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  • Becky @ Bike Book Reviews
  • Read this one friends, you will love it as much as I did! Thanks Serena, for yet another fab book in this awesome series!
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  • Becky @ Bike Book Reviews
  • It is one of my favorites in this series! Thanks Serena for a series that just keeps getting better and better!
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  • I am so in love with the Workplace Encounters series it isn't even funny, and this book is no different!
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
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  • MelanieM @ scatteredthoughtsandroguewords
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Forgiving Jason (Men of Riverside 5)

Forgiving Jason (Men of Riverside 5)
Release Date: 25 July 2011
Description:

Jason wants to protect Steve from the bigots who attack him. Can Steve forgive Jason for what he's done?

Steve Jacobi is a window washer who is very focused on his financial independence. He's always known that he's bisexual, but never had the courage to approach one of the men he was interested in. Relationships have taken a back seat in his life...until goes car shopping and meets Jason Fortin.

Jason is a fun-loving salesman who likes his job. He hasn't come out because he's never met a man he was interested enough in. Yet he has no problem approaching Steve, and their relationship quickly develops to the point where Jason is ready for more.

But when bigots attack Steve, Jason reconsiders. Can Steve forgive him for the pain his protectiveness causes them both?


Pages: 80
Words: 31.100
Heat Index:Heat Index
Cover Artist: Posh Gosh
Book Type: EBook

Chapter One

Riverside, Texas
Saturday August 16, 2008

Shit, there were a lot of cars on display at his brother's dealership. Steve Jacobi walked around in a daze. The sun beat down on the asphalt under his feet in the relentless way it had during summer. He was already thirstier than he wanted to think about, but this was an important day for him and he wasn't going to interrupt his information-gathering because it was almost too hot to breathe.

He'd wanted his own car for so long, and now that his savings finally covered something less than a decade old, he was spoilt for choice. Carefully working his way along the lot's perimeter, he made detailed notes.

He needed a practical, reliable sedan or hatchback that would get him to and from work, and maybe the occasional weekend fishing trip to Moon Lake, an hour or so south of Riverside. What he really wanted was one of the flashier, slightly newer sports cars that would probably break down at the first opportunity and saddle him with a lot of maintenance and repair costs to boot. But, oh, it would be such fun driving it along the highway.

He snorted at the thought. His co-workers would probably laugh their asses off, asking whom he was trying to impress. Since there was no fiancée, not even a girlfriend, he'd be wondering the same thing. Not that he was going to change his secret preferences just because he had a new car or anything.

"May I help you, sir?" The smooth male voice came from straight behind him.

"Uhm..." Steve turned around, startled by the interruption.

The salesman who stood before him, wearing a friendly smile and a charcoal grey suit that made him look like a model fresh off the runway, was a good six inches shorter than Steve's own six feet. He was slim, but had a strong upper body that filled the suit jacket well. His face was delicate, almost elfin in its beauty, topped off by short, blond hair with a nice wave. But the best part was his grey-green eyes. They peered at him with an intensity that made his cock stir in his suddenly tight pants.

The man looked awfully familiar. His head tilted as his gorgeous eyes crinkled at the corners and the smile gained in depth, now reflecting real emotion.

"Steve?" The salesman's grin grew wider. "Is that really you?"

"Jason?" He had a hard time keeping his mouth from falling open. "Jason Fortin?"

God, the kid who'd been two years behind him in high school had sure grown up. Jason had always been good-looking, very popular and had gone out with every single cheerleader during Steve's senior year. But he'd filled out some since then, and the interest now reflected in his gaze was more than disconcerting. What was up with that? Jason had always been straight. Surely it was too much to hope for him to have changed that much.

"Man, it's good to see you." Jason stuck out a hand.

"What have you been up to?"

"Not much." Steve shrugged as they shook hands, not wanting to go into his lack of professional success.
It was a sore point at the best of times, and he had no intention of sharing his lack of accomplishments with Jason, who had obviously done very well for himself. Shit, the man was a salesman at one of the largest car dealers in Riverside just over two years out of high school. Steve's older brother, Tim, had taken over the car dealership from their parents last year when they'd had retired to Arizona, and had made it a huge success by reaching out to younger customers. What was his job as a mere window washer compared to that?

