Genre: Gay contemporary romance
Publisher: All Romance eBooks
Date of Publication: June 1, 2016
Number of pages: 289
Word Count: 77000
Cover Artist: Erin Dameron Hill
He tried to drown his demons, only to find they could swim.
Life isn’t always fair. Llewellyn Gardner knows that first hand. He was on the fast track—college dreams, a boyfriend—until one night of extreme passion changed everything. Eight years later and out of prison, he still lives with the aftershocks of that night. Everywhere he turns there’s another reminder of crime people insist he committed, so he runs away to a new town to start over.
For Shane Smith, Jr., owner of Smith Construction, there’s something about the gorgeous, misunderstood man with the overly expressive eyes and dark past. Shane sees the good in Llewellyn— it’s why he hired him—and he isn’t going to let the man cut himself off from the world.
Llewellyn isn’t sure what to think about Shane. After years of protecting himself from being tricked twice, he’s worried. What will happen if Shane doesn’t believe the truth about his past?
“Llew, don’t break anything!” Moss half-yelled, half-laughed while his boyfriend chased him around his parents’ mansion-sized home.
“Your ass is mine when I catch you… literally!” Llewellyn yelled as he rounded the large kitchen island. His boyfriend was his best friend as well as his lover. In the small town of Emporia, Virginia, they were likely the only gay students in their high school. That anyone knew about. A kid that moved there from Los Angeles a few years back was gay and unashamed of it. He was colorful and flamboyant because he felt free to be himself. The community had been so cruel to him and his family, that they were run out of town so fast Llew didn’t remember the pretty boy’s name. He did remember being envious, though.
It was by sheer accident that Llew and Moss discovered each other’s sexual orientation in the first place. They were football teammates and both attended a party hosted by one of the cheerleaders during their freshman year. Rosie Jameson’s parents were traveling salespeople who left her and her twin sister home alone every couple of weeks. So that meant at least twice a month the teenagers had something fun to do in their dreary-filled-with-retirees town. Llew and Moss got shit-faced drunk, and ended up alone in Rosie’s father’s den watching WWF Smack Down. Moss couldn’t hide his hard-on while watching the oily, ridiculously hot, and ripped wrestlers writhing and rolling all over each other in the small wrestling ring. When Moss looked horrified that Llew had busted him and was ready to bolt, Llew smirked at him, and pulled up the hem of his long hoodie, exposing his own erection. The conversation they had that night changed their lives. They didn’t immediately fall in love, but things progressed fairly quickly from that point.
They were so young back then; they just wanted to be friends. They needed someone to talk with openly, a friend they could drop the mask with. The mask they had to wear twenty-four-seven with everyone else.
When Llew got pneumonia in their sophomore year, neither his mom nor dad could afford to take time away from work to stay home with him all day. Moss was there every day before and after school, taking care of him the same way a significant other would. Llew knew then that things had changed between them. He suddenly saw Moss’ blond shaggy hair as sexy instead of messy. He’d noticed that his friend’s once scrawny frame had benefited from their hours in the weight room after school. Now his best friend was seventeen years old, with fashionably tousled hair, bright blue eyes, and a tightly packed body.
“Stop chasing me, I’m tired.” Moss rounded the corner of the media room, and hurdled over the couch in the formal living room like the track star he was.
“Then stop running,” Llew huffed back, quickly closing the distance when Moss slowed down. Llew tackled his boyfriend onto the plush carpet, pinning him beneath his much larger body. He gripped both Moss’ wrists together above his head, and used his other hand to push back the long bangs that had fallen over those blue eyes. He loved Moss so much. They’d been inseparable from the moment they met six years ago. Seamlessly transitioning from friends to lovers, now all they talked about—well, Llew talked about—was leaving for college where he could love on Moss freely.
When they first moved to Emporia, Llew’s father owned a small landscaping business and was contracted to service the mayor’s property. Llew was ticked off he had to help his father every summer. Kids would tease him when they looked out their windows or rode by on their bikes on their way to the YMCA pool. While he hauled away overflowing bags of cut grass, Moss had come out of his mansion and started shooting baskets at the hoop in his immaculately paved driveway, but not before giving Llew a bottle of water and extending him an invite to play along. Although Moss was wealthy, the son of the mayor and sixth generation heir to the McGregor Empire, he never looked down on the working class like his parents did.
The mayor and his wife weren’t bad people; they were wonderful to the townspeople. In spite of that, they always felt that their son could do better than the company he chose to keep. After Llew’s parents died last year in a car accident, they took pity and stopped giving him and his older brother dirty looks. His now twenty-six-year-old brother was his only living relative and had moved back home to take over their father’s business and make sure Llew graduated.
“You get sexier every day, babe.” Llew ground his stiffening cock into the hard thigh beneath him. “What time are your parents coming home?”
Moss opened his eyes. The usually bright blue irises were the color of the sky before a thunderstorm, dark and smoldering with lust. “Mmm. In about an hour.”
