Dan White is trying to acclimate to civilian life after a long career in the military with multiple combat deployments.
Now he’s home in the Austin area, living with his brother Dixon, Dixon’s husband, Audie, and their two nine-year-olds. During the New Year celebration, Dan meets Abraham Weldon, and the connection is instant.
There’s a kiss. There’s a dance. There’s a proposition.
Then Dan finds out Weldon is bisexual.
And a dad.
With five kids. Five kids, one of whom is a blind fifteen-year-old.
Weldon has been in love twice in his life—with his high school best friend, Blake, and with his wife, Krista, who he met in a Dairy Queen as she was crying over a positive pregnancy test. Love number three hits Weldon like a hammer when he meets Dan.
But since Dan isn’t interested in a guy with kids, they might only get one night together.
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Gay
Tropes: Families/Raising Kids, Hurt / Comfort, In Uniform, One Night Stand
Word Count: 86000
Setting: Austin, Texas, USA
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
DAN SAT watching the blind guy playing the blues up on the tiny stage, that vintage Gibson Les Paul singing out, making the crowd sway and nod, feet tapping all over. Not that his brother Dix could see them.
A sense of unreality washed over him, and Dan blinked at the longneck he held in one hand. His brother was blind, Dan was not only not pounding sand and dodging missiles in the desert but he was a goddamn civilian, and he was in Austin listening to Dix play in person for the first time in damned near twenty years.
All right and all wrong, in all sorts of ways.
“Happy New Year, Audie!” Some mostly drunk hipster asshole bumped into the table, and his brother-in-law caught the beer bottle in one callused hand.READ MORE
“Hey, Troy. Careful there. Someone might get hurt.” The look Audie gave the kid was a mixture of curled lip and arched eyebrow, and the expression gave Dan a happy. Oh, he did love a story, and there was one there.
“Sorry!” Troy tried to clap Audie on the shoulder, but Audie ducked. Oh-ho.
Audie’s gaze met his. Ooh. Ironic glare. That must come from exposure to Austin. The man was a cowboy to the bone, but Audie was fitting in real well.
Troy staggered off, letting it go, which was good. Dan wouldn’t say no to a fistfight, but Dix would ream his ass, and that would not be fun for him like it would be for Audie.
“Friend of yours?” He couldn’t help asking. Needling Audie was his new favorite game.
“No.” The set of Audie’s jaw told Dan not to push.
So, naturally, he did anyway.
“No? So let me guess.” God, this was fun. “If he’d come on to you, it would be funny, so it had to be Dix. Be honest, did young, hip, and hairy try to get in my brother’s ever-so-tight jeans?”
“Shut. Up.” Audie’s lips quirked into an almost smile. “God, you’re an asshole.”
“Yeah. You knew that when you married in. Tell me, did you wear the dress?” It had damn near killed him to miss Dix and Audie’s wedding, no matter that it had been at the justice of the peace and quick and dirty. He’d been the best man in Hawaii when Dix and Ron had done their thing. He’d wanted a repeat.
“Ask Dalton. He got to be there.”
Oh, bam. Audie was quick.
“Yeah, yeah. This family has a sick fascination with Central Texas.” Not that Dan didn’t love it. He did. This was, and always would be, home. Hell, Mom and Dad had even given up raising llamas and moved back to a little condo in Georgetown. Damon was on grandbaby number two, and Dix insisted that baby brother Dalton, last remaining Longhorn to graduate, was trying to fuck every undergrad in a skirt. A baby was inevitable.
“I know, right?” Audie made a great face, all exaggerated eyes and wiggling chin. “Hot-blooded, I guess.”
Audie looked at Dix like the man was drawn to his older brother.
“You’re obsessed, man.”
“Yeah, a little.” Audie winked. “I adore him, man. What can I say?”
“Sicko.” He rolled his eyes, but it felt good. Dixon deserved someone full-time, especially with his stubborn, amazing hellion of a daughter. Randi and Audie’s son, Grainger, were with the grandparents.
“Yeah. I’m going to grab him a beer. I’ll be right back.”
“You bet.” This wasn’t the kind of place he had to worry about getting hit on, so Dan closed his eyes and listened, trying to drown out everything else with the music.
Someone came up, jostled the table a bit. “Is this seat taken?”
He opened his eyes to see this little guy with a shock of white-blond hair and the brightest, bluest eyes he’d ever seen. Lean, not too tall, the guy still had nice biceps and pecs outlined by a soft T-shirt and a leather jacket.
“My brother-in-law is with me, but other than that, I have plenty of space,” Dan said.
“Thanks. It’s crowded as hell.” The guy took a seat, eyes on the stage, a half-empty beer in his hand.
