on the rocky shore. Nowadays it draws in the tourists with sunshine and surfing, but locals know that the ghosts of its Gothic past are never far below the surface.
This collaborative story world is brought to you by five award-winning, best-selling British LGBTQ romance authors: Alex Beecroft, Joanna Chambers, Charlie Cochrane, Garrett Leigh, and JL Merrow. Follow Porthkennack and its inhabitants through the centuries and through the full rainbow spectrum with historical and contemporary stand-alone titles.
Check out Porthkennack!
Calum Hardy dipped the needle into the black ink and pressed his foot to the pedal of Dottie, the faithful old-school coil machine he’d had since his apprenticeship in Camden. Rob kept telling him he should upgrade to one of the quieter, shinier models on the market, but so far Calum had ignored him. Rob might know everything about everything, but when it came to tattoos, Calum was his own man—ha—sometimes, at least, if he didn’t count Rob’s name on everything except the debts and the overdrafts.
“I’m so nervous.”
Calum blinked as the client attached to the leg he was about to etch broke his reverie. “That’s totally normal. Just try not to tense up. It’ll hurt less if you’re relaxed.”
The girl smiled wanly. “That’s why I came to you. My friend told me you’re gentle.”
“I am, but it’ll still hurt, so you have to see the needle for what it is—a tiny sliver of metal. You’re stronger than that, right?”
Calum left the girl to her nerves and focussed on the candy-skull stencil he’d already applied to her thigh. This moment was his . . . and Dottie’s.
He pressed the pedal again, waiting for Dottie’s comforting buzz, but nothing happened. A split second later, the lights went out, plunging the shop into darkness. Power cut. Great. Third time this week. Calum set his gun down and went to the front door of the shop. He glanced out into the street and caught the eye of the maintenance worker who’d been the bane of his life all week long.
The worker shrugged. “Sorry, mate. Give us an hour or so.”
Nice of him to say, but it was already 6 p.m. Candy-skull girl was Calum’s last client of the day. Grumbling, he went back inside and gave her the news. She looked a little too relieved for his liking and left without rebooking, muttering something about omens.
With her gone, Calum lit a candle and cleaned up the shop, a job done by the receptionist in most studios, except that Calum’s receptionist was Rob’s cousin, and she downed tools at 4 p.m. each day, taking little notice of Calum’s protests.
Calum left the shop an hour later, and after stopping to buy a cheeky bottle of Rob’s favourite rum to hopefully drink in bed later, turned in the direction of home—a one-bedroom flat two streets away. He called Rob, but as usual, there was no answer. Rob only took Calum’s calls when he wanted something. Shame, because with Calum at a loose end, they could’ve grabbed some dinner, a drink . . . maybe more. It had been a while since they’d had some quality time to themselves. Work, play, work again, there always seemed to be something keeping them apart.
The flat where Calum lived alone loomed into view. Rob was likely down the road in the Ship, drinking up a storm on the shop’s expense account. Calum considered joining him, but then remembered Rob’s reaction the last time he’d dropped in on him unexpectedly. Rob hadn’t said a word—hadn’t needed to—but the look in his eye that night still haunted Calum in his weaker moments.
Give him space, remember? Stop smothering him. Damn. When had loving someone become so complicated? All Calum wanted was a cuddle and a bag of chips.
He let himself into the flat, his mind meandering in the uncomfortable space he usually found himself in when he considered his skewed relationship with Rob, which was likely why he often stopped himself doing just that. An empty mind was a happy one, right? Calum snorted softly. What a load of shite. He dropped his keys in the bowl. His gaze fell on a pair of dodgy loafers by the kitchen door—Rob’s latest fad—and beside them, a pair of chavvy Nikes that were far too big for either of them.
Calum frowned. It was unlike Rob to come over when Calum wasn’t there unless he needed cash from the jar on top of the fridge, and he never, ever, brought his mates round. God forbid; Calum was way too boring for Rob’s clique of wankers, who seemed to do nothing but snort mandy and talk about fisting.
