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BEST OF BOTH WORLDS



by

N.R. WALKER


Blurb


Sebastian Gilman meets a guy on a dance floor every Friday night. He knows nothing about him, not even his name, only to find one day this familiar stranger turns up on his building site and they need to work together.


Ryland Keller knows better than to get involved. Alone and half a country away from home, he revels in isolation until a handsome man in a gay bar turns his world upside down.


Sebastian wants to help Ryland recover from a horrible past, but only if Ryland can let his guard down long enough to see that he can have the best of both worlds.


This 20,000-word story is told in drabbles: each chapter consisting of only 100 words.




Copyright:


Cover Artist: James, at Go On Write

Editor: Eleanor Boyall

Best of Both Worlds © 2017 N.R. Walker

Publisher: BlueHeart Press



Smashwords Edition



All Rights Reserved:

This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.

This is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or business establishments, events or locales is coincidental.

The Licensed Art Material is being used for illustrative purposes only.

No part of this may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.



Warning

Intended for an 18+ audience only. This book contains material that maybe offensive to some and is intended for a mature, adult audience. It contains graphic language, explicit sexual content, and adult situations.



Trigger warnings: Mentions of violence and homophobia. Reader discretion advised.




PART 1




The lights are strobing, the bass is thumping. Bodies are swaying, grinding, sweating.

I’m lost in a sea of metaphorical white and blue collars, from lawyers and doctors to tradesmen like me. Status isn’t important on the dance floor. We’re all accepted here: LGBT, proud and sensual. Sexual.

Hands and mouths push and pull, give and take, want and need.

I see him and he looks at me with those blue eyes that have owned me every Friday night for the last four weeks.

My hands are on his hips. He licks the sweat off my neck, and I shiver.


__________


As a carpenter, a contractor, I hide who I really am. But I love my job. My boss, Daevyn, respects me. He’s a good man. Sometimes I think he might know the secret I keep, but he says nothing.

Other men I work with work hard, drink hard. They live for weekends: beer, football and women.

“Come on, Sebastian, we’ll show you how real men drink,” Jason scoffs.

Four o’clock Friday is tools down, beers up, but not for me. I have somewhere else I’d rather be. A dance floor with a blue-eyed guy whose name I do not know.




I arrive with my friends and they know who I’m looking for. The mystery of this nameless stranger plagues me.

The dark club is alive with music and men. He’s not there and I am disappointed, but I drink and dance regardless.

A hand grabs my shoulder, pulling me around, and it’s him. The guy I was dancing with no longer exists because blue eyes are an inch from mine. “You’re late,” I say.

He smirks and his sky-colored eyes shine. I lean close and ask him, “What’s your name?”

He licks his lips. “Isn’t it more fun not knowing?”


__________


The deadline at work is brought forward and Head Office says to expect a new crew on Wednesday.

The construction company I work for is big, with dozens of subcontracted building teams across Seattle and the Northwest. Teams often work together to get jobs done.

I get to work on Wednesday with the sunrise and my heart stops.

There’s a tall, brown-haired man with his back to me talking on his cell. Boots, strong lean legs, tool belt at his waist. He turns as he hears me and his voice trails away…

He stares at me with his sky-blue eyes.




“Haven’t got all day,” Daevyn barks at us and our locked stare is broken. There are other construction workers buzzing around, though nobody seems to have noticed the lack of oxygen in the room.

We work the same site, but not together, and I catch myself looking around for him. Sometimes I swear I can feel his eyes on me, burning the skin on the back of my neck, on my blond hair.

On Thursday, I try to be near him, accidentally on purpose. He ignores me.

On Friday, still no words are spoken. I still don’t know his name.


__________


Friday night, I scan the crowded club until closing time, but he doesn’t show.

I wonder if it’s because it’s too real, too close to his real life. I wonder if he’s out, if his family knows he’s gay, or curious at least. I wonder if he knows it.

Or maybe there’s someone else?

Is that why?

I realize I know nothing of this man, not even his name.

My friends have gone from saying, “You two are so hot on the dance floor. We see the way he looks at you,” to saying, “Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.”



On Monday, he’s there early, though he looks tired, like he had a rough weekend.

I am determined to talk to him, to at least ask him… something.

Blue eyes that have haunted me for weeks flicker to mine and I can see him swallow. I grab the blueprints and walk directly over to him. “Can I have a second?”

I lay the plans out over the makeshift table, away from listening ears, and I can feel him beside me. To others, it would look as though we’re talking work, but instead I ask him, “Where were you on Friday?”


__________


He doesn’t answer my question, so I talk instead. “I know I don’t know the first thing about you, but maybe we could start as friends.”

My words aren’t coming out right so I stop and start again. “I thought there was something… chemistry. I thought we had chemistry.”

He’s silent for too long and the knots in my stomach tighten. I pick up the plans and turn to leave when someone calls out, “Sebastian,” and my head turns at my name.

I swear I hear him whisper, though it is to himself, not me. “Sebastian.”

It makes me shiver.



I do my best to avoid him for the rest of the week, though it’s difficult and I can feel him looking at me. His eyes are like imaginary fingers, burning painlessly across my skin.

Sometimes when there’s no one else around he looks like he might say something, but he doesn’t.

By Friday, I am pissed off and frustrated. The guys ask me to join them for a drink, but I decline again. Jason, the Neanderthal he is, hollers, “Need some pussy, Gilman?”

Most of the boys laugh, except for one blue-eyed man, who pretends he didn’t hear.


__________


I stalk through the club, wearing jeans that hug my thighs and ass just right, and the green shirt that matches my eyes. I’m on a mission tonight to get drunk and to get laid.

Not my usual MO, but I’m sick of the games.

I need to forget.

I’m buzzed and dancing with Marcel, a French guy I’ve danced with before. I grind against his ass and I know I’m being watched.

I search the crowd until I find him. Sky-blue eyes are watching me dance with another man. His jaw is clenched and his chest is heaving.