“No problem.” Dan waited until Dix’s riff was over before offering a hand. “Dan White.”
“Abraham Weldon. Everyone just calls me Weldon, though. Pleased to meet you.”
Weldon’s hand was rough as a cob, the calluses leaving Dan wearing a tingle on his hand. Wow. His first night out as a civilian, and he was being a dork.
“Pleasure. That’s my brother,” he said, nodding at Dix.
“He’s a good friend of mine. You must be the one that was in the Army. Thank you for your service.”
“Thanks.” Dixon had friends? Well, of course he did, but when they’d had time to talk, Dix had filled him in on family, not his new life in Austin. “You get to come see him play a lot?”
“God, no, but I try whenever I get a free chance. I’m not big on the bar scene.”
“Me either. Noisy.” He winked. He wasn’t exactly a poster child for PTSD, but he had his moments.
“Yeah, but Dix was so excited about the gig that I couldn’t say no.”
“He was. This place is, like, famous for blues, right?” He didn’t know anything about the Austin music scene, for the most part.
“That’s what Dix says. I know he was over the moon.”
“That’s really cool.” He loved that Dix was having success—real success that wasn’t hanging on a lover or a husband or anything but those wickedly talented fingers.
Weldon looked over at him, eyes twinkling like they were sharing a secret. “Spoken like a man that is not into the music scene.”
“I’m just uneducated, is all.” And yeah, he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.
“Shit. My whole family plays an instrument but me. Everything I know is from secondhand musical smoke.”
Dan hooted, and Audie appeared next to the table. “Weldon! Hey, man. Glad you made it.”
“Audie!” Weldon stood and shook Audie’s hand. “I found your table.”
“So you did. Not too many redheads here tonight, right? Told you that would be the easiest.”
Dan scrubbed a hand over his military short hair. “And if I’d worn a hat?”
“I just picked a table, to be honest. I thought I’d look around after I sat.”
“Well, at least you’re honest.” Dan hooted. “How’s Dix?” he asked Audie.
“Having a fucking ball. He’s in his element.”
Dan wasn’t sure about that. He thought maybe Dixon’s element was way more in his little studio that Audie had designed, playing music with their son, Grainger.
“He sounds great,” Weldon said. “He’s really talented.”
Dan looked over at his brother, at the look of peace on the man’s face. He’d never thought Dix would get that back after Ron died and after losing his mind.
Thank God for Audie. Dan knew it sounded corny, but he did just that every day.
Audie was his motherfucking hero.
Weldon glanced at the beer he held. “If I buy, will someone go get the next round? The bar is a zoo.”
“Coward.” Audie laughed, the sound happy as hell. “I’ll do it. I got an in with one of the barbacks.”
“Thanks, man.” Weldon smiled, and Dan stared. God, the guy had this thing going on. Sort of Texas redneck with the jeans and worn cowboy boots, round-toe work-style. That lean body looked hard from real work, and those eyes burned so bright blue….
“So where’d you meet Dixon, man?” He wanted to reach over and pet the flat belly, see if it was fuzzy. He’d bet yes.
“Pride. I helped build the float for the School for the Blind.”
“Yeah? They do a float? That’s too cool.” He wanted to ask why Weldon had an interest in the school for the blind. Boyfriend? Family member? That seemed rude. There wasn’t a wedding ring, and obviously there wasn’t someone here with Weldon.
Who would let this guy out on New Year’s Eve all alone?
Dan knew he was staring, so he grinned. “Sorry. I was admiring. School for the Blind a pet project?”
“Yeah. Periodically I go and teach a class on basics like using a screwdriver, hammering a nail, fixing a leak.”
“That’s really great.” He’d been so relieved when Dix had finally gone to school, had gotten Boomer the Wonder Dog.
“It’s surprisingly helpful and incredibly difficult if you don’t have the skills. Dixon said you were retired and enjoying the quiet life now?”
“They’re still processing some stuff, but yeah, I’m mostly free.” Dan’s smile slipped. “A little too quiet. I need to get a job, you know?”
“I get that. I’m a finish carpenter, so the slow times are slow.” Weldon stretched up, giving him a nice, long look.
“You’re from Finland?” Oh wait, would Weldon get that was a joke? “That’s the detail stuff, right. Do you do custom?”
“I do. Finnish? Seriously? Wow.” Weldon winked at him. “Punny.”
“I do like a bad pun.” Hmm. He’d have to talk with Weldon about the one bath of carved moldings in Dix’s house. They needed help, and that would make a nice gift. Dix liked how they felt.
Weldon chuckled, hips swaying with the music, which was moving from experimental weirdassed shit to bluesy Old School New Orleans jazz.
Now that was what he liked to hear.