Voices drifted down the hallway—no words, just sounds that set Calum’s teeth on edge. His frown deepened. Surely not. Rob had been distracted lately, leading Calum to suspect he might have been—but no . . . not here. Rob wouldn’t do that, would he?
There was only one way to find out. Calum steeled himself and trod silently down the hallway to the bedroom. The door was ajar, and unless whoever was inside was watching some hard-core porn, what he’d find on the other side was already solidified in his brain, etched on his soul, before he even looked.
But he did look. Calum stared at the tangled mess of flesh in his bed: sweat-sheened skin, curled toes, arched backs, and scraping nails. Shame none of it was his, because in another world—one where the dude getting fucked by a six-foot beefcake wasn’t his boyfriend—the scene playing out in his bedroom would’ve been hot. But there was nothing hot about watching Rob hammer the final nail into a relationship that had been wonky from the start. As Calum leaned against the doorway and absorbed it all, he felt nothing but the oddest kind of solace. This was the window of opportunity he hadn’t truly known he’d been waiting for. This is your chance. Pack your shit and go.
If only he could make his feet move, and his brain compute what his heart had feared for months: that his relationship with Rob was toxic and his whole life was a crock of shit. Of course he’d suspected Rob was banging other people. How could he not? Everyone else bloody did. But seeing it in the flesh was something else. Sickening, humiliating . . . and so freeing that Calum wanted to cry.
He finally backed up, hoping he could tiptoe away as unnoticed as he’d arrived. Fuck his stuff. He’d go to the shop and kip there, come back for his things when Rob went to work. He’ll let me go this time. But even as Calum thought it, he knew it wasn’t true. How many times had Rob told him—warned him—not to step out of line? “I’ll ruin you, Calum. You’re nothing without me.”
“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?”
Calum froze, his heart in his mouth, every instinct screaming at him to keep walking and not look round, but the masochist in him won out. He turned to face Rob, who was still bent over the bed, his brawny pal balls-deep inside him, and his face curled in a smirk that showed exactly how Rob felt about being caught. Calum clenched his fists. “Doesn’t seem like you need me here.”
“You can suck my dick if you want.”
Rob’s hawkish gaze narrowed, and his belligerence morphed into anger. “Don’t be a twat.”
“Me?” Calum laughed bitterly. “I’m not the twat here, but tell you what, how about I leave you to it? That way it doesn’t fucking matter.”
He took a step back, spun on his heel, and ran for the door before Rob got close enough to give him that look—the one that always seemed to penetrate Calum’s soul and extinguish any thoughts of his own. The one that Calum had never been able to hide from, ever since the first time he’d caught Rob out in a lie. “What do you expect when you’re so uptight, Cal? I’m not flirting, I just need to let off some steam.”
Calum stumbled, his foot catching the bookcase in the hallway. He steadied himself on the wall, cursing his wobbly legs, but footsteps behind him spurred him on. Get out, get out, get out.
“Not so fast.” A cool hand closed around Calum’s wrist. A twisted vampire analogy flashed into his brain, and he almost laughed again. Almost, because there was nothing funny about Rob’s bruising grip. “Don’t walk away from me when I’m talking to you.”
“Why not?” Calum spat. “Looks like you’re managing fine without me.”
Rob’s grip tightened. “So? You’re not even supposed to be here. You said you were working late.”
Like that made it okay. “Power cut. I can’t ink in the dark.”
Rob smirked. “No?”
The barely veiled derision made Calum’s skin itch. Rob’s name was on the lease of the shop, but though he had no problem spending the profits, belittling Calum’s work had always been a hobby of his. The fact that Black Star Ink was booked months in advance, with cancellations snapped up within seconds of announcement, apparently meant nothing to him. “Does it matter where I’m supposed to be? Point is you’re fucking someone in my bed.”
“Don’t be so dramatic.”
Calum twisted his arm. “Let go.”
“Why? What are you going to do? Run to your mother or some shit? Grow up. It’s just sex. You can watch if you don’t want to join in.” Rob’s expression softened slightly and he stepped closer, bracing his hand on the wall, effectively blocking Calum’s escape route. “Come on, Cal. You know I love you, right? I just get a bit suffocated sometimes. Martin’s a friend. You want me to have friends, don’t you?”
