Leaning Into Forever is LIVE on Audible! And other updates…

LeaningIntoForever-audiobookpromoLeaning Into Forever is here in audiobook format! This is earlier than expected for sure, but definitely a pleasant surprise. Nick Russo does an amazing job with Geordie and Levi’s story. The emotion and humor he expresses brought tears to my eyes. And I wrote it! LOL. Check out the sample and purchase link here.

Also, there are less than three weeks until Out in the Deep is here! Check out the teaser I made for Gabe and Derek’s story. Not bad for a first effort, right? The official ones will be released soon. Don’t forget to mark your calendars for August 29! Maybe I_d been looking in the wrong place all along.There are ton of giveaways happening at the MM Daily Grind this month to celebrate new releases from N.r. Walker, Felice Stevens, Ella Frank, Riley Hart and moi! Come on by!

I’m in NYC at the moment soaking up a ton of sun! Love this city!

Happy Summer and Happy Reading! Lane xo

Out in the Deep Cover Reveal! Coming August 29!

Who’s ready for a new series? Out in the Deep is coming August 29! I’ve decided to try something a bit lighthearted this time around with a series of short stories centered around various sports in a Southern California setting. First up is water polo! And check out this gorgeous new cover by Reese Dante! OutInTheDeep-600x900

Out in the Deep is book 1 in my Out in College Stories and it belongs to Derek and Gabe. Derek is a fifth year senior who’s determined to enjoy his final season in the pool. It would easier to do without the distraction of a new teammate. The two men have played against each other for years but always on opposite sides. The transition to being on the same one brings out the worst in Derek and makes him question everything… including his sexuality. But when their grudging friendship sparks into something more, both will have serious decisions to make or risk losing it all.

Mark your calendars for August 29 and get ready to jump in the pool one more time this summer with Derek and Gabe.

There’s an exclusive cover reveal happening today at Love Bytes! Be sure to stop by for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

Happy Reading! Lane xo

Blurb for Out in the Deep by Lane Hayes:

Derek Vaughn is a little too serious. He’s a type A control personality with a penchant for order and a love of water polo. But he’s determined to enjoy his last year of college. The real world with a serious job and big expectations can wait for a few months. He’s going soak up every minute on campus with his friends and teammates before he moves on. The only possible kink in his plan is the new guy on the team… also known as his nemesis.

Gabe Chadwick has big Olympic dreams. His transfer between Southern California universities has nothing to do with scholastics. The degree is his backup plan. He’s not there to party or make friends. And he certainly isn’t going to announce his sexuality. But he can’t deny there’s something special about the uptight team captain. However, when an unwitting friendship and mutual attraction collide, both will have to decide if this is the real thing or if they’re about to lose it all in the deep.

A Way with Words & A Way with You Available Internationally Now!

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A Way with Words and A Way with You are the two short stories I wrote for Felice Stevens’s Memories with the Breakfast Club Kindle World. Sadly, Kindle Worlds is no more. It was a nice experiment and it could have become something special if Amazon had put a little more effort into it (you know, like releasing titles internationally). *insert eye roll. The good news is, as of today, both of these shorts are available everywhere!

Here are the updated links for both short stories. I’m waiting for Amazon to transfer the reviews for both books, but otherwise, they’re ready to go!

Happy Reading! Lane xo

A Way with Words- US: https://amzn.to/2LoNhrq
Canada: *still waiting
 
A Way with You- US: https://amzn.to/2LjFkUn

Leaning Into a New Start – All Parts Repost (NSFW)

Leaning Into Forever has been out for three weeks and I can’t stop thinking about my SF boys! I think a few future short stories are in order but I thought I’d repost this one for now. Leaning Into a New Start features Jeff from Leaning Into Touch.  If you’ve read Leaning Into Touch, you’ll remember Jeff is Josh’s dad. If you haven’t read the book… warning! This short is a teensy spoiler. I intended to put all parts up at once when I posted it in and never got around to it so here it is for those who missed this one. Enjoy!

Happy Reading! Lane xoSkyline-Downtown-Close-up-1500

Leaning Into a New Start- Part 1-

The life of an accountant was nonstop excitement. Random strangers pulled me aside at parties to ask how I gotten started on my thrilling ride wheeling and dealing with spreadsheets and budgets. The mere mention of the word ‘audit’ had them racing to my side, begging me to speak slowly so they could take in every bit of my undoubtedly riveting tale of my career of ruthless mathematician behind a calculator. Wait. Exaggerate? Me? Well, maybe a touch. I smiled at my ridiculous musings as I pulled open the door to the office of GDC, Green Design Construction, my newest victim. Excuse me… client.

My grin froze when I caught my reflection in the glass. I patted down a wayward lock of my salt and pepper hair and straightened my red and blue tie. Red wasn’t my color but one of my son’s friends insisted it was a power color. Grant knew fashion better than Josh or me so I figured his suggestion that I go with my charcoal suit and a bold striped tie was a sound one. He’d said I’d “kick ass and look like a boss”.

Frankly, I had my doubts. I was more nervous about meeting the CEO of this firm than I should have been. First of all, I rarely met with anyone that far up the chain. Presidents and CEOs always pushed off pesky meetings with auditors to their Chief Financial Officer. Apparently, the CFO had recently been dismissed and rather than handing the meeting off to his Vice President, Lars Olsen had decided to take it upon himself to deal with me directly. Great.

I stepped inside the elevator, carefully avoiding any other reflective surfaces. If my hair was a mess, so be it. I wasn’t looking for a date. This was a business call. I had to be professional, concise and ideally not get distracted by my posh surroundings. It was all about the numbers. Fuck. I had to think about something else quick or my handshake would be pure slime.

Slime… hmm. That reminded me of Josh. He loved that shit when he was a kid, I thought with a half chuckle. I wondered how his date went last night. I’d give him a call later and offer to take him out for dinner sometime soon. From what I could tell from the figures I’d gone over, I might be stationed at GDC’s San Francisco headquarters for a while.

When the doors slid open, I adjusted my briefcase and strode purposely toward the pretty blonde receptionist seated behind the sleek wood and steel desk and cleared my throat.

“Hi, my name is Jeff Sheehan. I’m here to see Mr. Olsen regarding the—”

“Hello there. I’m Lars. And you’re… the accountant.”

I whirled around at the sound of the big booming voice with my hand outstretched but stopped in my tracks with my mouth wide open.

Holy crap. Lars Olsen was a big dude. Not overly tall but still impressive. He was the kind of person you noticed the moment they walked in a room.

Lars was maybe an inch shy of my own six feet but he was burly. His shoulder span rivaled a linebacker’s and I could tell his arms were heavily muscled through his navy striped button down shirt. My gaze traveled down his chest to his thick waist before darted back to his face. His blue eyes twinkled merrily as his full mouth curled in amusement.

There was nothing quite as mortifying as being caught staring at close-range. Except perhaps a sudden inability to refocus and act like a professional businessman instead of a star-struck teenager. I didn’t know what was wrong with me but I was tongue-tied and utterly mesmerized. And all he did was say “hello”.

“H-hey. I—I’m Jeff,” I said in a raspy voice as he took my hand.

“Pleased to meet you,” Lars replied.

Those four words inexplicably reverberated through my body. Maybe it was his deep timbre or maybe the extra pressure he applied in the simple handshake. I had no clue why my dick jumped in my trousers but I quickly lifted my suitcase to shield the evidence as I shook his meaty paw.

“Yes, um… we have some numbers to go over. I’ve been looking through your sheets and—”

Lars threw his head back and guffawed. “And what did you find in my linens?”

I sputtered incoherently, unable to come up with a response that wasn’t lame or inappropriate. I failed. “Your wife?”

He cocked his head and narrowed his eyes but he didn’t respond. He froze and so did his receptionist and the phones and hell, maybe the whole damn city. I felt like the idiot actor with the worst lines in a play who knew it was only a matter of seconds before the audience booed him offstage. I licked my lips and offered a quick apology. But Lars intercepted me with a friendly smack on the back and another deep chuckle.

“I’m not married. But let’s talk about those sheets.” He paused and raised his forefinger like a teacher making an important point. “Excuse me, spreadsheets. Would you like some coffee or—”

“I’m not married either,” I blurted, unsurprised by the instant flush of heat on my cheeks. “Divorced. It was a long time ago, but— I’m…yeah. Coffee would be great.”

Lars studied me for a long moment. Then he smiled. A kindly, sweet gesture meant to set me at ease. It worked. I felt my heartbeat slow and resume a closer to normal beat. I returned the gesture and lowered my briefcase. His gaze followed the movement and to my mortification, so did mine. And yeah, I had a boner. There was no way he could miss it. The fabric on my suit jutted out a good couple inches in a lewd show of blatant arousal.

