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  • Caitlin @ Romance Junkies
  • Warning; this story will make you hungry for cupcakes and men. In addition, I should note that this is a very steamy novel.
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  • Crissy @ Joyfully Jay
  • This is a wonderful love story highlighting that differences in a relationship, when accepted, can strengthen that bond.
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • For those of you who haven't read the story, I'd like to recommend that you do so, especially if you like a good romance with great characters, and a happy ending.
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • Fabio and Edwin are great characters whose devotion is tested by fire and they come out on the other side stronger than ever.
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  • Maya @ readalloverREVIEWS
  • The story was well written and utterly cute, sweet and it is oriented around family and Christmas.
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  • The Baker (Workplace Encounters)
  • 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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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • 'The Elevator Mechanic' is a delightful, heartwarming story which I thoroughly enjoyed, and would recommend.
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  • The Carpenter (Workplace Encounters)
  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • Reading 'The Carpenter' for the second time was easy for me because even though all of Serena's men in the 'Workplace Encounters' series are terrific characters, Tom and Matt are two of my favorites, at least so far.
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  • The Baker (Workplace Encounters)
  • MelanieM @ scatteredthoughtsandroguewords
  • The Baker by Serena Yates is the first I’ve read in her Workplace Encounters series but I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to search out the rest.
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  • To Find and To Keep (Keeping You 1)
  • Regina @ Coffee Time Romance
  • If you never read another m/m romance this year, read this one, you will not be sorry.
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  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • 'Araton's Destiny' is an enjoyable, sweet Christmas story with passionate, wonderfully written love scenes and a great happy ending.
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  • The Bricklayer (Workplace Encounters)
  • Becky @ Bike Book Reviews
  • I love an author that can give you such a good plot and delivery in a book that isn't novel length, this is a rare talent indeed!
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  • The Ship Engineer (Workplace Encounters)
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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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  • Becky @ Bike Book Reviews
  • I love a short story that makes me feel like I just read a full length it is so good!
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  • The Chauffeur (Workplace Encounters)
  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • If you are like me, you will enjoy the story even more the second time around.
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  • Garnets of Destiny 1 (Gemstone Chronicles 1)
  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • The first tale in the 'Gemstone Chronicles' is an endearing love story, endowed with marvelous, well-developed characters, but it also has its dark side, featuring malicious villains with hidden political agendas...
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  • Heather @ Padme's Library
  • I love how the author has balanced fear, tragedy, and love.
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  • Pixie @ MM Good Book Reviews
  • Oh, this is a fantastic addition to the Gemstone Chronicles with its twists and hidden turns. Nico and Nayder are a wonderful pair.
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  • Lilyraines @ Night Owl Reviews
  • I really enjoyed reading the book because it talks about taking chances, doing things way out of the characters' comfort zones..
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  • The Bricklayer (Workplace Encounters)
  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • Serena has created an endearing love story, with two awesome men and put them together with brilliant results.
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  • The Baker (Workplace Encounters)
  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • Thanks, Serena, for your magical touch when it comes to giving your couples the happy ending they deserve, and for making me drool all over my Kindle while describing all of the fabulous baked goods.
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  • The Carpenter (Workplace Encounters)
  • 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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  • Please, Doctor
  • Lena @ Rainbow Book Reviews
  • Serena does a great job of exploring the out-of-the-ordinary world of fetishes in a palatable and understandable way.
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Helping Harry (Men of Riverside 8)

Helping Harry (Men of Riverside 8)
Release Date: 09 January 2012
Description:

Tim's attraction to his friend Harry flares up once again when they run into each other at their ten-year reunion, but will it be enough to build the lasting relationship they've both longed for?

Tim Jacobi, who owns and runs his parent's car dealership, is professionally successful but lonely. When his high school reunion brings his best friend Harry back to Riverside after a ten-year separation, he realises he is still attracted to him. And this time around, he can admit it to himself.

Harry can't believe the strong feelings his best friend awakens in him. Despite being afraid of rejection, he opens up and tells him the truth about the intervening years-why he is now divorced and has sole custody of his two children.

When Harry's ex-wife reappears-demanding not only visitation rights, but threatening to sue for custody-Tim find himself facing more obstacles than he'd expected. Will he run for cover or help Harry get the relationship and life he has always wanted?

