WHEN I reached Maryville, in Tennessee, I followed my typical “new city” routine, which tended to work well.
My first step included finding an inexpensive motel—always an easy accomplishment, and the Roadside Riviera was the textbook definition of the inexpensive motel: copper-colored carpet and walls that were neither off-white nor beige but some heretofore undiscovered shade that wasn’t anywhere in the same neighborhood as attractive. No big deal. I didn’t much care about ambiance, considering everything appeared fairly clean—there were no obvious infestations, and the sheets smelled like bleach, indicating a fairly recent encounter with a washing machine. That was always a plus. Add a working television, a somewhat comfortable bed, and a shower with decent water pressure/available hot water and that pretty much satisfied my basic needs when it came to acceptable shelter.
After checking in and unpacking my duffel bag, which sadly contained all my worldly possessions other than my 2008 cherry-red-and-chrome Dyna Glide Fat Bob, the last gift my parents purchased for me before I went from being their beloved baby boy to being considered the greatest disgrace the Spencer family had ever been forced to endure. “You’ve managed not only to destroy your life, young man, but you’ve placed this family in the most unsavory light, which can’t be forgiven.” That speech had been my father’s dignified version of “pack your shit and get the hell out,” and when all was said and done, I did just that, while trying hard not to cry or shamelessly appeal my circumstances. I was hurting so badly. Could he see that? Couldn’t he understand that I was only twenty-one years old at the time? While youth wasn’t an excuse for my mistakes, couldn’t he fathom that maybe being so young (and having lived a somewhat sheltered life) left me vulnerable to making foolish choices? I needed support from someone, but I wouldn’t get it from my parents, and when I turned up on the doorstep of my lifelong best friend, he delivered a solid and powerful punch to my mouth before coldly calling me a “freaking faggot” and slamming the door in my face.
With rejection stacked on top of rejection, I figured it was time to bid Colorado adieu, and I hit the open road.
In the three years since, I had spent time in LA, Portland, Seattle, Tempe, Santa Fe, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Little Rock, Kansas City, Chicago…. There were a dozen little towns in-between, where temporary day jobs gave me reason to linger for a short time, and now pretty little Maryville was the latest pit stop in a series of pit stops. Nothing really special. I would stick around, provided employment was available, but not beyond a few months at the very most.
After settling into the Roadside Riviera, I grabbed a copy of the local paper and stretched out comfortably across my current bed (with the sheets that reeked of bleach) and went to work on checking out the decent array of help wanted ads. Not bad. The typical stuff; fast food workers were needed, truck drivers, busboys and waiters, delivery drivers—honestly, I had done a little of everything while traveling aimlessly, but I wasn’t overly fond of the food service industry, so an ad for construction workers quickly caught my attention.
WORKERS NEEDED FOR ROOFING, STONEWORK, BLOCK WORK, COATING WORK. ALL INTERESTED PARTIES TO APPLY IN PERSON AT LAMAR CONSTRUCTION, 1206 DOVER STREET, BETWEEN 8 – 5, MONDAY – FRIDAY.
Luckily for me, it was Wednesday, just after two, and I was eager to find work.
I still had about a grand from my last job, but I didn’t like getting low on funds; struggling to make money was still a somewhat daunting task, not because I minded hard work, but because there had been a time in my life when money hadn’t been an issue. It was just there. Cash in my wallet. Credit cards. An awaiting trust fund. All of that had disappeared when dear ol’ Dad and Mom washed their hands of me, and now, every penny was precious and every single dime had to be stretched as far as possible. My living in luxury days were long gone. And naturally, I missed it at times, but when I really stopped and thought about it, I usually realized that despite all the trauma and tears and tantrums, I was better off. Sure, money wasn’t growing on trees and I never had enough for more than the basic necessities, but at least I could honestly say I was free, and I didn’t answer to anyone anymore.
