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What's in a Name?

What's in a Name?, February 2015
by Pat Henshaw

Dreamspinner Press
Featuring: "Guy" Stone; Jimmy Patterson
88 pages
ISBN: 0149919832
EAN: 2940149919833
Kindle: B00SE34146
e-Book
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"When the biker and the barista meet, sparks fly!"

Fresh Fiction Review

What's in a Name?
Pat Henshaw

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted June 9, 2015

Romance Gay | Romance Contemporary

This novella is set in Northern California, and we find Jimmy sitting at a bar deep in misery. He's just parted ways with his boyfriend of a year's standing. Maybe it wasn't that deep a relationship, but nobody likes being dumped. The bartender Alex refuses him more beer and confiscates his keys, in case, then takes practical care of him. Why aren't more guys like this?

WHAT'S IN A NAME, thinks Jimmy, as Alex may or may not be the bartender's real name. Next day Alex gets into his biker gear and helps Jimmy move out, before installing him above the coffee shop he co-owns with a lively lady called Felicity. Felicity and Alex strike up a bond over poor doormat Jimmy right away. Now he's over the shock, Jimmy wouldn't mind seeing more of Alex. After all he tends the only gay bar in town. But would he be interested in Jimmy long term? And what the heck is his name anyway?

This is a friendly, chatty tale, of a young man who is earnestly being entrepreneurial and taking financial risks, but lacks self confidence. I liked seeing Jimmy's personality grow as he rebounds from the desperately unhealthy past relationship and finds supportive friends. Each night he has another try at guessing Alex's real name, providing fun and a focal point for the story, but regardless of the outcome we can see that Jimmy is already winning. There's another aspect, which is that some traders don't welcome gay and lesbian evening diners, although these customers are more likely to eat out on weeknights than family groups. All does not go smoothly which is sad to see in this day and age. The ladies in town, however, adore Jimmy and Felicity's coffee shop, so where is the trouble coming from?

Pat Henshaw has been a teacher and librarian, and she enjoys travel and time with her family. I certainly enjoyed meeting her characters and seeing their homes, while the plot twists kept me entertained. WHAT'S IN A NAME is a great tale with some life lessons for adult readers.

Learn more about What's in a Name?

SUMMARY

Barista Jimmy Patterson thinks it's a good idea to get rip-roaring drunk on his birthday after he’s dumped by his boyfriend. When the burly owner of Stonewall’s Bar rescues Jimmy, the night starts to look up.

Now Jimmy just wants to know the bartender's first name since he's worn a different name tag every time Jimmy's seen him. "Guy" Stone gives Jimmy seven guesses, one for each night he takes Jimmy out on a date.

While Jimmy’s trying to come up with his name, he's distracted by the destruction of his coffee shop and what looks more and more like a hate crime.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

“IF I tell you my real name, I might have to kill you,” the bartender with the tag proclaiming him to be “Alex” said. It was a joke. I knew it was a joke. But still.

Over the past half year or so, I’d seen him with numerous nametags, all with a couple dozen different first names on them. Tonight I just wanted to know what his real name was. But it didn’t look like it was in the cards.

“Right, Alex.” I sighed into my beer. “You’re already killing me.” I took a breath, letting the alcohol fumes go from my mouth back through my nose. “Alex,” or whatever his name was, seemed to be my only friend tonight. I was ready to wallow. “I’ll have another one.”

Alex glared at me. “He isn’t worth it.”

Tell me something I didn’t know.

“Right. Another beer?”

His glare solidified. I’d asked if Alex was his real name when I was between beers four and six, or maybe five and nine. I was making small talk, you know, not really trying to get personal or anything. I wanted to know the guy’s name, not his inseam.

Or maybe I was right and he was joking. I couldn’t tell. My ache was eating me alive.

I’m a lightweight, a twink I guess most people call me behind my back. I’d just been dumped by my boyfriend of all of a year. On my birthday, no less. I wanted to know something real.

