Eddie and Andrew have dynamite chemistry. But Eddie is profoundly dyslexic, and Andrew lives to read. Andrew is pathologically disorganized, and Eddie likes things neat and clutter-free.
Andrew is desperately ashamed of his hoarder father, and Eddie is embarrassed by his lack of education--secrets that could pull them apart even as a friend's tragedy brings them together.
When Andrew's father's condition deteriorates and he nearly dies because of his compulsion, Eddie and Andrew must learn compassion begins with loving oneself because Grime Doesn't Pay.
- 4 Read lists
- 3 To Be Read lists
Publisher: Loose Id
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Tropes: Criminals & Outlaws, Hurt / Comfort, Opposites Attract
Setting: California, USA
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Eddie checked his hair out in the rearview and gave a final pat to his tie before he got out of his car. His niece Lucy unbuckled herself, got her things, and climbed out of the two-seater, all the while complaining he was taking too long. Of course he was taking too long. They might see Lucy’s teacher, Mr. B. Andrew Daley, and Eddie was determined to make one hell of a good impression.
What Eddie really wanted was to knock the breath from Mr. B. Andrew Daley’s lungs in the same way the officially awesome Mr. B. Andrew Daley always knocked the breath from Eddie’s lungs, but what could he do? Rome wasn’t built and all. Eddie was holding to his course, making himself indispensable, helping with science projects and chick hatching, and chaperoning farm field trips. He’d become Daley’s official event photographer.READ MORE
In all, Eddie had probably spent more time with Daley than he had with any other guy, and he still called him Mr. Daley, for God’s sake.
Finding a guy on a dance floor who wanted to suck him off was a piece of cake for Eddie “Cha-Cha” Vasquez, but asking a guy on an actual date? He couldn’t remember ever doing that. Was he too old to learn new tricks?
Asking Daley out was fraught with more tension than he’d imagined.
“Come on already, Uncle Cha-Cha. How come you keep looking in the mirror?”
“I’m not.” He turned in time to see one of Lucy’s delicate eyebrows arch up, exactly like his sister-in-law’s did when she was not impressed.
“You are too. I saw you just now.” She frowned at him. “And how come you’re dressed like you’re taking Grandma to church?”
“I’m not,” he said. He’d worn his slickest black suit, burgundy shirt, and black silk tie. These were the clothes he looked his best in. He looked GQ good.
“Are too.” Like all the women in his family, Lucy could see right through him.
“I just like to look nice.”
“But I’m going to be late for early bird library.” She tapped her foot on the sidewalk in front of the car.
“Still like your lunch box?”
“Yeah,” she said. “No one’s got a lunch box like it, except my spoon and fruit cup clank when I walk.” She held herself back to slip her little hand into his as they walked along.
“Metal lunch boxes are classic.” He loved seeing her carry a tin lunch box, even if it was leopard-print smiley cat. “So the way you see it, is being unique a good thing or a bad thing?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you the kind of girl who likes to have the same things other people have, or are you the kind who likes to be different?” He was quick to add, “There’s nothing wrong with either one.”
Her brows drew into a thoughtful furrow. “I like some things other people have. My girlfriend Ariana has a plastic polka-dot lunch box that keeps her food cold. Her mom puts in tuna salad.”
“Tell your mom to freeze your juice box if she’s going to put perishable food in your lunch, and have her wrap everything in a cloth napkin. That will keep it fresh and quiet. Best of both worlds. I almost got you another lunch box the other day with Charlie’s Angels on it. The television show, not the movie.”
“Mami says you were born at the wrong time.”
“She did, did she?”
“Yeah, she says you should have been born fifty years ago, ’cause you like old things.”
“Hey, now. I like classic things.” Before Eddie could explain the difference, one of the upper-grade teachers walked up.
“Hello, Mr. Vasquez. Lucy. How are you this morning?”
“Just fine, thank you, Mrs. Calvin.”
Mrs. Calvin nodded to Lucy. “Early library day?”
“Yes!” Lucy jumped and landed on her tiptoes. “I’m in reading level 6.2!”
“The kids sure work hard for this,” said Eddie. The top three students in each grade got to spend an extra hour in the library in the morning. The privilege of extra time and extra books was turning Lucy into a first-rate student.
“It’s been a pretty successful program.” She smiled at him and leaned toward him to whisper, “It doesn’t hurt that there’s contests and prizes.”
“I won last month, did I tell you?” Lucy asked. “I won Teacher’s Pet pencils.”
“I think you mentioned that, honey. Once or twice.”
