Coming February 9, 2015
You can’t choose who you fall in love with. Despite knowing from a young age that he was gay, Scott Murphy couldn’t imagine life without Shelly. He threw away the labels and had eleven amazing years with her, but now, he feels even more lost trying to figure out how to move on after Shelly’s death. After nearly a year of watching Scott fade away, Shelly’s father forces him to start living again.
As much as Chris loathes the idea of attending a bereavement group week after week, it’s one of the only places he can go in this town, other than the bar, to not feel so alone. When there’s nothing to distract him or dull his senses, he spends too much time obsessing over how he should have been able to help his sister. When Scott shows up at his group session, Chris decides that maybe some good can come out of his sister’s death.
There’s no denying that Chris is the first man to catch Scott’s attention in a long time, but how can he move on when just thinking of Shelly sends him to his dark place?
The road to recovery won’t be an easy one, but Chris is determined to help Scott see that life is still worth living. But before Scott can allow himself to admit what he feels for Chris, he knows he has to reveal the full truth about Shelly’s death.
**Please note, while every effort has been made to catch all errors, this is an unedited excerpt and subject to change prior to release day.**
Between Jim, Bobby, and Shelly’s letter, I’ve decided to take one more step I’d rather avoid. It’s just one date, what harm can come from that? I suppose I should be grateful that the only people I’ve allowed in are those who know me well enough to sense that I can’t even consider looking at a woman right now. While I’ve softened a bit to the idea of at least talking to someone, having that person be a woman feels too much like I’m trying to replace her. It may be fucked up, but if there are muscular planes instead of soft curves and a firm grasp instead of tender caresses, it doesn’t seem like a betrayal.
“So, tell me about yourself,” Adrian, the server from Brewster’s urges as we wait for our meals to arrive. I can’t believe I actually told Bobby I’d go out on a date with this guy, but I’m trying to not let him know I’d rather be just about anywhere but here.
Adrian’s a sweet enough guy, but not at all my type. He’s too polite, too delicate, and honestly, too feminine. I know there are plenty of guys into that type of thing, but if and when I find a man to truly explore a relationship with, I want him to be strong, both physically and in personality. The only reason I agreed to have dinner with him is because I figured he’d be a good stepping stone for me. I’m not interested in more than one meal, but it’ll prove to myself that I can do this.
Every week when Jim picks me up for group, I tell myself that I’ll talk to Chris again, so I can figure out if he’s interested in getting to know one another, but as soon as I step foot in the community room, I freeze. He’s the one I’d rather be here with tonight, but instead, I’m on some bizarre mock date. It’s not fair to Adrian, but I can’t change it now.
“Not much to tell, really. I’m usually a bit of a homebody, but Bobby’s trying to change that.” This was a huge mistake. There’s nothing about myself that I’m willing to share with this guy and I don’t want to be here. Maybe I can fake being sick.
“He seems like a really great friend,” Adrian says wistfully. I look up and the guy’s actually fluttering his damn eyelashes at me. He leans in, reaching for me and I pull away, wishing he’d take a damn hint already. “And you’re obviously amazing, given how much he talked you up to me.”
Great. Just what every guy wants; his buddies out trying to convince anyone within the limited pool of available men in this town to go out to dinner with their poor, widower friend.
I flag our waitress down for another round of drinks. She offers me a sympathetic smile and I have to choke back a laugh when she rolls her eyes at my dinner companion.
“He says you’re just starting to date again,” Adrian pushes when I don’t give him any more information about myself.
“Yep.” Maybe if I resort to one-word answers, he’ll get the hint and quit trying. Then, we can focus on eating as quickly as possible and get out of here.
“Was your last relationship a long one?” Oh. My. God. I thought I was bad at reading social cues, but I have nothing on this guy. Soon, I’m going to gag the voice in my head that’s telling me to be nice, that he’s probably just nervous.
“Yeah, it was,” I respond curtly. The waitress arrives with not only our drink refills but dinner. I smile, knowing that this marks the beginning of the end of this disaster of a date.
I promised Ma that I wouldn’t drink my dinner every night, but some days, it’s impossible to keep that promise. I tell myself that it’s different on days like today because I’m not drinking to forget how much I miss Jill, I’m drinking to forget how miserable some people choose to make one another. Today, I just about lost it and told one couple that there’s no point in them even trying to get along. Unfortunately, my partner frowns upon me telling couples that sometimes two people just aren’t meant to be together, as was this case with this pair.
