- The Ghosts Between Us
Dr. Christopher Allen knows how to deal with death. He’s a psychiatrist who works with hospice patients and their families, helping them cope with grief and letting go. But Chris’s job doesn’t prepare him for the sudden death of his devil-may-care brother Cal.
At Cal’s funeral, Chris is completely thrown when he meets Elliot Rawlings, an artist Cal has been dating. Chris is hurt to discover that the brother he knew as straight was actually bisexual. Elliot is angry and resentful of having been kept hidden from Cal’s family.
After the funeral, a night of drinking at the bar with Cal’s friends leads to Chris and Elliot falling into bed together. The next morning, they’re overwhelmed by guilt and grief and agree to never speak of it again.
But Cal’s apartment needs to be packed up and Elliot reluctantly agrees to help Chris, as well as answer some questions about Cal’s life and their relationship. Despite their guilt and initial dislike for one another, they sort through the pieces of Cal’s life and begin to fall for each other.
Despite his best efforts to fix things, Chris’s family seems to be crumbling around him and he begins to question who he is and what his role with them is. As his feelings for Elliot grow, Chris must decide if they’re worth further damaging his fragile relationships with his friends and family.
Elliot’s rough upbringing has left him distrustful of getting close to anyone, much less another man who isn’t willing to acknowledge him in public. The odds seem stacked against Chris and Elliot, but if they can overcome them, they may be able to lay Cal’s ghost to rest, along with their own demons.
Reader Advisory: This story deals with themes related to alcoholism, death (of secondary characters), and past abuse/neglect.
- 1 To Be Read list
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Age Difference, Enemies to Lovers, Forbidden Love, Hurt / Comfort, Love Can Heal / Redemption, May/December, One Night Stand, Opposites Attract, Slow Burning Love, True Love
Word Count: 128,758
Setting: Portland, Oregon, USA
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Weary and mentally drained, I escaped out the back door, needing a few minutes to breathe. I ended up on the deck off the kitchen, lingering in the doorway as I stared out at the yard. Even in January, the grass still had patches of green, and it had started to rain—a cold drizzle that would force me back inside before long. A soft sound caught my attention, and when I turned my head, I spotted the dark-haired man from the funeral, leaning against the back of the house, sheltered from the rain by the deep eaves. His eyes widened when he spotted me. I parted my lips, but nothing came out. I had never expected to see him here, and I had no idea what to say.
"Hey,” I managed after an awkwardly long pause.READ MORE
His only response was a laconic nod of his head. I leaned against the closed door, huddling in on myself. Unfortunately, I’d come outside without my overcoat on over my suit so I knew I couldn’t stay there long. I was desperate to know who the man was, however, so I’d have to think fast.
“Did you know Cal well?" I blurted out when nothing else came to me.
He took a long drag on his cigarette and tilted his head back to blow the smoke at the sky. "Yeah, you could say that." His voice was husky, but I couldn't tell if it was from smoking, suppressed tears, or was naturally that way.
"Skydiving buddies?" I asked, my tone joking. “Pottery lessons? The Peace Corps?” With my brother, all were possible.
"Lovers." The silence that followed his statement stretched between us as I gaped at him in shock. The man snickered, but there was nothing remotely amused about his tone. "Yeah. Together more or less exclusively for six fucking months. I was his dirty little secret."
"I—I'm sorry. I didn’t know Cal was seeing anyone. I didn't even know he was … bi, I guess. Christ, I'm so sorry." The fatigue and grief had already numbed my brain, and this news left me struggling to string together words.
"Yeah, he didn't want to tell your parents. Said it was because of you."
"Me? I—I don't understand." I blinked stupidly at him. "I'm gay, and our parents were plenty supportive. Why would Cal be worried about coming out to the family?"
"I don't know, maybe because your parents desperately wanted someone to carry on the Allen name and genes,” he replied bitterly.
"Oh, shit." That rang true, my parents had been eager for grandchildren, and although they would happily welcome any child I brought into the family, I could no longer have a biological child. That had led to a certain amount of pressure over the years for Cal. We both knew they were grateful that Cal would presumably marry a woman and pass on the genes and the family name someday. Dating a man would make it that much more complicated.
"Yeah, oh shit." His tone was snide.
"I am so sorry; I had no idea. God, if I’d known …" My knees sagged, and I was suddenly grateful for the side of the house to lean against. It was the only thing keeping me upright.
He scowled at me. "You’d have done what? Waved a magic wand and fixed it all? It doesn't work that way."
"Of course not! I just wish I'd known,” I whispered. “I would have supported him. Helped him tell our parents. I … I suddenly feel like I didn't even know my own brother."
The smile he gave me was melancholy. "I'm not sure anyone really did. Cal was larger than life. Too much for any one person to grasp. Maybe I was crazy for thinking I could ever keep him as mine."
"You had him for six months. That's longer than most,” I pointed out.
He was silent for a long moment before he dropped the cigarette and ground it under his heel. “You were brothers for twenty-eight years. Was that enough?” He turned and walked down the steps into the side yard.
I opened my mouth but there was no good response. The answer was no. Of course. No amount of time with Cal would have ever been enough if you knew him. And this man had loved Cal, I was sure of it.
“Hey, what’s your name?” I managed to choke out.
“Elliot. Elliot Rawlings,” he threw back over his shoulder as he disappeared around the corner of the house.
“Nice to meet you, Elliot Rawlings,” I whispered.COLLAPSE