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  • If you never read another m/m romance this year, read this one, you will not be sorry.
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  • Maya @ readalloverREVIEWS
  • The story was well written and utterly cute, sweet and it is oriented around family and Christmas.
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  • I am so in love with the Workplace Encounters series it isn't even funny, and this book is no different!
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  • The Baker (Workplace Encounters)
  • MelanieM @ scatteredthoughtsandroguewords
  • The Baker by Serena Yates is the first I’ve read in her Workplace Encounters series but I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to search out the rest.
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  • Becky @ Bike Book Reviews
  • It is one of my favorites in this series! Thanks Serena for a series that just keeps getting better and better!
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • 'Araton's Destiny' is an enjoyable, sweet Christmas story with passionate, wonderfully written love scenes and a great happy ending.
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • The first tale in the 'Gemstone Chronicles' is an endearing love story, endowed with marvelous, well-developed characters, but it also has its dark side, featuring malicious villains with hidden political agendas...
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  • The Baker (Workplace Encounters)
  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • Thanks, Serena, for your magical touch when it comes to giving your couples the happy ending they deserve, and for making me drool all over my Kindle while describing all of the fabulous baked goods.
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  • Pixie @ MM Good Book Reviews
  • Oh, this is a fantastic addition to the Gemstone Chronicles with its twists and hidden turns. Nico and Nayder are a wonderful pair.
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • Serena has created an endearing love story, with two awesome men and put them together with brilliant results.
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • Fabio and Edwin are great characters whose devotion is tested by fire and they come out on the other side stronger than ever.
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
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Convincing Landon (Men of Riverside 7)

Convincing Landon (Men of Riverside 7)
Release Date: 21 November 2011
Description:

Afraid of being openly gay, Landon rejected Kendall after a brief affair. Will they be able to make a fresh start when chance reunites them years later?

Landon Tully is a social worker who only returned to Riverside for his father's funeral. But when a job opportunity opens up, he decides to stay for a while. Within days he runs into Kendall Gable, the man he'd thought was too young for him eight years ago - only now Kendall is all grown up and on the opposite side of a bidding contest for the land Landon has been asked to obtain to build a homeless shelter.

Kendall has made a life for himself as an architect. Focussing on work has helped him fill the hole in his life that Landon left behind. Running into him is painful, but helps him realise some of the issues in his professional life need fixing.

Will Kendall be able to convince himself, and Landon, that they deserve a life together after all?

 


Pages: 93
Words: 32,055
Heat Index:Heat Index
Cover Artist: Posh Gosh
Book Type: EBook

Chapter One

Riverside, Texas
Thursday, June 6, 1991

"No!" The ragged scream tore into the mid-afternoon silence, brutally ending the peaceful quiet time just before the day's chores were done.

Landon's head jerked up, his eyes rising from the dusty ground he'd mindlessly been staring at as he was walking towards the very building that the pain-filled sound had come from. The barn they kept the horses in was just as ramshackle as most of the other buildings on their run-down farm, but it pretty much served its purpose most of the time.

Who was even in there right now? Most of the hands hadn't returned from the fields yet, wouldn't be expected back for at least another hour. Hell, he wasn't supposed to be here, either. But the dress rehearsal for tomorrow's graduation ceremony at Riverside High had gone so well, they'd all been sent home early.
Another scream, more muffled than the first one, spurred him into action. He ran the rest of the way, pushing the heavy wooden doors open with enough force to bruise his hands. It took his eyes a few seconds to adjust from the glaring sunshine to the half-dark of the barn's interior. He scanned the mostly empty stalls, quickly walking past them towards the tack room, searching for anything out of order.

"Please. Please don't." The voice sounded small and scared, and undeniably belonged to his younger brother, Greg.

"Shut up." Ray was five years older than Landon and nobody would call him soft. Or even nice. But the venom dripping from his short utterance just now was chilling.

Landon almost ran to the last stall, stumbling in his haste to reach Greg. He gripped the wooden separation for support, only vaguely noticing the splinters penetrating his skin. What he saw not only confirmed his suspicions from hearing the screams, but made the blood freeze in his veins.

