The Trouble with Tony
The Trouble with Tony (Sex in Seattle #1) by Eli Easton
Published by Dreamspinner Press Aug 21, 2013
Blog Posts & Reviews:
“The Trouble With Tony” Desktop — the images I used for inspiration to enhance your reading pleasure!
Eli’s Favorite 5 Scenes in Tony — guest blog on Kim Fielding’s blog
Har Dee Hot Har: Humor in Romance — guest blog on Charlie Cochet’s blog
5 stars Top 2 Bottom Reviews — “I read this in one sitting, and was totally entertained, from start to finish.”
5 stars The Romance Reviews — “I loved the sense of humor surrounding the interesting mystery, the steamy sex, and the likable characters.”
5 stars Jessewave — “I have never laughed so hard in my life and I find myself at a perfect loss as to how to explain with any sense of cohesion what made The Trouble With Tony by Eli Easton the most delightful romantic comedy to come along in a great while.”
5 stars Rainbow Reviews — “Oh Eli, how I absolutely loved this book. It was funny, sexy, sincere, heartfelt, loving, and yeah, did I say funny? Tony and Jack are excellent characters and I’m adding them to my list of favorites. ”
5 stars Kindle Romance Reviews — “This is the kind of story I love! It grabbed me from the beginning, and I didn’t put it down until I was done. I loved the sense of humor surrounding the interesting mystery, the steamy sex, and the likable characters.”
4.5 stars from Pants Off Reviews — “All in all it was a great and entertaining story, with some pretty good lines and fabulous characters. I couldn’t put it down and was smiling a lot.”
4.5 stars The Novel Approach — “The trouble with Tony is that it’ll leave you wanting more.”
4 stars from Hearts On Fire — “I have enjoyed both of the books that I have read by Eli Easton. Both made me laugh and left me feeling good.”
4 stars Live Your Life Buy the Book — “It is a light, fun romance that also includes some very steamy scenes involving an exam table (you will just have to read it to find out).”
4 stars mmgoodbookreviews — “This is a great novella that has some incredible sexual tension and a pretty good investigation.”
4 stars Head out of the Over blog — “This book has all of the things I love in an MM light read: romance, sexy men, a little bit of erotica, some mystery, some machoness which can be unmanned by a simple and hilarious prostate exam that triggered me to laugh out loud.”
B+ Gaylist Book Reivews –– “This story was fun, sweet, charming, funny, cute, romantic, silly, and kind of wonderful. I enjoyed it from beginning to end.”
The Blogger Girls review — “I loved it!”
4.5 stars Boy Meets Boy Reviews — “And what I am learning with this author, she gives excellent dialogue. ”
4 stars Hearts on Fire review (Nancy) — “This story was warm, funny, entertaining, and made me feel all sunny inside. I will definitely be reading more by this author.”
4.25 stars Prism Book Alliance — “Eli Easton is a go to read for me when I need something light-hearted that doesn’t make me go into sugar shock.”
5 stars Paddylast Inc — “Here, Eli Easton has proven once again her ability to create loveable characters with a story that easily captivates its readers.”
First in the Sex in Seattle series, a contemporary m/m romance series featuring a sex clinic in Seattle.
Tony DeMarco is a private eye investigating an unsolved death—that of Marilyn White, once prom queen and victim of an accidental overdose, according to the coroner. But the case points to murder and prime suspect is Dr. Jack Halloran, a sex therapist at a local clinic who was treating Marilyn just before her death. Tony needs to get close to Halloran to sniff out the truth. The irony is, Tony does, actually have a little sex problem that Halloran might be able to fix. In fact, after meeting Halloran, Tony is pretty sure he has the answer. But despite his immediate attraction, Tony has to keep his head around the steely-eyed doctor until he’s figured out what happened to Marilyn White.
Dr. Jack Halloran was a combat surgeon in Iraq for eight years. When an I.E.D. caused scaring and nerve damage in his right arm, Halloran lost the ability to do what he loved. A few years of PTSD later, Halloran ended up as a sex therapist, helping others find their way to a rewarding sex life. But Jack’s own sex life has never been worse. Once a gay Lothario, Jack is sure no one would want a man with his physical and mental scars. He finds himself attracted to his new patient, the gorgeous and funny Tony DeMarco. But even if Tony returned the sentiment, it’s unethical for a therapist to have an affair with a patient. And if there’s one thing his years in the army taught Jack, it’s self-discipline.
Marilyn White was dead. She’d been prom queen, elementary school secretary, blueberry muffin maker and Yahtzee champion in her household since the age of eight. And now she had a headstone and a closed case file with the Seattle police.
Tony DeMarco liked to know these things about his lost souls. It hurt more, but it also enabled him to see a little more clearly into the victim’s circle of friends and family. If there was a snake in the grass, he wanted to step right the hell on it.
