Hard Wood, Soft Heart
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by Chloe Stowe
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: This is a story of Las Vegas... of a one-night stand turned life-long love... of one man running so hard from his past that he runs headfirst into a man running just as hard away from his future. A brilliant cardiologist scarred by a bitter divorce, Saul Tidewater has left the memories of his past behind and started a new life in Las Vegas. Dark and dashing, he must fight his surprising lack of self confidence when his long-held and hidden desire to make love to a man will no longer be denied. Mercer Braun is the man everyone wants. Devilishly handsome with a blinding love for life, the former baseball player could have any man or woman that he wants... but Mercer only wants Saul. A bleak future awaits Mercer, however, and he must fight for his right to meet it on his own terms. This is the story of two men who have lost their way, a city that gives them the courage to vanquish a past while blazing a future. This is a story of true love.
eBook Publisher: Ravenous Romance/Ravenous Romance, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: October 2011
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [219 KB]
Reading time: 139-195 min.
Chapter One: Driven to Extinction
Saul Tidewater stood on the rooftop overlooking Las Vegas clinging to his heterosexuality by the skin of his teeth. A colorful concoction of vodka, lime, and some desert flower he'd never heard of sat clinking in a high ball of ice in his hand. It was half empty.
"How the hell did that happen?" he wondered briefly to himself as he poured another ounce of the liquid fire down his throat. It slid down his gullet with an ease that promised a stellar hangover in the morning. Thank God he didn't report in to his new job for another five days. Only two more "Welcome Aboard" parties to go. He was beginning to think of his first days in Vegas as an adult version of college hell week. If his liver survived, the city would open her big arms to him and welcome him home.
He could only hope that was the case, at least.
He was in need of a new home right about now.
A bevy of female beauties wearing nothing but strings, heels and diamonds strolled by, eying him up and down like a piece of prime meat. His dick didn't so much as twitch. He glanced down at his ungodly priced trousers and thought, "What the fuck?" When he realized that he was actually waiting for a reply from his errant penis, Saul cautiously set the drink down on the railing and backed away slowly.
The truth was rapidly becoming ugly and obvious: Dr. Saul Tidewater, thirty-two-year-old cardiothoracic surgeon, was not wired for this kind of lifestyle.
Having grown up on the shores of the South Carolina coast, Saul was not a man adverse to sand, he just preferred his attached to an ocean rather than a desert. Even the heat the newborn Las Vegas summer had already promised him paled in comparison to the suffocating mugginess of a southern backwater August. Although he didn't buy for a second all the crap about this being a dry heat, he honestly didn't think he'd have any trouble adapting to the triple digits either.
His sisters had laughed their collective asses off when he had told them where he was going. One, the youngest and the brat of the family, had bet that he'd dry up and blow away before the Fourth of July. "You're a fish," she had teased while giggling past the last slurps of a Myrtle Beach snow cone. "You've got gills, big brother. Better hope that place the hospital's setting you up in has a lap tub."
On day one, he had sent a picture of the Olympic-sized swimming pool at his condo on the Strip to his dear sister. He made sure to include the waterslide and swim-up tiki bar just to bug the shit out of her. He could just imagine her stomping through their parents' house whining at the top of her seventeen-year-old lungs, "That's totally not fair." Saul grinned every time he thought about it.
A part of him wished he was there to laugh at her right now.
Saul was a family man. With two parents who had been married since the stone age, three little sisters and one big sister, and a collection of cousins that would fill a phonebook, Saul was a soul used to "blood company," as his mother always called it.
He was alone in Las Vegas.
It was a fact he thanked God for every night.
His divorce from Elise Delgado had been final for seven months and two days. The fact that he still marked each passed day off with a smiley face in his desk diary made his feelings about the end of his marriage quite clear... if it was only as simple as that.
Lost for the moment in the clusterfuck that had been the last few years of his life, Saul nearly jumped out of his skin as a voice rattled off just to his side.
"How's Vegas treating you, kid?" A short, old man, whose name Saul really, really should know, nudged Saul's hip with a bony elbow. The man grinned up at Saul with a set of dentures probably worth more than Saul's first car. "Got to admit that we throw a hell of a welcome party."