"I don't believe that." Jason let go of his hand much more slowly than expected. "Right now's not the time to get into that, but I'd love to find out what you've been up to. Maybe we can go for a drink or something later tonight?"

"Sure." Was Jason asking him out? Shit, he had to get his libido under control. He was too much of a coward to do anything about the attraction he felt, and nothing about Jason indicated that he was even remotely interested in him other than as a potential buddy.

"Okay, we can agree the details later." Jason looked around the lot, waving his hand in a circular motion.

"See anything you like?"

"It's more about finding what I need." He hated admitting it, but it was the sad truth.

Jason frowned for a second, but his smile quickly returned.

"I'm sure I can help you with that as well." Jason pointed at a group of vehicles in the eastern corner of the lot. "We've got several of what you might call the more practical makes over there. A lot of people are looking for more reliable, lower cost and fuel models these days, so we've created an area for the cars fulfilling that demand. Would they be closer to what you're looking for?"

"Yes, they would be." He followed Jason to the indicated corner, carefully wiping the beads of sweat from his forehead as they walked. He was relieved to see that the price tags matched his budget much better that those of the cars he'd been looking at so far. "That's pretty clever."

"Well, yes, my boss has this knack of finding out what his customers want then making it happen. Many of the older salesmen attacked him for ruining a system that's always worked, but you can't really argue with success, can you? We sell a lot more cars now than we used to, even if a lot of them are the cheaper models." Jason grinned. "Apparently a lot has changed since Tim took over, but, since I started working here about the same time that his parents left, I never noticed the difference."

"Yeah, my brother is pretty clever like that." And I'm not.

They looked at the different models for a while, Jason being pretty helpful about the details and any questions Steve came up with. When he narrowed it down to about three choices, another salesman suddenly approached them. He was about Steve's height, probably mid-thirties and with the air of the much maligned used-car salesman from comedy shows and commercials. He wore the same charcoal suit that Jason did, but it didn't look half as good on him as it did on Jason's trim physique. His dark hair was combed back and held in place with some sort of gel, and his brown eyes sparkled with artificial helpfulness.

"Leo?" Jason had taken a step back from the new arrival and looked at him with narrowed eyes.

"Hi, Jase." Leo stepped back into Jason's personal space.

Jason took another step back. What was up with that?

"Just checking to see if everything is all right?" Leo turned his smarmy gaze on to Steve.

What was the man's problem? Jason had mentioned that Tim was his boss, so he couldn't be checking up on Jason in an official capacity. Because it sure felt like checking up to Steve, and Jason's reaction spoke volumes.

"Yes, thank you, we're just fine." He wanted to add "Now go away" but didn't feel he was entitled.

"Are you sure I can't interest you in one of the newer models we have available here?" Leo pointed at a section clearly reserved for sleek sports cars.

"I'm sure." Steve cleared his throat, not liking how subdued Jason had suddenly become. "Jason here is doing a fine job, so there's no need for you to get involved."

"Okay, if you're sure." Leo's lips turned downwards, but he started to move away. "Let me know if there is anything I can do for you."

Steve waited until Leo was out of earshot before he spoke to Jason.

"What's his problem?" He'd rarely seen a more obvious attempt to steal another guy's business.

"Oh, don't mind him." Jason rubbed the back of his neck.

"He's one of the older salesmen I mentioned. He thinks he can sell a more expensive car to anyone, make a higher commission. Normally, he doesn't even come near this area with the ‘cheap cars', as he calls them. Well, except to try and convince people to spend more money on a car they may not need and definitely don't want."

"But he tried to steal your customer while he was at it." Steve shook his head. "That's pretty nasty."

"It is what it is." Jason dropped his hand, the smile slowly returning. "Now, how about the cars we've been looking at. Would any of them work for you?"

"Yes, I kind of like the Honda." He was still upset about Leo's tactics, but if Jason was willing to let it go, who was he to interfere?

"Great! Would you like to think on it some more? We do one-page information sheets with the key data, so if you want to take that home for the Honda and maybe the Ford and the Mazda you were looking at? Of course, you should also check the Carfax reports for each of them-that will give you the vehicles' histories."

"That's a great offer, but I think I've made up my mind." He grinned when Jason's eyes lit up.

