A Taste of Honey Release Party – Jack Byrne

August 19, 2014

‘The Bear Next Door’
By Jack Byrne

Rob Johnson is a cattleman, and a bear. He has an estranged son and a sad past, and he pretty much keeps to himself. But when golden boy Bryce Philipson inherits the farm next door, and sets eyes on Rob, Bryce becomes determined to win over the burly, gruff bear. Trouble is, Rob has no interest in being ‘won over’ and thinks Bryce is a spoiled rich kid and way too young for him.

What inspired me to write ‘The Bear Next Door.’

When I saw the submission call for this, basically I couldn’t resist. I have a close friend who is a bear, and he is such an amazing combination of self-confidence, vulnerability, protectiveness, sweetness and sheer raw power, that I thought it would a challenge to try to put that all into a character in a story.

Excerpt from ‘The Bear Next Door.’

Rob worked his way slowly along the fence line, farther and farther from the pickup. When he was about 150 feet from the pickup, groaning as he straightened up from squatting down to the lowest part of a post to tie off the wire run for about the sixteenth time, he was startled to hear a voice behind him. “Could you use a hand?”

He spun around to see Bryce standing there.

Rob, covered in sweat and without his shirt, felt his face warm up with embarrassment.

“What are you doing back on my property?”

“If you like, I’ll jump back over the fence, so then I’d be on my property. Which raises the question, why didn’t you ask for my help to fix this fence? It’s a big job, and a bit of neighborly help wouldn’t have gone astray. Plus it’s my fence too.”

Rob didn’t know what to say, so characteristically said nothing and turned back to his work.

To his surprise, Bryce produced a pair of thick leather gloves out of his pocket and reached into the bucket of ties, bringing out a fistful, and said, “We’ll take turns, okay? It’ll halve your workload.”

Rob nodded curtly, acutely aware of his lack of shirt and the other man’s occasional glance at his exposed body.

They worked away, and soon Rob noticed Bryce’s shirt begin to darken with sweat. As he walked past, Rob said, “You should take your shirt off. You’ll get heatstroke.”

“I would, but I’d sunburn.”

“Oh. Yeah, right.” Rob hadn’t considered what it would be like to not have a protective pelt over your body.

“I don’t suppose you sunburn. Lucky devil.”

“Lucky? Jesus.” Rob half-smiled.

“What?” Bryce’s voice was mild and curious, not judging at all, and Rob felt himself relax a little.

Rob volunteered, “I don’t burn easily, but I don’t tan either. Never look like you, all….” He stopped himself.

“All what?”

“Nothing.”

They worked on in silence, and the job passed surprisingly quickly. Rob tied off the last post and reinforced the fastenings on the end post, and then they turned to walk back to get the pickup from the far end of the paddock.

“Thanks for your help, Bryce.”

“My pleasure.”

Rob couldn’t help sneaking a look at his companion and was rewarded with a cheerful smile from Bryce, which just made him feel embarrassed all over again.

They walked in silence for a while. Then Rob ventured, “I didn’t really think you’d be back here after what I said last time we spoke.”

Bryce chuckled. “Yeah, what was that about? I’ve sure never been called a ‘scrawny little piece’ of anything before.”

“Oh, you know,” Rob said apologetically. “I just meant, you’re awfully young to be… looking to someone like me to go out with.”

“How about you let me decide that, Rob?”

Rob subsided into what was rapidly becoming a habitual embarrassed silence around Bryce. After a while, noticing Bryce glancing at him several times, he said quietly, “Well, I’m sorry I spoke to you like that.”

“Would you go out with me?” asked Bryce suddenly. “I mean, now that you’ve got over the shock of it, me asking you?”

“Shock? No.” Rob scratched his neck thoughtfully. “I just—you’re so young. Why wouldn’t you go out with someone your own age? Surely you’d have more in common?”

Bryce stopped walking. They were still about 150 feet from the pickup. Rob stopped and turned reluctantly to face him, impatient to get back to his shirt and hide his unsightly, hirsute body from the smooth-skinned Bryce.

Bryce looked at him with unsettling sincerity and asked, “What if I said I find you incredibly attractive, and that I don’t care about your age?”

Rob, dumbfounded, just stood staring at the splendid young man with the earnest face and decided he’d better get his hearing checked at the first opportunity.

“Attractive? Me?” he said stupidly.

Bryce took a step closer and raised his hand to brush his fingers along Rob’s forearm. It tickled like hell, and Rob sucked in his breath but then couldn’t think of anything to say. Bryce looked at Rob’s hairy torso and said quietly, “I happen to find this an incredible turn-on, the hair. Up until an hour ago I could have lived with you rejecting me. But seeing you like this, in all your glory, I’m not gonna give up that easy anymore.”

Rob looked down at himself incredulously. “This? Me? You like this?” He frowned.

Bryce smiled and stepped a little closer, giving his right hand an opportunity to drift down the downy surface of Rob’s chest. Rob found it a little hard to breathe all of a sudden, and looked down into soft hazel eyes. It dawned on Rob that they were having a moment.

Bryce spoke again in that quiet voice. “I do like this, very much. I think you are one of the hottest men I have ever clapped eyes on. So powerful, so utterly masculine.” His fingers closed on the dense, curly hair over Rob’s chest and tightened, and he pulled Rob closer to him, tilting his handsome, golden face up to meet Rob’s gaze. “I could tap this.”

Rob didn’t quite know what to do, so he put a hand over the fist curled tightly on his chest and said, “You don’t know what you’re getting into.”

“Don’t I?” There was a challenge in Bryce’s hazel eyes, and Rob couldn’t help but respond. He leaned down and hesitated, surveying the handsome young face. Then, to his surprise, Bryce stood up on tiptoes and met his mouth in a warm, inviting kiss.

It was nice. It was extraordinarily nice, and Rob blinked as Bryce pulled away. Bryce looked up at him, the doubt creeping back into his expression. There was a moment, and Rob said softly, “Could you do that again, please?”

Author bio here.

Buy A Taste of Honey here.

2 Responses to “A Taste of Honey Release Party – Jack Byrne”

  1. Susan says:

    Ooh, I hope Bryce tops Rob!

  2. Jen CW says:

    That was a great excerpt. If I wasn’t convinced that I needed to buy this anthology already, reading this would have done it. Awesome!

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