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Authors: Eileen Griffin,Nikka Michaels

In the Distance

BOOK: In the Distance
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In the Distance
By Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin

Tyler Mitchell has worked hard to rebuild his life after his family kicked him out. A culinary student and sous chef who spends his spare time volunteering with kids, he’s happy enough even though he has no time to consider a relationship.

Trevor Pratt is finally getting over losing the one person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, but it’s taken screwing every cute guy in Manhattan to get there. He’s vowed to repair the friendship he broke along the way, but that’s hard to do when his friend’s new employee catches his eye. Despite being warned to stay away from Tyler, Trevor turns on the charm.

Romance is a terrible idea. Trevor is ten years older and a relentless playboy. Tyler is still unsure of his place in the world. Neither of them is ready for life-changing love, but as things heat up, their chemistry in the bedroom might just take that decision out of their hands.

Don’t miss
In the Raw
and
In the Fire,
available now!

104,230 words

Dear Reader,

This week, my ten-year-old daughter looked woefully at her Kindle and then at me and said, “I have nothing to read!” I asked her about several recent books I’d uploaded for her and if she’d read those yet, and of course the answer was no, but she still had nothing to read. It’s hard for me to get too upset with this sentiment, since I’m a bit of a book hoarder, and I own more books that I haven’t read than I care to admit, but...I’ll get to them someday! As someone pointed out to me, “nothing to read” is much like “nothing to eat” and “nothing to do.” It’s not a statement of literal fact, it’s a statement of mood and feeling. I don’t know if you’re in the same boat as my daughter and feeling as if you have nothing to read, but if so, one of our June 2015 releases should strike just the right note for you.

Lisa Marie Rice thrilled fans and new readers alike when she returned to the world of her popular Midnight Series with
Midnight Vengeance
and
Midnight Promises
. This June, in
Midnight Secrets
, we get to fall in love with her cracktastic and sexy romantic suspense series all over again. Former Navy SEAL Joe Harris nearly died—twice—on a medevac helo after being blown up by an IED. He’s not moving too great these days, but if there was ever a woman designed to jump start a man’s hormones, it would be his new neighbor. Meeting Isabel—loving Isabel—brought Joe back to life, and he’s not going to let anyone take her from him, not even a high-powered politician who needs to keep Isabel from remembering what he’s done.

Julie Moffett is back with her hit mystery series. Geek extraordinaire Lexi Carmichael is more comfortable with computer code than commandos, but in
No Woman Left Behind
, she’s about to undertake her most dangerous case yet with a little help from the Navy SEALs.

We also have several authors in the contemporary romance lineup this month. In Alison Packard’s latest book in her Feeling the Heat series,
Stealing Second
, Tom Morgan and Katherine Whitton, once deeply in love and planning a future together, now work together and are finally forced to confront their long-held belief that each one was betrayed by the other.

Elizabeth Harmon’s
Turning It On
brings us a new stand-alone romance in her Red Hot Russians series. On a steamy reality show, shy book editor Hannah Levinson fights to keep her fiancé from the clutches of a scheming dental hygienist with the help of an unlikely ally, sexy former figure skater turned stripper “Vlad the Bad” Shustov. Can she trust there’s more to Vlad than meets the eye?

Spoiled college student Olivia Christakos experiences the ultimate fall from grace when she’s hit by a car (losing her memory in the process) and catches her family (who she’s supposed to be able to trust at a time like this) lying to her about her past. Find out what happens in
Olivia Christakos and Her Second First Time
by debut author Dani Irons.

If male/male contemporary romance is what you’re looking for, check out previously released
In the Raw
and
In the Fire
from the In the Kitchen series by writing duo Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin. In that duology, we met Ethan and Jamie. In their latest stand-alone romance,
In the Distance
, Trevor Pratt and Tyler Mitchell just might have a shot at love—if, that is, they choose to follow their hearts, instead of letting their ten-year age difference and the three thousand miles separating them keep them apart forever.

Dana Marie Bell gives us paranormal romance
Song of Midnight Embers
, the next book in her Maggie’s Grove series. To prove she’s not a murderer, Mollie Greer will have to turn to the one person she’s been longing for—and avoiding—her whole life: Greer Berkley, the Singer of the Forest.

And last, this June I’m excited to introduce you to a new direction for author Julie Rowe with the first romantic suspense in her new Biological Response Team series.
American Sniper
meets the worldwide Ebola-outbreak response meets romance in
Deadly Strain
. A sniper tries to protect an infectious disease specialist while they combat a deadly new bacterial strain, but he might not be able to stop from her from making the ultimate sacrifice in order to save him.

