I’m excited to share an exclusive (and extensive!) excerpt of Adriana Herrera’s new book American Love Story today! This is the third book in her Dreamers series and focuses on Patrice and Easton.
The book is out today and let me tell you, you do not want to wait to read this. I completely fell in love with both Easton and Patrice and loved how honest and forthright they were. Particularly Patrice does not hold back about stating his opionion.
The way Herrera addressed the power dynamics between Easton and Patrice is something I haven’t seen a lot of in romance and I simply adored it.
Haitian-born professor and activist Patrice Denis is not here for anything that will veer him off the path he’s worked so hard for. One particularly dangerous distraction: Easton Archer, the assistant district attorney who last summer gave Patrice some of the most intense nights of his life, and still makes him all but forget they’re from two completely different worlds.
All-around golden boy Easton forged his own path to success, choosing public service over the comforts of his family’s wealth. With local law enforcement unfairly targeting young men of color, and his career—and conscience—on the line, now is hardly the time to be thirsting after Patrice again. Even if their nights together have turned into so much more.
For the first time, Patrice is tempted to open up and embrace the happiness he’s always denied himself. But as tensions between the community and the sheriff’s office grow by the day, Easton’s personal and professional lives collide. And when the issue at hand hits closer to home than either could imagine, they’ll have to work to forge a path forward…together.
Content Warnings: racial profiling, racism, microaggressions, police aggression, homo-/queerphobia, past forced outing
I had a feeling I was being setup.
Except that was bullshit, because once I found out that the building belonged to Easton I could’ve just opted out and tried to find something else, but here I was right on time and ready to look at the vacant apartment in his building.
I got my phone out of my pocket to double check the door code he’d sent me. He said someone would be waiting for me right outside the apartment which was conveniently located on the fifth floor directly below his own top-floor penthouse.
Just as I was about to walk in my phone rang. I saw Camilo’s number and immediately felt in a better mood.
“Oh my god. I am so hungover.” The amount of drama he could work into seven words was always impressive.
I tried not to laugh at his moaning. “I thought you were at a work thing last night.”
“I was! I didn’t even drink that much but you know I’m trash for free champagne.”
He was a whore for an open bar.
“How was it?” I asked, already grinning at the earful of foolishness I was about to get.
Instead there was a heavy silence that could’ve meant anything. One never knew with Camilo.
“It was good, great butternut squash soup. I gave a super tall, hot as fuck guy a blow job in a sitting room, and then Ayako and I went home. You know, average Friday.”
I barked out a laugh. “Oh my god, Camilo. The shit you say. At least the soup was good.”
He snickered at my side-step of the blow job. “What are you up to? Are you an Easton going steady already or are you just still acting like you didn’t move up there for his dick?”
I sighed out loud, because I did not want to get into any of this with Camilo. He’d push me until I ended up saying more than I was ready to deal with at the moment. I also wasn’t sure how to even talk about the apartment. If I mentioned Easton, Camilo would get on his nosy bullshit and I did not want to get into the reasons why I was even contemplating renting the place.
“Oh, I’m just looking at an apartment. The one I got is still not ready for me to move in and even though staying with Nes and Jude has been great, I need my own space.”
“I can’t believe they’re still dicking you around with that.”
After punching the code for the front door I stepped into the vestibule and pressed the up button for the elevator with one hand as I held my phone with the other.
“Yeah it’s a problem. Listen, I’ll call you back, okay? I’m about to get into the elevator.”
“Let me know how it goes. And don’t think I didn’t notice how you avoided my question about Easton. We’ll get back to that next time we talk.”
I rolled my eyes and muttered, “Awesome.”
Which just got me a wicked laugh from Camilo.
I ended the call just as the elevator doors opened and looked up to see Easton Archer looking fucking edible in jeans and a white t-shirt.
I didn’t know what I was doing with Easton, but I could not deny he was the most beautiful guy I’d ever been with. He was just a bit under six feet tall, so I had to slightly turn my head down to talk to him…to kiss him. I exhaled, trying to tamp down the memories of that lithe body under me last summer, and the way he moaned and moved when we’d been together.
Fuck, I was getting hard.
He extended his hand, and if he was aware of my hard on, he was not going to make a thing about it. He just smiled and beckoned me into the elevator.
I stepped in feeling a little suspicious. Was he going to show me the place himself?
He must’ve guessed what I’d been thinking because he lifted a shoulder and flashed me those perfect teeth.
“I told my Realtor I could show you the place since I’m already here.”
I was about to ask if he always did that, but decided to let it go. So, I just nodded and stepped in.
He was looking at me like he was trying to read my mind. I kept a neutral expression on my face and tried to roll with it. Keep it casual. I was here to see an apartment. Not to flirt.
