Prism Book Alliance would like to thank Kimberly Gardner for taking the time to talk with us today.
Title: Straight from the Heart (Exception to the Rule #3)
Author: Kimberly Gardner
Publisher: Loose Id
Cover Artist: Dar Albert
Genre/Sub-Genre: Contemporary, M/M Romance, New Adult
College student Kyle diStefano is having trouble paying his tuition. So when he hears about a job as team mascot with the accompanying full scholarship it seems like the perfect solution. Except he knows nothing about football. But why should that stop him?
Known as the Big Cock on Campus, Dave Masterson never lets his antics with the ladies interfere with his true love, playing NCAA football. But when his coach suggests the team do some off-season conditioning at the ballet barre, most of the guys scoff. Only Dave takes him seriously.
With Dave’s knowledge of football and Kyle’s knowledge of ballet, it seems each has exactly what the other needs, except they play for different teams. Or do they?
Kyle knows one sure path to heartbreak is falling for the straight jock who’s teaching him the rules of the game. Dave falling for another man is going to mean nothing but trouble. But neither man can seem to help himself.
When a public display of affection casts doubt on Dave’s NFL dream, he is forced to make a choice. Stay with the game plan or call an audible straight from the heart.
1. We are here today to talk about Straight from the Heart. What can you tell us about it?
Straight from the Heart is the third book in my Exception to the Rule series. It’s Kyle and Dave’s story, both of whom were secondary characters in the previous book, His Fair Lady. It’s funny how with some secondary characters, I know as soon as they show up on the page that I’ll be giving them their own stories. It was like that with Kyle. Here’s a little snippet of his first appearance. I mean, how can a character who makes an entrance like this not get a story?
I can’t believe he put his contact info in your phone just like that.” Josie’s best friend, Kyle, pirouetted around their tiny living room before collapsing onto the sagging pullout couch in an amazingly accurate imitation of a swooning Southern belle.
2. Tell us more about Kyle and Dave?
Kyle and Dave are probably my most unexpected couple. I mean that from an author’s perspective since I had never before written a character who was so much the quintessentially straight jock as Dave seemed to be. Of course Kyle let me know pretty early on (in book two) that Dave was his straightboy crush. But I don’t think even he expected things to work out the way they did.
3. Straight from the Heart is the third book in the Exception to the Rule series. Can you tell us a little more about books 1 and 2?
I never started to write series books. This is true for Exception to the Rule as well as my other series Playing for Keeps. In fact, the first book in the Exception series, Almost Heaven, was intended to be just a standalone novella. AH is Chris and Kevin’s story and like the rest of the series is about finding love in unexpected people and places. Though the story is told from both Chris and Kevin’s point-of-view, I think it’s more Kevin’s journey than Chris’s At the start of the story Kevin is in the seminary and about to become a priest.
The second book, His Fair Lady, is Mark and Josie’s story. Mark is Chris’s younger brother and Josie is a transgirl he meets and falls head-over-heels for. Mark doesn’t realize in the beginning that Josie is trans and there’s some drama when he does, but ultimately they get their HEA.
4. Do you have inspiration images for Kyle and Dave?
I never look for pictures of my characters. They look a certain way in my head and I can see them clearly without a pic. Also as a reader, I like to form my own mental pictures of the characters I love, and I hope my readers will do the same.
5. What else do you have planned for the Exception to the Rule world?
There’s nothing formally on my plate for that series. Though I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a story for Dave’s younger brother Todd.
6. What are you reading right now and what is next on your to-be-read list?
I just finished Night Film by Marisha Pessl and I am really looking forward to Stephen King’s new book though I won’t start it until I’ve finished the first draft of my current wip. When I’m deep in the writing zone I don’t do much reading. I’m too captivated by my own characters to spend time with anyone else’s. But vacations are made for reading and that’s what I’ll be doing in December.
