High Contrast (High Contrast)
by Tess Bowery
Genre: New Adult contemporary gay romance (steamy)
Release Date: May 3rd, 2016
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
The deepest scars aren’t the ones that show.
Jacob Shain is your average member of Generation Screwed. He has a boring internship, no cash flow, and a tiny NYC apartment he has to share with Ethan, his much-cooler, tattoo-artist twin brother. Not to mention his love life is DOA. At least, until his brother’s shop hires on a new piercer, and Jacob’s humdrum life takes a turn for the weird.
Cody Turner is gorgeous, funny and kind—everything Jacob wants in a boyfriend. Except for the way he refuses to talk about his past, or where he lives, or anything about his personal life.
When Ethan is arrested while on a mission of mercy, the reason Cody is so tight lipped comes to light. And while Jacob and Cody fight to understand the depth of their feelings for one another, the police dogs catch their scent. So does the local mob.
Now Jacob has to make the hardest choice of his life: stay safe like a good boy, or dive headfirst into a world he barely understands…and hope Cody is there to break his fall.
Warning: Contains a good boy who wants to be bad, a bad boy who longs to be good, bodies that are canvases for living art and high-speed chases with police dogs.
“I changed my mind,” Jacob grumped, perching on the edge of the big, green dumpster. Garbage day apparently wasn’t today, which was good, because it meant more chance that the bag they were looking for was still here. But also very bad, in that the rusty hulk of a disposal unit was filled halfway with bulging black garbage bags, plastic shopping bags full of unidentifiable things, cardboard boxes slowly turning to slime, and some kind of liquid that Cody had splashed down in that smelled like a cross between a bog and a year’s worth of stinky diapers. “Ethan isn’t worth this.”
The sun was setting, the light low and shadows falling across the back alley to hide their activities. Ethan had been really specific about where he’d ditched the drugs, and there had only been one dumpster in the alley when Cody and Jacob had scaled the fence behind it—Cody easily, lithe and athletic, looking like he’d done this sort of thing lots before. Jacob, managing to get the hem of his T-shirt and the hem of his jeans caught on the top wires simultaneously.
Born for a life of crime, he was not.
Cody stood, knee-deep in trash, and planted his knuckles on his hips. He tipped his head up and looked at Jacob, the last little bit of evening light deepening the shadows falling across his face.
“Come on,” he coaxed. “You take that side, I’ll search this one, and we’ll be done before you know it.” He pulled a couple of pairs of blue latex gloves out of his back pocket and waved them in Jacob’s direction. “You don’t get in within the next minute, you have to do it bare-handed.”
“Blackmail,” Jacob grumbled, but he turned around, grabbed on to the edge, metal scraping along his palms and dropped down into the body of the dumpster and out of sight of the road.
“Think of it this way,” Cody said, handing him a pair of gloves. “You’re not doing it for Ethan, you’re doing it for Travis. And to keep me employed.”
“Oh, well, in that case.” Jacob struggled with the gloves, then watched Cody as he puffed air into them and snapped them over his hands. Latex. That sent his imagination off into places it really did not need to be going while standing knee-deep in a dumpster. Oh no, don’t go there right now.
Where to start? Ethan had dropped the bag as he ran across rooftops, he’d said, which meant it should be on the top—unless some of the refuse had been dumped in on top of it after the fact. “There’s something alive in here.” He muttered the Star Wars quote under his breath, kicking aside a box of what used to be cornhusks to reveal a couch cushion with all of its springs sprung and half the fabric shredded.
“It’s just your imagination, kid,” Cody replied with Han Solo’s next line in the scene, and yeah. They were on the same wavelength. “As long as the sides don’t start sliding in, we’re doing okay.”
Jacob bent over, the cushion easier—psychologically, anyway—to grab with the gloves on, and Cody went quiet behind him. “Oh, come on,” Jacob grunted, the cushion springs wrapped around part of a bicycle frame. “Move!” He pushed it over, then glanced over his shoulder, only to catch Cody in the act of whipping his head away.
“What?” Jacob asked, straightening up and trying his best to control the urge to scrub his hands off against his ratty old jeans. They already had holes in the knees and a worn-out patch on the back pocket from where he shoved his wallet, the denim so soft from wear that it almost felt like suede in some places. The last thing they needed was to be eaten away by garbage-juice. “Did you see something?”
“No.” Cody shook his head. He scrabbled in his thigh pocket, his ever-present cargos loose against his legs but snugged beautifully tight against his ass. Cody pulled out a little penlight and used the small beam to illuminate the pile of crap closest to him. Were his ears pink again, or was that a trick of the light? “I like the new look, by the way,” he said, and his voice sounded funny, like something was caught in his throat.
