Authors: Drew Hunt
Fireside Romance Book 1: First Flames
By Drew Hunt
JMS Books LLC
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Copyright 2011 Drew Hunt
Used under a Standard Royalty-Free License.
All Rights Reserved
WARNING: This book is not transferable. It is for your own personal use. If it is sold, shared, or given away, it is an infringement of the copyright of this work and violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
No portion of this book may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts used for the purposes of review.
This book is for ADULT AUDIENCES ONLY. It contains substantial sexually explicit scenes and graphic language which may be considered offensive by some readers. Please store your files where they cannot be accessed by minors.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published in the United States of America.
* * * *
Fireside Romance Book 1: First Flames
By Drew Hunt
For everyone who craves sweet stories
about love conquering all.
My life, like my job, was predictable, well ordered, and boring. However, the sameness was—for the most part—a comfort. When my alarm clock went off at half past seven each morning I could predict pretty accurately what I’d be doing that day. I also knew I would awaken alone when that alarm went off. That wasn’t a comfort at all.
As I wandered along the library stacks pushing my trolley, putting returned library books back on the shelves, I thought about what life would be like if it were shared with another man. A man to come home to. A man to care about. A man who would care about me. A man to cuddle up with on the sofa of an evening, in front of a real fire.
Reaching up, I pulled out a copy of Grey’s
which someone had put with the astronomy books. I replaced it with a rather battered and ancient tome on the solar system. Here we were in 1986, and that book had been published before Neil Armstrong had stepped onto the moon.
A few months ago I’d taken the bus to Leeds—Leeds being the nearest large city—and gone into a gay bar. After being rejected a few times—once pretty painfully—what little confidence I’d had regarding the dating game evaporated.
Moving along the stacks I put the anatomy text book back in its rightful place.
All a potential mate would see when checking me out would be someone plain and ordinary. I was six feet even, had dark brown hair and washed-out green eyes. My face, not my best feature, was the big sticking point.
I sighed. This mythical potential mate could not see, or wouldn’t take the time to find out what lay beneath the less than attractive exterior. If he did, he’d find someone with a big heart, someone who—if given a chance—would prove to be a fiercely loyal friend, who would put their happiness and feelings before his own. But, no, this book would most probably be judged by its cover. I grimaced inwardly at the bibliographical analogy.
The books safely returned to Dewey Decimal order, I pushed the empty trolley back to its place against the far wall.
Sinking into my chair behind the desk, I realised if my life were a book, it would be a bloody boring one. A title which would forever remain on the shelf.
Yes, I had low self-esteem. My confidence had pretty much reached rock bottom, and had purchased a pneumatic drill and was beginning to excavate. Unbidden, I let out a single bark of laughter. At least I had a reasonable sense of humour.
Mary—my colleague, best friend and confidante all rolled into one—rounded the corner and rested a hip against the desk. Unlike me, Mary was a really happy and out-going person who always had a laugh or a smile for me.
“Bloody hell, Simon, I’ll be glad when this shift is over. My feet are killing me.” She lifted her left ankle and gave it a rub.
“Well, my dear, you should have put on a sensible pair of shoes this morning, shouldn’t you?” I said in my best aged-grandmother’s voice.
She stuck out her tongue at me and immediately burst out into laughter.
“Shhh!” I said, then immediately joined her in laughter.
We often pretended to be stereotypical strict librarians, telling everyone to please remember they were in a hallowed place of study, so should conduct themselves with all due reverence. As expected, telling Mary to shush only served to make her laugh even more.
“Listen, love,” she said, trying to be serious, “have you time for a cuppa at Daphne’s after we knock off?”
Daphne’s was a cafe just a couple of doors down from the library.
“Sure.” It wasn’t as if I had anything else to fill my evening with. “My turn to buy the Eccles cakes.”
Whenever I’d tried to make Eccles cakes myself, either the pastry didn’t flake properly or the dried fruit oozed out of the slashes in the top. Daphne, or her supplier, did a much better job than I ever could.
“You’ll have me putting weight on, ya know!” Mary exclaimed, rubbing her perfectly flat belly.
“All the better for me to hold you,” I replied.
Mary was one of the few people who knew I was gay, and she ‘didn’t give a fig,’ as she so eloquently put it.
“Sauce pot.” She came around the desk. Bending, she whispered in my ear. “It’s about time you found someone to hold.”
“I know,” I sighed. We’d had this conversation many times before.
Mary squeezed my arm in sympathy. Going back to the front of the desk, she looked over her shoulder at me. “It’s a date then.”
* * * *
The rest of the afternoon passed with its usual mixture of students wanting a particular book and being disappointed to learn we either didn’t have it or it was already out on loan. The Thatcher government had caused the local authority to cut back on spending on what they considered to be
services. Libraries were a soft target and had received more than their fair share of the cutbacks.
