Length: 62,991 words
Can he step out of the shadows and into love’s light?
Eight years ago, Christian Hernandez moved to Jamaica Plain in southern Boston, took refuge in his apartment, and cut himself off from the outside world. And that’s how he’d like it to stay.
Josh Wendell has heard his coworkers gossip about the occupant of apartment #1. No one sees the mystery man, and Josh loves a mystery. So when he is hired to refurbish the apartment’s kitchen and bathrooms, Josh is eager to discover the truth behind the rumors.
When he comes face-to-face with Christian, Josh understands why Christian hides from prying eyes. As the two men bond, Josh sees past his exterior to the man within, and he likes what he sees. But can Christian find the courage to emerge from the darkness of his lonely existence for the man who has claimed his heart?
CHRISTIAN HERNANDEZ stared at the letter, his gut clenching. One look at its contents was all it had taken to send him spiraling down into a fit of panic.
He’d known it was coming, of course. He’d seen the posts on the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation website, all about how the housing association was putting together a list of their properties that were in dire need of renovation. He knew his building had to be on the list. They’d taken it over in the late nineties, along with several other properties along Minden Street, and nothing had been done to the buildings since then.
And here it was in black and white. His apartment was on the list for the first wave of refurbishments, which included the replacement of all the kitchen cabinets and countertops, plus the kitchen flooring. After that came the bathrooms, with new fixtures and tiles. The work would take two to three weeks.
Next Monday. They’re sending someone to start on it next Monday. What the hell do I do?
It wasn’t as if he had anywhere else to go, so that left one option: hiding in his room while whoever came to invade his apartment worked in the kitchen. And the bathrooms. Hell. That meant the bathroom next to his bedroom.
Looks like I’m going to be locking my bedroom door. The prospect of being holed up in his room for a couple of weeks made his heart sink.
Christian put down the letter on the kitchen table and walked into his living room, where patio doors opened up to the communal gardens that lay across the back of the buildings.
I need something to cheer me up, to take my mind off all this crap. And he knew just what would do the trick. He peeked through the blinds, knowing exactly what—or should that be, who?—he’d see.
Sure enough, there was his favorite handyman. Not that Christian knew the guy’s name. He only watched him every time the slim man with defined arms worked out there, mowing the lawns, repairing or repainting the fences, or digging up new flower beds and planting shrubs and trees in them. Christian estimated him to be in his midtwenties, and yeah, he was definitely Christian’s type. He loved it when the weather grew warm enough that Handyman would roll down his overalls to his waist, strip off his T-shirt, and expose all that tanned skin, with a light dusting of freckles across his shoulders.
Now, if the guy they send to work on my apartment is anything like him….
Christian knew the thought to be bullshit. There was no way he’d make any kind of contact with whomever the association sent. He’d just stay in his room, working there until the nightmare was all over.
It’s a couple of weeks—three, tops. I can manage. He figured if he kept telling himself that, somehow he’d talk it into existence. Yeah. I can stay out of their way.
Just so long as whoever turned up wasn’t a snooper.
JOSH WENDELL straightened and stretched, his back aching a little from lugging the large shrubs from the truck into the gardens. They were going to be really pretty when the rhododendrons flowered. He always liked working on the Minden Street houses. It was a peaceful little corner south of Mission Hill, just west of Jamaica Plain, and the communal gardens were his pride and joy.
Occasionally there’d be a couple of guys working with him, and they got along fine. Even if they told some fanciful stories. Like the one about the guy in the first-floor apartment at #197—the guy they said no one ever saw. Josh had scoffed at that immediately: If no one ever saw him, how’d they know he was even a him? Besides, if he listened to them, the guy in #197, apartment #1, was the bogeyman, a hermit who lured little kids into his lair, only to eat them and bury their bones under the patio outside his window.
Anyway, his days of working in the gardens had come to an end for a while. He’d received his instructions for the next few months: the association wanted him to use his skills in other pursuits, namely tearing out and replacing kitchen cabinets, laying down new tile floors, and replacing baths, sinks, and tiles. Josh was looking forward to it, even if it was going to be a royal pain in the ass working indoors at the height of summer. He just prayed the apartments had functional AC.
He glanced over at the apartment where the mystery guy lived. Not that Josh had ever seen him. All he saw were the vertical blinds that covered the patio doors, an effective barrier against revealing anything of the apartment’s interior—or its occupant.
Wonder what he’s really like?
Then he grinned to himself. Hey, what if I get to work on his place? The guys would be all over me, wanting to know what the inside of the apartment looks like. The way they described it, he expected to see something right out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That was, of course, if he worked on that particular apartment.
Josh couldn’t wait to get his itinerary to find out.
Born and raised in the north-west of England, K.C. WELLS always loved writing. Words were important. Full stop. However, when childhood gave way to adulthood, the writing ceased, as life got in the way. K.C. discovered erotic fiction in 2009, when the purchase of a ménage storyline led to the startling discovery that reading about men in love was damn hot. In 2012, arriving at a really low point in life led to the desperate need to do something creative. An even bigger discovery waited in the wings—writing about men in love was even hotter….
K.C. now writes full-time and is loving every minute of her new career. The laptop still has no idea of what hit it… it only knows that it wants a rest, please. And it now has to get used to the idea that where K.C goes, it goes.
And as for those men in love that she writes about? The list of stories just waiting to be written is getting longer… and longer….
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