Thanks, Siobhan, for inviting me to your blog to celebrate the release of my novella, Directing Traffic!
I have a confession to make: I don’t really like Alpha Males. Even though my first Romances were Kathleen Woodiwiss epics from the 70s—and oh did I love them!—heroes who think they made the world don’t do much for me. As a Romance author I probably shouldn’t say that out loud, but there it is. I’m not saying I dislike gym bunnies or dudes with confidence, sometimes I fall in love with them and their stories. But my favorite stories are about two regular guys who are lucky enough to find each other and fall in love.
Because some Alphas are darned near irresistible, I pondered why I gravitate in the other direction. Why do I scour all the usual places for stories about the guys next door? I love all the usual heroes, the cops and fire fighters (!!) and rock stars, and even vampires—but when I sit down to write I almost never get one of those guys.
Okay, crazy alert: I’m one of those writers whose characters speak to them. When I was a kid I had a beanbag chair in my internal rec room, and somewhere along the way it became a kitchen table. People sit down with their coffee, tea, or tequila and start talking. If I listen, most of them stay. That’s what I mean by never getting one of those guys.
I’ve always been the slightly awkward corner-hugger who’s happier people-watching than mingling, an introvert who’s perfectly able to entertain myself for days without feeling like I’m missing out on anything. So maybe it’s no surprise I get the quirky folks strolling (or sidling, or even sneaking) up to my kitchen table. So far I’ve had a variety of people sit there, unknown musicians, bikers, students of all ages, characters who don’t have to work and some who are homeless. Recently I’ve met a few with scary-cool powers, but most of those characters are factory and retail workers whose main goal in life is to stay off everyone’s radar.
The heroes in my Dreamspinner debut, Directing Traffic, are perfect examples of my average guys. Neil’s partner was a corporate lawyer who left him with a posh condo and a Mercedes Roadster but before he met Lloyd, Neil was just an average guy who didn’t know what he wanted to major in or even where he wanted to go to college. Ty is a middle school teacher who’s just been laid off for the second time in two years and is relying on his elderly uncle to help him cope. Neil plays the hero when Ty’s uncle has a heart attack but he’s not comfortable wearing that label. He’s much stronger than he thinks, though, something that’s true for many of us. I hope you enjoy his story.
What about you? Do you like Traditional Heroes or the Average Joes?
If you have a reason behind your passion I’d love to hear it—some of the folks at my table would like to know too.
Blurb of Directing Traffic by Charley Descoteaux
Neil Sedwick expects to spend his vacation in a sleepy tourist trap mourning his late partner’s death. Instead, he puts his recently acquired CPR certificate to use and saves an elderly resident’s life. But it’s the survivor’s nephew, sexy middle-school teacher Ty Bigelow, who causes Neil to reevaluate his routine and consider reopening his heart.
Though the electricity between them is undeniable, Ty is struggling with his own feelings of inadequacy, and Neil is moored to the past. Even the healing peace of an old man’s garden and the ever-changing waters of the Oregon coast may not be enough to prepare Neil to overcome a crisis of the heart.
Neil stood outside the little cafe and read the sign advertising burgers, beer, and fun. He thought that to be an overly optimistic—possibly even arrogant—claim, but went in anyway. Ty sat at a table in the far corner on the other side of a pool table. Two boys, who looked barely legal, did more laughing than shooting as Neil went to sit across from Ty.
“I didn’t know this place had a pool table,” said Neil after they’d said their hellos and thank-you-for-comings.
“Do you play?” Ty sat up a little straighter and smiled wider.
“Not for a while. And I never was very good.”
“Neither am I. We should play after lunch.”
The waitress came and took their orders. They chatted about the beach and how much the little town had changed over the past few years. It turned out they’d both taken their vacations there since well before the gentrification started and agreed the project had robbed the town of much of its charm.
“But we keep coming back anyway,” said Ty, dragging his last fry through the mixed ketchup and grease on his plate.
Neil wondered how he stayed so slender if he ate like that. He finished the last few bites of his Caesar salad and thought how unhappy Julius would be to see what this dive had done to his namesake entrée.
