Sawyer (Torey Hope: The Later Years #2) (7 page)

BOOK: Sawyer (Torey Hope: The Later Years #2)
12.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

With a last dab of the towel on his lip, Sawyer dug through the kit in search of ointment for the wound. “Here. This should stop the bleeding and maybe numb it a little.” Sawyer let his thumb brush lightly over the crack in Luke’s lip, wishing he could dip his head and let his lips follow this thumb.

Sawyer watched for several seconds as Luke’s chest heaved and his blue eyes darkened. He backed up a bit as Luke abruptly stood up, but he didn’t move quickly enough to miss the other man’s obvious physical reaction to the situation as it rubbed against his own barely-concealed erection. Glancing upward to make contact with Luke’s heated gaze, Sawyer fought the need to wrap his arms around the man and pull his mouth down to his own.

“So, thanks for fixing me up, Doc. I think the sparring is done for tonight, but I’ll take a raincheck for another time. And we definitely need to get you through some yoga and meditation sessions; sounds like you could use the benefits of both practices.” Sawyer saw right through Luke’s attempt to change the subject and avoid the tension between them, but he took the bait.

“Yeah, my therapist has been telling me I should look into some relaxation techniques. Yoga and meditation would probably be just the right combination. I’ll definitely take you up on the lessons. Thanks man.”

“So, um, I don’t know about you, but I’m not tired at all. Must be from the adrenaline of the fight.” Luke smiled as brightly as his busted lip allowed him to. “I’m not ready to go to bed yet. You want to grab some coffee at that 24 hour place?”

Sawyer’s brain flitted from excitement to confusion. He was thrilled to be asked out for coffee by Luke. However, he got the distinct feeling that, even though there was a definite physical attraction, Luke would fight tooth and nail against anything more than friendship. The thought disappointed and puzzled him. Shaking his head to clear the jumbled thoughts he convinced himself he could delve into the why’s with Luke once they knew each other better. And going out for coffee was the perfect way to get to know someone better.

“That sounds good. I’m not sleepy either. Luckily I don’t have to work tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll end up here at some point, but I can stay up until the wee hours of the morning drinking coffee and be none the worse for the wear tomorrow because I can sleep in.” Grabbing his bag and locking the door behind them Sawyer headed toward his car. Halting briefly he scanned the parking lot. His gaze landed on a motorcycle. “Is that yours? Do you want to just ride with me? I can bring you back by here after coffee.”

He watched the hesitation flash over Luke’s face. Sawyer read right through him, he wanted to climb into the car, but he wouldn’t allow himself to do so.

“Nah, I’ll take my bike and just meet you there.”

Sawyer swallowed his ridiculous disappointment.
Don’t be an idiot. He invited you for coffee. He’s meeting you there. It’s not a date, you don’t have to drive him there.
As he chastised himself he watched with heated eyes as Luke’s ass sauntered away.

Climbing into his car Sawyer noticed a message from Hayden.


: Hey there.


So, tonight was really great. Better than I had hoped for.


Just wanted to check on you and see if you are okay. You seemed distracted when you left. If I know you you’re probably feeling guilty about tonight. I’m not expecting a ring on my finger now. Maybe we can make plans for a date soon?


So, now I’m feeling desperate…I’ll stop messaging you. But, call me please.


Memories of their night together filled his mind. It had been the perfect physical connection and release, and he’d needed it badly after the issue with his family. But even the physical completeness he’d felt when Hayden took him didn’t make him feel anything different for Hayden. Later when he’d pushed himself into Hayden’s body as he forced away the betrayal he felt from his family, he’d not felt anything but a means to an end. Their time together brought him a physical release, nothing more. He owed it to his friend to be honest and let him know there was nothing romantic going to take place between them.

That’s great, Morgan. You’ve got one guy who would marry you tomorrow and one guy who seems dead set against anything but friendship. And which are you the most physically attracted to? Of course it’s the gorgeous man on the motorcycle. You’re going to give the ‘just friends’ speech to one man and the other one is probably preparing to give you the same speech.

