The universe is trying to tell Sacha Bolic something. A fire escape collapses under him, he lands in crap, and a killer barely misses his target... all in the same few seconds. That's on top of a long list of mishaps and job dissatisfaction. Not one to ignore signals when they're shoved in his face, Sacha retires and uses his savings to buy an old building in Skagit, Washington. With a little help from DIY videos, he’s going to bring it back to its former glory. And, yeah, it’s a metaphor. If he makes one change, others will follow…
Seth Culver avoids entanglements, romantic or otherwise. Who needs them? He’s learned the hard way that people betray you or leave. Still, Seth finds people compelling. He kind of collects them, learning their secrets before letting them go their own way. His commitment to no commitments may have met its match in Sacha. Handsome and hot, Sacha seems to offer a permanence that scares Seth more than anything ever has. Seth will have to decide if he’s going to grab life by the balls or keep watching from the sidelines.
A box of inconsequential belongings hidden for decades in the old building hints at lives imagined but not lived, reminding them both there are no guarantees in love, or this thing called life.
A standalone in the Accidental Roots series, HEA, and hot m/m. 18+
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Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Tropes: Coming Out / Closeted
Word Count: 74000
Setting: Washington State
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Minute particles of plaster dust poured down: a shower, a rainstorm. Sacha lay where he’d fallen, individual motes spilling from the hole in the ceiling, first quickly and then more sedately, before floating down to where he lay, covering him like snow. Or a shroud. Fucking ladders.
Curiosity overcoming the pain radiating from his hip and lower back, Sacha carefully rolled over. Groaning, he pulled himself up to hands and knees, and then stood. Brushing at the dust on his clothing, he gingerly made his way back up the ladder, his body complaining each step of the way. There was a jumbo-size container of pain reliever in his future if he had any plans to sleep tonight… or move in the morning. His nearly-forty-year-old body was not meant for this.READ MORE
When he regained the topmost step of the ladder, he braced himself and stretched as high as he could before sticking his hand into the dark opening above his head. His fingertips barely brushed the ceiling, but sure enough, he felt the cold answer of metal against them. Yes. There was a tin ceiling hidden behind the 1970s plaster cover job. Holy fuck. Maybe, just maybe, this wouldn’t turn out to be the worst decision he’d ever made.
The worst decision he had recently made was choosing to camp out in his newly purchased property instead of finding somewhere decent to stay. A place with amenities, like a shower and a kitchen. A person could only warm so much on a hot plate, and a hand-washing sink didn’t replace a shower. A commercial building built more than a hundred years ago did not have such niceties.
Since regardless of what his bank balance looked like, Sacha chose to live like he was down to his last penny, he’d tossed a sleeping bag and air mattress down, calling it good. The box the air mattress had arrived in displayed a well-rested blonde woman in a variety of positions on the mattress, but Sacha was not well rested. Each morning he’d woken miserable and aching on top of a flat plastic sack instead of a bed. A week in, he was ready to surrender.
Staying in the vacant building was a matter of pride as much as money. If his battered body could get up every day… he really didn’t know what he thought he was proving. That he was a stubborn bastard, he supposed. But he’d been a bastard all his life; it wasn’t going to change anytime soon.
The building was meant to be an investment. It was an investment. He was going to restore it, put it back on the market, and buy another one. Buyers were into the retro look, and Skagit had a lot of old buildings waiting to be brought back to life. The century-old Warrick Building had drawn him from the first. Located in the close-to-being-gentrified-but-not-quite business neighborhood north of downtown Skagit, the building screamed potential.
He hoped to restore it to its original glory as closely as possible. Fixtures and everything. Never mind that he had never done much of this kind of work before, or ever. That was what the internet was for, right? There was no doubt in his mind that the structure harbored secrets—at some point a gorgeous granite exterior had been masked behind a plaster-and-wood façade to make it appear modern. The lure of the building’s hidden history had brought him this far. The tin ceiling was icing on the cake.
Today he’d woken after no more than six miserable hours of semi-sleep, again, and he was feeling… worn down, weary. The promise he’d seen, the hidden beauty of the old bank building built in 1899 from local white granite, had faded somewhat, replaced by a dull throb behind his right eye. Tin ceiling or no tin ceiling.
Coffee. He needed real coffee. He eyed the tiny single-serve machine he’d bought. It was not going to be enough to get him to noon, much less through the day. Sacha needed, like some kind of junkie, a huge iced coffee with several shots of espresso added to it. And sugar, lots of sugar. The cheap beans he’d purchased and the single eight-ounce cups his machine sputtered out left a lot to be desired.
Climbing back down the ladder, Sacha got a whiff of himself. Fuck, he needed a shower too, but coffee came first. A trip to the gym’s shower room was the sole way he would achieve true cleanliness, but no one in Skagit would mind if he was a little dusty. He brushed off as much of the plaster as he could before heading out the front door.
Sacha got a couple funny looks as he locked the door behind him. Neighbors weren’t used to seeing anyone come in or out of the building. The realtor had told him it had stood empty for years: the original bank had gone out of business during the 1940s, and a bookstore had occupied the first floor at some point during the 1970s. The time between was a mystery. After the bookstore closed, the place had been used for storage for over thirty years before falling vacant.
The morning sun bounced off the windows of the brick-and-stone buildings on the opposite side of the street and into Sacha’s eyes. Squinting against it, he wished for his sunglasses, but he wasn’t turning back now. The need for caffeine was too great.
By the time the closest coffee shop, cleverly named the Coffee Place, came into view he felt better, his sore muscles warmed up and his head clearer. The lack of sleep was taking its toll, Sacha admitted. Staring middle age right in the face and trying not to flinch.
