COVER DESIGN: REESE DANTE
Danny Friedman knows all about loss. His father left to start a new family and now that his mother passed away, he’s even more certain love is only temporary. People always disappoint him in the end, a lesson he learned years ago when his summer camp best friend and secret crush disappeared without a trace, never to be heard from again. Until now.
Fifteen years ago, Paul Merola left everything behind when he ran away with his mother to escape his abusive father. He lived life on the run for years, but never forgot his best friend, Danny. When his job transfers him to the New York City office, the past collides with the present, as Paul finds himself face to face with Danny, who works there as well. To Paul’s dismay, a reluctant Danny makes it clear he has little desire to rekindle their friendship.
Despite Danny’s desire to learn what happened all those years ago, he refuses to fall victim to Paul’s charm, fearing he’s being used to get ahead. Paul, finally secure enough to stay and put down roots, must convince Danny that there is more to them than a broken promise. Not only does he want to be friends again, he wants love. He wants forever. And he wants it all with Danny.
This story first appeared in the It Was Always You Anthology. It has been re-edited and expanded by approximately 5,000 words.
He gave a brief smile and looked once again at the original Superman trading card, then held it out to Paul. “Here, you shouldn’t give it to me. I’m sure it’s valuable and means something special to you.”
“It’s why I gave it to you. It is special to me. Like our friendship was.”
Danny’s smile faded. “Well, that was a long time ago.” He tossed the card on the desk. “Things change, people change and friendships end up being forgotten. Like family. Disposable when better things come along. Here today, gone tomorrow.”
His hands shook. Damn it. He hadn’t meant to reveal so much. Paul pulled over a chair and sat close to him, knees almost touching. “Please, Danny. I didn’t forget or replace you, believe me.”
“Why should I?” Danny spit out. “You said once you’d always be there. Then you left, like my father. Everyone I ever cared about has left me, sooner or later. Please. Go away now before I do something stupid.”
“I’m sorry. If I could have gotten in touch with you I would have.”
“Whatever.” Frustrated and angry at himself, Danny blinked at the burning in his eyes. “It was a stupid promise made as kids, I know that. I took it too seriously, like I did everything. I still do. I believe when people tell me things.”
“I had no choice back then. And when I got older, yeah, I probably could’ve looked harder for you, I’m sorry; I know I fucked up. I wish things could have been different, but all that’s in the past.”
Paul’s voice, low and rough, held that promise of something more.
“We can look at this as luck or fate or whatever you want to call it and see where it takes us now as adults. I already said it once. We aren’t kids anymore Danny, and my feelings for you aren’t ones I’d categorize as friendship.” He leaned closer to Danny. “Not after the way we kissed.”
More confused than ever, Danny sat back in his chair, allowing the intensity of Paul’s words to sink in. Paul really wanted him. Him?
“Are you saying—”
“You know exactly what I’m saying. The office isn’t the place for me to tell you exactly what I’d like to do to you, what I’ve dreamed about doing to you. It took less than fifteen minutes to wipe away almost fifteen years of dreaming about you and turning it into reality.”
Felice Stevens has always been a romantic at heart. While life is tough, she believes there is a happy ending for everyone. She started reading traditional historical romances as a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until she picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that her interest in romance novels was renewed.
But somewhere along the way, her reading shifted to stories of men falling in love. Once she picked up her first gay romance, she became so enamored of the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion there was no turning back.
Felice lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Her day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. Although she practices law, she daydreams of a time when she can sit by a beach and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be some angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.
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COVER DESIGN: X-Potion Designs
Austin Thompson spends most of his spare time reading or logging in extra hours at the LGBTQ youth center where he works. His only standing “night out,” if you can call it that, is his weekly movie night with his best friend, Dare Nichols. Between work and Dare, it’s hard to find time for much else, so when he does actually try to date, it ends in disaster.
Dare thrives on living life on the wild side—surfing, mountain biking, sky diving. If it’s extreme, he’s game. Between sports and spending his evenings at his West Hollywood bar, Dare never sees a dull moment. Still, with all that excitement, most of his favorite times are when he’s tucked away in Austin’s apartment. Probably because he’s the only best friend Dare’s ever had.
Then the kiss happens and the men realize they don’t want to stop there. As they explore this new adventure in their relationship, Austin realizes the excitement he’s been looking for has been right there all along, and Dare has to decide if he can conquer his only fear by risking his heart.
“I—” Austin started, but Dare held up a hand to stop him.
“Think we could clean up the jizz before we talk? I like come as much as the next guy, but I gotta tell you, it’s going to distract me if we don’t at least put our dicks away. You’ll be trying to talk, and I’ll be trying to play swords. It’ll be a disaster.”
It had been his intention to make Austin laugh, but it didn’t work, and honestly, he’d known it wouldn’t work. They’d just crossed a line in their friendship, and there was no way Austin would let it go without a talk.
“Use the hall bathroom. I’ll use the one in my room. Give me a second to grab you some clothes,” Austin replied.
Dare opened his mouth to tell Austin he would go home and come right back, but the green lasers Austin shot at him told him just to listen. The man really was getting bossy lately.
Dare headed to the bathroom. The second Austin tossed him a pair of sweats, he closed the door and leaned against it. Honestly? He couldn’t care less about the fact that their dicks had been out and they were messy. Messy sex was good sex in his mind, but the truth was, he’d needed a minute to get himself under control.
He’d just blown Austin. He’d jerked them off together. Seen the way he closed his eyes tightly, small wrinkles forming around them before he’d come. Seen the look in his eyes when Dare told Austin to open them.
Dare had never had any kind of sexual encounter with anyone he cared about before. He tried not to care about too many people at all, but Austin had not only found his way inside, but now they’d crossed another line and Dare didn’t know how he felt about it.
Okay, so that was a lie. His dick liked it a lot. His dick actually wanted to know what it felt like in Austin’s mouth too, or even better, how hot and tight it would be to be buried balls deep in his ass.
He was trying not to think with his dick, though. He needed to use his brain because this wasn’t just anyone. This was Austin. The guy who got him to read Harry Potter, even though he didn’t know it. The man who watched movies with him every week. It didn’t matter that he canceled dates with other people for work, or to relax with a book, when it came to their Sunday nights, Austin never missed a date. He’d never had anyone in his life who made him feel important the way Austin did. He’d never known what it was like to be a priority for someone, to have a person who wanted to spend time with him, and not because he was a good fuck, or because he knew how to have a good time…just because he was him. Dare.
He was scared to death of losing that…of fucking up…of hurting Austin…of getting hurt himself.
Riley Hart is the girl who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s a hopeless romantic, a lover of sexy stories, passionate men, and writing about all the trouble they can get into together.
She loves reading, flawed characters, and hanging out with her husband and children, who she adores. She and her family live in Southern California, soaking up the sunshine, while also missing seasons. Not a day goes by that she isn’t thankful she gets to wake up and do what she loves.
Life is good. Riley also writes young adult and new adult under the name Nyrae Dawn.
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