7. Do you read your reviews, and if so do they influence the way you write the next book at all?
I do read reviews, but mainly so I can cherry-pick for the purpose of promotion. Sure, a nice review makes me feel good, but ultimately it doesn’t change the way I approach the writing.
8. Rapid Fire time:
Love Story or Thriller? – I’m a romance writer, but I do love a good thrill. I mean, who doesn’t?
Tea or Coffee? – Coffee. Duh. Lol!
Train or Plane? – Plane because it’s faster and when I travel I just want to get there.
Vodka or Tequila? – Vodka, but it has to be Absolut.
Australia or England? –England is definitely on my bucket list because I want to visit Stone Henge.
Any Tattoos or piercings? Four tattoos. A phoenix on my right shoulder to commemorate the publication of my first novel. The masks of comedy and tragedy on my lower back because I was a theatre major in college. A strawberry on the back of my left shoulder to celebrate my 40th birthday. And a half sleeve from shoulder to elbow on my left arm to celebrate my beating breast cancer a couple years ago. It’s a flowering vine with seven blossoms, one for every color of the rainbow.
Vanilla or Chocolate? Vanilla every time.
Salty or Sugary? – Salty definitely. I’ll take potato chips over cookies any day.
9. What are you working on? What is next?
I just signed a contract for the third book in my Playing for Keeps series. The working title is Consent to Pleasure and will be released by Loose-ID sometime next year. The first two titles in that series – Phoenix Rising and Bound to Please – came out this past summer as rereleases. All the books are gay contemporary romance, and books two and three have a strong BDSM theme.
Copyright 2014 by Kimberly Gardner, all rights reserved.
Kyle pushed his way through the crowd blocking the doorway from the hall into what had once been the living room before the house had been converted to a dorm. He wanted to let Josie and Mark know he was leaving—that was if he could find either of them.
Rising on the balls of his feet, he ignored the twinge in his ankle and attempted to peer over the heads and shoulders of at least two dozen guys from the football team, all of whom were taller and wider than himself. Behind the wall of muscle, he could see some semi-organized activity taking place. But what it was he couldn’t tell. Nor did he see Joes or Mark anywhere.
Kyle pressed in closer and craned his neck.
A wild cheer went up, accompanied by a smattering of the kind of name calling he knew was just the way these guys talked to each other.
“Do it, fuckhead! Do it!”
“Yo, asswipe, what are you waiting for? An engraved invitation?”
Raucous laughter followed. Someone started to chant, and others quickly joined in.
“Drink! Drink! Drink! Drink!”
Ah, he should have known. Because drinking games were so not his thing, nor were they Josie’s, Kyle turned away. But he had taken only a few steps when a voice lifted above the others and caught his attention.
“C’mon, Masterson, what the fuck?”
“I think he passed out, dude.”
“Turn him on his side in case he throws up,” a girl’s voice said.
Kyle elbowed his way to the edge of the circle. He was right. Some sort of drinking game was well underway, and from the looks of the participants, it had been going on for quite a while. But where was Dave? Kyle took a few cautious steps closer, and suddenly he saw him. Masterson was lying on the floor over beside the wall. Some considerate soul had turned him on his side and propped his head against the baseboard at what could not have been a comfortable angle—if Masterson had been in any condition to worry about his own comfort, that was. In the meantime, the game had started up again, though what the point was other than getting shitfaced was anybody’s guess.
After edging his way around the drinkers and almost getting beer spilled on him twice, he reached Masterson and knelt beside him on the floor. “Dave?”
Nothing. Not even the flicker of an eyelid.
Kyle leaned over and raised his voice. “Dave! Dave Masterson!”
“Huh. Whaaa?” Masterson flopped over on his back, nearly knocking Kyle over in the bargain. He scrambled back and slammed into the backs of someone’s legs.
“Hey, watch it!” the owner of the legs shouted.
Kyle scooted forward and peered into Masterson’s bloodshot eyes. “Dave, c’mon, get up. You need to get out of here.”
“Nah, I’m good right here.” Dave closed his eyes.
