“Come and honour the Oak King.”
The countdown to the company solstice picnic is one of Shawn’s favourite times of the year. The scents of sage, mint, basil, sunflower, and lavender fill the air as the workshop mixes up the final batch of Litha, their solstice soap. It’s celebration time! This year, Shawn has an extra spring in his step, and it’s all for the new buyer, Tim. Shawn’s fine having a crush on the gorgeous new straight guy. Until he isn’t.
As the clock ticks down to Picnic-Day, Shawn’s confidence and Tim’s sexuality become mired in doubt and second guesses. It’s a minefield of embarrassed glances and missed opportunities. Seems like they’ll never get together…
To cap it all, Shawn’s drawn Tim in the secret solstice gifting. What to get for the quiet man who turns Shawn’s legs to jelly and has the best underwear hanging from the washing line in his garden? And will that tempting rainbow of colour be forever seared onto Shawn’s brain?
Word count: ~16700
Cover designed by Lillian Francis at Finally Love Press
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Universal Amazon link: myBook.to/JustHangingOut_LF
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About the Author
Lillian Francis is a self-confessed geek who likes nothing more than settling down with a comic or a good book, except maybe writing. Given a notepad, pen, her Kindle, and an infinite supply of chocolate Hob Nobs and she can lose herself for weeks. Romance was never her reading matter of choice, so it came as a great surprise to all concerned, including herself, to discover a romance was exactly what she’d written, and not the rollicking spy adventure or cosy murder mystery she always assumed she’d write.
“Come on, everyone. Time to honour the Oak King.” Miriam stood in the centre of the office and jiggled a deep wooden bowl, exquisitely carved with the face of the Green Man. “Come and pick your giftee.”
Yes, I did say Oak King. Miriam’s a new-age hippie, whose 100% natural soap has taken her from cooking the stuff up in her kitchen and selling it from a stall at various markets, to a thriving shop and workshop with a staff of twenty plus. We’ve branched out into candles in the last few years, but it’s the soap, especially the seasonal range, that brings in the punters. Oh, and she’s a Pagan. Hence, the honouring the Oak King statement.
Don’t worry. There’s no sacrifice involved. We have a massive picnic on the Downs on Midsummer’s Eve, drink too much local ale, and the Oak King—normally Ali from Packaging, in a headdress made of antlers and a myriad of leaves, flowers, and herbs—hands out our jokey gifts. Then we settle in to watch the sunset and bid the Oak King farewell for another six months. In other words, it’s a chance to eat well, drink better, and have a laugh, all the while showing appreciation for an amazing boss and honouring her beliefs, even if we’re a mix of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists. Dunno why the atheists can’t have their own capital letter. Me, I’m probably an agnostic with Taoist leanings.
“You too, Shawn,” Miriam called over to me. “Stop hogging the copier and grab a name.”
I glanced at my watch and then flicked my gaze surreptitiously out the window. Still time. If I was quick, and Miriam didn’t choose that moment to chat, I could be back at my station without missing a moment of the action. Shaking a leg, and my impressively pert behind, I slipped in between two of the admin clerks and plucked a slip of paper from the pot. Without bothering to even glimpse at the name written on it, I stuffed the folded slip into the front pocket of my jeans and returned to the photocopier. One more glance at the time—8:52—and I pressed the button to start my items printing.
There were enough pages in this print run to keep me at the copier for a good few minutes. I saved up all but the most urgent for these five minutes just before nine. It was a routine I’d been keeping for the last few months. As the copier warmed up after a night of inaction, with the gentle whirr of reanimated machinery, I took a moment to enjoy the view from the window. The azure blue of the sky contrasted with the white blossom on the tree just on the edge of the company’s land at the rear entrance. Beyond, a neat row of cottages caught the eye and drew the gaze of anyone who had time to stop and watch.
