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Cover of Learned Reactions, by Jayce Ellis, on Brunch Spread. Caption: Sunday Brunch Bites

Learned Reactions is almost here! And, of course, if you haven’t pre-ordered your copy, you can do that here. You’ll see a few excerpts popping up in other places, but I wanted to make sure you had an exclusive, not seen anywhere else, excerpt right here.

Learned Reactions, if you don’t remember, is a friends-to-lovers romance. Carlton and Deion have been friends for years—decades—and it’s come to a head. So there’s nearly twenty years of build-up as they go into their first time together. That could lead to smooth sailing, an ease and comfort borne of that knowledge of each other for their entire adult lives…or not.

“Turn over,” he whispered.

Deion grunted but did as he asked, and Carlton took his first good look at him like this. Full lips even more swollen, those dark brown eyes nearly black, his pupils were so dilated, his locs loosened from the braid they’d been in earlier, splaying around his shoulders. Goddamn, he was beautiful.

And he…was Carlton’s best friend. Not some hookup, not just a guy he was going to fuck. He couldn’t treat Deion the same way.

Carlton rocked back on his haunches, thinking. How callous had he seemed, telling Deion to turn over like that? He’d sounded, even to his own ears, like he was only here to get his rocks off. And even though he prided himself on making his partner come, that wasn’t enough, was it?

Relationship sex was supposed to be deeper, more meaningful, right? That’s what all the books said, and the magazines, and everything else Carlton couldn’t think of now but knew was out there, said. And here he was, treating his best friend like any old random Joe Schmoe he’d found in the streets.

Fuck. He sat back and ran a hand over his face.

Deion pushed up to his elbows and looked over his shoulder, concern lacing his face. “Carlton, what’s wrong?”

He couldn’t answer. His dick, hard and raring to go just a few moments before, hung limply against his thigh. Deion noticed immediately, and his frown deepened.

“Carlton. Baby, are you okay?”

And here Deion was, calling him baby. Treating him like this relationship was something more than Carlton taking advantage of an honest misunderstanding to get the thing he’d spent the past week wanting and being too chickenshit to ask for. Bloody hell, no wonder Deion’s mom hated him. And here he was, about to do something he knew meant something to Deion, and had planned to treat it like just another fuck.

The touch on his neck startled him, and he stumbled off the bed.

Deion held his hands up. “Sorry, man. It’s just, I didn’t even know if you’d heard me. You weren’t responding at all. What just happened?”

Carlton’s laugh was almost panicked, and Deion’s eyes widened in alarm. “Nothing. Nothing happened. I just, I just can’t do this.”

There was silence, enough that Carlton finally looked down at Deion, whose face was inscrutable.

“Yeah, I get it.” He climbed off the bed. “Look, I’m sorry. This is my fault.”

His fault? That sobered him up quickly. “How the fuck you figure that?”

Now Deion laughed, the sound devoid of humor. “I’m the one who said we needed to make this pretense real. I’m the one who said we needed to be legit. I’m the one who pushed this agenda. It was fucked up, and I’m sorry. I’ll go out front.”

How the hell had Carlton’s inconsideration become Deion’s fault? He started to say something, and Deion placed a finger over his mouth to hush him. “No, baby, don’t. We’ll figure out how to make believe without the…this,” he finished, waving at the bed, “tomorrow. Okay? You get some sleep.”

He leaned forward and pressed another quick kiss on Carlton’s lips, then slipped out the room, shutting the door behind him.

It took Carlton a few more moments to realize what the hell had happened. Deion had taken Carlton’s absolute inability to perform as a rejection of him, a lack of desire for him. He hadn’t seen how deeply Carlton was spiraling out of control.

Maybe Deion was right. Maybe it was something better left till the morning to deal with. But as Carlton looked at the bed, the covers crumpled where he’d laid Deion on top of it, he knew one thing for certain.

Tomorrow would be too late.

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