The door of the shop swung open. Another early-morning patron slid out, a huge to-go cup in one hand. The man’s eyes widened, and he gasped. “Sir, are you okay? Has there been an accident?” Putting his coffee down on an outside table, the stranger carefully took Sacha’s arm and pulled him away from the entrance.
Sir? He wasn’t that old.
“Sit here. I’ll get help.”
“Wait. No. What are you talking about? I’m fine,” Sacha sputtered. He stopped mid-protest, taking in the stranger who had accosted him.
The man was, by anyone’s standards—although Sacha had a lifetime of practice at not overtly noticing that kind of thing—gorgeous. A flicker of attraction sparked inside his chest, catching Sacha off guard. Forget spark, Sacha practically caught on fire.
Nearly as tall as Sacha, the man was slim and graceful where Sacha was a lumbering bear. The stranger’s most striking features, though, were his kind, caramel-colored eyes filled with concern and a dash of humor. Not many people found Sacha amusing, so it caught him off guard.
He was familiar with fear or wariness, sometimes loathing, but never amusement. Sacha was ensnared by the inner light in the man’s eyes, or some bullshit thing he had no words for. He needed to do something to keep them focused on him. Instead he was standing and staring like a village idiot.
“Have you looked in the mirror? Because what I am seeing is not fine.” The man made a “Take a look for yourself” gesture toward the plate-glass window of the coffee shop, unfazed by Sacha’s larger size and snippy attitude.
It took Sacha a moment to recognize the ghostly figure reflected in the window. A dried trickle of blood lay along the side of his temple, and he was covered from head to toe with a fine layer of plaster dust… which explained the odd looks on his walk here.
Laughter took him by surprise. He doubled over, using his knees for support. Now that he knew it was there, the plaster itched like crazy against his skin, and the throb behind his right eye was a fucking headache from when he fell off the ladder and banged his head against the hardwood. He looked like a fucking zombie.
He kept trying to catch his breath to explain, but the sight of himself looking like he was a cast member from The Walking Dead would set him off again. He was wheezing; every time he tried to say something, anything, he could only squeak. After a few moments of this, the stranger went inside, returning moments later.
“Drink this,” he commanded, shoving a glass of water under Sacha’s nose. Their fingers touched briefly, and Sacha could swear he felt an electric shock pass between them.
The glass, cold in his hand and wet with condensation, helped ground him. He gulped the water down, feeling it soothe his dry throat. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched the stranger watching him.
“Who are you?” Sacha asked.
“Seth Culver. You?”
“A—uh, Sacha, Bolic.” Good fucking lord, he even sounded like an accident victim.
“Well, A-uh-Sacha, what in the hell did you do to yourself?”
Sacha looked pointedly at his coffee cup. “I need one of those.” He was not going to be dissuaded from his mission. “Please, I can’t go in there like this.”
Seth rolled his eyes but stood, waving off the cash Sacha tried to shove in his hand. He went back inside, returning with a large cup of drip coffee that matched his own. Sacha accepted the gift, cupping it with both hands and sucking in the heady aroma of roasted coffee beans. His laughing fit had passed, but he still felt odd. He’d probably hyperventilated.
They sat at one of the outdoor tables arranged along the sidewalk. Sacha took a fortifying sip of caffeine before starting his tale, the hot coffee a pleasant distraction.
“I probably hit my head when I fell off a ladder earlier.” Seth’s eyes widened, and Sacha saw a possible trip to the ER in his future. “Let me finish. I bought a building, and I’m renovating it. I was up on the ladder, and I fell… actually it was more of a slide. Obviously, I’m fine.”
A dark eyebrow raised mockingly. “Yeah, obviously. Is there a reason you didn’t shower or change your clothes?”
Sacha looked down at himself. “There’s no shower in the building?”
“You can’t go around town like that. I don’t know you, but I do know you can’t go out, more out, in public. Like that.” Seth pinned Sacha with an assessing stare. “You’re not a serial killer or a mob boss or anything, are you? My brother will kill me if I accidentally bring one of those home.”
Sacha shook his head. Explaining that he had pretended to be both a killer and a mob boss for a few years would be too much for a first meeting.
“How about we head back to your building, grab some fresh clothes, and you clean up at my place?”
The head injury must have been affecting him because, instead of doing the smart thing and declining, Sacha agreed to go to a random stranger’s house and take a shower. A stranger he found very attractive. Muttering and shaking his head, he gulped the rest of his coffee, needing the distraction of the burn as it slid down his throat.
Seth cocked his head. “What was that?”
“‘Bila ne bila.’ It’s a Russian saying: ‘Whatever happens, happens.’”
“I’m not the one who looks like I crawled out of a ditch. Or a fresh grave.” Seth remarked.
Sacha laughed again.COLLAPSE
Kindle Customer on https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R98C9FTOESXJ4/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1974642216 wrote:
Elle Keaton has done it again. Her writing and her characters are simply things of beauty and I found myself drawn into each character's life and rooting for their success, (The true aim of any writer of gay romance). What I love most about this series is the genre bending approach to thrillers in general. It is a twist off the normal boy meets boys, boy falls in love with boy and HEA endings and that is something I can truly wrap my head around. I really relate to the character of Sacha Bolic and his stoic trip of self-discovery and can't wait to read more from Ms. Keaton. She is a quality author who could easily master a mainstream book and gain even wider notoriety, possibly reaching a high ranking on the NYT Bestseller's List of fame. But for now we are happy to see her tackling these stories in particular, just as they seem to be her gift to us and for our sole enjoyment. Kudo's All Around.
I found this book in a newsletter. I downloaded it with Kindle Unlimited. I almost skipped reading it. That would have been a loss. I am now backtracking and reading the first three books in this series (and anticipating the fifth). It is more than the typical mm romance. It is a novel worthy of being shelved as a classic.