Out in the End Zone
Series: Out in College #2
Author: Lane Hayes
Publisher: Lane Hayes
Release Date: October 10
Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex
Genre: Romance, New Adult, Bisexual, College romance, Football, Coming out
SynopsisEvan di Angelo is an upbeat, good-natured goofball who loves his friends and family… and football. A traumatic accident may have ended his hopes of playing professionally, but he’s made the most of his four years on the field at a small Southern California college. He’s learned the hard way to embrace change, take chances and try things outside of his comfort zone...like agreeing to play fake boyfriends for someone else’s senior project.
Mitch Peterson knows that being his authentic self is the path to true happiness. He’s grown from a shy, quiet kid from a broken home to an out and proud budding internet sensation bound for grad school. An awesome senior project is the key. It’s unlikely anyone will believe the hunky, straight athlete is Mitch’s new lover, but it’s worth a shot. However, as their tentative friendship blossoms into unexpected attraction, the lines between reality and fiction blur for both men. Evan is forced to face old demons and decide if he has the courage to take the next step and come out in the end zone.
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Mitch scoffed. “Cooperate, please. This is your intro. Maybe you should put your arm around me and kiss my cheek.”
“Yes. This is a rehearsal, so…go for it.”
I moved to his side, slipped my arm around his waist, and kissed his cheek. His scruff threw me off stride. It wasn’t noticeable because his facial hair was blond, but I could feel it. He smelled and felt different from anyone I’d ever kissed before. Sure, I’d kissed male relatives. I was part Italian. No one in my family shied from physical contact. But a hug and kiss on each cheek from my Uncle Gianni was different from kissing an attractive man. I caressed his cheek impulsively and then leaned in to sniff him the way I’d wanted to since the party. “Mmm.”
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“You smell good. I’ve never kissed a guy I wasn’t related to who had a five o’clock shadow.”
Mitch gave me a funny look. “You kissed me yesterday at lunch.”
“Yeah, but you haven’t shaved since this morning, right? The texture is like sandpaper but in a good way. I like it,” I assured him.
He looked flustered for a second but recovered quickly. “Well, that’ll make the real kiss easier then.”
“Right. When do we kiss, and what’s the intensity level supposed to be? G, PG, PG-13? Or are we going straight to the nasty?” I teased.
“Ha. G is peck on the cheek, which we just covered. PG is peck on the lips. So somewhere in between that and PG-13 works.”
“Got it. Maybe we should practice first,” I said.
“Um…sure.” Mitch turned around and gestured toward the bar stools at the island. “We can sit there, and I’ll set up the tripod a foot or so from where you’re standing now.”
“We don’t have to be in exact position. I just need to get used to touching you. It would be the same with anyone. Guy or girl.”
Okay, fine. I wanted to do it again. I’d thought about him nonstop since the party last weekend. And that throwaway kiss yesterday at the restaurant had opened a Pandora’s box. I was consumed now. I didn’t want to practice kissing him. I had to or I’d go crazy.
“Maybe you’re right. Um…okay. You can kiss me,” he said in a low voice.
“Well, you have to participate,” I chided as I stepped into his space.
“I’m…yes. Do you want to go first? Like…” Mitch set his hand on my hip and inched closer still. “This?”
I lifted my right hand and hovered it above his ear for a moment before threading my fingers through his hair. He suddenly looked nervous, which somehow worked in my favor. I held his gaze, then moved forward and gently pressed my lips to his. And f*ck, it felt amazing to be here again. I tilted my head slightly, loving the intoxicating contrast of his soft lips and scratchy chin. Mitch closed his eyes and hooked his arms around my neck so we stood toe to toe and chest to chest. All the ways this felt different no longer applied. I knew what to do here. I was practically a f*cking expert.
There were so many things in this story that checked boxes for me—that it’s a college romance, a coming out story, a bit sweet while still sexy, and two fun characters who go into things for a totally different reason than to fall for each other..but still wind up falling anyway.
I really liked Evan’s outlook, particularly when it came to sexuality and love. You might think when things first start out that he’s just curious or experimenting (it is college after all), but there’s a lot more behind his approach to Mitch and the project Mitch is doing…and even Evan wasn’t expecting things to go in the direction they did. Mitch is an all-around great guy, upbeat, sweet and positive, and he and Evan are drawn to each other regardless of the fact that they’re just supposed to be together for the purposes of Mitch’s project. The two of them felt so comfortable together, which made me root for them all the more.
The story is relatively low angst, the little of it there is mostly stems from Evan’s indecision on when and how to come out to his friends and family. It was good to see Evan and Mitch’s relationship evolving, and it felt easy and natural between them. Mitch’s project, which was instrumental in bringing the two of them together, unfortunately we don’t get to see how it plays out due to the bit of a bump in their relationship when Evan’s hesitancy to come out is at its peak. I would have liked to have seen how it ended up, but it was pushed aside in favor of focusing on Evan finally figuring out what he’s going to do.
Out in the End Zone was a 4-star read for me, and was a solid story with entertaining characters that I’m sure I’ll re-read again in the future. This book is meant for readers 18+ for adult language and sexual content.