Dumped in Oz
by Andrew Grey
from Dreamspinner Press
Tales from Kansas #1
Release Date January 15th 2014
Buy link Dreamspinner http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4577
Cover Artist is L.C. Chase
Length Novella / 164 pages
Genre M/M Contemporary Romance
Because of an opportunity he’d be a fool to turn down, Lyle Powers transfers to his company’s warehouse in central Kansas. The last thing he expects is to meet another gay man in the small town, let alone one who captures his interest.
Roger Kypers is a recovering alcoholic with a twelve-year-old daughter he only gets to see for part of the summer. Neither Lyle nor Roger is looking for a relationship, and they fumble at the start, yet emotions build as Roger shows Lyle the landmarks of Oz.
But when Roger’s wicked witch of an ex-wife threatens to take his daughter away for good if he doesn’t act “normally,” he’s faced with the challenge of letting her get away with it, or fighting to accept himself and standing up for what he knows is right.
“Can I get you something to drink?” she asked. After Lyle asked for a diet soda, she added apologetically, “We’re out of our brunch special for the day.”
“That’s all right,” Lyle said as he looked over the menu. “Can you tell me what a bierock is?” He pointed to one of the items listed at the bottom of the menu.
“It’s white-bread dough with egg filling. We only have the three-meat one left,” she told him with a smile.
“I’ll try that and a cinnamon roll, please.” Lyle handed her back the menu.
“Would you like the cinnamon roll warm?”
Lyle’s stomach rumbled. “Please.”
The waitress left the table, and Lyle looked around the room. It was meticulously clean, with freshly painted walls, spotless floors, and nice curtains that weren’t too fussy. But what really captured his attention were the scents that wafted from the kitchen. Lyle closed his eyes, and he could almost imagine he was a small child sitting in his grandmother’s kitchen. Memories wafted over him, things he hadn’t thought about in years—like her baking and the way she’d always had a kind word and never raised her voice. He smiled as he remembered her tucking him in one of the big beds she’d had upstairs.
Lyle opened his eyes, still smiling. His mother’s mother had passed away when he was seven, and he hadn’t thought about her in years. He sighed as he realized he missed her.
The scent of cinnamon intensified, and the server placed a plate in front of him. “Enjoy.”
“I’m sure I will,” Lyle told her and tucked right in. The frosting flowed over the roll as he cut into it, and Lyle took a bite, closing his eyes to enjoy the savory combination of flavors.
“That’s what every cook likes to see—someone loving their food,” a rich voice said. Lyle opened his eyes and saw a man about his own age with black hair, a touch of gray at the temples.
“It’s delicious,” Lyle said after swallowing. He wiped his mouth and smiled. “Did you make these?”
“Yes. I do almost all of our baking,” the man told him. “I’m Roger Kyper, the owner and baker.” He extended his hand.
“Lyle,” he said, shaking it. “I’m staying at the inn next door for a couple of weeks.” Roger held his hand a few seconds longer than necessary and then released it, not breaking eye contact. “I’ll be working at the Shoebox warehouse near the highway,” Lyle continued. He figured being friendly was the way things were done here, and he wanted to fit in. “Sorry I got here so close to closing.”
“It’s no problem,” Roger said, moving out of the way when the server returned with Lyle’s bierock. “I’ll let you finish your brunch.” He moved away, and Lyle watched him go out of the corner of his eye. He didn’t want to be seen watching another guy, not in a small town like this, but he couldn’t help it. Roger was hot, and he moved like a dancer. Lyle swallowed hard as his mouth went dry. He turned away and went back to his cinnamon roll. As he ate, the restaurant employees wiped down the chairs, swept the floor, and gathered the flower vases from the tables.
When he finished the cinnamon roll, he ate the bierock, humming softly to himself at the savory taste of bacon, sausage, egg, and ham all mixed together, combined with the bread. Dang—it had to be a local delicacy, and it was amazing. Lyle finished eating and sat back. He realized he was the only person in the room. The servers had finished their work, and he now sat alone.
“I see you liked it,” Roger said as he came back in.
“It was great,” Lyle said with a smile. “Am I keeping you from going home?” He stood up and looked for his check, then picked it up off the corner of the table.
“Not really. It’s Sunday afternoon, so take your time.” Roger didn’t leave right away, and Lyle stared at him for a few seconds. Then Lyle moved to the side and walked toward the back of the house. He stepped into a tiny bakery with a single case, now empty, but delicious scents lingered in the air. Roger went to stand at the register, and Lyle handed him the check and money.
“Please give the change to the server,” Lyle said.
“She’ll appreciate that,” Roger told him
Lyle said good-bye and left by the back door, stepping out into the heat. He looked around and walked up toward the street, deciding he’d take a walk through the park. As he headed to the sidewalk, he saw Roger lock the door before jogging down the stairs. Lyle waved and continued across the street into the park.
It was gorgeous, with shade trees, paths, and playgrounds, like most parks. He also passed a fountain, and a cannon set in concrete, continuing his stroll down a footpath that led over to a bridge where a small pond narrowed. People fished off the bank, and Lyle saw a small wooden model boat landing near shore where a father and son operated a remote-controlled boat. Lyle stood on the bridge, leaning against the rail, just watching.
“Nice, isn’t it?” a familiar voice said.
