Release Blitz: How to Say I Do by Tal Bauer

How to Say I Do
by Tal Bauer
Date Released: June 10, 2023

About How to Say I Do
Opposites attract, sure. But when Manhattan glitz collides with Texas grit, will love be enough?

Manhattan is my heart and soul. In the cutthroat world of elite public relations, I’m one of the princes. I manage global superstars, predict the up-and-coming trends, easy. And social media? That’s my specialty. I can make you, hon, and launch you straight to the stratosphere. My life is champagne glitter and starlight, and everything around me is gold. But then, my own wedding bells turn into alarm bells, and suddenly, I'm off to Cancun—alone. Alone with a first-class ticket to a honeymoon for one. All that gold? Tarnished tin. Everything I thought I knew? Gone.

Cancun is supposed to be where I obliterate myself on margaritas and tropical waves. Forget the past, shake off the pain, and look ahead. It's my strategy, always has been. But beneath it all, I long for someone to see the real me, the Noël I’ve hidden away for years. I’m so damn lonely.

And then I meet Wyatt.

He’s nothing like me. He’s a rancher from Texas, he can’t tell me whether high waist jeans are in or out, and he’d rather work his fields than rub elbows with celebs. Velvet rope lines and VIP access are meaningless to him. He’s also kinder than me, and altruistic in a way I haven’t seen since cargo pants died as a trend in the early 2000s. He’s the best man I’ve ever met.

And that’s a problem, because all of his big-hearted warmth and Texas gentleness is drawing me in. I'm desperate to surrender, but I can’t. Good things aren’t meant for me. I’m no good for Wyatt. In fact, I’m his looming heartbreak.

So why am I kissing him?

I’m a man of the land, made from the Texas soil I work on, strengthened by the vineyard I tend to. It's a world I've carefully nurtured, a balm for the wounds of my past. This life hasn’t been easy, but it’s mine. I’m fiercely protective of the world I’ve built for me, my brother, his fiancée, and my nephew. The four of us are everything that matters to me, and my life and my cares extend to my cross fences and the edges of my range. Everything else out there? It’s all just dust in the wind.

And then Noël blows into my life.

I’m gone. Captivated, spun around, tipped upside down and torn apart. I can’t breathe; being around Noël makes me feel like I’m sixteen again and hiding all my secret fantasies and unspoken desires. I’m down in Cancun with my family, and this isn’t the time to be falling for a guy, but how can you not fall head over heels when the man of your dreams walks into your world?

Noël’s many multi-hued layers fascinate me and perplex me, and I want to spend every minute unraveling him. Noël's life is glittering gold, and mine is Texas soil, but I can learn to understand Manhattan, pop culture, and celebrities if that means I get to be Noël's man.

But does Noël feel the same? What is this between us? Is it just a week that we both need, a Pause on life, out here in this place so far removed from our real lives? Or is this the start of something new and huge and life-changing for the two of us? What am I seeing in Noël's eyes when he looks at me?

And what’s going to happen when this week ends?

How to Say I Do is an opposites-attract, slow-burn, bi-awakening, rom-com-meets-heartfelt romance love story full of swoony beach vacation vibes, laugh-out-loud moments, and grab-your-chest heartache. Add a sprinkle of fake husbands, second chance romance, small town vibes, and celebrity shenanigans, and you’ve got the makings of Wyatt and Noël’s love story.

Pour yourself into the sand and sun and enjoy Noël and Wyatt’s journey to their Happy Ever After.

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An Excerpt from How to Say I Do
I am my father’s son.

My father pinned a deputy sheriff badge on his chest the morning of his nineteenth birthday, and, for twenty-two years, he kept our little corner of Nowhere, Texas, safe and sound. He had a reliable streak that stretched as far as the fourteen-hour haul it took to drive from one Texas border to the other. In Texas, you don’t describe distance in miles. You talk in hours. And when you stand up and say you’re a man people can rely on, well. They do. The trust everyone put in my dad flowed like blood rivers running through the Earth.

My father's legacy lived in every part of me. I inherited his powerfully fierce need to help others, along with that everlasting McKinley dependability, and a tenaciousness that rose out of the marrow of my bones.

I was four years old when he taught me how to hold a shotgun and aim for a line of cans he’d set up on our back fence. And right before my fifth birthday, I started sneaking out of bed to watch from the upstairs landing whenever someone came pounding on our door after midnight. Those knocks meant trouble, and nighttime strangers bringing their anger to our home.

Six months later, after Dad caught me on the landing one night, he handed me his shotgun when one of those after-dark knocks came, and he positioned me so I had a clear-as-day view of him standing on our porch. My little heart was beating as fast as a mourning dove’s, but I kept that barrel level and the stock hard up against the meat of my scrawny shoulder, my eyes peeled on the two figures discussing matters beneath the melted-butter glow of our porch light.

Even when things began with fists banging on our door and bellowed curses I wasn’t supposed to repeat, they always ended with a handshake. My father knew how to take care of people. He took care of me after those shotgun midnights, too, ruffling my hair when he tucked me back into bed and calling me his “chief deputy” and my mother and baby brother’s protector.

I basked under his praise. Every time we had a school assignment that asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, I always, always, said, “I want to be my daddy.” If I could have, I would have ditched first grade and ridden around with him in his sheriff’s truck, helping people all day long. By six, I knew how to change a tire. Dad used to let me answer his radio sometimes, sitting me on his knee as I called out “ten-four” in my little boy lisp. That radio was the background soundtrack to my childhood, humming and crackling a never-ending white noise interspersed with dispatcher calls and ten-codes and lonely late-night voices.

When they found my father's body, he was curled around my mother, and his charred bones were mixed with hers so thoroughly that it took a forensic anthropologist two days to sort out who was who. We buried them in the same coffin anyway.

