Mr. B has always been a safe guy for Jo to crush on. He’s the cutest bearded lumber-god to salivate over. Add to that his friendly, outgoing personality, and Mr. B might just be the first guy Jo would be willing to kiss. Fortunately, Mr. B has been in a relationship for years, and Jo is no home-wrecker.
But when Mr. B breaks up with his partner and all of a sudden is single, available, and talks about his plans to be sexually adventurous, Jo isn’t so sure anymore if he has the guts to come out as bisexual.
After a sour breakup, Mr. B wants to show his ex that he’s independent, exciting, and can do very well without him. His best friend Jo is there to the rescue, and they come up with a great new business venture. One thing they lack to start their own line of artisanal boozy jams – money for the investment.
After a drunken brainstorming session, Mr. B finds a way to both gather the cash and show the middle finger to his ex. He will create a one of a kind Hipster Brothel – The Lumbersexual Experience – offering wood chopping lessons, pipe smoking, and a reclaimed wood bed where the magic happens. It’s bound to be a success… if only Mr. B can go through with it, because the mixed signals from Jo are making him wonder if his best friend is as straight as he always seemed.
Themes: Hipsters, sex work, friends to lovers, bisexuality, post-breakup issues, coming out, first time, alternative lifestyles, lumbersexual bear, commitment
Genre: M/M contemporary romance
Length: ~50,000 words (standalone novel)
WARNING: Explicit content, strong language. A shameless amount of buzzwords. May cause second-hand embarrassment.
In the trembling glow of the flashlight strapped to the front of Jo’s bike, the muddy road was like an obstacle course of rocks and puddles. Even with the sky so bright outside of Seattle, he’d needed to slow down significantly after leaving the asphalt road and was glad to finally see the lights at his destination emerging from between the trees.
The woods filled his lungs with fresh, slightly damp air that smelled of undergrowth and grass, and the scent calmed him down despite the unease of moving between the freaky shadows cast by the tree trunks on both sides of the path.
At least Mr. B’s property wasn’t that far off now. It would have made much more sense for Mr. B to stay with his brother, or even his hippie-dippie parents instead of the desolate train car with no Wi-Fi or any other amenities, but Jo knew Mr. B loved the place too much to ever tell him that.
In the darkness, even the cracked paint on its flanks wasn’t as offensive as in daylight, and Jo couldn’t claim that he didn’t enjoy spending time here at all, since it always provided a much needed digital detox.
And then there was Mr. B of course.
Mr. B opened the door of the train car, letting more light outside. He was so tall he filled most of the doorway, and the oversized sweater he was wearing made him look even bigger. This was bad. The lumpy yellow abomination of a pullover only appeared when Mr. B wasn’t feeling well. If Jo hadn’t been sure if he’d made the right choice abandoning the last minutes of the Xxterior Boots auction before, he was now. Mr. B needed him, and if Trael_457 outbid him again, then so be it.
Jo dismounted his bike and opened the flimsy wooden gate to enter the fenced-off plot of land around the two train cars. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get here faster, but they wouldn’t let me off the hook at work,” he said and rushed to his friend’s towering silhouette, leaving his biped behind. “But I’ve got us food,” he said, showing off the paper bag from their favorite artisan bakery, which made the best sandwiches in town. He’d even bought Mr. B’s favorite red velvet cookies to cheer him up after today’s events.
Judging by the sweater, Jo should have taken the snickerdoodles as well.
“Cool, thanks. Sorry you had to come over this late at night. It’s not that big of a deal anyway. I shouldn’t have been such a drama queen about it.” Mr. B sighed so heavily, the moustache part of his thick blond beard shivered.
Jo ran up the metal steps and put his arm over Mr. B’s shoulders, hugging him to show his support. Now he felt guilty about being glad when he first got the news of Mr. B’s breakup. “Don’t say that. What wasn’t a big deal was Akasha’s plastic surgery scandal, and I wrote five pieces about it today,” he sighed, lingering in the embrace and breathing in the spicy cologne and musky scent of beard wax that Mr. B always carried about him.
When Mr. B pulled him into a tight bear hug, guilt became a hot, throbbing presence in Jo’s heart along with the shiver that ran down his spine. He shouldn’t love the embrace this much. He ought to be thinking about cheering up his best friend, not of ways to seize the opportunity of him being emotionally vulnerable.
At least his joke managed to get something between a chuckle and a harrumph out of Mr. B. “Said Jo Lau, who at least still has a job.”
