A Change of...

JM Cartwright

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Scenery Change job: check. Move to new city: check. Meet a guy who makes you think about getting hot under the covers as soon as you arrive: uh, wait just a sec. Con Danvers leaves big-city Chicago for small-city Warm Springs...
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Regular Price: $7.99

Special Price $5.99

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Change job: check. Move to new city: check. Meet a guy who makes you think about getting hot under the covers as soon as you arrive: uh, wait just a sec.

Con Danvers leaves big-city Chicago for small-city Warm Springs, West Virginia. On his first day in town, he meets Stephen Rydell. While feeling a strange, compelling attraction for the other man, Con is most definitely in denial. He’s not gay. He doesn't want to want another man. That way leads to trouble, as Con well knows.

  Stephen, meanwhile, is comfortable with who he is and is quite happy running his garden shop. He knows he and Con could be the real deal - but it takes two to get this gig going. 

  Con is a stubborn Yankee who’s had just about all the change he needs in his life, thank you very much. Stephen is a determined Southern Gentleman who knows exactly what he wants. Who's going to come out on top?

Andrew Cunningham is ticked off. He's taken the fall for his old boss, the mayor of Chicago, and is forced to head to Asheville, North Carolina to avoid the press who’re hounding him. He's so not in the mood to be nice. Once he meets sexy cabinet-maker Ridge Huntington, though, he unbends enough to get up close and personal.

Ridge isn't sure that Mr. Right Now is worth the aggravation. They argue, Drew curses a lot, and Ridge rolls his eyes. But while Drew manages to step on a few toes as he adjusts to life in the south, Ridge finds himself entertained in more ways than one.

Can an uppity Yankee and a laid-back Southerner meet in the middle?

  • Note:This omnibus was previously published. It has been substantially revised and re-edited for this release.
Chicago Street Smarts
An erection is like the theory of relativity. The more you think about it, the harder it gets.

—Drew Cunningham

Early the following morning, Drew headed downstairs with Elsa close behind him. He’d showered and dressed in jeans, a black T-shirt, and scuffed leather Roper boots.

Yesterday when he’d arrived, he’d spotted a walking trail, but it had been too dark to explore when he walked Elsa before turning in. The trail led from the gardens in the rear of the inn toward the creek he’d passed driving in yesterday. As he walked toward it, he noticed a separate building about three hundred feet from the main building. It was of the same era, he decided, maybe a workshop or equipment shed. He spotted a door near the corner with a shade pulled down over the half-glass.

Just as Elsa walked up to it, the door opened, and a man stepped out wearing jeans and a pair of moccasins. The young man frowned as he looked down at Elsa, then looked behind himself and spoke in a soft southern drawl. “So that’s why you’re whining, big guy.” A large nose poked out the door behind him, followed by the rest of Henry’s body.

Drew stared at the stranger, riveted by the sight of a mostly smooth, muscled chest with one nipple pierced by a silver ring about a half inch in diameter. The tanned skin rippled in the sunlight as the man reached down to pet Elsa, pushing Henry’s head out of the way as he did so. He tilted his shaggy blond head at an angle, jerking upright in surprise when he noticed Drew.

The newcomer’s whiskey-colored eyes widened as he stared at Drew. “Uh, sorry. I didn’t see you.” He ran a hand through his hair, smoothing it back self-consciously.

Drew licked his suddenly dry lips, swallowing before answering. What the hell? He shook his head to clear it. “Not a problem.” He coughed to clear his throat. “I’m sorry if we startled you. I was, uh, heading for that trail, over there.” He gestured vaguely past the other man, trying not to stare at the long legs encased in the well-worn jeans. “I think it leads down to the creek, doesn’t it?”

Fingers rubbing a whiskered jaw, the other man nodded slowly. The stranger looked to be around thirty. Tousled, wavy blond hair hung to collar length and caught the light, gleaming golden in the morning sun. “Are you...are you staying with Rae? She didn’t tell me we had new guests.” His pattern of speech was slow and easy.

Drew nodded. “I got here yesterday evening, just before dark.” He stepped forward to introduce himself, hand outstretched. “Drew Cunningham.”

His hand was taken in a warm grip, the shake firm. “Ridge Huntington.” Appearing uncertain, Ridge looked down at the dogs again. “It looks like our dogs have met before. They’re not trying to tear each other apart.” In fact, the exact opposite was going on. Elsa and Henry were clearly in love, rubbing against each other, nipping and playing and whining.

