Buchanan House: Book Six
Chase Holland spends his days painting Portland scenes to hang in local businesses, neglecting his own surrealist style. After twenty-five years as a full-time artist, he’s frustrated that his career has stalled, but churning out the equivalent of corporate art is better than getting a day job. Chase and Garrett have been together—off and on, but mostly on—for a decade. If asked, they would both say the source of their trouble is the seventeen-year age gap. The truth is less clear-cut. Life would be so much easier if Chase could make a living with his own art, or if Garrett held less conventional ideas about relationships.
Garrett Frisch has been watching their friends get married for the past two years, and it’s taking an emotional toll. When he proposes as a way to keep them together permanently, he thinks he’s being responsible, but Chase is ambivalent and hurt and can’t hide it. It doesn’t help that Garrett’s anxiety is out of control and he’s dealing with insecurities about his own art career. They will have to do their least favorite thing—talk about something more important than which food cart to visit—if they are to get the happy ending they both want.
- 3 To Be Read lists
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Tropes: Age Difference, Everyone is Queer, Hurt / Comfort, Queer Wedding
Word Count: 86000
Setting: Portland, Oregon and Buchanan House
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
CHASE WATCHED as more figures appeared behind the mourners standing around the mouth of the open grave, huddled under their umbrellas. The new group wasn’t dressed for the weather, they wore shorts and sandals, their hair hanging in long unruly strings and obscuring their faces. He found it harder and harder to breathe and to act like he wasn’t watching.READ MORE
Garrett might stop drawing if he felt everyone’s attention on him, and Chase didn’t want that to happen. The plain brown paper covering the table at the brewfest could use more than the standard “X Loves Y” and “Kilroy Was Here” type of graffiti, but the real reason was that he loved to watch Garrett work. Even when his work veered into dark places as it was obviously doing. Chase resisted the urge to touch him, to try and soothe away whatever had prompted Garrett to draw a funeral scene in the middle of a brewfest on a rare sunny spring day in Portland, when as far as he knew, nobody had died recently or was even sick.
Most years the tents in Waterfront Park would be securely closed, the heavy tarp walls drawn and tied against the wind and rain. The tent walls were there in case the weather changed—it is Portland, so in half an hour it could be raining—but tied back to let the sunshine in. The day wasn’t warm but was pleasant enough to sit for an afternoon tasting microbrews and bullshitting with the family.
Chase resisted the urge to figure out what was bothering Garrett—which, seriously, I wouldn’t be able to do anyway given my limited resources—and tried to keep up with the conversation. Kyle was catching Bran up on his massage therapy program—and in his sexiest voice, which is doing its job as far as I’m concerned—when someone rested a stein beside Garrett’s drawing, making him jump.
I’m an asshole for being relieved he jumped toward me.
“That’s cool. Are you an artist?” The young woman slurred a bit, and she and her companions giggled as they wobbled on their expensive sandals.
Garrett shook his head without looking at them.
“Well you should be. Do you mind if we join you?”
Four women standing; four men sitting. Anywhere else it might have been the start of something. Anywhere else and the women might have been surprised when Bran wrapped his arm around Kyle, pulled him close, and kissed him noisily on the mouth. Instead the women rolled their eyes and walked on before Bran came up for air. Chase never would have thought Kyle Shimoda, of all the men he knew, would get married. But for all of his—our—anti-assimilationist talk, he seemed genuinely happy with Bran.
When the newlyweds finally unclinched, they leaned in to study Garrett’s drawing without skipping a beat. Garrett cringed, and Chase’s heart shriveled in response. Garrett hadn’t been around much for the past few weeks, and that single gesture was enough for Chase to see he wouldn’t be staying the night. How many rooms does that West Hills mansion have that need painting anyway?
Bran was the first to break the silence. “That’s amazing how you can do so much with just a stubby library pencil, Garrett.”
Garrett mumbled thanks and seemed to shrink an inch or two. He wasn’t good with new people during the tough times, and Bran only lived in Kyle’s room in the condo half of the time, spending the other half in Lincoln City. Chase thought about taking Garrett home and letting him relax in a quiet room, maybe without any clothes on. Damn, this isn’t helping.
Garrett slid to the end of the bench and turned toward them. “Anyone ready for a refill? This is my round.”
All three said, “Sure, thanks,” at once.
