Hi, all! It’s been a while since I updated, but I have a surprise rerelease to announce today!
My short story, Black John, was originally included in DSP’s “Cross Bones” pirate anthology. I got the rights back a few months ago and decided I would rerelease it as an individual title for those who didn’t pick up the anthology, or those who read the other book in this universe, Love Rising (currently available from Dreamspinner Press). The two stories are set in the same world, but can definitely be read as stand-alones. Please note: Love Rising does have a fantasy element. If you’re a fan of mermen, check it out! 😀
This fab new cover was designed by Natasha Snow. I ♥ it.
Former pirate Juan “Black John” de Avila has found a home on Isla Sagrario, a safe haven for men who desire other men. When Jacob, the lover he thought had died, washes ashore after a shipwreck, Juan believes he’s been given a second chance at love. But Jacob Bellamy thinks the safety of Sagrario is an illusion, one that will come to a brutal end should their enemies ever catch wind of their whereabouts.
Juan doesn’t want to lose Jacob again, but neither does he want to leave his home behind for a lifetime of hiding and secrecy. When the island comes under attack, Jacob is forced to decide what means more to him—spending the rest of his life safe and alone, or risking it all to be with the man he loves.
Genre: M/M Historical Romance
Length: Short story (approx 6K)
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Hey, all! Originally this Valentine’s Day short was supposed to be exclusive to my newsletter until April; however, since we seemed to have hit a snag and my newsletter only made it out to maybe a 3rd of my subscribers, I decided it’d be fitting to post it here today. So, to those who voted for Ash and Fee in my Valentine’s Day story poll in January, this is for you. Read it here or on Xara’s blog. ♥
BODY ART: A CLUMSY CUPID VALENTINE’S DAY SHORT
by Piper Vaughn & Xara X. Xanakas
“Ash! Come on. The taxi’s here,” Fee called from the front door. He knew Ash had been packed for days, so he couldn’t imagine what was taking so long.
“I’m just doing one last check.”
Fee groaned and walked back to Ash’s bedroom. Ash was standing near the bed, patting down his pockets as he looked around. Fee stood behind him and rubbed his hands down his arms.
“You’ve got everything. Let’s just go. We’re going to be late.”
“What if I forgot something?” Ash chewed on his thumbnail as he glanced around the room.
“You didn’t forget anything when you first packed, or when you re-packed two days ago, or when you packed it again last night. And if you did forget something, no big deal.”
Ash whipped his head around. “What?”
“Ash, it’s New York. I guarantee, if you forgot something, we’ll be able to get it there,” Fee said as he bent down to pick up Ash’s overnight bag. “Besides, it’s only three days. You’ll be fine.”
“All right.” Ash sighed. “Let’s go then.”
Ash’s knee was bouncing all the way to the airport, shaking Fee’s leg next to him. Fee dropped a hand onto Ash’s thigh to help calm him down. “Are you okay?”
Ash kept staring out the window, watching the city waking up as they rode to the airport. Their flight was scheduled to leave at six-thirty in the morning.
“It’s too early,” Ash whined. “Why do we have to go so early?”
“We want to make the most of the day, don’t we?”
“Yeah, but there would still be a lot of day left if we left a couple of hours later.”
“Trust me,” Fee said, leaning in to kiss Ash’s cheek. “I’ll get you a coffee after we get through security, okay?”
Ash dropped a hand to cover his stomach. “Ugh. Maybe when we get there. I can’t even think about caffeine right now.”
“Ash, have you ever flown before?” That would explain a lot of Ash’s nervousness. His emotions had been all over the map, one minute snapping at Fee, the next curling in on himself.
“Of course I have,” Ash snapped again as the cab came to a stop at the curbside check-in counter. Fee paid the cabbie and led Ash inside. They had already checked in and printed their boarding passes, and all their bags were carry-ons, so they went straight for the security gates. “Holy crap, these lines are long,” Ash said.
“Don’t worry. They’ll go quick.” Fee nudged him forward to get in line. Ash kept tapping his foot as they waited. When they finally got near the bins, Fee kicked off his shoes and unpacked his laptop while Ash moved to the side to unlace his boots, remove his belt, and empty all his pockets. He stepped through the scanner, but he set it off and had to go back through. A couple of people behind them groaned, but Ash turned his pockets inside out and tried to go through again. It went off again, and he was pulled aside to be wanded. Fee went through without any trouble and collected all of their things. He waited at one of the benches inside Security for Ash to be cleared. The extra pat-down didn’t find anything, and Ash was finally let in. The extra security checks cost them a little bit of time, but they made it to their gate just as boarding was beginning.
