by Lillian Francis
August 18, 2017
Word count: ~76000
Cover designed by Meredith Russell
Drew Jackson is sick of constantly being on the move, running away from his mistakes, his desires, and a secret-filled past. He’s decided his new teaching job in Cardiff is his chance to finally settle down. Perhaps here he can have a home, and even friendships that won’t end in disaster. Like his growing rapport with history teacher Nathan Morgan.
Nathan has been careful to keep his sexuality a secret at work. He doesn’t want that kind of attention from the student body. There’s one body he would like attention from, though—the new science teacher, Drew. But it’s much too risky to let Drew know how he feels. He won’t gamble their fledgling friendship on an awkward confession of lust. And Drew’s probably straight anyway.
Their friendship is derailed when a student’s accusation forces a reluctant confession. Drew is tempted to run again until he comes face to face with the inescapable realisation that flight has ruined every relationship he’s ever had.
But maybe he’s finally found someone worth staying in one place for.
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Footsteps echoed in the almost empty car park and somebody called his name. Not somebody, Drew. Nathan paused, taking a firmer grip on the books in his arms before he turned to watch appreciatively as Drew ran towards him across the asphalt. The early morning September sun shone low in a cloudless sky behind him and cast golden highlights in his short blond hair. Drew came to a stop at Nathan’s side, panting slightly.
“Alright, butt, you’re bright and early,” Nathan greeted, taking advantage of the calm left while Drew tried to catch his breath. After spending a week in the company of the ebullient American, Nathan had come to learn silence was a rare commodity.
“Eh?” Drew glanced over his own shoulder before shrugging awkwardly. “Ta. I always incorporate squats in my workout.”
“That’s…good,” Nathan hazarded a suitable response to the non sequitur. Then realisation struck. “Oh, Drew. Butt means mate, I was saying hello. I forgot you’ve not lived here long enough to have picked that up.”
“Oh. Crap. Of course, I mean…”
Nathan slowed so Drew ended up a step ahead of him. Not that he needed to check, he’d looked once or twice on Friday evening. “The squats are really working for you though.”
When Drew stopped dead and stared at him in surprise, Nathan winked. He could give lessons on how to get away with complimenting a straight guy.
Fine lines crinkled the corners of Drew’s eyes as he grinned. The grin held just a hint of caution but Drew’s eyes caught Nathan’s attention, his irises the colour of a summer sky or a perfect Caribbean sea. Not that Nathan had ever been to the Caribbean. Or spent considerable amounts of time thinking about Drew’s eyes. But he’d say they were azure. If anyone should press him on the subject. Which they wouldn’t. Hopefully.
Thank God none of this babble is actually coming from my mouth. Say something sensible.
“So what has you here before eight on a Monday?”
“Wanted to run through my lesson plans before classes started.” Drew’s grin widened, and became more confident. “Thanks for Friday. I had a great time. The pub was brilliant. I think I’m still deaf in my left ear.”
“Told you not to stand by the speakers.” Nathan laughed. “I’ve seen those guys before, they are seriously loud.” He shifted the pile of textbooks again, trying to distribute the weight without dropping his travel mug. The movement pulled the unbuttoned edges of his shirt further apart, exposing the legend underneath.
“Hey, you’re wearing the T-shirt I bought you,” Drew said, reaching out and placing the flat of his hand on the logo of the band they had watched three days earlier.
Warmth seeped from Drew’s palm into Nathan’s skin despite the layer of cotton. His stomach flipped, a nervous roll of excitement at just the simple touch of firm, strong fingers on his chest. Suddenly the T-shirt was a barrier to the sensual caress of fingertips dancing through the mat of dark hair on his chest and Nathan had to resist the urge to press further into Drew’s touch. It would do him no good succumbing to that desire.
Nathan prided himself on keeping his sexuality and his career completely separate, and anyway, from the way Drew had reacted the other evening, it was obvious he liked his chests with tits on them, not hair. He had a crush, nothing more, and Nathan could control unwanted feelings of lust. Even if the hammering of his heart claimed otherwise.
