Is there a time limit on love and forgiveness?
Fifteen years ago, Manny didn’t show up to take Wes to the Shelby High School prom as he promised. Instead, Wes found Manny’s letter jacket at their meeting spot without a note or any explanation.
From college to his current job in Monterey, California, Wes has carted the jacket around as a memento of his teenage love and rejection. This year he decides enough is enough. He’s attending the high school class reunion, returning Manny’s jacket, and going home free to find the real love of his life.
When Manny sees Wes at the reunion tour of the new high school facilities, he’s determined not to let his teenage lover leave without them clearing the air and possibly getting back together.
Through reunion activities such as a quiz bowl, meet-and-greet meals, and a formal banquet with a prom-like ball as well as outside activities like the quinceañera of Manny’s niece, Wes and Manny work through the lies and misunderstandings of the past.
With so much to reconcile and forgive on both sides, will they end up together? Or go their separate ways with only memories of the past?
- 4 To Be Read lists
- Feb 19 - Mar 20: Pre-order sale: $3.99 at Publisher
Publisher: JMS Books, LLC
Heat Level: 2
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Genderqueer
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Cultural Differences, Interracial Relationship, Second Chances
Word Count: 65,255
Setting: Small Northern California town
Languages Available: English
From the outside, The Trap had looked just like it had when we were in high school and wanted to be twenty-one so we could go inside and drink. We’d heard “our kind” weren’t welcome here, but like flies to flames, we talked big and said we were going to drink there anyway.
I always kind of thought I’d be disappointed once I stepped inside. As far as I was concerned the hype had to belie the reality.
“Live music? Have I landed in an alternate universe? The Trap wasn’t supposed to have entertainment. Remember? Old grizzled guys guzzling beer? War stories? Tales of woe told over hard liquor? What happened? What’s going on here?”
“Your mother didn’t tell you?” Zack whispered to me.
The guitarist had started singing with his audience happily clapping along.READ MORE
I shook my head. The performer wasn’t half bad, singing sea shanties and folk tunes that seemed to go with the rustic setting around him. I looked more closely at the audience.
Twenty-somethings. A few people our age. Not an old timer among us. I turned back to Zack, putting my hands out in an “I give up” shrug.
“A few years ago they finished building Shelby Community College out by the reservoir. Two-year majors in forestry, nature preservation, and fire safety. It’s been going strong since it opened.” His forehead creased. “I wonder why she didn’t tell you. Or why you haven’t heard.”
I shrugged again.
“Got me. But it’s great for the town, right? Income for everyone?” I gestured around the table at our friends.
“Yup. It brought a lot of people who bailed back to town when they bombed in the Bay Area.” He ran his hand up Teddy’s arm. “I found Teddy in the city and brought him home with me. It also lowered the average age in Shelby by a few decades. Hence…”
His eyes went around the room.
Okay, one unrealistic dream about a decadent hometown bar destroyed. Not a bad development, I guess.
I leaned back and relaxed. The group of us sat and listened to the music, occasionally commenting, but more solidifying ourselves into a group again. Like feeling arms close around me in a hug, I settled into becoming one with my old friends. Coming home for the reunion didn’t look so bad now.
With relaxation came fatigue.
“Look. I’m beat. I’ll see everyone tomorrow. A tour of the school, right? Then golf in the afternoon?”
Egghead looked up and shook his head—as did everyone else around the table.
“Nope. You won’t see us again until the Big Reunion Trivia Quiz where we are going to trounce the competition from previous years and then the banquet and prom reenactment on Saturday night.”
“What? I thought there were other reunion activities all week. Including an all-important golf tournament.”
“Do you play?”
“Me?” I was as appalled as I sounded. “Not on your life. You guys?”
They all shook their heads.
“So why aren’t you going to the school tour tomorrow morning?” I was starting to panic. Would I be stuck socializing with all the people I hated and had escaped to get away from?
“Tomorrow we work.” Zack was looking at me funny. “I thought you had a job, too.”
“Yeah, I do. But I took the week off to be with you guys.”
“Well, not all of us can take off a whole week for reunion activities. We can’t fix plumbing, wire a business, interview a dying client for a will, and the list goes on while we’re goofing off. Some of us even have kids who need to be towed to and from games and whatnot. Anyway, it’s why we wanted to have some time to sit down with you before the reunion hoopla began.” Zack patted my hand. “Don’t worry, baby. We’ll get together again on Tuesday to get ready for the Quiz Bowl. Some of us will be at the ‘concept meeting’ in the morning to see what this year’s rules are.”
They were all standing, checking phone messages, muttering to themselves, and generally getting ready to leave like a lot of others in the audience.
The singer had said he’d be back in a few, so I thought we’d shoot the shit some more until he started up again. But I was wrong.
Getting more exhausted by the minute after my long drive, I rose. Fatigue hit me, and I stumbled forward a little to give everyone a hug. We all said goodnight. I assured them I’d be around all week if anyone wanted to get together.
Zack and Henry followed me to my car.
As I unlocked it, Zack leaned against the front fender.
“So, are you going to tell us why you really came to the reunion? It’s not like fifteen is your favorite number or anything, is it?” He smirked up at me. “It doesn’t have anything to do with you-know-who, does it, Wes?”
I must have looked guilty.
“Oh, no! God! Wes?” Henry asked. He stared at Zack, then at me. “Oh, no, no, no. I can see it on your face.”
I sighed. I’d have to tell them at some point.
“I’m returning the jacket.”
Clam and oyster shells crunched as guys walked to their cars and left the parking lot. Zack and Henry were silent, staring at me. No judgement, just waiting.
“It’s time for me to leave high school behind. To make a total break, I have to return Manny’s jacket and walk away.” I sighed again. “He’s never going to contact me and ask me to return it. I’ve asked my mother whether he called to get my phone number. But no. There’s never going to be a miraculous second chance and happily ever after. I need to go out there and find someone I can get so close to I want to marry him. I’m tired of being alone. And dammit, I’m tired of comparing every guy I get together with to him. I’ve got to erase him.”
Both of them looked at me a moment and nodded.
“You know he’s still a hunk and a half, right? I’ve seen him around town a time or two.” Henry’s glasses and the glare of the bar’s security lights made his eyes invisible. Was he warning me or merely making a statement of fact?
I shrugged. They sighed.
“Good luck, baby.” Zack gave me a half-hug.
Henry touched my arm.
We went to our cars and drove away.
They understood. It was all I could ask.COLLAPSE