Authors: Wade Kelly
Tags: #gay romance
By Wade Kelly
Even though bankers’ hours leave long weekends for romance, cosmic intervention is Grant’s only option when money doesn’t buy happiness and he’s got virginity in spades.
Grant Adams is a twenty-six-year-old bank teller who’s unlucky at love, yet hopelessly hopeful. After years of horrific first dates, he’s convinced he’s saving himself for true love. Surely he has bad taste in men because it couldn’t possibly be his persnickety nature that’s sent them packing.
Tristan Carr has been in a holding pattern since his daughter was born fifteen years ago, which suits his workaholic lifestyle just fine. This ex–naval officer turned auto mechanic never wanted anyone interfering with being a weekend dad. For Tristan to rearrange his carefully orchestrated life, a guy will need to be special. Or in the case of the newest employee at his bank, the guy will need to be adorable, shy, and open to the prospect of forever when it shows up at his window.
I would like to dedicate this novel to all my readers who continue to support and encourage me. Some days have not been so easy and your constant outpouring of love really means a lot to me. Chad, Lynn, Kayla, Simon, Jason M., Z., and so many more, you will never know how much I appreciate your kindness.
To beta readers, whom I will refer to as “my pack.” (Like in
, ha ha.) Taryn, Will, Jeff, Beth, and Mandy, you guys rock!
To Poppy, thank you for believing in me.
And to that random bank guy, Josh, who unwittingly inspired an entire book simply by being adorable. Thank you!
Chapter 1: Same Job, New Location, And Starting My Life Over
hottie?” a female customer asked my colleague Jessica. She “whispered” her question in a none too hushed voice, as if it wouldn’t be overheard four feet away in the adjacent teller cubicle. I kept my back turned, pretending to tidy my work area, because I wasn’t sure how to respond. I didn’t really know Jessica, since I’d only worked in this branch of the bank for a week. I certainly didn’t know the customer who asked the question. I hadn’t seen her in the bank before. I did, however, know enough to understand I was the object of the question.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been referred to as hot, although I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t have the muscle I normally associated with hotties. I guess I was okay looking, and I was kind of tall, but after people got to know me, my looks never mattered. I was pedantic, persnickety, and on some days positively puerile. But even though I knew myself pretty well, that didn’t mean I knew how to change. I guess I was a little too much for most people. I had very few friends, and I rarely got asked out twice by the same man. Actually, I couldn’t remember
being asked out twice.
I almost threw a pity party for myself in my cubicle, but knocked over my pens instead. When they went rolling everywhere, I stopped stewing over being twenty-six and never-been-kissed. It was more rational to think of my virginity as “saving myself,” but truth be told, I was a loser and no one had ever liked me enough to kiss me. I picked up my pens, set them back in the container, and moved it to a different location.
“That’s Grant,” Jessica answered her customer. “He transferred from another branch when it closed.”
I made the mistake of glancing over and caught Jessica and the woman staring at me. Was this what penguins felt like? No, they probably didn’t notice the humans staring through the glass as they swam at the zoo. Monkeys were more intelligent. Maybe monkeys understood the uneasiness associated with being gawked at. It wasn’t merely the staring, or the compliment she’d given me; my problem was in knowing the remarks never stayed on the complimentary level. Once they got past my dark blond hair and blue eyes, people eventually laughed at me for something.
I turned away from Jessica and headed toward the restroom. Once I locked the door, I took out my phone and texted my mother. I didn’t live with her—I wasn’t completely pathetic—but we texted often.
How are you, Mom?
She texted back quickly, as usual.
I’m fine, Grant, but you’re supposed to be working. Stop texting me.
I’m on a five-minute break.
Stop ducking into the bathroom every time something stresses you out.
Nothing stressed me out.
Did you pee, or did you lock the door and take out your phone?
“Shit,” I mumbled. I glanced at my reflection over the sink. “I
I texted my reply:
Liar. Go back to work. You’ll settle in fine. Talk to people, make friends, and then the new branch won’t seem so scary.
But it took me a year to make friends with Laura, and then she moved across the country and left me two months before they decided to close my branch. I feel like my life is in turmoil.
Grant, go back to work. Talk to people. Talk to the ones you work with AND the customers. Maybe one of them lives near you and will turn out to be a good friend. You need friends. It isn’t healthy to text your mother for every little thing. I need to go. I have a massage in ten minutes.
Fine. I’ll try.
Good. You know I love you.
I love you too. Bye. Have fun.
She didn’t text back. She probably thought I was ridiculous. I pocketed my phone and washed my hands. I liked clean hands. I also enjoyed the smell of the grapefruit-scented foaming hand soap. Sometimes I washed my hands just so I could smell my fingers while I worked. People may have thought I had an unusually itchy nose, but I only rubbed the tip of it so I could smell the soap scent. I had a thing for smells. Or maybe I had a thing for grapefruit. Either way, I washed my hands repeatedly at work, and it wasn’t always to get them clean. I had an antibacterial pump in my cubical, but the alcohol scent made me sneeze. I should probably look for grapefruit-scented antibacterial gel.
When I got out of the bathroom, I returned to my cubicle to discover a line had formed. Banking customers often came in waves. One minute I could be straightening my deposit slips and reorganizing my ink pad and teller stamp, and the next minute fifty people would show up in the lobby at the same time. I put on a bright smile and called a woman over.
“Good morning,” I said to the older lady.
“It’s the afternoon,” she replied gruffly.
I glanced at my computer screen. “Technically, it’s morning until after noon.”
She glared and shoved a check my way. “Cash this. I want it all in twenties.”
I took the check and flipped it over. “Can you please sign the back, and may I see your driver’s license?”
