Both Ben and Mitch think they know exactly what they want. Turns out, they don’t even know their own hearts.
Good old boy Ben has dated women his entire life, while gay nightclub owner Mitch has never considered unsophisticated country boys his type. But after they start hanging out, the small-town contractor and the urban entrepreneur are both stunned by the electricity sparking between them.
As they step outside their comfort zones to spend time together, Mitch finds he enjoys rural car rallies, and Ben is intrigued by the upscale bars Mitch owns in San Francisco. When they share their lives and grow closer, they start to question the way they’ve always defined themselves. Then they kiss and fling open the door to love. Now they must step up and travel the road that may lead to happily ever after—even if that path isn’t one they ever expected to walk.
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: 2
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Coming Out / Closeted, Opposites Attract
Word Count: 29689
Setting: Small town California and San Francisco
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
MEETING A potential client for the first time was usually a mixed bag. As a contractor and partner in Behr Construction, I never knew what I was going to get: a fanciful dreamer, an actual customer, or a combination of both.
So I was surprised when I opened the door to the gutted restaurant and found a giant of a man twirling Julie Andrews–style. He was grinning like a loon as the light poured over him.
That should have been laughable since he was alone, but he was kickass savoring the moment. Instead of appearing loco, he struck me as a big overgrown Peter Pan. He looked so happy, I had an urge to join him, which gave me a moment of panic because I’m not an old boy who does much dancing or cavorting—in public or in private.
“Uh, hello? Mr. O’Shea?”
When he turned toward me, my jaw dropped. I’m sure I musta looked like the village idiot.READ MORE
The guy was unbelievably gorgeous. I don’t usually think men are good- or bad-looking. They’re men. Before that moment, I would have said men weren’t my type. But, damn! He was smoking hot.
He looked about my height—six four or maybe a little taller—and was dressed in a classy three-piece suit with a gleaming tie tack, had one pierced ear, and wore a sparkling watch. His raven hair stood up in a tall buzz cut in front and tapered long enough to curl around his ears in back.
But what stopped me and turned me to jelly were his wickedly merry eyes and his shit-eating grin.
He acted like a kid who’d found Santa or the Easter Bunny.
In the middle of the total disaster of the old Thompson’s steak house, this guy looked like he’d hit the jackpot.
Fuck me. I’d come to a standstill and was staring at him openmouthed. Since I’m your basic laid-back good old boy, nothing usually bothered me. Now I was poleaxed. He was bewitching. Too hot for somebody like me to handle.
He’d stopped spinning. Without missing a beat, he strode over to me with his hand held out. In the blink of an eye, he changed from the picture of kidlike excitement to a polished city businessman.
I stood stock still, wondering what the hell had just happened. Had I hallucinated the twirling around? Maybe it was time to get away from work for a while, take a vacation, maybe go do some fishing.
“Isn’t this place great?” he greeted me. His voice held a leftover tinge of joy.
He didn’t look embarrassed or bothered that I’d caught him dancing around like an ass. Up close, he was even more powerfully sexy and self-assured. Face-to-face, his lively, assessing stare unnerved me. His unbridled enthusiasm wrapped around me and lifted me off my feet.
The guy seemed to be pulling my personality and soul toward him as he decided whether I was friend or foe. Then he grinned even wider, stuck out his hand, grabbed mine, and shook like we were on the verge of becoming tight. Why did I find this move hot as fuck?
I shook his hand, stunned, and almost wanted to run back to the alley, where I’d left my regular, easygoing self.
His eyes brightened and his smile turned sexy, as if he’d discovered a delightfully lascivious secret.
“Mr. Behr? May I call you Ben? I’m Mitchell O’Shea. Call me Mitch.” He squeezed my hand one more time, then dropped it. “Great space here. I’m going to buy it.”
His hand swept up in an extravagant Vanna White gesture. I was about to tell him he couldn’t afford a vowel, much less a remodel, when he grinned and sucked me in again.
Fuck. Oddly, my body agreed with that sentiment. Why was this happening? To me, of all people. I wasn’t gay. Even a little bit.
My brothers, Abe and Connor, had come out a while back, but everybody knew I was the straight Behr. I’d been dating girls since I was twelve (but looked sixteen). I wasn’t attracted to guys. Ever. I didn’t go for tall girls, especially ones as huge as me, so why was I attracted to a big man?
I stepped back and gave him the once-over. My body sure as shit was a little interested. Okay, maybe more than a little.
Like all the Behrs, I’m tall and squared off. As my grandpa always said, I’m built like a brick shithouse. A brown brick shithouse. Brown hair, brown eyes, brown tan. Nothing exotic about me.
But this guy? This guy had dark blue eyes flecked with light blue and green. His big body was lithe, with a tapered torso, and he moved like a dancer. He hit me like a gorgeous morsel of urban life. Somebody polished and sophisticated except for a patch of boyish fun. His smile was so engaging, I figured my friends would even like him.
My buddies had always said I was attracted to bright, shiny things. Was that all this was?
Noise from outside burst my bubble. Mitch O’Shea and I’d been standing too long staring at each other and not talking.
Through the blush heating up my cheeks, I cleared my throat and shifted uneasily.
“What can Behr Construction do for you, uh, Mitch?”
There was no way under God I was asking him what I could do for him. Or to him. Or whatever. I made myself stop overthinking. Just focus.
His grin grew, embracing me. My prick rose. Dammit.