He didn’t say whatever he was thinking and instead looked down at my feet and smiled. “Nice, I like your Jordans, are those the new Flyknits? I hadn’t seen them yet.”
I snapped my head up to look at him with what I knew was disbelief on my face. I was wearing the bright red pair of Js I’d bought as a graduation/new job treat to myself. They were the most expensive shoes I’d ever bought by a few hundred dollars and I still checked the weather forecast before wearing them out. I fucking loved them, but of all the people I thought would appreciate how dope these were, Easton Archer, who dressed like a preppy poster boy—all the fucking time—was not one of them.
He laughed, probably guessing what I’d been thinking. “What, you didn’t think I’d be able to appreciate your kicks?”
I was going to go with something PC but decided to say what I was really thinking, “Umm no, not really, since you’re usually wearing Gucci loafers.”
At this point the elevator stopped in the fifth floor and Easton extended his hand to me so I could get out. He followed right behind.
We stood in front of the apartment for a moment as he talked. “My mentee, Tyren, is a Jordans fanatic.” The smile on his face was a new one; there was some protectiveness and clear affection there.
“Well, he’s technically not my mentee anymore, although we’re still close. I was his Big Brother when he was a high school student and he’s at Ithaca College now.” His eyes shone with pride when he said that. “Anyway, Ty has like twenty pairs.” His tone was indulgent when he talked about his mentee, and it really fucking warmed my heart.
This guy had me bugging, for real.
Easton tipped his head down, his eyes back on my feet. “Ty was talking about those.” He rolled his eyes and chuckled, his hands deep in his pants pockets. “He actually convinced me to get a pair a while ago. I have some pretty boring gray ones. Retros of course.”
He looked a little self-conscious, like he was waiting for me to mock him or something, but I was still stuck on the fact that he had been mentoring a young man for years, and they were still close. That he clearly cared for the kid. That piece of information, more than anything I knew so far about Easton, broke something open in me.
I was humbled, because I’d made too many assumptions about this man. Nesto was right—I didn’t really know very much at all about Easton Archer, other than the way we could make each other feel.
I tipped my head to the side and pointed at the closed door behind him. “I’d like to see you rocking your Jordans some time.” He beamed at me, as if he hadn’t expected that response. “But for now, can I see this place you’re supposed to be showing me?”
He really was a beautiful man and with that little bit of red on his cheeks, I was having a hard time not reaching out and touching.
We walked into the apartment and immediately I knew I was going to take it.
Everything looked pristine. It was a loft, open floor plan with high ceilings. There was one bedroom in one corner of the floor and another one in a mezzanine up a spiral metal staircase. The kitchen was completely done in stainless steel, even the countertops, and the dark hardwood floors gleamed.
Easton pointed at the space upstairs. “The mezzanine is deceptively large and it has a bathroom en suite. The one down here is just a shower, but that one has a pretty nice tub.” There was that dirty smile again. “I don’t know if you remember, but I have the same one at my place.”
An image flashed through my head of Easton on his knees inside the enormous tub, hands gripping my ass as I stood with my hands against the wall, looking down as his lips stretched around my cock. I felt heat rise in my face at that memory. When I looked at Easton the flush on his cheeks told me he was probably thinking of the exact same thing.
I cleared my throat, definitely not ready to go down memory lane, and started climbing the stairs. When I got up there I instantly noticed the huge bay windows. We were high enough that I could see the Cornell grounds, the top of the famous clock tower in the West part of campus visible right at the center of the window.
Easton came up beside me as I took in the view. “I have the same view at my place.” He shrugged. “Well, mine is slightly higher up.” He waved his arm toward the bathroom. “You want to see?”
I nodded, brushing past him and into the bathroom, still not saying much. It was huge, all done in slate-colored tiles. The tub and shower also done in a dark gray. It was spacious and comfortable and right then it hit me. Being here, looking at this place started to feel monumental.
I could afford this place.
This luxurious apartment, with everything spotless and beautiful, was something I could easily pay for. I made enough money now to rent it and not have to worry about whether I could afford heat or food with my meager grad student stipend. All those years of wondering if I was doing the right thing by trying it in a world where people like me didn’t just have a hard time of it, but were practically nonexistent. Even though I still had tenure to worry about, I felt…proud of myself.
Right there and now for the first time since graduation and the grueling stress of the job market, it finally felt like this was real. I’d done this, I had finished a PhD in Economics from Columbia University. A kid who came as a refugee from Haiti as a six-year-old, had done that. Against all the fucking odds.
I glanced over at Easton, who was looking at me like he realized there was something going on with me. Then a really strange thing happened—I wanted to tell him about it.