“Okay. I’ll be right back.”
Kyle waited until the crowd noise and the music would cover it and then asked, “Is he okay?”
“I don’t know.” Chase shook his head and shrugged. “He won’t be staying tonight, so if you want me to make myself scarce….”
“He looks a little tense.” Kyle studied Chase’s face for a short moment and then turned his attention back to the drawing on the table. “And that doodle, lovely as it is, doesn’t say anything good about his state of mind.”
Chase tried not to let his relief show. Kyle’s much smarter than me. If he saw it too, that means I’m probably right about Garrett’s emotional state. Not that I’m happy about that.
Chase didn’t know Bran very well—he and Kyle had only been together about half a year—but he’d learned that Bran wasn’t the most patient man. He was cool, though, so it didn’t bother Chase when he asked, “What did I miss?”
Thankfully Kyle answered, so Chase could go back to looking for clues in Garrett’s drawing. He wished he could make out the writing on the tombstone, but maybe it was only the scribble it appeared to be.
“They’ve been together for ten years. Sometimes they don’t have to speak.” Kyle sounded a little jealous, or maybe he was just thinking about when he and Bran would have that much history.
“Ten years? How old is Garrett?”
It sounded like that question had been directed at him, but Chase didn’t want to answer. He tipped the last of his beer down his throat, betting Kyle would do it for him.
After a moment of silence from across the table, Chase peeked up. Bran frowned, and Kyle wore a slightly apologetic smile.
“And you were, what, thirty?”
“Thirty-four, actually. But even then he was more mature than I’ve ever been. Probably than I ever will be.” Chase couldn’t tear his eyes away from the drawing. “He has more talent in his left hand than I do in my whole body.”
Bran chuckled. “Don’t you mean little finger?”
Relief washed through Chase—he didn’t want to be on Bran’s bad side, even if he deserved it. Kyle had spent forty-seven years looking for The One and didn’t need tension from his bum of a roommate messing with his wedded bliss. Plus, Bran looked strong enough to wrestle bulls or alligators. Chase was the youngest of the three, and at that moment he felt almost like he was about to be punished for something he couldn’t remember doing, or at least scolded.
“He doesn’t draw with his little finger.” Chase forced himself to look up and meet Bran’s gaze. His blue eyes didn’t hold as much judgment as Chase expected. Not as much as I deserve. “He’s coming back.”
Kyle whispered in Bran’s ear, and again Chase was relieved and grateful that he didn’t have to explain why they were being so careful. Kyle would do a much better job than Chase ever could. Especially since he had trouble explaining their relationship to himself.
Garrett stopped at the end of the table, sunlight striking his back and creating a dark auburn halo around his head. Awash in the golden sunlight, his fair skin seemed to glow. Chase had been sad when Garrett had arrived at the condo two days before with his shoulder-length waves sheared away, but had to admit the shorter hairstyle complemented his oval face. Chase’s heart seemed to constrict, or maybe fill past the point of pain. He’s so beautiful. The hint of facial hair he wore—also new, a lighter, hipper version of a Vandyke—suited him. Garrett put three cups down on the table, right on top of his drawing. “I’m going to head out. It was nice seeing you again, Bran.”
Before Chase had time to find his voice, Kyle answered, reaching across Bran to grab a cup. “Hey. I thought you were going to hang out and come to dinner.”
“Sorry. I… really should get back to work.”
“Rain check.” Kyle sipped, watching Garrett over the rim of his cup. “That wasn’t a question.”
Garrett’s face had been pointed toward the table, his focus on the drawing he’d intentionally ruined. He’s never been as hung up on permanence, on having people see his art, as I have. When he looked up, Kyle winked. Garrett smiled and nodded. “Okay.”
“Good. Take care, and don’t make me wait too long.”
Garrett nodded and turned to leave. Chase couldn’t quite believe he was going—already—or that it took him so long to find his own voice. “Hold up, let me walk with you.”
They walked together side by side, neither speaking nor touching, until they had cleared the brewfest and crossed Naito Parkway. Instead of heading for the nearest MAX platform, Chase veered northwest, toward the condo. After another block, the crowd thinned. When Garrett kept pace beside him, Chase allowed himself to relax a little.