I hope you find something from Carina Press to help you cure your “nothing to read” mood. And don’t forget our extensive romance, mystery, science fiction and fantasy backlist is also always available where ebooks are sold.

Coming in July: A dragon-shifter romance trilogy from a brand-new author, the next book in Stephanie Tyler’s postapocalyptic motorcycle club world and a new male/male romance from A.M. Arthur.

Until next time, here’s wishing you a wonderful month of books you love, remember and recommend.

Happy reading!

Angela James
Editorial Director, Carina Press

Dedication

To all the foodies and the dreamers out there: Try everything new, no matter how dauntless it seems, never lose your faith in love, and never stop dreaming the impossible.

To my shared brain, Eileen. Thank you for going on this journey.
~Nikka

To Nikka—my rock, my sounding board, my inspiration, and my best friend. I couldn’t imagine any of this without you.
~Eileen

Acknowledgments

A huge thank-you to our tireless editor, Alissa. Without you there would be no books and definitely no series. Thank you for always being the one who listens to our rambles, for pointing out what does and doesn’t work, and for helping turn said rambles into a story.

To our friends (you know who you are): We would have gone crazy a long, long time ago without your love and support. Thanks for always being there for us.

To our reader: We know your time is valuable. Thank you for spending time in our “kitchen” and taking this journey with us.

Authors’ Note

Recent studies show that up to 40 percent of the youth homeless population in the United States identify as LGBTQ. Experts believe this is partly due to young people coming out to their families at a younger age (12-13 instead of 18-20), and frequently facing rejection by their parents and family members, both emotionally and physically. Even with the recent strides for equality and better legislative rights for the LGBTQ community, this statistic proves we have a long way to go, especially for a subset of the population who don’t have the resources to help themselves.

We would very much like to urge you to donate (your time or resources) to your local food bank and/or local LGBTQ shelter. There are too many Tylers among the homeless population today, many of whom face hunger and danger every day and night they spend on the streets.

Together, we can make a difference to help those who feel like they don’t have anyone else to turn to.

Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels

Also available from Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin and Carina Press

In the Kitchen

In the Raw
In the Fire

Chapter One

Tyler
Mid-September 2014

“Seeing as how I’m elbow-deep in this chutney, I will happily pay time-and-a-half to the first person who turns this crap down and then hides the remote,” Chef Lassiter yelled over the death metal blaring from the kitchen’s sound system.

Each of Bistro 30’s cooks glanced warily at the stereo system’s remote, which sat in its usual docking station on the wall. No one touched Chef Ethan Martin’s stereo. No one except Chef James Lassiter, co-executive chef, co-owner and co–culinary god in charge.

It wasn’t that Chef Lassiter didn’t love music; he just didn’t love his music at the earsplitting volume Chef Martin enjoyed. This wasn’t the first time Ethan’s choice of music, and the decibel level, had been a topic of conversation in the kitchen. For Jamie to have actually offered a bounty for turning the music down meant one thing: Jamie was testing us to see who had the balls to help him wage his war on Ethan’s inability to listen to music at a volume that didn’t reach a two-block radius from Bistro 30.

Enrique looked at me and wriggled his eyebrows, daring me to make a move.

“Not a chance,” I whispered. “Just touching Ethan’s precious remote would earn me at least three weeks of scrubbing the spills in the walk-in cooler. Besides, he’s still giving me the eye over rooting for Jamie during their kitchen challenge last month.”

Ethan wasn’t an asshole. Well, not all the time. After a year and a half of working for him, I’d learned to see past his kitchen tantrums to the funny, generous guy underneath. Most of the time, he treated me like the kid brother he’d never had—but even I wasn’t stupid enough to screw with his remote. Not even for an extra boost to my paycheck.

When no one took Jamie up on his offer, his shoulders sagged in defeat. He walked over to the sink, washed the chutney off his hands, then grabbed the remote off the wall. He aimed it at the stereo and suddenly the guitar riff disappeared. “Really? No one wanted the overtime?”

He sighed, returned the remote to its proper place, then resumed chopping apples for this week’s top menu item: braised pork chops with homemade apple chutney. Chef might be world-famous but he never failed to pitch in with prep work when we needed help.

Barely a minute had passed when the volume soared to an earsplitting level again.

“Dammit, E. Can we just for one night have the music at a level where my eardrums won’t explode?”

“Want me to put on some Michael Bolton for you? Kenny G? Something light?”

Ethan leered at Jamie and leaned in to whisper in his ear. When a wicked grin replaced the annoyance on Jamie’s face, I had to push down my stab of envy. It was an inspiration to work in a restaurant where two men loved and respected each other so openly. It was also a reminder of what I didn’t have.

