You've Got Male
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by Gregory L. Norris
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: Tall, tough, and smolderingly handsome ex-hockey stud Brandon Lassiter is a man used to getting what he wants. But he may have met his match in indie bookshop owner Chance Francis, whose celebrated Books by the Brooks has been targeted by Brandon's manipulative higher-ups at Book-Tropolis, the big chain bookstore that has sent him ahead to secure zoning for a new venue in the charming mountain town of Twin Brooks. A Book-Tropolis mega-store will surely trample Chance's livelihood - just as the brewing war between bookstores is bound to break hearts. The growing passion between Chance and Brandon reaches flashpoint, just as the opening shots are fired. Chance has reawakened Brandon's love of books and restored his belief in romance, while Chance knows he's met the man of his dreams in the enemy. But can two men on opposite sides of a battle line lay down their defenses long enough to give love a chance?"
eBook Publisher: Ravenous Romance/Ravenous Romance, 2010
eBookwise Release Date: April 2010
11 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [220 KB]
Reading time: 129-181 min.
* * * *
Xhockeystud81 dug in his right skate, pushed, and scraped forward across the ice. Within seconds, he was gliding toward the puck at breakneck speed. Frigid wind gusted over the sweaty flesh of his cheeks. One instant, the helmet's transparent shield was funneling the arena's brisk air across the lower portion of his face. The next, he was without his helmet altogether. Then the same forces that carried it off his head robbed him of his jersey and chest pads.
Still tracking the puck, he caught sight of his reflection in the boards: naked from the waist up. His chest was dusted with a T-pattern of dark hair, a denser line of fur cutting him down the center of his six-pack and taking a circular path around his belly button. He hadn't shaved--apparently for days, judging by the scruff coating cheeks, chin, and throat, which was expected. When you're the hockey team's official Enforcer, its Number One tough guy, its stud, you have to sow fear into the hearts of the opposition. Show no mercy. Take no prisoners. He didn't, wouldn't.
His eyes glittered with preternatural intensity in the glass. Green--too green--it was his second hint he was really dreaming; the first, his hockey uniform's vanishing act. In the real world, Xhockeystud81's eyes were a vibrant shade of emerald, just another blessing of his Irish genes, like the square-jawed face most people found handsome in a way that verged on painful to behold, the athletic body, and the above-average dick. Here, they positively glowed, the solid green of traffic signs, no pupils.
He closed on the puck. A faceless player on the enemy team came rushing up beside him. Xhockeystud81 saw the hook of the man's stick scramble toward the prize. He pivoted, blocked, and launched his opponent into the boards. Another gusty breeze whisked around Xhockeystud81's body. As it stilled, he saw the dream had stolen his uniform pants and every other stitch, from his garters to his team socks, leaving him dressed only in his skates and the aggressive snarl fixed firmly on his game face.
The full, flouncing weight of his cock drew Xhockeystud81's gaze away from the puck. Glancing down, still scrambling across the glassy rink, he watched the hair-covered muscles of his athlete's legs flex on either side of it. It bounced, swollen to its stiffest mast, in tune to the music piped over the arena's loudspeakers--Funky Cold Medina by Tone-Loc. Time slipped off its normal track, plunging him and the rest of the dream-players into slow motion.
Up and down, side to side, his cock pulsated over another of his genetic assets: the big, loose sack of balls, which seemed to hang all the way down to the lengths of hairy ankles visible at the tops of his skates. His entire body came alive on that final leg to reach the puck, electrified by pins and needles, the icy-hot flickers consuming him from his throat to his toes. Xhockeystud81 drew back on his stick to fire a shot at the net and tensed. The dream had transformed the rest of him into cock. All cock, all man, he matched the puck's darting speed, scooped it up in the blade of his hockey stick, and fired it at the open net.
Only the puck was no longer a puck. It had become a book, a meaty, antique hardcover edition with a beautiful spine and cover and woodblock artwork inside. Perhaps the collected Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or the Complete Edgar Allen Poe. The volume struck the net and exploded loudly, scattering what looked like a million pages across the rink.