It takes a minute for my eyes to adjust to the dark atmosphere of Brewster’s after walking around for thirty minutes trying to tell myself I didn’t need a drink. I find an empty seat at the end of the bar and signal the bartender for my usual. Okay, so maybe Ma had a point since he simply nods and has a tall whiskey sour sitting in front of me in less than a minute.
I look around, the same way I do every night, wondering if this town will ever start to feel like home. It’s a nice enough place, but there’s a definite divide between those who are from here and those who move here at some point in their lives.
I sit a bit straighter when I see Scott, the quiet, broody guy from group, sitting at one of the high top tables in the center of the room. He looks absolutely miserable. When I catch a glimpse of his date for the evening, Adrian the annoying twink who thinks he’s God’s gift to all gay men in town, the annoyance radiating off Scott is understandable.
I nurse the first drink, rather than down it as quickly as possible. I’ve wanted to talk to Scott the past few weeks, but he’s ducked out as soon as the official meeting ends, even though Jim hangs around for a while. I’ve considered following him when he leaves, to see if I can talk to him, but then I tell myself that he must have his reasons for not wanting to deal with people and I have to respect that.
I feel like a creep, watching Adrian and Scott eating dinner, but I can’t help it. A few times, I’ve thought Scott was checking me out the same way I have been him and this is the first confirmation I have that I might be right. Scott excuses himself from the table and Adrian reaches out for him as he walks away. I laugh when Scott practically jumps back to keep from being part of an awkward and unwelcome embrace.
Once he’s in the restroom, I order another drink before putting a five-dollar bill in the jukebox. I don’t give a shit about the music, but it’s the closest I can get to Scott without following him into the bathroom, which is a level of creepy that I can’t imagine stooping to.
“Hey, man,” I say when I see him walking down the hall. I don’t give him my full attention, wanting him to believe that we just happened to run into one another.
“Chris, right?” he responds, leaning against the wall.
“Yeah,” I confirm. “How’ve you been?” I’m surprised that he remembers my name. After that first night, he’s gone out of his way to avoid talking to me or anyone else. I’ve tried to not take it personally, but last week he seemed comfortable right up until he saw me walking toward him. Then, he couldn’t get out of the room quick enough.
“Not too bad,” he responds, jerking his head when Adrian turns to see where he is. I stifle a laugh when he audibly groans at the idea of returning to the table. “I suppose, I’d better get back before he comes over here.”
“Hey, Scott,” I call out as he walks away. He turns around and I find myself at a loss for words. What am I supposed to say? ‘If you get sick of that washed-up loser, come see me at the bar’? Or maybe ‘Hey, if you need rescuing, I’m your man!’ In the end, I wave and say, “It was good seeing you.”
“You too.” He smiles, the first time I’ve seen anything other than a scowl on his face, and I see a faint hint of dimples at the corners of his mouth.
After selecting a few songs at random, I head back to my stool, alternating between the baseball game and Scott. I can’t help myself; there’s something about him that calls me to get to know him better.
As soon as the waitress clears their dinner dishes, Scott says something to Adrian and I watch the kid’s shoulders slump. Adrian really wouldn’t be a bad guy, he’s just so damn desperate and cocky, all rolled up into one big, glittery ball. He doesn’t hang around long after that and I smile as I see Scott weaving his way through the crowd toward me.
“That looked like fun,” I tease. The bartender grabs another round and I signal for him to cut me off. I may make plenty of bad choices in my life, but driving after drinking too much will never be one of them.
“You have no idea,” Scott bemoans, tossing back a shot of Jack. “I’m beginning to think my friend isn’t a friend at all after that.”
“Oh, come on! It couldn’t have been that bad.” Having been on the receiving end of Adrian’s advances, I know exactly how uncomfortable it can be trying to shake him off. Then again, they didn’t seem overly close to one another, so maybe I’m misreading what I thought I saw.
“Um, yeah. It could. And it was.” Scott pulls out his cellphone and I watch as his fingers fly over the keyboard display. I’m not sure who he’s texting, but the furrow of his brow tells me it’s not a pleasant conversation. “Let’s just say it turns out someone I thought knew me knows nothing about me.”
That could be taken a lot of ways, so I sip the soda the bartender just set down for me, waiting to see if Scott will give me any more information. He doesn’t.
We wind up sitting around until the end of the baseball game and Scott tells me he needs to get home. I’m not ready for the night to end, but I can’t exactly ask him to come home with me. “Hey, I’ll see you Thursday, okay?”
“Sounds good.” I watch Scott’s tight ass as he walks away, more confused than I was at the start of the night.