Imagine Stephen’s surprise when Lane turns out to have changed from school bully to persistent, attentive suitor. If Lane the Pain can hear Stephen’s most painful of intimate details and still want to pursue a relationship, is it possible that Stephen can reconnect with the family that turned on him years ago?
Purchase from Dreamspinner PressExcerpt: The plane landed, taxiing to the terminal as Steven peered out the window at the concrete, grass, and terminal buildings that looked so familiar and yet so different. He’d never thought he’d be returning to the Harrisburg area to live, not after all these years, but fate must have had a sense of humor and the old bitch was certainly laughing now. Pulling up to the gate, the whine of the small plane’s engines seemed to lower and then die away, replaced by the sound of air rushing through the ventilation systems. Steven stood up and pulled down his carry-on, waiting for the doors to open so he could exit. Taking his turn, he descended the stairs and walked across the tarmac and into the terminal. At least this was new and different, not like the old airport where he’d gotten on a plane after he’d graduated from high school and never looked back. And he’d been grateful, until now, fifteen years later, that he’d never been back, either.
Walking through the terminal toward the baggage claim, Steven stopped in the men’s room. Passing by the mirrors at the sinks, he half expected to see the kid he’d been when he’d gotten on that first flight to take him away for his first semester of college, but “Blobby Bobby” was gone, never to return. He’d even stopped going by his first name altogether. Years ago, after he lost all that weight, he’d started using his middle name in an effort to truly change his life. Washing his hands, he looked at himself in the mirror again, wondering just why coming back here was so hard for him. He hadn’t seen nor talked to his folks since he’d left for college. His father, the minister, preferred it that way, and after all this time, it didn’t really matter. Taking a deep breath, Steven smiled, almost laughing. He was being completely silly. No one would recognize him, and he was making a big deal over nothing. A lot had changed in fifteen years, and it wasn’t as though anyone would remember him.
Finishing in the bathroom, Steven strode out of the gate area and onto the escalators, riding down to baggage claim, where he picked up his suitcases. He walked to the Hertz counter to get the keys to his reserved rental car, and soon he was outside in the warm spring afternoon. Loading his bags in the trunk, Steven got in the car and started driving toward town, arriving at his hotel an hour later.
Checking in and unpacking didn’t take long, and Steven found himself at loose ends on a Saturday afternoon. Picking up the phone book, he thumbed through the yellow pages, looking for a health club nearby. That was a great way to spend a few hours and maybe work away the blah feelings he kept having. Seeing that there was one nearby, Steven opened his suitcases and repacked his carry-on for the gym before heading out.
Walking through the doors felt comfortable. Even though he’d never been there before, the place sounded and felt like a gym, with the clang of weights and the sounds of music, talking, and the hum of treadmills.
“Can I help you?” the big-eyed blonde girl behind the desk asked cheerfully, her smile growing as he saw her look him over. Girls always seemed to, which was fine with him—not that he was interested, but it was always a nice compliment.
“I’m moving to the area and wanted to check out the club,” Steven answered, looking around the building. This had to be one of the newest and cleanest health clubs he’d seen; everything from the floors to the desk seemed to shine.
“Let me get you with one of our salesmen. He can give you a tour and set you up with a guest pass.” Picking up the phone, she made a call, and a large, well-built man walked to the desk.
“Are you Steven?” The man asked offering his hand, Steven knew there was something familiar about him. “I’m Lane Parkinson. Come on over to the desk, and I can get you set up.”
Steven nearly dropped his bag in surprise, but managed to hold on to it, smiling since Lane didn’t recognize him. Not that Lane had ever paid much attention to him other than to pick on him all through high school. If he remembered correctly, it was Lane who’d originally coined the nickname “Blobby Bobby,” along with a number of others that Steven didn’t want to remember. Still smiling, he followed Lane to a desk and sat in one of the chairs . “I’m just interested in trying out the club for now,” Steven explained.
Lane gave him a basic rundown on the prices of memberships and the specials they were running before taking him on a tour of the club. “Stop by my desk before you leave, and I’ll set you up with a two-week pass,” Lane told him before walking out of the locker room and leaving Steven to change. Checking the lockers, Steven found an empty one and began to change as people moved around him.
“Fruitbag,” a voice zinged over the wall, and Steven looked around, wondering where that was coming from. “Are you and Gene going to dinner, or are you gonna be a prick all your life?”
Steven relaxed when he realized the comment wasn’t directed at him.
“I’ll ask him, but you really know how to issue a sweet invitation, Lonnie,” the man changing next to him answered, and things got quiet until a naked man walked around the lockers and up to the man next to him. “I’ll be nice to you and let you suck my love hammer.” Steven could barely believe what he was hearing and jumped when he heard a smack and saw this Lonnie guy flinch, rubbing his butt. “Hey, what was that for?”
