“You should have just told him the truth. It can’t change anything now.” Janice came out of his kitchen carrying the quart of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia and two spoons. She fell into the couch beside him and propped both feet on the coffee table. He took the spoon she offered and avoided the questions in her eyes.
“Exactly. So, there’s no need to re-hash the past.”
“Re-hash implies there had been some hashing to start with, bubba. You’re a teacher; you’re supposed to know that.”
“Math, woman. I teach math.”
“And, you speak English. When you re-turn, you come back to the same spot. When you re-ignite, you light the same fire again.”
“You’re pushing it with that first one.”
“But it makes my point.”
He knew there was no winning the argument. Janice played in her own sandbox. The few people she allowed into that sandbox accepted she was different. But then, most of them were different as well. Claire was deaf, so they’d all had to learn ASL. Billy had been born with Down syndrome. Janice was bipolar. From an early age, she’d had issues controlling her moods and her anger. Jordan hadn’t had any health issues, but Janice had responded to and connected with him from the day she moved into Avery with her parents. The newest member of the little group was Carter Lee. He was everything Jordan had been in high school, the stereotypical nerd. And, if Jordan read him correctly, he was also gay. They hadn’t actually discussed it.
He scooped out a large spoonful of the ice cream and shoved it in his mouth. Janice shook her spoon at him. “What if you tell him the truth and he decides to come out? What if he gives it all up for you? You ever think of that?”
Jordan swallowed. “Alone at night in the dark, yeah, of course, I have.”
“Well, that can’t happen if he doesn’t know.”
“You just keep beating a dead horse. He’s gone. His agent said the plane was leaving at ten and they had to drive to Jackson Hole.” Jordan definitely didn’t want to dwell on Trey’s leaving again. He pushed up from the couch. “You’re welcome to stay, but I need to go in and help mom at the diner. The breakfast crowd will be cleared out by the time I get there. You working today?”
“Yeah, but not until four. She wants me to help out with the game crowd.”
“Lock up when you go. Love ya, mean it.”
On the short drive into the middle of Avery, he tried to focus on what he needed to do when he got to the diner. But, after being relegated to a corner of Jordan’s mind for too many years, Trey refused to stay in the gilded cage. His smile, his eyes, the deep timbre of his voice. That Kiss. Jordan’s fingers tightened around the steering wheel. He hadn’t told Janice about That Kiss. She was already in a hypomanic state about Trey’s visit to Avery. If she knew Trey had kissed him, she’d never let the subject drop.
With a will of its own, his mind re-played, haha Janice, That Kiss. Trey’s hand wrapped around his bicep. The slightly larger, but still familiar body pressed along his side. The warmth of Trey’s breath against his cheek and neck. That moment when their lips brushed ever so softly, and then the heated invasion of Trey’s tongue. A full-body shudder worked its way through Jordan. The strength and possessiveness he remembered had almost been his undoing. If Trey hadn’t moved away, if he’d kissed him again, Jordan would have probably spilled every secret he had, even those not his own.
As he turned into the diner, he breathed a quick sigh of relief. The customers and his momma would keep him distracted. He pulled behind The Table Top and parked. Smoke curled into the air so someone had already started the grill. Just inside the back door, he found the culprit.
“Dad, it’s good to see you out, but does Mom know you’re here?” He leaned down to hug his father. The embrace was returned, but only with the good right arm.
“I rode over with her. I was going stir crazy in that house all by myself. Doc said I could just hang out back here. Nothing strenuous.”
“I guess that means lighting the grill is okay?”
“Light a match, hit the gas, what’s hard about that?” His dad tried to wink, but his facial muscles were still a bit weak.
“Nothing at all. Guess I better get the meat on so we don’t disappoint our customers.”
“No, Dad. Those boxes venture into the strenuous side of the job. Momma would have both of our heads and you know it. I can do it.”
While he carted boxes outside and loaded the big cooker, his dad moved his chair outside. Jordan smiled and shook his head as his father issued instructions. With the meat set, he retrieved another folding chair from the office and plunked down next to his dad. Their breath misted in the chilly air.
“So, I saw on the news that Trey was back in town.”
Jordan groaned and let his head fall back. He stared up at the blue, nearly cloudless sky. He was so very lucky that his parents accepted him for who he was. He knew that, celebrated it and thanked the good Lord for it. But, right at that moment, he wished his dad didn’t know. Trey was the last thing on Earth he wanted to talk about. However, he knew he couldn’t pretend he hadn’t heard.
“Yeah. Big check for the school and he was at the reunion last night.” He tried hard for indifference, but his voice cracked and there was no way his dad missed it.
“I take it things didn’t go well.”
“He wanted answers, wanted to know why I didn’t show up, why I didn’t call.”
“To be expected. You two were an item for over a year.” His dad reached over and patted his hand. “I don’t suppose you told him.”
“No, dad. There’s no point.”
“Maybe, maybe not.”
