Bradley Zelder can’t find his way in life. After struggling for nearly a decade, he has yet to complete his college degree. Working as a school custodian, living in blue-collar Landsbury, MA, his love life is as empty as the rest of his existence. But on his way home after another disastrous date, his truck breaks down in upscale Oceanside. When he thinks life can’t get any worse, a man who is the epitome of Boston elite and everything Bradley finds attractive and intimidating helps him move his truck to the side of the road. Ashamed of his lot in life, Bradley almost lets the opportunity slip away, but he comes to his senses in time and tracks Caleb down.
From a random act of kindness, romance begins to grow, filling all the dark corners of Bradley’s empty life—until a random act of violence threatens to take it all away. Bradley must step up and be the man Caleb believes him to be. Caleb rescued him from a life without hope. Can Bradley rescue him in return?
Meeting an Angel
MY TRUCK was running like shit and I was trying like hell to pretend it wasn’t sputtering so violently. After one particularly unignorable shake, I admitted it to myself.
I’ll be lucky if I get this baby home so Billy can take a look at it out back in the garage.
As I pondered whether or not I should go straight to the auto repair shop instead of home to our garage, my truck made the decision for me. It surrendered a last pitiful shudder and died, right on Main Street in Maddy’s charming town of Oceanside, Massachusetts.
Oceanside is a great place to visit, but I sure as shit don’t want to get my ass stuck here.
Like I had much to say in the matter.
Knowing I’d rather pull the back plates and abandon my truck in the middle of the damned road than return to Maddy’s house to get help, I took a minute to stop and curse myself for being such a half-assed loser. Last night, in my frenzied rush to arrive at the booty call, I’d managed to forget my cell phone. It was probably buried beneath a pile of dirty boxer shorts in my cluttered bedroom.
Still cursing, I hopped out of the old black Ford F-150. I’d bought it used a couple of months before at an auction, and had been crossing my fingers ever since that it wouldn’t pull any major shit (like this) until I’d saved up enough extra cash to get it overhauled. I stretched once and I stretched big, out of a combination of shot nerves and habit, and then moved to the side of the road so I could survey its location on the street. My dumb truck had died smack-dab in the middle of the road. Thankfully it was still early on a Saturday, and the yuppies in this part of town apparently were sleeping in that morning. Give it an hour, though, and the road would be overrun with well-rested preppies on their way to the stables, or to golf courses, or to wherever it was rich people went after they counted their money over Nespresso lattes on Saturday mornings.
It was gonna be tough, but I was pretty sure I could push this baby to the side of the road by myself, since I wasn’t gonna have to push it uphill. I went back to the driver’s side, leaned in and threw the truck in neutral, took a deep breath, and then put my shoulder into pushing. Karma is a fucking bitch. I was fairly sure I was already catching payback for the Houdini act I was planning to pull on Maddy next week.
Pushing my truck bit the big one. I could practically feel the back strain setting in. That was gonna suck when I hit the gym with Billy later on—and probably at work all week. On the bright side, the truck was rolling, albeit slowly and painfully. I was managing to inch it over to the shoulder.
“Hey, buddy, need a hand?” I hadn’t noticed a car pulling up, or even heard the guy approach. I turned my neck sharply, midshove, to check out the preppy do-gooder who was lowering himself enough to offer this random act of kindness to me, a sweaty, out-of-place, redneck-looking stranger who was struggling to relocate his piece-of-shit truck to the side of the road. But beside me I saw much more than a preppy saint—I was looking at a fucking angel.
The guy stood gawking back at me. At first glance, I noticed that his thumbs were hooked casually in the front pockets of slim-cut khaki pants, and a snug, white polo hugged his perfect torso. Both were visible beneath a tailored tweed blazer, with the finishing touch of a dark blue-plaid scarf draped loosely around his neck. Not that I was checking him out or anything, but this guy was nothing short of the Tommy Hilfiger of the heavens.
I’m talking about heaven sent boy-angel meets Ralph Lauren.
I allowed myself to smirk at my blunt analysis. He was exactly the kind of guy I’d stayed far away from in high school. I hadn’t had to worry too much about running into his type at the various colleges I’d attended in my less-than-pretty multiple attempts to achieve that elusive bachelor’s degree. The schools I’d attended were not listed in the preppy handbook as acceptable institutions of higher education. Just looking at him brought out my deepest insecurities. I knew this from experience—a guy couldn’t appear that put together if he didn’t actually have his act together.
“Nah, thanks. I’m all set.” I turned away from him. Mr. Perfect wasn’t gonna want to get his well-pressed khakis wrinkled, anyway.
“I beg to differ; you are not all set. Get in and steer, I’ll push.”
I was about to argue, but he edged up against my side with force, like he meant business. The guy was slim, but he was a lot stronger than he looked. I slid into the driver’s seat like an obedient child, mumbling something like, “Pushy, aren’t we?”
With Angel Boy’s help it only took a few more minutes to get the truck completely off the road.
I jumped out of the truck and took a couple of seconds to further size up my able assistant. His face and skin were smooth, and he had a leftover tan from the summer, like he’d spent most of June, July, August, and probably a good bit of September on a sailboat. Which he most likely had, seeing as he lived in Oceanside, where an overwhelming percentage of the oceanfront homes had private docks and moorings in the backyard, and big boats bobbed in the surf, just waiting to be used. His wavy, light brown hair was shaped into a Jack Kennedy-style cut, which made me imagine an ocean breeze blowing patterns into it. I couldn’t miss the gray that was sprinkled into the light brown. Although his face was young, I knew he was older than me, maybe by even as much as a decade. But the feature that stopped me short and frigging held me there was his bright blue eyes. I’d never seen eyes as intelligent on a face so pretty. And not being particularly gender-selective in these types of affairs, I was more than slightly attracted to him.
He reached out to shake my hand. “I’m Caleb. Caleb Jorde.”
I wiped off my right hand on my jeans, despite the fact that he’d been clinging to the very same dirty metal I had, and we shook. Somehow he just seemed cleaner than me. “I’m Bradley Zelder. And, uh, thanks for the help.” I always got tongue-tied in front of people who looked like they should be members of the Harvard Club. “You really didn’t have to.”
“Not a problem, Bradley. So where are you headed? I’ll give you a lift.”
This dude’s random acts of kindness knew no bounds. But I shook my head sharply. “Nah. You don’t have to do that. Can I just use your cell to make a call?” I figured he was wondering why the fuck I didn’t use my own phone. “I… uh… forgot mine at home. Last night.”
“An overnight visit, hmm?” He winked.
I just shrugged, not wanting to think about poor, soon-to-be-officially-dumped Maddy in the presence of this guy I was basically lusting for. “Whatever.” Noncommittal responses usually shut people up and did it fast. They were my specialty.
My obvious evasion didn’t deter him. “Come on, I’ll take you wherever you need to go.” He turned abruptly and headed back to his black Volvo wagon—a recent model too. But what else would I expect of the perfect preppy man, than to drive the perfect preppy vehicle? I followed him to his car.