Hiya guys, we have Roan Parrish popping in today with her new release The Remaking of Corbin Wale, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant $20 Amazon GC giveaway, so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! <3 ~Pixie~
The Remaking of Corbin Wale
Last month, Alex Barrow’s whole life imploded—partner, home, job, all gone in forty-eight hours. But sometimes when everything falls apart, better things appear almost like magic. Now, he’s back in his Michigan hometown, finally opening the bakery he’s always dreamed of. But the pleasure of opening day is nothing compared to the lonely and beautiful man who bewitches Alex before he even orders.
Corbin Wale is a weirdo. At least, that’s what he’s heard his whole life. He knows he’s often in a fantasy world, but the things he feels are very real. And so is the reason why he can never, ever be with Alex Barrow. Even if Alex is everything he’s always fantasized about. Even if maybe, just maybe, Corbin is Alex’s fantasy too.
When Corbin begins working at the bakery, he and Alex can’t deny their connection any longer. As the holiday season works its magic, Alex yearns for the man who seems out of reach. But to be with Alex, Corbin will have to challenge every truth he’s ever known. If his holiday risk pays off, two men from different worlds will get the love they’ve always longed for.
Alex Barrow liked bringing things to life.
A month ago, he’d had friends, a lover, and a prestigious job in New York. A week after that, he’d found himself back in his Michigan hometown, where he hadn’t spent more than a week since leaving a dozen years before. He had nothing to his name except—now—the bakery where he stood. And yet, alone in the predawn dark of opening day, Alex felt lighter than he had in years. He took a deep breath of leaf-scented air and felt himself grin. Yes, Alex liked bringing things to life, and he’d dragged this bakery into being from the wreckage of his life in New York.
It had begun with the one-two punch of Timo breaking up with him, and Rustica, the restaurant in the West Village where Alex had worked as pastry chef for four years, being bought by a corporate conglomerate. Down a boyfriend and a job in forty-eight hours, Alex hadn’t been sure which had been the bigger blow. And that, his best friend Gareth had pointed out with a knowing wink, should tell him something important about both.
Timo was a radiologist who owned the apartment they’d lived in. He was mature, sensible, handsome, and intelligent. He’d had a three-year plan, a five-year plan, and a ten-year plan, all of which, he’d explained patiently during the conversation that turned into a highly civilized breakup, had included Alex. That Alex hadn’t known he was included in these plans had been a problem. That he’d had very little interest in them, once he’d been told, had been a more telling problem.
As Alex had lain on the couch that night—because Timo was far too mature and measured to suggest he leave suddenly, but Alex had found it too strange to share a bed with the man who had been his partner and suddenly wasn’t—he’d realized he felt . . . not nearly as much as he’d expected. Certainly less than he’d imagined he should feel after being with someone for three years, living with them for two, meeting their family, sharing their bed, and knowing how they tasted and what made them cry.
And he’d thought maybe Timo felt less than he’d expected too.
Losing Timo had certainly been an inconvenience, in that it had left Alex without a place to live. Walking into Rustica the next night to the announcement of its sale, on the other hand, had been gutting. Finding out the following afternoon that he could keep his job if he simply produced the menu the corporate team designed, but would no longer have the freedom to develop his own recipes, had been devastating. With no apartment, he certainly needed the salary. But he didn’t want to be a machine, turning out the same pastries week after week, year after year. That was why he’d left his first two jobs at traditional bakeries. With no creative control and no power over the menu, he’d been bored as paste.
He’d left Rustica and walked through Lower Manhattan for hours, making pro and con lists in his head. When his phone had buzzed with an incoming call from his mother, Alex had almost ignored it, not wanting to admit failure on two fronts to the woman who only ever wanted to see him happy. But he’d answered anyway, and listened to her chat about the weather, the latest football game that had backed up traffic all the way to her house, a new store that had opened across the street from Helen & Jerry’s Java. As he listened, he’d calmed thinking about the Ann Arbor autumn.
