Selfless

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Overview

A chance encounter at a lake and instant chemistry send author Rob Harrison and editor Matt Ramirez into each other's arms and lives. After handing over a copy of his novel, Rob is surprised when Matt not only loves it, but thinks it will sell and sell big! They take a chance and jump into the future together.

Several wildly successful books lead to the big screen, and enter Ian Ariola, the man with the movie know-how, and Alan McAlister, an actor with a past. As work begins, ...

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Overview

A chance encounter at a lake and instant chemistry send author Rob Harrison and editor Matt Ramirez into each other's arms and lives. After handing over a copy of his novel, Rob is surprised when Matt not only loves it, but thinks it will sell and sell big! They take a chance and jump into the future together.

Several wildly successful books lead to the big screen, and enter Ian Ariola, the man with the movie know-how, and Alan McAlister, an actor with a past. As work begins, the four men bond and their lives become more intertwined, with Matt as the glue that holds them all together.

But it becomes painfully clear that success and money can't solve all problems. Dangerous attraction, predatory businessmen, and hereditary disease all threaten to destroy their happiness, and in the end, one of them becomes the key to what's most important for the other three: love, success, and life itself.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781935192053
  • Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
  • Publication date: 8/15/2008
  • Pages: 268
  • Age range: 18 years
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Rob sat on the north beach of Lake Calhoun, soaking up the afternoon sun. As he lotioned his hairy chest and thighs, he envied people who tanned easily. After two months in the Minnesota summer sun, the closest match to Rob's skin on the color wheel was light beige.

Alan had a great tan. It had been a month since Rob saw him in Dallas. He missed Alan, but knew their paths would probably never cross again. Rob felt like a fool for falling in love with a man twenty years younger. Skeptical of online romance, Rob's friends had finally persuaded him to create a profile on gay.com. He ignored most messages, but the one from Alan caught his attention. Their first chat lasted six hours. A stream of bookmails followed. Impressed by the twenty-five-year-old Texan's wit, charm, and good looks, Rob invested a great deal of time and energy getting to know Alan. They exchanged photos, chatted on webcam, and called each other regularly. Rob finally agreed to visit Alan in Dallas. In person, Alan was even more attractive. He was also annoying, erratic, self-centered, and thoughtless. He didn't seem at all like the person Rob thought he knew. Still puzzled by the whole experience, Rob missed the Alan he knew before his trip to Dallas. Even though that Alan was apparently a fantasy, he still lingered in Rob's memory.

Goldie, Rob's three-year-old retriever, lay quietly next to him, hoping for some affection. As Rob began to massage Goldie's ears, he spotted a jogger sipping from a fountain fifteen feet away. Tan, toned, and blond, he looked like a slightly older version of Alan. Watching the jogger lift a child for a sip of water, Rob was certain any similarity with Alan waspurely physical.

Wiping a mixture of sweat and drinking water from his face, the jogger's sweeping gaze landed on Rob and Goldie. "Beautiful dog," he complimented Rob. "What's her name?"

"Goldie," Rob blushed, embarrassed he'd been caught cruising so blatantly.

Perking up at the sound of her name, Goldie glanced around anxiously.

The jogger approached, dropping to his knees beside Goldie. Her tail wagged expectantly. "Think she'll mind if I pet her?"

"She'll be damn disappointed if you don't!" Rob warned the jogger.

"Had a retriever when I was growing up. By the way, I'm Matt Ramirez."

Extending his hand, Rob introduced himself. Even though Matt didn't look Hispanic, Rob decided it would be impolite to ask about his racial mix. "Where did you grow up?"

"Outside Fargo, a long time ago. Where'd you grow up?"

"A few miles from here," Rob replied, "about a billion years ago."

Pretending to be amazed, Matt asked Rob to reveal his antiaging secret.

"Not to brag, but I've developed my own concoction of white sugar, asbestos, lead, and rat feces. By combining the world's most deadly substances, I've created a vaccine to retard aging," Rob claimed proudly.

