|Posted by J. Leigh Bailey on April 26, 2015 at 10:15 PM|
O.M.G.!! The day has finally arrived! NOBODY'S HERO, my debut novel, a M/M NA romance from Carina Press, releases today!
I still have trouble believing that it's true. Me. I have a book. Ack!
Bradley Greene’s family all but discarded him when his brother caught him fooling around with another boy. Now Bradley has seventeen dollars and a gas card, and he’s sleeping in his car. He’s an emotional mess and if he doesn't land a job soon, he’s up the proverbial creek.
Danny Ortega can take care of himself…most of the time. When what started as a date turns into sexual assault in a dark parking lot, he’s grateful for Brad’s help—and an instant admirer of Brad’s military school-honed muscles. He certainly doesn't expect to see him again, and definitely not as the newest hire at Ortega Construction.
As Brad and Danny’s quiet attraction turns into more, things start to go sour before they've even started. Danny grows frustrated that Brad won’t open up emotionally. And Brad is terrified of being responsible for someone else’s feelings. When Brad’s family makes one last attempt to turn him into an “acceptable” son, all bets are off—he and Danny will need to decide if they’re in this together…or apart.
HERE'S A SNEAK-PEEK OF CHAPTER 1
Wouldn’t his parents freak to see their trust-fund baby now?
Brad had eighty-two dollars on a gas card and seventeen in cash in his wallet, neither of which would get him a room for the night. He had one option left—sleeping in his small pickup truck, parked in the back of a twenty-four-hour truck stop in Northfield, Minnesota. His interview was scheduled for ten the next morning, which left him with eleven hours to kill. He shifted, trying to avoid the poking springs in the old bench seat. The roar of eighteen-wheelers thundering past and the squeal of tires and conversations from the convenience store’s customers kept sleep away.
A car door slammed shut, followed by another loud thunk as someone else closed theirs. “C’mon, baby, don’t be that way.”
The whiny male voice made Brad smile. Someone had pissed off his girlfriend.
“Oh, I will be that way. I told you to keep your damn hands to yourself,” a second voice, a male voice, snapped, hot with irritation.
Brad tucked his hands behind his head, stretching out, ready to enjoy the drama. He couldn’t sleep anyway, so why not eavesdrop?
“I didn’t mean to push, baby. You’re so damn hot, I couldn’t help myself.”
Brad snorted. Only an idiot would buy such a cheesy excuse.
Baby snorted too. Apparently Baby wasn’t an idiot.
“Rob, you’re full of shit. First you pull into the trucker lot at the Flying J—despite my objections, I might add—and then you shove my head at your lap. That’s not romance, that’s rude.”
“Hey, I paid for dinner.”
Brad rolled his eyes. The guy was a walking cliché.
“It takes more than greasy burgers from the Goal Post to put me in the mood. Second, dinner doesn’t guarantee a blow job.”
You tell him, Baby! It was nice to know some people could stick up for themselves.
“I paid good money for tonight. You owe me.”
“I’m not some rent boy you picked up in Minneapolis. I don’t owe you shit.” As he got angrier, Baby’s voice changed, taking on the softer consonants and lyrical cadence of a Spanish accent.
“I should have known you’d be a tease.”
The words, which had only moments ago sounded like a bad movie script, now carried an edge of violence. Asphalt crunched as someone moved closer. Brad tensed, then slowly sat upright.
“Get your fucking hands off me.”
He should stay out of it. It wasn’t his business. He would probably make things worse. Besides, Baby seemed to be holding his own.
“Get your ass into the car. Suck me off. After you’re done, I don’t give a fuck what you do or where you go.” The cold insistence in Rob’s voice made Brad feel sick.
You’re a freakin’ idiot, Greene. He took a deep breath, then pushed his door open and slid out of his truck.
Highlighted by the dingy neon light from the convenience store side of the truck stop, two guys about his age struggled for possession of the smaller one’s right arm. The bigger dude, presumably Rob, gripped a wiry Latino above the elbow and pulled him toward a gleaming Mustang. Baby dug his heels into the cracking surface of the parking lot, trying to jerk free.
