Sun
May 14 2017 12:00pm

Vanessa North Excerpt: Summer Stock

Vanessa North

Summer Stock by Vanessa North

Tabloid scandals have driven TV star Ryan Hertzog to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where he’s hiding out doing summer stock at his cousin’s seaside theater. When a hookup with local handyman Trey Donovan results in Ryan being photographed butt naked, he vows to keep his pants on and his hands off Trey. How was he supposed to know Trey would turn out to be the summer stock set builder?

Trey isn’t looking for a relationship; he’s still recovering from the emotional fallout of an abusive marriage. But Ryan’s laughter draws him in again and again, and he’s not about to say no to fooling around.

As the summer heats up, the paparazzi catch Ryan in increasingly compromising situations. Ryan might be too much drama for a summer fling—and Trey might be just an intermission from Ryan’s Hollywood life. But if they take their cues from Shakespeare, all’s well that ends well.

Get a sneak peek at Vanessa North's Summer Stock (available May 13, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

Trey’s breath was still shallow and frantic-fast as he let himself into the truck and reached for the bottle of Xanax he kept in the console. Was this a full-blown panic attack? The rush of anxiety and the urge to dissociate often preceded one, but had he grounded himself in time? And if he took a pill, could he get home before it made driving dangerous?

He did the math in his head—the public beach access was a ten-minute drive from his place, and the drug usually didn’t start making him sleepy until about thirty minutes after he took it.

As he sat there staring at the bottle, the passenger door opened, and Ryan climbed in. “I should have asked if you were okay to drive. How much have you had to drink?”

Startled, Trey looked up at him. “I’m fine. Only the one beer you brought me.”

“You aren’t acting like yourself.”

Trey let out a short, mirthless laugh. “You don’t know me.”

Ryan nodded. “You’re right, but I want to.” He laid his hand on Trey’s thigh, like he had the night at the bar, but tentative rather than bold. “This isn’t a come on. I’m not trying to get you naked. I just— Caro is the only friend I’ve got here, and things are weird with Mason. My best friend is in rehab, so I can’t even talk to her. I could use a friend, and I really like you, you know?”

Taking a long, slow breath, Trey fished a pill out of the bottle and swallowed it, then he handed Ryan his keys. “Take me home?”

Ryan smiled. “Of course.”

Trey waited as Ryan walked around the truck, then he hopped down and held the driver’s door open until Ryan was settled, then shut it gently. What the hell was he doing? He tried to quell the butterflies and nervousness in his stomach as he rounded the truck and opened the passenger door. He stopped dead.

Ryan was reading the label of his pill bottle.

He glanced up at Trey and shrugged. “Just curious as to what to expect when this kicks in. Ali used to take this sometimes, but the dosage wasn’t as high.”

Trey climbed into the truck and fastened his seat belt. “I’ll get drowsy, but my heart rate will slow and I’ll stop sweating and choking on nothing.”

Ryan murmured an acknowledgment. “Anxiety attacks? That’s rough.”

He didn’t know the half of it, and Trey had a hard enough time talking about it with his therapist, let alone a beautiful barely-more-than-stranger. Trey switched on the stereo. As country music filled the cab, Ryan started tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. “I turn left on Mustang, right?”

“Yeah.” Curious about Ryan’s familiarity with the island, Trey asked, “Did you grow up here?”

Ryan nodded. “Mostly. I mean, when I was little, we moved around some—lived on the mainland for a while. My aunt and uncle, Caro’s folks, took me in when I was twelve.”

“What happened to your parents?”

“The great state of North Carolina saw fit to remove me from their custody.”

“Oh.” Trey’s mind reeled. “Jesus, I’m sorry.”

Ryan glanced over at him. “I was a wild kid, and my dad was a control freak. He came to pick me up one day during one of their separations, I mouthed off, and he took a swing at me. It wasn’t the first time, but this time Mom shoved him off the porch, he broke his ankle, and the neighbors called the cops. They got there just in time to hear my dear old dad tell my mom he was going to kill us both. It was ugly.”

Trey shuddered. He knew all too well how ugly domestic violence scenes were when the cops got involved. But then, he knew exactly how ugly it was when no one came to the rescue either. “I’m so sorry.”

Shrugging, Ryan stared at the road ahead. “It was a long time ago.” But his voice was thick, and Trey knew bravado when he saw it. Some part of Ryan was still the wild, mouthy kid whose own dad took a swing at him, no matter how deeply he buried that kid under charm and swagger.

“Third one on the left.” Trey pointed. “Thanks for driving me home.”

“You’re welcome.” Ryan turned off the engine and handed over the keys. “My house—my buddy’s house—is only about a mile and a half from here along the beach, so I can walk if you don’t mind me cutting through your house to your beach access.”

“I don’t mind. Want a cup of coffee before you go?” Trey moved to get out of the car, but Ryan stopped him with a hand on his arm.

“How are you feeling?”

The company and the first lick of comfort from the Xanax had already started to calm him. “I’m going to be okay.”

“Good.”

Trey started up the steps to the front door of his little bungalow with Ryan trailing behind him. As he fit the key in the lock, he looked over his shoulder and Ryan was right there, so close, he could just—

“Trey?”

Damn, but his name looked good on Ryan’s lips.

And suddenly all the dirty, dirty memories he’d been trying to hold back flashed through his mind at once. A laugh that became a moan. A fist in his hair. Teeth biting into his shoulder. His own name, over and over.

He pulled Ryan close, hands clutching desperately at the soft fabric of his T-shirt, and the promise of warm skin underneath.

“Not here,” Ryan whispered, eyes wide in the dark.

Trey nodded, spun around, and fumbled with the key. Ryan’s hand closed over his.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry.” Ryan rotated Trey’s shaking hand, and with it the key, and pushed open the door. 

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Copyright © 2017 by Vanessa North.
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Learn more about or order a copy of Summer Stock by Vanessa North, available May 13, 2017:

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Author of over a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories, Vanessa North delights in giving happy-ever-afters to characters who don’t think they deserve them. Relentless curiosity led her to take up knitting and run a few marathons “just to see if she could.” She started writing for the same reason. Her very patient husband pretends not to notice when her hobbies take over the house. Living and writing in Northwest Georgia, she finds her attempts to keep a quiet home are frequently thwarted by twin boy-children and a very, very large dog.

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