The Vers Podcast Series – Book One
by Riley Hart
Release Date: January 23, 2023
Cate Ashwood Designs
Wander Aguiar Photography
Genre: MM Romance
Trope: Opposites attract, found family, second chance
As a founding member of The Vers, a queer podcast I host with my three best friends, I’m The Loner—quieter than the others, and except for them, I don’t let myself get too close to people. Most of them just let you down anyway, or maybe it’s just that something about me chases people away.
Infrequent, no-strings-attached hookups have always worked for me. Who knew my favorite one would become such a popular movie star? But Sebastian Cole and I made it work, meeting up whenever he was in Santa Monica and in the mood—until he called it off when he got a serious boyfriend. A boyfriend he later found in bed with another man.
Now Sebastian is back in California, taking a break from acting. He needs a friend, and for whatever reason, he decides that should be me. We’ve known each other intimately for years, and yet we’ve never spent much time together with our clothes on. When he starts taking me places, it feels suspiciously like dates…and surprisingly, I like it.
Despite our differences, Sebastian’s lonely, like me. The more we hang out, the more I realize I’ll never get enough of him.
A loner dating a celebrity doesn’t make much sense. I don’t know how to be someone’s boyfriend, let alone be in the public eye. But to call him mine, I’ll need to leave the past behind and finally allow myself to move forward with him.
The Loner is an opposites attract romance about a movie star rethinking his career and a bar owner/podcast host who isn’t fond of most people. Expect Southern California sun, swoon, found family and once-in-a-lifetime friendships.
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He looked at me, his eyes suddenly sparkling in this incredible way, as if light was refracting through a glass of whiskey, making a kaleidoscope of browns. The corners of his lips turned up in a smile that took over his whole face. I was pretty sure I shouldn’t want Sebastian or any other guy to look at me that way, but it made my heart speed up and…I didn’t hate it. “What?”
“What, what?” Sebastian countered.
“You’re looking at me funny. Never mind. Is your plan to spend the day in your driveway, because so far that’s all we’re doing.” I tried to sound more annoyed than I was, which was annoying in itself. Sebastian turned me upside down to the point where I couldn’t catch my footing.
“Thank you,” he surprised me by saying.
“Always being real with me. It’s refreshing.”
I cleared my throat, unsure how I felt about his compliment. It wasn’t like I’d spent my life getting a whole lot of them. So I basically acted like an idiot and shrugged. “Let’s go.”
“The funny thing is, I know that’s not what you wanted to say just now.”
“What do you mean? It’s what came out of my mouth,” I said even though I understood what he meant. I’d changed the subject instead of thanking him or getting into a deeper conversation.
“Okay.” Sebastian headed toward his car.
“Nothing. Let’s go! I’m taking you to a castle.”
I frowned. As far as I knew, there weren’t any of those around, but I humored him. We got into his car.
Trying to make conversation, I said, “I figured you’d have more to do, being an actor and all.”
“Are you saying I’m lazy?” he teased.
“Nah, just curious.”
“It really all depends. I don’t have a movie to promote and no upcoming roles, so things are pretty slow. When things kick off for Bound and Determined, I’ll be incredibly busy—talk shows, interviews, red carpets—the whole nine yards. I’m loving this downtime, though.”
“Damn, I couldn’t imagine all that. Plus being away from home so much.” I didn’t know how he did it.
“You get used to it. I can’t pretend it’s not hard sometimes, but other times I really enjoy it.”
From there, Sebastian kept the conversation going on his own. He talked about his family, and chatting to his sister, and wanting to get to Idaho to see them or having them out to California. Apparently, it’d been a while because he’d filmed back-to-back movies, which was still weird to hear—that someone I was close with was a movie star.
I realized he did this often. Sometimes he was cool and calm, but others he got in these moods and would ramble on and on, hardly taking a breath. It was usually when he was really excited about something or really happy. Oddly, it made me wonder if I did things like that and if he noticed them. Had anyone other than my close friends taken the time to know me that way? And why was I thinking about it with Sebastian?
Could I be the reason he got all rambly?
“Have you ever been to Idaho?”
“Can’t say I have.”
“It’s Idaho, so it’s not real exciting, but there are lots of outdoorsy things to do. It’s nice to just get away, ya know? To be in the fresh air and not feel suffocated by the millions of people around you. I love California and would never want to live in Idaho again, but some things about it I miss.”
“I can see that, enjoying the nature and the peace and quiet.”
“You can go with me sometime if you want. I think you’d like it and—”
We both went quiet. Neither of us moved outside of what Sebastian had to do to drive. Had he just…
“Did I just…?”
“I think you did.”
“That was weird.”
“Very.” As was this conversation.
“I didn’t mean to like, invite you home to meet my folks.”
“Of course. That’s not really my thing.”
“And why would it be with me anyway? Also, I didn’t mean to ask you to go on vacation with me either. More like a friendcation, I guess. Friends do that. I’m sure you do with your Beach Bums. I’m never going to stop calling them that, by the way. Not that I’m as close to you as they are. I didn’t mean that either.”
I laughed, and he punched me in the arm.
“You’re always picking on me.”
“You always make it easy,” I teased. “And I didn’t think you meant that.”
He turned to me and cocked a brow. “Which thing, because I word-vomited a lot of dumb shit.”
I couldn’t help chuckling again. Sebastian was good at making me do that, at making me not hate being around people. “Any of it.”
“Good, because I didn’t. Unless you want to go…on a friendcation. Then I meant it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I replied without looking at him.
“Perfect. You should.”
“Are we just going to keep replying about the same thing?” I questioned.
It was Sebastian who laughed first that time, and me who couldn’t help joining in, the two sounds creating a melody that settled into my chest, one I couldn’t stop even if I’d wanted to.
The kicker? I wasn’t sure that I did.
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About the Author
Riley Hart’s love of all things romance shines brightly in everything she writes. Her primary focus is Male/Male romance but under various pen names, her prose has touched practically every part of the spectrum of love and relationships. The common theme that ties them all together is stories told from the heart.
A hopeless romantic herself, Riley is a lover of character-driven plots, many with flawed and relatable characters. She strives to create stories that readers can not only fall in love with, but also see themselves in. Real characters and real love blended together equal the ultimate Riley Hart experience.
When Riley isn’t creating her next story, you can find her reading, traveling, or dreaming about reading or traveling, and spending time with her two perfectly snarky kids, and one swoon-inducing husband.
Riley Hart is represented by Jane Dystel at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret Literary Management. She’s a 2019 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Of Sunlight and Stardust.
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