“You’re late,” Detective Mark Woodson complained as Tony slid into a booth.
“Hey, I’m buying lunch, aren’t I? Stop whining or you’ll end up with a glass of tomato juice and Saltines.”
They shot the shit until the burgers arrived. Tony caught up on the macho soap opera that was the Seattle Police Department. He’d given them eight good years until a bullet in the leg had made Tony rethink his priorities. He hadn’t exactly been in the closet when he was on the force, but he didn’t announce it either. Add being naturally awkward on top of being gay, and Tony was never going to make cop of the year. As a private eye, he worked alone and could cherry pick his cases depending on how much he felt like risking his nuts at any given moment. He didn’t usually do murder, but he hadn’t been able to resist that photo of Marilyn White, with her long-brown hair, smattering of freckles and million dollar smile. And he couldn’t say no to the grief on her parent’s faces when they’d begged him to take the case.
“So… Marilyn White.” Mark shook his bald head morosely. “Between you and me, I’m glad to see someone pick up the ball on that one.”
“You don’t buy the coroner’s ruling of accidental overdose?”
“No history of drug abuse. How dumb do ya have to be to take a whole bottle of anti-depressants in one go?” Mark snorted derisively into this cup of coffee. “I’m tellin’ ya, Tony, this is what’s wrong with the world today. Everybody does the bare minimum, takes the easy solution. No one can be arsed to pull something out of the endless assembly line for two seconds and really fucking consider it. And the coroner’s office is no different.”
It was surprisingly philosophical coming from Mark. Tony felt a surge of admiration for him that lasted nearly five seconds. Then Mark gave a hearty belch. He pounded his chest with a fist. “’Scuse me. Heartburn.”
“So who do you think did it?” Tony asked. “The husband?”
Mark grunted. “Isn’t that your job? What was I just saying about being lazy, dickweed?”
“Yeah, yeah. Just asking your opinion. Because, you know, you’re my hero. I wanna have your babies.”
Mark snorted. “Get in line.” He looked around, as if making sure they weren’t being listened to. He lowered his voice. “If the chief hadn’t made us drop the case, you know what I would have been on like white on rice?”
“No, Mark. That’s why I’m asking.”
“Shut up. We found out from Marilyn’s insurance records that a few months before her death she started going to a sex clinic.” He whispered this last with barely moving lips, as though a lip reader might be in the vicinity.
“Yeah. Place called Expanded Horizons on Pike. It’s legit – you know, they treat frigidity and erectile whoosits and all that sort of thing.” Mark knocked on the wood table. “God forbid.”
Tony felt a flush of embarrassment and a niggling pain at the words. With an effort, he pushed it aside. This was about Marilyn, not him. Tony pictured her as she’d been in her photos – not yet thirty, slim and beautiful. Why would Marilyn need a sex clinic? “What was she going there for?”
Mark barked a laugh. “No fucking clue. Naturally, I went and interviewed her doctor, guy named Jack Halloran. But all I got outta him was a chill the size of Alaska. Doctor/patient confidentiality, he says. Sexual issues are extremely sensitive, he says. Doesn’t matter that she’s dead, her wishes for privacy have to be honored, he says. Yadda yadda. I’m telling ya, the guy’s got balls of steel. I tried everything – good cop, bad cop, vague threats, a lollipop…. He never even blinked.”
Tony sat back in the booth, chewing his lip. He didn’t like the sound of that. Or maybe he did. A clear suspect made his life easier. “How come you didn’t get a warrant for her medical records?”
Mark looked disgusted. “Didn’t have any evidence against the clinic, and before I could get any, the coroner’s ruling came in and the case went in the hopper. You know how it goes. Like every other asshole in this city, we got too much shit to do and too little time to do it.”
Yeah, Tony knew very well. The homicide department picked up suspicious deaths from the moment the body was found, but it was best not to get too attached. A case would close in a snap if the coroner didn’t rule homicide. Misuse of city funds, etc. It was a shame, but that gave Tony plenty of work if he wanted it, helping families like Marilyn’s when the cops wouldn’t.
“You get anything at all on Halloran?” Tony asked.
Mark sighed. “I dug around. Medical degree from Udub. Top of his class. Get this — he was a combat surgeon in Iraq til eighteen months ago. Wounded and shipped home. The guy’s either a fucking hero or a walking time bomb. You can make your own mind up about that one.”
Tony raised an eyebrow at Mark, and what do you think?
“Ka-blam,” Mark said.
Bombs were going off everywhere, the infernal noise and the concussion of the shock waves battering Jack’s body and piercing his eardrums. He was running as fast as he could, but it was hard with his arms twisted behind him and the heavy weight of a gurney in his hands. Somewhere back there Smith, a medic, was holding onto the other end of the gurney. And between them was a bleeding mass of flesh that had once been a strapping youth and was now a dying boy. That boy would either make it or not, depending on how fast Jack could get him away from the twisted wreckage and into the hospital.
