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Black Leather & Knuckle Tattoos (The Men of Canter's Handyman Book 1) by J.M. Dabney (2)

2

Quick goodbyes and a slammed door left Win and Brent alone. He removed his baseball cap and ran his fingers through his thick wavy hair. Blowing out a heavy breath, he stretched his broad shoulders trying to ease the building tension.

“Something on your mind, son?” Brent asked.

Win was growing tired of that question because he didn’t know how to answer it.

“A lot of people are asking me that lately.”

“Then maybe you should talk to someone about it,” Brent suggested.

“No point in it. I’m not here about me. How you doing, old man?”

“Tired but feeling a lot better. Hoping to get back to work soon, but that son of mine is being hyper-protective. I understand it, although it’s driving me crazy.”

“I’m sure. You in the clear?” Win asked not knowing if he wanted the answer. The older man wasn’t only his boss, but his friend as well. Brent had taken a chance on him. An angry, ex-con and Brent hadn’t even batted an eye.

“We’ll find out next week. I feel better than I have in over a year. Now, I just need a doctor to tell me that I’m not being delusional. I’m missing my life.”

Brent had always been active, running, going to the gym and working right alongside his men. Trapped in a bed had to be driving him insane. “You just miss bossing all of us around and making us look bad when you work twice as hard as us young folks.”

Brent let out a booming laugh and Win grinned.

“True, very true, sadly, that wasn’t too hard to do with you guys.”

“Ouch, old man, you’re hitting below the belt now.”

“How’s Troy been doing?”

The question took Win by surprise.

“How do you mean?” Win asked.

“He’s put his life on hold for a year. Left a job he loves, stopped going out or spending time with his friends and I worry about him. He puts on a brave front around me.”

“Troy seems okay.” He paused to search his memory for anything off. “He works hard at the office. I don’t see much of him since I spend most of my time on calls.”

“He needs a nice man, someone other than me to spend his evenings with.”

“You ready for your kid to settle down?” Win inquired and looked away.

When he’d met Troy, the kid was pale with freckled skin over bones. He’d filled out a bit in the past decade, but he was still slim. Win hadn’t paid attention to Brent’s kid until Troy started to spend more time around the office. Troy had been eighteen and completely off-limits, the fact that Troy was gay made it even worse because it reminded him of the secrets he kept about his bisexuality.

Win figured he was bisexual since birth, yet he hadn’t met a man that pushed him to step out of his comfort zone. Women were easier to deal with, he knew what to expect, and if they assumed he was an asshole, it just meant they wouldn’t get attached. He inwardly cringed—he was an asshole.

“No one will ever be good enough for my son, but I’ll have to endure if he ever does meet anyone.”

Win barely suppressed a flinch. It wasn’t as if he would ever do anything about his interest in Troy, yet somehow the option being there made his suppression of his desires bearable. Troy screamed forever—marriage and kids—and Win didn’t know if he had it in him. A strange ache built behind his breastbone and he resisted the urge to rub it away.

“Winston, talk to me, what’s wrong?” Brent paused and shifted on the bed. “And don’t tell me there isn’t anything to talk about.”

“There—” His denial ended by a raised eyebrow. “I really don’t want to talk about it.”

“You’re going to have to get it off your chest, son. Worrying about shit is just going to age you quicker. I may be your boss, but we’ve been friends for years. Also, I ain’t judgmental. I did hire you as that angry young man who made stupid decisions.”

“Yes, you did.” A heavy breath passed his lips. “This decision isn’t so much stupid as painful.” He didn’t know what to say or even how to explain—especially to Brent. How did Win tell his boss he was interested in Brent’s son?

“Sometimes the more painful it is to decide, the more the item or person is worth. Go get us a beer, son. It looks like we both need them.”

An odd emotion flitted through Brent’s eyes, almost like pain. He wanted to ask but thought better of it and did as Brent asked. A few beers wouldn’t hurt, and like Brent said, they probably needed them.

* * *

The stroke of soft fingertips along his cheek gently eased him from yet another dream that left him hard. He uncomfortably shifted and forced his eyelids open to find eyes the color of a stormy sky watching him.