When Ethan caught me staring, I immediately looked down at my maple glaze.
That’s great.
Gawk at your bosses instead of doing your job.

Ethan and Jamie were still newlyweds, so we’d been getting a lot of PDA in the kitchen. I didn’t mind, but I still hadn’t quite gotten used to seeing it. Public displays of affection had been frowned upon in my ultra-religious family. Not once in all my eighteen years at home had I ever seen my parents hold hands, let alone kiss. Then the unthinkable happened. They not only caught me kissing someone, but the someone turned out to be a guy. It was a complete clusterfuck, starting with a horrific fight and ending with my ass out on the streets.

One night Ethan had discovered me digging a bruised apple out of a restaurant Dumpster. As I’d tried to hide the fruit behind my back, he’d given me an appraising look, taken a drag off his cigarette, then asked, “Ever work in a restaurant before, kid?”

Now, a year and a half later, I had a safe place to live and I was being trained by two incredible chefs as a sous-chef in their kitchen. I wasn’t the most social guy on the best of days, but I’d found a place where I wasn’t always looking over my shoulder and second-guessing myself. Except for when one of my bosses was heading my way with a clean tasting spoon in his hand.

“Hey, Tyler. Is that the glaze for the new pork chop recipe we’re putting on the menu next week?”

I nodded nervously, keeping my eyes on the saucepan in front of me. “Yes, Chef Martin. I’ve been tweaking it a bit since the new mustard we got from Schumann’s is a little coarser than the one we normally stock. I think I finally got it to the consistency Chef Lassiter asked for.”

When Ethan dipped a spoon into the sauce to taste, I felt my heart trip-hammer. It had been two months since they’d moved me up to Sous-Chef-in-Training, but I had yet to get over my nerves when I presented them with anything I’d worked on by myself. The sauce was minor in comparison to what I’d be expected to take on once I got a few semesters under my belt, but for months they’d gone out of their way to teach me new and different techniques. They’d never put any kind of pressure on me to be perfect, but the thought of screwing up in their kitchen was unthinkable.

I held my breath while Ethan tasted the sauce. He cracked a smile. “Really good. I think you knocked it out of the park with this one. Hey, Jamie, try this.”

I removed the saucepan from the burner and felt my tension slowly ebb. “Thanks, Chef.”

“You’re a quick study. We’ll have to give you some harder preps soon. What do you think, Jamie?”

Jamie nudged his husband out of the way and dipped his own spoon into the sauce. “This is excellent. It’ll go perfectly with the new rub we’re using on the pork.”

Ethan snorted, then shot Jamie a semi-apologetic look. “You said
rub
.”

Jamie laughed. “God, Ethan. I swear I’m going to start drinking the cooking wine instead of cooking with it.”

Ethan smirked as he bumped his shoulder against his husband’s. “Admit it. You love me.”

Jamie’s expression softened and he nodded. “Even when you drive me nuts. And yes, I just said
nuts
.”

Jamie refocused his attention on me. “You look dead on your feet, Tyler. Make sure you write down the proportions of ingredients you used before you leave, then go home and get some rest.”

Ethan pulled one of the restaurant’s paper bags out of one of the fridge drawers. Without any fanfare, he thrust it into my arms. “And take this with you. No one trusts a skinny chef.”

I tried really hard not to sigh, but this was an ongoing issue between me and my bosses. My grocery budget was limited, but I made enough to keep myself fed, even if that meant more soup than I’d prefer.

“Thanks, but I’m fine. I already had family dinner here and I have leftover soup at home.”

Ethan crossed his arms. “No ifs, ands or buts about it. Between work and school, it’s a wonder you have any time to sleep, let alone eat. I remember the days of having a twenty-year-old’s metabolism. I also remember the days of not having enough to eat, and I’d rather send our leftovers home with our staff than see food go to waste.”

He wasn’t going to budge on this. He and Jamie took care of all their staff with frequent doggie bags and family-style lunches and dinners, but I knew they did even more for me than for the others.

Jamie was giving me The Look now, the one that told me to stop arguing and take the food Ethan needed to give me. I tucked the bag under my arm.

“Thanks, Chef. I really appreciate it.”

“No problem, Tyler. It’s late and I’d rather you have a meal that will put meat on your bones if you’re planning on working all that overtime you signed up for this weekend. Just keep your hands off my stereo, regardless of what Chef Lassiter tries to bribe you with, and we’re good.”

“Noted. I’ll never touch your stereo without express permission.”