Brandon Lassiter shot awake in his suite at the Twin Brooks Inn, soaked in sweat, a result of his first wet dream in more than a decade. The last flicker of excitement wracked his body, itchy and electric, enough to make his toes curl. Still mostly on his stomach, he reached down and milked his erection until the pleasure passed and that final image of the exploding book sank in fully.
Murder, that's what it was when you came right down to it. He was their Enforcer, their tough guy, their stud. And he'd come to Twin Brooks, home of his alma mater, to kick butts.
He'd never stayed at the Inn during his four years at Twin Brooks College, but Brandon had to admit the place lived up to its reputation in terms of comfort. Not so much in cleanliness, at least not in his room after tonight. Not after blasting what felt like a gallon of the white stuff into the fitted sheet.
He stripped the bed and shot a look at the alarm clock. Not even five in the morning. He showered and masturbated again beneath the steamy spray to fantasies of his own choice this time, ones involving IWrite2.
Toweling dry, Brandon crossed to the bedside table, where his cell phone sat charging. He turned it on, pulled a fresh pair of black boxer-briefs from the open suitcase beside the chair, and scratched at the meaty fullness of his nuts with one hand while dialing into his e-mail with the other. There it was, as expected, a new message from IWrite2:
Welcome to Twin Brooks, Xhockeystud81. Let me know if you want to meet up in person. I highly recommend the Joe at the Cole Street Roasters. Great little coffee bar, right across from the bookshop. TTYS. Huggers.
Brandon's excitement flared white-hot, only to die at the brief e-mail's third line. The bookshop. He knew the place well, had spent plenty of time there during his college years. Some of his best memories originated within its ancient walls and rough timbers. In return, by his direct actions, the little indie bookshop housed in the old paper mill building would likely soon close its doors forever.
Sighing, Brandon padded barefoot over to the window, his movements no longer feeling so graceful like he was gliding across the ice in his hockey skates. He drew the curtain partially, enough to see the lay of Twin Brooks's center. The college's outlying buildings, including the hockey arena where he'd suited up and played so often, so long ago, spread out at his right. Cole Street sloped away, to the left. The warm golden glow of the streetlamps illuminated the quaint shops catering to both the students and the tourists, neither of which Twin Brooks had ever faced any shortage of.
Oh yes, the little college town was perfect for a big chain store like Book-Tropolis, even if it cost Twin Brooks its celebrated Independent, Books by the Brooks.
Brandon faced his reflection in the glass. He hadn't yet shaved and didn't plan to. Day-old scruff prickled over the lower half of his face and throat. His eyebrows knitted together. The unintentional snarl on his lips revealed a length of perfect white teeth. He looked tough, mean. The guy on the team you don't want to screw with. The Enforcer.
"Murderer," he sighed, letting the curtain drop.
Chance Francis had e-mail.
He clicked at the inbox button, only the laptop was running slower than usual and the icon cycled laboriously around and around, signaling that the machine was trying to comply with his wishes, but slugging along even worse than Chance on the overcast February morning.
"Oh come on, would you?" he asked out loud. The day when the damn dirty things would actually respond probably wasn't that far away, but his laptop's only response came in the form of a few rudimentary clicks. The bar that showed the page was loading, albeit at the pace of cold molasses, advanced another green bar, leaving only six more to go.
Chance grumbled a swear under his breath and reached for the mouse. A few frustrated clicks later, the page locked.
He x'ed out of the page and did a cold restart because he knew the e-mail was from Xhockeystud81, and the anticipation of his response was making it increasingly difficult to breathe. Heart galloping, Chance brushed his teeth, slapped on deodorant, and pulled the warm crimson long-sleeved shirt over his bare chest. Flannel boxers and comfortable wool socks, the toes and ankles coordinated to match the color of the shirt, followed. He was halfway into his blue jeans when the computer finished rebooting. Two hasty clicks later, and the e-mail loaded.
Xhockeystud81 had written: Sure, look forward to it.
It wasn't much, but a step in the right direction as their young flirtation jumped out of the cyber world and into the real one. A wide smile blossomed on Chance's lips. He did a spin around the room muttering, "Yes, yes, yes," lost balance, and reached out, promptly taking down the brass hall tree with him.
