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Tapped by Liz Crowe

The Interview: Evelyn Benedict from TAPPED

KB: Welcome to Kissing Bandits Blog! Tell us a little bit about yourself!

EB: Hi guys! I’m Evelyn Benedict, craft beer sales expert, Michigan native, and the luckiest woman in the world…for a lot of reasons.

KB: The first kiss sets the tone for a relationship. Tell us about your first kiss. Were you nervous? Excited? Shocked?

I really didn’t want to like Austin Fitzgerald, much less fall so completely head over heels for him like I did. I believed he lived in a realm somewhere well above the one I inhabited—with his country clubs, trust funds, mansions and whatnot. I’ll admit, I didn’t have a ton of respect for him as a brewer or brewery owner until I met him. I figured he’d just had a ton of money thanks to his Daddy and was playing around in brewing for something to do. But…once I got to know, I learned that he was the opposite of that. And that first kiss…well…let’s just say it was cold in the beer cooler, but we heated it up something fierce! I never looked back, really, even though we hit some pretty rocky patches.

Here’s the cool thing though (see above where I call myself “the luckiest woman in the world”)…I got to experience two first kisses. When I realized that Austin fully intended for his friend Ross Hoffman to join our relationship, I was pretty skeptical. Until Ross kissed me, of course…yeah, I was a goner.

KB: What has been your greatest challenge?

Accepting what Austin and Ross always tell me about myself—that I am just as important to the Fitzgerald Brewery as they are—that I’m as beautiful as they claim I am—and that I deserve to be loved by them both. I’ve never had a strong sense of self-worth. If you’d grown up like I did, you wouldn’t either. But being in love with, and loved by, them both, while strange and some might claim, unrealistic, has done more for my self-esteem than anything.

KB: What is your biggest regret, or is there something you wish you’d done differently?

It’s strange—I know I should regret the time I pushed Austin away after a huge “misunderstanding,” that was completely fabricated by Austin’s mother and ex-girlfriend, but that time gave me the opportunity to really understand the depth and breadth of my real feelings for him. And, of course, it gave me some up-close-and-personal time with Ross, just the two of us. It hurt Austin and it hurt me, but by the end of that period, we were all stronger in spirit for the time spent apart and it only enhanced our time together.

KB: Brag time–what is your greatest point of pride?

  1. The fact that I am engaged to the handsomest, most kind and caring man on the planet.
  2. The fact that I also love the hottest, most creative brewer on the same planet—and my fiancé is the one who brought him into our relationship.
  3. That I get to work in a business I adore—craft beer—alongside both of these men.

KB: Name 3 of your favorite things.

  1. My fiancé
  2. My lover
  3. My job

And a close fourth…a hoppy, but well-balanced IPA (India Pale Ale) made by Ross.

KB: Turn-ons?

  1. Massages (both men are good at this)
  2. Hot baths (we bought a house and had a tub installed that will fit all 3 of us)
  3. Sleeping in my giant king-sized between my men after a night of love….

KB: Turn-offs?

  1. Laundry
  2. Grocery shopping (ok. ANYthing that involves housework, including cooking)
  3. Men who wear too much cologne

KB: Share a funny or interesting anecdote (excerpt okay!)

Here’s a bit from our first weekend together, in Denver at the American Beer Expo. ‘That time was a real turning point for me on a lot of levels…

“Dear God, if I say one more word about these beers, I’m gonna puke, or kill somebody.” Evelyn pulled her hair off her neck. The bar had been a sweltering oven in the unseasonably hot Denver fall. Her throat ached and her heart pounded. She kept checking her phone, hoping Austin had revived enough to contact her, but the screen stayed blank except for all the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter notices she kept getting about their win as Mid-Size Brewery of the Year.

Sighing, she stuck her phone in her pocket and leaned against Ross’ back in a move that felt more natural than anything.

Without realizing it, she’d relied on him as she would Austin and he’d rallied, solving the immediate problem—albeit without much of Austin’s diplomacy, but solving it, nonetheless. And the bombshell Max had dropped, about Austin cutting him off from brewery ownership and in the process cutting them off from his family and their financial safety net, had settled in her gut like a stone, making it hard to concentrate.

Surely, he knew what he was doing. She trusted Austin implicitly and figured he would have told her eventually.

They watched the party progress, standing close enough that she could lean into Ross’ strong torso and take some of the pressure off her aching feet. Eight of the ten kegs were blown, and the last two were on their last few pours so the bar was beginning to empty.

