Today I am super stoked to welcome Santino Hassell to OMGReads. Santino is here to share with us about his latest release, Citywide. He’ll also be sharing an original short story with us, plus a great giveaway! Please join me in giving him a big welcome!
I collided with several people in my haste to get the hell away from the dance floor. My heels clacked like firecrackers as I darted out of the room and down the cobblestone walkway to… wherever. The place Michael and Nunzio had picked out for their wedding was honestly a dream. It was artsy but urban with exposed brick, vaulted ceilings, and a mixture of outdoor and indoor spaces that had gone unused during the ceremony. There were low golden lights everywhere, illuminating the brick and playing off the beautiful pinks of the setting sun. Not to mention the view of the bridge, the river, and the Manhattan skyline.
The setting was ridiculously romantic given I felt like my heart had just been torn out of my chest. And wasn’t that dramatic? I was caught fully in my feelings due to a ten-minute conversation I hadn’t even been able to hear. But I’d observed Angel’s face light up like a Christmas tree as soon as Crystal had hugged him, and the easy way they’d conversed despite not seeing each other in over a year. Old friends. Close friends. Easy laughs. Big smiles. Lots of touching.
Nothing like what had been going on between Angel and me for the past couple of months. Ever since I’d let myself slip slide down the rabbit hole of more-than-sex for the first time in years, and had been rebuffed, there had been radio silence between us. My call. All my call. But I missed him so much I felt it with every single breath.
It was weird since… I’d honestly thought I could flip him off, turn my back, and walk away to find a new shiny to play with. Sure, all of those kiddy feelings had come roaring back louder than ever as soon as I’d noticed him noticing me more often than normal, but I’d assured myself I could dismiss him the way I had so many other guys in the past. That I would be fine. I was always fine.
But this time I wasn’t.
This time I missed the moments when he’d shoot me a text about coming through mere seconds before showing up at my doorstep with a pizza and that sly smile. The way he’d have me up against the wall before either of us made it across the living room. How he seemed addicted to touching me after years of us not even holding eye contact for more than half a second. And the times we’d fallen asleep together before waking up in the middle of the night to make a midnight snack and watch WWE or UFC together in bed.
That had lasted for all of three months before the moment when I’d realized he was a total fuckboy who thought he was too good for me.
I stopped walking long enough to take off my heels before wandering the space to find a bathroom. There were too many people back there who would see me with tears in my eyes, and I wasn’t about that. If there was one thing I’d learned from my brother, it was that you never let people see you hurting. Especially if they were the ones who hurt you. But Angel was so oblivious he probably didn’t even know I was upset.
The sound of laughter and voices dimmed, and my heart rate slowly returned to normal. When I finally spotted a bathroom and stepped inside, the cool blast from the air conditioner further settled over my nerves. Exhaling slowly, I walked to the small row of sinks and looked into the mirror. Somehow, even with my insides roiling, I looked the same as I had hours ago when I’d gotten ready. The only difference was the slight redness to my eyes and the damp sheen.
I pressed my palms to the surface of the sink and stared at myself. Make up untouched, outfit flawless, hair on point—I looked good. I always looked good. And I didn’t give a damn who judged me for knowing it. But right now something about the perfection scraped away at my struggle to get myself under control because it was so fake. Perfect Stephanie, the unflappable girl who never stressed the small shit, felt like an act at the moment.
I’d always been good at putting on a show. Pretending I didn’t care until the people around me, even the people who mattered, believed it. They bought my sarcasm and cavalier comments, and they believed it when I told them to fuck off because it didn’t matter. I’d be fine. Just like my brother would be fine. We’d always been fine even when our parents weren’t. Even though I’d always been the one keeping everything together.
The door opened behind me and I jumped. Angel’s reflection appeared behind me, handsome as hell in his all black suit and matching shirt. No tie. Top button undone. Dark blond hair brushing his collar.
I opened my mouth to speak, but no sound came out. Words trapped in my throat with his light green eyes pinning into me, the knit of his brow, and press of his lips. He was worried about me, which meant some how he did know I was upset.
“You coincidentally walked this far away to find a bathroom?” I asked dryly. “Or are you trying to find a way to dip? I know how much you hate happy gatherings.”
Angel didn’t take the bait. “You all right, nena?”
“What?” I scoffed and turned around, leaning against the counter with my arms crossed. “Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Because—“ Angel glanced over his shoulder, started to say something and seemed to think better of it. “You just took off.”
“Mmm. No.” I shook my head slowly. “I think you’re reading a lot into my need to pee.”
Angel kept staring at me in the way he always did—like those serious eyes were picking me apart until he knew every inch of my insides as well as my out. But considering the number of times we’d fucked during our two months of fooling around, he ought to.
