Stay (Blackcreek #2) by Riley Hart
Title ~ Stay (Blackcreek #2)
Author ~ Riley Hart
Genre ~ M/M Erotic Romance
Published ~ 22nd April 2014
Rating ~ 4.5 Stars
Wes Jensen just lost the sister who raised him, and gained custody of his niece. The last thing he needs to add to his full plate is dealing with Braden Roth, the one-night-stand who continues to try to push his way into Wes’ life. He has a kid to raise now, and Wes isn't great at getting close anyway.
Braden has never had a woman or a man sneak out on him the morning after. From the start, Wes intrigues him, and Braden isn't one to deny himself something he wants. And he wants Wes. The more time he spends with Wes and the little girl who constantly keeps them on their toes, the more Braden realizes this isn't just about getting the guy who walked away.
As their lives intertwine more and more, Wes discovers Braden isn't as shallow as he thought. But after everything Wes lost in his life, he isn't sure he can risk his heart, and truly want Braden to stay—and if he did, would Wes’ quiet life be enough for Braden?
It’s official… I AM A HUGE Riley Hart fan!!! There is no doubt in my mind this woman can write up a storm. As a reader she takes me to that place we all want to go, to get so lost and caught up in the pages of a book, where reality fades into the background and you become engrossed and lose yourself to the romance. Riley Hart gives me that ahhh feeling… when you sink into the couch, open your kindle and know you are going to be truly wowed, she just seems to pull you into the story effortlessly, there is nothing complex about her writing, it’s like comfort food for a reader, enjoyable and thoroughly entertaining, pulling on all your heart strings and emotions… I just love her! As someone that reads so much, it’s easy to become blasé about books, where one just mingles into the next, but that is something that cannot be said about Riley, and the main reason for this is her characterisation… simply put, it’s just excellent, there is no other word for it, every single one of her characters from all three of her books so far have managed to crawl into my heart and take up residence, and for me this is where Riley excels.
I am going to hold my hands up and admit, I was late to the Blackcreek party, so when I knew Stay was going to be released, and after reading and loving Broken Pieces… there was no way this book was not going to be MINE!!! It’s a term of phrase to say “I could not put this book down” …but in all honesty, when I picked up Collide to start my journey to Blackcreek, I literally, DID NOT put my Kindle down until I had read both books, my life was officially on hold, the only think keeping my attention were Riley’s boys.
We met both Braden and Wes in Collide and even before having their own book, I was already smitten. I mean, what’s not to love about Braden, he’s your typical cheeky chappie, a bit like Coop, which is probably why they got on so well. Wes is a little more intense, you get a feeling of sadness from him but dealing with his sisters illness, that’s understandable. Wes and Braden had spent a night of passion together in Collide, for Wes, that’s all it was, an escape from the reality of the inevitable, but for Braden, a man used to getting what he wants, being bailed on in the middle of the night has him wanting more… to Braden, Wes has become a challenge!
And so, Stay picks up right were Collide finished…
Braden, thinks with the wrong head! As a bisexual man he appreciates the beauty of men and women, and makes no excuses for it… he loves sex! He’s confident and cocky, very often his mouth engages before brain, he doesn’t have the ability to lie. He could come across as being shallow, but there is so much more to Braden than the man the world gets a glimpse of. He’s a big softie, generous of heart and kind, for Braden life is all about fun. But where Wes is concerned, he’s like a freight train and there’s no stopping him. Braden is relentless in his pursuit of Wes, constantly pushing his buttons for a reaction, but what he want’s most of all is to see the Wes that let’s his guard down, to see him free of all the responsibilities that weigh him down, and take him to that place that he only seems to be able to visit in the throws of ecstasy. He want’s to see him unburden himself and shuck those self imposed chains of loneliness, it’s as though for Wes sex is somehow liberating… and OMG… is the sex HOT!!! Which is something else Riley manages to get just right, the amount of tension angst and full on passion was just smouldering!