"That kind of logic is usually found on the walls of public toilets," Matt smirked.

Rob nodded eagerly. "That's where I got it!"

Matt patted Goldie's tummy, then sparred playfully with her. Watching them, Rob realized he wouldn't mind changing places with Goldie for an hour. With well-defined, angular features, high cheekbones, and thin lips, Matt had precisely the look Rob found most appealing.

"Your boss is not only cute, he's funny!" Matt told Goldie.

"Usually, that kind of compliment is only found in public toilets," Rob teased.

Matt frowned. "Hey, we're everywhere now, not just bus depots and airports."

"My apology," Rob nodded graciously. "You could've given me some warning. A lisp, a rainbow tattoo, sequined Nikes."

"Gay profiling?" Matt grinned. "S'pose you think I'm a waiter, hairdresser, or decorator."

"Not at all!" Rob protested. "Gays are moving into other professions. Besides food service, personal grooming, and fashion, we're also in architecture, financial services, and publishing. So, which is it?"

"Publishing," Matt admitted grudgingly. "Okay, I'm a walking stereotype. Which one are you?"

"Publishing," Rob laughed.

Pleased they had identified common ground so quickly, Matt asked, "What do you do? I'm an editor with a small publishing house."

"I'm a writer with no publishing house, hence the modest lifestyle," Rob replied with a sweeping gesture, claiming the beach as his domain.

"Ah, that explains why you live by the lake. Free drinking water, public restrooms, plenty of fish to eat."

"It's a great life," Rob nodded, leaning back on his elbows. "Hard to find an outlet to recharge my laptop, but I manage."

Matt mimed scribbling a note to himself. "Possible Christmas gift for Rob by the lake ... extra long extension cord."

Rob thought miming a note was cute. "Are we exchanging gifts already?"

Matt shook his head. "We're still at the pretend-note stage of our relationship. If you don't make your living writing, how do you pay the bills?"

"I owned a business with some partners," Rob explained, reluctant to provide too many details. "Sold my interest to them a couple years ago so I can do the things I really enjoy."

"How's that going?" Matt asked.

"Pretty good so far," Rob nodded. "What's your publisher's name?"

"DAM. As in Dave and Martha, the founders."

Rob snickered. "When your IT department answers the phone, they say 'Hello, DAM IT'?"

Matt nodded sheepishly. "Are you busy Saturday?"

"Saturday..." Rob muttered, buying some time. He wasn't sure he was ready to date so soon after his disappointing experience with Alan. However, Matt was attractive, bright, and didn't seem too full of himself. "There's the usual. Coffee. Meals for me and the pooch. Coffee. Daily bike ride. More coffee. Grocery shopping. Wash the car. Coffee. Personal grooming, bath, check for bald spots, ticks, lice. Goldie, not me."

"About a dozen trips to the bathroom after all the coffee?" Matt guessed.

Rob smiled patronizingly. "Very funny. If you add in four hours for pee breaks, I'm busy maybe eight hours on Saturday. Why?"

"Thought we could spend some time together," Matt suggested.

"What'd you have in mind?" Rob asked coyly.

Matt inched closer. "Start with a meal at an elegant French bistro, take a leisurely stroll around one of the lakes, rent a movie we both like and curl up on your sofa to watch it."

"You're quite the romantic, Matt Ramirez."

"After the movie we can rip each other's clothes off and have hot sweaty sex," Matt continued.

"Romantic slut," Rob amended himself. "My kinda man."

"For several hours," Matt finished.

"And a dreamer," Rob added.

"What?" Matt squawked. "Too long? I figured your Cialis was good for the whole day."

Indignant, Rob snapped, "What makes you think I have experience with Cialis or any other erectile product?"

"Just teasing.... Thought it might get a rise outa you."

Enjoying Matt's humor, Rob looked forward to spending a day with him. "Very funny," Rob conceded. "Let's run the dating checklist first. Any lovers, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, transgenders, jealous exes, foreign or domestic, I should know about?"

"Nada, but I admire your thoroughness, Rob."