Dan swayed, really getting into it. He might not be on the music scene, but he knew what he loved.
“Do you dance?”
“I can sure try, if you think we’re safe doing it.” Oh, man, once again he hoped he hadn’t taken Weldon the wrong way.
“This place is friendly. Come on. Let’s try. Audie’s coming back to save the table. I haven’t danced in a couple of years.”
Dan hooted. “I haven’t either.” The song went even slower, almost dreamy, and Dan stood to pull Weldon out on the floor.
There were a bunch of couples of all sorts and shapes and Weldon fit against him, tongue in groove. Oh. Oh, that was unusual enough that he sucked in a deep breath.
Dan moved them to the outside of the dance floor, so he didn’t have to worry about losing his ability to lead. This was too good to lose to some drunk stumbling into them.
Weldon moved like a dream, swaying nice and easy. They didn’t grind against each other, didn’t do anything obscene, but Weldon’s interest was clear, the man’s erection firm on his thigh.
He was in heaven. Dan figured he had to be. Two beers couldn’t account for drunken fantasizing, though. Maybe this was real. Please be real. He could so have some of this, just for tonight.
“Mmm. You feel good against me.” Weldon’s words were soft, husky. Sweet.
“Ditto.” He chuckled. “Sorry, military speak. The guys keep telling me to use my words. I’m kind of a grunt and click guy.” And babbling, apparently.
“That’s cool.” Weldon moaned softly, the sound brushing Dan’s cheek.
“Sorry.” He’d shut up and feel the music flowing through him, the weight of Weldon against him. He felt overheated, hard as a rock. Weldon didn’t seem worried either, letting him move them deeper into the shadows, where they could press together even harder, where Weldon could slide one hand down to touch his ass.
Dan moaned, his breath starting to come fast. It had been a long time since someone had touched him who wasn’t a doctor or something. This was better than most of his long-past experiences put together, and they were just dancing.
One song melted into another, and they kept dancing. It was the easiest fucking thing he’d ever experienced in his whole life. Like it was meant to be.
Dan hummed, resting his cheek against Weldon’s head, and they couldn’t slide a credit card between them.
Weldon smelled like sawdust and Old Spice. The scent was somehow incredibly erotic. Maybe he’d become a lightweight over the years, but he should give Weldon the credit he deserved. The guy was sex on a stick.
“Could do this all night, Dan.”
Yeah, but midnight was coming, and it was New Year’s Eve.
“I could too.” He grinned. “It’s getting close to the witching hour.”
“Are you going to kiss me at midnight, Dan?”
“I am if you’re gonna let me.” He would love that, having someone on New Year’s, even if it was a fantasy.
“I think I would like that, man, very much.”
“Good.” Dan slid one hand behind Weldon’s head, feeling the silky texture of his hair.
The countdown started, and Weldon smiled. “Ten, nine, eight.”
“Seven, six.” Butterflies filled up his belly.
“Five, four, three.” Weldon hummed and went up on tiptoe.
“Two.” He bent, pressing his mouth to Weldon’s when everyone else shouted, “One!”
The connection was immediate, the chemistry flaring between them. Dan took the kiss to a slow, deep place, feeling as though breathing were overrated. He could do that anytime. This? This was special and he wanted every second of it.
Weldon clung to Dan’s upper arms, still dancing a little, swaying, their heads shifting to get a better angle. Oh, he could do this all night. Felt like Weldon was right there with him, lips soft and parted, tongue exploring his mouth.
They did finally break for air, because spots began to swim before Dan’s eyes. He smiled at Weldon, loving how blue those eyes were. “Happy New Year.”
“Happy New Year.”
Oh, that voice was husky, soft, promising to turn him inside out with pleasure.
He squeezed that tight, hard-muscled ass. “You make me want to do things I don’t usually do when I just meet someone.”
“No shit on that.” Weldon grinned. “You’d be worth making exceptions for, though.”
“You too.” He meant it too. “You, uh, want another beer?”
“Yeah. That sounds great. I’ll go grab them, huh?” Weldon eased away, and Dan regretted the loss of that tight little body, then blinked. “Wait. Audie was grabbing them, yeah?”
“Maybe? Fuck if I know.” He was addlepated.
Dan drew in a deep breath and glanced at the stage, surprised to find Dix gone, the sound system playing canned music now.
Man. Man, that had been…. Had Audie found Dix? A part of him still felt a rush of panic at the thought of Dix alone and blind and helpless. Boomer was great, but he was a dog, and he could make a wrong turn….
“Boo!” Audie popped up next to them like a jack-in-the-box. “Dix is packing up. Did y’all want to go to Kerbey Lane? I know it’ll be a wait, but we get seated faster thanks to the blind dude.”
