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Authors: Christopher Koehler

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian

Tipping the Balance (9 page)

BOOK: Tipping the Balance
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“And I wish I were taller and hung like a horse. I guess we’ll both have to smile through the tears.”

 

Emily laughed as she shook her head. “Now who’s the bitch?”

 

“You love it.”

 

“And you,” she said. “I think we can do this.”

 

“I do too,” Drew said as they gathered their things and left.

 

It was the same old problem, and it reared its head every time he turned around. He wasn’t a contractor. He needed a contractor, and not just one who signed off on things.

 

He felt like he was spinning his wheels on this one. It was time to let it go for a while, since he couldn’t put his own affairs on hold long enough to get a license himself. It was time to think of something else.

 

He tried running through the list of current homes he had listed, along with clients who wanted homes. Neither was as long as he’d have liked, but with the economy so uncertain, home sales were off. One more reason to head into renovation. Since people couldn’t afford to move, they were renovating.

 

And so he was back to the contractor issue.

 

“Enough!” he yelled as he came to a stop at a light, bouncing back against his seat. He leaned his head against the headrest.

 

Inspiration struck as the light turned green.

 

Brad.

 

Brad didn’t come right out and say it, but he sure hadn’t sounded happy talking about work at lunch. He did say, however, that he’d worked for his dad every summer starting in high school. The man clearly had some experience in the building trades.

 

Drew wondered how Brad would feel about entering into a partnership and working toward a contractor license. Drew and Emily would have someone they could trust overseeing the renovation of the Bayard House, and they could still work at their own businesses to an extent, even if they were working to pay Brad. Then Bob could just work as needed. Anything to keep the bid costs down.

 

But Drew was honest enough with himself to admit it was more than that. Despite the radio silence from Brad, he just wasn’t ready to abandon the idea that there might be some chemistry between them. Working with Brad—strictly platonically, of course—would give him a chance to suss the other man out. And who knew, maybe a business partnership between St. Charles Renovations and the younger Sundstrom boy might lead to a partnership of another kind.

 
Chapter Six

 
 

Hot
as balls.

 

Hot as fuck.

 

Hot as….

 

Damn. That was all he had.

 

Brad sat at his desk, sweat streaming down his face, his untucked shirt darkened with the runoff. It was the end of July, and Sacramento sizzled. The cooling evening breezes from the delta where the Sacramento River entered the San Francisco Bay hadn’t risen for the past week. Every day was hotter than the last, and this day, the air conditioner, pushed beyond endurance, sputtered and coughed and died before 10:00 a.m.

 

Coming up hard on lunch, he didn’t know how he was going to make it the rest of the day, not when Sundstrom Homes’ own HVAC crews were busy elsewhere and outside repairmen couldn’t make it until the next afternoon. Apparently his wasn’t the only AC to have given up the ghost in the heat wave, and many people were a lot worse off. This was just where he worked. His home would be just fine. Better he should sweat at work than some old lady die in the heat. He knew it could happen.

 

But that didn’t make work any easier to take, especially given that he’d already finished all the cold water in the little fridge.

 

So he tried to take his mind off the heat by coming up with all the things it was as hot as without saying
hot as hell
. It didn’t take him long to give up. It was just too hot, and word games had never been his thing. That was why it took him a few moments to realize the phone was ringing.

 

“Suburban Symphony, this is Brad, how can I help you find a home today?” Brad answered. He didn’t even make a face anymore at the stupid way he had to answer the phone.

 

“Hi, Brad, I’ve already got a home, thanks, and honestly? It’s a lot nicer than those, but thanks for asking.”

 

“Hey, Drew!” Brad said, grinning like an idiot. Before he knew it, his heart was soaring.

 

Then he remembered he’d sworn off Drew and forced himself to stop smiling, because that… that
thing
he felt for Drew was done for, even though the tickling in his stomach shouted
liar!
He mopped his forehead with a paper towel, angry with himself for getting so excited. “Yeah, what’d you want?” he snapped.

 

“Well hello to you, too, sweetness,” Drew said. “Who pissed in your Wheaties?”

 

Brad couldn’t help it. He laughed. The comment was just vintage Drew. He hadn’t known Drew that long, but he already knew the other man had a ready snap. “Sorry, man, it’s just too hot. The AC died in the office this morning, and it’s going to take me with it.”

 

“Well, then I have a proposal for you,” Drew proclaimed grandly.

 

Brad’s mind inserted the word “indecent,” and his balls tightened right up.

 

“… at the Water Park?”

 

Brad’s mouth went dry. Drew? In a swimsuit? “I’m sorry, what’d you say?”

 

“I said, it’s just too hot to do anything today. Do you want to meet me at the water park? You know, Raging Waters. It’s at the state fairgrounds.”

 

Brad agonized for a moment. He knew he’d sworn off Drew, but that sounded like fun, and he was surprised how much he missed the sound of the other man’s voice.

