Authors: Sue Brown
Tags: #Romance, #Gay, #Fiction, #Erotica
About the Author
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Cover Artist: Reese Dante Editor: Alison Todd
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Chance to be King © 2010 Sue Brown ISBN # 978-1-920468-49-1
All rights reserved.
For my kids who are forever nagging me to get off the computer, and Maria and Kally who are the best pom-pom wavers a girl could have. Not forgetting my dog, who constantly reminds me that walking is a great way to have an uninterrupted think about 'my boys'.
Eric thought as he approached the roadside bar.
The brightly lit arm of the neon red cowboy was definitely mocking.
Eric cursed loudly, breaking the silence in the truck as he realized that, according to the directions, he'd not only missed the turn to the cottage but now also had to turn the vehicle around to find a small, almost non-existent road in total darkness.
Toby whined hopefully in his ear as the truck slowed down to pull into the parking lot of the bar. Eric sighed. He was as anxious to get out of the truck and stretch his legs as his dogs were.
"Not long now, boy, I promise."
Or at least I hope not
. He reached back to scratch Toby behind the ears, feeling the dog lean forward to try and lick his face.
Eric pushed the dog away as he flicked the indicators and pulled into the parking lot; he should've been doing this journey in the daylight but filming had over-run the previous day and he'd been too tired to get moving as early as planned.
In his haste and fatigue Eric swung the truck's wheel too sharply and almost ran over a man standing by a dark-colored SUV. The man only saved himself by leaping to one side and Eric watched as the man slammed into the passenger vehicle hard enough to make it shudder before sliding into an ungainly heap on the ground.
"Fuck!" Eric jumped out of the truck to see if the guy was hurt. "You okay, dude? I'm so sorry, I didn't see you standing there." He leaned over to offer him a hand.
The man scowled as he was pulled to his feet. "You make a habit of trying to kill people?" A few inches shorter than Eric, he still had to be just over six feet.
Eric ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "Only when I'm exhausted, lost, and shoulda stopped driving two hours ago," he admitted.
"Lost, huh?" The man was brushing off his ass. "Where are you supposed to be going?" Now that he wasn't so angry, the stranger's voice was a smooth, quiet drawl.
Not sure of the reason for the sudden tension, Eric looked away. "I'm renting a cottage there. Small place; one bedroom and a fireplace was the description. I meant to get here in the light but I was late leaving LA, and then the dogs needed a run…" Eric trailed off, aware he was rambling.
"My name's Eric. Eric Pawlowski." Eric stuck out his hand again and they shook hands, the other man wincing as Eric pressed against the scraped skin on his palm. "Sorry. Is your hand all right?"
"That would be great. I'm beat." On cue, Eric yawned. In the dim light Eric could see Thomas frowning.
Trying to suppress another yawn, Eric said, "Not really, but me and the dogs have had a long day and we just want some food and a bed for the night."
Thomas looked into Eric's truck where Millie and Toby, his chocolate Labradors, were slumped over the back seat, looking disgruntled and bored as they continued to be confined.
Thomas laughed. It was a nice laugh, deep and throaty, and it would've provoked an answering response in Eric if only he could have stopped the damn yawning.
"Yeah, I'm sure. You'll be asleep standing up if we hang around any longer. Just give me a minute to say goodbye to my friends."
Eric nodded his agreement and slid into the driver's seat of his car murmuring, "Not long now, kids." Toby gave a derisive snort. Worried he was going to fall asleep completely, Eric waited impatiently for his rescuer to return, but Thomas was true to his word and returned within a couple of minutes, holding a box in front of him.
The SUV's hazard lights flashed and Thomas got in. Within a couple of minutes Eric was following the vehicle down the road, cranking the window wide open to let the cool evening breeze blow across his face; anything to stay awake long enough to get to his destination.
After a couple of miles the vehicle in front started slowing down. Eric followed it as his guide turned left onto what, in the dark, appeared to be little more than a dirt road. He was grateful for Thomas' assistance because he knew he'd have had little chance of finding it himself.
They stopped outside a building and Eric looked eagerly at his new home but the lack of light made it impossible to see much in the dark, despite the lights from the two vehicles. Thomas got out of his vehicle and walked towards Eric. Switching off the engine, Eric got out of the truck, trying and failing to suppress yet another yawn.
"We're here," Thomas said in his deep drawl. Any other time Eric might have found it sexy; now he just wanted to hit the hay. First though, the dogs needed to stretch their legs and they all needed some food.
He opened the door to let the dogs out. Toby was out in a flash, Millie following at a more sedate pace. After a few minutes of chasing each other in relief at being out of truck they sniffed at their rescuer and then lost interest, far more interested in following the sharp night scents along the track.
