Dec 2 2016 10:30am

E.J. Russell Excerpt: Clickbait

E.J. Russell

Clickbait by E.J. Russell

After the disastrous ending of his first serious relationship, Gideon Wallace cultivated a protective — but fabulously shiny — outer shell to shield himself from Heartbreak 2.0. Besides, romance is so not a priority for him right now. All his web design prospects have inexplicably evaporated, and to save his fledgling business, he's been compelled to take a hands-on hardware project — as in, his hands on screwdrivers, soldering irons, and needle-nosed pliers. God. Failure could actually be an option.

Journeyman electrician Alex Henning is ready to leave Gideon twisting in the wind after their run-ins both on and off the construction site. Except, like a fool, he takes pity on the guy and offers to help. Never mind that between coping with his dad's dementia and clocking all the overtime he can finagle, he has zero room in his life for more complications.

Apparently, an office build-out can lay the foundation for a new relationship. Who knew? But before Alex can trust Gideon with the truth about his fragile family, he has to believe that Gideon's capable of caring about more than appearances. And Gideon must learn that when it comes to the heart, it's content — not presentation — that matters.

Get a sneak peek at E.J. Russell Clickbait (available December 5, 2016) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

Geekspeak: Eye Candy

Definition: Any decorative, aesthetically appealing, or attention-grabbing visual element in a computer display; may or may not be closely related or necessary to the underlying content of the page.

When he got back from the permit office, Alex passed through the de facto break room to grab his tools on the way to Manny’s hole-in-the-wall. Break room was giving it more credit than it was worth, considering the space had no walls, no flooring, no sink, and no fridge. It did, however, have a big-ass thermos—Manny had serious standards for the coffee that accompanied his nightly doughnut, and he was willing to share.

The rest of the crew were gathered around the coffee urn, laughing at something, and didn’t stop when Alex approached, so it had nothing to do with him for a change.

“You see his shoes? What idiot wears shit like that to a work site?”

Alex nodded at Tommy as he opened his tool chest. “What’s up?”

“Hey, Alex.” Dave saluted him with his coffee mug. “New guy on deck tonight.”

“On our crew?” Alex frowned. Damn it, if Manny had enough work to hire additional crew, he could have given Alex more shifts.

“Nah. Some contractor.” Dave chuckled. “The guy has no fucking clue. He tried to vacuum the floor underlayment—with a hand vac, no less—while the drywall guys were hanging the Sheetrock.”

“Thought he’d have a stroke when he saw the dust on his fancy-ass loafers,” Tommy said.

“You should check him out, Henning.” Cal grinned around his ever-present wad of gum. “You might get lucky.”

Alex ignored him and unpacked his Makita, testing the battery with a couple of trigger-pulls before he stowed the drill in his tool belt loop. “You jokers think you know my type?”

“Sure.” Bud planted one steel-toed work boot on an empty cable spool. “You do guys. He’s a guy, and he’s gotta play for your team.”

“How do you know?” Alex did a slow pan around the circle of men. Cal, Bud, Tommy, Dave. “You guys been experimenting?”

They all burst into identical guffaws.

“Naw, man,” Bud said. “But, you know, he seems like someone who wouldn’t mind being the girl.”

So many things wrong with that statement, but Alex refused to go there—or at least not all the way there. “Tell me this. You think the only reason I need to be attracted to someone is that he’s obviously gay?”

Cal chomped on his gum, clearly having a tough time processing. “Well. Yeah.”

“So you’d do any woman, doesn’t matter what she looks like?”

Cal frowned. “Is this one of them trick questions?”

“You’re assuming a woman who’d have him,” Dave drawled. “That narrows the field.”

“Hey.” Cal punched Dave in the shoulder. “I got plenty of opportunities.”

“So any woman. Appearance doesn’t matter?”

“Nah,” Cal said with a last glare at Dave. “As long as she’s got a decent rack. And no facial hair.”

“And teeth.” Tommy took a gulp of coffee and bared his own. “She’s gotta have those.”

All the guys nodded. “Goes without saying,” Bud said.

“See?” Alex shrugged. “Not any girl will do. You’ve got standards. So do I.”

“Come on, man.” Bud slurped his coffee. “Not like you’ve got a lotta choice. I mean, there can’t be that many queers around.”

“I’ve got as much choice as Cal does.”

“Hey!” Cal scowled, and they all laughed again.

This time, Alex joined them. “Later, guys.”

He found Manny studying the plans and handed him the approved permits. “Here you go. Piece of cake.”

“Flashed your smile at them, flexed a couple of times, and they were happy to stay open past closing time?”

Alex grinned. “What can I say? They love me over there.”

Manny snorted and checked his clipboard. “Haynes finally suckered some poor bastard into taking the contract IT job. Started tonight, so you oughta be able to get rolling on the cat-five wiring soon. Guy’s name is— Shit, where’d I put it?” Manny scrabbled through his notes. “Here it is. Wallace.”

Wallace. Alex’s stomach dropped like a stone. Can’t be. Can it? “That his first name or his last?”

“How the fuck should I know? Find him and ask him. And when you do, tell him to get you the network diagram yesterday.”

“Sure.” I’ll get right on that. Or not, if the contractor really was Gideon. Alex didn’t need any more attitude on the jobsite than he got already.

He picked up a spool of cat-five cable, nodded to Manny, and threaded his way through the forest of bare metal studs and exposed insulation. When he neared the spot in the far corner that’d be the server room someday, he heard a voice—the same voice that had threatened him this morning—and his nerve failed.

Although the voice was clear, its owner was blocked from sight by a stack of Sheetrock. Alex hustled over and mounted a ladder under a gap in the drop ceiling. Masked from the waist up, he could pretend to work on the wiring while checking out the server space through a couple of missing ceiling tiles. His mom would have given him so much grief about eavesdropping, but screw it.

Gideon—yep, it was definitely him—paced under the makeshift peephole, and Alex nearly fell off the ladder.

Holy fucking shit.Gideon was wearing a tool belt. A leather one, slung low on his hips over tight, yellow jeans. The pants were decorated with a weird brown pattern, like battling bacteria, but even so he was still hotter than hell.

Gideon dodged a spool of cable, his cell phone pressed to his ear, obviously pissed as all get-out.

“Not everyone appreciates your sense of humor, Charles.” Ah. He must be talking to the other roommate. The insanely smart one. “When I asked you to bring me work clothes, I didn’t expect you to delve quite so far back in my closet. God, I should have burned these pants years ago as a crime against nature.”

From this angle, Alex could see a smear of dirt arced across Gideon’s cheek. His dark hair was dimmed with drywall dust and stuck up in sweaty spikes.

For some reason, that only made him hotter, and Alex licked his lips. He’d had daydreams of getting sweaty with Gideon, although there’d been less fiberglass and more skin in his fantasy. But they were working in the same place, right? This was Alex’s chance to get to know the guy, and it was too good to pass up. It wouldn’t be hard to engineer a few not-so-accidental meetings in the hall, or share a couple of jokes by the coffeepot. Suggest a post-shift get-together. Hey, what say we grab a beer? Maybe dinner? Or, you know, have sex?

Copyright © 2016 by E.J. Russell.
Learn more about or order a copy of Clickbait by E.J. Russell, available December 5, 2016:

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E.J. Russell writes romance in a rainbow of flavors — from M/F stories grounded in absurd contemporary reality to M/M tales splashed with the supernatural — but you can be sure that while the couple makes their way to HEA, they’ll never stray too far into the dark.

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