I am so excited to bring Adriana Herrera’s third book in her Dreamers series to Frolic. I reviewed American Dreamer and we published an excerpt of American Fairytale earlier this year, and now I can’t wait to dive into American Love Story. You’ll see what I mean when you read the synopsis and excerpt below. And don’t forget to check out Adriana’s playlist!
About American Love Story
Haitian-born professor and activist Patrice Denis is not here for anything that will veer him off the path he’s worked so hard for. One particularly dangerous distraction: Easton Archer, the assistant district attorney who last summer gave Patrice some of the most intense nights of his life, and still makes him all but forget they’re from two completely different worlds.
All-around golden boy Easton forged his own path to success, choosing public service over the comforts of his family’s wealth. With local law enforcement unfairly targeting young men of color, and his career — and conscience — on the line, now is hardly the time to be thirsting after Patrice again. Even if their nights together have turned into so much more.
For the first time, Patrice is tempted to open up and embrace the happiness he’s always denied himself. But as tensions between the community and the sheriff’s office grow by the day, Easton’s personal and professional lives collide. And when the issue at hand hits closer to home than either could imagine, they’ll have to work to forge a path forward…together.
I’d never been the jealous type, but whatever was happening had turned me into a possessive asshole when I was around Patrice. I’d been seething in silence for the past twenty minutes, watching him get chatted up by some guy at Nesto and Jude’s party. I had no clue who he was, but he’d been stuck to Patrice like a fucking shadow since I’d gotten here thirty minutes ago.
“You can’t actually burn a hole through a person by staring, Easton.”
I turned around and saw Jude standing behind me with an amused look on his face.
“I don’t know,” I said through gritted teeth. “I feel like I was making progress. Who is that anyway?”
He used his glass of rosé to point in the direction of Patrice and his new chat buddy. “That’s Peter. He’s a mathematics professor from somewhere on the West Coast. He knows Ted from undergrad and was here for the week doing something up at Cornell. They brought him along since he’s not leaving until the morning. No need to worry, he will be on his way out of town soon.” Jude was having a little too much fun at my expense.
I kept looking in Patrice’s direction, but turned my head slightly to continue talking with Jude. It seemed my desperation was showing.
“Am I that obvious?”
Jude chuckled and took a sip of his wine before answering. “It wouldn’t say super obvious, but I may be hyperaware of people pining in silence. It was kind of my thing for a while.”
In that moment Patrice turned his head and finally looked my way. When his eyes landed on me, the intensity in them heated my skin. For a second he looked at me like he was reaching across the room to touch me. It was gone in a flash though, and then he was back to aloof Patrice, but it was too late. I’d felt the heat of his stare on me.
I pointed at the sideboard where they’d set up the bar. Which was conveniently located next to Patrice. “I’m going to get myself another drink.”
This dynamic was becoming a pattern for us: Patrice momentarily letting his guard down and me pouncing.
Carmen scoffed, “We can tell you’re thirsty, Easton. You go and get yourself that drink.”
I started walking and turned to respond to Carmen, “You’re hilarious.”
I heard Jude and Carmen laugh as I made my way to Patrice.
When I got to him, he had an amused look on his face, obviously entertained by whatever those two were doing behind me.
I pointed my thumb in their direction as I stood next to Patrice. “Are they making fun of me?”
Patrice shook his head, and the sides of his mouth lifted enough that it could almost be considered a smile.
“I wouldn’t call it making fun, but they seem to find whatever you said pretty entertaining.”
I looked over at the guy who’d been talking to Patrice and held my hand out.
“Peter Black. Nice to meet you.” I shook his hand with more force than necessary as Patrice stood there placidly, unaware that I was basically ready to challenge the guy to a duel over him.
The handshake went on a little longer than was reasonable and I barely refrained from grabbing my dick and posturing, all while Patrice looked at me like he was not sure what was wrong with me. But I’d seen that smile when he spotted me across the room a moment ago, so I was staying strong.
Fuck Pete and his sweater vest.
My death stare must have worked because after a quick goodbye Peter made his way over to another cluster of people on the other side of the room.
“Patrice,” I said smugly now that I’d successfully managed to get Peter to move on.