“No, you’re not. Somebody’s going to step on you.” Kyle nudged Masterson’s massive shoulder. It was like nudging a mountain. “C’mon, Dave. I’ll help you.”
“Kyle, what are you doing?”
Kyle turned and looked up and up. Mike Oliveri was peering down at him, a plastic cup held in one of his oh so talented hands, a frown dug between his dark brows.
Kyle stood. “I have to help Masterson get back to his dorm. He’s trashed.”
Mike looked down at Masterson, who was still on the floor and once again had closed his eyes. “He’s fine. A bunch of the team’s here. They’ll take care of him. C’mon. It’s all good.”
Kyle hesitated. Glancing around the packed living room, he saw at least four other guys from the football team, none of whom were paying the slightest attention to Masterson. He shook his head. “It’s not cool, man. These people aren’t going to take care of him.”
“Oh, but you are.” Mike looked disgusted and more than a little pissed.
“Just let me get him home and—”
The backup quarterback leaned in and pitched his voice for Kyle’s ears alone. “I don’t play second string to anybody off the field.”
Oliveri turned and stalked off through the crowd.
With less regret than he would have expected, Kyle waved good-bye to his getting laid and turned back to Masterson.
He squatted down, grabbed a handful of Masterson’s hair, and yanked. “Let’s go, Davie. Upsidaisy.”
With a great deal of effort and prodding and encouragement, Kyle got Dave on his feet and headed for the door. Once outside and out of the view of his teammates, Kyle slung one of Masterson’s arms over his shoulder and used his own body to prop up the drunk.
“I wasn’t ready to leave,” Masterson bitched as they staggered together down the brick path that led back to Branson Hall.
“Oh, yes, you were,” Kyle said. “In fact, you were ready to leave hours ago.”
They reached the front door, which, as expected, was locked up tight. Kyle looked at Masterson. His eyelids had drooped to half-mast, and he was breathing through his mouth, which could not be a good sign.
“Don’t you dare throw up on me,” Kyle nearly growled. “And where’s your keycard?”
“My what? Oh, my keycard. It’s in my pocket. Wait, I can get it.”
Though he had his doubts, Kyle waited while Masterson searched his multitude of pockets and finally produced his keycard. After his third unsuccessful attempt to slide it through the reader, Kyle took it from him and stuck it in the slot with more than necessary force.
“Hey, how did you know which one to put it in?”
“There’s two. How did you know which one to put it in?”
“I always know which one to put it in.” Kyle laughed at his own joke.
Masterson laughed too, though probably more from being drunk than because he really thought it was funny. Not that it mattered.
Kyle held the door and gestured with his head. “You first.”
“Thanks, man.” Masterson stepped over the threshold and promptly tripped over his own feet.
Moving on reflex alone, Kyle shot out a hand and grabbed him by his belt. “Whoa there, Big Guy.”
Once inside, Kyle moved to put a guiding arm around Masterson, but the football player backed away.
“No man, none of that. Somebody might see and think…you know.” He made a flappy motion with his hand.
A sudden flash of angry embarrassment had heat suffusing Kyle’s cheeks. But years of practice had made him an expert at controlling such reactions.
“Might think what? You broke your wrist?” He smiled, showing lots of teeth.
“Huh? No! You know—”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. C’mon, let’s get you upstairs before anybody sees you talking to me and your sterling reputation as a champion cheerleader-fucker gets tarnished.”
“I didn’t mean—”
“I know exactly what you meant. Now shut up and let’s go.” Kyle crossed the lobby and stabbed the elevator button.
“I always take the stairs,” Masterson said from behind Kyle.
Christ! Kyle thumped his head against the closed elevator door. He should just dump the dumb jock right here, right now and go see if he could salvage things with Oliveri. Yeah, that was what he should do. But Masterson was drunk off his ass, and if Kyle just abandoned him, that would make him an even bigger asshole than his drunken friend was being right then.
“Tonight we’re shaking things up and taking the elevator.”