Greg was curled up in the foetal position on the floor, straw sticking to his jeans and the T-shirt that had slipped up, exposing several bruises on his sides. His hands covered his head as Ray kicked him brutally in the back with the heavy cowboy boots their eldest brother preferred to wear.

"Stop it!" Landon stepped farther into the stall, attempting to get between Ray and Greg to stop this madness.

Greg whimpered.

Ray looked up, the anger in his eyes quickly giving way to shock.

"What are you doing here?" Ray staggered, supporting himself by placing a hand on the back wall when he reached it. "You...you're not supposed to be back yet."

"I'm glad I returned earlier." Landon went on his knees to place a supporting hand on Greg's head, not taking his eyes off Ray for a second. "What the hell is going on here?"

"Just a little much-needed discipline." Ray sneered at Greg's cowering form. "Let the little shit here know that his easy days are over, now that you're graduating and moving away. It's about time he starts pulling his weight around here."

Landon's mouth dropped open.

"What? You didn't think I'm going to stand by when you leave to go to that fancy college of yours after the summer and do nothing?" Ray snorted, pulling himself up to his full height. "This place doesn't run itself, so Greg here is going to have to pick up the pieces and start helping out. He didn't do a very good job of it today, so I just helped him understand what happens when he's lazy."

"Wasn't lazy." Greg's voice was barely audible since he hadn't moved a muscle and was pretty much speaking into his own chest. "Just can't lift those heavy bales of hay as fast as you want me to."

"You're going to have to learn." Ray's face was a hard mask of anger.

"Look, Greg is only sixteen. You can't expect him to be as strong as you are. He's still in high school, for heaven's sake." Landon shook his head. Greg was strong for his age-a very good football player-but he was no match for Ray's towering six-foot-four frame and muscles honed by years of hard labour on the ranch."Come on, Greg, try to get up. I'll take you to the house to check you out. Let's just hope we don't have to go to the hospital."

"Hospital? Don't make me laugh, that would be just like the little weakling. Showing off on the football field is all you're good for, isn't it? As soon as you're asked to do a man's job, you collapse." The glance Ray gave Greg was full of hatred.

How had Landon missed the bad vibes before now? This was clearly not a sudden outpouring of feelings. Whatever Ray's problem was must have built for a long time for him to be so vicious now. Was it because he was the eldest and their father expected him to take over one day? Dad was strict and demanding, but was that any reason for Ray to be so mean to their youngest brother?

Greg struggled to untangle himself, but he finally managed to get onto his knees. With a last wary look at Ray, he turned towards Landon and took his outstretched hand. Landon pulled him up, ready to support him as he hobbled out of the stall.

"This isn't the last of it!" Ray had followed them but stayed in the barn when they left. "You hear me, Greg? Just because Landon is here to protect you-for now-doesn't mean you'll get away with it once he's gone. Someone has to do the chores, and I'm telling you, you're it."

Landon ignored that for now and focused on walking back to the house.

"Oh, God, I'm so sorry about this." Greg was looking anywhere but at Landon.

"You've got nothing to be sorry about." Landon could have kicked himself for not noticing. They needed some shade and the first aid kit. Then he would deal with the rest. But he couldn't stop himself from asking. "How long has this been going on?"

"Just a few days." Greg entered the kitchen and sat on one of the chairs, supporting his head in his hands.

"A few days?" Landon shook his head as he got what he needed from the cabinet in the utility room. "Why didn't you say anything?"

"Was going to handle it myself." Greg looked up, his lips pressed together. "Didn't do a very good job of it, did I?"

"No." Landon worked hard to suppress the laugh that wanted out, despite the awfulness of the situation. He wetted down a cloth to clean up Greg's face. "But this is not something you can handle on your own."

"Why not?" Greg didn't even flinch when Landon started washing the scratches.