"Tattoos, piercings, or other body alterations not currently visible?" Rob asked, peering more closely at Matt's exposed flesh.

"All equipment just as it arrived from the baby factory," Matt promised.

"Smoking, alcoholism, drug abuse, felony convictions, unpaid parking tickets?"

Assuming the Boy Scout Oath position, Matt promised he was clean.

"Here's the big one," Rob inhaled deeply. "Have you ever been kicked out of bed for snoring, hogging the covers, jagged toenails, or chewing tobacco?"

"No," Matt replied slowly, "but one of my boyfriends hated it when I picked his navel lint and ate it."

"Sounds like a complainer! You're better off without him," Rob assured Matt.

Nodding in agreement, Matt prompted, "Next item?"

"That's it. You're officially suitable for dating," Rob announced.

Matt was stunned. "You didn't ask me the big four!"

"Big four?" Rob squinted.

"Most gays want to know top or bottom, dick size, any STDs and cut or uncut. Why didn't you ask me any of those?"

"Doesn't matter," Rob shrugged. "That's all mechanical stuff. I only asked about things that are really important to me."

"You're an odd gay," Matt chuckled.

"I appreciate the compliment," Rob grinned proudly.

"Just as it was meant," Matt assured him, pulling a tiny cell phone from the only pocket of his navy blue running shorts. Creating a new entry for Rob, he asked, "Do you have a cell phone?"

"Yeah, but it's one of those old wood-burning models. Want me to fire it up for ya?" Rob winked, mocking their age difference.

Matt laughed appreciatively. "Can I have your number and address or are you gonna make me scour the city's restrooms for them?"

"I'll tell you, but only if you promise not to let them fall into the hands of telemarketers and junk-mailers."

Hand over heart, Matt promised to protect them, unless there was gunplay involved. He dialed Rob's cell phone, then hung up after the first ring. "Now you have my number," he smiled as Rob reached for his Razr phone. "Feel free to use it often. I'll drop by around six Saturday evening."

"Don't you want directions to my place?" Rob asked quickly.

"Can I find it on MapQuest?" Matt asked, rising to leave.

"Yup," Rob nodded, envying Matt's easy use of technology.

Matt dropped down on one knee beside Rob to tie his shoe. Brushing the back of his hand across Rob's cheek, he leaned over and kissed Rob's lips, then jumped up again. "Preview of coming attractions," Matt smiled as headed back to the jogging path.

Watching Matt pass other joggers, Rob was amazed by his good fortune. There were many attractive young men at the lake, but Matt possessed a magnetic quality few of them had. His inviting smile made him seem more approachable than the typical bronze god. Turning around about a hundred feet from Rob, Matt waved, waited for Rob to return the gesture, then continued jogging. Nothing impressed Rob more that day. He couldn't imagine Alan doing something so thoughtful. He was usually too busy scouting for shiny objects to admire his reflection.

"What am I missing?" Rob muttered to himself. After being lied to so often, he figured Matt had to be hiding something.

* * * *

Chapter 2

Matt sent a dozen text messages, reminding Rob how many hours remained until their first date. While Rob found most text messages annoying, Matt's were adorable. Rob's replies were mostly flippant: "OMG is that this week?" "Can my boyfriend join us?" "Is that you, George?"

Promptly at six Saturday evening, Rob's doorbell rang. When he opened the door, he found Matt holding a cardboard box. "Moving in already?" Rob teased, holding the door for Matt.

"Not exactly," Matt smiled as he scanned the entry for a place to put the box.

Rob cleared a space on a small table. "I hope it's nothing that requires special food and exercise."

"Nothing living," Matt promised. He pulled out a box of Ghirardelli chocolates, then explained he was afraid Rob might be dieting or allergic to chocolate, so he also bought a classical music CD. It occurred to him Rob probably had an entire drawer full of classical CDs, so he also bought a bottle of cologne and a crystal vase with a blue rose.

"What's this?!" Rob cried as he examined the blue rose. "Where did you find this?"