Jo blinked and pulled away to look at Mr. B’s face. “What? He broke up with you and fired you on top of that?” he asked, and his knuckles burned with such rage he’d have punched Mr. B’s ex if the bastard were around. “What a fucking douchebag. Who does that?”
Mr. B rubbed his face, and Jo’s heart broke to see that his eyes were all red. Yet he still couldn’t help but adore the thick pale eyelashes around them.
“It’s not his fault. I kinda quit. I mean… I can’t really work for him after this, can I? It would have been awkward.” He pulled Jo into the cozy warmth of the old train car that despite having junk piled up along all walls somehow felt homely, not like a hoarder’s paradise. The mixing scents of cherry tobacco and coffee only amplified the sense of peace Jo always found here.
He closed the door behind him and walked all the way to the three mattresses covered with blankets and rugs, the only space for sitting in the car. He put down the sandwiches, tossed away his boots, and sat down, pulling on Mr. B’s forearm.
Dating one’s boss was usually not a good idea, and now poor Mr. B would have to suffer the consequences. “I guess not. I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”
Mr. B sat down, next to a little table where his pipe lay by a box of matches. “No. I mean, yes. Thanks for coming over. I really need to rant to someone. I think it’s time to open up the whisky.”
Jo put the food between them, on a plate of ripped paper bags and napkins. He’d even had the seller at the bakery double up on the bacon in Mr. B’s sandwich, but now he wasn’t sure if even the most delicious greasy cuts of meat would help all that much. “Sure. Rant to your heart’s content. Take it all out on me,” he said.
Mr. A, Mr. B’s former boyfriend, was a douche, and Jo had known it for a long time now. Their relationship had been on the decline for at least a year, with Mr. B being frequently agitated over it, and throughout that time, Jo was counting the days until it finally disintegrated.
Now, he was conflicted over those fantasies for the first time.
Mr. B had been already dating Mr. A when Jo had met him four years ago, so he’d never actually had to consider what it would be like if Mr. B were single. They hit it off from the day they met at Crossfit. Jo couldn’t help himself and approached Mr. B to ask what the Workout of the Day was. He’d tried to act all cool, but with Mr. B ticking all boxes on his secret checklist, the best he had been able to come up with was What’s the WOD?
As lame as it had been, Mr. B didn’t seem to mind, and they even went out for dinner after that memorable training. Since then, Jo’s attraction to Mr. B had been only a niggle at the back of his mind. Until last year when it had unexpectedly developed into a crush so intense Jo could hardly even date after breaking up with his last serious girlfriend, Juniper.
Jo berated himself for wondering about it too much when he realized he’d missed the first half of Mr. B’s sentence.
“—if I should even be called ‘Mr. B’ anymore. I got the nickname because I was Mr. A’s boyfriend, and now it’s so ingrained in me, I don’t wanna change it. It’s a part of my identity. He can’t just take it away.”
Jo nodded quickly. He thought the name ‘Bernard’ was pretty cute, but he’d only ever known Mr. B as… well, Mr. B. “If you like it, it’s yours. Arnold can go suck it.”
Mentioning Mr. A’s name did the trick and made Mr. B smile a bit. Arnold hated his name and it was why he got himself the nickname in the first place.
“Fuck. I don’t know where the glasses are.” Mr. B looked around the cardboard boxes he must have packed in a rush to leave Mr. A’s house. “Will these do?” He raised his eyebrows and pointed to empty jam jars standing on top of one of the boxes.
Jo shrugged and pulled his long hair loose to readjust the bun at the top of his head, as it had gotten messy during the long ride from town. “Sure. They’ll hold more,” he said, smirking at Mr. B.
Mr. B looked contemplative for a few seconds. “So… I never told you this, but a few months back, Mr. A… he told me he wanted to have an open relationship.” Mr. B poured the orange booze into the jars with a deep frown marring his forehead. Even his usually sleek short haircut was a mess today.
Jo frowned, unsure what he was supposed to think. It seemed like a popular thing to do among gay guys, and he himself had done it with one of his former girlfriends a few years back, but the look on Mr. B’s handsome, usually smiley face made him shut up and listen.
Mr. B passed Jo a jar that smelled… intense. It had to be one of Mr. B’s homemade concoctions. “I didn’t know what to do about it. But I thought to myself that I could try it. If he was so desperate to fuck other people, maybe it would let him… I don’t even know what I thought.” Mr. B took a big gulp from the jar. “He kept finding new guys to sleep with, and I was more and more confused by how our relationship was supposed to work in this new setting. I don’t even know when we drifted apart so much.”
