Title: Wood, Screws & Nails
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: April 23, 2014
Blurb: Aaron Costa’s summer was all planned. Despite having to remodel the family lake house, it would be a vacation of sorts, and he had every intention of enjoying it—until the friend who was supposed to help him got injured and left him in a lurch. He decides to take the opportunity to bond with his son and hires Julian and his roommate, Malachi, to assist.
As a broke college student, Malachi could use the money, and spending the summer with Aaron for eye candy sounds like a dream. Look but don’t touch becomes his motto. But when Julian starts flaking on his responsibilities and Malachi and Aaron are forced to spend long hours alone together, their mutual attraction is impossible to resist.
Aaron can’t fight the temptation sexy Malachi presents. But more than their age difference stands in their way, not the least of which is Aaron’s semi-closeted status and the fact that he’s never openly discussed his sexuality with his son. He has no idea how Julian will react when he learns his father is not only gay, he’s also dating his best friend.
“So, how would you feel about working for my dad this summer?”
Malachi Pereira froze in the middle of pouring himself a cup of coffee. He turned to see Julian standing at the end of the kitchen counter, his dark hair wild, eyes still hazy with sleep.
“Working for your dad?” Malachi repeated. The dad who, in Malachi’s opinion, probably inspired that whole DILF acronym in the first place. Because, damn, a finer man Malachi had never met, and he’d seen his fair share of gorgeous guys in his twenty-one years. Hell, his family was from Brazil, and some of the men there were hot enough to set fires. Still, Malachi had his type, and Julian’s father fit it with a capital T. Not that he’d ever say as much to his best friend.
“Yeah.” Julian stepped into the kitchen and grabbed a clean mug from the rack next to the sink. “You know he’s a contractor, right? I guess he’s fixing up my grandparents’ lake house over the next couple of months. Said he’d pay us the same rate as his crew. Weekends and days off during bad weather. The whole nine yards.”
The mention of pay shifted Malachi’s thoughts from where they didn’t have any business wandering anyway. “Really? Man, that would be awesome.”
Julian nodded, taking the coffeepot from Malachi’s hand and sloshing the rest of it into his mug. “Yep. I figured you wouldn’t want to spend the summer staying with your folks. The place is up in Lake Geneva, which is lame, but it’s not far from Milwaukee. At least we won’t be bored to death on the weekends. And my dad, well… he’s pretty chill. I don’t think he’ll give a shit if we go out during our free time as long as we get the job done.”
“Sounds good,” Malachi said. And it did. Spending a couple of months in a lake house with his best friend held a lot more appeal than going back to his old bedroom at his parents’ place, despite how well they got along or how much he loved them. Plus, there was the undeniable fact that Julian’s dad would make for some incredible eye candy while Malachi did the kind of work he’d planned on trying to find anyway. He’d learned enough carpentry from his own father to make him not only useful but knowledgeable when it came to fixing up houses. He’d ensure Julian’s father got his money’s worth, and he’d have fun while he was doing it. A win-win all around. “When is he starting?”
“Now, I think. He said he was packing. My last final is next week. Yours too, right? We can go up there right after.”
“What about the apartment? Will you sublet your room, too?” Malachi had already made arrangements for his own room with a guy taking summer classes at UIC. He didn’t see the point in paying for something he wasn’t using, and if he’d gone down to Florida to stay with his folks, it would have sat empty for months.
“Nah.” Julian shook his head. “I don’t like the thought of some other dude being in my room, sleeping in my bed.” He shuddered a little. “Besides, it’s not like we’re going to be on the other side of the country. Lake Geneva is close enough that I can come back here some weekends. Fuck if the party scene in Milwaukee is going to be anything like Chicago.”
Malachi snickered, though it was probably true. He didn’t feel the need to be out every weekend, but Julian was another story. Sometimes, Malachi barely saw him from Friday night until after classes on Monday. “All right. Well, tell your dad I’m in, if you’re sure he doesn’t mind. We can drive up after my last final on Wednesday. Be ready to get started on Thursday.”
“He doesn’t mind. He already okayed it. I’ll text him and let him know you agreed.” Julian grinned. “And you should tell your parents you aren’t coming down to Miami this year.”
Malachi stifled a groan. He hadn’t seen any of his family since winter break, and every time they talked, his mom mentioned how much she was looking forward to his visit. Now, even if he knew she’d agree he couldn’t pass up the opportunity, he still wouldn’t completely get out of a ride on the guilt-trip train, and Julian knew it.
