Men in Love: M/M Romance, страница 1
Table of Contents
Edited by Jerry L. Wheeler
Introduction: How Men Romance - Jerry L. Wheeler
Range of Motion - ’Nathan Burgoine
Crewman - Jerry Rabushka
American Master Bakers - Dale Cameron Lowry
Bathhouse Backstabber - Michael Bracken
Wilde - Erzabet Bishop
Love in Portofino - Thom Collins
What a Coincidence - Matthew Bright
Firebrand - Megan McFerren
Conversations with an Angel - Kevin Klehr
When the Sun Shines - Kassandra Len
Photo-Love and Seven Ways to Get the Guy - R. W. Clinger
The Essentials - Vinton Rafe McCabe
The Seven Forty-Five - Richard Natale
The Second Time Around - Maryn Blackburn
6th & E - Gregg Shapiro
The Missing Piece - Colton Aalto
Security Breach - Evey Brett
Continuum - George Seaton
Afterword and Acknowledgments
About the Editor
Books Available From Bold Strokes Books
Spring approaches with the promise of new beginnings, fresh adventures, and the thrill of romance rekindled or discovered. Hot, sexy guys abound—meeting on the ball fields or the boardroom, at the theater or the classroom—falling in love and lust for the first time or celebrating a lifetime. Come join the rites of spring and indulge yourself in the passion and pleasures of our luscious men in love. Stories from some of today’s popular m/m romance authors explore the many faces of men in love: gay for you, seductions, weddings and more.
Men in Love
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Men in Love: M/M Romance
© 2016 By Bold Strokes Books. All Rights Reserved.
ISBN 13: 978-1-62639-735-4
This Electronic Book is published by
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
P.O. Box 249
Valley Falls, New York 12185
First Edition: April 2016
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Editor: Jerry L. Wheeler
Production Design: Stacia Seaman
Cover Design By Jeanine Henning
Edited by Jerry L. Wheeler
Riding the Rails
The Dirty Diner
Tricks of the Trade
Introduction: How Men Romance
Jerry L. Wheeler
In my case, I was romanced by an outfit.
My late partner, Jamz, was an astute man, totally aware of himself and the effect he had on others. And he dressed accordingly, leaving nothing to chance. He considered the placement of every hair, no matter what color it was that week, as important a part of his ensemble as his shoes, shirt, pants, or choice of jewelry.
We met sleazy, in the arcade of an adult bookstore. Oh, don’t look so shocked. It happens, and, yes, some of those relationships last lifetimes. His first words to me were…well, let’s just say they were a proposition. I accepted. We had sex in the theatre, but then he walked me out to my car and kissed me in the parking lot, two occurrences that rarely happen with tricks. We exchanged business cards, and three days later, he called me for a proper date.
I did not get the gay guy clothes gene. I can take Armani and make it look like Sears off the rack, so I gave minimal thought to my outfit that Saturday night. I was more worried this was going to go like the last nineteen dates I’d been on in the last two months: awkward, unfulfilling, and laden with an atmosphere of excruciating boredom. At exactly six thirty, my buzzer rang.
When I opened my apartment door, I noticed again how tall he was. And how handsome. His reddish-gold mullet—shush, it was in fashion then—almost gleamed in the light from the hall fixtures. He wore black motorcycle boots, black jeans with a black leather wallet on a platinum chain, and a studded belt. His forearms were hairier than I’d remembered, and he had a lot of tattoos I hadn’t noticed before.
But for all the menace he projected, his smile was wide and his eyes were bright, and that’s when I noticed his T-shirt. It, too, was black, with the sleeves rolled up. On the front was the logo from The Partridge Family TV series of the 1970s, beneath which read: C’mon Get Happy. It was the perfect contradiction. I smiled and fell in love, right there in the doorway of my apartment.
“That’s what you were supposed to do,” he told me months later when the subject came up for whatever reason.
“You mean you wore it on purpose?”
“Hell yes, I wore it on purpose. Took me two days to get it right.”
“I figured if I wanted to catch a writer, I had to tell a story.”
Did I also mention he always knew the right thing to say? Yeah. That.
The eighteen authors gathered for Men in Love all have their own stories to tell. Some are poignant and hopeful, like Thom Collins’s tale of a renewed affair in “Love in Portofino” or Kassandra Lea’s sweet “When the Sun Shines,” or our opener, “Range of Motion,” ’Nathan Burgoine’s portrait of a relationship founded on healing as much as love.
Some authors chose to look at how relationships start, like the blind date of Michael Bracken’s “Bathhouse Backstabber,” the catfishing of Megan McFerren’s “Firebrand,” the chef reality TV showdown in Dale Cameron Lowry’s “American Master Bakers,” and the surprise shifter ending of Erzabet Bishop’s eerie “Wilde,” not to mention a slight bit of time travel to help out a first date in Matthew Bright’s “What a Coincidence.”
