Title: Short Order
Series: Foothills Pride #8
Author: Pat Henshaw
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publication date: December 13, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance
Cover Design: AngstyG
Length: 28,400 words/89 pages
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When recent horticulture graduate Dr. Fenton Miller arrives in Stone Acres, California, he thinks his only concern is which job offer to accept after spending the holidays working at his cousin’s plant nursery. But after he rents a room from another shorter-than-average man, sous-chef John Barton, Fen falls in lust.
While he’s attracted to Fen, John’s got bigger concerns when two men from his past arrive in town and pressure him to return to San Francisco. Although John tries to stop Fen from getting involved, Fen realizes his lover is in trouble and is determined to protect him.
As the holidays get closer and Fen makes his own enemy, the joy of the season gets lost in the ill will around them. To ensure love triumphs, Fen and John must stand tall to show that short, dark, and handsome is a recipe for love.
That night I stood freezing at Barton’s door, admiring Blue Cottage. The snow drifts piled on the lawn made the house look greeting-card perfect. I searched for a doorbell. Instead, a lion-headed knocker snarled at me. I grinned. Every house needed an intimidating guardian, right?
A man who looked about my age and height opened the door and slipped out, shutting it behind him. I was curious to see inside, but I got that the guy wanted his privacy. No problem.
“Hi. I’m Fen.”
He looked me over, then turned to the left along the shoveled porch. As he walked, he played with the keyring, bouncing a key in his hand. Did I make him nervous? If so, was that a good thing?
Okay. I took a breath and followed his pert ass and brisk steps as we rounded the porch to a steep staircase. From my brief glance at his face, he seemed okay. I was still slightly put off by his brusque manner. But hey, I reminded myself, I was renting from him, not fucking him.
In silence I followed him up to a small porch and a solid-looking back door, which he opened after only a little fumbling.
I was greeted by the stuffy, closed-up odor of a place long left undisturbed.
“You’d be my first renter. It’s furnished, but I can store anything you don’t want.” He made quick eye contact with me. The words erupted from him like I made him uncomfortable or something. Maybe it was my piercing and the tattoo, or maybe the hair color. I tried a smile, but he blushed and turned away, gesturing to the rooms.
Even though the air inside was chilly, I looked around and fell even more in love than I had when I’d first seen the house. The 1940s era furniture and knickknacks turned what could have been sterile rooms into my kind of home. I exhaled, letting the ambience settle in my soul as I wandered through a country kitchen, tiny dining room, sitting room, two bedrooms, and a classic bathroom, ending eventually at a circular tower room. I fell even deeper in love along the way as I touched the scratched kitchen table, a velveteen-covered parlor settee, a solid-looking four-poster bed, and the needlepoint-cushioned window seat in the tower.
If I were Barton, I’d charge thousands a month for this place. I prayed he wasn’t me and was relieved when my prayers were answered.
“You want to keep the furniture?” He still didn’t look at me as he bent over the kitchen table to fill out the rental agreement. Who needed him staring? I could live with letting his voice pour over me and seeing his kissable lips.
“I can’t imagine living here without all of it.” Or maybe even you, I thought, eyeing his pert butt wiggling at me as he wrote.
He stopped, stood, and eyed me for a few seconds before bending and going back to writing. I hadn’t said that about his butt out loud, had I?
As I was daydreaming about his ass and the scarred table, he stopped writing, looked over the form, and finally twisted it toward me. “Sign here, initial here, and date it. Then I need your rent for the month.”
I was signing before he changed his mind. The rent was ridiculously cheap. “No deposit?” There had to be a catch, right?
I glanced up. He was gazing down at the table, or maybe at my hands. Or my groin? I signed as fast as I could and wrote a check to John Barton, the name on the rental agreement. So he had a first name, and we had a deal.
I drove back to my cousin’s house whistling. Within an hour, and with Beth and Kate’s help, I was moved in. Having only clothes and electronics made the move a one-trip job. Then I went food shopping for breakfast stuff and frozen dinners. We all celebrated by eating a late dinner outside town at a diner called the Rock Bottom Cafe. Renting a place with a wonderful kitchen hadn’t automatically taught me to cook.
Even with an enigma for a landlord, my life was perfect.
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