 


Pages: 99
Words: 33,600
Heat Index:Heat Index
Cover Artist: Posh Gosh
Book Type: EBook

Chapter One

Portland, Oregon
Thursday, June 10, 2010

"You'll behave for Pamela, won't you, Jessica?" Harry Lear gave his nine-year-old daughter the sternest look he could muster. He needed a weekend away, something he hadn't had since last year's acrimonious divorce from his alcoholic wife. And what better excuse than his ten-year reunion at Riverside High?

"Do I have to?" Jessica's pout had been perfected over years of practice and had worn out several nannies and babysitters already.

"Please." He knew from experience that being polite and honest worked best.

"We'll be good." Tyler, his five-year-old son, tilted his head and looked at Jessica with a calculating glint in his eyes. "I bet Daddy will get us some really neat gifts if we're good."

Harry barely suppressed a grin. The little bugger was just as conniving as his sister, but he was usually more restrained about it. People underestimated him, but his kind of logic worked with Jessica, so Harry let it slide.

"Okay." Jessica nodded and smiled at her little brother. She loved him to pieces and would do anything he asked...usually.

"Great!" Tyler jumped up and down as if he'd already received his gift.

"Thanks, kids. I really appreciate this." Harry hugged each of them before opening the door just as the school bus stopped across the street. "Pamela will pick you up from school like we discussed and you'll stay with her until I come to get you from her place on Sunday night."

"We know." Jessica rolled her eyes as she picked up the pinkest schoolbag in existence. "You already told us about ten times."

"Yeah, we're not babies!" Tyler followed his sister's example and grabbed his LEGO Police backpack.

"I know you're not." Harry grinned and opened his arms.

"Can I still get a hug?"

"Oh...okay." Despite Jessica's put-upon look, she hugged him tightly before stepping back to make room for Tyler.

"Bye, Daddy." Tyler gave him a manly slap on the back and followed his sister out the door.

Harry stood and watched them get on the bus before he closed the door and returned to cleaning up the kitchen and finalising his packing. He'd miss them something awful, but this would be good for him. Ever since the divorce and getting sole custody, he'd been totally focused on them. Part of it was because he was afraid Lisa might want them back once she was out of rehab, part of it was because he couldn't imagine what losing them would be like. Thanks to Lisa's admission that she'd only become pregnant to make him marry her, he'd never been as attached to her as he was to Jessica and Tyler. He'd liked her, but he would never have married her, especially not right out of high school.

He sighed as he walked upstairs to check his suitcase. Had there been any mistakes he hadn't made? He missed Riverside and the sun and warmth of Texas terribly. Lisa was the one who'd wanted to follow her parents back to Oregon when her father was transferred. Had it been up to him, they would have figured out a way to make it work and he would've got his computer engineering degree in Riverside, where he belonged.

Now he was stuck in Portland. He had a great job, wonderful children and a good circle of friends, but something was missing. This wasn't his home. He was lonely, but couldn't see how that was going to change. He wasn't about to jump into another relationship, not for his children's sake and certainly not for his own. The one person he'd secretly hoped to one day share his life with was beyond his reach in more ways than one.

He shook his head and closed the suitcase. There was just enough time for another cup of coffee and the rest of the newspaper before he needed to leave for the airport. Coffee mug in hand and feet up on the couch, he leant back and rested for a moment. Taking Thursday and Friday off and making this a longer break had been a good idea. He couldn't wait to see his younger brother David again. Last time he'd seen him was the summer seven years ago after their idiotic parents had kicked him out for being gay. That had been enough reason for Harry to cut all contact with them as well, and he hadn't heard from them ever since.

David had lived with a classmate's family until they'd graduated, then spent the summer in Portland with Harry and Lisa. Jessica had been only two, but he'd adored her. There hadn't been enough money between them for him to come for a visit after that. David had been on a scholarship and Harry was struggling as a student with a family himself. Then, just six months after he'd started to work as a coach at Riverside High, David had gone and found Elliot, the man he'd got caught kissing when they were seventeen. Elliot's parents had moved away without leaving a trace, but David had been determined enough to hire a PI friend of his to help him find Elliot.

Apparently, the two were happier than ever and Harry looked forward to meeting his brother's partner. He had a vague recollection of a boy with dark curly hair and deep blue eyes who'd always seemed to hang out with David when they were in high school together, but being three years older hadn't been conducive to really getting to know him.

