- 3 To Be Read lists
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Class Differences, Cultural Differences, Families/Raising Kids, Friends to Lovers
Setting: Boulder, CO
Languages Available: English, Italian
IT WAS a beautiful day. The sun was bright, and a light breeze ruffled Gordon’s hair as he got out of his Jeep Wrangler. He opened up the back, pulled out a heavy, square cardboard box and a bag with two bottles of wine, and then headed into the restaurant.
He stopped and set the two bottles of wine on the bar next to a man bent over some paperwork. “Hey, Oscar.”
“Hey, boss.” Oscar was the manager at Delmara. Gordon had hired him many years ago, not long after he opened the place. It had been Oscar’s brilliant idea to add tapas to the menu, and look where they were now. Oscar was constantly proving himself more valuable.
Gordon had asked Oscar if he’d be interested in running his new farm-to-table place, Gaia, when it opened a year ago, but Oscar had turned the job down. He said he knew what he was good at and it wasn’t yuppie tomatoes. Gotta love him.READ MORE
“Oscar, these two bottles are for Mr. White. He has a reservation tonight and requested them specifically. The first one is on the house because I want him to sponsor part of the spring mentoring fundraiser. Make sure he gets his usual table and Becky as his server.”
“Got it. And is he bringing his… er….”
“Date. Call her his date. Remind Becky.” Becky had a few other choice words for her, he knew. He understood; after all, the woman, drunk at the time, had loudly accused Becky of flirting with White the last time they were in. But Becky would be fine. White liked her and tipped well, and she liked her bread buttered.
Oscar laughed. “I’ll do that. Oh, boss? Don’t forget that the ladies’ room has a….”
“Got the tile.” He pointed to the box under his arm. “But I need to make that call. I’ll go do that right now. Thanks, Oscar.”
Gordon hurried back to his office. The fucking special-order tile in that bathroom was costing him a fortune, but scheduling the work would be easy at least. His tile guy was also a buddy, and always easy to bribe with good beer. He closed his office door and dialed.
“Yo, sugarbutt. How goes it?” Colby answered him with a low drawl that reminded him of incredible whiskey poured over sugar cubes.
He put the box down on his desk and collapsed into his desk chair, grinning. “Hey, Colby. Listen, I need you to come by and install that replacement tile I ordered for the ladies’ room at Delmara. You got time this afternoon? I have a beer with your name on it.”
“For you? I’ll make time.” Colby laughed, utterly unashamed about wanting his beer. “You might have to have me dirty, though. I’ve been loading my truck with tile boxes all morning, and I’m covered in ceramic dust.”
That was Colby, always coming off a hard day’s work somewhere. “Please. Do you ever show up clean? What time will I see you?”
“Is four too late? Then I won’t have to run off.”
“Four it is. The bathroom stall has been taped off for a week. It can go one more day.” He still needed to head upstairs and change. He spent nearly every evening front of house, and he had a VIP coming in tonight, so he needed to be on time. Oh shit, he needed to pick up his suit at the cleaners. Okay, that errand was next.
“You’ll have to let it cure twenty-four hours anyway.” Something crashed, and he heard, “I swear to God, y’all. You break those tiles and I will personally rip off your heads and shit down your neck.”
“Oh, listen to you go all boss. Should I let you go?”
“Yeah, yeah. I got a reputation to uphold and shit. See you at four, man.”
Gordon laughed. Colby’s voice had dropped a whole octave. “Your secret is safe with me. See you at four.”
A raspberry sounded, and then Colby hung up on him. There was something about Colby—this genuine joy when it came to anything from working to shooting pool to watching a movie—it made the guy fun to hang out with. And Gordon needed some fun once in a while. He loved his job, but it could really eat up his personal time.
Still grinning, he put his phone back in his pocket. He cut open the box to check out the tile he’d ordered. It was the right stuff. He’d just leave it on his desk for Colby. He took a second to look through the mail Oscar had left for him. Bills, bills, and more bills as usual, but also the package he’d been expecting—the newest addition to his porn collection. He left that on his desk unopened and headed out to the bar.
“Hey, Oscar, I have to run out and get my suit, and I’m going to stop by Gaia and make sure they’re good for the weekend. I’ll be back by three. Colby McBride will be by around four to see about the tile. Send him to my office when he gets here?”
“Oh, great. Will do.”
“What do the reservations look like?”
“We’re packed, boss. Tonight and tomorrow, both.”
“He’ll be out by six, right?”
“I’ll make sure he is.” It wasn’t a lot of work; it’d be okay. They could hang out and have that beer after Colby was done. Damn priorities.
“All right, I’m off.” Gordon brushed the wrinkles out of his shirt and headed out the door.
God, this gorgeous day. No wonder they were expecting a packed house. People were out everywhere. Nothing was as good for business as the promise of springtime.
After a long winter, there was nothing quite like coming alive again.
“MCBRIDE? YOU get that utility room floor done?”