Move it, move it, move it, move—
There was a blinding explosion and everything went black. There was no pain, only a profound shock and numbness that Jack had thought was death.
He landed on the floor next to his bed with a shout, the pain of a bashed leg hitting him even as the scream tore out of his throat. “NO!” he yelled to the guiltless dark.
Jack poured a cup of coffee in small staff kitchen at Expanded Horizons. The tremor in his right hand was worse than it had been in weeks, thanks to the nightmare, and it made the simple task a chore. He hadn’t had a nightmare like that in exactly fourteen days, according to his PT diary. The time between them was slowly growing, but that didn’t make it any less shattering when they occurred.
Jack grimaced and mentally spelled out the steps for himself, just like he’d been taught. Plant the bottom of the cup firmly on the counter, release it, pour carefully with his left hand, put the coffee pot back. It had taken awhile but by now it was habit—always, always hold the drink in your left hand.
The shrapnel from the explosion had sliced and diced his right arm. He was lucky not to have entirely lost it, but his friends back at base had pulled out all the stops to save it. He still had the arm, but there was nerve damage. In other words, he’d never be very good with chopsticks, his friend and co-doctor, Colonel Rick Mayberry, had teased. Rick hadn’t added, or perform surgery ever again.
Ex-Major Jack Halloran. At thirty-six he was a light bulb in a prehistoric cave, the best of his skills now useless.
He’d tried. Once the worse of his physical recovery was over, he’d pushed himself and had gotten a job in a Seattle E.R. But one night they’d wheeled in a motorcycle crash victim and the blood and trauma had triggered him. When he came to himself he was huddled in the corner of a supply closet, his face wet with tears. The hospital didn’t argue when he turned in his resignation.
That’s how he’d ended up at Expanded Horizons. Sam, an old friend from Udub medical school, was married to the clinic’s owner, Trudy. She was one very smart lady doctor. She offered to give Jack a chance if he’d attend an intensive training in sexual counseling. He had and she did.
Jack was good at it. It was ironic. He’d always been a gay Lothario, cheeky, horny and an unrepentant flirt. In the Army, the doctors and nurses had called him Mighty Jack Halloran. It was a bit of a jab at his modest stature, at least he assumed so, but mostly it was about his ability to enter any bar and pull a man. He’d been the kind of guy who’d get up and dance on the bar if he’d had a few. Not a shred of shyness. Back then, he’d never thought twice about sex as a biological function that could fail. It was just pleasure, pleasure that could help him forget the stress and the blood for a while. Now here he was, tending other people’s libidos for a living. And even as he lectured his patients about how everyone needed, and deserved, human contact, his own sex life had never been worse.
Life sure had a twisted as fuck sense of humor. Har dee har har.
“Your schedule, Dr. Halloran,” Loretta said in a cheerful voice.
Jack put his coffee cup carefully down on the counter and turned to her with a professional smile. “Good morning, Loretta.”
She gave him the day’s computer-generated itinerary on a sheet.
“You look like a cat someone hit with a truck,” Loretta said, peering near-sightedly into his face.
“Same to you,” Jack said politely. His good hand went up to his hair self-consciously to smooth it down.
“No, the eyes,” Loretta said. “Federal Express.”
“Your honestly is so refreshing.”
Jack scanned his appointments for the day. Mostly returning patients. Mr. Federman, a man with deep sexual insecurities, Mrs. Kendle, an eighty-six-year-old who refused to give up on her sex life (and good for her), and Mr. Rose with diabetes-related E.D. There was a new name, though, at ten o’clock.
“Was she worth it?” Loretta asked. Jack looked up to see her forced smile and the nervous fluttering of her eyelids.
“Loretta,” Jack said patiently. “I’ve told you before, I’m gay. There were no hot assignations last night, more’s the pity. And if there had been, it would have been with a he.”
“Sure,” Loretta said with a small, hurt shrug. “I understand.”
Jack mentally rolled his eyes. The clinic’s receptionist was a red-head with proportions so generous they bordered on philanthropic. She was thirty-eight going on twenty and for some reason she was quite smitten with Jack.
“Seriously,” Jack told her with his no-nonsense stare. “Gay.”
“I get it,” Loretta said with a put-upon sniff that said she didn’t believe a word.
Jack sighed and glanced back down at his schedule. Loretta had marked lunch in Trudy’s office. That only occurred if his boss wanted to talk to him about something. But he’d had a glowing performance review only a few weeks ago. He felt a trickle of worry but pushed it aside. He’d find out what it was about soon enough. There was also a new patient on the sheet.