When their group was called, Ash turned to Fee with wide eyes, and Fee squeezed the back of Ash’s neck.
“Hey, don’t worry. I’m here, okay?”
Ash nodded and took a deep breath and handed his boarding pass over.
“Have a nice trip, Mr. Byrne,” the ticket agent said.
“Uh, thanks,” Ash said. He took a few steps and waited for Fee to join him before they went into the jetway. The line of passengers moved a few groups at a time as people reached their rows and stopped to stow their bags in the overhead compartments. Finally, they were at their row.
“I’ll take the middle,” Fee said, nodding to signal Ash to take the window seat as he put up their bags.
“No, I’ll take the middle.”
Ash swallowed and glanced out the window before he sat down in the middle seat. “I’m sure.”
“Okay.” Fee shrugged and scooted in to take his place. Ash was already gripping the armrests tight, and Fee’s fingers hurt just watching him. He put his hand on Ash’s and tried to pry his fingers free. “Hey, are you sure you’re okay?”
Ash bit his lips and nodded. “Fine. I’m fine.” The baggage door slammed shut underneath them, and Ash jumped.
“Sure, you’re fine.”
“Sorry if we’re not all world travelers,” Ash huffed and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Hey, I’m not judging.”
“No, of course not. You’d never do that,” Ash drawled.
Fee let out a breath and counted to ten. Ash’s jaw was clenched tight, and his leg was bouncing again. Soon enough the doors were closed and they pushed away from the gate. Ash’s hands went back to the armrests, and he had his eyes squeezed shut. They rolled down the runway, and Fee put his hand on Ash’s forearm as he leaned closer.
“Ash, it’s going to be fine. This is a simple hop. Two hours is nothing, right?” The plane slowed as they got into position for take off. Ash’s breathing got shallow when the plane started moving again. “Ash, look at me,” Fee said, putting a finger under his chin to turn his face to look at him. “It’s going to be fine,” he said again. He leaned in to kiss Ash, and Ash ran his fingers through Fee’s hair, grasping tightly when the plane lifted off the ground.
Ash kept his grip on Fee until after the plane leveled out and the flight attendant announced it was safe to use approved electronic devices.
Fee pulled back and smiled. “See? We’re airborne now.”
Ash nodded and took a deep breath. “Airborne’s good, right?”
“Yeah, airborne’s very good. How else can we join the Mile High Club?” Fee asked with a wink as the plane hit a patch of turbulence. Ash’s hands flew back to the arm rests, and Fee pulled one hand closer and wrapped it in both of his. “How about we just sit here for a bit?”
“Sitting’s good,” Ash said quickly when the plane bounced again.
“Sitting’s great, as long as I’m near you.” Fee smiled and leaned in for another kiss.
Ash laughed. “God, that was cheesy.”
“What can I say? You bring it out in me.” They spent the rest of the flight joking with each other and planning their weekend. When the doors opened, Fee could see Ash finally let go of the tension he’d been carrying in his shoulders.
The line at the cab stand was even longer than the security line at O’Hare, but it moved quicker. Fee had booked a boutique hotel near the Museum of Modern Art. He had been emailing the concierge during the week, planning a few surprises for Ash. He texted the man to let him know they were on their way by cab, giving him an estimated arrival time based on the cabbie’s guess. The ride to the hotel took about forty-five minutes with traffic, but Fee didn’t care. Ash was like a kid, moving between both windows, taking everything in.
“Thank you,” Ash said as the cab slowed in front of the hotel.
Fee smiled and checked his watch. They were right on time, and the concierge had texted to let him know that their check-in was already taken care of.
“Mr. Navarro?” a man in a suit asked as Ash got out of the cab. Ash shook his head and signaled over his shoulder to where Fee was paying the driver. Fee smiled, came over, and shook his hand. “Mr. Navarro, I’m Gus. It’s a pleasure to meet you in person.”
“Please, call me Fee. And this is Ash.”
“Gentlemen, I have your room ready, and Ernie will take your bags up for you. Just come down and see me whenever you’re ready to go to the museum.”