"Because Ray apparently has an issue about running this place once I'm gone, and you're the person he's taking it out on. He won't listen to anything you might have to say." Landon sighed as he put aside the cloth and picked up the antibiotic ointment they used for smaller injuries, dabbing it onto the many small surface wounds, careful not to hurt Greg more than he needed to. "I'll need to find out what his problem is then try to find a solution. We can't let him get away with this."

Landon snorted as he finished treating Greg's face and moved on to checking the bruises on his arms and body. They looked worse than they were, and all they'd need was some ice. The psychological fallout from being attacked by an elder brother you were supposed to respect and look up to would be harder to deal with.

One thing was certain. Landon sighed as he got them both some iced tea and sat down for a minute. He wouldn't be going away to college if he couldn't figure out a way to help keep Greg safe. Family was a lot more important than his selfish need to get an education and become a social worker. After all, if he couldn't keep the peace in his family, what good was he going to be at helping others?

* * * *

Riverside, Texas
Wednesday, September 9, 1999

Landon stared at the well-remembered yet, now, strange-looking buildings of Riverside High as he pulled up to the crowded parking lot. Not having been back since his graduation just over eight long years ago had given him some much needed distance. Or so he'd thought. Switching off the engine of his ancient but reliable truck, he leant back in his seat and took a deep breath.

He'd been afraid of being reminded of lost chances, and that was exactly what was happening now that he was here. Staring at the red brick building-with its two square towers framing the middle part, and the first students pouring out on their way home-made his heart hurt. They still had their futures ahead of them. He felt like his had been over before it had ever had a chance to start.

There'd been no choice once he'd realised how cruel Ray was. Their father was getting too old to run the ranch on his own, so Greg needed protection until he could take care of himself. Landon had stayed on, shelving his plans to go to college. Only, once Greg had graduated and gone to college to become a football coach, their father had disowned him since he wasn't contributing to the family business. Landon's income was needed to support Greg. So he stayed, never even hesitating. He couldn't have been prouder when Greg had been hired by Riverside High as a junior coach three years ago.

With a final sigh, he got out of the vehicle, locked it and started walking towards the main entrance. Once Greg was settled, Landon had started volunteering at the inner city shelter for abused women last year. His mother had suffered from his father's mistreatment for so long before she'd killed herself six years ago, Landon wanted to help others in her situation before it was too late. He wasn't sure the clerical work he did at the shelter was really helping, and it wasn't what he'd wanted, but it was too late now to go to college and get the qualifications he needed to be a counsellor.

"I'm sorry." Greg's voice pulled him out of the depressed haze he found himself in more and more often these days.

"What?" Landon looked up, registering the fact he'd made it all the way into the building. How had he found his brother's office without even trying? He'd not been here in a very long time. His brain must have been working on some level, even if he couldn't recall the details.

"About holding you back." Greg looked at him from behind his cluttered desk and shrugged. "I don't know, you've just got that look on your face again."

"That look?" Landon grinned as he sat on the edge of his brother's desk, not wanting to trust the rickety-looking visitors chair with his weight. "You're way too good at reading me."

"That's what you get for sharing an apartment with me ever since Dad kicked me off the ranch." Greg sighed. "I've been thinking, you know?"

"Uh-oh." Landon loved teasing Greg.

"You can uh-oh me all you want, but I think it's time you lived a little." Greg closed the files he'd been working on and leant back in his squeaky office chair.

"Lived a little?" Landon raised his eyebrows. "What's gotten into you? I'm fine."

"I don't think you are." Greg shook his head. "Not really. I mean, you've settled into this life of ours, and I'm more grateful than I can say that you've been there for me all these years. But I think it's time you started thinking of yourself-doing what you've always wanted to do."

"I can't go to college now, Greg." Landon sighed. "I'm not only twenty-six years old, Ray also needs me to help out on the ranch. Dad isn't getting any younger."

"Will you at least think about it?" Greg took a deep breath. "I don't think you're too old to go to college, not if you really want to be a social worker. And I think you still do. Every time you talk about volunteering, you seem like a different man. Hell, when we went there last week to talk about me coaching some of the kids, you looked happy for the first time in I can't remember how long."