“You’re being an ass,” the man next to him said with a grin. “Besides, you liked it, you pervert,” he added with a smile as the naked guy walked back around the lockers, and Steven continued to change, wondering what kind of place this was.
“Don’t pay any attention to him,” the guy next to him explained. “He’s a complete pig who didn’t get the gene that censors speech. I’m Dan, by the way, and the loudmouth is Lonnie. He’s harmless except for his mouth.” Steven slipped off his shirt before pulling on a T-shirt and changing into his workout shorts. “Are you new to the club?” Dan asked as he finished dressing.
“Yeah. I just got into town for a new job and thought I’d check out the place.”
Lonnie poked his head around the corner. “Work out with us, then,” he offered. Steven wasn’t too sure about that, but Dan seemed nice, and Steven agreed before giving it too much thought. Working out was better with a partner, so he figured it couldn’t hurt.
“If you’re sure—” Steven started to say, but Lonnie interrupted.
“Of course.” His head disappeared, and Steven heard shuffling from behind the wall of lockers. “You ready?” Lonnie’s voice drifted over. Steven tied his shoes and grabbed his workout gloves before closing his locker, following Dan out of the locker room.
Lonnie had already scoped out one of the bench presses and had loaded a single plate on each end of the bar. Seeing them approach, he held out his hand to Steven. “I’m Lonnie.”
“Steven,” he said, shaking the offered hand.
“So, are you a butt pirate like Dan here?” Lonnie asked with a huge grin that lasted until Dan swatted at him. “What? I was just asking,” Lonnie said with a laugh as he lay down on the bench before lifting the bar and pounding out a quick set. Dan looked a little uncomfortable, and Steven said nothing as Dan did his set. Then he took his turn, easily doing fifteen reps. “So are you?”
“What?” Steven retorted, rolling his eyes. “Are you afraid for your virtue?”
Dan hooted as he added a quarter to each end of the bar. “Lonnie doesn’t have any virtue left to lose,” Dan chided, and then it was his turn to jump back from a good-natured swipe. Amazingly, Steven felt himself relaxing. When it was his turn, he pounded out a set of ten before he and Dan stripped off the twenty-five-pound weights and added a second set of plates.
“How are you doing?” Steven saw Lane standing off to the side. “I see you’ve met Lonnie and Dan.” Steven nodded, and another man joined them. Steven couldn’t help staring a little. This guy was huge and sexy as hell. When he walked to Dan, slipping an arm around his waist, Steven felt a twinge of disappointment.
“Steven, this is my partner, Gene,” Dan said, introducing him before turning to Gene. “This is Steven. He’s trying out the club.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Gene told him, shaking his hand.
“So, what do you think of the club?” Lane asked from behind him.
“It’s very nice,” Steven answered, watching as Lonnie did his set, and inwardly smiling at Lane as he saw Lane’s eyes dart down his body. When it was his turn, Steven did his set, pushing out a set of ten, with Gene stepping behind to give him a spot, helping him slightly on the last rep as the others talked. Getting up, he saw Lane looking at him, arms folded across his chest, pushing the muscle forward, biceps straining his shirt. The man was handsome—hell, the man was freakin’ hot. Normally, when he was being looked at like that, Steven would have said something, but he held back, reminding himself who this guy was, but he still couldn’t stop himself from looking.
Adding more weight to the bar, they took turns once again. “Stop by my desk when you’re done,” Lane told him with a smile just before his turn came, and Steven watched him walk away.
“It’s your turn,” Dan told him, and Steven noticed that Gene had left the group to continue his workout. Performing his set, Dan spotted him, and after six reps, he clinked the weight back into the rack. Sitting up, Steven took a few deep breaths, his chest pulsing with blood from the exercise.
“It looks like someone is interested in you,” Dan told him, keeping his voice low. “If you’re not interested, that’s cool, but I thought I saw you looking at him too.”
Steven looked at Dan for a second, trying to size the guy up. “He’s attractive,” Steven told him cautiously, “but I knew him in high school. He obviously doesn’t know who I am.”
“Why wouldn’t he? You gave him your name when you met with him. You’d think he’d remember.”
Steven shook his head, wondering just how much to tell Dan, but it really didn’t matter. “Steven’s my middle name. As a teenager, I was really overweight, and the kids used to call me Blobby Bobby. Lane,” Steven said as he looked toward the front desk area, “was the chief instigator.”
“Well, it looks to me as though that kid is long gone,” Dan told him. “None of us is who we were then.” Dan looked to where Lane sat talking on the phone. “But I do know that Lane has a reputation as a bit of a player. I’m just saying, not judging,” he clarified quickly.
“Lane’s a good guy,” Lonnie interjected. “For a fruitbag—no offense,” Lonnie added with a grin. “You two ready to move on, or you gonna stand around exchanging recipes? You know, if you were real friends, you could jerk me off.” Dan just shook his head at Lonnie as he ducked when Steven took a swipe at him.
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