Today I am so pleased to welcome Sidney Bell to Joyfully Jay. Sidney has come to talk to us about her latest release, This Is Not The End (which we reviewed here and loved). She has brought along an exclusive excerpt. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
This Is Not the End centers around Zac and Anya, a fiercely devoted—if untraditional—married couple. While they may occasionally welcome other men to their bed for brief, simple trysts, their hearts only have room for each other. When Anya offers her husband a threesome for his birthday, though, her target is anything but simple: Zac’s reserved best friend and longtime bandmate, Cal. Despite Zac’s claims that his buddy’s still waters run deep, Anya’s always thought of Cal as being, well, a little boring. But as she tries to find out how Cal might respond to their invitation, she’s forced to agree with her husband. Cal is much more complicated than he appears at first glance…
She can hardly tell him the truth about why she wants to know, so she goes for a little fib. “Well, married women, traditionally, are the kinds of monsters who want to set up all their friends.”
“You want to know why I’m single? That’s it?”
“You don’t have to tell me if it’s private. But…we’re friends, right?” Anya pauses, decides that he’ll appreciate honesty, and corrects that to “We’re friendly. Potential friends. I feel like I don’t actually know you that well, which is a bit weird, considering how much a part of my life you’ve become since I met Zac. I’d like to know you better. Will you tell me?”
Cal’s been watching her all through her explanation, his dark eyes steady on her, making her a little self-conscious. Now he sighs, more thoughtful than exasperated, and takes a long minute to consider. It seems to stretch out for ages, but she’s learned the trick to getting Cal to open up by now—she waits as patiently as she can.
He finally says, “I’m not very good at people.”
“Okay,” she says, hopefully encouraging him to say more.
Again, the entire Cenozoic period could fit into his silence, but eventually he adds, “I’m not very good at being…uh…intimate. With people I don’t know very well. I’m not what most people who get interested in a musician are looking for.”
Everything about that statement is so Cal that she could wrap it in a box and put it in a museum with a plaque that says Cal Keller, folks. Everything from using the term intimate instead of fucking, all the way to the part where he calls himself a musician instead of a bona fide rock star. Not to mention his confession that he’s the sort of lay that groupies wouldn’t want, which only makes her think better of him.
“People,” she repeats. “Interesting lack of a gendered pronoun there.”
He swallows hard, fiddling with the duct tape.
Gently, she asks, “Gay? Bi?”
He clears his throat. “Bi.”
Unexpected heat swims through her. “Zac is too.”
Now his head comes up, fast and intent. He opens his mouth to speak but shuts it again, fast, with a snap of his teeth. For a good five seconds, he stares at her. She loses her breath at the sheer intensity in his gaze. If someone told her right then that Cal hated her, she’d believe them. She might also believe that person if they said that Cal loved her. It’s an impossible gaze to parse. The only thing she’s sure of is that there’s more inside of him than she’d anticipated, and for that split second in time, whatever that emotion is, it’s about to boil over.
Zac was right. Cal Keller is not remotely boring.
He sucks in a breath and his gaze drops to the floor. “You outed your husband.”
She’s certain that that was not what he’d been about to say. But she feels oxygen deprived already. She doesn’t have it in her to push for the truth. Instead, she gratefully accepts his segue. “If you haven’t noticed by now that he likes men as well as women, you’ve been oblivious. He doesn’t try to hide it.”
“I figured it out.” He still isn’t looking at her, but his tone is bland as ever. His profile doesn’t have that sharp edge anymore either. “Well. I suspected. He’s never been particularly subtle.”
“Why didn’t you ever mention that you knew? Since you have that in common, I mean.”
Another very long pause. “I thought if he wanted me to know, he would tell me. I wasn’t going to push. I assumed he had his reasons not to bring it up.”
“I think he thought you knew.” She tries to sound nonchalant. She isn’t sure she manages it. “So I guess the question becomes…what do you like?”
“What do I like?”
“Smart girls? Tough guys? Wholesome schoolteachers? Leather pants and eyeliner?” She finds her throat strangely tight when she murmurs, “What intrigues you?”
He turns to watch her, expression careful, maybe trying to deconstruct why she’s really asking him this, maybe just curious. Despite his efforts to appear unaffected, there’s a hint of that earlier intensity in his gaze again. She’d be lying if she said it wasn’t rattling her a little. When she thought of how this talk would go, she didn’t picture him letting her see so much of him, and it’s getting under her skin. He’s getting under her skin, all with barely any words at all.
She can’t remember how long it’s been since one of them opened a box. He’s not even holding the tape anymore. They’re standing here looking at each other, talking about the people Cal likes to fuck.
Because that’s what she’s asking. They both know it. What kind of people do you say yes to? What kind of people do you want in your bed? What gets you hard?
Another unexpected thing: she’s holding her breath waiting to hear the answer.
Sometimes love finds you when you least expect it.
A bold and deeply emotional novel, This Is Not the End marks a new way of looking at love, family, and happily-ever-after.
Zacary Trevor is the love of Anya Alexander’s life. Their sometimes tumultuous marriage has survived ups, downs, and all the in-betweens. With successful careers, a lovely home, and a beautiful child, domestic bliss is a hard-earned reality for two people whose hedonistic days are in the not-so-distant past. They’re happy.
Enter Zac’s best friend, the deeply reserved Cal Keller. Zac’s friendship with Cal is the foundation of his career and—until Anya and their son came along—the most important relationship of his life. Cal’s a cipher, someone Anya can’t help but gravitate to, even if they don’t always get along. Even more, she’s drawn to the Zac she sees when he’s with Cal—a careful, cautious version of her husband, someone with hidden thoughts and desires kept secret even from her.
Inviting Cal into their home, deeper into their life, is a risk.
Zac should say no. He knows he should. But he doesn’t. From the first, the hint at the life the three of them could have together is exhilarating. And finding a new definition for family just might be worth the risk to every bond that exists between them.
Sidney Bell lives in Colorado with her amazingly supportive husband. She received her MFA degree in Creative Writing in 2010, considered aiming for the Great American Novel, and then promptly started writing fanfiction instead. More realistic grown-ups eventually convinced her to try writing something more fiscally responsible, though, which is how we ended up here. When she’s not writing, she’s playing violent video games, yelling at the television during hockey games, or supporting her local library by turning books in late.
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