🌟 Please join me in welcoming author Heidi Cullinan to Stories That Make You Smile! Heidi is here today celebrating the recent re-release of her fabulous Tucker Springs story, Dirty Laundry. Read on for an exclusive excerpt! 🌟
When muscle-bound Denver Rogers effortlessly dispatches the frat boys harassing grad student Adam Ellery at the Tucker Springs laundromat, Adam’s thank-you turns into impromptu sex over the laundry table. The problem comes when they exchange numbers. What if Adam wants to meet again and discovers Denver is a high school dropout with a learning disability who works as a bouncer at a local gay bar? Or what if Denver calls Adam only to learn while he might be brilliant in the lab, outside of it he has crippling social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder?
Either way, neither of them can shake the memory of their laundromat encounter. Despite their fears of what the other might think, they can only remember how good the other one feels. The more they get together, the kinkier things become. They’re both a little bent, but in just the right ways.
Maybe the secret to staying together isn’t to keep things clean and proper. Maybe it’s best to keep their laundry just a little bit dirty.
That Adam Ellery found his true love in a dirty laundromat was pretty ironic, considering his rap sheet of neuroses.
He didn’t recognize his destined partner at first. The beefy, surly-looking cowboy in a white tank top had nearly been enough to send Adam running for cover. The only reason Adam hadn’t ducked out the second their eyes met was because Cowboy had been bent inside a machine when Adam entered, and by the time he’d emerged in all his bulky glory, Adam had already deposited clothing and money into a washer.
To be fair, Cowboy hadn’t so much as glanced at Adam twice. Adam would know because he’d barely taken his eyes off the man. He’d had to use the smaller table to sort out his socks and underwear, which meant he had a lovely view of the choose-your-communicable-disease bathroom, but he knew where the larger man was at all times, and most importantly, he wasn’t blocking Adam’s way to either exit. Adam tried not to watch too overtly, because if Cowboy caught him, Adam probably would give off the wrong signals.
Because Cowboy was cut.
Not handsome. He wasn’t ugly, but he wasn’t magazine-slick, not even close. But muscles? Oh, yeah. Normally Adam didn’t go for muscles because muscles scared him. Muscles could hurt him. Muscles had hurt him on more than one occasion. Muscles stood good odds of hurting him again. On Cowboy, however, muscles seemed acceptable, at least for simple viewing.
It wasn’t that Cowboy looked ready to make trouble so much as Adam wasn’t taking any chances. Adam’s anxiety, always ready to tip into overdrive, had sprung into high alert once it realized the two of them were alone, and now his internal panic machine was set on potential attack! mode whether he wanted it there or not. It didn’t matter that Cowboy hadn’t done anything more interesting than shift clothes from a washer to a dryer, or read magazines other people had left strewn about the booths and tables. Anxiety didn’t work that way.
Relaxing as much as he could, Adam hurried about his business, and nothing happened except he ran out of quarters and had to go around the corner to the coffee shop and get change. He also got a latte, despite knowing the caffeine would wreak havoc on his nerves. He used the toilet there too, because it was a single-stall unit and much cleaner than the one next door.
When Adam returned, Cowboy was gone, and six frat boys occupied the laundromat in his stead.
None of them were older than twenty-two, and that was probably pushing it. They acted twelve. Three of them were definitely drunk, and two were possibly high as well. They weren’t as big as Cowboy, but they were bigger than Adam.
Unlike Cowboy, they noticed Adam right away, and they didn’t ignore him. They leered, and their evil smiles promised nothing but trouble—for Adam.
You don’t have to be such a victim. Adam could hear his ex’s lecture as if Brad were standing in front of him. If you act like a scared rabbit, they’ll treat you like one. Ignore them and act like you don’t give a damn about them. If you keep painting a fucking target on yourself, looking like you expect to be harassed, you will be.
Brad had brought up Adam’s cowardice and his penchant for panic in the presence of potential conflict many times, and Adam had done what he could to correct his deficiency. It just never worked. He wasn’t sure if he was too old to learn, if the bullying had started when he was too young, or if he was stupid. Sometimes he thought it was because he was nothing more than a rabbit. On the male evolutionary ladder, he occupied the bottom rung, where he had to survive by constant vigilance and the ability to hop the hell out of danger at a moment’s notice.
