Title: Out in the Field
Series: Out in College #4
Author: Lane Hayes
Publisher: Lane Hayes
Release Date: July 11
Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex
Genre: Romance, New Adult, College, Coming Out, Baseball, New Adult, Humor, Opposites
Max Maldonado loves baseball. He knows playing first base at a private college probably won’t get him to the big leagues, but he doesn’t mind. He loves the game and his teammates. If he has to stay in the closet until he graduates, that’s okay. Baseball comes first. Relationships are complicated anyway. And after his recent messy breakup, Max prefers to keep things simple.
Phoenix Bell is a fabulous theater geek. He’s excited about his recent transfer to a new school with an elite liberal arts program. Life has been on hold for a while, but this opportunity feels like the fresh start he was hoping for when he moved to California. And the chance reunion with the hot closeted jock is an unexpected surprise. The two men have nothing in common and their timing couldn’t be worse. However, when their unconventional alliance blossoms into friendship and perhaps something more, it may be time to make some hard decisions. And perhaps risk it all…out in the field.
We were quiet for a moment. We shared his drink in silence as occasional bits of conversation and laughter from the party drifted our way. We were far enough from the action that the excess noise didn’t penetrate our cocoon. Just a couple of strangers in the dark again, minus the club music and lights and unrealistic hopes from the first time. I didn’t know about Phoenix, but this felt cathartic somehow. Like a fresh start.
“What else is going on? You look sad. It’s not me, is it?” I asked with a comedic expression.
He chuckled. “No. This is nice. I just—I tend to get a little blue on the night of the final performance. The anticlimactic feeling sucks, but it’s the nature of the beast. The cycle of slowly learning lines and getting to know your castmates is followed by long rehearsals where everything starts to gel. The excitement builds before the shows and everyone gets better and better and then…<em>boom</em>! It’s over. All that momentum and all the joy that comes from being part of something special disappears overnight. I’m gonna wake up in the morning back at square one.”
“Thus the vodka.” Phoenix raised his cup and took a sip. He set it between us before flashing a lopsided smile my way. “It’s just part of the process. I’ve been doing some version of this for years. You’d think I’d be better at transitioning from high to low.”
“Hmm. It’s kinda the same in baseball. When we start in January, most of the guys are out of shape and out of sync. We have to get used to a new crew and figure out how to work together. By the time our season ends in May, we’re a well-oiled machine. I’m not always sad when it’s over. Sometimes I really need the break. But by June, I miss it. The best thing to do is to stay in the game as much as possible. Play, watch, read stats. There’s probably a theater equivalent.”
“Sure. It’s called ‘get a new part.’ I’m already memorizing the script for the spring production at the Arts Center. They’re doing <em>Chicago</em>. God, I love that show. So many juicy roles. ‘And all that jazz,’ ” he sang that last line, then took another drink and handed his cup to me for no particular reason.
I widened my legs and propped my elbows on my knees. His gaze dipped briefly to my crotch before he licked his lips and glanced away.
“Who do you want to be?” I asked. “I mean…in the play.”
“In a perfect world, I’d be Roxie. But…I have a dick, so I’ll have to audition for Billy and pretend not to be crushed when they give me the role of prison guard or mafia henchman number two.”
“Why can’t you be Billy?” I asked before draining the vodka cocktail.
“I don’t have the right look. You’d actually be a perfect Billy. Have you ever thought about acting?”
“Me?” I pointed at my chest incredulously. “Fuck, no.”
“Why so adamant? It’s fun.”
“Theater stuff just isn’t my thing. I play baseball.”
“You can’t do both?”
“Nope. Not me. And I’m not interested anyway.”
He sighed dramatically. “Well…you were a good fantasy while you lasted.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked with a faux scowl.
“Just what you think it means. I know close to nothing about you except that you’re a decent kisser and—”
“Decent?” Now the scowl was real.
“Okay, better than decent. You were amazing. A real-life Prince Charming. But we can be friends now and—”
“I don’t want to be your friend,” I intercepted.
“ ’Cause I like you.”
“That makes no sense.”
“Yeah, it does. I—” I hesitated for half a second before crashing my mouth over his.
