"Ideal Cut" covers

I've been agonizing over not knowing when The Ideal Cut would be released in the Goodreads M/M Romance Group summer Love Has No Boundaries event, and last week the edits turned up!  Hooray!  So it's probably still a few weeks out, but it gave me the kick in the pants to talk to my cover artist, S. Z. Warren. She threw this bad boy together for me in a matter of days, because she is amazing:

The Ideal Cut by Elinor Gray, cover art by S. Z. Warren

I am over the moon!  It's a free goddamn story, and it's got the best cover I've ever had!  I love it.  I can't stand it.

Here, have an excerpt:

Clayton stood his ground. “What are you doing with my diamond?”

Your diamond?” Theo looked taken aback. “What— oh, hell no.” He looked down at the diamond in his hand and then quickly shoved it into his pocket. “Don’t tell me Camilla hired you.”

It was Clayton’s turn to be surprised (again). “You mean she hired you?”

Hey, pal,” Theo said, pointing a finger at the middle of Clayton’s chest. “I’m good at what I do.”

Which is what, exactly?” Clayton asked, crossing his arms over his chest. “Getting caught stealing priceless family jewels?”

Theo narrowed his eyes and took a step towards Clayton. Clayton swallowed hard, suddenly unsure of whether he was angry or turned on right now, whether he should feel threatened or aroused. The latter option was winning.

Oh,” Theo said, dropping his voice, “because ‘Jeff from Annual Giving’ was such a good cover story. Come on, man. Maybe that can fool the plebs down there throwing money at each other, but a real confidence man can smell a fake ID from a mile away.”

Did you just say ‘confidence man’?” Clayton asked. “You sound ridiculous. I’m calling security.” It wasn’t the classy thing to do, but he needed to get out of here and fast. This job was smoked.

How are you going to explain what you were doing up here in the first place?” Theo was advancing on him. “You just said your diamond, and I know for a fact you’re not Sylvia Docker or any of her nearest relations. Camilla hired you, just like she hired me, to get this job done. The question now is why.

What did she tell you?” Clayton demanded.

What did she tell you?”

They glared at each other for a long moment. Clayton’s heart was thundering in his chest. His diamond, his job, his multi-million dollar heist— they were all in this guy’s hands. There was nothing he could do.

Motherfucker,” he said eventually, which was not an answer to anything.

I should have known you’d have a dirty mouth,” Theo said with a smirk.

Okay, look,” Clayton started, but Theo held up a hand before he could say anything else.

Wait,” he said, voice dropped to a whisper. “Did you hear that?”

Clayton knew better than to ask, Hear what? He held his breath and listened. The door behind him was ajar, and through it he could hear the sound of the party going on downstairs. But on top of that, there was the distinct sound of someone coming up the staircase. The footsteps were sure; not the drunken wandering of a party guest, but the deliberate stride of a security guard. They had wasted a lot of time being indignant. Rookie mistake.

Through there,” he said, pointing to a door behind Theo. They had to get out of this room fast, but with the diamond in Theo’s pocket, Clayton wasn’t going to let him out of his sight.

Theo obeyed, darting across the room and opening the door. “A closet?” he hissed.

Fuck,” Clayton said, “it’s the one on that side— just get in!” He hustled Theo into the tiny linen cupboard— not what he’d been hoping for— and closed the door behind them. There was barely enough room for the both of them. Theo was crowded up against Clayton in the darkness, chest to chest, his broad body firm in all the right places. He smelled warm and spicy. Clayton sucked in a breath through his teeth, cursing himself.

Maybe I was wrong,” Theo whispered in his ear. “If this is how you do all your heists, you definitely should get the job.”

Shut up,” Clayton hissed, feeling himself flush with an embarrassed, angry sort of heat. “This is thanks to your interference. I’d be out of here by now.”

If you’d picked the right door,” Theo said, so Clayton punched him.

oh baltimore, never change

"Heartwarming" Progress: Day 3