About the way the days were warm but the nights turned cold as soon as the sun’s heat had burned away. The way downtown smelled like coffee and waffle cones and turning leaves and moss. The way the U of M fight song blasted from car horns and house windows and cell phone ringtones during football season and got stuck in your head even if you weren’t a football fan.
When his mom had told him that, lately, the arthritis in her hands had gotten so bad she could no longer even make the coffee drinks at Helen & Jerry’s Java—the café she and his father had opened his senior year in high school, and which his mother had run alone since his father died ten years ago—and that she wished she could take a vacation, drive up north with her new beau (her term), Alex’s head had gotten fuzzy. And then it had gotten very, very clear.
“Mom,” he’d said softly. “I think I’m coming home.”
And now here he was. He’d shipped his belongings, surprised but not upset to find that he didn’t own much he cared enough to hold onto. He’d given Rustica his notice, and he’d booked a flight. When he’d touched down in Detroit, it hadn’t felt like moving, it had felt like visiting, as he’d done dozens of times before.
He’d had one small duffel bag and his laptop, as if he were coming in for a long weekend like he always did. The taxi had dropped him off in his mother’s driveway, just like it always did, and his mother had come out to meet him, just like she always did. She’d told him he looked so handsome, just like she always did, and he’d seen the moment her eyes moistened, thinking about how she wished his father were here, just like he always did.
It was just the same, only everything was different.
Because this time, when his mother settled him at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a cup of decaf for herself, she didn’t say, “So, tell me everything,” like she always did. This time she said, “So, here’s the plan.”
Now, after weeks of work, the bakery that had existed in his head for years, in gradually shifting menu concepts, color combinations, and layouts, was finally a reality. Helen & Jerry’s Java was now And Son. Gareth had thought it was a ridiculous name; Alex’s mother had cried.
Alex could say now—armed with knowledge of the restaurant industry and professional baking training—that Helen & Jerry’s Java had not been a good coffee shop. The layout had been bad, the coffee mediocre, and the pastries . . . well, the less said about them the better. Alex had completely transformed it. His mother’s employees had jumped at the chance to log extra hours painting, cleaning, rearranging, and running endless errands. It had been pure luck that Mira, one of the baristas who’d worked there for a few years, had announced that she’d worked construction for her father all throughout high school. Alex had paid her to build out the counter and add a bench along the perimeter of the café.
While they’d worked behind paper-taped windows, Alex had spent his time sourcing ingredients, setting up deliveries, and designing his menu.
The best bakeries had a cohesive vision. You didn’t want a counter selling bran muffins next to key lime tarts next to baklava next to polvorones. The menu needed to have range, but not feel chaotic—provide surprises, but not overwhelm. For each recipe he added to the mental menu in his mind, Alex had shifted another one off. When he’d realized he needed a lemon glaze on this one or cayenne in that one, it sparked to life another avenue of flavors.
He’d felt like a kid, sitting cross-legged on the heavy steel prep table, scribbling his dream recipes on sticky notes that he rearranged over and over on the cool metal. He had so many things he wanted to try, so many ideas that he eventually stuck all the notes back into a stack, put them on the shelf, and said to himself, Ten and five. Ten basics and five specials. Start there and you can add more later.
Alex had always had a bit of a problem reining it in.
And Son was reopening on a crisp, cool Monday that smelled of rain that didn’t fall. Alex had been there since 3:30 that morning, baking, and when his employees showed up at 6:30, he smiled at the sounds of surprise they made as they looked around the finished bakery.
“It’s amazing!” Mira called as Alex came out from the kitchen. Sean, the other barista who’d worked for his mom, agreed.
“Thanks to you,” he said, and smiled at Mira. But he was really pleased with how it had turned out.
The walls of the seating area were sage green and behind the counter a warm terra-cotta. Pen and ink drawings hung in untreated wood frames. Gone was the clutter of small tables and too many chairs. In their place were several four- and six-top tables, and a long padded bench with tables ran around the perimeter of the café under the windows.
There were plants in the corners, potted succulents on small wooden shelves on the walls, and air plants hanging from the pressed tin ceiling. The whole effect was calm and warm and peaceful.
