“Happy Endings M/M, Cedar Falls #20”
by Shea Balik
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Welcome to Cedar Falls, a small North Carolina town nestled amongst the Smokey Mountains. Where the people are friendly and the men are hot.
Gabriel McCarthy came to Cedar Falls in an attempt to find his own way in this world. What he hadn’t expected was to find friends who would stand by each other no matter who tried to get in their way or a man he could easily see spending the rest of his life with.
Lakyn Voss had just had the rug pulled out from under him when the mayor of Cedar Falls made it his mission to destroy Lakyn’s business. Determined not to fall victim to the man’s manipulations, he finds solace in Gabriel’s arms.
Warning: A battle of wits ensues in Cedar Falls as the tension rises and the date for the mayoral race comes closer.
“What do you think of Jesse becoming mayor, Lakyn?” Vail asked.
At times, Lakyn might cringe at the thought of Jesse being mayor, but he knew, deep down – like way deep, deep down – that Jesse would make a great mayor. “So long as he doesn’t actually do half the crazy things he mentions, I’d vote for him.”
Ethan gave a harsh laugh. “Yeah, let’s just hope he doesn’t ban tea from downtown. I might prefer coffee most days but I have to admit to still liking a cup of hot tea on occasion.”
“Or erecting a Bigfoot statue,” Flynn added. “Sure it would be cool, but I also don’t believe the taxpayers should have to pay for that any more than they had to pay for that waterfall monstrosity Mayor Murphy had built.”
“I’d like a Bigfoot statue,” Vail insisted. “And it might add enough mystery to this town to get more people to visit.”
Lakyn would appreciate that. “I agree. Those weekends when the festivals do activities in the woods or on the lakes generate a lot of business for me. Zoey and I are usually booked solid as the men go off on their adventure while the wives stay and get massages.”
Zoey was Lakyn’s partner. They had both worked for Sierra Breeze, a holistic store in town, for about a year. But when the owners Sierra and Breeze said they needed more room for their products and would no longer be able to give Lakyn and Zoey room to give massages, they had decided to try to open their own massage parlor, Happy Endings.
It was tough going at first, but they have been building a steady clientele. They also set up massage chairs during the festivals that brought in really good money.
“See?” Vail said. “Building a Bigfoot statue and having a yearly event to search for him would bring in great revenue.” The smug expression on his face told Lakyn this wasn’t the first time they had argued about the topic.
“Excuse me?” A man in a suit that was way too formal for Cedar Falls approached their table.
Instantly Lakyn was put off by the man’s need to impress. Who did he think lived in Cedar Falls that a suit was needed? This was a small southern town, not some big city where the only morals people knew were the ones that were green and had numbers on them.
“I heard you gentlemen discussing the mayoral race and I was wondering if I may get your perspective on the candidates.” The man’s deep cultured voice sent a small shiver down Lakyn’s spine.
Lakyn tried to stop it, but he couldn’t seem to help himself. There was just something about the smooth voice that made him want to listen all day. Didn’t mean he would, just that he would like to.
“I haven’t seen you around these parts and that suit clearly screams you aren’t from Cedar Falls, so why would you want to know about our mayoral race?” Ethan asked bluntly.
Compelled to look up at the man whose voice held his attention, Lakyn softly gasped as he stared into brown eyes swirled with amber. They were like the warm honey he drizzled on his toast. Enthralled, Lakyn found himself gazing up at the man, not caring that just seconds before he’d been put off by the stranger for wearing a suit.
“I’m here for an interview with Jesse Grant to be his campaign manager, but I was hoping to get a sense of the man first,” the stranger answered, not even seeming to notice that Lakyn was there. Then again, Lakyn hadn’t spoken so there was no reason for the man to notice him. Not that Lakyn wanted him to.
Ethan immediately stiffened and went on the defensive. “I don’t remember Jesse saying he had an appointment with anyone today.”
“That’s because I don’t have an appointment,” the stranger said. Then he stuck out his hand to Ethan. “Gabriel McCarthy. Nice to meet you.”
But Ethan, Flynn, and Vail just continued to eye Gabriel, silently demanding he explain further.
But Gabriel didn’t bend, which was impressive. If Lakyn’s friends had looked at him like that, he would have given up whatever secrets the three wanted. He probably would have even made up a few just to keep them happy.
Almost reluctantly, Flynn stuck his hand out and shook Gabriel’s. “I’m not sure we can trust you, but I am impressed. Flynn Rankin.”
Gabriel’s lips turned upward just slightly. “Thank you. I must say, it isn’t often I’ve faced anyone as intimidating as you three, and I’ve faced potential presidents.”
Lakyn wanted to leave. He might be attracted to the guy, but it was obvious by the reserved expression on Gabriel’s face that he was as fake as a three-dollar bill. Nothing turned Lakyn off more than those who couldn’t be genuine.
“Wait a minute,” Vail said. “If you’ve met people running for president, what in the hell are you doing in Cedar Falls to meet Jesse?”
Gabriel’s face fell for the first time since he approached the table. It only lasted seconds but it was the first time Gabriel had been real and damn if it didn’t draw Lakyn in.
A haughty note crept into Gabriel’s tone, as if he were trying to cover his mistake of dropping the mask he’d been wearing since approaching them. “Unfortunately, I may have met some of the leaders in this country, but due to my young age and inexperience, I was not given the opportunity to actually help on their campaigns as I had wished.”
Ethan tilted his head. “So, in other words, you want to use Jesse to give you experience of running a campaign to advance your career.”
Those liquid honey eyes hardened into amber. “Even though I wish to advance my career, I can assure you Jesse would benefit from the knowledge I possess in politics. I graduated from Harvard, after all.”
Ass. Yet, even though he thought that about Gabriel, Lakyn couldn’t deny he was attracted. If he had any hope of not falling for the guy, who clearly was used to playing a part instead of being himself, then Lakyn needed to get out of there. Fast.
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