A “take life by the throat” philosophy has always served Rob well. It keeps him focused, forcing emotions and potential relationships to take a back seat to his aspirations. But once every obstacle has been conquered and he’s achieved his goal—executive chef at a famous Chicago restaurant—he must acknowledge that he has reached his mid-thirties very much alone.
Blake has just jettisoned his dream job—head of a fast-growing craft microbrewery—to escape from the woman who shattered his soul. Arriving at a Chicago beer festival prepared to drown his sorrows before moving on he is miserable and numb.
Fate throws the men together altering their respective worlds forever.
Once Rob reveals the personal demon that has haunted him for years, Blake allows himself to fully trust again, and admits he wants a child. But a mutual attraction evolves out of a business arrangement with the woman hired as their surrogate, which has the potential to destroy an already delicate status quo.
But time is of the essence, and becomes the one luxury they don't have.
An honest depiction of a modern relationship mosaic reminding us to treasure every single moment we are allowed to love and be loved.
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Essence of Time Excerpt: Rated NC 17 for sexually explicit scene/implied ménage
The room pulsed with sweaty bodies and music. Rob was tired, but Blake had wanted to hit this club and he was finding that what made Blake happy did the same for him. He lifted his glass as Blake looked over at him, and then was swallowed up by the undulating crowd.
Attractive men, women and everything in between moved as one body. He tried to repress a surge of jealousy as hands groped all over Blake’s form. The guy looked damn good, in dark denim jeans and a bright white shirt that hugged his strong frame like a sexy glove.
“Hey handsome.” A lovely female with long black hair slid in alongside him, mirroring his stance. She held out her beer bottle and Rob touched his to it. The soft heat of her exposed skin made his body snap to attention. He shot her a glance that would speak volumes, if she were receptive.
She turned, leaned against the rail and let her hair tumble down her back, the incredible perfection of her breasts clearly exposed to his gaze. Yeah, he thought, she will do very well. He moved closer, touched the top of her cleavage, pleased at the quick pebbling of her skin. She smiled at him, stepped closer. “Mmm….” She sighed as she covered his lips and probed with her small tongue. Her soft curves fit nicely against him. When he opened his eyes and spotted Blake sandwiched between a couple of lovely women, he broke the kiss and cupped the girl’s chin, his brain a whirl of possibility and his whole body zinging with desire.
“Hey,” he whispered close to her ear. “You up for some fun tonight?”
“Mai oui.” She bit his earlobe. Putting his hands on her bare arms, he held her back, shoving down the sudden urge to yank her into the back room and have her to himself.
“You game for two of us?” He ran his finger down her neck and across the tops of her breasts.
“Depends. The other one as hot as you?” She licked her plump lips, took a step into him and covered his zipper again with her hand. He let himself enjoy it a half a second, then smiled, turned her around and pointed over her bare shoulder at Blake, still stuck between the two supermodels, writhing in time to the pounding techno music. She sucked in a breath. “Really?” Rob leaned in, kissed her shoulder, ran a hand up her thigh, found her as pantiless as he figured she’d be. She kept her back to him, her breathing coming in small gasps as he licked his way up her neck, his fingers busy under her skirt.
“Really.” He pressed his erection against her hip, relished the soft wet folds at his fingertips. She pulsed under his touch, moaning when he gave it just the right amount of pressure and speed. “Come for me, ma petite.” She stiffened, put a hand over her mouth. Rob smiled as her body shuddered. “Oui, just like that.” He bit down on her shoulder, slid his fingers from between her legs and sucked them into his mouth as she gripped the rail, still gasping for breath. He cupped the back of her neck, tugged her close, kissed her hard and then released her. Turning her slowly once again, he cupped a breast, ran his thumb over the peaking nipple. “That’s him. Go, dance, seduce him. I’ll be watching.”
She smiled, grabbed his hand and sucked the fingers he’d just used to bring her to orgasm in this room full of people into her small, pert mouth. Then bit his fingertips and released him before sashaying out onto the dance floor, leaving him standing, his brain humming with anticipation.
Over the next half hour or so she delivered, in spades, inserting herself between Blake and one of the chicks dripping off him with ease, wrapping herself around him and pulling him close. Rob leaned on the rail and watched, mesmerized, as Blake laughed, danced, and let the girl tease, touch and dirty dance with him.