Jumping from the bed, I showered quickly, dried, and changed into a pair of jeans and a blue T-shirt that closely matched my eyes, the color a Spencer family trait my mother referred to as indigo. Afterward, I took a moment to study my reflection carefully. Arrogant as it certainly sounded, I knew I was well above average looking. Indigo eyes. Untamed blond curls. Dimples and an easy smile. Five seven. I wouldn’t ever be described as overly bulky in the muscles department, but I was sculpted enough and certainly properly conditioned to work construction for a few months. Hopefully. I didn’t want to bus tables, but I would if necessary. I didn’t have a college degree to fall back on. I had only gotten three years of a business and accounting degree under my belt before I became an unwilling and undeniably unhappy media darling.
Shaking those thoughts aside, I grabbed my wallet, helmet, and keys and I was out the door, ready for my job hunt.
It took only about fifteen minutes to find Lamar Construction, and I was impressed. In place of some typical office building stood what appeared to be a log cabin, complete with bay windows, a wrap-around porch, and a heavy frosted-glass door. I spotted a single white pickup parked in the driveway, “Lamar Construction, Jonas Lamar, CEO, Licensed Contractor” printed along both driver and passenger doors in bold red. “Impressive,” I muttered to myself as I climbed the steps and carefully opened the door to reveal an immaculately maintained lobby with hardwood floors and wood walls, and a massive desk that looked to be made of cedar. Various photographs were carefully displayed on the walls.
A voice from somewhere in the back called, “Be there in a second.” Accepting that as my current greeting, I moved quietly about the room, looking closely at the photographs, noting that they featured mainly beautiful homes, as well as what appeared to be a few businesses. There were several photos with people, usually varied groups, but one man was common to many of them, and damn if he was common. Tall (how much so, I couldn’t judge from a mere photo), he had an olive complexion and hair that was coal black. His features were perfect, from the strong jaw and stubborn chin to lips that were (gods help me) actually heart-shaped. Just looking at photos had me standing there unconsciously licking at my lips. When I realized what I was doing, I considered turning around and leaving through the door I had just entered, job be damned, because being attracted to employers or potential employers wasn’t good. In fact, it was bad in that movie-of-the-week sort of bad, bad as in “every detail of a person’s life ended up displayed in both supposedly respectable newspapers and rag tabloids” kind of bad. The kind of bad that resulted in parental abandonment.
I forced a breath into lungs that felt suddenly starved, and then I gave myself a nice mental scolding. Get a freakin’ grip, Lyric. He’s hot. So what? Odds are he isn’t gay, and that is a good thing. Just don’t think with your dick, because your dick makes bad decisions. Sure, it has been a damn long time since you’ve gotten laid, but logically, you need a job more than you need to get yourself laid, and unless your dick can start ejaculating cash, he needs to stay in your pants, kiddo.
My libido and dick chastened, I relaxed a little, and I had a smile in place when I heard someone enter the room.
When I turned, however, my smile nearly faltered and my dick decided his way of thinking should certainly take precedence over ordinary common sense. But beyond my dick, there was an almost electric charge in the air, and somehow, as if the knowledge had been magically dropped into my brain and my heart, I knew, in that unexpected moment, that my life was about to change forever. No, Cupid didn’t appear. A heavenly host didn’t burst into song. And no, I had never been a believer in those hokey “love at first sight” stories captured in silly Disney flicks or movies with Julia Roberts playing a hooker or Meg Ryan playing someone neurotic. Hell, I wasn’t even convinced that what I was suddenly experiencing could be anything as utterly complex as actual love. I only knew beyond any doubt that this was one of the crossroads in life, and I had a rather simple choice.
I could turn around and walk out the door, walk away from the man standing there, watching me with eyes I could only describe as russet brown, which would certainly qualify as the safest option.
Or I could step forward, extend my hand, introduce myself, and in doing so, possibly set myself up for the greatest fall of my life. Considering the previous fall I had taken just three years prior, that was saying something.