I waited for him to say something else, but he didn’t. He just kept staring at me with eyes that never once dropped lower than my face. My body warmed to him even though I wanted more than anything to stay ice cold.
“Do you need something, Sharky?”
Finally, he snorted. “Since when do you call me that?”
“Why not? That’s what your friends call you.”
“Yeah, they do. But not you.” He reached out to put two fingers under my chin, tilting my face up just slightly. I wanted to yank away from him, but I held his gaze. “You always stuck to Angel. Or Angelito.”
“I did, but like I said… Sharky is what your friends call you.”
He stared at me a minute, thoughtful and quiet and mean looking just because that was how his handsome face settled, before stepping closer. I leaned against the counter with my hands curling around the edge.
“So, we’re friends now.”
I arched an eyebrow without response.
“All right fine,” he said. “But then what were we before?”
“Before we started fucking or before we started watching each other get off and pretending that was a platonic activity?” I asked, powering through and ignoring the way his eyes automatically narrowed and the way he took another step towards me. “Might want to be a little more specific.”
“You never called me that since we met. So, if you’re switching it up now because we’re friends, then how’d you think of me before?”
I clenched my jaw as he put a hand on either side of me, caging me between his long muscular arms while keeping distance between us. It didn’t help. Up close, it was easy to get lost in those light green eyes with the orange flecks.
“There’s clearly a certain answer you want to hear, so just tell yourself that and stop interrogating me in a bathroom.”
“You’ve got no fucking clue what I want to hear,” he said, sharper this time. “You’ve got no clue what I’m thinking.”
“You made it pretty clear,” I countered. “But even before you said the words, I knew you were embarrassed to be sleeping with me. Wanted to hide it from our own friends even though they already know.”
My words had started out mocking, light, but by the time I stumbled to the end of my little rant, everything had thickened and jumbled. He was the only person who could wrench out this kind of response from me besides my brother, and I wanted to hate him for it, but I couldn’t. So, I just raised an eyebrow and painted on a mocking smile betrayed by the dampness in my eyes.
If he noticed, he didn’t show it. He just ran his tongue over his teeth, inhaled sharply, and leaned in closer. “I’m gonna need you to stop running that same line of bullshit. I never said I was—“
“You didn’t have to say it. You finger fucked me while our friends were in bed ten feet away, and still tried to pretend we were just drunk or they were drunk and misunderstood. You couldn’t cop to the fact that we’d been fooling around for weeks. That you—“
“And that had nothing to do with me being embarrassed,” he said, voice rising again. “I fucking told you that before and you still told me to stay away from you. It was you who told me to stop hitting you up.”
I looked away, face burning. Everything in me wanted to deny deny deny, but he was right. I had.
Short to be continued in part 2, here, on Wednesday, November 15.
And to read the follow-up novella where Stephanie and Angel get their happily ever after, order CITYWIDE now!
A record-breaking heat wave engulfs the Five Boroughs, and emotions run as hot as the temperatures.
In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn’t include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.
In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn’t Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere’s life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.
In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it’s a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently “off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.
sooooooooooooo much heart!!
Okay, so here’s what needs to happen …. EVERYONE needs to experience this Anthology. I cannot tell you how much joy each of these stories brought to my heart. I’m especially fond of Rerouted and Derailed!!!
Now, before you read Rerouted you really need to read Corrupting Chris, which is FREE so no excuses and you MUST read Third Rail, also FREE, to get a full picture of this beautiful M/M/M relationship. I never gave Chris a second thought before these short stories were published. Yes, I knew his character because I’ve read this entire series, but it never occurred to me his story would not only interest me, but tug at my heart so damn much! Chris’ journey with Jace and Aiden turned out to be magnificently sweet and sexy from beginning to end. *happy sigh*
Derailed blew my heart right out of its chest! I would categorize it as the second most emotional story in this series, next to Sutphin Boulevard of course. Stephanie and Angel have history. Not the kind of history that is in the past. They have history that is past, present and future. They are destined but can’t stop tripping over themselves
“Why are we so bad at everything?”
Angel kissed my forehead. “We’re bad at trying not to be in love with each other. That’s it.”
Until they stopped tripping and it was magical
“We’re really doing this,” he whispered.
“We’ve got this, Angelito,” I said softly. “I promise.
I enjoyed reading Meredith and Tonya’s journey in Gridlocked but it was hard for me to feel their romance. I read it and it was hot, but I couldn’t connect. But you know what, Santino Hassell is still a word wizard. There is nothing this man cannot write and write it well. He is so unbelievably talented it’s ridiculously. Seriously. He’s untouchable. If you haven’t experienced his words yet, you’re missing out on a momentous experience #TRUST
Copy provided by Riptide Publishing for blog tour review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Santino has this ability to construct a story where the words just knock you for six by describing a moment or situation so truthfully and without apology it’s like he’s pistol whipping you with words. There are so many moments throughout this book where he just nails it dead on. What a rare gift it is to hone in on the heart of a moment or a feeling and depict it so utterly perfectly, with heart and meaning and humour. In this anthology he yet again proves his unparalleled worth. Santino’s destined for even bigger things and he deserves every bit of success that comes his way and then some. The respect he has from readers and peers is testament to his skill as an exceptional storyteller.
