Sawyer (Torey Hope: The Later Years #2) (6 page)

BOOK: Sawyer (Torey Hope: The Later Years #2)
3.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Chapter 8

He breathed deeply to center himself. Luke Hamilton had a war battling inside, and yoga was one of his preferred ways to fight back. Calming music soothed him while the darkness behind his closed eyelids allowed him to imagine a perfectly still, crystal clear lake at the base of a majestic mountain. Several deep breaths later as he reached the end of his yoga workout, Luke felt the anger and frustration which stemmed from a phone call with his father leave his body, and his soul felt at peace.

Allowing one last cleansing breath to fill his chest, he stood and walked from the yoga studio to the gym area. Knowing he’d fight with too much built-up anger if he didn’t center himself, Luke had done his yoga first, but was itching to go a few rounds with the punching bag. As a student of both yoga and Pilates, Luke was a walking contradiction to also be involved in Mixed Martial Arts. All three practices had served him well and he felt grateful to have been hired at The Center+ to teach MMA style classes.

Luke approached MMA from the position of incorporating many styles of martial arts. The sensationalized cage fighting that most people thought of with MMA was not something he would be instructing at The Center+. His students would learn the basics of martial arts and how to use their skills to protect themselves, exercise their body, and enhance their inner well-being; Luke would not be instructing or promoting violent or dramatized methods. He had been very clear on that position when he interviewed for the job, and he felt that The Center+ hired him in part because of his stance.

He’d previously interviewed with Sawyer Morgan, but had been called in for a second interview. During that interview with Nathan Morgan, one of the higher-ups with The Center+, Luke had blushed when he spoke the cliché, “I’m a lover, not a fighter.” Mr. Morgan had smirked and raised an eyebrow in question of Luke’s passion for martial arts.

“What I mean is that I do several martial arts for exercise and well-being, but I don’t use the methods to condone violence or harm anyone. I don’t want to take this job if parents are going to be signing their kids up so they can kick someone’s ass, or if adults are going to sign up in hopes of getting in some cage on a televised MMA show. I will teach the basic history, the art form, the benefits, but I won’t teach it as a violent means to an end.” He’d blushed a bit more and ducked his head as Nate had continued to watch him, “I guess you can just call me Mr. Miyagi.”

Nate had thrown his head back in laughter and offered him the job on the spot. “I’ll want you to set up a final meeting with my sons, Decker and Sawyer, but I have no doubt they will be as sold on you for this position as I am. Sawyer has already spoken very highly of you after his preliminary interview with you.”

Luke had already met Decker Morgan who was the main manager of The Center+, and he liked the man immediately. He could tell that Decker was a no-nonsense type of guy and ran a tight ship. He had met with Sawyer a couple times to discuss the plans for the programs, and he had felt an immediate connection to Decker’s twin. Sawyer was in charge of the Arts Program at The Center+. Sawyer and his cousin, Zach, were working together to combine Sawyer’s art programs with Zach’s physical fitness programs since Luke would be teaching several art forms through meditation, yoga, Pilates, and martial arts.

Luke couldn’t lay a finger on exactly why he felt a connection to Sawyer Morgan, but he felt like he and Sawyer had been friends for a lifetime.

Now as he walked into the gym, he instinctively knew the man beating the shit out of a punching bag was Sawyer Morgan. He was an exact replica of Decker, but he appeared softer, more fragile, even as he was putting the hurt to the bag.

Halting at the doorway to the gym, Luke allowed a shadow to hide his lithe, athletic body so he could observe undetected. An unwanted, long-since-forgotten response shot through his body; his veins pumped with liquid heat as he watched Sawyer’s muscular form pummel the stuffed leather swinging in front of him.

Closing his eyes, struggling to retrieve that sense of centeredness he’d achieved just moments before, Luke fought down the feeling of desire that built in him. Sawyer was a colleague, more like a boss in many ways, and the brother and son of his actual bosses. Even if Luke hadn’t sworn years ago to extinguish any feelings he had towards other males, feeling what he was feeling for Sawyer would still be a very bad idea.

Unbidden, his father and brothers’ words infiltrated his mind; the thick, black ooze threatened to overtake him and devour the sense of peace he’d worked so hard to achieve over several years.