“Thank you, Gus.” Fee smiled and slipped him a twenty. They followed Ernie up to their room and waited as he set their bags down and pointed out the mini bar, thermostat, and light switches. Fee tipped him, and Ash collapsed on the bed after Ernie left.
“Nap time,” he said.
“Don’t you want to go get some lunch before the museum?”
“Go on without me. Save yourself,” Ash said as he hugged a pillow tight.
Fee unpacked their bags, setting out their toothbrushes and hanging their shirts up while Ash relaxed. He finished by tucking the small surprise he’d brought for Ash into the drawer with his boxers and leaned against the wall.
“You’re not going to let me nap, are you?”
“I promised you coffee.”
“Tomorrow?” Ash asked. Fee chuckled at the hopefulness in his tone.
“Come on. You’re going to love it. I promise.”
“Ugh. You’re so mean to me. Fine, give me a minute,” Ash mumbled on his way to the bathroom.
Fee sat at the desk and checked his email on his phone while he waited. He smiled when he saw the confirmation email he was expecting for the museum tour he’d arranged for Ash. The bathroom door opened, and Ash stepped out. Some of his hair was dripping, like he’d splashed water on his face and got it everywhere. He shook his head and a few drops landed on his shirt. Fee sat and watched him as he picked up his jacket and glared back at him.
“Well? Are we leaving?”
“Just,” Fee said, getting up. He went into the bathroom to get a towel. He dropped it on top of Ash’s head and scrubbed at his hair. Ash pushed at him, but Fee held tight. When he moved the towel away from Ash’s face, he was scowling. Fee couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled out at that, making Ash scowl harder. He smiled and pulled Ash into a kiss.
“You’re just lucky I love you,” Ash pouted when they separated. He grabbed the towel from Fee and went back into the bathroom. Fee gathered their jackets and waited near the door. He watched Ash as he combed his hair, just enjoying the way his muscles moved in his forearm. He’d never had a hand kink that he knew of, but he loved watching Ash when he worked. The way he held his pencils when he was drawing, his long, strong fingers wrapped around the wood, always graceful, always elegant. It was sexy in a way Fee had never considered before meeting Ash. Now, he couldn’t get enough of Ash’s hands. He was still staring when Ash cleared his throat. “See something you like?”
“Oh yeah,” Fee said. He crowded Ash against the door and tucked his face into Ash’s neck.
“I thought we were going, not coming,” Ash whispered. Fee sighed, making Ash shudder against him. “You keep that up, and the only place we’re going is to that big bed over there.”
Fee sighed and stood up. “You’re right. Let’s get going.”
“Do we have to?” Ash started kissing Fee’s neck and rubbing his hips against Fee’s. Fee groaned and pulled back to look into Ash’s eyes.
“Yes, we do. At least for lunch. Because you’re going to need your strength later,” he growled against Ash’s neck when Ash started to pout again.
“All right,” Ash sighed. He took his jacket from Fee. “Feed me.”
They left the hotel and wandered around a little, taking in the sights before they made their way to a café the concierge recommended. After lunch, and four cups of coffee, Ash looked more alive. He was practically bouncing as they walked to the Museum of Modern Art. His eyes were sparkling as he turned to Fee.
“Let’s go in.” Fee nodded and grabbed the door handle. Ash grinned and stepped inside. He immediately started looking around the lobby while Fee went to the counter to check in. “We’ve got an appointment with Ms. Sheppard,” he said after he introduced himself.
“Hello, Mr. Navarro. You can call me Kelsey. It’s nice to meet you.” She shook hands with Fee and then turned to Ash as he walked up. “And you must be Mr. Byrne. I’m Kelsey, and I’ll be your guide today. Fee told me you’re interested in mixed-media artwork. Is that right?”
“Uh, yeah,” Ash said cautiously.
“Wonderful. We have a new exhibit starting next week, and we’re prepping it now. Would you like to see it?”
“Are we allowed?”
“Of course. It’s part of the private tour Fee requested.”
“Fee?” Ash turned to him, the question clear on his face. Fee nodded, and the look of confusion morphed into one of happiness. The smile that took over Ash’s face was even better than Fee had hoped for when he made the arrangements. His chest tightened as he smiled back.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, babe.”
