What would make you reach outside your comfort zone?
Aron Roberts helped his previous love discover a new one, so now he’s on his own, living only for his work and the times he manages to escape into the sky. He meets Joe Welsh again—a man he met at the roadside a year ago, a man who became an out-of-reach figure in his fantasies. Aron discovers Joe’s life has undergone major changes since their last meeting. The spark of attraction ignites into flames only to be put out by uncomfortable truths.
Can Aron overcome his fears and step out of his comfort zone to find love? Can Joe help Aron to deal with his past and trust him enough to allow Aron into his life?
With the help of family and friends, and a very determined one-year-old girl, Aron and Joe have a journey to make and obstacles to overcome, if they are ever going to get their happy ever after.
This book is linked to Sporting Chance but can be read as a standalone novel.
- 1 To Be Read list
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Hurt / Comfort, Opposites Attract
Word Count: 80000
Setting: Cardiff, Wales. United Kingdom
Languages Available: English
“All right, all right, I’m coming.” Aron Roberts opened his front door, relieved the ringing had stopped.
“Could you grab the top one for me, please?” the voice behind the boxes asked. “Sorry about the bell. No hands.”
“Sure. You look as if you’re fully loaded there.” He picked off the top box then stood and stared. He’d seen those green eyes before, but once seen never forgotten. “Joe!” he said in surprise. “It is you, isn’t it? Wow, I didn’t realize when Margaret said she’d booked a caterer for tonight it would be you. So, is this your company, or do you work for them?”
Joe smiled. “Any chance of getting the food in the fridge before catching up? Wouldn’t want it to spoil for your guests now, would we?”
Somewhat flustered, Aron let Joe move past him. “Sorry. Right. Yes. The kitchen is that way, on the left. We’ll be eating in the conservatory.”
He followed Joe down the corridor, unable to resist casting his eyes appreciatively up and down his sturdy frame. He guessed Joe worked out if the biceps, currently straining the arms of his T-shirt, were anything to go by. “Yes, through there. There’ll be enough room in the fridge.”
Joe put the boxes on the table and started to open them. “I had no idea it would be you. I guess I spoke to your wife on the phone.” He whipped out a sheet of paper. “Yeah, it says Margaret Pearce. Oh, and yes, Croeso I Cymraeg Catering is mine. It’s a play on my name.”
“Welcome to Welsh Catering?” Aron questioned.
“Yeah, that’s me, Joe Welsh, and you must be Aron Pearce. We never did get around to swapping surnames at the side of the road, did we?” He held out his hand. “Good to meet you again in much better circumstances.”
Aron shook his hand. His grip was firm, and Aron found it hard not to run his thumb across the back of Joe’s hand. “Margaret is my personal assistant, not my wife. She thinks she’s my mother most of the time, and she organized this evening for me as she organizes the rest of my life. I’m Aron Roberts, and I’m not married.”
Aron couldn’t help but notice the way Joe lowered his gaze, seemingly looking him over. Was Joe checking him out? He glanced away, as if aware he’d been caught.
“Well, that’s cleared that up then. I’ll get this lot put in the fridge and get started, shall I? If you can point me toward the crockery and cutlery you want to use, I’ll make sure the table is laid. Most of the prep work is done, so I can cook and present. I’ll be the waiter for tonight as well. Is there somewhere I can change?”
Aron pulled out a few drawers and opened the relevant cupboards to show Joe where to find everything he might need. “There are seven of us for dinner tonight,” he explained. “It’s the first anniversary of me setting up my company. When we met last year, I’d recently started Aztechnologies.”
“Sounds clever,” Joe said as he busied himself around the room. “And I’m obviously not the only one who can play with names. You said your name was Az.”
“It’s a nickname I’m trying to grow out of,” Aron said.
“Oh, right. It’ll be Mr. Roberts tonight in front of your guests.” Joe continued to talk as he removed items from the boxes and placed them on the table.
Aron stared when he unwrapped a roll of cloth to reveal an impressive set of knives.
“Most chefs have their own. We have to make sure we have IDs on us because carrying knives is an offense. I had to explain to an overzealous cop once.”
He stopped for a moment, as if feeling the weight of the knife he’d selected in his hand. “You know, it’s such a weird coincidence us meeting again a year after I nearly crashed into you. Mrs. Pearce said someone recommended me.”
“Yeah, you did a party for Dan Morgan and his partner for their civil partnership ceremony. I couldn’t go because I was abroad, but he went on and on about the wonderful food. I didn’t know the company was yours when I asked Margaret to book you.” He wasn’t exactly lying about Dan, but being abroad had been a convenient excuse to avoid seeing the man he’d once loved committing himself to another.
Joe interrupted his thoughts. “I see. That night went well, and I got quite a few bookings afterward. I had to keep pinching myself, you know, being there with all those Welsh rugby players and me being a Giants fan all my life.” He chuckled ruefully. “Strangely, I had no trouble getting my family to volunteer to help me serve on that occasion.”
Maybe it was the wrong thing to say, but Aron opened his mouth, and the words flowed out. “You know I came to see you at the pub in Llandaff a while after we met.”
Joe stopped and glanced up before continuing. “Oh, yeah?”
“You weren’t working there, though, and they were a bit cagey about where you were.”
“No, I left. I decided being on my own gave me more independence and flexibility.”
“It must be good having your family working with you.” Yes, he was digging. When Aron had met Joe at the side of the road the year before, he’d been about to become a father for the first time. They’d stood together in the rain, waiting for the rescue services to sort out their broken-down cars. Aron had warmed to the man in front of him. Joe had been shaken up after his brakes had failed. Aron considered him again. His black hair was shorter and neater than it had been. He stood an inch or two taller than Aron, but still under six feet. Aron speculated about the body under his chef’s jacket. But above everything else, it was his green eyes that had caught Aron’s attention, and the smattering of freckles across his nose and cheeks, totally unexpected for a man with his coloring.
“Yes, it can be when they can be bothered,” Joe replied, bringing him back into the room. “How do you know Dan Morgan?”
The subject had been changed. Aron didn’t want to admit he and Dan had been an item for many years. He didn’t want Joe to know he was gay, not yet anyway. Although everyone among his friends, family and colleagues knew. It was always awkward with someone new.
“Dan? I went to school with him. We’ve known each other since we were eleven. Right, I’d better get out of your way and leave you to get on with things—unless there’s anything else you need.”
“No, everything’s in order. I’ll get the vegetables sorted then the main course. The scallops don’t need much cooking, and the dessert is mostly done. You said you wanted to be ready to serve at eight?”
“That’s right.” Suddenly, the room had become smaller, and he wanted to get out of there. “I’d better go and get ready. Margaret is a great believer in the idea that clothes make the man, and I need to get the oil out from underneath my fingernails. My production manager likes me to be hands on. To be honest, so do I. We’re trying to get a new piece of tech sorted at the moment. I won’t bother you with the details.”
Joe chopped carrots without stopping.
Aron shifted uneasily from foot to foot. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”
Joe murmured something and continued chopping.