The earthy bite of coffee, the comforting smell of fresh-baked bread, and the snap of sugar made Alex’s stomach rumble, and he took a cinnamon streusel muffin back into the kitchen with him. He snapped a picture of himself taking a huge bite and sent it to Gareth.
Alex had met Gareth their first day of culinary school, and they had quickly become friends and then roommates. For ten years, Gareth had been the one constant in an otherwise hectic and chaotic life. Alex felt the ache of distance that he hadn’t felt since the first year after his father died, when he’d wake up some mornings and remember all over again that he was gone. It had been Gareth he’d called from Ann Arbor when his mother sat him down a month before and told him she’d signed over the café to him. Gareth who’d told him he’d be an idiot if he didn’t turn the café into a bakery of his own.
Happy opening day! Gareth wrote back in response to the muffin pic. Try not to eat ALL the stock. Then, a second later, I’m proud of you.
The warm feeling in Alex’s stomach persisted as he slid a tray of croissants out of the oven and added notes to his recipe binder.
When they unlocked the door at seven, Alex’s mother was the first to walk through. He hadn’t let his mom see the bakery at all, and her mouth fell open as she looked around. She shook her head at him, and he saw the moisture in her eyes as she pulled him down for a fierce hug.
“I still think it should’ve been ‘& Son,’ with an ampersand,” she said, sniffing.
“Mom, I told you, it’s harder to search for, and hard to put in a website URL. People don’t know what it’s called, so they’ll say, ‘It’s called & Son, but with that and-sign thingy.’ Besides, And is good for alphabetical listings, or—”
“Okay, okay, you know what you’re doing and I should butt out, I hear you,” she conceded, walking to the counter to greet Mira and Sean.
A man had trailed in after her and was standing politely off to the side. Alex turned to him and held out his hand. “You must be Lou Wright. I’m Alex. It’s nice to meet you.”
Lou grinned at him as they shook. He had mischievous brown eyes, dark brown skin, a bald spot, a warm smile, and an easy manner. Alex could see immediately why his mother liked him.
Alex got his mother and Lou coffee and croissants to go, and was about to retreat to the kitchen when someone approached the counter. Someone Alex couldn’t look away from.
The man was a few inches shorter than Alex’s six feet, and slim—almost willowy. He had a tangle of dark hair that fell around his face, and eyes almost as dark. His skin was light gold and there was a spray of freckles across his delicate nose. He looked up at Alex, eyes half hidden behind that veil of hair, with his head cocked like a bird.
He was the most beautiful man Alex had ever seen. Strange looking, a bit awkward, and half-wild, the way animals were that lived side by side with people but never went inside as pets. His face and the set of his shoulders made Alex want to tramp through the woods as the leaves fell, run through fields to tumble him down on sun-warmed grass, press flowers to his lips to see which were softer. Beautiful.
“Hi,” Alex said. “Hello. Good morning. Welcome to And Son. I just opened.”
The man cocked his head in the other direction and nodded. “Coffee,” he said quietly. His tone said it was a request even though his voice didn’t go up at the end to intone the question.
“Of course.” Get a grip, Alex. “Light, medium, or dark roast?”
He shrugged one shoulder. “Dark.” His voice was low and soft, and there was something so familiar about him all of a sudden that Alex narrowed his eyes against the jolt of déjà vu. But that’s how it was coming back to Ann Arbor. Always the sense of familiarity paired with that jarring discontinuity.
Under Alex’s scrutiny, the man dropped his chin a little and glared.
“Coming right up,” Alex said. “Can I get you anything to eat?”
The man shook his head, but the glare was gone, and as he handed over his money, it was replaced by a faraway look that made Alex feel like he wasn’t seen any longer. He brushed the man’s palm with his fingertips as he took the bills, and their eyes locked for a moment. Then the man jerked away.
He didn’t put anything in his coffee, just cradled the mug as he made his way to the corner table and folded himself onto the bench, knees sharp through faded denim. He slid a black notebook out of his tattered canvas bag and immediately bent so close over it that the ends of his hair brushed the paper.