Marcel presses his ass against me, an offering. His head falls back against my shoulder, his eyes are closed, and he moans.

But my gaze is on the man with sky-colored eyes, who is staring right at me. He looks a mixture of angry, disappointed, and turned on.

Keeping our gazes locked, I smile at him and bite down on the neck in front of me. His blue eyes close and his nostrils flare.

When his eyes shoot open again, they are different. Clearer. Determined. He crosses the dance floor to stand in front of me. And he stares.


__________


Marcel looks at him, challenging. “Can I help you?”

Blue eyes never leave mine. He answers low but direct. “Yes. You can leave.”

My hands fall from Marcel’s hips and he turns to look at me, to gauge my reaction. Marcel can see how intently we are staring at each other, this gorgeous familiar stranger and me. There’s no competition. Marcel knows it. He huffs and walks away.

The brown-haired man with the sky-blue eyes steps forward, pressing the entire length of his body against mine.

And he whispers in my ear, a Southern-accented melody, “My name is Ryland.”



Ryland…

The feel of him against me sets my blood on fire. The music pounds in my chest and I grab his waist and grind against him. Ryland…

His fingers dig into me, his hip bone strokes my cock and we’re not in a crowded sea of dancing bodies any more.

We are alone. Just me and him. Ryland…

His breath on my skin heats me, his lips at my ear ignite me.

The rest of the world falls away. We are the only two men on the face of the planet in that moment, just me and him. Ryland…


__________


I trail my lips up his neck and I can feel him shiver. I run my nose along his jaw and his breath stops in his throat. He gasps like he’s drowning.

Finally, finally, my lips find his and I kiss him… hard.

One hand on the small of his back pulls him into me. My other hand wraps around his neck and jaw and pulls his mouth against mine.

I taste him, drink him and devour him. Ryland…

He pulls away too soon, to breathe it would seem. He grabs my hand and drags me off the dance floor.



He pulls me into a dark corner where the music is not so loud. His body is still against me; my hands are holding him there.

“I’m a little drunk,” I tell him.

“I know,” he answers.

“My name is Sebastian Gillman.”

He smiles. “I know.”

“I’m gay.”

He laughs. “I know.”

“You have a Southern accent,” I tell him.

He snorts. “I know.”

“You ignored me. You acted as if you didn’t even know me,” I tell him. “Like what we do here means nothing.”

He no longer smiles. “I know.”

I have to know. “Why?”

“I don’t know.”


__________


Confusion, hurt and too many drinks fuel my fire. My voice is louder than I intended. “You don’t know?

His eyes dart to mine, my abrupt tone surprising him. He takes a step back from me and I immediately regret my outburst.

But something flares in his beautiful eyes and his tone matches mine. “Because I don’t want them to know!”

And I suddenly feel very sober. He pulls at his hair and looks like he’s ready to bolt so I grab a fistful of his shirt and I nod.

His voice is softer. “I won’t go through that again.”




It’s too loud, too dark, and too hot. I need fresh air. Ryland seems to understand because when I pull on his hand and walk us to the exit he doesn’t object.

The cool night air and the sounds of the darkened city are a welcome relief.

I still have his hand in mine and turn to face him. His eyes have lost some shine.

“Ryland, I understand, believe me I do,” I say honestly. “The guys I work with don’t know about me either.”

His eyes dart to mine and he looks… scared.

“Ryland, they don’t need to know.”


__________


I can see confusion and hesitation in those piercing eyes, like shards of ice, but there is a glimmer of resilience, of hope. It’s there, I can see it.

I tell him I know that being a construction worker comes with certain stereotypes. “How’s that for fucking irony?” I ask him.

I do my job. I’m fucking good at my job. Who I have sex with—who I fall in love with—is none of their business. It’s none of their goddamn business. It shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t fucking matter.

Ryland waits for my rant to finish and then smiles.



“Can we grab some coffee?” he asks. It’s after midnight and we’re standing in the street outside the nightclub.

“Absolutely,” I tell him. “My place isn’t far.” My words make me pause, knowing what I’d implied, and I rephrase my offer. “Or we can find a diner…?”

He smirks at my sudden shyness, so I explain. “I don’t want you to think I’m inviting you to my place for sex. That’s not what I meant, I just want to talk.”

Ryland looks a mix of cautious and curious. His tone is casual when he asks, “Walking distance or taxi?”


__________


I give a tour of my house while we wait for the coffee machine to heat. I explain not all the rooms are finished. It’s a work in progress.

An older-style bungalow in need of repair, it’s my pride and joy, my home. I show him the back deck, though it’s only half done. “It’s slow because I’m doing it by myself and I’m rather particular about quality.”

He inspects the framed family pictures and in twenty minutes he knows so much about me. My home, my family. I’m an open book to him.

“So, Ryland, tell me about you.”



He’s uneasy, not sure what to give away.

We sit on the sofa sipping coffee and I tell him it’s okay, he can tell me when he’s ready.

He tells me he tried to stay away from me, my blond hair and brown eyes, but failed. He says when he saw me dancing with another guy he made a decision right then and there, to not stay away from me anymore.

But then his voice is low when he tells me, “My choice to live my life, to not lie about myself or to myself anymoreto come outcost me everything.”


__________


He leaves it at that and I don’t push him. I tell him I’m sorry. It shouldn’t be that way. It shouldn’t make a difference, and it’s wrong that it does.

He nods and looks at me with those damn eyes.

“Prettiest blue eyes?” He laughs and I realize then that I’ve said this out loud.

“Your eyes have haunted me for the last five weeks,” I tell him.

He smiles kinda shyly and he’s quiet, like he’s about to say he has to leave.

I say the first thing that spews from my brain, just one terrifying word.

“Stay.”




His eyes widen and I am quick to explain. “You can take the spare bed or the sofa. I just don’t want you to leave.”

He looks uncomfortable, so I add, “I can call you a cab if you’d prefer.”

He waits before he speaks, to torture me I’m sure. Then he prods the cushion on the sofa and says, “Feels comfy enough.”