Ridge straightened suddenly, a look of apprehension on his face as he stared up at Drew. “Is she spayed? I’m not really ready to be a daddy.”

Drew grinned slightly, amused at the thought. He stared at Ridge, who looked to be maybe an inch shorter. “Yeah, I’m with you there. I had her fixed as soon as she hit six months. She’s a year and a half now.” He nodded at the other dog, who had his jaw opened and was holding Elsa by the neck. “Is he about two?”

Ridge watched the affection between the two animals. “Yeah, good guess. He’ll be two next month.” He shoved his hands in his front pockets, hunching his shoulders a little. “So what brings you to Asheville?”

Drew could feel his facial muscles tighten as his lips went flat. “It was a...family problem.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Seeing that he’d stumped the other man, Drew frowned before relenting a bit. “Uh, I just...transferred here from Chicago.” He looked over at the trees near the inn before shifting his gaze back to Ridge, his gaze going unerringly to the nipple ring again.

Ridge digested that comment in silence. “Well, do you want--”

“Does your family--”

They both spoke at the same time, then laughed awkwardly.

Ridge nodded. “You go ahead.”

Tearing his eyes away from that pierced nipple, Drew focused. “Uh, does your family own this place?”

Ridge cleared his throat. “My sister and I own the business. She runs the place, though.” He gestured toward the door he’d left open. “I run a custom cabinet and trim carpentry shop out of here.” He turned back to face Drew. “Did you want me to show you where the creek is?”

Ridge’s voice sounded a little tight, and Drew spotted a faint blush appearing on the golden skin across the younger man’s cheeks.

Whoa. Was he just scoping out my junk?

Ridge sucked in a breath, and Drew’s eyes followed the movement of his bare chest.

Now it was Drew’s turn to flush when he saw that Ridge was watching him. “Yeah, that would be great.” He looked down at the dogs, hoping to appear intelligent. “Looks like Henry’s going to join us no matter what.” The two shepherds were glued together, jumping and playing.

Taking another deep breath, Ridge moved away. “Just let me get some real shoes on.” He stepped inside for a moment, leaving the door ajar. Drew watched as he slid into a pair of deck shoes. Coming back out, Ridge pulled the door shut and waved a hand to Drew to follow as he started down the path.

Drew’s eyes were fixed on the sleekly muscled ass of the man in front of him. He shook his head briefly to clear it. Better knock it off.

That mental admonishment couldn’t budge his attention away from the fine, fine ass, though. He watched it move as his eyes traveled up the muscles of that smooth, bare back. He wanted to reach out and touch. That was a bad thought to have running through his head. He was supposed to be here to get out of trouble, not get into it.

His body didn’t seem to care though. It saw what it wanted directly in front of him. He followed Ridge, instincts humming.

Gimme some of that.

After about a quarter of a mile, the trail wound down through the woods to the creek. Drew headed around a huge old tree, and suddenly the water was in front of him.

The dogs had run ahead and were contentedly splashing in the shallows when the two men caught up with them. Drew breathed in deeply, taking in the scents of summer all around him. The July morning was bright and beautiful, with the sun’s rays sifting through the forest canopy. The creek was fairly narrow, but just below them, it widened into a pool that looked good for swimming.

He shrugged a little moodily to himself, forced to admit it perhaps wasn’t so bad after all.

Hey, maybe I can learn to fish.

He thought about that for a moment, then snorted softly to himself.

Uh. No.

Not in this lifetime.

RIDGE WAS WATCHING Drew. He noted the slight easing of tension in the broad shoulders as the big Yankee breathed slowly in and out.

Ridge was fascinated. He didn’t normally interact that much with the guests, since he was usually working at either the cabinetry business or his occasional jobs as a trim carpenter. His time at the inn was normally spent on room repair or upkeep on the mechanical systems. This guest, however, demanded his full attention. His eyes went up and down the brawny body as Drew walked to the water’s edge and crouched low to pick up a flat rock. The muscles in those fine legs and ass bulged and contracted as Drew bent, then stood again to spin the rock down the creek.

Ridge stepped up slightly behind Drew, discreetly sniffing the man’s scent, breathing it into his lungs. It was a little heady, being this close to such a stud. He hadn’t met anybody this exciting in quite a while.

