College Rose Romances, Book 2
When a love triangle breaks, Steven Everett is left alone to grieve over a boyfriend lost to someone else. Surrounded by friends too tied to Aidan's new lover to give advice, Steven turns instead to a broken and beaten man, Aidan's other ex, Michael Rossier, who also knows the pain of having loved and lost Aidan. Steven's and Michael's confessions grow deeper, each confiding in the other until neither can deny an attraction. But being with Michael feels like cheating, and Steven isn't sure what to do. The connection get stronger every day, and Steven realizes he's facing an impossible choice.
To make a relationship with Michael work, Steven needs to make peace with Michael's troubled past. Even more terrifying, he'll have to tell Michael the secret he's never told anyone, not even Aidan. With Michael recovering from yet another surgery, Steven leaves to face the ghosts of the past. He has to be certain. This time, Steven knows, the decision means revealing the secrets of his heart and hoping their fragile feelings can survive.
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Publisher: Purple Horn Press
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Coming of Age, Coming Out / Closeted, Families/Raising Kids, Hurt / Comfort
Word Count: 88000
Setting: New England
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
STEVEN LOOKED AT himself in the bathroom mirror. He’d managed to hide it well, so far. The circles under his eyes didn’t look that unusual for a college student. The redness in his eyes could just be a lack of sleep. They weren’t, but they could have been. No one would ask questions. They would see his blond hair, dark from the wetness of the shower. They would see the blue in his eyes, never the red. They would stare at his muscles, with lust or envy, that didn’t matter. What mattered was what they wouldn’t see.READ MORE
Steven leaned down, ran the water, and splashed it against his face. He patted his face dry and slung the towel over his shoulders. His breath came in guarded near-gasps. Too much breath and he’d start sobbing again, and all the effort of bringing his appearance under control would be for nothing. Steven returned to his room, moving as quietly as the institutional doors of the dormitory would allow him, and stepped carefully through the darkness over the snoring form of his friend, Tim, on the floor.
Steven’s fellow rower had spent half the night in a desperate effort to console Steven without really even knowing what had broken Steven apart. Steven had vague recollections of alcohol the night before. Of falling asleep after puking his guts out. Of desperately wanting everything to end. Tim had stayed through it all. Would he still have stayed if he knew? It could break up the team, and they’d blame me. Right now I’m not even sure I care.
Steven dressed quickly, pausing only for a moment at the door. He squeezed his eyes shut, his sightless gaze directed in the darkness at Tim. Steven felt a quiver in his stomach, an uncertainty, gnawing at his insides. The rhythm of his breathing stumbled, and it took all of his effort to quell the sob that tried to emerge. If he sobbed now, it was over. He’d be lost to the despair again.
He focused on his breathing for a moment. Let himself regain that control. Then, with great care, he shut the door, skipping downstairs as fast as he could. The cold air stung his skin, and the light coat he’d brought with him wasn’t enough. That was good. The sting was his ally, his hope to focus on anything but the pain and uncertainty.
Steven ran for his car, glad that he’d left it nearby. Once inside, in the closed environment of the car, alone, it was hard for the temptation not to hit. To cry again. To despair again.
Steven gulped and sought out his wallet. He pulled a picture out—a young boy with golden hair—and he kissed it. He wedged the photo into the seam where two pieces of the dashboard met. He stroked the photo lightly, as though he could brush the boy’s hair from his eyes. Then he started the car and he drove. He quickly left behind the campus buildings, speeding along a road he’d used too often the past few days. He didn’t need the blue signs with their bold H declaring the route to the hospital. He knew this road well.
It didn’t take long. A sea of lights soon lit the sky nearby in a familiar glow. Steven parked, replaced the photo in his wallet, and entered the quiet, sterile halls. This route, too, he knew. He passed nurses and doctors and security that ignored him when it was clear he knew his way. Steven’s step faltered as he reached the door. Peeking in, he could see Adrienne, already here, sitting primly next to her brother. She was short and professionally dressed, her clothes strictly business, but warmth radiated out from her all the same. Perhaps it was the soft browns of her hair and eyes, or maybe the way she held her brother’s bruised hand.
What right do I have to disturb them? I barely know them. Steven swallowed. That wasn’t really true. Maybe they’d only known each other for a week, but it had been a week of her brother beaten, in surgery—of her brother about to die. Of Steven being her only support, because Aidan was falling apart just as badly. And yet it’s still so awkward. He was about to turn around and walk away when Adrienne looked up and smiled. She beckoned to him, and when he didn’t enter, stood and came to the door.
Steven gulped. “Yeah, sorry, Addy. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
She set a hand lightly on his. “You’re not disturbing me. I can tell what Aidan sees in you. Thanks for coming.” She glanced down the hall. “Where’s Aidan?”
“He’ll be by later,” Steven said, comforted that he managed to keep his voice level. They hadn’t talked about it, but he knew Aidan had planned a rigorous schedule of visits. “I had some time before class, I thought... I’m sure you must be so tired. You could get some sleep. I’ll sit with him for a while, if you want.”
Adrienne gazed up at him. He didn’t mean to tower over her, but he couldn’t help it. She lacked her brother’s height, and even that was just a shadow of Steven’s stature. “That sounds wonderful. I could use a proper shower, at least.”
Steven smiled at the petite woman. “Aidan wanted him to know there were people concerned about him. I think he was reaching out to Michael’s other friends. He said Michael wasn’t really comfortable with the community on campus, so he was trying to get in touch with the other skaters.”
Adrienne patted Steven’s arm. “Well, he knows you’re here. And Aidan. And that means the world to him, Steven. I know it does.”
Steven managed a half-hearted smile in return. “You should get some rest. I can stay with him until you get back.”COLLAPSE