Series: Man Up #4
Author: Felice Stevens
Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance
Release Date: August 10, 2018
I spent years waiting for someone who never put me first.
He took my love, took me for granted.
Took my heart.
Now I’m on my own.
Living life my way.
The crowd only sees my smile.
Never my loneliness and pain.
I need someone to need me.
When I meet another lost soul my friends try to warn me.
He’s a liar.
He’s all that and more.
He’s everything I’ve ever wanted.
I’m king of my world.
Then it all comes crashing down.
My secrets are exposed.
I’m cut off from my family.
Unrecognizable from the man I used to be.
Barely surviving, living day-to-day and out of control.
Nothing to hold on to.
I let go and fall so far there's no way up.
Until a cowboy reaches into my darkness and brings me back to the light.
With him I can breathe.
I can be who I am.
Who he needs.
He gives me hope
To find myself.
To find love.
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“How long have you lived in New York?”
“Over a year.”
“What made you come all the way out here?” In one of our earlier brief conversations he’d mentioned being from Texas. “Were you really a cowboy?”
A grin crossed his face as he tossed a few chips into his mouth. “Yep. I was a real cowboy. My daddy put me on a horse before I could walk. Rode my first bull when I was sixteen and got two broken ribs when he threw me. Mean fucker.” He snickered and took a drink.
“So,” I prodded. “What made you leave?” Part of Cort’s charm was his boyish innocence. His type helped little old ladies across the street and adopted abandoned puppies. I couldn’t imagine him angry, disillusioned, or hopeless.
The smile stretched thin. “I wanted to see what else there was outside of my small town.”
“And you picked so far away? Why not a big city in Texas, like Dallas or Houston?”
“I’m gonna get a beer. You want one?”
Oh, thank God. “Please.” Each day the need built up inside like a vicious beast, eating away at me, and I did whatever I could to soothe it. I’d become an expert at shoplifting from bodegas. The key was to always buy something, even if only a candy bar. Then they rarely suspected you had a bottle tucked into your underwear.
He handed me a beer from the six-pack he brought over, and I drank half of it down before he had a chance to sit. It spread through me, its beautiful coldness numbing the throb of emptiness. I finished it off and set it on the table. Cort had a strange expression on his face.
“Looks like you needed that.”
“I did.” One beer did very little for me now. I’d spent my entire twenties in a haze of vodka, fueled by cocaine and uppers, spending my trust fund as if the money was water. When the faucet turned off, the money dried up, I’d had to replace the Ketel One with Budweiser and wean myself off the drugs. Mostly.
I nodded, trying like hell to keep my hands from trembling but failing as I snatched the can from him. It went down even easier than the first, and I knew I should stop and not guzzle it, but I couldn’t help myself. Sitting here with Cort in this tiny apartment, eating a sandwich off a paper plate, was a slap-in-the-face reminder of everything I’d lost. I needed this to forget.
The second beer hit me hard, a combination of nerves and little else in my stomach except that sandwich. I pushed aside the fear over what Cort might expect for giving me a place to stay tonight. I knew he’d want something. Everyone did. No one did anything for anyone out of the goodness of their heart.
The room spun, and I leaned back, the can slipping out of my hand.
“Whoa. Maybe you better stop there.” The sofa dipped next to me under Cort’s weight as he put a knee down to catch the almost empty can before it fell to the floor. His hand touched mine, and it was warm. The warmest thing to touch me in years.
The last thing I remember was saying to him, “You’re a nice guy. Stay away from me.” Then all went dark.
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