“I’d like you to take a look at this place’s structure and tell me if it’s sound enough to remodel. Or should I just raze it and start over again?” His voice had changed to one only board presidents and big money used around us peons.
I took a shuddering breath. I’d dealt with hundreds of Mitches as a contractor. Estimates and suggestions I could do.
We both turned to the dismal interior of the former steak house. I cleared my throat, then took a breath.
“Okay. Sure.” I took a step away from him and looked up at the lung-cancer ceiling. “What do you plan to do with this place?”
His grin tried to lasso me again, but I was onto him. I met his gaze with a frown. His eyes twinkled in response. Damn him.
“Well, I own a bunch of clubs in San Francisco, but I’ve always wanted to start a family restaurant, kinda like Chuck E. Cheese’s but not with the costumed characters.” He fucking winked at me. “I want to start a place with an Old West theme, where parents can get a great steak for a reasonable price and kids can play old-fashioned arcade games without their folks watching them the whole time. You know, where families can come and enjoy a night out.”
Okay, his idea wasn’t as flashy as he looked. I would have thought he’d want more Vegas—bright lights and pink cocktails—while he was thinking more Main Street, America. Thompson’s would be a great place for his vision if the Silver Star gourmet restaurant wasn’t nearby, feeding the rich and famous.
“Uh, yeah. You did see the place across the street, right?” I thumbed toward the Star.
He laughed, a hearty bellow of delight.
“Oh, Chef Adam de Leon won’t be challenged by my little family place. This is a big block. Our clientele won’t overlap at all.”
I was skeptical. We’d done some work for Adam, but I didn’t really know the guy very well. From what I’d gathered, the celebrity chef didn’t like to be messed with. Ever. Would he want chattering kids and cranky parents cluttering up the street in front of his place?
I shrugged. “Okay. Whatever. If you give me fifteen to thirty, I’ll have a rundown of what needs to be done and write out a preliminary cost estimate so you can make up your mind.”
He nodded as I bent my head to get an appraisal sheet and pencil from my shirt pocket.
“Oh, Ben,” he called over his shoulder as he walked away.
I glanced at him.
“Mind if we talk about this over lunch?”
“Sure, no problem.” My dick was on board even if the rest of me was wary.
“How about I meet you outside? Maybe we could drive somewhere? I bet you’ll want to try out my car.”
I shrugged again. What’d he have? A Maserati or something? Since I’d come in through the back, I hadn’t seen him drive up.
But I was more concerned about my reaction to him than his ride. Was it possible to turn gay? Is that what had happened to my brothers and it was just now catching up with me?
Damn. I didn’t know how I felt if that was the case. Maybe being gay was a family thing?
I waved to him. Then, as I got one last eyeful, I shouted a piece of advice.
“I’d lose the jacket, vest, and tie if I were you. We’re pretty laid-back around here.”
If nothing else, he wouldn’t stick out quite as much as he would in the suit. He’d certainly attract the single gay men the way he was dressed. I didn’t need… competition?
Shit, what was I thinking?
I MADE my inspection, which went quickly since I was already pretty familiar with the structure. Nothing had changed since the last potential buyer had asked for a written inspection and estimate. The place didn’t seem to have attracted any new rodents or vermin, but then it had always had its fair share.
Walking out of the gloom of the former steak house into the sunshine, I was blinded momentarily, so I couldn’t see Mitch or his fabulous ride right away. When I did, holy cow.
“What the hell is it?” I asked as I ran my hand down the front wheel well.
A souped-up Hummer, or maybe an ultramilitary vehicle on steroids, stood dominating this end of Main Street. Everything from the cab to the wheels and the lights was exaggerated, making it look more like a giant’s muscle car than anything else. Not to mention it had darkened windows and wicked grillwork. It seemed to be staring down everything in front of it, waiting for something to get in its way.
“Rhino GX. It’s special order. Made for big guys like us.” He gestured to the car. “Rita, meet Ben. Ben, this is Rita. Let’s go for a ride.”
Mitch was marginally less dressy without the tie, vest, and jacket. He’d rolled up his sleeves, but still had the winking ear stud and his full-bore grin. Yeah, he was a big guy, all right. Big all over, my dick commented with approval. I grimaced.
“I was going to get a Hummer, but I saw one of these, then sat in it, and had to have it.” He opened the driver’s side door. “You want to take her for a spin?”
Shit. Did bears crap in the woods?
“Damn straight, I’d like to drive it.”
Mitch laughed and pulled back the keys a few inches.
“Nothing’s damn straight in my car, Ben. You’re either gay as fuck or gay friendly if you want to touch my baby.”
“I’m one of the above. Possibly both. The jury’s still out,” I joked back.
He leaned over, picked up my hand, and dropped the keys into it.
“Close enough. Maybe I can influence the jury.” He wrapped his hand around mine and squeezed softly. “Wouldn’t be the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Then he turned and galloped around to the passenger side and opened the door. As he slid in, he added, “I heard about this diner up in the foothills around here, someplace called the Rock Bottom Cafe that’s supposed to be pretty good. Why don’t you drive us there?”
I shook off the stunned feeling. He’d danced his spell around me and was still reeling me in.
But damn if I couldn’t get us to the Bottom in this bad girl.
I slid into the driver’s seat and realized he was right. Neither of us had to watch our heads when we were getting in, and there was room between the top of his grizzle cut and the roof. This was a car made for the big and tall guy.
I looked at him and grinned.
Yeah, okay, I could get us to the Bottom on the back roads that cried out to see this car. No problem.COLLAPSE