Calum had fallen for that speech more times than he cared to remember, and perhaps tonight would’ve been no different if Martin hadn’t appeared in the bedroom doorway, wrapped in Calum’s duvet and laughing his over-ripped arse off.
“I’m leaving,” Calum ground out. “Get back on his dick. I’m done with this shit.”
Rob made a grab for Calum’s other arm, but Calum was too quick for him this time. He got his knee between Rob’s legs and shouldered his way free, wrenching his arm from Rob’s grasp.
“Calum, stop it.”
The warning in Rob’s tone was clear, but Calum didn’t stop to let the weight of it reel him in. He ran for the door, Rob cursing behind him, and charged down the stairs and out into the night. The damp air of the wet autumn evening hit him as he threw himself into the crowds of commuters flowing up the street to the nearby station. He’d made it to the coffeehouse on the corner when he heard his name.
No chance. Calum kept going, head bowed, shoulders stiff, until he came to the zebra crossing and the fast-moving, brutal London traffic forced him to a standstill.
“Fuck off.” Calum didn’t turn round. The traffic stopped. He strode across the road, dodging Rob’s reaching hands.
“Calum!” Rob caught Calum’s arm and dragged him off course, pulling him from the crowd and behind a nearby bus stop. “I said, stop.”
“Get off me.” Calum fought Rob’s hold, twisting away. Rob lashed out, catching him with a glancing blow to his cheekbone. Bastard. Calum’s eyes watered, and he hesitated long enough for Rob to grab his arm again and yank him back, slamming him into a nearby wall.
“Get a bloody grip, Calum. Where the fuck do you think you’re going to go? The shop’s in my name, remember? You bail on me, I’ll shut it down.”
“Do it.” Calum fought Rob’s hold on him and shoved him away. “I don’t give a shit anymore.”
Rob fell theatrically to the ground, drawing the attention of onlookers, like he always did when Calum found the balls to bite back, letting everyone know that his six-foot-three lover had laid a hand on his much smaller, slimmer frame. “You won’t give up the shop. It’s everything to you.”
“It ain’t nothing if it’s got your bloody name on it. I told you. I’m done.”
“Done?” Rob laughed and scrambled to his feet, putting himself in Calum’s face again. “Are you kidding me? Four years of your bullshit and you think you’re going to walk out on me?”
“My bullshit? I’m not the one taking someone else’s dick.”
“Like you’d even know how. Like you’d even know how to fuck me if I asked you to. Give me a break, Calum. It’s not like I screwed your best mate. I just needed something extra. Come on. We’ve talked about this. It’s not my fault you only want to bottom.”
Calum closed his eyes, fighting the poisoned logic that always swept over him when Rob got in his face. The logic that told him Rob could do whatever the fuck he wanted because he always came back to Calum in the end, put his arms around him, and said he loved him. The logic that told him Rob meant it, because no one would lie about that, right?
Wrong. “We didn’t talk about it. You got wasted and decided I should go out and fuck women so you’d have an excuse to get blown by every bloke that looked your way.”
“And what’s up with that? You like pussy, don’t you?”
That Calum had been with women before Rob had always been a bone of contention. “You’re not really gay, though, are ya, Calum? You’re not one of us.” Calum gritted his teeth. As far as he’d seen, being gay in Rob’s scene was all about drugs and pain. “It’s just chemsex. Don’t be so bloody frigid.”
“I don’t want to fuck anyone else.”
“Maybe you should. Then you might be better at it.”
In years—no, days—gone by, Rob’s words would’ve cut deep, slashing Calum and what remained of his self-esteem to bits, but now, as he stared Rob down, he felt nothing except a big black hole where his life had once been. He shoved Rob away. “Fuck. You.”
Calum sidestepped Rob’s reaching hands and pushed past him, throwing himself into the steady stream of pedestrians heading towards the train station. Behind him, Rob shouted his name over and over, but Calum didn’t stop, didn’t look round, didn’t breathe, until the station swallowed him up, cocooning him in its humid warmth.
