|Romance for real life and a bit beyond
|* * * * *
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|Contemporary gay romance - the Men of Marionville series
These stories can be read individually. They feature characters in the same community, all friends. They do
not need to be read in the order in which they were written to enjoy them fully, but they are numbered for
those who prefer to do so. For more about the Men of Marionville series, click here.
Hollis Milnor didn’t think twice about moving to
Marionville. His ailing cousin needs his help running
his nightclub, Frolic, and Hollis needs to put some
space between himself and an ex-boyfriend
determined to make his life miserable. Management
skills he has. Experience running a nightclub, not so
much, but he’s a quick learner.
Caleb Brewer is a steady, hard-working man
establishing a microbrewery. He’s got a great product
and demand for it is growing. When a new manager
takes over the hottest nightclub in Marionville, Caleb
is determined to maintain the arrangements he made
with the owner.
What starts out as business quickly heats up the
summer nights. Hollis hesitates, reluctant to step
over the legal line. Caleb isn’t just a vendor. He
works part-time at the nightclub. Becoming involved
puts them both in murky waters, waters that become
crystal clear when the past catches up with Hollis and
puts everyone he loves in danger.
I sat across from him and he handed me a cold brown bottle. I read the label aloud. “The Right Brew.
Summer Brew.” I looked at him and grinned. “Now I get it. What else would you call it, Mr. Brewer?”
He laughed. “I know. It’s pathetic, isn’t it? Last name Brewer. Brewing beer and putting ‘brew’ on the
labels. Really sad.”
I popped the lid and held the bottle out to him. He tapped his to mine and we lifted them to our lips in
The fragrance hit my nose a split second before the clean, crisp liquid caressed my tongue. The sweet
taste of wheat, yeast and honey, registered in my mind. I swallowed and waited for the lingering traces
to change flavor. It was light and crisp with no bitterness and a neutral aftertaste.
“Good God, that’s smooth, Caleb. How much of this do you have?”
“Not nearly enough. This is the final recipe for this blend. It took me a year of playing with it to get it to
this. I can only make batches of twenty-five hundred liters at a time.”
“You’re not about to get rich anytime soon.”
“Profit margin would be better if I had product on tap somewhere. Bottles cost a bit.”
I didn’t like where this conversation might be headed. “So that’s another reason you asked me out to
dinner last night? To soften me up to the idea of having it on draft here?”
He jerked. His reaction was too quick, too unschooled, to be anything except genuine.
“No, Hollis. That is not why I wanted to take you to dinner. And it’s not why I asked you to come out
here away from the noise and confusion inside to have a drink with me.”
I took a deep breath and stared at my feet. “I keep inserting my foot in my mouth when I talk to you. I’m
not sure why I can’t stop doing it.”
“Yeah, it’s a mystery, for sure.”
I looked up at him and saw a guarded amusement in his eyes. He wanted to laugh at me but didn’t want
to offend me. I saluted him with my bottle and took another drink. He stood and turned to sit beside
He leaned on me, and then straightened. “Although, now that you mention it, what do you think about
putting a quarter keg in upstairs for a test run?”
“I’ll have to check to make sure we don’t have anything in the agreements with other distributors that
would prevent it. I think you’re right that this is a brew that would appeal to the Tea Room crowd rather
than the power drinkers downstairs.”
He bumped against me again. “I, um, had to rearrange some plans to accommodate a change in Dylan
Donoghy’s schedule. He’s coming in this evening for his private tasting. Bear’s going to reserve the
back booth. Can you join us?”
I was mildly surprised Donoghy was coming in on a Saturday night. I was given to understand he and
his posse were regulars at the Sunday afternoon card club.
“I’d love to. I’ve not yet been formally introduced to him.”
“Okay. He’s going to be in about eight-thirty. You have plans for dinner?”
I leaned into him. “No, but I don’t want to leave the premises two nights in a row. Plus, this is my first
Saturday night and all that.”
“I sorta figured. I, um, hoped we could grab a bite upstairs later.”
I thought about that for a moment. It always came back to the fact I had a job to do. Would it cause
dissention among the staff if I seemed overly friendly with him?
Or were the rules different here? I was a gay man managing a nightclub with a predominantly gay
clientele and staff. Would anyone really find it inexcusable if I made a friend? And what if that
friendship deepened? It was possible that instead of being annoyed with the boss, they’d be amused. I
was willing to take a small risk and grab a sandwich with one of their own.
“Okay. I’d like that. Text me around seven o’clock and I’ll come upstairs and meet you.”
He downed a swallow of beer. “You just surprised me. I thought I’d have to talk you into it.” He smiled
at me. “Even though you did already point out to me you’ve got to eat.”
I wished I looked the part of a sexy stud when I smiled, but I was just an average guy. I bumped against
his shoulder. “I’ll even buy today. I have an allowance for food and drink.”
“Aye. Right. As if James would utter a peep if you went over that.”
“He wouldn’t, so I plan to behave.”
Caleb slipped his arm around my shoulders and pulled me to him. “I think that’s a piss-poor plan.”
My lips parted in surprise a split second before his mouth touched mine. I closed my eyes.
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