“Would I be out here looking for my draw if I didn’t, man? Y’all know I do good work.” Come on, motherfucker. Pay me. I got to tile a bathroom and see my man. He reckoned it didn’t matter a bit whether Gordon knew he was Colby’s. That was just details. Eventually he would make Gordon see him as more than a beer buddy.
If he could start his weekend with a check in one hand and a beer in the other, he would be a happy little cowboy. He’d started one job, picked up supplies for another, and trimmed out the third. He was a busy man.
Thank God for that.
“You’re the best guy out there,” Lou admitted grudgingly, handing over his draw. “And I gotta say, you will work for money.”
“I’m good that way.” He pocketed the check after peeking to make sure all the numbers were there. “Thank you, sir. I will be on the Williams’s job come Monday. Should take me a day and a half, give or take.”
“Then you’ll work that Best Western?”
“Just the lobby fireplace, man. You can get any asshole to slap down twelve-bys on the rooms.” He knew what his happy ass was worth, and it was worth more than mindless tile work. He liked to be pushed some.
“Just the lobby.” Lou rolled his eyes like dice. “The owner’s wife has ideas.”
“Faboo.” Something else he was pretty good at was talking to folks. He liked people, so for the most part, people liked him. “I can talk to her Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday, huh? Let her show me what all she wants.”
Lou snorted. “Oh, I’m sure she’ll love whatever you have to offer. Try for Tuesday, yeah? I want you done over there by Friday. I’ve got a couple of big jobs I’ve bid on for the week after, and there might be some design work on one of them. I could use you.”
“Just call.” Lou paid on time and, so far, didn’t seem to be too much of a dick, so Colby gave the big man priority. “Have a good weekend, sir.”
“You too, cowboy.”
He tipped his gimme cap and headed out to his F-250, then hauled his butt up into the cab. “Okay. Let’s get this show on the road.”
Colby cracked his window, turned Luke Bryan up loud, and put on his sunglasses. Damn, he did love to have him some springtime, even if it came later up here than it did back home. The snow was gone, the trees were budding, and the sun was making promises that it might be time to grill out wearing nothing but his cutoffs.
Between the weather and his music, the forty-minute drive from the worksite just flew on by. Traffic into town was pretty heavy but moving, and it wasn’t long before he was pulling into the lot at Delmara. He saw Gordy’s Wrangler, looking a damn sight cleaner than any Jeep he’d ever seen back home. Figured. That Wrangler probably hadn’t seen a dirt road in its life. He parked right next to the shiny Jeep, tossed his sunglasses on the seat, grabbed his tool belt, and headed inside.
“Ah, Mr. McBride.” Gordy’s manager waved him over to the bar. Hell if he could remember the guy’s name.
“Yes, sir. Mr. James called. Says he got a job for me?”
“Yes, but he wants you to stop by his office first. You remember where you’re going?”
“I’ll buzz him. You can head on back.”
He headed through the restaurant to the office, thinking that the tile floor in the hall probably ought to be replaced. It was pretty beat-up.
Gordy’s office door opened before he even had a chance to knock. “Hey, man. Come on in.”
“Hey, honey. You wanting me to get to work on that bathroom, huh?” Look at that hot motherfucker. Colby did like him some stud.
Gordy closed the office door. He turned around, and Colby got a good view of his five-o’clock shadow and his crazy green eyes. “I’d really like to take a break now, but we open in two hours, and those ladies aren’t going to like you in their bathroom much.”
“I live to serve, honey, and your fancy-assed customers might be took aback by my Wrangler butt.”
“They’re not that fancy. You’re just that cowboy.” Gordy laughed, blond bangs falling in his eyes. He swept them away the way he did, one hand carding through them and then that little toss of his head. Gordy gave him one of them weird-assed man-hug deals, bicep popping through his shirt like some high-dollar Popeye. “Thanks for coming by. Now get to work.”
“Bossy old man,” he teased and opened the office door real quick before Gordy could react. “You put the tiles in the bathroom?”
“Oh shit. No, they’re on my desk.” Gordy picked up the box and handed it over. “Here. And don’t make me hound you for an invoice like last time.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m on it.” He grabbed the box, nodded, then made his way to the bathroom. He was going to have to set up his wet saw to trim around the toilet….
Before long he was lost in the steadiness of the work, setting the tile, making sure everything was just so, and the time just flew by.
“Hey, looking good in here. Not that I would expect anything less.” Gordy set a cold bottle of beer down on the floor next to Colby. “We open in a half an hour, you close?”
“You know it. I’ll pop in tomorrow afternoon and grout it before y’all open.” He grabbed the bottle and downed half the brew. Oh, hoppy goodness. One thing about hanging with a restaurant guy? You didn’t have to drink so much Coors Light.
“That would be great. Really appreciate it. Come on up when you’re done if you want. I need a shower, and I have to put on a tie for a VIP tonight, but I’ve got some time to hang out. Back elevator’s running again.” Pretty neat that Gordy owned the building and lived two floors above the restaurant.
“Spiffy! Sure.” Man in a suit. Yay. “I got to go load my truck. You got a sign for this stall? Someone steps in here on this thin-set and they’ll slide and hurt themselves and ruin my tile job.”
