As a soldier, Dustin Cooper survived his unit being blown up. His twin brother didn’t survive the blast, and Dusty knows he’s lucky just to be alive. He doesn’t feel lucky. Crippled and scarred in the explosion, Dusty can’t even go to the local grocery store without being called a monster by any kid who gets a good look at what’s left of him.
When Dusty collapses in the aisle, he wakes to an angel looking down on him. Benjamin Newell offers hope, offers help. That he’s gorgeous only makes the whole situation more tense. But Dusty is determined to overcome his injuries and the trauma of the past without any charity from a stranger. There’s only one thing he wants from his grocery store savior—a date.
- 2 To Be Read lists
Publisher: Purple Horn Press
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Coming of Age, Coming Home, Hurt / Comfort, In Uniform, Coming Out / Closeted
Word Count: 12900
Setting: small town
Languages Available: English
The cry struck him in the gut and he quickly fumbled for the wrap-around sunglasses he’d taken off to read the label on the can of soup.
The kid was frantic. Pointing. Shouting. Not the first time it had happened. It wouldn’t be the last. A woman was trying to settle the boy down. His mother? It wasn’t working.
He set the can on the shelf, adjusting his glasses and shaking his head in a gesture he’d practiced. Long hair covered the pebbly, red skin that had once been part of his ear, covered the long sickly white of the web-like scarring on the left side of his face.
The mother said something quiet and harsh and the kid finally quieted. She turned to look at him. Her gaze settled on his chest for a moment, then her face slackened and her eyes grew unfocused. She looked so sad. She set a hand on his arm. It was shaking, but the grip was firm.
“Thank you for your service.”READ MORE
Dustin Cooper sniffed quietly and gave a brief nod in response. Then the woman took her son, speaking to him in quiet tones, but with a sharp edge, and pushed the cart down the aisle.
He rolled his upper lip into his mouth. Monster. That’s all he was to the kid. He closed his eyes, grateful that no one could see as he gripped the tags at his chest. There was a man still standing there, where the cart had been. Was it the father? Dustin didn’t want to open his eyes to look.
Step. Step. The click of a good business shoe, too hard for the tiled floor of the grocery store. There wasn’t any hesitance. A hand gripped over his where it clutched his tags. The other brushed his hair back.
“He didn’t mean anything.” The voice was the sort that should be on the radio. Deep. Resonant. Beautiful.
“It’s just hard to hear.” Dustin left out “all the time.”
“He’s never seen an injury like this.” The man skirted his fingers over the pebbled skin. “Most people haven’t.”
Dustin recoiled backward, his eyes shooting open. His chest constricted. He couldn’t breathe. For a moment, he thought he might be looking at an angel, and then there was only black.COLLAPSE