Since it was officially now the third welcome party of the week, Saul easily conceded the point, "Yes, sir. This is truly an experience I'll never forget." While swimming with the dolphins at last night's shindig had really tipped the scales into the unforgettable category, looking around at the gala laid out before him tonight, Saul had to admit that even with the lack of sea life this was pretty damn spectacular, too.
The Las Vegas strip stretched out far below them. Two spotlights kept crisscrossing in the night sky like the patrons truly expected Sinatra's ghost to stop by for cocktails and maybe a quick set on the stage by the pool. The long, sinuous pool that lazily snaked through the guests really was the star of the show. Palm trees and all things succulent softened its curves and hid the occasional steps luring passersby into the pool's warm, lit waters.
"Well, you enjoy yourself son. Be sure to drop in and see me next week. I've got my own espresso machine." The old man leaned in and confided with a wry twist of his mouth, "That coffee on the third floor will kill you. Can't have you dying before learning to hate the place." With a wink, the man weaved himself away.
Dropping his chin to his chest, Saul sighed miserably. He hated new jobs. Come to think of it, for all the hype about starting a new life and finding a new home, Saul really hated new cities too. Just like back in his hellish years of high school, Saul never found it easy just to slip in with a new crowd. Hell, he didn't even try more than was absolutely necessary for his career to "blend in" any more.
Case in point: a good whiff of him just an hour ago would probably have turned up an aroma of cardboard dust spiced with drywall. The cologne he had grudgingly dabbed on himself as he walked out his condo's door hid most of the home improvement aroma, but there were still the bandages sprinkled across his appendages. Each Band-Aid and butterfly bandage was damning evidence of Saul's battles with the box cutter. Why the hell he had dragged that much crap across the country had escaped him after unloading the twenty-third box of things he never even remembered packing. He still hadn't found most of his clothes yet, which was why his wrecked heart was currently covered quite handsomely under a $3,000 tailored suit he'd had to buy his second day in the city. His favorite old cotton t-shirt with a hole above his right nipple that he was also wearing proved two things, 1) thank God he packed his underwear in his suitcase and not a box, and 2) Saul Tidewater was not planning on getting fucked tonight.
The wearing of this t-shirt was unfortunately not the only reason that there would be no sex this fine Las Vegas evening. The desertion of his dick to "the other side" basically sealed that deal. It was by no means an unexpected betrayal, but its timing sure sucked; the amount of beautiful women wearing hardly anything but skin at this party bordered on the ridiculous and the pitiful. It was like wasting Mozart on a deaf man. It was just cruel.
As the sarcastic twist that fate was playing on him tonight started to dampen his mood and make a night in front of his television look damn appealing, Saul decided to give that desert flower drink thing another shot. Just as he turned to reclaim his abandoned glass of liquid wickedness, movement beneath the poolside palms caught his eyes.
Saul was lost the moment he stopped and stared.
A long, lithe and very male figure of golden skin and rich brown eyes stepped out of the pool. He was wearing only a pair of soaked trousers that clung to him like a second skin, leaving nothing to the imagination. A table off to the side held his dry, crisp white shirt and his shoes. The devil-may-care grin he gifted to the waiter handing him a towel left Saul speechless and in a desperate case of lustful need.
The man's hair was blond, the color of sun kissed sand, his lips were the same shade of flushed pink as his hardened nipples, and his dimples were sinful. Saul found himself grinning just looking at the man. He was a little shorter than Saul's 6'2" frame but carried a good deal more finely delineated muscle around on those perfectly proportioned bones than most.
Saul nearly swallowed his tongue as the stranger bent over and shook his head. All the extraneous droplets of chlorinated water flew from him in some kind of slow motion that surely signaled that Saul was having a stroke.
No way in hell was Saul looking away, however.
All the little twitches and nudges of interest his penis had shown throughout the night whenever a nice looking man would stroll by, now joined together into a monumental hardening swell that was threatening to drop Saul down to his knees right there. Fumbling for the back of a gratefully nearby chair, Saul clung to its frame like a boy hanging on to his mother's apron strings.
He slammed his eyes shut, pleading with his blood to abandon its southern folly and return to his brain. "Come on! Come on!" he mumbled to himself as he forced his breaths to remain deep and relatively steady. He was a grown man, for God's sake. Puberty had left enough of its own scars the first time around. This gay epiphany/second puberty he had recently been experiencing sure as hell wasn't going to take him out... at least not here in public in a sea of colleagues and hospital board administrators.