"The Honda?" Jason bounced on the balls of his feet, all enthusiasm.

"Yep, that's the one." He nodded and smiled back. Jason's grin was infectious.

"Okay, in that case, please follow me." Jason pointed at the main building. "We can do all the necessary paperwork in my office. At least I can offer you a cup of coffee to tide you over until that beer we're going to have tonight."

Clearly, Jason wasn't one to give up easily. He'd apparently been dead serious about the offer to go out for drinks. Steve sighed as he followed his new friend into the thankfully air-conditioned office. He hadn't been to see Tim at work, or anywhere else, for a long time, but nothing much had changed inside. The most expensive cars were still displayed in the large interior room. Carefully positioned plants near the walls created small areas of quiet, little tables loaded with brochures hiding behind them. There was a certain buzz about the place as salespeople and a few customers discussed arrangements.

"Hey, Steve, it's good to see you!" Tim beamed at him as he walked out of the corner office that overlooked the huge room.

His brother was well over six feet tall and an imposing figure with his broad shoulders and powerful legs. Both were displayed to advantage in his light blue summer suit. He had the Jacobi dark curly hair, skin that was an even darker brown than Steve's, and eyes that were closer to black than brown. All in all, Tim was the spitting image of their father, while Steve's looks reflected more of their white mother's heritage.

"Same here." He returned Tim's hug before stepping back, slightly embarrassed about the enthusiastic greeting.

"It's been too long." Tim's smile became slightly strained.

"I've been busy." And not willing to be confronted with his brother's perfect life.

Tim opened his mouth, thought better of saying anything, closed it, and nodded.

"So, you're here to buy a car?" Tim smiled at Jason before looking back at Steve. "I hope Jason took excellent care of you. He's not been salesman of the month for eight out of the last twelve months for nothing. Best hiring decision I ever made."

"Thank you." Jason blushed the most adorable pink, and his smile widened.

Gorgeous. The man was simply gorgeous.

"Yes, he did." He wanted to make Jason smile like that again. "I've decided which one I want and we were just going to do the paperwork."

"Excellent!" Tim slapped Jason's back. "I'll leave you to it then. But, Steve, please don't be a stranger? I know we don't have the advantage of Mom cooking Sunday dinner for us any longer, making us share a family meal once a week. But I'd love to see more of you, even if we just go to a restaurant or something. Please?"

"Okay." He wasn't sure about this at all. Tim might pick a more expensive place than he was willing to pay for, but maybe seeing his brother on a more regular basis would be worth a little extra expense. "Okay. I can't make it this week because I'm playing basketball with my co-workers on Sunday afternoon. But I'll give you a call about next week, all right?"

"Sure, that would be great." Tim hugged him again and withdrew into his office.

"So, what about that paperwork?" He was a little embarrassed about Jason having heard all that family stuff.

"No problem, man, just take a seat over there and I'll get the necessary documents." Jason pointed at a small office about halfway between Tim's office and the next corner as he led the way.

Almost an hour later, he'd signed more forms than he cared to remember and a credit check had been completed. He wrote a cheque for half the value of the car, which Tim had accepted from his brother with an ‘I know where you live' kind of smile. Steve was now the proud owner of a 2001 Honda Civic, forest green and hopefully with a lot of miles left to go. He couldn't wait to start driving it rather than using the bus all the time. Even though Riverside public transportation was good, a man had his pride. It was high time for his own four wheels.

"So, ready for a beer or two?" Jason leant back, having handed him the keys.

"Only if I can walk home from where we decide to go." He caressed the keys, welcoming the feeling of their slightly ragged edges against his skin. "I'm not going to take a risk with my new possession."

"Got it." Jason chuckled. "Not too sure about places near where you live, but how about that new Irish pub on Main and Fourth? I think it's called Fitzpatrick's Inn. The location is pretty central and I'd be happy to give you a ride home since I can't drink in public anyway."

"Shit, man, that's right, I totally forgot. Ever since I finally turned twenty-one in March it's stopped being an issue for me. Tell you what-to be fair, I'm going to stick to soda as well. That way I get to take out my new car." That was much better than going back to taking the bus or having to pay for a cab. "And I've wanted to try that place for a while now, so it's all good. Give me-what, a couple of hours?-before we meet there."

