The Right Brew by KC Kendricks

THE RIGHT BREW
Book IX in the Men of Marionville collection
Contemporary gay romance

The Men of Marionville collection are stand-alone stories and not sequels or prequels.  

Hollis Milnor didn’t think twice about moving to Marionville. His ailing cousin needed his help running his nightclub, Frolic, and Hollis needed to put some space between himself and an ex-boyfriend determined to make his life miserable. Management skills he has. Experience running a nightclub, not so much, but he’s a quick learner. 

Caleb Brewer is a steady, hard-working man establishing a microbrewery. He’s got a great product and demand for it is growing. When a new manager takes over the hottest nightclub in Marionville, Caleb is determined to maintain his prior arrangements.

What starts out as business quickly heats up the summer nights. Hollis hesitates, reluctant to step over the legal line. Caleb isn’t just a vendor. He works part-time at the nightclub. Becoming involved puts them both in murky waters, waters that become crystal clear when the past catches up with Hollis and puts everyone he loves in danger.   


EXCERPT

“Caleb. Come in and sit down.” I motioned at a chair. “Something wrong?”

He eased down in the wing chair and stretched out his long denim-encased legs. “Did we sorta get off on the wrong foot here? I can’t afford to have that happen.”

I gave him points for directness. He didn’t aim to come off as being abrupt. He simply kept everything right out front. I liked that.

“I know. It’s my fault, Caleb, and I’m sorry. I’m here to manage the nightclub, not get personally involved with any of the men working within the business end of things.”

He studied me for a moment, and then nodded. “Fair enough. I thought that might be it, but I wanted to be sure that’s all it was. Now I need to ask you this.” He took a deep breath. “Would you like to have dinner with me tonight? I’d like to talk about some business.”

He would, would he? I admit getting involved with the hired help wasn’t a good idea and he comes back with an invitation to dinner?

We could talk ideas and possibilities for our respective ventures right now. We didn’t need food, wine and the privacy of a crowded restaurant, but what better way to learn more about him? A wave of goosebumps fluttered over my back.

“I guess I do need to eat sometime.”

His blue gaze locked on mine. “I think I like that you had to consider it. Too much impulse can lead a man astray.”

Oh, hell, yeah. “Is that where you’d like to go? Astray?”

A smile teased the corner of his mouth. His eyes sparkled with humor. “I’ve been there before so I know which road not to take.”

“Same here. Tell me something. How long have you been connected with Frolic?”

“Not long. Maybe a year. Why?”

I grinned at him. “You might have information useful to me.”

He rolled his eyes and lifted his gaze to the ceiling. “And that, Caleb Brewer, is why the man agreed to have dinner with you.”

 I chuckled. “Talk to yourself often, do you? I like to keep things above board, too. So, yeah, I’m going to ask you a bunch of questions, but I think I’ll really enjoy having dinner with you.”

“I get it, and it’s okay. So how about I meet you about seven o’clock? At The Wharf? It’s the best place in town.”

“I’ve heard about the place. Give me your phone number in case something happens and I can’t get away on time. I can at least let you know I’m running late and why.”

We exchanged cell numbers and he held his hand out as he stood to leave. I reached out and his fingers closed around mine. The shock of his warm palm against mine turned my arm to lead. He let go of me.

“It’s not a date, Hollis. Not if you don’t want it to be.”

He walked out of the office while I stood watching his retreating backside. It wasn’t until he’d disappeared I realized I rather wished it were.   


FIRST KISS EXCERPT

I sat across from him and he handed me a cold brown bottle. I read the label aloud. “The Right Brew. Summer Brew.” I looked at him and grinned. “Now I get it. What else would you call it, Mr. Brewer?”

He laughed. “I know. It’s pathetic, isn’t it? Last name Brewer. Brewing beer and putting ‘brew’ on the labels. Really sad.”

I popped the lid and held the bottle out to him. He tapped his to mine and we lifted them to our lips in unison.

The fragrance hit my nose a split second before the clean, crisp liquid caressed my tongue. The sweet taste of wheat, yeast and honey, registered in my mind. I swallowed and waited for the lingering traces to change flavor. It was light and crisp with no bitterness and a neutral aftertaste.

“Good God, that’s smooth, Caleb. How much of this do you have?”

“Not nearly enough. This is the final recipe for this blend. It took me a year of playing with it to get it to this. I can only make batches of twenty-five hundred liters at a time.”

“You’re not about to get rich anytime soon.”

“Profit margin would be better if I had product on tap somewhere. Bottles cost a bit.”

I didn’t like where this conversation might be headed. “So that’s another reason you asked me out to dinner last night? To soften me up to the idea of having it on draft here?”

He jerked. His reaction was too quick, too unschooled, to be anything except genuine.

“No, Hollis. That is not why I wanted to take you to dinner. And it’s not why I asked you to come out here away from the noise and confusion inside to have a drink with me.”

I took a deep breath and stared at my feet. “I keep inserting my foot in my mouth when I talk to you. I’m not sure why I can’t stop doing it.”

“Yeah, it’s a mystery, for sure.”

I looked up at him and saw a guarded amusement in his eyes. He wanted to laugh at me but didn’t want to offend me. I saluted him with my bottle and took another drink. He stood and turned to sit beside me, shoulder-to-shoulder.

He leaned on me, and then straightened. “Although, now that you mention it, what do you think about putting a quarter keg in upstairs for a test run?”

“I’ll have to check to make sure we don’t have anything in the agreements with other distributors that would prevent it. I think you’re right that this is a brew that would appeal to the Tea Room crowd rather than the power drinkers downstairs.”

He bumped against me again. “I, um, had to rearrange some plans to accommodate a change in Dylan Donoghy’s schedule. He’s coming in this evening for his private tasting. Bear’s going to reserve the back booth. Can you join us?”

I was mildly surprised Donoghy was coming in on a Saturday night. I was given to understand he and his posse were regulars at the Sunday afternoon card club.

“I’d love to. I’ve not yet been formally introduced to him.”

“Okay. He’s going to be in about eight-thirty. You have plans for dinner?”

I leaned into him. “No, but I don’t want to leave the premises two nights in a row. Plus, this is my first Saturday night and all that.”

“I sorta figured. I, um, hoped we could grab a bite upstairs later.”

I thought about that for a moment. It always came back to the fact I had a job to do. Would it cause dissention among the staff if I seemed overly friendly with him?

Or were the rules different here? I was a gay man managing a nightclub with a predominantly gay clientele and staff. Would anyone really find it inexcusable­ if I made a friend? And what if that friendship deepened? It was possible that instead of being annoyed with the boss, they’d be amused. I was willing to take a small risk and grab a sandwich with one of their own.

“Okay. I’d like that. Text me around seven o’clock and I’ll come upstairs and meet you.”

He downed a swallow of beer. “You just surprised me. I thought I’d have to talk you into it.” He smiled at me. “Even though you did already point out to me you’ve got to eat.”

I wished I looked the part of a sexy stud when I smiled, but I was just an average guy. I bumped against his shoulder. “I’ll even buy today. I have an allowance for food and drink.”

“Aye. Right. As if James would utter a peep if you went over that.”

“He wouldn’t, so I plan to behave.”

Caleb slipped his arm around my shoulders and pulled me to him. “I think that’s a piss-poor plan.”

My lips parted in surprise a split second before his mouth touched mine. I closed my eyes.

THE RIGHT BREW

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Want to read more about the guys living and working in Marionville? Click here for another excerpt.


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