“Damn. I could fuck you so hard right now.” Llew spread his legs wider, and drove down hard, pulling a strained moan from his boyfriend.
“Would you throw me around first? Slam me against the wall and take it has hard and fast as you wanted?” Moss moaned, his hips rising up to meet Llew’s punishing thrusts.
“Ahhh, God. Hell yeah, I would. You’re such a fuckin’ pain slut, babe.” Llew groaned, pulling hard on Moss’ hair. His guy was into hardcore fucking, and Llew couldn’t deny that he loved that shit, too. It was smoking hot. Moss would scream his name, bite, and scratch him while he pounded his tight ass. No matter how hard he fucked him, Moss would beg for more. He loved being tied down, gagged, and even slapped a little. Llew had almost twenty pounds on his track star, so he was careful with him, but oh, how he got a head rush from controlling him. They were limited to backseat fucks most of the time, but every now and then Moss’ parents would be out late at a charity dinner, or some official function, and they’d have well into the night to explore their ever growing need.
“I would love for you to be bad right now, Llew, but you gotta go. I don’t feel like hearing my parents’ shit.”
“Damn. How come they think I’m not a good enough friend for you?” Llew sat up, turning his back to his boyfriend. He pushed his hand through his thick, brown hair. “I’m the fuckin’ star running back on the football team, and I have the eighth-highest GPA in our class. Goddamn. You think they’re setting the bar a tad high on who’s worthy to hang around you?”
Moss rose to his knees and draped his long arms around Llew’s neck. He kissed him softly behind his ear, whispering in that voice that always calmed him. “Soon we’ll be away at college. I’ve already gotten into UCLA, and I know your acceptance letter is coming any day now. The scout couldn’t say enough good things about you, right?”
Llew just slightly nodded his head.
“Okay, then. We’ll be together. No one will give us a second look if we’re holding hands there. Or kissing. Or touching.” Moss punctuated each statement with a kiss to Llew’s neck.
“What if your dad finds out we’re seeing each other while you’re in school? What if he stops paying your tuition, or rent, or some shit? Would you like… stop seeing me?”
“Stop worrying. Damn. You’re driving me crazy with all these questions.” Moss stood abruptly, walking further into the media room, fixing the pillows they’d knocked off the couch during their roughhousing. Eliminating any trace that Llew had been there.
Moss had begun to insist that Llew not be around when his parents were home, anymore. Said it was easier for him. How? Llew had no idea. As far as anyone was concerned, they were friends. Just like so many other kids at school.
“Hey. Alright, I’m sorry. You’re right. Being together is all that matters. We’ll always be together.” Llew cupped Moss’ cheek, tilting his head up to look at him. He didn’t comment on the look he saw in his guy’s eyes, but he noted something was off. He’s probably stressed with exams and everything coming up. He didn’t have time to think about it any longer, since the front door beeped to indicate someone was coming in.
Moss pushed him away, almost causing him to fall over the low coffee table in front of the couch. “Shit, babe, calm—”
“Don’t fuckin’ call me that. Are you crazy? Hurry up! Get your stuff,” Moss whispered harshly, his eyes wide and terrified. It wasn’t like they were in there getting high or something.
Llew shouldn’t have let Moss’ words bother him, but they did. You would’ve thought he was on the Feds’ most wanted list the way his boyfriend was acting. He yanked his backpack off the floor and slung it over his shoulder. When he got to the marble foyer, he tried to ignore the disdainful look Moss’ father threw him.
“Good evening, Mayor McGregor, Mrs. McGregor, how are you?” Llew said in his most polite voice.
“Oh. Hello, Llewellyn. I’m just fine, thank you. If you’ll excuse me,” Mrs. McGregor said, on her way past him. She never wasted time on pleasantries with him.
“What are you boys up to at this late hour?” Mayor McGregor stood eyeing them cautiously, one hand in the pocket of his dress pants, the other leaning on the mahogany foyer table.
Llew looked at his watch. It’s not even seven o’clock. “Um, I just stopped by to give Moss his AP History notes back. He loaned them to me—”
“Why don’t you have your own notes, Mr. Gardner?” Mayor McGregor said, standing taller and removing his suit jacket, his face tight and impassive.
“Father. Remember I told you—”
“Mr. Gardner can speak for himself.” Moss’ dad cut him off.
Llew looked back at his friend and saw how he hung his head at his father’s tone. “A couple guys on by brother’s crew caught the flu, so I missed my last two classes on Monday to help out at the business.”
“I see,” Mayor McGregor said casually. “Why don’t you two step into my office for a quick chat?”
“Father, Llew’s brother is waiting for him.”
“Sir, I know you’re extremely busy. I didn’t mean to infringe on your family’s time.”
Both of them were trying to avoid any type of chat, conversation, pow-wow, or anything else with Moss’ father. He was intolerant to say the least; but whatever he wanted to discuss with them wasn’t going to be fun.
“I’ll be brief.” His tone and his expression said that it wasn’t an option.