He checked his watch. Shit! It was much later than he thought. All this daydreaming was going to make him miss his plane. So much for reading the newspaper. He stuffed it into his carryon bag, grabbed his suitcase and was out the door in seconds. He locked the door, put everything into the trunk and left for the airport.

Luckily, traffic was with him and, for once, there were no hold-ups at check-in or security. The four-hour flight to Houston was uneventful, after which he picked up his rental car and enjoyed the hour-and-a-half drive to Riverside. The sunlight was bright and the temperatures way hotter than he was used to, but he didn't mind. At least it felt like home.

Thank God for GPS. Without it, he'd never have been able to find David's apartment complex on the east side of town. Not the best area of Riverside, but it was safe and fairly clean. With David's salary as high school coach and Elliot still two years from graduating as an architect, they couldn't afford a better place yet.
He rang the doorbell.

"Harry?" The voice from the loudspeaker sounded so tinny, it could have been any man's.

"Yeah, it's me." Harry pushed on the door as the buzzer sounded and walked up to the third floor.

A very grownup version of his younger brother stood in the wide-open third door on the left. The blond head of hair, deep brown eyes and wide smile were the same as ever, though David's shoulders were broader and he looked like he'd been working out.

"Man, I've missed you." David opened his arms.

"Same here." Harry dropped his bags and stepped right up into David's embrace. "It's so good to see you again."

"Yeah." David stepped back and wiped his suspiciously wet eyes. "Come on in. I want you to meet Elliot, the love of my life."

Harry took his bags and followed David into a homey living room. An overstuffed sofa was on the right, facing a state-of-the-art TV and sound system. Numerous DVDs were stacked to one side of it, and an overflowing bookshelf sat on the other. Large windows in one wall looked out onto the back gardens and more apartments behind some leafy trees, and a door to their left led to the kitchen. A hallway led off to the right.

David held out his hand and the dark-haired, good-looking man who'd risen from the couch walked towards him.

"Elliot, meet my brother, Harry."

"Hi. Nice to meet you." Elliot seemed a little unsure of what to do.

"It's about time." Harry opened his arms. "And this is how I greet family."

Elliot's eyes widened, as did his smile and they briefly embraced before sitting down.

"So, what's going on in Riverside?" Harry couldn't wait to hear the newest gossip. He wanted to go to the reunion registration on Friday morning with at least some idea of what he was in for.

"Well, let me tell you..." David's eyes twinkled as he launched into a detailed report on what had happened since Harry had left.

Over an hour later, Harry leant back, already exhausted. He couldn't believe how much had changed...and how much hadn't. Meeting his old friends Tim, Ben, Zeke, and even Kendall, was going to be far more interesting than he'd initially thought.

 

* * * *


Riverside, Texas
Friday, June 11, 2010

Harry walked up the stairs of the slightly intimidating Riverside Plaza Hotel. They'd told him the reunion registration desk was on the second floor, right next to the ballroom where Saturday's festivities were going to take place. Crystal chandeliers and expensive-looking carpet set the tone and he was glad he'd brought his good suit.

"Hello, Harry." The brunette at the registration desk smiled up at him as if he should know her. The name tag she wore said ‘Rose', but he didn't remember her at all. Ten years was a damned long time.

"Hi, um, Rose." He stared at the name tags that remained on the table, finding and quickly grabbing his own. Most people had clearly been before they went to work.

"It's so good to see everyone again, isn't it?" Rose kept smiling as she handed him the registration sheet on a clipboard.

"It will be." He nodded and focused on the paperwork. Why they couldn't have done all this online was beyond him. Most people, apparently, still preferred paper. Name, address, email, family members-so far so good. Meal preferences-check. Any other details he wanted to share with the group? No, thanks. Did he want to make a speech or give a presentation about his life after high school? Fuck, no.

"Are you here with your family?" Rose took back the clipboard and she skimmed the information he'd given her.
"No, not this time." He didn't feel like explaining and could only hope he didn't run into this woman again. She was nosey enough for two!

"Would you like some company tomorrow evening?" The batting of eyelids was unmistakeable this time. Oh, heck, no.