"That's right, you have a car to christen." Jason grinned and nodded. "I'll see you there at seven, then."

"Seven it is." He got up and walked to his new car, a slight spring in his step.

A short drive out of the city was in order, which he planned to follow with a quick shower before making his way to the pub. And why the hell did that meeting for drinks feel like a date? Was it his inexplicably strong attraction to Jason? It wasn't like he'd never felt attracted to another man, but those feelings had been pretty easy to ignore so far. He liked women as well, after all, and going out with them was more accepted. Since he'd never been one to rock the boat, he'd always figured he'd stick with that. But none of them had made him feel as interested at this early stage as Jason had.

He got into the car, his attention momentarily on making sure the mirrors were adjusted correctly. Pulling the seatbelt across himself and listening to the click with a new owner's satisfaction distracted him further. The next half hour was pure bliss. He almost didn't want to turn around towards home.

But he had a date, and he was curious to see what would happen.

* * * *

Jason wasn't exactly new at dating. He'd done his share in high school, even though it had been only girls, not the boys he'd really been interested in. He hadn't changed his tactics or slowed down since then. After all, he had a reputation to uphold. Being the most popular guy around had its price, and fitting into the image of what was right, at least according to the majority, was part of that. He'd never met anyone interesting enough to divert from that strategy.

Until today.

Man, seeing Steve again had sure jolted him awake. The man had looked good ever since he'd first noticed him in high school. He'd grown to at least six feet, his shoulders were even broader than they'd been before, and his chest and arm muscles had been barely contained by the straining navy T-shirt. The back view when he'd first approached what he thought was just another customer had been as delectable, with an ass to die for covered by tight jeans shorts.

But it was the front view that had done Jason in. The chocolate brown skin alone made him want to lick the man all over. Combined with the soulful dark brown eyes, the full, red lips, and the square jaw, there was only one word to sum it all up. Irresistible.

He'd had a crush on Steve in high school but had lost touch after the older man's graduation. He'd always been more of his older brother William's friend anyway, much to Jason's dismay. And with William away at Harvard, there'd been no opportunities for staying in touch. At least none that would have been less than obvious.

Now, though, Jason was ready to be obvious. He didn't even care whether the man was as straight as he seemed to remember. Just spending time with Steve would be better than nothing. If they could become friends, there was always hope for more.

Just look at Zeke and Ben. His eldest brother, Zeke, had always seemed as straight as they came, had even been engaged to that bitch, Claudia, for years. Ben, the detective, had never given any indication of being gay, either. And yet, from talking to Zeke since he'd moved back to Riverside at the end of June, both of them had discovered that their friendship had grown into more over the years. Zeke had even admitted to having been attracted to Ben before he'd ever got engaged. Keeping up a front of being straight had apparently seemed as wise to Zeke as it always had to Jason.

He grinned. Maybe it ran in the family? Not just the being gay, but hiding it until they met the man they were ready to break all the rules for. Their parents had taken Zeke's coming out a lot better than expected, but what would they say if they found out that Jason leant the same way? Had for years, in fact-he'd just never acted on it.

He was so ready to act on it now, though-his erection tangible proof of his excitement at the thought of Steve looking at him with desire. He wanted the man's lips on his and his arms around his body. Anywhere would do, as long as he got to touch that amazing body. His cock definitely agreed. He took off his work clothes so he could take a shower, a little surprised at how hard he already was just thinking about Steve. While their meeting could just be interpreted as guys having a drink to catch up, it sure felt like a whole lot more.

Man, he had it bad.

He turned on the water, waiting for it to warm up before he stepped into the shower. Letting the warm spray massage first his back, then his front after he turned around, he gave his imagination free rein. Grabbing the soap, he started to clean himself, but in his mind it wasn't his own hands that caressed his body. Steve's much larger fingers traced his pectorals, caressing each nipple before trailing downwards to follow the barely visible trail of hair to his eagerly waiting cock. Not touching himself the way he wanted to was deliciously exciting. Only after he'd completely cleaned himself and was ready for rinsing did he allow himself to close his hand around his erection.

Imagining that it was Steve's hands stroking him made him come faster than he ever had. Panting in surprise as much as from the jolts of ecstasy travelling through his body, he leant his forehead against the cool tiles to catch his breath and calm down. He couldn't wait to try this with Steve actually there. He could only hope for more stamina than he'd shown just now.