I smile and show him the guest room. He stands at the door, his body so close to mine.

Seconds pound out like the heart in my chest. I want to kiss himso fucking muchbut I don’t.


__________


My body’s conditioned to wake early whether I want it to or not. My eyes blink open at six AM and my brain kicks into gear.

I remember that Ryland slept in the spare room, but I doubt he’s still there. I hope he is, but I won’t be surprised to find him gone.

His door is open, the bed rumpled, the room empty. Disappointment lumps in my stomach and I head to the bathroom when I hear a distinct, “Ow, fucker.”

I stick my head into the kitchen. I think he’s killed my espresso machine, but I smile anyway.




Wearing his jeans from last night—no shirt, no shoes—he holds part of the coffee machine with one hand and inspects the fingers on his other.

I walk up beside him and he jumps at my sudden appearance. Flipping the faucet on, I run his fingers under cold water. I know he’s touched the metal part that burns because I’ve done the same thing before.

“I wanted to make you coffee,” he says. The gesture warms my heart. “Think I broke your machine.”

Still holding his hand under the water, I smile at him. “I’m just glad you stayed.”


__________


He laughs at the burns across the top of his fingers and his Southern accent lures me in. We talk well into morning. It’s easy. Actually, it’s better than easy…

It’s perfect.

He stands on my back deck discussing the work I’ve done and the work I’ve got to do. When he’s talking my trade, he uses his hands to describe the pictures he sees in his mind so I can see them too.

I find myself in front of him, absorbed in his oh-so-blue eyes. His tongue swipes his bottom lip and it steals the breath from my lungs.





Those damn blue eyes. They get me every time.

I don’t want to rush him. On the dance floor the last five Friday nights he’s been brave and demanding, but he’s cautious in the light of day and I can’t say I blame him.

I want to touch him, to kiss him. God, I want to have him. But I don’t want to rush him. And he can see that I’m torn.

“Sebastian,” he says with a laugh. “Just fucking kiss me.”

I chuckle, a little embarrassed. But I kiss him. Sweet God in heaven, do I kiss him.


__________


“What do we do on Monday?” he asks. His voice is so unsure. “At work, I…”

“I will be me. You will be you,” I say. “Nothing has to change.”

He nods, but he’s not convinced.

“Look, Ryland, you don’t have to tell me what happened, what’s got you so scared, but you can trust me.”

He looks at me with those imploring eyes.

I remind him, “We’re keeping the same secret.”

He leans over and kisses me, lightly, sweetly. He smiles and says, “Thank you, Sebastian.”

He leaves then, and I am perplexed by this man. Confounded, intrigued, enamoured…



I’m nervous going to work on Monday, but I’m also eager to see him again. He’s there when I arrive and his shoulders stiffen slightly when one of the guys he’s talking to asks me about last night’s game.

I tell Sam he’d feel a lot better when asking about football results if he followed the right team. The others laugh and Ryland smiles and visibly relaxes.

At lunch, someone asks Ryland about his bandaged fingers. He shrugs like he couldn’t care less, but he smiles when he says, “Burned ’em.”

I fight a grin until knock-off time.


__________


He’s at work all week and although we don’t work in the same team, I am constantly aware of him.

He comes over on Wednesday night. We grab some pizza and beer and watch hockey re-runs. He kisses me, aligns our bodies, and his desire presses hot and hard against mine.

When he tells me he should go, my head falls back and I groan. He laughs, but he hisses when he adjusts his all-too-evident hard-on.

We’ve not progressed further than kissing but by the time Friday rolls around, I am desperate to get him back on the dance floor.




The club is as it always is, but it feels different this time because I walk in holding Ryland’s hand. And the usual crowd of guys notice.

I can’t help but smile as they watch us. When I see my friends Neil and Brandon, they grin at me. I make introductions and Neil sighs dramatically. “It’s about fucking time you two got together.”

Ryland chuckles and after a few drinks and some laughs with them, Ryland looks toward the dance floor.

“For God’s sake, Sebastian, dance with your boy,” Brandon says with a laugh.

I smile and oblige, of course.


__________


Ryland edges his thigh in between mine and he starts to dance. It’s a pulsing, swaying, grinding dance. His hands are on my hips and his lips are on my neck.

A shiver runs from my scalp to my toes and I welcome the onslaught of sensation.

I am lost to him: his hands, his breath on my skin, the way his cock rubs against my hip.

I kiss him, open-mouthed and swirling tongues, and he’s holding me tighter and he grinds harder.

I kiss down his jaw, nipping, licking the stubble. He groans out a whimper. “Please, Sebastian. Please.”





With his chin clamped in my fingers, I turn his head and speak into his ear. “If I take you home, I will have you in my mouth. I will suck you. Do you want that?”

His body convulses and he nods, his face flush against mine.

I can feel his shallow breath. His heaving chest matches my own. He looks at me and his blue eyes are now black. Whether it’s the lights or the lust, I can’t tell.

His cheek is pressed to mine and when he speaks, his mouth moves against my lips. “Can I taste you too?”


__________


Ryland stands behind me, running his hands up the back of my thighs and over my ass as I fumble with the key in the lock. I laugh. It’s a nervous sound, of anticipation and sexual energy about to burst.

Finally the door opens and we step inside. I turn and push Ryland against the wall, my mouth on his, my hands on his belt. I pull at it roughly until I find my prize.

He moans as I pump him. When I drop to my knees and take him into my mouth, he fists my hair and all but screams.



The sounds he makes nearly end me. Gravelly and raspy, he moans and his breath stutters. “Oh, Sebastian… oh, my God…”

His cock is beautiful, long, thick and uncut. I take all of him in and he guides my head with hands in long, deep strokes.

“God, Sebastian, yes,” he groans out strangled words. “So close.”

I suck him harder, cup his balls and he thrusts his cock down my throat. His desire and lust spurts hot and thick, and I swallow.

He convulses and bucks, then pulls me up and holds me against him while his orgasm high subsides.


