Directing Traffic

Cover!My novella Directing Traffic, now available from Dreamspinner Press!

MM Good Book Reviews gives Directing Traffic 4 Hearts:

“Charley packs a great story into this novella with amazingly well-rounded characters and a fantastic back-story for them both. Ty’s uncle and Neil’s longtime best friend add that little something extra to the story, just to take the reader outside of the romance between the two ML. One of the best “first times” I’ve ever read as well.”

A new love was the last thing on his mind . . .

Neil Sedwick expects to spend his vacation in a sleepy tourist trap mourning his late partner’s death. Instead, he puts his recently acquired CPR certificate to use and saves an elderly resident’s life. But it’s the survivor’s nephew, sexy middle-school teacher Ty Bigelow, who causes Neil to reevaluate his routine and consider reopening his heart. 

Though the electricity between them is undeniable, Ty is struggling with his own feelings of inadequacy, and Neil is moored to the past. Even the healing peace of an old man’s garden and the ever-changing waters of the Oregon coast may not be enough to prepare Neil to overcome a crisis of the heart.

Take a peek at my Pinterest board for a little of the inspiration behind the story!

Excerpt, Rated PG-13:

Neil stood outside the little cafe and read the sign advertising burgers, beer, and fun. He thought that to be an overly optimistic—possibly even arrogant—claim, but went in anyway. Ty sat at a table in the far corner on the other side of a pool table. Two boys, who looked barely legal, did more laughing than shooting as Neil went to sit across from Ty.

“I didn’t know this place had a pool table,” said Neil after they’d said their hellos and thank-you-for-comings.

“Do you play?” Ty sat up a little straighter and smiled wider.

“Not for a while. And I never was very good.”

“Neither am I. We should play after lunch.”

The waitress came and took their orders. They chatted about the beach and how much the little town had changed over the past few years. It turned out they’d both taken their vacations there since well before the gentrification started and agreed the project had robbed the town of much of its charm.

“But we keep coming back anyway,” said Ty, dragging his last fry through the mixed ketchup and grease on his plate.

Neil wondered how he stayed so slender if he ate like that. He finished the last few bites of his Caesar salad and thought how unhappy Julius would be to see what this dive had done to his namesake entrée.

“Um, yeah, I guess. The beach is nice, though, and clears out pretty quickly once the kids go back to school.”

“How about a game?” Ty jumped up and started racking the table.

Neil wondered if he’d really seen a shadow pass across Ty’s face at the mention of kids and school. He was probably—straight, married, or both—worried about his uncle.

“I don’t want to keep you if—”

“You’d be doing me a favor. Once I leave here, I have no plans. Idle hands and all that.” Ty grinned and sauntered over to the rack on the wall.

Neil literally shook his head to remind himself where he was and that he really shouldn’t stare at this kid he’d just met, especially not his ass, and then forced himself across the little room to choose a cue. If that perfect round bottom had been created by burgers and fries, maybe he should reconsider his own eating habits. He was a little uncomfortable bending over the table with Ty standing right there watching, but his break probably wouldn’t have been any better had he been standing anywhere else.

Neil had felt a static tension in the room as soon as he reached the table, and as they played it only got worse. And all that bending over and thoughtful lining-up of shots that were missed by miles didn’t help.

They each had two balls left on the table, and Ty asked if Neil wanted to make it more interesting.

Neil laughed. “Not sure I can handle more interesting. But what do you have in mind?”

“Loser buys dinner.”

Ty bent over to line up his shot and his tank top draped over the table, giving Neil a prime view of Ty’s tanned chest and a tease of muscular stomach. Ty missed an easy bank shot.

“Or I can get it after I win.” Neil sank the two ball in the side, and then bumped a stripe in for Ty along with the six ball. As he lined up the eight ball, Neil realized what he’d done. He’d just asked this young guy out to dinner. He’d never asked anyone out before, not once, and this seemed as though he’d done it behind his own back. His hands shook enough to ensure the cue ball followed the eight straight into the pocket.

Ty laughed. His laugh made Neil grin, even through the burning blush he was sure encompassed his entire face, neck, and most of his chest.

“I warned you I wasn’t very good.”

Ty shook his head. “You weren’t kidding.” He replaced his cue in the rack, and maybe he was a little pale when he turned back around. “You don’t have to—”

“You’re suggesting I welch?”

Ty’s grin returned fast, forcing Neil to wonder again about his age. When he grinned like that, he looked almost as old as Neil himself, who wasn’t quite ready to admit he was pushing forty. But when he turned away from the cue rack, he seemed barely old enough to be in the bar. Ty raised an eyebrow, and Neil realized he’d been staring.

“Where would you like to eat?”

“You’re buying, so you decide.”

“My hotel has a restaurant next door. I’m not sure if it’s any good….”

“Sounds fine to me.”

Neil smiled and nodded, and they agreed on a time. When Neil left the cafe, Ty walked alongside him. They continued in a companionable silence to the end of the main drag. Neil expected him to drop away at any time, stunned by the realization he didn’t want that to happen. Ty kept walking with him, his flip-flops matching every step of Neil’s canvas deck shoes.

They reached the hotel, and Ty said softly, “Food’s good here.”

Neil glanced at Ty and then started up the weathered wood staircase to his room, holding his breath. He slowly let it out when he heard the slap of Ty’s flip-flops behind him. Neil’s hand shook the tiniest bit as he swiped his key card and opened the door. He hesitated, and Ty brushed past him into the room. Neil flinched away from the jolt he got when their arms touched.

Neil closed and locked the door and Ty was right there, his auburn curls shivering with his quiet laughter. Close up, his hazel-green eyes were even more beautiful than from across the table, and before Neil was able to think past them, Ty’s hands were on his chest and one snaked up into his hair.

Just before Ty’s mouth found Neil’s, he whispered one word that made Neil smile too. “Electricity.”

Buy Directing Traffic at Dreamspinner Press or  Amazon

My Author Page at Dreamspinner Press!

Cannon Beach Weather Sampler 5_07

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