Ten minutes later, having extricated not only himself but his winter coat and a scarf from the repositioned hall tree, Chance set out for the walk to work. He adjusted the book bag's shoulder strap and marched down the apartment's back stairs. The dog-eared paranormal romance novel, some Mark Twain, and his various notebooks and pens felt unusually weighty this morning, but the promise of new romance--or, at least, hot and rough sex with a hockey player who'd once skated and sweated for the Twin Brooks Titans--added a lightness to his steps. Halfway down the stairs, Chance caught himself skipping. He traveled the rest of the distance across the lot of shoveled hot top behind the grand Victorian house in a dignified march.
So the stud was in town, and willing to meet. Maybe hook up. Maybe...
Chance choked down a heavy swallow, only to find his mouth had gone completely dry. The warm flannel boxers now felt tight and increasingly less comfortable.
"Stop it," he whispered aloud. Then he huffed out a sarcastic laugh. Xhockeystud81, indeed. The stud had probably softened up over the years. How many winters had passed since his Titan days? Seven? Enough, Chance's witty inner critic reminded, for all of his cells except the gray matter to have been completely replaced. So it was conceivable that while the dude's mind thought he was still a hockey stud, the rest of his body contradicted the belief. And twenty-nine was six years older than Chance's twenty-three. What if the ex-stud had lied about his age? What if he was married, only looking for a bit of fun on the side? What if their romance born over the cyber-teat was based on falsehoods?
The giddy and growing euphoria inside him cooled. Chance dug in his heels. Blinking, he realized he'd turned left instead of right, and was almost at the shortcut leading into town, the one that would take him right over the Green Brook's frozen surface.
Chance rolled his wrist and glanced at his watch. "Shit."
He only had fifteen minutes to get to the store, and he would still need to fight the morning crowd at the Cole Street Roasters. The thought of the hazelnut blend, heavy on the cream, light on the sugar, tempted his taste buds even as the shortcut across the Green Brook tugged at the treads of his winter boots. This way would cut out half the time it took to go the other.
Chance stepped down the embankment, following the trail made by other footprints through the snow. The slow-moving Green River wasn't very deep. By this time of year, it froze thick enough to cross, though local parents were notorious--and wise--for drilling it into their kids' heads that they were thick in the head for so much as thinking about it.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid," Chase grumbled.
He shuffled a dozen or so feet over the glassy ice, heard a deep, guttural cracking sound, and hurried back to the shore, as fast as his feet would move. Punctuality, in this case, simply wasn't worth the risk.
Chance entered Roasters with two minutes to spare and a rare, wonderful break in the morning rush of customers. He wanted some of their "crazy toast," a delicious and buttery treat made from loaves covered in pumpkin, sesame, and a half- dozen other kinds of seeds, baked on the site, but knew he didn't have time to wait.
Dillon waved him over to a corner of the counter and handed Chance a large coffee cup wrapped in a paper napkin. "Just the way you like it, on the house."
Chance made a puppy dog face. "You are the best, but absolutely none of this 'on the house' shit."
"Absolutely yes. Now take it and get hopping. By the looks of things, you already have a bunch of Dorothy Parkers sharpening their verbal skills. Git."
Chance aimed a finger at the handsome young barista with the bleached-blond spikes. "You'd better let me make this up to you."
"I will. You can give me the new James Patterson novel at cost."
"Deal," Chance said, starting for the door. He doubled back, glanced around, and leaned across the counter. Dillon aimed his cheek in Chance's direction, and Chance pecked it with a friendly kiss. Then Chance turned and hurried out of the coffee bar where students, locals, and quite possibly one ex-hockey stud newly arrived to town sat enjoying their morning joe.
Roasters was nestled between the overpriced antique shop and Sherwood's Florist, across the street from the local art house cinema, the Cole Street Theater. Set a short ways down, between a small park and walking trail along the Green Brook, loomed Chance's destination. Books by the Brooks was housed in what had once been a paper mill. The much-friskier Critter Brook tumbled down over the time-worn, icicle-draped stones of the little waterfall that once powered the mill's wheel, meeting the sluggish Green within several yards of all the classics.
