After landing my dream job at a prestigious PR firm, I’m ready to leave my past behind and hit the ground running. But when I meet my new work partner, I smash headlong into a six-foot-five, two-hundred-pound bad memory named Joe.
In high school, Joe Beneventi had been my almost-best friend. My almost-first lover. My almost-stepbrother. The only thing that wasn’t “almost” about Joe? When he ripped apart our families and then ghosted me for twelve years.
Or two steps back
Now I need Joe’s help to land a career-making deal, but he’s distracting me with hot-as-sin smiles, working me over with flirty lines, baiting me with his rock-hard body.
I’m not buying any of it. Except…
Working together 24/7 is showing me sides of Joe I’ve never seen before. And when we touch, all those bad memories seem to fade away.
Title: One Step Back
Author: Edie Danford
Publisher: Edie Danford
Release Date: October 23, 2018
Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex
Length: 85,000 words
Genre: Romance, Enemies-to-lovers, coworkers, workplace, stepbrothers
I take a deep breath. Gotta prepare myself for being up-close and personal with the force of nature that is Joseph Vincent Beneventi.
“Hey, Joe,” I say, my voice cracking. Not how I’d wanted to sound.
His sexy mouth curves, and I get hit with the full impact of his attention-sucking energy. It zaps across the entryway. Through the guesthouse and the five-acre yard. All of Chicagoland. The state of Illinois, the entire Midwest…
Yeah, you get the picture. Joe has <em>it</em>. Chemical hoodoo-voodoo oozes from his pores and makes you forget whatever it is you’re doing, whatever happened to be on your mind. And all you can do is stand there and stare at him. And listen to the ridiculous shit that comes out of his gorgeous mouth.
I’ve had to cope with this Joe-phenomenon for three years now, as long as his mom and my dad have been dating. Weekends and vacations together at first, and then mostly full time as of last year, after Kim and Bernie got engaged and bought this monstrosity of a property together.
Wedding-planning and “a home where we can be a family” was supposed to bring us stability. Wishful thinking, because things between my dad and Joe’s mom—between all of us, really—seem rockier than ever.
“Hey, you.” Joe leans against the door jamb, killer smile flashing.
He’s a big, glossy beast, and he lights up the night that I’ve tried to darken. I look away from his shining eyes, but his jacked chest and abs, his maybe-too-tight board shorts, his legs, his feet, aren’t any easier to ignore.
“Why didn’t you tell me you’d be home tonight?” he asks. His deep voice has a slight throb, like he’s actually hurt. “You didn’t answer my message. Any of my messages. I get why you didn’t want to show for my amazingly fucking boring graduation, but… I was hoping to hear about your plans. For the summer.”
He reaches up to brush damp hair from his face, the movement popping every muscle from shoulder to wrist. Matty actually sighs from behind me. I try not to notice how the longer hair and the scruff on his chin make Joe look hotter than his usual smoking hellfire.
He spent his senior year at a therapeutic high school here in the Chicago area and the place didn’t demand buzz-cuts the way the military school did. The longer black waves do amazing things for his cheekbones, his squared-off chin, his sin-dark eyes.
I’m supposed to be saying something. So I open my mouth and a lame excuse comes out. “I wasn’t sure about flight times. Until the last minute. Storms in New York.”
He nods, head tilting as he scrutinizes my features. He wants to believe me even though it’s obvious I’m lying. The sky had been clear when I’d jetted away from LaGuardia, my freshman year of college complete.
I’d been avoiding all contact with Joe since Christmas break. I’d figured he’d understand why I didn’t respond to any of his messages today. Or at least take the hint. Hey, Joey, after I don’t answer your two-hundredth-and-seventieth voicemail, maybe that means I don’t want to communicate with you. But Joe is thick in more ways than one.
His dark eyes get warmer as they take me in, the dimple in his right cheek popping. His thumb traces the sand-dollar tattoo under his left nipple, a move I’m sure he’s making unconsciously. I do the same thing sometimes. I have a matching tattoo; we’d gotten them in Mexico during Christmas vacation two years ago. The ’rents had been very confused when both of us suddenly wore rash guards 24/7 for the rest of the break. Joe had come up with a BS-but-brilliant excuse about stingray sightings and the angle of the sun and the chemicals in sunscreen lotion killing off coral reefs.
And, okay. I’m not being fair. Joe isn’t thick. He’s probably smarter than me. He just doesn’t know how to rein in a lot of the bad shit that constantly roams his head. I’ve actually tried to help him figure out some stuff, given him some pointers about how to focus and prioritize—
There’s a crashing noise from the pool area. More shit breaking.
“Fuck,” he mutters, looking over his shoulder.
“You better get back there. Broken glass. Blood. Nastiness. It’s all gonna happen.”
He sighs—a shudder wracking his six-five frame. “Should’ve never invited anyone over.” His smile is crooked. “Your fault. I wouldn’t have had to get up to shenanigans with Bran and Troy if I’d known you’d be here tonight.”
And, there it is.
The reason why he always, always manages to piss me off. I’m not responsible for him. Not responsible for his feelings, for his actions. I refuse to be.
“Not my fault,” I say, my voice cracking again, damn it. I take a step backward, my hand pulling the door closed.