“Seriously? You’re using my brother to get a seat?”
“My husband, and why not? I use him for the handicapped sticker.”
“That’s stone cold,” Weldon said. “I like it. You want to ride with me, Dan? We can get on the list.”
“Yeah.” Yeah, that worked. A little alone time in the truck couldn’t be bad, right?
Audie gave them a glinting grin. “Cool. We’ll meet you there. The one on 183, okay?”
“Works for me. We’ll see you there.”
Dan followed Weldon out of the bar, the silence a shock to his system once they got to the parking lot.
“Man, it’s quiet out here. I’m in the green GMC, pardon the mess. It’s my work truck.”
“No worries. So, where do you live? Is that rude?” He sucked at small talk.
“Of course not. I’m on a ranch outside of Hutto, right north of Pflugerville.”
“Yeah? Cool. That’s right up there near Audie and Dix.” He knew north Austin pretty well, but Hutto was a ways out.
“It is. Just about a ten-fifteen-minute drive from them.”
“Oh, that’s not bad at all. How many acres do you have?”
“Twelve. Enough, you know. There’s animals, a workshop, enough to justify a riding lawnmower.”
“Hell, twelve is enough to justify a little tractor.” Audie had a wee John Deere. Dan loved it.
“Yeah. Someday. It’s on my bucket list.”
“I bet.” The truck wasn’t anywhere near gross, just full of tools and sawdust. In fact, the front seat was cleaned off and there was a towel on the seat to protect his delicate butt.
Dan chuckled. “The towel is a nice touch.”
“I know, right? I’m all classy and shit.”
“You totally are.” He winked. “What’s your favorite pancake?”
“Blueberry. I’m a total whore for a blueberry pancake.” Weldon pulled out of the parking lot, taking it easy, driving the truck like it was second nature. “You?”
“Gingerbread.” He loved the weird mixture of sharp and sweet.
“Spicy, huh? I’m gingerbreaded-out from Christmas.”
“I didn’t get any this year. No one bakes but Mom, and she broke two fingers about two weeks before.”
“Oh my God!” He got a quick glance. “What happened?”
“Oh, she was out walking her new baby poodle and a big old lab came out of nowhere. She grabbed his collar, and he wasn’t biting or anything, but he popped her fingers. She says condo living is way more dangerous than hobby farming.”
Dan could see Weldon fighting the laughter with all he was, shoulders shaking.
“I know, right? Llamas never broke her bones.”
The sound that burst from Weldon was vaguely like a hippopotamus stepping on a duck—loud, weird, and a little squooshy.
Dan chuckled along, nodding to the music on the radio. Much more his thing than weird jazz. He liked Tim McGraw on a cellular level.
The traffic was crazy, but Weldon didn’t scream or fuss. Talk about deep water. He’d thought Audie was unflappable. Dan would have been pounding the dash by now.
“Man, I hope my little brother isn’t out in this.” Dalton would be homicidal.
“Which one? You have one that’s just turned twenty-one, huh?”
“Yeah. Total amateur.” Though Dalton had grown up driving in and out of Dallas. “Hopefully his frat brothers are partying there at the house, or walking. It’s not that far to Sixth Street.”
“That’s it. I bet he’s a smart kid. Dix says so.” Weldon hit the ramp for the restaurant.
“Yeah, I guess.” Of course, they were all spectacular numbnuts in their own ways, the White boys. Dixon was the one with serious music addiction. Damon and his little gal seemed intent to populate Texas. Dalton was hip-deep in party central, and then there was him. Army to the bone.
“He seems decent enough.” The frontage road was always longer than it looked, the turn into the parking lot almost hidden.
“He’s a kid. It’s almost like we have two separate families—me and Dix, Dalton and Damon, you know?”
“I do.” Weldon chuckled. “Kids are funny, huh?”
“Yeah. Have you met Randi and Grainger?” Those two were… damn.
“I have. They come out to the house a lot.”
“That’s pretty cool. They’re amazing, but so much energy. I’m not cut out for kids, I don’t think.” He loved kids, he did, but he wasn’t sure he could have them around all the time. Randi and Grainger exhausted him sometimes.
“No?” Weldon gave him a grin. “It’s good to know what you can tolerate and what you can’t.”
“Yeah. I guess I raised enough green kids in the Army, right?” He’d done his duty for God and country, so no one should care if the queer ex-soldier reproduced.
“There you go.” Weldon parked the truck under one of the parking lot lights. “Let’s go eat pancakes and tell Dix how much we liked his set.”
“Sounds good.” In fact, it sounded like the best offer he’d had in a long time.
Well, except for that dance and kiss at midnight.
That had rocked his world.COLLAPSE