Stubbed Toes & Dating Woes by Dahlia Donovan
Genre: Asexual MM Romance
Niclas Ruiz loves digging in the dirt for ancient artifacts. He’s obsessed with old words and lives in his own world. His summers are often spent traveling to new places to hunt for treasure with his trusty metal detector while trying not to get lost or stumble off a cliff.
Love has never been high on his priority list. His being autistic and asexual has often been a hurdle for other people. But he’s happy enough to plod along on his own with his horde like a fairy-tale dragon.
But sometimes, he allows himself to dream about a man out of his reach.
Two things about Falk “Grizz” Evensen are certain. He runs a successful security firm and has been hopelessly in love with his best friend’s younger brother for many years. Neither of them has ever dared to test the waters.
When Niclas plans to visit Cornwall for the summer, his older brother convinces Falk to join him under the auspices of keeping him safe.
Is this May-December romance doomed to be derailed by fears of unrequited love?
Will their treasure hunt lead them to true love or fool’s gold?
“Happy birthday to me.” Niclas came up out of the middle of the River Wylve, eyeing the muddy coins in his hand. He shifted his waterproof metal detector under his other arm. “Well, aren’t you pretty specimens?”
“Oi. Professor Dirt. Swim this way. I’ve brought cake.” His brother whistled sharply from the riverbank. “C’mon, Nic, I’d wager you forgot lunch.”
“I didn’t.” Niclas glowered at his older brother, Izan. “I had breakfast. Who are you wagering with? It’s just you.”
“Ready Brek dosed with more sugar than is healthy doesn’t count as a meal.” Izan grinned at him while Niclas grumbled under his breath. “Stop cursing at me in ye olde English. You could just use ‘fuck.’ The world won’t end if you do.”
“I enjoy using old words. It’s fun. ‘Sard’ basically means ‘fuck’ anyway.” Niclas collected interesting curses almost as much as he did ancient artefacts. “Etymology is fascinating.”
“And people think you’re talking about sardines or something.” Izan dodged the spray of water Niclas sent at him. “Are you coming or not? I can hear your stomach grumbling from over here.”
“No, you can’t.”
The Ruiz brothers were polar opposites in many aspects despite being almost identical in looks. They were often teased for being twins born ten years apart. Both had dark brown eyes and hair. Izan kept his close-cut, while Niclas had a shaggy, longish mane of wavy curls.
The differences only expanded from there. Niclas was a twenty-eight-year-old autistic man. His hands were scarred from years of working on archaeological digs for the British Museum, though in all honesty, he blamed his own clumsiness for most of his healed injuries. His entire life revolved around archiving treasures and hunting for them in his spare time.
Izan had served in the military—and hadn’t struggled with anything other than a drive to push himself harder and farther than anyone else around him. He stood both taller and a little broader than his younger brother. Protective by nature, he tended toward an organised and regimented life, not something Niclas found interesting or comfortable.
For Niclas, a lot of life had been a struggle. He’d worked harder to keep up when others found things easy. It was sometimes exhausting.
Things in general often came easily to Izan. On the other hand, Niclas stumbled his way into success and failure in equal measure, often with a bruise or two to show for his effort. Spatial awareness had always been an issue for him—thanks to being autistic—something his elder brother didn’t struggle with at all.
Izan had dated his way through quite a few men and women over the years. Niclas had been hesitant to enter relationships. His asexuality tended to be a barrier for some.
The brothers adored one another. Izan had always looked out for him, which Niclas found both endearing and frustrating. He knew his brother meant well.
“Still planning your extended walk around the Cornish beaches over June and July? Have you thought about bringing a friend with you?” Izan offered him one of the small cakes he’d brought. “Eat, eat.”
“I’ll be fine.” Niclas had endured this argument twice already. “I’ve planned everything out quite carefully.”
“Fine? Fine. Fine, he says.” Izan wiped the crumbs from his shirt with precise meticulousness. “Last trip, you almost drowned, and you broke two toes. The one before? You got lost for three days. Three days.”
“I wasn’t lost. Just… took longer than expected to locate where I’d parked my Mini Cooper.” Niclas crossed his arms and glared at his brother. “I got there eventually.”
“Three whole days?” Izan raised an eyebrow at him. “You found it when a team came to rescue you.”
Dahlia Donovan wrote her first romance series after a crazy dream about shifters and damsels in distress. She prefers irreverent humour and unconventional characters. An autistic and occasional hermit, her life wouldn’t be complete without her husband and her massive collection of books and video games.