Go or stay? That was the question, but a voice in the back of my mind laughed a little, and I realized there wasn’t a choice to be made. For whatever reason, I had come to this place, at this time, and this seemed to be exactly where I was meant to be. “Lyric Spencer.” I took two simple steps forward, and smiling in a way that calmly assured me I wasn’t the only one in the room to have just made a life-altering decision, the man from the photographs took two steps of his own and extend his hand.
My eyes locked with his, I accepted that hand, and the charge that had hummed in the air seemed to race up my arm. The way those beautiful brown eyes darkened confirmed that he had experienced the same charge. “Jonas Lamar.” His voice was smooth, deep, and I noticed the slightest accent. I couldn’t immediately place it, but the accent wasn’t important. Something almost otherworldly (and yes, I know that sounds insane) seemed to take control, and the hand that held mine tugged me forward. Without thought, without caring to think, I willingly and happily allowed myself to be pulled directly and firmly into arms that were powerfully strong and wonderfully warm.
At six feet, he towered over me, but I realized I liked the height difference. I liked the way it felt to find myself so thoroughly surrounded by masculine strength and heat, and gods, but he smelled wonderful. Delicious. Woodsy. Spicy. His eyes were focused on my lips, which I licked absentmindedly, and it seemed to me that time literally screeched to a complete standstill. He was going to kiss me. He was going to kiss me. Oh my God, I wanted him to kiss me, and I didn’t care if it was too soon or insane. My thoughts raced far too fast for me to collect, and I sensed Jonas was pretty much in the same position as I wrapped one arm around his neck, delving my fingers deeply into the silky black hair. “You’re so beautiful.” The words were meant to be merely thought rather than spoken, but there they were, said out loud, and I should have been embarrassed, but the way he oh-so-slowly smiled made it impossible for me to feel anything other than delighted, because I had brought that stunningly sexy smile to those sinfully sensual lips.
He moved a hand to cradle the back of my head, and then those lips claimed mine and life took on new meaning.
Excitement, fear, desire, trepidation, aching passion… so many emotions and so many sensations consumed me all at once, and I eagerly opened my mouth when his teasing tongue sought entrance. Sweet God! He was overwhelming, domineering. It really should have been a little off-putting, the way he just so easily assumed control. I had never imagined that being remotely appealing, but now—God—now, being pressed so thoroughly against hard walls of muscle while a tenacious tongue relentlessly plundered my mouth…. I had never been kissed like that, not even during my brief and tragic affair with Eliot. In that moment, though, it was impossible to think about Eliot as I found myself being turned and lifted, and suddenly, I was sitting on the immaculate desk, and of their own accord, my legs wrapped tightly and impulsively around Jonas’s waist. I felt scalding heat boiling my blood at the feel of my erection pressed against a rock-hard wall of stomach muscles.
Trembling, both of us, and needing to breathe, we broke the kiss, but Jonas’s lips landed on my neck, and I gripped his shoulders.
His teeth scraped my skin, and I shivered, my fingers biting into his shoulders. I heard a whimper echo weakly around the room, and it took me a moment to realize I was the one whimpering. “Jonas….” His name on my lips sounded right, natural, and I slipped a hand under his shirt, savoring the feel of wonderfully smooth, warm skin and rippling muscles. I moved up until I eagerly brushed nipples that were already pebble hard. Yes. I felt no shame in admitting I was a nipple man; I loved the sight, the texture, the taste of nipples budding from a man’s chest, and I knew I was going to adore playing with Jonas’s nipples. And the rest of his oh-so-perfectly chiseled body.
Jonas sucked hard on the delicate junction where my neck and collarbone met, and I feared for a moment that I might come from that alone when the haze of pleasure was rudely interrupted by the sound of someone loudly clearing their throat. It took Jonas a second longer to realize that we weren’t alone any longer, and he reluctantly looked over his left shoulder to discover what I already saw. Standing just inside the door was a man, tall and thin, dressed in an expensive three-piece suit, and he didn’t look at all impressed by the scene he had just discovered. “Jonas.” His voice was somewhat high-pitched, acidic, and for a horrible moment, I thought that this unhappy-looking man with the pinched expression might be Jonas’s lover, but I soon dismissed the idea when Jonas sighed and looked at me again with an apologetic smile.
