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A new and unexpected love… An ex with revenge on his mind…
Adrian keeps the men in his life at arm’s length…it’s safer for everyone. Casual hookups without emotional entanglements are his specialty, and the guy sitting next to him looks to be perfect for the job. But as the evening progresses, a hot, steady flame of desire flares within him, and Adrian has to tamp down the sparks. Because Ben has the potential to become something different…something more.
When old secrets are revealed, Adrian and Ben must come together to heal past wounds, and that includes dealing with a dangerous ex who won’t take no for an answer. When threats to their personal and professional lives escalate into violence, they will have no choice but to take action to protect their newfound love.
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Carl’s handsome face twists into a grimace of rage. He takes a step closer, his right hand curling into a fist. “You think I don’t know what’s really going on? Poker game, my ass. Whose cock did you suck this time, you dirty little whore?”
Ben backs up, angry indignation giving way to alarm at the crazed look in Carl’s eyes. He can smell the alcohol fumes on Carl’s breath, and knows from way too much experience that his lover is well past reason.
In that split second, the whole painful, inevitable series of events unfurls in Ben’s mind. The shouting, the bruises, the broken, sobbing recriminations, the fancy chocolates sent in apology, the gesture ruined by his words… “If only you didn’t make me do this. It’s because I just love you so fucking much.”
The fist comes hurtling toward his face.
Ben ducks, and the fist crashes through the bedroom wall.
Carl crumples to the ground, blood streaming from his knuckles, howling with rage.
Furious, disgusted and heartsick in equal measure, Ben walks out for the last time.
Ben shook away the unpleasant recollection as he knotted his tie in front of the bathroom mirror that Saturday afternoon. He had seriously considered giving this wedding a miss, since both he and Carl had received invitations. But he’d known Tom since college, and had promised to give a toast at the reception. Plus, he’d be damned if he’d stay away from friends and life events just to avoid an ex-lover. He was done letting Carl control his life in any way, even from a distance.
He smiled as he thought about Tom and David. They had met while in the Peace Corps, both having ditched jobs they hated in order to do something good for the world. As soon as they were married, they planned to adopt a baby, and had already got the wheels on the apparently arduous process in motion. They would be, Ben knew, excellent parents.
Satisfied with his tie and his appearance, Ben went into the bedroom to finish dressing. He found the index card where he’d written some ideas for his toast and slipped it into his jacket pocket.
He thought about when he’d first met Tom. They’d been roommates freshmen year, both new to New York City, both away from home for the first time. Tom had been terribly homesick, and cried sometimes late at night when he thought Ben was asleep. When Ben asked him in the morning if he was okay, he would frown as if he had no idea what Ben was talking about, and say he was just fine. Ben tried to feel him out, hoping they could be friends, but Tom had been aloof and kept pretty much to himself, until one fateful day…
That was the day Ben had accidentally walked in on Tom making out with another boy. He’d stopped just inside the door, taking in the situation. “I’m sorry,” he’d managed as the two boys sprang quickly apart, both blushing a bright red. “You should have texted me or something,” he said to his roommate.
“Shit,” Tom cried. “I thought you were in class!”
“Prof cancelled,” Ben explained, dropping his backpack onto his desk. He couldn’t help grinning.
“This—we—it isn’t what you think,” Tom blustered as the other boy hid his face in his hands.
“Relax, you guys. Of course it’s what I think. And I happen to think it’s great. I’m gay too, you doofus.”
They’d become fast friends after that. They’d never hooked up romantically, which was probably why they’d remained friends to this day.
Carl knew David from their grad school days, and Ben and Carl had still been together when the invitations had arrived. The odds were good that Carl would be there, but hopefully Ben would be able to avoid him.
The temple where the wedding was being held was located in a tree-lined neighborhood in Brooklyn. Ben didn’t want to hassle with the subway, so he took an Uber and arrived as people were being seated in the sanctuary. He stood at the back of the room, looking around to see if Carl was there. He was relieved not to see him as he moved toward the pews and found a seat near the front next to a family of four.
They made small talk for a while, and Ben learned that the woman was Tom’s cousin. She shared a funny story about Tom during one of their summer vacations on the Jersey shore. He was about five years old at the time, and he’d gotten separated from the family as they were heading back to the parking lot, and he’d climbed into the wrong car with the wrong family, nearly giving his parents a heart attack.
There was a slight commotion to Ben’s left, as someone slid onto the cushioned bench beside him. At that moment, the happy couple appeared at the back of the sanctuary, and everyone rose to their feet to watch them walk up the aisle. Whoever was beside Ben smelled fantastic—a fresh citrusy cologne of a definitely masculine variety.