I didn’t even know why. With Easton’s background I wasn’t sure if he could get the magnitude of this moment, but I decided not to make assumptions. I wanted to share this with him. Not because he was the only person with me right then, but because I wanted Easton to know how much this mattered.
He stood there patiently waiting for me to speak. “Sorry I’m acting so weird. It just hit me that I can actually afford this place.” I sounded astonished, and the way his eyes softened made me feel seen. Like he got it. “I guess I hadn’t really let it sink yet that I’m not on a graduate student budget anymore.”
Easton shifted like he was going to move closer, and I almost moved to meet him half way, but in the end he stayed where he was. He smiled wide at me though.
“You should be proud of yourself, it’s an amazing accomplishment. I’ve lived in Ithaca almost my whole life and it’s not like I know everyone who gets hired up there, but I do know getting a tenure track position at Cornell is a huge deal.”
Those green eyes on me were like truth serum, because I just kept talking.
“Nesto and I shared a place with another guy in Harlem for the five years before he moved here. The rent was decent, but it wasn’t the nicest.” I shrugged feeling embarrassed about what I was thinking, but also like I really needed to share this. It was such a strange feeling for me to want to be vulnerable like this. “I’ve never lived alone. I’m not sure what I’d do with myself in a place this big on my own. It’s kind of crazy that you own it actually.”
The bright smile faded, and I hated myself a little bit for saying the words that made it happen. “I didn’t work for this. I bought it with money I got from my grandmother. Your job is an actual accomplishment.” He waved his hand around the bathroom. “This is just old money begetting more money with very little effort from any of the parties involved.”
The tone of his voice was so self-deprecating. I usually wasn’t full of sympathy for trust fund babies but I also knew that Easton had a hard job. One that he opted into when he could’ve been coasting on his family’s money. Even though I had a lot of opinions on the criminal justice system and prosecutors, I knew he was out there trying to put away the bad guys.
“Don’t be so down on yourself, man. Some people do a lot worse with the money they inherit than putting it into something that is a legit source of income. Also it’s not like you’re sitting at home waiting for rent checks. You’re not exactly doing light work at the DA’s office.”
He just shrugged and moved toward the bedroom. I wanted to stop him, say more until that smile he’d been giving me since I walked into the elevator came back out. I had no idea why I was so invested in seeing Easton looking happy again, but I was ready to take the apartment just to do something that might bring some light back to his eyes. Before I knew it I was talking again.
“It’s not like I didn’t want to have my own place. I just couldn’t afford it.” I lifted a hand in the direction of the bay windows. “I’m not going to be mad to have a place like this.”
His lips twitched at that and my dumbass heart pounded in my chest, because that fucker never learned.
“I actually didn’t have an apartment like this in undergrad. I went to school in Buffalo, and my place was not nearly as nice, much to parents’ chagrin.”
I worked extremely hard to keep my eyebrows in place.
I’d always assumed he’d gone to an Ivy League school. I never asked, because I was a callous asshole, but the way he was holding himself right now, shoulders back, chin up, told me there was a story there. “Buffalo, then.” I pointed at myself, ready to launch into another overshare. “I started at City College and then transferred to Columbia sophomore year, I was working full time and living at home to help my mom out, in the first years at least. It took me about six years to get my bachelor’s.”
He didn’t look at me when he talked, running a hand over the metal banister that lead down stairs. “That’s incredible, Patrice. I liked SUNY Buffalo. It was the right place for me. I wasn’t the best student in high school. I partied a lot and generally didn’t take myself very seriously. It was pretty much a done deal that I would just work for my family’s winery, and I can’t say that I cared too much about my career.”
He laughed, and it was a very tired sound.
“It’s so frivolous to even say it, but I knew I’d never have to worry about money or finding work, so I just sort of coasted. It wasn’t until senior year when I let Cindy convince me to volunteer for the local domestic violence agency. They had a program for high schoolers where we learned to do peer-to-peer outreach. I’d just come out and was figuring myself out—” He closed his eyes, his lips flattening. He waved a hand, dismissing whatever that brought up, and looked at me. “Anyway. That year was life changing for me, I decided I wanted to work helping survivors. Cindy advocated hard for law school and I knew how much she loved her job.”
“I didn’t know that,” I said, more than a little ashamed by all the ways I’d written Easton off. He lifted a shoulder, as if he was used to that, people making assumptions. “You’re a fighter, Easton.”
“I wasn’t struggling with money, believe me.”
Every conversation with Easton drove home more and more that the easygoing, light and breezy rich boy thing Easton had going was either just an act or his way of protecting himself from people and their shitty judgements.