Oh my God. I might actually pass out.

No joke. I was closing in on sixty, for fuck’s sake. My heart couldn’t take this kind of pendulum swing. And really… one would think at my age, the last thing I’d have to worry about was popping wood in front of a sexy man. And why did I find him so attractive in the first place? Lars was a gray haired bear of a man with a trimmed beard and a ruddy complexion. He reminded me of a construction worker past his prime who was good with his hands and— No. That wasn’t helping.

I needed the carpet to swallow me whole, roll me out the door, and the universe to give me a redo, one that hopefully included amnesia on his part because I wasn’t sure how I’d recover from anything quite this embarrassing and still manage to work with this man for the next few weeks.

“Coffee,” Lars repeated thoughtfully.

Then he winked and his friendly expression morphed into something decidedly mischievous and… seductive. Of course that had to be my imagination.

I gave him a weak smile and pursed my lips before attempting to salvage what was left of my dignity. “Yes, please. Coffee sounds nice.”

“You got it,” he said in a husky tone. “This way.”

 

I loved the simplicity of numbers. They didn’t lie. They might confound some people but they didn’t deceive. Not really. If someone didn’t understand an equation, that was their problem. Two plus two would always equal four. Not almost five or maybe something more than three. Just four. For someone who’d craved a modicum of truth in which nothing and no one could pretend to be something they weren’t, numbers were my anchor. My happy place.

However, Lars was fucking up my mojo big time. I couldn’t concentrate around him. The smell of his cologne, the sound of his deep baritone voice and that funny way he crinkled his eyes as he explained which accounts corresponded to which project. I lost my train of thought more times than I cared to count. Pun intended. Two weeks into our daily briefings, I was a mess.

I sat at the glass conference table in Lars’ huge corner office and stared at view of the Bay Bridge and Alcatraz. It was a gorgeous day in late July and for once, the weather cooperated. It actually felt like summer when I headed into the office this morning. I stopped by Starbucks and treated myself to an iced coffee with extra milk and at the last second ordered a second one. I glanced at the condensation running down the side of the extra cup and wondered if I claim they were both for me. I felt like a grade school kid bringing an apple to the teacher. Or a kiss ass. And this wasn’t how these things worked. I was supposed to be the badass here. The maestro with a calculator who could make or break his client’s yearly visit with the IRS. But I morphed into a tongue-tied adolescent whenever Lars walked into a room.

Shit. The coffee was a bad idea. I’d have to drink them both.

I reached for the plastic cup just as the door opened. The condensation and my slick palms were a dicey combination. I fumbled the drink, catching it just before it slipped from my hand and splattered over the table and me.

“Good morning, Jeff. How are you to—”

“Here.” I stood abruptly and shoved the cup at Lars. “This is for you.”

I sat down and bent my head, flipping through the browser on my laptop. I had no idea what I was looking at but it was better than making moon eyes at my client. I waited for him to join me but when a few seconds passed, I bravely craned my neck up to see what was keeping him.

Lars raised the iced coffee and shot a glorious grin at me. His eyes twinkled with his usual humor but there was something more than a simple gesture of gratitude. I had no idea what it might be though. Indigestion?

“You brought me a Frappucino?” He pulled out the black leather chair and sat beside me.

“Um…no. It’s an iced coffee. Frappuncinos scare me. Too many choices, too many ingredients. I saw you drinking one of these the other day so I thought you might want one. It’s okay if you don’t. I’ll drink it. Oh and—” I stood again and dug into my pockets then tossed ten sugar packets at him. “—here’s some sugar too. You might need to sweeten it up. The extra five shots might have been overkill.”

“Five shots?” he asked incredulously.

“Too much, huh? I tried to call Josh to see what he usually gets, but he didn’t pick up so I copied the girl ahead of me in line. That might have been a mistake. Like I said—”

“It’s perfect. Thank you,” he said softly as he unwrapped the straw and poked it through the top. His smile twitched in a reflexive wince when he took his first sip.

I pushed the sugar toward him. “Trust me. This helps. I used five. One for each shot. Tomorrow I’m ordering my plain ol’ coffee. I don’t know how you drink this stuff.”

Lars let out a hearty laugh. “I like plain ol’ coffee too. My ex used to buy that hazelnut crap. It smells fantastic but it tastes like dirt in my opinion. Charlie thought I was being difficult. Difference of opinion, I ‘spose.”

I smiled, unsure how to respond. More coffee talk? No, I should turn his focus to the problem I’d found in his books last night. I bit my bottom lip and glanced at my computer screen before asking, “So you’re divorced too?”

“No. Never married. No kids either but you probably know all that from my bio,” he said with a chuckle.

“I rarely read bios. Your personal life isn’t my business, just your numbers and— I guess I shouldn’t have asked if you were divorced. That was out of line. I apologize.”

Lars scoffed. “Don’t be silly. In fact, I’m sorry there hasn’t been more time to chat. I’ve been swamped with my new project. They always need me onsite in the beginning.”

“So you’re not allergic to the visiting accountant?”

We’d held short meetings that lasted approximately thirty minutes every morning over the past two weeks, but these sessions were abbreviated and often interrupted. No wonder I still felt a little jumpy around him.

He chuckled merrily. “Not at all. Let’s sit back for a few minutes and enjoy our very strong iced coffees with a little get-to-know-you conversation before we dive back into those numbers you love so much.”

I melted under his warm smile. God, he was handsome. Not traditionally maybe but wow, he did something for me. Something he’d no doubt prefer I kept to myself. I clandestinely adjusted myself and nodded.

“Okay. Um…so you’re single?” I asked.

Oh boy. Well, at least he’d know right away why I was, I thought ruefully.

“I am. Charlie and I split up a year ago after ten years together. And I’m eternally grateful we didn’t put a ring on it,” he snorted with a half laugh. “That man took me to the cleaners as it was,” he groused as he uncapped his cup and emptied at least five sugar into his drink before stirring it with gusto.

I kept my gaze on his precise movement but my head was spinning. Man? Sure, Charlie was a man’s name but I knew a Charlene who went by Charlie too and— Lars was gay? I narrowed my eyes and leaned in slightly to observe him because frankly, I wasn’t sure I’d heard correctly. I assumed he was straight. His masculine voice, rugged looks and commanding presence reminded me of an old time cowboy. And the decades I’d spent in my own closet made me think guys like Lars were always straight.

“You’re gay?” I squeaked before I could stop myself.

“I am. Out and proud for about twenty-five years. You?” He inclined his head and smiled.

The kindness in the simple tilt of his mouth was my undoing. That had to be why I didn’t change the subject. I’d only spoken about this once before and it hadn’t gone well. Actually, it ruined my life. Confiding in a veritable stranger, a client no less, was unwise… and just plain stupid. But there was something about Lars. I didn’t understand it but I was drawn to him. I wanted to know more about him than what a few spreadsheets could tell me.

I swallowed hard then cleared my throat as I weighed which version of the truth to tell. See? This was why I liked numbers.

Part 2-

“I’m gay too. But I’m not—” I pursed my lips and furrowed my brow before twisting to face my computer. “We should get going. In my estimation, we have approximately five days worth of work to get through. I unearthed a problem with one of the accounts last night that—”

Lars leaned across the table and grasped my wrist. “Hey. It’s okay. I promise.”

I nodded. “Thanks. I know but…it’s not easy. At least not for me.”

“Hmm.” He moved his hand to cover mine but his gaze didn’t waver. “Does your family know?”

“My ex-wife does but not our children. They’re not exactly kids now but…” I shrugged, unsure how to continue.
“How old are they?”

“My daughters, Jen and Janie are thirty-six and thirty-four and my son, Josh will be thirty-two next month. The girls are married with babies of their own and…I’m old.” That last line sounded painfully pathetic. I grimaced and tried to lighten the awkward mood I’d created with a self-deprecating laugh.

Lars didn’t join in. He squeezed my hand then sat back and folded his arms over his broad chest. “And I was about to say you must have started rather early. You’re not thatold, Crypt Keeper.”

“I’m fifty-seven. You?”

“Fifty-two,” he replied quickly before cocking his head thoughtfully. “Now you’re the accountant here, so correct me if my math is off, but were you really a dad at twenty-one?”

“Yep. Kate got pregnant unexpectedly…or maybe not, and Jen was—”

“She tricked you?”

I rolled my eyes. “I had a relatively decent grasp of biology even back then so I wouldn’t say she tricked me. But yes, I was surprised. Or scared shitless. Take your pick, both work.”

“So you married her and played the family man,” he said. “How long did it last?”

“Twenty-five years.”

Lars widened his eyes comically. “Damn boy. That’s a lifetime!”

I snickered at his expression. “A quarter of a century to be exact.”

