Connection (Connection #1)
Physically and emotionally scarred from a devastating car accident, Jeremy Lewis struggles to reconcile the brash, outgoing man he used to be with the social recluse he’s become.
Loneliness draws them to each other, but a strong mutual attraction isn’t enough to overcome their pasts. In order to be together, Evan must discover his own worth and Jeremy must trust someone to see past his scars.
“So how do you know the grooms?” The man he was pretty sure he recognized from the sporting goods store dropped onto the stool to his left, and Evan jerked, spilling some of his drink on the bar.
“Oh, um, I met Russ and Stephen last fall when they were in Stephen’s hometown. I worked at the funeral home there when they buried his father.”
The guy frowned. “So you’re just visiting Atlanta then?”
Evan shook his head. “No. I moved to Atlanta in February. When we met last fall, Russ was nice enough to kind of”—he struggled to find the right words as he mopped up the spill—“take me under his wing, I guess. Once I moved here, Russ and Stephen helped me get settled and find the guts to go off on my own.”
He chuckled and nudged Evan’s elbow with his. “I dunno, seems like you must have had some guts in the first place.”
“Maybe.” Evan blushed. “I’d like to think so.”
“How do you like Atlanta?”
“It’s lonely,” Evan said, surprising himself with his candor. The drink he was working on must’ve loosened his tongue. “I mean, it’s fine, I guess. I just haven’t met anyone yet.” In his head, Atlanta had been a gay man’s paradise where there would be available guys everywhere he looked, but it hadn’t worked out that way. At least, not for him.
“Amen, kid.” The guy raised his glass and clinked it against Evan’s. “What’s your name, anyway?”
“Evan Harris.” He glanced at the guy out of the corner of his eye.
“Nice to meet you. Jeremy Lewis.” He narrowed his eyes at Evan. “Wait a minute, you came into Johnson’s sporting goods a while ago, didn’t you? You needed running shoes, I think.”
“I … yeah,” Evan replied, shocked but flattered that the guy—Jeremy—had remembered him. “I did. Russ suggested I go there, actually. Um, thanks for your help, by the way. The new shoes are much better. The fit specialist did a great job.”
Jeremy grinned. “Glad to hear my employees know what they’re doing.”
Evan wasn’t sure what else to say about running shoes that wouldn’t make him sound like an idiot, but he didn’t want Jeremy to stop talking to him, so he changed the subject. “How do you know them?”
“Stephen and Russ? I just met Russ a few months ago, but Stephen’s my ex.”
“Really?” Evan gaped at him for a moment before all the pieces fell into place. Stephen had mentioned his ex’s car accident. That explained the limp and the scar. “Oh.”
“Mmmhmm. Stephen’s always had a thing for younger guys. We met when I was twenty, and he was … oh, must have been about thirty-two, thirty-three, maybe? Hell if I can remember. It’s been fifteen years.”
Which meant Jeremy was in his mid-thirties now. Up close, Evan could see the lines around his eyes when he smiled. Evan liked them.
“You’re not jealous of Russ?” he blurted out, then bit his lip, hoping Jeremy wasn’t offended.
“It’s complicated,” Jeremy said with a sigh as his lips twisted in a bitter smile. “I know Russ is a hell of a lot better for Stephen than I ever was, and I’m glad they’re happy together. It’s … it’s not that I want to be with Stephen, and, hell, I’m not a relationship kinda guy, but something about seeing them together makes me envious, you know?”
“Yeah, I know.” Evan sighed.
Jeremy nudged him with his elbow again. “Come on, kid, I’m sure you can’t have any trouble picking up guys.”
Evan sputtered, nearly choking on his drink and wondering how the guy knew he was gay. Am I obvious? he wondered. “Umm, I haven’t exactly ever done it before …” he muttered into his glass, embarrassed to confess his lack of dating experience but unable to hold his tongue.
“Don’t tell me you’re a virgin?” Jeremy’s gaze was disbelieving, and the tips of Evan’s ears went red-hot.
“Okay, I won’t then.” Evan tilted his drink back and shook an ice cube into his mouth, crunching down on it. He refused to look at the guy next to him for fear he’d turn tomato red.
Jeremy whistled quietly. “Kid, if you go into a gay club it’ll be like waving a steak at starving tigers. They’ll be all over you.”
“I think you’ve had too much to drink,” Evan protested. “I’m nothing special.”
“Oh, Jesus, you have to be kidding me.” Jeremy stood with a groan. “Okay, unless you’ve got somewhere you need to be, I want you to come have a seat with me at a booth over there. My leg is fucking killing me, and we need to have a long talk about why you don’t realize you’re the kind of pretty little twink who makes gay men cream their jockstraps.”
Evan blushed, but he followed Jeremy toward the cozy booths anyway, embarrassed, terrified, and completely intrigued by the gorgeous guy who had called him pretty.
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