The shit’s name was Alex too, which was why I asked bartender Alex, Alex2 in my mind, if it was his real name.

For the last few months, Alex the Shit and I had been coming into Stonewall Saloon and always seemed to end up fighting. He would sit with me at the bar, we’d order drinks, and then after a few minutes, he’d wander away. Most of the time I’d sit at the bar and talk to the bartender, the guy in front of me now, the very bear Alex, and most of the time, Alex the Shit Alex would find someone alone and cozy up to him. He’d always go home with me, but still.

I focused on the bartender who thought he might have to kill me. He’d never threatened me before, so it had to be a joke. Still, I knew about bad names. After all, my real given names are King and James, but since, fortunately, nobody knows that, they call me Jimmy, which is what I tell them my name is.

Bartender Alex, A2 to me, was a real cutie—a bear, a bear wearing a black leather vest and a scowl, acting all like he didn’t want to serve anyone, even harmless old me. He had a really bad attitude going tonight, which didn’t make my heartache any lighter.

The bar was located in Northern California nowhere, a suburban outcropping consisting of a Home Depot, TGI Fridays, Starbucks, and other gotta-have places, with a gazillion look-alike houses that sprouted up like mushrooms. The suburb surrounded a really small Old Town left over from the Gold Rush and passenger train days. The bar was one of the few places locally owned and operated within miles.

I giggled at the thought. Locally owned and operated. Like me. I’d been locally owned and operated by Alex the Shit, until tonight.

“Just one more,” I begged A2. “I won’t even ask about your name again,” I added with a slight burp, or maybe a hiccup.

A2 just stood there, shaking his head and frowning.

I gave him sad cat eyes, you know, the kind Puss in Boots gave Shrek. My friends say I do it really well, but it didn’t seem to work on A2.

I sighed. The alcohol stench again went from my mouth through my nose.

“Aren’t we friends?” I asked. “I thought we were friends.”

Okay, maybe I was whining now.

“Can I see your keys?” A2 snarled.

“Huh?”

“Your keys? Let me see them.”

I fumbled with my pockets, and my wallet and a couple pieces of paper fell on the floor. I bent to pick everything up while trying to dig my keys out of my pocket, then landed on the floor myself. I grabbed my wallet just as my keys popped from my pocket. Both went flying.

A sturdy hand under my arm helped me up.

“Alex?” I asked.

“Yeah, sport. Let’s get you into a cab and on your way home.”

“No, not necessary.” My words came out a little mushy but, I thought, understandable. Maybe not. “I can drive,” I said, forgetting that I didn’t even have a car with me. Alex had driven us in his truck, and he’d walked out with some other guy. Just like that. Walked off and left me.

The hand was gripping me too tight now, so I tried to shake it away.

“Not happening, pal. You’re going home.”

“Can’t go home. Got no home,” I said to the hand that had pulled my arm next to my mouth. “Going to sleep in the car. Sleep it off. Off it sleep, A2.” I had a car somewhere, right? I could just sleep in it. Off it sleep, I will.

I giggled at how Star Wars I sounded and repeated it.

The hand got me pulled up to the barstool. I tried to sit on it but overshot, almost going down again.

“Whoa! The barstool shrunk,” I said, glaring at it. “Naughty barstool. Don’t do that.”

I tried a third or fourth time, but the barstool was even smaller each time.

I turned and looked at A2, who was holding me by the arm. He was out from behind the bar and standing next to me. I’d never seen him without the bar hiding him from his waist down. He looked fine. His hairy chest was nearly in my face, but since my head hung down, his tight leather pants were all I could really see.

“I could blow you,” I muttered, watching his bump jump. Then I giggled again. “Your dick jumped,” I said, laughing. The contents of my stomach weren’t happy with laughter. They took offense and rose to punish me. “Oh, God, I’m gonna….”

Then I was zooming across the nearly empty bar, and my head was pushed over a toilet, where everything let fly.