She’d had at least two beers spilled on her as people hugged their congratulations—she felt sticky and smelly. Exhaustion stole over her, combining with the incessant worry about Austin’s health. As if sensing her distress, Ross put an arm around her and brought his lips near her ear.

“Let’s get out of here.”

She nodded, sensing her thighs tighten and her nipples harden against her will. Guilt washed through her, pouring ice-cold water on her libido.

“He texted me.”

She looked at his phone’s screen.

Hey. I’m lonely and sad and feeling sorry for myself. Can’t get Evelyn’s phone. Come back. Bring food.

She grinned, let herself relax for the first time in hours, and followed Ross out. “Let’s walk. It’s not far. I need the air,” he said as he draped an arm around her and they made their way through the milling crowds on the Denver sidewalks. After they stopped in an all-night market for some cheese, fruit and bread, she tucked her arm through his and took a deep breath, pondering the interesting, odd new shape of her life. He stopped, tugged her into a darkened doorway, and held her close.

“You okay? Really? With this…?”

She put her head against his chest, listening to the beat of his heart. “I haven’t sorted it out yet, to be honest.” He tightened his grip and she sensed his lips against her hair. “But I like it so far. I just don’t want there to be—I don’t know—weirdness. I sort of freaked out on you guys last night and I don’t know why. The last thing I need right now is a bunch of bullshit, alpha-male jealous crap.”

“Evelyn, what you and Austin have, no one can change, take away or lessen in any way.” He put a finger under her chin and tilted her face to his. His blue eyes gleamed in the dark and she gave in to the urge to touch the rough, short beard along his jaw before reaching back and releasing his long hair from its tie-back and burying her fingers in it. It felt soft, perfect and she mentally ticked off one of the items on her fantasy to-do list with Ross Hoffman, ever since she’d seen that photo of him and Austin together.

She sighed as he covered her mouth, his lips full and firm. Her body responded instantly and she had to pull away to keep from going any further in public.

“Dear God, woman, you are…” He released her and shoved his hands into his pockets. “Like I said.” But she stopped him with a finger over his lips.

“I know, Ross. Let’s see where it takes us, okay? But together, as three. We don’t sneak around. This is not cheating. It’s just… Oh hell, I have no idea what it is.” She stopped, dizzy with the possibilities—good and bad. Ross took her arm and pulled her hand back into the crook of his elbow as they walked the last four blocks to the Marriott in comfortable silence.

After a long kiss-and-grope session in the elevator, Evelyn shoved him out into the hall, laughing at his sheepish expression.

He shrugged. “I can’t keep my hands off you. Sorry.”

She pointed toward their suite. “Go. I need a shower. Give him some food and company while I clean up.” He sauntered down the hallway alongside her, whistling and swinging the bag of groceries.

“About damn time.” Austin was perched on the bed, laptop on a pillow, sports on the television. His grin was genuine. Evelyn kissed him, long and deep. “Mmm, nice. But you reek, my love. Did you bathe in a keg or what?”

“Don’t ask,” she tossed over her shoulder before closing the bathroom door. Leaning a moment against it, she wrestled with a complex stew of relief, happiness, tension and a small twinge of stress. She knew damn well that these men would butt heads over her, but, damn her to hell and back, she wanted them. She wanted this.

While that amazed her, nothing felt more perfect. She sighed and turned on the shower full hot blast, and stripped out of her limp clothes. The erotic visions of the two men cradling her between them filled her head. She stayed a solid thirty minutes under the spray, relishing the sensation of being washed clean of every molecule of the day’s craziness.

Emerging, pink-skinned and breathlessly horny, she wrapped a towel around herself, brushed her teeth and fluffed up her damp hair before opening the door.

“Hey, you, hot blonde chick. C’mere.” Austin held out an arm, encouraging her to snuggle into his shoulder. She hesitated. Weird, inexplicable tears pressed against her eyes.

“I don’t know, Austin.” She looked away and watched steam roll out of the bathroom.

He went up on one elbow and touched her bare leg, making her skin pebble. “I heard you talked with my dad. I’m sorry you had to hear it that way. I was going to tell you, after…” She shrugged and willed the tears away. He sat and gathered her in his arms. “It’s okay, baby. I’ll make sure everything works out.”

 

GENRE:   Contemporary Erotic Romance

BLURB:

When wealthy brewery owner Austin Fitzgerald meets sexy saleswoman Evelyn Benedict, angry sparks fly. They seem destined to clash, until a hot hookup in a cold beer cooler changes everything.

For Austin, it’s a life-altering moment that sets him on a path away from his birthright, while Evelyn must face her fears about committing to a man considered the playboy of the micro-brewing world.