“Hey!” Brad strode forward, using his military school posture to convey a confidence he didn’t feel. It didn’t matter how scared he was on the inside, as long as the outside looked powerful and in control.
Rob stilled, gaze darting to Brad before he turned back to Baby. His voice softened, almost purred, when he spoke. “Come on, babe, get back in the car. What’s the big deal? We’ll have a good time. I’ll take you somewhere better, somewhere nicer, if you want.”
“I want you to let me go and leave me alone.” Baby pulled at his arm again.
Brad reached Baby’s side. “He told you to let him go.”
“This isn’t any of your business. Turn around and walk away.” Rob’s white-blond hair and tall, narrow build gave him the look of a Nordic skier. He was tall but not too bulky. Brad had faced worse at school.
With a disgusted grunt, Baby stomped down on Rob’s foot. When Rob relaxed his hold, Baby jerked away, swung his freed arm back and let it fly, punching the taller man straight in his narrow nose.
Rob yelped and cupped his hands over his nose and mouth, hunching so the blood spilled to the asphalt rather than on his white polo shirt. “Shit, Danny, you broke my fucking nose.”
Baby stood back, arms crossed over his chest. “You’re lucky I didn’t kick you in the balls! Hijo de puta!”
“Ungrateful prick.” Rob lunged forward, reaching for Danny.
“I think you need to leave.” Brad stepped forward, putting himself between them. He tucked his thumbs into the front pockets of his jeans, hiding his shaking hands.
Rob swiped his arm under his nose and then poked at the already swollen bridge. “Fine. You can walk home for all I care.”
“Don’t worry about me. I can make it home fine without you.” Danny’s voice made the word you sound more like asshole.
With a last glare, Rob spun in place, a perfect basketball pivot, and stalked the few steps to his car. The Mustang’s engine roared and the car squealed out of the truck stop.
“That’s the last time I let my brother set me up on a date.” Danny tucked his hands into his back pockets. “Thanks for the rescue, by the way. I could have handled it, but it might have gotten ugly if you hadn’t been here.”'
Brad nodded, too surprised to answer. His brother had set him up?
“So,” Danny said, flashing a smile, “can I buy you a cup of coffee? I’ll have to wait a while before my brother can get here.”
“Nah, I’m good.” Brad stepped back and turned toward his truck. “But be more careful, yeah?”
“Oh, come on. Don’t make me hang out in there by myself at this time of night. You wouldn’t want to waste the rescue by letting me get accosted again right away, would you?”
“I’m not responsible for anyone but myself,” Brad snapped. The idea of it, of anyone counting on him, had waves of terror and shame rolling over him.
“I’m not looking for a nanny. I’m looking for company.” Danny raised an eyebrow, clearly not intimidated by Brad’s extreme reaction.
Brad swallowed back the surge of panic and tried to slow his rapidly beating pulse. Things were okay. No one was hurt, and no doubt Danny could take care of himself, but just on the off chance… Besides, it wasn’t like he had anything better to do. He shrugged. “Fine. We can go in.”
“Cool. Let me call my brother to come and get me, and we can head inside.”
Brad opened the door of his truck and pulled the keys from the ignition while Danny fished out his phone. As Brad pressed the little button on the fob to lock his door, Danny said, “I don’t care what you’ve got going, bro. You’re the one who tried to hook me up with the asshole. Now you can come and get me.” He paused for a minute. The attitude Brad had heard in his voice earlier was back when he replied to something his brother said. “Don’t make me call Mamá for the ride.” Pause. “That’s what I thought.” Danny ended the call.
“He’s on the way?” Brad tucked his hands in his pockets while they walked to the diner attached to the truck stop.
“Yeah. He’s not happy about it, but come on, what was he thinking? That dude was a creep.”
“No doubt.” Brad held the door to the diner open and let Danny step through.
Danny turned his head, bringing them nearly face to face. He shifted closer, almost touching. Brad’s pulse jumped and suddenly his insides jittered.
“I’m Danny, by the way.” Danny smiled. Nearly all of his teeth were perfectly straight, perfectly white, but one incisor was a touch crooked, overlapping the next tooth by the tiniest bit.