__________


I lead the way to my bedroom and he has a lazy smirka post-orgasm smirkand he’s beautiful.

Then I am naked on my bed and he eyes my cock like a starving man and whispers, “Fuck yes.”

Licking and nipping and squeezing and tasting, he teases me with his tongue and only when I am begging, does he take me into his mouth. He wraps his hands under my ass and pulls me down his throat.

I come so fucking hard and he moans as he drinks what I give. When my senses right themselves, he’s wrapped himself around me.




When I wake the next morning, he’s still beside me. We’re both naked and I admire his sleeping form: his perfect mouth, his muscular shoulders, his long legs.

Sleepy sky-colored eyes catch me. “Enjoying the view?”

I nod and he chuckles.

We shower together, both of us hard and aching, until we’re back on my bed and both on our knees. Ryland strokes our cocks together and my tongue fucks his mouth in time with his hand.

I watch his face as he comes. Those eyes that own me flutter with lust and it spirals my orgasm with his own.


__________


It’s mid-morning and we’re standing in my kitchen. He’s wearing some of my clothes and it’s like he can’t stop touching me. His hand brushes mine, a caress of my hip, his breathy sighs into the back of my neck.

It’s new but it’s intimate. And very fucking good.

It’s so easy between us, so easy and so very right.

But there’s a loud knock at the door and Ryland’s eyes widen as if he’s been caught doing something he shouldn’t.

A voice booms, “Sebastian, put your junk back in your pants and open the goddamn door.”

I sigh. Fucking Hamish.



“It’s okay, Ry,” I say quietly. “It’s just my brother.”

He’s pale and quite frankly he looks scared. I cup my hand to his cheek and tell him, “You don’t have to hide who you are with me. Work is different, I get that, but here, with my family, I am who I am.”

Ryland swallows and breathes deeply, then finally he nods.

Hamish yells more profanities and I yell back at him to shut the fuck up. I unlock the door and he barrels through only to stop in his tracks when he sees that I am not alone.


__________


Hamish’s eyes flicker between us and the devil’s grin spreads across his face. I’m watching Ryland’s reaction to my hulk of a brother and Hamish says, “Well, shit, bro. I didn’t know you had company.”

I roll my eyes. “Would it have stopped you?”

“Uh, probably not,” he says and proceeds to raid my fridge.

I stand near Ryland and feel him relax beside me. I tell Hamish with my eyes to be nice as I make introductions. Hamish just grins his stupid fucking grin and says, “Mom’s gonna fangirl when I tell her Seb’s got himself a man.”



I can’t believe he just said that. Fuck me. “Did Annie kick you out?”

“Nuh,” Hamish says, and he continues to scarf down three-day-old cold pizza.

“She should have,” I tell him. Ryland is watching us and I can tell he doesn’t know what to make of my brother.

“Next weekend,” Hamish says, like he’s just remembered, “Sunday lunch at Mom and Dad’s.”

Hamish plants himself on my sofa and starts flipping through sports channels on TV. I look at Ryland apologetically and he surprises me by smiling.

He sits down across from Hamish. “So, which game’s on replay?”


__________


I sit next to Ryland, my bare feet on the coffee table, and rub my thumb on his thigh where Hamish can’t see. It’s a reassuring gesture and I’m relieved when he smiles.

We talk about work and the ballgame, and I like that they get along. They both follow the Hawks and they give me hell, but I don’t mind.

I don’t mind at all.

When Hamish leaves, I don’t get up to see him out. I tell him to shut the door behind him and when it closes, I have Ry on his back, pressed into the sofa.





The next week at work is good. It’s productive and we’re making headway. The deadline will be an easy target.

On Tuesday night when Ry stays over, I ask about his family and he takes a while to speak. His answer is barely a whisper. “I have no family.”

On Thursday night, I have dinner at Ry’s apartment and I notice there are no photos of anyone. There’s hardly any furniture. There’s no history here.

I wonder what it is Ryland’s not telling me, but I don’t ask. He’ll tell me when he’s ready.

At least, I hope he will.


__________


On Friday night, we arrive at the club, meeting Neil and Brandon at their usual table. Ryland seems distracted, like something’s weighing on his mind. Like it’s weighed on his mind all week.

When we’re on the dance floor, his hands are on my hips and I look into his troubled blue eyes. “Ry, what’s wrong?”

He shrugs it off, but I need to know. I kiss his lips lightly and tell him to please, please let me in.

He stops still and his hands drop from my body. His words pierce me. “Sebastian, I think we need to talk.”



Back at my house, he sits on my sofa with his head in his hands. Speaking quietly, I plead with him, “Ryland, if you don’t want me, just tell me.”

His eyes open wide and the fear is alarming. “What? No! Sebastian, no!” He pushes his hand against his stomach, as if he’s in physical pain. “I want to be with you. I want there to be an ‘us,’ but there’s something I need to tell you. There’s something you need to know.”

I know he’s been hurt. I’d gathered that much already.

I just had no idea how much.


__________


“I was twenty when I met Brett,” he explains. “I was still so unsure…but with him I couldn’t deny I was gay. We had a… secret affair… we were lovers… for two years.”

He’s in front of me, vulnerable and raw. I hold his hand as he tells me, “But his family suspected something… and he left me.”

“Oh, shit,” I say. “I’m sorry.”

“That’s not the worst of it,” he says with a frown. “My parents found out and they disowned me. The guys at work found out… and they bashed me to within an inch of my life.”



Tears pool in his eyes when he talks. My heart breaks for him, my stomach somersaults to the floor.

“I spent a week in the hospital,” he says, a fucked-up fact. “When I got out, I had nowhere to go. I took the first bus and it brought me here.”

His hesitation to be open about himself, his fear of being found out becomes crystal clear.

I can’t fathom his courage, his bravery, his strength to be true to himself. I tell him this and wipe away his tears, and mine, and I hold him as tight as I can.


__________


“The injuries heal, ya know,” he murmurs. “The bones heal and bruises fade.”