We haven’t left the middle of the relationship unaddressed, either. Both Vinton Rafe McCabe (“The Essentials”) and Maryn Blackburn (“The Second Time Around”) use romance and routine for very different effect. In both of these superficially disparate tales, we see couples who have unconventional standards for romance, but their happiness and satisfaction are tangible regardless. And speaking of unconventional, we couldn’t do a romance anthology with just couples, so Colton Aalto provides “The Missing Piece” of a triad.
That, however, isn’t our only foray into the unconventional. Jerry Rabushka’s “Crewman,” about love among housepainters, and R. W. Clinger’s “Photo-Love and Seven Ways to Get the Guy” both have memorable first person voices, as does Evey Brett’s “Security Breach.” Gregg Shapiro’s “6th & E” explores the effect of temptation on a relationship, and Kevin Klehr’s “Conversations with an Angel” looks at how parents and family can affect a romance. In the case of Richard Natale’s “The Seven Forty-Five,” however, we see how two men who meet on the commuter train strike up a romance that could very well end them both. Our closer is a lovely piece by George Seaton, “Continuum,” which is both reflective and hopeful.
So, get comfortable and make sure to have the tissues handy as we take a long, heartfelt look at Men in Love.
And, you know, I still have that Partridge Family T-shirt.
Range of Motion
I hid my reaction behind a glower at Mick, my least favorite coworker at the gym.
“Don’t call clients that,” I said. “And don’t call me Billy.”
I waited so it wouldn’t look like Mick had managed to yank my chain if he was bluffing. When I figured I wouldn’t seem too obvious, I turned to look at who’d just walked through the gate. We gave our members keycards so they could swipe themselves in, and at first I thought I might be looking at the wrong person, or that Mick had indeed been teasing me, but no. It was the guy I’d been hoping to see for nearly four months.
No suit. And was his hair shorter?
“See?” Mick said. I hadn’t fooled him with my casual look. “Bike bunny boy.”
Mick used the term “bike bunny” for all the women at the gym who came in, did cardio on the stationary bikes, and then left without touching anything else. I tried to take the high road with Mick, who always stopped just short of crossing the line with his comments or jokes or calling me Billy even though he knows I prefer William, but some days were harder than others. Mick had been bad enough when he’d clued in that I was gay, but once he’d realized I’d developed a crush on a client, he’d delighted in it. Mick had started calling him “bike bunny boy” and declared he was being inclusive, not offensive.
Bike Bunny Boy—it annoyed me that I’d started thinking of him by that name, too—had stepped into the changing room, and I took a second to bring over two applications to the computer. Mick, noting the arrival of two young women, left the front desk. I waited till he was out of view to pull up a list of the names of the clients currently swiped in.
I’d tried this before without luck. Two months ago, when I’d realized Bike Bunny Boy hadn’t shown up in a while, I’d tried to search him out, but a lot of people worked out every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I couldn’t find a pattern that was quite right from my recollection. I’d heard another client call him Benny in passing, but when I searched the database for Benjamin, Ben, or Benny, I got no hits that seemed right. The birth date was obviously wrong, or the last visit date wasn’t right. Searching out a client was also something of a problem if I was working with Mick. It broke the rules and made me feel a bit like a creepy cyberstalker, but something about this guy made me want to step out of my comfortable life. I’d never minded being single before, but one look at him and I was risking my job.
He was attractive, sure, but he wasn’t a model or anything. He was lean, with the body of a runner or a bicyclist, and he had collar-length brown hair that just started to curl at the ends. His eyes were a rich hazel, though they looked a little lost under his strong brow. Clean shaven, he looked young, but he often arrived in a suit. I was convinced he worked in one of the nearby office towers, so I guessed he was in his late twenties at least. I liked that he changed into an old T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants, not some sort of logo label workout outfit, and that his shoes were obviously well worn and chosen right. When he ran on the treadmill, he didn’t put on headphones and seemed to pay attention to everything he was doing. It was the same on the bike and his rare bouts with the elliptical.
When he smiled at someone he knew, everything about him lighted up. Smiling suited him, and he did so easily. He had a little gap between his front teeth that I found adorable. Once or twice I saw him explaining how one of the machines worked to someone else—usually women—and being patient and helpful. I always tried to interrupt, both to help the client but also to interact with him, however briefly.
I was pretty sure he was gay. For one, the suits he wore were impeccable, and for all that the metrosexual revolution muddied the waters, this guy oozed class and didn’t have his hair slicked back or an overpriced watch. Also, the guy who’d called him Benny had more swish than a swizzle stick, and Bike Bunny Boy had responded with just a bit of an affected lisp in return.
The name on the screen that matched the swipe-in time was Reuben Wright.
