Settling the Score
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by Eden Winters
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: Closeted mechanic Joey Nichols' life is good. His boyfriend landed a major Hollywood role, and is well on the way to superstardom. Joey's bags are packed and soon he'll leave small town Georgia and join the man of his dreams in California, to live out, proud, and together. Days before his planned departure, his lover outs Joey during a televised interview and announces that they've broken up, leaving Joey to face the bigotry of the locals alone. Bestselling author Troy Steele knows all about having life turned upside down by the media. Now a recluse, Troy shuns all the trappings that come with writing books made into blockbuster movies. He spends his time exacting revenge on a former flame via his novels and hiding out in rural South Carolina, watching celebrity gossip shows. Joey's fifteen minutes of fame bear an eerie similarity to the plot of Troy's latest work in progress. What if Joey could be transformed into everything the fickle ex wanted, as Troy is writing for his fictional hero, and secretly wishes for himself? Once polished, could a diamond-in-the-rough good ole boy confront his ex, then walk away, pride intact? These are Troy's questions, and he's counting on Joey for answers.
eBook Publisher: Torquere Press/Top Shelf, 2011 www.torquerepress.com
eBookwise Release Date: May 2011
35 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [401 KB]
Reading time: 243-340 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
He opened the door on a dark, moonless night. An instant later, flashing lights created an artificial dawn. Joey raised an arm against the glare blasting from all sides. At least three news vans sat in front of the doublewide. "Mr. Nichols, do you care to comment on your breakup with Riker Sanderson?" A microphone jabbed at his nose. He squinted into the brightness, disoriented by shock and tequila. How had they known where to find him? How had they found him so fast?
"Mr. Nichols, is it true that you two were secretly wed in Canada last year?'
"Joseph? I can call you Joseph, right?" Joey nodded without thinking, too overwhelmed to do anything else. "Joseph, how do you feel about producer Ian Hagan? He's rich, powerful, gay, and single. Do you consider him a rival?"
He heard a sound from behind, recognizing his father's old hunting signal for You want me to take this one?
Tapping his fingers against the metal front door, the closest thing at hand to a gun barrel, Joey quietly communicated, No, I've got it.
It was his big chance. He could deny everything and hope people bought it, or mouth off and tell the world that Riker dumped him with no warning. No matter how much he'd like to, he couldn't. That's exactly what these people wanted. Dirt. Dirt to make them money and him out to be a fool. The flashes of a half-dozen cameras flickered in the darkness. A headache fast approached and it wasn't all tequila-based.
Breathing deeply, he squinted into the lights. Riker thrived on lights, cameras, and action; Joey wilted, totally out of his element. It took a great deal of effort to keep his voice flat and emotionless. "It's like he said. He's dreamed of this all his life, worked hard for it. I'd be in the way." He retreated back into the house.
Big Joe, hiding in the shadows, slammed the door on more shouted questions. "You need another drink," he said, hurrying down the hall.
Joey rested his head against the cool metal front door, willing time to turn back. That very morning he'd bounded out of bed, stepping over packed bags on the way to the bathroom. At lunch break he'd chattered on and on about what he'd do out in California. His parents were very supportive for people who didn't want him to leave. Riker's promises had included a place on the beach. Joey'd never seen the ocean before. It would be great.
Embraced from behind, the minty scent of mouthwash gave Jackie away. "I'm sorry, kiddo," she mumbled against his shoulder.
"What for?" He laughed a bitter laugh. "You always said he'd run off and forget where he came from."
"This is one time I'd give anything to be wrong." Jackie nestled closer, a comforting weight against his back. "I may not have thought much of him, but I never believed he'd throw you under the bus like that."
Despite the resolve to be strong, a tear escaped Joey's control, running down his cheek. He brushed it away with the back of his hand. All his plans and dreams had been tied to his lover's. The dreams had left with Riker, leaving Joey with nothing, not even a place to hide and recover since his picture now splashed all over the networks. He'd already given notice at work, expecting to find a job in California. Not that his dad wouldn't take him back. Something hard and dull-edged dug into his heart. It hurt like hell.
"It's none of my business, and you can tell me that if you want to," Jackie began, "but how long had y'all, well, you know?"
"Since before he moved in."
She nodded against his shoulder. "I kinda thought that, and it hurt my feelings that you didn't come out and tell me."
"You knew? How?" He twisted in his twin's grasp until they were facing. After all that had happened in the last half hour, Joey didn't have any energy left to be surprised.
Jackie didn't pull away like he'd feared. "Whenever I came over and you weren't watching, I'd check his bed to see if the toothpick I put there had moved. It hadn't." Jackie glanced away. "At first I told myself that you'd found it and put it back to get even with me." That she'd tested him wasn't out of character; her keeping quiet about it was.
"Yeah, I knew."
"Why didn't you say so? You got a fag for a brother."
"Joey, don't you dare talk like that!" Fire blazed in Jackie's eyes. "You're my brother and I love you. That's unconditional." Her fierce hug left Joey gasping for breath.
The Nichols' family gossip policy flashed through his mind. "Mom? Dad? Stacey?" he choked.
Jackie sighed, relaxing her hold until he could breathe again. "Stacey suspected it even before I did. She thinks it's cool, by the way. Mom and Dad kinda hoped you'd grow out of it, although they preferred it slightly over the prospect of your last girlfriend becoming their daughter-in-law."
That brought the sting of guilt. Shelby hadn't been a very good beard. After the first time Joey took her to supper and a movie, she'd moved into the Nichols' lives, waving a bridal magazine and yakking about babies. Prying her out had almost required a crowbar. "What did they say?"
"That we're fam'ly. No matter what, we're here for you."
"It hurts so damned bad!" he sobbed, burying his face in Jackie's mass of long, light brown curls.
She held him close, running soothing fingers through his shorter, dirty-blond mop. "Shh... It'll be all right. I know it hurts right now. It'll get better; you've got a lot of people who love you. And I know you don't want to hear this right now; too bad, I'm gonna say it anyway. It will all blow over soon, and then you'll find someone better."
"I don't want someone better!" he wailed. "I want Ry! I know he has his faults. I still love him!"
Jackie rocked slowly from side to side, taking Joey with her. "It'll be all right, you'll see."
He didn't see, not really. Having nowhere else to turn, he'd have to take her word for it. Footsteps approached and the rest of the family crowded around, concerned faces barely visible in the semi-darkness. A car door slammed outside and Joey peered out of the peep-hole. The reporters were giving up and leaving.
Big Joe handed over another shot. "You're stayin' here tonight."
They savored a scant moment's peace before the phone started ringing.
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