I'm honored to post an excerpt from this book, and hope you find the story as intriguing as I do.
Hopefully, Ms. Church will now desist from mailing further pictures of me naked and handcuffed to that park bench by the duck pond to my wife.
I am tired of her laughter.
Drew's insecurities pushed him to have a foolish affair six years ago. It destroyed his relationship with Luis, and he's never been able to commit to anyone since. Now, he's taken control of his life and changed his submissive personality by becoming a model for Kevin Marks, and a wildlife enforcement agent in New Orleans.
These men haven't forgotten each other, or settled their differences. When they accidentally meet in a French Quarter gay bar, the years of regret, anger, and pent-up emotions erupt. Their passion is as hot as ever, their mistrust just as potent. When Drew's future is in Luis' hands, will he choose his lifestyle or love?
Drew Rothem returned the barbell to the rack, making the big wheels rattle. Sixty pounds might as well be a thousand, this evening. Can't do it tonight.His left shoulder and back ached from the wrestling match he'd had three days ago with an uncooperative suspect. The drug-crazed behemoth had tried to bust Drew in half by body slamming him to the ground. Gravel had poked clean through his uniform and pockmarked his skin.
While pain radiated through his back from his weightlifting attempts, the scene replayed in Drew's memory.
Dazed by the man's inhuman strength, Drew had let adrenaline take over to marshal every ounce of energy he possessed. In kill or be killed mode, Drew heaved the guy off him.
The suspect landed on the edge of the swamp, eliciting a painful grunt.
Drew had rolled to his feet while reaching for his service weapon. Come on,motherfucker. I dare ya. "Stay down. You're under arrest."
Foamy, blood-streaked, white spittle leaked from the assailant's mouth. With a shaking hand, the greasy-looking man wiped the drool away. A spreading stain of swamp water and muck covered his left side. Climbing to his feet, the suspect looked strong enough to be a human freight train. His breath left his lungs in dry-sounding barks. Not a trace of rational thought registered in those black eyes, rimmed with crazy ass high. Poaching gators was lucrative, but when the drug money spigot was turned off, this guy would be in deep weeds. The junkie was fighting for survival, and Drew stood in the way.
Drew leveled his .45 caliber SIG Sauer at the lunatic's heaving chest. "Put your hands where I can see them."
The man's gaze shifted as fast as scattering rats searching for an exit.
"You're under arrest. Put your hands up."
From the west, tires crunching on gravel signaled help was near—at least, that's what Drew hoped.
With his hands steady on his weapon, and his voice firm as cured concrete, Drew explained the options. "It's the gators or me. What's it gonna be?"
Sometimes, Drew wished those guys would choose the gators. People who pull stunts like this are too stupid to live. His backup had arrived and carted the asshole off to jail. For once, Drew hadn't had to transport a suspect reeking of swamp sludge. At least there's some reward for having to go to the hospital.
"Are you done for the night?"
The voice snapped Drew out of his fog. He turned to face his sometime lover, Kyle LaMontagne, who was mopping sweat off his face and neck with a towel.
"I am. I thought a workout might ease some of the pain in my back and shoulder, but I couldn't even move the big wheels."
Kyle lifted the shoulder seam of Drew's tank top and looked at his back. "That bruise looks like hell. Maybe you should try the sauna to loosen things up a little."
Drew wanted to correct Kyle for his repeated mispronunciation of the word sauna, but decided it wasn't worth the trouble. He hadn't heard anyone pronounce it correctly—sow-nah—since he'd left Minnesota.
"In this heat, I could stand outside and probably accomplish the same thing." Drew wiped off his bench and flung the towel over his shoulder.
"Are you going to work tomorrow, or did they give you a few days off to recover?"
While leading the way to the locker room, Drew contemplated an answer to Kyle's implied question about whether they could spend the evening, and maybe the night, together.
"The doctor gave me nine days on top of my regular rotation days off. I've got another week. What about you?"
"Off tomorrow, and then back at it."
When Drew arrived at his locker, he took a breath to steel himself before reaching over his head to take off his T-shirt. Pain, sharp as an ice pick, shot through his muscles.
