My sister told me to stay away from her roommate. I promised I would.
But I didn’t.
I didn’t mean for this to happen...I mean, yeah, maybe it was predictable when I started asking about his AI research and finding reasons to hang out, even when my sister wasn’t home. Looking back, we never should've slow danced alone like that. But with Chance, goofing around melted into messing around easier than butter on hot bread. It’s not fair to keep our relationship a secret, but how can I tell my sister I betrayed her trust?
And when the truth comes out, how can I keep both the people I care about most?
Acoustics is the first book in the Portland Symphony series, a steamy trans romance series set in Oregon. It contains robot talk, found family, and a happily ever after. It’s not intended for readers under eighteen or readers who don’t want to read explicit LGBTQ sex scenes. CW for the death of a fish, brief discussion of transphobia and police violence.
Rain is my favorite thing. I love the muted patter of it hitting leaves and the dull thud of it against concrete. I love the tinny ping of it on mailboxes and street signs. I love the swoosh of cars crawling through puddles and the rush of it into storm drains, like a secret waterfall under my feet while it carries leaves and trash along like it can't stand to see Portland dirty. I like the squeak of windshield wipers for those stuck in traffic, the rain cutting through the beam of their headlights.
I soak it all in as I cross the street to Hillary's new apartment building. The contemplative feeling gifted to me by the symphonic rain lasts exactly as long as it takes to ride the elevator up to the fourteenth floor.
“Baby brother!” She smashes into me with the exuberance of a much younger person, squeezing me before I even have a chance to get my arms open. “You're here—good! I need you to make a salad.”READ MORE
“I see you're not taking advice from Miss Manners about not putting guests to work.” I smirk as I wash my hands. Her betta fish Francis is doing laps in his bowl on the kitchen counter.
“You're not a guest, weirdo. Now get slicing. There's carrots and lettuce in the veggie drawer. Feel free to improvise.” It is well-known in our family that I hate boring salads. I only discovered this when I started working at Marble, a farm-to-table restaurant downtown. Before that, my only salad experience had been of the iceberg/carrot/cucumber variety. I have since learned the error of my ways.
I pull out broccoli and red onion. “Do you have any bacon?”
“Um, maybe? Check the freezer.”
I open the upper compartment and step back. “Wow. I see you haven't had time to work your special chaos method on this yet.” Everything is stacked neatly in rows by category, and someone (definitely not Hil) used a label maker to organize things. I find the bacon easily.
“Hush,” Hillary chides in a hissed whisper. “He doesn't know about my special chaos methods yet. And I'm trying to keep it that way.”
I chuckle. Yeah, she’ll be busted on that before she pays her second month's rent.
I set the bacon on a low heat, crammed onto a back burner, since she’s using the front two. “How'd you find this guy, anyway?”
“We knew each other in undergrad. He mentioned he was looking for a roommate and voila.”
I pull out a knife to chop my veggies. “I'm a little surprised you picked a guy.”
She shrugs. “I'm branching out a bit. I know it makes them happy to know I'm not living by myself downtown.” By them, I know she means our parents. Though Hillary hasn't quite forgiven Mom and Dad for moving overseas with the State Department, I’m personally looking forward to spending a holiday on a white sand beach.
“I don't mind it myself. Downtown can be a dangerous place.”
She snorts. “Who got their wallet stolen last week? Not me.”
“Hey.” I point the knife at her playfully, nowhere near close enough to hurt her. “That was an outlier.”
“Maybe you should carry mace and a fake wallet you can throw and run in the other direction. The only reason that gets recommended to me instead is that you have a penis.”
“Please don't say penis. Do you have any mayo?”
She steals a broccoli floret and munches it. “I think I have Miracle Whip.”
“Oh, that is...” I sigh. “That is not at all the same, but fine.”
As I whip up the dressing using her subpar ingredients, we talk. She tells me about her classes—she's a women’s studies major at Rose City University, not far off from graduating—and I tell her about a new group I’m working with at Mead College, that bastion of liberal thought. I find some dried cranberries and sunflower seeds, and my salad is almost ready.
Just as I go to take the bacon off the heat, a flash of red out of the corner of my eye draws my attention. I look up just in time to see someone with short hair wearing a red sweatshirt and jeans disappearing into the other bedroom. The door closes.
“That your roommate?”
“He didn't want to meet me?”
“Don't take it personally; he's just really shy.” She hands me a woven basket covered with a thin towel. “Can you get out plates?”
It is such a blatant attempt to distract me, I almost laugh. But she knows my weakness for homemade carbs, and I have to admit that the rosemary-and-olive scent wafting from the crusty bread is making my mouth water.
“Sure. Should we invite him to join us?”
