[Siren Publishing: The Lynn Hagen ManLove Collection: Erotic Romance, Contemporary, Alternative, Paranormal, Romantic Suspense, Shape-shifters, MM, HEA]
Tyler grew up with a mother who loved to not only gossip about everyone but put him down every chance she had. His work life isn’t great, and his uncle and cousin are a thorn in his side. Now Tyler just met the most gorgeous man he’s ever laid eyes on, and Hershel wants to take him out. It just doesn’t seem real. Tyler decides he can’t do it, so he ghosts Hershel, only to run into the stud the following day. Maybe that was fate telling him he needs to give Hershel another chance.
Hershel blew into Willow Point to do a friend a favor but likes the town so much he decides to stay. Now he’s run into his mate, and Tyler acts like he doesn’t want to be bothered. When trouble arises, Hershel steps in and takes Tyler home, reassuring his mate that he is safest there. But now they have to work on their relationship, or it’s doomed.
Lynn Hagen is a Siren-exclusive author.
When things slowed, Tyler helped stock shelves and clean. There were three cashiers on duty today, so Tyler was able to step away from his register. He liked cleaning more than he liked ringing people out. That enabled him to get lost in his own head.
Tyler turned from dusting and did a double take. He stared at a very tall, broad guy with killer looks and a charming smile. What really caught Tyler’s attention was the guy’s intense green eyes. “What can I do you for?”
The stranger’s brows dipped. “I’m sorry, what?”
Tyler was mortified when he realized what he’d said. “I didn’t mean that.” He held his hands up, palms out. “I didn’t mean to imply I’d do you! I meant to ask what I can do to you.”
The guy’s frown grew.
“Shoot me now,” Tyler groaned. It seemed he’d lost his ability to think around Mr. Stud. He knew what he wanted to say. It just wasn’t coming out right.
The guy chuckled. “I was just wondering where you keep the seasoning.”
“On my back.” Tyler’s eyes rounded. “Baking! The spices are in the baking aisle!”
Tyler walked away before Mr. Stud thought he had a few screws loose.
The guy followed him. “I need help with a few more things.”
This couldn’t be happening. Tyler spun so fast he knocked into a display at the end of the aisle. The boxes of K-cups spilled to the floor, sliding everywhere. “Shoot!” Tyler dropped to his knees and started picking them up. Mr. Stud decided he wanted to help.
“I’m Hershel,” the guy said.
“Clumsy,” Tyler answered as he gathered the boxes into his arms. Unfortunately he grabbed too many and couldn’t push to his feet. He actually tumbled forward, right into Hershel.
“Whoa, steady.” Hershel grabbed Tyler’s arms then helped him to a standing position. “Let me get these.”
Hershel plucked the boxes from Tyler’s arms and started restacking them onto the cardboard display. Tyler just stood there like an idiot, wondering what else he could do to embarrass himself.
Once Tyler’s arms were clear, Hershel stuck out his hand. “I doubt your name is Clumsy unless your mother really was that cruel.”
The guy had no idea. Midge had been that cruel, but luckily, she’d given him a decent name.
“Tyler.” He grabbed more boxes that were farther away. “See, no cruel mother.”
Not that he would tell a complete stranger his life story.
Hershel chuckled. “Nice to meet you, Tyler.”
Oh god. Tyler felt his face catch fire because a gorgeous man was joking with him. Willow Point was filled with hunks, but Tyler had never really interacted with any of those men. In truth, most of them looked right past him, as if Tyler wasn’t even there. The ones that did speak to him only wanted to know where something was in the store or thanked him as they grabbed their bags at checkout.
The one friend he’d tried to make while working at Willow Mart had been fired. Now Tyler regretted not meeting Adam for lunch or cultivating their friendship. Tyler had just had a lot going on in his personal life and let that get in the way of becoming friends with Adam.
Like the evening he was supposed to meet Adam at Loose Lips. That evening Tyler’s cousin had shown up, starting his usual crap and preventing him from meeting up with Adam.
The following day Adam had been fired, and Tyler hadn’t had a chance to speak with him. He’d wanted to, but Adam had made a beeline out of the store. Not that Tyler blamed him. Yvette could be a real bitch, and if she’d pulled Tyler into her office, he would have done the same thing.
Hershel cocked his head to one side and studied Tyler. He sniffed the air, and then a wide smile spread across his handsome face. “I was wondering if you’d like to go out to dinner, Tyler.”
Wait. What? “Me?” That single word came out in a squeak. He couldn’t believe Hershel was asking him out. Tyler looked around, making sure there was no one behind him. Nope, it was just him.
