Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M romance from Anni Lee. I DO (NOT) features a marriage-averse hotel clerk waking up in Vegas with a hangover and a beautiful ring on his finger. And, a stranger in his bed. Let the chaos ensue as he unravels the mystery of his unexpected marriage.
Not now, not “someday,” and certainly not when he’s black-out drunk at his sister’s wedding in Las Vegas. The whole “waking up in an unfamiliar hotel room with a ring on his finger” thing was probably just a coincidence. Definitely.
He doesn’t have much time to dwell on it anyway, as Aaron Craig, his boss, assigns him to be the glorified baby sitter for his older brother for the week. Trevor Craig is as obnoxious as he is handsome, immediately pushing all of Jacob’s buttons and all of his boundaries. With one brother trying his patience, and the other acting unusually friendly, Jacob’s starting to wonder if he’s going to survive his work life long enough to find who put that ring on his finger.
How about a taste?
Beep beeep beeeeeep
“Shut up,” I groaned through the throbbing pain permeating my skull. My eyes were still crusted shut, dried out from not nearly enough sleep, leaving me to locate the offending alarm clock through blind flailing.
Wait. When did I set an alarm? Better yet—when did I buy a clock? I forced my eyes open, barely managing more than a squint as my body protested this early rise. My hand instinctively blocked sunlight poking through the blinds, my only chance to continue this act of defiance.
The room didn’t look familiar. Cream-colored walls, a chocolate-colored bed. I was more of a black and white kind of guy myself. The silhouette of tall buildings teased through thin window shades, and the unmistakable scent of champagne stuck to my clothes.
I lifted my hand to rub my eyes, trying to defeat the last of my lingering exhaustion, when the sensation of metal unexpectedly touched my eyelid. I looked at my hand, startled and confused. It was as it always was. That scar I had gotten as a kid still crossed my palm, traces of glitter, undoubtedly from some stripper’s backside, sparkled from my fingertips. But there was one glaring problem. On my finger sat a ring. Silver and smooth and impossible to miss.
It was all coming back now. The shots. The chiming of slot machines. The shots. The bars filled with eye candy. The shots. The strippers filling my mouth with whipped cream. The shots. The battle with gravity as I stumbled down the strip. The shots. The…chapel?
At that moment, I finally found the courage to turn my head, just enough for my peripheral vision to catch the lump in the blanket next to me. It wasn’t just any lump. It was breathing. Steadily and comfortably, surely in the middle of a wonderful dream. This lump was long and slender—and a mess of midlength brown hair scattered over the pillow, just poking out from under the covers.
I climbed out of bed, careful not to disturb whoever was lying next to me. My slacks and my boxers were both conspicuously absent although I still had my half-buttoned shirt clinging to my chest. I guess there hadn’t been time to completely remove everything. Priorities and all.
The pants had been haphazardly thrown onto the couch, my underwear somehow made it on the television. I looked best I could but I didn’t see where I had tossed my dignity. I must have left it in one of those shot glasses.
There was no time to shower. I didn’t want to risk the noise. I slipped into my clothes, crept out of the room, and closed the door as silently as possible. A maid was already walking the halls with her cleaning cart, making sure there was someone to bear witness to my walk of shame. She gave me a knowing look as I walked by. Although the scent of sex and alcohol was so strong, I couldn’t have fooled her even if I had been walking out of a church.
I took a cab to the airport and slogged through a fast food breakfast, hoping the greasy eggs might counteract the pounding that was still going on in my head. I was five hours early for my plane, but I felt the airport waiting room was a fitting punishment for my life choices. Hopefully, what happens in Vegas really does stay in Vegas.
Jacob Conner is a 26 y/o out gay desk clerk for the Craig Hotel in San Francisco. He begins the morning after his sister’s wedding at the Craig Las Vegas waking with a sterling hangover and a platinum band on his left ring finger. And a person asleep in the bed beside him. Regretting the many, many tequila shots he’d taken the night before he silently dresses, departs the room and heads for the airport to (hopefully) return to his normal life without the interruption of a possible spouse. He can’t remember much after a strip club, and he’s absolutely opposed to marriage–having learned the hard way from his dad who is going on his 9th (or 10th) marriage.