He looked me up and down. His eyes landing for just a bit too long on my mouth. I ran my tongue over my upper lip, which I hoped would earn me a reaction.
When we’d been together he nipped at my mouth all the time. Teasing me about how red my lips were. I was hoping, like me, he’d remember those moments. How good they were. I’d felt so close to Patrice on those nights last summer. Like he understood something essential about me and I’d felt like I did the same for him.
Right now, Patrice’s body language was mystifying me though. His shoulders were tight and tense and yet his eyes kept coming back to my face and my body. They were almost…needy. Like a kid who’s in a candy store without a cent to buy himself any of the treats he’s looking at. I brought my glass up to my lips and took a sip of my wine, looking straight at him. Letting him see in my eyes that everything he saw he could have, anytime.
All he had to do was ask.
We stood there, our bodies pulling closer with every breath, in heavy silence. Neither of us wanting to be the one to break first, and it was taking everything I had not to cave. I was trained in this, I did not show my cards. I did not reveal my position until I was sure I had the opportunity to take it all.
In the end he spoke first. “It’s good to see you again, Easton.”
I was going to ask him straight out why he was being so standoffish, but decided to change tactics. What always worked between us was keeping things light. I had a feeling if I got intense on him, I’d send him running in the other direction.
“I came to rescue you from boring mathematicians.” I dipped my head in a little curtesy. “You’re welcome.”
He shook his head, his eyes crinkling with amusement.
“Who says I wasn’t enjoying the conversation?” He slid his hands in his pockets and lifted his shoulder a fraction of a centimeter. Unbothered. “I like math. I do a lot of it for a living.”
This was us flirting. Patrice barely moving a body part and me practically doing cartwheels.
But as it always worked between us, it wasn’t long before our focus on each other built, and I felt the air change around us. After so many months of him acting like he barely knew me, I’d started to wonder if I’d made it all up. If I’d imagined this connection so strong it was almost palpable. There relief of seeing in his eyes the same intensity I was feeling made me weak.
Which gave me just enough of a nudge to push his buttons a little. “I know you do. I also know a whole lot of other things you like.” I didn’t even try to rein in the suggestiveness.
I was going to make my move.
I looked around, to see just how handsy I could get. We were tucked away in corner now, everyone had moved to the patio where Nesto and Jude were breaking in their new fire pit. So we were alone.
I had no problem with being shameless. I moved forward, my eyes zeroed in on those lips I’d been dreaming about for months.
“You’re pretty sure of yourself, Mr. Archer,” he said, straightening as I got nearer. We were barely two inches apart and his lips twitched, like he was getting ready for my kiss. But I made him wait. I could play this game too.
Before I moved in on that mouth I couldn’t stop thinking about I put mine close to his ear.
“I’m sure about fuck all when it comes to most things about me and you, but I do know you like my kisses.” He sucked his teeth and his head tilted, making my lips brush against his cheek.
I turned my head to kiss him, but before I could, he moved in first. Our mouths touched, and the floor tilted under me. I was not a man to lose my footing over a kiss, but Patrice’s lips pressed to mine made the room spin.
I didn’t care we were in a place where anyone could walk in at any time. I did not care. All I wanted was to get closer.
I reached out and placed my glass on the sideboard, put both my hands on his neck, and moved in so we were pressed together.
He licked into my mouth and it felt so fucking good, like everything made sense again. We stayed there just for a few seconds, and I let myself go, tasting and licking, remembering his taste. The warmth of him. I could have stood there for hours, but after a moment Patrice moved away. I balked, wanting to keep him close.
He just smiled and picked up my glass and took a sip of wine, but I saw the slightest tremor in his hand. No matter what he said, that kiss had gotten to him. “You’re a bad influence.”
I was feeling a little surer of myself, my confidence bolstered by Patrice’s flustered state.
“I think I’m a great influence. I’m just trying to figure out how to convince you of that.”
He laughed and I wondered what had changed since last weekend when I’d seen him at the store. I decided not to dwell on it and capitalize on the fact that we seemed to be on the same page, for once.