By the time they left the museum it was early evening. Their personal tour guide had started with the museum’s newest exhibition, and then led them throughout the various galleries, stopping occasionally to highlight and delve into the history of certain pieces. After the official tour was over, Ash had wanted to revisit the contemporary galleries and, unsurprisingly, the drawings gallery which featured a collection of abstract geometric drawings that seemed to fascinate him.
Ash was practically vibrating with lingering excitement as they stepped out of the museum. He stopped Fee for a brief kiss just beyond the exit, grinning up at him as he pulled back.
“I can’t believe you did this,” he said. “Thank you so much. I’m sorry I was being such a grouch all morning.”
“You’re welcome.” Fee kissed the corner of Ash’s mouth and linked their fingers together. He wasn’t really one for big PDAs, but they were in New York and this was their Valentine’s Day celebration. It felt right. “I wanted to give you something special. And don’t worry about this morning. I understand. I didn’t know flying made you nervous.”
“I haven’t really done it very often,” Ash said as they started down the sidewalk. “Just a couple of times to Florida to see my folks. Not a fan.” He bumped Fee’s shoulder with his. “But you already gave me something special, you know? This whole trip was a gift. You didn’t need to add anything more.”
Fee shrugged. “I wanted to.” And it was true. He’d been secretly planning this trip since Christmas. They’d exchanged gifts and celebrated Valentine’s Day with dinner and a movie on the day of, but at the end of the night, Fee surprised Ash with the plane tickets for this trip. He’d already arranged with Tank for Ash’s schedule to be cleared over the weekend. The only thing left had been to pack. It was costing him a small fortune, sure. New York wasn’t exactly cheap. But it was the first trip they’d taken together—the first of many to come, he hoped—so he’d tossed aside the idea of a budget and embraced the thought of a couple of hedonistic days spent not giving a damn how many times he swiped his debit card. It was oddly freeing. Most of the time Fee lived a rather frugal existence, aside from the rare splurge on whatever new high-tech gadget caught his interest. What was the point of hoarding his paychecks if he never actually let loose and enjoyed the money?
“So where to now?” Ash asked.
Fee glanced at his watch. Friday night, just after six. More than enough time for them to go back to the hotel to shower and change before they needed to be in the East Village to make his eight o’clock reservation at Gyu-Kaku. He’d wanted to try the Japanese barbecue restaurant for ages, but somehow they never made it to the one in Chicago. Luckily, the location of this one was perfect for what he hoped to do after.
“Let’s go back to the hotel,” he said. “Then dinner and dancing, if that sounds good to you.”
Ash bounced. There was no other word for it. He smiled so hard it made Fee’s stomach warm to see it. “Sounds great.”
Dinner was fabulous. The two of them sat at a small table with a grill between them, sharing a bottle of hot sake while cooking a variety of marinated meats and vegetables. The novelty of preparing their own food at a restaurant kept them amused, though the noise level prevented any real conversation.
Afterward, they walked to The Stonewall Inn, which Fee had chosen for its historical value as much as the fact that the Yelp reviews said it was a great place for dancing. He figured Ash would get a kick out of visiting a bar so significant to the GLBT civil rights movement, and the way Ash’s face lit up when he spotted the name in the front window assured him he’d made the right decision.
They caught the end of a drag show and had a few more drinks before losing themselves in the music and dancing. Ash ground against him, tipsy and flushed as he slipped his fingers beneath the hem of Fee’s shirt to stroke the small of his back. A guy crowded Ash from behind, causing a moment of tension when he asked if they might be interested in a three-way, but he just shrugged casually and moved on when Fee glared and said no. Ash laughed then and tossed his arms around Fee’s neck to tug him down into a long, slow kiss.
By the end, Fee’s head spun and his cock was hard as a steel pipe in his jeans. He dragged Ash out of the bar amid breaks for kisses and gropes. They lucked out and caught a cab after a few minutes of wandering down the street. On the way back to the hotel, Fee fended off Ash’s advances long enough to text the concierge to set the rest of his surprise in motion.
Ash was about two exits past sober and kept up the touching even as they made their way into the hotel and crossed the lobby, leaving Fee grateful for the fact that he’d researched and found a gay-friendly hotel before booking a room. The clerks at the front desk didn’t bat an eyelash as Ash fondled him while they waited for the elevator. Fee’s face heated as he blushed. But, then, this was Manhattan. They’d probably seen stranger things than a couple of drunken, horny gay men making out.
