The Professor's Green Card Marriage
by Heidi Cullinan
Release Date: February 18, 2020
I’ll marry you.
Professor Valentyn Shevchenko isn’t sure how to react when, after months of ineffective flirting, the cute barista’s first words to him are a proposal. In many ways, Peter Grunberg is the solution to all his problems. With his work visa inexplicably denied, Valentyn is running out of options to keep from being deported. But is a green card marriage really the answer? Is it still a marriage of convenience when he’s this attracted to his potential spouse?
Peter came to his uncle’s coffee shop in Boulder, Colorado, to reset his life after his struggles with selective mutism returned with a vengeance. He never meant his first words to the handsome ecology professor to be an offer of marriage, but he’s not backing out now. It doesn’t matter that Peter struggles to find words. He can say everything he needs to with his body.
Though this relationship may have started out back-to-front, Valentyn and Peter are determined to make their fake marriage real. But one misstep in their immigration interview could bring everything crashing down. They’ll have to hope that their love is enough to overcome all their obstacles and give them the prize they’ve both been dreaming of: a certified happy ever after.
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“SO did you meet up with the coffee shop kid?”
Valentyn, eating a soup and sandwich from the campus deli in Dennis’s office, paused midbite.
Raising his eyebrows, Dennis crossed his leg over his knee and threaded his fingers over his chest. “Quite a reaction. Please elaborate.”
There was no point in trying to hide anything from Dennis when he was in a mood. Pressing his hands together in front of his mouth, Valentyn drew a breath, then dove in. “I went to discuss things with him after he got off work last night, and instead we ended up f*cking.”
“Nice. Your place or his?”
“You misunderstand. We did it in the coffee shop. At my usual table, in fact. I’ll never be able to grade another paper again there.”
Dennis wolf-whistled. “Damn. All right. So… I assume you’re tied in knots because now you want to f*ck him dirty on the regular, but as usual you can’t get past your hang-up that romantic relationships should have clinical, no-nonsense sex? And to make it worse, he’s actually willing to marry you, something you desperately need?”
Valentyn pursed his lips. “I don’t think romantic relationships should have clinical sex.”
“Sure, you tell yourself whatever you need to. Outside of that offensive bluntness of phrasing, do you object to anything else? Am I wrong?”
He wasn’t, not even about the clinical sex remark—which stung—but Valentyn would be damned if he acknowledged it directly. He changed the subject. “He writes incredibly persuasive texts and emails.”
“I’ll bet he does.” Dennis propped his elbow on his desk and leaned into his palm. “Given the way you keep blushing, he must be dynamite in bed. Or rather, on table.”
Valentyn let out a heavy sigh. “Dennis, he’s exquisite. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to f*ck him harder or weep at his feet.”
“Please, please tell me he swings.” When Valentyn bristled, Dennis laughed. “You’re possessive. Oh, honey. You must be a mess.”
“I keep trying to put this thing into some kind of rational box and all it does is get worse. I encouraged him to call me the familiar diminutive of my name in email last night after copious amounts of vodka, and I told him I loved him. In Ukrainian. Then repeated it in English.” He threw up his hands and sank deeper into the chair, terror swirling around him.
Dennis had no empathy, only grinned wider. “God, this is so delicious. I want to meet this kid.” When Valentyn glared at him, he amended, “Young man. Except honestly, Val, once you pass forty-five, everybody under thirty is a damn kid to you.”
“I don’t know if he wants to meet you. Well, no. I can’t say that for sure. If we were to stop by now—” He cut himself off, blushing hotly as he remembered that morning, the way Peter had melted him with a brush of fingers against the pulse at his wrist. How he’d dragged Valentyn into the kitchen, pressed him against the wall, and f*cked into his mouth with his tongue.
The breve had been excellent too. As promised.
Dennis sighed happily. “I honestly love seeing you like this. It’s the best show in the world.”
Valentyn flipped him off absently. “I could handle it if there weren’t issues with my immigration status. In fact, I made an appointment with the dean to try to get him to reapply for me.”
“Except will the application come back in time?” Dennis’s expression grew serious. “I’ve been doing research. Apparently part of the reason you’re struggling with this is a huge change with how they process all visas.”
Valentyn’s gut tightened. “I know. My immigration lawyer said the same thing to me.”
“My point is, the employment visa route has all kinds of risks now. I still think you’re going to have an easier time of things because you’re not brown, but if you apply for a work visa, get denied twice, then show up conveniently married, you’re going to have a rougher time of things. They want to see proof of a marriage. That means they want actual receipts. Photos, licenses, proof you’re living together, vacationing together, being a couple together. If they think you’re not genuine, then it’s really over. This guy might be the golden ticket, because you could potentially be a real married couple by the time you get to the interview.”
“Yes, but what you’re telling me is that I need to marry him as soon as possible. What if it falls apart? What if we despise each other but have to stay together to keep me from being deported?”
“Look, you’ve got three options. Marry him, marry someone else, or go back to Ukraine. Can you see yourself marrying somebody other than your Peter? Rather, let me rephrase. Can you see yourself marrying someone other than Peter while you’re chasing down this rush of feeling you have going for him?”
Valentyn tried to honestly consider it. However, his body still hummed from that kiss. “No.”
“Then I’m pretty sure you’re marrying him.”
“F*ck,” Valentyn murmured and hunched forward, pressing his arms against his abdomen.
Dennis rubbed his shoulder. “You’ll be okay. Just ride it for now. I mean, you probably want to close the deal in the next few weeks, a month at most, but for now, just keep getting to know him, let him get familiar with you. I assume you have plans to meet again?”
