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Liberty

by Alexandra Y. Caluen

John Hancock Darrow left his North Carolina hometown after college. The only reason he’s there twenty-eight years later is to deal with estate business when his mother and sister are killed in an automobile crash. The realtor he chooses to list his mother’s B&B can’t make that hurt less, but he can help John forget it for a while.

Small-town, self-employed, multiple job holding Daniel Washburn doesn’t expect more than after-dinner sex with the big-city lawyer. When the man turns up at the local ballroom studio a few days later, Daniel’s happy to dance with him. When they start working out an unusual deal for the B&B, they begin to feel like friends. Then during one of their many phone calls, John asks if he can take Daniel to dinner.

John and Daniel keep finding reasons to stay in touch. Then to be lovers. Then to get married. It’s a convenience, John says. Daniel knows it’s more. But John’s ten years older, successful, the kind of man who owns a million-dollar New York City condo and can afford to give away a house. If he wants Daniel on any terms, he surely has his reasons.

Daniel’s willing to wait for the right moment to put that convenience nonsense to rest. Because he’s got his own reasons, and the truth will set them free.

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Published:
Publisher: JMS Books, LLC
Editors:
Genres:
Pairings: M-M
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 36-45
Protagonist 2 Age: 46-65
Tropes: Age Difference, Class Differences, Interracial Relationship, Marriage of Convenience
Word Count: 74,600
Languages Available: English
Excerpt:

We connected on Sunday evening again, and this time there was none of that irritation in his tone. “Mr. Washburn,” he said. “How’s life treating you?”

“Well, one of my other listings is under contract, I’ve lined up a room to rent in Charlotte, and nobody at home has found me out yet, so I’m good.”

He was laughing. “Tell me about Charlotte.”

Really? He wanted to know that? I swear, this man made me feel like we were friends. “You met Sarah at Partner Up, I believe. Pretty lady who teaches there.” I heard a sound of assent. “She’s got some friends over that way, quite a lot of friends actually. One of them’s had an empty nest since last year and doesn’t like it. But she didn’t much want a twenty year old stranger moving in, being all kinds of a mess. When she heard how old I was, she said we should meet. So I ran over there this week, we had lunch, and we shook hands on it.”

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“I suppose if Sarah vouched for you, she was inclined to like you anyway. Then when she met you, she probably thought she won the lottery.”

I laughed. “There you go again, making me feel special.”

“You are special.” He cleared his throat, which made me think maybe he hadn’t meant to say that, and changed the subject. “So about this damn house of Angelica’s.”

I gave him the rundown. All the pros and cons for the nonprofit about leasing, and about buying. “They’re looking at a proposal I drafted,” I told him. “Trying to make it a workable deal for everyone.”

“Appreciate that,” he said. “I meant to boil down what my colleague told me and get it to you, but it’s been another hellacious week. Long story short, they think I’d be crazy to do it as a lease agreement. Too much potential liability, especially at long distance.”

No surprise there. “I kind of figured,” I admitted. “So maybe it’s better to consider it as a purchase, but is the no money down thing an automatic deal-breaker?”

“Hmm.” John didn’t rush to answer, and I didn’t try to hurry him along. After a minute, he said, “Not to be a dick about it, but I’m not hurting for money. So I don’t truly need a down payment. If it’s thirty years of payments, that’s something to consider for retirement. I should talk to the people who handle my trust.”

“Yeah, okay.” I didn’t know anybody else who had a trust. What even was a trust? Lord have mercy, this man was so out of my league.

The thought made my brain short out a little. We were just friends, right? We hooked up once, and now we were talking about selling his house, with a side order of my back to college adventure. That’s all it was.

Then he said, “Look, I’ll prioritize these questions tomorrow so we can get this moving. I know those folks need to get something settled in time to fill the place up before school starts. Once I know what I need to know, I’ll pass it along to you. And if the alumni association decides to proceed, I’ll come down there to meet those people.”

“Sounds good.”

“And Daniel.” He stopped. I made an inquiring sound. He made a hesitant sound, then sighed. “When I’m down there again, can I take you out to dinner?”

I held the phone away a little bit, stared at it, then put it back to my ear. Cautiously, as if it might explode. “Uh, John, how do you mean? Because of course, but did you mean like a date? Or am I just hearing what I want to hear?”

He huffed out a laugh. “You wanted me to ask you out?”

“Hell yeah!”

John laughed out loud. “Well good, because that’s what I meant. I’ve got no business asking you out, but I keep thinking about you.”

“I do too,” I said softly.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

A long time ago and three thousand miles away, I wrote my first novel - a historical romance - during graduate school. Twenty years later I finally dusted it off and published it. Since then I have written and published many more novels and novellas; all romance, most contemporary. My characters (of various genders and ethnicities) range in age from eighteen to sixty-five, with the average falling in the mid-thirties. I'm inspired by authors like KJ Charles, Laurie R. King, Dick Francis, and Jennifer Crusie. I've lived and worked in Los Angeles since 1995.

Statement regarding AI: all works published under the names Alexandra Caluen and A.Y. Caluen were written entirely by the human being legally named Alexandra Y. Caluen, utilizing no AI tools. This author does not grant permission for any use of the works in machine learning or generative AI.

All cover art for the works published as A.Y. Caluen was created by the human being named RK Young. The author image used on A.Y. Caluen paperbacks was created by RK Young with AI tools.