When Lee meets his fantasy man, his shy nature makes him want to run. But what will he do when his dream guy won’t let him?
Saul Valencia. Tall? Check. Muscles? Check. Everything Lee Clark ever dreamed of in a man? Check. Bad case of nerves and feeling like an idiot whenever he’s around? Sigh. Check.
Being kicked out of the family home for being gay would have been bad enough, but Lee Clark also worked in his dad’s garage. Losing his family, his home and his job all in the same day left him floundering. He can’t believe his luck might be changing when he finds a job at Everyone’s Mechanic, another garage, where he’s accepted for who he is.
Then Saul, a former linebacker for the NFL Raleigh Raptors and a friend of Lee’s boss, walks into his life. The man is the embodiment of all his teenage fantasies, but Lee doesn’t dare hope Saul will ever actually notice him.
Intrigued from the start by the shy man now working for his business partner’s boyfriend, Saul struggles through bad advice and misunderstandings to convince Lee that he’s serious about wanting a chance with him. Getting Lee to give him a shot at romance was difficult enough, but when drama and blackmail from outside sources are added in, the relationship becomes almost impossible.
It will take the combined efforts of Lee’s garage family and Saul’s real one to set things right.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and homophobia.
General Release Date: 22nd October 2019
Lee stepped into the busy garage and heard the familiar sounds of mechanics hard at work. Having grown up hanging out in, then working, in his father’s auto shop since he was fifteen, the sounds meant home to him. Looking around, Lee realized that the similarities between the two businesses ended there. This was the most organized space he had ever seen. There were toolboxes and workstations kept meticulously, with all the tools in their apparent slots when not in use. He’d heard the new owner of Everyone’s Mechanic ran a tight ship. The rumor mill had obviously nailed that one. He hoped the rumor mill’s claim that the new owner, Kirk Smith, was fantastic to work for was also accurate.
Lee dried his sweaty palms on his pant legs before turning and making his way to the office door that he could see to his left. After he knocked on the doorjamb, the occupant behind the desk looked up at him. A green gaze assessed him from a ruggedly handsome face. Stop that, idiot. He’s your potential boss. After the man stood up, Lee realized he needed to add ‘large’ to his description. The man was at least three inches taller than his own six feet. Wow. Just wow. Down, boy. Lee hoped his libido would listen to him, because now was not the time.
“Hi, I’m Lee Clark. I understand you’re looking for a new mechanic?” Lee gestured toward the front window of the shop where a Help Wanted sign was posted.
“Yep. I’m Kirk Smith, the new owner of this place.” Kirk offered Lee a handshake before sitting back down and waving toward the chair in front of his desk. Lee sat before his shaking knees gave out on him. “What happened there?” Kirk indicated the healing bruises on Lee’s face. “You don’t have to tell me specifics. I just really need to know if the trouble is going to follow you here.”
Lee squared his shoulders, fighting against his normal shyness. He needed this job, but he also wanted to make sure he was going to be safe here too. “My father found out I was gay. He and my brother took exception to it. I worked for my father at his place. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Clark and Sons?”
Kirk stiffened and Lee prepared himself to get out of there quickly if Kirk made a move toward him.
“Well, we’re equal opportunity here. Doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, as long as you can do the job. Can you do the job?”
Lee relaxes somewhat.
They were interrupted by someone else knocking on the doorjamb. “Hey, boss man, have you seen the…?” The voice trailed off as he must have realized there was another person in the office with Kirk. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t realize you had someone in here with ya. Wait… Lee? Is that you, boy?”
Lee relaxed even more as he recognized Will Jackson. Will had worked for his father once upon a time before leaving for a better opportunity a little over a year before. More accurately, Lee’s father always had to be the one in control and didn’t like that Will was more knowledgeable than him. It had made Will’s life difficult. Lee hadn’t realized that Will worked here now. Lee stood and Will came in to give him a hug, ending it with a manly clap on the back before stepping away and looking at him more closely.
“Your dad do that to ya?”
“My brother and his friends, actually. Found out I was gay. Had a problem with it.” Surprise, then understanding crossed Will’s features.
“You looking for a job?” Will asked.
“Yes, sir. Dad kicked me out when he found out.”
Will turned to Kirk. “You’d be a fool not to hire this boy. He has mad skills in the garage. He’s actually what has kept Clark and Sons afloat since I left. His loss would definitely be our gain.”
Heat rushed to Lee’s face and he just knew he was blushing. Damn his redheaded pale complexion for making it obvious that he was flustered. He turned to look at the man he was hoping would hire him.
“That makes this decision easy. I know how hard you are to please, old man. Welcome aboard.”
“Really?” At Kirk’s nod, Lee relaxed fully for the first time in what felt like forever.
“Hey.” Will placed a hand on Lee’s shoulder, making him flinch. He tried to hide the pain but wasn’t very successful. The black eye and facial bruising weren’t the only places he was injured. Will removed his hand quickly, giving him a serious stare. Lee lowered his head and fixed his gaze on a button of Will’s shirt, waiting. Thankfully, Will didn’t say anything about it. “Weren’t you still living with your dad?”
“Yeah.” With a deep sigh, Lee continued, “Everything I own is in my truck out there. I needed to find a place to work first. Now I can find a place to live.”
Kirk spoke from his spot behind the desk. “This could work out perfect. The previous owner lived in the apartment above the garage before he died of a heart attack. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. If you want, you can rent it. Then I don’t have to worry about the garage at night, since you’ll be here.” Raising his hand before Lee could say anything, he added, “It’s not much, so don’t get too excited. It definitely needs some work. I did have it cleaned after I purchased the business from the owner’s daughter after he died. The guy was a slob.” Kirk grimaced as if that fact pained him, before continuing, “If you take it and want to take on the repairs, I’ll pay for the cost of the materials. In exchange, we’ll keep the rent reasonable. How’s that sound?”
