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Masterpiece (Men of Hidden Creek Season 3 Book 2) by HJ Welch (1)

Sneak Peek


Vince killed the engine on his car in the college parking lot and took a deep breath. He rubbed his chin, pushing all the conflicting and tumbling thoughts aside, focusing on the only thing that mattered.

He shouldn’t have fled from Koby before. He regretted it deeply. So he was here to fix that.

Whatever it took.

How could he have been so dumb? He gripped the steering wheel, hoping he wasn’t too late. There was only one way to find out. He hauled himself out of the truck, slamming the door with a little too much force. He knew he was mad at himself, but he couldn’t bring any anger in with him. The last thing Vince wanted was Koby mistakenly thinking he was pissed at him.

Vince took a second to grip the side of the truck with both hands and breathe in and out, calming himself. Then he locked the vehicle and walked the now-familiar path into the belly of the school, toward the art department. It was late, so the halls were deserted. He rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck. He’d walked onto countless football fields in front of millions of people over and over, but he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this nervous.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered to himself. “I should – Koby. I’m…no…I shouldn’t have – shit!”

He shook his head and tried to work out the perfect thing to say. This was all new territory for him, but Vince was fully aware of what his heart was telling him.

Don’t let Koby go.

Vince wasn’t even sure what he’d do with Koby if he ‘had’ him. All he knew was his heart was pounding and his palms were damp and his mouth was dry. If he could just be near Koby again, everything might be okay.

Vince couldn’t bear the thought that he’d upset him.

He stood outside the art workroom door where the lights were shining around the edges. Good. That gave Vince a very strong assurance that Koby was in there.

That was good news, at least. But was he pissed? Was he crying? Was he humiliated?

Vince had wasted enough time.

He took a long, deep breath, then gently turned the handle to let himself in. Glancing around, he realized Koby had his back to the door.

His naked back.

Vince’s heart flipped over and his cock pressed against his jeans. Koby was working on his sculpture – their sculpture. The room was stifling hot, the lazily rotating ceiling fans not doing much. Vince’s skin immediately prickled with perspiration and he smelled warm metal in the air.

Koby flung the hammer from his hand onto the desk, making it skid and bounce. Then he let out a frustrated snarl and slid his fingers trhough his black hair, grabbing it tight and snatching a breath.

A beat of sweat rolled slowly down the length of his spine.

Vince gulped.

So much pale, smooth skin. Vince’s mouth watered. That definitely wasn’t a straight reaction, but at this point, it didn’t even surprise Vince. Koby made him feel things like a lot of ladies would. More so.

But even stronger than that, his heart ached at the sight of Koby in distress. Everything in Vince’s body screamed that he wanted to go to him, to wrap him up and protect him. To take away his pain.

It occurred to him that he could do just that.

If only Vince hadn’t been the root of that pain right now. Even as he thought it, he wondered if that was really true. He was certain he’d caused some of it, but there were other things Koby had mentioned, had hinted at…

Koby turned.

Vince froze. He felt like he’d been caught snooping. That honestly hadn’t been his intention. He had just been trying to work out what to say to get Koby’s attention.

Koby was staring at him, his mouth slightly open and his eyes wide. His chest was rising and falling. He suddenly seemed to realize he was half-naked, and tried to fold in on himself.

Vince couldn’t bear that.

“I’m sorry,” he blurted, his heart racing.

Koby’s expression flickered briefly with confusion. “I’m sorry,” he replied. Like that was the obvious response.

Koby didn’t have anything to be sorry for, though. What was he talking about? Vince stepped toward Koby, coming further into the room. The workroom door swung shut behind them. They were alone.

They had been alone earlier, but this was different. It was like the warm air was charged with electricity, and an invisible rope was pulling Vince toward Koby.

“I left,” Vince said.

Koby looked pained. He was nowhere near as built as Vince was, but he had some definition to his arms and chest from all the handling of metal he did. He was so beautiful, but Vince didn’t want to overstep his mark if he wasn’t welcome, so he made himself not step any closer for now.

“I shouldn’t have done…what I did.” Koby shook his head. “I crossed a line.”

Vince’s heart plummeted. Did Koby mean that? Did he regret how close they’d almost gotten?

“I made you uncomfortable,” Vince insisted.

He wasn’t going to let Koby take the blame for this. Vince’s actions were his own. He’d been thoughtless and childish and it was up to him to make that right. Koby still looked distressed and Vince couldn’t stop himself from taking another step. He watched Koby assessing him, looking him up and down, like he was trying to make his mind up about something.

Koby licked his lips and swallowed, a tantalizing sight that made Vince’s insides squirm.

“You make me feel safe,” Koby whispered.

Something in Vince’s chest relaxed. That was all he wanted to hear. He had never meant to make Koby feel threatened or overpowered. He stopped walking when he was a few feet from Koby, definitely not wanting to intimidate him now.

This was it. The moment of truth.

What kind of man was Vince, really?

He had already decided he didn’t want to be the kind of man that ran from his problems. Koby was pushing him far out of his comfort zone, but that was a good thing. Vince needed to challenge himself to find out who he was, deep down.

And he wanted to do that with Koby.