Series: Speakeasy Taproom #1
Author: Karen Stivali
Publisher: Heart Eyes Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Sam doesn't think love is in the cards. The cards disagree.
When Phoebe Stevens' life implodes in a spectacularly public fashion, she's desperate to escape Manhattan. So the offer of a job setting up a new Vermont gastropub couldn’t come at a better time. Driving a U-Haul on winding mountain roads is Phoebe's personal version of hell. But when the caretaker of her guesthouse answers the door tousled, shirtless, and baking cinnamon rolls, her first impression of Vermont dramatically improves.
Sam Trembley believes everyone gets one true love, but he’s already blown his chance. He's spent five years avoiding relationships. Now he’s back in Colebury where sunrise tarot draws and moonlit hikes soothe his soul. But why do the tarot cards keep showing him this nonsense about soulmates? Could it have anything to do with the jaded city girl on his doorstep?
Playing tour guide is fun, but taste-testing her culinary creations as she shimmies her luscious hips around his kitchen is downright irresistible. Soon their chemistry burns hotter than the pub's wood-fired oven.
Has fate brought them together for a summer of love...or a lifetime of happiness?
Touchstone contains craving-inducing menu planning, a sassy white witch grandma, seismic sexy times, and tarot cards on a mission to prove soulmates are real.
In the past seven days I’d managed to pack up my apartment, secure a new job, travel to middle-of-nowhere Vermont, unpack the same belongings, tour my job site, and stock my kitchen. Not bad in the grand scheme of things. But after hitting that wall, I sank to the floor in an exhausted heap.
The hardwood felt cool against my legs, but not in a soothing way, and I shivered in spite of the fact that it was probably still in the low seventies. I pulled my knees up close to my chest and rocked.
I’m going to be fine. I can do this. I’ve made my own way my entire life, and I just need to do it again at Speakeasy.
A breeze drifted through the open living room window, fluttering the sheer curtains and making the windchimes by the front door tinkle melodically. The sun was setting, low enough it was hidden by the trees, giving the room a peachy glow, like candlelight. It’s beautiful up here. The restaurant looks like it could be amazing. Everyone I’ve met has been ridiculously nice. Especially Sam.
Just the thought of his name warmed me. And I wasn’t a get-all-warm-and-fuzzy-at-someone’s-name kinda gal. What the fuck is that about?
I wanted to analyze it and rationalize it away, but instead my brain provided me with a slide show of images of his face, his hands, his abs, the way his hair bounced when he walked and curtained his features when he ducked his head to laugh. And that laugh. My lower half had a Pavlovian response to the sound, as if it was a reminder of the importance of Kegel exercises. I contracted without meaning to and let out a laugh. Before I could give it more thought, or even think about releasing the pleasant tension building between my legs, there was a knock at the door.
There was no question in my mind who it was, and not just because I didn’t know anyone else in town—I just knew it was Sam. Jesus. Did he somehow hear me thinking about him? My cheeks heated as I scrambled off the floor, straightened my clothes, and then opened the door. Sure enough, there he was, looking positively delicious in well-worn jeans and a black T-shirt. Kegel.
“What’s up?” If he couldn’t hear me thinking about him before, he could probably hear my heart pounding now.
His brow furrowed for an instant, as if he truly was picking up on the weird vibe I was emitting, but he shook his head and gave me a slow smile—one that made my insides melt like cheese under a blazing salamander broiler. “I’m heading to the shop to sort a new shipment and put together the rest of the resin displays. So I’m gonna be out for at least a few hours, and I thought you might like to borrow the clawfoot tub.”
“As I said, the house is unlocked, and I left some things for you in the downstairs bath—Epsom salts, some essential oils, a few crystals. I thought you might be in the mood to relax after everything. You have the whole place to yourself. Well, you’ll have to lock Puck out of the bathroom. He’s got a bit of a water fascination and zero personal boundaries.”
I giggled. “You didn’t have to do all that. I was going to take a shower and crawl into bed.”
Sam’s shoulders rose and fell as another easy smile graced his gorgeous face. “Whatever makes you happy. Just wanted to let you know your options. If you do decide to try the bath, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then choose the crystal that you’re drawn to the most and put it in the tub while the water’s running. Just a little extra calming. And help yourself to the leftovers in the fridge. I meant to send you home with some last night.”
“You’re the best Landneighbor ever. Cinnamon rolls, rides, dinner, now this?”
“Be sure to leave a Yelp review.” This smile came with a flash of his perfect teeth. More melting. And I didn’t even like teeth.
“I will. As soon as I take myself off the self-imposed internet ban.”
He winced. “Sorry, didn’t mean to stir that up.”
“Don’t apologize. You’ve taken my mind off everything more than I could have imagined.” The heat crept back into my cheeks.
“My pleasure. And on that note, I’m off. I’ll be gone at least three hours, so take your time. There’s shampoo and conditioner and bodywash too if you want to shower after, just be careful if you use the oils, the tub can get a little slick. And seriously, help yourself to anything you want if you’re hungry.”
“You’re really angling for those Yelp stars.”
He smiled broadly enough to reveal a dimple. Jesus. A perfect goddamned dimple, on his right cheek. His head dipped and the curtain of hair quickly covered it, then he turned and sauntered off, leaving me to stare at his ass. Maybe a bath would clear my head and stop me from feeling like...what? What exactly was this feeling? I didn’t do butterflies. But something was buzzing around in my stomach…and heart. It must be stress. And all this fucking fresh air. Baths were supposed to release toxins, right? Maybe a good long soak would drain these toxic, lusty, gooey feelings right out of me.
Or maybe I’ll wind up masturbating in his tub.
EARLY REVIEWS FOR TOUCHSTONE
"... but it is still full of delicious food and steamy, consent-positive sex scenes for readers to gorge themselves on. " - Kirkus Reviews
"A romance with sweet, spicy, and sumptuous on the menu in the kitchen and the bedroom." - Kirkus Reviews
Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies, and fictional British men. She's also the multiple award-winning author of contemporary straight and LGBTQ romances. She writes novels about love...like real life, only hotter.