Responsible. I am responsible, people say. It took me a long time to accept only a few definitions and synonyms of that word, and disavow the guilt that ran my soul raw and ragged.

So: I am my father’s son. I am the best of him left on this Earth.

Which is why I, apparently, was the only man who was going to do a damn thing about what we were all watching unfold not ten feet away. Every one of us, all strangers, were tucked into this little hole-in-the-wall airport bar in Dallas/Fort Worth International, and it was two o’clock in the afternoon. The man we were all watching, like he was a prize bull or a rodeo clown, was bellied up to the bar with a line of empty shot glasses in front of him.

He was tall and slender, with fine-boned features that called to mind aristocracies and royal lineages. He was my type, too, if I let myself think about things like that. He would have caught my attention no matter what. My gaze had locked onto him as soon as my boots crossed over the threshold of this bar, and for the past twenty minutes, an electric restlessness had built inside of me, coming out through my jiggering heel and my fingers tap-tap-tapping.

He was wearing full dress tails: a tuxedo that smelled like big money, a satin vest, and a paisley puff tie with the pearl pin, all yanked to the right, the loose knot wickedly askew. His hair was worse than disheveled, like he’d put both hands up in it and yanked. His eyes were hidden by mirrored aviators, the expensive kind that weren’t $7.99 from RaceTrac. The bartender had left behind a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka three shots ago, and now the man in the tuxedo was in a stare-down with the booze left inside that tall frosted bottle.

Forty eyeballs were glued to his rumpled jacket and trembling shoulders.

“Lemme get two of your burgers, fully dressed,” I said to the bartender, who had his eyes locked on the man in the tuxedo while he wiped down glasses like he was warming up to throw a punch. “And two extra-large orders of curly fries,” I added. “A couple glasses of water, too, sir.”

And with that, I unhooked my boot heel from the crossbar of my stool, straightened my hat, and headed down the bar.

I stopped six inches back from where he had a white-knuckled death grip on the edge of the bar top. This close, I could see his arms shaking. He smelled like he wanted to be alone—that sour rankness of abject misery and the aftereffects of an extensive pile of hours dedicated to uninterrupted drinking.

“Howdy.” I tipped the brim of my hat.

He turned, pulling down the bridge of his aviators so he could glare at me over the tops of his lenses. His eyes were bloodshot and swollen, his eyelashes thick with dried tears, and dark circles tugged on his bottom lids. He’d been crying hard, and recently, and he’d been doing his best to hide it.

His gaze flicked past my rodeo t-shirt, my overly large belt buckle, my Wranglers, and my scuffed boots before sliding back up to my hat. My hat had been my father’s—a dove-gray Cattleman, stiff after two decades of hard-earned sweat and the punishing Texan sun. My father had left it in his truck, and now it was one of three things I had left of him.

“Wow. You’re fully Texan.”

Whoever he was, he wasn’t Texan, that was for sure. I’d known that from my first peek, but his voice confirmed it. He was from back east, somewhere where there were big cities and bigger crowds. New York, probably. It was in his posture and his eyes, the way he could assess a man with a skim and a glance. That stiff arm, too, that he held against the world, screaming for no one to come near.

If a Texan had been weeping into his shot glasses at a bar, he’d have had four new friends inside of five minutes to pour out his troubles on. No one here knew what to do with a prickly, wounded man from New York City.

I smiled. “I am.” My voice had the kind of drawl that people don’t believe exists anymore, the kind you only heard in old Hollywood films or if you turned off the main highways and lost yourself in dusty towns buried off country roads and farm-to-market byways. A lady from Amarillo, who had a thick Texan voice of her own, once told me you could pour honey between my vowels and watch it puddle.

“What is this?” He flicked his hand between him and me. “Walker: Texas Ranger? Have I broken the law, cowboy? Day drinking not allowed in these parts?” His inhale was sharp and sudden. And shaky.

“Well, we usually drink Tito’s vodka here, not Goose, but there’s no law against bad taste.” I smiled again, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a waitress with a tray loaded up with two burgers and a giant heap of curly fries slow way down after she spotted me and the man in the tuxedo. “That’ll do you in a pinch.” I nodded to the half-empty bottle of Goose, then waved to the waitress, beckoning her over.

Tuxedo Man laughed. It wasn’t a happy laugh. He didn’t sound like he was enjoying himself. He sounded, instead, like he wanted to be crying again, and would give anything to be out from under all those staring eyeballs. He slid his sunglasses back into place and turned his face to the ceiling, his eyes clenched tight enough that I could see the crinkles around the edges of his big-city lenses.

Two plates of burgers landed in front of me, followed by the fries, and then the waitress beat a trail back to the kitchen that could have left dust rolling behind her. I pushed one plate across the bar. “You want something to eat?”

His chin dipped down. He pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head, and, finally, he really looked at me. Those red-rimmed eyes of his were blazing, and his fingernails dug into the wood between us. “Yeah,” he whispered. “How about a shot of Tito’s, too?”

His name was Noël, and his story poured out in between his ravenous scarfing of his burger and half of mine. I hmmed and frowned and said “Bless” and “Lord almighty” in all the right places, picked at a few of the curly fries, and shared a single shot of Tito’s with him…

About Tal Bauer
Tal Bauer writes breathtaking, heartfelt, and often action-packed gay romance novels. His characters are head over heels for each other, and fight against all odds for their happy ending. Nothing stands in the way of love.

Tal is best known for his romantic suspense novels, including The Murder Between Us and The Grave Between Us. He has also written You & Me, The Jock and The Quarterback, along with the Big Bend Texas Rangers series.

Connect with Tal


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