What do you do when your past comes knocking?
Six hundred and ninety-five days. That’s how long it’s been since Jude’s fiancé broke off their engagement. With the help of his brother and his all-encompassing love for music, Jude glued the broken pieces of his heart back together, but when his ex shows up on his doorstep late one evening, Jude fears it will fall apart again.
Two years ago, Vincent made a terrible mistake. He left the love of his life for stupid, ill-advised reasons. It took a traumatic event to bring what was truly important in his life into focus. Older and wiser, he’s now ready to do whatever it takes to win Jude back.
Their chemistry is as explosive as ever, but will they be able to work through the real issues? Can trust once broken be rebuilt?
I was still wide awake when someone knocked on my door half an hour later, and I knew who it was before I even got out of bed. Who else could it be at four in the morning but Vee?
I didn’t bother to turn on the lights or get dressed, and I opened the door in my boxers. My heart lurched at the sight of him. He still hadn’t shaved and he had black rings under his eyes. His usual confidence was nowhere to be seen. Usually, his presence took over the entire room, but today he looked as if he was trying to make himself smaller.
Without a word, I stepped aside and let him in. I grabbed his hand and led him to the den. “We’ll talk in the morning. You can sleep on the couch,” I said. “I’ll get some sheets.” I got some fresh linen from the closet and grabbed an extra blanket — he was always cold when he slept — and made up the sofa for him. He didn’t move from the spot where I’d let go of his hand, and he didn’t take his eyes off me.
“You gonna sleep in your clothes?” I asked.
He shook his head and peeled off his lavender V-neck sweater — probably cashmere — and flipped open the jeans’ button while I fluffed his pillows and spread out the cozy blanket. When he pulled down his pants, I had to avert my eyes. To stop myself from staring, I jogged to the kitchen and brought back a bottle of water for him.
He was tense when I returned as if he’d thought I’d gone to bed without saying goodnight. I didn’t like seeing him uncertain. He was a guy who was assured of himself. Never doubted himself or his intelligence. But he was never arrogant. No, he hid a kind and generous man behind his cocky smile. It was one of the things that had attracted me to him in the first place; all the different layers of his personality. The sides of him he only ever showed me.
“Go to bed,” I murmured and lifted the blanket in invitation. After a brief hesitation, he lay down and curled up on the couch. I tucked him in — pulling the blanket all the way up to his chin — and made sure it covered his naked toes, too.
I resisted leaning down and kissing him on the cheek. I managed to keep myself from ruffling his hair or touching the unfamiliar stubble to see if it was as silky as I imagined. And I didn’t beg him to take off his T-shirt so I could run my fingers through his treasure trail. I simply gave him a smile and said, “Sleep well Lovee.”
As soon as the old endearment slipped out I wished I could take it back. He, on the other hand, lit up, and for the first time since he’d knocked on my door yesterday, something looking a lot like hope shone from his eyes.
I whirled around and ran out. Dove under my covers, and buried my face in my pillow, not moving until my lungs screamed for oxygen.
Gasping for air, I tried to find a comfortable sleeping position. My questions had disappeared and been replaced with the image of him on my couch, all pleading eyes, and heartbreaking vulnerability.
I turned to the other side and fluffed my pillow, but it was too hot from my breathing into it, so I flipped it over. I rolled over on my back and flung my arm over my eyes. Then I tried to lie on my stomach with my arm tucked under the pillow, but it quickly went numb. It got too hot under the cover, so I threw it off and then it got too cold. I shivered and pulled it back up, but kept a leg outside.
After twisting in my bed for what felt like an eternity, I gave up. I sighed, stood, and padded back into the den. Vee looked up at me when I entered, as awake as I was. Tilting my head in the direction of my bedroom I said, “Bring your blanket.”
He scrambled off the couch and followed me. Tucked under my covers at a safe distance from him, I could finally fall asleep. The last thing I remembered before closing my eyes, was his sooty lashes fanned out on pale cheeks, and the snuffling sounds he made as he slept.
Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies’ room), loves music (and singing along but, let’s face it, she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (“Make it so”). She loves words, poetry, wine, and Sudoku, and absolutely adores elephants!
Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender, or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.
Nell is a forty-something bisexual Swedish woman, married to the love of her life, and a proud mama of a grown daughter. She left the Scandinavian cold and darkness for warmer and sunnier Malaysia a few years ago, and now spends her days writing, surfing the Internet, enjoying the heat, and eating good food. One day she decided to chase her lifelong dream of being a writer, sat down in front of her laptop, and wrote a story about two men falling in love.
Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angst, and wants to write diverse and different characters
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