As I appreciated the view, a door of one of the cottages opened and a tall, broad man stepped out onto the path that led down a well-kempt front garden to the road. Yeah, I know that kempt means well cared for, so the well is redundant. I work in communications and I’ve a Desmond in English Lit and Environmental Science. That’s lower second class honours for those of you not in the know. Not bad for a lad from Saath London. Of course, four years at Canterbury, another four living in this small Sussex town, coupled with some conscious effort, have more or less knocked that accent out of me.
Less about me, back to another thing that was kempt and well put together. The object of my voyeuristic tendencies stepped through his gate and out onto the pavement then turned in my direction. A happy sigh escaped me as the early morning sun caught his wavy hair just right; fiery copper reflected back to me in reds and gold. His eyes were green, and flecked with amber. Not that I could see his irises from this distance—I could barely make out the strong features that made up his ruggedly handsome face. And the freckles that gave him an oddly incongruous boyish look were filled in from memory at this point. I sighed again, far too dramatically for my own liking.
Rather than concentrate on the parts of him that required my imagination, I studied the visual feast in front of me. Now he’d cleared the obstruction of his neighbour’s privet, I had an uninterrupted view, where I could drink my fill without the risk of getting caught.
Chinos—the russet pair today—encased long legs, and heavily muscled thighs bunched beneath the material with every determined stride that brought him a step closer. Finally, the man disappeared below my sight line. The photocopier whirled to a stop, spitting out the last few pages of my weekly comms report and a stack of sample leaflets for Miriam’s perusal. I had about five minutes to school my features and get back to my desk, or get caught tongue-tied. Again.
A flash of colour caught my eye as I turned away from the view and I spun back to the window expecting to see the swoop of ring-necked parakeets. The birds were becoming a more common sight in local gardens these days. Maybe the green bastards thought I was homesick and followed me from London.
Instead of the expected flap of wings, my gaze found the source of the flashes of colour: a washing line strung in the back garden of one of the cottages. Clothes hung from the line, fluttering in the gentle breeze of a pleasant June morning. Not just any clothes, though.
Nope, a whole line full of bright, skimpy, tight underwear. Underwear that I’d seen advertised in Attitude that very morning as I read on my bus journey to work. And by seen, I meant studied. Intently. Double-page spread. Three all but naked guys getting handsy with each other and appearing to love every minute of it. Hell, I’d even stuffed in my headphones, thanked any deity who wanted to listen that I was sitting in the back, and watched the ‘making of’ video. Those models were having fun, no doubt about it.
Get A Grip. Flamboyant, colourful, crotch-cupping, butt-caressing underpants. With a marketing campaign that focused on the gay man. Ask a straight guy about GAG and 95% wouldn’t know what you were talking about.
Not only that, but the garden the washing line was located belonged to—
“Morning, Shawn. Printing again?”
Now I was close enough to see the green of his eyes. The deep rumble that came from his broad chest caressed the vowel sound in my name and threatened to turn my legs to jelly.
Stupid! Answer him. All I could do was echo the greeting, anything else was beyond me, the sight of those pants hanging in a neat rainbow of colour seared on to my brain. “Morning, Tim.”
Tim faltered as though expecting there would be more forthcoming, but I had nothing. Nothing workplace appropriate, anyway. Asking your colleague to model his undies for you was probably frowned upon, even for a liberal employer like InScents, and Tim was still comparatively new and seemed kinda shy for a big guy. I wouldn’t say we were friends yet but I hoped we were getting there. So I kept my mouth shut.
The moment stretched on but it could have lasted no more than a second or two, then Tim carried on past, heading for his desk. I thought I’d detected a dusky flush of rose under his freckles but I was easily distracted and couldn’t quell the urge to watch the tight pull of Tim’s chinos as he walked away from me.
Not an unfamiliar feeling any time Tim walked in front of me.
But now I couldn’t stop myself from imaging his muscular arse cheeks enclosed in a pair of GAGs.
* * * * *