Southern Lights 1
ETHAN SHARPE is living every young Kiwi’s dream—seeing the world for a couple of years while deciding what to do with his life. Then he gets a call.Two days later he’s back in New Zealand. Six months later his mother is dead, his fifteen-year-old brother is going off the rails and the café he’s inherited is failing. His life is a hot mess and the last thing he needs is another complication—like the man who just walked into his café,
a much older…
TANNER CARPENTER’s time in Queenstown has an expiration date. He has a new branch of his business to get up and running, exorcise a few personal demons while he’s at it, and then head back to Auckland to get on with his life. He isn’t looking for a relationship especially with someone fifteen years his junior, but Ethan is gorgeous, troubled and in need of a friend. Tanner could be that for Ethan, right? He could brighten Ethan’s day for a while, help him out, maybe even offer some… stress relief, no strings attached.
It was a good plan, until it wasn’t.
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Publisher: Southern Lights Publishing
“Stop being such a grump and let me fix it for you.” Ethan batted Tanner’s hand away, got down on his knees, and worked to adjust Tanner’s complicated knee brace to connect properly with its custom boot attachment.
Tanner reached down and ran his fingers through all those soft messy curls. He still missed the streaks of flour and cinnamon sugar that he’d come to associate with Ethan. “I can think of a lot better reasons for you to be down on your knees in front of me—none of which include padded clothes and carbon composite joint supports.”
Ethan snorted. “That’s ’cause you have no imagination.” He patted Tanner’s fitted brace with satisfaction and tugged the snow pants back into place. “There. How does that feel?”READ MORE
Tanner stretched and flexed his knee a couple of times. It actually felt . . . solid, secure. Hell, maybe this would work better than he’d thought. The butterflies in his chest calmed a little. “Feels good, thanks.”
Ethan stood back and gave him an appreciative once-over. All of which had Tanner thinking of a dozen better ways he could be spending the next couple of hours, than freaking out on a ski hill.
“Okay Mr Famous, you’re set to go.” Ethan had voiced his surprise at just how many people recognised Tanner from his pro-snowboarding days—from the guy manning the locker counter, to the girl on the rental desk when they’d been sorting some skis for Lucy. And he’d been particularly antsy ever since, staying close enough to Tanner to give him a rash.
Mind you, Tanner wasn’t complaining. “Do I even want to know what you’re thinking?”
Ethan’s bottom lip disappeared between his teeth for a few seconds. “Probably not. But let’s just say I never knew how sexy alpine wear was. What’s the temperature at the moment? Minus-arse degrees, just short of freezing-your-balls-off, or thereabouts, and then there you are, all that Laax Halfpipe award-winning steaming skin just waiting under all that padding, itching to be touched by yours truly.”
Tanner shook his head. “You’re a sick man, Ethan Sharpe. And you’re starting to sound like a groupie.”
“Speaking of which, I didn’t realise how many fans you had.” Ethan straightened Tanner’s jacket for him and zipped it up. “It’s kind of sexy, actually. They can drool all they like since I’m the only one who gets to take you home.”
Tanner’s heart squeezed and he stole a quick kiss. “That you are.”
Ethan’s eyes flashed. “Is there a word for a gay silver fox on skis? Oooohhhh, how about arctic wolf?”
He slid Ethan’s sunglasses down from his head to hang off his nose. “You’re ridiculous.”
Ethan pushed them up and waggled his eyebrows. “So, did you have any groupies?”
“I plead the fifth.”
“You’re not American. But you were out back then, yeah? So all the drooling gay snow bunnies would know you batted for their team. It must have got you laid.”
“More than you probably want to know, and that’s all I’m gonna say. Don’t forget I had a kind of relationship going on for a few years. I wasn’t exactly available, even if he was in the closet.”
“Oh right, what’s-his-face?”
Tanner smirked. “You know very well what his name is.”
“Maybe. Scott, right? The one who got away.”
“Yes. Scott Renfrew. And he didn’t get away. I crashed and burned, and he was still doing the circuit. We just parted ways. He wasn’t out so it wasn’t as if I could just tag along with him. It was okay when we were both competing, but after, that would’ve outed him for sure. And when I look back, I can see I didn’t love him.” Not like you. He held Ethan’s gaze until he saw the inference hit home.
Ethan swallowed and brushed the snow off his jeans. “Well, enough stalling. Get out there and take the slopes back, champ.”
Right. If it weren’t for Ethan, Tanner would have still been avoiding the whole thing. Good snowpack had been down for three whole days, with the promise of another snow-laden polar blast to come, which of course meant powder—the holy grail of snowsport fanatics. And yet Tanner had found every excuse not to head up and try it out, most of which revolved around joining Ads and Lucy in helping Ethan finish the packing at the café every minute he wasn’t at work. But those excuses had run out the day before when the last of the boxes were shifted into the barn and Ethan had fixed his eyes on Tanner and declared Sunday a fun day for everyone on the snow as a thank you for all the help.
When Tanner had pointed out that fun, snow, and Ethan were three words that had never appeared in the same sentence before, he’d been silenced with a swift glare. Ethan had been well aware of Tanner’s avoidance tactics and called him on it. So, under duress, Tanner had rustled up some discounted day passes through a contact, and they’d all piled into his four-wheel drive to have fun. Yeah, right.
At least Ethan had the common sense to send Kurt, Luce, and Ads off on their own while he mollycoddled Tanner into his snowsuit and helped him gear up. And if Tanner’s hands were shaking, well, that was no one’s business but his own. His knee was feeling good though, so that was something. He fired a quick text to Stefan to give him a heads-up and got a swift reply.
Fucking kill it. I’m so proud of you.
He shared that with Ethan who said Stefan was clearly a star.
“So are you ready?” Ethan slapped him on the shoulder. “’Cause you know, I prefer your skin colour to not match the snow quite so closely. You think you could manage to look at least a little enthusiastic?”
“Fucker. But yeah, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. If for no other reason than to get away from your help.”
“That’s the spirit. Right, let me check you off. Ski suit, boots, snowboard, gloves, goggles, hat—pretty cute by the way—and ski pass. I think that’s it. Go get him, tiger.”
“Kisses, you said there’d be kisses.”
“Come here.” Ethan pulled Tanner in for a long, solid kiss with a little added tongue for good measure. “There might even be a blow job if you promise to enjoy yourself out there.”
“What are you going to do?”
Ethan slung his bag over his shoulder. “I’m going to head inside where it’s at least warm, have a coffee, read my book, and ogle all the hot athletes. Plus, I have my phone on hand for suitably embarrassing pics of everyone as they hit the bottom of the slopes. Look for me at the chair lift about eleven. The others are meeting us for an early lunch before the crowds hit the food vendors.”
God, this man. Tanner grabbed his arm. “Ethan, wait. I just . . . I can’t thank you enough. You’ve been amazing about this. I’m not sure I would have made it here so soon. You’ve made the whole thing so much easier.”
Ethan’s eyes glistened and he stared at Tanner with a whole dictionary of emotions behind his eyes that likely matched Tanner’s own, word for word.
“Stop that,” he said. “I’m not crying in the middle of a damn ski field. Now go. And, break a leg?” His eyes popped comically and his hand shot to his mouth.
Tanner snorted a laugh.
“Too soon, you think? Yeah, maybe too soon. Sorry about that.”
“Brat.” He pulled Ethan in for a kiss and headed for the chair lift, snowboard tucked under his arm. Fourteen years coming, and it was down to this moment.COLLAPSE