It’s time for a little Saturday backlist love. One of my all time favorites. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this one.
Author: Diana DeRicci
Cover Artist: Anastasia Rabiyah
Genre: Gay Erotic Romance/M/M
Length: Novel, 64,752 words, 182 pages PDF
Release Date: March 18, 2011
Heat Level: Erotic
Warnings: Gay Male/Male
ARe Top Rated #1!
ARe Best Seller Top 10!
an incredible tale that has just about everything you could ask for in a romance story —
Rated Best Book by Myrtle, Whipped Cream Reviews
They are like your best friend who can finish your sentences, order your favorite pizza, and bemoan all your troubles to. I love their heat, their humor, and most of all their heart. This will be one of those stories that will stick with me, and have me coming back for more. ~~ Lototy
Two Lips Reviews
Romancing the Review
What readers have been saying:
…an amazing journey through so many facets of the human persona.~~ Norah S. , Australia
Do you take the chance of a lifetime, for the love a lifetime?
Charlie Baker is recovering, slowly. Nearly dying tends to make a man reflect on each day. Take into account that his injuries were caused by a premeditated murder attempt, and he certainly isn’t looking for a lover. He is barely welcoming to a friend unable to trust anyone, preferring to hide from the world hours and miles away from the memories.
Gregory Anders hadn’t intended to disturb the man in silent contemplation on the beach, but when his pup, Samson, takes matters out of his hands, he’s forced to at least apologize for his pet’s behavior. There’s no doubt for Gregory that Charlie could use a friend. Clearing the air up front that he isn’t gay helps Charlie to relax, allowing for the cautious beginning of a friendship.
Two men, both alone, for different reasons. What happens when friendship bears more? When support and affection turns into attraction?
Charlie Baker held the cell phone in his hand, staring at it blankly. He swept his thumb over the picture on the display, waiting for the old hurt to return, but it didn’t. The emotional pain that had haunted him for months was gone. The agony of betrayal, of being deceived, and ultimately of loss, had run its course. The physical reminders would be with him until the day he died. Gazing at the now-bucolic picture where the pixilated image of his ex had been for three years, all he felt was a hollowness, a vague wish to turn back the clock and do something—anything—different. That was pointless and he knew it.
Sighing, he wrapped his arms around his knees, watching the waves from the sand dunes where he sat. There was a nip of fall in the air. The Texas coast in early November didn’t really get cold, but early-morning breezes, pulses of salt air that came in from the gulf, weren’t uncommon. The oversized fisherman’s sweater covering his frame protected him. The occasional cry of a seagull broke the morning quiet, but that was about it. People didn’t come to the beach in November. And that worked well for him. Charlie wasn’t ready for people, but his wish for solitude wasn’t to be granted.
The spirited barks of a puppy pulled his attention down the beach. He felt a weak smile try to break free at the pup’s antics as he raced in and out with the waves, barking at the water like it was a vicious monster, and he was protecting the coast from it. Folding his arms over his knees, he rested to watch his carefree romping. He noticed the athletic form jogging not too far behind, glad he wasn’t a stray. The closer they came, the better he could make out the pair. The dog looked to be around six months old, still wily but not gangly, and full of life. A yellow lab, if he wasn’t too wrong. The man trailing behind was in his twenties or early thirties, he guessed, with finger-length blond hair. He only wore a pair of dark green jogging shorts and sneakers with a windbreaker knotted around his waist, obviously used to the coastal weather and the beach.
Charlie hadn’t felt warm in months. One of the things he’d grown accustomed to, he supposed. He was surprised when the dog spotted him and changed direction faster than an animal in loose sand should have been able. The puppy charged him, but didn’t bark or growl, his tail wagging like Charlie was just his latest friend—or toy. How long did teething last for dogs?, he wondered.
“Hey, big guy,” he crooned. The dog plopped on his back in instant love, waggling his tail and whining, begging for a tummy rub. “Okay, but I don’t want to get you in trouble.” Charlie stretched out his right arm, glad it didn’t shake too badly, and ran his fingers over the panting body. The animal grunted in sheer appreciation.