Certainly none of the guys he worked with turned his crank. When he and his friends went out, he sometimes kept his eyes open for opportunities, but, truthfully, he hadn’t been that interested. His best friend, Shelby, kept telling him he was too picky. Huh. If being picky meant waiting for somebody like this to show up...uh-huh.

Drew picked up another rock, tossing it back and forth in his palms. He angled his head down and to the side to look over his shoulder. “Did that hurt?”

“Huh?” Ridge caught the angle of Drew’s gaze. It was focused on the silver ring in his nipple. “Oh. Um, it was years ago. I, uh, not really. I...was just a stupid kid.”

“Why do you still wear it then? You must like it.”

Ridge stared at Drew, a little flustered at the directness of that statement. “Um.” He crossed his arms over his chest to hide his nipples from Drew’s view. He didn’t want to admit that he liked it.

Drew turned around. “Don’t hide it from me.” His voice was low. “Let me see.” The command was clear.

Ridge found himself obeying. He dropped his arms and pulled his shoulders back, bringing his chest forward. He watched as Drew moved closer, until their bodies were within touching distance.

Drew raised one hand. The long fingers drifted over Ridge’s lips, then charted a path down his jaw, where they rasped slightly against his morning stubble. They moved farther, touching the spot where his pulse was suddenly faster. Drew continued to explore, fingers moving down, tingles following in their wake as Ridge felt them touch the rise of muscle below his collarbone. The tips of those fingers brushed softly against the ring, pushing it back and forth.

Ridge sucked in a breath, his chest heaving with it.

His eyes were glued to Drew’s, those turquoise orbs burning at him.

Oh, yeah.

His heart was pounding as his eyes jerked down to see Drew insert the tip of one little finger in the ring and tug at it. He uttered a low sound, and his head fell back on his neck, his eyes closing.

DREW COULDN’T HELP himself; he had to touch. He reached up with his free hand and took hold of the other nipple, twisting it sensually, watching as Ridge succumbed to the feeling of those tiny nipples being tugged and twisted. Ridge’s jeans were tight at the crotch, a bulge growing there.

Drew felt powerful all of a sudden, in command. He wanted to kiss and bite at those soft lips; he wanted to mark that beautiful neck with his teeth; most of all, he wanted to shove Ridge to the ground and command the other man to suck him off. He reached for the snap on those tight jeans.

“Ridge!” The call came from up the hill. Drew jerked his hand back and looked beyond Ridge’s head toward the path. Rae was standing above them, about seventy-five feet away, staring at them with a frown on her face. “Ridge, I’ve been looking for you.” Her voice was jarring, breaking the thread holding the two men together.

Ridge snapped his head upright and jumped back a step, staring aghast at Drew. He mumbled something and spun around, then headed back up the trail toward his sister at an unsteady jog.

Drew stared after him, his cock hard and his thoughts swirling.

“WHAT IN THE hell do you think you’re doing?” Rae stared in disgust at Ridge. “He’s a guest! And Tony sent him to us.” Her voice was scathing. She surged ahead of him, her anger apparent. “Right now? You don’t have the good sense God gave a goose.”

Ridge kept his head down as he followed her. Yeah, he was an idiot. He had no excuse, so he wasn’t even going to try to offer one. He didn’t know what had come over him down there, but something darn sure had. He’d been absolutely submissive, and it had been hotter than anything he’d felt in a while. He couldn’t believe it now as he thought about it. Drew had ordered him to do something, and he’d done it, as if they hadn’t just met, as if they were, in fact, well acquainted.

Scary. Thrilling. Heated.


“Wake up.” Rae stopped in front of him as they reached his shop, snapping her fingers in his face to get his attention. “I was pretty sure when I saw him last night that he wasn’t interested in women, but I really didn’t need you to remove any doubt.” She pushed her hair behind her ear. “Tony was a good friend of Dad’s. You know that.”

Ridge was stumped, his thoughts frozen. His sister snapped her fingers again. “Well? Do you have anything so say?”

Ridge lifted his shoulders and slowly shook his head, still focused on the way his nipples had tingled. “I...don’t know what-- He... I...” He stared at her for another moment. “I’ve got to go to work.” He pushed open his shop door and stepped inside, then shut the door quietly. Ridge stared at Rae through the glass for a moment, watching as she stood there, nonplussed.

He saw her lips move and heard her muffled words.

“This is so not good.”

Copyright © JM Cartwright


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