The power of preconceived notions nearly tears them apart—until they meet up with brew master Ross, who opens their eyes to a deeper, even more erotic connection. But three strong personalities don’t always make for the best emotional mix and when a simple misunderstanding causes chaos, it’s up to Ross to repair the tattered shreds of their relationship.

Excerpt:

Sensing the heat of Evelyn’s fury as he finalized another large order, he excused himself and made his way toward the restroom. The tuning-fork sensation had morphed into a dull ache centered in his gut, which steadily made its way down to his balls.

When he emerged—after splashing water on his face enough times to calm the hardening in his jeans—he almost plowed straight into her. He gripped her arms to keep her from falling and the impulses that had bounced around in his brain since the morning nearly brought him to his knees. He dropped his hands and looked away, swallowing back the urge to say something, anything, to convince her he wasn’t such a bad guy.

“Sorry.”

Her voice was flat. He took a step back, stopped only when his butt hit the wall. The space between them filled with near-visible silence, but he didn’t move.

“I don’t know how I’m doing it, but the longer we work together, the more sales I make, and the more you hate me. Clue me in here, Benedict. I thought sales were the goal of the day.” He crossed his arms, holding them close to his chest so she couldn’t gauge how shaky his hands had gotten.

She swallowed, and he watched the exquisite warm peach hue of her skin redden. Admiring the line of her neck, her jaw, the plump fullness of her lower lip as she bit it, a nervous tic he’d love to come to love, if she’d let him, Austin sensed himself falling deeper into a very scary hole. Her ongoing silence took on a life of its own.

“Well? I left my secret-sales-goal decoder ring at home. You obviously have a different agenda for today. I get it. ‘Prove to the rich boy he doesn’t have what it takes’ is fine, but we could have saved some time if you’d just told me first.”

She opened her lips, then pressed them together and shouldered past him. He watched, fascinated, as his hand reached out of its own accord and snagged her arm. She stopped, stared at it, then up at him. When he realized the blue of her eyes was brighter because of tears, he hesitated. Female tears always unnerved him, but his chest tightened in a thoroughly alarming way at the thought of having caused her unhappiness.

He let go. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

In a split second, her beautiful face was within inches of his. “Don’t flatter yourself. I’m just pissed off. You’ve had that effect on me since I first laid eyes on you, so yeah, I guess I set you up. But apparently, all your country-club, private-school time has been worth it. Bullshitting comes naturally to you. And that’s all this job is. A whole barrel of bullshit.”

She stomped away before he could speak or, even better, grab her and kiss her. The space she vacated quivered with anger. But her crisp perfume stayed in his nose and he had to clench his hands into fists to keep from shoving her up against the wall and kissing her until she saw it his way.

The Review:

I wanted to read this because it takes place in Michigan, which is where I live and where I’ll die, so I dived in eagerly. Tapped is really two stories in one. It’s a love story between Evelyn and Austin, and then it’s a love story between Evelyn and Ross. It’s also about Austin and Ross reconnecting as friends. Tapped introduces readers to the world of microbreweries and marketing. [Personal fun fact: My sister had a job like the one Evelyn left at Tri-City, and I based the job I gave Lacey, the heroine of Kiss Me Goodnight, on that job. So there’s another connection that drew me to Tapped.]

The first half of the story flew by. I felt the off-the-charts chemistry between Austin and Evelyn, and I liked both characters. However I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I wanted in the second half of the story. I think this is because some parts of the narrative were glossed over or told in retrospect. This also may be because I was reading on a screen (sometimes I have issues with paying attention to a screen.) Normally I love Liz’s books from cover to cover because she’s quite talented. Overall, I liked this story. Tapped is hot, completely erotic–perfect if you’re looking for spank bank material. This is the first in a series, and I’m looking forward to the next one!

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Amazon best-selling author, mom of three, Realtor, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.

Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”). More recently she is garnering even more fans across genres with her latest novels, which are more character-driven fiction, while remaining very much “real life.”

With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.

Website   http://www.lizcrowe.com/

Facebook Fan Page http://www.facebook.com/lizcroweauthor

Facebook Chat Group http://www.facebook.com/groups/lizcrowefans

Facebook Profile https://www.facebook.com/liz.crowe.75

Twitter Feed http://www.twitter.com/beerwencha2

Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Liz-Crowe/e/B00573TC7M

Goodreads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4350864.Liz_Crowe

Sign Up for Liz Newz http://eepurl.com/JRue5

Publisher:  https://www.totallybound.com/book/tapped

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tapped-Brewing-Passion-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01N0XLM0E/

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE

Liz Crowe will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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