Driving in Circles
by Frances Fox
5th September 2023
Driving in Circles is book three in the stand-alone
Reluctant Rockstar spicy MM romance universe.
An oblivious roadie and a lighting designer with self-confidence issues…will they ever manage to communicate what they want?
All Dave wants is a low-stress job driving gig equipment around, loading and unloading, rinse and repeat. Then he can go home and spend what time he can with his kids, listen to music and gardening podcasts and dream about the life he’s never had. He’s known Richie for years and he’s never thought of him as more than a mate. With two ex-wives behind him, he’s never thought of himself as anything other than straight. It’s a shock when he suddenly realises he has a massive crush on a guy.
It’s more than a shock for Richie when Dave turns up at a Heggarty’s Bow gig with an empty truck instead of a van full of kit, it’s possibly career-ending. There’s no time for Richie’s usual low-key flirtation with the oblivious Dave whilst they’re sorting out how to rig the show, but there should be plenty of time to catch up with each other properly on the drive back to London. It’s not Dave’s fault the steering on the van blows out on the way home.
Thrown together overnight in a hotel, will Dave confide his attraction to Richie? Or will Richie snap first and make a move? Surely all the time they’ve spent in the van driving around the country means they’ve had plenty of time to talk. Or does it?
Driving in Circles Chapter One: Dave
It was getting light when Dave pulled the truck into the car park behind the concert hall. He’d picked up the van and left London at nine last night and he was tired, irritable, and hated the A1—standard reaction to that sort of drive. All he had to do now was get the kit tipped into the right places and he could get his head down for until it was time to load it all up again and take it back down south.
He grumbled under his breath as he slid down out of the cab onto the ground where he stretched out his stiff back. Why the hell they couldn’t have hired it from somewhere closer—Middlesborough was an actual city with actual AV hire companies, despite what this London-centric lot thought—he didn’t know. Although he supposed he wouldn’t be on the gig then, so he should probably shut up and appreciate he’d got the job rather than moaning.
They had had no obligation to ask for him to drive for them specifically, they could have simply left it to Polychromatic to put whoever was next on the rota on the job. He’d been picking up quite a lot of work courtesy of Heggarty’s Bow over the last few months. They were a good crowd to work for, professional, polite, and didn’t treat him like dog shit like some of the big names he’d worked with.
His neck was killing him. He linked his hands behind his back and stretched, twisting from side to side. He should have taken a longer break at Sheffield, but he’d wanted to crack on and get here so he could get a good few hours in a proper bed under his belt during the day, before it was time to Skype with the kids.
He looked round for the rest of the crew—they should be here by now—and saw the band’s lampy, Richie, coming toward him out of the big doors that let into the back of the venue. His heart lifted and he smiled as Richie raised his hand in greeting and Dave waved back. “Hi, Richie. How’s it going?”
“All the better now you’re here,” Richie said, shifting his bottle of water to his left hand and shaking Dave’s outstretched palm. His hand was warm and Dave could feel the calluses and little scars he always seemed to have from working with the hot lights. “Let’s get it tipped. Nick’s gone for bacon butties at the van up the road. Marcus is on his way out, he just had to speak to the venue guy.”
He’d been working closely with Richie for a few months now, since they both became regulars on the Heggarty’s Bow tour. He was a good mate. Dave always looked forward to working with him, even if there was no time to have a break and go and get something to eat or have a drink and a proper catch-up together like they’d begun to make a habit of.
“Great,” Dave said, going round to the back and switching on the tail-lift. “Let’s get going.” He locked the tail-lift into place and brought it down to a couple of feet off the ground; then he stepped up onto it and unlocked the padlock securing the roller door. “Here we go,” he said, shoving it upward.
Then he stopped dead, staring inside.
The van was empty.
“What the fuck?” said Richie, looking into the back of the van. “Dave! Where’s the kit?”
Dave put his hands on his hips and stood looking at all the empty space in front of him. He opened and shut his mouth a few times, but words wouldn’t come.