According to Brad, Adam’s problem was that he was mentally ill. Technically this was true, but even Adam’s mediocre therapist would argue clinical anxiety was more complex than that. Brad’s insistence in making Adam’s illness a blanket excuse had become a red flag of warning, which had led to their breakup and Adam moving out.
It had also indirectly landed Adam in this laundromat, his clothing held hostage by a pack of drunk frat boys.
Adam did his best to ignore these intruders the same way he had Cowboy, but this time his laundromat companions were entirely focused on him. The frat boys leaned on the table where Adam had left his basket of folded socks and underwear, and one of the guys giggled at Adam’s electric-blue hipster briefs which, like so much of him, screamed gay. The frat boy made eye contact with Adam, and Adam froze at the door of his dryer, trying not to look scared.
With an evil grin, the boy murmured something to the others. As his buddies turned their smirking, stoned-out gazes to Adam, the instigator pulled out the electric-blue briefs and tossed them in the air. Adam would have crawled into the dryer with his damp clothes if he hadn’t thought they’d turn it on and barricade him inside.
They threw around his briefs, his club shirt, and his Ten Reasons You Shouldn’t Bug an Entomologist tee. “Look at this shit,” they said, laughing.
One of them leered at Adam, dangling his underwear just out of reach. “This yours?”
Adam knew better than to answer. They were teasing him, but they weren’t hurting him yet, and they might not hurt him at all if he played his part in the game well. If he was lucky, he’d just lose a pair of underwear and a few of his favorite shirts.
He didn’t want to think about being unlucky.
“You wear this freaky blue shit, huh?” They snickered in unison as the frat boy snapped the briefs near Adam’s cheek and one of them bumped Adam’s shoulder. “What color you wearing right now?”
Adam did his best to stifle his flinch, pushed his glasses higher up his nose, and hunkered deeper over an ad circular. He was well past potential attack! and firmly into attack mode engaged! which ironically made him so much calmer. That was the thing about anxiety. It always knew an attack was coming. It was the absence of danger that made it uneasy. Once its point was proven, it tended to settle down.
Just ride it out, he told himself. Keep calm and ride it out.
“We’re talking to you, fag,” one of them said.
When Adam continued to ignore them, they took his glasses. Right off his face.
Okay, that was a little more than he could ignore. He had a backup pair at home, but he couldn’t drive without them. “Please.” Adam reached out to take them back, then stopped himself, knowing that would make it worse. He’d been in this position before. It was time for him to beg. It wouldn’t do any good, but it was the only role he had in this play. “Please give me my glasses back.”
“Show us your underwear first, freak.”
The nervous flutter in the pit of Adam’s stomach turned into sick fear. “Please,” he whispered.
His fear only fueled them now. “Strip, faggot.” Someone shoved at his shoulder again. With a sick heart, Adam realized he’d soon be removing his clothes. He only hoped this was where it ended.
“What the fuck is going on?”
Adam startled, but so did the frat boys. One of them swore, and all of them staggered back, parting from their circle around Adam’s table, allowing him to see the newcomer.
He sauntered in from the side door, ambling toward Adam with a slow, steady gait that made his hips roll enticingly in his beat-up jeans and was punctuated by the clip-clop of his equally worn cowboy boots. The closer he got, the more he slowed down, giving the frat boys plenty of time to take him in. Best yet, Cowboy didn’t look pissed. He looked irritated.
When he glanced at Adam, however, that irritation melted away. “You okay, boy?”
Eyes wide, heart pounding, Adam nodded. Holy crap. None of Adam’s fantasies had involved a muscle-bound, cowboy-hat-wearing avenging angel before, but they would now.
Initially thrown by Cowboy’s entrance, the frat boys recovered. “We’re just messing around, old man,” one of them murmured.
Cowboy said nothing, only stared at the boys. His gaze lingered on the one holding Adam’s glasses.
The one holding Adam’s glasses took a step back.
One of the others, though, had apparently decided six frat boys outranked even Cowboy’s muscle, because he tossed his hair out of his eyes and took up a stance. “Did we pick on your boyfriend, honey? We’re sorry.”
A few of the frat boys giggled. The others shrank away from Cowboy.
Something bounced against Adam’s hand. When he looked down, his glasses lay beside him on the bench. With a relieved gasp, Adam swiped them and put them on. Lifting his gaze, Adam saw Cowboy now stood one beefy arm’s length away from the ringleader. His expression up to that point had remained cool, but now Cowboy’s face split in a nasty grin. The other frat boys shrank into the corner, whispering various panicked expletives under their breath. The ringleader tried to keep his cool, but Adam could see his facade cracking.