Shaking away the useless thought—caught up in some dude’s teeth, for God’s sake!—Brad nodded. “Yeah, I got that.”
Danny waited a moment. “And you are?”
Danny looked up at him under lowered lids. “Well, Brad, it’s nice to meet you.” He slid past and led the way into the diner.
Brad waited a second before following. Jesus, Greene, pull yourself together. Yeah, the guy was hot, but sweaty palms? Not good. And the timing absolutely sucked. He needed to get a handle on this, drink a cup of coffee or whatever, and move on.
Danny led him to a table along the window facing the parking lot. “This way I can watch for my brother,” Danny said as he slid into the burnt-orange booth, then flipped open a menu.
Brad leaned back and watched Danny scan the menu. He had a straight nose, lean features. His wide mouth looked as though it smiled more often than not, and deep dimples bracketed his lips. His hair—a dark coffee color that couldn’t decide whether it was brown or black—waved around his head in a shaggy look he probably paid good money to achieve.
Danny met his gaze over the top of the menu. “You know what you want?” He glanced down at Brad’s empty hands.
Brad thought about his seventeen bucks and the pay-shower he planned on for the next day. “I’m good.”
“You have to at least let me buy you a cup of coffee or a piece of pie or something. Pay you back for coming to the rescue.”
“I got out of my car. I didn’t slay any dragons.” Brad reached over and started to roll the sugar jar between his hands.
“And I’m not a damsel in distress. But still, you kept things from blowing up. Let me buy you a shake or something. I’m not going to take no for an answer. Mi mamá would skin me alive.” Danny grinned and arched his brows, clearly waiting for Brad’s agreement.
Maybe somebody somewhere could tell this guy no, but Brad wasn’t up to the task. “Fine. I guess I’ll have a shake, if you’re sure. Thanks.”
Danny smiled with satisfaction. Yeah, the guy was totally used to getting what he wanted. Why in the hell did he find the smug expression on Danny’s face so adorable?
The server came and went, taking their orders. After she’d gone, Danny turned sideways in the booth, resting one arm along the back of the faded fabric. “So, what brings you to the Flying J on this fine evening? Usually it’s only truckers this time of night. Are you driving through?”
“No. I got in earlier than I expected, that’s all.” It wasn’t exactly the truth, but Brad didn’t feel up to explaining he’d spent the last two nights sleeping in his vehicle and, unless his interview the next day went very, very well, he might be sleeping there for the foreseeable future. What this moment needed was a distraction. “What’s the deal with Romeo? Did your brother really set you up with him?”
Eyes narrowed, Danny said, “Yeah, and when I get my hands on Ray, he’ll think twice before doing something like that again.”
“Oh, yeah. Having to leave a party early to pick me up will be the least of it.”
Brad leaned forward. “What are you going to do?”
“Bleach his jeans.”
“He’s damned proud of his jeans. Cost a fortune too. Ray thinks he’s a model or something. He irons his T-shirts and spends a half hour in the bathroom making sure every last hair is positioned perfectly. So, yeah, he’ll completely freak out.”
Brad tried to imagine what his brother would do if he tried something like that. Dread coiled in his belly. “He won’t get violent or anything, will he?”
Danny waved the question aside. “Nah. I’m the baby. He’ll holler, but mi mamá will tell him to quit whining and that it was his own fault.” He winked at Brad. “Sometimes being the baby is a good thing.”
The waitress arrived with Brad’s shake and Danny’s apple pie a la mode, saving Brad from having to say anything.
Brad picked up his spoon and dipped it into the frosty glass. His stomach let out a low rumble. In an effort to save his cash, for the last three days he’d been eating one meal a day from whatever fast food value menu he could find. The sound must have been loud enough to hear, because Danny looked up at him over a forkful of piecrust.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Brad bit out. No way was he going to tell this guy about his limited cash. “You’re the youngest, huh? Do you come from a big family?”
“Huge.” Danny rolled his eyes dramatically and spread his arms wide in a sweeping gesture. “I’ve got two older sisters and an older brother and four nephews and two nieces, and I’ve got more cousins and second cousins than I can count. When we get together with the whole family it’s crazy. There’s, like, forty people when we have a barbecue.”
