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Authors: Christopher Koehler

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian

Tipping the Balance (7 page)

BOOK: Tipping the Balance
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Brad leveraged himself out of the chair and headed for the bathroom to tap a kidney. He finished up and glanced at his underwear as he was putting his cock back in. The gray of the boxer-briefs was damp with darker spots of pre-cum.

 

Standing before the toilet, junk still out, Brad could only stare at the physical evidence of his attraction for another man.

 

That is
it
, that is just it. I’m not gay, I’m not attracted to Drew. He helped me out with a work problem, but that is it. Over and done with
.

 

Whatever this…
thing
of his where Drew was concerned, was a thing of the past. It was over and done with.

 
 
 

Drew
left the restaurant thoroughly charmed by Brad. He didn’t know what Nick’s problem with the guy was, because lunch just confirmed Drew’s hunch that Brad was worth getting to know. A few hours of face time across a table from him, and Drew knew he couldn’t get enough of that double handful of big lug. He was just so appealingly gauche, but once he warmed up and started smiling… that was even better. Drew wanted some more of that.

 

Drew wanted all kinds of things from Brad, starting with a little help for his hard-on. But he also knew the chances of that were slim. As he puttered back to his office to prepare for taking his clients to that freak-show of a house in a few hours, he realized he also wanted to be Brad’s friend.

 

Based on what he’d seen of the crew and Brad’s place in it in previous years, and what Brad had let slip, he had the sense Brad might not have had too many friends, real friends, not just people he made trouble with.

 

It was probably just wishful thinking, Drew cautioned himself as he pulled into his parking space at the realty office, but it had really seemed like Brad had opened up over the course of lunch, from the closed, even hostile person who’d greeted him in the parking lot, to the laughing and joking guy he said goodbye to.

 

Drew knew he had to play it cagey, since he had only a few fleeting smiles, a vague sense of the fey, and wishful thinking to go on where Brad’s sexual orientation was concerned. The last thing he wanted was to come on strong and scare the guy off. If he was the older gay perv hitting on the hot young guy, he wouldn’t even have Brad’s friendship to show for his efforts.

 

“Hi, Drew,” the admin said as he walked into the office. “You’ve got a small pile of messages on your desk, but otherwise, it’s been pretty quiet for you.”

 

“Thanks, Serena,” Drew said, blowing her air kisses as he walked by.

 

She laughed. “You always promise but never follow through.”

 

Drew sat at his desk and sorted through the promised stack of messages. Most weren’t urgent, but he was surprised a few weren’t smoldering. He set them aside. He’d have to return to them before he drove to meet his clients for that 6:00 p.m. meeting.

 

He woke his computer up and set it to downloading e-mails, but his mind was still at lunch with Brad. As much as he’d enjoyed himself, and as happy as he’d been to help (once Brad had seen through his attempts at dodging being honest about that development), it hadn’t required a face-to-face meeting, let alone a lunch that lasted several enchanting hours. A real estate agent’s perspective on Suburban Graveyard could’ve been solicited via e-mail or even telephone, and it wasn’t like he hadn’t given Nick permission to pass his contact information along to Brad via Morgan.

 

The more Drew thought about it, the more lunch felt like an excuse. That Brad might’ve been looking for an excuse to see him thrilled him. He felt warm all over as a goofy smile stole over his lips.

 

Brad was going to be the death of him, however, if he didn’t change his vocabulary. All that talk of Brad and ass had Drew hard and wanting.

 

Drew snickered at the name Brad had come up with for Suburban Symphony as he reluctantly got back to work.

 
Chapter Five

 
 

As the
days headed for a full week with no contact from Brad, Drew faced the fact that he’d misjudged Brad and his interest. He tried to shrug it off. He tried to be philosophical about it. After all, as he well knew, wishful thinking trumped gaydar every time. But no calls, no e-mails, no nothing from Brad cast a dark patina over Drew’s mood. He’d been so sure….

 

But Drew had other things to worry about that summer afternoon. The economic climate might not have been the best, but for some reason, Drew had never had more business, and that was the problem. What he didn’t have was people to do the work.

 

He sat in traffic on the freeway, wondering if he could possibly have found a worse time of day to check out another potential reno. Even though it was where he wanted to head in terms of his business, he was practical enough to realize he wasn’t there yet. He just didn’t know how he could handle another renovation right then.

 

But then Emily had called. Actually, she didn’t just call. She’d driven to his office and begged.

 

“Even if I take out a hit on my old contractor, which, believe me, is growing more likely by the minute, it won’t save this project,” Emily had said.

 

“I’m not a contractor, you know that,” Drew’d protested.