The laundromat went silent as Cowboy ran a thick, gnarly finger down the frat boy’s chest.
“Don’t be jealous. You want my cock, little boy, all you gotta do is bend over.”
The frat boy sputtered, swore, and swung.
Cowboy blocked the blow, grabbing Frat Boy’s nuts. “Tell your buddies to give the man his clothes back.”
Frat Boy yelped in pain as Cowboy’s grip tightened. “Fuck—do it,” he cried, and seconds later Adam’s clothes came sailing and landed on the tabletop.
Cowboy jerked his head in a curt nod. “Good boy. Now all of you apologize. And just so it’s clear, you’re getting this one shot to do it without your pants in a long, hot cycle in the washer and your dipshit asses waiting outside until they’re done.”
Adam kept rigid, head spinning, as the frat boys came up one by one and murmured terrified apologies before speeding like bullets out the door. The ringleader was last, making his apology on his knees before the table, hair held tight in Cowboy’s grip. Then he was gone as well, leaving Adam frozen in place with his mouth gaping open, alone with his rescuer.
Cowboy tipped his hat, turned around, and walked away.
Adam stared after him, unsure of what he should do now.
Outside of a flicker of irritation in his jaw, Cowboy gave no clue he’d routed six men and saved Adam’s pathetic hide. He simply went to his dryer, pulled over an empty cart, and began folding his clothes. He made no eye contact with Adam, not until Adam got his spinning psyche under control and was able to walk up to his rescuer, nervous hands tangling in front of his belly. As Adam shoved down the last of his panic, Cowboy stopped folding and waited for Adam to speak.
“Thank you,” Adam managed at last.
Cowboy acknowledged him with a jerk of his head. “Not a problem.”
He resumed folding his clothes.
Adam stood beside his cart, watching. The need to keep talking to the stranger burned inside him, but the man wasn’t making it easy. When Cowboy stopped folding again and leveled that cool hazel gaze at him, Adam stuck out his hand, trying not to let it or his voice tremble. “I’m Adam Ellery.”
Cowboy accepted Adam’s hand, closing it in his warm, rough grip. “Denver Rogers.”
Their hands lingered a moment before coming apart once more. All Adam could think of was how no one had ever rescued him before, and he wasn’t sure how to respond. Offering to buy the man something to drink seemed appropriate, so he gestured toward the coffee shop. “Can I get you something? As a thank-you?”
Denver stopped folding and searched Adam’s face. Eventually he shook his head.
This time Adam was glad the man had turned away, because he was blushing in mortification. Rescued and then rejected. Well, what do you expect? He rescued you out of pity, not as a come-on.
Adam murmured another thanks and went in search of more of his laundry, gathering up the basket the frat boys had been messing with and adding it to his stash at his table by the door. On the way past his remaining washer, he saw it had finished, so his next move was to switch it to a dryer.
Something perverse and obstinate made him use the one next to Denver. It also encouraged his mouth to flap again, much to his surprise. “Do you live around here?”
“Few streets over.”
“Me too. The Park Place Apartments across the highway. I just moved in.” He gestured at the laundromat. “This is my first time without facilities on-site. Well, I have them, but I found out today they’re very dirty and in questionable condition. So here I am.”
Denver nodded and went back to his clothes.
Adam kept talking, because he was nervous and starting to panic, and it was either talk or go fetal at this point. “I’m a grad student at Eastern Centennial. Entomology. Bugs. I want to learn more about pollinators. I started with bees, but now I’m into moths. You wouldn’t believe how much the world would change without them. No food, no flowers—wow, I should really stop talking.”
By the end of his babble, he was blushing scarlet, but just when he was considering climbing under one of the laundry tables, Denver glanced up with a reassuring grin. “You’re fine.”
“Not as fine as you,” Adam said before he could stop himself. Then he melted into the wall, half falling into his dryer and knocking his glasses sideways. “Oh God.” He held up a hand and shook his head as Denver regarded him with surprise. “I’m sorry. Really. I just—”
His voice died as Denver came around his dryer door and stood in front of Adam.
Denver’s hard gaze made Adam want to run screaming and spread his legs at the same time. He was half in the dryer and trapped between Denver’s door, his own, and Denver himself. Three million pounds of hot, beefy cowboy bore down on him, not saying anything, not glaring, just… looking. Adam stared back, unable at this point to do anything else.