“Yes, you.” Hershel plucked the last of the boxes from Tyler’s hands and put them back on the display. “What time do you get off?”
“When the guy is hot,” Tyler said with a snorting laugh then quickly curled his lips in. “I mean, um, six.”
This couldn’t be happening. Gorgeous men did not ask him out. Ever. Not since he’d become an adult and tried his hardest to date anyone as close to good-looking as Hershel was.
“I’ll be here fifteen minutes before six,” Hershel said.
“But…” Tyler’s brain had melted, and he couldn’t think of a good enough reason to turn Hershel down. He wasn’t sure he wanted to, but his anxiety was at an all-time high.
“See you this evening.” Hershel kissed the back of Tyler’s hand before he strode away, leaving Tyler standing there speechless. He was never going to wash that hand again.
“That was an act,” Tyler said to himself. “Fluff. I’m just a pity date.”
Right? Hershel seemed too much to him. Too much. “No, I can’t deal with that.”
Tyler went back to work stocking and cleaning until he was called to his register. He couldn’t stop thinking about Hershel. A date? That was what a diner invitation was. A date.
For the rest of his shift he watched the clock on the wall above the entrance. It felt as if time was going too slow and not going slow enough. Tyler began to sweat, his pulse racing the closer the time got to six.
Finally, he knocked on Yvette’s office door. It wasn’t talked about openly, but everyone who worked at Willow Mart knew Yvette didn’t like gay men. That was one reason Tyler never said anything to anyone at work about his sexual preferences.
“Yes?” Yvette turned away from her laptop. “What do you need, Tyler?”
“Um.” Tyler crossed his arms over his stomach while feeling like he was going to throw up. “I was wondering if I could leave early?”
Yvette stared at Tyler for so long he become uncomfortable. “Why?” she finally asked.
“I have an upset stomach,” he lied. “I feel like I’m going to be sick.” That wasn’t a lie.
“Only because we’re slow today.” Yvette sighed, which was a telltale sign she didn’t want to have the conversation in the first place. Tyler had come to read her pretty well, and right now, she wanted him out of her office. “Clock out. If you still feel sick tomorrow, call me. I don’t want you getting anyone else sick.”
He wanted to tell her that a fake upset stomach wasn’t contagious, but he kept his mouth shut. “Thank you.”
She waved him off. Tyler went into the break room and clocked out, damn near running toward the exit. It was only when he slid into the driver’s seat of his car that he felt he could finally breathe.
He stuck the key into the ignition, and nothing happened. “Stupid car. Don’t fail me now.”
Tyler had an aging sedan. He’d taken care of it the best he could, but sometimes money was tight and he couldn’t get the needed repairs done.
Finally the car started, and Tyler nearly jumped for joy. Instead, he drove out of the parking lot, looking around to make sure he didn’t see Hershel anywhere, but he didn’t.
Tyler made it home without getting spotted. Did he feel guilty for standing up Hershel? Yes. But he couldn’t handle this right now. He just needed a shower, some food, and a good movie and he would be fine.
There was conflict in Tyler’s hazel eyes, a hesitation that would either bring them a night filled with passion or an extremely cold shower for Hershel. Tyler let go of a breath and looked at the ceiling, as if for inspiration. When his eyes landed on Hershel once more, Hershel could see the man had reached a decision. The color began to rise in his cheeks as Tyler gave a slight smile. “I do.”
There was a spark in the man’s eyes that said he wasn’t going to be easily tamed. Hershel didn’t mind at all. He loved Tyler’s quiet strength. It wasn’t a physical strength but a stubbornness that he wasn’t going to give up so easily, that he would fight whatever came his way.
But there was also vulnerability in Tyler’s eyes, and Hershel knew his mate was placing his trust in his hands. It was a trust Hershel would cherish and die to protect.
“Are you sure about this?”
As Hershel began to kiss Tyler’s shoulder again, he purred, keeping his hand on Tyler’s chest. There was no sense working himself up if Tyler decided he wanted Hershel to stop. He’d wait for Tyler’s response to let him know which way things were going to swing. If Tyler said he wanted to stop, Hershel would understand.
He really would. Sometimes stress and anxiety pushed someone to do something they normally wouldn’t do. Hershel didn’t want to be a bad decision born out of desperation.
But Tyler didn’t push him away or ask him to leave the room. He simply lay there with the dim light from the lamp on the nightstand playing over his face, his breathing still coming out in pants. It looked as if he were considering Hershel’s words, trying to figure out if Hershel were telling the truth or was full of shit.