I run my fingers through his hair and kiss his face as he takes some deep breaths.

“But the wounds my parents… my brother… those wounds will never heal.”

I tighten my hold on him. He fits against me just right.

“Being twenty-two and alone in the world is fucking scary as hell. All because of who I’m attracted to. The things they said, what they called me, Sebastian, I will never forget.”

I wonder if he can feel my tears as they fall into his hair.




“I needed to tell you,” he says from the crook of my neck.

“Thank you for trusting me,” I murmur.

He looks at me then and there’s something unsaid in the stark blue of his eyes. I run my thumb across his cheek, gently, with love. “Ryland,” I whisper. “You can tell me anything.”

A dozen emotions flicker in his eyes before he looks away. “I needed to tell you because…”

He still won’t look at me, so I ask, “Because?”

“Because you’re the best thing in my life,” he answers softly. “Because I want to give you my heart.”


__________


My heart pounds erratically in my chest, and I smile. I take his face in my hands and make him look at me. “Ry, my heart is already yours.”

His brow furrows a little. His eyes are puffy but he grins. “Really?”

“Really.” Then I whisper against his lips, “You’re perfect, Ryland Keller.”

“No, I’m not,” he says, his knee-jerk reaction.

“You’re perfect for me,” I say before I kiss his eyelids, his temple.

He falls against me as though exhausted from carrying such a heavy weight for far too long. I take his hand and lead him to bed.





Without a word, I undress him. I pull his shoes and socks off and I press my lips to his toes. I take his jeans off and kiss his hipbone, then his shirt’s gone and I kiss his chest.

He climbs into bed. I undress and join him, pulling him into my arms.

It’s intimate, but it’s not sexual. That’s not what this is.

With his head on my chest, he holds onto me like I’d disappear if he didn’t.

I run my fingers through his hair and press my lips to his forehead. “Sleep, Ry. I’m not going anywhere.”


__________


When I wake, I find myself wrapped around Ryland, his back to my chest, his ass pressed against my cock.

I move my arm and try not to wake him, but he holds me in place and rubs his ass against my morning wood. I smile into his shoulder blade and he chuckles.

“Good morning,” he mumbles.

“Yes, it is,” I agree and kiss along his spine. He feels so good against me but I want to do this slowly. “Ry, I want take my time with you, all day, if you’ll let me.”

He moans and chuckles. “Starting with…?”



I give him a hand-job in the shower, his hands and forehead against the tiles while I pump him from behind. Then I wash him, paying particular attention to his ass, pushing a fingertip in his hole, just enough to tease him.

He cooks breakfast and I massage the muscles in his shoulders, rubbing down to the backs of his thighs.

All day, I touch him, kiss him, trail my tongue along his jaw and whisper in his ear all the things I’ll do to him.

By midafternoon, I have him so pliable that he shivers when I touch him.


__________


He’s on my bed. His engorged dick leaks precome onto his stomach. I’ve slipped another finger into him and he’s begging incoherently.

He’s so fucking beautiful, how he reacts to my touch, how he pleads my name.

Then I’m inside him, slowly, heavenly.

His legs wrap around me and I am so far inside him, his body slick and hot. Ryland, this man who has my heart, who’s given me his, owns my body and soul.

I kiss him and the dual sensation of having my cock and my tongue so thoroughly inside him sends my orgasm into a spin.



His head is thrown back, his chest pressed into mine, and he grunts through gritted teeth. Ryland bucks underneath me and his swollen cock, sandwiched between us, pulses and spills violently.

His ass clenches my cock and I can’t fight it anymore. I fuck hard for two, three thrusts and I surge inside him. The pleasure runs in liquid fire from my bones and fills the condom.

Emotions overtake me, then his arms are around me and I’m almost sobbing into his neck.

Ryland lifts my face so he can see my eyes, and he whispers, “I love you too.”


__________


We arrive at my parents’ house and I park behind my brother’s car. I’m excited, but Ryland’s nervous so I take a moment to squeeze his hand and recap my earlier explanations. “Remember what I said about my mother… she’s gonna hug you. Be prepared for that. My sister Gabby will give you fifty questions. Ignore her.”

He smiles at me, but I keep going. “You’ve met Hamish. His wife Annie is great, she’ll love you.”

“And your dad?” he asks quietly.

“What? The ringleader of this circus? Come on,” I say, getting out of the car. “I’m starving.”



I told him he didn’t have to come to my parents’ place, but he said he wanted to. Standing at their front door, he’s hesitant. He’s pushing his boundaries, for himself and for me.

I ask him again if he’s sure. He lost his family because he’s gay, yet here he stands, about to meet mineas my boyfriend. He nods.

He must be so far out of his comfort zone, I can’t even imagine. I squeeze his hand and we walk inside.

“Oh, thank God,” Hamish cries. “Ryland, get over here. Hawks are two down, I need some moral support.”


__________


“I don’t go to a hairdresser, Gabby,” I say again. “I go to a barber.”

She shakes her head at me. “You’re a disgrace to gay men everywhere, Sebastian.”

I roll my eyes and Ryland chuckles beside me. I pick up dirty plates off the table and take them to the sink. Ryland follows me, carrying some trays. “Your family’s great.”

“They like you,” I say and lean toward him, capturing his lips with mine.

Mom walks in and Ryland jumps back. “S-s-sorry,” he stammers.

Mom pats his arm and says, “You can kiss him, Ryland. He is kinda cute.”




Ryland blushes as my father walks in, smiling. He collects three beers from the fridge, hands one to Ryland, then me, and says, “Allison, leave the boys alone.”

Mom huffs but smiles and Dad asks Ryland if she’s hugged him yet. She gives Dad the stink-eye and I laugh.

As we’re leaving, Mom tries to contain herself but makes a squeaking sound. Ryland can see she’s about to burst if she doesn’t hug him, and he gives her a small nod. She pulls him in and hugs him, hard. Everyone chuckles and Mom beams.

Ryland smiles the entire way home.