Rolling his eyes and scrubbing a hand over his face, he pulled from the parking lot.
It’s just coffee with a friend.

Yeah, keep telling yourself that.

Chapter 9

It’s just coffee with a friend. Yeah, keep telling yourself that.
Luke Hamilton was in deep and he knew it, but he was helpless to avoid it.

You could have totally avoided it by not asking the man for coffee. You could have gone home to a cold shower and seen him sporadically at work. Instead, you offer to teach him meditation and yoga and invite him to coffee. Yep, that was real smooth. You promised to avoid your attraction to men at all costs. How’s that working out for you right now?

Luke growled in frustration as he leaned into the final corner before arriving at the all-night coffee shop. His head was a jumbled mess of emotions and conflicting thoughts. On one hand, he’d never been so instantly and completely physically attracted to another man. Yes, he’d found several men attractive over the years, but none so much as to make his promise to his mother hard to keep. On the other hand, he was supposed to work with Sawyer, he shouldn’t be muddying the waters by thinking anything about him other than friendly thoughts. And, he
need a friend. He hadn’t been in Torey Hope all that long and he’d never really been the social type. He was more of a loner, whether by choice or forced to be because of the shit he put up with from his dad and brothers. But, was it wise to befriend the one man who made him rethink his vow to never act upon his attraction to men?

God, man, it’s just a cup of coffee. Get over it.

Deciding he could be friends with someone without entertaining sexual thoughts about them, Luke climbed from his bike and watched in absolute awe at the beauty of the man walking towards him. Luke was used to being taller than most people, but Sawyer was close to his own height; close enough that he could almost stare straight into the deep brown depths of the man’s eyes. His dark brown hair was cut short and styled into a spikey messy look. Everything about Sawyer was hot, but Luke also saw more than that. He saw a man who was hurt, a man struggling, a man in need of a friend just as much as Luke was.

I can be that friend. As long as he doesn’t want more from me, I can be there for him.

A small voice in his head taunted,
But what if he wants more? What then?

I’ll just have to explain that I can’t be more. End of story.

The voice was not to be deterred.
So you’d give up a friendship? You’d deny yourself happiness? Wouldn’t that be like letting your dad and brothers win anyway?

Shut up, just shut up. For now it’s coffee and friendship. I can’t deal with more than that right now. This will have to be enough.

Shoving the voice and his thoughts down, he fell into step beside Sawyer. Opening the door to the coffee shop for Sawyer, Luke used everything inside himself to avoid looking at the other man’s ass as he strode past. He failed. Miserably.




“So, what made you decide to come out to your family tonight?” Luke asked Sawyer as they both waited on their piping hot coffee to cool.

“Well, I had already told my brother and cousins a while back, but I just knew it was time to stop hiding it from everyone else. Honestly, I should have admitted it to them years ago, but I’ve been too afraid of rocking the boat and causing trouble.” Sawyer stirred a packet of sugar into his coffee and stared thoughtfully at the brown liquid as it swirled in the cup.

“And, from the way you were beating the shit out of that bag, I’m guessing it didn’t go well?” Luke asked quietly.

“Nah, it didn’t go well. The majority of my family is supportive, but there are three or four who made their disgust and displeasure clear. I think my grandpa calling me hurtful names was the hardest part to take. I’ve idolized that man since I took my first step, maybe even before, so to hear those words spill from his mouth in reference to me…I guess I just felt betrayed.” As he spoke he wondered at how easy it was to talk to Luke.

Luke was quiet for a short time as he let the cruel words from his brothers and father steam roll through his head. Sawyer’s question shook him from his thoughts.

“How were your family and friends when you came out to them?”

“I’m not gay.” Luke’s vehement denial had Sawyer sitting back in shocked silence. He stared at the man sitting across the table from him. Just stared. Because that was all he could do. A million thoughts ran through his head.
No way he’s straight. I felt his reaction to me in the gym. My gay-dar can’t be THAT rusty. Shit, he seriously thinks he’s not gay? Just my luck.

