Adam Macias has been thrown a few curve balls in his life, but losing his VA grant because his car broke down and he missed a class was the one that struck him out. One relative away from homelessness, he’s taking the bus to Sacramento, where his cousin has offered a house-sitting job and a new start. He has one goal, and that’s to get his life back on track. Friends, pets, lovers? Need not apply.
Finn Stewart takes one look at Adam as he’s applying to Candy Heaven and decides he’s much too fascinating to leave alone. Finn is bright and shiny—and has never been hurt. Adam is wary of his attention from the very beginning—Finn is dangerous to every sort of peace Adam is forging, and Adam may just be too damaged to let him in at all.
But Finn is tenacious, and Adam’s new boss, Darrin, doesn’t take bullshit for an answer. Adam is going to have to ask himself which is harder—letting Finn in or living without him? With the holidays approaching it seems like an easy question, but Adam knows from experience that life is seldom simple, and the world seldom cooperates with hope, faith, or the plans of cats and men.
ADAM MACIAS looked at the smoking hulk of his engine and slammed the hood down. Oh, for fuck’s sake. The Chevy Matiz—whose idea was it? Four doors, shaped like a shoe, and all the reliability of his grandmother’s digestive track. Whether she’d been constipated or had the runs, it was always ugly, and her mood had been to match.
And now, unlike his grandmother (dammit!), this damned car had apparently shuffled off its mortal coil.
He fought the temptation to bury his head in his hands and scream.
He kicked the car’s tire instead. “Fuck-burger, shit-eating, rancid piece of dog cock!”
It wasn’t going to make it.
The fucking car was the whole reason he was trying to drive from San Diego to Sacramento in the first place. The fucking car had broken down one too many times. Adam had missed his class, Adam had missed his job, and now Adam had neither class nor job, and no VA money coming in to help him pay for his tiny little apartment.
And now he had no fucking car.
What he did have—the one thing he did have—was an offer from his cousin, Rico, to let Adam house-sit his apartment off of F Street, in downtown Sacramento. Rico said straight up it wasn’t a great apartment, but it was rent controlled, and Rico didn’t want to lose it when he went to serve an internship at a firm in New York.
Rico also needed someone to walk his dog, feed his cat, and keep his fish alive—all of which he was willing to front Adam rent to do, but Adam had to get there first.
Which he could not do with his car in its current condition. “Argh!”
He kicked the tire again and then grabbed his shit. He’d served in the military for eight years. He knew when to fish, when to cut bait, and when to ditch his car off at a U-Pick-It and buy a bus ticket out of Southeast of Hell.
U-PICK-IT PAID him $200 for the car, and Adam thought that the girl behind the counter was being generous because she was trying to land him for a date. When he told her that he had to get to Sac by the next morning, she shrugged philosophically and directed him to the nearest bus station, and he was grateful enough to smile.
God, he was pretty sure her panties flooded just from a smile, and he really wished he could take her up on it, but he was done thinking he could do that anymore. He took the $200, grabbed his duffel bag and his suitcase, and bought himself that bus ticket out of town.
There would be no more flirting with girls for him.
How many buddies did a guy have to blow before he realized that it wasn’t just because he was bored, and it wasn’t just because he was horny, it was because he actually liked guys, their cocks, their asses, and their stubble burn on his stomach when they were going down on him?
Well, the last guy really had been his friend, and Adam had been willing to come out of the closet so they could have a relationship, but Robbie hadn’t. The resultant mess had been, well, less than stellar for Adam’s career, and he’d taken the opportunity to not re-up when the time came.
He was going to use those benefits and go to school, right?
Except the one car he could afford had been that thing that had just died on him for the last time, and now he was on a bus with no heater the week before Thanksgiving, freezing his ass off on the way to free room and a little board.
God. And the guy next to him was looking… interested, to say the least.
“Hey, kid,” the old man muttered, trying to talk under his breath. “You, uhm, feelin’ lonely?” He accompanied that thought with a hand gliding roughly down Adam’s thigh.
Adam lifted it firmly off. “Not that lonely,” he growled. His phone buzzed in his pocket.
He picked it up, saw the text, and groaned.
My plane takes off tomorrow. Where are you?
Car died permanently. On the bus for Sac.
Fine. Key under the mat, am writing out instructions. Cat needs medicine twice daily. The dog may fucking eat you.
