DescriptionTime in Iraq cost Michael Ritter some of his hearing and a friend whose death he feels responsible for. He'd left Alabama hoping to escape a dull, small-town life, but now, four years later, he's returning, lugging a duffle full of personal demons.
Engineering student Jay Ortiz attends college in a place where his heritage and orientation aren't widely accepted. While adjusting to new surroundings he found a soldier's picture. During lonely times he confided in the image of the somber young man, giving his heart away to a stranger. Now that stranger is coming home...
Reader Rating: (36 Ratings)
Excerpt:“There,” Jay said, releasing his death grip on Michael’s wrist. “Now we can talk.”
Harsh, glaring lights flooded the small bathroom and Michael blinked hard, eyes adjusting to the sudden brightness. He heard, rather than saw, the door close and the lock engage.
“Look, dude, are you playing me?”
Michael’s eyes widened in surprise at the obviously upset Texan. “Playing? What the hell are you talking about, Jay?” What had he done? Surely he hadn’t misread Jay’s interest? That confession had taken every bit of his nerve; Jay was supposed to be happy, damn it, and kissing him into oblivion, not questioning his motives!
Arm braced against the wall by Michael’s head, Jay growled, “Wanna know what it’s like with another man? Are you just satisfying your curiosity before you run back, safe and sound, to your little straight world? I know I promised whatever you needed, but if you’re just looking for someone to experiment with and aren’t really particular about the who, then you’ve come to the wrong place.”
“No, it’s not like that!” Michael gasped, body trembling. He hadn’t fully recovered from his earlier adrenalin overload and, though he knew deep down that Jay wouldn’t hurt him, a tendril of fear crept up his spine.
Jay’s expression became less frightening, although an undercurrent of anger remained. Voice somewhat calmer, he asked, “Well then tell me, Michael; what is it like?”
Hastily seeking the right words to redeem himself, all that came out was, “I’m gay.”
If eyes were the windows to the soul, his were a pair of sliding glass doors, no curtain in sight. His deepest, darkest thoughts had nowhere to hide as those dark eyes bored into his, exposing every secret. Without warning Jay swooped in and delivered a scorching, brutal kiss. Michael’s cock grew instantly hard.
Jay pulled away, reaching down and squeezing the engorged flesh. Michael moaned, welcoming the unexpected contact. Jay jumped back as if burned. “You really aren’t playing, are you?”
Michael shook his head.
Those dark eyes continued to study him and, while Jay’s expression was unreadable, at least it was no longer angry. “Sorry,” he whispered “I didn’t mean to do that.”
Michael closed his eyes and let out the breath he was holding. If he looked at Jay now he’d be too unnerved to speak and there were things that desperately needed to be said. “It’s okay,” he said, willing that hand to return and finish what it started. Maybe it was time for a little blunt honesty. “It’s not like I haven’t been leading you on.”
Jay no longer accused Michael but defended him. “No, it’s not okay. I knew how things were for you — how they are. I pushed. When you caught me off guard like that out on the porch I dared to get my hopes up. Why didn’t you tell me you were gay?”
If he looked at Jay directly he was going to attack, so Michael opened his eyes to stare at their reflections in the mirror that hung over the sink instead, heart beating so loudly he was amazed the man couldn’t hear it. “I’m not out and planned on leaving this God-forsaken place before that ever happened,” Michael said.
Jay looked shocked. “You’re not out to anyone? Not even your family?”
Michael shrugged. “Mom knows.”
“But not Angie?”
“I plan on telling her, I just haven’t had the chance. Besides, she’d too busy with school right now and she’d just fuss over me.” Not to mention meddle in his life, fixing him up with every eligible gay male she’d even remotely heard of and badgering him incessantly about his love life.
“That’s true,” Jay agreed. “I still can’t believe she doesn’t know. Y’all seem to be so close.”
Michael loved his sister, but now was not the time for discussing her. Now was the time to get back to the kissing and groping. Still, he pushed aside his body’s demands long enough to explain, “We are, but I’m just coming to terms with this myself. And, like I said, I didn’t intend to come out here.”
“Well then, why did you? As far as I know everyone thinks you’re straight. Why jeopardize that, especially if you plan on leaving?”
In answer, Michael leaned in and locked their mouths together, pouring in every bit of his desire and longing. Slowly he pulled away and leaned back against the wall, saying with his eyes what he couldn’t say with words.