Lyle turned as Roger joined him on the bridge
“It is,” Lyle agreed. “What is it about this town?”
“What do you mean?” Roger asked.
“It seems so perfect,” Lyle said, and Roger chuckled lightly.
“Most folks who live here grew up here. And we believe in taking care of what we have. Everyone pitches in to take care of the park and keep the town clean. There isn’t a lot, but we do okay. A lot of people in town work either at the feed mill or at Caterpillar. Some work at the Shoebox warehouse too. And there are lots of farmers and farm support.”
“It’s like stepping back in time,” Lyle told him.
“That it is. Since we don’t have a lot, we want to preserve what we have. Years ago, when folks started tearing down the old buildings to create new, some folks got together to try to rescue what was still around,” he explained, motioning toward a cluster of small buildings. “So we started the Wamego museum. We moved the old buildings to one location, just like we moved the windmill into the park. Folks here are proud of their town.”
“That’s obvious,” Lyle said. “Do you get a lot of visitors?”
“The Oz stuff brings in a few tourists and curiosity seekers, but mostly it’s just us. Except for during Oztoberfest—then the town fills up with people wearing green everything. It’s a real emerald city, and the characters come out all over the place. People dress as their favorite characters from the movie. Basically, everyone has a great time.”
“I’ll look forward to it,” Lyle said.
“Then you’ll be here a while,” Roger said.
Lyle nodded. “About a year. They’ve put me up in the inn for a couple of weeks, but I need to find a place to live. I figured I’d ask around at work to see if anyone knows of anything. I understand a lot of them live in Manhattan.” Lyle looked around. “But this is so nice.”
“It’s too quiet for some folks,” Roger said, leaning on the railing next to him.
“I think quiet is nice. Harrisburg isn’t big as cities go, but it’s noisy and fast.” His condo building always had people coming and going. Lyle turned to look at Roger and saw him looking back. Lyle’s belly did a little flip as he recognized the interest in Roger’s eyes. Then it vanished and Roger turned. Lyle stifled a sigh as he watched the remote-controlled boat glide under the bridge. He turned and watched as it floated out the other side and made a lazy circle on the water before starting its return trip. “I could use some quiet.”
Lyle heard the kid laugh as the father handed the controls to the boat to him. From the bridge, Lyle saw the kid smile as he took the controls. The boat glided back to the center of the pond and then began making all kinds of circles and loops. Lyle turned back toward Roger, and he could have sworn Roger turned away just as Lyle began looking. Lyle opened his mouth to say something, but Roger pushed away from the railing.
“I’m sure I’ll see you around,” he said. Before Lyle could open his mouth, Roger had turned and started striding back along the path through the park.
Lyle watched him go, wondering what had happened. He shrugged and pushed away from the rail himself, continuing across the bridge and on closer to the stone windmill. Lyle looked around the stone structure and saw Roger coming up the other way. He watched him for a few moments and realized he was being watched in return. Lyle walked over to where Roger stood. As he approached, Lyle once again saw a quick flash of desire, and then, just like before, it was gone and Roger turned away. This time Lyle watched him walk all the way across the park and back to the restaurant. He had no idea what was going on, so he pushed it from his mind. He wasn’t here to hook up, or even to meet anyone. He had a job to do, and he planned on doing it to the best of his ability, and taking some time to think and contemplate what he wanted. He certainly wouldn’t get caught up with a small-town closet case too afraid of what the neighbors would say to even be seen speaking to him in broad daylight.
He ambled back through the park, then stopped by the community pool to listen to the kids as they screamed with watery delight before continuing on and back to the hotel.
“Did you have a nice walk?” the hotelier asked as Lyle approached the stairs.
“I did. Thanks for the restaurant recommendation—the food was amazing,” Lyle said, and then smiled before continuing up the stairs.
“Did you meet Roger?”
Lyle paused. “Yes. He seemed very nice. We talked a little while I ate, and then I saw him in the park.”
The proprietor nodded slowly. “He’s a very nice man. Tragic, but very nice.” Lyle paused to see if he’d go on, but the older man simply turned and went back through the private doorway, leaving Lyle to wonder if people in town were crazy or just out to raise his curiosity. As he climbed the stairs, Lyle pushed all of it from his mind. He was starting a new position in the morning, and that was more than enough for him to worry about. He didn’t need to add the crazy cast of local characters.
Andrew Grey grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived all over the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation. Andrew's hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing). He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Dreamspinner Press Author Page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=106
Facebook Author: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Andrew-Grey/321057969619
We have a big city boy, not quite happy with his life, but at the same time not realizing he is in a rut. He has distancing himself from friends and rarely leaves the house. He gets a wake up call not only with a new job offer, but from a friend who has been concerned for a long time about his lifestyle. Lyle decided to take q chance in a new city and try to start over. He needs something more in his life
In walks Roger. Roger is not only in the closet but a bit ashamed of what he is. He has a horrid ex-wife, but also a daughter who is the love of his life. He is unhappy in his small town routine and longs to return to his nights of crawling inside a bottle to forget his pain. The author painted a wonderful picture of both of these men, both lonely in different ways, and both wanting to change their lives but unsure as to how to do it.
I enjoyed this story. It was very realistic, and I really could see this actually happening in real life. I loved Lyle's friends. They were a very happy couple and a world of good advice. This was a very good contemporary m/m. I can't wait for more from this author!!