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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Release Day Blitz: Home Improvement by Tara Lain

Home Improvement
by Tara Lain


Romance on Aisle Sixteen—opposites attract amid the hammers and screws of the home improvement store.

Gabe Mason became a father at seventeen, and his daughter, Ellie, is the most important thing in his life. But being the parent the courts demand means Gabe has given up most of his dreams—education, making furniture, a gay social life—to be a model dad with a steady, reliable job in a home improvement store. Life’s predictable until Jerry, a shy, eccentric guy in a hat and sunglasses, begs Gabe to oversee the renovation of his run-down mansion.

Gabe loves the house and the work, and Jerry's pretty lovable too, but when Gabe discovers Jerry’s secret identity, he fears their passion could overturn both their lives forever. 

Available for purchase at 


When he got to the end of the aisle, he looked casually to his left. Tight against a display of light fixtures, back turned to Gabe, stood the guy in the beanie. He had long legs in baggy jeans, an equally baggy sweatshirt that still stretched across really wide shoulders, all his hair covered by the cap, and still the total strangeness didn’t obscure the view of one world-class ass inside the jeans.
Gabe cleared his throat but didn’t get too close. “Can I help you find something, sir?”
“Wha—” He half turned, and Gabe saw he’d put on sunglasses after he’d withdrawn from peering around the corner.
“Can I help you, sir?” Gabe thought he should probably walk away, but the guy had become kind of a challenge.
The customer reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a drawer handle. He muttered, “Need handles this size.”
Gabe took it. “All right, sir. If you’ll come with me, we have the drawer pulls at the end of aisle sixteen.”
The guy nodded and turned but never raised his head enough to look Gabe in the eye. Still, his high cheekbones and full lips made his face striking, even when it was pointed at his shoes.
Gabe started walking, trusting from the soft scuffling of sneakers behind him that the man was following. Those footsteps slowed when they passed the woman with the kids as she gathered the last of her screws, but he sped up again after she dragged the children toward the checkout registers. In front of the rows of drawers containing handles and knobs, Gabe pointed to the samples attached to the front of each drawer. “See any you like?”
The guy’s head barely moved, so through the glasses, Gabe couldn’t see if he even looked. He shrugged.
“Do you like modern? Traditional?”
“Brushed nickel, maybe? Or are you a chrome guy?”
The slim nose wrinkled.
“So no chrome. Nickel, then.” Gabe walked to the drawers and held out the sample the guy had given him to check for size and spacing center to center. He picked a couple of modern pulls he liked and took them from the drawers, then held them out to the man.
He looked at the pulls intently, cocked his head, and then ripped off the glasses somewhat impatiently, as if someone had made him wear them.
Gabe sucked in a soft breath. The guy’s eyes were two different colors, one a deep blue and the other light green. Startling and very distinctive. Maybe it affected his eyesight or sensitivity to light and that’s why he was wearing sunglasses in ImproveMart?
The guy reached out a long-fingered hand and tapped the handle that was Gabe’s favorite—a simple wide U-shape of brushed nickel. Gabe nodded. “Yeah, that’s a good one. How many do you need?”
“Uh, eight.” His voice was soft to the point of nonexistence.
Gabe pulled the drawer out farther and began counting out the plastic packages that contained the handle and necessary screws, piling them on the shelf beside him. “Need anything else?”
The guy had put his glasses back on by the time Gabe turned to him. Darn. Those eyes are something. The man nodded his head and pointed to some simple, ball-shaped drawer pulls. “Ten.”
“Oh, I hope I have enough.” Gabe pulled open the drawer and started counting.
The dude stepped closer to watch the counting, which turned out to be a bad idea for Gabe’s autonomic responses. What is that smell? Like some mix of orange and spice. Whatever it was, Gabe’s lower regions came out for a sniff. He shifted his feet and pressed his elbows against his work vest to be sure it covered his crotch. Down boy.
He forced a smile as he scraped the last package from the drawer. “There you go. We just made ten.” Gabe looked around. The guy had no cart. Not even a carry basket. What exactly was he planning on hauling stuff in?
The man seemed to realize it at the same time as Gabe. He grabbed his lip between his teeth, looked down, took hold of the hem of his giant sweatshirt, and held the bottom out like a bag.
Gabe chuckled. “Excellent save.” The problem with the dude’s invention was it raised the shirt from his narrow hips—and what might, just might, have been a half-mast condition thrusting out the front of his jeans. Don’t need to know that—if it’s true. Hell, just what he needed. To get turned on by weird customers.