Adam fought a burning behind his eyes. God, he’d expected Rico to totally cancel on him. The two of them had spent long hours at Grandma’s while their mothers both worked, and the bond had lasted through Adam’s stint in the military and Rico’s college years. When Adam had come out and Grandma and his mother had (thank God!) stopped talking to him, Rico had been the first person to text him—almost before the old bitch had slammed the door in his face.
High five! You know between the gay thing and the soldier thing, you may possibly have become cool.
Because Rico, easygoing Rico, had been beloved through high school—the jock, the swim team captain, the student body president. Everybody loved Rico. Adam had been the silent, brooding loner, trying really hard to hide his sexuality while at the same time trying really hard to solicit blowjobs from the unwary. God, he’d wanted someone to love him. Blowjobs had just felt like a way to do that.
And now Rico was Adam’s last possible hope for reclaiming some sort of order from the crapfest his life had become.
He felt something crawling on his thigh again and, in a fit of irritation, swung around in his seat and pinned the old man against the headrest by the throat.
“Now listen, old man,” Adam growled, “I may be fucking queer, but I am not up for grabs, do you hear me? You keep your hands to yourself and—” He held on to his gag reflex as the man expelled a gasp of fetid breath over greenish teeth. “—and breathe through your fucking nose, and you may live to Sacramento, okay?”
The old man barely nodded, two silver tracks creeping their way down the wrinkled, alcohol-reddened skin.
“Didn’t mean nothin’,” he wheezed. “Just missing some company, tha’s all.”
Adam let go of him and threw himself back in his seat. Oh fuck. It was like looking through a time machine, because sweartagod, if he stopped trying and started drinking Ripple, that old man was going to be him.
“Well I’m shitty company tonight,” he muttered. “Just keep your distance.”
When the old man crumpled into a tearful, nonpredatory heap next to him, Adam picked up his phone and texted with the last of his battery.
Thanks cousin. I owe you. I SO need to get my shit together.
You got your shit together, A—just need a little help. Keep my babies alive and don’t wreck my car. We’re square.
No. Not square. But Adam wasn’t going to waste this opportunity. He wanted a job, he wanted to get back in school, and he wanted to find his own place before June. Friends? Lovers? Pets? Need not apply.
The bus pulled into Sacramento just as the sun was rising, and for a minute, as the bus approached from the south, the city was backlit by the brilliant, thin gold of winter. The unimpressive skyline suddenly held character and charm, and the surrounding acres of flatlands and suburbs exuded a possibility that Adam wouldn’t have given the place credit for eight hours earlier.
Nobody knew him here. He could make a new start. He wasn’t even thirty yet—he still had things he could do.
An hour later, after he’d hauled his shit the mile from the bus station to his cousin’s apartment off of F Street in the joint-freezing cold, he was hoping one of the things he could do was shower, and the other thing was sleep.
HIS COUSIN lived in half of the second floor of an old Victorian house. The house itself wasn’t in bad shape—could have used some new boards on the stairs and a new coat of paint, but Adam saw Thanksgiving decorations in all the windows, including Rico’s, and the winter lawn was neatly trimmed. Adam understood that was his job too, but he didn’t mind.
Maybe if he worked hard enough, the super would recommend him to another apartment. Who knows, right?
The thought cheered him, and he pulled the key out from under Rico’s doormat and let himself in with a little bit of optimism.
Which was quickly knocked out of him when something that looked like a cross between a boxer and a pony tried to knock him on his ass.
“Clopper?” he hollered, suddenly getting the name. Too compact to be a clodhopper, too massive and clumsy to be anything else, the dog wasn’t even really trying to escape so much as it was trying to crawl into the crotch of Adam’s pants nose first, entrance unnecessary. “Clopper, you asshole, knock it off!” He shoved the dog’s head aside and hoped he didn’t just condemn himself to a dog-bite neutering procedure.
Clopper didn’t wag his tail, but he didn’t growl either. The look he cast Adam was more like disappointment. Oh. We can’t get to know each other better? That’s a shame. I wanted to be your friend. Are you sure you won’t let me crawl into your pants and maul your family jewels?
“No,” Adam said out loud, feeling grumpy. It was the third unwanted advance he’d fended off in six hours. “You can’t lick my balls. I have to know you longer than a nanosecond, you fucking perv!”
Clopper grunted and retreated to the far corner of the apartment, where a giant dog bed existed to serve his monster-dormancy needs.
Update: Amy is giving one random lucky commenter an ecopy of this book! So please leave a comment to enter!