Second Hand: A Tucker Springs Novel

Second Hand: A Tucker Springs Novel

4.5 2
by Marie Sexton, Heidi Cullinan

Paul Hannon moved to Tucker Springs for his girlfriend, but she’s left him with a house he can’t afford and a pantry full of useless gadgets. All Paul wants is to get back to normal, even if he's not sure what that is anymore. When he wanders into Tucker Pawn for a gift to win her back, he meets El Rozal, pawn shop owner and all-around cynic.



Paul Hannon moved to Tucker Springs for his girlfriend, but she’s left him with a house he can’t afford and a pantry full of useless gadgets. All Paul wants is to get back to normal, even if he's not sure what that is anymore. When he wanders into Tucker Pawn for a gift to win her back, he meets El Rozal, pawn shop owner and all-around cynic.

El Rozal doesn’t do relationships, especially not with clueless straight boys still pining for their ex. El may make his living dealing in castoffs, but that doesn't apply to men. Still, when Paul starts clearing out his old life, pawning kitchen equipment he never wanted in the first place, El is drawn to Paul in spite of himself.

Paul and El have nothing in common except a past full of disappointments. There's no reason to believe the two of them could fit, but in El’s line of work, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. When it comes to love, El and Paul may learn that secondhand doesn't mean second best.

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Riptide Publishing, LLC
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5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.38(d)

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Second Hand

A Tucker Springs Novel

By Heidi Cullinan, Marie Sexton, Sarah Frantz

Riptide Publishing

Copyright © 2012 Marie Sexton and Heidi Cullinan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-937551-52-0


Going into the pawnshop was a mistake. I knew it the same way I'd known two months before that Stacey was going to leave me, some nagging sense of unease deep in the pit of my stomach. On the day she'd left, I'd stopped on my way home and bought dinner because a little voice in the front of my brain chattering away like a chipmunk refused to believe that sense of impending doom. It insisted that chow mein and sweet and sour pork would make Stacey smile and everything would be all right.

Of course, the chipmunk had been stilled to silence by the empty house and the note on the bedroom door.

The chipmunk, however, never learned. Today my inner rodent had prattled on, reminding me Stacey's birthday was in two days. I couldn't not get her a present, it reasoned, not after all the time we'd had together. Worse, how could I pass up a chance to win her back?

Of course, I was looking to buy said present at a pawnshop. This was a new level of desperation, even for the chipmunk.

I opened the door of the pawnshop but stopped dead when I got a good look inside. The neon lights outside flashing "BUY - SELL PAWN" should have tipped me off as to what kind of atmosphere I'd find, but I'd never actually been in a pawnshop before, and it was far worse than I'd anticipated. It was dirty and cluttered and sad. Discarded items—mostly TVs, stereos, and Blu-ray players—lay dead on the shelves. An entire wall held musical instruments, silent in the absence of their owners. The smell of cigarette smoke and something else lingered in the air, something I couldn't identify. Something that reeked of failure. I was overwhelmed by the same sense of helplessness I felt at the animal shelter, all the animals behind bars, wondering why nobody loved them anymore.

I almost turned and walked back out, but the man sitting behind the counter was watching me, his booted feet on the glass display with a half-smoked cigarette drooping between his lips.

"Can I help you?" he asked, and I marveled at the way the cigarette stayed stuck in the side of his mouth.

I shoved my hands into my pants pockets. "I'm looking for jewelry."

He took the butt out of his mouth and smiled at me as he stood. "You've come to the right place, my friend."

I doubted that, but I chose not to contradict him. The "right place" would have been the jewelry store down the street, its windows full of gold and diamonds, but I sure as hell couldn't afford that. One of the downtown art galleries had beautiful glass pendants, but the chipmunk had protested. They were colorful, but twisted glass wouldn't win Stacey back.

The owner led me around the shop through a faint haze of cigarette smoke, past glass cases full of iPods and cameras, GPS navigators and laptops, to one along the back wall that held jewelry. The selection was crazily eclectic. Giant turquoise bracelets and dainty gold chains, wedding bands and strings of pearls.

"You looking for anything in particular?" he asked.

That was a good question. What should I buy? Not a ring. I'd already given her one of those. Never mind that it was currently sitting in a bowl on my bedside table. Not a bracelet. She didn't like them because they got in her way when she worked.

"A necklace?" I asked.

"Don't sound so sure of yourself." He stuck what was left of the cigarette into the side of his mouth, squinting against the ribbon of smoke that rose past his eyes as he unlocked the cabinet and began to pull out the displays of necklaces. The smoke curled around the coarse twists of his hair.

"Are you allowed to smoke in here?" I asked.