He grabbed another beer from a passing tray, and then caught the two of them in an incredible kiss, Blake’s hands roaming all over her half-dressed body. Just as Rob started to cut it short, not sure if he was actually ready to share Blake, the man opened his eyes and stared straight at Rob. He broke the kiss, turned the girl around and ground against her from behind. Rob lifted his beer bottle as Blake reached around and cupped a breast, leaning down to lick her neck. Rob smiled, relaxed, and let himself be calmed. Blake wanted this. So he did too.
He put his fingers to his lips again, tasting her, finished the beer, then stalked out onto the floor, entering the fray and breaking a solid sweat sandwiching the girl, sneaking kisses with Blake over her head. At one point the girl, Juliet, he’d discovered, reached up and grabbed his neck and laid a kiss on him that made him breathless. “You guys are hot as shit. We gonna do this, or what?” He nodded, grabbed her hand and Blake’s and pulled them out into the warm Parisian night.
Essence of Time Excerpt rated: X for explicit, homosexual sex
Rob’s head pounded. Sweat poured from every inch of his skin. His stomach roiled as he looked up from the glamorous task of re-bolting toilets to the floor in the women’s room just hard enough to connect his skull with the metal container for the whatever the hell women threw away in here. “Shit!” He rubbed the rapidly forming knot.
and sat on the cold tile floor, letting the wrench and ratchet dangle from his shaking fingers. “This is insane. Utterly, completely, totally insane.”
“Nah.” Jack’s voice floated in from where he was fastening mirrors to the walls. “Well, maybe. But hey, I’m in it with you so it’s a guaranteed success.”
“Fuck you,” Rob said, still rubbing his head as he rose. After giving the toilet a shake to make sure it was seated correctly he wandered out into the hall. He watched, heart sinking as the newly hired staff set up the tables and chairs and bar stools that had literally arrived two hours before—approximately twelve hours before they were due to open to the public with a huge, splashy party.
“Excuse me.” Blake tapped his shoulder.
Rob moved aside so the other man could go past him. They hadn’t exchanged much more than terse, polite words since a giant blow out fight three nights ago over, of all things, the height of the custom made bar that was the featured centerpiece of The Local.
Rob sighed, and ran his fingers through his hair. He had at least two days worth of real work to get the kitchen set up, integrating used equipment with new and making sure the sous chef was as good as he claimed to be. They had one day before the opening. He groaned and leaned against the dark paneled wall, letting smells of fresh wood, paint, and brewing beer wash over him.
“All right, I gotta go.” Jack handed him the toolbox and wiped his hands on a towel. “I think you’re all set with the bathroom stuff. I looked over your electric panel and figured out the problem but you’re gonna need to pay a licensed electrician to fix it. Lucky for you I have one on his way now. Thank me later.” Jack put a hand on his shoulder. “Oh and that brewery drain Blake is bitching about—he’s right. You’ll need to get that re-trenched and soon. I’m surprised the city let you get by with it, but whatever.” Rob shot him what he hoped was a thankful look. Jack burst out laughing. “Dude. It will be fine. Oh, and that bar,” he pointed to the massive fifty foot, carved blonde wood and granite edifice that had cost way more than they’d budgeted for, “it’s about two inches too high.”
“Get out of my face Gordon, before I stab your eye with a screwdriver.”
Jack backed away, hands up in mock dismay. “Not many tenants have such a handy landlord, just saying. See you later—call me if you need anything.”
Five hours later Rob thought the pain in his shoulders from shifting boxes of utensils, plates and glassware could possibly be the worst ev er. He sat slumped in a chair, elbows up on the bar that was very likely a hair too high and tried not to panic. The bar was stocked, the kitchen set up, more or less, the tables and chairs stood at the ready. All the expensive yet cheap-looking lighting fixtures now worked thanks to the electrician Jack had found at the last minute.
He had his fridge and pantry at the ready, sous chef working through the final menu details and the god damned bathrooms were perfect. One thing remained. He lifted his aching head from his arms and sipped from the cold pint glass. Liquid perfection in the form of a classic Czech pilsner slid down his throat. The dry bite of the Saaz hops blended with the imported malt setting his taste buds alight and making him smile in spite of his stress. He downed the fifteen ounces in minutes, letting it coat his tongue and brain with just the right amount of residual alcohol.