From the driveway, a flagstone walk led onto a lawn. He peered around the corner just as Jerry stepped out on one of several large wooden porches and waved. “Here.”
Oddly, the walkway stopped, and there didn’t seem to be a clear path to where Jerry was standing, so Gabe struck out across the grass, found another walkway leading down the side of the hill, and took it to the porch. “Hi. This isn’t an easy place to find.”
Jerry smiled. He’d taken off his glasses, but he still wore the beanie. “I’m glad you found it.” His voice seemed to have dropped half an octave since earlier at the ImproveMart, and it shivered down Gabe’s spine. “Please come in.”
Even on the porch, it wasn’t completely clear where a person was supposed to enter the house. There were doors on two different walls, but Gabe followed Jerry through the entrance on the back wall of the porch and stopped. “Whoa.”
Spread out in front of him was a wide-open house with thick plaster walls, polished-wood ceilings, a huge two-story great room with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a hand-polished wooden staircase leading to a second floor. The whole thing was run-down and in need of repair, but what an amazing house.
Gabe shook his head. “This is fantastic. How did you ever find it?”
“I saw it online and called the real estate agent.”
Gabe glanced at Jerry. Apparently in the comfort of his own home, the guy could actually put an entire sentence together. While you couldn’t describe him as relaxed, he didn’t appear to be ready to run. In fact he grinned. “Want to see the rest?”
“Sure.” He could hardly wait, actually. The place was some marvelous mix of midcentury and craftsman styles with all the wood details Gabe loved.
Jerry walked to the great room first—and great it was. A huge fan in the shape of giant palm fronds was suspended from the center of the soaring ceiling. Gabe pointed. “Does it work?”
Jerry shook his head. “No. It needs fixing.”
In the center of the room, in front of a giant fireplace that Gabe would bet also didn’t work, sat two plastic camp chairs—all the furniture in the entire room.
Off the great room was a smaller paneled library. After Gabe looked into it, Jerry led him back across the big room and up the beautiful staircase to the second floor. A long hall illuminated by skylights stretched in front of them.
Jerry laughed, and it was a light, airy sound that bounced through Gabe’s belly like a swig of champagne. “I think I must get a cat. Can’t you see a cat chasing a toy down this hall?”
“How many bedrooms and baths?”
“Five of each. One bath downstairs. I’ll show you when we go back down.”
Each bedroom had some kind of damage—peeling drywall, water-soaked woodwork, and stained carpet. The bathrooms were a particular mess with old, rust-stained fixtures.
Finally, they got to the end of the hall and stepped into what had to be the master—a huge room with floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls. Gabe drew a breath. “This is gorgeous. The light’s magical.”
“Yes. It’s one of my favorite rooms.”
Gabe glanced at the mattress lying on the floor covered in mussed sheets directly under a skylight. Must be quite a view. He swallowed hard.
The tour went back downstairs, and Gabe saw the wreck of a kitchen. “Does the cooktop even work?”
Several pizza boxes lay on the large central island.
Finally, they walked out the dining room french doors to a huge backyard. “How big is the property?”
“Two and a half acres.”
“Wow.” The centerpiece of the back was an enormous pool, not quite Olympic standard, but it would have served a good-sized community. “At least it’s full of water. It must not be in too bad repair.”
“No, it’s pretty good, but the filter equipment is total trash. It leaks like the West Wing.”
Gabe snorted. Who dreamed Jerry had a sense of humor?
Jerry turned in a circle, like he was seeing the mansion for the first time. “It’d been on the market for years and people were scared off by all the work.”
Gabe stared at him. Giving the tour, Jerry had put together the most words he’d spoken end to end since Gabe met him. “And you’re not scared of the work?”
Jerry shook his head and grinned like a loon. Clearly, this was his baby. “No, I’m not worried.” His smile lit up his face, making his unusual eyes shine. “Not since I met you.”