Wes is what I would call a worry wart… he bears the responsibilities of the world on his shoulders alone. Losing his sister just compounds his abandonment issues, because in his heart he feels that is the case, loving someone means losing them, and Wes is not prepared to go down that road again, no matter how charming and sexy Braden may be. His sole purpose in life is now to take care of his niece Jessie, even at the expense of his own happiness.
Jessie and Wes, gave the carefree Braden a sense of purpose, he actually liked the unfamiliar feelings of the complete and unconditional trust they showed in him and sense of belonging he got from being part of their lives, where it wasn’t all just about Braden, sex, or having fun… He’s still an annoying shite, but in a good way, you can’t help but fall for him, and I DID, big time! Unselfishly, all Braden wants is to make people smile, lighten the mood, he can’t help himself, it’s part of who he is, and it’s that part of Braden that starts to get under Wes’s skin because Braden is a constant reminder that it’s OK to have fun and enjoy yourself, it doesn’t make you a bad person or any less responsible.
This book may be about Braden and Wes, but we also get to visit with Coop and Noah, we meet Braden’s family and I loved every single one of them and the time they spent with Braden’s parents was more than enough to warm the cockles of my heart. I want them as my family! But without a doubt the star is Jessie, what a great kid she is… especially having just lost her mother, but being surrounded by people that love her and the foundations that had already been laid by Wes’s sister, were what made her the strong, well adjusted child that she is, with Wes and Braden’s love helping her to deal with daily life… and the importance of constants in it.
Both men for different reasons had shut themselves down to the prospect of love, the always and forever part to it. We see that stripped down and laid bare, their vulnerabilities open to inspection, a daunting prospect for Wes especially and for Braden it was the unknown. I mentioned earlier that Riley Hart has the ability to pull on all your heart strings and yet again in Stay she does just that. There is plenty of snarky humour in the guise of both Braden and Cooper who have the ability to bring out the best in people… and had me laughing out loud! The sadness, despair and loneliness from a man that had closed himself off to life for fear of what might happen… just broke my heart. The love of a sister who even from the grave managed to put Wes’s head on straight brought me to tears… as did the undeniable love and connection, not just between these two men but these two men and their little lady. Braden is the sunshine to Wes’s cloudy day… it just takes him a while to get his shirt off and enjoy the warmth, to eventually let his dampened spirits soar at the hope and possibility of a future.
Excellent book… and series, seriously, don’t miss out on something fabulous like I almost did… you will kick yourselves!!!
A Word from Riley
STAY was a really fun book for me to write, not just because I love Wes, Braden and Jessie so much but because it felt like I was visiting old friends. Blackcreek is like that homey, little town that I just can’t get enough of, and I feel lucky that I got to be there in COLLIDE, and then return in STAY. I’ve always been a big fan of books in a series but I feel a special closeness to those small town books where you get to know the locals book after book. Where you feel like you’re seeing old friends when you head back there for the next installment. That’s one of the things I hope readers get out of heading back to Blackcreek. Wes and Braden were such a joy to write—Braden with his open mouth, insert foot, problem where he says whatever is on his mind. He’s loyal and probably one of the best guys there is. And then Wes, sweet, responsible Wes who has lost too much in his life and just wants to do the right thing by his family. They were the perfect couple to continue life in my favorite town.
Stay (Blackcreek #2) by Riley Hart
One after one, Braden Roth watched as people trickled out of Wes’s sister’s home.
He hadn’t seen Wes in a while, which didn’t really surprise him. Wes avoided him as much as he could ever since the one and only night they spent together. The night Wes snuck out on him while Braden slept.
Still, he continued to linger, hoping for a minute alone with Wes.
Which was a fucked-up hope in itself. Why did it bother him so much that Wes wanted nothing to do with him?
“You sticking around?” Cooper, his buddy from the firehouse, stepped up beside him, his arm in a sling from a fire he’d gotten injured in.
“Yeah, I figure so. He might need some help or something.”
Coop shook his head. “He has his other sister here for that. Do you really think it’s a good idea to hit on the man the day he buried his sister?”
Braden clenched his jaw, fighting not to grind his teeth the way he used to as a kid. “No shit, man. I just…” Think he needs a friend… He looks lonely…
“Can you blame me for asking? You have to admit, you’ve been relentless in trying to get him into bed again.”