Which thankfully chose that moment to ding. The doors slid back on an empty car. Another piece of luck.
The trip upstairs was uneventful, and when they reached Masterson’s room, Kyle once again performed his amazing trick with the keycard. He held the door for Masterson, who teetered like crazy as he crossed the room. He had nearly reached his bed when he veered off and slammed into the desk.
Crash! The lamp hit the floor, and over went a cup filled with pens and pencils.
“Where are you going, Dave?” Kyle dashed across the room and caught Masterson before he too hit the floor.
“I’m going to throw up. Yeeeerk!”
No sooner were the words out than the Technicolor yawning commenced.
“Oh man, gross!” Kyle snagged the wastebasket from under the desk and somehow managed to shove it under Masterson’s face just in the nick of time. He turned away. He had to unless he planned to join Dave in the vomitorium.
But oh God, the sound. Just the sound was enough to have Kyle’s gorge rising. He swallowed it down and clapped his hands over his ears.
Masterson raised his head. Bloodshot eyes peered at Kyle. A string of drool—he had to think of it as drool—hung from Masterson’s chin. He swiped at it with the back of one hand. His lips moved.
Kyle uncovered his ears. “What?”
“You did not just go ‘lalalalalala.’ Tell me that was an alcohol-induced hallucination and you’re not that weird.”
Kyle had to laugh. “Sorry, I am absolutely that weird. Now, are you done? Because I really can’t…” He motioned toward the trash can of barf.
Masterson glanced down into the can and went a shade greener than before, if that was even possible. He nodded. “I think so, yeah. Let me just—”
But when he started to rise, Kyle motioned him down. “No, I’ll do it. You get in bed.”
“Man, you don’t have to clean up my puke.”
“I’m not. I’m just putting it somewhere else where I won’t have to see it or smell it. You can clean it up yourself tomorrow.”
“Nice friend,” Masterson said and laughed as he crawled to the bed and hoisted himself onto the mattress.
“You get what you pay for, dude.” Doing his best to hold his nose and avert his eyes, Kyle picked up the can and rushed into the bathroom. Trying not to think about what he was doing, he dumped the contents into the toilet and flushed, three times. He dropped the empty can next to the john and ran out of the bathroom, gasping for air.
To his surprise, Masterson was still awake and watching him from the bed. “Can I have some water? My mouth tastes like barf. It’s gross.”
Kyle eyed the bathroom and thought about the smelly puke can he’d left beside the toilet. Ugh, he could not face going in there again.
“How about some…” Kyle crossed to the fridge, opened it, and peered inside. “Gatorade?”
Wasn’t Gatorade supposed to be good for hangovers? Hadn’t he read that somewhere? Not that it mattered since Gatorade was what they had.
After retrieving it from the fridge, Kyle brought it back to the bed.
Masterson stuck out his hand.
“Shouldn’t you sit up?”
“Mmm?” Masterson cracked one eye open. “Too tired to sit. Just give me the bottle.”
“Suit yourself.” Kyle uncapped the bottle and handed it over. Certain Masterson would soon be lying in a puddle of spilled Gatorade—which he was not cleaning up; uh-uh, no way—he watched as Masterson tilted his head and drank. And didn’t spill a drop.
Masterson let out a belch loud enough to register on the Richter scale and held out the empty bottle. “Thanks, man.”
“No problem.” Kyle took it and set it on the dresser. “What are you looking for?”
Masterson was staring blearily around the room. He returned his attention to Kyle. “What’d you do with the barf? I can still smell it.”
Kyle could still smell it too. He’d thought it was his imagination, but apparently not.
“I dumped it in the toilet and left the can for you to deal with. Friendship only goes so far, Dave.” He eyed Masterson’s feet, still in their basketball shoes. “You should take your shoes off before you pass out.”
“Why?” He sounded like he was already halfway there.
“Um, because it’s what civilized people do when they go to bed?”