Jerry pretty much smiled all the way through the unloading, which was damned hard and took an hour of trying to maneuver the huge pieces of furniture across the lawn and up the stairs to the nearest door. Once inside, they placed the credenza at one end of the dining room that looked over the pool. The gleaming wood of the cabinet glowed against the Saltillo tile floors and gave the room—which still needed paint, rugs, and a table—some promise.
When they’d wrangled the coffee table into place in the middle of the huge great room, Gabe laughed. “I guess we can call it a start.”
Jerry threw his arms out and spun. “But it’s sooooo beautiful.” He kept swooping and twirling around the room until his head spun and the floor of the room and the wood ceiling far above kind of blended together. He threw his head back and laughed, his foot hit one of the rough places on the tile, and he staggered. “Whoa!” He slid and teetered toward the floor.
Before he could hit, Gabe snatched him into a full-body grab. “Hang on.”
Jerry took him at his word. Wrapping his arms tightly around Gabe’s neck, he hung on like crazy. Truthfully, he was too dizzy to stand up—
—and the Captain America arms didn’t help that dizziness one bit.
Before he could really analyze his situation, he’d pressed himself full length against Gabe’s tall, sturdy body, laughing tipsily.
Yes, the contact was pretty wriggly, and if he’d asked himself a hundred times whether Gabe might, just might, like guys since he seemed to look at Jerry like an hors d’oeuvre sometimes, he now got his answer. One formidable protuberance rose in the middle of the embrace and seemed to be matched in his own pants. Gabe’s heartbeat pounded against Jerry’s chest.
Oh fuck! Just one taste. Jerry slid the arm that was tightly wrapped around Gabe’s neck up a couple inches and yanked Gabe’s head down so he could lock their lips together.
The first touch produced an electric spark that slammed straight to Jerry’s balls so hard, for a second he had to hold his breath to keep from embarrassing himself with wet sweats. As the first gasp came under control, a tsunami of heat washed through him, and he slid his fingers tightly into Gabe’s shaggy, silken hair, as he pressed closer from lips to hips.
Gabe had been holding Jerry around the waist. His strong hands slid down and grasped Jerry’s butt and squeezed. Jerry gasped at the amazing pressure, and everything in him wanted to climb Gabe like a tree and then plant that evergreen where it would do the most good.
Before Jerry could anchor a leg around Gabe’s hips, he was gone, and Jerry was staggering backward to keep from falling.
Gabe gasped, “Oh God, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I hope you enjoy the furniture. Let me know if you change your mind about the other pieces. Otherwise I’ll make sure they get here while you’re gone.” With that he turned, hurried from the house, and before Jerry even made it to the front door, had disappeared out of sight.

About the Author

Tara Lain believes in happy ever afters – and magic. Same thing. In fact, she says, she doesn’t believe, she knows. Tara shares this passion in her best-selling stories that star her unique, charismatic heroes — the beautiful boys of romance —  and adventurous heroines. Quarterbacks and cops, werewolves and witches, blue collar or billionaires, Tara’s characters, readers say, love deeply, resolve seemingly insurmountable differences, and ultimately live their lives authentically. After many years living in southern California, Tara, her soulmate honey and her soulmate dog decided they wanted less cars and more trees, prompting a move to Ashland, Oregon where Tara’s creating new stories and loving living in a small town with big culture. Likely a Gryffindor but possessed of Parseltongue, Tara loves animals of all kinds, diversity, open minds, coconut crunch ice cream from Zoeys, and her readers. She also loves to hear from you.   

You can find Tara at Lain

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