Moss sat ramrod straight in one of the two wingback chairs facing his father’s large desk. Llew placed his backpack on the floor and gingerly sat in the other chair. He wasn’t slouching, but he wasn’t about to sit at attention like he was in front of the President of the United States, either. Although the design of Mayor McGregor’s office could fool you into thinking you were; it was even oval-shaped. The American flag stood tall behind him, just in front of the royal blue curtains flanking the window. The wall was adorned with degrees from UCLA and Harvard. Expensive-framed pictures of Mayor McGregor with influential politicians were mounted on the adjacent wall, and sat on three large bookcases. Llew’s head whipped around from the massive thirty- by-twenty-inch framed family painting when Mayor McGregor cleared his throat.
“How’s the business going for your brother, Llewellyn?”
Llew looked to his boyfriend, but of course, his head was tucked low, not meeting his father’s eyes. Well, this pompous bastard didn’t intimidate Llew. His father had instilled good moral values in him and his brother before his death. Llew had no reason to hang his head.
“Business is doing well, sir. Leslie’s even picked up some commercial properties in Colonial Heights. He’s had to hire a third crew to cover the demand,” Llew said proudly. His brother had really done well with his father’s legacy.
“Are you going to be joining his crew after you graduate in a couple months?” Mayor McGregor inquired casually. He had dismissed Llew’s proud statement, continuing to follow his own agenda, without bothering to look at Llew as he shuffled some papers around on his executive-style desk.
“Yes, sir. I’m going to work for him like I do every summer. Then I’ll be leaving for college in the fall,” Llew said, trying unsuccessfully to meet Moss’ eyes.
Mayor McGregor’s bushy eyebrows shot up, almost to his hairline. “Oh, really. Ahh, yes. You probably got an athletic scholarship.”
“Yes, sir, I did.”
“What school have you chosen?”
“I haven’t yet, sir. I’m still waiting to hear back from my first choice.”
Moss finally turned his head towards him, eyes begging. What the hell? Llew looked tiredly at his boyfriend, knowing that he was pleading with Llew not to mention the possibility of him attending UCLA. Honestly, though, how was that going to be a secret any longer, once he was accepted? Word traveled quickly in their parts. No doubt, his big brother would be bragging all over town, too. It had been his parents’ dream for both of their sons to go to college. Unfortunately, Leslie had to leave during his second year in graduate school to bury his parents and take care of Llew.
“And your first choice?” he asked impatiently.
Llew and Moss continued to watch each other. Moss’ brows scrunched together with annoyance. Fuck that. Llew was pissed now. True, they were both in the closet; because it just wasn’t worth the trouble to come out in their town. He hated when Moss made him feel like he wasn’t even worthy of being his friend. Why couldn’t they go to the same school? UCLA was ranked number twenty-three in the nation’s top universities. It took more than just the ability to catch a football to get in. Moss should be proud of him, not only as his boyfriend, but as his best friend.
“Virginia Tech, sir.”
“Mmm. They have a good athletic program. You should fit right in, Mr. Gardner.”
Llew’s jaw was clamped shut so tight, it ached. He released a calm breath before adding, “They have a top-ranked engineering program, sir; since I also have an academic scholarship.” Llew held back his grin at the faint redness that was creeping over the mayor’s pristine white collar. Llew had already been accepted to Virginia Tech, but he couldn’t stand the thought of being twenty-four hundred miles away from his boyfriend.
If his father were here, he’d tell Mayor McGregor exactly what he thought of his son’s athletic and his academic accomplishments. He wouldn’t let anyone talk down to him. He wanted to do his father proud, but he loved Moss, he’d do anything for him. They only had to endure this bullshit a little while longer.
“You know Moss will be attending the family alma mater, UCLA, to carry on the McGregor tradition. You boys have been inseparable since middle school and I’ve tolerated it because it—”
“I’m sorry, sir. Tolerated it?” Llew interjected, his anger quickly bubbling to the surface.
Mayor McGregor sat forward, his hand tightly gripping the polished surface of his desk. “Yes, tolerated it. Boys will be boys. Now it’s time for Moss to grow up and be a man, leaving childish things behind. He has a duty and obligation to his family’s name.”
Llew didn’t know why he looked at Moss then, but he did. How could he sit there and allow his father to degrade someone he loved like that? Did Moss consider him to be a “childish thing” in his life?
“I understand, sir. I best be getting home now, my brother and I have plans,” Llew said as respectfully as he could muster, already standing and slinging his book bag over his shoulder. They had nothing more to discuss.
About the Author:
A.E. Via is a best-selling author in the beautiful LGBTQ erotic genre. She’d been reading gay romance exclusively for over ten years before she decided to submit one of her own stories for publication. Her writing embodies everything from spicy to scandalous. Her novels often include intriguing edges and twists that take readers to new, thought-provoking depths. When she’s not clicking away at her laptop, A.E. devotes herself to her family—a husband and four children.
Although she’s still a fairly new author, she has plenty more to come.
For more information on other books by A.E., visit her website: