Pushing everyone away is the perfect solution to keep your heart safe, right? Well, but what if someone slips past the defensive walls…

Even on his best day Darren doesn’t do nice, and he doesn’t like people. His family is the only exception from the rule. So when his shifty brother-in-law steals from them and leaves Darren’s pregnant sister behind—all on Darren’s watch—he blames himself for the fallout. He failed. No need to talk about it. Trespassers beware.

A homeless Carlo stumbles into Darren’s life and the instant attraction catches both men completely by surprise. Carlo has had bad luck galore, but he won’t let it drag him down. He is summer sunshine to Darren’s raging storms.

But when it turns out that Carlo isn’t quite as carefree as he seems, Darren has a decision to make: Take the risk to let Carlo in or lose him completely.

Unapologetic is a hurt/comfort contemporary m/m romance with a twist and the first steamy short story in the “He is the One” series. There’s a soulmate for everyone, but sometimes love takes courage.

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I’d been watching the guy try to select a nutritious breakfast from the grubby choices at the gas station for the last twenty minutes. He seemed to be memorizing the labels of every goddamn candy bar in stock. Watching him was no hardship. He was easy on the eyes, with a mop of sun-kissed light brown curls, nice shoulders, and a v-shaped frame. Lean, but not scrawny.

I don’t like my men fragile. Having inherited my father’s height, and after fifteen years in construction, I bulked up quite a bit. If a guy was too skimpy, I felt like a brute, so I steered clear of fragile or jail bait. Cutie here was neither. I probably had only a few inches on him and I estimated his age to be mid-twenties, so no reason to stop enjoying the show as he bent down and studied another packaged snack from a lower shelf. His jeans rode low, hugging his ass just as they should, but hands down, his best feature was his lips—full, soft, ridiculously lush. Focused on his research project, he’d pulled his lower lip between his teeth to chew on it, and as a result it was flushed red and glistening with spit.

I leaned back in my chair behind the counter, covertly adjusting my dick for the third time. No idea what was wrong with me. Usually, I didn’t have such a strong reaction to a random guy. Sure, when I go out with the intent to find somebody to blow off steam that’s different, but a semi at work? No fucking way. But here I was, standing behind the counter imaging him down on his knees in front of me, his spit-slick lips wrapped around my prick.

I couldn’t suppress a low groan. His head whipped around and he almost dropped the apple he’d selected earlier. His face flushed and those gorgeous hazel eyes were huge as he glanced over to me. Goddamn it. That did nothing to calm my hard-on.

I scooted a little closer to the counter to make sure he couldn’t see my hand pressing down on my dick through my jeans. Over the counter, I simply returned his stare. He quickly looked away as if I had caught him with his hands on his prick. Now, he was avoiding me, and I totally got why. I probably should have felt a bit guilty ogling a customer, but I really couldn’t help myself.

I’d known he was homeless the minute he entered the store. Dirty jeans, overstuffed, old backpack, and the fact that he spent almost half an hour in the bathroom only to reemerge with wet hair gave him away. Most people don’t take their time and linger in a gas station restroom.

He finally grabbed a protein bar and walked over to the coffee station, giving me another great view of his ass. It immediately inspired me to evolve my fantasy to a good fucking with him bent over the counter. But sadly, I didn’t have much time to get into it because he came over to the register and piled his treasures in front of me. Apple, bar, a plain bagel, and coffee. I pulled out a little bag to pack everything up for him, while he nervously fiddled with his money and dropped it on the counter.

“You’re twelve cents short.” I purposely used a low rumble to give my statement more effect.

“No, what? I did the math. It should be enough. I…”

I raised my eyebrows in true asshole fashion. His voice dropped to a low whisper until he stopped mid-sentence. A pink blush flushed his cheeks. Flustered he was delicious. His teeth tortured his poor bottom lip. Hot, fucking hot. Goddamn, what was wrong with me this morning…

Of course, I wouldn’t insist he put something back. Not for twelve cents. I wasn’t that much of a jerk, but before I could let him graciously off the hook, the doorbell of the store chimed and disrupted my moment. I could barely suppress a sigh when I saw my mom standing in the door.

“Listen, it’s okay. Don’t sweat it,” I said quickly. “If you want you can use the bench in front for your breakfast.” Huh? Where had that come from? I tried not to dwell too long on the fact that I had just asked him to stay and quickly turned to my mom.

There are very few people in my life I care about, but my mom is number one on the list. I promised my dad I’d take care of her when he died almost two years ago. The dark shadows under her eyes made it clear that I was doing a shit job. Seeing her all worn out and tired pissed me off to no end. We’d be okay if it wasn’t for my loser brother-in-law. The bastard had weaseled his way into our family business by promising the world. Fourteen months later, he left my pregnant sister in the dust. The asshole cleared out their joint account and disappeared overnight. No matter what my mom said, I felt guilty that I hadn’t realized what was going on and put a stop to it before it was too late.

My family owned a rest stop right off Highway 95. And even though I had my own construction business and flipped vacation homes for a living, I took over the gas station for the summer, so that my mom and my sister Abby could focus on the self-serve cafeteria and the souvenir shop. I was my own boss, so it wasn’t much of an issue to delay work on the beach house I had bought recently. I wasn’t going to leave my mom alone right at the start of vacation when the whole place was buzzing with tourists on their way to Maine’s beach towns.

“You still didn’t clean the shelves, Darren. This has to get done. The whole place looks like shit.” I had to hold my breath at the first words out of my mom’s mouth. “I’ve been telling you all week. The delivery is coming tomorrow. Just get it done.”

“Okay. I’ll get it done today.” My mom actually flinched at my calm reply. She looked downright miserable. Again, I cursed the fucking weasel, who got us into this mess.

“Sorry, baby, I’m so sorry. You’ve been so good to jump in like you did and I—” I almost panicked when I saw tears building in the corner of her eyes. Fuck! No way!

“Mom, it’s okay. Everything will be okay. That’s what family is for. Go back to the restaurant. We’ll be busy today. I got this.” I stepped out from behind the counter and deftly maneuvered her out of the shop. The bell we installed to announce customers rang like crazy when I ripped open the door. I gave her a little push and quickly closed the door behind her. She looked surprised and somewhat exasperated at the same time, but I chose to ignore her. Instead, I checked out the shelves.

They were indeed in bad shape, dusty and grimy. Except for the wall with the fridges, the shelves wrapped around the whole store, and then there was one row in the middle with shelves opening to both sides. As I was in charge of restocking these days, I knew that some of the cardboard boxes stuck to the gray metal. There were some weird pink stains next to the gums that looked like somebody had puked Pepto-Bismol all over. It would take a good day to clean this up properly. I had been procrastinating all week, and now it had to get done.

I took one more glance around and then went straight to the bench in front of the gas station. Homeless guy had tucked his backpack into one corner and was leaning against it. Looking at him in the bright daylight revealed dark circles under his eyes and some faint bruising on his right cheek. He was sipping his coffee, but immediately sat up straight when he saw me coming.

“Sorry, sir.” There was the hunted expression again. I had no idea what he was apologizing for, but my stupid dick immediately took notice of his nice, respectful tone. “I’ll be gone in a few minutes. Thanks for letting me eat out here.”

“Do you want a job?”

His eyes bulged in surprise and I heard a sharp intake of breath. “Yes.” He almost tripped in his eagerness to get up. In his rush, he stumbled into my personal space. I hate people getting too close, so I pushed him right back down onto the bench. Electric currents rocked through my body at the physical contact. What on Earth…

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