After watching them briefly, Thomas said, "They'll be fine for a few minutes. No-one comes along here much except the odd fisherman, and that's only by permission of the land-owner. Have you got the key?"
Eric nodded. "Uh-huh." He ducked into the car and felt around in the glove compartment until he found the envelope with the key. "Here it is."
Thomas held his hand out for the key. At Eric's hesitation —Thomas was a complete stranger, after all— he said, "I know the cottage. Let me get you in and the lights on and then I'll leave you in peace."
Too tired to argue, Eric handed over the key and watched as Thomas opened the cottage door, unerringly finding the light switch in the total blackness. Eric went back to the car and dug out a duffel bag containing some overnight gear and a small amount of food for the hounds. He wished he'd thought to pick up some pre-made food for himself en route, he felt way too tired to cook.
The cottage was blazing with light by the time Eric stumbled into the kitchen and Thomas was emerging from what Eric assumed was the basement, his hands grubby.
"There'll be some hot water for you to wash up but you'll have to give it a while. You're a bit low on oil, though."
Thomas smiled, Eric able to see it properly now they were in the light. Even though his eyes were half closed, Eric was able to see Thomas was a good looking man. Hell, he was more than good looking; he was stunning. Damn, wasn't it just typical Eric felt too tired to ask him to stay for a coffee?
Eric moaned slightly in appreciation. "You're an angel, that's what you are. A beautiful angel." Tiredness had obviously got the better of his tongue. "Let me find the money." He dug in his pocket for loose change.
The smile slipped a little on Thomas' face but all he said was, "Buy me a beer another time. I'll swing by in the morning to check you're okay. Night, Eric."
Eric bade Thomas good night and called the dogs in for their kibble. Fifteen minutes later found the three of them sacked out on the large bed, their stomachs full, wrapped in blankets against the chill and oblivious to their new surroundings.
The noise was what initially penetrated his sleep; or rather, the lack of familiar noise. There was no quiet thrum of the air conditioning or the sounds of his maid, Maria, as she swore at the vacuum cleaner. Instead he heard birdsong and Millie, yipping and twitching in her dreams.
Eric hauled himself out of bed, wincing a little as he felt the twinges in his lower back. Thank goodness he wasn't going to sleep on this bed for any length of time; otherwise he might have to buy a new mattress. The one on this bed was fine for most people, he guessed, but his back had been wrecked by the work he did and he usually slept on an orthopedic mattress.
Toby sat up expectantly as Eric got dressed. He grinned and snapped his fingers. The dogs leapt off the bed and barked hopefully around his feet.
They left the cottage and followed what Eric hoped was the path to the lake. When he'd looked for somewhere to take a vacation it had been essential to find a place with plenty of land so he could walk his dogs. This place, with the whole of the area around the lake accessible, had seemed ideal; and more to the point, it was private land so Eric didn't have to worry about unwanted attention.
It was a beautiful morning, before the heat of the day really got a chance to set in. The air was still slightly crisp and Eric shivered a little in his thin t-shirt, wishing he'd brought his hoodie. Deciding against going back for it, he walked a bit quicker. He would probably go for a run most mornings if the paths were safe enough. They reached the lake within five minutes, Toby barking joyfully as he scattered some of the birds feeding at the lakeside.
"You're supposed to make nice with the locals, not frighten them to death." Eric scolded him. The dog gave a sloppy grin, his large tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, and took no notice as he ran around in circles. Millie ignored them both as she raced ahead.
Eric paused for a minute to take in his surroundings. The lake was huge, surrounded by reeds and banked in places by sandy beaches. A short note in the paperwork said it was suitable to swim in and Eric had brought his trunks hopefully. There seemed to be a narrow path following the shoreline. Eric called to the dogs and set off to follow it. He didn't necessarily want to explore all of it today but he did think the dogs would benefit from a long walk after being cooped up in the truck for most of the previous day.
In places the overhanging branches meant Eric needed to duck, one of the disadvantages of being well over six feet tall; the dogs, however, had no such issues and they plowed on eagerly ahead. Their enthusiasm meant he lost sight of them until he reached a clearer spot in the trees. He could hear splashing up ahead and smiled to himself; Millie was a terror for getting in the water, be it puddle or pond. Toby was a bit more of a wimp and would dance around the edges before finally getting up the courage to venture in.
He finally reached the shoreline to see Millie in the water as he expected; however, the man playing with her as she swam around was a surprise. He'd obviously been swimming because he was bare from the waist up and, oh fuck, he was a vision: lean muscles, firm abs, and dark nipples against tanned skin.
. Not that Eric was looking closely. At all. Okay, maybe it didn't take much for Eric to react to a gorgeous man, dancing half naked in cold water. Eric squinted as he looked a bit closer. Wasn't this his rescuer from last night? Tim, Tony, Thomas… that was it, Thomas.