"Thanks, but I'll be with my friends." Or so he hoped. They were the ones who had persuaded him to attend the reunion. The other half of his reason was David, and the trip was already a success on that front. He already felt closer to his younger brother than he had in years, and Elliot was a great guy as well.

He checked his watch. They should have arrived by now. Maybe meeting here hadn't been such a good idea.

"There you are." The deep, resonating voice made him turn around and he grinned as none other than Ben Dealy walked toward him. Harry usually towered over everyone at six-four, but Ben had him beat by about an inch. He was wider in the shoulders as well, and with his short, light brown hair and shining green-blue eyes, he was quite a sight.

They shook hands before Ben turned back and pulled the slightly smaller man next to him into a protective embrace. The guy stood about five-foot-eleven, had blond hair, sky-blue eyes and skin as white as snow. He looked vaguely familiar...

"Zeke?" Harry took a step back to look at the couple. He'd heard they'd got together just under two years ago and had to admit they looked good together. The empty place where his heart should have been pulsed.

"Yep." Zeke grinned and they shook hands. "You haven't changed a bit."

"Ha! I wish." He couldn't quite believe that. Years of marriage to a verbally abusive, alcoholic wife had surely taken their toll.

"No, I think Zeke is right." Ben tilted his head and studied Harry, making him squirm under the close scrutiny. "You don't look very different at all."

"Thanks for saying so, guys, but there's no need. I'm fine." Harry swallowed.

"We were sorry to hear about the divorce." Zeke put a hand on Harry's arm. "But like you said, it was better for everyone involved to cut the ties. Make a fresh start."

"Thanks." As for starting over, when and how would that happen? He was still waiting.

"So, do you want to hear our news?" Zeke was practically bouncing and Ben hadn't let go of his hand for a second.

"Good news is always welcome." Harry grinned. "But maybe we should find a quieter corner for catching up. That woman over there keeps staring at us, and I really don't want her to overhear."

"Okay." Ben pulled his cell from his pocket. "Let me just leave a message and I'll come join you."

Harry followed Zeke back to the registration table as his old friend started to fill in the form. Rose didn't look happy. What was her problem? Not having a date? Ben rejoined them minutes later, doing his part to register before he led them to the ground floor and the coffee bar that offered both local and international caffeine variations.

Once seated, Harry took a sip of his Irish coffee, leant back in his seat and looked at his friends until Zeke relented.

"Ben has asked me to marry him." Zeke grinned.

"He has?" Harry's eyes widened.

"Yes! We'll have a commitment ceremony here for friends and family, then we'll fly to Massachusetts for the legal part and the honeymoon." Zeke took Ben's hand and entwined their fingers.

"Wow!" Harry couldn't believe how open they were about everything. "When?"

"In September, on the same day we first met in kindergarten." Ben suddenly didn't look like the tough detective anymore, but very much like a man in love.
Shit, he wanted that. He hadn't wanted to admit it until just now, but he missed having a special someone to come home to and share his life with. Of course, in his case it would be even more difficult to find someone. They'd have to like and get along with not only him, but-more importantly-with Jessica and Tyler.

"Congratulations." He was happy for Ben and Zeke-their relationship really seemed to have grown and evolved to be this strong. Texas was a tough place to live as an openly gay man, never mind a couple. "I'm really happy for you guys."

"We want you and the kids to come to the ceremony, if you can make it." Ben looked as hopeful as Zeke.

"I'll see what I can do. They're quite a handful, so I'll have to think about it." But it would be a good excuse to take the kids to Riverside with him. Coming back here had convinced him that this was where he belonged. All he had to do was figure out how to make it work professionally and how to get the kids to accept it.

"That would be great!" Zeke nodded and laughed.

"What did I miss that's so great?" A voice from his right interrupted them.

Harry looked up and felt as if he'd been hit by a truck. He hadn't seen Tim since they'd graduated and the man looked better than ever. At about Harry's height, but with broad shoulders and powerful legs encased by washed-out jeans, he made an imposing figure. His chocolate-coloured skin was set off nicely by his light grey T-shirt, and his dark brown eyes were sparkling with some emotion that made Harry feel suddenly uncomfortable.