Going back to the 5B’s was like returning home. With characters you feel a kinship with and who have such solid friendships that are rare to find and you’d be blessed to have. In any book you’ll find meaningful exchanges between people that touch you in some way; or can relate to on some level and even that hit at the very heart of you, well this book was chock-full of them.
Chris Mendez is my homeboy. There’s just something so endearing about the guy, he’s so likeable, precious and loyal to a fault and I’d be damn lucky if he was my friend―I just want to tackle hug him and not let go. If there’s one guy who deserves a HEA, it’s him. His heart to heart with David broke me and I felt so much for him, because we’ve all had that unrequited crush and been passed over for a better option and it cuts like a knife. To see someone so inherently good and worthy standing on the sidelines looking in really touched me.
Chris’s musings on Ray and David: “It was like a Pinterest photo for relationship goals.”
How can a character speak a line that is so full of their history and be so indicative of their past? This was a guy so in need of some love and affection to call his own
“…Not everyone is like me and catches feelings after a couple of rolls in the bed.”
To see Chris’s relationship develop with Jace and Aiden by putting his heart on the line and then finding out that he wasn’t the only one feeling afraid and that this wasn’t a disjointed union. Chris became the last piece of this poly jigsaw and boy did he fit! Everyone was what everyone needed.
Tonya Maldonado is one stone cold cookie; she reminds me of Raymond in that she’s so protective and she’ll go berserk at anyone who might harm or disrespect her friends. She doesn’t do romance, the odd hook-up has been sufficient, but when Meredith enters the picture, we start to see her thaw a little and begin to want something of her own for the first time and that was amazing to see.
“Don’t ruin the vibe, Meredith.”
We see there’s more to Meredith than just being a rich party girl, she desperately needs an anchor and Tonya’s strong enough to be that for her. Cue a lot of hesitation and when a job offer comes Tonya’s way, some give and take on both ends is required.
Stephanie, oh Stephanie… I worship this girl. She’s so forthright and plays to her own tune without any apologies and I love her for it. She’s so guilt-free and open with her sexuality; if she wants it and it feels good, why the hell not? With a background as broken as hers, who can blame her for taking her pleasure where she finds it. Man, did I fall for Angel. He’s solid as a rock, dependable and ever so sexy and has been in love with Steph since they were kids. He’s knows what he wants but he’s just torturing himself waiting for Steph, she’ll never want to be his alone and it might be time to cut the cord ‘cos it’s killing him.
“I just want to be yours. Yeah, the only one you want to sleep with, but I also wanna be your go-to person…”
Seeing Steph wrestle with the fear of losing Angel to someone else but being too terrified to give in and give a relationship a try touched my heart. Things have got to come to a head and with it the realisation that sometimes you’ve just got to just jump and trust that everything will be okay.
This return to the Boroughs was everything I’d hope it’d be and such a whole lot more, I really cared about these guys and I want to be in their squad. They’re just so real and I can relate to parts of each characters personality, I’m alot Chris, a little bit Steph, you get the drift and they’re who I wanna hang with when I escape real life. This is a place where I’ll revisit often. You have my heart Queens crew, I love you!
Review Copy requested and reviewed on behalf of OMG Reads.
About the Five Boroughs Universe
New York City—home of soaring skyscrapers, concrete boulevards, and the hopes and dreams of millions. A city where opposites attract and romance is found in unlikely places. From the glittering penthouses of Manhattan to the blue collar neighborhoods of Queens, values get tested, cultures clash, and connections made. Men of diverse backgrounds examine their lives, test their sexual boundaries, and seek success in an unforgiving urban landscape that moves fast and stops for no one. Despite the odds, there’s love to be found in the five boroughs as long as they’re willing to work for it.
To learn more about the first three books in the Five Boroughs universe, please visit http://santinohassell.com/books/
About Santino Hassell
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family but grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a grumpy introvert and unlikely romance author with an affinity for baseball caps. His novels are heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, and his desire to write relationships fueled by intensity and passion.
He’s been a finalist in both the Bisexual Book Awards and the EPIC Awards, and was nominated for a prestigious RITA award in 2017. His work has been featured in BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Washington Post, RT Magazine, and Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Connect with Santino:
To celebrate the release of Citywide, one lucky winner will receive a $10 Riptide gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 18, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.
Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!