Turning off the water, he got out of the shower and wrapped a towel round his waist. Getting dressed in jeans and a T-shirt happened in a haze of longing. When he checked himself in the mirror to make sure his hair didn't look like he'd just been in a storm, he barely recognised the dreamy look on his face. Snap out of it! He couldn't confront Steve looking like this. The man wouldn't know what had hit him. It was way too early to be feeling like this anyway. He didn't want to chase Steve away, after all.

He made his way to Fitzpatrick's, found a space to park his car and walked inside about ten minutes too early. Pathetic. At least he'd get a head start on getting a table. He had no intention of just having drinks standing up at the bar.

Seeing Steve in line two couples ahead made him breathe a sigh of relief. At least he wasn't the only eager one. He watched the man's strong back and tight ass for a few seconds-not long enough for anyone to notice, but more than long enough for his cock to start hardening again. Yum!

Stepping past the other couples, responding to their slight frowns with an apologetic grin, he tapped Steve on the shoulder.

"Hey." He stepped back to give Steve room.

A beautiful smile spread across Steve's face after the initial surprise.

"I like a man who is on time." He smiled right back.

"Same here." Steve pointed at the five people in line ahead of them. "I'm also very hungry and figured there might be a wait."

"Good deal."

And if Steve seemed slightly embarrassed about being here early, at least that meant Jason wasn't alone. Maybe Steve was just as eager to make a new friend-or more-as Jason? By the end of the next two hours, after a delicious meal of bacon and cabbage, accompanied by dark beer for him and lemonade for Jason, t hey had discussed everything from sports to music to what had happened to them after they'd lost touch with each other. Steve had looked very hesitant when he'd told Jason he was a window washer, but when Jason had simply asked him questions about the job, he'd seemed to relax.

Jason told Steve about his aborted career as a hair stylist, happy to make him laugh at some of the outrageous client stories he'd had to listen to.

"Man, I don't blame you for wanting to leave that behind. Just all that gossiping alone would drive me crazy." Steve finished his beer and leaned back in the comfortable booth seat. "So, what made you go work for my big brother?"

"Actually, it was a suggestion from my big brother, Zeke." Jason had desperately needed some time away from his worried parents. "He asked me to come see him in Austin and we had a few good talks. He told me more about his job as a real estate salesman. I couldn't see myself selling real estate, but the idea of helping people find what they want sounded interesting."

"And from my own experience, I've got to say that you're pretty good at it." Steve smiled, showing his perfect white teeth.

Jason melted, having a hard time hiding his attraction now. He shook his head, focussing on getting back to the story.

"So Zeke suggested I go and talk to his former classmate and good friend, Tim Jacobi, who had just taken over his parents' car dealership. That was in August last year, and I've never looked back."

Their waitress chose that moment to check if they wanted anything else.

"I'd love some coffee." Jason checked with Steve, who nodded. "We'll take two, and some apple pie, what do you think?"

"As long as we share." Steve patted his nonexistent belly.

"Sure." Jason shook his head after the waitress left. "You have nothing to worry about."

"Not yet." Steve laughed and sat up straight "It's never too early to worry, though. Just look at my dad. He may be a lot older and has dealt with my mom's excellent cooking for almost forty years, but still. I'd rather not go there, if you know what I mean."

Jason still thought Steve was worried for no reason, but he wasn't going to get into a fight about it. They had more interesting topics to discuss. Like their joint love of fishing, which learning they shared had surprised them both. They'd already agreed to make a day of it next Saturday, with Steve's new car providing the transportation to Moon Lake and Jason providing a picnic lunch and drinks.

Once they'd had their coffee and paid the bill-separately upon Steve's insistence-they wandered outside. It was dark but they quickly found their cars, which were only a few spaces apart. Their corner of the parking lot was particularly dark, and Jason wished he could take advantage of the cover and pull Steve in for a kiss. He'd only had very few encounters with other men, and none of them had made him want to kiss them as much as he wanted to kiss Steve right now. His brain told him it was much too early, but his cock disagreed. God, he wanted this man.

Steve hesitated when he reached his car. He turned around, looking a little lost.