__________


Work is wrapping up, our last week at this site. My last week of working with Ryland, seeing him every day: his brown hair and blue eyes, that sexy smile, his legs in work boots, his tool belt on his hips.

At dinner on Tuesday night, his cell phone rings. It’s an unknown number. “Hello?” There’s silence on the line. “Hello?” No one speaks. The line clicks dead and Ry shrugs. “Must have been a wrong number.”

On Friday night he tells me that number calls him every day. No one speaks, but he thinks he knows who it is.




We spend the next weekend at my house. We work on the back deck, make out on the sofa, and make love in my bed.

He leaves some clothes at my place, a toothbrush and razor in the bathroom, some of his granola in the pantry.

It makes sense. He’s here more than he is at his own place and I like seeing reminders of him when he’s gone. Finding his shirt with mine makes me smile.

His phone rings again on Saturday, but he doesn’t answer it. “Ry?” I ask.

He replies, “I have nothing to say to him.”


__________


“I think it’s Justin… my brother,” he says. “There was a voice in the background that sounded like Kate. She called him ‘sugar.’ She’s always called him ‘sugar.’”

“Did he say anything?” I ask.

He shakes his head. “No, the line went dead.”

He tries to convince me it doesn’t bother him, but I can see it does. His sky-blue eyes are overcast and troubled.

“Have you tried calling him?” I whisper.

“It’s been two years. He stood with my parents when they told me they only had one son.” His eyes are a haunting blue. “I have nothing to say.”



“I’m going to miss seeing you every day,” he says. We’re naked in bed. “Even if it is just at work.”

An answer to our problem occurs to me. “Move in with me.”

He freezes for a second, his eyes are wide. “Sebastian…”

I tell him, “You’d pay rent, half the utilities and food. You’d have your room, your bed. You basically live here anyway.”

“Can I think about it?”

“Of course,” I reply. Then I tap my fingers on his hip and count to five. “Done thinkin’ yet?”

He laughs, and rolls us over so I’m under him.


__________


On Tuesday night when his phone rings, caller ID shows it’s a number he doesn’t want to answer. He lets it ring but he’s breathing harder and when it rings again, he hands it to me.

“Hello?” I say.

There is silence on the line. I think my voice has thrown him. But it’s me who gets thrown for a loop when a female voice speaks. “Ryland?”

“No. It’s Sebastian.”

“My name is Kate, please don’t hang up,” she pleads. “Is Ryland there?”

Ryland shakes his head.

“He doesn’t want to talk to you,” I say, and end the call.




Ry falls asleep and I watch him. He’s restless; old wounds are open anew.

Friday is our last day on-site. The boys are keen for a drink, but I wish them well, shake hands and say it’s been great. I leave, knowing Ry won’t be far behind.

He’s been quiet these last few days and I know what’s on his mind.

We skip the club, opting for pizza and beer at his place. We’re laughing as we walk up to his door and there are two people in the hall.

Ryland stops walking and the pizza falls to his feet.


__________


They face us and Ryland takes a step back. I stand in front of him, putting myself between him and them, whoever they are.

I notice the woman first. She’s young and pretty with blonde hair. She raises her hand in peace, looks at me, then to the man behind her.

Then I notice him. He’s tall, with short black hair. He appears non-threatening, in fact he seems anxious.

He steps toward us and Ryland sucks in a ragged breath behind me. The stranger’s standing in the light now. I can see his face clearly.

And he has sky-colored eyes.



Ryland grabs the back of my shirt and I can hear his shallow breaths. “What do you want?” I ask them, though I’m fairly sure I know.

The woman speaks first. “Are you Sebastian? I’m Kate, this is Justin.”

Ryland’s voice is small and strangled. “Why? Why are you doing this?”

Justin answers. His voice desperate. “Because you’re my brother, I love you, and I’m so fucking sorry.”

A tortured sob rips from Ryland’s chest and I can feel him shaking. I pull him against me and he seems to breathe easier.

“Just hear me out,” Justin says. “Please… please.”


__________


Ryland looks at me, his stark blue eyes asking me what he should do.

“Whatever you want,” I tell him. He closes his eyes and nods, and with shaking hands, he opens his apartment door.

I pick up the dropped pizza and walk in first. Ryland follows and holds the door open. It’s an invitation that Justin and Kate don’t knock back.

Sitting in his small living room, no one speaks for a long while. I can see Ryland’s hurt is quickly becoming anger and finally he snaps. “You’ve got ten seconds, Justin. Fucking talk or leave.”



“I’m sorry,” Justin blurts out. “I’m sorry I didn’t speak up, I’m sorry you left. I’m sorry you felt you had to.”

Felt I had to?” Ryland cries. “They kicked me out!”

“I know,” Justin says. Kate squeezes his hand. “I’m sorry I never came to see you at the hospital.”

“I had the ever-loving shit kicked outta me, Justin. I nearly died.” Tears pool in his eyes. “No one came to see me.”

“I’m sorry,” Justin repeats. “I was young and stupid. I’m sorry.”

Silence booms then Ryland’s voice is almost inaudible. “Do Dad and Momma know you’re here?”


__________


Justin’s silence is his answer and Ryland’s face twists. He stands up, and pulls at his hair. “Why are you doing this to me?”

Justin stands then, and when they’re close it’s easy to tell they’re brothers, even though Ryland’s hair is dark brown, Justin’s is black, and they have different-shaped faces. I wonder which parent they look like, if it’s their mom or dad who has those crystal-blue, ever-seeing eyes.

Justin pounds his chest. “Because if I had to choose,” he says, wiping away his tears, “if I had to pick between them and you, Ry, I’d choose you.”





They stand, face to face, and Ryland heaves a wracking sob. He half leans forward, like his lungs won’t take oxygen, and his brother wraps his arms around him.

Ryland falls into him. He’s taller and older, but he crumples into his younger sibling and it’s torture to watch. And beautiful, it’s so beautiful.

Kate, who I’d almost forgotten about, throws her arms around me. She sobs and mumbles an apology about putting snot on my shirt.