Books by the Brooks was still wreathed in little Christmas lights around its windows and a big red velvet ribbon on the front entrance, above the iconic cut-glass doorknob. In the gloomy gray overcast, the adornments seemed to sparkle brighter than Chance recalled ever seeing them during the holidays. Or maybe it was his excitement at the possibility of new love.
True to Dillon's warning, several customers buzzed around the front door. Chance took a hearty sip of his coffee and winced as it went down hotter than expected. He checked both ways before crossing the lazy brick surface of that section of Cole Street and hurried onto the sidewalk, which was considerably busier. Balancing coffee and book bag, he trotted along the icy sidewalk, scooting between the morning's many window shoppers and power walkers.
He hit a patch of black ice and slipped.
A man materialized beside him, seemingly out of nowhere, and caught him as he fell.
* * * *
* * * *
Their eyes met and Chance fell into the hypnotic pull of his rescuer's vibrant emerald gaze. The man, who stood at an impressive height somewhere a few inches taller than the six-foot mark, stared back with what could only be a similar sense of wonder and surprise. The chemical spark between them was instant, all-consuming. Chance's next desperate breath came with a hint of the man's scent, that clean, masculine smell of pine trees and crisp winter breezes, naturally intoxicating and better than anything that had ever come out of a bottle.
"You okay?" the man asked, a chuckle in his voice.
And handsome...just how much fully registered in the next, last part of that perfect moment. The scruff on his face--that face! The rest of him, dressed in jeans, a simple pinstriped, button-down under a dark polar fleece pullover, open at the neck and showing a hint of dark chest hair, old hiking boots on huge feet, was physically almost too brilliant for Chance's eyes to process.
"I'm a bit of a klutz," Chance said.
Right when he realized the man's gigantic hands were still attached to him, keeping him upright and safe, he drove home that particular point by losing his grip on the coffee cup and dumping half of it down his hero's front.
"Holy fuck," the man howled, breaking their connection. He followed the first roar with a blue streak of expletives and backed away, dancing in place. Chance saw that a goodly portion of his morning cup of hazelnut blend now stained the Samaritan's crotch.
"Oh, God," Chance said. "I'm so sorry!"
"Yeah, so am I," the man said, the discomfort obvious in his voice. He bent over, hands on his hips.
Chance unwrapped the paper napkin still around the cup and moved on instinct to help. "Here, let me--"
The man shot him an angry look. Even that was insanely sexy. "No, don't. You've done enough, thank you."
He grabbed the napkin out of Chance's outstretched hand and wiped it across the front of his pants. Red-faced, he straightened back to his imposing height before continuing on his way, mumbling to himself. "Not like I needed that equipment..."
An embarrassed smile blossomed on Chance's face. Coughing to clear his throat, he resumed his march toward the bookshop and couldn't get inside fast enough.
"Seriously, man, I think everyone in a twenty-mile radius saw you scorch that dude's nads this morning," Dillon said. "Your momma never told you that old chestnut, the one about haste and waste?"
Chance set down his pen, leaving the scene dangling in mid-sentence and his characters trapped on the edge of a cliff. "It was an accident. But if we hadn't bumped into each other..." His mind again drifted. There'd been a lot of that during the first half of the day.
"Well, you can kiss that love affair goodbye," Dillon laughed around a mouthful of sandwich. "Besides, what about your big romance with the hockey stud?"
Chance sighed and shrugged. Hungry as he was, he'd barely touched his soup from Cilantros, the gourmet bistro one block up Cole Street--a luscious tomato bisque, and he had only nibbled on half of his veggie wrap despite the incredibly fresh combination of arugula and goat's milk cheese. "Him? Who knows." He tapped at the mouse and his e-mail page appeared on the screen. "He hasn't written back since this morning. For all I know, he could really be a she, or some closet case with a wife and kiddies."
"Or, worse, the real deal," Dillon said, flashing a mischievous grin.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Dude, look at you. You're flipping adorable, you've got the most spankable ass in the Brooks...hell, in all of Massachusetts and probably beyond. A little clumsy, but nothing that Velcro and rubber walls won't cure. I'd fuck you."