When they got to the room, Fee entered first. He breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing that everything inside was exactly as he’d requested. Room service had left a couple of covered trays on the table next to their king-size bed. Excitement surged in his belly as he thought about what was beneath those stainless steel domes and how he would use it on Ash.
“What is that?” Ash asked. He leaned heavily against Fee’s side and rubbed a hand along his arm. “Smells good.”
“Another surprise.” Fee shrugged off his jacket and tossed it over the chair next to the table. He turned toward Ash and smiled at him as his fingers went to work on slowly unbuttoning his own shirt. Ash’s blue eyes tracked the motion, his pupils dilating with every inch of skin that Fee revealed. “Take off your clothes. Leave the cuff on.”
Ash’s nostrils flared as he drew in a shaky breath. He stripped down, baring his slender body and inked skin. As always he wore the soft leather cuff Fee had given him on Halloween, just as Fee never removed the bracelet Ash gifted him after Thanksgiving. Here they were almost three months later, still going strong. Fee wanted more, wanted Ash to move in with him and for them to start building a life together. But there’d be plenty of time to ask about that later. For now, there were surprises and yet another present waiting.
“Get on the bed,” Fee said once they were both naked. He grabbed the lube and his final gift for Ash from the drawer with his boxers as Ash obeyed his instructions. Then he walked over to the table and dragged it close enough to reach easily from the mattress.
Ash watched with obvious curiosity as Fee lifted the domes off the trays. Underneath one was a mini fondue set. There was melted caramel and chocolate, both white and milk. Beneath the other rested a tray loaded with various fruit—cantaloupe, pineapple, and plump, ripe strawberries—along with a cup of what looked like blueberry yogurt and a pile of large, fluffy marshmallows.
Fee gave Ash a naughty grin. “Dessert.”
Ash laughed as Fee settled on the bed beside him. “I like the way you think.” He reached for a strawberry, but Fee gently batted his hand away.
“Nope. Let me feed you.”
Grinning crookedly, his face still flushed from the drinks at dinner and the bar, Ash leaned back against the pillows with his arms behind his head.
Fee grabbed a piece of pineapple and dipped it into the white chocolate before pressing it to Ash’s lips. Ash took a teasing lick before biting off the end. Fee popped the rest of the chunk into his own mouth, watching as Ash chewed. There was chocolate smeared on his lower lip, but Fee didn’t tell him. He liked the look of it there, and besides, he planned on getting Ash a lot messier.
Next he picked up a strawberry. This went into the caramel before he offered it to Ash, but he pulled back when Ash went to take a bite, instead using the strawberry to trail caramel down Ash’s chin, over the lean line of his neck, to the hollow between his collarbones. He lowered his head and followed the caramel path with his tongue, relishing Ash’s soft moan and shudder.
Fee ate the fruit himself before leaning in to share a strawberry and caramel flavored kiss with Ash. Slowly, he used the melted dips and various chunks of fruit and marshmallows to paint designs on Ash’s chest. Ash laughed and whimpered in turn as Fee teased him, his cock resting hard against his abdomen, adding slick precum to the mix.
Just when Ash started to tremble, his body showing signs of impending climax from Fee’s tormenting alone, Fee stopped to reveal the final present he had for Ash. It was a vibrator, sleek and arced perfectly to apply direct pressure to the prostate.
Fee played with it, turning it on so Ash could hear the vibration, his fingers moving over the silky surface as Ash’s breathing grew ragged. “Ever used one of these?” he asked. He knew Ash liked toys, and they’d used the occasional plug or dildo in the past, but he hadn’t noticed one of these in Ash’s collection.
Ash shook his head, his teeth digging into his lower lip.
Fee smiled and turned the vibrator off. “Draw your legs up. Let’s see how long you last.”
Ash groaned but obeyed, parting his thighs, grabbing his own legs behind the knees to expose himself for Fee. He shook visibly as Fee clicked open the lube and slicked up the vibrator. Fee fought a groan of his own as he took in the sight Ash presented, his cock slick and leaking liberal amounts of precum, his pale thighs spread wide, lips kiss-swollen, chest covered in caramel and chocolate. He looked totally debauched, and Fee was nowhere near being finished with him.