Jamie rolled his eyes. “I make no such promises, E.”

I made the last of my notes and when Ethan looked up from the menu he was planning with Jamie, he grabbed the remote and turned down the music.

“Good job with the sauce, Tyler.”

Jamie’s smile turned smug when Ethan kept the music volume low enough not to rattle the pots and pans around us. Jamie might not win every battle, but he’d won this round.

* * *

One bus ride and thirty minutes later, I finally stumbled into my apartment. It was almost eleven o’clock, much earlier than I normally would have gotten off work on the dinner shift, but my classes at the Culinary Institute had worn me down this past month. I had the partial scholarship from the school—the one Jamie let slip that Ethan had set up—and a small stipend from the financial aid department, but I still had bills, groceries, my bus pass and all the other things that ate my paycheck. Not that I had much to complain about. My wage at Bistro 30 was well over what I’d ever imagined I’d be making with only a high school diploma to my name, and no matter how much I tried to refuse, Ethan and Jamie always had a way of making sure I kept my head above water. Between the overtime and extra hours they tossed my way, I always had just enough to get by. One day, though, I wanted to do more than just scrape by. I didn’t want to be rich, just comfortable enough to ensure I’d have a roof over my head and food in my apartment. Living on the streets hadn’t been a pleasure cruise, but it had shown me how much even my shabby apartment and long hours at school and work were worth.

The growl of my stomach reminded me of the leftovers Ethan had sent home with me. Angel-hair pasta with a spicy marinara sauce and a strip of Jamie’s signature grilled chicken breast. There was even a chunk of Italian bread in there with a small container of the herbed olive oil we used at Bistro 30. It was a complete meal. One I didn’t have to cook or pay for. Just like last week’s salmon, which had a perfectly dressed side salad with it, and the braised pork roast with succulent new potatoes from the week before. Ethan and Jamie not only set aside extras of whatever we’d prepared but hadn’t served, but they also had a few of us prepare simple dishes for the staff to eat during our lunch and dinner breaks. I didn’t know how he thought I’d starve when I was constantly surrounded by so much food.

As I waited for the pasta to warm up in the microwave, I grabbed a bread knife and began slicing the bread Ethan had added to the bag of food. I really did enjoy cooking my own meals, but I almost never seemed to be home long enough to do it. I looked around my respectably stocked kitchen. New pots hung from a rack over the small island. A fancy coffeemaker perched proudly on the counter, and a huge block of gleaming, sharp knives sat next to the range. All were presents from Ethan, Jamie, and Ethan’s sister, Claire, when I had gotten into culinary school. All were things I would never have been able to afford for myself. And all were reminders that my friends were more supportive of my choices than my own family was.

My family. That was a joke right there. It had almost been two years since I’d last seen my sister and brother. Megan was in high school now and Ollie would be starting his last year of elementary school. I had no clue what my parents had told them about me, but it still hurt to have missed out seeing them grow up. Since the moment they’d shut the front door in my face, I’d known things would never be the same.

The microwave dinged, steam wafting off the food as I took my plate out of the microwave. Chicken spaghetti had been Ollie’s favorite dinner the last time I’d seen him. The smell of freshly heated dinner suddenly turned my stomach. Annoyed at myself for wasting food, I forced it down anyhow. My mind may not have wanted to eat, but my body did.

A quick shower and thumb-through of my reading assignment on preparing red meat had me yawning by the time midnight rolled around. My muscles ached from work, but my exhausted brain kept going back to work and how much Ethan and Jamie looked out for me.

It was then that I finally realized what had really been bothering me all night.

At the end of each day, regardless of how many people I talked to at school or work, I came home to an empty apartment. No family. No friends outside of the restaurant. I’d been on my own for so long, I couldn’t even fathom what it must feel like to have the kind of relationship my bosses had. Life on the streets and in the homeless shelter didn’t lend itself to getting close to people. It was safer to rely on myself instead of waiting for someone else to save me or take advantage of me. But the more I settled into this new routine of my life, the more I ached to have someone I could share it with. To have strong arms around me when I’d had a bad day. Or simply someone to talk to who didn’t see me as a little brother or adopted son. The warmth of someone pulling me close at night, reminding me I didn’t have to be alone. I had so much more than a lot of kids who’d been on the streets, but there were times I felt lonelier here than I had at my parents’ house or the shelter. Most days, between my hectic work and school schedules, I could ignore the ache of not having anyone special in my life. But when it was just me and the oppressive silence of my apartment, I had to face facts. I was still just as alone as I’d been two years ago.

BOOK: In the Distance
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