“You must have loved her,” he stated matter-of-factly.

“I did and I still do, but—” I pursed my lips before I blurted anything too personal. This wasn’t the time or place for heart-to-heart conversations involving a woman I adored or any of the fucked up crap I’d put her through and vice versa. “Let’s just say, things changed when Josh left for school and— we should get to work.”

I glanced at the screen and tried to make sense of the blurry numbers. They taunted me as I tripped over lies of omission, skirting the truth with an alternative version aimed to keep the peace. I wasn’t sure whose peace I was protecting anymore. I only knew it wasn’t mine.

Lars nudged my chair with his foot. It scooted sideways, turning me toward him so his foot brushed the inside of my thigh. My nostrils flared at the contact. He backed off immediately but it was too late. I was already a tightly wound, hyper-aware mess and he was driving me wild. I bet he didn’t even realize it.

“We aren’t done talking though,” he said with a lopsided grin. “You didn’t ask me any questions. We can’t leave this get-to-know-you session one-sided, now can we?”

I barked a quick laugh as I swiveled to face him again, utterly charmed. “That certainly wouldn’t be right. However, we have to discuss—”

“Have dinner with me.” His sudden intensity threw me off stride.

I frowned and hesitated for a moment before replying. “I’m working for you. That would be highly unprofessional. Unless— oh shoot. You weren’t asking me out, were you? So yeah. Of course, we can go over numbers at dinner. Sure. Why not?”

Lars shook his head. “No numbers, Jeff. You had it right the first time. I’m asking you out. On a date.”

“A date,” I repeated carefully. “I can’t. I want to but…we have unfinished business here.” I gestured at my laptop and the files spread out on the glass table.

Lars let out a defeated sigh. “How many more days will this take?”

“Five. Give or take. I think we can wrap it up by Friday.” I bit my lower lip and nodded decisively before adding, “I’m free Saturday night.”

He smiled in response and then angled his head. “Sounds like we have a date.”

I couldn’t keep the goofy grin off my mug if I tried. A date. Me. With Lars. That was… wow. Just wow.

The following few days went by in a blur. I worked long hours to ensure the project would be completed by the end of the week. The bulk of that time was spent with the new CFO Lars hired but we still held a daily briefing. Just the two of us. We’d share a cup of plain ol’ coffee and chat about anything from current events to our favorite bands from the 80s.

“I was a wannabe punk,” Lars told me Friday morning. “Billy Idol was my hero. I loved the bad boy sneer and those leather pants. I owned a couple of pairs myself back in the day. Believe it or not, I was skinny as a rail once upon a time. I couldn’t fit my right calf into those things now.”

I chuckled when he patted his belly and silently commended my restraint because I wanted nothing more than to unbutton his shirt and run my hand over his stomach. I wondered if he was hairy all over. Like a real bear. I shocked myself sometimes. I had no idea I had a type. A robust, muscular daddy type no less.

A vision of a leather man sucking on a fat cigar popped in my head. I remembered walking through the Castro with Josh recently and feeling lightheaded at the sight of two burly men holding hands. My poor son probably thought I was uncomfortable with the public display but that was nowhere close to the truth. I was mesmerized. I wanted to follow them home, hide in the shadows and watch those strangers undress each other and—

“What about chaps?” I asked out of the blue.

Lars raised his thick brow and smirked. “What about ’em?”

“Do you have any?”

“I did. I might still have them somewhere in the back of my closet.”

I gulped. “Oh my—What were you into? You came of age during the AIDS crises in San Francisco, for Christ sake. You must have seen things, done things and—what was it like?”

“That’s a wide variety of topics, Jeff,” he huffed in amusement.

“Yeah, sorry. I just… I missed so much. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t change where I’ve been. I love my family and I can’t imagine a life without them. In fact, the thought makes me nauseous. But I’m so curious. I’ve always wondered what it was like. I went from feeling jealous as hell of those gorgeous young men having raunchy sex whenever and wherever to feeling scared as hell for them when HIV came into the picture. But I was a sideline observer. A husband and father, living in suburbia. I wished I could help but I didn’t know how to without giving myself away.” I winced as I reached for my coffee cup. “That didn’t sound good. I’m sorry.”

“You apologize for some weird shit, Sheehan,” he chided. “Curiosity is what makes the world go round. Don’t stop asking questions. Ever.”

“True. But I’m not sure if I have a place in your world.”

“My gay world, you mean?”

“Yeah. I’m a fraud. A pretender. I’m not who I claim to be and… I should shut up. I’m sorry.”

“You did it again,” he singsonged. “Listen, the past is by definition over and gone. You said you aren’t sorry about the choices you made. Good. Own that. You’re a gay man who’s dipping his toes into the rainbow pool for the first time. I don’t believe there’s an age limit for that. You’re a good man, Jeff and you’ve lead a good life.”

“But not an honest one.”

Lars considered me for a moment before responding. “It’s never to late for a new start.”

His simple statement might have brought me to my knees if I wasn’t already sitting. Those words spoken in that patient, kind tone brought tears to my eyes. Literally. I grasped his hand without thinking and laced my fingers through his.
“Thank you,” I whispered.

Lars brought our joined hands to his lips and placed a kiss on my knuckles. “You’re welcome.”

I wiped at the corner of my eye with my free hand and chuckled at myself. “You must think I’m a loon. You sure you still want that date tomorrow night.”

Lars leaned in, so close I could smell his cologne and see the golden flecks in his blue eyes.

“Very sure.”

As strange as it seems, I felt his voice. His low tone moved through me, creating a very real connection between us. I hardly knew Lars but I had a feeling he was extraordinary. Maybe even the kind of man who might change my life.

“I’ll have the dinner salad, please. Balsamic vinaigrette on the side. Thank you.” I handed the plastic menu to the waitress with a smile before glancing across the table at my dear friend, who also happened to be my ex-wife.

Kate gave me a funny look before placing her order. She twirled the straw in her iced tea languidly and waited until we were alone in our favorite booth at the local diner we’d frequented since our children were small. This was our spot. A tired greasy spoon with sticky table tops that served the best damned chicken wings in San Leandro. We all thought so. I had fond memories of corralling three active kids covered in sauce as they jumped around like popcorn on a hot skillet.

I looked across the restaurant at the young family sitting in our old booth. A mom, dad, a baby in a high chair and two little ones stuffing their cherubic cheeks with French fries and chicken nuggets. Everything was just beginning for them, I mused. The nostalgic ache wasn’t new to me but I wouldn’t let it pull me under today. No chance.

“That used to be us,” I said with a laugh, hooking my thumb meaningfully toward the family.

Kate shot a cursory glance at them before sipping her tea. She pushed her glass aside then and tapped her nails on the table. “What’s up with you?”

I frowned and shook my head, but I couldn’t keep the shit-eating grin from taking over my face. Unbelievably, I didn’t mega-vomit my news immediately. I pursed my lips and shrugged nonchalantly.

“Nothing. Why?”

“You ordered a salad. You never order a salad.”

“Sure I do,” I insisted.

“Not by itself. You order the Blitz burger with cheddar cheese, hold the pickle, Thousand Island dressing on the side, a basket of fries with extra ketchup. And if you’re feeling a little guilty about the impressive amount of calories you’re about to consume, you order a salad. And you tell the waitress to make sure it’s a very small portion because you don’t want to waste any food.” She narrowed her gaze thoughtfully and gave me her signature quirky smile. The same one I fell in love with fifty years ago.

“You know me well.” I chuckled.

Kate and I had been divorced for eleven years but we were best friends. Or at least… very good friends who still cared about each other. I adored her. She was a devoted mother and grandmother, a fierce advocate for education and the arts and the only woman I’d ever thought I could be happy with. She was tall and lean with long brown hair streaked with gray. She draped her thick mane over her pink cardigan then pushed it over her shoulder in a maneuver that reminded me of the teenager I once knew or one of our daughters.

“I do, so spit it out. Why are you on a hunger strike?”

I squeezed her hand affectionately then took a deep breath. “I’m going on a date tonight.”

Kate smiled. “Good for you. Anyone I know?”

“No.” I let go of her hand and sat back against the faux leather.

I’d weighed the wisdom of telling her everything before asking her out for lunch. Our history was so complex and interwoven as evidenced by the fact she knew my usual burger order to a tee. She knew other things too. Things she didn’t like to talk about. Those lies of omission had been the cornerstone of our marriage. However, they had no place in our friendship. I went over the lines I’d rehearsed earlier one more time, wincing when she kicked me under the table.

“Out with it, Sheehan. Who is it?”

Not she or he… it. Funny pronoun avoidance, I thought as I squirmed on my squeaky seat.

“His name is Lars. I’m going out with a man. On a date,” I blurted.

