Authors: Bailey Bradford
A Total-E-Bound Publication
What Matters Most
©Copyright Bailey Bradford 2011
Cover Art by Posh Gosh ©Copyright August 2011
Edited by Claire Siemaszkiewicz
This is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher, Total-E-Bound Publishing.
Applications should be addressed in the first instance, in writing, to Total-E-Bound Publishing. Unauthorised or restricted acts in relation to this publication may result in civil proceedings and/or criminal prosecution.
The author and illustrator have asserted their respective rights under the Copyright Designs and Patents Acts 1988 (as amended) to be identified as the author of this book and illustrator of the artwork.
Published in 2011 by Total-E-Bound Publishing, Think Tank, Ruston Way, Lincoln, LN6 7FL, United Kingdom.
This book contains sexually explicit content which is only suitable for mature readers. This story has a
Love in Xxchange
WHAT MATTERS MOST
To the magical, amazing T-Shirt trio—B, C.H., and K.D. Y’all have inspired me and cheered me on every step of the way. Thank you.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Mack Truck: Mack Trucks, Inc.
: Dr. Seuss Properties
Ford: Ford Motor Company
Google: Google, Inc.
Dodge: Chrysler Group, LLC
iPod: Apple Inc.
WHAT MATTERS MOST
Some days just sucked, that was all there was to it. Josh had woken up and
like today was going to be one of those perfect days. He was well rested, the morning sun lit up his crappy bedroom and made even the dingy walls look pretty, dappled as they were with streaky paint someone had slapped on. Burnt orange was not his favourite colour, and the walls clashed horribly with his hot pink sheets and blanket, but somehow, with the sunlight glinting on the godawful orange, the whole room had seemed…not as bad as usual.
Josh had got out of bed and slipped off his pink star dotted pyjama bottoms and
started his morning yoga. It helped to centre him, and keep him flexible, his muscles defined yet not so bulky he couldn’t hook his heel behind his head. Flexibility was a bonus in bed, and Josh prided himself on amazing his lovers. Well, he would have if he’d had any. It’d been a long dry spell, but really, what had he expected living in the armpit of south Texas?
He should have moved to San Fran, that was the thought he often had when he was
lonely. Truth was, he didn’t want to be that far away from his brother. The man annoyed the living shit out of him, but he’d raised Josh, and he was the only family Josh had left. And yeah, okay, so Evan had helped, too.
Josh had stopped that train of thought before it could derail into a spectacular fashion and destroy the peace he was trying to find. He’d sunk into his meditation and came out feeling refreshed.
Then he’d pulled his favourite scrubs out of his closet only to discover there was a nice, ball sized hole in the crotch of his penguin scrubs. He’d muttered and cursed the evil washers at his apartment complex. It wasn’t the first time they’d mangled something of his.
Josh had laid the scrubs on his bed and made a mental note to pick up some matching-ish material so he could patch them.
He’d put on his second favourite pair of scrubs, bright red ones covered in cheery smiley faces. Kind of hard on the eyes, but people seemed to like them regardless. Josh had slipped on his shoes then screeched to high Heaven when something crunched. He’d kicked the shoe off and gagged as a flat and icky roach fell out onto the carpet. And of course, the WHAT MATTERS MOST
stupid handivac hadn’t been charged, which left Josh holding a paper towel in one hand and pressing the other over his mouth as he gagged and heaved.
The coffee machine overflowed, the filter having been folded all funky. There’d been coffee grounds and water all over the countertop and even on the floor. His milk was bad and his bread mouldy. He’d sneezed while brushing his teeth and created a mess he’d never have thought possible. By the time he made it outside to his beat up Honda, he wasn’t the least bit surprised to discover one tire was low. His good mood had been thoroughly trounced along with the cockroach, so Josh had let loose with the curses as he dragged out the little compressor Justin insisted he keep in the trunk.
But the battery was dead, the compressor couldn’t draw a charge, and Josh ended up tossing the damn thing back in the trunk and calling for a cab. Which was when he realised he’d forgotten to charge his cell phone overnight. At least he’d got his address to the cab company before the phone had died. He’d run back to his apartment, thinking the cab would take forever to get there. Inside he’d grabbed his charger then sprinted back out the door just in time to see the cab pulling away from the kerb. Josh had had to chase the stupid thing down, and the morning sun he’d thought was so pretty had turned hotter than hell and Josh smelt like the arm pit he claimed he lived in by the time he got to work.
He hadn’t been fool enough at that point to think his day would get any better, and it hadn’t. Mr Walton, his boss, had pitched a hissy over Josh charging his cell phone at work.
The arrogant asshole didn’t give a flying shit how Josh’s morning had gone and told Josh so when he’d tried to explain why he was charging his phone. Josh had given up and
unplugged his charger when his boss started talking about writing him up. Josh couldn’t think of a bad enough word to call his boss, so he’d settled on fantasies involving his boss being naked in front of everyone and having a willy the size of Josh’s thumb.
Josh had decided then and there he needed more evil ideas. He’d figured he’d have to talk to Annabelle. She knew how to be mean and how to get away with it. She’d probably come over here and nut his boss.
From there on out, the day had been one disaster after another. Cranky patients, angry patients, furious patients—Josh had concluded he’d been a puppy and kitten kicker in a previous life since Karma was clearly trying to teach him a lesson with this one.
Added to all the bad shit, Josh had felt that itchy sensation skittering down his spine, the kind that made the hair on the nape of his neck stand up and wave for attention.
WHAT MATTERS MOST
Someone was watching him, that’s what the sensation was telling him, but Josh couldn’t figure out who—until he caught his boss glaring at him at the end of his shift, waving a stack of papers at him. Josh had tried to be optimistic about Walton glaring at him, considering all too often the ass was leering in a way that was well past creepy. A glare was better than that perv ogling him any day.
Josh had received a very thorough reaming from the man, and not the enjoyable kind he really wished he’d get—from someone else, of course. He’d shoved aside the thought of one jackass he’d left lying on the floor of the Xxchange a couple of weeks back.
desperate, no matter what his body and mind tried to tell him. What the hell did those two things know?
Now he was finally off work and standing outside of the hospital, waiting for his cab to show. Unlike the one this morning, this one wasn’t anywhere near quick. Josh had been waiting over half an hour, and the itchy feeling teasing at his spine and scraping over the back of his neck was back and stronger than before. Josh peered over his shoulder. Yep, his boss was leering at him. Rebuffing the jerkoff’s clumsy and, frankly, crude, advance had been a bigger mistake than he’d thought. The guy claimed he wasn’t gay, just thought he’d offer his dick for sucking to a gay man because, hey, all gays were horny and would take whatever they could get.
Josh snorted as he turned away. He was horny all right, but he’d never be
The cab finally pulled into the parking lot and Josh sprinted for the door, not willing to risk losing his method of escape. He hopped in the cab and gave the driver his address. Josh leaned his head back and closed his eyes and wondered why he always ended up getting harassed by someone at his job. It’d happened every damn time. Annabelle told him it was because he was pretty, which hadn’t done a thing for his ego or confidence. Josh would rather be brawny and handsome like Justin, not petite and thin and
Christ, if he
pretty, and this is what happened to pretty people, he was tempted to slam his face through a window.
Get out of the pity party,
Josh chastised himself. Then he thought about how he was going to have to call Justin for help, because after two cab rides, Josh’s spending money was gone, and his car was…it was screwed up. Justin would know what was wrong with it. The only bright spot in the whole shithole of the day was that Josh knew he’d probably get to see Annabelle when Justin showed up.
WHAT MATTERS MOST
He should have known better than to even entertain the thought, he fumed, as he
opened his door later and found Evan standing on the other side.
WHAT MATTERS MOST
that look in Evan’s eyes! The freaking mix of pity and…and
and something that always flickered away before Josh could fully decipher it.
Evan sighed and craned his neck to look back towards the parking lot. Josh gripped the door knob tighter and struggled to get his emotions under control. Logically, he knew he should be over being pissed at Evan, and he even knew, to some degree, that Evan had been right in doing what he’d done years ago. Kind of.
Yet Josh had carried the anger and resentment with him for so long, he didn’t know how to let it go. What had begun as a small seed of hurt as a teen had tumbled about inside him, gathering the detritus of other perceived slights until that seed had sprouted roots and limbs and now seemed a permanent part of Josh.
Evan looked at him and held out his hand. “If you’ll give me the keys to your car, I’ll take care of it and get out of here.”