When he spoke again, he sounded more certain. The confidence that I’d gotten used to coming back. “For law school it was the same, I went to the school I got into. I ended up at Fordham Law in the city and honestly, I loved it. Then I came back here to the DA’s office.” He stepped closer to me, as I was still looking for how to respond. With every step he took the need to grab him, pull him to me. Kiss that mouth that seemed to have an uncanny ability to undo me. When he came closer, he didn’t look sad anymore. Just like that, his smile was back.
I wondered what it cost Easton every time he did that. “So is this place worthy of your first post grad school home, professor?” The way he looked at me, with hopeful eyes, like he needed me to play along, was enough to disarm me.
“I don’t know, Mr. Archer. Are you going to be a good landlord?”
Was I flirting? Trying to impress? I wasn’t even sure what kind of life I was living anymore. But it was all worth it when I saw that smile.
“Well I usually have a property management company take care of stuff for my tenants, but for you I might want to take care of things myself.”
Why was him talking about repairing shit in my apartment making me want to fuck him over the staircase railing?
And why had I even gone there?
Once again I had an image come to mind. This time Easton writhing under me as I spread him open with one hand while I worked an enormous dildo into his ass with the other. Pushing it in as he undulated under me, trying to make it go deeper, while I leaned in to lick at his stretched out rim and he begged me to fuck him harder.
This time I really did have to adjust my pants and Easton started moving closer like he knew exactly what was going through my head. Before I knew what was happening he grabbed my shirt, pulling me down to him. I moved fast and grabbed the back of his neck to pull his face to mine. Like it was the most natural thing in the world. No hesitation, not a shred of reluctance.
I had a couple of inches and about thirty pounds on him. I was a big guy, people usually approached with caution, but Easton came to me like he was coming home.
Like there was nothing he could see that he didn’t want to get closer to. I was thinking about what part of him I wanted to get at first when I remembered why I was here, to rent this apartment that he owned. If I got mixed up with Easton, it would get messy.
Messy was one thing I did not do.
I released the hand that I had clasped on the back of his neck and stepped back with a heavy exhale. “Easton.”
He immediately pulled back and glanced up at me, looking dazed. Once again I wished I could just let myself go. Get what we both wanted.
I looked at him trying to figure out how much my hot and cold shit had pissed him off, and he did look pissed, but apparently not for the reason I thought.
“Oh no. Stop that shit.”
I laughed because he was fucking ridiculous.
“Stop what? You’re a mind reader now?”
He lifted a shoulder, but I could tell he was embarrassed about the kiss and I felt like shit. I had to give it to Easton, he could handle discomfort. He powered on, and cleared the air. “As a matter of fact, I am a bit of a reader, not minds, but certainly body language.” He exhaled and waved in my direction. “Looks like once again I pushed you too far too quickly. My bad.”
I shook my head and smiled at him because no matter how crazy he made me, I really fucking liked Easton Archer. In fact the more I knew, the more I wanted him. There was no telling myself any different on that.
“Easton, I’m just trying to get into this building without starting some fuckboy drama with you. I want this place and I—”
This I wasn’t sure how to say without going into weirdness territory.
“I like you. Like as a friend, and I’m going to be here for a while.” I sagged after getting the words out, and he looked at me like he knew what was coming.
“I get it. If you want this place, it’s yours, and I will keep my thirsty ass in shape.”
I shook my head at him, biting back a smile, wanting to also say my piece. The thought of Easton walking away from this feeling hurt was not sitting right with me.
“Listen, you’re obviously not the only thirsty one in this situation.” I glanced up to the steel beams in the ceiling, hoping to word this right and not offend him because he had been nothing but decent to me. “I just don’t want to ruin the chances for us actually being friends. I don’t do very well as a lover in the long term, but I am a decent friend. Hearing about your college experience, I don’t know, it makes me want to get to know you better, without our dicks being involved.”
Easton deflated like I was making too much sense and he might have to agree with me, but he didn’t have to like it. “You might have gone with the wrong career, because I’m thinking you would have made a hell of a lawyer.”
An unexpected bark of laughter came out of me, a regular occurrence whenever Easton was around, but I was grateful for the shift in the conversation. “Pssh, being an economist is much better. We don’t even try to argue, we just manipulate the data until we can tell everyone how to think. So…”
Easton extended a hand to me as if to seal the deal. “Welcome to 611Cayuga, Professor Denis.”
I smiled wide as we shook on it. “Thank you, Mr. Archer.”
Adriana Herrera was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last fifteen years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings. When’s she not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a social worker in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Genre: Contemporary Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: Carina Press Tag: Guest Post Tag: Opposites Attract Tag: Own-Voices Tag: Part of a series Tag: PoC Tag: Second Chances Adriana Herrera American Love Story Dreamers series