And damn, kissing Phoenix was better than I remembered. I caressed his jaw tenderly before tilting my head to deepen the connection. I didn’t want to overwhelm him, but damn, it took everything I had not to put my hands all over him. I licked the corner of his mouth and groaned. He tasted sweet—like cherries or something. That had to be his lip gloss, I mused before driving my tongue inside.
Phoenix didn’t seem to mind. He moaned when I cupped his neck and tilted my head slightly to soften the connection. I flicked my tongue at the corner of his mouth before biting his bottom lip and pulling away. The kiss was sweet but much too short. And yeah, I was incredibly impressed with my restraint, but I couldn’t afford to start something we’d both regret later. Phoenix wasn’t a stranger anymore. He was a fellow student who knew my biggest secret. I should have been more concerned with resetting boundaries and moving on. But it didn’t feel that simple.
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NA, especially those set against a college backdrop, have always been some of my favorite reads. I’d read the blurb and see college and one-click practically before I even finished the blurb. I don’t read them as often as I used to, but this series, as well as Lane’s other NA stories, reminds me why I love them so much.
I absolutely adored both Max and Phoenix. I loved that Phoenix was comfortable in his own skin and being who he truly was and while yes, Max was scared of being outed, he wasn’t uncomfortable in his skin. All too often closeted characters are angry and disgusted with themselves, but that’s not the case with Max. He was sexy and confident and sure of what he wanted.
This was a great addition to an awesome series. The story is well-written, flows well and I’m really looking forward to what comes next and I know I’ll revisit these stories down the road, something I don’t often say.
A sweet, fun, sexy, read, with just a bit of angst thrown in, featuring two sweet, lovable guys you can’t help but root for. Definitely recommendable!
*copy provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*
This was a great addition to the series! I have wanted to get Max’s story since we first met him in a previous book and I loved every second of it. Phoenix was his perfect match and they just gelled together really well. Their sexual chemistry was HOT but they also had a really great easygoing friendship.
Each of these books has the coming out theme and while they all have similarities, each character and story is unique. There was a little bit of angst but it worked well for the story. I liked getting hints of some past characters and I hope we get to see more of Max and Phoenix in a future book.
ARC courtesy of the author and Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure.
Once again Ms. Hayes hits another one out of the ballpark. This is book four of her Out in College series. It can be read as a stand-alone but you might want to read book 3, Out in the Offense to get a better feel for the dynamics of the characters.
Max loves baseball. It has consumed him his whole life. Along with the sport, his family is what he cares for the most. As a young boy, he has tender memories of his father tossing a ball to him for hours on end. His interest in baseball morphed into a full-time commitment to excel and be the best on his college team. Max was in very destructive relationship with a fellow teammate named Sky who left town after dumping him. Now with distance and time, Max realizes how toxic being with Sky was and even though it hurt, he is grateful that they are finished. Max is deeply rooted in the closet for fear of rejection from the game he loves and the parents he respects.
Along comes quirky and bubbly Phoenix who is totally ignorant about anything relating to sports and is a true theater geek. Much to Max’s surprise, he is intrigued by the gorgeous and sexy actor who is not his usual type. I loved Phoenix as the perfect man for the serious and tunneled-visioned Max. Together they provided what the other so desperately wanted. Max needed to be less focused on baseball and have a full life that wasn’t completely spotlighted on hitting a ball and rounding bases. Phoenix desired someone to there for him and accept him for who he is. The love scenes were not overdone and sizzled anytime they were together.
Life throws them some curve balls when Sky returns to the team and being true to his devious nature, he tries to shove a wedge between the two men. The conflict was genuine and not some contrived moment to add drama.
Slight Spoiler: The book had me tearing up at times especially when Max confronts his parents on his sexuality and then has to face the same ordeal with his team. It is very sobering to realize that coming out is a constant state and not a once and done deal.
Ms. Lane knows how to create believable, passionate and truly likable characters that have you caring for their happiness and future. I highly recommend this well-written story but then again this author is a master at creating a perfect romance.
***Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn’t a requirement.***
Meet the Author
Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were First Place winners in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.