"You're right, I can't deny that." Damn it, he did still want to work with those who had nobody else to stand up for them. He just wasn't sure he'd be the right person, since he wasn't even able to make his own life work. So far, all Greg knew about was the professional side of it. Landon would die before he let Greg know about his attraction to men.

"So, why won't you do anything about it?" Greg tilted his head. "And don't start talking about how the ranch needs you. Dad and Ray can damn well hire someone to help out. Okay, so they might have to hire two to replace you, since you work like an ox, but you know what I mean. You've more than fulfilled your obligations to them, if there even is such a thing."

"Do you really believe I should?" Landon hadn't even let himself think about it lately. He'd be too disappointed if he got his hopes up only to be slapped down again.

"Yes!" Greg sighed in that exaggerated way he used when he wanted to make a point. "Look, do me a favour. I need to run one last training session for the day at the stadium then I'll come with you to the centre, as agreed. Why don't you use that time to go over to the admin office and check out the college admissions information? Just have a look, okay?"

"All right." A look wouldn't be so bad.

"Great!" Greg beamed at him, clearly happy he'd agreed. "Why don't you meet me at the stadium in about an hour?"

"Okay, I'll do that." Landon rose as he listened to the directions Greg gave him.

Walking through the corridors of his old school brought back more memories. Good ones, like the time he'd spent ogling the members of the football team. Bad ones, like the girls who'd been after him and hadn't given him a moment's peace. Or so it had seemed. And then there'd been Mrs. Walker, his civics teacher, who had encouraged his interest in working with those less privileged than himself. She was probably enjoying retirement by now, but he'd never forget her.

Finding the admin office was easy, and he started grabbing folders and information about some of the colleges he remembered looking at before ‘disaster' had struck. Mumbling something about a nephew when the lady at the desk gave him an odd look, he beat a hasty retreat, dumping the stuff on the backseat of his truck before making his way to the stadium. Shit, if the lady in admissions thought he was odd, what would the other students say? Or the professors for that matter?

Joining Greg, who stood next to the track, encouraging each boy as they ran past, Landon grinned at how nothing had changed here at all. The cheerleaders were still training on the field, the track and field team was practicing long jumps, and the rest of the senior year boys seemed to be doing laps at the moment. There was a group of four that seemed to stick close together until the one black guy in the group took off at a much faster pace.

The other three continued as before, with two of them chatting while the third seemed to just hang on. He was the one who drew Landon's attention, though. He was slim, almost delicate, but carried himself with proud determination. His legs were long in relation to his body, and he was well-toned all over. Short, curly brown hair was blowing every which way as he ran, and it looked as if he had freckles. How cute was that?
Landon shook his head and forced himself to look away. Shit, he was not going to start anything with a high school student. As adorable as the guy looked, he was probably no older than seventeen and that made him pure jail-bait. Didn't stop Landon from watching him as he came closer, though.

Kendall had never really liked PE. He was just a little too scrawny to look good in exercise gear. On the other hand, Ben and Zeke, his close friends, looked really good in sports shorts. Neither of them was really winded, either. Harry just tagged along and Tim, the fifth in their group, had long ago left them behind, waving at them when he took off. He was definitely going to make one of the teams.

Kendall, however, wasn't made for team sports. No more so in his senior year than he had been in previous years. Still, he'd had to attempt it. Gaining his classmates' respect was an important step in preparing for his role in society, never mind his chances of being accepted by the ‘right' college next year. Even though joining a squad was clearly not going to happen, running and joining the debate team might be just as useful.

"Come on, Kendall-you can do one more lap." Greg Tully, the coach who looked hardly any older than the seniors themselves, did his best to support each and every one of them. He'd been the assistant coach for the last three years, but had taken over when the previous head coach had retired at the end of last year.
Kendall nodded, trying not to wheeze too badly as he ran past his teacher. ‘One more lap' was his new mantra. He'd do almost anything for this guy. Six feet of bundled energy and well-toned muscles was at least as motivating as the thought of becoming an architect and working for a major firm once he graduated college. He shook his head. Developing an almost-crush on his teacher-his very male teacher-was not a good idea at all.