“What, this stuff?” Jacob looked down at himself again. Ethan’s Clash T-shirt, because it had been on the top of the hamper and was one he wouldn’t scream about if Jacob wrecked it, his ratty old “dirty jobs” jeans and old sneakers. “It’s not quite a spandex super-suit, I know, but—”
“Nah,” Cody replied, still looking at the piles of garbage rather than at Jacob, the light playing slowly over one stack, and then another. “It’s good. More relaxed.”
“Yeah, that’s me to a T—all calm and Zen.”
A laugh burst out from Cody at Jacob’s muttered comment, then a snort, which made the hilarity of the moment really clear. He broke out laughing as well.
“Did you just snort?”
“Did you seriously just say you were ‘Zen’?”
“I do yoga, sometimes. When Andi makes me. I can be Zen.”
“I’d pay serious cash money to see that,” Cody snorted again, this time on purpose.
“Missed your chance, dude,” Jacob shot back, his mouth running away with him. “I do a mean downward-facing-dog.”
Annnnnnnnd train wreck moment.
This time, Cody’s flush was obvious, from the tip of his nose all the way down along his neck. “I’ll bet,” he got out, in a kind of strangled choking sound. “Not that I’ve—uh—” He trailed off, then pivoted the ninety degrees to put himself facing Jacob, only about a foot of distance between them in the confines of the metal dumpster. “Not that I’ve spent time thinking about that or anything,” he said. He reached for the back of his neck but caught himself before he rubbed it, flexed his gloved hand and dropped it back to his side instead.
“Yeah,” Jacob breathed out. “Me either.” He’d been so good, he really had. Jerking it to thoughts of Cody had been so tempting, God, he had all kinds of mental images to use for fodder there, and he’d felt Cody’s breath up close, knew what he smelled like, and the heat of his skin.
And Cody had turned him down, so it would have been so intensely creepy and disrespectful that he hadn’t done it. Not once. This was almost like permission now, this acknowledgement of the vibe between them, except—
“Your—uh—yeah,” Cody said nonsensically. Then, “You should definitely wear those jeans more often.”
Something squished under Jacob’s foot, and he didn’t dare look down to find out what it was. The smell was beginning to go away, that or he was getting used to it, and that idea was even worse. But Cody was practically standing toe to toe with him, their faces only a few inches apart, and—and? And what next?
Cody said something, thank God, and Jacob didn’t have to. “So, uh. Hypothetically speaking. If someone makes a bad call and they want to take it back, but real life doesn’t have save points and I—I mean—someone isn’t sure if the option’s even really open anymore, how long would a guy have to…take it back?”
He was pouting, almost, his soft, full low lip jutting out that tiny little bit that made Jacob want to bite it, and suck on it, and lick him everywhere that he could reach.
Except maybe after a really long shower with antiseptic soap. Now.
Keep cool, keep calm, be the Zen you want to see in the world.
Good idea, good mantra, because really what he wanted to do was say “yes, yes, any time, take all the time, I’ll wait a lifetime if I have to”—and that wasn’t exactly an answer to his question.
What would Ethan say in this situation?
“Depends what kind of bad decision we’re talking about here,” Jacob said.
Cody shrugged a shoulder, still searching Jacob’s face for something. “I’m thinking it might be the life-changing kind.”
The breath caught tight in Jacob’s chest and he couldn’t get air past the block. Act natural. “I thought you had ‘stuff’ to work out?”
A nod from Cody, and he looked away. Dammit! “I—yeah. I still do. But I’m getting really close to shouting ‘fuck it’ at the universe,” he confessed, his back straightening and his head high again. “And I wish I hadn’t turned you down when you asked.”
“Same here,” Jacob said, and despite the darkness, despite the smell and the unknown things underfoot, the urgent need to find the evidence and get out, Andi waiting for them in the car three blocks away—Cody was right in front of him and he was the only thing that was important in the world. “I think we can work something out.”
I’m going to kiss Cody, and we’re standing in a dumpster, up to our knees in moldy garbage and things I don’t even want to think about, and I’m going to kiss Cody. In a dumpster.
Somehow, this is typical.
Tess Bowery lives near the ocean, which sounds lovely, except when it snows. An historian by training and a theater person by passion, she’s parleyed her Masters degree in English history into something that would give her former professors something of a surprise.
Her love for the Regency era began as they always do, with Jane Austen, and took a sharp left turn into LBGT biographies and microhistory. Now she indulges in both of her passions, telling the stories of her community in the time periods that fire the human imagination. High Contrast is her first foray into contemporary romance.
Along with writing, Tess splits her time between teaching, backstage work, LBGT activism and her family. She spends far too much money on comic books, loves superheroes and ghost stories, and still can’t figure out how to use Twitter properly.