“Isaac, you have the worst timing ever.” He boldly dropped another kiss on my lips, and I smiled as he turned and fully faced the other man.
“Well, if you recall, we have a meeting today, Jonas.” Isaac stepped further into the room, and as he did, he shifted pale-gray eyes in my direction. Honestly, the scrutiny I saw in those eyes made me decidedly uncomfortable. “And who might you be?” His tone made it clear that whoever I was, he had already decided he simply didn’t like me, and apparently Jonas had the same impression I did, because he leaned casually against the desk, draping an arm around my shoulders.
“I’m Lyric. Lyric Spencer.”
“Lyric? Interesting name.” Sarcasm dripped from his every word, but I smiled.
“And who are you exactly?” And yeah, that question was a little trickier, because I couldn’t casually explain that oh, well, I came here to inquire about the ad in the paper, but I ended up nearly having desk sex with the guy who placed said ad, and I glanced quickly at Jonas, who didn’t appear at all flustered.
“Lyric is my boyfriend.”
“Boyfriend?” Isaac looked like he might swallow his tongue.
“Yes. Boyfriend,” Jonas repeated slowly. “Also known as lover. Companion. Beau. Also known as amante in Spanish, erastis in Greek, and cariad in Welsh. I would go on, but those are the only languages that I sort of know, and I think you get the basic idea. Right?” It seemed his good humor faded when he posed the question, and Isaac nodded in clear affirmation that yes, he did get the basic idea.
Huh? What was that about? Isaac might not be his current lover—apparently I was, and didn’t that just make me all kinds of giddy—but there was clearly some history between Isaac and Jonas. Maybe Isaac wasn’t thrilled to be a mere part of history while Jones was obviously long over any interest he had ever felt for the still painfully unhappy-looking other man.
“When did you two lovebirds meet?” Isaac asked, and frankly, I thought his asking was pushing his luck a little.
“That hardly matters, Isaac, and I’m afraid that I will need to reschedule our meeting.”
“That’s easier said than done, Jonas.”
“Sorry. Something came up.”
“Obviously,” he snapped dryly, and I felt Jonas tense.
“Fine. I’ll call you tomorrow.” He turned his eyes to me again, and he frowned. “I’m sorry, Lyric, but have you and I met somewhere before?”
Offering a friendly smile, I shook my head easily. “No, I don’t think so.” Still, the way he looked at me made me uneasy, and I could see he was searching his mind, trying to place why I seemed familiar to him.
“Really? I could swear I’ve seen you before.”
“Afraid not. I just recently rolled into town.”
“Ah, yes. The motorcycle out front? I assume that’s yours.”
“It certainly is.” Yeah, he didn’t like the motorcycle, but Jonas flashed a smile at me, and that smiled told me that he did.
“Excuse me if I seem intrusive—”
“His fancy word for damn nosey,” Jonas muttered, but Isaac ignored him.
“But how old are you, Lyric?”
“I turned twenty-four last month,” I replied pleasantly.
“And that concludes that Q&A session for today.” An edge crept into Jonas’s tone again, and it seemed Isaac realized it was indeed time to back off. For that, I was grateful, because the man did make me uncomfortable. “Isaac, call me tomorrow. In the meantime, I need to talk with Lyric awhile….” He trailed off with a pointed look, and unhappy about it but unwilling to argue, the dejected Isaac quietly turned around and walked out the door without looking back.
When he was gone, I allowed myself to sigh in relief. What an asshole. If he wasn’t a former lover, he was obviously a want-to-be-lover. Either way, the man didn’t seem inclined to like me. That meant he could become problematic, but I opted not to worry about Isaac as Jonas moved to stand in front of me again.