"Are you alright, man?" A deep voice coarsened by bits of latent though promised fire slipped roughly into Saul's ear.
Saul gulped down what might very well have been a mewl.
The sturdy and still damp hand to his shoulder did not help.
"Hey? You need to sit down?"
To Saul's horror the man did not wait for an answer. He simply started manhandling him around to the front of the chair. Wet hands were everywhere and touching everything. Saul cracked open his eyes to see if the whole world was on fire or if it was just him.
Maybe, just maybe, mid-life gay puberty really shouldn't be mixed with vodka, lime, and desert flower crap.
He was sitting down now. It would have been a painful position considering his bursting through the zipper condition if his dick hadn't deflated just a smidge with his utter humiliation. His situation, however, was still quite noticeable. Reaching out blindly he grabbed the man's towel that had been slung over the naked shoulder. Saul bundled it up in a ball and placed it strategically on his lap with as much decorum as a man in his state could hope for.
"You're going to get your pants wet," the man commented with a barely suppressed laugh.
"Not my biggest concern right now," Saul snapped as he wished really hard to die.
"Hold on a second," the gravelly-tongued voice was riding low again and the hand was back on his shoulder, this time patting it before disappearing all together. As the bare feet slapping on the cement moved away, Saul seriously considered making a break for it. People had survived fifteen story falls before. Hey, if he was really lucky, he'd hit the awning over the hotel's front entrance and bounce around a little before going splat altogether.
The bare feet were back. Damn this man and his wet toes.
Suddenly, the towel was swiped from him. A neatly folded, white linen shirt quickly replaced it. Saul looked down at his lap and couldn't help snarking, "You're going to get your shirt wet." Saul's pants were already damp from the towel and his embarrassment when he finally had the balls to walk out of this place would be nearing its zenith.
Apparently knowing what the problem was, the man reached down and peeked under the shirt. "It doesn't look so bad." The proximity of those lips to Saul's need was just about too much to handle.
Saul covered his reddening face with his hands. "I look like I wet myself." He stubbornly ignored the issue of his cock nearly popping his fly. Some things were best left unsaid.
The stranger's hand swatted him lightly on his knee before standing up and declaring, "Hold on a second."
"The man with all the answers but no shoes says again," Saul muttered into his palms. Apparently Las Vegas was hell. Nobody mentioned that crap in those commercials.
The bare feet returned, with it the voice, "It's draft."
"Huh?" Confused, Saul peeked out from between his fingers just in time to see a whole pilsner of beer being dumped onto his lap. The fact that the glass did not accompany said liquor was the guy's only saving grace. Saul may be a doctor but he could kick some ass when needed. "What the fuck..."
"You're a clutz," the man shrugged. "Better than being, you know..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know." It really was a good idea but an uncomfortable one. Saul took absolutely no pleasure in soaking up the beer pooling on his pants with the stranger's shirt.
The man was kneeling down beside the chair, the empty pilsner balanced precariously on one knee. There was a smirk to his lips. "Do I get a thank you?"
Saul slammed his eyes shut. How the hell could this guy smell like some kind of ungodly mix of sunshine and sandalwood after just peeling himself out of a pool? Saul felt a headache coming on, really not all that surprising when death by embarrassment was about to occur. "I'll make a note of you in my will. Keep an ear open for "shirtless, barefoot filet mignon on rooftop" when my lawyers read it tomorrow. That'll be you."
Even with his eyes still tightly closed, Saul could feel something loosen in the man's posture. His next words cleared everything up. "Filet mignon? Did you just call me..."
Apparently the grim reaper whispering sweet nothings in your ear made a man lose all rein on his tongue. Mortified was the word that came to mind. "A beef steak. God, I called you a beef steak to your face." Saul bent over his beer-soaked lap and dug his fingers deep into his scalp, hoping for a little brain damage to blot out a good chunk of his life.
"To my face?" The man huffed out a chuckle as his hand once again found Saul's knee and squeezed playfully. "You're not looking at me, at any part of me."
"There's a point to that." Saul growled down at his own feet. "You know, a plan and shit."
"And how's that working out for you?" The man snickered.