Chance giggled and glanced around, hoping nobody was within earshot. The closest visible customer was down below the rail in the Mystery section, well out of range. "Stop it. And if it wasn't for the fact you're my best friend and favorite barista, I'd let you. Only I couldn't risk you getting mad at me if we had a lover's spat and jacking off in my coffee out of spite."
He raised the fresh cup Dillon had brought with their lunches to his lips and sipped.
"What makes you think I haven't already?"
"Haven't what?" Chance asked.
"Jacked off into your java. You drink it with so much cream, you'd never know."
Chance spit the contents in his mouth back into the cup. "Huh?"
Dillon's mischievous grin intensified. "I didn't. Wouldn't want to ruin a good thing, despite being deeply, madly in crush with you. Sex ruins everything. Even a big, dumb horny coffee slinger like me knows that."
Chance reached across the table and placed his hand over Dillon's. "You're not dumb."
"Keep touching me like that and I'll show you horny instead. Besides, I bet your hockey player skates by tonight. How could anybody stay away from that cute face and hot ass?"
Chance withdrew his hand. "He doesn't know what I look like yet."
Dillon's cocky smirk sagged. "He don't?"
"Stop correcting my lingo, dude. Why don't he?"
"Because I didn't want to give away too many details too soon. I have a business to think of, and you know how news travels in this town. Hell, by now I bet everybody up in the Heights knows I torched a painfully handsome man's junk this morning by accident."
"So, he doesn't know you own the bookstore?"
"No, he don't."
"Not yet, anyway. I've been trying to set us up on neutral ground, like Roasters."
"Yeah? Just don't get too jumpy and dump half an extra large of the day's fresh-roast on his johnson, else you'll be shit out of luck and forced to date me."
Chance smiled. "You know I would, if not for the constant fear of coffee with too much cream in it."
Chance slurped another spoonful of the exquisite tomato bisque, perfect for dispelling the cold on brisk winter days in Twin Brooks. Not that there was any chill inside Books by the Brooks. A log fire roared in the big fieldstone fireplace in the inglenook below the loft, where an overstuffed sofa and loveseat invited customers to sit and thumb through potential must-have books or the latest magazines. That warmth carried up pleasantly to the table and chairs where book clubs and the local writers' group routinely met, and where the two good friends were presently enjoying a quiet lunch while Cassandra, one of Chance's three part-timers, manned the register.
"If this Xhockeystud81 is legit and not some big phony," Chance said absently, "I don't know...maybe I'd like to take it slow with him. Slower than usual. See if there's really something there."
"Oh, you silly, hopeless romantic," Dillon said. He reached across the corner of the table separating them and gave Chance's hair a playful tousle.
Chance shook free. "Quit it." Then he smirked. "Just in case he wants to meet up."
* * * *
After drying off his scalded dick and balls beneath the hand dryer at the nearest gas station on Route 2, Brandon met their commercial real-estate contact at the potential building site--a huge stretch of former farmland and newer-growth pine forest at the outskirts of town. The two men exchanged basic introductions before shaking. Curtis's hand was soft and slightly oily.
"This is it. 451 Ferren Road," said the Realtor. "They call this part of the Brooks 'the Heights'."
Brandon instantly disliked Curtis, who sounded like a huckster over the phone. A carnival barker, worshipper of the almighty American dollar. But he didn't need to like him.
"I know the place. I used to live here," Brandon said, scanning the vista of overgrown vacant lot through narrowed eyes.
"As you know, there will be zoning issues and substantial costs," Curtis blathered. "But if you're willing to go the distance, you could open up this entire area to new development."
They traveled along the plowed side of the road, then crunched a dozen steps in before stopping. Curtis sniffed the air.
"You smell that?"
"Smell what?" asked Brandon.
"French vanilla coffee. No, hazelnut."
Brandon growled and sighed. "So what's the exact size of the property we're talking about here?"
"Twenty acres. More than enough for a decent-sized retail venue and indoor cafe, parking, everything you need. And I'll be really happy to be your go-to guy for all your company's future needs in the Greater Twin Brooks area."