“Okay. But would you close the bathroom door. That smell…”
Kyle held his breath, crossed to the bathroom, and shut the door. He turned and saw Masterson had swung his feet over the edge of the mattress and somehow gotten himself into a sitting position. He leaned over, and his stomach let out a loud gurgle.
“Uuuuumph.” He fell back and flung an arm up over his face. His feet remained on the floor.
“Are you okay? Do you need the trashcan?” Much as he dreaded it, Kyle reached for the bathroom door.
“I’m okay. Must have been the Gatorade.”
“Yeah, I’m sure that was it. Couldn’t possibly have been all the beer.”
“I just can’t lean over like that.”
Kyle hesitated. “Want me to take off your shoes?”
The arm covering Masterson’s face came down, and he looked at Kyle. “Man, you don’t have to do that.”
“I know. But I will anyway.” Kyle walked over to the bed. He knelt and began to loosen the laces on the boats Masterson called shoes.
Holy crap but he had big feet!
Kyle pulled off the shoes and dropped them by the bed. Clunk. Clunk.
Masterson lifted his head and looked at Kyle, who still knelt on the floor between his sock feet. “Is it true that gay guys give better blowjobs than girls?”
“Uh, I wouldn’t exactly know, since I never got a blowjob from a girl.”
“Oh. For real?”
“Why would I? Um, hello? Gay boy right here, just in case you forgot.” He thumped a fist against his chest.
“I don’t know.” Masterson moved his shoulder. It might have been a shrug if he hadn’t been lying on his back. “I just figured, you know… I mean, you’re a good-looking guy, so… You mean, you really never had a girl come on to you? Like she could maybe turn you or something?”
“No! I mean, sure, a few times. But like, ewww! That was so not happening.”
Masterson cackled and spittle flew. “Oh shit, man, don’t make me laugh.” He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. “So, well… You know, I’ve had blowjobs from girls.”
“Good for you.” Kyle pushed himself to his feet. He’d better get his ass out of there and quick because this conversation was skating somewhere near the edge of he didn’t know what.
But Masterson wasn’t done. “And you’re gay, right?”
“I think that’s pretty well established, yeah.” Masterson was looking at him really weird. That look made Kyle’s pulse race. “Listen, Dave, I got to—”
“So, I think we should do an experiment,” Masterson said.
“What do you mean, an experiment?”
“You know, like an experiment, for science.”
“What kind of experiment?”
Masterson sighed, as if it should have been obvious to anyone who wasn’t dumb as a box of rocks. “An experiment to see who gives better blowjobs, girls or gay guys.”
Oh! Fucking! Shit!
“We can’t,” Kyle blurted, already backing toward the door.
“Sure we can. Why can’t we?”
“Because I’ve never had a blowjob from a girl, so I have no basis for comparison.”
“I have, plenty.”
“Like I said, good for you.” He was not taking the oh so obvious next step. Nope. No way. Not him.
Masterson must have known it too. “So all you have to do is—”
“Why not?” Kyle echoed the question. “Oh, I don’t know, Dave. Maybe because you’re not gay. Because I’m not—”
“C’mon, man, it’s not sexual. It’s for science.” But the curve of Masterson’s lips told another story entirely.
“Why not? Just give me one reason.”
“I already gave you a reason.”
“Oh, like you never blew a straight guy before. Riiight.”
And he was definitely not going down that road either. So instead, even knowing it was risky and he might get his ass kicked, he asked, “Did you ever blow a straight guy, Dave?”
But rather than the angry indignation Kyle expected, Masterson was silent. And stayed silent for a long time. So long, in fact, Kyle began to fear the jock would hear his heart beating.
When Masterson finally spoke, his voice was so soft, Kyle had to move closer to hear.
“I was eleven and he was my best friend.”
“How old was he?” It was a stupid, inane question but safer than the others that sprang to mind.
“He was eleven too.” Masterson laughed. “Holy shit, man. You should see the look on your face. Surprised you with that one, didn’t I?”