He glanced up at me, almost smiling. His black hair was shaved short on the sides and in the back, but the top was longer, spiked straight up in a way that hinted more at laziness than style. He was one of those casually cool guys, I realized, who were naturally put-together and suave, who found everybody else slightly amusing. And slightly stupid. "My store."

"Yeah, but aren't there city ordinances or something?"

He took the butt out of his mouth and leaned both hands on the edge of the glass counter to look at me. He was taller than me. Thin, though. Not bulky at all, but he still managed to make me feel small. "Pretty sure I'm the only honest pawnbroker in town. As long as I'm not fencing, cops don't exactly care about my personal vices."

"I see." I tried to hide my embarrassment by looking down at the necklaces.

"Is this for your mom or a girlfriend?"

"Girlfriend," I said, deciding he didn't need to know about the "ex" part of the equation.

"In that case, I'd say stay away from pearls and Black Hills gold." He shrugged and rubbed his hand over the hair at the nape of his neck. "They're sort of old school. Opals, too."

"She likes sapphires."

"Show me a woman who doesn't." He knocked the cherry off his cigarette onto the concrete floor, rubbed it out with his foot, and tossed the butt in the trash can before pointing to a necklace in the center. It had a stone so dark blue it was almost black. "This is the only sapphire I have right now, but if you want my opinion, it sort of screams 1995. Now this," he pointed to one near the end, "this one is new. Platinum's all the rage, you know."

"Platinum?" I touched the necklace. It looked like silver to me, but I wasn't exactly an expert on jewelry. The stone appeared to be a large rectangular diamond, surrounded by a bunch of smaller round ones. "It looks expensive."

"Looks being the operative word." He smiled and crossed his arms over his chest. "The platinum is real, but the diamonds aren't."

"They're fake?"

"Cubic zirconium. Just as pretty, but way more affordable than the real thing."

I wasn't sure about giving Stacey imitation stones, but it was definitely the nicest necklace he had. Even used, it was more than I could really afford, but that chipmunk in my brain was enamored with it, positive it was the only thing Stacey would want.

"I can pay you half in cash and half on my card. Is that okay?"

"No personal checks, but cash and credit both work."

"Do you have some kind of nice box or something it can go in?"

He laughed, revealing perfect teeth that seemed extra white against his bronze skin. "No, I'm gonna give it to you in a Ziploc baggie." I wasn't really sure what to say to that, but he laughed again. "I'm kidding. Yeah, I got a box around here somewhere. You think I'm running some kind of second-rate establishment?"

The way he said it, it wasn't a challenge. He seemed to be mocking himself more than anything, admitting that of course this was a second-rate store. That was, after all, the entire idea of a pawnshop. Second owner. Second hand.

I hoped very much that in my case, it would mean a second chance.


El watched the necklace-buyer leave, trying not to laugh at the absurdity of it all. The whole thing had "long-term disaster" stamped all over it. Sometimes his customers were desperate. Sometimes stupid. This one? Mostly he'd seemed perpetually confused.

When his cell phone rang, El was still smiling, thinking about Clueless Joe as he answered. "Tucker Pawn."

"Aren't we all bright and cheery this evening?" Denver Rogers's voice was rough, full of drawl that didn't quite come from the South. "If my ears don't deceive me, you might actually be smiling. You take someone home and get snuggly last night?"

"I don't snuggle."

"Well, something's got you sounding like Suzie Sunshine."

El smiled at the image of the necklace-buyer as Suzie Sunshine. Oddly, he kind of was. "Just a customer."

"Oh?" There was a world of innuendo in that single syllable.

"Just a customer." Brownish-red hair, pale skin, little freckles across his nose. El couldn't help but imagine the soft, white skin in the places that didn't see the sun. "He was damn cute, though."

Denver whistled through his teeth. "Well, goddamn. Somebody call the Tucker Gazette. Emanuel Mariano Rozal is showing signs of humanity. Next thing you know, he might settle down and start collecting cats."


"So we on tonight, or what?"

"Looks like or what."

Denver's huff belied his irritation, and El could picture him scowling. The two of them had a weekly "date" at the Tucker Laund-O-Rama, which wasn't nearly as kinky as it sounded. It had nothing in the world to do with sex, and everything to do with having somebody over the age of twenty-two to talk to while their socks ran the spin cycle.

"What is it this time?" Denver asked.

"I told Rosa I'd watch the kids."

"Come on, man. Your entire fucking family, and she picks you?"

"Miguel's on call for the fire department, and his wife can barely deal with their own kids. Rosa's fighting with Lorenzo's wife—"

"About what?"

"I'm doing my best not to know." If there was one thing El had learned, it was not to get involved in family drama. Especially when it came to the women. Especially when it came to his little sister Rosa, who made the stereotype of the fiery Latina woman look like Tinkerbell. "She's been leaving them with her neighbor, but she got busted for possession—"


"That leaves Abuela, and she's too old to have to deal with those little shits on her own."