Kyle pulled the hem over Drew's head, helping to remove the damp shirt.
"Thanks, man." An angry throb started his ribs, bubbled its way to Drew's shoulder, then back down like a yo-yo.
"You sure nothing is broken?" The concern in Kyle's voice was evident.
If he could have twisted to look back that far, Drew would have. "The doctor said badly bruised ribs. Why?"
He shook his head. "I don't know, but it looks rough. You're purple, green, and red from here to here." He traced the shape of the bruise with his finger. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you hadn't even been wearing your shirt. You're going to have a mass of scabs on top of this mess, too."
Drew pulled down his shorts gingerly, then sat on his towel.
"The perp was shutting the tailgate when I surprised him, so he didn't have a chance to grab a weapon. He must have weighed two-hundred-fifty pounds. I felt like I was in a bad Rocky movie when he threw me down. If I hadn't turned before I landed, I probably would have had the wind knocked out of me. There'd have been plenty of time to get a gun or maybe a gaffing hook. No doubt, the guy was high enough to enjoy killing me." Drew shuddered. "Crazy motherfucker."
"You're lucky Skeeps showed up, too."
Drew nodded. Although Kyle and Drew were both in the Region 8 offices of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, they weren't partners. A court appearance that day for Drew's partner, Jordan Skeeps, had separated them. The situation could have been deadly for Drew, and everyone knew it.
He pitched his sweaty clothes in his bag, and then grabbed a fresh towel. Grimacing, Drew wrapped it around his waist, tucking in the end.
"I couldn't have gone two rounds with him, that's for sure." He shut his locker. "I'm going to hit the shower, and then go home. The doc prescribed some pain meds, so I'll camp out with some television and hope the pills take the edge off the pain. I didn't sleep worth a shit last night."
Kyle snorted. "You're getting to be such an old man."
The remark caught Drew off guard.
Kyle squinted at him. "What? Hearing going, too?"
Drew turned toward the showers. "I'll call you tomorrow. Maybe we can do some knitting together in the park."
Kyle's chuckles bounced off the lockers in the mostly-vacant room. "Sure. Take care of yourself, old man."
In the shower, Drew leaned on his right arm, and turned his back to the hot stream. At times, even the water pressure sent twinges of pain through him. Drew shifted, searching for a comfortable angle under the water. All the while, Kyle's comment about being an old man kept replaying in his mind.
Drew could still see Luis' dark eyes light up, and the lazy grin that spread across his beautiful lips when Drew teased him about being an old man. Eight years Drew's senior, Luis was well known as Daddy Luis.
Drew hadn't talked to Luis in almost six years, and yet the dull ache remained. The man rattled around in Drew's heart, never quite finding his way out. Teak Hildalgo had tried his damnedest to erase Luis from Drew's affections. Hell, he'd even followed Drew to Minnesota. And got stranded there when we fell apart. At least, Teak managed to be in the right place at the right time to meet Kevin.
Drew lathered his washcloth with soap. Washing his body with his left hand became a chore. Grunting, he forced his arm to move a little faster, hoping to work through the pain. Realizing the efforts were futile, Drew flung the washcloth against the shower wall. Landing with a slap, the cloth stuck for a moment before gravity claimed it.
His breath left his lips in a hiss. Maybe Kyle is right. These ribs might be more than just badly bruised.
* * * * *
Drew plopped his gym bag inside the entryway closet in his Metairie apartment. The one-bedroom efficiency wasn't in the fanciest building in the neighborhood, but it fit his budget and his minimalist needs. He'd bought new furniture when he'd moved from Wescott, Minnesota. At least the place looked nice if he brought home a date, though few people commented on the sofa pattern on their way to the bedroom. Practical and comfortable were two words Drew used to describe his choices. Tonight, he was counting on the comfortable part to get through the night.
The angry throb from the middle of his back to his neck had worsened while Drew drove home. He never should have attempted lifting tonight, and now he'd have to take drugs to settle down the pain. He went straight to the kitchen to get the bottle of prescription pain relievers. Two tablets slid out of the brown bottle and into his palm. He turned on the tap to get the water running cold, while reaching for a glass.