Jo sucked in his lips, watching the badly-hidden pain pass over Mr. B’s face, and he was at a loss, squeezing his hands over the jar. Seconds later, he shifted to sit next to his friend and put his arm around him before clinking their makeshift glasses. He knew Mr. B long enough to be aware of how physical he was with his feelings. Jo first noticed something was amiss in Mr. B’s relationship when they were all at a bar and Mr. A told Mr. B he was being clingy. Jo hadn’t thought too much of it back then, but things had deteriorated fast.
With Mr. B’s strong yet warm and cuddly body pressing against him, Jo caught himself salivating at the scent of his friend yet again. If he made a move on Mr. B now, would he be rejected? It seemed like a good opportunity to finally come forward about his feelings, but with Mr. B still so clearly not over Mr. A, this would have made Jo a rebound.
There were many things he wished he could be for Mr. B, but a rebound wasn’t one of them.
Mr. B welcomed the closeness and sniffed. “Even last year, I still thought that Mr. A and I had a future together, but in the last few months… I kinda saw it coming, I just didn’t know how to let go. I lived with him, worked at the furniture shop, and I haven’t been single in years. I still don’t think it’s hit me yet.” He shook his head, oblivious to Jo’s conflicted feelings.
There was literally nothing Jo wanted more than making Mr. B feel better. Seeing this man, whose sunny personality had drawn Jo to him in the first place, so subdued was almost physically painful. But then again, Jo wasn’t sure how to act. Never before Mr. B had there been a man in Jo’s life who seemed worth the effort of coming out of his bisexual closet. Jo loved women. He could date them, have fun with them, and make his parents happy while still being an ally of the LGBT community.
Only he was a part of the LGBT community, a fact that even his best friend didn’t know. And maybe that was exactly why Mr. B had gotten so close to Jo in the first place? As a ‘straight’ guy, he was as safe of a friend as a gay guy was to a woman. Mr. B could cry his heart out on Jo’s shoulder and be certain that Jo would not take advantage of his vulnerability.
And all the while, Jo had been secretly entertaining thoughts of what he’d do once Mr. B was single again. He had whole scenes planned out in his head, but now that the possibility of putting them into practice was there, Jo couldn’t help the anxiety of having to actually confront his bisexuality head-on, instead of just watching porn.
“I’m so sorry. You deserve someone who doesn’t see the world beyond you. You are the best guy I know,” Jo whispered, slowly turning his head to look at Mr. B. His chin rubbed against the softness of Mr. B’s cheek as they looked at one another.
Mr. B smiled slightly and took a few gulps of the alcohol. “And that’s why I hoped you’d come over. I need someone positive. I will not be sitting around and mourning Mr. A dumping me. I need a game plan. I have to get a new job, ‘cause the savings will only last me for a while. At least I don’t have to pay rent here, since it’s my brother’s land.”
Jo swallowed and raised his hand, dazedly smoothing out some of the stray hairs on the side of Mr. B’s beard. They were so soft he wanted to just bury his whole face in the thick facial hair. He himself alternated between dark stubble and a smooth face, and he was kind of jealous of Mr. B’s beard-growing capacity. If he had a beard like that, he’d be playing with it constantly. “Exactly. There are plenty of fish in the sea.”
Like me. The one fish that you don’t know is actually not only edible but also delicious when prepared in the right way.
Jo was such a goner. And when meeting Mr. B’s pale eyes from up close, he couldn’t help but think of the soft-looking lips that now tasted of the moonshine and cherry tobacco.
Mr. B shook his head. “I don’t even know if I want a relationship now. I’m so tired of all the bullshit Mr. A’s put me through. You know what?” Mr. B clinked his jar against Jo’s. “I’m actually happy it’s over. I can only go up from here. I’ve got all this furniture from my brother’s junkyard, and I’ve been meaning to upcycle it for ages, but with the job and living at Mr. A’s I could never find the time.”
Jo quickly took a big gulp of the sharp alcohol, surprised by its fruity undertone. This was some new creation. “Preach. You don’t need that old goat. If anything, he was holding you back all this time.”
Mr. B pulled on Jo’s bun, nodding. “Right? I’ve got so much potential. Even this booze? It’s fucking delicious, and I made it myself. I have this place, I have ideas, I have a lot going for me. His boring-ass furniture store can go suck it. I think it’s becoming too mainstream anyway.”
