Hi guys, we have Cari Z. popping today with her upcoming release Handle With Care, we have a brilliant guest post and a great excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! ❤ ~Pixie~
Handle With Care
A fragile heart needs extra care.
Burned-out social worker Aaron McCoy is on vacation for the first time in years—boss’s orders. Road-tripping to his brother’s wedding with his best friend, Tyler, seems a fun way to spend the mandatory two-week leave, and they set out for Kansas—and a difficult homecoming.
Aaron’s mother was a drug addict, and his adorable younger brother was quickly adopted, while Aaron spent his childhood in foster care. As Aaron mends fences, Tyler hopes to show him that this time, he won’t be left behind to face his problems alone.
Aaron’s opening up to how right it feels to be with Tyler and to the possibility of taking the leap from friends to lovers. But along with the wedding celebration comes a painful reminder of the past. Aaron’s heart is still breakable. Can he put it in Tyler’s hands?
.•.•.**❣️Pre-order: Dreamspinner | Amazon US | Amazon UK ❣️**.•.•.
Oh, this book. This book! Handle With Care was a labor of love, and caution, and also gave me absolute fits of doubt while I was working on it. It was genuinely hard for me to tackle, and I think I’ve finally figured out why. This is the first contemporary novel I’ve ever written (possibly the only novel I’ve ever written, period) without a single gunfight, murder, or explosion.
Hahahahaaa…no, I’m being serious here! If I were to compare my books to movies, they’d all fall into that James Bond/Looper/modern Sherlock milieu. Mysteries, fight scenes, adventures and thrills and tender moments interspersed between the chaos. Not sweet romcoms or scorching BDSM. Not heart-stringy Nicholas Sparks affairs. Even my brief foray into historical fiction was more Horatio Hornblower than Jane Eyre.
Then I came up for the idea for this book. Well, I say “I” did…a lot of this book is based on things I learned from my ficwife, who is a real, live social worker and who helped me through the rough patches. We plotted this book over brownies, Coronaritas, and pizza. And it ended up entirely without bloodshed. Weird.
Okay, so it’s not entirely without bloodshed, I haven’t had a personality translant or something. But I restricted myself to nothing more than a fistfight! Nobody even pulled a knife! That’s as physically dangerous as this book gets—a brawl in a strip club. Ha, yeah.
There’s a lot more emotional load in Handle With Care than in much of what I write, though. The main character, Aaron, is a foster-child-turned-social-worker who’s burning out. He’s forced to go on a vacation which, thanks to the machinations of his (pining) best friend, ends up taking him to his estranged brother’s wedding. He hasn’t seen his brother since Zach was adopted—and Aaron wasn’t. But he’d not bitter. Noooo, not bitter at all…
There’s a lot of humor in this book, which hopefully balances out the unavoidable angst, but if you’re looking for explosions…well, apart from in the bedroom, you’re out of luck with this one.
THE SOUND of Aaron McCoy losing the last thread of his sanity was a lot like the noise made by someone hitting the Escape key over and over, slowly building up speed as their desperation grew.
“No. No, shit, nonono, this is not happening—” Compound the tapping on the keyboard with quiet disbelief that quickly turned into full-throated despair, and it was quite a way for his sanity to go.
“Fuck you, you piece of shit, don’t do this to me!”
YOU HAVE LOGGED OUT.
“No I didn’t, you logged me out, you son of a bitch.” He smacked the side of the ancient monitor and resisted the urge to grab the tire iron from the back of his Prius and go full-on Office Space on it. “Fuck.” Two hours of entering case notes, right in the middle of what felt like his fiftieth page of documentation, and the system booted him. Because of course it did.
Aaron pulled his glasses off and set them on his desk, then leaned back in his chair and scrubbed his hands over his face. The office was quiet except for the hum of his computer, mocking him in binary from two feet away. The lights were low, the door was locked. He was the only person there, which was good. Nobody else needed to see him defeated by the fucking TFACTS software.
