Building Up to Love by J.V. Speyer
The last thing Logan wants is to bring more trouble into Jared’s life…
Series: Building Up to Love (book #1)
Publisher: MLR Press
Cover Artist: Kris Jacen
Release Date: May 17, 2019
Length: Novel / 65,600 words / 167 pages
Pairing / Genre(s) / Keyword(s): M/M Contemporary Romance, second chance, class difference, brother’s best friend, protective boyfriend, gay/bi, Boston, home improvement, construction worker, lawyer, RICO
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Jared is at the top of his game, professionally. His love life leaves a little to be desired. All he wants is someone who can love him for him, and who doesn’t demand he “pick a side.” The sudden reappearance of his college boyfriend, Logan, doesn’t make anything better.
Logan knows he broke Jared’s heart all those years ago. He plans to keep a respectful distance, especially once he starts defending a mob case. The last thing he wants is to bring more trouble into Jared’s life. As they keep getting thrown together, he finds it harder to stay away.
The Mob isn’t known for being considerate of their targets’ love lives. It’s not going to be easy to build a new relationship with Jared as Logan’s client’s enemies come knocking at his door…
I’ll drive myself. But you can set it up with Gage. Have him let me know where and when. Jared had sincerely believed Logan would back off when given a weird condition like a chaperone. Now he was stuck going through with it, and he wasn’t sure if he was annoyed about it or not.
Gage called him two hours later, just before he got into bed. “I need you to explain to me what the hell I just agreed to. Use small words, like I’m five.”
Jared sighed and turned out the light. “Logan wouldn’t stop hassling me about wanting to meet up. I told him no, and I told him no again. And finally, to make him go away, I told him I’d meet up if we could have a third party there.”
Gage went silent, like he was processing this for a moment. “Well that was dumb.”
“I know. Believe me, I know. He decided you would be a good person for the role of chaperone, so congratulations big brother.” Jared didn’t even try to make the cheer in his voice sound real.
“Just tell him no.” Gage let his head loll back as he let out a huge yawn.
“You just spent two hours trying to tell him no. How far did it get you?”
“Good point.” Gage let out a groan. “What the hell am I going to do once the two of you start doing the horizontal tango?”
Jared pulled the pillow over his face. “The whole point of you being there is so we don’t do anything sexual. It’s a terrible idea and we shouldn’t do it. Which is why you’re going to be there. If I have to sit there and be around this guy, I can at least take steps to prevent myself from doing anything stupid.” He paused for a beat. “Again.”
Gage inhaled deeply. “Are you sure it would be such a bad thing? He says he’s changed his thinking on a lot of things.”
“Guys lie, Gage.”
“Oh come on.”
“Remember when you told Melissa you were going to fence in the garden? And then you told her you had fenced in the garden? And you had to buy me a whole bottle of very nice bourbon?”
Gage groaned. “Okay, yes, that was a lie. But that wasn’t about something important. That was about stupid stuff. Why would he show up after all this time and suddenly lie about how he felt more than a decade ago? There’s no possible motivation. He’s not trying to get your money. He’s made plenty of his own, and he comes from money. What other motivation could he possibly have?”
“I don’t know. I don’t care. I just know he’s not someone I can trust.” Jared rolled over. “Look, I was hoping this would be too many hoops for him to jump through. Since it wasn’t, now I have to go through with it. What time am I meeting you guys, and where?”
“I’ll pick you up at your place at six thirty. We’ll go into the city for dinner.” Gage coughed a little. “Hey, babe, I’m just trying to help my brother sort out his ridiculous love life.”
Jared tossed the pillow aside. “Oh my God, I was with the same woman for two years. I was engaged. That’s not a ‘ridiculous love life.’”
“You asked for a chaperone to get together with a guy you’ve been head over heels in love with since you were eighteen. That’s ridiculous.”
Melissa must have taken the phone from Gage, because now her voice broke in. “Oh my God, are you dating again already?”
“No. I’m not.” A little bit of rebelliousness welled up in him, but he tamped it down. “That’s why Gage is coming along. I want to make sure all the boundaries stay respected.”
“Oh. Well, you shouldn’t date this person if he can’t respect your boundaries when you’re alone.”
Jared pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks, Melissa. Can I talk to Gage again, please?”
Gage took the phone again. “So at any rate, I’ll pick you up at six thirty.”
“I’ll drive myself. It’s fine.” Jared didn’t want to get tense at the thought of his brother driving, but here he was tense all the same.
“It’s not fine. There’s no reason for both of us to drive in and spend money to park, it’s a huge waste of gas. I’ll pick you up. That way you can drink if you want to. I’ll be at your place at six thirty tomorrow, don’t forget, and try to dress up a little.” Gage hung up.
Jared closed his eyes and exhaled. He could call Gage back and fight, or he could just accept and move on. He’d been outmaneuvered this time. Next time he’d know better.
He and Lovecraft spent most of the next day interviewing candidates for the office manager/accountant position. They did take a break to talk to Detective Lloyd again, who had some questions about Morgan’s previous subcontractor’s timekeeping. Jared couldn’t answer him because he didn’t know much outside the physical records, but he had time to bring him into town to talk to Mark.
By the time six twenty rolled around, Jared just had time to throw some cleaner clothes on. He didn’t put much thought into them. If Gage said something about clothes, the place had a dress code. Jared was willing to meet it, but beyond that he didn’t care. He wasn’t trying to impress anyone. He was just trying to get through this meal with a minimum of awkwardness.
Okay, maybe he put a little bit more attention into his hair than he would otherwise. He was going out to a nicer restaurant. It was okay to dress up a little.