 

“No, but you’ve got one you can work with, and these days, that’s a miracle. You also do good work, which is a nice bonus. Please, just tell me you’ll come look at it.” When he’d looked like he was about to turn her down, she added, “Mary and Fred Abernathy love your work so far. You’re on budget and slightly ahead of schedule. As far as they’re concerned, after hearing horror stories about home renovations, you’re a miracle worker. I need another miracle.”

 

So there he was, wondering how the hell he was going to pull off another miracle and rotting on the elevated Capital City Freeway while down below, Sacramento went about its business beneath a leafy green canopy. At least it wasn’t a complete house renovation, just the master bedroom and bath. That was the only reason he was even considering it.

 

But it wasn’t just another possible reno for Emily. It was the job already under way and the one lined up, just waiting for his crew to become available. Every day those properties went unrenovated and unsold cost him money.

 

The flips he could handle. That was what he did. He knew how they worked. But the flips, along with the not-nearly-as-complete-as-Emily-claimed Abernathy renovation and a new reno on top of his stillborn love life….

 

Just the thought of it all made Drew a little queasy.

 

The problem was that Drew didn’t know how helping out his friend and keeping everything else going was going to be humanly possible. Sure, he could find the labor. This was California, after all, and so long as you didn’t look too closely at immigration status, labor was there for the asking. It sucked, and it was exploitative, but there it was.

 

Drew made sure his crew checked out, and he knew he could trust Octavio to find more help, if it came down to it. But Octavio wasn’t interested in the headaches that went along with being a project leader. He’d made that much clear the first time Nick had had to go back to coaching and grad school in the fall a few years before.

 

Crawling down the highway at thirty miles per hour, Drew realized he needed a business partner, not just more labor, and where he was going to find someone he could work with, he had no idea.

 

Finally traffic opened up, and he drove to meet Emily to see this latest nail in his coffin.

 
 
 


You
know, we actually used to socialize outside of home improvement,” Nick said the day after Drew had gone to check out the next proposed reno. He placed a level against a cabinet door in one bathroom of the Abernathy renovation to make sure it was hung correctly.

 

“We used to socialize more before you got a boyfriend,” Drew said from under the bathroom sinks where he was adjusting a leaking cold-water feed. “It’s just the way things go.”

 

“Yeah, I guess. I just miss talking to you without hardware in my hands or worrying about deadlines,” Nick said.

 

“I know what you mean, but summer’s almost over, and we’ll get back to normal in a month or so,” Drew said. “And speaking of which….”

 

Nick put the level down. “I know that tone. Spare me the buildup and cut to the chase.”

 

“I’ve got another reno I want to take on, and that means you,” Drew said, leveraging himself out from under the sink. “For starters, it’s a small one, just a master bedroom and bathroom. I think we can bang it out before you go back to school.”

 

“Maybe, maybe not. But you said ‘for starters’. What else is going on?” Nick leaned against the counter, arms crossed over his chest.

 

“This is what I want to do. Flipping’s all well and good, but I’m limited to what I can do alone during the school year and what we can accomplish together during the summer,” Drew said, “and you—”

 

“Graduate next spring, yes,” Nick said.

 

“I don’t even want to think of that yet,” Drew admitted.

 

Nick shrugged. “I know, but you’re going to have to one of these days.”

 

Drew looked up. “You and Morgan will graduate, probably move away, and then where will I be? Here without my best friend.”

 

“Maybe, maybe not. A lot depends on where Morgan goes for his teaching credential,” Nick said. “Don’t borrow trouble. So. A bed/bath in a month before school starts?”

 

“Yes. This place is all but done. We’ve got one reno in progress and other ready to go, but if I charge Emily enough, this job will more than make up for putting that one on the slow track,” Drew said.

 

Nick thought about it. “The only way this can work is if I put my research on hold for that month and if you scale way back on selling houses so we can both put all our efforts into this.”

 

“I can do that, I think,” Drew said, “if you can.”

 

“And I have to talk to Morgan about it,” Nick cautioned.

 

“You have to ask your boyfriend? Dude, you are so married,” Drew laughed. Secretly, he was a little envious. That kind of accountability to another sounded pretty attractive to him, but it wasn’t looking like a possibility any time soon.

 

Nick shrugged. “It affects him too. Not only will I not be around as much the rest of the summer, it means I won’t be around as much this next school year, since the research won’t happen by itself. Between that, teaching, and the last of my own coursework, to say nothing of coaching…. There are only so many hours in the day. Of course, it’ll be his senior year, so he’ll be pretty busy too.”

 

“Fair enough,” Drew said. “Let’s get back to work. Whatever happens, I want this place done. It’ll only help Renochuck in the future. Jeez, I can’t believe I just called my own company Renochuck.”

 
 
 

The
next day, both men were back at the Abernathy place for their last inspection before the homeowners had their final walk-through.

 

“So I can do it,” Nick said, “but Morgan wants you to pay me more.”

BOOK: Tipping the Balance
13.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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