Okay. Fine. He had to start over with this case, but he could do that, he had time. Technically, Aaron had fifteen days to update his case files, and he’d only finished with this one on Friday. It was Sunday. But he knew, he just knew, that the minute he let himself think about drawing things out a little more, that was when he’d fall behind, thanks to circumstances he couldn’t control. Shit like his computer deciding to fuck with him, for example. In thirteen days, this would be a real problem. At the moment, it was just an inconvenience.
“Some damn inconvenience.” His head hurt. His hands hurt, fingertips sore from two solid hours of work. But if he didn’t get the case files done right then, he wouldn’t have time to make his family visits tomorrow. He couldn’t put those off—they’d been scheduled for weeks, and it was hard enough to get people to comply with them without changing the dates and times he’d be meeting them.
“M’kay. Right.” He let his hands slide down to his lap and stared balefully at the screen. YOU HAVE LOGGED OUT. “I’m logging back in, motherfucker, and you’re going to swallow all the words I cram down your throat if it’s the last thing you ever do.” He sighed, leaned forward, and reached for his glasses. He might have lost the battle, but the war was just starting.
The sudden clamor of the Beastie Boys was enough to make Aaron jump out of his chair. That was Tyler’s ringtone.
He grabbed for his phone, knocking his glasses to the floor while he was at it. “Damn it.”
“Nice to chat with you too.”
“That was a general ‘damn it,’ not one specific to you,” Aaron said. He didn’t dare move his chair while he felt around for the glasses. The way his evening was going, he’d roll right over them. “What’s up?”
“It’s pub quiz night.”
“And you said you’d meet me there. Remember? We were gonna be the Fool-Hardy Boys.”
“Oh.” Right, he had said that. “I’m sorry. I’m still at work.”
“Um.” It was still crazy to Aaron how Tyler could pack a dictionary’s worth of Tennessee drawl into a single syllable. “You know it’s Sunday, right? The day of rest? The not-as-good-as-Saturday-but-still-better-than-Monday day of the week?”
“Yeah, I know.”
“So, why are you at work?”
Aaron stopped looking for his glasses and rubbed his fingers against the bridge of his nose. Damn, but he had a headache. “Case notes.”
“Uh-huh. For cases that ain’t due for another two weeks.”
“I don’t want to get behind.”
“You never get behind. You’re always ahead, that’s why nobody at your work wants to invite you to their barbecues on the weekend. You get that, right? Last thing they wanna do is ask what you’ve been up to and get their own work ethic smacked down.”
“My team likes me,” Aaron objected.
“Sure they do. You make their lives easier, but that don’t mean they want it rubbed in their faces. Case in point: you missin’ quiz night with your own family so you can argue with your computer instead.”
“How did you know I was arguing with my computer?”
“Figured that was who the ‘damn it’ was for.” Tyler paused, then said, “I’m right, aren’t I? I’m right!”
Aaron could actually hear the grin spread across his face. “Nope.”
“Yes I am. Don’t lie.”
“I wasn’t swearing at the computer.”
“You were swearin’ because of it.”
“No, I knocked my glasses on the floor.”
Tyler scoffed. “Yeah, I don’t believe that for a second. Look—”
“I can leave now.” He might as well. The longer he went without reengaging with his enemy, the harder it became to force himself to do it. “The pub is just fifteen minutes away, I can get there fast.”
“Aaron, hold up—”
“No, I’m serious. I can make it before it’s over.”
“It’s already over,” Tyler said, more gently than Aaron probably deserved. “The quiz started at seven―it’s nine now.”
Holy shit, when had it gotten so late? “Why didn’t you call me earlier?”
Aaron checked his phone. Sure enough, one missed call from Tyler. He must have been in the bathroom. “Shit. I’m sorry.”
Tyler always said that when Aaron was a douche, and as grateful as he was for the forgiveness, the fact that he kept needing it was entirely his fault. “No, it’s not. I’m a shitty person.”