Gage didn’t say much on the way into town. He was probably annoyed by having to get caught up in Jared’s drama. Jared could understand this. He didn’t want to be caught up in his drama either. Christ, why couldn’t he have just held firm and blocked Logan’s number?
He knew why. He might not want to admit it to himself, but he knew why.
They got to the restaurant, an upscale-ish little bistro near Logan’s office. Jared would have been annoyed, but everything was more or less near everything else in the South End. Jared suspected that convenience was part of the reason Logan had bought in that part of town. They headed into the restaurant and found Logan already seated, looking nervous. They sat down, ordered, and stared at anything but each other in awkward silence.
“So. Thanks for meeting up with me.” Logan broke the silence first. He tugged at his collar. He was still dressed for work, because lawyers were always dressed for work. “How was your day?”
“It was a day.” Jared was more than willing to leave it at that. He had no obligation to make Logan feel more comfortable here. He knew Jared didn’t want to be here.
“Didn’t you have to deal with the police or something?” Gage tasted his wine. Jared glowered at him. Wasn’t his brother supposed to be on his side?
“The police?” Logan widened his eyes. “Are you in trouble? Never talk to the police without a lawyer present — even if you’re innocent. Especially if you’re innocent, God. When are they coming back? I’ll be there. I won’t charge, I promise.”
Jared had to chuckle at that. “I’m not in trouble. I’m the one who called them.” He explained why he’d been pulled into the project at Logan’s condo in the first place. “I figured whatever was going on, it would come out eventually. It was better for me to call and make sure I didn’t get caught up in it than to wait and have them think I was mixed up in this other guy’s shenanigans. Plus, he was defrauding his workers, who are now my workers. I have an obligation to do right by them.”
Logan smiled softly. “I always loved that about you. You have this ethical sense that just won’t quit. It’s uncompromising. Even back in school, you were scrupulous.”
Jared’s face burned. “Well, I’ve been on their side of the line, you know?” He looked away. If Logan had loved his ethics so much, why had he insisted Jared wasn’t capable of fidelity? “I know everyone’s entitled to a fair trial and everything, and I believe that, but I’d take it as a personal favor if you let someone else handle this guy’s case.”
Gage snorted. “Didn’t Morgan say something about how the guy’s pleading guilty?”
“Lord I hope so.” Jared massaged the back of his neck. He still couldn’t make himself look directly at Logan. Because he was looking away, he happened to notice the people around them more than he normally would. In particular, the gentleman three tables over had been looking at his menu far longer than seemed normal. He’d shooed the waiter away five times, and he couldn’t seem to stop looking up at Jared’s table. Any time he saw Jared looking over at him, he quickly turned back to his menu.
Jared might not be a lawyer, and he wasn’t all that experienced when it came to criminal matters. He did know he wasn’t someone who was likely to attract that kind of attention. The guy whose employees he’d taken on had signed over the contract willingly. And while people sometimes got mad at realtors, they didn’t generally stalk them at restaurants.
Defense attorneys, on the other hand, ran into problems all the time.
☆ Guest Post ☆
Building Up To Love is more about love and murder than it is about home improvement, although there is plenty of home construction going on in the story. I’ve never been big into construction projects, probably because it wasn’t ever my dad’s forte either. He’d do what he could, and we weren’t exactly rolling in cash. We couldn’t afford to call in Ward Design and Construction when, say, the living room ceiling collapsed in the 1920s bungalow where I grew up. Sometimes he’d call my grandfather, but if my grandfather wasn’t up to the task he had to do it himself.
One incident I remember, because it’s seared into my brain like one of those weird brands people put on their hamburgers or steaks in home goods catalogues, dates to when I was ten years old. We had a kitchen. People on home improvement shows would call it “dated.” It probably was. Those cabinets were a unique shade of yellow only found in that house, but they held our plates and cups and stuff.
It was also dark, because Syracuse gets more precipitation than the Pacific Northwest, homes were built close together on our street, and the whole street (and every yard) was lined with trees. The kitchen had one electric light overhead to help cope with the lack of natural light in that room. It was dim, but what are you going to do?
So the light died one day when I was about ten. It wasn’t the bulb that died, something else needed to be done. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t care enough to research now. All I know is Dad had to deal with it. He had to use a ladder, and my job was to hold the ladder and call and ambulance if things went to hell.
So there I was, standing at the foot of this ladder while my dad muttered words I pretended not to understand. All of a sudden I smelled something weird – not burning, but not natural in my mother’s kitchen either. My dad cursed, and as he jumped off the ladder I looked up.
Have you ever seen one of those medieval paintings of Pentecost? The ones where flames, representing the Holy Spirit, arc down from the heavens toward the apostles’ heads? Yeah, like that. Except at ten, I already knew I was no apostle and there was nothing holy about whatever had happened there.
“Did you turn the power off before working on the fixture?”
To be fair, a lot of older houses have some weird wiring. He may have thought he turned off the power to the kitchen and actually turned it off to the basement, or the neighbor’s garage, who knows.
What I do know is that he packed up his tools and did not touch them again. We duct taped the switch for the overhead light down, so no one could use it again. We used floor lamps in the kitchen until I moved out. And we never spoke of the light incident again.
You know, until I just shared it all with you.
Meet the Author
J. V. Speyer has lived in upstate New York and rural Catalonia before settling in the greater Boston area. She has worked in archaeology, security, accountancy, finance, and non-profit management. She currently lives just south of Boston in a house old enough to remember when her town was a tavern community with a farming problem. (No, really. John Adams complained about it. A lot.)
When not writing, J. V. enjoys watching baseball and seeking out all of New England’s creepiest spots. Her Spawn has turned her into a hockey enthusiast. She can be bribed with gin, tequila, and cats.
J. V. can be found on Twitter at @JVSpeyer, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JVSpeyerAuthor.
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