Fee swirled a bit more lube around the puckered skin of Ash’s entrance and slowly pressed the vibrator in. It was slender enough that it went in easily, but Ash’s stomach muscles tensed and his eyes were wide by the time the base rested against his ass.
“Okay?” Fee asked.
“Good.” Fee turned the vibrator on its first setting, grinning to himself when Ash jumped a little before moaning long and low. “Right there?”
Ash nodded jerkily. “God, yeah.”
Fee reached for the pot of milk chocolate and dipped two fingers inside. It was warm, but not scalding hot. In other words, perfect for what he intended. He watched Ash’s face as he traced a line of chocolate from the base of his cock to the wet-tipped head.
Ash’s blue eyes were huge in his face and his chest rose and fell as he panted. Fee lowered his head and took the tip of Ash’s cock in his mouth, circling his tongue around the ridge.
“Oh, shit.” Ash’s head fell back and his hips bucked. Fee sucked him deeper, humming at the taste, sweet chocolate blended with the more bitter tang of Ash’s precum. They’d only been going without condoms for the past couple of weeks after receiving their negative test results at the end of January. Fee couldn’t deny he loved the experience without the latex, loved the feel of Ash’s hard, silky flesh on his tongue. He couldn’t do this with just anyone, but with Ash…with Ash it turned him on to the point that his own hips started working, grinding his cock against the bunched up comforter beneath him as he increased the suction and did his best to blow Ash’s mind.
He gave Ash another minute or so on the lowest setting before he turned the vibration up. Ash went rigid, a sharp crying tearing free of his throat. Fee pulled off his cock to let him get used to the feeling and trailed his tongue along the line between Ash’s balls over his taint to where his skin stretched tight around the girth of the vibrator. Fee licked him there too, tasting lube, but he didn’t mind. The brand they used was vanilla-flavored and water-soluble.
Ash’s thighs trembled on either side of his head, and Fee pushed them farther apart, spreading him wider. The sound of the vibrations paled in comparison to Ash’s increasing cries. Finally, when Fee turned the vibrator up to its highest setting and covered the tip of Ash’s cock with his mouth once again, Ash lost it completely. He made an agonized sound, and salty heat flooded Fee’s throat.
Fee moaned around Ash’s cock, the taste of Ash’s cum driving him wild. He shoved a hand between his body and the mattress and fisted his own shaft, stroking hard. It only took a few moments before he came too, wet warmth seeping through his fingers and slicking the last few tugs.
He had enough presence of mind to turn off the vibrator and gently withdraw it from Ash, who lay in a boneless heap with one arm thrown over his eyes. Fee put it aside to clean later before flopping onto his back, his breathing ragged. He reached out and grabbed Ash’s free hand, lacing Ash’s fingers with his sticky ones. There was chocolate and caramel everywhere and he hated to think of the state of the sheets beneath them, but who cared? It was worth potentially scandalizing the housekeeping staff in the morning.
“That was amazing,” Ash said breathlessly. He removed his forearm from his eyes, looking over at Fee. “Thank you.”
Fee grinned at him and reached out to brush sweaty bangs from Ash’s forehead. “Yeah, it was pretty great.”
Ash caught Fee’s hand and pressed a kiss to his knuckles. “I love you.”
Fee felt his own smile go goofy as pleasure bloomed in his chest. It had taken them a while to get those words out in the open between them, but he didn’t think he’d ever tire of hearing Ash say them. “Love you, too.”
Ash laughed, scooting closer. “Best Valentine’s Day celebration ever.”
Fee chuckled softly and kissed him. “It really was.”
© Piper Vaughn & Xara X. Xanakas
Hello, peeps! 😀 Just a quick announcement today. I have a new freebie out, written for the M/M Romance Group’s “Love Has No Boundaries” event. Check out the blurb and cover below! You can either read it at the group or download it free in multiple formats from my website or ARe.
Hope you enjoy it! 🙂
After the death of his aunt, Phillip Wynne is left adrift. He isn’t sure how to mourn the woman who raised him with so little affection. His only solace is his childhood friend, Ryan.
Ryan has always been the one bright thing in Phillip’s life, but while Ryan lives out and proud, Phillip is terrified by the feelings Ryan inspires in him. For years he’s kept them locked away, but when Ryan suddenly confesses his love, Phillip discovers that denying his own feelings might be the only thing scarier than finally owning up to them.