I hear Ryland chuckle and then Kate hugs him so hard. Ryland’s eyes eventually open and he looks at me.


__________


In two steps, he’s beside me. His arms slide around me in a side-on kind of hug. I kiss the side of his head and rub his back. He nods against my neck.

Justin looks at us, and smiles. “You must be Sebastian.”

I nod and he nods, and everyone takes some much-needed deep breaths. I look at Ryland and say, “You have a lot to talk about. Would you like me to go?”

“No,” Ryland and Justin answer together.

We both look at Justin and he explains, “You have more right to be here than me. Please stay.”



Justin and Kate have four more days in Seattle before they have to head home. They talk openly, honestly. It’s not easy, there is so much heartache between them, but it’s progress.

It’s slow, it’s hard on Ry, but it’s progress.

Kate and I give them space, leaving to grab some coffee. “You have no idea how happy Justin is now Ryland’s talking to him, at least,” she offers.

“It’s good for Ryland,” I reply. “Just don’t push him too hard.”

Kate nods and I press the issue. “I don’t think any of us will fully understand what Ry’s been through.”


__________


“He’s strong,” I tell Kate, “the strongest person I know, but if this ends badly, I don’t think he’ll recover.”

We pick up our coffees and head back. “Justin’s been a mess for so long without him,” Kate says. “I think he’ll take whatever part Ryland will give of himself.” Kate smiles sadly and says, “Justin would’ve been happy to just see him alive and well. He said he’d sleep better if he just knew his brother was okay.” Kate smiles at me warmly then. “But he’s better than okay and Justin knows he has you to thank for that.”




Ryland explains how he lived in a hostel when he first arrived, bruised and battered. When his bones healed, he found work and eventually saved enough to get his own place.

He was too scared to make any friends, his faith and trust in others was gone.

He’d seen an ad for a gay club downtown and it took him weeks to find the courage to go.

He smiles when he admits he used to watch a tall, good-looking guy with sand-colored hair. He smiles at me. “I watched him for weeks before I had the courage to dance with him.”


__________


“I tried to hide the real me,” Ry says. Then he laughs. “It was weeks before I told him my name.”

I grin at him and he slides into my embrace. Ryland looks at his brother, who is watching us. “Justin, I’m done hiding,” Ry says. “This is who I am. If you don’t like that, then tough. I won’t hide anymore.”

He knows now that he’s worth it. He’s confident enough in himself, and in me, to look his brother in the eye and tell him outright.

I am so proud of him. This is his moment and he shines.



When it’s time for Justin and Kate to leave, it’s a happy goodbye. They still have some issues to resolve, but there are happy tears, promises of phone calls and visits.

Justin hugs his brother for the longest time and Ryland somehow seems taller.

Then Justin thanks me and hugs me until Ryland taps our shoulders and tells us we’ve hugged enough. “He’s mine,” Ry growls. Justin laughs.

Later that night, I’m taking a shower when Ry barges in, like something just couldn’t wait. “Life’s too short,” he says. “If the offer still stands, I wanna move in with you.”


__________


I look into his eyes and there is no hesitation. No doubt. “Of course, anything you want.”

I pull him into the shower even though he’s fully dressed. He laughs. When he’s finally naked, I turn and press my ass against his hardening dick.

It’s an offering and he knows it. His hands stop on my hips and he whispers into my shoulder, “Sebastian, are you sure?”

I nod, but he needs to hear me say it. So I turn in his arms and kiss him. “Ryland, I’m certain. I want you. I want you to have me that way.”




I shut the water off and he dries me. He takes me to bed and he takes his time, covering every inch of me with his hands and his mouth.

He’s so in tune with my body—the sounds I make, how I move—and when he’s finally inside me, he’s gentle, so sure, so deep.

He lights fireworks with his long slow strokes and I’m so close, so fucking close.

Strong, calloused hands cup my face, his forehead rests on mine and when his flame-blue eyes ignite, my body reacts and an orgasm like no other spills between us.


__________


He looks at me in wonder, with love and lust in his eyes as my mind floats back into my boneless body. He pulls my knee up to his shoulder and he shudders and groans and his jaw is clenched tight.

His head falls back and it’s a sacred, sacred sound he makes when his body stills over mine, inside mine. I’ve witnessed something beautiful, something just for me.

He pulls out and takes care of me. I fall asleep in strong arms with kisses in my hair, and a sweet Southern voice whispering about having the best of both worlds.


__________


Three weeks later, Mom and Dad arrive at our place. Mom’s carrying a box, a house-warming gift, she says. I shake my head and object. “This isn’t a house-warming.”

“It is now that Ryland lives here,” she counters. I can’t disagree.

The back deck is now donethe laundry is nextand we sit there, my family complete, enjoying the last of the summer sun.

Ryland opens the gift. It’s a new espresso machine and he laughs. Mom kisses his cheek and he grins beautifully. “Thank you,” he says and she hugs him. “Thank you, so much. For accepting me. For everything.”




PART 2

Six months later, Ryland and Sebastian still have the best of both worlds… until Ryland gets a phone call that changes everything.


__________



We arrive at the club before Neil and Brandon. What had been a group of three friends for years is now four. After only six months, they include Ryland in our circle of friends like he’s the missing piece.

Neil throws his arms around Ry the second he sees him, Ry smacks him on the ass and orders him to the bar. Brandon laughs, already scouting the club for his next twink conquest, and Ryland shakes his head at him.

It’s like it’s been the four of us forever.

We joke and laugh, drink and dance, and life’s pretty fucking sweet.


__________


Neil hooks up with a guy he’s seen a few times and he looks rather happy with himself. Brandon, true to form, finds himself a pretty young twink and they disappear unseen. He’ll check in with one of us tomorrow; he always does.

Ry and I cab it home. Ry is a happy drunk—he giggles and finds everything funny. Which is cute, and quite distracting during mutual blow jobs.

He’s licking and chuckling, sucking and giggling and God only knows what’s going through his mind.