Blood drained from her face suddenly, leaving her with a ghostly pallor and a sick expression. Okay. Not the reaction I expected. Or maybe it was and I’d willfully hoped she’d respond with a high five and a “that-a-boy”. No such luck.

“Kate?” This time when I reached for her hand, she pulled away and looked out the window.

I followed her lead, fixating on a beat-up minivan with a plush pair of dice hanging from the rearview mirror. My brain was buzzing with a million thoughts at once. The dice are tacky and I sort of like them. The van looks like the one our neighbors used to have. And I wonder what kind of car Lars drives.What I didn’t want to think about was hurting Kate. It was unbearable. The worst part was that I seemed to do it all the fucking time.

I glanced up when she let out a ragged rush of air. “First date?”

I inclined my head, loving her all over again for trying. “Yeah. It’s no big deal but—”

“Bullshit,” she said without heat. “It must be a big deal. You’ve never told me about your previous dates before.”

“I’ve never been on a real date before.”

“Are you telling me you haven’t had sex in the ten years we’ve been divorced?” she huffed humorlessly.

“First of all, we’ve been divorced for almost twelve years and secondly… do you really want to know about my sex life?”

She held eye contact for a moment then shook her head. “Yes and no. I want to know that you haven’t been with another woman. If you have, please lie to me.”

“Katie girl, you’re the only one. You know that.” I waited for her to nod in agreement but when a tear streaked down her cheek, I motioned for her to join me on my side of the table.
She snorted a laugh and shook her head. “No, I’m not doing that, you goofball. I’m fine. I’m—”

“Don’t make me start counting,” I warned in my best “Dad” voice. It was an old joke. I was a softy and everyone in my family knew it. I wasn’t a complete pushover when it came to discipline, however the “counting” trick never worked. But it still made my kids and my best friend laugh so I never missed an opportunity to bring it out.

Kate chuckled in earnest when I raised my forefinger and then my middle finger. I glowered playfully before flashing the third digit and then wordlessly patting the vacant spot beside me. She rolled her eyes but obeyed me with put-upon sigh. She scooted beside me then rested her head on my shoulder.

“I’m sorry, Jeff. I hate myself sometimes. And I wish…”

“What do you wish?” I prodded, pressing a kiss to her brow.

“I wish I had a dick.”

I busted up laughing and pushed her slightly until she sat up and turned to me with a wink.

“What? It’s true. Okay fine. It’s not one hundred percent true. I’d miss my tits and I barely know what to do with a penis as it is. I definitely wouldn’t want one attached to me twenty-four seven.” She nudged my arm when I guffawed and then laid her head against me again. “But I wish I could have given you what you needed.”

“Don’t do that, Kate. It’s been a long time. We tried but—”

“But it was never going to work and that’s a hard pill to swallow. Even after all these years, it still… hurts. I love you, Jeff. Maybe if you were a real asshole this would all be easier but you’re too fucking good. You’re a great man, an amazing dad and the best buddy I ever had. You deserve to be happy.”

“Thank you, but the same goes for you.”

“This Lars fucker better make you happy,” she grumbled.

“Ha! This is our first date. Don’t get excited. He didn’t propose.”

“Mmm. But this is the first time you’ve told me about a date. You’ve mentioned “seeing someone” which I understood as code for “sex hook-up” but you always tend to look jumpy and unhappy. This is different. Why?”

I pondered the question for a moment. “Because he seems like he might get me… just the way I am.”

“Does he make your heart race?” she asked with a smile.

“Like crazy,” I admitted.

“Good. I might like him after all. Are you, um… are you going to say anything to the kids?”

“I wasn’t planning on it. Why?”

“No reason. But if things get serious… I think you should tell Josh first. In fact, let’s make it a code. You don’t have to tell me anything more about Lars unless you want to, but if you think he’s the “one”, don’t tell me. I mean, don’t use those words. Just say… “I have something to tell Josh” and I’ll understand. No discussion necessary. Is that okay?”

I studied the lines at her eyes and the freckle above her lip. No one did passive aggressive quite like Kate. I wasn’t sure it was “okay” but this was how she communicated. Signals and codes. And when the signals went haywire and the codes made no sense, she baked.

“Okay. Only if you promise not to make ten dozen cookies,” I replied.

“What about brownies or lemon bars?”

“Nope. They’re out too. Deal?” I twisted to face her and offered my hand.

“Deal.”

We shook hands like old buddies then hugged. It was a heartfelt sort of connection that acknowledged no matter what happened, we’d always be there for each other. We’d made a series of life-altering decisions many years ago. Some good, some bad. But we’d come out in tact, even though our marriage hadn’t.

I sniffed her hair and held her tightly. Love came in many forms. When I was younger, I didn’t understand how I could love her but not want her. That hadn’t changed but for the first time, I wasn’t confused or confounded, I was just grateful for her friendship and the gift of a second chance with someone new.

Part 3-

Lars offered to pick me up Saturday night and take me to a steak house he’d heard great things about in Oakland. But it seemed silly for him to make the trek when I could easily take BART into the city. No doubt he read between the lines and caught on that I needed a little distance between home and my first real date with a man. To his credit, he didn’t hesitate to suggest another venue at his favorite Italian restaurant in North Beach.

I avoided checking out my reflection in the grimy train window as it barreled toward San Francisco. I did the best I could with what I had to work with. Khaki pants, a light blue oxford shirt and a navy sport coat. I looked like I was going on a job interview. I should have asked Kate for a wardrobe suggestion, but I hadn’t wanted to push my luck. It was enough that I had her support. Besides, I knew she’d just tell me to wear blue to match my eyes.

I had to laugh at the sentiment. Did guys even notice that kind of thing about other men? Well… I supposed I did. Lars had beautiful eyes. I couldn’t remember if they matched his clothing but I loved the way they twinkled. He had the most expressive face. So full of humor, intellect and kindness. I’d learned a lot by observing him in his work environment and noting how he interacted with his employees.

He was patient but firm. Understanding but determined. He wasn’t quick to anger or frustration but when something rubbed him the wrong way, he didn’t hesitate to voice his opinion. Vehemently. My cock twitched at the memory of the one-sided conversation I’d overheard yesterday. He’d paced his office with his phone glued to his ear as he gave one of his suppliers a strongly worded message about the unacceptable crap they’d delivered to his jobsite. He ended the call demanding they get their shit together in a stern tone that made me dizzy with desire. How sick was that? I was a mess. A horny one too. I had no idea how I’d make it through an entire dinner without numbers to keep me focused.

It started out pretty well. I knocked over my water and sent my silverware clattering onto the tile floor within five minutes of sitting across from my debonair date. Since the water miraculously didn’t splash either of us and the glass didn’t shatter, I called it a win. And when Lars set his hand over mine after the waiter left us with a promise to return with a refill and the dinner menus, I thought my clumsiness might have been an accidental stroke of genius. I glanced down at our joined hands and cast a clandestine look from side to side before looking into his eyes.

“Relax, Jeff. No one here knows you’re gay.”

“You’re holding my hand. That’s kinda gay,” I deadpanned. When he tried to pull away, I squeezed his fingers. “Don’t. I like it. I’ve never held a man’s hand before.”

Oh fuck. Why did I admit that? He probably guessed it, but still… I sounded like such a dork. I wracked my brain for a sophisticated conversation starter to counteract my lame admission but I came up blank.

He raised his brow then released my hand when the waiter returned with another water and the menus.

Lars ordered a bottle of Cabernet and an appetizer without opening the leather bound then requested some time for us to look over the dinner selections. I admired the way he seamlessly adjusted his tone with the waiter when he spoke. He was respectful and confident. There was no part of him that apologized for being caught with his paws on another man. I wondered how long it would take until I felt as self-assured.

I opened the menu and perused the impressive array of pasta dishes distractedly, knowing I’d stick with spaghetti. It was safe and best of all, I could pronounce it without making a fool of myself. I snapped the leather-bound book shut and pushed it aside.

“What are you going to order?” I asked politely.

“I haven’t decided. Have you?”

“Spaghetti.”

Lars raised his brow. “A Bolognese or the seafood special with mussels and scallops?”

I made a “yuck” face and grinned when Lars chuckled at my childish response. “Do you think they have plain meatballs?”

“It never hurts to ask, but if they aren’t on the menu, I highly recommend the Bolognese. You won’t be disappointed. If you like meat, that is.”

“I love meat.” My voice sounded breathy. Like I was attempting seduction via an ode to beef.

“Do you now?” Lars’ eyes twinkled mischievously.

“I didn’t mean—actually, I do but I—” I almost wept with relief when the waiter returned with a bottle of wine. I counted on the uncorking and pouring ritual to bide me some time to get my game face back and my mind out of the gutter.

