Author: Jeff Erno
Genre: Gay romance
Imprint: Ai Press
Price: 3.99 USD
Cover art: Louca Matheo
Another tender romance about the healing power of love by Jeff Erno, one of the best loved authors of gay fiction.
At thirty-eight years of age, Chandler finds himself single and caring for his brother Raymond, who suffers numerous health problems.
Mired in grief from the multiple deaths of close family members, he recedes into himself, crippled with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
Early one morning Chandler’s life is flipped on its end when he encounters his neighbor, twenty-five year old Marcus.
Nothing about a relationship with this young man makes sense. For one thing, Marcus is… well… YOUNG. He’s also biracial and has all kinds of tattooed muscles!
The streetwise Marcus introduces Chandler to an entirely different lifestyle, pulling the would-be hermit from his shell, albeit kicking and screaming. But how long can such a relationship last, and what about Raymond? Chandler fears a guy like Marcus, seemingly perfect in every way, won’t be able to truly accept Chandler with all his baggage.
An unexpected bombshell detonates and Chandler learns some unsavory details about Marcus, who he really is, and what he’s done in the past.
Finally, it’s Chandler who must decide if he can accept Marcus’ baggage.
Four editing jobs waited for him, and if he worked non-stop, he’d be lucky to knock off one of them by late evening. He’d also promised to take Raymond shopping, and his nearly overflowing laundry hamper demanded his attention. If he didn’t take time out to fix lunch and dinner, Raymond would undoubtedly try mastering the kitchen on his own again.
He needed to remember batteries when they went to the store. Had to check the smoke alarms.
Suddenly Chandler realized his thoughts had carried him out of the present, and he was staring across the street, looking directly at the single-wide trailer adjacent to his corner lot. A young man, perhaps just a teen, hurried down the steps toward a car parked in the drive next to the trailer. Chandler had lived in the park for eight years and still didn’t know any of his neighbors, but for the most part he recognized them as familiars. Not this kid, though.
Had Chandler seen him before, he definitely would’ve remembered. The dim light of the early morning didn’t exactly help him focus, but the guy’s white, ribbed tank top—what some called a “wifebeater”—fit his trim physique like a glove. The style of his short, black hair made Chandler wonder if the young man was African American. Latino, perhaps. Hard to tell in the dim light.
The kid turned as he opened the car door and looked in Chandler’s direction. Chandler quickly averted his gaze, hoping he hadn’t been caught staring. Seconds later, he heard the engine trying to turn over. Didn’t sound promising, the slow churning. He must have a dead battery or alternator, or maybe it was the starter. Chandler didn’t know a whole lot about auto mechanics. That had been Daniel’s forte.
After multiple tries, the churning sound stopped altogether, only to start up again a few seconds later. Chandler didn’t want to just sit there staring, so he crushed out his cigarette and carried his coffee mug back inside for a refill. He listened intently, hoping the neighbor would achieve success and get his engine to turn over, but it certainly didn’t sound like the car was going to start. When the sound finally stopped and Chandler heard the slamming of a car door, he stepped over to his front door and peered through the screen. The kid rushed around his car and scurried up the porch steps inside.
Chandler had already smoked his two cigarettes. He should just close the door and go take a shower. He needed to get started on his manuscript so he could get as much as possible done before Raymond woke up again. There really wasn’t anything he could do to help the kid next door anyway. In all likelihood, a young guy like that wouldn’t want someone like Chandler interfering with his business.
He reached down for the doorknob at the exact moment he heard shouting. Chandler froze.
The sound came from across the street, carried in the clear morning to his doorstep, but he couldn’t make out what was being said. Two voices yelling at each other. The sounds had to be from across the street, from the young neighbor’s trailer. Chandler took a step back and placed his coffee cup on a nearby bureau. He leaned toward the door, listening for more shouting. He didn’t want to look through the door in case the neighbors glanced over and saw him watching. Another slamming door. Silence.
Whatever had happened must be over. The fighting had stopped. Sounded like someone had exited the trailer, slamming the door behind them. Maybe it was the kid. Maybe he’d decided to try once more with the car, or maybe he’d gotten someone inside to come help him. Cautiously Chandler moved closer to the door.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
Startled, Chandler jumped, his arms and shoulders twitching reflexively. He raised his head and gaped out the window. The neighbor boy… or wait, not boy… young man, stood before him.
“Uh, uh… ” Chandler stuttered, hands still trembling slightly as he tried to push open the screen. “Can I, um, help you?”
“Sir, I’m real sorry to bother you, but, well, I saw you sitting here a couple minutes ago, and, um… well, I hate to ask but I don’t know what else to do. I’m, like, kind of in a real bind, man. I’m….”
Chandler pushed open the door a few inches and took a step out onto the porch. The young man—definitely biracial—took a step back to afford Chandler space but kept talking.
“I’m starting a new job today, down at the steel mill. You know where that is? It’s like seven miles from here, and I gotta be there in like twenty minutes. My car… you heard my car, right?”
“I can’t get it to start.”
“I, um….” Chandler took a deep breath, then exhaled. “I’m sorry.” He felt his shoulders sag, embarrassed. “I don’t even have jumper cables, and I’m not really much of a mechanic.”
“No, no. That’s cool. That’s totally cool. It’s my brother’s car anyway. He’ll have to fix it when he drags his lazy butt out of bed. I just need a ride. Sir, I’ll pay you. I swear. I mean, not today. I don’t have it today, but I’ll give you whatever. Like twenty bucks or whatever you want, soon as I get paid. I promise.”
“Oh.” Chandler looked into Sexy Tank Top’s big brown eyes, and it felt as if a piece of his own heart was melting. “Um… yeah, sure. I… uh… I, um, I’m not even dressed. Let me put on some pants.”
“You don’t gotta get out of the car.”
Chandler looked down at himself. He couldn’t possibly go out somewhere like this, not in his pajamas. Not in public. “It will just take a second—”
Chandler opened his mouth once more to speak, but then stopped. He nodded. “Okay. Sure. It’s no problem. I can do it… don’t got to get out of the car. Keys. I need my keys.”
He spun around to grab hold of the door handle and quickly pulled it open. A little too quickly. It banged into his head.
“Dude! You okay?” Sexy Tank Top’s hand gripped Chandler’s shoulder.