Coal Roper is a queen and wears it boldly. Unfortunately, openly expressing himself does not come without some dangers. As not only the economics professor, but the drama production manager, he interacts with plenty of people, not all of them friendly. When a group of students begins to harass him, most of the other staff turns a blind eye…all except one. Hank Parsons is a huge hulk of a man who teaches health classes, sports medicine, and acts as the wrestling coach. He’s just the kind of man Coal normally stays well clear of. When the man keeps popping up at odd times to help him, Coal isn’t certain what to make of the man…until the incident with the mistletoe. Can a little holiday magic help Coal look past the fears from his upbringing?
The words were barely out of Coal’s mouth when something slammed into his upper back. Turning, he spotted the next snowball just in time to lift his hands and block it. He attempted to cover his face with one hand while trying to knock the next one out of the air.
Coal missed and it nailed him in the face. Sputtering, he bowed his head and closed his eyes. He struggled to breathe, wiping at his face, praying he wasn’t smearing his eyeliner too badly. He hunched his shoulders and turned his back toward the direction from where the snowballs were coming.
“Hey, that’s enough!” barked a deep voice.
“We’re just having fun,” replied some male belligerently.
“Doesn’t look like everyone is having fun,” that same bass voice responded. “Take off now.”
As Coal heard the sound of footsteps retreating, he straightened and brushed off his coat, then zipped it up. He turned, intending to thank his rescuer. Instead, his jaw sagged open as he tipped his head back, craning his neck.
The dude was huge!
“Hey there. Are you okay?”
Snapping his jaw shut, Coal instinctively took a step backward. He saw the way his, well, his savior’s dark brows shot up. Coal shook his head, then paused and nodded.
“Sorry, uh, hit in the face,” Coal mumbled by way of explanation. “Yeah, yeah, I’m okay.” He frowned in the direction of his attackers, wishing he’d gotten a better look at them. “Feels like they wrapped it in ice or something.”
“Let me look,” the guy ordered.
Then, without permission, he reached out and cradled Coal’s jaw. With his other hand, he rubbed around what must have been a red mark on Coal’s forehead. It was definitely tender, and Coal cringed.
“Easy,” the man soothed. “Yeah, you’re going to have a bump, but there’s no broken skin.” Then, he skimmed his thumb down and gently rubbed at the corner of his eye. “Got a smudge. There.”
By the time the man released him, Coal stood gaping up at him. His heart thundered in his chest with a mixture of fear and arousal. Realizing he needed to figure out what the hell was up with the guy, and who he was, he stepped backward, again.
Coal lifted a hand and forced a smile. “Uh, thanks,” he murmured, feeling his cheeks heat as he realized just how intimately the stranger had been touching him. “Really, thank you. Um, who are you?”
The huge male’s dark-brown brows shot up. His black eyes sparkled as his thin lips curved into a wide smile, showing off even white teeth…except for his left front tooth. That one had a small chip in it.
While the man’s expression appeared friendly, his hulking frame and thickly muscled body caused Coal to back up another step. The guy was big. He was intimidating while obviously not even trying to be…not with that wide smile and the way he held out his hand.
“Hank Parsons,” the man claimed. “I guess I’m the new guy on staff. I teach sports medicine and I’m the wrestling coach. You a fan of wrestling?”
Coal bit back a snort of disbelief. Finally, he was able to place the man. He’d noticed him in staff meetings. The bright red beanie he currently wore, which hid his bald head, had thrown him off.
“Uh, n-no,” Coal admitted. “I’ve never watched a wrestling match.”
Coal sure as hell had never considered going to a wrestling match. Having been pegged as gay at an early age, he’d been bullied plenty. He kept as far away from testosterone-filled locker rooms and the jocks that inhabited them as possible.
“Really?” Hank actually appeared surprised. “All those hot guys in tight spandex rolling around together.” He actually winked at Coal. “Thought you’d be all into that.”
“Uh,” Coal drew the word out in shock. Was this guy for real? Feeling his cheeks heat, he mumbled, “Guess I never thought about it like that.”
“We have a match this Friday night,” Hank continued, seemingly oblivious to Coal’s shocked state. The big man’s lips curved into a wry smile as he added, “If you want, I can even give you a run-down on the rules.”
No freakin’ way.