Or a thousand times.
“I read the whole first Harry Potter book and took a test on it. I got a perfect score.”
“Good for you, Lucy. That’s upper-grade stuff.” Mrs. Calvin checked her watch. “Better run along, or you’ll be late.”
Lucy picked up speed, and Eddie gave a helpless shrug before chasing after her.
“Cool your jets, Lu-lu. We’ve got plenty of time.” She dashed past the last of the classrooms and headed for the main library doors. By the time he caught up, she was already opening one to go in without a backward glance. “Hey, what do I get?”
She dimpled prettily. “Thank you for driving me, Uncle Cha-Cha.”
“Put it right there.” He pointed to a spot on his jaw as he leaned down. She gave him a kiss before turning to run away. “Anything for you, pepita. Have a good day.”
“Bye,” she said. She must have had her head in the books already, or she would have groused at him. I’m not a pumpkin seed, Uncle Cha-Cha.
Eddie didn’t suppose he blamed her. Library was her favorite thing, and he was only her ride. He turned to leave, mildly disappointed without a real reason for it.
Lucy was one hell of a kid. He’d like a couple of kids of his own someday, but a lot of guys thought kids—like carrying metal lunch boxes and wearing a jacket and tie to look nice in the hope of seeing that special someone—were a little old-fashioned. “Hetero-normative brainwashing” was what the last guy he’d dated called it.
As if the desire for a family and a child was beneath Eddie’s dignity.
He knew plenty of guys who didn’t want kids, and that was fine for them. But Eddie liked family. He came from a big one. Growing up, he’d had six different houses to call home and a ton of family at school to keep the bullies away. That was how he liked it.
“Mr. Vasquez.” A rich tenor voice stopped his train of thought—derailed it, actually—and made his mouth go dry. He turned to find Mr. B. Andrew Daley leaning against his classroom door with his hands in his pockets.
How Eddie wanted to be those hands. Since they’d met in September, Eddie’d had the feeling his heart was already inside one of those pockets, clenched tight in Mr. B. Andrew Daley’s lovely, capable hand.
Is there such a thing as love at first sight?
Or had the feeling come on as he’d watched Mr. Daley work?
Daley was always fair. Always patient.
He liked kids for who they were, not what society expected them to be.
Daley genuinely cared. He was like a magnet and Eddie wanted to melt all over him like a hot metal blanket.
Eddie cleared his throat and managed a dumbstruck smile as he ambled over to say hello. “Mr. Daley.”
Daley appeared freshly shaved, and his light brown hair was trimmed close over the ears and collar but fuller—a mass of haphazard curls—on the top. He’d dressed in a mouthwatering combination of low-rise jeans, a blue button-down, and a slim V-neck sweater under a navy sport coat. He had a goddamned scarf wrapped negligently around his throat.
In southern California.
It had probably dipped to a chilly sixty-five that morning. Eddie dared a look at Daley’s feet. Oh God. Combat boots. Kill me now. I’m done.
Daley is the hottest man ever.
“How’s teachery things?” Eddie asked stupidly. He breathed in deeply when he approached Daley, who smelled like glove leather and laurel-leaf crowns and Madagascar vanilla.
“Going along fine. Did Lucy tell you she won the prize in Early Library last week?”
“Yeah.” Eddie had the fleeting thought there was nothing he wouldn’t do for a Teacher’s Pet pencil. “She’s so happy. This year has been great for her.”
“She’s my most voracious kid when it comes to books. I’d say she was the best reader in the whole first grade.”
“That’s good to know.” Eddie couldn’t take his eyes off Lucy’s teacher.
“Do you like to read, Mr. Vasquez? I find a child’s love of reading usually starts with family. I only ask because I’ve been rereading Maurice for about the hundredth time and—”
“I don’t, actually.” Eddie felt his face heat. Whatever Morris was, he’d never read it. He never would unless listening counted as reading. “I’d like to, I mean. But reading is for people who have more time on their hands than I do. I have to go to work now.”
Eddie turned to run, but Daley’s voice stopped him. “Wait. I don’t—”
“It’s okay.” Eddie figured his face must match his burgundy shirt. Why had he worn that? It made him look like a thug. “Um…have a good day.”
Daley tilted his head like a cat with a question. “It was good to see you again, Eddie.”
Eddie shivered when Mr. Daley spoke his name. He couldn’t help it. He tried out a jaunty salute that probably looked like a tic, and headed back toward the parking lot.
One of these days, he thought.
One of these days, I’m going to figure Mr. Daley out.COLLAPSE