“Samson.” Charlie’s head snapped up, instantly withdrawing. The dog’s owner was looking his way. He tucked his hand back into the sweater sleeve, leaving only his fingers visible. Samson rolled to his feet and bounded to his master with a woof.
Then he surprised Charlie, racing back to him. He wiggled closer, like he wanted to climb on his lap. Charlie oomphed when a rather large puppy paw jabbed him in the middle.
The dog whined and blatantly disobeyed. Charlie caught it when the man calling for the dog began to lope in his direction. A rueful scowl seemed to say he’d expected something of the sort from the animal.
“I’m sorry,” they said at the same time.
“Samson is in obedience training and still young enough to be a brat.” The man unfurled a leash that had been stashed in a side pocket, and clipped it to Samson’s collar.
“He’s a very friendly dog,” Charlie offered.
“Sorry he bothered you.” He tugged on the leash and Samson finally deigned to listen, sitting not quite calmly at his owner’s side.
“He didn’t.” Charlie pushed his hands into opposite sleeves, making sure his body was covered.
“Aren’t you hot?”
“Aren’t you cold?” He raised his chin to look up. The man was nearly naked. How could he not be cold?
The blond laughed. “Touché.” He tapped the dog’s head, whose tongue lolled as he panted. “Well, this is Samson. I’m Gregory.”
“Nice to meet you both.” It wasn’t frosty, but it was a far cry from honestly welcoming.
Charlie guessed Gregory took the hint as he stepped away. “Enjoy your morning.”
“Thank you,” Charlie replied. Gregory turned and continued with their run, Samson now trotting at his side on his leash. Charlie watched them go, their forms shrinking to dots on the beach.
He’d been coming to the beach for a few days in the mornings and hadn’t seen the pair before. He didn’t try to postulate why. It wasn’t like he owned the beach, just rented the bungalow across the dunes. His PT had told him he needed to walk more, and Charlie took that to mean walking to the beach counted. So what if he came and sat? His legs got him there, didn’t they?
He sighed, flexing his shoulder, feeling the tightness of the healed skin. The burns had healed, though he still felt the monumental difference along his side and to his shoulder. Twenty-eight fucking years old and on disability. He snorted, disgusted.
“Don’t wallow, Charles,” his physical therapist and psychiatrist had both cautioned him. “You are not to blame. There’s still a whole world out there. You’re young and healthy.”
Except he’d be walking with a cane for the rest of his life.
He wanted to pitch something, but clutched his phone tighter to restrain the impulse. Stretching his legs, he couldn’t help but notice how much muscle mass he’d lost under the thin sweats while laid up in the hospital. He’d always been a little on the thin side, but he’d worked hours every day to make himself stronger, to be a reliable member of the firehouse team.
Charlie never expected his lover to try to kill him by burning down their own house, though. A plotted suicide. A firefighter murdered in his own home. The irony wasn’t lost on him.
The burn scars stretched from his shoulder, down his back ending on his right thigh above his knee. The doctors had grafted some to minimize the largest scars, but he’d lost chunks. Skin and muscle. He shivered, closing his eyes for a moment. Stop it. You’re alive, and he’s in jail along with his fuck toy. They’d both planned it. How sick was that? He couldn’t just break up with Charlie.
Plucking at the top of the sweats, he popped sand off in powdery bursts. With a glance at the phone for the time, not the picture, he reached behind him for the cane he used. He was stronger now, but he kept it close for those times when his thigh gave him problems. It was useless on the shifting sands, but he could manage that much until he hit the hard pavement to walk the few blocks on the sidewalks to his home. After attempting the sand, he knew he’d need it on the return trek.
Charlie took slow, measured steps, concentrating to make his legs work in sync in the soft sand. With the damaged hamstring and tendons, his right leg would never flex and support him the way it had before. He’d always need the cane. What made it hard was the damage to his shoulder. He had to hold his weight on that shoulder when his leg grew tired. For a man who had taken his body for granted before the fire, he knew he never would again.