“You would trust me? Just like that?”
“You have Will’s recommendation. That’s hard to earn. You’ve had a rough go of it. No sense making drama where there doesn’t need to be any. You in?”
An hour later the paperwork was completed. “Come on now. Let’s go show you your new accommodations. As I said, don’t expect much. There’s an entrance to the side of the building as well as the one there. So, no excuses about your commute.” Kirk pointed at the stairs tucked into the corner of the garage. Lee hadn’t noticed them behind the large toolboxes.
Lee laughed at the joke, as he was meant to. The metal stairs clanged as they walked up to the fire safety door at the top.
Kirk handed him a key chain with four keys on it. “The silver one opens this door and the door from the outside. The gold opens the front door of the shop. I have no idea what the other two are for. I can’t find anything they open downstairs, but I’m afraid to throw them out in case they’re important. Maybe they open something in here.”
Lee used the silver key to open the door, then stepped into the apartment and got his first look. “Um…wow.”
“Yeah. Wow’s one word for it.”
“You attached to the shag carpeting or are you okay with me ripping it out and maybe putting in a laminate of some kind?” Lee asked.
“Like I said, do what you want. Just give me the receipts as you go, and I’ll reimburse you. Anything you do will be an improvement. You haven’t even seen the avocado kitchen yet.”
“Wish I was.” Kirk shook his head.
Lee crossed the empty living area to see the kitchen for himself. “Oh my God, you weren’t kidding. I don’t know what’s worse, the avocado appliances or the harvest-gold counters.”
“I think the rooster tiles for the backsplash are really what makes it classy,” Kirk said.
“This whole thing needs to be gutted.”
“Bathroom too. Come on. Let me show you the rest.” Kirk waved for Lee to follow.
The rest consisted of a good-size bedroom, a second smaller bedroom and the aforementioned bathroom. Someone had painted the walls a brilliant fuchsia that hurt the eyes when the light fixture was turned on. The cabinet was painted a bright brassy gold color that matched the fixtures on the tub and sink. Ornate did not even begin to describe them.
“Did he just buy whatever was cheapest when he decorated? I can’t imagine anyone actually looking for this stuff. This is bad.” Lee squinted to try to offset some of the glare.
“That was my guess too. He seemingly went with what was deeply discounted or free. One of the guys said he loved to go to garage sales. You should have seen the furniture. I swear the couch disintegrated on the way to the dumpster.”
Lee took another look around at the small space. “Holy moly, the tub and toilet are pink. I thought it was a reflection of the paint.”
“Oh shit, I didn’t realize that either. Well, let me show you the one already good thing about this apartment before you run screaming.”
“Just the fact I’ll have somewhere to live is a good thing, and I do appreciate it. I won’t run screaming. Promise. This is fixable. It’s going to take a lot of work, but it’s fixable.”
“Glad you think so. I just don’t have the time to tackle a project like this, between working and my family.”
As they were talking, they made their way through the only door they hadn’t opened yet on the tour. The door had stairs leading up. Stepping onto the roof, Lee sucked in a breath. One end had a glassed building similar to a greenhouse, with one of those combo heating and air conditioning units, likely to extend the amount of time it could be used. The rest of the space was set up as a barbecue and relaxation area. This had obviously been where the previous owner had spent most of his time. The built-in grill was amazing. The furniture was surprisingly tasteful and of good quality.
Lee turned in a circle, taking in everything. “This is part of it? I can use all this?”
“Yep. Consider it a perk of dealing with the hideousness of the rest of the place.”
Lee’s brain was spinning. The greenhouse would be perfect for his artwork. He’d been worried about finding a space for it. “It’s perfect. Thank you. Thank you so much.” They made their way downstairs and back to the kitchen.
“No. Thank you. As I said, I don’t have the time or the energy to deal with any of this right now. This works out well for both of us. You said all your stuff’s in your truck? Want a hand bringing it all in?”
“Oh, I can handle it. I don’t want to take up any more of your time.” Lee dropped his head to stare at his shoes again. “I don’t actually have a whole lot. I have my clothes, my art stuff and my books. I have money to buy things. I was able to save while living at home. It’s why I stayed. All I really need is a mattress to start.” Lee took another look around. “This place is going to be a construction zone for quite a while.”
Kirk took a moment to look around as well. “This is so horrible that I should pay you to live here.”
Lee grinned. “I wouldn’t be against that, but as long as you can keep my rent reasonable, I can do the work. Well…most of it. Plumbing, not so much. I’ll have to get someone in to replace the tub and toilet. I’ll need to know a budget.”
“We’ll work it out. So, you said ‘art stuff’. What kind of art do you do?”
Lee ducked his head shyly. “Nothing major. It’s just a hobby. Helps me relax.”
“Well, you’ll certainly need to relax after working on this mess.” Kirk made a move as if to pat Lee on the back, causing him to flinch.
“Sorry,” Lee said.
“Nothing to be sorry for. Just know that you have nothing to fear anymore. We have your back,” Kirk assured him.
“Why would you say that? You just met me.”
“You’re part of the garage family now. Will speaks highly of you and you haven’t run screaming from this mess. That shows strength of character.” Kirk smirked as he said the last bit. “Or maybe it’s total insanity. Either will fit in here. Come on. Let’s get your stuff in.”