Lars waited for the server to leave us then lifted his glass in a toast. “To new beginnings.”

“I’ll drink to that.” I smiled then tapped my glass against his and took a sip. Then I waited a beat and blurted. “I told my ex-wife I was meeting you tonight.”

“Oh?”

I winced. “That sounded weird, didn’t it? I’m on a roll though. So far I’ve knocked over water, told you I’ve never held hands with a man, and that my ex knows my whereabouts. You’ve probably already guessed that I can’t translate half of this menu so if they don’t actually have spaghetti, just order me something like it but no shellfish. It’s not my thing. And if my candor makes you question my sanity, I won’t be offended if you’d rather cut this short. Because yes, I’m nervous as hell and I don’t know why. I like you. Okay. I’ll shut up now.”

I sat back in my chair, pursed my lips and willed myself to stop talking. It would be nice if Lars said something though. I cocked my head and motioned for him to fill the silence before I did.

“You’re the craziest accountant I’ve ever met,” he said in a serious tone he ruined a moment later with a wink. “And for the record, I like you too. A lot.”

I smiled, loving his breezy tone and friendly nature. “Thanks. I’m just terribly out of practice.”

“In a way, I am too. I don’t go out much. Work is busy and it’s hard to find time to connect with people you actually want to be with. You’re a breath of fresh air and I can assure you I’ve never said that to anyone who’s audited my books before.” He snickered merrily then reached for his wineglass.

“Hmm. Well, you have the advantage of at least being out. I’m an old guy learning new tricks,” I huffed.

“There’s no advantage here. It’s just about accepting yourself so others can learn to do the same.”

“Oh that sounds real easy,” I snarked. “I just told you I’ve never held hands with a man. How do I get to home plate when I’m too afraid to hit the damn ball?”

Lars’ forehead creased in obvious confusion. “So you’ve never been with a man at all?”

“Huh? Oh no. I’ve done it all. Hand jobs, blowjobs—”

“You may want to lower your voice, Cassanova,” he admonished with a smirk.

“Sorry.” I took a big gulp of wine to fortify a renewed bout of butterflies.

Lars reached for my free hand and linked our fingers again. “I don’t mind. In fact, I’m extraordinarily curious about you. But let’s keep it between us. The women at the table to our left look mighty nosy. Don’t look. Just talk.”

“About what? Blow jobs?” I whispered.

He barked a quick laugh and nodded. “Sure but start at the beginning. Why did you come out to your wife?”

“Because our son did.”

“Excuse me?”

“Josh came out to us when he was twenty. I’ll never forget it. He’s our youngest. I think I’ve mentioned that. Jen, Janie then Josh. They’re all amazing people. My daughters are beautiful and brilliant and Josh… He’s the coolest damn guy you’ll ever meet. And the brightest, best man I know. He’s funny but kind and he just lights up a room the moment he walks in.”

“He sounds like his dad,” Lars said gently.

“Thank you. That’s a nicer compliment than you realize. Josh is a happy person. Nothing riles him or gets him down for long. But coming out… that was hard. He showed up at the house looking like a frightened rabbit and scared the hell out of us. He literally stood in the living room shaking. He wouldn’t look at his mom or me. I can’t tell you how many times I said, “Joshy, it’s me. Dad. Buddy, you can tell me anything.” He wouldn’t speak. So I started guessing. I threw out wild things to make him crack a smile. “You joined the circus and they signed you up for the high trapeze.” That kind of thing. He started to laugh and then…”

I looked away when the memory overwhelmed me. Tears blurred my vision and my head ached with the effort to keep my emotions under control. Lars squeezed my hand, pulling me back to the surface before I lost myself in a wave of regret.

“It’s okay. Go slow. I’m not going anywhere,” he assured me.

I took a deep breath then continued. “He broke down. I hadn’t heard him cry like that since he was a kid and it was… devastating. He’s my boy. My son. To think he was in that kind of pain rattled me to the core. I held him tight and said… what you just said to me. “It’s okay. I’m not going anywhere.” And after a few minutes, he said, “I’m bi.” Can you believe that two tiny words consisting of four measly letters can cause so much pain?”

“Yes. I can.”

“Me too. But at the time, my reaction was just… relief. Holy shit, I thought he was going to tell me he was sick or someone he knew was injured or going through something catastrophic! I never dreamed it was him.” I paused to take a sip of water and pull myself together. “I wished I could tell him then that I knew how he felt but… I’m a coward.”

“You’re not a coward, Jeff,” Lars said kindly.

I scoffed. “You’re right. There are nicer terms for guys like me. I’m a product of my time and my Catholic upbringing. The truth is my parents would have disowned me and I couldn’t bear the thought of losing everything. I take a measure of pride knowing that my son had no such worries. Kate and I love our children unconditionally. Josh’s revelation surprised us but as we both assured him we loved him and supported him, I realized we’d turned a corner. My child would never live in fear. He would never doubt us or question his place in our family or his worth in this world. He would marry the person he loves and he would live an authentic life. That alone felt like a victorious coming out moment.”

“The first of many.”

“Yes. He came out and something inside me shifted. I couldn’t pretend to be the same. But shedding this weight isn’t easy. I’ve known I was gay since I was a teenager. Over forty years. That’s a long time to keep a secret. But no one could know. Ever.”

“So you got yourself a girlfriend and lived the straight life.”

“Yes. I know that sounds bad but… I love Kate and marrying her wasn’t a punishment. She’s a beautiful person, inside and out. She’s actually the one who suggested we “date” to get my dad off my back. He was a bit of a tyrant and when he started drinking, all bets were off. We were best friends and fake high school sweethearts who upped the ante when things got heated at home. Kate got pregnant, we got married and three kids, numerous pets and a house in the suburb later…I’d become someone my dad could relate to.”

“What changed for you then? Why are you here with me now?” he asked gently.

The waiter returned just then to take our orders. If he was displeased with the interruption, he kept it to himself. Lars slipped on a pair of blue reading glasses and peered at me over the rims.

“Do you mind if I order for us?”

“Please do,” I replied, charmed by his gallantry. When he addressed the waiter in Italian, I nearly fell off my chair. Fuck, that was sexy.

He shot an amused look at me when we were alone again. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?”

“Like you just found out I’m the lead singer of a boy band.”

“Are you?” I asked, widening my eyes comically.

Lars chuckled. “Yes, Lars and the Lumberjacks. Have you heard of us?”

I burst into laughter. “No, but that sounds hot as hell. Do you wear plaid shirts and work boots?”

“And nothing else,” he said with a straight face.

I gulped. “Oh. Wow.”

He snickered at my dreamy expression then grabbed my hand and pressed his lips to my knuckles. The gesture came across as impulsive, charming and impossibly romantic.

“I can’t believe I haven’t kissed you yet. I hope you don’t mind my honesty but… I want you.”

I opened my mouth and closed it then pointed at my chest. “Me?”

Lars grinned. “Yeah you. But I can’t do anything about it here so keep talking. Tell me what happened after Josh came out.”

“Uh…okay. Um…nothing. I mean—isn’t it your turn to do some talking for a while?”

“I’ll tell you anything you want to know but I’m fascinated by you and your ex who’s your best friend and your bi son. And I want to know how you came to be sitting here sharing a bottle of wine with me when your path was so different not so long ago.”

“There isn’t much more to say. When Josh came out, I asked Kate for a divorce. If my twenty-year old son had the balls to be himself, I figured I should do the same. She understood but…not really. It was a painful time. Everyone was hurt. Kate was upset, the kids were devastated and I was a bona fide mess. But I couldn’t keep living a lie. So I began living half a lie. And here I am eleven years later… a masterful liar by omission,” I huffed sarcastically.

“Hmm. So you live a secret gay life and public straight one, is that right? I’m not judging. I’m only curious,” he added, holding a hand up in surrender.

I shrugged. “I suppose. At first, it was all about sex for me. I’d never been with a man at all and I was desperate to know what it was like.”

“Never?” he asked incredulously.

“No. Thank God for online dating. My first gay kiss happened when I was forty-six. Can you believe that? I waited thirty years to kiss a man.”

“What about the rest?”

“Oh yeah. I’ve done it all. I had a lot of years to make up for.”

“So you’ve had sex with a man?” he whispered.

“Yes. Many times.”

“Have you been in a relationship?”

I sighed. “Not really. I came close a couple of times but I wasn’t ready to come out to my kids for someone I wasn’t sure was the real thing. That’s horrible to say aloud but it’s true.”

“Do you think you’ll ever come all the way out? For yourself. Not someone else.”

“Yes. I want to. I do.”

“Hmm. Good,” he replied.

“Good? That’s all you have to say? I—I’ve never told anyone all this before. My family comes first. Always. They’re sacred. I’m not sure why you’re different but you are. I trust you.”