The doorbell rang, slicing the silence and tension between them like a razor blade. Greg stood, tugging his wallet from his pocket to pay for the pizza. He carried the pie box to the kitchen counter, his taut back to Charlie.
His head sagged and a shudder rocked his frame. “Charlie, I’m sorry. I owe you an apology. And an explanation.”
Charlie studied Greg. He bent over the counter on his elbows, rubbing his face, then stood and slowly spun on a heel, facing Charlie from across the room. Arms crossed over a lean chest, stretching touchable material, raising the sweater to expose the strip of skin between the sweater and his jeans. There was room beneath the exposed belly button. Charlie wanted to lick the flesh winking at him.
“I needed to make sure…” Charlie raised his gaze from that firm playground when Greg trailed off. “I’m not used to this, and I’m not sure how to do it. I’m sorry if I’ve made you uncomfortable tonight. It’s not what I wanted.” He sighed, rocking a bare foot back and forth as he leaned against the wood-covered counter between the living room and the kitchen. “I don’t want to lose your friendship, so I’m sorry. I won’t be upset if you leave tonight. I’ll go change.”
Charlie stood, a flicker of understanding beginning to worm into his lust-addled mind. “You…you dressed like that for me?” Greg had dressed like that intentionally? He doubted he could’ve sounded more shocked.
A flicker of uncertainty chased by consternation shadowed Greg’s face. “Yeah. I guess I made a bigger fool of myself than I had even thought possible.”
He gave a nonchalant, dismissive glance, avoiding making direct eye contact. “Because I thought you were attracted to me. Like I said, it was a mistake.”
Charlie moved as though pulled by a gravitational force toward him, barely conscious of the weight on his leg. “Greg, what are you trying to prove? If you want the truth, yes, I’m very attracted to you, but it doesn’t matter. You’re straight, and you’re right. I don’t want to lose our friendship either. I just don’t understand what this is about.” He waved a hand up and down, encompassing the whole package.
Greg’s chest barely moved, each breath a steady paced action. “Because, believe it or not, I was miserable most of the time I was in California. I was either thinking about you, worried about you, or just wanting to talk to you. Because…” Greg drew a very slow, very deep breath, letting his arms fall to his sides to stand directly in front of Charlie. Something potent began to burn in his eyes. Something Charlie knew he should be fleeing from, but unable to make his body obey. “Because sometimes happiness doesn’t come the way we’re taught to expect.”
Charlie shook his head. “Greg. What are you talking about? Happiness? What are—”
That was as much as he was allowed to say because Greg lifted his palms and cupped Charlie’s face. It wasn’t a sudden move, though the surprise of it stole Charlie’s ability to evade or defy him. Stole his ability to speak and think. He felt himself fall heart-first into the most amazing brown eyes. Charlie’s heart thudded like a freight train into his chest in answer to the yearning heat staring at him.
Greg’s lips hovered over his, warm breath that melted him to his bones. As a first kiss, it was awkward. Neither was sure where to give, neither being the first to succumb.
Then, as if Greg had been his lover for a decade, he ran his fingers into Charlie’s hair and held him captive, tipping him to seal their mouths together, a sweet fusion. There was no strength, no boiling heat, no explosive fireworks.
It went worlds beyond any of that.
Charlie’s eyes sank shut in sheer bliss. He wrapped his arms around Greg, leaning into his strength, and Greg caught him. Every fantasy, every dream fell short of the real thing. Charlie lived in that kiss, in the moment. The press of fingertips in his hair kept him still for Greg’s exploration. Not demanding, not even questing, but learning with the gentlest of steps. It was the most chaste kiss of his life, yet the most stunning for that very fact. It stole Charlie’s strength until he felt weak from his eyeballs down.
Clawed fingers gripped onto chunks of black sweater when Greg released his lips.
Greg swallowed several times, staring into his eyes. “Would I sound completely naïve to say wow?”
Charlie smiled. “Not in the least.” He was breathing shallowly, panting as much as Greg was.
“You’re not mad?”
Charlie massaged him through the fabric of his sweater. “Confused, worried about your state of mind, but no, not mad.”