His lips—such beautiful, beautiful lips—were still swollen from the heated force of our kissing, and I felt a barely noticeable sting along my neck that suggested I would have myself one hell of a hickey.
“So I should probably apologize for not even asking why you were here before I pretty much attacked you—”
“You didn’t attack me,” I quickly assured him while I was still seated on the desk. “It was completely mutual, and please don’t apologize, because I’m not the least bit sorry. I mean, this is certainly a situation unlike any I’ve ever encountered, and believe me, if this… well, if whatever this is makes you uncomfortable, that I can understand.”
“It is unusual. I don’t just kiss every man I find standing in my office.”
“I should hope not.”
“But….” He shook his head. “Christ, I don’t know what this is, what I’m feeling, or why I’m feeling so much and feeling it so quickly, but I do know there’s something about you, Lyric, that has my insides in knots.”
“Me too,” I whispered. “I saw you and I… I don’t have a name for this, I just feel like I was somehow meant to walk in here.” Even saying that felt strange, because it seemed to imply that I believed in fate, and I didn’t—at least I hadn’t before today. That unnerved me a little, and it terrified me even more, but walking away from what I was feeling wasn’t possible.
Jonas came closer again, placing his hands on my waist. “Okay, why don’t we not put a name to it for now and just allow whatever this is to take us wherever it wants us to go.”
“I can do that.”
“Good.” His smile was dazzling. “I would love to pick up where we left off before ol’ Isaac walked in and interrupted us, but maybe I should first ask exactly what brought you into Lamar Construction today.”
“The ad in the paper. About the jobs. I just got into town today, and I found the ad in today’s paper.”
“Really? It was in today’s paper?”
“I called them yesterday and told them the job was filled, so they could remove the ad, but they didn’t.”
“If they had—”
“You wouldn’t be here,” Jonas finished in a whisper, and I nodded. “Well, maybe you really were destined to walk into my life, Mr. Spencer.”
I felt a rush of warmth. The way he was looking at me was unexplainable; no one had ever looked at me the way Jonas did, with an endearing and adorable mixture of desire and tenderness, and I wanted so very much to pull him into another impassioned kiss, but I held back.
“Maybe.” I did slide my hands up his arms, needing to touch him.
“And I’m sorry about the job. I filled all the construction positions.” He sounded sincere, but I simply shrugged.
“It’s for the best, really.”
“I don’t think sleeping with the boss would be a good idea, and if I had to pick between the job and you, you’d win.”
“Now that’s about the most flattering thing anyone has ever said to me.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“Nope. I don’t get many beautiful blonds whispering sweet nothings.” His eyes danced with amusement, and I slipped a little further under the spell that had been cast over both of us from the moment our eyes locked.
“Guys around here must be blind or stupid.”
“Maybe none of the guys around here are the right guy.” Jonas drew closer. “I want to take you upstairs to my apartment, strip you naked, and spend about three days doing nothing but making love to you, but I have business matters that demand my attention, and maybe we should have a real conversation.”
“That might be a good idea.” It was certainly a logical one. “Besides, I need to get back to the job hunt.”
“Can I see you tonight?”
“You said you just got into town. Where are you staying?”
“The Roadside Riviera, over on Maple Street.”
“Can I pick you up? Say around seven? We can have dinner.” He seemed almost nervous, and damn if that wasn’t endearing and oh-so-very-sexy.
“Seven sounds good.”
He lifted a large but gentle hand to brush a curl from my face, and I melted a little inside. It had been so long, so very long, since I had experienced a gentle touch, and I had never known any touch that could compare to Jonas’s. “You’re going to turn my life upside down and inside out, aren’t you, beautiful?”
“Seems like you’re going to do the same to mine,” I whispered back.
“Scary, isn’t it?”
“Want to back off? Turn away from whatever this is?” Jonas’s eyes held mine as he asked, and I knew what he wanted. Luckily, it seemed I wanted the exact same thing.
“No. No, I don’t want to back off. Whatever this is, I want it. I want you, and I can’t turn away from that.”