Figuring whatever damage could be done, had been done, Saul raised his head up and stared at the cockily smiling bane of his current existence. Saul accused needlessly, "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Yeah." The man shifted knees against the hard concrete but kept on kneeling and kept on smiling. He added a shrug to the mix as he admitted, "Giving the best looking guy here a killer hard-on is nice, you know."
Saul's heart did a funny flip-flop thing that hadn't happened since he had kissed Rosemary Flowers when he was twelve-years-old. He wasn't about to admit to how selfishly good the stranger's statement felt however. There were some standards of manliness after all. Intentionally rolling his eyes, Saul griped, "Glad I could help, as your ego so obviously needs the help." He doubted this guy had ever known a moment of self-doubt.
A pale rush of red came to the stranger's cheeks. His smile turned crooked and a little bit sad. "You might be surprised." Shaking his head, getting whatever thoughts had apparently polluted his smile out of his brain, the stranger hoisted himself back to his feet. "There's a men's store downstairs. Let me run down there and get you some pants, Okay?" He suddenly resembled a Labrador retriever wanting to go fetch something nice and juicy for his master.
This time it was Saul viciously shaking thoughts out of his head. Quickly, he got back to less potentially pornographic matters at hand. Cocking his head up to face the handsome goof, Saul informed the guy nicely, "I've mentioned your state before, but what the hell? You know that no shirts, no shoes rule? They're talking about you, hot shot."
Those ungodly ripped shoulders shrugged. What that shrugging did to the rock hard nipples and the delicious pecs they were attached to made Saul's brain fuzz out for a moment. The light scar barely visible on the man's sternum was quickly forgotten. When all his senses came back online, the man of the shoulders and the nipples was saying, "I know the owner. She won't mind."
"I'm sure she won't," Saul snarled intentionally, although the heavy inflection on the word "she" wasn't quite planned. He immediately clinched his jaw shut, not wanting any other flagrantly jealous words to pop out and condemn him even more. Sure, Saul wanted this stranger; he was man enough to admit that to himself. As far as he was concerned the rest of the world was just going to have to wait for that notification for another year or two, long enough for Saul to accept this gay thing as more than a premature midlife crisis. Saul snorted at his luck. Some guys got a convertible for his thirties, he got a craving for dick. How the hell was that fair?
While Saul was internally fighting the good fight for his rapidly paling heterosexuality, the man currently at the center of the controversy was, well, watching Saul. If the smirk that was teasing his lips was any sign, apparently Saul was an open book to this guy. Narrowing his dark caramel eyes, the stranger spoke seriously, "One question for you."
"What?" Saul found himself squirming under the man's glare. He shifted in his seat uncomfortably, trying valiantly to ignore how that made the seams in the fly of his pants do naughty things to his already out of control cock.
"Are you military?"
That was not what Saul had been expecting. "What?" Saul sputtered out, "God, no." The prospect of dealing with this sexual revolution of his under the auspices of the just repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" shit was frankly unimaginable.
The stranger slowly released a long breath. With a look of total determination, he replied, "Good answer." Suddenly hands were on the collar of Saul's shirt, yanking him up and into smiling, hungry lips.
The fact that Saul Tidewater was actually kissing a man receded into the background with a strangled yelp of "No, duh." What became immediately more important and intimately more pressing was the sparks shooting out of his brain and firing up every nerve ending in his body. The fire he felt was fucking amazing.
The stranger pulled back just enough to rush out on one heated breath, "Stop thinking."
Dumbly, Saul nodded. He could do that.
The devouring of Saul's mouth was then resumed just as heatedly but at a different angle. Saul quickly realized that this new angle was perfect for the man to shove his very insistent tongue down Saul's very non-resisting throat.
While Saul had promised not to think, there wasn't a damned thing in this world the guy could do to make him stop feeling. And, man, did Saul feel.
Despite the fact that the spit in Saul's mouth had evaporated in stark fear as Saul was being yanked up and toward those undeniably manly lips, the kiss somehow still managed to be wet and wonderfully messy. There was nothing gentle about this lip-lock. This was all eagerness and lust. Saul had never felt anything close to it in his whole life. Like the doofus he knew he could sometimes be, he found himself grinning while his insides were being sucked up his throat by a damned talented mouth and wily tongue.