"Tim?" He looked up at his best friend, or rather, his ex-best friend, and all the longing for the man's company came back with a vengeance. God, he'd missed this guy. They used to share everything, much like Ben and Zeke had, but when Harry had announced his wedding and moved to Portland, the sudden silence had been deafening. He'd never attempted to find out what had happened, and he now admitted that had been stupid.

"Yeah." Tim held out a hand and Harry took it, marvelling at the contrast between their skin colours. "It's great to see you."

"And I believe that's our cue to leave." Zeke and Ben got up. "We'll see you tonight?"

Tim nodded, clearly aware of what was going on. Ben and Zeke turned on their heels and were gone before Harry could do much more than blink and draw in some air to speak.

"What the hell is going on?" Harry was about to follow his friends to shake them into giving him the information he needed to understand what had just happened.

"I just... We need to talk." Tim sat down opposite Harry and raked his short, curly hair.

"Talk?" After all these years, what could there possibly be to talk about?


"Please." Tim nodded, suddenly no longer sure where to start. His much-rehearsed speech had gone out the window the second he'd seen Harry sit in one of the coffee bar's booths. His best friend looked better than ever with his light brown eyes, square face and straight blond hair. His wide chest and long legs hadn't changed, and all the man's muscles seemed to be even more powerful than they had been ten years ago.

"Okay, if it's that important to you." Harry didn't look convinced but at least he didn't jump up and run either.


"Yeah, it is." Tim had hoped a setup like this would be better suited to keeping his friend's attention. Ben and Zeke had been wonderful about helping him prepare. They'd suspected what this was all about without him ever saying a single word. Not surprising, really, since they'd been through a variation of the same theme two years ago. He could have relied on finding some time on reunion night, but he'd been scared they would be too distracted by events to be able to focus on talking.

Just seeing Harry again had made Tim realise what he'd only half admitted to himself back then and had tried to forget over the intervening years-he was in love with Harry. He had no idea when or how it had happened, but it certainly explained why none of his attempts to find a wife had been successful. He shook his head at himself as he ordered a soda. He wanted a meaningful relationship, like his younger brother Steve had found with Jason. Clearly, he'd been looking in all the wrong places.

"Right. So..." Shit, this was hard. "It's been a very long time since we've seen each other and I have to admit, I missed you like hell."

"You did?" Harry sat back, almost as if trying to create distance between them. "Why did you never even call?"

"What? I must have called at least ten times just in the first week after you left with your sudden fiancée." Not that he'd ever been lucky enough to speak with Harry himself, but he'd left messages with Lisa. "When you never called back, I sent a couple of letters, but you never replied to those either. So, yes...eventually, I did give up because I figured you didn't want to talk to me for some reason. I just want to know why."

"You called me?" Harry's eyes narrowed. "You even sent me letters?"

"Of course I did. I never wanted to lose touch with you. We were best friends, for heaven's sake." And Harry need never know how much more he meant to Tim. "I never even knew what had become of you until Ben told me what little he'd heard from David."

"That conniving little bitch." Harry looked livid.

"What?" Tim sat back, not sure where this was going. That hadn't sounded like an answer to his question, but he was determined to see it through this time.

"I may have to kill her after all." Harry rubbed his temples as he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. A few seconds later he looked back at Tim, regret clear in his eyes. "She never gave me a single one of your messages. I was at college all day and working most nights, so she had total control of what little social life I had."

"And the letters?" Tim felt as if the ground had opened up and he was about to fall into a hole. Maybe that would have been preferable to the deep sense of loss that was threatening to take his breath away. So much time-just lost.

"She must have destroyed those." Harry shook his head. "I am so sorry."

"Not your fault." He wanted to kick himself.

"I never even suspected how devious she could be until she admitted she planned and used the first pregnancy to get me to marry her." Harry looked thoughtful. "I always thought she must have loved me, at least in the beginning, but this...this cutting me off from my old friends doesn't feel like love."

"No, it doesn't." Tim wanted to hit something. The anger and sadness was making him crazy. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It was over now. The not knowing was finally over. In the end, getting Harry back into his life, even if all they did was become close friends again, was far better than not hearing from him at all. He opened his eyes and the hopeful look on Harry's face chased the last traces of anger away. "So we're still friends?"

"Hell, yes!" Harry reached out to him, putting his hand palm-up onto the table.