Not better. Definitely not better. In fact, I felt worse, much worse.

A hairy hand roughly swiped a wad of toilet paper across my mouth.

“How we feeling there?”

I started to shake my head, but more beer left me.

A nap sounded good after that, so I started lowering my head. Only the hairy hand again swiped across my mouth. Then I drooled, and the hand with toilet paper was back again.

“I gotta go,” I slurred, trying to stand. “Sleep in car.”

The toilet next to my head flushed. I winced. Did all toilets sound so loud? Jeez, where was a silent toilet when you needed one?

“I gotta go,” I repeated as the hand and his friend, another hand, lifted me under my arms.

I stood and stared at A2’s hairy chest. His nipples were erect, so I swiped my tongue over the closest one.

“Oh God. Yuck. Stop,” he said, dropping me with one hand as he started wiping his nipple with the toilet paper. “That’s gross.”

Oh, yeah. I’d just vomited. He was right. I was being gross.

“Sorry,” I said, trying to wipe away the saliva on him. “Gross, gross,” I muttered, missing his nipple and running my fingers along his chest hair instead. “Sorry. Too gross.”

Then I purred because his hair was so soft and cuddly warm under my hand.

I peered up at him. He was still scowling, but this time he looked gorgeous.

“You’re beautiful,” I said, bringing my hand up to his stubbly face.

He reared back as if I were going to spit on him.

“Oh, no you don’t, pal.”

He straightened me up and pushed me along, letting me stumble away from him and back into the sink area of the bathroom.

He turned on the water and grabbed a couple of the paper towels. Wetting down the towels, he ran them over my face. The cool water felt wonderful. So I purred again. When I opened my eyes, his nipples were rigid. This time I didn’t try to touch them.

He tossed away the paper towels without looking at me, grabbed another couple, wet them down, and ran them over his face, then his chest.

Before I could say anything, he was marching me back out of the bathroom and to one of the tables in the nearly empty bar.

“Sit,” he said as he pushed me into a chair.

I did.

“Stay,” he said, putting my arms on the table.

I nodded, my head bowing to my arms. A nap. A little nap seemed like a good idea. I wasn’t going anywhere without A2, my second Alex.

I DON’T have to describe the next morning. If you’ve ever had a bad hangover, then you know how I was suffering. If you haven’t, there’s no way words can describe the world of hurt I was in. Suffice it to say, I woke up naked, covered with a sheet and navy blue comforter in a huge bed, my head taking up most of the California king space.

I had no idea where I was, but it didn’t matter because wherever I was and whoever lived here would be doing me a favor just to shoot me and put me out of my misery.

I had to pee, so I slowly swam to the edge of the bed, trying not to move any body parts. A complete failure, as you can imagine. I ached all over. Had someone beaten me up?

As I reached the side of the bed and peered over the edge at the floor a few stories below, I groaned. Where was the ladder to climb down to the carpeting? I clutched the edge of the bed with one hand and rolled to my side.

“Hey, where you going, sport?” a voice boomed in my ear.

Carefully, I turned my head.

Alex the Second was peering at me over his chest of hair. His eyes were squinting in the light.

“Bathroom. Pee.” I sighed. “Gotta pee.”

“Right,” he groaned and caused a tidal wave on the mattress.

My stomach protested, but I knew it had nothing left in it to remove.

I felt his hands on either side under my arms.

“Right this way,” he muttered, his voice charging from ear to ear.

He turned me around and marched me to a doorway. Carefully, he sat me down on the toilet.

“No spilling,” he said, turning away and walking back to the bedroom.

I pushed my limp dick between my legs and did my thing, not spilling a drop on the bathroom floor. Then I rested my arm on the sink next to the toilet, and my head on my arm.

“Nope, no snoozing here,” the voice boomed. “C’mon.”

Again arms lifted me, but one left. The toilet roiled. The arm returned.

“We’d usually wash our hands,” the voice murmured through me, “but I think we’ll skip it this time.”