"I'll just bet," said Brandon.
"So if you want to follow me back to the office, I'll just need you to sign the buyer's agreement and we can discuss the purchase price."
A light snow began to fall as dusk settled over the downtown, the darkness ushered in early thanks to the overcast sky and the long shadows cast from the surrounding mountains.
Chase moved through the bookshop, his thoughts drifting with the cool sound of jazz playing at a pleasant volume over the sound system.
Members of the Berkshire Banquet writers' group began to straggle in early for their weekly Thursday night gathering around the big table in the loft. Books by the Brooks offered a twenty-percent discount to all the group's members on meeting nights and Chance was happy to see some of them taking advantage of the offer. The past year following his Uncle Lou's passing hadn't exactly been easy in both personal and financial ways. Books by the Brooks was still holding its own, though some months just barely.
"Joining us tonight?" the always-hip Roxanne Vance asked. Books by the Brooks carried three of her Regency romance novels and they were presently displayed in a lovely spiral-helix pattern, with one apiece facing out, on the romantic Valentine's Day-themed table at the front of the store, right beside the rows of deliciously perfumed soy-based candles made by a local artisan.
"I think the chances are promising," Chance said.
"Fabulous, darling," Roxanne said with theatrical flourish. "I absolutely must hear how Prince Joel is going to rescue Lady Ione from that scoundrel, the mad king Thomas McChord."
"Oh, them," Chance said. "With a request like that, how can I say no?"
Roxanne, looking divine as always in a colorful ensemble and knee-length merlot-colored boots, carried two books in her gloved hands, schoolgirl fashion, both expensive new releases. Chance knew she loved to read but sometimes wondered if the writing group's most famous and successful member sometimes shopped at the bookstore just to keep a roof over its owner's head.
"Let me pay for these and then I'll see you up at the table."
"You sure will," Chance said.
At the register, he gave the desktop's mouse a bump. The screen saver, showing bucolic images of the town, winked out, replaced by the bookshop's home page. The window with his personal e-mail was reduced, but at the bottom of the screen Chance saw he had one new message. His heart raced. Hands shaking, he screwed up at the register twice before successfully completing Roxanne's book purchase.
"Are you all right, darling?" she asked. "Suddenly, you look very flustered."
Chance restored the e-mail window. There it was, a new message from Xhockeystud81.
"I'm better than all right," Chance said and opened the e-mail.
Hey, babe. Been a rough day spent dealing with klutzes and jerks. You up to a late dinner? Would like to take you out and meet you in the flesh. Anywhere you want to go, tonight's on me.
Chance willed his pulse and shaking fingertips to steady and hit reply.
Hey, stud -- anywhere you want to go is fine with me. Hot Tomatoes, if you're in the mood for the best slice of pizza on Earth. Or Cilantros on Cole Street--they make mean Cubano sandwiches, though I had lunch there today. Or the Sun and Moon Diner on Route 2. Personally, my favorite is the Spring Street Grille, near the Green Brook on, you guessed it, Spring Street. Is nine too late? Or is that technically more breakfast than dinner? Hah! Let me know. Will check e-mail. Huggles.
He hit send and leaned across the counter. A jolt of electricity rippled outward in concentric waves, capturing his stomach, nipples, throat, and toes in scintillating tingles. Chance bit back a gasp. He grew hard simply over the prospect of meeting Xhockeystud81. What kind of response would his body make if the guy lived up to the hype?
"What if, indeed," Chance whispered, licking his lips.
Then the panic set in. What if? He breathed into his palm and scrambled for a handful of peppermint starlight candies from the big crystal bowl near the register. Unwrapping three, he popped them into his mouth. There'd been plenty of onions in that goat cheese rollup. He sniffed at his armpits. Those were still cleanly scented from his morning swipe of deodorant. Luckily, a bottle of his favorite bergamot-scented cologne waited for him in the top right desk drawer in the bedlam of the store's cluttered office. As for the rest--
Chance gazed at his reflection in the computer's flat screen. It was up to some mysterious former hockey player to decide if he liked what he saw.