“Eh, you’re not so bad. ’Cept when you play Call of Duty, but I’m kind of counting on that to make me feel better.” If they’d been in the same room, Tyler would have just nudged Aaron with his elbow. “I’m cashing in on your guilt. Come over to the house and play video games with me.”
Aaron chuckled. “I swear, you’re still fifteen.”
“Don’t be ageist, man. Video games are for everyone. And hey, I’ve got beer.”
“Video games and beer,” Aaron deadpanned. “Wow, that’s a fantastic evening in, no wonder you’ve got to beat the ladies off with a stick.”
“The guys tend to like it, though.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Aaron wasn’t entirely sure he’d ever get used to the sheer ease with which Tyler referenced his bisexuality. It wasn’t that Aaron had a problem with it; he was gay and out since he’d come to Tennessee. To be out, though, he’d had to leave Kansas first. It wasn’t like there’d been anyone there to care, but the group homes were enough trouble without his sexuality being thrown into the mix.
Tyler had come out when he was sixteen, a year after Aaron had come to live with him and his parents when he began college. Arranging for him to stay with the Howards had been the greatest thing that Child Protective Services had done for Aaron before he’d left Leavenworth. The Howards were kind, warm people that made Aaron feel welcome, and their only kid left at home, Tyler, had latched on to Aaron like a leech. Ten years later, he still hadn’t let go.
Tyler informed his mother he was bisexual one morning by mentioning, very casually, that he was going to skip Homecoming because “Gina dumped me because I’d rather spend time with her brother than her, and Carl doesn’t want to go to the dance, so we’re gonna hang out here instead, okay?”
Diana, his mother, had sighed. “Honey, you aren’t datin’ Gina’s brother just to make her mad, are you?”
“No!” Tyler had replied, affronted. “I’m datin’ him because he’s hot! And Gina didn’t really want to date me anyway. She just wanted to say she was dating me. At least Carl likes me.”
“Mmkay, then. Bring him on by, but you’re sleepin’ in different beds.”
And that had been that. Aaron had felt light-headed when he’d left the breakfast table, glancing back over his shoulder just to make sure that Tyler wasn’t going to get hit as soon as he was out of the room. Nope. Diana just poured herself another cup of coffee. His father Theo had been just the same when he found out.
“So are you comin’ over or not?”
Aaron snapped back to the present. “Yeah. I’m coming.”
“Good! See you soon.”
Aaron pocketed his phone, retrieved his glasses, and shut his computer down with a baleful “Screw you” as he stood. It was going to be a late night after all, but at least he’d be able to enjoy it after this. He turned out the light on his desk, grabbed his jacket, and locked the door to the cubicle bay as he headed for his car. It was almost summer, and he didn’t really need to bundle up, but he never felt as warm as it seemed like everyone else did down there.
Cari Z was a bookworm as a child and remains one to this day. In an effort to combat her antisocial reading behavior, she did all sorts of crazy things, from competitive gymnastics to alligator wresting (who even knew that was legal!) to finally joining the Peace Corps, which promptly sent her and her husband to the wilds of West Africa, stuck them in a hut, and said, “See ya!” She also started writing, because some things she just thought she could do better. She’s still climbing that ladder, but can’t stop herself from writing, or from sharing what she creates.
Cari enjoys a wide range of literary genres, from the classics (get ‘im, Ahab) to science fiction and fantasy of all types, to historical fiction and reference materials (no, seriously, there are so many great encyclopedias out there). She writes in a wide range of genres as well, but somehow 90% of what she produces ends up falling into the broad and exciting category of m/m erotica. There’s a sprinkling of f/m and f/f and even m/f/m in her repertoire, but her true love is man love. And there’s a lot of love to go around.
Cari has published short stories, novellas, and novels with numerous print and e-presses, and she also offers up a tremendous amount of free content on Literotica.com, under the name Carizabeth.