We are excited to bring you an excerpt by one of our favorite authors.
Introduction by Adriana Herrera
Here to Stay is like a mixed tape of all my favorite things to write about: found family, starting over, fashion, Latinx family shenanigans and men in therapy… LOL No. But seriously, I loved writing Julia and Rocco’s story, and I especially enjoyed giving them a group of friends that allowed them feel grounded as they made their way in Dallas. Julia forms the Gotham Exiles Club, a group of New Yorkers now living in Texas who have become the crew that holds our couple together as they navigate the complicated waters of falling in love. In the scene below, Julia is anxiously waiting for the Gotham Exiles to arrive for their very first meet-up, and the first person who shows up is definitely not who she expected!
About Here to Stay:
Julia del Mar Ortiz is not having the best year.
She moved to Dallas with her boyfriend, who ended up ditching her and running back to New York after only a few weeks. Left with a massive — by NYC standards, anyway — apartment and a car lease in the scorching Texas heat, Julia is struggling…except that’s not completely true. Running the charitable foundation of one of the most iconic high fashion department stores in the world is serious #lifegoals.
It’s more than enough to make her want to stick it out down South.
The only monkey wrench in Julia’s plans is the blue-eyed, smart-mouthed consultant the store hired to take them public. Fellow New Yorker Rocco Quinn’s first order of business? Putting Julia’s job on the chopping block.
When Julia is tasked with making sure Rocco sees how valuable the programs she runs are, she’s caught between a rock and a very hard set of abs. Because Rocco Quinn is almost impossible to hate — and even harder to resist.
I was a ball of nerves as I sat waiting for the rest of the group to show up.
After debating for a few minutes, I’d finally caved and changed into the outfit I’d brought from home. I’d even managed to get my hair to behave and was wearing it down, or more like up and out, since my curls were all over the place.
No matter how much I griped at my mom when I was growing for getting on my case about looking “decent” when I left the house, I had to say some of it had stuck with me. Being the child of an ex-beauty queen had its challenges and was definitely a big reason for my weekly therapy sessions. But I was grateful to my mother for showing me how to do a smoky eye one-handed and to put together an outfit like a fucking pro. And so far the extra application of deodorant was holding up to all the nervous sweating that was happening. Hashtag “winning.” I knew my OOTD was popping. I was wearing a white crop top with a bomb Ankara skirt one of the buyers from Sturm’s had hooked me up with. And I could not deny that when I stepped out looking like I was killing it, it went a long way to making me feel like I could.
I checked on my skirt and smoothed over the front, trying hard not to stare up at the clock. So what if people didn’t show up? I could still have a nice dinner…by myself. I’d picked a place in Greenville — which I’d dubbed Brooklyn in Dallas — closer to where I lived and I knew a few others lived as well. The place was decorated in what I’d started calling Southern Hipster: a lot of distressed wood, mason jars, and rusted-looking metal, but the ambiance was great and the drinks were cheap. I took another small sip of my Paloma in an effort to pace my drinking so I really didn’t act a fool at this thing. The last thing I wanted was to be drunk by the time my coworkers arrived.
Which only got me thinking about Rocco Fucking Quinn. The bane of my existence. Why did he have to be so sexy? I’d sent him a preliminary plan but he hadn’t responded yet. Just thinking about entire days in confined places with that man made me practically vibrate with anticipation, and not the kind that was appropriate for work-related situations. I turned in my seat, mulling over how I’d make it through meeting after meeting with him, and decided I’d just keep my distance. I was a grown woman, a professional. And just because the line of Rocco Quinn’s jaw was so perfect I could stare at it for days didn’t mean I couldn’t keep it together.
And as if the universe had penciled in extra time to fuck with my life, Q walked in.
He was looking down at his phone but I recognized the Mets hat from the profile picture. And that chest and those shoulders were imprinted in my thirsty little brain. Shoulders that I was pretty sure were recently covered by a suit jacket and green and gray gingham shirt.
My stomach dropped.
Q was Rocco Fucking Quinn.
How did he even find out about the happy hour?
Drops of sweat were pooling at the small of my back as panic tried to take over. But panic was not the host of this meetup, Julia was. I took three belly breaths and focused on the ground under my feet as I unclenched my hand from the glass before I snapped it. I pasted on a smile as I decided whether to stay in my seat or stand up to meet him.
He looked post-gym fresh in jeans, a light gray tee and leather flip-flops, and I was close to seeing black dots from holding my breath. I’d never really noticed forearms, but I was literally drooling over his. Had he gotten a haircut in the two hours since I’d seen him or was I just tripping? He had on some wayfarers that he took off as he popped his head up. I raised a hand and waved frantically because I was a straight-up mess. When he spotted me, he did the slightest double take and then, just for a second, he smiled.
Julia del Mar, you’re in danger, girl.
Get a fucking grip, Julia. I squeezed my thighs hard and tried to snap out of the trance I was in. I took one breath, then a second, trying to slow down my heart, as I watched him come closer, and that’s when I noticed I wasn’t the only one getting a little hot under the collar. Rocco Quinn had me pinned under his gaze and was taking his sweet time running his eyes over me. I was trying to keep it all business, but if he was going to look at me like that, I’d give him angles.
Oh yeah, take it all in, buddy.
Copyright © 2020 by Adriana Herrera
About the Author:
Adriana 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 she’s not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a trauma therapist in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Her Dreamers series has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist and has been featured in The TODAY Show on NBC, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Library Journal and Washington Post. Her debut, American Dreamer, was selected as one of Booklist’s “Best Romance Debuts of 2019,” and one of the “Top 10 Romances of 2019” by Entertainment Weekly. Her third novel, American Love Story, was one of the winners in the first annual Ripped Bodice Award for “Excellence in Romantic Fiction.” Adriana is an outspoken advocate for diversity in romance and has written for Remezcla and Bustle about Own Voices in the genre. She’s one of the co-creators of the Queer Romance PoC Collective. Represented by Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary.
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