“Thank you. I don’t take that lightly and I feel the same, Jeff.” He considered me thoughtfully before adding, “I’m not sure why or how, but I think I know you. Sure, we have a lot to learn about each other. You may snore, steal the covers and leave the cap off the toothpaste—”

“Guilty.”

Lars grinned. “But at this very moment, I’d give my left nut to be the man who knows those things and accepts you as you are.”

Part 4- (NSFW)

We let the conversation drift to neutral topics during dinner. We discussed music, movies and television shows we loved. I laughed when he admitted he’d watched every Diehardmovie because he harbored a secret crush on Bruce Willis. However, when he claimed to be a serious Trekkie, I knew I might be in big trouble. I loved the way his eyes lit up as he launched into a story about how he and his neighbors reenacted scenes from Star Trekwhen they were kids.

“I always insisted on being Captain Kirk. At first, my friends argued with me and said it was only fair to take turns but I held my ground. I couldn’t tell them I had the hots for the captain so I found myself giving oddball compliments like “You’re very perceptive, like Spock” or “You’re good at knowing what’s wrong with someone when they’re sick. You should be McCoy.” My mother overheard me one day and told me I was a natural leader. A perfect captain.” Lars’ smile dimmed slightly. “She never knew the truth either.”

“She didn’t know you’re gay?”

He shook his head solemnly then took a sip of water. “No. She may have suspected but I never told her. She died in a car accident when I was twenty-four. I was devastated. She was a joyful, magnetic woman with a big laugh and an even bigger personality. I went through a dark phase marked by a string of bad choices…drugs, alcohol, loose women and—”

“Women?”

Lars nodded slowly. “Yeah. I was in the closet too. I had a cathartic awakening of sorts when I had my own near death experience.”

My heart hammered in my chest. I pushed my plate aside and leaned across the table. “What happened?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. I woke up naked and alone in a seedy motel room with a dozen empty bottles of booze, a bunch of used condoms and zero memory. It was my rock bottom. I realized the source of my problems wasn’t just a deep depression over my loss. Sure, that was part of it. But the other part was fear. When you’re staring at your naked ugly self in the mirror and you’ve got nowhere to go and no one who gives a shit if you live or die, it gives you perspective. All I could think was “Mom would be pissed as hell if I died like this”. I had to turn my life around. Step number one… it was time to tell the truth.

“I came out to my brother who hasn’t spoken to me since and my sister who I see once a month for dinner. I lost friends and family but I gained so much more by living my truth. I started thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up and my mother’s words about me always wanting to be in charge popped in my head and I knew I had to be my own boss. GDC wasn’t built overnight by any means. But you’ve seen our books and—”

“They’re impressive,” I admitted, sounding like the geeky accountant I was. “Your firm is doing very well.”

“I’ve worked my ass off to make my dream a reality. But it never would have happened if I hadn’t gone through a hell and back. In fact, I might not be sitting here with you now.”
“That would be terrible.”

“Well, I’m here. I survived and so did you,” he said in a deep timbre that reverberated through my chest.

I squeezed his hand, hoping to convey my distress at the idea. Perhaps my reaction was over-the-top, but the thought of not knowing Lars crushed me. We’d already lived decades never knowing the other existed. So many years just… gone. I didn’t regret my years with Kate and I was immeasurably grateful for my children. But no one lived forever and I had a niggling feeling it was very important that I know this man. Every part of him.

“We can do better than that.”

Lars cocked his head. “What do you suggest?”

I licked my dry lips and shot a cursory glance at the table closest to ours to be sure my clumsy speech wasn’t overheard. “This is extremely unusual of me. I’m an accountant for a reason. I’m a slow moving, methodical planner. I look before I leap and I weigh every possible outcome before I proceed. But I’ve never felt this way about anyone before and I can’t let this moment pass without telling you how I feel.”

“How do you feel?”

“Horny,” I blurted. I waited for his laughter to subside before I continued. “But I feel a lot of other things too. Butterflies, nausea and a little indigestion.”

“So I make you sick?” His eyes sparked with humor.

“No.” I chuckled. “You make me feel alive. Scared and unsure, yes… but hopeful too. I’ve lost so much time and I’m leery of letting any more slip away without taking a chance or two. We haven’t even kissed and for all I know, we might be terrible at it but, Jesus Lars, I really want to try.”

He held my gaze then stood and moved to my side of the table with his hand outstretched. “Stand up.”

I hesitated for a second before obeying. We were in a crowded restaurant on a Saturday night. Our table was tucked against a wall on one side but we were in close proximity to our neighbors. So close I could see the lipstick stain on the rim of a wineglass and smell the seafood they’d ordered. I cleared my throat and tried to think of a joke to relieve the growing tension. But I couldn’t think of anything to rhyme with shrimp besides pimp and somehow that didn’t work. I focused on Lars instead.

“What are we doing?” I whispered nervously.

He didn’t answer. He just smiled then stroked my cheek sweetly, cupped the back of my neck and sealed his mouth over mine.

If I lived to be a hundred, I’d never forget that moment. Frank Sinatra singing “The Way You Look Tonight”, the sigh of approval from the women seated next to us, and the hum of conversation intermixed with the clatter of silverware nearby. But more importantly, I knew I’d always remember that kiss. His soft lips, the scratch of his beard and the way he cradled my head as he deepened the kiss in a gentle but insistent connection that hinted at a promise of so much more.

I swayed drunkenly when he pulled back to gage my reaction. Maybe I wasdrunk. Intoxicated with lust, need and the notion I was free to act on my desire. To be my true self with someone who wanted me as much as I wanted him.

“Come home with me, Jeff.”

I nodded profusely then leaned in to press another kiss on his lips. “Yes.”

Twenty minutes later, our driver pulled up in front of a well-kept home on a quiet street in the Castro. I noted the wide bay window above the single car garage and the spherical topiaries flanking the front door. The exterior was charming but unassuming. In other words, the opposite of the cutting-edge modern homes and businesses his company constructed. The interior was the same. Lovely albeit very traditional. There were high ceilings, sleek hardwood flooring and the walls were predominately white or in subtle jewel tones. Striped pillows were strewn across the light colored sofa and the chairs in front of the fireplace in the living area. It was a homey, inviting space, but definitely not what I expected.

I gave him a wobbly smile as I held my arms open. “Your home is nice but I pictured you living in a space ship for some reason. Like Captain Kirk.”

Lars chuckled at my lame attempt at humor. “I love creating contemporary homes for other people but I never really wanted to live in the Starship Enterprise. That was just pretend. The truth is, I’m a bit of a traditionalist in my private life. Don’t tell on me.”

“Your secret is safe with me.” My voice had a raspy quality I didn’t recognize. I cleared my throat to add something light but the words wouldn’t come. I was overwhelmed again.

“Would you care for something to drink?” he asked politely.

“No, thanks,” I replied as I reached for his hand.

Lars stared at our joined hands then at me with a heated look that went straight to my dick. “What do you want, Jeff?”

“You. Does that sound bad? Am I going too fast? This isn’t like me but—”

“Shh. Come this way.”

He led the way down a narrow hallway to a staircase. Moonlight flooded the space from the skylights above, casting a romantic glow over the space. I followed him wordlessly through the first doorway off the landing into the master suite. He let go of my hand then flipped a switch, illuminating the room in a soft light. I gave the room a cursory once-over.

His bedroom had the same traditional feel as the rest of the house. The dark wood headboard and side tables offset the white wainscoting and the pale blue linen duvet neatly folded at the end of the bed. Two comfy looking chairs faced a built-in bookshelf with a flat screen television above the fireplace. And another bay window covered with striped roman blinds anchored the far wall. Photographs of the city hung on either side. I crossed the room to examine the one of the Golden Gate Bridge before turning to Lars with a smile.

“This is nice. If I lived here, I’d put a coffee maker on the bookshelf and pop a mini fridge in one of the cabinets so I’d never have to leave.”

“Until it was time to get more coffee,” he said.

“Nah. That’s what delivery service is for.”

“True.” Lars snickered, moving to my side. “Do you like photography?”

“Yes. I hope you don’t mind but… I imagined you living in a steel and glass monstrosity with museum quality art in the living room and nasty photography in your private suite.”

“Nasty, eh?”

“Well. Not the Golden Gate Bridge anyway. I thought you might have something a little less…tame.”

“Mmm. Like what?” he asked, setting his hand on my hip.

I shrugged with faux nonchalance, aware that every nerve in my body buzzing like mad. My mouth was dry but my palms felt clammy. I was unraveling at a rapid clip. I had to get myself under control quickly or risk coming in my khakis like a teenager. Unfortunately, I was a live wire, liable to say something stupid at any given moment. Like…

“I don’t know. Bare-chested leather daddies carrying whips and smoking cigars. Something like that.”