“Right?” asked Jo, quickly downing his makeshift cup of the delicious liquor that warmed his throat and chest instantly. “Selling tree stumps as stools for 200 bucks? I never said it, because I thought you’d be angry, but I always thought he had no creativity whatsoever. Your furniture and designs have always been so much more original. I can feel the thought you put into them. You know, like when you have basil ice cream, and it works, even though you felt like it shouldn’t.”
Jo’s heart fluttered when Mr. B’s lips spread into a wide smile. “Mmm… basil ice cream.”
“I know, right? We need to have some again,” said Jo and poured himself some more booze. “But, you know. Like this thing. Imagine jams that taste like this. Adult preserves. You could make that.”
Mr. B nodded quickly and looked inside his jar. “Hell yeah I could make that. ‘Boozy jams’. ‘Preseviquers’—” He frowned. “No, that one doesn’t sound good. ‘Mr. B’s beer jams’?”
Jo bit into one of the red velvet cookies. “Frooze? Moonjam?”
Mr. B laughed out loud, already flushed on the cheeks, which only made Jo wonder if it was how he looked when he was aroused. “I love Moonjam. Keep ‘em coming! Jo, this could totally be my new thing. Why not? I need a new outlet.”
“Exactly. You know how pricy artisanal products can be. It could be a great business for you, especially with your family owning that farm. You’d buy your produce from them. All 100 percent organic.”
Mr. B leaned over and left a big smooch on Jo’s cheek. “That’s good thinking right there! I’ll show Mr. A I’m more than fine on my own.” He rose and picked up his pipe. “I’m twenty-eight, I do Crossfit, I have talents. I’m in the prime of my life! He can go fuck himself.”
The kiss burned Jo’s cheek, so he changed the topic, feeling so hot he wished he could just pull off his top. “How much investment money can you hope for?”
Mr. B licked his lips and stared at Jo in silence, only making the temperature in the room rise. “I gotta save up.” Instead of lighting the pipe right away, he pulled the yellow sweater off, revealing that he was wearing one of Jo’s favorite shirts, gray plaid that fit Mr. B just right around the big tattooed arms and chest.
Jo nodded, painstakingly keeping his gaze on the rosy cheeks and glazed-over eyes. “You know… if you needed any help, I will be there. You know my job isn’t all that, and it’s not full-time anyway.”
Mr. B mulled over that for a moment as he lit his pipe, instantly filling the space with more cherry smoke. “If you have some spare time and a bit of cash, we could partner up, do the business together.” He poured Jo more liquor, seeming slightly dazed himself. “We could name the brand after both of us, you know, connecting the names. Jornard?”
Jo exhaled and instantly drank some more, watching Mr. B with the burn of the kiss still present on his cheek. He’d written enough pieces on Brangelina to know what ‘Jornard’ suggested. “That makes it sound like we’re married. Besides, I don’t have that much cash. I could offer my time for shares. We could do some kind of crowdfunding for the money, maybe?”
Mr. B nodded, looking serious with that pipe in his mouth. Or absolutely ridiculous. Jo wasn’t sure which one it was. “This is good. I like this.” He pulled out a notepad and sat back next to Jo, thigh to thigh. “So I’ll need to make some money quick. What assets do I have?”
“Yourself. Me. This train car,” said Jo and offered him a cookie. He was glad to see the gloom gone from Mr. B’s face.
With one hand busy with the pipe and the other with the notepad, instead of taking the cookie, Mr. B bit into it straight from Jo’s hand. Without thinking, Jo pushed the rest of it into his own mouth, gaze focused on Mr. B.
“Yeah. I haven’t had much time to deck this place out, but I’ve got all this stuff from the junkyard. If I pimp out the train cars, make them all stylish, maybe I could rent them out,” Mr. B said and put the pen behind his ear.
Jo nodded fervently and unclogged his mouth with more booze. “You could make an experience out of it. You look the part. You could teach people how to chop lumber and make simple furniture.”
Mr. B laughed and opened his mouth for Jo to feed him a piece of another cookie as he made some notes. “Oh, man. That’s so true! If I just frame it right, get a sleek website, professional photos, I could sell this as ‘The Lumberjack Experience’.” He wiggled his eyebrows.
Jo grinned and sipped some more of the fruity booze. Was he imagining things, or had Mr. B’s gaze swept down his chest? He wasn’t sure, because his head was already spinning slightly. He’d always been on the lightweight side, and Mr. B’s booze was more potent than its taste suggested. “I could do a test ride for you.”
Mr. B snorted so hard he spat out come crumbs. “That sounds so dirty. It’s an experience, not a hipster brothel!”