The world fell away until all that was left were his small body, Denver’s huge one, and the damp towels underneath his ass. Denver neither advanced nor retreated, only continued to stare at Adam. Measuring? Waiting? Adam couldn’t tell. Something told Adam, though, the next move was his.
He pushed his glasses back up onto his nose.
Quit acting like you’re afraid of the world all the damn time.
Adam was always afraid. Afraid of what might happen. Afraid of what had happened. Afraid of rules broken or bent sideways, of things being out of place, as if this might invite the world to fall in around his ears. Afraid of not having control. Afraid of what people knew about him just by looking at him. Afraid of what they might find out. Afraid of what they thought of him, what they might do to him. Adam was afraid of the uncertainty that went with absolutely everything about planet Earth.
However, right now with Denver in this laundromat, desire kept pace with fear. It wouldn’t take but a little shove to put it in the lead.
Remembering the way Cowboy had handled the frat boys, reminding himself how Cowboy hadn’t asked for anything for that service, realizing that Cowboy was waiting for Adam to give full permission even now, Adam drew a slow, deep breath. Then he let it out, shifted his weight back farther into the dryer, and pushed his knees open.
Heat sparked in the back of Denver’s gaze, and his mouth quirked into a slow, crooked smile.
When Denver’s big hand rested on Adam’s knee, the touch went straight to his cock, and Adam’s lips parted on a gasp. His other knee lifted slightly, eager for Denver’s other hand as his mind spun erotic scenarios faster than the speed of light. But that hand never came. Instead Denver examined Adam critically.
“This you being grateful, or are you wanting to play?”
Play. The simple pressure of that hand on Adam’s knee made him hard. He nodded. Realizing he needed to give more clarification, he whispered, “Play. Except I don’t really know what you mean. It just sounds… good.”
That half smile came back, making Adam want to whimper. “It means I’m going to tell you what to do and you’re going to do it.” The smile dipped a little. “Not because you’re grateful I chased away the idiots. Not because you’re afraid of me. But because it makes you hot and because I’m promising you I’ll make you come so hard you won’t be able to stand.”
Adam was pretty sure he couldn’t stand now. “Th-that sounds good to me.”
Denver’s smile was wide and full of promise as he nodded at Adam’s dryer. “Finish loading your stuff. Then you’re going to see to mine.”
Adam couldn’t tell if there was innuendo in that last part, but he didn’t care. He was fairly certain even folding Denver’s underwear would be erotic.
Thanks so much for having me today! I’m here to celebrate the re-release of Dirty Laundry at Dreamspinner Press and share an exclusive excerpt of the new edition.
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“Here,” Denver said, motioning to the stool, “have a seat.”
He liked the way Adam did what he was told, not arguing, only sitting on the stool and looking expectantly at Denver. If Denver had thought he could get away with it, he’d have tacked on a good boy, but he wasn’t sure yet how that would play. So he simply positioned himself behind Adam and put his big hands on those beautiful, slender shoulders, then kneaded once, experimentally.
With a whimper, Adam went boneless and sagged back into Denver’s hands.
Denver smiled and fell into the massage, keeping one eye on the floor and one on the door while he worked his entomology student over. He loved the way Adam felt in his hands, so slight and frail he could break him in two, but at the same time strong, his muscles resisting and fighting before ultimately relenting to Denver’s touch.
He missed the glasses, he’d admit.
He loved everything about Adam, though. On so many levels Adam was the same as every other twiggy youth Denver picked up at Lights Out, but in plenty of other ways he wasn’t. To start, Adam wasn’t the usual barely legal Denver took home. Even when his tricks weren’t still wet behind the ears, they tended to be young of brain if not literally young of body. El liked to make jokes about how a month’s worth of Denver’s tricks could probably combine their brainpower enough to run a can opener. Not Adam.
It was weird how even now as Adam melted into Denver’s kneading hands, he maintained an unusual sense of awareness. The man’s brain never turned off, always analyzing, assessing, weighing. When Denver had to stop his massage to check an ID, Adam popped right back into alertness, moving aside to make room for Denver to pass. What Denver really liked was the yearning he felt in Adam. It was wrapped up in that intelligence somehow, making him different than the needy, greedy twinks who wanted Denver to top the shit out of them, but on their terms. They wanted a daddy in a way that made Denver want to hand out cards for a therapist.