This time, Lars threw his head back and guffawed. It was such a joyful sound, I couldn’t help joining in, even if the laugh was on me.

“I can’t decide if you have an active imagination or a dirty mind,” he said, raising his brow.

“Both.”

“So you’re into leather, eh?” The look in his eye turned somewhat lecherous when he hooked his fingers in my belt loop and tugged me closer.

“No. Not really. The idea of it is sexy. But honestly, I like this better. I’ve never been more turned on in my life than I am right this second. If you put on those chaps you were telling me about, I think I’d pass out for sure.”

“Then we’ll try that another time,” Lars said in a husky tone as he ran his fingers through my hair.

I snaked my arms around his thick waist and molded myself against him, grinding my pelvis against his suggestively. He growled then covered my mouth in a fierce kiss as he pushed my sport coat off my shoulders. Then he licked the seam of my lips and slid his tongue inside.

He tasted like wine. Decadent and intoxicating. And fuck, he knew how to kiss. He glided his tongue alongside mine, twisting, and then sucking with a fervor that had me gasping for air. The feel of his beard against my smooth-shaven face drove me wild. I made quick work of the first few buttons of his oxford shirt, desperate for skin. He did the same for me, yanking the fabric from my pants then pausing with his fingers resting on my belt buckle.

“What are you waiting for?” I asked breathlessly.

“You. Are you sure you want this?”

“Hell yes.” I rubbed my palm over his hard-on then reached for his hand and brought it to my crotch. “I want everything.”

“Whips and boots and—”

“No. Just you. I want you to fuck me.”

His nostrils flared in appreciation. He kissed me once more then smacked my ass and stepped toward the bed. “Take your clothes off and lie down. I want to look at you.”

“What about you?”

“I’ll be right here. Go on.”

I kept my eyes locked on his as I hurried to obey. I should have felt a smidge awkward considering I’d been his accountant until yesterday. The second that thought materialized my brain conjured an office sex scene with me bent over the conference table while Lars drove into me from behind. I kicked off my shoes then shed my shirt, khakis and then finally slipped my thumbs under the elastic of my briefs and freed my rigid cock. I grabbed myself at the base and gave him a searching look.

“I need to see you too. Please.”

“You will. Lie down.”

I pulled back the sheets and laid flat on my back, propping my arms under my head. Lars crooked his lips in a devilish grin as he threaded his belt from the buckle and slowly unzipped his trousers. I wasn’t sure if he was purposely staging a striptease but every bit of skin he revealed made me tremble with need. I loved his body. I loved the thatch of gray hair covering his barrel chest, the curve of his belly and his muscular thighs. And my God, that cock was a thing of beauty. He was thick and long and very fucking sexy.

“You’re so beautiful,” I whispered reverently.

Lars widened his eyes comically. “Me? I don’t think so. You’re the pretty one.”

I huffed at the idea. “I’m old and I’m too skinny and you’re—”

“You’re perfect. Now hush and let me look at you.”

He crawled over me, smoothing his palms over my stomach before tweaking my tits. I writhed under his touch and lifted my hips, hoping he’d get the hint without making me beg. He pushed my knees to my chest and caressed the sensitive skin of my upper thigh. Then he finally reached for my cock and gripped me in a tight fist.

“Oh fuck. That feels good,” I said in a strangled-sounding voice.

“I can do better than that.”

He stroked me from base to tip a couple of times then bent to lick my balls. He sucked one into his mouth then the other. I arched my back and swayed my hips, wordlessly requesting more. His beard brushed against the sensitive area under my balls in the best possible way. And when he flattened his tongue and flicked it over my hole, I went a little crazy. I tugged his hair and rolled my hips to give him better access, chanting a litany of “don’t stop” until the pleasure threatened to push me over the edge too soon.

“No. No more. I don’t want to come yet,” I gasped, pushing at his forehead.

Lars licked a path along my dick, stopping to suck the head for a moment. He released me with a pop then bent over my torso to retrieve a bottle of lube and a condom from the nightstand drawer. I hooked my legs around his waist and sucked his left nipple, loving his low groan of approval. I did the same to the other then pushed at his chest until he got the hint and rolled onto his back.

I didn’t waste any time. I crouched between his thighs, gripped his thick cock and swallowed him whole. Lars roared somewhere above me. The raw carnal noise did something to me. I was so fucking needy. I bobbed my head wantonly, sucking and licking my lover in a frenzy. I wanted everything at once. I reached for my throbbing member and jacked myself as I worked him over. I backed off when I felt a telltale tingle trip along my spine.

“You have to fuck me now. I’m not gonna last and I just—I need you.”

Lars nodded then captured my face between his hands and kissed me hard. I shifted off of him and stared at the ceiling while he rolled a condom on and lubed up. He massaged my entrance gently before slipping a single digit inside. I squeezed my eyes close, willing myself to relax as he slowly slid it in and out. He added a second finger then the tip of a third. And then he pulled away and replaced his fingers with his sheathed cock. I bit my lip and inclined my head.

“I’m ready. Please,” I said.

Lars lowered his forehead to mine and pushed. Inch by inch, he made his way inside me until he was balls deep. He stopped to kiss me or brush the hair from my eyes. The sweetness of the tender touches juxtaposed with the steady rocking of hips was sublime. The momentum built slowly in a subtle give and take. I’d never felt quite so in synch with a lover. We moved as one until he rose above me, gripping the edge of the headboard for purchase then upped the tempo, thrusting into me over and over until I had no choice but to fall apart. I clutched his ass and held him against me. “I’m gonna—”

“That’s it. Come for me, baby,” he commanded.

I did. And he was right there with me.

The silence in the aftermath intimidated me. I never knew the right things to say or who was supposed to be the one holding whom. Even thought the sex wasn’t great, it had been easy with Kate. With men, I was lost. But not tonight. Lars gathered me to his side and held me against his chest. It felt perfectly natural. Like coming home. I shifted my weight to look at him, mortified when tears welled in my eyes.

“Are you all right?” he asked, brushing his thumb over my cheek.

“Yes, I’m—I know this is going to sound crazy but… I think this is a good place to start again. Here. With you.”

Lars laced his fingers through mine and kissed our joined hands. “Yes. It’s never too late, Jeff. Never.”

I closed my eyes as he lifted the duvet to cover us and let myself drift in a funny state of mind where pieces of my past collided with my present. So many years of pent up desires, wants and needs. So much time spent denying who I was and what I needed. I’d had my share of feeling hollow and separate from the people I loved the most. I’d felt shame, sorrow and helplessness. I’d put on a brave face for years. Acted in a play of my own making, powerless to change and unwilling to take the risk either way. But now, I was free. And I was more than ready to lean into a new start with this man by my side.

 

Final Day of the Leaning Into Forever Blog Tour!

There are quite a few stops on this last day of the Leaning Into Forever blog tour. Be sure to stop by to check out an excerpt from Geordie and Levi’s story and register for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Giftcard.Leaning Into Forever-3July 11

Bayou Book Junkie
BFD Book Blog
Bookaliciousbabes blog
Gay Fiction Addiction
Hopelessly Addicted To Romance Book blog
Open Skye Book Reviews
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
Shey’s Book Cave
Wicked Good Reads
Unknown-7 I’ve had quite a few readers ask if Book 7 is the final book in the Leaning Into series. The answer is yes. I know… kinda sad. It’s been almost two years since Eric and Zane introduced their friends in Leaning Into Love short story that started my foray in self-pub. Three short stories and four full-length novels later I must say, I’ve loved delving into the lives my SF boys. I’m going to release a couple of short sport-themed stories before my next big series comes out. It will be a spin-off of Leaning Into so there will most likely be a free short posted here and chance to catch up with all of the SF boys again.
As always, thank you for your support and encouragement and for letting me know how much you’ve enjoyed these books. I truly appreciate my readers.  And audiobooks listeners! Leaning Into Forever should be available on audio by late August (fingers crossed). And maybe just maybe, Leaning Into a Wish will be available on audio in time for the holidays. ❤

Next up…the Out short stories series! Look for the cover reveal for Out in the Deep later this month.

Happy Reading! Lane xo

Better Than Good 5 Year Anniversary! And a Teensy Matt & Aaron Short…

BetterThanGood-Hayes_postcard_front_DSPToday is a special anniversary for me. Five years ago, my very first MM novel, Better Than Good, was published. That may not seem like a long time but in the MM publishing world, it’s eons. LOL. This story, featuring Matt and Aaron, a law school student who finds himself unexpectedly attracted to a fiercely proud beautiful gay man, was the first step in what has turned out to be an amazing journey for me as an author. I didn’t have any huge expectations of the story. It was a way for me to process my own son’s coming out story and perhaps write a love letter of sorts encouraging him to accept himself. But Matt and Aaron opened a while new world for me too though. I’ve met some wonderful people over the past few years online and in person who love these characters and feel personally touched by their story. That is a kind of magic that is humbling and gratifying at the same time. Thank you for your encouragement, readers. You make more of a difference than you’ll ever know. I truly appreciate you.