“Jackass,” Malachi muttered as Julian laughed. “I should make you call and tell her.”
Julian fled the room with a “hell no” almost before he’d finished the sentence.
A week and a half later, Malachi and Julian were in Lake Geneva. After breezing through the last of his finals, Malachi was more than ready to see the end of his third year. One more and he’d have his bachelors in education and be able to start scouring the internet for teaching jobs throughout Illinois. Maybe even look into teaching English in Brazil for a while. First, he needed a few months off. Weird that he considered doing house renovations a break, but all things considered, he actually liked working with his hands. A sense of accomplishment came with manual labor that he never got in all his hours of studying and clinicals. Maybe that would change once he was out in the world, running his own classroom. He hoped so. The student teaching he’d be doing next fall would decide that one way or the other.
“This is it,” Julian announced.
“Whoa.” Malachi’s eyes widened as Julian turned his car onto a long gravel driveway and he took in the large, plantation-style house at the end. “You didn’t tell me this place was practically a mansion.”
Julian snorted as he pulled to a stop behind a large black truck, the type of heavy-duty, high horsepower affair some men bought just for show. Malachi knew Julian’s father must’ve purchased it as much for its practicality as any aesthetic appeal. The tailgate sat open, and the bed showed wear and tear—scratches, dirt, signs of actual use. A paint-spattered aluminum ladder rested next to a couple of folded up tarps, several cans of primer, and a scuffed-up utility chest. It was a working man’s truck, and it showed. Malachi approved.
“It’s not a mansion. Just my grandma’s way of pretending to be Scarlett O’Hara every summer. I’m surprised she wants to sell it. She used to be obsessed with that movie.”
“Well, it’s huge. Maybe it’s just too much to maintain now.”
“Yeah, maybe. Kind of a bummer they’re getting rid of it, though. I haven’t been up here in years, but I used to come up with my dad every June, right after school let out. We had some fun times here.”
Malachi smiled slightly. Julian’s default mode was set to sarcasm, and he didn’t often talk about his father, but Malachi got the impression Julian admired the man. There was fondness in his voice whenever he spoke of his dad, though Malachi was certain Julian didn’t know it. Not for the first time, he wondered what’d happened to split Julian’s parents up. When they’d talked about it one drunken weeknight their sophomore year, Julian had seemed equally curious. Only one thing had been clear—it was obviously a sore spot, and Malachi hadn’t felt it was his place to dig for more information.
Julian unlocked his door and got out of the car. Malachi followed suit, trailing behind as Julian made his way to the open trunk. He reached in for his own duffel bag after Julian had removed his and slammed the trunk shut, staring up at the house. Mansion or not, it was impressive, with tall white columns, big windows, and a wide, wraparound porch. Maybe the exterior paint needed updating, as well as the cracked walkway and neglected landscaping, but it was the sort of place his parents could only dream of ever owning, imposing enough that unexpected nerves made his palms sweat. Then, of course, came the irritation with himself for getting nervous.
What the hell is my problem? Malachi knew his rank in the social stratosphere, and typically, he didn’t give a shit that other people had more money or purchased vacation homes more expensive than the only house his parents owned or that going into teaching would mean he’d likely be stuck in the lower-middle class for the rest of his life. It didn’t bother him. He could go to med school if he wanted to earn a lot of money he might never have time to spend. So maybe his sudden anxiety had more to do with the bare-chested man who’d just come down the porch steps and now strode toward them. The man who looked an awful lot like Julian, dark-eyed and olive skinned, except with broader shoulders, a light smattering of chest hair, and a muscular physique sculpted by hard work, not hours lifting weights in a gym. Sweat gleamed on naked skin, and his well-worn jeans clung to him in a way that left Malachi with no doubt that the man packed a cock hefty enough to complement all that muscle.
“Hey,” Mr. Costa said as he reached them. He pulled Julian into a brief hug, which Julian instantly cringed away from.
“Dude! You’re sweaty as hell!”
Mr. Costa laughed and released him. “Sorry. I have the windows open because I’ve been in and out. It’s roasting in there. I just took a break to have a glass of tea with Greg a few minutes ago.” He turned to Malachi and held out a hand. “Thanks for coming. I hope the drive wasn’t too bad.”