“Come on, Win, wake up, you’re going to have a crick in your neck.”

“What?” Win paused to clear his throat. “What time is it?”

“It’s one a.m., let’s get you settled in the guest room. I’ve slept in that chair, and it isn’t the most comfortable.”

“We thought you’d be out all night.” Win was selfishly happy it seemed Troy had struck out on the hookup he’d been sent out to find. Which meant Win was a bigger asshole than he’d previously thought. He wouldn’t be that guy—the one that said if he couldn’t have Troy then no one could. That would be downright creepy.

“No.” The answer was short and sounded off.

Troy was always upbeat or at least tried to appear so, yet right now the younger man seemed tense.

“Miller hooked up with an old friend for the night, and I became a third wheel. Get up, I’m going to check on Dad, and then we can head to bed, separate beds, rooms, dammit,” Troy muttered under his breath.

He turned his head away to hide his grin at the flustered tone. Win sometimes had a feeling that Troy had a bit of a crush on him, but again, he couldn’t let anything happen. He wasn’t good enough for the sweet man. Troy stepped away. Win pushed to his feet and stretched his arms over his head, his muscles already tensed up. The younger man adjusted Brent’s covers and tucked them in tighter.

“Son, if you don’t stop treating me like a baby I’m going to throw a tantrum,” Brent mumbled.

Win couldn’t help his amused snort at Brent’s statement and Troy’s loud huff.

“You throw a tantrum, then you’re acting like a baby, and I can tuck you in.”

“You aren’t supposed to be here.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, I know it’s terrible that your son isn’t a slut.”

“Not disappointed, I just wanted you to have a fun night out. You worry too much.”

“I know.” Troy sighed heavily and leaned in to kiss Brent’s cheek. “Go to sleep, and I’ll see you in the morning, old man.”

“I’ll give you old man,” Brent grumbled.

Win turned away to leave the two men to finish saying goodnight and headed for the stairs.

“Win,” Troy whispering his name stopped him on the first step. “Thanks for staying with him tonight. It was nice to see some old friends.”

“You’re welcome. He is right though, Troy, you worry too much.”

The younger man’s downcast eyes and sadness pinching his features tempted Win to reach out. He ached to smooth the worry lines from the beautiful man’s brow. The strength of the need overwhelmed him. When did I start to need Troy? When had the attraction moved to something more than a physical want?

“I know I do, but…” Troy paused and stepped closer. Win could feel the heat of his body. “He’s all I have. I don’t know what I’d ever do without him.”

“Troy.” Win sighed his name and lifted his hands to rest on the slight shoulders. “He’s not going anywhere. Brent will be fine.”

He stroked his left hand around to the back of Troy’s neck and massaged the tensed muscles. Slender hands suddenly rested on his hips, and the smaller man laid his forehead on Win’s sternum. His half-hard dick thickened and pulsed in the confines of his jeans. Win sucked in the softness of his stomach, embarrassed a bit by the quickly progressing softness.

“Did you just suck in your stomach?”

“No.” He lied.

Troy shook his head without taking his forehead from Win’s chest, and when the man chuckled, a breath warmed his skin through his shirt. “You’re so vain, Win,” Troy pulled back, and Win almost stopped him. “Actually, it’s kinda sexy.”

The younger man rubbed his hands over his stomach, and he suppressed a groan.

“Ha, ha, ha, make fun of the middle-aged spread.” Win covered his arousal with sarcasm.

“Wasn’t making fun, I love cuddly men. I bet the ladies love the cuddly bad-boy too.”

Win’s heart stopped beating, and Troy stepped around him to ascend the steps. Too? Did that mean Troy—no, it was impossible.

“G’night, Win.”

“Yeah, you too.” He turned and followed Troy up the steps, his gaze taking in the rounded curves of the other man’s ass. Full and firm, two perfect handfuls for his big hands. Win bit back a groan and shoved his hands into his pockets. He looked everywhere but at Troy until he could disappear into the guest room. Closing the door behind him, he heavily leaned on it and took a deep breath. Something had to change. Wanting Troy Canter was only going to drive him insane, and each day it was getting harder to resist.

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