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Regret (Under My Skin #1)
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When Brian “Brin” Schubert’s condo floods, he takes his co-worker up on the offer to stay on his crappy futon for a while. The last thing he expects is for his friend’s roommate to be the one guy he despises the most. The same guy who stomped on his heart senior year of high school. And by the looks of the girl on his arm, the same man who’s still deep inside the closet.
Nicholas Dell never predicted that eleven years later, one of his greatest regrets would show up on his doorstep down on his luck. Nick has made some terrible mistakes—story of his life—and he’s been paying for them ever since. And if the guilt and shame aren’t enough, his first crush had to turn into one of the sexiest men he’s ever laid eyes on.
Nick and Brin have weeks to steer clear of each other. Weeks to avoid strangling each other. But when stubbornness leads to skyrocketing sexual tension, hate-sex doesn’t seem like such an awful way to work through their frustration. Except hate is a powerful emotion, especially when it’s turned inward. And in Nick’s case he’s been drowning in a sea of self-loathing for so long, he can’t see his way out.
As Brin reconnects with Nick, his perception of what really happened in their past begins to change. He’s finally ready to forgive him and take a second chance on the one guy who stirs him like no other. But Nick’s demons are complicated, heart-wrenching…demanding. So devastating, he might never allow himself true happiness—even with the one man who’s always owned his heart.
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I pushed the key in the lock at Doggie Styles, securing the glass entrance for the night. My co-worker Elijah had cashed out our last dog—a cute-but-yippy schnauzer—on the grooming side but I was stuck on the daycare end waiting for the final pickup. Elijah had already asked for my Chinese takeout order before hitting the road, letting me know I’d see him within the hour. I took a deep breath and headed to my Volkswagen, where more of my clothes were piled sky high in the back seat.
My life had been running smoothly for far too many weeks in a row, and I knew something was bound to fuck it up. So when I’d stepped foot inside my condo a couple nights back and my feet sloshed in the standing water from the burst pipe covering every square inch of my cozy place, I figured the time had come. This was why I couldn’t have nice things. Not even a respectable boyfriend for fuck’s sake, which is why I finally deleted my Tinder account weeks ago. Time to finally get my shit together, and this setback was a definite reminder.
Elijah had offered for me to stay on the futon in his home office until my place dried out and the flooring was replaced. When I’d walked into my bedroom to retrieve some basic necessities yesterday, giant industrial fans had been set up to help with the task. But the floor still squished as I walked, and the condo was beginning to smell musty. Fuck my life.
Thankfully, my collection of Marvel and DC comics had been on the highest shelf in my closet, so the water had never reached the box. Most of them had come from my Uncle Rick who’d died from AIDS when I was ten years old, so they had become one of my most prized possessions. Now they were safely tucked away in the trunk of this car.
I’d definitely miss the creature comforts of my condo but was glad for the helping hand. I supposed I could’ve stayed with my parents on the east side the entire month, which would’ve been a hike to work every day. But quite honestly, the blank expression on my father’s face the last couple of nights—along with the obvious tension around his eyes—made me accept Elijah’s offer in about one second flat. Mom always tried to smooth the distant relationship between my father and me, but I didn’t think I could hack it for one more day.
I slid onto the black leather seat, glad my Jetta was still in decent shape, and if I had wood to knock on, I’d definitely take advantage. As it was, I’d already spent most of the day on the phone with the insurance company as they assessed the loss. According to the claims agent all of the damage should be covered, so that was one good thing that came out of this. Even if it put me out for weeks on end.
As I drove the back streets from Rocky River to Clifton Avenue in Lakewood, it reminded me how much I liked this neighborhood with its century-old homes located in close proximity to Lake Erie. Elijah lived in a quaint and spacious building with a roommate who’d been out when I was dropping off the majority of my stuff yesterday. I’d be sleeping in their spare bedroom-turned-office, and it felt comfortable enough as I waited for my condo to be repaired. Besides, no way I’d want to be a pain in the ass houseguest when I was the one imposing on them.
I had never met Nick, but I’d be sure to thank him and apologize for any inconvenience my staying there might cause. Elijah would tell me I needed to stop saying sorry for every damn thing in life and then I’d roll my eyes and remind him that I was a work in progress. Apologizing for who I was and what I needed just seemed to be my life’s mission.
I finally found a place to park on the busy road, which would become a pain after a few days’ time. Both Elijah and his roommate paid extra for space in the parking garage. That was the way to go if you wanted to live on an active street close to a busy intersection lined with several stores and restaurants.
Lifting the hangers from the back seat, I gently draped the clothes over my arm before twisting to slam the door shut. Pushing apartment two-oh-two on the board, it took Elijah several seconds to buzz me up. He stood with the door ajar when I got up the second flight of stairs. Knowing I needed to head straight for the office before my arm got numb, he simply followed behind me past the bathroom to the tiny third bedroom.