Saul was suddenly shoved back and into a wall he didn't know was there. The stranger grumbled as he used the move to gasp in some air. "You're still thinking," a surprising chuckle was quickly lost to the total, unrepentant assault on Saul's mouth. This time, apparently, Saul wasn't being given a choice in the "no thinking" matter.
A hand still damp with pool water was suddenly shoved down Saul's pants.
The good doctor's brain stuttered to a violent stop, as did the rest of his body.
Using the momentary shock to his advantage, the stranger did some maneuvering of their bodies. Vaguely, Saul sensed them moving around a corner. A planted palm tree stumbled by the corner of his eye. The music and chatter of the party died down to a distant hum. Saul didn't know exactly where on the roof they were now, but he knew in his gut that wherever they were, they were now alone.
The whole time Saul was being literally manhandled into a private corner behind a row of potted palms, the stranger's hand never left the throbbing member in Saul's pants. God, this guy was talented.
Finding himself again shoved against the sturdiness of a wall, albeit a different one, Saul took the opportunity to pull away just long enough to say, "Forget the men's store."
It took a second for the words to click for the guy, but it wasn't long until he grinned, "Yeah?"
"Yeah." This time it was Saul who pulled the man roughly back into the kiss.
In mute appreciation of Saul's efforts, the man gave Saul's member a little twist and pull.
Saul's knees deserted him at this point.
The man shoved him harder against the wall, one hipbone and a meaty thigh holding Saul upright against the stucco. Except for the hand busily and brutally at work in Saul's trousers, the complete lengths of the men's bodies were pressed up against each other.
Saul grunted in stupid pleasure when the man's nipples pushed into his own.
Knowing the strength of the man that was in the midst of jerking him off, Saul had no fear in pushing right back. In fact, he quickly found that by wrapping his arms around the man's torso and digging his fingers into the naked back, Saul could start to hump the invading hand with vigor.
The man laughed into their kiss, but did not pull away. In fact, he only hissed as the scratches up and down his long spine were carved into his unprotected skin and then pumped Saul a little bit harder.
Minutes where there was nothing but skin and touch and heat and lust fled by in a fog of unspoken "fuck me now, fuck me harder." A moan from deep in Saul's throat bled forth. Saul was getting close.
Sensing this, the man suddenly pulled ever so slightly away. He asked as he panted, "Names? Or is that part of this..." The guy didn't look like he cared what the answer was, as if he was just asking it out of politeness or maybe just a hint of curiosity.
"Your name is the fucking last..." The rest of the words were shoved down the stranger's throat along with Saul's impatient tongue. Hating to leave the long free expanses of naked skin, Saul's move to the fly of the man's pants was slow and at first hesitant. As his fingers bid goodbye to the stranger's spine, however, they latched on to the firm, sweeping curves of ribs. Following their arcs around to the front, his hands found the six-pack. Drifting down over each muscle with a patience that amazed even him, Saul's thumbs dug possessively into the navel.
The man's abs quaked at the unexpected pressure, quivering as Saul stroked the remainder of his nails down the tight skin of stomach and then hip. There was a grunt of lukewarm disappointment when the navel was deserted all together for points further south.
Saul smiled at the accomplishment of making that noise come from this man. The control he felt at that little inconsequential victory left Saul wanting more.
Quickly, the man's fly was undone. Without consent, his pants were shoved down over and below his ass. The white cotton boxer briefs followed, ending their journey with the slap of elastic on thighs. Saul grabbed onto the red and wanting shaft and began to drive it like his own. Whatever social graces hadn't wept out of his dick made one last attempt at pulling Saul back from the brink of the "sex in public" kink. "Should we..."
"Go?" The stranger squeaked out in what could very well have been a whimper.
"No. Your pants are already ruined." The stranger latched onto Saul's Adam's apple and sucked.
As a moan deftly turned into a "I'm going to fucking blow" groan, Saul muttered his agreement, "And there's always more beer."
Moments later, in a fizzy-edged reality that could only be found in Las Vegas, Saul Tidewater came hard. The stranger's hand didn't let up, it kept pumping, kept screwing Saul's dick, milking and wrenching the cock dry.
A strangled noise erupted from Saul's throat just as the other man started to buck and come in Saul's hand.
Consciousness fled from Saul in a bang and a whimper.