I moved closer again and said in a low voice. “I was wondering if you’d be up for a drink at my place later.”
This time he did laugh, shaking his head, and his eyes sparkling as he looked at me.
“Drink at your place huh? Do people actually fall for this shit in court?”
I laughed at his teasing, but the confidence of just a few seconds ago was starting to slip. “I have my moments.”
Patrice reached over and took my glass out of my hand again. He drank as he looked me up and down. It was sort of unreal how the tiniest bit of attention or show of interest from Patrice made me want to drop to my knees and beg him to like me.
I was about to make a joke, anything, to break the tension. But before I could come up with something to say, his eyes widened like he remembered something. He pointed in my direction, my glass still in his hand. I was wondering how much of a twelve-year-old I would be if I took it back and tried to sip from the same spot he’d drunk from. Because that’s where things were with me at the moment.
Just when I thought I was going to be cut loose, Patrice roped me back in. “Hey so, I was going to ask if you still had that vacancy in your building. Which, by the way, Nesto said you actually own. Funny that slipped your mind when you told me about it.” His tone was a bit reprimanding, but he was smiling wide and I was too busy basking in it to care.
I cleared my throat, trying to think on my feet—which usually was not an issue for me. My entire career was built on rolling with the punches, showing people whatever they wanted to see, but with Patrice my playbook didn’t work most of the times. I had to let the mask fall off for Patrice, he could always tell when it was on. I pasted a smile on my face like I did when I felt cornered and tried to keep my voice at human decibels.
“I’m not sure why I didn’t say anything. I always feel weird about that sort of stuff. I didn’t have to do anything to get the money to buy that building and sometimes I just avoid it.”
I cringed because Patrice was looking at me like he was not sure what to do with my sudden overshare. I ended by mumbling awkwardly, “Sorry.”
He waved my apology off. “You don’t need to explain yourself to me. I was teasing. I’m not entitled to the details of your life. I barely know you.”
I was so stunned by how hard his words hit me that I literally had no come back. He must’ve realized the effect what he said had on me, because his eyes softened and he moved closer.
“Sorry, that was rude. I meant, I don’t know you that well yet.”
“Right.” I nodded, still feeling out of sorts.
Patrice made me so messy.
He was still looking contrite, but I needed to get out of my feelings ASAP, so I decided to go with the safe option and discuss the apartment. “There’s still a two-bedroom apartment open. If you want to come and see it tomorrow that should be fine. Why don’t you stop by after 2:00 p.m.? Just text me when you get there and I’ll have someone come and show it to you.”
He nodded and was about to say something when Nesto barreled in from the patio, his loud voice booming in the small living room.
“There you are! P, you gotta come and tell Jude about the time Juanpa and Milo dressed up as Salt-N-Pepa for Halloween. He doesn’t believe me.”
Patrice’s eyes twinkled when he answered Nesto. “Man I wish we’d had smartphones back then because that night was epic.”
Nesto laughed again and pointed toward the patio. “I’m saying. I’m going back out there, but you have to settle this.”
“All right, all right,” Patrice said, his voice full of an easy humor he rarely showed. After a moment he nodded and started to follow. When he got to the door he stopped, like he realized I was still standing there.
He looked over at me again and tilted his head toward the patio. “I’m going to go settle this argument.” His voice was friendly, but it was no longer the intimate feel from before. The wall was up again.
Immediately I felt slighted that he hadn’t asked me to come with him, which was ridiculous. I needed to go home and regroup.
I tilted my own head in the direction of the front door. “I’m going to head home. I was at the office at 4:00 a.m. preparing for court and I’m exhausted. Tell Nesto and Jude thanks for me, okay?”
He seemed surprised at the shift in my mood. I’d gone from flirtatious to exhausted and grumpy in a second.
“Okay. It was good seeing you, Easton. Thanks for helping me out with the apartment thing. I appreciate it.” I waved him off and after holding my gaze for a moment he walked out through the sliding doors and left me there looking after him. Wondering once again, if all the things that I’d felt those few nights we had together last summer were only lust and desperation.
About the Author:
Adriana Herrera was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last fifteen years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings. When’s she not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a social worker in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Connect with Adriana: