In Over Our Heads: Excerpt from a Work In Progress ~ Outside the Margins with CJane Elliott

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I’m oh-so-close to finishing In Over Our Heads, the sequel to All the Way to Shore. This is the story of Anthony Vallen, Jonathan’s cousin. In All the Way to Shore, Anthony is the one who talks Jonathan into becoming someone else on the cruise and cheerleads the romance between Jonathan and Marco all the way to their happily ever after. Anthony is fun and flamboyant and doesn’t seem to have a care in the world and readers loved his character.

In Over Our Heads takes place in Key West, where Jonathan, Marco, Anthony and Marco’s sister Sophia have gone on a scuba diving vacation. There Anthony runs into the only man who ever broke his heart—Henry Elkins, his high school boyfriend. Henry’s carrying a lot of baggage and he and Anthony have a lot to work through to get their second chance.

I wrote the story from both POVs but Anthony’s is in first person and Henry’s is in third. Anthony’s voice is so strong I had to write him in first person. He wouldn’t be denied!

Here’s the working blurb:

Anthony Vallen is a sucker for romance—for everyone but himself. He’s perfectly happy to match-make for his friends and enjoys dancing the night away with a series of Mr. Right Nows. But he’s given up on his own happy ending. He had his chance years ago and the experience turned him into a secret cynic about love. Or so he thinks until he runs into Henry Elkins—the boy who broke his heart—at a dive bar in Key West. Suddenly, Anthony’s reasons for shunning romance no longer hold much water.

Henry Elkins has a brilliant mind and has always preferred thinking deep thoughts over being with other people. His life is always under his control. Only once has someone managed to penetrate his defenses to reach his heart, and that ended in disaster. Henry eventually landed in Key West and became owner of a dive shop and bar. Life is fine until his past catches up to him one day when Anthony Vallen walks into his bar, and Henry soon finds himself floundering in murky waters.

And here’s an excerpt from the first chapter. Keep in mind this is a lightly edited draft.

Chapter One 

I never expected to find my second chance for love in a dive bar in Key West.

I was there on vacation with my cousin Jonny and his awesomely hunky husband Marco. I take full credit for their relationship, by the way. If I hadn’t made up fake names and pushed Jonny to be his best self (Jonah) on that LGBT cruise last year, he’d still be hiding out on Cape Cod instead of married to the catch of the century. To be honest, I could never have imagined either me or Jonny snagging Marco Pellegrini. He’s several rungs above both of us in sheer looks and accomplishments. But sweet? The man is a pussy cat inside. Leave it to my equally sweet cousin to discover the real Marco and make him his. It’s enough to make my inner romantic vomit rainbows and roses.

Anyway, we were taking a little vacay after a brutal winter in Boston. We’d all worked our butts off on the Vallen-Pellegrini Foundation for homeless youth that we’d founded back in March, and it was time for a little R&R. Marco wanted to take Jonny scuba diving. I wasn’t averse to tagging along, even though I had no plans to strap an oxygen tank on my back and sink like a stone into the ocean deeps. No, thanks!

Sophia, Marco’s kickass sister, was with us. She’d just had her heart broken by some schmuck in New York City, so I persuaded her to come along to keep me company and be my dancing partner. And besides, my heart could use a little shoring up too. Not because of some vile man, mind you—I never let anyone get close enough to hurt—but because I was facing the worst thing in the world in a few short weeks. My thirtieth birthday. The day I was to officially become decrepit and forced to confront my life choices and my wasted youth.

We’d dumped our luggage off at our oceanfront condo, rented by the awesome Marco,  and walked a block down the beach to Cap’n Otto’s, reportedly the best dive bar in the city. It was October—early in the season for tourists—but the place was hopping. Sophia and I gravitated instantly to the small dance floor, which was crowded with a motley assortment of mostly gay guys. I jumped right into the middle of things, shaking my booty which was nicely showcased in tight canary yellow shorts, the color tying in deliciously with my tropical shirt with the pink, blue, and yellow flowers. I looked cute, if I do say so myself (And I do. Frequently).

As Sophia and I boogied, I became aware of a guy shimmying near us, mostly because he was drop-dead gorgeous. His brown curls, sensitive features, and full lips were straight out of a painting by Botticelli, while his body was made of sin. His immaculate make-up (eyeliner, lip gloss) created an alluring feminine-masculine blend. As I stared, he caught my eye and threw me a lethal smile complete with some eyelash fluttering. I beamed in return, then resolutely turned my back on Baby Temptress, as I’d already dubbed him in my mind. Too young, too beautiful. He’d use me up and wear me out, then drop me like an over-the-hill anvil. Best not to even start.

Still, I couldn’t help glancing over at him as he danced into my peripheral vision. He smiled at my dancing antics and ran his eyes over my body in blatant appreciation. When I shook my head at him, he laughed outright. Cheeky little bugger. I surrendered and danced closer. Sophia had abandoned the floor by that time to order us drinks.

Soon, Botticelli Boy and I were matching moves. I’m a great dancer, if I do say so myself, and this kid was keeping up. My fantasies of licking the sweat off his neck were interrupted by a shout from the bar.