“Can’t have that.” Gordy winked at him and then looked around. “Oh. I thought there was a rope and… yeah. I’ll get Oscar to set something up in here. Do your thing and then come on up. Door’ll be open.”
“Yessir. I’m on it.” It took him two trips to load up the truck and get his shit locked in his toolbox. He finished his beer on the way and took a second to wipe his face off.
Lord have mercy, he was filthy. Good thing he’d warned Mr. Fancy Tie before he showed.
He headed around to the back of the building and took the stairs instead of the elevator. The stairs were more convenient anyway; the fire door on the third floor opened up right next to Gordy’s front door.
He let himself in, as he had done many times before, and was overwhelmed as usual by the size of the damn TV in the front room. He kept telling Gordy to move it to the back wall, but the guy was as stubborn as a hog on ice. Otherwise, though, the apartment was comfortable and not nearly as showy as Gordy could probably afford to be if he wanted. Everything was new and shiny, but the couches were comfy, and the decor was basically gay bachelor pad. Framed Stonewall poster on one wall, rack of DVDs, mostly porn, under the TV, the usual. Broadway soundtracks lined up next to the stereo.
Some ancient rock band was on the radio. Gordy always had music going. Colby just shook his head.
Gordy came out of the kitchen still in his jeans but nothing else except the two bottles of beer he was carrying.
“You get mugged on your way up?”
“You lost your shirt.”
Gordy laughed, holding out one of the bottles. “Have another beer, cowboy. Your jokes aren’t funny yet.”
“Now, now. Ain’t it you that ought to be having another one so I start getting funnier?” Lord have mercy, he did love to look at that man. He could watch Gordon James wander around his so-fancy condo for days.
Well, maybe not days. That would lead to long-term blue balls.
“Yeah, that’s never worked. There’s no hope for you.” Gordy took a swig of his beer. “Oh!” He pointed to the coffee table. “New porn in the mail.”
“Lord, honey. Don’t you know that’s all on the computer now?”
Gordy shook his head. “That’s vintage, my friend. The early bareback stuff. Low edit, tons of fucking. That’s not your cheap internet thrill. You should borrow it.”
“Low edit—what the fuck does that even mean, man? Seriously.” Tons of fucking he got.
“No cuts? No kissing and then cut to the money shots?” Gordon sounded a little snooty about it. Like this was something everybody knew but Colby. “You know, the whole scene—foreplay to finale.”
“Not all of us are conness… connoisseurs and shit. Me? I like a nice long bout of on-screen fucking. That way if your mind wanders….” He did love to tease.
“Your mind or your hand?” Gordon snorted. “I’m with you, the longer the better.” He drew his words out, and they had a little heat and a little growl in them. “Mm.”
“Listen to you.” He’d like for Gordon to listen to his happy ass, just for a second, just long enough to prove that he was man enough to rock Gordon’s world.
Gordon laughed. “One of these days we should hit the clubs in Denver. You get over there much?”
“Once a month or so. Depends on whether I have to run over for a specialty tile in the afternoon. That makes it easier.” And he got to dance. Damn, he did love to two-step.
“I think it’s been—God, I don’t know—maybe five or six weeks since I’ve been there. I used to go every Sunday. Last few weeks I’ve been watching a game or bad movies with this tile guy on Sundays. Or losing at pool. I’m still waiting for that chance to redeem myself, by the way.”
Few weeks? It had been three months. “Oh, now. I’ll play you any time, but you ain’t got redemption coming.”
“I might if you’d drink anything stronger than beer.”
“Country don’t mean dumb, Gordy.” He winked over. Some things were real important—knowing when to drink and when to make a bet were two of them.
“Nope. And apparently a college degree doesn’t make a man wise either.” Gordy winked right back at him. “Oh, speaking of wise. Have you got a couple of work days open in the next week or two? I’m having a new shower installed in the master bath, and I want to do something kind of modern and flashy in there with the tile after. I told them I knew a guy.”
“Yeah? Sure. We got lots of options. I’ll bring a few things over—wood-grain tile is huge right now. I did a bath the other day with glass pieces in the grout line. It looked like diamonds or some shit. Too fucking cool.”
“Glass? How cool is that? Must take forever to do, though, huh?”
He shrugged, took a long swig of beer. “Depends on what you want. They have some strips you can lay in. You do know a guy, after all.”
“Yep. A very reliable guy that does top-notch work. Thanks. Just let me know when you can show me the samples.” Gordy finished off his beer. “Drinking before work. Good thing it’s not full-on summer yet.” He set his bottle on the coffee table. “I need a shower. You want to hang out and watch the cable or whatever, go ahead. I might even have some food in the fridge.”
“You mean you’re not worried about your virtue?”
Gordon snorted and tossed Colby the remote. “Don’t drink all my beer, cowboy.” He headed down the hall toward his bedroom.
One day, man. One day I will have my shit together enough and I will make my move. Colby watched that tight little ass as Gordon disappeared into his bedroom.
He could be patient. In theory. Really he could.