“Little gay sunshine boy…”

“Only faggots like the arts…”

“Such a queer little momma’s boy…”

As he’d gotten older, the comments had morphed to take on a more sexually sinister tone.

“You like it up the ass, faggot?”

“Damn girly body and blonde hair, no wonder guys want to fuck your queer ass.”

“Want us to find a big ‘ol gay cock to pound that hole, fag? Would you like that?”

Breath shuddered from his lungs as he stamped down the nausea the memories always brought him. His father had always despised him because of his looks. Luke had a fair complexion, silky blonde hair, and blue eyes. That and his lean, athletic body was a stark contrast to his father and brothers’ meaty builds, dark hair, dark eyes, and naturally olive complexions. Not once in his life had he heard a kind word come from his father’s mouth in reference to him, his youngest son.

His brothers had taken their father’s hatred for him to new and excruciatingly painful heights. The words hurt and still crept into his mind to taunt him, but the physical torture and humiliation they brought down on him was a haunting memory he would battle for the rest of his life. Even if he was ever able to admit he was attracted to men, the physical and emotional scars his brothers had left on him were the shackles and chains which would forever prevent him from experiencing what his body and heart longed for.

A memory of his beloved mother, his friend, his confidant, his protector floated into his mind like a feather on the wind. It had always been her and him against his father and brothers. His mother, Lilly, had never wavered in her constant support and protection of him. When the cancer devouring her body could no longer be held off, she gathered him in her arms and murmured her love to him. In halting gasps and wheezing whispers, she shared her last moments with him. “Luke, my dear baby boy, you’ve not been shown love from a father, but you were born from the love of both a father and a mother. I’m sorry you will never know the man your father could have been. Please forgive me for allowing you to suffer at their hands. Don’t give in, don’t let them win…” She stopped briefly to take a breath, but she never finished what she was saying.

At age 15 Luke didn’t know what to make of her broken whispers about the love of a father. But, ‘don’t let them win’ were words which would bombard his mind like a spray of bullets each day of his life. He would never let
win. His brothers’ and father’s words would never be true about him. He loved the male form, the hard outlines, the muscles, the hair-roughened skin, but he would never give in to those feelings. Ever. If he allowed himself to find physical pleasure at the hands of another man, his brothers’ and father’s words would be truth. He’d be exactly what they always accused him of being.
. He would cling to his mother’s request. He would never let them win.

That promise had never been difficult to keep. He had the constant memory of their hate-filled words to keep his desires in check. If those memories didn’t dull the longing, he would allow himself to briefly recall the physical and emotional torture his brothers forced upon him from the moment his mother passed on. The recollection of that humiliation and pain was enough to remind him daily why he could never acquiesce to the inclinations of his body and soul.

Until he walked into the gym and saw Sawyer Morgan.

Driving a hand through his messy blonde tresses, Luke contemplated leaving.

But his movement caught Sawyer’s attention. “Who’s there? What are you doing here at this time of night?” Sawyer, in contrast to his naturally calm politeness, barked out at the shadows.
What the hell? I just need some alone time and now I’ve got to deal with this?

Sawyer’s breath caught in his chest and his entire body tightened in response when the man exited the shadows. Only a few lights were on in the gym, and this man stood directly underneath one. The light reflected from his blonde hair and gave him an ethereal look. At 6’2” himself, Sawyer didn’t often find men taller, but he judged the athletically lean man standing outside the ring to be about 6’3”. His blue eyes were cautious, apologetic, and interested all at once.

“Sorry, man. I didn’t know anyone else would be here.” Sawyer instantly recognized the new martial arts instructor, Luke Hamilton, and walked the edge of the ring to shake the man’s hand.

When a lightning-hot heat traveled between their joined hands, Sawyer took notice, but he also noticed how quickly Luke’s jaw clenched and his hand pulled away.

“I apologize for being here this late. I didn’t think I’d be interrupting anybody. I can leave…” Sawyer noticed that Luke trailed those last words as if hoping Sawyer would ask him to stay.

“No worries, man, you’re welcome to stay. We can go at it alone or team up and fight out whatever it is we’re both trying to rid from our minds.” Sawyer stepped away from the ropes slightly and swung his arms open wide in invitation for Luke to join him.