Jo grinned and pushed at Mr. B’s arm gently. “Hipster brothel? How would that work? As a pop-up at your local farmer’s market?”
Mr. B wouldn’t stop laughing, and he drank more of the sweet alcohol. “A pop-up brothel! I love that. I’ve got a tagline! ‘Bring Your Own Wood’.”
Jo spilled the alcohol over his hand when he shuddered with laughter. He drank the rest of it and put down the jar, rolling back into a pile of pillows. “I have something even better. Wait for it”—he narrowed his eyes and made sure all of Mr. B’s attention was on him—“We will take care of your wood.”
Mr. B choked on some of the smoke so hard there were tears in his eyes. “Lumbersexual carpentry lessons.”
Jo relaxed into the pillows, letting his long legs fall to the sides and watching Mr. B in between. His skin burned with heat when he imagined Mr. B blowing all that fragrant smoke over his skin. “Sounds like a big earner.”
“I’d wear my suspenders over bare skin.” Mr. B smiled… seductively? Or was it Jo’s imagination? “I’d wear thick-rimmed glasses, beard trimmed to perfection. I’d get this place to look like the perfect rustic getaway. Plaid blankets, burlap curtains.”
“A bed made of reclaimed wood and covered with a vintage bearskin rug,” added Jo, discretely rolling to his stomach when his cock got too interested in the vision created before him.
If only Mr. B wasn’t so important in his life, Jo would have simply gone for it. But was their friendship worth the risk of having a go at something more? What if he wasn’t even Mr. B’s type? What if everything changed between them, and he lost his best friend?
Mr. B shifted closer on the mattress and put his pipe away, looking at Jo intently. “I’m single, I’m open-minded, why wouldn’t I do it, you know? Just for a while. If we made the whole hipster brothel thing an experience, we could charge a shitload of cash. Sharing economy, right? Someone lacks sex and I have a nice body.”
Jo laughed, but even the booze couldn’t keep him up in the blissful silliness when Mr. B looked at him so seriously. “Oh… would you be game for that?”
Mr. B’s gaze was unfocused, but he nodded. “It would be for guys only, since I’m gay. I like sex anyway. Mr. A’s not gonna tell me I’m boring ever again. I can be freaking sexually adventurous. It could be fun.”
Jo pushed an entire cookie into his mouth, just to make his silence plausible for those few seconds more. “I mean, I bet people would pay good money for that kind of experience,” he said, looking down the chest so broad it had the buttons of the plaid shirt close to popping.
“Imagine you’re a gay guy, looking for a unique experience. How much would you pay for a night with me?” As if to distract Jo from the question, Mr. B started unbuttoning his shirt.
Jo froze, his mind going in circles as his eyes hungered for the flesh to be revealed. His brain felt too big for his skull, and he could swear if his cock could get goose bumps, it would have gotten them now. “Like… a million dollars?”
“There you go. I’m bound to make bank. Look. I even have a tattoo to go with it. I don’t think you’ve seen this one.” Mr. B opened the shirt, showing off the nicely defined pecs with soft blond fuzz from the chest down. To the side, under the ribs, was a tattoo of an ax planted firmly in a stump of wood.
Without thinking, Jo touched it, sliding his index finger up the elongated handle of the ax and petting the soft, blond body hair. He wanted to just bury his face in it.
Mr. B grinned. “I’m gonna get one that says ‘Timber’ on the other side.”
Jo swallowed and moved his fingers through the hot fuzz. His skin prickled as he traced the rosy flesh. Mr. B was deliciously tempting, like that glazed donut you always denied yourself but absolutely needed to taste. “Here?”
A slap on the wrist pulled Jo out of his fantasy world. “These are valuable goods. You have to pay to play.” Mr. B laughed.
“And I don’t have that million yet,” Jo said, chastising himself for what he’d just done. It was dangerous territory, and the moment couldn’t have been any worse.
Mr. B wiggled his eyebrows and rubbed his hand down his chest in a way Jo wanted to. “Well, when you’ve got a million bucks to spare, and you’re up for the Lumbersexual Experience, I’m your man.”
Jo smiled, but the joke wasn’t really funny to him. Mr. B was completely oblivious to the move Jo had just made, as if Jo were a sexless alien who could not possibly make Mr. B’s blood pump faster.
Served him right for never admitting to Mr. B that he might just, possibly-maybe, be bisexual.
Chelsea, Sara, Lorix (Boy Meets Boy Reviews)