Sole Support

by Kaje Harper

He can find a use for his lover’s hands…except when he needs help the most.

Kellen is short on cash—at least until his first novel starts to sell—but he has plenty of friends. None of them, unfortunately, share his love of books. For that he turns to IM chats with Mike from his online book group.

Though he manages to coax the shy, socially inept pathologist into a real-time meeting, Kellen has no intention of letting his new friend become more than a casual lover. Shaky finances and ailing mother aside, self-sufficiency is Kellen’s prime directive.

Mike considers himself a nerd of the highest order—short, bespectacled, prone to blurting out the wrong thing at the worst possible time. Meeting Kellen face to face is the biggest risk of his life, and he wonders if they’ll get more body parts together than just their faces.

First meeting leads to first date—first everything for Mike—and soon Kellen’s faced with breaking his just-friends-with-benefits rule. Yet as his elderly mother wanders deeper into senility, Kellen wonders if it’s better to lean on Mike rather than fall.

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Excerpt:

His computer sat open on his desk. When he signed back in, the little flag in the corner of the screen showed that he had a message. He took a long sip of coffee and clicked on the icon.

Hi. You up tonight? The IM time was listed as half an hour ago. Kellen might have given up.

He typed: Sure. You know me. Hit Enter.

It was only a few seconds before the answer came up on his screen: I was beginning to wonder. So, have you read the new Plakcy mystery yet?

Not yet. He paused. They’d talked about gay mysteries before, but only in very distant terms. But if Mike was going to quit being pathetic, here was a chance to start. He made himself add: I do love Kimo, though. What a great character.

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He waited, finger hovering over the keyboard. Because that was more blatant than he’d ever been, putting his admiration for an out-and-gay character down in words. But finally he sent the comment. He knew Kellen was gay. Kellen would be okay with this, even if Mike was sort of coming out to him.

It was surely his imagination that made it look like there was hesitation, as the little note said kellen is typing and then stopped, and then kellen is typing and then stopped.

It finally popped up: Yeah, me too. Although I like Mike even more. Wouldn’t mind seeing more about the two of them mixed in with the mysteries.

Mike blew out a long slow breath. Okay. Okay! Before he could lose his nerve he wrote: That’s even gayer than what I said.

🙂

A freaking smiley. He put it on the line and got a freaking smiley back. Although in a way, he was glad Kellen wasn’t making a big thing out of it. He hesitated and then wrote: I kind of like it that the focus is on the mystery. Like Kimo is just another guy, you know?

Yeah. Except Kimo+Mike=hot.

Oh God. He put his head down on his hands and breathed shallowly for a bit. Kellen knew now, for sure, and was telling Mike he knew. In a friendly way, not a get-away-from-me-you-stalker way. When Mike looked up, there was a string of messages from Kellen.


Don’t u think?

Like the scene where they’re in the bathroom.

Mike?

TMI??

He quickly typed: No. Not TMI. I agree, very hot scene.

So any other good reads lately?

A few. Time to get things back into the comfort zone. Found this author Clinton McKinzie, wrote a series of thriller mysteries with mountain climbing in them and then stopped. Nothing for 5+ years. A pity.

Gay MC?

No, straight. Cool guy tho.

There was a pause and then kellen is typing, followed by such a long pause Mike wondered if Kellen had wandered off into some other realm of the Internet. They were both comfortable enough by now to do that, heading off to look at reviews or news, and then picking things back up when a new message pinged them. He was about to do the same himself when the next one appeared.

Any interest in getting together to discuss it in person?

Mike’s heart leaped into his throat, and he could feel sweat break out under his arms. It was fatal and stupid and suicidal to risk this friendship on a face-to-face meeting. He knew so little about Kellen. And Kellen knew even less about him. They were both close to forty, both loved books with a big nod to mysteries, and enjoyed classic black-and-white films, and were obviously both gay. He had no clue what Kellen did for a living or what he looked like. The same went double for him. Kellen might be picturing Mike as tall and self-assured with craggy good looks and a confident smile. Not that he’d ever claimed that, but he also hadn’t admitted to being five foot six and looking like Woody Allen on the actor’s worst day.