"Special flower shop I use," Matt grinned. "They dye a white rose blue."

"It's been a while since my American Lit class, but weren't there blue roses in The Glass Menagerie?"

"Very good," Matt complimented him. "Blue roses were Laura's favorite, symbolizing how unique she was."

"It's beautiful," Rob smiled, pleased with all of Matt's gifts. "Blue is my favorite color. If red rose means love, and yellow means friendship, what does blue symbolize? Unique relationship?"

"It could mean that," Matt nodded. "Florists say blue roses symbolize the impossible, unattainable, out of reach. I'm a practical dreamer, so to me, the blue rose symbolizes anything is possible if we want it badly enough."

Touched by Matt's thoughtfulness, Rob hugged him. "I love all your gifts, and am not allergic to any of them, but seeing you is the best gift."

"You mean I didn't need to blow my entire Christmas budget for the next two years?"

Rob shook his head. "If it's any consolation, you've met your gift obligation for the rest of the century. I'm sorry I didn't get you anything, so dinner and the movie are my treat, okay?"

"Not necessary," Matt assured him. "My mother taught me it's not a gift if you expect something in return."

Leading Matt into the living room, Rob gestured toward a sofa. "Smart lady. Can I meet her someday?"

Matt shook his head as he glanced around the sparsely furnished room, best described as functional. "She's no longer with us."

"I'm sorry," Rob murmured, remembering his father's advice to marry an orphan and avoid in-law problems. "Any siblings?"

"I was an only child," Matt replied. "My father worked long hours, so I didn't see him much. Left us when I was fifteen, so I never really got to know him. Maybe that's why I have a thing for older men."

"I'm only forty-five," Rob protested. "How old are you?"

Regretting the remark about older men, Matt scolded himself for drawing attention to their age difference. "I'm thirty. Rob, you don't look forty-five, and I certainly don't think you look old. You look great for any age."

"Nice recovery." Rob grinned.

"What about your family?" Matt asked, searching the living room for photos. Seeing no personal possessions on display seemed strange to Matt.

"Not much to tell. Parents married late in life. Mom had me when she was almost forty, and I was an only child. They both passed away about five years ago, within a few months of each other. I loved them, and still miss them."

"Extended family?" Matt wondered.

Rob shook his head. "Dad had some relatives in New England, but I never met them."

"Did you just move in here?" Matt asked. "Seems kinda empty, and there's nothing personal."

"That's why you keep looking around," Rob laughed. "I was going to put this place on the market last month, so my realtor told me to remove all the clutter and personal items. I filled about fifty boxes and put them in the garage."

"That makes sense," Matt smiled, glad Rob decided to stay. "Getting back to your family, did your parents know you're gay?" Matt asked.

"They knew before I did," Rob admitted. "I dated girls in high school and college, mostly because they asked me out, and I didn't want to hurt their feelings. When I brought home my first boyfriend, my parents looked so relieved. Said they just wanted me to be happy, and not pretend I was something I wasn't."

If there was a right answer, that was it, at least for Matt. "We're a pair of orphans. Are you interested in the boyfriend-slash-lover position I currently have open?"

Rob nodded eagerly. "Does it involve touching-slash-kissing, and frequent sex?"

"That's the job description," Matt smiled as he embraced Rob. "Where did you say your bedroom is?"

Rob grasped Matt's hand and led him to the master bedroom. "Hope you're not expecting anything fancy," he warned. "Even before I de-cluttered, the bedroom wasn't much to look at. My friends wonder if I'm really gay since I seem to be missing the decorator gene."

Matt scanned the master bedroom, then turned to embrace Rob. "All the essentials are here. Bed, pillows, the two of us. What more do we need?"

"Couldn't agree more," Rob whispered as he tilted his head slightly to kiss Matt.

During their first kiss, Rob knew he and Matt were sexually compatible. Matt's lips pressed lightly against Rob's several times, seeking entry. When Rob's lips parted, their tongues flicked each other, then began probing deeper. Rob didn't enjoy kissing most men. There were many types of bad kisser, but his least favorite were sloppy kissers, power kissers, and smelly kissers. Kissing Matt felt just right.

Matt unbuttoned Rob's shirt, then tossed it on the floor. Immersing himself in the silver hair covering Rob's chest, Matt's tongue made Rob's pink nipples firm. Rob finished undressing while Matt explored his body, then he removed Matt's shirt and jeans. As Rob removed Matt's shorts, he smiled at the fifth and final surprise gift.

"No wonder your pants look like they're going to burst!" Rob smiled, admiring Matt's long, thick cock. When they were both naked, Rob guided Matt onto the bed, unsure whether his partner preferred top or bottom. Deciding it didn't matter, they groped and kissed each other, changing positions a dozen times, first Matt on top, then Rob. Fondling both their erections simultaneously, Rob felt Matt pull away, then groan as he climaxed.

"Sorry," Matt apologized meekly.

"Why?" Rob asked, pulling Matt back.

"For cumming so quickly. Christ, I feel like some damn teenager."

Stroking Matt's forehead, Rob hovered over him. "I'm flattered. It's been a long time since being with me excited a man so quickly."

"You're not upset?" Matt asked, seeking additional assurance. "I thought maybe you were into edging."

"Edging?" Rob repeated, unfamiliar with the term.

Matt nodded. "Seeing how long you can keep your partner on the edge."

"Sounds like torture to me," Rob remarked, kissing Matt's neck and caressing his nipples. "I try not to view sex as a contest, so cum whenever you want in my bed," Rob encouraged. "I just have two rules."

Matt asked what they were, hoping he hadn't already broken them.

"First, I want to be with you. Second, me and only me. No cats, dogs, fish, birds, watchers, threesomes, or larger groups. I know it's selfish, but I want you all to myself."

"Deal," Matt grinned as he began exploring Rob's body again.

As Rob caressed Matt, a new erection appeared. "Junior woke from his nap," Rob teased. "Refreshed and ready to play. Should we see if we can make him sleepy again?"

"I'd like that," Matt grinned. "No matter how long it takes."

* * * *

Several hours later, Matt rolled toward Rob's side of the bed. "Guess it's too late for a movie and walk around the lake. Are you hungry?"

"I could eat. Want me to order a pizza?" Rob asked as he groped Matt.

"Let me see what you've got in your kitchen and I'll throw together a snack faster than Domino's can deliver," Matt promised.

"I should warn you, I'm not much of a cook. If it can't be eaten raw, out of a can, or heated in a microwave, I probably don't have it."

"I'm very creative," Matt assured Rob as every centimeter of his body was being explored. "If you're checking for ticks and lice, I'm clean."

"I'm looking for signs of degenerative illness and plastic surgery," Rob explained.

"You're very thorough," Matt snickered. "Any particular reason?"

"I haven't found a single mole, scar, wart, bump, tattoo, or piercing. Not so much as a slight skin discoloration or bruise. You seem reasonably sane, even-tempered, intelligent, and thoughtful. As a bonus, you're gainfully employed in a respectable profession. What am I missing? You're not the kind of guy I usually attract."

"Would you feel better if I slap you or slash my wrists to prove I'm human?" Matt joked.

"The fact you're willing is enough," Rob smiled. "It's just that I've had some really bad experiences lately. You're almost too good to be true. I mean, I was admiring your gorgeous body at a distance and suddenly we're talking and the next thing I know, we're sharing a bed. I know this sounds like high school pillow talk, but why me?"

"You have the four Cs," Matt smiled. "Confidence, commitment, civility, and cuteness."

Rob propped himself on his elbow. "You could tell all that from a couple minutes of conversation by the lake?"

Matt nodded. "You looked me in the eye when we talked, which means you're confident. You care for a pet, so you're capable of commitment. You carried on an entertaining conversation without saying anything stupid, or trying to impress me, so you're civil. Cuteness speaks for itself, although I gotta say your dating checklist was the cutest thing I've heard all year." Rubbing Rob's chest hair in a circular motion, Matt added, "I'm a sucker for silver hair anywhere, but silver chest hair is a major turn-on for me."