Hillary turns from the stove where she’s stirring her sauce. “No,” she says, annoyed. “I just said he's very shy. Besides, you're here to have dinner with me, not hit on my roommate.”
“How do you know I'd hit on him?” I ask, probably too loudly. That’s slightly insulting, after all. I have self-control. Some, anyway.
“Your pasta timer is done,” the black cylinder on the counter intones without inflection, and she silences it with the press of a button as she goes to drain the boiling water into the sink.
“You’re giving it information about you again. Now it knows you like pasta.”
“Everyone likes pasta, Col.”
“I bet even shy people like pasta,” I wheedle, but her hard look says to drop it. “Fine. You're right. I just want to know if the guy living with my big sister is trustworthy. So sue me.”
“No, you're just a nosy flirt when it comes to men.” Hillary hands me a steaming pot of pasta. “And you've already met him.”
“I have?” Impossible. I would have remembered that ass.
She nods, her light brown hair bobbing. “Remember the friend I brought home for Thanksgiving my sophomore year?”
I think back, scanning the Rolodex of my brain for a hot dude who'd stayed at our house. “No?”
She smirks. “Think harder. It was your junior year. He didn't look quite the same as he does now.”
“He—oh. Oh.” Recognition finally dawns. Yes, she had brought a friend home...but he does not look like the same roommate. I have a vague image in my mind of a quiet person with dark blonde hair. I don't think I'd looked him in the eye long enough to see what color his eyes were. I hadn’t been that interested; I’d been trying out my newfound interest in guys at the time and I didn’t come back around to girls for quite a while.
“Can we eat now?” Hillary gripes, sitting down at the table.
“Who's stopping you?” I ask, shamelessly helping myself to two pieces of bread. The conversation shifts to plans for her birthday (did someone say 'house party'?), the new sculpture outside her building (what was it even supposed to be?), and why social media was so addictive (so many reels. So little time). I scored her a ticket to my gig tonight, so we clean up and she hits the bathroom before we head out.
I’m playing on my phone while I wait when I hear another door open, and out of the corner of my eye, I see her roommate come out of his room and start to creep quietly toward the kitchen. I'll show her. I don't have to flirt; I can just be polite.
“Hey, man. I'm Colby.” I stick out my hand. He eyes me suspiciously but reaches out and shakes it firmly, adjusting his thin, black-rimmed glasses.
“Great to meet you.”
“Yeah, you too. You...” He falters. “You work with the symphony?”
“Yeah, I'm a sound guy. I work with all kinds of music groups.” I pocket my phone. “What do you do?”
“I'm a research assistant at Rose City U.” He’s edging away from me toward the fridge, so I figure he’s either really hungry (it’s 7 o’clock, after all) or just ready to be left alone.
“Oh, so just down the road, nice. Cool. Well, just wanted to say hi. Hillary and I hang out a lot, so I'll be around.”
“Okay.” He finds a takeout container and makes a beeline back to his room. “See you around.”
He’s just closing his door again when Hillary comes down the hall, her expression thunderous.
“Colby, what did I say?”
“I didn't do anything!”
She rolls her eyes and huffs like I just told her I was going on NASA’s next mission, and I am not an astronaut. Closer to a space cadet.
“What?” I ask. “Seriously, I'm not supposed to say hi when someone walks through the room?”
“Colby, this is the best place I've ever lived, and he's the best roommate I've ever had. He’s neat, does the dishes, hates loud parties, and doesn't invite unsafe sex partners over. It's close to my job so I don't need a car. I love being on the park blocks; I love being near Saturday Market and the library and the museums. But every time you date my friends, it ends badly, and then it's awkward and I have to move or distance myself from them, and I hate that.”
She isn't wrong; it had never been my intention, of course. We just have the same taste in people, and I didn’t mean for my breakups to affect her like that. But there’s real hurt in her eyes, and I immediately feel ashamed.
“I'm sorry. You're right. I will respect your wishes.” I snag her around the neck and give her a kiss on the forehead. “You ready to go?”COLLAPSE
ACOUSTICS was the perfect combination of cute and sexy and it was a fantastic debut romance! Colby promised he wouldn't sleep with his sister's new roommate, but how is he supposed to resist the cute and nerdy Chance? With his shy personality and his nerdy talk of AI and robots, Chance captures Colby's eye and maybe even his heart.
I read ACOUSTICS in one sitting because I was enjoying it so much, the writing and story flowed really well and I was immediately sucked in. Chance and Colby were great together and I loved their banter and the friendship they formed outside of the relationship. I also really liked how confident Chance was in contrast to his quieter personality; he might be an introvert but that doesn't mean he doesn't know what he wants, especially when it comes to getting Colby in bed. These two were very steamy and I loved how they communicated their desires.
This was low-angst, joyful, and so much fun! I'm really looking forward to reading more by this author.
ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review