by Josie Kerr
Ryan Richards returned from Afghanistan with more than a shattered body. His heart was in tatters, too. For the three years since then, renovating houses and patching up fighters has been the only thing to quiet his demons—those foisted upon him and those he has created himself. At DS Fight Club, he has a purpose. And when he spends time with sexy trainer Junior Maldonado, he feels more like a real man than a shadow of one.
Injured in the Middle East while an Army Ranger, Junior shared an instant camaraderie with wounded corpsman Ryan…and more than a little bit of attraction. And although Junior has reunited with his high school boyfriend, Ryan’s haunted whiskey eyes are never very far from his mind. He knows Ryan is hurting, and wants the best for his friend.
When Junior returns to Atlanta after his second-chance romance fails, he finds Ryan careening toward rock bottom. Overwhelmed by uncontrolled physical and emotional pain, Ryan is fighting for his life…and hiding the truth. It’s up to Junior to help him see that real men come in many forms, and they are all entitled to love.
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“That’s right, Ryan. I’ve fucked a lot of men. A lot. But I’ve only ever made love to you. And yeah, this is scary. I get that. But I’m not going to let you run away from me now that I’ve gotten my head out of my ass, not when we’re on the verge of something great. Now, we can take a step back, we can take a whole bunch of steps back, but I’m not going to let you sabotage this.”
Ryan rubbed his face with a shaking hand, and Junior held his breath until Ryan decided to speak.
“Fuck, I thought the ‘have you ever wanted kids?’ conversation was intense.” Ryan’s gaze met Junior’s, and his lips curled up into that crooked grin of his for a brief moment before settling into a contemplative line. “So, yeah. Um, I’m scared shitless, Junior Maldonado. Okay? Scared that I’m . . . not going to be enough. For you. For myself. For anyone. But I promise I’m gonna try, okay?”
Junior reached out and caught Ryan’s hand in his. He raised it to his lips, and after giving it a little squeeze, kissed his fingers. “That’s all I could ever wish for.”
Answering the “why” had occupied Junior for most of the fourteen-hour drive from Newark to Atlanta, and he still didn’t have an answer other than he was too damn old to fuck around in a situation that just didn’t feel right. After all, he was closer to fifty than to forty and feeling every bit of his age these days. Of course, getting shot in the shoulder didn’t help with the whole “you’re only as old as you feel” thing, and truth be told, his body just wasn’t what it used to be. Three words: gray fucking pubes. Dios.
And Junior could just imagine what it looked like to Ryan when he walked into Foley’s and saw the man he’d just spent the weekend with, just opened himself up to, at their bar with a person who had made it clear that he disliked him for no reason other than there was the potential for a rivalry. Yeah, Junior could understand why Ryan was so hurt, although it didn’t necessarily excuse his pigheadedness in the truck.
But the glimpse of Ryan’s face that he caught as he glanced in the rearview mirror? The man’s stricken expression was almost enough to make Junior turn around, grab the corpsman out of the worn front seat of his old truck, and take him home so they could love all the hurt in both of their hearts away.
Josie Kerr is a transplanted West Texan living on the edge of semi-profoundly rural Georgia,
a.k.a. the southernmost edge of the northernmost county in Metro Atlanta.
She has an M.Ed. in Secondary English Education, but discovered that she hated high school more the second time than she did the first, so she decided to meld her love of technology with her education background and became an Instructional Designer. When not writing articles about how to fire someone without getting sued or why you should really not apply for jobs using your SexxyStud99@aol.com email address, she writes steamy romance novels that feature grown-up Heroes and Heroines.
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