“Um, yeah, I guess. The beach is nice, though, and clears out pretty quickly once the kids go back to school.”
“How about a game?” Ty jumped up and started racking the table.
Neil wondered if he’d really seen a shadow pass across Ty’s face at the mention of kids and school. He was probably—straight, married, or both—worried about his uncle.
“I don’t want to keep you if—”
“You’d be doing me a favor. Once I leave here, I have no plans. Idle hands and all that.” Ty grinned and sauntered over to the rack on the wall.
Neil literally shook his head to remind himself where he was and that he really shouldn’t stare at this kid he’d just met, especially not his ass, and then forced himself across the little room to choose a cue. If that perfect round bottom had been created by burgers and fries, maybe he should reconsider his own eating habits. He was a little uncomfortable bending over the table with Ty standing right there watching, but his break probably wouldn’t have been any better had he been standing anywhere else.
Neil had felt a static tension in the room as soon as he reached the table, and as they played it only got worse. And all that bending over and thoughtful lining-up of shots that were missed by miles didn’t help.
They each had two balls left on the table, and Ty asked if Neil wanted to make it more interesting.
Neil laughed. “Not sure I can handle more interesting. But what do you have in mind?”
“Loser buys dinner.”
Ty bent over to line up his shot and his tank top draped over the table, giving Neil a prime view of Ty’s tanned chest and a tease of muscular stomach. Ty missed an easy bank shot.
“Or I can get it after I win.” Neil sank the two ball in the side, and then bumped a stripe in for Ty along with the six ball. As he lined up the eight ball, Neil realized what he’d done. He’d just asked this young guy out to dinner. He’d never asked anyone out before, not once, and this seemed as though he’d done it behind his own back. His hands shook enough to ensure the cue ball followed the eight straight into the pocket.
Ty laughed. His laugh made Neil grin, even through the burning blush he was sure encompassed his entire face, neck, and most of his chest.
“I warned you I wasn’t very good.”
Ty shook his head. “You weren’t kidding.” He replaced his cue in the rack, and maybe he was a little pale when he turned back around. “You don’t have to—”
“You’re suggesting I welch?”
Ty’s grin returned fast, forcing Neil to wonder again about his age. When he grinned like that, he looked almost as old as Neil himself, who wasn’t quite ready to admit he was pushing forty. But when he turned away from the cue rack, he seemed barely old enough to be in the bar. Ty raised an eyebrow, and Neil realized he’d been staring.
“Where would you like to eat?”
“You’re buying, so you decide.”
“My hotel has a restaurant next door. I’m not sure if it’s any good….”
“Sounds fine to me.”
Neil smiled and nodded, and they agreed on a time. When Neil left the cafe, Ty walked alongside him. They continued in a companionable silence to the end of the main drag. Neil expected him to drop away at any time, stunned by the realization he didn’t want that to happen. Ty kept walking with him, his flip-flops matching every step of Neil’s canvas deck shoes.
They reached the hotel, and Ty said softly, “Food’s good here.”
Neil glanced at Ty and then started up the weathered wood staircase to his room, holding his breath. He slowly let it out when he heard the slap of Ty’s flip-flops behind him. Neil’s hand shook the tiniest bit as he swiped his key card and opened the door. He hesitated, and Ty brushed past him into the room. Neil flinched away from the jolt he got when their arms touched.
Neil closed and locked the door and Ty was right there, his auburn curls shivering with his quiet laughter. Close up, his hazel-green eyes were even more beautiful than from across the table, and before Neil was able to think past them, Ty’s hands were on his chest and one snaked up into his hair.
Just before Ty’s mouth found Neil’s, he whispered one word that made Neil smile too.
Thanks for reading!
Before I go I wanted to mention a contest that’s running on my blog—Christmas in July! One entry gets you a chance at 7 prizes, from ebooks to swag to book money. Stop by and check it out—the more the merrier!
Rattle Charley’s Cages, she’d love to hear from you!
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