His greatest conflict in life is that another man loves him unconditionally. He’ll forsake everything before he’ll come to face who he truly is.
When Luke McCullough’s athletic potential is diminished by a field injury, his pride pays the price. Returned to Center County a broken man, the long road to recovery seems dreary and overshadowed by opportunities lost, until he meets Tristan Hughes.
Tristan came to Center County to escape his past and start anew, but nothing prepared him for Luke. Intrigued, Tristan cautiously gets to know this powerful man, only to fall head over heels for the vulnerable soul hiding behind all that intensity and drive.
Luke has never been interested in men, so when he can’t get Tristan out of his head he doubles his efforts to fight the inevitable. Stolen glances lead to heated encounters, followed by punishing regret, but Luke’s inability to face the truth of who he really is may cost him the only happiness he’s ever known.
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Excerpt: (Adult Language)
He stepped close and his palm curled around the back of Luke’s neck. A split second later—too quick to pull back—Tristan’s lips met his.
Luke grunted and jerked away at the first stroke of the other guy’s tongue. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I…I thought you wanted me to. You touched me.”
He frowned. No he didn’t. Yes. You fucking did. You’re still touching him. He jerked his hand away. It was the beer! Shit, he needed to lay off the drinking.
“Luke, look, it’s okay. I just thought with everything today—the shower—clearly I misread—”
“Are you dating my cousin?” he suddenly blurted.
“What? No. Ryan’s straight.” Tristan’s answer shouldn’t have relieved him, but it did.
Luke was distracted as Tristan took a deep breath. Tanned skin shadowed with hair drew his gaze to the cut of his chest glistening with a hint of sweat or maybe spilt beer. “Yeah, but it doesn’t have to be an issue. If you aren’t interested, we can act like nothing happened here and just go back to five minutes ago.”
“Does Ryan know you’re gay?”
“Yeah. He’s fine with it. Most people are. It’s not like I openly maul anything with a dick. I have a specific taste.”
“Well…” He turned and forked a hand through his hair. “You’re very handsome. Christ, I already saw you naked.”
And for some reason Luke had purposely made sure he’d seen him. He wanted him to look, like it was some pissing match or something. Thinking back, it was stupid and nothing like he’d ever done before.
“I’ll go,” Tristan said, grabbing his soiled shirt.
Luke caught his arm. “Wait.”
“For what, Luke? I clearly misread the situation.”
“Did you think I was gay?”
“No, but then…I don’t know. I thought maybe you were bi. You hear things about football players playing grab ass in the locker rooms and shit. I don’t know what the fuck I thought. Then you touched me and I just…stopped thinking.”
“You like being with men?” Well, no shit. That’s pretty much what it was to be gay. He couldn’t fathom it. Did Tristan take the top or bottom? He didn’t look gay, whatever that looked like.
“What do you do with them?”
“Jesus, Luke, everything. What do you want to know?”
“Does it hurt?”
“Fuck no. It feels fantastic.”
He stepped back, needing to do something, but not the type to fidget. “Have you ever been with a woman?”
Tristan’s expression became serious. “No. It’s always been guys.”
“This is crazy. I need a beer.” He turned and pulled out a new bottle. He’s fucking gay.
Luke never met a gay person that he knew of. He lived in Center County, not the most liberal place. “Man, you picked the wrong town to move to.”
“Tell me where the right town is.” Tristan stepped into the den. “I’m just another guy, Luke. I just wanna work and live and have the right to the same happiness everyone else is looking for in this fucked up world.”
Luke’s gaze moved over his chest. There were over a dozen scars. “That’s why your dad beat you, for being gay?”
“Yeah.” There was so much gravity in that one little word something in Luke broke.
“I’m not. Taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. No matter how hard someone hits me, or shuns me, or calls me ugly names, I’m still me. They don’t have to like it. They don’t have to live with it, but I do. And I refuse to be something I’m not.”
Luke dropped into the chair. “How old were you?”
“When I realized I was gay? Probably four.”
“No, when your dad did that to you.”
“Eighteen. Five days later my lover tried to kick the shit out of me in front of the whole school and called me everything he was afraid to call himself. Three months later I left for college and never looked back.”
Holy shit. “Did you ever think it would be easier to be straight?”
“I’ve thought lots of things. Sometimes I think it would be fun to fly, but that doesn’t make it possible.”
“No. Only men.”
“I’m not gay.” Luke stated, needing to hear the affirmation.
Tristan nodded. “And that’s cool. I didn’t mean to…”
The silence stretched between them. Finally, Tristan said, “I’m gonna take off.”
“Okay.” He was in a daze. This was some heavy shit.
“Thanks for your help.”
They nodded at one another and Tristan slipped on his wet shirt. A moment later the door closed.
Luke sat there for probably five minutes just digesting everything. He liked Tristan. A lot. Just not in any sort of romantic way. He didn’t swing that way. He liked pussy. He was a boob man or maybe a leg man. Definitely wasn’t a gay man.
He stood and went to hit the lights. He was way past the legal limit and needed to sleep. Maybe things would be clearer in the morning.
He dropped the empties in the bin and went to lock up. As he approached the door it suddenly opened. He stilled and Tristan stepped back in. Why was he back? His return sent a rush of blood pumping through Luke’s veins and his breathing picked up.
“I don’t have a car here.”
Right. He’d picked him up. “I’ve been drinking.”
“I could call a cab.”
“Or you could crash here.” He hadn’t thought about his offer, it just slipped out.
“Or I could crash here.”
Luke stared at him and waited. Sure, Tristan could crash. He could sleep on the recliner. Luke swallowed. He felt like he was doing something very wrong. Part of him was glad he couldn’t drive. So glad, that when the thought of calling Sheilagh and asking her to take Tristan back to his Aunt Rosemarie’s popped in his head, he immediately shoved it away.
“I was about to hit the sack anyway,” he said.
Tristan nodded. “You got an extra blanket?”
“Yeah. I’ll grab it. Make yourself comfortable.”
He went to the closet in the hall and pulled out a spare blanket. When he turned, Tristan was in the den, kicking off his boots. “Here you go.”
“Thanks, Luke. Listen, I’m sorry about all this. I hope—”
Luke slammed his lips to Tristan’s mouth. He didn’t know who was more shocked, him or Tristan. All he knew was the thought of Tristan, who’d taken his fair share of beatings for only being who he was, apologizing to him, cut him apart. He silenced him the only way he knew how.
Award winning author, Lydia Michaels, writes all forms of hot romance. She presses the bounds of love and surprises readers just when they assume they have her stories figured out. From Amish vampyres, to wild Irishmen, to broken heroes, and heroines no man can match, Lydia takes readers on an emotional journey of the heart, mind, and soul with every story she pens. Her books are intellectual, erotic, haunting, always centered on love.
Lydia Michaels loves to hear from readers! She can be contacted by email at Lydia@LydiaMichaels.org
Other Titles by Lydia Michaels:
As Tears Go By
All 4 You
To Catch a Wolfe
Called to Order
Calling for a Miracle
Call Her Mine