The Importance of Being Denny by Kari Gregg - Romance>LGBTQ>GayFree novelette written for the Goodreads M/M Romance group's "Hot Summer Days" event.
Matt appears on Denny's doorstep four years after Matt's mother put Denny on the first bus out of California. Loving the very closeted Matt cost Denny everything once: his home, his family, the safety net of his trust fund. Everything. Denny built a new life. Matt finally coming out has stirred his mother's wrath, though, and four years of not loving Matt is about to cost Denny everything. Again.
Or is it?
Reader Rating: 3.9 (26 Ratings)
Excerpt:Denny retreated a step, shoulders snapping straight as his dark eyes widened behind the screen door. "Mateo."
Matt's lips thinned to a grim smile at the nickname. "Denny." He released the breath he'd been holding since he'd boarded the plane to Columbus in a slow, quiet hiss. "May I come in?"
Denny paled, his healthy summer-kissed skin blanching to pasty white. His mouth opened then shut. His lips parted again, but no sound emerged. Long heartbeats later, he shook his head.
Christ, Matt hated being right all the time. "You look good." He did too, better than Matt had expected in spite of the private investigator's reports. The eyes were the same -- soul-deep black and fringed in a thick blanket of lashes that had so drawn Matt as a teenager. The mop of dark hair hadn't changed either, though Denny wore it shorter now, the loose waves that had once flirted with his shoulders blades gone. Those shoulders were broader now, dense muscle filling out Denny's scrawny frame, but hell, Matt had been leaner then too.
More than ever, Denny looked like Matt's brother rather than his stepbrother. Denny had insisted on growing out his hair in his teens, when they'd both fought most ferociously to distance themselves from each other. Fought about any- and everything. The presumption that, since they looked so much alike, they must be brothers had infuriated them both. Then. It didn't now. Not for Matt, anyway. And with his stepbrother hundreds of miles away, Denny apparently had less motivation for rebellious acts of fuck-you-very-much -- he'd finally cut his hair.
Not that Matt could cast stones.
At least Denny hadn't inked his bicep, though the tribal tat he'd gotten at seventeen to intrigue and annoy his snotty stepbrother had also served as constant, bizarrely comforting reminder of Denny after Matt's dumbfuckery and his mother's cruelty had driven Denny away.
Rather than gulp his stepbrother down in one greedy bite -- or worse, beg Denny to forgive him for being a bastard and a fool -- Matt swept Denny's neat little bungalow with a curious glance. "You've done well for yourself." He meant that too. The rental was so tiny it could fit inside the guest house in the Beverly Hills family compound with room to spare, but the home Denny had created was welcoming in ways the austere luxury of California never had been. Cheerful and warm. Colorful braided rugs dotted the worn floorboards of the front porch. Violently green plants in ceramic pots marched in a line down the porch rail, clearing only to leave the view unobstructed for a swing dangling from the low roof. A hardback book lay open, face down, on the seat. The Importance of Being Earnest. Matt smiled at Denny through the grief. He nodded to the book. "Oscar Wilde's still your favorite."
His stepbrother stiffened. Retreated another step from the door. "I-I moved." He lifted a trembling hand before, shuddering, he let it fall. "To th-th-the other side of the country."
Matt winced at the return of his stutter. Shit. Denny had outgrown that at fourteen. "We need to talk."
Denny swallowed, Adam's apple bobbing. His pupils dilated, the black of nerves and fear making the obsidian eyes he'd inherited from his father even darker. "No."
"Yes." Matt's answering nod was slow but resolute. "Anna's coming for you. It's wrong. It's unfair...and there's nothing I can do to stop her. I came to warn you. Let me in, Denny."
His stepbrother shook his head again, a lock of hair dipping to tease his brow. He brushed it away, but his hair immediately sprang back to the sloppy muss Matt remembered so well. "You can't do this." His eyes sheened with tears that tore at Matt like talons. "She can't."
"Anna does whatever the fuck she wants." His mouth curved to a bitter smile. "You know that better than anyone." Except Matt. "Denny -- "
"I said no!" He lurched backward until his shoulders met the wall behind him. His head jerked wildly from side to side. "I left. I let it go. I have a n-n-new life now."
"I know. I'm sorry. I don't want to hurt you." Matt's stomach rolled, sick and sour. "But she wants to. She wants to and she will."
Denny bit his lip. "I left," he said again, voice breaking. When Matt only stared, he pivoted, feet awkward and clumsy. Stumbling, Denny fled farther into his tidy house with the flourishing plants and the cozy porch swing, back into the simple life he'd built. The one Matt had just blown to hell.
Eyes steady, spine straight, Matt reached for the door.
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Reader Reviews (6)
Submitted By: roula on Jan 29, 2015short and uninteresting.
Submitted By: blu_angel on Jan 23, 2014A good story. I did have a few issues with it though. I thought Matt(Mateo) was a bit to arrogant and I thought it ended way too soon. I would have liked them go head to head with Anna but that part wasn't even there. Even if there was no showdown between them I would have at least have liked to have seen Matt and Denny maybe a year or so after the events unfolded.
Submitted By: hooked on Jan 4, 2014nice short free read.. but could of been sooooo much better.
Submitted By: firefly2518 on Jan 25, 20133 stars - good little short.
Submitted By: ksugreat on Jan 22, 2013Plenty of angst, which I was in the mood to wallow in. Also a complete villain you can despise, so worked for me. If only it was LONGER! Aaargh!
Submitted By: hex590 on Jan 15, 2013Love this author but this book was too short and a little underdeveloped.