It seems like we've known one another for ever, but he doesn't really know me at all. He doesn't know I'm gay and I'm really scared what will happen when he finds out. Especially when he finds out that I don't want to be just friends anymore.
Josh and Trey have been friends since they were kids, but Josh moved away when they were both seventeen. Their bond has been thinned by distance, by the weight of secrets withheld and a trust betrayed. For years now they've only exchanged short emails and occasional calls, over too many miles to cross. Trey's been willing to live with that, even encouraged it. Because letting Josh get close again might make keeping Trey's secrets impossible.
When Josh shows up on Trey's doorstep with a request for help, it could well be an unmitigated disaster. But Trey finds he can't say no. This is Josh asking Trey to lend a hand. Josh, the guy who still pushes every other man Trey ever looked at to second place. So Trey's going to take the chance and say yes. He's going to grab a few days with the straight guy he never stopped loving, take what crumbs he can get, and damn the consequences. Although those consequences may not turn out to be the ones Trey's expecting.
Photo Description: Two dark-haired young men share a playful moment beside the ocean, framed against a backdrop of waves crashing on a rocky shore. Both men are laughing, wet and tanned, wearing only Speedos. The slimmer man reaches forward to snag the waistband of his friend's swim trunks, pulling them back in a way that exposes part of the other man's taut, rounded ass. The more muscular man reaches back with a hand planted on his friend's close-cropped head, shoving him away.
This story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group's "Love is Always Write" event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story.
This is a free novella - 47,000 words
- 1 To Be Read list
- 4 Read lists
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Coming Out / Closeted, Find Love and Come Out, Friends to Lovers, Hurt / Comfort, Second Chances
Word Count: 47000
Languages Available: English
Josh winced as yet another car pulled up in the parking area in front of the round barn. The sign on Aunt Julie's door said the store opened at ten AM on Sundays. And yet there had already been half a dozen people who'd showed up, knocking on the door and peering in the windows, and then stomping off to their shiny SUVs as if it was an insult for him not to have opened up by eight in the morning, just for them.
This car was smaller and more battered than the last few behemoths. Josh took another look and saw that it was Trey unfolding himself from behind the wheel. For a moment he froze, just watching Trey move, watching him stretch in the sunshine and look around.READ MORE
Dammit, he looks good. And that was a very dangerous thought to be having. Josh hurried out, looking anxiously down the driveway for the next Hulk-mobile as he did so. “Trey. You're here!” At the last minute Josh turned a hug into a pat on the shoulder. That last comment of Trey's about keeping his hands to himself had really stung, but Josh was happy to have his friend there even if it meant keeping a rigid distance. “Come on. Get your ass in here before someone arrives and sees the door open.”</p?
“What?” Trey reached in the car for a computer bag and then let Josh herd him inside.
Josh locked the door gratefully behind them.
“Hey, this is pretty cool.” Trey turned in a circle, looking around the space.Josh had to admit it was impressive. The hayloft floor, if there had ever been one, had been removed so the whole barn was open overhead to the full height of the cone-shaped roof, pierced with new skylights. That airy open feel was different from other dark little antique stores he'd been dragged through by Aunt Julie, back in the day. Staying with her as a kid had always included going to garage sales and at least one Saturday trip through some Ye Olde Stuff place, long before she opened her own. Hers was a definite step up.
“Aunt Julie told me when she found the place it was just a big empty barn but she had a 'vision' and made Uncle Ted agree to put in a bid the next day.”
At floor level, enough of the old wooden aisles and stalls had been left in place to create rooms and nooks, which were now lined with shelves. The array of items on display ran from trays of old jewelry, locked under glass near the register, to old horse collars, stained glass windows, faded vintage draperies and shelves of tin soldiers. Josh grinned. “Uncle Ted says her vision has dragged them all over the state for the last two years stocking this place.”
“She found some cool things.” Trey went to the nearest alcove and ran a hand over an old horsehide-covered rocking horse. “I'd have loved this as a kid, although...” He checked the price tag. “whoo, boy, yeah, not at that price. I guess it's more for decoration.”
He turned in another slow circle. Josh couldn't help smiling at the stunned look on Trey's face as he stared at the glorious array of stuff. Children's toys in wood and tin lay next to old mixing bowls. Glass inkwells shared shelf-space with miniature collectible spoons. Furniture of every description and condition filled the corners and old rugs and paintings hung on every free wall. It was a fascinating, mind-boggling jumble.
Eventually Trey looked back at Josh, frowning slightly. “Do you have some kind of key for where things are?”
“Not a clue,” Josh admitted. “If a map exists somewhere other than Aunt Julie's head I haven't found it yet.”
“I guess she thought her assistant would be around. Maybe we could go talk to him?”
Josh shook his head. “The guy had a bad concussion. No visitors, at least until Tuesday. I checked.” Last night, seeing all this stuff, he'd just about had a panic attack and had called the hospital in desperation. No luck though. “I'm damned glad you're here,” he admitted.
Trey gave him an odd sideways look, but said, “I'm beginning to think this place is not to be missed. And I haven't even seen the goats yet.”
Josh laughed. “They're actually mini goats. They're pretty cute for being livestock. It's the pony that will get you if you don't watch out. He's nasty. But they're all fed and watered for the morning.” At least Uncle Ted's instructions had been clear enough.
Trey nodded. “So what do you need from me right now?”
Josh looked at him. The skylights let the morning sun stream down. Trey was standing in a puddle of mellow light, his dark hair highlighted with red streaks, every muscle under the tight T-shirt picked out in brightness and shadows. What do I need? For Trey to really see him, to accept all of Josh, the straight and the gay, and be that friend he'd missed for so long. For Trey to finally move on from the kids they'd been to a different adult relationship. Josh shied away from thinking about what that relationship should look like.
“Maybe you could see if you can figure out the register before we have to open up?
You're better than me with computers. I'll walk around and see if there's any actual organization to the place.”
“Sounds good.” Trey jumped as there was a series of loud thumps on the front door.
“Fuck, who's that?”