Jordan shot up out of his chair and paced over to the grill. “You sound like Janice. I left her at my house eating ice cream and parceling out advice that I should chase him down at Jackson Hole and spill my guts.”
“Always was a smart girl.”
Jordan wheeled around to stare at the older man. “Dad, seriously?”
His dad gave him a lopsided smile, the left side not moving too much.
“Come and sit down, son. You don’t want to talk about Trey, we won’t. I just hate knowing you’re hurting and don’t say you aren’t. I’m your dad. I can see it in your eyes and on your face. And, if I can see it, your mother will lock on like a fighter pilot.”
Jordan paced back to the chair, sat, took a long inhale and let it out slowly. “He still takes my breath away. He’s my Trey, and he’s not. He kissed me.” Jordan brought his fingers up to his lips, realized what he was doing and let his hand fall back into his lap.
“He was angry, furious actually. Not about the kiss. Before. He was angry before he kissed me. His agent interrupted us and I tried to leave. He grabbed me by the arm and pretty much demanded I stay. The guy left. I wasn’t…I didn’t expect it…it blew my mind.”
His dad chuckled. “First loves can do that to you.”
“But, it’s been two decades, Dad, and still the spark was instantaneous.”
“That’s called a soul mate, son, and you’re letting him go without putting up a fight.”
“You think that’s what I did the first time?”
“No.” His dad reached over and patted his hand again.
“That was entirely different. I know how hard that was for you. I was and am very proud of you for putting him first when you were in such terrible pain. You cried out for him so many times, it broke my heart. I almost gave in and called him several times.” Tears stood in his father’s eyes. “Your mother and I were of little comfort. We tried, Janice tried, but you needed him. Especially later.”
Jordan turned his hand over and clasped his dad’s hand. “I would have been furious with you both. It would have ruined what he has now.”
“Maybe he would have rather been with you. Maybe none of that matters as much to him as you think it does.”
Jordan looked up at the sky, at the grill and finally back at his father. “He said that this morning, or pretty much.”
“I told him he was living his best life and he denied it, said I was his best life and he was living the alternative.”
“Oh, Jordan.” Disappointment colored his father’s words. “And you let him walk away after that?”
“Actually, he tossed me out of his hotel room.” Jordan gained his feet and walked to the grill. He checked the meat he’d only just put on to cook and closed the lid again. Emotions tumbled through him like fall leaves. Hope, fear, love, uncertainty, anger, sadness, shame, guilt.
“I gave him up a long time ago. I made a life here without him. It’s been hard as hell, but I’ve survived. I couldn’t give him up again; I wouldn’t survive that loss a second time.”
“Who says you have to?” Jordan turned around to look at his dad. The signs of the stroke were fading, but there were still obvious to him. He tried for a smile but knew it wasn’t convincing. He also knew telling his dad everything was going to be okay wouldn’t work either. Despite the stroke, his mind was still sharp.
“You know his contract is under negotiations right now. You saw what happened to that college kid that was openly gay. They ignored him in the draft. Trey can’t afford to come out, it would tank his career.”
“Doesn’t he have the right to make that decision instead of having it made for him?”
The bottom fell out of Jordan’s stomach. He spun around to find Trey standing at the edge of the diner. Trey spared him an unpleasant frown before pasting on a smile and walking over to greet Jordan’s dad.
“Hey, Mr. B., how’s it goin’?”
Jordan hurried to his dad’s side and helped him up out of the chair. Trey embraced the older man and gave him a genuine smile, not the playboy smirk that melted hearts all over the U.S.
“All good, my boy, all good. Had a stroke a while back, but this old body is still kicking.”
Trey shot a worried glance at Jordan.
“It was on the mild side, but there’s been a bit of paralysis,” he said to Trey. “Dad, why don’t you sit back down?”
“No, no. I’ll go inside, let the two of you talk.” He took Trey’s hand with his good one. “You come inside before you leave. You can sign the jersey I have hanging on the wall, get a picture to go with it.”
“I sure will, Mr. B., be glad, to.” They waited in silence for Jordan’s dad to make it inside.
“So, you’re making decisions for me again?”
Jordan flushed. There wasn’t much he could say in response so he said nothing. Instead, he waved at the chair his dad had just vacated.
“I’ll get us a drink. You still a cherry Coke guy?”
“Just sit, okay. I didn’t come for a drink or food.”
“I thought you were already gone.”
“Jet issues, or so Silas says. I’m not sure I believe him.” Trey shrugged. “Truth or not, I’m stuck here until sometime this evening.”
“So you came looking for me?” Jordan couldn’t hide the surprise in his voice.
“No.” Trey slid down in the chair and stretched his long legs out in front of him. Jordan’s mouth went dry. He forced his eyes away from the display of masculine beauty spread out like a feast. “I came back to pry some answers out of Janice.”