“Who’s this Tony DeMarco, ten o’clock?”
“Male, thirty-two. He asked specifically for you. He didn’t want to discuss his trouble over the phone, so I guess you’ll just have to be surprised.”
Jack frowned. He didn’t like surprises.
Tony stumbled as he entered Halloran’s office, made feeble-footed by surprise. For some reason, maybe because he was as straight as the Space Needle, Mark had failed to mention that Dr. Jack Halloran was attractive. Attractive, as in, oh my.
Halloran came forward from around his desk to shake Tony’s hand, introducing himself. “Hi. I’m Dr. Halloran. Nice to see you, Mr. DeMarco.”
He was short, slight and sweet. He appeared to be in his mid to late 30’s and he stood around five-eight, at least four inches shorter than Tony. His sandy blond hair was growing out of a neat cut, and he had a slim, compact body under a blue Oxford button-down and khaki’s. His face was All American boy — warm, intelligent and likable, despite the dark circles under his eyes. And those eyes – even peering from behind a pair of horn-rimmed reading glasses, they were blue. Blue, blue, blue. The irises were a cornflower color that matched his blue Oxford and they were rimmed by a dark band of navy.
Tony noticed these things, intellectually, adding points to his mental file on suspect Jack Halloran. But he was not the sort to be led around by the dick thanks to a pretty face. No. Unfortunately, Tony was above all that. Or below it.
“Have a seat,” Halloran motioned to the upholstered chair in front of his desk. “Would you prefer Tony or Mr. DeMarco?”
“Tony’s good,” Tony said, speaking gruffly to mask his natural shyness. It seemed to be brought out by Halloran’s confidence.
Dr. Halloran went back around his desk and sat down. He picked up a pencil and wiggled it a bit in his fingers, watching Tony closely. “Alright, Tony. Why don’t you tell me why you’re here?”
Tony smiled innocently. He’d looked up the clinic’s website and checked over the list of disorders they treated. He had his cover story.
“It’s like this, Doc. I’m a sex addict.”
“Oh?” Halloran looked a little surprised.
“Yeah. And it’s starting to affect my work and everything, so, you know, I figured I needed help.”
Tony put on a distraught look. He wouldn’t call himself leading man material, but he was a bull shitter from way back. You had to be with a mother like his. Ma seemed to know by osmosis if he’d clipped his toenails or jerked off that morning, and would be sure to bring it up over breakfast so that all six of his siblings and his father could be in the loop. And she wondered why he’d moved two thousand miles away.
“What kind of work do you do?” Hallorah asked.
“Insurance investigations.” It was what Tony often used when he was undercover. It sounded so mind-numbingly boring that no one ever asked another question about it. And, anyway, he’d even done a bit of that work from to time to pay the bills, so he could talk the talk if he had to.
Dr. Halloran said nothing for a long minute, just studied him. Shouldn’t he be making sympathetic sounds? Asking questions? Offering helpful advice? Tony shifted in his seat, feeling vaguely like a bug-under-glass.
“How often do you masturbate?” Halloran asked.
Tony choked a bit, but managed to make it look like a tickle in his throat. “Uh… once, twice a day.” He forced a cheeky grin. “And that’s in my off days.”
Halloran lifted the pencil and tapped it thoughtfully on his chin, those steely blue eyes unwavering.
“And you have partners as well?”
“Oh, hell yeah! Lots.”
Tony shrugged. “Doc, I’ll tap anything. I told you, I’m an addict.”
Halloran’s eyes narrowed. He sucked on the end of the pencil lightly. Still, his piercing gaze never wavered. What was his problem? Whatever it was, Tony was feeling the pressure. It reminded him of being in Sister Mary Frances’ algebra class. That nun had eyes that were like fricking pinholes in space/time.
“Do you watch porn?” Halloran asked calmly.
Tony froze. What was the right answer here? But he had to stick with the story he’d already been building. He snorted and made a ‘come on’ expression. “Why would I need porn when I get laid all the time?”
In a flash, Halloran was out of his seat, around the desk and in Tony’s space. Tony gasped in shock as Halloran leaned down, quick as a snake, and grabbed his crotch.
And there they were – Tony sitting in the chair, Halloran leaning over him, his hand grasping Tony’s dick through his trousers, and those steely blue eyes–Why had he thought they were cornflower? Cripes they were a cold blue, like steel, like ice–inches away from his own. Those eyes were locked on him like a weapons system. Blue on brown.
And Tony’s dick, which had been soft in the first place, now tried to crawl back into his body like Napoleon’s army retreating from Moscow. Great. Thanks, you goddamn coward.
Halloran gave him a cold smile and spoke, low and deadly. “You. Are. Lying.” And with that he let go and straightened up.
Release date Aug 21, 2013