Back in bed, covered, dry mouthed, I decided it was nap time.

THE NEXT time I woke, I was awake. Awake awake. Oh my God, where in the hell am I awake. Shit, I’m in big trouble awake. Where are my clothes awake.

I took inventory. No pain in the ass. That was a relief. No smell of semen. Check, and another sigh. No aches and pains that weren’t directly related to a few too many beers, check. No clothes. No clothes?

I was okay, pretty much, other than naked, hungover, and in a stranger’s house.

“Um,” I tried to say, but my mouth was glued shut.

I reached over to feel the side of the bed. Still there. Then I reached over to the other side. Nothing. No one.

Okay, I was alone in a strange bed as memory filtered back. I had been an ass, and Alex the Second had taken care of me anyway. I owed him my firstborn child, should such a thing happen in a dedicated twink’s life. I owed him everything, including my pride and gratitude.

Slowly I sat up and then stood. My knees protested, so I sat back down and then tried again. This time my knees cooperated.

I walked to the doorway, looking for my clothes. Even my underwear would do. Seeing none, but hearing a rustling sound from outside the room, I walked to the doorway and shuffled down the hall toward the noise.

Alex the Second was sitting on a huge leather couch looking at a magazine. He wore sweats but no shirt and looked so damn hot I had to blink.

“Good afternoon,” he drawled. “How’re you doing?”

“Thank you so much,” I said, wondering if I was getting my statements backassward. I continued anyway. “I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah,” he said, putting the magazine on the coffee table in front of him. He stood as I hung onto the wall. “How about something to drink?”

“Water?” my reedy voice asked. “Coffee?”

He gave me the once-over.

“Lots of water,” he answered. “Maybe a little electrolyte boost too.”

He walked past me, then doubled back to wrap me in an afghan and help me sit in a huge Papa Bear recliner. I leaned back, closed my eyes, and heard him rustling around in the kitchen behind me.

I was thankful, very, very thankful. If it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know what I would have done with myself last night. Alex and I were sharing a two-bedroom condo neither of us could afford as a single person. The condo would have to go, and I had to find an apartment.

I opened my eyes and looked around A2’s place. Minimal but nice. He was into modified Harley guy living. He had a huge screen TV, a leather couch and matching recliner, a coffee table, two end tables, a rag rug, a couple of lamps, all the necessities. His bed was really big and really comfortable.

I got up, walked into the kitchen, and sat at the table. Again, minimalist but nice. Older appliances, wooden table, four chairs, and an outdated coffeemaker.

His butt was in the air as he dug through his refrigerator.

“I hate to be a bother,” I said, looking at his butt crack and getting just a little hard. I had a thing for bears, but this was neither the time nor the place. “I was wondering if you have any french dark roast? Actually, french pressed would be better.”

He stood, turned, and stared at me.

“I shoulda known,” he muttered, handing me a cold bottle of water. “I can’t find any power drinks. You’ll have to start with this.”

I nodded and smiled. “Thanks. You really don’t have to do this. If you’ll just tell me where my clothes are, and my phone, I’ll get dressed and call a cab.”

He looked down at my dick as it made the afghan rise. He grinned a wickedly sinful smile.

“Kinda like you looking like that,” he said, walking toward me.

I drank some of the water, nervous about what his intentions were. I’m not against hooking up —at least I hadn’t been a couple of years ago before I started hunting for love instead of lust. So far love hadn’t worked out, so maybe I should be going back to lust for a while.

I gave him the once-over in return. I stood, letting the afghan fall.

“See anything you like, baby?” he asked.

I cocked my head as my dick pointed to its preference on its way up to full mast.

“Yeah.” I peered at him from eyes to crotch and back again. “But you don’t want this body until it’s showered and my teeth are brushed.”

He looked momentarily taken aback at my response, but his dick seemed to be taking everything in stride, filling out the front of his sweats and then tenting them.

“Okay,” he said in a voice that challenged me, “you’re on.”

And we were.


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