“That was before I knew the whole story. I’m not a total asshole, Coop.” Even though he really was one. The truth was, Braden had never had a man or a woman sneak out on him after sex. Even if he hadn’t sensed something different about Wes, that fact alone made him curious. Maybe that made him sound like a prick, but it was true. The harder it had been to find Wes, the more he’d wanted him, and that made him an asshole.
When he had found him, Wes made it obvious he wasn’t interested in a repeat of their night together. It started as a game, hitting on him despite the rejection, just to see Wes fluster. Then Coop dropped the bomb about his dying sister—that Wes had only moved to Blackcreek, Colorado to take care of Chelle and her daughter—and Braden won the ‘Asshole of the Year Award’ for the way he’d pushed him. Maybe that’s what kept him coming around when Wes made it obvious he didn’t want him. Braden had two sisters and a brother; it would kill him to lose one of them.
“I know,” Cooper said. “But he’s Noah’s friend, and—”
“Look at you, protecting your boyfriend’s friend. If you don’t remember, I ended up taking Wes home that night because you went postal thinking he wanted your man.”
If he said that to anyone else it probably would have earned him a punch to the jaw, but Cooper knew him. Knew that Braden liked to stir up shit and give people a hard time.
Cooper winked. “It was my plan all along. Was just looking out for ya, man. Helping you get laid, since you obviously can’t do it on your own.”
“Well played, you bastard.” Braden chuckled. When Cooper’s boyfriend, Noah, joined them, Braden added, “I’m serious, though, I only want to tell him I’m sorry for his loss, and to be his friend. I’m sure he could use one of those right now.”
Noah gave him a small nod before leaning over to kiss the top of Cooper’s dark blond hair. “Are you ready to go?” he asked.
“Go home and heal your ass up so you can get back to work,” Braden teased, making both Cooper and Noah laugh.
“He’s milking it. You should see him at home.” Noah hooked a finger through Coop’s belt loop.
“That’s because I’m not stupid. It gets me my way.”
Braden had a feeling it didn’t take an injury for Noah to do anything for the guy.
“And soon, you’ll owe me.” Noah’s voice went deep, sexy, making Braden see how Cooper, who’d always considered himself straight, had fallen for him.
“See ya later.” Noah nodded at him again before leading Cooper away. Braden looked around the small living room to see he was alone. The brown furniture was older but still in good shape. There was a fireplace on the far wall, with a mantel, full of pictures. Braden walked over, his eyes roaming images of Chelle laughing, and Jessie, her little girl, playing. She had a headful of blond curls, much lighter than Wes’s dark hair, and his hair was straight.
There were pictures of Wes’s other sister, Lydia, who he met for the first time today, with her husband and kids. At the end sat a picture of Wes, leaning against a tree. It was the only image of someone alone.
Braden rubbed a hand across his jaw, studying the picture. Wes’s tall, muscular body. The way his head tilted down, showing a jaw that looked like it could cut stone. The jeans hugging his long legs. He really was sexy as hell, and there was no question that he’d been a good fuck, but those things didn’t explain why he stood in the man’s sister’s living room right now.
“Did you need something?” Braden turned at the sound of Wes’s lonely voice. “If you haven’t noticed, everyone’s gone.”
Braden smiled at him. “Everyone except me.”
He didn’t get the return grin he’d hoped for. “Which is my point.” Wes crossed his arms.
Damn. This definitely wasn’t going to be easy. He figured since they’d gotten along okay while helping Noah when Cooper got hurt, Wes would have gotten over whatever his aversion to Braden was. Obviously not. Braden shrugged. “Thought maybe you’d need some help. Cleaning up or whatever. I’m sure you don’t want to deal with that shit right now.”
Wes didn’t budge. “Lydia and I can take care of it.”
“I’m sure she doesn’t want to do it, either. It’s not a big deal. I—”
“Why?” Wes interrupted him.
Braden took a few steps toward him. Flirtatious words on the tip of his tongue…To be alone with you. Because you’re sexy as hell. He fought to find that filter everyone told him he didn’t have and answered, “Because my mama raised me to be nice and help people when they need it.” Which was true.