“A little,” Kyle admitted. “But lots of kids—”
“It was his birthday. His parents gave him this magic set. It had a book and different color scarves. A deck of trick playing cards. A top hat with all these hidden compartments. That kind of stuff.” Masterson sat up and propped his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hand. “Why don’t you sit. It’s kind of a long story.”
Kyle nodded. He couldn’t have left then if someone had held a gun to his head. With one foot, he hooked the desk chair, pulled it out, then sat.
“Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, the magic set. We were in his room, trying to teach ourselves the tricks and not having much luck. Then Danny—his name was Danny. Still is, I guess. He picks up this pendulum thing. It was a crystal on a chain, and he picks it up and says, ‘I bet I can hypnotize you.’
“So I said, ‘Go ahead.’ And he started swinging it back and forth in front of my eyes—you know, the way you always see on TV—and saying ‘you are getting very sleeeeepy.’”
Kyle knew where this story was going. He wasn’t stupid. Still, he leaned forward, eager for Masterson to continue. When he didn’t, Kyle prompted, “Go on.”
“Okay, yeah, so he counts down the way the book said to. Then he tells me to cluck like a chicken.”
Masterson nodded. “Sure. I don’t know why. I mean, I wasn’t really hypnotized. I just…” He shrugged.
“What happened next?”
“Next he told me to hop around the room on one foot. So I did.” Masterson paused. He lowered his gaze and stared down at the floor between his feet.
Kyle held his breath.
“Then he told me to get on my knees and suck his dick.”
“And you did.” It wasn’t a question, but Masterson answered it anyway.
“Yeah, I did.”
Suddenly Kyle could see it, Masterson on his knees sucking cock. But the image in his head wasn’t two eleven-year-olds innocently experimenting with their sexuality. No, it was a full-grown Masterson on his knees, and the cock in his mouth was Kyle’s. He shook his head, trying to dislodge the image, because having it there was both tempting and dangerous at once.
But Masterson misunderstood the action. “Swear to God, I’m not lying.”
“No, I know you’re not. That’s not—” Kyle shook his head again. “Did you— Did he— Ah hell.”
Masterson blew air out his nose in a sort of rueful laugh. “Yeah, we both did. So you see, you wouldn’t be my first.”
Inside his jeans, Kyle’s cock was hard as stone. Blood rushed in his ears, and his breath came shallow and way too fast.
“Um, did you ever do it again?”
“No, he never hypnotized me again.”
So not with Danny. With somebody else, then? The question was on the tip of Kyle’s tongue. He swallowed it down. It nearly choked him.
Masterson was watching him from where he sat. Suddenly his eyes seemed clearer, his posture less slouchy. He seemed altogether a lot less drunk than before or than Kyle had thought.
“So, you ready to take one for science, or what?”
About the Author:
Kimberly Gardner spends her days luxuriating on the white sand beach of her private island paradise, sipping umbrella drinks and being waited on by gorgeous men wearing nothing but loin cloths and smiles. At night she crafts tales of sensuous romance and steamy passion, so hot they are sold with warning labels and tiny fire extinguishers.
Wait! That’s her fantasy life. She really spends her days in an 8×8 cubicle, writing computer code for a soulless bureaucracy and dreaming of the day she’ll bid au revoir to the daily grind. She does spend her evenings reading and writing romance with a cat on her lap and a glass of wine near at hand. The part about the steaminess of her stories is true too, though you’ll have to provide your own fire extinguisher.
Oh, and that stuff about her island paradise is all in her head. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, three fur babies and a mob of characters jostling for space in her imagination. She possesses strong opinions on everything from the socio-political situation in Tibet to the the only way to make a drinkable martini—vodka, never gin, olives not lemons and shaken rather than stirred.
Kimberly Gardner has kindly offered 1 lucky commenter will get all 3 Exception to the Rule titles in eForm.
Locally held contests will end 7 days from original posting date at 8pm CDT. Must be 18 or older to enter, void where prohibited.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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