But his laughter turns to moans when I take him deep in my throat.



It’s been six months since Ryland moved in with me, and I still smile when I wake to find him beside me.

He’s sleeping, snuggled into the warm blankets, a gorgeous mess of brown hair and scruff.

His sky-blue eyes open slowly, making me smile. “Morning, beautiful.”

He smiles right back, but pulls the blankets over his head. I join him under there, cocooned in our little world, and suck his nipple between my lips.

His cell phone interrupts us, and Ryland groans. Flipping the covers back, he reaches for the phone, checking the screen before answering.

“Justin, wassup?”


__________


I can hear Ryland’s brother talking through the phone, but I’m still paying attention to Ryland’s chest and ribs with my mouth.

Ryland stills underneath me and taps my shoulder so I stop licking and look at him.

When?” he asks. He nods, though Justin can’t see him, and scrubs his hand over his face. “I don’t know if I can,” he says softly.

He’s quiet for a while and it seems Justin isn’t talking either. “I’ll call you back,” Ryland murmurs.

He ends the call and I ask him, “Ry? What’s wrong?”

He clears his throat. “My father died.”




Oh, fuck. “Oh,” I say, not sure what other words will do. “I’m sorry.”

He doesn’t respond. His arms are hiding his eyes and his face, and he says nothing. He doesn’t move.

I slide up beside him and he finally shifts his arms. At least I can see his face—blank, void of any emotion—and he blinks.

“Ry…”

He looks at me then, but before I can say another word, he’s up and heading to the bathroom. I hear the shower start and I sit, unmoving on the bed, completely at a loss for what to do or say.


__________


When he comes out, he’s dressed for work, like it’s any other day. Except it’s not. Because his father just died.

The father who disowned him. The father who never wanted to see him again. The father who called him a ‘faggot’ and ‘queer’ and kicked him out of the house.

The same father who refused to visit his son in the hospital, even though he very nearly died. That father, that man… The man who inflicted the worst kind of wound.

“Hey,” I say and stand in front of him. “Take the day off. We’ll stay here. Just us.



He looks as if he might object, and for a moment I think he will. But then he sags a little and I pull him into my arms.

He leans against me and he sighs. And finally he nods.

I make him coffee, we phone our bosses and request personal time off. He still doesn’t say anything; he just sits on the sofa, turning his phone over in his hands.

He turns it on then off half a dozen times. “I have to call Justin,” he says.

“I’ll grab a shower,” I tell him, “and give you some privacy.”


__________


When I come back out, Ry is still on the lounge. “What did Justin say?” I ask.

“It was a massive heart attack,” he answers. “He thinks the funeral is next Tuesday.”

I sit beside him and place my hand on his bouncing knee. It’s a habit he has, to bounce his knee when his mind is working overdrive. His knee stills and his blue eyes dart to mine.

Do you want to go?” I ask. “To the funeral?”

“What, to pay my respects?” he asks with a humorless laugh.

“No, Ry,” I say quietly. “To say goodbye.”



“We can take some days off and fly down,” I suggest.

He shrugs and I don’t push it. I tell myself he’ll talk when he’s ready. I kiss him and tell him I love him. His head falls against the back of the sofa. I hold his hand and he stares at me with those sky-colored eyes.

We don’t need to use words right now. He just needs to know I’ll be there, without words, without hesitation.

So I wait for him to talk. Because I’ll always wait for him.

Finally he speaks. “I don’t know how I should feel…”


__________


There’s no right or wrong way to feel,” I try to reassure him. His father hurt him in ways I’ll never comprehend, and the news of his death is sure to leave a hurricane of emotions. “If you want to go to the funeral, Ry, we can. If you don’t, that’s okay too. It’s your choice, whatever you want to do.”

He nods but says no more. I pull the quilt off our bed and we spend the day watching movies, with him in my arms.

He falls asleep, I pull my cell phone from my pocket and hit Call. “Mom?”




Late afternoon, Ry has woken from a few hours’ sleep and reality has settled in. My parents arrive and no sooner is my mother in the house than she has Ryland in a crushing hug.

They know diluted details of Ryland’s history, that he’s talking again with his brother after two years’ absence. But they don’t know specifics.

It’s a surprise at first, and in hindsight it shouldn’t have been, but when Dad hugs Ryland, he hugs him back, hard.

Mom notices as well, and when Dad pulls Ry into the living room, Mom suggests I help her with dinner.


__________


“Let them talk,” Mom whispers as we start preparing dinner.

My doctor father has an excellent bedside manner. He’s calming, reassuring and empathetic. As a father, he’s been supportive of all my decisions. His belief in owning your actions, whether right or wrong, makes him strict but fair.

If Ry needs a father figure to talk to, to get things right in his head, then my father is perfect.

My boyfriend, my partner, sees my father as someone he can talk to. And my father treats Ryland like a son.

Understanding, I nod at my mom, and she smiles.




Dinner is almost done when Ry and my Dad walk back into the kitchen. Ryland doesn’t hesitate, he just walks straight up to me and puts his hands on my waist, his head on my shoulder. “Thank you,” he whispers.

Dad smiles at me. I kiss Ry’s temple and rub the small of his back. “Any time.”

There’s a knock at the door and my father lets Hamish and Annie in. Hamish wastes no time in hugging Ryland and before Ry can be overwhelmed or embarrassed at the attention, Annie kisses his cheek and tells him, “It’s what families do.”


__________


“You’re a huggy bunch,” Ryland jokes. It’s good to see him smile.

It’s hereditary,” I tell him, and give a pointed nod to my mom and brother.

Ryland looks at me with his imploring blue eyes. “If I go to the funeral, will you come with me? It won’t be a pleasant trip…”

Of course,” I answer immediately. Ryland smiles, almost relieved. “Anything for you.” I tell him. “Anything.”

He takes his phone to call his brother. When he’s gone, I ask my father, “Will he be okay?”

Dad smiles at me. “He has you, son. He’ll be just fine.”




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