Two men, one with a past and one determined to give them a future.
Mick Flanagan has kept himself hidden since his only lover died three years ago. He works at night, keeps to his routine, has impressive facial hair and avoids contact with other people as much as possible. Enter Ceri Llewellyn, with his constantly changing rainbow-colored hair, who, for reasons Mick doesn’t understand, seems determined to talk to him. Gradually, Mick reveals his traumatic past as he begins to trust Ceri enough to shake himself out of his entrenched routines.
Ceri Llewellyn has no idea why Mick intrigues him, but he determines to bring this shy man out of his protective shell, especially when he discovers they share a mutual love of all things Doctor Who. Ceri faces his own turning point, a moment when he must decide on his future. The more time he spends with Mick, the more he realises he wants Mick to be a part of this new life. Can Ceri show Mick he’s his perfect companion, give him the new beginning he needs and, above all else, help him find his true self?
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of homophobia and the misgendering of a child.
Publisher's Note: This book was previously released elsewhere. It has been expanded, revised and reedited for release with Pride Publishing.
General Release Date: 23rd June 2020
Mick jumped and nearly tipped out of his chair. He switched camera screen and hoped his blush wasn’t obvious. At least he’d hidden his knitting away in his bag. “Shouldn’t you be cleaning somewhere?” he asked Ruby. “Reception, if I’m not mistaken.”
She didn’t move. “I don’t blame you looking. He is rather striking with his hair changing color every week.”
Mick glared at her and tapped his badge. “It’s my job to monitor everyone in the building.”
“Yeah, yeah, but some people are worth watching more than others.” She flicked a duster in his direction and gave him one of those smiles that suggested she knew something he didn’t.
“You’ll be late if you don’t get going now.” Mick grimaced and gripped his chair, wanting her out of his space.
“Methinks he doth protest too much,” she replied, before turning and flouncing out of the cubby-hole he laughingly called his office.
For as long as Mick had worked security in this office block, twice a week, every week, at six-thirty in the morning, he’d watched the delivery van arrive at the barrier, via one of the cameras set in every corridor. In the past, he’d kept a vague eye on the man, making sure he followed his set route, before he returned to his book or current box set. However, for the last month, he’d been glued to his screens, watching the new man as he filled up the various vending machines and water coolers scattered around the eight-story building. Mick stared, following the man’s every move, unable to tear himself away.
Now, after allowing enough time to make sure Ruby had gone, Mick returned to the monitors. He found his target once more. The man moved like a panther down the long corridors, careful and silent, with an obvious strength from the way he carried the huge water bottles as if they weighed nothing. The thought made Mick shiver. He didn’t understand why this man should fascinate him so much. He didn’t even know his name and new people usually unnerved him. The other cleaners left him alone. Only Ruby had persisted in her attempts to get him to talk.
‘I need to keep focused on the cameras,’ he’d told them when they tried to involve him in their lives. ‘I don’t drink, so there’s no point in going to the pub.’ For every attempt, he’d come up with an excuse not to accept.
‘You need to get your head out of your books once in a while,’ Ruby had said more than once. But his books helped him to escape by providing worlds so different from his own.
Checking the monitors for reception revealed Ruby and Mary, another cleaner, talking to the man, but frustratingly, Mick couldn’t hear what they said. Both peered up at the camera, and Mick glanced away, as if he were some Peeping Tom caught in the act. When he looked again, only the two women remained in view. He anxiously checked all the screens.
“So, this is where you are,” a soft voice said out of nowhere. Surprised, Mick nearly fell out of his seat again. After collecting himself, he turned toward the door and saw the voice came from the man he’d been watching for the last few weeks.
“You shouldn’t be here,” he spluttered. “This isn’t part of your route. You have to stick to your designated route, or it doesn’t work.”
“What doesn’t work?” the man asked.
“Me making sure you do your job properly. I check you do the work and leave at the right time before I clock off. You’ll be late now, and I’ve got to be out of here at seven on the dot. I can’t be late waiting for you. It’s important to keep to routines. If people don’t follow the rules, it’s dangerous. You know that.” He shuffled papers on his desk, needing something to do with his hands.
“I’m sorry,” the man said. “I didn’t mean to upset you. Ruby said to introduce myself because we haven’t met.”
“Ruby should keep quiet,” Mick muttered under his breath. The man didn’t leave. Instead he grinned.
“You’ll get no argument from me. I’ve noticed Ruby does like to gossip. Anyway, my name’s Ceri, Ceri Llewellyn. Ruby said you’re called Mick.” He moved a few steps forward and held out his hand. Mick stared then pushed his chair backward until he hit the edge of a desk. Ceri halted when Mick didn’t put his hand out in response.
“It’s okay, I don’t bite. If you don’t want to shake my hand, it’s fine. Not everyone does.”
Mick’s mother had taught him to be polite. He wiped his palm on his trouser leg and screwed up enough courage to hold up his right arm. The hand that shook his was dry and firm. Like the man, his fingers were long and thin. He wore rings on several of them.
“My name is Mick. Mick Flanagan. I’ve worked nights here for five years.” He let go of Ceri. “Why is your hair green, and isn’t Ceri a girl’s name?”
Ceri cocked his head to one side. “Um, okay, I like a man who’s straight to the point. My hair is green because I like to keep changing it. This week it’s green. Next week it could be orange or purple or blue. It’s the rainbow, you know, red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue. Like the song. You must know it.”
Mick shook his head. Why would anyone make themselves stand out so much? His hair was auburn and curly. A beard covered most of his face. His mum had called him her little teddy bear before… He shook himself, not wanting to visit that memory.
“Are you all right? You shivered.”
Mick sat up straight in his chair. “I’m fine. Why would you want to dye your hair every week all those different colors?”
“I like to be different, I suppose. Anyway, it’s symbolic. You know, a rainbow representing all colors and all people, no matter what they are, black or white, young or old, gay or straight.”
Is he gay? He can’t be interested in me. Has Ruby said something? Does she know? The speed of his breathing increased. Not now. Can’t panic now. He pulled at the elastic band on his wrist, willing the anxiety away. He needed to get Ceri out of his office.
“Are you sure you’re okay? Can I get you some water? You’ve gone pale.”
Mick desperately attempted to control his body and breathing. “I’m fine. Just tired. It’s been a long night.”
“You don’t fancy getting breakfast somewhere, do you? There’s a café around the corner. I could meet you there.”
Mick wasn’t sure he’d heard right. “What?”
Ceri remained too close. “Breakfast. You know—food. You must eat. This place does a great full English and the strongest tea. I’d say it’ll put hairs on your chest, but you seem to have enough already.”
Thoughts flew around his brain. What did this man want from him? Was this some sort of prank? Had Ruby made a bet with this man? Would they laugh at him if he said yes? Mick thought Ceri was even more beautiful in the flesh, with his bright blue eyes rimmed with black, pale pink lips and sharp cheekbones. He picked up his bag and began to pack away. To his horror, a ball of red wool fell out and rolled onto the floor. Ceri picked it up and held out his hand with a puzzled expression on his face.
“You knit?” he asked.
“So what?” Mick grabbed the ball and stuffed it back into the bag.
“Nothing,” Ceri said. “Is it a Doctor Who scarf? I couldn’t help noticing the box set.”