My young admirer snapped out of his attempts at seduction and scowled in the direction of the voice. “All right, already!”  He turned back to me. “Gotta go. My boring boss is putting me to work. What’s your name?”

“Anthony. And you’re Miles?”

“Yep. Will you be around for awhile?”


“Good.” Miles gave me a dazzling smile that was more sin than angel, and headed off toward the bar.

I followed his shapely form until Sophia stood in front of me holding out a mai tai.

“Getting right into the swim of things, I see.” She raised her eyebrows and gave a significant glance in the direction Miles had gone.

“Nope. Too young.” I took the drink and gulped some down.


Sophia and I danced some more, joined by Jonathan and Marco. Miles seemed to have disappeared completely, which was just as well. After a few more songs, Marco and Sophia went in pursuit of mudslides, a drink we’d all become addicted to on the cruise, while Jonny and I hit the head.

“Happy?” I asked Jonny as we were coming out of the restroom. It was a rhetorical question. Jonathan and Marco emitted enough joy vibes to light up the planet.

“Yep. And you don’t have to say it for the millionth time—I have you to thank.”

“Exactly. Let’s go drink a mudslide.”

There were two bartenders that night – a guy and a girl. I figured the guy must be Miles’s “boring boss.” As we reached the bar, I caught a glimpse of his well-built body displayed nicely in tank top and shorts. He had thick dark hair but I didn’t recognize him until we got right up to the bar and I saw his profile up close. I knew that nose and those lips. I’d know them anywhere. He turned and his eyes met mine. For an interminable moment he stared at me, then turned away abruptly, busying himself with the cash register on the back wall.

I clutched Jonathan’s arm and dragged him backward several steps.

“What gives?” Jonathan cast me an indulgent smile, used to my dramatic reactions.

“Look at the bartender,” I hissed.

“Huh?” Jonathan squinted over at the bar. “Who?”

“The bartender at the end. The guy. I think it’s Henry.”

“Henry? Who’s Henry?”

I wanted to slap him. Who’s Henry? Only my first (and last) true love. Only the boy who’d broken every tiny bit of my 17-year-old heart—smashed it to smithereens and then stomped all over it for good measure. Only the reason why, despite being a cheerleader for romance, I’m alone, always the bridesmaid and never the bride.

“Henry Elkins, you fool,” I whispered. “From Peabody Prep?” Jonny’s blank look made me want to murder him. “The first guy I ever—”

“Ohhh. Him.”

Marco and Sophia were ordering our drinks from the other bartender, a tough, tattooed gal. Henry (if it really was he—I was praying I’d been mistaken) turned away to pull some draft beers and I saw my chance for escape.

“Oh God, let’s get out of here.” I pulled on Jonathan’s arm. Even hanging around for Miles The Cutie wasn’t worth the sheer humiliation of coming face to face with my past.

Jonathan peered at the bar. “How can you be sure it’s him? Hasn’t it been, like, ten years?”

“Twelve to be exact, but who’s counting?”

Marco turned and called to us. “Jonathan! Anthony! Mudslides await you!”

Shit, shit, SHIT. Marco would have to use our names at that exact moment. Henry wasn’t bound to recognize Jonathan, who’d left his nerdy persona behind over a year ago, but I on the other hand looked pretty much exactly the same as I  always had, even in twelfth grade. Blond, tall, skinny, and flamboyant as hell. I was pretty sure Henry had recognized me in those few seconds our eyes had met. And was now ignoring me, giving me the sickest sense of history repeating itself.

Sophia said something to Marco in her animated way, music started pounding out of the speakers, Jonathan nudged me forward, and I was done. Dead meat. Crocodile fodder. The ghost of Anthony Vallen was wafting to the bar behind which stood Henry Elkins because the rest of me had disappeared into the worst memories of my life.


~CJane Elliott

Title: All the Way to Shore
Author: CJane Elliott
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publication Date: 11/23/2016
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Genre: Contemporary


Jonathan Vallen has never felt good enough. A gentle musician who loves to garden, he’s woefully unsuited to running Vallen Industries, the family business. When his father hires a hotshot executive, Marco Pellegrini, to save the company, Jonathan moves away and leaves his humiliation behind. A year later and forty pounds lighter, Jonathan runs into Marco on an LGBT cruise. Marco doesn’t recognize him, the sparks fly, and Jonathan pretends to be someone else for the week—Jonah Rutledge—someone good enough to be loved.

Marco Pellegrini has always been driven. He rose from poverty to the pinnacle of business success, and he’ll do anything to protect his reputation—including hiding his bisexuality. Having saved Vallen Industries, he’s weary of the rat race and ready for a more meaningful life. When Marco meets his soul mate for that new life—Jonah Rutledge—on an LGBT cruise, he prepares to stop hiding and start living.

Back on land, the romance crashes when Marco discovers his perfect man is not only a lie but the son of his boss, Frederick Vallen. Jonathan resolves to win Marco back, but Frederick takes vengeful action. Jonathan and Marco must battle their own fears as well as Frederick’s challenge to get to the future that awaits them on the horizon.


All the Way to Shore on Goodreads
Dreamspinner Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About CJane Elliott

After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.

CJane is an ardent supporter of LGBTQ equality and is particularly fond of coming out stories.

In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her husband and son support her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.

Farewell Giveaway
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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