Tim smiled and took his hand. The little bolt of electricity that raced up his arm was unexpected. The widening of Harry's eyes confirmed the other man had felt something as well. Tim wanted to withdraw his hand, not ready to anger Harry in case he was as straight as his marriage suggested, but Harry held on for just a little longer. Was that interest in his eyes or just relief at having solved their misunderstanding? Tim was going to find out one way or another.

"So, do you think two old friends can have lunch together to catch up?" He intended to spend as much time as possible with Harry over the next few days. The successful car dealership he ran was in good hands with Jason, so he didn't need to go back to work if he didn't feel like it.

"I don't see why not. Is it lunchtime already?" Harry checked his watch and raised an eyebrow. "Wow, I had no idea it was this late. Explains why my stomach has been grumbling, I guess."

"Do you remember Linda's Diner on Fifth Street?" Tim waved at the waiter to bring the check.

"Sure, they had the greatest burgers in town." Harry made to pull out his wallet, but Tim shook his head. "Don't tell me they're still around?"

"Sure are." Tim grinned as he paid for their drinks.

"Still have the best burgers in a fifteen-mile radius."

"What are we waiting for?" Harry's enthusiastic smile was back, and it was just as infectious as it had been ten years ago.

Half an hour later they sat in a diner that wouldn't have looked out of place in the fifties. A black and white tiled floor that was actually linoleum, fluorescent lights, a fully functional jukebox and menus that had never heard the words ‘calorie reduced' or ‘low fat' were just some of the features. Even the waitresses looked like they'd time travelled straight out of the past into a new millennium. The only thing that gave them away was the occasional cell phone sticking out of a pocket.

Tim and Harry ordered milk shakes with their food just because it felt right, then spent the next two hours updating each other about their lives. Nothing much had changed for Tim, certainly not in comparison to what Harry had been through. Hell, the man had started from scratch in a place not even his home town. He'd managed to get a good college degree and a great job and had weathered his wife's alcoholism, infidelity and a horrible divorce. All while raising not just one, but two children.

"They sound like amazing kids." He'd always wanted a family. At least Steve, his younger brother, was back in his life. Tim had practically begged him not to stay away just because their parents had retired and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Steve's partner, Jason, had become like another brother over the last two years-but that didn't replace Tim's need for his own little family.

"They are." Harry showed him what he called a ‘small' selection of pictures on his cell phone, and it was very clear that they were very happy children. It was also clear, from the sheer number of pictures, that Harry really loved them.

They shared an old-fashioned banana split for dessert while talking about everything and nothing. The longer they spoke, the less important the intervening years seemed to become. Tim's emotions almost overwhelmed him as he realised that this was actually happening and was not one of his many dreams.

The reality of Harry being there, just feet away, almost overwhelmed him. He'd always liked the guy, had felt a definite attraction for him from their senior year together, but nothing had ever happened. He'd been too shy and unsure, and there'd always been the fear of potentially losing a friend if he spoke up and Harry didn't feel the same way. But now they were both adults, both single, and if he didn't speak up this time he'd only have himself to blame for a missed opportunity.

By the time they'd had coffee, he was more certain than ever that he wanted Harry to be part of his life. He didn't want to let him go-not now or ever-but first things first.

"Hey, would you like to spend some more time together? You know, now that we've discovered the silence was not really what either of us wanted?" He held his breath as he waited for Harry's reaction.

"I would love that!" Harry's smile lit up the whole room.

"Do you think the old quarry pond still exists?"

"Sure it does." Tim grinned. They'd spent half their lives there as kids and teenagers, jumping into the water and roaming around the forest. He wasn't going to admit he'd been back numerous times, just to feel closer to Harry. "Not many people go there anymore-they've got Moon Lake in the south all developed. It's a little more civilised, with all the campsites, bathroom facilities and even a restaurant now, so the old pond has fallen off the radar."

"Have you been back?" Harry tilted his head.

"Yeah." He wasn't going to lie. "Hey, you want to go skinny dipping?"

Harry's eyes widened and he blushed a beautiful shade of red.

"I'll take that as a yes." Tim winked and watched as Harry turned crimson.

Harry never looked away and, shit, wasn't that the hottest thing ever? Tim's cock was half hard by the time the waitress made it back to their table with the check. The afternoon was beginning to look extremely promising.