“Me. You came out for me,” Jay said quietly, voice filled with awe. It wasn’t a question.
“Yes,” Michael confirmed. “I told you downstairs who I wanted.”
They stood gazing at each other for a long moment before Jay replied, “I’ll accept that. But I have to ask you this; you can tell me it’s none of my business if you want, but had you ever kissed a man before tonight?”
“No.” It seemed he was doing okay with honesty, so Michael decided to stick with what worked.
It stopped working. “That’s what I thought. Look, you’re obviously dealing with some pretty heavy shit tonight and I took advantage of that. I’m no better than Terry. I just hope I haven’t ruined our friendship by pushing this.”
He’d come too far for Jay to go noble on him, so Michael shut him up the best way he knew how. Heart hammering and his few remaining inhibitions screaming at him to run, he tilted his head and sealed their lips together, effectively crossing the point of no return.
Kissing Jay was different from kissing a girl, the unfamiliar tickle of whiskers a reminder that he was, in fact, kissing a man. Kissing Jay. It was exciting beyond his wildest dreams. No girl had ever made him feel like this.
If he were going to Hell the least he could do was enjoy the ride. When a low moan escaped he wondered who’d made it, then decided it didn’t matter. Jay’s body was rigid and unyielding for a moment before finally relaxing.
Abruptly Jay stepped back, panting hard. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
“Well, you’re not drunk.” A soft smile played across Jay’s lips. He studied Michael with a critical eye and then stretched out one hand. Expression solemn, he said, “If that’s how you truly feel, and you mean it when you say you want me, then allow me to escort you from your closet.”
Michael placed his hand palm-down on Jay’s. Tugging gently, Jay forced him to take a step forward, then another, smile widening with each step. When they were finally pressed body to body, Michael drew a quick breath, only to exhale forcefully as teeth and lips descending on his sensitive throat. Jay pushed him back against the wall.
“Oh, God!” Michael moaned, lost in indescribable feelings, cock pressed painfully hard against the front seam of his jeans. He’d only had one sexual experience with another man, but that had been enough for him to know what had been missing with girls. That experience, eye-opening as it was, paled in comparison to this.
Awkwardly uncertain of where to put his hands, he finally relaxed and did what came naturally; wrapping both arms around Jay and grasping the man’s firm ass, pulling him close. When it came down to it, Michael’s body knew what it wanted — instinct was all that was necessary. He moaned and resumed that wonderful rubbing that had started on the porch. Jay was as tall as he was and quite muscular; he could grab and squeeze and even bite without worrying about hurting him. And they were alone; no one would ever know what went on in this little room unless one of them told. With that thought the last of his resistance fell. Letting go was exhilarating and Michael stopped caring about what might happen next week, tomorrow, or even in an hour.
Reader Reviews (7)
Submitted By: vallyboo on Jan 3, 2013Michael Ritter is struggling to find a way to live a normal life. After the time he spent in Iraq he comes home with a lot of baggage but then he meets Jay. An emotional and beautiful story which I really enjoyed! And it’s free!
Submitted By: SophiaRose1816 on Jun 16, 2012I am always thrilled when a book grabs me with its plot and I find new characters to love. This one between a war ravaged young vet and a Hispanic college man is beautifully written in its description of small town Alabama, endearing characters, nicely paced romance, and interesting plot. I highly recommend this read and hope we get more of Michael and Jay.
Submitted By: lynelle64 on Mar 10, 2012I have read a few gay novels but this one really touched me. Both the characters Micheal and Jay came forth strong, the important subject raised to tell how this young man has to get back into civilian live and the Jay character supporting him in this. True compassion without hidden agendas. It can make a great follow up story. Excellent read
Submitted By: dece1 on Sep 3, 2011Sometime good stories can be found where they are least expected. This story as a free read was far better than some stories I have paid for. I highly recommend it.
Submitted By: yummyskarsgard on Aug 3, 2011This is a fantastic story. I'm still shocked that it's free. Don't pass up this great read and it's sequel.
Submitted By: youngromancelover on Jul 12, 2011A good read a little slow at times and it made michael seem alittle immature at times to say he'd been a soldier
Submitted By: dozyllama on Jul 1, 2011I can't believe this book is absolutely free! It's one of the best Ms Winters has ever written. Highly recommended.