“Y-yeah.” He couldn’t quite control his breathing and stuttered out a response, surprised at the force of his reaction to such a basic touch. The image of Drew stroking his chest refused to budge from his brain and he blurted out the first thing that came to mind in an effort to divert his thoughts. “I still owe you for the shirt.”
“Nope, told you it was my treat for showing me around. Mine’s still in the laundry hamper.” Drew’s eyes glinted with mischief and he smirked. “You have washed this, haven’t you?” He removed his hand and made big show of sniffing his fingers.
“Cheeky bastard!” But Nathan smiled as he cursed, in part thankful for the distraction Drew had inadvertently provided. With no free hands, Nathan made do with nudging Drew with his shoulder. “I had no choice but to wash it. Not after someone spilt half their pint on me.”
“Yeah, sorry about that.” Drew didn’t look particularly contrite.
A middle-aged woman, one of the ESL teachers, scurried past them, up the stairs and into the school. They started moving slowly in the same direction.
“So.” Drew paused and toyed with the strap of his bag. “Where are you going to take me next? The pub was great, but not really the sort of place to pull, and the girls at that particular club are obviously way too young for me. Hell, they’re too young for you and I’ve got ten years on you.”
Nathan shrugged. “You do know the supermarket is a good place to pick up women?”
Drew laughed, light and joyful. The genuine sound of mirth made Nathan’s heart swell. Get a grip. It’s just a ridiculous infatuation.
“Seriously, my mate Dave swears—”
“My butty, well, my butty bach ‘cos I’ve known him since primary school.” Unnecessary distinctions if Drew’s unfocused gaze was any indication. “Anyway, Dave swears he gets loads of dates at the supermarket. Especially in the fruit and veg department. Something to do with the way he squeezes melons and fondles oranges. In fact, I’m surprised he’s not been banned. Although he is a copper. I’m sure he goes shopping in his uniform to get attention and prevent the store manager throwing him out.”
“I’ll bear that in mind.” Drew nodded thoughtfully, as if giving the suggestion serious consideration. “Maybe I can borrow a uniform from your friend.”
Nathan shook his head and swept his gaze over Drew, taking in his compact form. The broad shoulders and impressive biceps would strain the material of Dave’s tunic, and the lack of height would have the hem of Dave’s trousers pooling around his shoes. He diverted his eyes before he was tempted to look any closer. Drew’s blond hair and blue eyes gave him a preppy look that defied his age, and didn’t help Nathan’s stupid crush at all. Nathan found it hard to believe Drew was in his mid-thirties. Only when Nathan got close enough to see the fine lines around Drew’s eyes did he show any sign of his age and, once in touching distance, Nathan found he had far more important things to consider. The softness of Drew’s lips. The firmness of his body. Whether the few inches difference in their height meant he would tuck in perfectly against Nathan’s body.
Shit! Drew watched him expectantly, obviously waiting for an answer. Damned if Nathan could remember the question, after perving so blatantly on his friend. He backpedalled to a point in the conversation where his libido hadn’t taken over. So, about the same time Drew had entered his life. Supermarkets. Uniforms. Ah, yes, women. Hard-on successfully obliterated. “Nah, Dave’s like a stick insect compared to you.”
“Are you calling me fat, Mr Morgan?”
Temporarily wrong footed, Nathan stuttered, “No, no, of course not.”
Thoughts of that nature couldn’t have been further from his mind. He caught Drew’s sly grin. The bastard was teasing him, maybe even flirting just a little, although he possibly didn’t realise. Wishful thinking. Time for a little revenge. “You were panting like an old man from just a short jog across the car park.”
“I’m fit as a fiddle. Pretty sure I could wear you out.”
Oh my. I wish. Not what he needed to hear right now. Nathan felt the tight constriction of his throat as he swallowed, the motion audible, at least to himself. Visions of sweaty, panting bodies assailed him. Their shiny, sweat soaked bodies, writhing—
“Name a sport,” Drew demanded.