Jordan’s gaze snapped back to Trey’s face. “You needn’t worry. The only thing she would tell me is that you were here. I don’t think that she likes me very much.”
“She’s a bit protective.”
“She’s downright hostile, and I never did anything to her. Or to you.”
Jordan closed his eyes and sent a silent prayer heavenward. “I know, and I’ve told her that so many times.”
“She knows what happened after I left.”
“She does, yes.”
Trey shot up out of the chair. “Does everyone here know?”
“No, not everyone. I wasn’t living in Avery.”
Trey swung back around to glare at him. “Would you stop being so damned cryptic? Why is it so hard for you to just be honest with me? Don’t you think I should hear it from you?” He stalked back across the small lot and bent over Jordan, caging him between his arms as he grabbed the arms of the chair. “You weren’t living here? Where the hell were you?”
Jordan pressed his lips together and stared at Trey. “You aren’t going to answer that are you?” Jordan shook his head despite the spark of pain in Trey’s eyes. Anger quickly snuffed it.
“Silas is in town, too. He’s doing more interviews. He saw you in my hotel room this morning. Don’t you think he’ll be asking the good people of Avery why you were there or what went on between us?”
“Tutoring,” Jordan replied. “That’s all anyone here knows about us. They don’t have secrets to tell. We made sure of that.” Jordan stared up at him and That Kiss rippled through his mind. Even angry, Trey was gorgeous. Fire sparked in those blue, blue eyes. Sensual lips pressed in a tight line, but Jordan knew they were soft and lush. He longed for the freedom to reach up and slide a palm around Trey’s neck and pull him down for another kiss.
Something in his face must have given him away. Trey’s eyes darkened, the pupils expanded. The harsh slash of his mouth eased and his lips parted. Before Jordan could reach up to pull him closer, Trey moved. Their mouths came together and everything that wasn’t Trey faded from Jordan’s awareness. Quicker than a blink, sparks flared in Jordan’s blood. In seconds, passion’s fire consumed him. Hard, possessive hands took his hips and pulled him forward. Jordan’s arms slid around Trey’s broad shoulders. He moaned, he couldn’t help it. It was pure Heaven to be in Trey’s arms again.
When Trey pulled away, Jordan almost cursed in frustration. He opened his eyes to see Trey staring at something over his shoulder. He tried to turn around, but Trey’s arms tightened around him. Jordan realized in a rush that Trey was down on one knee. Jordan was straddling the raised one and was practically wrapped around Trey.
“So, umm, I guess you decided to leave the hotel.” Recognizing the agent’s voice, Jordan struggled to stand up. Trey refused to release him. Instead, he pushed to his feet while keeping one arm locked around Jordan’s waist. The slide of Trey’s thigh against his ass cheeks drew a moan he had to fight to hold inside. His arms dropped from around Trey’s shoulders. One hand rested against Trey’s chest to maintain his balance.
When they were both standing, Trey still wouldn’t let go. He kept them pressed together from chest to thigh as if daring the agent to mention it. Tension curled in the air. “I thought I told you to say away from Jordan.”
“Actually, I came by because everyone recommended the diner as the best place to grab a bite. I didn’t know his family owned it.”
Trey snorted. “Yes, you did, just a convenient loophole. I didn’t tell you to leave his family alone.”
“He is standing right here.” Jordan forced Trey to release him and turned so he could see both of the other men.
“Why did you want to talk to me? And, why did you tell him not to? “ His first question was for the agent, not that he cared one way or the other as he would refuse to discuss Trey with anyone. As for the second question, he definitely wanted that answer.
“His contract is under negotiation at the moment. It’s a tricky business and a competitive one. I need to make sure you aren’t going to cause any problems for him.”
“Goddammit, Silas, it’s none of your business.”
“Your contract is every bit my business. That’s the most important part of my job.”
“This isn’t about my contract.”
“The hell it’s not,” Silas argued. “You think the Wildcats won’t have something to say about their QB’s life choices?”
“My personal life isn’t any of their business or yours for that matter.”
“Oh, get real, Trey. If you believed that you wouldn’t be hiding your little puff piece behind the diner.”
Jordan stepped in front of Trey, blocking him from going after the agent. He addressed Silas. “You don’t have anything to worry about from me. I’ve been protecting Trey a lot longer than you have.”
Trey moved around Jordan and pointed at him and then at Silas while he fought against his anger. “I don’t need protecting, not by either of you. I’m a grown man who can make his own decisions.” Trey’s furious glare pinned Jordan. “I have been for a long time.” His eyes flew back to Silas. “And if you ever call him that again, I’ll throat punch you.”
I live in the beautiful state of Alabama. I have two sons, a daughter, and three amazing grandbabies! I have been an avid reader since fourth grade, and started writing my own stories in 2011. I have one contemporary romance with Decadent Publishing and several independently published LGBT romance books in both contemporary and paranormal genres. I have numerous works in progress and all of the “voices” are vying for their time in the spotlight!