At work on his next shift, Jake is surprised that his normally terse boss, Aaron Craig, is inquiring about his weekend, and his history in San Francisco. It seems out of place, until Mr. Craig drops the bomb that his older half-brother, Trevor, will be arriving the next day and he wants Jake to be his guide and chaperone, so Trevor will not make a scandal of himself, or miss the many shareholder meetings for Craig Hotels Inc. that are happening at the San Francisco branch all week. This means Jake needs to keep outspoken and party-happy Trevor sober and on-point as his adult babysitter. He does not have time to worry about his own personal life now, and Trevor’s outrageous come-ons make it hard to focus on anything but being professional. At first.
See, Jake’s still got his ring, and it’s a very specific brand, one carried by a jeweler with exclusive ties to the Craig Hotel–which Trevor recognizes because he runs the Las Vegas Craig hotel–the very one that hosted Jake’s sister’s wedding the previous weekend. Trevor thinks that Aaron’s been keeping sexy and accommodating Jake as lover on the down-low, and is stunned to realize that Jake is not his boy toy. No, Aaron is too staid and to dedicated to their emotionally-abusive and manipulative father to indulge in diddling the help–not that it ever stopped their father. Oh, did I mention Daddy Dearest is a total scumbag? And that he married Trevor’s mother as a business deal, but despoiled her younger sister to beget Aaron? Classy. Still, he wants the Craig hotel empire to be a family affair, so he’s now pushing both Trevor and Aaron to make aaproved marriages with daughters of shareholders or other business partners.
Trevor isn’t down for that. And, he isn’t sure that Aaron is either. The brothers have a long standing feud though, due to a previous lover’s quarrel, and Trevor isn’t willing to step between Jake and Aaron, if they are in love with one another. Though, honestly, he hopes they are not. And, he’s really hoping the Aaron will choose his own happiness over their dad’s Machiavellian schemes, for a change. During the tumultuous week of meetings, meet-ups and make outs, Jake is fully flustered, to the point of exhaustive illness. And it’s up to these scarred billionaire brothers to set things right, and plot courses that will lead them to their ture dreams.
I liked this one, with the alternating points of view from Jake, Trevor and Aaron. There are a bit of repeats, but not so much as it truly bogged the story, as they each brought insight and backstory that was unique, and filled in Jake’s murky memories. He’s stunned to learn that Aaron had feelings for him, for a very long time, but his fear of Dad’s retribution, and Trevor’s supposed conniving, kept him from treating Jake with anything less than professional indifference. Their encounter in Vegas was kismet and coincidence, but ultimately a moment in time to not necessarily be repeated. Or not. Trevor has a past and history as a bad-boy and unreliable, but his actions speak far louder than Aaron’s words, and Trevor’s willing to make sure Jake is never second-best. The choice remains for Jake to make, the brother he knows, or the one he doesn’t? Which man could be the one to help him build a life of his dreams, even if marriage is not going to be a part of the plans? It was a whirlwind of a ride, and I was turning pages near the end to find out which of these very different, but interesting and capable, men would be his. NOt to give anything away….he does choose a Craig. A wee bit of steam at the VERY end. I recommend to folks who like family intrigue dramas, and slow burn romances.
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About the Author:
Whether she’s racing motorcycles faster than a RomCom lead’s beating heart, or scuba diving deeper than the pit of love they fall into, Anni Lee is always down for an adventure. She was born and raised in Los Angeles with four siblings and a single mother, which is probably why she has such a penchant for writing big city love and tenacious (albeit dysfunctional) heroes.
When she’s not typing away behind her laptop, she’s living out of a tent off the back of her motorcycle on her quest to ride around the world. The wilderness is the best place to catch up on reading, after all!