By the time they'd made it outside, Harry had recovered his normal skin colour, but that didn't reduce Tim's arousal one bit. Suddenly, now that he'd admitted-to himself, at least-how much he wanted Harry, everything about the other man turned him on.

"Your car or mine?" Harry's hands may have been shaking a little as he asked, but his gaze was bolder than ever.
Score! The man was actually flirting back. Tim had an extremely hard time suppressing his elation as he frowned, pretending to think about the question. He couldn't have cared less, as long as they made it to the lake...and soon. His cock was almost fully hard now and he needed relief.

"Why don't we take mine? Save you the mileage on the rental?" He smiled, almost certain Harry would agree to anything. The other man's pants were suspiciously tight across the groin area.

"Sure." Harry looked around at the almost empty parking lot.

The lunch crowd was gone and it was too early for dinner. There were only four cars left, one of them his current ride, a moss-green Impala. He pointed it out then let Harry get in first, much to the man's surprise. He was going to go all out to show Harry how much he liked him and that he appreciated his presence. He would have done as much for any friend, but now that they were potential future lovers, the simple courtesy took on more meaning in Tim's thoughts. The word courtship came to mind and he shook his head at himself as he walked around the car and got into the driver's seat. He'd always been on the romantic side of the scale, but Harry brought it out in him even more.

The drive to the quarry pond southeast of town seemed to take forever. The silence in the car was a marked contrast to their earlier chattiness, but it wasn't hostile or uncomfortable. The sexual tension that had started building with his question about skinny-dipping gradually grew until it was so strong he wanted to stop at the side of the road and ravish Harry right there, in the car.

Patience! He focused on the road, so he wouldn't miss the exit. That would be too embarrassing for words. Thankfully, the turn-off was right there, and he drove along the gradually deteriorating road into vegetation that was clearly bent on gaining back what humans had taken. The old parking lot was almost overgrown with vines and bushes, even the odd tree was making an appearance at the edge of it.

Once he'd parked, glad there was nobody else around, he got a blanket out of the back of the car then turned towards the dirt path. They walked side by side, close enough for their shoulders to be touching. The silence had grown thick with expectation and when Harry's hand slid into his at about the half-way point, he had to bite his lip to stop himself from yelling with joy.

Soon, they had reached the bank of the huge pond. It was actually more like a small lake. Surrounded by high cliffs on one side, the other was all flat beach covered in pebbles that now had more than a few grassy patches. Bees and dragonflies abounded and there were a few pond skaters, frogs and several types of birds.

"Wow." Harry looked around, still holding on to Tim's hand. "It's a lot more beautiful than I remember."

"A lot more quiet as well." Not a trace of any other humans anywhere. He pointed at the cliffs with his free hand. "I can't believe we used to climb those."

"I know." Harry laughed, making his eyes crinkle. "Looking at them now, I doubt my own sanity at the time. But you have to admit, the water bombs were great fun."

"I haven't even thought about those in forever." Tim chuckled. They weren't what he had on his mind now. The difference between what he'd been thinking about and the memory made him realise how much time had passed, making them two totally different people in so many ways. Except-when he looked at Harry standing there, gazing across the peaceful little pond-not that much had changed at all. The warm feelings of friendship were still there, underlying everything. They'd never been gone, really, but he hadn't let them surface in so long they almost felt new. Adding his most recent need to touch Harry, get close to him and maybe even kiss him, deepened everything into almost overwhelming emotions of wanting Harry around forever.

Shit! He was going way too fast. The last thing he wanted was to scare Harry away. He'd have to slow down and follow his original plan of seducing his friend into more.

All his good intentions flew out the window the second Harry turned his head and looked at him. There were flecks of gold in the light brown eyes and a hesitant smile graced his lips. Tim smiled back and moved closer. Still holding on to his hand, he moved close enough to feel Harry's breath on his skin. He didn't dare move a muscle as they stood there, faces close enough to touch, just breathing together.

Finally he couldn't stop himself any longer. He moved the last few millimetres and touched his lips to Harry's. Soft skin greeted him and electricity raced from his mouth straight down his spine to settle in his balls. A few breaths later, Harry moved even closer, eliminating the last remaining distance between them so they touched from chest to groin. All Tim could do was close his eyes and sink into the kiss.

©Serena Yates, 2012
All Rights Reserved

 

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