"What about your mom?"

Leave it to Denver to notice the person El had left off his list. "Look man, it's me. I said I'd do it."

Denver sighed. "Someday, you're going to wake up and wish you'd gotten out from behind that counter a bit more."

"And you're going to wish you hadn't bulked up on 'roids." El was pretty sure Denver didn't actually use steroids, but when a man was built like a fucking barn, he could take a bit of ribbing.

"Why can't you bring the kids along?"

"You serious?"

"Why not? They might liven things up a bit."

El thought about Rosa's three kids running around the laundromat. They'd scare away any little frat boys in a heartbeat, no doubt about it. "You're on. Eight o'clock?"

"Sounds good."

"Hey, Denver?"


"I don't snuggle."

He laughed. "Fine. But I take back that 'signs of humanity' remark. You're as much of an asshole as ever."

* * *

El had thought he was watching the kids because Rosa had to work, but when he showed up at her house at 6:30, he found her wearing tight black jeans and high-heeled boots and displaying a whole lot of cleavage. Not exactly the sort of thing she'd wear to wait tables, not even at Giuseppe's.

"Christ, Rosa. Put on a sweater or something."

She hooked her hands under her breasts and lifted them a bit. "Fuck off, bro."

"You didn't tell me it was a date."

"You didn't ask."

True enough. The fact was, the less El thought about what his sister got up to, the better. He was sure the feeling was mutual. "Who is he this time?"

She turned away to study her hair in the mirror. "Somebody I met."

"No shit, Captain Obvious. Where at?"


He sighed and sat down on her couch. "You got three kids by three different dads, and not one of those sperm donors is worth a damn. When you gonna learn?"

"Just because you don't date doesn't mean I can't." She pinched her cheeks and reached for a tube of lipstick. "I ain't cut out to be a nun."

Which meant El was a monk. Which wasn't entirely off the mark, which annoyed the hell out of him. "Do you ever stop to think about where you're going and what you're doing? Do you ever think of the future? Your kids' future, maybe with a stable male role model in the picture?"

She bared her teeth at him in the mirror. "Oh, but sweetheart, if they need a male stick-in-the-mud, they can look to Uncle Emanuel." She yelled down the hallway, "Let's go, kids. I got places to be."

"And men to do," El said under his breath.

The only acknowledgement El received was a middle finger flipped his way.

* * *

"What do you care that she's on a date?" Denver asked El two hours later as they loaded clothes into side-by-side washing machines.

El glanced around to make sure Rosa's kids weren't listening. They weren't. They were running around the laundromat, playing hide-and-seek among the tables and chairs. The only other person around was a young woman wearing skin-tight sweatpants with Greek letters across her ass. She had on headphones and was handily ignoring the world.

"It's not that it's a date," El told Denver. "It's that she's being an idiot."

Denver slammed the door to his washer and glanced sideways at El as he thumbed quarters into the machine. "You're the most judgmental person I know."

"It's not my fault people are stupid."

"Am I included in that assessment, Mr. Genius?"

El sighed and slammed his own washer shut. "Look. When she's hurt and crying because another loser has left, she comes clean and tells me what she really wants. She says she wants a nice guy who'll settle down with her. Take care of her and take care of the kids. Come to family dinners and help Abuela when she needs it. Somebody who'll be part of the family."

"Makes sense." Denver shrugged and glanced down at the floor, his voice gruff as he added, "Nothing wrong with wanting that."

"I'm not saying it's wrong. But look at it this way: you work at Lights Out. Biggest, gayest club in town, right?"


"And you're standing here saying you wouldn't mind finding somebody to settle down with, right?"

Denver's jaw tensed and he took a step back. "I never said—"

"My point is, you have a couple hundred gay boys to pick from every night. But you don't."

Denver relaxed a bit, probably because he knew El wasn't about to hound him on the settling down thing. "Club's nothing but college boys looking to get laid."

"Exactly." El turned away to put his money into the slots. "Men in the straight clubs are no different. She meets these guys at the bar, takes them home within a week, then wonders why they turn out to be losers."

"Where's she supposed to meet them?"

"I don't know. PTA meetings. Church. The grocery store." El waved his hands to indicate the walls around them. "The fucking laundromat."

Denver snorted. "I take it she don't go to those places?"

"She does, actually, and guys ask her out, but you know what she says? She says they're old or they're fat. Or maybe they're going bald. So she keeps choosing these drunken asshats at the bar, then wondering why they don't turn out to be Mr. Right."

"You think Mr. Right's hanging out at Tucker Laund-O-Rama?"

Of course, when he said it that way, it sounded pretty stupid. "Maybe. Yeah."

Denver raised his eyebrows. "Do me a favor, El. Let me know when he walks in the door."


