Today we're featuring Constructing Us by C.J. Lake! Get a peak and don't forget to enter the giveaway below!
Title: Constructing Us
Author: C.J. Lake
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release date: July 19, 2014
*Story contains explicit/steamy scenes that are intended for mature readers.
When Andy takes over the lease on her friend Ethan's apartment, he warns her about his roommate, Tragan. According to Ethan, Tragan Barrett is self-centered and inconsiderate, caring more about hanging out with his friends and hitting the local casino than straightening the living room or keeping up with his laundry. Andy isn't too concerned, though, because she isn't moving in to make a friend.
Intended as a short-term living arrangement, the apartment is close to the hospital where Andy is participating in a drug study for a rare disorder she was diagnosed with when she was twenty. Now, fresh out of college, she is trying to figure out her life--and also how to live with the uncertainty of her condition. Figuring she'll go one way and he'll go another, Andy is surprised to learn that Tragan is not exactly the way Ethan painted him. In fact, there's a whole other side to the darkly sexy construction worker...especially when it comes to Andy.
Can an unlikely friendship turn into something much more?
My #1 signature song for Tragan & Andy was “Burn” by Ellie Goulding. I always thought of them when I heard that song and listened to it a lot while I was working on the book. There were several other songs that also made me think of their love/passion, especially “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers, “Anywhere But Here” by SafetySuit, “Animal” by Neon Trees, and “Paralyzer” by Finger Eleven.
After his parents left, Tragan found Andy at the kitchen sink. She was pulling her hair up into a messy knot at the back of her head, which exposed more of her neck. He stepped closer, leaned on the counter beside the sink. “Well, the good news is that my parents had an awesome time. They absolutely love you.”
“Oh, good…” Andy said, reaching for the dishwashing soap.
“The bad news is that for the rest of her days my mother will now be saying: ‘Why can’t you meet a girl like Andy’?
She gave a laugh at that. “Technically you did meet me,” she pointed out.
“You know what I mean,” Tragan said. “Seriously, I can see it now. ‘Tragan, that stripper you brought home for Thanksgiving? Why can’t she be more like Andy?’”
Andy shot him a look. “Stripper? Really?”
He shrugged. “You never know,” he said, grinning.
“Personally, I think you should set your sights a little higher,” Andy remarked, tilting her head at him--then corrected herself. “I shouldn’t say that, because I don’t actually know… Tragan, are you seeing anyone now?”
He shook his head. “Nope, no,” he said, straightening up a little. “I’m keeping my options open,” he added for some unknown reason. He felt like an idiot as soon as he’d said it.
“That’s good,” she said generically and set more plates into the sink. As she swished them with soapy water, Tragan found himself thinking about what his mom had said at the door.
“So are you always this great to people’s parents?” he fished. “Or…”
When she blinked at him, waiting, he lightened his tone, made it more joking. “Or is there just somethingspecial about Mari and Jack Barrett?”
Her gaze returned to the dishes in the sink as she proclaimed, “They’re very easy to talk to, for real. I don’t know why you were worried.”
“I wasn’t worried.”
“Sure,” she said, teasing him. “You know, you’re lucky your parents are still together. When my dad moved to Switzerland, it was supposed to be a year or so. We didn’t know he’d end up staying forever.”
When her voice trailed off, Tragan probed, “Do you ever see him?”
Andy nodded. “Oh, sure, on Skype. Emma and I visited him in Zurich about two years ago, and he came to the hospital in Chicago when I was sick. Plus, we talk on the phone and email a lot.”
“Yeah, he’s a good dad. But it’s still not the same as having my mom and him still together, like yours.”
Selfishly, Tragan was impatient to switch topics. He loved his parents to death but he didn’t want to talk about them right now. And he didn’t want to talk about Andy’s parents, either. “Hey--are you and Brad serious?” he blurted.
Andy appeared startled by the shift in subject. At first she hesitated, without replying. But Tragan held her gaze anyway, determined to learn the answer.
Finally, she shrugged. “Yeah, I mean, maybe, sure, could be,” she floundered, breaking their eye contact to reach for a towel. Rubbing it over a wet plate, she babbled on, “He’s a great guy and, you know, I’ve known him for a couple years now, um…plus, we’re still young, it’s not like we have to make any decisions right now…but…my mother likes him and…enh.”
“Enh?” Tragan repeated skeptically. “That doesn’t sound good.”
“No, no,” she backpedaled, “I mean…Brad’s great.”
“Right, you said that.”
“And he’s very smart--extremely smart.”
“I’m sure he is,” Tragan agreed (since the guy was a doctor, after all).
“Above all, though, Brad’s aware of my whole situation and is understanding about it.” Half-heartedly, Tragan gave a nod, although he really didn’t want to validate that. Andy seemed healthy to him, and besides that, he didn’t want to act like she had such a bad situation. “Who knows, we’ll see.” She let the dishtowel drop on the counter. “Wow, I’ve been rambling. You know what? I’m just gonna finish up these dishes tomorrow. I’m tired,” she insisted a little too abruptly.
“Okay.” He had to assume that his seemingly simple question had hit a nerve. As she headed to her room, Tragan called after her. “Listen--you really helped me out tonight. If there’s ever anything I can do for you, just let me know okay? So we can call it even.”
There was a momentary pause. “You know what? There is something,” Andy told him as she walked back to him.
Tragan’s heart rate kicked up, having the sudden notion that Andy might slide her hands up his chest and press her supple, sexy body into his. If she did, he would unleash such heat on her, he couldn’t guarantee they’d even make it to the bedroom before they were both going at it like animals.
“You know how you tend to pile your dirty, sweaty clothes on the floor--in a, sort of, inconvenient heap that’s blocking the dryer?” Andy said. “Which is charming, by the way.”
Inwardly, Tragan sighed, disappointed. So much for hot, relentless sex in the kitchen. “Yes…?”
“I was thinking that maybe you could use a hamper instead?”
Tragan’s eyes dropped down for a second, before returning to hers. “So that’s all you want from me? My disgusting laundry out of your way.”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it ‘disgusting.’”
“Fine, I’ll get a hamper.”
“Specifically I was hoping you could use one with a lid--like I have? I’ll pick you up one.”
“Andy, I think I can buy my own hamper,” Tragan said, trying not to sound churlish.
“If you’re sure. I have no problem treating you; it could be, like, an early Arbor Day present.”
So she wanted to be a smartass. “Hamper with a lid,” he bit out, glaring at her--and fighting a grin. “Got it. Anything else?”
“No, that’s it. For now.” She gave him a sweet little wave that exuded sarcasm. “’Night, roomie!”
Watching her go, he blew out a breath of laughter, in spite of himself. He shook his head as he heard her bedroom door close. Now that he was alone in the kitchen, there seemed only one logical thing for him to do. In fact, he wasn’t clear on anything else at that moment except for this.
He stepped up to the sink and did the rest of the dishes.
C.J. Lake is a storyteller who is passionate about art, surfing, and skiing/snowboarding. Residing near the coast of Massachusetts, C.J. is working on a new book that will feature Tragan Barrett's friend, Matt Winter. Readers can get in touch via email (email@example.com), or follow C.J. on Twitter @brightbluesurf.