Apparently he’d hesitated too long, because another IM appeared. Never
mind. Just a thought.

No, that’s okay. I was off the page, he lied. Sure. I guess, maybe. What were you thinking of?

He stared at his own words, treacherously dumped onto the Net before he’d had time to think about it. His own index finger was apparently channeling his sister Corinne.

Coffee and a donut? And books. Do you know The Pastry Shack?

On Lake Street off Lyndale?

That’s the one. Friday evening?

It was happening too fast, but he couldn’t seem to slow it down. Wasn’t sure he wanted to. What time? I don’t care.

A quick correction. I mean, I’m flexible.

Or not. Damn it. I mean, pick a time. He hid his face in his hands. He was so bad at this. Kellen must be laughing at him.

Seven thirty?

It seemed as though he hadn’t scared Kellen off. Sure. Seven thirty Friday. He had a sudden thought. How will I know you? The classic rose in your lapel? God, that was corny. He was so stupid.

How about a copy of Mahu on the table. Look for the guy who reminds you of Edward R. Murrow, but with less eyebrows and no cigarette. I’ll try to send you an actual picture later.

Murrow is cool. He’s a good guy. Mike flipped screens rapidly, Googling the famous broadcaster. There were a lot of images. He wasn’t bad looking, in a world-weary, receding-hairline way.

You’re checking him out, aren’t you?

Maybe.

That’s okay. So how will I know you?

Mike panicked. It was the only explanation for the fact that he typed: I’ll wear the rose. And then logged out in a total collapse of sanity.

What had he done? What the fucking hell had he just done? He’d agreed to meet the one person he seemed to have a viable friendly relationship with, in the real world, without promising a picture first, without any warning to Kellen about what a geek he was and how keeping a safe distance of a thousand pixels or more was a good idea. And he’d said he’d be wearing a rose. In the middle of summer, in a café where a T-shirt and jeans were standard. He wouldn’t even have a lapel. What was he going to do, hold it in his teeth?

Why not? Give the guy a chance to run screaming before you get too close. He could wear some kind of jacket. Or a shirt with buttonholes. Something he could tuck a rosebud into briefly. Just until they met. Or he could play it for laughs and go formal. Or pin a corsage to his T-shirt. Or maybe just IM Kellen back and call the whole thing off as a bad idea. That was probably smartest.

But for some reason, he didn’t power up and log back in and do it. He did spend far too many hours in the next two evenings looking up book covers with rosebuds and band T-shirts with roses. And beer shirts that said, “This Bud’s for you”...

COLLAPSE

About the Author

I get asked about my name a lot. It's not something exotic, though. “Kaje” is pronounced just like “cage” – it’s an old nickname.

I live in Minnesota, where the two seasons are Snow-removal and Road-repair, where the mosquito is the state bird, and where winter can be breathtakingly beautiful. Minnesota’s a kindly, quiet (if sometimes chilly) place and it’s home now.

I’ve been writing for far longer than I care to admit (*whispers – forty years*), mostly for my own entertainment. I mainly publish M/M romance (with added mystery, fantasy, historical, SciFi…) I also have a few Young Adult stories released under the pen name Kira Harp.

My husband finally convinced me that after all that time writing for fun, I really should submit something, somewhere. My first professionally published book, Life Lessons, came out from MLR Press in May 2011. I have a weakness for closeted cops with honest hearts, and teachers who speak their minds, and I had fun writing the four novels and three freebie short stories in the series. I’ve been delighted by the reception Mac and Tony have received.

I now have a good-sized backlist in ebooks and print, both free and professionally published. A complete list with links can be found on my Books page.
I also have  an author page on Goodreads where I do a lot of book reviews. You can find me to chat there– I hang out on Goodreads a lot because I moderate the  Goodreads YA LGBT Books group there. I also post free short YA stories on that group, more than 50 of them so far. Or find me on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/KajeHarper


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