 

Mistaking Brad’s silence for hesitation, Drew said, “C’mon, you know you want to. You said yourself the AC was dead. What else are you going to do? You can only pretend your office is a sauna at a fancy gym for so long before you give it up.”

 

Fuck it
, Brad thought,
gay guys and straight guys can be friends
. Hell, a gay wingman could be just the thing.
Women are drawn to gay men, and then I’ll be there to reap the benefits. Yeah, that’s the score
, Brad told himself, even if his dick was sitting up and begging at the thought of Drew rather than the disappointed women crying in his wake.

 

And it was far too hot to get all choosy. “That… that sounds like a lot of fun.”

 

“Yeah? Great! How fast can you get there?” Drew asked.

 

“Gimme forty-five minutes,” Brad said. “I’ll meet you out front. Shit, make that an hour and a half. I have to go home for a swim suit.”

 

“I’ve got one that’ll fit you,” Drew said.

 

“Dude, I’m about six inches taller and fifty pounds heavier,” Brad scoffed. “How do you have a suit that’ll fit me?”

 

“I didn’t say it was mine. People leave things here all the time. Trust me,” Drew said.

 

“Forty-five minutes it is, then,” Brad said. He ended the call and then called his dad. Predictably, he got voice mail. “Hi, Randall, it’s me, Brad. Listen, the AC is dead in the office, and it’s almost a hundred inside. The foreman here’s already sent his crews home, and I can’t get anyone out here until tomorrow to deal with it, either one of our own HVAC crews or the outside service we use. I’m closing down. I’ll leave an outgoing voice mail to that effect, along with a sign on the door instructing people to call my cell phone. Bye.”

 

With unaccustomed diligence, Brad printed out a variant of the proverbial “Gone Fishing” sign and taped it inside the glass front door of the sales office and was in his car—his beautiful air-conditioned car—in minutes.

 

His subconscious wanted to know why strange men left clothing behind at Drew’s house “all the time,” but he steadfastly refused to take the bait. He tried to shove the thought out of his mind, but it kept coming back.

 
 
 


Look
at you, playing hooky,” Brad said as they met in front of Raging Waters.

 

There was an awkward moment where Drew couldn’t figure out if they should shake hands or hug or what. If he’d been with gay friends, they’d have hugged, but he didn’t want to make Brad uncomfortable. So he settled for keeping his hands in the pockets of his shorts.

 

“Who’s playing hooky? I just finished the final walkthrough on a renovation this morning, and I don’t start the next project until tomorrow. Besides, in this heat, it’s not safe for people to work in the un-air-conditioned house I’m renovating, so I sent the guys home. Excepting the unlikely event of a real estate emergency, I’m free for the afternoon.”

 

“I’m just using this heat and a dead air conditioner as an excuse,” Brad said, a little glumly.

 

“Well, I’m glad you are,” Drew said, “because doing this by myself? Pathetic.”

 

“Couldn’t find anyone else, huh? What about Nick or someone?” Brad said.

 

Drew wasn’t sure what to say. Brad was his first choice, but that apparently hadn’t occurred to him. Drew figured someone had done a real number on Brad’s self-confidence.

 

“Nick had to get some research done. He’s doing me a major favor by overseeing this next renovation for me before school starts. I didn’t want to distract him, and more to the point, I didn’t want to get Morgan pissed at either one of us.”

 

Brad smiled. “I can see that. We had an unfriendly rivalry thing going for a while, did you know that?”

 

“No, I didn’t,” Drew said.

 

“Yeah, he didn’t get mad or say anything, he just did his thing real quietly and totally cut my throat at it,” Brad said, smiling. “It really made me mad at the time, but now I just think it’s kind of funny. He’s an okay guy. But… him and Coach Nick? I didn’t see that coming.”

 

“I did,” Drew said.

 

“No shit?”

 

“You forget, Nick was never my coach, so he never hid who he was from me. I wasn’t even that surprised he was hot for one of his rowers,” Drew said. “No, I had to listen to him whine about the ethics of it all.”

 

“Well, it’s all water under the bridge,” Brad said. “Let’s get inside. It’s hot, and I want to cool off. You’ve got a swimsuit for me?”

 

Drew patted the duffel bag slung over one shoulder. “Right here.”

 

They paid their admission and headed inside. Drew wasn’t sure what to think. There’d been that long silence from Brad, and then a bit of awkwardness when Drew had finally called him at work. But that seemed gone now, and Drew was glad. He’d had time to accept that the other man wasn’t gay. He’d thought there was something there, and there wasn’t. Fine. Moving on. He still liked Brad as a friend, and friends could do things together.

 

Besides, Drew thought as he followed Brad through the turnstile into the locker room, if he were to convince Brad to come work for and with him, there had to be some kind of relationship there, even if it wasn’t the kind he wanted.

BOOK: Tipping the Balance
10.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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