Coming around the bend for the final stretch, all his previous worries were forgotten. The Adonis now standing next to Greg made him stumble. Taller than the coach by a good two inches, wearing a very hot cowboy hat, his shoulders were broad, his chest well-muscled and his thighs simply drool-worthy. Kendall had recently discovered his love of male legs and-man-that guy must have sprung straight from his late-night fantasies. The tight jeans did nothing to detract from his enjoyment, and the black cowboy boots added a nice finishing touch.

Tearing his eyes back up to the stranger's face, Kendall noticed brown eyes twinkling with mischief as the man stared back at him. The very pronounced five o'clock shadow complemented the rugged look as the deep red lips pulled up into a dazzling smile. He resembled Greg when he did that, except he was leagues ahead in the looks department, as far as Kendall was concerned.

"You all right?" Greg looked worried.

"Yeah." Kendall righted himself, flushing with embarrassment.

"Like I was saying, I don't think you'll be joining the football team, based on what I've seen this afternoon." Greg checked his clipboard. "But track and field could do with a runner like you, if you're up for it?"

"Sure." Kendall nodded, not really focused on his discussion with the coach. He was far more fascinated with the small beads of sweat that had appeared on the stranger's brow, despite the hat. They made tantalisingly slow progress down the side of his face. Kendall wanted to lick them off.

"Okay, I'll add you to the list." Greg made a note.

The soft scratching of the pen awakened Kendall from his lust-filled gaze. What the hell had he just agreed to?

"Now that we've got that decided, I think you can take a well-deserved rest." Greg grinned and slapped him on the back. "I've got a hot date with my brother and some inner city kids, so if you'll excuse me...."

No, no, no. This wasn't good. He couldn't let Mr. Gorgeous walk away from him. Tim was still running-the show-off. Ben, Zeke and Harry had already vanished in the direction of the changing rooms, but Kendall was feverishly trying to find a way to stay near Landon.

"Inner city kids?" He took some deep breaths to calm himself down, hoping Greg and his brother would think he was still out of breath from the run. Which he was, just a little.

"Yeah, sorry." Greg pointed at his brother. "This is Landon. He volunteers at a homeless shelter for teenagers, and I help him run a fitness class and a couple of basketball games every Monday and Wednesday."

"Hi, Landon." If Kendall's voice went any higher, he'd sound like a girl. Shit. "I'm Kendall Gable."
"Nice to meet you, Kendall." Landon held out his hand to shake.

Kendall was totally unprepared for the heat of the man's slightly calloused fingers. Tingles of excitement travelled up his arms and straight to his cock. The physical attraction was stronger than anything he'd ever experienced.

He was in such trouble. Knowing what this meant, having suspected he was gay for a while now, didn't make it any easier to accept. His struggle to be accepted by society at large had just encountered a major obstacle. Not that he stood a chance with this guy. He was not only way out of the man's league, but Landon was probably straight as an arrow. Surely most-if not all-cowboys were?

After what was probably way too long, Kendall remembered to withdraw his hand. Landon seemed hesitant to let go, or was that wishful thinking? Kendall almost snorted. He wanted to get to know Landon in the biblical sense, but there was no way in hell that was going to happen. Heck, the man was probably married and had several kids running around at home.

"Are you interested in helping out?" Landon looked at Greg. "It is okay to ask, right?"

"Well, we'd have to get his parents' consent, but there's no harm in checking if Kendall might be interested in helping us out at the youth centre. It might be good if the kids had someone closer to their own age to relate to." Greg smiled at him. "And you might enjoy supporting the community, Kendall."

If it would enable him to spend time around Landon, he was ready to do pretty much anything. And supporting the community would look as good-if not better-on his resume than membership of a sports team.

 

©Serena Yates, 2011
All Rights Reserved

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