“Yeah.” Garrett’s back was straight, but his voice trembled the way it did when he struggled with his anxiety—or when he was horny. Sometimes Chase couldn’t tell, even after all their time together. His voice had been shaking the same way the night they’d met, and the only thing he’d seemed to be struggling with then was waiting for the right time to pounce. It was at Chase’s one and only First Thursday gallery showing. He’d found Garrett standing in front of his favorite painting and had fallen hard. He couldn’t have said that it surprised him to learn Garrett was underage, but that hadn’t stopped him.
“Why don’t we go back to the condo? Just for a little while. It’ll be quiet.”
Garrett flashed a grateful but sad smile, and Chase’s stomach clenched. “I’m getting near the end of this job.”
Chase held his breath when they reached the corner where Garrett would have to choose: MAX or condo. Traffic forced them to wait until the light changed, and Chase almost moaned out loud when Garrett came with him. He resisted the urge to take his hand—even if they could get away with walking the rest of the way holding hands, which wasn’t guaranteed even in Portland, Garrett would see that for what it was, know that Chase was holding on so he wouldn’t leave. “What are you doing now?”
He pretended he didn’t see Garrett cringe. It was a touchy subject, but Chase wanted to keep him talking. If all he got was a few hours, he refused to spend them worrying in silence.
“The formal dining room. She wants a Greek-inspired mural on the window wall, and then marble texture on the floor.”
“Sounds cool.” It was all Chase could do not to flinch at the sound of his own voice saying that. Hopefully Garrett didn’t hear how he really felt. It sounded like a waste. A soul-sucking job that, if there were any justice in the world, someone as talented as Garrett would never have had to take in the first place. But if there were any justice at all, Garrett would be a rich man with his own condo in any city he chose, with art dealers fawning all over him. If he hadn’t been born to a fifteen-year-old in poverty, that probably would be his reality.
They walked on in silence. Garrett hesitated outside the door to the building, his face pointed at the security keypad.
“Hey. I’m not trying to force you.”
“Come up for a while? I promise, when you say you’re leaving, I won’t try to talk you out of it.”
He said okay but didn’t look away from the keypad to do so. The security keypad was new and, in their shared opinion, marred the entrance of the old building. Security was nice, but living in a historic building with character was important too. Chase punched in the security code and held the door open and would have sworn Garrett forced himself to go inside.
Garrett looked up, his brows arched in surprise, when Chase called the elevator, but he didn’t ask. Before the door opened, Garrett slipped his hand into Chase’s and squeezed gently.
Inside, though, he tensed again, stopping in the open area before the hallway to the bedrooms started, between the living room and kitchen.
Chase moved to stand in front of him without pulling on his arm. He wouldn’t risk breaking that contact. “Are you okay?”
Garrett’s eyes said no but he nodded, so Chase didn’t press him. Aside from the basic respect of taking a man at his word, Chase had learned not to push when Garrett was obviously feeling fragile. It made him think about every one of the years and every misspoken word that separated them. They’d had that argument before—too many times to count—and one thing Chase was determined to do this time around was to make new mistakes. Not the same ones over again.
If there was, in fact, another time around to be had.
For the time being at least, there seemed to be.
“I’ve been missing you.” Chase brought his free hand up to Garrett’s face. He caressed his soft cheek, drew a fingertip along his jawline, applying the barest whisper of pressure, hoping he would look up.
Garrett’s lips parted, and he gazed at Chase with a familiar expression that said “I don’t quite believe it, but don’t stop.” So Chase didn’t stop. He dipped his head and kissed Garrett’s cheek, his jaw, and left more kisses trailing to that special spot behind his ear. A shaky sigh was his signal to keep going, that Garrett wanted to move to the bedroom. Chase didn’t want to release his hand, but he did, and stepped forward so their bodies touched. When Garrett’s body relaxed against his, Chase wrapped both arms around him and renewed his attentions on Garrett’s neck.
“I miss you too.” Garrett’s head dropped back and slightly to the side, baring his neck. His fingertips dug into Chase’s back, pulling him closer, making his heart race. “This job… I hadn’t planned on it taking so long.”
“Hmm, I know.” Garrett shivered when Chase spoke, lips against his skin. When he started them moving down the hall, his cock practically jumped at the sound of Garrett’s breathless sigh, the way he allowed himself to be steered, backward, to the bed.COLLAPSE
Check out the Buchanan House Series page at Dreamspinner Press!