In Step: Painted Bay #3
Author: Jay Hogan
Genre: MM Romance
Tropes: Small Town | Opposites attract | Hurt/comfort | Forced Proximity | Age Gap | Redemption | Forgiveness | Coming out | Living your truth | Found family | Humour
When hearts collide on the dance floor.
Catch up with the whole series here: https://readerlinks.com/l/2094148
Karma. You reap what you sow, and KANE MARTIN isn’t looking for forgiveness.
But the arrival of ABE TYLER in Painted Bay has Kane dreaming of the impossible. The sexy, silver fox choreographer is determined to pull Kane out from the shadows, but Abe’s career isn’t about to shift to Painted Bay, and Kane’s life is in neat little boxes for a reason.
A past he isn’t proud of.
A family he’s walked away from.
A job he doesn’t deserve.
A secret he’s ashamed of.
But life’s dance can make for unexpected partners, and learning to trust and keep up with the footwork is the name of the game.
Two steps forward, one step back.
It takes two to tango.
Trigger Warning: Contains references to past abuse and bullying.
The pattering rain grew heavy on the iron roof and my thoughts ran to the beautiful guy I’d glimpsed in the window above the garage the night before. His name was Kane, apparently. He worked with Fox and Leroy and rented the bedsit, and I wondered why Judah had made no mention of him when he’d given me a rundown on virtually the entire town.
Even in the gloom and lit only by the reflected porch light, Kane’s stunning good looks and shoulder-length sun-bleached locks belonged on the cover of a surfing magazine, not manning a boat on a mussel farm. Just the memory had my cock thickening in my hand. Nope. I dropped it with a groan. Way too creepy since I was surely gonna have to talk to the guy at some point.
Get a life, Abraham.
The click of claws on wood made their way up the hall and a black nose pushed my door open. I scooted back and patted the bed. “Come on, gorgeous.”
Mack pushed through and jumped on the bed, quickly settling in a big lump behind my knees. Prue followed soon after, curling her small feline body into a ball between Mack’s front paws.
“So that’s how it’s going to be, huh?” I scratched Mack behind the ears. “Why do I sense I’m being played here? Are you normally allowed on the bed?”
They both ignored me.
“Okay, you get a free pass this time, but I’m taking it under advisement. One word from your daddies and this is all over. Now move over, you’re hogging the blankets and there’s a dirty paw print on my damn sheet. I th—” I jumped at the loud knock on the front door right outside my bedroom.
At this hour? I got up on one elbow to peek through the window. Huh. Surfer boy himself. But with no answering footsteps from Leroy and Fox’s bedroom, I figured they were still . . . occupied.
“Guess I’m it.” I threw back the covers and bounced out of bed, shivering with the sudden wash of cold over my bed-warm skin. “Shit.” I glanced down at my black briefs, then briefly considered my still-unpacked bag before pulling the spare blanket around my waist instead and hotfooting it to the front door. The glacial blast when I hauled it open almost knocked me sideways and instantly pebbled my skin.
“Damn, that’s cold.” I fumbled the blanket up under my armpits but not before I noticed Kane’s eyes bug out of their sockets. “Sorry.” I motioned back down the hall. “It’s just me. Leroy and Fox are . . .” I snorted in amusement. “Well, they’re likely having a lot more fun than either of us and getting a damn sight warmer in the process. How can I help you? It’s Kane, right?”
Kane nodded, still staring at my naked chest, and for some ridiculous reason, my cheeks warmed. Oh, for fuck’s sake. I was far too old and comfortable in my own skin for that rubbish. I danced for a living and there wasn’t a square inch of my skin that hadn’t come under intense scrutiny at one time or another. Age might’ve frayed me around the edges a bit—I wasn’t as tight or streamlined as I used to be—but I didn’t suck for a forty-two-year-old who was pushing middle age and with a perilous fondness for pasta.
“Kane? Hello?” I sucked in a breath laced with a strong hit of ocean salt.
“Um.” He licked his lips and his gaze shot up as if suddenly aware he’d been staring, and I got a good look at his eyes for the first time. They were the clearest, deepest blue, like those tropical lagoons you drooled over in tourist brochures. Although that’s where the similarity ended as they jackrabbited nervously across my face, making me wonder what the hell I’d done to unnerve the guy.
“I, um, came to drop off the food,” he muttered, still not meeting my eyes. “For Mack.” He dropped the weighty bag of dog food on the deck at my feet, pulled up the waistband of his jeans, and turned to leave.
“Wait.” My hand shot out. “We haven’t met. I’m Abe Tyler. I’m staying with Leroy and Fox while I help Judah out with his class recital.”
Kane stared at my hand for a second like it might bite him, and his grasp when it came was cool, dry, and very short. “Hi. I’m Kane Martin.” He blushed prettily. “But then . . . you obviously know that.” Once again, those magnetic-blue eyes flitted away, and I realised Kane was older than the whole surfer vibe indicated—closer to thirty than twenty.