"That was fun. Thanks for suggesting it." Steve's smile was hesitant.

"Hey, I had fun too." Jason needed to say something before it was too late, but what? If he didn't come up with anything, he'd have to wait a whole week for their fishing date.

"I don't do a lot of this." Steve winced, almost as if he'd said too much. "That didn't come out right. What I meant was that I don't spend a lot of time doing stuff like this with guys. They've all got girlfriends or fiancées and prefer to spend time with them."

"And you haven't." Jason nodded, grateful for the opening.

"No." Steve leaned back against his car. "What about you?"

"Not at the moment." Hell, that didn't sound right somehow. It was his usual response, but it made him sound so arrogant. Why had he never noticed this before?

"In that case, there's a game on Wednesday we might still
be able to get tickets for." Steve grinned. "Or we could go roller skating in the new rink they just finished."

"Roller skating?" He hadn't done that since he was a teenager. "I like that idea."

"I'll find out the details and we can figure out the best evening." Steve stood up straight, suppressing a yawn.

"Sorry, I think I'd better turn in."

"Yeah, same here." Even though he was probably too keyed up to sleep, it had been a long day and he should at least try to get some rest.

"I'll call you sometime tomorrow, okay?" Steve opened his car, the grin on his face evident even in the semi-darkness.

"Talk to you then." Jason stood rooted to the spot as he watched Steve get into the car and drive off.

Damn, it was going to be a long few days.

 

* * * *

 

Luckily, the week turned out to be shorter than he'd feared. They went roller skating on Monday, which was more fun than was probably legal. They'd had both found their feet quite quickly, but not without a few spectacularly embarrassing falls in the beginning. He hadn't laughed so hard in a long time. The tickets for the Wednesday game were sold out, but they'd had ended up going for dinner in a tiny pizzeria on Seventh instead. Discussing some of the things Steve got to watch as he cleaned windows had been highly entertaining.

Now it was finally Saturday morning. He'd packed a picnic lunch, as promised, and the drinks were in the cooler sitting by the door, alongside his fishing gear. He was ready to leave about an hour before Steve had agreed to pick him up. If he hadn't been so excited, he'd be embarrassed.

When Steve finally arrived, right on time, he looked as happy to be leaving as Jason felt.

"I haven't done this in ages." Steve opened the trunk and they put the food inside. "Tim used to take me, but that was before Mom and Dad retired and he became too busy at work."

"I've been too busy working myself." Jason put his fishing rods in the back of the car and got into the passenger seat. "You know, with the new job and trying to establish a reputation. But I feel more settled now that I know what I'm doing."

"Good, if that means we can do this more often?" Steve started the engine and drove towards the highway that would take them out of the city. "I sort of miss being away from all the noise and traffic once in a while."

"I know what you mean." Jason relaxed back in his seat after a few miles, reassured by the safe way Steve was driving. "I would like doing this on a regular basis."
Steve's smile made him melt and he had the hardest time not to let his physical reactions show. While Steve evidently wasn't one to be afraid of the odd touch, Jason was still no closer to knowing whether the man would be open to all the things Jason had imagined doing to him. In his fantasies, they had gone way beyond kissing and he couldn't wait to see if reality measured up to his imagination.

Once they arrived at the lake, they quickly found a deserted bay and set up their stuff for easy access to bait for the fish and sodas for them.

They were comfortable together, bumping shoulders, handling the bait and the few fish they caught. The long silences as they stared out over the water were relaxing, and all the stress from work was forgotten by lunchtime.

Jason spread out the blanket he'd brought and laid out the bread, mayo, pickles and sandwich meats he'd packed along. Potato salad, apples, a selection of cookies and a Thermos of coffee completed the meal.

"I'm stuffed." Steve wiped a few crumbs off his luscious lips and lay back on the blanket.

"Same here." Jason lay down next to him, making sure their shoulders and upper arms touched as he pretended to be interested in the leaves above them.

Steve tensed for a moment but didn't move away.

Jason had never longed to kiss another man as much as at that moment. But he knew moving too fast could cost him everything. He needed to be patient. When Steve's large hand touched his before hesitantly twining their fingers together, he almost stopped breathing. How was he supposed to keep himself from pouncing on the other man now?

 


©Serena Yates, 2011
All Rights Reserved

 

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