“You’re pretty good at this, aren’t you?” He spoke to Blake’s back as the man put the finishing touches on the tap stand. Six beers had been brewed, with three more burbling away in the back, doing their fermentation magic. Rob let himself relax for the first time in months as he watched his lover’s profile while the other man fiddled around with the handles, the draft lines and everything under the sun. “I’m sorry.” He was surprised at how strong his voice sounded. But at that moment he needed to see Blake’s eyes devoid of anger. Blake kept ignoring him.
Rob stood and wandered around behind the bar, realizing he’d started the fight and it was up to him to end it. They were both stretched unbelievably thin, running on minimal sleep and scary bank loans. The temper had burst out of him over an innocuous comment Blake made about the bar being too tall, right after Rob had written a mind-numbingly huge check to the carpenter for the damn thing.
He put a hand on Blake’s shoulder, felt the other man flinch and look away, but he kept his hand moving, up Blake’s neck, to his face. He didn’t stop until Blake had turned to him. “I am sorry. Really.”
needed Blake to tell him. He needed the man he loved, and was about to jump off the deep end of brew pub ownership with, to say one simple thing.
Rob knew he was the emotional Gibraltar of their relationship. Blake was the creative one, throwing himself into everything he did with energy and enthusiasm twenty-four seven. But right now he
Blake swallowed, and leaned into Rob’s hand. Rob tugged him into his arms. Their lips met, softly at first, then as a tangle of emotion and no small lick of terror lit his brain Rob shoved his tongue into Blake’s mouth, as the other man ran clutched at him. His body hummed like a live wire, hardening instantly at the familiar sensation of Blake’s body pressed against his.
Blake broke from his lips and put his hands on either side of Rob’s face, his green eyes bright. “It’s going to be fine,” he said, firmly, before unzipping his own jeans, then Rob’s and turning the other man around to face the too-tall bar. Rob groaned as Blake threaded his fingers in his hair, tugged him back against Blake’s waiting erection. He whispered once more. “It’s all going to be just fine. But right now I need you. Bad.” He put his leg between Rob’s forcing them apart. “No lube,” he gasped making Rob’s skin tingle.
“Don’t care.” Rob gritted his teeth, the need for Blake inside him more ferocious than he could remember.
Later, they sat on the floor, sharing another of Blake’s delicious brewed concoctions, laughing about their too-tall bar christening. Rob handed the half empty glass back to Blake. His chest hurt with unspoken words. “Thank you.”
Blake smiled and raised an eyebrow. “For what?” He put a hand on Rob’s denim covered thigh.
“Well, for that, of course. But for all of this.” He waved a hand around the empty room. “But mostly for this.” He leaned in for another kiss.
About Liz Crowe
Amazon best-selling author, beer blogger and beer marketing expert, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz lives in the great Midwest, in a major college town. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse. While working as a successful Realtor, Liz made the leap into writing novels about the same time she agreed to take on marketing and sales for the Wolverine State Brewing Company.
Most days find her sweating inventory and sales figures for the brewery, unless she’s writing, editing or sweating promotional efforts for her latest publications.
Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”). More recently she is garnering even more fans across genres with her latest novels, which are more character-driven fiction, while remaining very much “real life.”
With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and many times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate, and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.
If you are in the Ann Arbor area, be sure and stop into the Wolverine State Brewing Co. Tap Room—but don’t ask her for anything “like” a Bud Light, or risk serious injury.
TRI DESTINY PUBLISHING
The Stewart Realty series:
Floor Time (2012 Global eBook Award for Best Erotic Fiction)
Sweat Equity (Just Erotic Romance (JERR) Gold Star Award Recipient)
**Essence of Time (JERR Gold Star Award/ Jenkins Group, Inc. – 2013 eLit Award Bronze Medal for Erotic Fiction)
**Mutual Release: (JERR Gold Star Award)
House Rules (Prequel Novella)
**GOOD FAITH the mainstream final novel
(**indicates “stand alone novel”)
The Black Jack Gentlemen series:
Paradise Hops: (JERR Gold Star Award)
The Turkish Delights Series:
The Diplomat’s Daughter
Cheeky Blonde (novel)
Caught Offside (novella)
Healing Hearts (novella)
ELLORA’S CAVE PUBLISHING
Lust on Tap (novel)