Gay Romance, Erotic Romance, Paranormal, Contemporary
Word Count: 64,200
Heat Level: 3
Published By: Evernight Publishing
Blake Gerritt has been done with music and fame for years. He’s happy with his anonymous life in an ordinary town in the middle of nowhere. He raised his sister after their parents died, and he’s no longer looking for more. Even the simmering magic in his blood has faded and he’s cool with that—he’s too old for falling in love anyway.
Aaron Wade is young and rich and miserable, even though millions love his songs. He knows he should be happy, especially since his bigoted jerk of a father is finally dead, but he can’t focus anymore. He can’t sleep. A small town in the middle of rural America is just the cure he needs to get back on track with his life, alone. Or so he thinks…
What happens when love comes out of nowhere? Do you let yourself fall or do you refuse the magic that could change everything?
Grandma told me it would happen exactly like this, Blake Gerritt thought, staring fixedly at the man in the doorway. His fingers tingled as he flexed them against the package he held, and he realized that he’d forgotten to breathe for the last few minutes. She said I’d know when it happened, but she never told me I would feel as if someone had just whacked me upside the head with a two-by-four.
“Yes?” The man tilted his head slightly, and Blake knew that if he could see behind the guy’s mirrored sunglasses, he’d probably recognize puzzlement.
Because what kind of mailman knocks on a door and then just stands there like a moron? Blake asked himself. He inhaled deeply, trying to gather his wits. If someone asked him about this moment in the future, he’d swear on his grandma’s grave that for a split second the Earth had stopped spinning. When his heart abruptly woke up and clattered a harsh staccato against his ribcage, he blinked. Time rushed back into place.
“Can I help you?” the man asked, a little more harshly, as if he knew exactly what was happening and didn’t like it. His face was closed down. Unapproachable.
Hot as hell.
Blake swallowed, not surprised to find that his mouth had gone completely dry. His hands shook. In the next second, arousal hit him hard—shocking and weird in the middle of what was supposed to be an ordinary workday. He swallowed again, knowing that the man who’d opened the door was going to lose patience any moment now.
“Uh,” he managed, then coughed when his voice cracked. He cleared his throat. “Sorry. Allergies.” He managed a weak smile. Energy swirled around him like a fly buzzing in his ear. His family had magic, sure, but that mostly meant that his garden bloomed frantically during the summer months because the extra energy that followed him around had to go somewhere. He also had an amusing knack for making people happy and he wasn’t a half-bad singer, but all in all, it didn’t really impact his life much—at least not anymore. He’d left most of his magic behind years ago to take care of his sister. So, he hadn’t really expected the old family gift to kick him in the nuts on some random June day. Isn’t that just how life happens, though?
“You have something for me?” the man asked, more patient than Blake expected after the earlier harsh tone. Brilliant blue eyes peered out at him over the mirrored sunglasses. The man wore a battered baseball cap pulled low over short brown hair and a scruffy beard. Slouchy jeans and a red concert t-shirt that had seen better days completed the outfit. Behind Blake, music from the radio he kept in his mail truck played accompaniment to the summer birdsong, and he couldn’t help feeling as if he’d just stepped into an old romantic comedy movie.
If Lynn were here, she’d laugh herself sick, Blake mused, thinking of his little sister.
“Hello?” The guy tilted his head again, almost, but not quite, cracking a smile. He lifted an eyebrow. “Anyone home?”
Blake swallowed again, reminding himself that he had a job to do here, and he couldn’t gape at the guy destined to be his true love all damned day. “Uh, yeah. Sorry. I don’t know what’s going on with me.” He fumbled with the package in his hands, then smiled wryly. “I have to hand deliver this one. Needs a signature.” He glanced down, then angled his handheld scanner the right way to read the barcode on the side of the cardboard box. He held out the box.
The man scowled at the box for a moment before slowly taking it from Blake. He didn’t look like he was happy to receive a delivery.
“I was just trying to remember the last time I delivered to this house. It’s been at least eight years, I think, since old Mrs. Caramella passed away,” Blake said, trying to dispel the sudden awkwardness. “Please sign here, Mr. Peace.” The name on his device didn’t seem to match the man, but Blake pasted on a professional smile anyway. His magic told him that the name was fake, but it wasn’t his business, right? Even if the guy was his soul mate. He’d find out the truth soon enough, if the energy tickling the base of his spine was any indicator. Just because he hadn’t actively used his power in years didn’t mean he didn’t remember how.
“Call me Jon,” the guy said in a low voice. “And yeah. I got the place cheap.” He shifted the package under his right arm and signed Blake’s pad. “My agent told me that the seller seemed desperate.” He gestured at the house around him. “Needs work, though.” He didn’t seem at all concerned about the paint peeling in long strips from his porch steps.
“Yes, that would be Mrs. Caramella’s two sons. They moved away years ago and have been trying to sell this place ever since. It’s a pity they didn’t keep up with the maintenance.” Blake grimaced. He hated painting. He’d done enough of it in his past that he was grateful to be delivering mail now. “I know a guy who could help you out with that,” he said, thinking of his sister’s husband, Ken, who owned a handyman business. Given that they had another kid on the way, Ken could use the work. And Blake could use him as a connection to see Jon again.
Jon pursed his lips. “Local?”
Blake nodded. “My brother-in-law has a handyman business. He’s young, but he’s good at painting.” He should be. Blake had taught him everything he knew. “And he’s reliable.”
“Sounds good.” Jon reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell. “Phone number?”
Blake blinked. The guy wanted his phone number? Was it really going to be this easy? His heart sped up.
Jon laughed. “You’re not having a good day, are you?” He lifted his phone and tipped it back and forth. “Can I have the phone number of your brother-in-law? And his name?”
Oh. That phone number. Blake shook his head, embarrassed. “Sorry, yeah. I’m really distracted today.”
“Hot date tonight?” Jon asked, amusement clear in his tone.
“Um, no.” Blake flushed, thinking of what he’d like to do later, and it involved his newly discovered true love and a bed. And a serious lack of clothing. “I wish,” he muttered, fumbling with his own phone. “His name is Ken Devine.” He looked up the number and rattled it off, then paused as some demon took hold of his body. “Let me give you my number in case you can’t reach him,” he said, looking Jon up and down again.
Jon finished typing, and looked up.
He sure is pretty, Blake thought. He’d given up fighting his erection and instead just held his scanner over his crotch strategically while he tried to figure out how not to make a fool of himself.
Jon quirked an eyebrow, then pursed his lips. “Sure.” He waited politely, even as his face told Blake that he thought the number thing was weird.
Blake inhaled, and then summoned up a grin. He was a grown man of thirty-five. He knew how to flirt, for God’s sake, and he was good with people, even if he’d never attempted to hit on a man before. It had to be the same as with a woman, right? I just need to be subtle. Don’t be creepy about it, he told himself.
“Your number?” Jon prompted.
“I helped Ken get his business up and running, so I’m still his backup guy when he needs help,” Blake explained, deliberately moving his scanner away from his junk. His hard-on pressed against his slacks just enough to advertise his package without being obscene. Thank God for sturdy uniform pants, he thought, still a whole lot turned on. He didn’t know if the guy in front of him swung gay, but if Fake-Name-Jon was Blake’s destined love, he had to be at least open to the idea, right?
Jon’s expression eased. “Oh. That makes sense.” His gaze flicked down Blake’s body, snagging for a split second on his groin before drifting upwards again.
Bingo. I guess I’ve still got it. Pleased, Blake gave Jon his number, then slid his cell phone back into his pocket. He licked his lips. Time to go, he told himself. His magic tingled, telling him to ease off. Now that he knew Jon was interested, he was anxious to deepen the connection, but he also knew that it was time to walk away before he came off as a weirdo instead of an intriguing stranger. “Give Ken a call. You won’t be disappointed in his work,” he said, tipping an imaginary hat. “Gotta run.” He waved at his mail truck parked at the curb. The tree-lined block looked like something out of a romance novel. Blake grinned again. He loved his home, even if it was a little quiet at times, especially compared to his previous life. “It may not be snowing or raining, but the mail still has to get delivered.” He almost winked, but then he caught himself. Too much, too soon, dude. “Have a good day, Ron Peace.” The sound of the name on his lips felt wrong. I hope I find out his real name soon.
“Oh, yeah. You, too,” the man said, shifting uncomfortably as he stepped back.
We both know you’re lying about who you are, but that’s okay. I’ll figure you out sooner than you expect, Blake thought, once again resisting the urge to wink at the guy. That would be both obvious and creepy. Instead, he pivoted and walked back down the sidewalk, whistling his favorite Aaron Wade song. It was jaunty and sexy at the same time, and he’d been humming it under his breath since it hit the charts over a year ago. It kept him from obsessing over his own music. He’d let that business go years ago, and there was nothing in this world that could ever persuade him to go back to it. Not now. Not when he was too damn old to play the game.
And not when I’ve finally met my soul mate.
Jon Peace, aka Aaron Wade in full-blown hiding-out, incognito mode, stared after the mailman. “He’s whistling my song,” he muttered, shaking his head. “There is no way he didn’t recognize me.” He closed and locked the front door, and then leaned back on it. “Shit.” His left hand shook as he adjusted his jeans to ease up a bit against the unexpected hard-on he sported. The uncharacteristic arousal that had hit him as soon as he’d answered the door still simmered along his bones, and he wasn’t sure if he was happy or pissed about it. He’d been so fucking burned out from touring and dealing with the fucking label and contracts and everything else that went into being a world-famous pop star that he hadn’t had the energy for anything but two-minute sex in years, a fact about which his ex had bitched more than once. An unexpected and unwanted attraction to some random mailman wasn’t on his agenda right now.
“Jesus. Get a grip, dude. It’s nothing. Stop overreacting.” He took a deep breath and then pushed off, wandering through the front room to the kitchen. He plopped the package he didn’t want down on the table, glaring at it. He knew exactly what it contained. It didn’t disappear in a puff of smoke, to his disappointment.
He stared at it for a minute longer, then cursed as another headache started creeping up his neck. “Fuck.” He tore open the box, not surprised when his father’s bible fell out, splattering memories all over the table. “You’re a sick fuck, Dad,” he said when he saw the passages that were marked with sticky notes and marker. “You couldn’t hate me enough in life. You had to make sure I knew you still hated me now that you’re dead.”
He shoved the bible away with one finger as if it could infect him even if he didn’t open it up, then sighed. His father had sucked in his last, bitter breath last week. Aaron hadn’t gone to visit the man in hospice or attended the funeral. There would’ve been no point. He hadn’t seen his father in six years, not since the old man had literally thrown him out of the house. And too, he didn’t need the media frenzy that would’ve swirled around him if he’d gone back home.
“No, don’t call it home,” he said frowning. “It hasn’t been home in years.” He walked to the back door and stared out at the jungle that passed for a yard. As soon as his cousin had phoned him to let him know the old bastard had died, Aaron had canceled his last two show dates and checked out of life. He’d picked the first small town he’d seen on the map, in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, cut his distinctive long hair, and fled. He didn’t know if it was grief, or a nervous breakdown, or what. His manager, Darlene, had helped him find somewhere to live, thank God, but he knew her patience with him only went so far. She knew he’d been just barely hanging on, and she knew about his fucked-up past, but she had no idea how angry he was, still, over the shit his father had done.
“No. It’s not grief I’m feeling right now,” he muttered decisively, pushing open the door and wading out into the weeds. He pulled a few out, then sat down on the creaky old bench the house’s previous owner had left near the stoop. “Fuck.” He put his face in his hands and breathed. In and out. In and out. It didn’t help.
Fucking asshole, sending me his fucking bible, he thought bitterly. Who did that? Who hated their kid so much that they planned how to send evil to them after their death? “My father, that’s who.” Aaron felt his throat close up and clenched his fists as he struggled to get oxygen into his body. He stared at the crushed dandelions under his bare feet, focusing on the air moving in and out of his lungs. What else could he do?
It seemed like a thousand years later before he got himself back under control. “Don’t worry about it now,” he said, getting back to his feet. “You’ve got time. You took time. You deserve time. The music and the fans and the touring and the work will be waiting for you when you’re done here.” He’d been telling himself variations on this particular theme for days. “You’re allowed to take a fucking break. You have money. You’re not going to starve to death.” It wasn’t like it used to be, a mere few years ago when he’d had to scrape by on his own, underage and homeless. “And it’ll never be like that again.” He’d made sure of that. He had enough money to live out his life without ever being that desperate again.
Aaron wandered around the yard, pulling at the weeds here and there, and then cursing when a cloud of gnats flew up into his face. He pulled some more greenery out, tossing the stalks aside haphazardly, and then he stopped in the middle of the yard and laughed like a maniac. He was free. Finally and irrevocably free of the misery and spite that had characterized his childhood the minute he’d realized he was gay.
“Free,” he said, trying out the word. His voice barely worked, and that was a hell of a thing for a singer. The sun warmed his shoulders. The yard was quiet. There was nothing and no one demanding his attention right now. “You’re free,” he said again, after coughing up some junk and taking another deep breath.
It was funny how being alone didn’t feel like freedom.