"And I was just going to shave it all off," Rob moaned.

"No!" Matt cried. "Please keep it!"

Rob kissed Matt's hand. "The chest hair stays, just for you. I hope you don't mind that I still have some color on top."

Massaging Rob's head, Matt told him he liked the chestnut hair with graying temples just fine. "I told you about my four Cs. Now you tell me what you look for in a man."

"I don't have a number or letter system," Rob apologized. "I want to be needed by an attractive man for the right reason. Most of my friends think I'm a romantic fool, and they're probably right. I just don't want to be with someone because they're too lazy to masturbate, unwilling to get a job, or too scared to be alone." Reflecting on his words, Rob realized he sounded pessimistic. "Did I set the bar too high or low?"

Adjusting to a more comfortable position, Matt liked Rob even more. "You set the bar where you need it to be. Tell me, are your boyfriends always younger and taller than you?"

"No, but since I turned forty, that's who seems to be attracted to me," Rob replied. Thinking back over his dating career, he reconstructed the pattern. "In my twenties, I usually dated guys who were my age or slightly older. In my thirties, I dated guys who were plus or minus ten years of my age. No giants or dwarfs. Don't recall ever being attracted to anyone old enough to be my father. I never chased them, and they never hit on me."

Matt thought he knew why Rob was never courted by older men, even though his look could appeal to any age group. Average height and weight, Rob didn't conceal his age, but a healthy lifestyle made him naturally look younger than his years. He didn't have the chiseled, grizzled look some men are drawn to. Instead, Rob was attractively packaged. Straight white teeth, symmetrical features, clean-shaven face, and conservatively styled hair. Not a raving beauty, but someone you could feel comfortable with. Matt assumed Rob's confident bearing is what drew younger men to him, and kept older men away. "You mentioned some dates from hell," Matt smirked. "Will you tell me about them? I love a good horror story."

"If you like horror stories," Rob patted Matt playfully, "you hit pay dirt, because my love life is the mother lode. How far back should we go? Three years? That's when I started shopping on the Net," Rob said, and Matt nodded. "The first guy I connected with had adorable pictures, said he was in his late thirties, lived in New York, and was a flight attendant. He kept e-mailing me pics and each one was cuter than the last. We chatted on the phone every day, and he begged me to visit, so I did. I didn't recognize him when he met me at the airport because his pictures were twenty years old. He was hoping I'd be so smitten with his personality I'd overlook the fact he was fat and bald. I didn't mind his appearance as much as the fact he lied. How could I ever trust him? Nearly everyone has done some sort of bait-and-switch, forgetting to tell me they were in a wheelchair, missing an eye, or needed one of my kidneys."

"They all lie about their bodies?" Matt asked.

"Just the ones who need to," Rob sighed. "One guy was physically perfect, but had a character defect called Mom. First he persuaded me to give Mom a job in the company I co-owned. Two weeks later Mom claimed she hurt her back at work, so she moved in with us. When I overheard her refer to me as the meal ticket, I asked them both to leave."

Matt smiled sympathetically. "Who was your worst?"

"Actually, the last guy," Rob murmured. "He was the biggest disappointment because I thought I was so careful. You remind me of him physically. You're both about six feet tall, blond, blue eyes, tan, and lean. His long, stringy hair kept falling over his eyes, so every ten seconds he was brushing it back. Very annoying, unlike yours," Rob complimented Matt as he ran his fingers through the thick, medium-length blond hair. "He lives in Dallas so we had a long-distance relationship for a year. I saw him on webcam, so I knew his pics weren't fakes. We exchanged hundreds of e-mails and phone calls, and I thought I knew him. He seemed mature for twenty-five, but I guess I missed a lot of red flags. Went to Dallas to meet him in the flesh last month, and he was a totally different guy. We spent three days together, and he was the most self-centered, sarcastic, judgmental person I've ever met. I thought maybe he sent his evil twin brother."