“Asher, come on. You know I didn’t mean it like that—”
I shut the door in his face. Then I pull the blinds closed, blocking out his beauty, blocking out his hurt expression. Maturity can go fuck itself, because literally closing off Joe from my senses will be the only way I can survive the summer.
“Wow,” Matty says.
“Yeah,” I agree.
It’s probably a few hours later when something jolts me awake. It’s Joe looming over me. I must’ve passed out after Matty left. I’m sprawled on the big chaise in the guesthouse’s living room, Joe standing so close his knees are touching the cushion’s edge.
There’s only one light on, a yellow glow coming from the glass-fronted cabinet that displays Joe’s shell collection. It creates weird, streaky shadows across his super-defined chest and abs.
His shorts are dry now, not as tight on his thighs or his package, but I can see he’s erect, a righteous bulge that’s impossible to miss. And, when I look up into his face, my gaze snags on his parted lips, his heavy-lidded eyes .
The house is quiet. No more party outside. When Joe inhales suddenly, I can feel the sharpness of his breath in my own lungs.
I sit, swinging my legs to the side of the chaise, planting my feet on either side of his. He takes my face in his hands. His fingers are warm, familiar, his touch so tender it makes me want to cry.
And, God, when our gazes connect, and I immediately fall into that dark brown and gold I dream about, tears clog my throat, for real.
“Ash,” he whispers, his voice so hoarse I can barely hear it. The pad of his thumb passes over my lower lip. I lick away the taste of him and he sighs. “Damn, I missed you.”
I nod. I can’t speak. It hurts.
Holy book hangover….
I was not ready for this one to end, and praying to get to the end, to make sure these guys got their happily ever after’s, both in equal measure. If there was ever a couple that I was rooting for, it was Ash and his Joey.
Told from both guys’ point of view, we get a first glimpse of their relationship as teenagers, back from their first year at college, staying in the guest house at their parents house. From the very beginning, you can feel how much these guys care about each other. I thought for sure, that this was going to be your typical bad boy leaves and breaks the younger guys heart, kind of story….. but it wasn’t like that at all.. I mean, it was, in a teenie tiny small way…. But it was so much more than that.
They were so different, in just about every way two people could be different, and even though they cared about each other so much, they were both so young and I feel like the time they spent apart was kind of needed, to figure things out for themselves and who they were as people. It hurt, and it sucked in the worst way, because you could tell how much they missed each other, that even after 11 years apart they still loved each other so much.
Thrown together on a job, across the country from each other, but meeting back in their home state… how is that not fate? …. But, both of them had hurt feelings and so much history between them, that it was hard for both of them to forget. My heart broke for Asher, of course, because he loved Joey so much, but for Joe, Asher was the other half of him. I can’t even explain how rare that it is to find in a story. Honestly…. And I read, A LOT… and very few grip me to the point that I’m hurting with these fictional people. Things are not easy, and even though they still love each other, it’s angsty and hard, and emotional… kind of like real life, eh?
Bravo to this author, who I’ve only read one other book from but will be changing that, immediately.. But, I’m so happy to report that not only did these two find a way through all the obstacles they had standing in their way that made things feel impossible, possible. They fought fr each other, and Asher fought for Joe, which he needed to do, I feel like. Everyone should’ve fought for Joe, he was so worth it. I kind of fell in love with him too a little bit. He was complicated and complex, but he was perfect…. More than that, he was perfect for Asher.
And in a totally selfish fashion, I’m gonna request we get more of these two! I wasn’t ready for them to end!
Sighh…. It probably seems so confusing, so you should probably just go on and read it… You’ll be happy you did…. Even though it’s a bit angsty, and I’m not big on angst… I can promise that it’s 100% worth it. 100%
5 stars from me!
This is a new to me author, so I was going in blind. But I really like second chance love, so I jumped in. Good call on my part.
Asher and Joe are soon to be step brothers who fall in love. But Asher isn’t willing to come out to his bigoted father. Until the issue is forced. But then everything falls apart and Asher and Joe don’t see each other for 11 years.
I loved Joe. Loved him. I think part of it is that I see someone I love in him, but also because of his big heart. This kid comes off as a dumb jock- but he is really anything but. No one really sees that though- except Asher.
The story is told going back and forth from present to past. And some times that really bothers me- but in this case it worked really well. And going into the past wasn’t even linear. We went from 11 years ago, to 15 years ago, back to 11 years ago. And it worked.
The story was a little bit drawn out, but not overly so. I didn’t get bored reading. And I could have used a good fight between them. Because Joe always runs and Asher doesn’t always stand up for himself.
Even though they were *almost* step brothers, the story wasn’t really told from a family point of view so I never felt that it had that taboo thing, and I don’t think it was meant to.
The sex scenes were incredibly hot (although, yes a bit plentiful) and well written. You could feel the love between these guys.
A solid read with good characters who I really cared about.
4 pieces of eye candy
Edie lives in Vermont with her husband, two sons, and random creatures that might or might not be pets. She loves libraries (where she’s found play, work, and love since she was a kid), long walks (unless ice is involved), lewd language (in the right context), luscious romance (of any variety), and alliteration.