I almost smacked myself in the forehead. I had a niggling familiarity with the name from searching the client lists, but until I saw it on the screen with the swipe-in time, it hadn’t occurred to me that Benny could be short for Reuben.
I slid the new applications back into the in-basket where Mick would no doubt leave them for me and casually made my way out onto the floor, cleaning the elliptical and treadmill areas with more attention than they needed.
Soon enough, Bike Bunny Boy—Reuben—arrived. His usual workout uniform was the same, an old T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants, but he seemed different. I forced myself not to stare as he walked over to a nearby treadmill and punched in a program.
His hair was quite a bit shorter, no longer long enough to curl, and he had a neatly trimmed goatee that suited him but aged him a little. His skin was lighter, accentuating the dark smudges under his eyes. He looked exhausted. When he started running, I noticed he wasn’t running a very challenging program compared to what I’d seen him do, and his gaze was less focused.
Barely five minutes later, he aborted the program and stopped. He’d broken out in a real sweat and was breathing heavily, and I saw him favouring his right leg when he stepped down and reached for the cleaning rag to wipe his sweat from the panel.
“I’ve got it,” I said, stepping over. He glanced up at me, and for just a second, something on his face made me stop moving.
“You shouldn’t push it,” I said, feeling awkward. The look of panic on his face had come and gone quickly, but it had definitely been there. I nodded at his left leg. “Accident?”
He met my gaze and nodded, still breathing heavy.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll wipe it down. Maybe take some time in the steam room before you go.”
He glanced at my shirt and then flicked his eyes back up at me. “Thanks,” he said, and nodded again. He left the floor, and I wiped the machine down, trying hard not to dwell on the look he’d given me when I’d spoken to him. Having placed myself near the desk, I offered a friendly wave when I saw him swiping out. His smile was wan.
When he was gone, I opened up Firefox and held my hands over the keyboard for a long time just staring at the Google search page. This felt a little skeezy. I sighed, typed in “Reuben Wright” and our city, and hit the search button before Mick could come over to see what I was doing. My stomach clenched at the links that appeared.
Man Gay Bashed in Local Park, Hospitalized
Gay Bashing Victim Lay in Park for Two Hours
Homeless Man Calls Police After Finding Gay Bashing Victim in Park
I closed down the window and made myself breathe evenly.
Now I knew why the name had been vaguely familiar.
“You ran the marathon last year?” I asked him three days later. He’d changed for his workout and was wearing the T-shirt all the entrants were given at the marathon finish line. I had the 5k version. I’d never tried even the half-marathon and had nothing but respect for the marathon runners. Cardio had never been my strongest point.
He glanced at me, then nodded. “Yeah.”
“I did the 5K that year,” I said. “I don’t know how you guys do it.”
He smiled faintly and said, “I loved running.” The past tense fell awkwardly between us, and I forced myself to remain casual as I glanced at his leg. “Was it a break?”
He frowned a bit. “Yeah. And there was other stuff, too.”
I nodded, working hard not to let my face show the anger I was feeling. Other stuff included a broken jaw, some missing teeth, more than one cracked rib, and a concussion, I knew. I’d read the articles at home. I’d surprised myself by becoming furious, actually having to stop myself from reading at a few points to take deep breaths. I’d wanted to pitch my laptop across the room.
No arrests had been made.
“Did you do physio?” I asked, struggling to maintain my client voice. I hoped I was coming across as professionally interested.
One physiotherapist visit? One? I felt my temper rising at whatever doctor hadn’t bothered to help Reuben plan a recovery, but swallowed. The bitter edge to Reuben’s voice made me want to punch the wall.
Or hold him.
“Well,” I said, keeping my voice even, “if you’d like, I could help you with a workout plan. Nothing with major impact, but focus on some core strength recovery. And your range of motion—I think that’s what’s throwing you off. I’m not sure you should be on the treadmill.”
He seemed surprised. “Uh. I don’t know.” He glanced at my shirt again, rereading my name tag, I figured, which was pinned on the front left of my chest. “I’m…I’m not working right now, I’m on leave, so hiring a trainer…”
I nodded, as if this was no big deal. “Did you use the five trainer days you got when you signed up?”
He blinked. “Five trainer days?”
I sighed and pointed at Mick across the room while his back was turned. “Did that guy sign you up?”
Reuben looked at Mick, who was chatting with a young woman doing free weights. No doubt he’d soon be offering to show her better posture techniques.
Reuben nodded. “Yeah.”
I’d already known that from Reuben’s file, but I shook my head as if slightly disgusted. “You were supposed to get five free trainer days with him. Don’t worry about it—he’s a bit of a jerk. I’ll transfer them to me, and it won’t cost a thing. And we’ll break it up into bits, make it last.” I smiled.