“Yeah, Leroy mentioned your name and that you worked with them. It was you at the window last night, right?” I inclined my head toward the bedsit, prolonging an unnecessary conversation that was turning me into a human popsicle. But the man in front of me was as gorgeous as I remembered, and a man’s balls worked strange magic on his brain that way. “We, ah, waved.” I bit back a smile and he blushed. He fucking blushed.
Kane tugged at his jeans, then glanced up at the bedsit and sighed. “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to be nosy—” He hesitated and the flush deepened. “Yeah, total lie. It’s a small town, you know?” He dropped his gaze and scuffed the sole of his boot on the old plank deck worn smooth with age.
I chuckled. “I get it. I came from a small town too.” I willed him to look at me, wanting another moment with those cobalt eyes and the cut-glass cheekbones with a spray of freckles like someone had thrown chocolate hail and only a few had stuck—a darkly sweet and all-too-inviting constellation.
“Really?” He finally met my gaze. “I thought you hailed from Wellington?”
I shook my head. “We moved to Wellington when I was eight. But I was actually born in Reefton on the South Island. You don’t get much more small-town New Zealand than that. Couldn’t wait to leave, to be honest.”
His lips quirked up, soft and red and . . . fuck me, I wanted nothing more than to kiss them. They were the only soft thing about Kane. Like his cheekbones and the hollow beneath them, everything else seemed a little too sharp, a little too thin, a little too . . . hungry. Like the tips of his shoulders that poked through his sweater and the outline of his clavicle at its neck. The bulky knit hung loose on a narrow frame over a pair of jeans that seemed perilously close to falling from his hips, judging by the number of times he hauled them up. I felt the ridiculous urge to sit him down and feed some meat onto those bones.
Heart, Humour, & Keepin’ It Real
Jay is a 2020 Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Gay Romance and her book Off Balance was the 2021 New Zealand Romance Book of the Year. She is a New Zealand author writing mm romance and romantic suspense, primarily set in New Zealand. She writes character driven romances with lots of humour, a good dose of reality and a splash of angst. She’s travelled extensively, lived in many countries, and in a past life she was a critical care nurse, nurse educator and counsellor.
Jay is owned by a huge Maine Coon cat and a gorgeous Cocker Spaniel
Find Jay in all the places: https://www.jayhoganauthor.com/landingpage
[I received a digital arc for an honest review]
In Step is the third book in the Painted Bay series by Jay Hogan. While I guess this could be read as a standalone, I highly recommend reading the first two books in the series because it revolves around a close-knit circle of people.
Kane Martin is living his life in the shadows. Trying to get back on his feet, even though he’s not sure of the direction he’s headed. He made some really horrible choices as a teen, and he’s still living with the consequences. He has no friends and no family, having lost contact with his sister he was once close to. He’s accepted his lot in life and doesn’t expect people to forgive him for his past actions. Que, Abe Tyler, dance choreographer and close friend to a man he greatly wronged in the past. Abe can’t reconcile the angry teen he’s heard about with the man he’s met, and doesn’t let Kane’s past keep him away. The more time they steal together in private, the more Kane steps out of the shadows he hides in and blossoms under Abe’s care. But Abe’s only here for a limited amount of time, and what they start to build is so much more than a fling. Will future’s on different paths keep them apart, not matter how much they both have fallen.
“Abe had walked into my lonely life and brought music and dance and joy and courage and love along with him, and I’d never be the same. It had been worth every shattered piece of my heart that was surely about to come.”
I knew Kane’s book was going to be a heavy one because I knew that there had to be so much more to his backstory and I knew it was going to break my heart, and it did. I don’t know where to start b/c #NoSpoilers, but Kane instantly captured my heart and I wanted to wrap him in a big bubble. He had taken a lot of hits in life but he was still standing, and he had so much love to give which was shown in his care and love for the animals around him. He was a sweet, fun and caring soul that was hidden by his mistakes of the past.
“No one had ever said I was beautiful or looked at me with anything like what was in Abe’s eyes – like I was something special, like he actually f*cking cared about me.”
Then we have Abe , the silver fox, who showed Kane he was worth so much more than he was allowing himself and just how special he was. As an outsider to the drama of Painted Bay, he was able to lift people’s eyes to what they were missing out on by keeping Kane on the outskirts. He used patience, honesty, and his love and talent of dance to help Kane bloom.
“Whether he was in my arms on the dance floor or lying on his bed, when he let me see behind those walls, it felt right . He felt right. And because when I was with him, I came alive in ways I couldn’t explain.”
The romance between Kane and Abe is passionate and steamy, both in the bedroom and on the dance floor. The dancing scenes between them might have been more powerful than the bedroom. The connection, the emotion just bled from the pages when they were in each other’s arms.
In Step by Jay Hogan is a well-balanced emotional romance. Where you’ll find an age gap, forgiveness, acceptance, tangos, passion, bonfire dancing, and snuggling cats.
Content Warming: homophobic slur, discussion of past child abuse, discussion of death or a parent
the following CW can be considered spoilers:
[ HIV positive MC, a parents declining mental health }]