Wes’s body stiffened so hard, he rivaled marble. “I don’t need your pity. If that’s—”
“Pity? What are you talking about, man? I can tell you, pity is the last thing I feel when I look at you. If you want, I can prove it to you.” As soon as the words left his mouth, he knew he was screwed. Where the fuck had his filter gone?
Braden sighed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t come here to hit on you. I just…”
“Uncle Wes! Uncle Wes!” a little girl’s voice called, getting closer and closer.
“If you couldn’t tell, I’m dealing with shit a whole lot more important than your cock. You can show yourself out.” He turned away.
“Wes,” Braden called out, but Wes kept going, through the kitchen and toward the back door.
Braden dropped his head back. “Damn it.” He’d really fucked that up.
Wes paused at the door, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. The last thing he needed to do today was let something Braden said get under his skin. He got Braden. From the first night they met, he had the guy’s number. He’d never had a hard day in his life. Funny, gorgeous, everyone liked him; the kind of man who commanded attention.
He was used to getting what he wanted, and the night they spent together, Wes wanted the same thing Braden did: Sex. Release. And for Wes, a night to forget that Chelle was dying, and that she wanted him to raise Jessie. That once again he was losing someone he loved.
He’d fucked up by leaving before Braden woke up, though. That made him a challenge for Braden, it made him interesting, when Wes didn’t want to be interesting to anyone. He had more important things to deal with and didn’t have time for playing games.
And he definitely didn’t want pity.
“Uncle Wes. Hurry!” Jessie called, her voice all four-year-old happiness. Did she understand the fact that she’d lost her mother forever? She was young, and soon the memories would fade. They always did. She would forget Chelle’s smile, her laugh. She wouldn’t know what it felt like to have Chelle’s unwavering support. She wouldn’t have her mom to talk to. She would have…Wes.
What had Chelle been thinking by leaving her to him? The single, gay guy who left his job behind to come here, who sucked at opening up to anyone, and had a habit of losing everyone who meant something to him?
Shaking his head, he hoped to leave those thoughts for another time. Wes bound down the stairs for Jessie before the little girl came for him. And she would. She and her mom had had that in common.
Lydia, her husband Stan, and their two sons, Brent and Bruce, sat around the picnic table. Next to it was a swing set so different than the one Wes hung from a tree at home. Chelle had been able to lie on her bed and watch Jessie fly on that homemade swing, though. Now Wes would be watching her on it.
“Push me, Uncle Wes!” Jessie called.
“What? None of you could do it?” Wes winked at his family, hoping they didn’t see his nerves setting him on edge. “Make me come outside when you’re all sitting here.”
“She wanted you. When Jessie wants something…”
Jessie cut Lydia off with another, “Uncle Wes!”
“I’m coming, I’m coming.” Fall leaves crunched under Wes’s feet as he walked over to the swing and gave Jessie a push. Lydia had tied Jessie’s hair back for her today, but the curls were already springing from the band as she flew through the air. How would he do her hair every day? He didn’t even know how.
“Higher! Higher!” she called out.
“I’m trying.” Wes hoped his voice sounded lighter than he felt. Behind him, Lydia laughed as Jessie screamed in happiness as he made her fly.
He pushed her for what felt like an hour but was probably closer to fifteen minutes before she finally got tired. When she climbed down, Stan offered to take the kids on a walk, which Wes knew was really an excuse for Lydia to talk to him. They steered clear of the woods behind the house, and walked around to the front. As soon as they disappeared, Lydia asked, “How are you doing?”
He sat across from her, the bench creaking when he did. “I would guess the same as you. We lost our sister.” Who was more like our mother.
“You know that’s not true, Wes, so don’t pretend it is. My heart is broken. I miss her already, but…”
“I’m fine. My loss isn’t any bigger than yours.”
Her eyes softened, and he knew exactly what they said. That she knew he’d loved Chelle more than anyone in the world. That Chelle was the sister he’d talked to, the first person he’d come out to. He had always assumed he’d have her, and now he didn’t.
