If Peter Christopoulos has learned one thing from his last three years in a wheelchair, it’s that people have a hard time seeing past the hardware. When he asks out Russ Baker after giving him a quote on equipment for a new Greek restaurant, he’s disappointed but not surprised to be turned down.
Russ has been covering for his abusive boyfriend for so long it’s almost automatic, but with a little help from his friends, he finds the courage to break it off. To his surprise, Peter is still interested, and soon they’re falling hard and fast. But then their world is thrown into turmoil: Peter finds an old letter indicating he has a half-sister he's never met, and Russ's past interferes when his ex makes it clear he'll do anything to get him back.
Purchase at Midnight from Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2821
Peter promised he would and hurried home as fast as the weather would allow. Once he arrived, he spent nearly an hour getting out of his wet clothes, drying off, and getting into dry things. He also dried off his wet chair and got on the road again. Thankfully, the rest of his day went better, and by the time he’d made all his calls, the skies had cleared. Peter decided he needed some exercise, so he stopped at home to change and get a different chair. He drove to the local high school and parked near the running track, getting out his chair—this one sleek and sturdy, custom-made for him. Peter slid into it and wheeled himself toward the running surface.
Getting into position, he began moving forward, his arms propelling the wheels on the racing chair. As he picked up speed, his chest, shoulders, and back came into play, and he zoomed around the banked oval. The chair was weighted for him and could turn on a dime. As he picked up speed, Peter’s blood raced through his body, heart pumping life through him. After a while, it felt as though he were flying around the oval, arms and chest throbbing, letting him know they were being worked. He passed a runner in a blur and continued moving, staying in one of the middle lanes, out of the way.
Peter kept moving, passing a few more runners and staying in the groove. Breathing through his nose and mouth, he reveled in the exercise, trying not to think about how he’d been before a drunk driver changed his life forever. But that was a while ago, and Peter pushed it away. It wasn’t hard, not out here in the evening air, passing runners like they were standing still. Twenty minutes, half an hour, forty-five minutes, each milestone passed with a small beep of his watch. Once he reached his goal, he slowed but continued moving to cool off. “Hey, dude, that was cool,” one of the runners called as he caught up with Peter, running as Peter kept pace with them.
“Thanks,” Peter said with a smile.
“Do you compete?” a familiar voice asked, and Peter glanced to the side to see Russ running along with the other guys.
“I want to, but I’m not sure I’m good enough yet,” Peter answered truthfully.
“I’d say you were. You looked like you were flying,” Russ told him, and as Peter slowed, he noticed that Russ did as well, the other guys getting ahead of them. “When I saw you, I wanted to make sure you were okay. I didn’t hurt your legs, did I?”
Peter shook his head. “I have a slight bruise, not from you, but nothing worse than that. It’ll heal in time, but I have to keep an eye on it. How’s your arm? Does it hurt?” Peter noticed that Russ was wearing a pressure bandage on each arm to cover his wrists.
“No,” Russ said, touching one of his wrists. “I’m a bit clumsy, I guess.”
Peter didn’t argue, and they came to a stop off to the side of the track. Russ was as covered in sweat as Peter, his white T-shirt almost translucent, small nipples almost visible.
“Russ, are you ready to go home?” a man called as he strode across the grass, dressed in what looked to Peter to be a tailored suit.
“Almost,” he answered before turning back to Peter. “I’ll talk to you later in the week, and I think you’re good enough to compete.” Russ smiled before turning and walking toward the man who Peter assumed was Barry. The large man looked impatient, and as Russ approached, Barry hustled him toward a white Corvette, where Barry appeared to throw a shirt at Russ, obviously afraid to get the seat of his “compensating for my small penis” sports car dirty. Curious, Peter watched Russ strip off his shirt, and he stifled a gasp at what looked like black-and-blue marks on Russ’s shoulder.
“The man’s an asshole,” one of the runners said from behind Peter. “If he got anywhere near me, I’d shove that Corvette up his ass.” Peter laughed at the other man’s joke and looked away after Russ pulled on the fresh shirt and got into the car. Barry started the engine, revving it as loudly as he could before pulling out, tires squealing.
Peter rarely hated someone on sight, but Barry fell into that category. His very demeanor screamed self-righteous, sanctimonious asshole. Well, that was none of Peter’s business. Russ seemed like a really nice guy, but he was taken. Not that he’d looked at Peter twice. No one seemed to. “You like him,” the kid next to him said. “It’s okay, dude, I like guys too.”
Peter turned away from watching where Russ and Barry had left. “Do you know Russ well?” Why couldn’t he stop thinking about Russ? He had someone already.
“Not really. He runs with us sometimes. The big dude always picks him up and acts like a superior asshole, but Russ is cool, always nice, if a bit quiet.” The kid said goodbye and walked back to where his friends had gathered, still recovering from their run. Peter held up his hand to the group, and they returned the gesture before turning as a group and walking across to the far side of the oval. Peter rolled to his car and drove home. He’d had a profitable day business-wise, but once again he was coming home to an empty house.
After his accident, Peter had lived with his parents, but he could see the burden of taking care of him was falling to his mother. And as her health deteriorated, Peter fought hard and long to become more and more independent. He got a job, bought himself a small house, and moved out on his own. Both his parents worried about him, but Peter needed to be self-sufficient. Before the accident, Peter had been an athlete, a track star with high hopes and dreams. All that ended when he’d opened his eyes in the hospital, unable to move his legs. Peter hadn’t given up, and he’d channeled his athletic discipline and drive into his recovery. When it became evident there was no hope for him to walk again, he threw himself into becoming as independent as possible. That independence had come with a price, and living alone seemed to be it.