I’d got rid of Fred, the town tramp who had occupied his usual place in the reading room nearest the radiator. He’d “just come in for a bit of a warm”. He was harmless enough, and on the occasions when I’d had the time to sit and talk to him, I’d found him to be a fascinating source of information on the Second World War. He was one of the first troops to land in France on D-Day. He had lost his best pal, Henry, in that campaign. From how he spoke about him, I strongly suspected Fred and Henry had been more than just pals, but I never asked. From all accounts, Fred was never quite the same again after the war was over.
With the library empty of readers, Mary and I closed and locked the doors to the non-fiction section and went into the main office and signed out. Once that duty was done we interlocked our arms—as was our custom—and headed out of the library building and down the street to Daphne’s.
* * * *
We found ourselves at our usual table in the window, a pot of coffee between us. Neither Mary nor I liked the traditional English beverage of tea. We had also chosen our second favourite cake—cream doughnuts—all the Eccles cakes having been sold earlier.
From our vantage point looking out onto the high street, we were able to play our usual game of man-watching.
“He’d suit you right down to the ground,” Mary said of one guy who had just come out of Boots the Chemist.
In truth the man did look kind of hunky in his black bomber jacket, the collar turned up against the cool evening.
“He’s probably married,” I sighed. “All the good ones usually are.”
“Funny, I always found the good ones were all either married or gay, so that gives you a chance with at least half,” Mary said, draining her cup.
Our other favourite game was to guess what a particular individual did for a living.
Mary’s best guess that day was to whisper to me that one man—mid-forties but still quite fit looking—was a secret agent for the Russians. He masqueraded as a prostitute to get women into bed to learn their secret recipes. He’d pass this information back to the KGB. They would then take over the western world by developing the best tasting Yorkshire pudding and selling it at an ever increasing price. Thus they’d gain enough capital to be able to buy out all the multi-national companies of the world, and hold them under the yoke of the Soviets.
Did I mention Mary had a screw loose?
After we calmed ourselves down from that piece of outlandish deduction, Mary decided it was time she headed home. She still lived with her parents and dated occasionally, but hadn’t found Mr Right, yet. I dated not at all, and of course I too was still looking for Mr Right. I had my own place about a fifteen-minute walk away. It was a rather basic two up, two down; all I could afford, but it was mine. Well, the building society’s.
Mary’s words of a few minutes earlier re-awoke something I’d been considering for a while. I’d thought about hiring a guy for a couple of hours. I didn’t think I could go as far as actually having sex with him, but perhaps he’d agree to just sit and talk, or maybe we could have a kiss and a cuddle. I’d almost approached one of these men a few times, but had always chickened out at the last second.
After bidding Mary goodbye outside Daphne’s, I squared my shoulders, set my jaw and ventured toward the back streets of our town and the red light district. Once on Gamble Street—the place where I knew a few rent boys plied their trade—I began to experience the same doubts I’d had before, but I pushed them aside and walked with the most confident manner I could muster, up to a young man of about nineteen or twenty years of age. He was wearing a faded black T-shirt which was a little on the small side for him, a pair of worn blue jeans, and white trainers. He was a couple of inches shorter than me with curly black hair. As I drew closer still I saw his eyes were grey-blue. He was good-looking, and under normal circumstances—say in a gay bar—I wouldn’t have stood a chance.
“Hi, mate,” he said in a low—and, to me, sexy—voice “What you after?” He had a faint but detectable Geordie accent. I thought it was…well…sexy.
Haltingly I asked, “Uh, what do you, um, offer?”
He smiled reassuringly. “Anything and everything, so long as we’re safe.”
“Um, would it be all right if we just went back to my house and uh,” my voice, low to start with, whispered, “Just sat and cuddled and…” I knew my cheeks were flaming red. This was a bad idea.
The man’s smile increased. “Sure, mate, not a problem.”
After agreeing a price, I realised I’d actually committed myself, we walked the ten minutes or so to my place.
Although the temperatures were about average for early September, I thought a thin T-shirt didn’t afford adequate protection, but that I guess was his business.
Conversation was a little forced on my part. We exchanged names, and he said I could call him Jim. I doubted if that was his real name, but that was his business.
We eventually arrived at my house. I unlocked the front door and ushered him in.
The front door opened into the main room.
“First things first,” I said, getting out my money and paying Jim. I guessed it was usual to deal with such things at the beginning.
“Thanks.” Jim tucked the notes into his front jeans pocket.
“Want a drink?” I offered beer, sherry. I could have kicked myself for that last. It seemed, well, inappropriate somehow.