Wondering at Luke’s behavior, Sawyer watched as the man shuffled his feet and appeared to have an inner dialogue with himself. Running a hand through his hair again making Sawyer realize it was a nervous gesture, Luke blushed a bit. “I really should leave you to it, but I was hoping to get some issues pounded out tonight so if you don’t mind, I think I’ll stay. Want to go a few rounds?”

Sawyer’s groin constricted and threatened to make itself known with the words
go a few rounds
. Turning his back on Luke, he quickly adjusted himself and mentally scolded himself at the same time.
Damn, man, the guy was just making conversation. Don’t turn everything sexual. Besides, you’d be a complete whore to go from one man to another in the same night.

“It’s all good, man. Let’s go.” Sawyer tossed Luke some spare gloves and headgear. Aside from his brother and cousins, Sawyer had seldom felt an instant kinship with someone he knew next to nothing about. Yes, he had known Hayden would be a friend even if he wasn’t a lover, but that was because Katie had already assured him that Hayden was a kindred spirit, another gay man just seeking love and acceptance.

This man, Luke, was a complete unknown. Would he balk at Sawyer’s sexual preference when he found out? Was he the type who would have made fun of Sawyer in school? His father had hired Luke, and Sawyer trusted his dad’s judgment. Maybe that was why he felt an instant connection with Luke, like he’d known him for years.

They met in the middle of the ring and bumped fists. Their sparring was light and easy in the beginning. They circled each other, swung, and dipped. While they shuffled around the ring, they spoke.

“So, what brought you here tonight? Most people don’t come to kick ass on the bag at this time of night unless something is wrong.” Sawyer wasn’t sure why he was being so nosey. Would he be okay answering the same if it was asked of him?

“Phone call from my father. Those never go well. I hung up pissed off and hurt as usual, so I came here to calm down with some yoga and then get some kicks in on the bag.” Luke narrowly missed a right hook from Sawyer. “What about you? Do you come here at this time every night or was tonight a special occasion?”

Your whole family knows now. It didn’t go great, but you survived. You have to get used to telling others, might as well start with him.
“Well, to be honest, it was a pretty shitty night. I came out to the rest of my family and it didn’t go well at all.” The hurt threatened him with a jab to his heart, he fought against it by lashing out toward Luke. Sawyer immediately felt bad when he saw the blood ooze from Luke’s nose and lip.

“Shit, man, I’m sorry. I forgot where I was for a second. We were taking it easy, and I let my emotions get the best of me. Truly, I’m sorry.” Sawyer tossed his equipment into his gym bag and then removed the headgear and gloves from Luke, throwing them in his bag as he led his injured friend to the first aid kit.

“It’s all good, man. I’ve had a lot worse done to me, I can take it. It’s just a busted nose and split lip. Nice one you landed there, though I can’t say I want to be on the receiving end of your punches again any time soon.” He winced against the pain as he tried to smile and walked with his head tipped up in hopes of keeping his nose from dripping on anything.

Grabbing the first aid kit from the wall, Sawyer opened the door to the locker room and had Luke lean against the counter by the sinks. “Grab some paper towel and clean yourself off.”

Luke leaned across the sink in front of Sawyer to reach the paper towel. The hitch in both men’s breathing added to the palpable tension in the room. Heated sparks jumped from skin to skin when Sawyer’s arm brushed against Luke’s. Breathing deeply, Sawyer fought the wave of desire that rolled through his body when his brain registered the scent of soap and man.

Almost roughly, Sawyer grabbed the paper towel and ran it under the water. Dabbing gently at Luke’s lip, trying to calm his feelings, Sawyer worked until the blood was cleaned away. Using the damp towel, Sawyer managed to clean Luke’s nose. Finding a piece of clean gauze, he handed it to Luke. “Keep this until you’re sure your nose is done bleeding.”

BOOK: Sawyer (Torey Hope: The Later Years #2)
3.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Shadows Still Remain by Peter de Jonge
NightFall by Roger Hayden
Sal (The Ride Series) by O'Brien, Megan
Vortex by Chris Bunch; Allan Cole
Ten Tales Tall and True by Alasdair Gray
His Black Wings by Astrid Yrigollen