As Sawyer continued to stare at him, Luke shifted uncomfortably. “Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. I
attracted to men. I always have been, ever since my earliest memories. But I can’t ever act on those feelings. Ever. End of story.” Luke’s words and the set of his jaw told Sawyer that he was very serious.

But, a flicker of hope burned in Sawyer’s chest and a cheesy quote from an old comedy movie played on repeat through his head, “
So you’re telling me there’s a chance…”
A chance, that’s all Sawyer wanted. He wanted Luke in his life, and for now he’d take him in whatever capacity he could get him.

Over the next hour, with coffee drained and long since forgotten, Sawyer and Luke talked and laughed as they got to know each other.

“Favorite food?” Sawyer cocked his head to the side and waited on Luke’s answer.

“Pizza. Cliché I know, but the truth. Honestly, pepperoni pizza is my favorite, and I love cold pizza for breakfast.” Luke blushed. “You?”

“Cold pizza? Sure, I’m a guy, aren’t I?” Sawyer’s grin brought a soft glow to his warm brown eyes. “But, as far as favorite foods go, I’d have to say my grandma’s baked potato bar. We load up these huge potatoes with every topping you can imagine; sometimes it’s hard to even find the potato. You’ll have to come over some night and let me show you how we eat potatoes here in Torey Hope.” As Sawyer made the statement, he felt a flutter in his heart thinking of Luke coming to dinner at his grandparents’ house. He wanted to bring him to meet his family, but he knew that scenario was light years away both because of his recent announcement and because of Luke’s staunch denial of his sexuality.

“I’ll take your word on it for now,” Luke replied after he let the words soak in. He appeared touched at the quasi-invitation, and panicked at the same time. Quickly switching to another topic, Luke cleared his throat, “Favorite childhood memory?” As the words were spoken, Sawyer noticed that Luke seemed to regret them.

“I have almost all happy memories growing up. Decker and I had Zach and Kendrick to play with. We’ve got the best families in Torey Hope, and we had The Center+ from before we could even walk. Granted, it wasn’t as elaborate back then, but it still offered us awesome activities. But, hands down, I think my favorite memory is when the captain would take us fishing. He’s always been strict, but he was fair and patient too. He’d take the four of us boys out to the lake, and we’d spend hours with our lines in the water. He used to pretend like he was asleep under that darn fishing hat he wore, but he’d always pipe up with advice or questions or a joke at just the right time as the day wore on.” Sawyer paused, jaw clenched against tears threatening to fall. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get that back with him, that easy closeness. I miss it already.”

Blinking rapidly to clear his eyes, he glanced at the clock. Not wanting his time with Luke to end, but feeling the need to get out of the coffee shop, he made a suggestion that was purely spur of the moment. “Ever gone night fishing?”




An hour later, as a breeze rippled the water, they sat near the lake’s edge and watched their lines in the shadowy darkness. The full moon and kerosene lanterns provided just enough light, but the darkness surrounding them offered solitude and the feeling of closeness that allowed for conversations that maybe would have never taken place in the bright light of day.

“So, since we’re actually participating in one of my favorite childhood memories, want to share one of yours?” Sawyer’s voice was low so as not to spook the fish or his new friend who seemed as jittery as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

As silence filled the air, Sawyer turned his head slightly. Gazing at the strong profile, Sawyer took note of Luke’s closed eyes and gritted teeth.

“Hey, man, it’s okay, you don’t have to talk about it.” It hurt Sawyer to know that memories of his childhood brought Luke pain.

“No, I want to talk about it, it’s just that I don’t have a lot of happy childhood memories, and the ones I have make me miss my mom. She died of cancer when I was 15.” Luke spoke softly, and haltingly, as if he’d not shared much about his life with other people. “I’ve never really talked about her to anyone else. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up.”

His heart hurt to hear Luke say the words. Sawyer knew nothing of a childhood without friends, and thinking of Luke as a lonely little boy made him sad. And then he felt anger; why would no one want to be friends with Luke?

“Why didn’t you have friends?”

“I kept to myself a lot. I didn’t want people to be around my dad and brothers; they aren’t very nice people, and I didn’t want them to spread their ugly words to any of the kids in town.” Luke’s words were almost whispered as he recalled the memories.

