The Ultimate Find

an excerpt

"So, your hottie should be here soon," Ralph joked as he carefully worked on framing a 1950's movie poster from the Wizard of Oz. They'd be making some good money once they found the right buyer for it.

Kevin groaned. "Don't remind me, please." He was restoring a rocking chair and was busy polishing the legs.

"Why don't you just ask him?"

"Because it's pretty obvious."

Ralph rolled his eyes. "Not to me. I think you've just decided to be miserable because you're afraid to ask."

"I'm not a home-wrecker."

"Can't wreck something that's already broken."

"He has a kid." Kevin concentrated on making the cherry wood shine.

"There is that." Ralph glanced over from his worktable. "Still, you could ask."

"We haven't had one damaged package for the whole month since Aaron took over for that ass, Lloyd." Kevin let out a huff of irritation. "Do you really want me to ask and piss him off? It'd be bad for business."

"I don't see him doing that." Ralph shrugged. "Whatever, Tin Man."

"Tin Man, what the hell?" Kevin glared over at his cousin. Ralph was also his business partner and sometimes best friend when he wasn't annoying the hell out of him like he was now. They'd opened up Treasure Chest together. Antique pickers, they traveled everywhere in state and out to find lost treasures in people's attics, barns, basements, sheds, yards, and whatnot. They'd done pretty well for themselves and he loved it. Ralph had knowledge of cars, guns, and toys while he was experienced with gadgets, furniture, and memorabilia from vintage films. What they didn't know could easily be found on the internet.

"You know you should go see the Wizard and fix that broken ticker of yours."

Kevin rolled his eyes. Ralph was like a dog with a bone when he got something in his head. "The Tin Man didn't have a heart, dude. And secondly, mine isn't broken. Patched but not broken."

"Then ask him."

"I swear," Kevin started to say but stopped as he heard the bell chime signaling someone had entered the store. He put down the rag, dusted off his hands, and stood. Shooting another glare at Ralph for good measure he left the work/storeroom and went to the front counter.

Of course it was Aaron. A six foot hunk with shaggy brown hair that fell to his shoulders and jade green eyes that twinkled whenever he smiled. And those dimples and that jawline, my God. Kevin often found himself staring and now was no exception. Aaron was wearing his UPS uniform; khaki shorts, brown button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and work boots. Simple outfit but it sure did lead to quite a few fantasies despite him trying to avoid the temptation. Dammit, he should just ask so he could put himself out of this misery. He needed to know if he should stop lusting after a guy he could never have, or if he could maybe have a chance with him.

Who was he kidding? Aaron wouldn't be interested in him even if he was available. Kevin was a geek with his sci-fi t-shirts, glasses, and converse sneakers. His jet black hair was messy and he was currently covered in wood shavings. Aaron only talked to him because he had a job to do. There was no reason to put himself out there just to be rejected.

Still, he wanted Aaron to notice him even if he shouldn't...

"Hey, Aaron," he greeted with a smile. Trying to be casual he leaned against the counter as Aaron set a box down.

"Hey, what have I got for you today?" Aaron was always curious and seemed to have a real interest in their finds.

Grabbing his pocketknife from his back pocket, Kevin slit open the box and peered inside. "Ah, it's the praxinoscope I found on a listing site."

"A what now?" Aaron watched as he lifted the device from the box then moved it aside so Kevin could place the antique on the counter.

"Thanks." Kevin gestured with his hands in his excitement, pointing out all the parts of the device. "See, you spin it and then as you look through you see a rapid succession of pictures producing the illusion of motion."

Aaron took off his cap and leaned his head in. Kevin spun the cylinder, loving how Aaron's eyes lit up. "Wow, that is neat." He grinned and ran a hand through his hair before putting his hat back on.

"Last time I found one in a barn, but it was pretty damaged. When I saw this one I had to have it."

"Can't blame ya. You know I always look forward to bringing in stuff here, I can't wait to see what y'all found next."

Kevin could see Aaron meant it. For a moment he simply lost himself in Aaron's intense gaze and he dared himself to say, "You know you could always go picking with us sometime."

Aaron's grin grew. "You wouldn't mind?"

Stupid. What was I thinking? Again Kevin's mouth ran away from him. "As long as you don't mind me rambling on. If I find something rare I usually go on and on."

"It's true," Ralph called out. "He's like a broken record."

"Ignore him." Kevin really was going to get some payback if Ralph didn't keep quiet.

Aaron chuckled. "I don't mind." He glanced at his watch when it beeped. "Shoot, I'm really sorry, Kevin. I gotta run before I miss Joey's game."

Kevin hoped he didn't look disappointed as the reality came crashing back. "Right, maybe we can talk about it some other time?" He wasn't sure he could just be Aaron's friend, but maybe he could try. It'd be better than nothing.

"Yeah, I just promised him 'cause Tony is away on business again." Aaron scowled. "I don't know how to get through to him."

"Well, Joey is lucky to have you." Kevin meant it too. He could tell Aaron loved his kid. Every time Aaron came to the shop he talked about how proud he was of Joey, the stuff they did together over the weekends, the baseball games they went to. And Kevin listened, actually interested because he could see what family meant to Aaron. He'd always wished for something as special but had yet to find it.

Aaron rubbed the back of his neck. "With Pamela splitting and Tony always gone I had to step up. Kiddo has it rough and I hate seeing him so sad."

"I'm sorry about that." Kevin paused, holding onto a sliver of hope. Had he heard Aaron right? "You've never mentioned Pamela before."

"No? She split. She was tired of Tony always working and ran off with some young guy." Aaron growled. "Don't get me started on that. I'd get in trouble for using foul language on the job."

"I wouldn't tell anyone." Kevin paused, trying to rein in his excitement because really it was not the topic that made him happy but that Ralph had been right. And he really needed to check if the world was ending because Ralph was never right. "Sounds like an awful situation. Joey is your nephew?" Why hadn't he realized that before? How had he completely missed what Ralph had seen? Maybe it was how easily he got caught up in Aaron and what he felt when he was around.

"Yep, though some days he feels like he's mine."

"I thought that," Kevin admitted.

"What?" Aaron's eyes widened. "Crap, you thought me and Tony were together?"

Feeling his cheeks redden Kevin gave a curt nod. "I did, yeah."

"Damn, I kept wondering why I was getting mixed signals from you." Aaron leaned in and now Kevin could smell Aaron's cologne, a heady scent that reminded him of summer rain and sent his senses reeling. Damn, he wanted to close the distance, bury his nose in Aaron's neck, and breathe him in. Then he realized Aaron was talking. "Or am I crazy in thinking that you're interested?"

"Not crazy." Kevin gripped the counter. Aaron was available; he could've jumped up and down except he didn't know if he even had a chance. He had to be crazy to think he did. Yet, every time Aaron was around Kevin it felt right. There was something between them, a connection that made him want to explore and figure out where things could go. "Am I...?"