Length: 68,000 words
Cover Design: Garrett Leigh @ Black Jazz Design
Chase Michaels lost his future in a car crash almost ten years ago, and he's made a new one for himself in Serenity. One that doesn't include getting emotionally involved with people who are just passing through. But Jaden makes his common sense flee and his gut react. He's got one month with the man who made him believe in taking a chance.
Standing on the shoulder of the road was a Calvin Klein model. He was taller than Jaden, probably some insanely genetically gifted six foot something, and his legs…. Jaden’s mouth might have watered a little. They were really long and very shapely. His jeans were molded to his thighs. His big, muscular thighs. Jaden swallowed heavily. His plain white shirt clung to an equally wonderful chest, outlining defined pecs and hinting at the type of abdomen Jaden watched porn to see normally. He was tan, with a chiseled jaw and high cheekbones, big, luscious pink lips. His eyes were hidden by his sunglasses, Ray Bans, and his hair was a silky ear length fall of chestnut.
Jaden had to wonder if he’d passed out in his car from the heat and this was all a fantastic hallucination. If the guy took his shirt off, that’d answer the question.
Maybe he should cut back on the porn….
He blinked. The guy’s shirt was still on. So this god was actually here to be his knight in shining armor. Wow. Too bad he was about to make himself look like a giant dumbass. “My car is out of gas,” he said. “And I don’t know where I am.”
The man smiled. He had dimples. Two of them. One in each cheek.
Jaden’s knees felt weak. Man, the heat was really getting to him. He leaned against his car for stability. Sweat was trickling down his neck, under his collar, and over his spine. When he licked his lips, Jaden tasted salt. So he was lost and grossly sweaty on the side of the road. Definitely the picture one wanted to present to the hottest man he’d ever seen in person.
“You’re on State Road 22, about ten miles outside of Serenity.”
Jaden’s jaw dropped. “You’re kidding me, right? Ten miles? All this car needed to make it was ten more miles?” If he had a junk car like Mr. Hottie, he’d kick it in frustration, but he drove an Audi so he settled for stomping his foot. Unreal. He was so close to his destination.
“I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you’re headed to Serenity, then?” asked the man, and he may have been beyond sexy, but the smirk on his face was starting to irritate Jaden. Jaden’s frustration wasn't amusing, damnit.
“I am,” he said.
This got him a thorough head to toe evaluation from his potential rescuer. He straightened, trying to make his shoulders look broader. He ran a hand through his hair, trying to fix the sweat dampened mess. He felt like he had to be coming up wanting in this man’s judgment. In his ear, the operator asked, “Can I let you go now, or would you like me to keep wasting my time?”
He hung up on her. If he ended up dead, his ghost could haunt her.
“I can give you and your small horse there a lift to the gas station and back,” he offered, holding out his hand to Magneto, who cautiously walked toward him, black and white ears slicked to his skull and nose twitching. He’d never been a fan of strangers. It’d taken him weeks to get used to Drew, simply because Jaden had been the one to pick him up as a puppy from the shelter. Originally, Magneto was an intended birthday gift for Drew. Jaden’s plan backfired, but he couldn't say he was sorry about it. As Jaden watched, Magneto tentatively sniffed the proffered hand and then his large tongue flicked out and left slobber in its wake. The man smiled and laughed, crouching to put himself face to face with Magneto. The next kiss landed on his cheek.
Jaden guessed that answered the question of if he could trust this guy. Obviously his dog did, and that probably meant something. “I’d appreciate it. Thank you,” he said. He shifted awkwardly. Should he offer to pay him for the assistance? Maybe once they were at the station. Caution urged him to wait to reveal his wallet.
Just on the off chance Magneto was displaying poor judgment.
“You’re welcome.” He directed his blinding smile at Jaden, scratching behind Magneto’s big, floppy ears all the while. “I’m Chase Michaels. What’s this guy’s name?”
“Magneto.” Chase Michaels…. Why did the name sound vaguely familiar? Jaden couldn't place it. He shook his head. It was probably nothing. “Like the X-Man.” He tacked the line on automatically now, to beat the other person to the inevitable question. Magneto trotted over at his name, abandoning Chase’s attention for Jaden. He rewarded him with an under the chin scratch. “And I’m Jaden. Matthews.”
Chase wiped his slobber coated hands down his jeans as he stood. Jaden winced. “Nice to meet you. Want to get going or do you need to get anything from the car first?”
“Let me grab his leash.” While he picked the leash up, he slipped his wallet into his pocket. He remembered at the last second to take his keys. Locking himself out would be the cherry on top of his day. He didn't like cherries.
The first thing Magneto did when he jumped in the backseat of Chase’s car was drool all over the far window. Jaden stared at the smears in dismay. “I’m sorry,” he said, trying to head off any unpleasant attitude. “I’ll pay for you to get your car cleaned.” Drew had refused to allow Magneto in his car, and he’d always thrown hissy fits when Magneto smudged all the house windows trying to watch the squirrels outside play.
Jaden was a master window cleaner now. Maybe if he couldn't get another accounting job, he’d switch to that. He could run his own company and do the the books for it.
But Chase laughed, not looking at all disgusted by the mess it had taken Magneto all of two seconds to create. “It’s fine,” he said. “I’ll roll them down for him.”
His car smelled like apples, and a discreet glance around found the culprit to be a smoothie sitting in the middle cup holder. It was a not so appetizing oatmeal color. He expected country music to come over the speakers, so he was pleasantly surprised to hear something else. Indie rock maybe? He’d never heard this song before, but the beat was good and the singer had a clear voice.
Should he make small talk and ask who this was?
“What brings you to Serenity?”
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