“Forty?” The only time there were forty people at Brad’s house growing up was when his father had some kind of cocktail party or brunch, and the kids were certainly not invited. Brad tried to imagine so many people running around his parents’ carefully maintained grounds but couldn’t do it. “Damn. That’s a lot of people.”
“Tell me about it. But it’s mostly a good time. My family tends to meddle, poke their noses into my business. They mean well, usually.”
“Is that how you ended up with Romeo tonight?”
Danny made a disgusted noise. “Now there’s a story. You’d think being gay would save me from the family meddling in my love life. But no.”
Brad straightened in his seat and looked around. Nobody looked their way. Nobody to overhear. Still, he kept his voice quiet. “Your whole family knows, not just your brother? And they’re okay with it?”
“I know, right? Huge Hispanic family, a Catholic family, and no one bats an eye? Of course, I never hid it, so they’ve probably known as long as I have. Abuela in Mexico prays for my soul, but here they say I was born this way and if God had a problem with it, He wouldn’t have allowed it.”
“They can’t all be cool about it,” Brad said. “It doesn’t seem possible.”
“Well, there might be a few who grumble and give me fish eyes, but they’ve never said anything to my face. But, yeah, for the most part, I think they’re cool with it.”
“And they, what, regularly set you up on dates?” Brad couldn’t wrap his mind around it.
Danny shook his head and took another bite of pie and ice cream. “This was something different,” he said after he’d swallowed. “Most of the family got together last weekend and Tía Maria was lecturing me about how I was nineteen now and needed to find someone special to settle down with, give my life some purpose.”
“Well, even with the colleges, this is a pretty white town, and the family sticks out a bit. I swear, if you meet a Hispanic person around here, he’s probably a relative of mine. Anyway, some of the older generation work extra hard to battle the stereotypes, you know? I think they watch too much cable. I figure they’re worried people will think gay means I’m a hard-partying sex fiend or something. They want to see me settled into a loving, committed relationship.”
“They don’t try to, you know, subdue you?”
“Nope.” Danny took another bite of his pie. “They want me to be happy. I can’t say I’m all set on the forever-and-always thing, at least not yet, but at least I know they aren’t trying to change me.”
“I can’t even imagine,” Brad said. What would it be like to be accepted like that? To have so much support?
“Yeah, well, it has its moments. Like the one where my brother says to me and Tía that he knows this gay guy and wouldn’t it be cool if he set us up. Tía thought it was a great idea. Which landed me here with a douche with cheesy lines and roaming hands. My family accepts I’m gay, but apparently thinks all two gay guys need to have in common to form a lasting relationship is a fondness for dick.”
Brad choked, spraying melted ice cream halfway across the table.
Danny jerked back with a laugh, shoving his pie plate out of the line of fire.
“Shit, sorry.” Brad snatched the rolled silverware and fought with the paper strip holding the napkin in place. His eyes darted around the room again. Was that trucker watching them? Had he overheard? Brad mopped up the tabletop while trying to catch his breath. “Jesus,” he croaked, setting the sticky napkin aside.
“You okay?” Danny smirked at him from across the table.
Brad wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Fine. Didn’t expect you to say that.” He couldn’t believe Danny was so comfortable talking openly—publicly—about being gay and dicks.
“You know it’s true. For a het guy, people will set him up with mutual friends or girls with similar interests or ideals. But for a gay guy, it’s like being gay is all that matters.”
“I guess I’ve never thought about it.”
Danny gestured with his fork. “Well, it’s true.”
Brad had never met anyone so comfortable with who and what he was. Had never been able to simply be. This had to be what going on a date should be like, right? Maybe tonight, here, where no one knew him and where no one paid any attention to him, he could find out what it felt like to hang out with a boyfriend, eating dessert and flirting. This was his chance. He’d never see Danny again, so the timing was perfect. Brad gave himself this one night.
One night without hiding.
One night to pretend.
I hope you enjoyed this peek into NOBODY'S HERO.
If you did, feel free to pick up a copy of your own!
Categories: I'm Published!