by Tara Lain
Romance on Aisle Sixteen—opposites attract amid the hammers and screws of the home improvement store.
Gabe Mason became a father at seventeen, and his daughter, Ellie, is the most important thing in his life. But being the parent the courts demand means Gabe has given up most of his dreams—education, making furniture, a gay social life—to be a model dad with a steady, reliable job in a home improvement store. Life’s predictable until Jerry, a shy, eccentric guy in a hat and sunglasses, begs Gabe to oversee the renovation of his run-down mansion.
Gabe loves the house and the work, and Jerry's pretty lovable too, but when Gabe discovers Jerry’s secret identity, he fears their passion could overturn both their lives forever.
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From the driveway, a flagstone walk led onto a lawn. He peered around the corner just as Jerry stepped out on one of several large wooden porches and waved. “Here.”
Oddly, the walkway stopped, and there didn’t seem to be a clear path to where Jerry was standing, so Gabe struck out across the grass, found another walkway leading down the side of the hill, and took it to the porch. “Hi. This isn’t an easy place to find.”
Jerry smiled. He’d taken off his glasses, but he still wore the beanie. “I’m glad you found it.” His voice seemed to have dropped half an octave since earlier at the ImproveMart, and it shivered down Gabe’s spine. “Please come in.”
Even on the porch, it wasn’t completely clear where a person was supposed to enter the house. There were doors on two different walls, but Gabe followed Jerry through the entrance on the back wall of the porch and stopped. “Whoa.”
Spread out in front of him was a wide-open house with thick plaster walls, polished-wood ceilings, a huge two-story great room with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a hand-polished wooden staircase leading to a second floor. The whole thing was run-down and in need of repair, but what an amazing house.
Gabe shook his head. “This is fantastic. How did you ever find it?”
“I saw it online and called the real estate agent.”
Gabe glanced at Jerry. Apparently in the comfort of his own home, the guy could actually put an entire sentence together. While you couldn’t describe him as relaxed, he didn’t appear to be ready to run. In fact he grinned. “Want to see the rest?”
“Sure.” He could hardly wait, actually. The place was some marvelous mix of midcentury and craftsman styles with all the wood details Gabe loved.
Jerry walked to the great room first—and great it was. A huge fan in the shape of giant palm fronds was suspended from the center of the soaring ceiling. Gabe pointed. “Does it work?”
Jerry shook his head. “No. It needs fixing.”
In the center of the room, in front of a giant fireplace that Gabe would bet also didn’t work, sat two plastic camp chairs—all the furniture in the entire room.
Off the great room was a smaller paneled library. After Gabe looked into it, Jerry led him back across the big room and up the beautiful staircase to the second floor. A long hall illuminated by skylights stretched in front of them.
Jerry laughed, and it was a light, airy sound that bounced through Gabe’s belly like a swig of champagne. “I think I must get a cat. Can’t you see a cat chasing a toy down this hall?”
“How many bedrooms and baths?”
“Five of each. One bath downstairs. I’ll show you when we go back down.”
Each bedroom had some kind of damage—peeling drywall, water-soaked woodwork, and stained carpet. The bathrooms were a particular mess with old, rust-stained fixtures.
Finally, they got to the end of the hall and stepped into what had to be the master—a huge room with floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls. Gabe drew a breath. “This is gorgeous. The light’s magical.”
“Yes. It’s one of my favorite rooms.”
Gabe glanced at the mattress lying on the floor covered in mussed sheets directly under a skylight. Must be quite a view. He swallowed hard.
The tour went back downstairs, and Gabe saw the wreck of a kitchen. “Does the cooktop even work?”
Several pizza boxes lay on the large central island.
Finally, they walked out the dining room french doors to a huge backyard. “How big is the property?”
“Two and a half acres.”
“Wow.” The centerpiece of the back was an enormous pool, not quite Olympic standard, but it would have served a good-sized community. “At least it’s full of water. It must not be in too bad repair.”
“No, it’s pretty good, but the filter equipment is total trash. It leaks like the West Wing.”
Gabe snorted. Who dreamed Jerry had a sense of humor?
Jerry turned in a circle, like he was seeing the mansion for the first time. “It’d been on the market for years and people were scared off by all the work.”
Gabe stared at him. Giving the tour, Jerry had put together the most words he’d spoken end to end since Gabe met him. “And you’re not scared of the work?”
Jerry shook his head and grinned like a loon. Clearly, this was his baby. “No, I’m not worried.” His smile lit up his face, making his unusual eyes shine. “Not since I met you.”
About the Author
Tara Lain believes in happy ever afters – and magic. Same thing. In fact, she says, she doesn’t believe, she knows. Tara shares this passion in her best-selling stories that star her unique, charismatic heroes — the beautiful boys of romance — and adventurous heroines. Quarterbacks and cops, werewolves and witches, blue collar or billionaires, Tara’s characters, readers say, love deeply, resolve seemingly insurmountable differences, and ultimately live their lives authentically. After many years living in southern California, Tara, her soulmate honey and her soulmate dog decided they wanted less cars and more trees, prompting a move to Ashland, Oregon where Tara’s creating new stories and loving living in a small town with big culture. Likely a Gryffindor but possessed of Parseltongue, Tara loves animals of all kinds, diversity, open minds, coconut crunch ice cream from Zoeys, and her readers. She also loves to hear from you.