When I got home after work, I saw someone had stuck a bright pink flier into the rickety screen on my front door. I left it on the kitchen counter while I dialed Stacey's number.

No answer.

I stared at the flier as the phone rang. Curb Appeal Contest, it read. Although houses in similar neighborhoods in Tucker Springs were in high demand, my little corner, an older section between the edge of the Light District and the railroad tracks, was slowly falling into disrepair. The self-appointed homeowner's association was always trying to come up with ways to increase property value. Block parties. New playgrounds. It seemed this time it was a drive to improve the look of the lawns and houses in the neighborhood. I was about to toss it aside when the bottom line caught my eye. $500 cash prize.

I could use $500. No doubt about that.

I dialed Stacey's number again. Still no answer.

I put on some music and stuck a frozen dinner in the microwave, wondering how much it would take to win the contest.

Our secret judges will be patrolling the neighborhood, looking for yards that are well kept, colorful, and inviting.

That didn't sound too hard. And for a cash prize—

There was a dull pop, and the kitchen went dim and silent.

"Goddammit." I shoved away from the counter and glared at the faded wallpaper as if I could bore through to the wires beneath. "Should have known."


Excerpted from Second Hand by Heidi Cullinan, Marie Sexton, Sarah Frantz. Copyright © 2012 Marie Sexton and Heidi Cullinan. Excerpted by permission of Riptide Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Second Hand: A Tucker Springs Novel 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Marissa Book provided by NeGalley for review Review originally posted at Romancing the Book I was first attracted to this series because it was named after my beloved Beagle companion (um, Tucker?). While I missed the first book (Where Nerves End by L. A. Witt), I was excited to latch onto Second Hand. I adore the writing of both Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton and am a big (BIG) fan of their collaborative blog and I was not disappointed here. Second Hand begins with a chipmunk. Interestingly enough, it is running around in Paul’s head and telling him to do exactly the wrong thing. The wrong thing, however, leads him to El’s pawnshop, where El is instantly amused by Paul. Amused, smitten with… all the same in El’s book. He is immediately attracted to Paul, a straight man buying a birthday present in the hopes it will pull his ex-girlfriend back into his life – and his home. I thought Paul was a naively sweet character, completely clueless about what’s going on around him. He doesn’t seem to realize when women are trying to hit on him and then when El kisses him, instead of seeing it as a man kissing a man, he thanks El for giving him his wish of being kissed in public. El is a more down-to-earth character. He’s seen his sister fall in love with every “wrong” man and his mother fall apart over the loss of his father. He is somewhat cynical and hard-nosed where his love life is concerned, but it is attraction to Paul that makes him endearing. Paul seems to soften him not only around the edges, but in the middle – right around the heart. What I really adore about these two characters is how they just sort of flow together. They appear to merge seamlessly until they are one unit, a couple. They have fun. I love that El makes up a pawnshop rule to keep Paul coming in every day – and I love that Paul believes it without question. While some writing partnerships are evident in the writing (differing styles and jumps in the storyline often make it painfully apparent), Second Hand flows smoothly and seamlesslythroughout. Even the secondary characters have “character” and it would be great fun to read about Denver and his search for a new laundry-mate.
SmittenWithReading More than 1 year ago
My Review: I love a story that makes me smile and this one definitely did...over and over again. There is such a sweet innocence to this story. El isn't looking for a boyfriend and he's sure not wanting to become infatuated with a guy who's straight. Paul is just plain such a sweet, completely unassuming way. I loved both these guys and the way that their story and relationship slowly developed. El owns and runs a pawn shop. He's his own guy, living a pretty happy life, if you count out his crazy family. He's not a player...he spends most his Friday nights at the laundry mat with his friend Denver. He's lived in Tucker Springs his whole life and it's been a pretty good one so far. He's pretty satisfied with where he's at, even if that means that there are moments when it feels like he's missing something more and has vague feelings of loneliness. Paul isn't very happy with where his life is. His girlfriend/fiance has left him for another guy. He's living in a house that she chose and he hates. He's working a job that falls short of where his dreams lay. El is the one high point in his life, even if he doesn't quite realize it. Because poor Paul is not the most intuitive guy...he just doesn't pick up on the same clues that the rest of the world does. But he's sweet and fun and honest and loyal....and El is really into him, even if he is straight. El has convinced himself that he'll just be happy to have Paul as his friend. But what El doesn't realize is that seven years ago, before Stacey came into Paul's life, the only other person he'd kissed had been a guy. Yep, he may have seven years history with a girl, but before that Paul was pretty much all about the guys. That's something that Paul has pretty much wiped from his memory too in his effort to be "normal". There are so many sweet, sweet moments in this book. Like I said, it was one of those books that simply made me smile. I really liked it and reading all about Paul and El's's a good one! I received a complementary copy of this book in return for an honest review.