It was empty. There was no kit there at all. He blinked, shut his eyes for a second or two, and opened them again. Nope. It was still empty.
“Dave,” Richie said again. “What’s going on? Where’s the gear?”
“I…” All Dave could hear was a whirring noise in his ears. “It’s not here,” he said.
“No,” said Richie. “I can see it’s not here. Where the fuck is it?” He had jumped up on the tail next to Dave and was peering into the van as if he looked hard enough, an invisibility cloak might rise up and reveal all their equipment. “Is this a joke?” he said. “Have you really driven all this way with an empty van?”
He had turned towards Dave and was waving his arms around. He’d always seemed a placid kind of bloke, but Dave supposed this was probably enough to make anyone agitated. He was sure when he stopped being in shock, he was going to be a bit agitated himself.
He rubbed his hands over his face and pulled himself together. “It’s the right van,” he said. “The picking list was on the seat. All ticked off.”
“You didn’t check it,” Richie said. It wasn’t a question. Dave shook his head. “Bloody hell! Didn’t you think it was driving light?!” Richie asked him, incredulous.
Dave shook his head again. “No,” he said. “This one always drives like a donkey. It’s almost like it’s got no power steering at all.”
He swallowed and felt his heartrate accelerating. “Fuck,” he said again, shoving his hands into his hair. “Cock! Bollocks! What the fuck are we going to do? Even if they send someone with another van, it won’t get here till midday. There won’t be enough time to rig.”
Dave was going to lose his job over this, he could see it coming. He felt faint at the thought of it.
“Who was supposed to load it?” Richie asked him, slightly more calmly.
Dave frowned. “Ron, I think,” he said. “He signed off the sheet, anyway. Hang on.” He went round to the cab and reached across to the middle seat for the clipboard with the pick list. There it was in black and white—the pick list, all ticked off, and Ron’s scrawl of a signature on the bottom line.
“I’ll ring him,” he said. He hit speed-dial for the office, but there was no reply. It was probably still too early, so he rang Ron’s mobile instead.
He picked up immediately, his cockney-geezer accent grating in its cheerfulness in Dave’s ear. “Hello mate, all right? Did you get off okay?”
“Ron,” Dave said as calmly as he could. “I got off all right. But there’s no kit on the van.”
There was a pause.
“What?” Ron said, voice still cheerful, although it sounded slightly forced now. “You didn’t load it? I left you the pick list!”
“Yeah. You left me the pick list, ticked off and signed to say you’d done it. So…”
“Oh.” Ron’s voice was still quite upbeat. He wasn’t grasping the magnitude of the disaster. “Well mate, you should have checked it before you drove off! That’s a bit of a cock up!”
Oh. He was grasping the magnitude of the disaster. Only…he was going to hang Dave out to dry for it.
“Why did you sign off on the list if the kit hadn’t been pulled?” Dave said, and then immediately followed that with, “Never mind, forget that, it doesn’t matter now. Where’s the kit? We’ve got twelve hours to rig and no equipment. We had their drums as well, from the Wigan gig last week. What can you do?”
“I can’t do anyfink, mate,” Ron said, cheerfulness still grating. “I’m in Malaga. Flew out at midnight. You’ll have to ring Graham and get him to sort it out.”
Graham was the boss of Polychromatic. He was a decent bloke, but he didn’t like surprises. He wasn’t going to be happy to hear from Dave at all.
“Right,” Dave said. “Thanks, then.” He added, somewhat sarcastically, “Have a good holiday.”
“Yeah,” Ron said. “I will! Good luck getting it sorted!”
And he hung up.
Dave took the phone away from his ear and stared at it for a few moments.
“Ron?” Ritchie said.
Dave hit Graham’s hot-key and raised the phone to his ears, shutting his eyes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Frances Fox writes contemporary MM romance. The Rockstar series is a new eight-book series of novellas following the musicians, stage-crew and friends of Heggarty’s Bow. If you like to read spicy MM stories about vulnerable guys looking for love, I’ll have you covered. I also writes lower-heat queer stories, mostly historical romantasy, as A. L. Lester.