“We’re going to go into the mountains tomorrow. He has the day off, and since it’s Saturday, I do too. He has some family thing tonight, so we’ll just email and text.”
“There you go.” He sat back in his chair. “I know you crave control unless you specifically surrender it in certain settings. Figure out a new way to feel like you have a grip on the reins. It might be that you fizzle out as a romantic couple but stay friends, that he helps you because he cares about you the way I do. You can aim for that result too. This doesn’t have to make you freeze up.”
Valentyn knew all this. And yet…. “I’m scared, Dennis.”
“I know, hon.” Dennis rolled his chair closer and kissed Valentyn gently on the forehead, ruffling his hair. “I know.”
- What made you write this book? I wanted something lighthearted and soft, easy to read, but still possessing that emotional depth. Basically I wanted to write something that sparked some feels but mostly left me snuggly and happy. It was an absolute blast to write.
- Did you start writing about Ukraine before or after it was part of the impeachment investigation? I began writing this book in early 2019, and by the time I was half done I felt like I was in a twilight zone because the country I’d been so diligently studying for so long was suddenly everywhere. It was surreal and slightly sad because I knew how much the withdrawal of aid hurt the country on a level most people didn’t, and I knew how many of the wild conspiracy theories were baseless (and who had started them). While politics doesn’t play part in the book, I definitely felt it swirl around me as I finished.
- What interesting things did you learn while writing this book? I learned more about the immigration system of the US than I knew was possible to know, and I gained an incredible respect for every immigrant of every status who comes to the country. It’s an arduous and nerve-wracking process to get in the door no matter how you do it. Sadly I also kept having to rewrite parts of the book because immigration policy grew more restrictive and unfair while I was drafting, and I had to make peace with the fact it would likely change again before publication, which it has.I also learned a lot about environmental studies and green movements in general, as one of the characters was passionate about it. I wished I’d taken the time to do so for my own responsibility as a citizen of the planet and hadn’t needed to wait for a character to spur me. Of course I also learned more about selective mutism as well, which was fascinating. There's a great short film you can watch if you want a perspective from own voices SM.
- What's this book like--is it sexy or sweet? I would argue it’s both, in its own way. It’s decidedly sexy and sensual, with more heat content than I’ve been writing lately, but it’s also just so soft and snuggly at times that it was a comfort to simply work on it. I was so sad when the book finished, because it made me feel good just to write it. And it was nice to get back to some steamy stuff again!
- Is this book very angsty or is it lighthearted? There’s a little bit of angst because of the worry Valentyn might get deported, and some struggles for Peter to overcome his selective mutism during times he desperately needs to communicate, but it’s mostly light and comfy. I kept worrying to my editor that there wasn’t very much intense conflict, and she laughed and said, “Heidi, that’s what a category IS!” So I learned I like writing category a lot because it’s so soft and relaxes me. I’m looking forward to doing it again.
- Where is this book set? It’s set in Boulder, Colorado, with a few stints in the mountains and Denver.
- Are you writing a sequel to this story? No, this is a one shot. But I do plan to write more category length books. I’d love to do one a year if possible.
- What was the best part of writing this story? It just felt so freeing and happy to me. I’d been struggling with a lot of things for a good year before I began this book, but writing it really set me free in a lot of ways. I have such fondness for this title! I wish it all the best things as it goes out into the world.
- What are you working on now? I’m currently wrapping up another Copper Point trilogy. Copper Point: Main Street will be out next year. I have my eye on writing another category, though I think this one might be too sexy for the Dreamspun line. I also have been really longing to write some fantasy again, and of course I want to finish the series that were the casualty of Samhain closing, but I’m trying to be practical about how that happens.
- Are you coming to any conventions I can see you at? Unfortunately I don’t intend to travel at all for the foreseeable future. It’s very hard on my body, and my focus needs to be on strengthening myself right now. It’s possible I’ll break this for specific events, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon. I am taking my daughter on a trip to see her girlfriend this summer, and that’s going to take all my energy.
- Why aren't you posting much online right now? Because my struggles with hEDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome hypermobility type) continue, I must strictly limit my keyboard time, and I like to save it for writing as much as possible. Some days I can’t type at all, so it’s very critical I approach things sensibly. I also have found the brain fog that goes with my condition means literally any social media post about even the most benign thing can pull my focus and make me lose my train of thought. I’d like to be able to return at a limited capacity, but for now weaning myself is easiest when I don’t do it at all. I do still post regularly to my patrons, though, because I get a bit sad if I don’t interact with readers at all.
- What are you looking forward to this year? My daughter is about to attend college, and I’m completely focused on getting her a good initial experience there. I’m so proud of her I just burst. Also, as mentioned, I want to take her to New York State to visit her girlfriend, and I’ll get some time with my own partner there as well.
- Got any anime, drama, or book recs? I mean, if you haven’t read The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation, watched the donghua or read the manhua, I hope you’ve at least watched the live action version called The Untamed on Netflix. I’m actually incredibly into many Chinese and Korean BL stories, and honestly all Asian webcomics and dramas in general. I feel like I grow as a storyteller every time I read or watch, and at this point it would be a dream come true to be translated into any Asian language. Right now if you want something incredibly romantic and absorbing with a visual counterpart, be it animated, live, or drawn, Asia has got you covered.
About the Author
Author of over thirty novels, Midwest-native Heidi Cullinan writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. Heidi is a two-time RITA® finalist and her books have been recommended by Library Journal, USA Today, RT Magazine, and Publisher’s Weekly. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys cooking, reading novels and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more at heidicullinan.com.