Jared is at the top of his game, professionally. His love life leaves a little to be desired. All he wants is someone who can love him for him, and who doesn't demand he pick a side. The sudden reappearance of his college boyfriend, Logan, doesn't make anything better.
Logan knows he broke Jared's heart all those years ago. He plans to keep a respectful distance, especially once he starts defending a mob case. The last thing he wants is to bring more trouble into Jared's life. As they keep getting thrown together, he finds it harder to stay away.
The Mob isn't known for being considerate of their targets' love lives. It's not going to be easy to build a new relationship with Jared as Logan's client's enemies come knocking at his door...
Jared crossed over the driveway to the ancient barn and started the coffee pot. Lovecraft padded along beside him, watching the coffee pot with the same odd intensity he always did. Jared had no idea where that intense interest in coffee had come from. Jared had certainly never given it to him, and he knew no one else had since Jared picked him up from the shelter. Still, Lovecraft watched that coffee pot work as though all the secrets of the universe were contained somewhere inside.
Well, whatever. It was just one of the quirks that made having a rescue dog fun. He scritched Lovecraft behind the ears, crossed over to his desk, and opened up his laptop while he waited for the coffee to finish.
Lovecraft settled into his "work bed" by Jared's side. That was another of Lovecraft's quirks. He liked to be able to see the doors. He never went out without Jared, not once, but he liked to be able to see the exits. He'd been part of Jared's life for two years now, and Jared was almost to the point where he thought the dog might stick around.
He glanced through the messages in the company email. Most of them were requests for estimates. He had ten of them sitting in his inbox this morning, all of them just from the website. Ward Design and Construction was booked pretty solid right now, but any businessman knew they could never have too much work. They never knew when the pipeline would dry up.
Considering the way Jared had grown up, he wasn't willing to take any chances.
Five of the ten had suggested dates when they might be available for Jared to come and look at their projects, and maybe to give an estimate. Jared checked his availability and suggested appointments for those. Then he offered appointments to the others, in the hopes that they'd just missed out on his helpful suggestion that they give their availability.
As he set up appointments, the rest of the crew drifted in. All of them said hello to both Jared and Lovecraft. Sean, from plumbing, brought a bag of homemade dog treats and gave one to Lovecraft. "I learned a new trick this weekend, courtesy of my parole officer."
Jared grinned. "They're teaching baking now?" Lovecraft seemed to be enjoying his treat immensely, wagging his fluffy tail with huge thumps on the wide old planks. "I've got to say, I'm going to have to write my assemblyman and thank him."
Sean ducked his head and blushed. "No, no. She did think I'd do well with a hobby or something, to keep my mind off of stuff. We took a class at one of those adult ed things together. It was fun. I liked it."
"Your parole officer took you to a class on baking dog treats?" Jesse, one of the electricians, looked Sean up and down. "You've got to be kidding me. You must've really impressed her, bro. Good on you. How's it coming with the burnout in Dorchester? Are you any closer to getting that plumbing done?"
Sean straightened up. "Yeah. We're just about done. I figured out what the problem was. When they hooked the house up to the sewer system they never disconnected it from septic. They justâ€¦ I guess left it there for shits and giggles or something. I don't know. Maybe they thought it would be a good backup? But we got it cleaned out and dealt with, and now it's closed off."
"Gotta love that old New England mindset." Jared chuckled. "â€˜Oh, we might need that sometime, can't trust these newfangled sewers, we'll just keep this just in case.'" He shook his head. "Hey Jesse, remember that place we worked a couple years ago where they left the old knob and tube wiring in place, just in case modern wiring turned out to be a fad?"
Jesse groaned. "Yeah and they still had plumbing in place for gas lighting, too. Thank God it had been disconnected -- although from some of the charring I don't think they'd completely turned it off the first couple of times."
Sean widened his eyes. "Yikes. That's a whole wide world of sketchy right there." He shuddered with his whole body. Working on older homes could cause that reaction.
The coffee finally finished cycling through whatever process it used to make itself, and Jared poured cups for himself, Sean, and Jesse. It felt good to do something for someone else after the weekend he'd had, someone who walked on two legs at least. "So Sean, if you're good with the burnout in Dorchester, I got a call from Morgan Cox last night. He needs a plumber for the day at some job he's doing in the South End. It's like half a day's work, but you get paid a full day for it because you're a sub-contractor for him. You interested?"
Sean's eyes lit up. "Hell yeah!"
"Awesome." Jared sent the address and job details to Sean's phone, and Sean went to get everything he needed for the job Morgan had specified.
Jesse had to go into Boston too, off to work on the burned-out house in Dorchester. It was coming along beautifully, if Jared said so himself. Jesse was being extra careful since the fire that got them the work in the first place had started due to faulty wiring. As the owner of the firm and Jesse's boss, Jared appreciated that kind of attention to detail. They wouldn't put up the interior walls until Jesse was a hundred percent sure the wiring was safe.
The other workers checked in with Jared, reported on their projects, and rode off to their jobs with coffee in hand. Jared would head out later to pitch in. As the boss, he had the right not to get his hands dirty, but he liked to be part of every project. He wanted to know exactly what was being done if his name was going on it.