Adam… well, Denver wasn’t sure exactly what this guy wanted. Adam kept trying to project he was fine when it was very clear he was one coal away from full-on hot mess, but half a nudge from Denver and he all but purred.
It made Denver want to put Adam on his knees.
For the moment he had to settle for sliding his hands under the body-hugging sparkly white tank, toying with Adam’s nipples from behind, pressing his erection into the small of Adam’s back. He wished he could get out of work before three, but he knew damn well there was no chance. Jase had already gone home, probably to fuck his happy little acupuncturist before bed, which meant he was counting on Denver to lock up and make sure the new guy running bar didn’t serve his friends a few rounds after closing like the last kid had done.
Denver nibbled on Adam’s ear. “You got early classes or anything tomorrow?”
He loved the way Adam unconsciously tipped his head to the side to give Denver better access. “Not until the afternoon. Just lab stuff in the morning. No rush.”
Denver’s cock swelled to life at this welcome news. “Good. I don’t want to have to hurry when I fuck you.” This remark made Adam gasp and go even limper in Denver’s arms, and Denver smiled into his neck, trailing a corded muscle with his tongue. “I’m gonna eat your ass, moth man.” Adam squeaked like a mouse, and God, but it took everything in Denver not to bite down on that shoulder and make him cry out harder. “Gonna spread you wide on my bed and lick the shit out of you.”
Like someone had set him on a spring, Adam jerked, not out of Denver’s arms but damn close. “Oh—I—” He broke off, bit his lip, and scuttled away from Denver’s hands. “I… I’m sorry. I can’t go back to your place.”
Denver paused, digesting the curveball. “Okay. I don’t mind going to yours.”
If anything, Adam twitched harder this time. “No! I mean—” He turned his face away, but not before Denver caught a look of abject misery and self-disgust on Adam’s face. “Never mind. Just… forget it.”
Adam stood up, looking like he had every intention of walking away.
Denver didn’t mean to grab Adam as hard as he did, only catch his shoulder and turn him around, but Adam moved faster than Denver anticipated, and Adam’s foot snagged on the edge of the stool. After tumbling off-balance, they landed pressed together on the opposite side of the vestibule, Adam’s face flat to the wall with Denver’s big, burly body pushing hard against him.
“Sorry,” Denver murmured and started to pull back.
“Oh God, don’t go,” Adam rasped, turning his head slightly to one side. “Don’t stop, please.”
Adam’s eyes were closed, his face contorted in an indiscernible expression, but his words were easy to interpret. Well, the need was. What exactly Denver wasn’t supposed to stop, however, he couldn’t figure out. Was he supposed to hold Adam? Push into him? Shove him into the wall again?
Deciding to give that last one a go, Denver drew back enough that he could—somewhat hesitantly—shove Adam back into the wall.
Adam moaned and went slack, his taut ass pushing back against Denver’s increasingly interested cock.
“Oh my God,” Adam whispered. “Oh my God, that’s so hot. I wish you could fuck me right here. Right against this wall.”
Denver’s cock went from confused to driving the bus in point four seconds. Reaching around, Denver grabbed Adam’s junk and used his knee to spread the other man’s legs apart. “You like being watched, huh?”
“Safe.” Adam’s voice was tortured, his cock thickening rapidly beneath his tight jeans. “I like being safe.”
Denver laughed. “Being slammed against the wall in the vestibule of a gay bar by a man you can’t go home with is safe?”
He realized as soon as the words were out of his mouth that he shouldn’t have said them, even before Adam lost some of his softness, self-conscious once more. “I know, I’m strange.”
The door opened behind them; Denver shifted closer, shielding Adam as he craned his head to nod the newcomers through. “Maybe. But I kind of dig it.”
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Have you read Dirty Laundry’s first edition? What’s your favorite scene from the book (no spoilers)?
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Read more about Dirty Laundry! First chapter excerpt, buy links, and reviews.
Dirty Laundry is book three in the Tucker Springs series, a collaborative project between three authors. Find other books in the series at Dreamspinner Press and wherever books are sold.
Author of over thirty novels, Midwest-native Heidi Cullinan writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. Heidi is a two-time RITA® finalist and her books have been recommended by Library Journal, USA Today, RT Magazine, and Publisher’s Weekly. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading novels and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more at heidicullinan.com.