"Do you still have feelings for him?" Matt asked pointedly. "After all, you invested a year getting to know him."

The question impressed Rob. Direct, insightful, and proof that Matt was listening. "I fell in love with a charming illusion, and the illusion died quietly as I came back from Dallas. I haven't contacted him and he hasn't contacted me."

Stroking Rob's face, Matt kissed him gently. "Pity. I'd like to meet him someday."

"Why?" Rob scoffed.

"I'm grateful to him for keeping you off the market for a year until I was free."

"Free?" Rob echoed. Had he forgotten to ask the convicted-felon question?

"I was going to tell you eventually, but not on an empty stomach," Matt explained as he gently broke away from Rob. "Let me see what's in the kitchen. We can talk more while we eat, all right?"

"Do I have a choice?" Rob winced.

Matt smiled impishly as he trotted off naked to forage for food. Rob considered being a good host and offering Matt a robe, but decided he liked Matt just the way he was.

* * * *

Twenty minutes later, Matt returned with ham and cheese omelets, toast, grape jelly, and orange juice.

"What, no parsley?" Rob teased.

"I looked everywhere," Matt protested. "Fortunately, only commercial eating establishments with more than twenty-five tables are required by law to serve parsley with every meal."

"Seriously, that's a law?"

Matt nodded as he wolfed down his omelet.

"Why do you know something like that?"

Matt washed down some toast with orange juice. "I edited a pamphlet published by the Commerce Department last year. How's your omelet?"

"Excellent," Rob complimented his chef. "I foresee a big career in food service if the publishing thing doesn't work out. Half-expected you to come back with tomato soup made from ketchup packets. Amazing you're still single."

"That's a recent development," Matt explained, returning to their earlier discussion. "I was married for nine years."

"Man or woman?"

"A real live girl," Matt grinned. "We met in college, became best friends and married the month after we graduated. I was attracted to older men in my mid-teens, but one of my teachers told me it was probably just a longing for a father figure. He told me once I found the right girl, I'd lose interest in men, and I wanted to believe him. For the first five years of marriage, I threw myself into my work, so I didn't have time to think about men. Gradually, I began noticing attractive older guys on my way to work, or while we were at church, or when I was out jogging. I fantasized more frequently about what it would be like to be held by a man. Finally, I decided to do something about it so I went to a gay bar. That's how I met your friend Lucas."

Rob's brows arched in surprise. "Lucas, my realtor?"

Matt nodded.

"You're not exactly his type. Doesn't he prefer guys in nursing homes?"

Matt laughed. "He likes the silver-hair set, but they don't need to be on respirators. I met him through a friend. We were at a party about a year ago, and he pointed you out. Said you were just my type. He thinks you're the nicest guy he's ever met. Lucas offered to introduce us, but I told him I wanted to settle things with my wife before meeting someone special. Shortly after that, I told her I was gay and we agreed to get a divorce. Separating from someone after nine years takes a surprising amount of time. Splitting possessions, changing banks, lectures from in-laws, late-night crying sessions, moving. Got the final decree a couple weeks ago. When I saw you at Lake Calhoun, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to introduce myself."

"The timing couldn't be better," Rob agreed. "In fact, I felt so good after meeting you that I started writing again."

"When can I see some of your writing?"

"I made copies of my latest manuscript to mail to publishers next week. I'll give you one before you leave, okay?"

"Great! I look forward to reading it."

"If it's really awful, please lie to me, Matt. Don't tell me I should consider a career in used-car sales."

"I can't lie, but I know how to be gentle," Matt promised.

"You've already convinced me of that," Rob winked, massaging Matt's thighs.

* * * *

Matt took Rob's manuscript to work on Monday. As he ate lunch in his office, he read the first few pages. Unable to stop, he locked his door and turned off his phone. When he finished four hours later, he called Rob and asked to meet for supper. Pulling a clean legal pad from a desk drawer, Matt spent the next hour making notes.

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    Posted November 4, 2008

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