Nathan blinked rapidly to dispel the images. Lust. He groped around for a sport where only the two of them would be involved. No team members to distract either one of them. Definitely Lust, with a capital L.
“Squash,” he said, pleased when his voice remained steadier than it had any right to be.
“Sure. You know, racquets, a small rubber ball and a glass walled room.” Nathan grinned, back on familiar territory. There was a reason why he was a relief PE teacher, which had little to do with the extra money and nobody else wanting the job and everything to do with previously playing fly-half for a semi-professional rugby team. He knew he was fitter than most men his age. “I’ll whip your arse.”
“When?” A flare of interest sparked somewhere in the depth of blue and Nathan recognised something in Drew’s eyes, a kindred spirit who would relish the competition. In the heraldic history he taught to the year eights, he and Drew would have been knights, fiercely competitive in tournaments, but totally reliant on each other in battle.
Scoffing inwardly at his old-fashioned romantic notions, Nathan mentally shook himself. No wonder he hadn’t had a boyfriend for a while, no one could measure up to the ideals in his head. He focused back on the matter at hand—getting Drew all sweaty, even if it wasn’t in the way he wanted.
“Tomorrow, open night on the squash courts at the leisure centre.” Nathan stopped at the top of the steps and stared at Drew expectantly. With his bag slung over his shoulder, his arms full of textbooks and his coffee in his right hand, there was no way he could open the door.
“Here.” Drew stepped forward. “Let me help you with that.”
He plucked the travel mug from Nathan’s hand and took a long swig of the drink. Nathan rolled his eyes and struggled to open the door for himself with his now free hand. He let the door swing back on Drew just as his new friend started to move through it and didn’t bother to suppress his grin at the oof that echoed from behind him.
“You better not have spilt any of my drink.” Nathan threw back over his shoulder but he didn’t pause to wait for Drew.
“Good coffee,” Drew muttered appreciatively when he finally caught up with Nathan in the corridor.
Nathan huffed, but there was no heat in it. “My good coffee.”
Drew grinned sheepishly as he held the travel mug back out to Nathan.
Nathan chose to ignore it, instead asking, “You’ve got free period third lesson?” He acknowledged Drew’s answering nod. “Me, too. You can give me my travel mug back then. Washed. I’ll see you in the staff-room.”
Instructions issued, Nathan headed off towards the history department, not risking a backwards glance until he turned the corner. Drew hadn’t moved. He stood in the middle of the corridor with Nathan’s perfect cup of coffee in his hand and a stupid grin on his too bloody handsome face.
3.5 of 5 Stars
This was a decent story…I always like friends to lovers and it really worked for these guys. This is a new to me author and I would probably read another by her. It’s getting 3.5 stars because it fell about in the middle for me.
Nathan was probably my favorite of the two but I liked Drew pretty well. They were good together and I liked how their friendship developed first. Their banter was entertaining and their sexual tension was palpable when Drew finally admitted what he was feeling. I felt bad for Drew a couple of times and wasn’t thrilled with Nathan’s reaction to the rumors going around.
Couple of nit-picky items…Drew was an American but he didn’t ‘sound’ it. His dialog was very British, even in his head. The issues with Claire seemed a little contrived…she went from checking him out in a bar to being in love with him but they didn’t have much interaction. She would have been hanging around him a lot more if she truly thought she was in love with him. And Drew being an experienced teacher seemed to be a bit lax in his discipline especially knowing this was a pretty strict school and he needed to keep his job. I also didn’t like Drew’s over the top lusting after women…it became tiresome.
This is overall a decent read and my issues are just that…mine, so you may love the story.
About the Author
Lillian Francis is a self-confessed geek who likes nothing more than settling down with a comic or a good book, except maybe writing. Given a notepad, pen, her Kindle, and an infinite supply of chocolate Hob Nobs and she can lose herself for weeks. Romance was never her reading matter of choice, so it came as a great surprise to all concerned, including herself, to discover a romance was exactly what she’d written, and not the rollicking spy adventure or cosy murder mystery she always assumed she’d write.
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