She snatched up a pen and proceeded to scribble her name. “My license is in the car. Surely you can ask one of the other tellers to vouch for me?”
“I could, but then how am I to learn your name for the next time?”
“By memorizing the name on the check,” she huffed.
“Well, I’m new here, and it’s procedure to ask for a driver’s license for all transactions. Even with customers I know, I’m supposed to write the number on the check or at the very least double-check the name.”
She ignored me and fussed at my coworker. “Jessica, can you tell this boy who I am, please? I don’t have time to follow his—” She paused. “—procedures.”
“You can cash Mrs. Caldwell’s check, Grant. I know who she is,” Jessica said. She didn’t seem smug or condescending, but I felt snubbed all the same. I had protocol to follow, and my first customer of the day had sidestepped it.
Rules were rules. Why have them if they could be shirked off willy-nilly? I grinned and nodded politely, but I counted out the twenties begrudgingly. “Will that be all, Mrs. Caldwell?”
“Yes, thank you.” The terse woman put the wad of bills in an envelope before I even had the chance to ask if she wanted one and then stormed away.
The next person to walk up to my window made my breath hitch. I swallowed hard. “Ca-can I help you?”
The man grinned, but only with the left side of his mouth. “Yes. I’d like to deposit this in the account at the bottom, and I’d like to withdraw money from a different account. I’ve written down how I want it back on this slip of paper.” He slid a piece of paper to me across the counter. His hands were soiled and greasy. I suddenly wanted to wash mine.
“Oh, okay. I can do that. I’ll just need to see—”
“My driver’s license,” he said, sliding it across the counter. He lifted the corner of his mouth again.
“Oh, thank you,” I replied. I was slightly startled by his compliance, and half-nervous over his grin. I took his license and wrote the number on the business check for Carr’s Automotive. Tristan Carr. “Is this your company?” I asked.
“Yes. My father started the business, and I took it over before he died. If you ever need an auto mechanic, I’m only fifteen minutes north of here.” He winked.
My mouth went dry. Was he flirting or just being friendly? “Um, okay. I bet you often hear jokes about the name.”
I punched in his account number and clicked the corresponding options on my screen. I ran his checks through the scanning machine and then set them in the correct bin—facing the same direction as the check from Mrs. Caldwell. I handed him the receipt for his deposit. “How did you want that back?” I asked. He glanced down and tapped the counter. “Oh, right, you gave me a list.” After I counted out the appropriate amount and zipped it up in his money pouch, I asked, “Is there anything else I can do to—
I expected a smirk or a facial tick to reveal he’d heard my slip, but he only paused before answering, “No. Thank you.” He glanced at my name placard. “Grant, I’m sure I’ll see you again. Perhaps the next time you won’t need to ask for my license.”
Why would he say that? He couldn’t know I was checking him out. I’d barely made eye contact. Maybe he was repeating what the previous woman had said. “Perhaps,” I replied. “It was nice to meet Mr. Carr of Carr’s Automotive.”
He grinned again and stuck out his hand. As I went to shake it, I bumped the container of pens, which I’d set next to the window after I’d knocked it over in its previous location, and sent the pens rolling across the counter and through the window onto the floor at his feet. I was so embarrassed. “Oh God. I’m so sorry.” I gathered them up and set them in the container I uprighted.
Mr. Carr bent down, retrieved the pens from the floor, reached through my teller window, and put them into my container. Three were upside down, so I took them out and flipped them over. This time he smirked the smirk I was expecting and said, “Until next time.” He picked up one of my business cards from the stack next to my name placard and read it. “Grant Adams,” he repeated my name. “It was a pleasure to meet you.” He pocketed the card and stuck out his hand again. I
knock over the pens when I shook it.
His hand was dirty and rough and completely swallowed my tiny palm. “Likewise.”
He nodded and walked away, and I glanced at my hands. They felt gritty.
I looked to the next customer and smiled as she stepped up, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the feel of his skin touching mine. I rubbed the tip of my nose. My hand had an oddly earthy aroma, which repulsed me almost as much as it intrigued me. I glanced at the unappealing bottle of hand sanitizer and considered it for a second. Which would it be—nauseating alcohol smell that made me sneeze or earthy mechanic smell? The woman set her money and checks on the counter, but I had to excuse myself. “I’m sorry. I need to wash my hands.” I took a step backward. “I’ll only be a second.”
She gave me a questioning look but warily conceded, “Okay.”
I dashed to the bathroom, pumped three squirts of foam onto my hands, and lathered thoroughly for twenty seconds. Mr. Carr’s hands had appeared greasy, and even though there was no evidence of grease or dirt on mine after he shook it, I still had to wash. I rinsed and dried my hands. I looked down at my open palms, fresh and clean. Sniff. The earthy scent was gone, and for some odd reason, a tiny part of me regretted it. He’d touched me. A man I’d just met had held my hand briefly. I’d introduced myself to countless people before, some of them male, yet Mr. Carr’s warmth still lingered inexplicably.
I heard a knock on the door and I jumped. “Grant? How long are you going to be in there?” Lucinda, another teller, asked. I opened the door and she said, “There’s a line. I don’t want to call Tracy over to help.”
Tracy was the bitchy branch manager I’d come to loathe from day one. She was not friendly by any means, but did her job well enough to garner the customers’ adoration. Lucinda had been kind enough to warn me about her before I got myself fired over nothing. Tracy was all business, and as long as I did my job to her satisfaction, Lucinda had assured me Tracy would leave me alone. Only I hadn’t been here long enough to earn a reputation for excellence. Tracy hadn’t worked with me at the other branch, and apparently word of mouth wasn’t good enough.