And to show you my appreciation… here’s a brief short with Matt and Aaron. This takes place six months after their wedding. Happy Reading!  Lane xoUnknown-2Better Than an Average Day by Lane Hayes

A light knock tore my attention from my computer screen. I sat back in my chair and glanced up just as my office door swung open. My secretary peeked her head inside a moment later.

“Hey Matt, Aaron is—” Colleen paused with a laugh then glanced behind her before turning back to me. “Sorry. Your husband is here to see you. Shall I send him in?”

I pushed away from my desk and grinned. “My husband, eh? Sure.”

Aaron walked into the room on cue with his arms open and a bright smile on his beautiful face. I heard the door click shut just as he launched himself at me. He pulled my neck and stood on his toes to adjust to my height then fastened his lips over mine and licked my lips. I took the hint and pushed my tongue inside his mouth. He tasted like mint and he smelled freaking amazing, I mused as I lowered my hands down his back and cupped his ass. Aaron tilted his hips suggestively before pushing out of my arms with a sigh.

“We can’t, Matty. I mean… husband. That never gets old, does it?”

“Nope. How long have we been married? Five years?” I joked.

“Ha. Ha. Six months. You’re not tired of me yet, are you? I hope not. You’re stuck with me for at least another fifty years.”

“At least.” I cradled his chin then kissed him softly and perched on the corner of my desk. “What are you doing here? I thought you had a photo shoot today.”

“I did, but we switched locations and I ended up downtown with ten minutes to spare. So figured I’d come see my favorite person. I called Colleen first to make sure you were in and not too busy and—”

“I’m never too busy for you, baby.”

“Thanks. I also had one teensy thing to show you.” Aaron flashed a megawatt grin at me then pulled his long wool coat off and spun in a circle a few feet from my desk. “How do you like it?”

“Nice,” I said decisively.

“Oh. So that’s a no?”

“I just said I liked it.”

“No, you said ‘nice’. You know how I feel about that word, Matty. It’s an antithesis compliment. Or a lazy one. I happen to be married to a lawyer so I think the proper terminology is ‘it negates truth in a lackadaisical form’.”

“Do I sound like that?” I asked with a laugh.

“No, but seriously… what do you think?” he prodded, spreading his arms.

I gave him a thorough once over, admiring the deep blue-checkered suit coat and his perfectly tailored khaki pants. They were rolled at the hem to show off a pair of shiny loafers. Not a look I could pull off but he looked incredible… as usual.

“You look amazing. What’s new? The coat?”

Aaron nodded. “Yes. The designer offered it to me for a nice price and—”

“You just ‘nice price’,” I intercepted, raising my hand. “That means the opposite, doesn’t it?”

He winced slightly and twitched his nose. “Not great but it’s still a deal for designer duds.”

“Aar.” I fixed him with a blank stare and shook my head ruefully.

He burst into laughter then stepped between my legs and hooked his arms over my shoulders. “I’m kidding. You’re fun to tease, husband. It’s not for sale. I have to give it back. And even if it was, I couldn’t in good conscience drop six grand on a—”

“Six grand? Are you fucking kidding me?” I pulled back slightly and narrowed my gaze.

“Yep. Isn’t that insane?”

“Very insane.” I nipped his chin and smacked his ass playfully. “So you basically came by to torture me, huh?”

Aaron chuckled. “Just a little. Like I said, I was in the neighborhood so why not tease my husband and ask what he wants for dinner. Salmon, chicken or veggie lasagna?”

I yanked his belt loop and nuzzled his neck as I wrapped my arms around his trim waist. “I don’t care. Whatever you want is fine by me. Thank you.”

“For what?”

“Coming by, making me laugh, looking at me like that… I love you, Aar.”

Aaron bit his bottom lip and smiled. “I love you too, Matty.”

Leaning Into Forever Blog Tour & Other News!

Yes! The Leaning Into Forever blog tour has officially begun. Thank you to all the participating blogs for helping me spread the word about Geordie and Levi’s story. There is a $25 Rafflecopter giveaway! Be sure to stop by for a chance to win.LeaningIntoForever-teaser1-900x675Also, Leaning Into Forever is available in paperback now too. As soon as my books arrive, I’ll be giving away a couple of signed copies at Lane’s Lovers (my FB group) so be sure to pop in for updates. And… Nick J. Russo is already working on the audio! Woohoo! With any luck, LIF should be here on audio before the end of the summer. *fingers crossed! In other audio news, Leaning Into the Look is now in audiobook form and Nick did such an amazing job with Grant and Miles! The audio tour for LITL will begin next weekend.LeaningIntotheLook-AUDIOBOOK-promo1200x628So much info! Actually, there’s more too. LOL. I’ll keep this last bit for later in the week, but I’ll give you a hint… 5 year anniversary.  *wink, wink

Hope you’re all having a fabulous summer so far and I hope you’re enjoying Geordie and Levi!summer-readingHappy Reading!  Lane xo

Blog Tour Stops This Week:

July 1
Jenn’s Book Obsession
Mirrigold
OMG Reads
Tangents and Tissues
July 2
Love Unchained Book Reviews
Nerdy Dirty and Flirty
July 3
Padme’s Library
July 5
Urban Smoothie Read
July 6
Love Bytes
July 7
Rockstar Book Muse

Leaning Into Forever is LIVE!

LeaningIntoForever-1400x2100Woohoo! It’s true! Geordie and Levi couldn’t wait another minute. Leaning Into Forever went live a day earlier than expected. Thank you, Amazon! This is Book 7 in my Leaning Into Series set in the Bay Area. This one primarily takes place in California wine country and features our ultra-fabulous friend Geordie who is still in mourning after the loss of his longtime partner. In walks the new man in town. Levi is an ex-jock who’s decided to give the restaurant business a try. Neither man is looking for love or anything close to it, but they can’t deny something special is happening between them.

Leaning Into Forever is a hurt and comfort novel offset with humor and fun. This story was at times a gut-wrenching tale to write. Geordie’s pain is a visceral thing and yet, so is his joyful spirit. I’ve never felt quite as personally invested in a HEA. I write romance for a living so the HEA is a given, however, I knew this one had to be special. Geordie is no ordinary character. From his first appearance in Leaning Into the Fall where Nick meets him lounging on a sofa in Wes’s house, he’s captured my attention and I’d like to think, yours too. His sense of humor is intact but his pain is palpable. Whoever managed to get on the inside with Geordie had to be strong, fun and infinitely patient. And in walks Levi… *sigh

I can’t wait for you to read their story! (Don’t forget your tissues.)

Happy Reading!
Lane xo

3 Days Till Leaning Into Forever is Here!!

Leaning Into Forever-3The wait is almost over! Leaning Into Forever will officially be released Friday, June 29. There’s a strong possibility Geordie and Levi’s story will be out a little earlier. Amazon has a funny way of being unpredictable about these things. Look for as early as Wednesday. I’ll post the Amazon link here as soon as it’s live. Also stay tuned for blog tours and release day/weekend shenanigans! Info is posted immediately at Lane’s Lovers so for up to date info, join me there too.Unknown-7And don’t forget…Leaning Into the Look is now here on audio!! Nick J. Russo did a fabulous job bringing Grant and Miles’s story to life. Check out the sample and purchase link here. Btw, Leaning Into the Look (the book) is now available at all ebook retail outlets (Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, etc). Woohoo!

Back to my WIP!

Happy Summer and Happy Reading (and Listening!), Lane xo

 

Leaning Into the Look Audiobook is LIVE! And the Coming Soon page is updated!

Big news! After a two week delay, Leaning Into the Look is available in audiobook format. Nick J. Russo is back to narrate Grant and Miles’s story and as always, he’s superb! Sample and purchase links are here. There will be an audiobook giveaway at Lane’s Lovers today. Be sure to stop by!LeaningIntotheLook-AUDIOBOOK-promo1200x628In other news, after seven ridiculously long months, I’ve finally updated my Coming Soon page! Check it out for information regarding upcoming releases, audio news, and short story links. As always, if you still have questions, please feel free to contact me!

AND the countdown continues… only 10 more days until Leaning Into Forever is here!! Who’s ready for Geordie and Levi’s story? We’re heading back to wine country and San Francisco on June 29!

Happy Reading and Listening! Lane xoUnknown-8