Tyler surprised Hershel when he slipped from the bed and stripped his clothes off. Hershel could barely breathe as he watched, ripping his own shirt off. Then Tyler moved back onto the bed and shoved Hershel to his back, straddling his hips. Hershel’s hands instinctively gripped Tyler’s waist.
His mate didn’t say a word. He didn’t have to. Hershel could see what Tyler wanted in those mystifying hazel eyes. Tyler pressed his hands into Hershel’s chest and then lowered his upper body until their lips met. The kiss was tentative at first, as if Tyler were testing the waters to see if this was what he really wanted. Hershel lay there and allowed his mate this exploration. Tyler’s curiosity turned Hershel on to the point that his cock was straining in his jeans—the only piece of clothing he was currently wearing.
God, how he wanted to flip Tyler over and rub his scent all over his mate’s naked skin. But Hershel refrained. This was Tyler’s choice, and he would let the man lead the way. Hershel just lay there, his hands fisted at his sides, staring up at a man who was his everything now, his entire future.
Tyler’s blond hair surrounded his features, some spilling onto Hershel’s face, tickling him. The hairs felt like light feathers as Hershel ran his fingers through the strands. He gripped a small portion, tugging, bringing Tyler’s lips back toward him.
His mate gave a low, soft chuckle. The sound soothed him. “Greedy for me?”
“You have no idea.” Hershel’s tone was low, but his words were sincere. A part of him was very greedy for this man, a part deep down inside where his cat lived. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that he could love Tyler as easily as he loved a warm summer breeze.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Tyler asked.
“Like what?” Hershel tucked one hand behind his head. The other continued to play in the soft strands.
“Like you’re…” Tyler frowned, as if searching for the right word. “Content.”
Hershel was. For the first time in a very long time, he was looking forward to a bright future instead of just living. “If you want me to be honest, when I look at you, the rest of the world melts away.”
Tyler’s breath hitched.
“Kiss me,” Hershel whispered. “Kiss me like you feel the same way.”
Tyler’s cheeks suffused with color before he licked along Hershel’s bottom lip, nipping it gently before sucking it between his lips. Hershel used both hands to cup Tyler’s head. He’d wanted Tyler from the first moment he’d laid eyes on him. Now it was happening.
The kiss was potent, powerful, making Hershel feel as if he had been drugged and was drifting along in a world of unimaginable pleasure. The room seemed to tilt sideways as Hershel’s fingers curled into Tyler’s hair and brought him even closer. His hips shot up, his jean-clad erection grinding into Tyler’s bare ass.
Their teeth clashed, their tongues dueled, and their heads tilted from one side to the other. Hershel was becoming worked up. A frenzy had started in his groin and was burning its way through his body.
He wanted his jeans off.
He needed them off.
One hand slipped from Tyler’s hair, and then he began to work the snap free. Hershel twisted and turned, wiggled and jerked his hips around until he had his pants down to his knees. His feet took over and worked from there to free his clothing.
Hershel hissed when his erection brushed over Tyler’s ass. He was no longer calm and patient. A riot of emotions was parading through him, driving him forward to claim the human sitting atop him.
He gripped Tyler’s hips before he rolled, the sheets becoming tangled around the lower halves of their bodies. Tyler’s legs twined around Hershel’s waist as Hershel settled between Tyler’s spread thighs.
He rocked there for a moment, enjoying the feel of Tyler’s body rubbing against his. They were both sweating, and the wetness helped him glide back and forth as he rubbed his scent all over Tyler. Hershel was primed and ready, raring to go.
Tyler pulled Hershel closer by wrapping his arms around Hershel’s neck. His fingernails scraped over Hershel’s skin, making him shiver. Tyler’s nipples stood out, tempting Hershel. He sucked one peak between his teeth and bit down gently before sucking at the abused flesh once again.
This seemed to be something Tyler thoroughly enjoyed. He arched his back, his fingernails biting harder into Hershel’s skin. Tyler pulled back and raised an eyebrow. Just one blond brow. The faintest smile touched his mouth before he wiggled under Hershel, moving.
Hershel, who was curious to know what the man was doing, stayed on all fours, watching with keen interest. Heat flushed Tyler’s face before he turned all the way around—his cock now in Hershel’s direct line of sight—and swallowed Hershel’s erection.
If Hershel thought his body was hot and aching before, that was nothing compared to the inferno that engulfed him now. Tyler’s wet lips slid over Hershel’s erection, making him pant and bunch his muscles.