He seemed completely absorbed in whatever was in the book, and after a while Alex went back to the kitchen, leaving the front of house to Mira and Sean.
When Alex brought baguettes out to the counter at lunchtime, the man was still there. He was still hunched over his book, but now he was drawing, his lines fluid, quick, and studied.
“Do you know that guy?” Alex asked Mira.
“Corbin Wale,” she said softly. “He’s come in for years, according to Helen—er, your mom. Since before I started working here. Sometimes he’s here every day for two weeks, sometimes once a week, sometimes he doesn’t show for a month. He always sits and draws. Helen always let him.” She bit her lip. “Is it okay? Or do you want me to . . .”
“No, it’s fine. I was just curious. Thanks.” Mira looked relieved.
Alex sliced a piece of warm baguette in half, spread one side liberally with salted butter, and scooped plum jam into a ramekin. He put it all on a plate and carried it over to the table in the corner. Corbin didn’t look up. He didn’t seem to notice Alex at all.
“Corbin?” he said softly.
Corbin jerked, his elbow nearly knocking the empty coffee cup off the table. The eyes that met Alex’s were wide and wild.
“Sorry,” Alex said. He kept his voice soft and smiled. “I thought maybe you might like a snack.” He set the plate down on the table and took a step back, since Corbin seemed threatened by his looming.
“I didn’t . . . I didn’t order that.” Corbin blinked quickly as if he was coming out of a dream, confused about what was real and what wasn’t.
“No, I just thought you might like it.” At the gaping mouth and fluttering eyelashes, he added, “Since I just reopened, I wanted to welcome customers. You used to come in when this was my mom’s place, right?”
“Your mom. Helen is your mom.”
“Yep. She asked me to take the place over. It’s been a lot of work for her lately. She gets tired.”
“Tired,” Corbin echoed, and his shoulders slumped a bit, like the word had taken up residence in his body.
“I’m Alex. It is Corbin, right? That’s what Mira said.” He nodded at his employee and she smiled.
Corbin gave a stuttering nod. His eyes tracked from the food on the table to Alex’s face. “You don’t want me to leave.” Alex realized that he said all his questions like statements.
“No. I’m glad you’re here.” It was a pat answer—one any new business owner would give a customer—but Alex felt the truth of it down to his toes. “Please make yourself at home.”
Alex tried to get a glimpse of what Corbin was working on, but the notebook was covered by Corbin’s arms, intentionally or not. All that was visible were some spiky black lines and an indigo curve arcing from under Corbin’s fine-boned wrist.
“Well, I’ll leave you to it,” Alex said, and turned back to the kitchen. As he got out the flour and butter to make pie crust, he realized what he felt was a vague sense of disappointment. Disappointment that he hadn’t seen the contents of the notebook. Disappointment that Corbin hadn’t asked him to sit down and join him. Disappointment that Corbin had seemed to draw closer into himself with every inch toward him that Alex moved.
And when he brought two pies out later that afternoon, disappointment to find the table in the corner empty, with no sign of Corbin having been there at all.
Read more at: https://riptidepublishing.com/titles/the-remaking-of-corbin-wale (just click the excerpt tab)
20% of all proceeds from this title will be donated to the Russian LGBT Network.
Each year, Riptide Publishing releases a holiday collection in support of an LGBTQ charity. Twenty percent of the proceeds from this year’s collection will be donated to the Russian LGBT Network.
The Russian LGBT network was founded in April 2006. It is an interregional, non-governmental human rights organization that promotes equal rights and respect for human dignity, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. They unite and develop regional initiatives, advocacy groups (at both national and international levels), and provide social and legal services.
To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit their website: https://lgbtnet.org/en.
This collection would not be possible without the talent and generosity of its authors, who have brought us the following holiday stories:
- Cecilia Tan, Watch Point
- Roan Parrish, The Remaking of Corbin Wale
- Katie Porter, Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Buy all three in the collection and save!
Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.
When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.
She is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.
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