When things come to a head, there’s nowhere to go but down…
The Bristol Collection, Book 3
On the surface, Derek “Call Me Dare” Nelson’s life is simple, doing up custom campervans while living in a slightly illegal caravan in his riverfront yard. When a handsome, smooth-talking developer offers to buy the land out from under his feet, Dare realizes it’s the same man he had to escort home from a party months ago for causing a drunken scene.
Grant Matravers lives a double life, attempting to adjust to weekends as a single, divorced gay man while staying closeted at work. The strain of keeping up the part-time pretense, missing his kids, and now a problematic attraction to the shave-headed, tattooed Dare, has worn his emotional barriers dangerously thin.
Dare blasts through those barriers in a way Grant isn’t prepared for, challenging everything he thought he knew about himself as a gay man. But as their chemistry heats up and the intimacy between them grows, Grant edges toward a decision that could blow up in his face. Exposing a hornet’s nest of complications that could destroy any chance for happily ever after.
It was dark on the street outside Cabbages and Kinks, Mas and Perry’s launch party now hidden behind the fogged-up windows. It hadn’t exactly been Dare’s scene, but right now he’d rather be back in there than filling in as an unofficial bouncer.
“I wasn’t going to start any trouble. Honest.” The drunk bloke in the fancy suit stumbled into Dare’s shoulder. Bleedin’ hell. His breath was so loaded with spirits, it was probably flammable. Dare and his helper managed to steer their intoxicated charge into a sheltered shop doorway. Drunk Suit collapsed into the corner, buried his head in his hands and began sobbing. Not loudly or anything, but the hitching breaths gave him away.
“What do you reckon we should do with him?” the other bloke asked.
Dare took in the sneer of distaste on the big fella’s face. He didn’t know either of his companions from Adam, but didn’t fancy leaving the sobbing bloke with this gorilla of a man who looked like he could crush his skull without breaking a sweat.
“It’s all right, mate, I can take it from here. I’ll make sure he gets home safely. You get back to your missus.”
Skull-crusher hesitated. “He’s pretty drunk. Might need someone to stay up with him in case he chokes on his own vomit.”
Okay, so maybe Dare had misjudged the bloke. “Yeah, no worries. I know the drill. Been there enough times with my brother. Go on. Get back to the party. I don’t have anyone waiting at home for me, so I can take care of him.”
Skull-crusher gave him one last sceptical look—which Dare met with his most open, honest face. He used that one when he needed to. People were always assuming the worst of him, what with his shaved head, tattoos and gauges through his ears. The “trust me” face must have been enough to convince Skull-crusher of his good intentions, because the giant nodded once and headed back in the direction of Cabbages and Kinks.
Drunk Suit was still sobbing silently, but the heaving of his shoulders seemed to be slowing. Thank fuck they were in the maudlin stage now. He’d looked pretty bleedin’ angry with Mas back in the shop. And with Perry too, especially after the bloke had thrown that glass of wine in his face. Not that Dare wasn’t capable of handling an angry drunk—like he’d told Skull-crusher, he’d had enough practice with his nearest and dearest—but it was always easier when they’d got past that stage.
“So, where do you live?” Dare asked, pulling out his phone.
“What’s it to you?” Drunk Suit peered at him through his fingers before straightening up and folding his arms.
Okay, it was going to be like that, was it? “I’m going to need to know an address to give the taxi firm.” Dare used his calmest tones. No point fanning the flames, even though he’d thought Drunk Suit had been kind of sexy back there in the shop, radiating fury and macho possessiveness. Definitely a good-looking bloke, what with the chin dimple, bright blue eyes and dishevelled black hair. He might not have been Dare’s usual type—way too slick, for a start—but he was attractive enough to proposition if he hadn’t been five sheets to the wind. Ah well. You couldn’t have everything.
“I’ve got a car.” Drunk Suit stumbled out of the doorway and looked up and down the street. He fumbled a set of keys out of his pocket. “Left it outside a bar. It’s near here somewhere. Maybe down on the main road. You know, that weirdo’s place with the caterpillar on a mushroom in the garden.”
Dare snatched the keys out of his hand. “Oh no you don’t. There’s no way I’m letting you behind the wheel of a car right now.”
“What the fuck?”
“You’re pissed, mate. Totally rat-arsed. Come on. If you need your car getting home, I can drive you there.”
Drunk Suit straightened up. He was almost as tall as Dare, but not as brawny. If it came down to it, Dare could take him in a fight. And from the way he dropped his eyes submissively, Drunk Suit seemed to realise that. He still had some fight left in him, though. “You think I’m going to let some random thug drive my car?”
Dare smiled. “I don’t think you’ve got much choice, mate. Now, why don’t we try to find it before you end up getting it clamped.”
They found the car down on Stokes Croft, right outside the Zam Zam Shisha Garden, as promised. It was the kind of wheels Dare had expected from a man dressed in a suit that fancy. A sedate but classy black Beemer, the inside all in cream leather and with a lovely walnut dash. He whistled as he ran his hand reverently over the bonnet. “She’s a beauty. Is she the 7-series?”
“She certainly is. You see why I don’t want you to drive her?”
“Yeah, but I bet you don’t want to risk wrapping her around a lamppost either. So why don’t you just settle yourself down in the passenger seat and let me do my thing.”
“You ever driven a BMW before?”
“No, but I’ve driven just about every other make of car and van there is. Trust me, I know what I’m doing. I’ll get you home in one piece.”
Drunk Suit visibly deflated and pulled open the passenger-side door. Dare smiled to himself as he seated himself behind the wheel. Fuck, she even smelled expensive. Now why hadn’t his dad ever had cars like this coming through the yard? Maybe if he had, Dare wouldn’t have switched over to camper vans when the old man kicked the bucket.
He turned the key in the ignition, and the engine purred to life. Beautiful.
He looked across to his reluctant passenger. “Now where is home, exactly?”
“You’re having a laugh, mate. I’m not driving you all the way to fucking London. You got somewhere closer I can drop you off? A hotel, maybe?”
Drunk Suit gave him a crooked grin. “Don’t worry. I’ve got a flat over in Hotwells too. You know Riverside Place?”
“That’s more like it. What, you’ve got two homes, have you?”
“That’s right. One with the wife in Surrey, and one over here so I can have fun.” The bloke laughed, but it came out bitter and kind of lonely sounding.
“It’s all right for some, eh? The rest of us commoners have to make do with one, you know.”
Drunk Suit just sniffed.
Dare entertained himself by passing comment on the various old haunts of his they passed by on the way. Most of them had been tarted up by now, and a few had been razed to the ground. But that was the way of things near the riverside. What had been a run-down dock when Dare was growing up was now some of the most sought-after real estate in Bristol. Drunk Suit didn’t make much of a response to Dare’s monologue, but that was okay. Dare was used to talking to his dog for hours on end, and she rarely gave him more than a snort in response. Maybe an enthusiastic hand licking on occasion.
He could do without one of those from Drunk Suit. Enthusiastic licking of other body parts wouldn’t have gone amiss, though, if the bloke hadn’t been quite so out of it. Right now, he wouldn’t trust the bloke not to pass out or throw up before they got down to business.