“What about friends at school?” Sawyer was still trying to picture a childhood with no friends.

“My mom homeschooled me. It was easier to be home with her than to be at school and try to avoid my brothers. By the time she died, I was doing school on the computer, so I finished in a self-study program and graduated early. Her will came as a surprise to my father; he had no clue that she had a separate life insurance policy and that the entire amount would come to me. That money allowed me to travel and learn the various martial arts I wanted to study. I also took several yoga, Pilates, and meditation classes over the years. I’ve always had the same free-spirit as my mother, so traveling brought me peace. The years I had to endure at home after she died almost brought me to my end, so being allowed to take that money and leave as soon as I graduated was a blessing that my mother left me.” Luke’s story spilled out. Sawyer felt he was getting more information than Luke had ever shared with anyone else, but he sensed there was much more to the story that Luke wasn’t sharing.

“So, your mom was your best friend?” Sawyer was very close to his mother, but he didn’t know what it would be like to have only her as his friend. And to lose her, leaving him truly alone in the world, would be devastating.

“Yeah. She was the one who understood me. I was her little look alike. We shared the same smile, eyes, hair, likes, dislikes, sense of humor, everything. She was my biggest fan, my confidant, my protector. When she was gone, the hell I’d been living became more painful than I’d ever thought possible.” Luke stopped speaking as if steeling himself against the pain of the memories.

Sawyer’s hand instinctively reached out to clutch Luke’s shoulder and offer support. The shuddery breath Luke took in trembled through Sawyer’s hand. The heat of the other man’s hand seared his as Luke reached up to grasp his hand. Heartbeat pounding in his ears, Sawyer held his breath as Luke tilted his head so the skin of his cheek could caress the back of Sawyer’s hand.

They sat there for what seemed like hours. Sawyer wanting more, but sensing that Luke would balk. So he let his friend soak in the small bit of intimacy he was affording himself. Before long, Luke ground his teeth together and let go of Sawyer’s hand. Lifting his head, he cleared his throat and went on.

“My happiest childhood memories include my mom taking me to the library. She would plan our entire week of study around the programs the library had going on. We were there two or three times a week usually. Most days we would walk there. I remember holding her hand, skipping down the sidewalk. We would stop for ice cream on the way there sometimes. She always brought a large shopping bag to tote all of our books back home.” Luke sat with eyes closed and savored the memory. “Even when she got sick, she’d take me to the library. She fought the cancer for several years; the last two she was too sick to take me for books, but by that time I was old enough to go by myself. I’d bring books and ice cream home for her. In the end, ice cream was one of the only things she could eat.” Luke’s voice caught, “I haven’t been to a library since she died. I know it sounds silly, but I miss it. I miss the smell of the books, the quietness, the worlds waiting to be discovered between the pages.”

Sawyer had so many things he wanted to say. He wanted to take the hurt away; he wanted to thank Luke for sharing his memory; he wanted to ask about the monsters who were Luke’s dad and brothers. But he lost his chance when they were both pulled from their reverie by a pull on Luke’s line.

Sawyer hopped up and grabbed the fishing pole. Handing it to Luke, he instructed, “Okay, reel it in, nice and slow.” When he saw that Luke was unaccustomed to reeling in the line, he stood behind him. Wrapping his arms around Luke’s, Sawyer gripped the reel handle over Luke’s hand and began reeling the line in.

Several moments later, Sawyer realized that the fish had long since broken the line. He had lost himself in the feel of Luke’s body pressed against his. Becoming aware that he was now firmly plastered to Luke’s back for absolutely no reason other than the fact that it felt wonderful, Sawyer slowly released Luke’s arms. Before he could force himself to back away completely, Sawyer pressed his luck. Fighting the urge to wrap his arms around Luke’s waist, Sawyer satisfied himself with lightly running his nose along the sensitive skin of Luke’s neck. Breathing deeply, the scent of soap and man again battered his senses.

BOOK: Sawyer (Torey Hope: The Later Years #2)
12.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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