Water gurgled, filling the tumbler. Drew popped the meds in his mouth, and then guzzled down most of the water. Clearing his throat afterward, he hoped the medicine would help, because at the moment, his nerves were ragged.
Jesus, you're in rough shape tonight, pal. What made you think you should go to the gym?
He'd planned to stop for something to eat on the way home, but couldn't endure sitting in his car one minute longer than necessary. Scanning the opened fridge, Drew grabbed a gallon of chocolate milk. Not bothering with formalities, he flipped off the plastic top and quenched his thirst.
Drew looked over the meager contents in the refrigerator for something easy to make. The lonely lunchmeat container got a nod. Half a loaf of bread sat on the counter next to the fridge. To Drew's way of thinking, only one conclusion could be drawn. A peanut butter and turkey bologna sandwich showed up on the dinner menu. Saying the sandwich was an acquired taste was an understatement. Luis had introduced him to the odd combination years ago. The guys at work hassled him and screwed up their faces in disgust when he ate the peculiar sandwiches at the office.
In the pantry, a handful of Cheetos remained in the crumpled bag. Drew snarfed those down with a few noisy crunches, then pitched the empty cellophane in the trash. Many people said he had the dietary preferences of a toddler. They are right.
He put the milk jug, now considerably emptier, back where it belonged and shut the door.
Sandwich in hand, Drew headed to his recliner. With his dinner balanced on his lap, he pulled back on the handle to raise his feet. Thank God the handle was on the right side, or he'd have to camp out on the couch.
He chewed his sandwich while flipping through television channels. The weather reports forecast another day of wilting humidity and near one hundred-degree temperatures for tomorrow. Whatever. Except for those four wicked years in Minnesota, he'd lived most of his life in Florida. High temps and humidity were something Drew was well acquainted with. He was so glad not to have to endure another frigid winter. The summers were fabulous; fall was magnificent, but the rest of the year? If he could get used to sitting on an iceberg, bare-assed naked all winter, he might have enjoyed them. Not a chance.
Before long, Kevin Marks would be calling him to schedule autumn and early winter photo shoots for the Woodlands Collection. Three years ago, nobody could have convinced Drew the venture would become such a success. But Kevin's career as a nature and outdoors photographer had blossomed with every photo he'd taken of his boyfriend, Teak, and of Drew. Royalties from the photo sales supplemented Drew's investments nicely. If demand stayed brisk, an early retirement would be possible, thanks to Kevin and his studio, Marks on Redding. Best of all, they had such a blast together that Drew rarely thought of the long hours during the photo shoots as work.
Drew bit off another piece of sandwich, and wondered where they'd go and what they'd wear this time. Kevin spared no expense on their wardrobe, which the models got to keep. Drew always felt guilty that he couldn't wear most of the clothing in New Orleans' subtropical climate.
After stuffing the last of his sandwich in his mouth, Drew wished he'd brought the chocolate milk with him. He rose, with a lot less discomfort. The pills sure had taken the edge off the pain. Maybe I'll sleep better tonight, too.
Drew put his sandwich fixings away before taking a last, long drink of milk.
"I like chocolate milk." He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and shut off the kitchen light.
On his way to the bedroom, Drew made sure he'd locked the apartment door, and then checked the air conditioner setting.The full effect of the pain meds hit him hard. As though encased in cotton, his mind seemed to be buzzing like an electrical transformer. He performed an abbreviated version of his bedtime routine before climbing into bed.
After pulling the sheet over his bare body, he turned onto his right side. Doing so still hurt like a son of a bitch, but not enough to jar him into full wakefulness, like last night. He'd felt a hundred years old—an old man.
The thought triggered a memory of Luis' smiling face as he pulled Drew's lips to his. "Who are you calling Old Man?"
Even now, the sexy tone of Luis' voice made the corners of Drew's lips curl into a smile. He loved the low, husky tone that had always signaled Luis was turned on and ready for sex. He swore he could feel Luis' broad chest against his, the warmth of Luis' breath, and that first sensation of pressure against his lips.
Drew fell asleep fantasizing about those days and nights in Luis' arms.