Today I am so pleased to welcome ‘Nathan Burgoine to Joyfully Jay. ‘Nathan has come to share an exclusive excerpt from his release, A Little Village Blend. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!
Ivan let the stairwell entrance door close behind him and, out of long habit, glanced at the small patio in front of NiceTeas to see if it was busy. He split Fridays with Anya, and he’d finished his morning shift and changed into a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. Anya handled the weekend mornings, and now that they had Tareq, the plan had been for Ivan to take every other weekend off. It had even happened twice so far. Today made three.
Right away, his gaze caught on Walt, who was in uniform and once again impatiently tapping at his phone while the husky, Sensei, sat quietly beside him.
Ivan was going that way anyway. It wasn’t like he could walk by without saying hello. It would be rude.
He could almost hear his sister’s snarky voice.
Right. Just being polite. Tell me another one.
Ivan smiled as he approached. Walt noticed him, and Ivan saw the big man glance at his arm. In his T-shirt, the cherry tree tattoo that covered most of Ivan’s right arm was on full display. Though Walt was obviously upset about something, he smiled back.
“You look tense,” Ivan said, by way of greeting.
“I’m kind of screwed,” Walt said. He blew out a breath.
“My friend was supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago to take Sensei. I’m already pushing being late. I should have left five minutes ago.” He looked at his phone again, but shook his head. “He’s not answering.”
“He’s looking after Sensei for you?” Ivan asked, trying not to read too much into friend.
“Sensei is supposed to be his dog,” Walt said, then sighed. “Well, sort of. It’s a long story. I’ve been looking after him, but I’m leaving for the weekend with the general, and I should already be on my way to pick him up.” He scowled at his phone. “Which wouldn’t be a problem if someone had come to get the dog like they said they would.”
Ivan bit his lip. “When are you back?”
“Monday mid-morning.” He tapped the side of his phone with his thumb. “There are delegates coming in from all over North America. It’s a big deal.”
“Do you need me to take him?” Ivan asked.
His sister’s voice returned. No. Nope. And more no. So much no. A world of no. Ivan ignored it. He had the weekend off, Sensei seemed like a nice dog, and Walt seemed like he was ready to lose it and really needed a hand.
And maybe he also looked amazing in uniform.
Walt blinked. “Seriously?”
“Sure,” Ivan said. “I live upstairs.” He pointed. “We can walk to Patterson Park. I like dogs.”
“I don’t have anything with me but his leash,” Walt said, but Ivan could tell he was definitely considering it. “You’d really save my bacon.”
“It’s fine,” Ivan said. “Really. I can pick up food from Furever. It’s okay. It’s just for the weekend.”
“He’s a rescue. He’s a food guarder.” Walt bit his lip. “But they know him at Furever. That’s where Mat got Sensei.”
“Go,” Ivan said, and he took the leash. “You’ve got too much on your plate. I can handle it. It’ll be fine.”
“If you ask Furever about him, they’ll know. They have his file.” Walt gave him the leash, then hesitated.
“Go,” Ivan said.
“Thank you,” Walt said. “I’ll text you. Crap. I don’t have your number.”
Ivan rattled off the number to him, and Walt put it in his phone. Then he gave Ivan one more “thank you” and was gone. For a big guy, Walt could hustle.
Also, the uniform pants did really nice things to his butt.
Ivan looked down at Sensei. The dog stared up at him with his mismatched eyes. He was panting a little bit, and Ivan thought Sensei seemed to be taking the measure of him.
When Walt went around the corner, Sensei rose and took a single step toward where Walt had vanished. He whined once—a single “peep” sound that went straight to Ivan’s heart.
“It’s okay, Sensei,” Ivan said. The dog blinked. “You and me for the weekend.”
Sensei sat. Ivan reached down and stroked his head. Sensei leaned into it, and Ivan smiled. His sister wouldn’t approve of him getting involved in Walt’s problems, but he couldn’t deny it felt good to have helped. Stroking the soft fur between Sensei’s ears, he realized his plans for the weekend—stopping by The Second Page for a new book, picking up some groceries, and spending the afternoon reading somewhere in the shade—now had a companion, and that made him look forward to it all the more.
“You make me feel less like a loner,” Ivan said.
“Why do you have a dog?”
Ivan turned. Anya was leaning out the front door of NiceTeas.
“He’s a loaner for the weekend.”
“From Sergeant Tall, Dark, and Broken?”
Ivan’s face heated up. “Yes.”
“You? Hopeless.” Anya stepped back into the store, and the door closed.
“Don’t mind her,” Ivan said. “She’s recently become a cat person.”
According to Ivan’s sister Anya, Ivan’s tea leaves promise his perfect match is out there somewhere, just waiting to be swept off their feet. Ivan knows Anya’s always right—an annoying trait for a sister if ever there was one.
Ivan’s own knack with tea might not deal with the future, but it’s pretty good at helping with the here and now. When Walt, a tall, dark, and grumpy soldier shows up at his store, NiceTeas, in obvious need of a hand—and a dog-sitter—Ivan rises to the challenge and offers blends to make Walt’s life a little easier. There’s just no way he can help falling for the guy. But Anya says Walt’s not the one for Ivan, and the tea leaves don’t lie.
Is it worth steeping a here-and-now while waiting for the one-and-only? Ivan’s not sure, but everything tells him it’s all just a matter of finding the right blend.
Cover Artist: Inkspiral Design
‘Nathan Burgoine is a tall queer guy who writes mostly shorter queer fictions, usually romances or spec-fic (or both). His first novel, Light, was a finalist for a Lammy, and his first YA novel, Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks, was a finalist for the Prix Aurora Award. He’s also written two urban paranormal novels, Triad Blood and Triad Soul, and a collection of his linked queer speculative fiction stories, Of Echoes Born, all from Bold Strokes Books. His romance novellas—most of which exist in his ‘Village’ series, include In Memoriam, Handmade Holidays, Faux Ho Ho, and Village Fool, as well as Saving the Date, which he co-authored with Angela. S. Stone. ‘Nathan lives in Ottawa, Canada, with his husband Dan and their rescued husky. You can find him online at nathanburgoine.com.