The respite was brief. After a few minutes, Calum’s phone rang in his pocket, blaring out Rob’s ringtone. Calum silenced it, but it rang again and again until he dumped it in a nearby bin. Knowing it wouldn’t be long before Rob followed him into the station, he jogged down the steps and made for the nearest ticket machine. He stuck his debit card into the machine and jabbed desperately at the screen until a ticket to who-the-fuck-knew-where printed out. He snatched it and stumbled farther into the station, waving it at a uniformed station worker.
She glanced at the ticket and pointed ahead. “Platform eight. Hurry. It’s leaving soon.”
Heart in his throat, Calum dashed through the station. The ticket barriers appeared in the distance as someone shouted his name from behind. Calum ran harder, shoulder-barging past anyone in his way. Rob had an Oyster Card, so the barriers wouldn’t stop him, but they would at least buy Calum some precious time to make the train idling on the distant platform.
He shoved his ticket into the barrier slot and barged through the gates. Rob shouted again as the last-call alarms began to sound on the train that was still fifty feet away, and Calum gritted his teeth. Goddamn it. He’d make that fucking train if it killed him, because the alternative would likely do the same. I can’t look him in the eye one more time. I’m done. So fucking done.
It was pathetic to his own ears as he sprinted towards the platform, but he pushed the wave of self-loathing aside and made the train with seconds to spare, stumbling on board as the doors closed behind him, snapping a sharp breeze over the back of his neck. Head down, he sidestepped along the aisle, searching for a vacant seat. Something thumped the window, but he didn’t react.
He found a seat and slumped into it, biting his lip against the surge of anxious adrenaline rushing up from his stomach. Don’t puke. Don’t puke. Damn. He needed a drink, a big one, a strong one, anything to quell the panic rising in his chest. What have I done? Rob wouldn’t forgive this, even if Calum went back now, and he had Calum’s whole life in his hands—the shop, the flat. Everything. I’ve lost it all.
But as the train rumbled to life, an eerie calm abruptly descended on him, like a guillotine had cut his desperation off at the neck. I don’t care. And he didn’t. All he wanted was peace . . . and quiet, and on the crowded train, with people all around, for the first time in years, he had it.
Lightened, Calum rested his head against the cool glass and felt months of tension drain away. His fragmented mind told him he still loved Rob, but his heart was ominously silent. And it was the silence that comforted him as the train began to move.
It was half an hour before he remembered he didn’t have a clue where it was going, and for a long while, he couldn’t make himself care about that either. He’d get off once the train had left London and find a hotel for the night. Worry about the rest in the morning. The thought of crawling home to his parents was galling, but he’d always known that leaving Rob would send him to skid row.
You don’t have to do this. Just get off the train and go home. But despite the suddenness of what had just happened, as hard as he searched, Calum couldn’t find any regret amongst the bucketload of fear dancing up a storm in his gut.
He sat up, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, and looked around the train, wondering if anyone had noticed the pathetic bloke sniffling in the corner, but the elderly Indian couple opposite were far more interested in their supper than him. Calum eyed the curried potatoes they were eating, and his mouth watered. Rob didn’t like Indian food, preferring the MSG-laden gloop from the dodgy Chinese on the corner. Sod it. I’m having madras for breakfast tomorrow.
Like a culinary act of rebellion would fix it all, Calum folded his arms tight across his chest and leaned against the carriage window, absorbing the weaving motion of the train. The adrenaline that had carried him this far began to fade, leaving him boneless and drained. He closed his eyes and let his mind drift, picturing his parents’ house in Reading: a poky two-up-two-down with a box room—Calum’s room—over the garage. Going back there would kill him, but there was one advantage: Rob would have no idea where he’d gone. In all the time they’d been together, he’d never visited Calum’s family home. Never cared enough to bother. His apathy had slowly destroyed Calum, but now, as the train rumbled on to who-knew-where, he knew it was, without doubt, the kindest gesture Rob had ever made.
And he still had a bottle of rum stashed in his bag.
Read more at: https://riptidepublishing.com/titles/house-of-cards (just click the excerpt tab)
Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.
Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.
When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.
Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.
- Website: http://garrettleigh.com
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