At the same time, someone had to pay the bills, and sell the work. Maybe Jared's next hire should be an office manager. He checked his financials, to see if it was feasible yet, and shook his head. He could afford to hire someone to deal with the office, but he was too uptight to let that person do their job.
Maybe he needed to learn to loosen up a little, just like Jenni had told him a thousand times.
Of course, Jenni had told him to "learn to let go" in an attempt to get him to run off to some godforsaken corner of the world with her while she volunteered for Doctors Without Borders. He supported her mission, and donated to the organization, but didn't think abandoning a young company with twenty employees was the most responsible thing to do.
To say nothing of Lovecraft.
His phone chimed with an incoming message. He opened it, only to see a photo from Jenni. She'd sent him a selfie in front of a colorful produce vendor's stall at night in some kind of marketplace. "Hi from Tbilisi! Hope all is well with you!"
She looked good. Happy even. Jared gritted his teeth and looked away. He'd reply to her text later on. He wished her well, he truly did. He could wish she were a little more upset by their breakup than she seemed, given that they should be planning their wedding.
Then again, maybe joining Doctors Without Borders was just an excuse. When an engagement goes on for two years with neither side making a move toward planning for a wedding, something's usually up.
Lovecraft growled, pulling Jared out of his reverie. A shadow had fallen across the door. A second later, Jared's brother Gage walked into the old barn. He wore a suit that had to have cost four figures, high-end wool in a light gray that set off his tanned skin. If he was worried about getting that expensive suit dirty in an active shop like Jared's he didn't show it. He strode right in like he owned the place and didn't avoid any of the dusty or greasy machinery that threatened his nice, clean clothes.
"Hey little brother, how's it going?" He gave Jared a wide, broad smile, the kind he usually gave when he wanted something.
Jared made himself smile. Gage was a good guy. If he wanted something, it would usually be good for Jared too. Besides, hearing Gage out on whatever scheme he had going on would keep his head out of whatever grief quicksand it had been going toward. "Hey Gage. Isn't it a little early for realtors to be out of bed? Shouldn't you be eating bonbons or something?"
Gage glowered. "Bonbons. You're cute. If I had bonbons -- and I'm not sure what bonbons even are -- Melissa would have eaten them all by now and sent me to the store for more." He poured himself a coffee and sat down across from Jared. "I thought she'd be throwing up this late in pregnancy, but no. The baby has a sweet tooth."
"Huh. I guess every woman's different. Jenni had a patient who didn't get sick, but lost weight while she was pregnant. Never could explain it." Jared bit his tongue after mentioning his ex.
Gage looked away. "Look, I'm sorry about Jenni."
Jared made himself smile. "Me too. But it's for the best, you know? She expected me to walk away from a thriving business and twenty employees to go bum around Georgia." He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. There's probably something else going on there, but whatever. It's over, it's done, moving on."
Gage narrowed his eyes, just a little, but he took the hint and changed the subject. "So, a property has come up for sale in Weymouth."
"I'm sure a bunch of properties have come up for sale in Weymouth. The schools have tanked ever since that big naval station redevelopment project failed, and the town is borderline broke. They've got problems, man." Jared tossed a pencil up into the air and caught it.
"Right. This one dates back to the 1880s and hasn't been updated since the 1930s. A couple of the kitchen appliances might be modern, but you know, not really. And the price reflects that. The house is solid, it's got good bones, but a lot of the interior is going to need to be updated to reflect modern needs." Gage leaned forward.
"And, you know, building codes." Jared raised an eyebrow at his brother. He knew what Gage had in mind. "You want to flip the house."
"I want to flip the house. Like I said, it's got good bones. It's vacant right now -- the owner died. It's been in the same family since it was built, but they kept it up nicely. It was a point of pride, you know? It'll be a good starter home for someone once we get rid of the knob-and-tube."
Jared groaned and let his head loll back. "Man, I hate knob-and-tube. You never know what you're going to find and half the time it's a fire hazard." Lovecraft whined in agreement.
Gage laughed. "Getting that dog was the best thing you ever did. The two of you are like peas in a pod."
"At least I won't be Mr. Forever Alone. I'll have my buddy Lovecraft with me. We'll bachelor at people all day and tell kids to get off our lawn." Jared opened up his browser. "I assume you've got the house listed?"
"I made a listing for it, yeah. But don't just look at it online. Come with me to see it. Look at the place with your own two eyes, check it out, and see if you want to invest with me. It's only a hundred and twenty thousand." Gage shrugged. "In this market, that's nothing."
"You're not kidding." Jared whistled. A hundred and twenty thousand in Weymouth, close to the water and close to the city, was almost pocket change. The place must be in bad shape indeed.
But Ward Design and Construction could work some magic. They could make the place beautiful if they wanted to. Jared had done it before, and he would do it again. That was how he'd come up with the money to start the company in the first place. It was something to be proud of, going from public housing to running a multi-million-dollar company. "I'll come check it out." He got up and turned off the coffee pot. "But Lovecraft comes with."
"I don't think he'd tolerate anything else." Gage patted him on the shoulder. "But we're taking your truck. No dogs in the BMW."
"Understood." Jared laughed and got up. He led his brother and his dog out of the office and turned out the light. Getting into the swing of things at work would be the best way to get his mind off of Jenni, and if he could turn a profit with this house he'd consider it time well spent.