Malachi tried to swallow around the lump of cotton that had somehow lodged itself in his throat. He accepted the handshake and fought hard not to think about how little he’d mind being covered in this man’s sweat.
“It wasn’t bad at all.” The words came out huskier than normal. Malachi could only be grateful Julian’s father didn’t know him well enough to notice, and if Julian had, he didn’t comment. “I appreciate the opportunity, Mr. Costa.”
“God, please call me Aaron. Mr. Costa is my father.” Aaron grinned, his teeth shining white against scruff-shadowed cheeks. There was a tiny gap between his upper central incisors that Malachi found himself desperate to lick. Weird, he knew, but holy fuck, the guy was even hotter than Malachi remembered from that long-ago visit on a parent weekend in his and Julian’s freshman year and his occasional glimpses in the time since. Apparently, Aaron’s late thirties more than agreed with him. The expression “aged like a fine wine” came to mind. Tip-top of the shelf. The ten-thousand dollar bottles only people like Bill Gates would be drinking.
Damn. Malachi gave himself a mental shake. He shouldn’t be thinking this shit with Julian mere inches away. Or at all. Julian knew about his preference for older men. He even knew that Malachi had dated a professor nearly twice his age the year before—and how badly that relationship had ended. But there was a world of difference between a professor Julian didn’t have any connection to and Aaron. The very last thing Malachi wanted now was for Julian to wise up to his crush because Malachi popped wood every time Aaron stepped into his line of sight. Awkward fucking city.
Aaron faced Julian again and gestured toward the porch and a man who stood from one of the rocking chairs and leaned on the rail. “Jules, you remember Greg. Greg, my son, Jules, and his friend, Malachi.”
Greg smiled at them as they stepped up onto the porch. Another round of hand-shaking happened as Malachi wondered about Greg’s relationship to Aaron. The man practically screamed prim and proper. Slender to Aaron’s muscle, icy blue eyes behind thin-rimmed glasses, patrician nose, not a blond hair out of place. The day was stifling, hot enough to justify Aaron’s lack of a shirt, but Greg looked cool as could be in a pristine white button-down and rust-colored chinos. He even wore brown loafers with no socks and a belt that matched. A few inches taller and Malachi would’ve sworn Greg had just walked off the pages of a Ralph Lauren ad, while his own clothes couldn’t be described as anything but broke college student couture. Greg’s casual elegance made him feel downright slovenly.
“Would you like some iced tea?” Greg asked, tilting his head toward the pitcher that sat on the table beside the chair he’d been occupying. “I just brought it over from next door. It’s sweet, though.” He laughed. “I was raised in the south. I don’t believe in having it any other way.”
A neighbor. Malachi grinned. It shouldn’t make him happy to hear that. It shouldn’t. But it did.
“Sure.” Malachi hefted his bag. “Is there somewhere I can set this down first?”
Aaron nodded and went for the door. “Yeah, I’ll show you. Come on in.”
“Take mine too, will you?” Julian asked.
“No prob.” Malachi grabbed Julian’s bag from him and followed Aaron inside. He did his best not to notice the way the muscles in Aaron’s ass flexed as he led Malachi upstairs. And he succeeded. Mostly. But of course, that left him staring at the long, smooth lines of Aaron’s back instead.
Malachi knew right then it was going to be a summer of nothing but blue balls and cold showers. The thought alone should have made him groan. So why couldn’t he seem to stop smiling?
Piper Vaughn wrote her first love story at eleven and never looked back. Since then, she’s known that writing in some form was exactly what she wanted to do. A reader at the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book—fantasy, young adult, romance, she loves them all (and has a two thousand book library to prove it!). She grew up in Chicago, in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, and loves to put faces and characters of every ethnicity in her stories, so her fictional worlds are as colorful as the real one. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life…even if it’s only in a book.
Visit her at: http://pipervaughn.com
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Kade Boehme is a southern boy without the charm, but all the sass. Currently residing in Seattle, he lives off of ramen noodles and too much booze.
He is “the epitomy of dorkdom”, only watching TV when Rachel Maddow or one of his sports teams is on. Most of his free time is spent dancing, arguing politics or with his nose in a book. He is also a hardcore Britney Spears fangirl and has an addiction to glitter.
It was after writing a short story about boys who loved each other for a less than reputable adult website that he found his true calling, and hopefully a bit more class.
He hopes to write about all the romance that he personally finds himself allergic to but that others can fall in love with. He maintains that life is real and the stories should be, as well.