Lydia’s eyes said she worried about him. She worried about Jessie.
“But I don’t keep everything locked inside. You’ve been alone a long time, brother.”
He smiled at that.
“She always called you brother. She was so proud to be related to you.”
Wes dropped his eyes to the table. He had no idea why, but Chelle had been. She thought the sun rose and set on him, and damned if that hadn’t felt good.
After a few minutes of silence, Lydia asked, “Who was the guy?”
“What guy?” He knew exactly who she meant. Dammit, Braden. He’d caught Lydia’s attention.
“You know what guy. He watched you all day.”
He had. Wes hadn’t wanted to, but he’d watched Braden as well. “And you know who he is. Blackcreek isn’t very big, and you’ve lived here for years.”
“Yes, but Braden’s only been here less than one.”
He raised a brow at her.
“Okay, fine. I know who he is. Why was he watching you? Are you dating him?”
Wes groaned. “Do we really have to do this today?”
Lydia smiled. “He’s hot. If I wasn’t married, I’d like to date him. Did you see the way his muscles pressed against his shirt? Delicious.”
Hearing his sister call a man who Wes spent a night with delicious—a man who’s muscles he’d bitten his teeth into—was something he could do without ever experiencing again. “I’m not dating him.”
“You could, you know.” She pushed her hair behind her ear. “I mean, if you’re going to be living here, you need to be comfortable. Have a life. You know we support you. Chelle always taught Jessie that love is love.”
Wes closed his eyes again, as though that would block out the memories. She’d been just as supportive when he’d come out at sixteen. It doesn’t matter who you love, brother, as long as you love them with your whole damn heart.
His eyes popped open again. “No offense, but dating is the last thing on my mind right now.”
“Don’t pretend it’s just right now. You haven’t dated anyone seriously in years. Don’t put it on Chelle’s death, or having Jessie.”
That was the last thing he wanted to talk about right now. Wes picked at the paint on the table. “I’m not going to do this with you. Braden is…” What was he? He couldn’t even say the man was a friend. He’d known him for a couple hours when he went home with him. Then they’d hardly said another word to each other until Cooper got hurt, or rather, Wes had hardly said a word to him. Then it had been all about Cooper and Noah.
But the lack of friendship hadn’t stopped Braden from calling him up twice in the past couple weeks. From asking Wes out, and then showing up here today.
“Braden is…?” Lydia asked.
Wes’s mind flashed back to the little girl he’d been pushing on the swing. To the niece that he was supposed to raise. To his sister who died, and… “No one. Braden is no one.” Those words made him feel like an asshole.
“Fine. I’ll drop it. But what about Jessie? She wanted you to have her.”
His heart both swelled and broke at those words. “I don’t know the first thing about raising a kid, Lydia.”
She rolled her eyes. “Who does when they become a parent? It’s never what you thought it would be. And you know we’ll help you. We’re family. We’ll do this together.” Lydia paused a second before continuing. “You know Jessie can stay with me, but you’ll regret it. If you walk away from that little girl, you’ll regret it.”
“I’m her uncle. I wouldn’t be walking away. I’ll always be her uncle.” Even to his own ears, the excuse sounded weak.
“You know that’s not what I mean.”
Wes pushed to his feet. “I know. And I’m here, aren’t I? You know me better than to think I could ever say no to what Chelle wanted, or to Jessie.”
His sister threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck. “We’ll figure this out, brother. We’ll do it together. It’s been too long since you lived close to us. I’m so glad you’re here to stay.”
And though he loved being around them again, his gut filled with dread. He couldn’t let himself screw this up. Couldn’t.
Book #3 ~ Title TBC
About Riley Hart
Riley Hart is the girl who wears her heart on her sleeve. She's a hopeless romantic. A lover of sexy stories, passionate men, and writing about all the trouble they can get into together. If she's not writing, you'll probably find her reading. Riley lives in California with her awesome family, who she is thankful for everyday.
Riley will be gifting to one lucky reader a Kindle eBook of Stay… all you need to do is enter your details in the Rafflecopter below.