States of Love: Wyoming
Devon fled Wyoming as soon as he turned eighteen, leaving behind his high school love, Levi. After six years in the big city, Devon returns to his hometown. Not much has changed, except that Levi is no longer in the closet. He’s also single and living his dream—managing the local wild horse population. Both of them are very interested in picking up where they left off, but Devon is no more ready to reveal his orientation than he was as a teenager.
No one is going to shove Levi back in the closet—not even Devon. For a relationship to work, they’ll have to put the past behind them and find the courage to face the future as who they really are—a couple in love. But Devon doesn’t know if he’s strong enough. Maybe Levi would be better off without him—and his hang-ups.
States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.
DEVON RHODES sighed as he drove through the tunnels past Green River on Interstate 80. It had been a long fucking drive, but he was almost home. Six years earlier he couldn’t wait to leave. Suddenly he was excited to be back. He had first returned when he came for his job interview and apartment hunt. Despite the changes it still had the small-town feeling he missed so much in Washington. Who’d have thought? Then again Devon knew a lot of people did the same thing. They wanted to get out and experience the world, but in the end, they came back to Wyoming.READ MORE
City life had shocked him. At first he enjoyed being another face in the crowd. He didn’t have to hide who he was, because no one cared. It only took a couple of years for him to realize he was still a country boy at heart, but he was determined to stick it out. His resolve lasted a few more years, until he couldn’t take it anymore. There were too many people, too much traffic, and too much fucking air pollution. It was time for him to go back to Wyoming.
To go home.
He tapped his hands on the steering wheel in time to the music as his truck quickly ate away the remaining ten miles to Rock Springs.
Devon took the second exit and followed Blake’s directions to his double-wide. He’d spoken with his high school buddy off and on through the years—mostly off—but when he needed a place to stay for a few days until he could move into his apartment, Blake was quick to offer. Devon appreciated it, but he was still looking forward to moving into his own place. Three days. He only had to last three days.
Devon pulled up in front of the bluish-gray trailer and cut the engine. Blake was expecting him, but Devon still hesitated to get out of the truck. Blake would want to catch up, and there were parts of his life in Washington he didn’t want to share. The choice was taken out of his hands when Blake stepped onto the small porch.
Devon opened the door and climbed out. He walked up on the porch and motioned toward the cigarette Blake was currently taking a drag of.
“You know that’s a nasty habit. Right?” While some might consider him ungrateful for commenting, he figured Blake would laugh it off. He always had, and he didn’t disappoint.
“Yeah, yeah. Now you’re sounding like the ex.” Blake took a final drag and tossed the cigarette in a coffee can that sat in the corner on the porch. “It’s good to see ya.”
“Same.” Devon followed Blake inside. “I appreciate you letting me crash here.”
“Not a problem. It’s not like I don’t have the room.” Blake led the way to one of two bedrooms off the living room. “I figured I’d put you in here. The other one is mainly used for storage.” He motioned to the bathroom, right across the hall. “You’ll have a bathroom to yourself.”
“Awesome. I haven’t stopped since Ogden, so….”
“I’ll be in the living room.” Blake left him alone, so Devon walked in the bathroom and shut the door. He undid his jeans and quickly emptied his bladder. He groaned in relief as the pressure lessened. He zipped up, washed his hands, and headed back out to join Blake.
“Thanks. Definitely needed that.” Devon glanced around the living room and to the kitchen beyond, with a detached dining room. Right off the dining room he could see another door, most likely leading to Blake’s bedroom and bathroom.
“Got any plans for tonight?” Blake settled on the love seat and motioned to the couch.
“Planned to relax. Why?”
“I told Travis and Seth you’d be in tonight. They want to meet for a beer, if you feel up to it.”
Ugh. No. But Devon didn’t want to sound ungrateful. “After the drive I had, a beer sounds awesome. I got time to shower first?” It was a little after five, and he felt grungy after the long drive. His muscles were tight, so the idea of hot water easing the aches sounded perfect.
“Yeah.” Blake tapped at his phone. “I’ll text ’em and set it up for seven. Work for you?”
Devon nodded. “Sounds good. I’ll go grab my bag.” He didn’t wait for a reply, but headed to the truck, where he unplugged his phone from the charger and leaned against the open door to text a couple of his friends in Washington to let them know he’d made it. Then he grabbed his bag from the backseat and headed inside. He’d barely shut the door and turned around when Blake tossed him a key ring.
“You’ll need that for when I’m working. This way you can come and go as you please.” Blake’s phone went off, and he tapped the screen. “Seven works for Travis and Seth.”
“Sounds good. I’ll go get cleaned up.” Devon carried his bag into his assigned room and dropped it on the bed. He unzipped it and dug around for his shampoo, body wash, and a change of clothes. He carried the necessities to the bathroom but, not seeing a towel, started checking cabinets. His search turned up empty, so he headed back to the living room. “Hey, Blake? You got a towel?”
“Shit. Yeah. Sorry.” Blake levered himself up from the couch and disappeared into his bedroom. He came back a few seconds later and tossed a towel at Devon. “That bathroom rarely gets used, and I forgot to put towels in there.”
“No problem.” He slung the towel over his shoulder. “Thanks.” Devon headed back to the bathroom and turned the shower on. He sighed when the water rained down gently, even when he turned the handle as far as it would go. Hopefully his new apartment would be better. He shrugged it off, stripped, and climbed in. Even without good pressure, the hot water eased his aches and wrung a groan from him. He gave it a couple minutes and decided he’d better actually work on getting ready. Beer awaited.
HIS FRIENDS hadn’t changed a bit. Devon wasn’t sure it was a good thing. He’d matured since high school and had figured they would have as well. But no. They still told the same raunchy jokes and bragged about who they’d banged. Their words, not his. He no longer fit in with them, if he ever had. He’d never talked about the girls he’d been with, partly because he hadn’t fucked any girls in high school—or any since. He could have made something up, but he had too much respect for women. They didn’t do it for him, but he knew his high school buddies wouldn’t understand. They always called him a goody-goody. But it was better than some of the other things they could have called him.
“You should have seen her. She was begging for it.” Travis roared with laughter and slapped his hand against the table. “Hell. She was so hot, I bet even the fag would have been able to get it up.”
“Huh?” Devon was lost, but the degrading term caught his attention. His muscles twitched.
“You didn’t hear?” Seth took a swallow of beer. “I know you’ve been gone for a while, but I was sure this one”—he elbowed Blake—“would have told you. Especially since you and Levi were so close in high school.”
“Guess I’m out of the loop.” Devon swallowed hard and forced his next words out. “What about Levi?”
“He’s a faggot. He came out a year and a half or so after you left town when he brought some guy home with him from college. They came to the bar, and I overheard the guy he was with saying something about it being nothing like the last gay bar they went to.” Seth shook his head. “How he could prefer taking it up the ass, I’ll never know. It’s disgusting.”
Devon was going to be sick. They knew about Levi. Had they put two and two together? He glanced around the table. He doubted it. Otherwise they’d be saying the same thing about him. Maybe if he excused himself from the table on the premise of getting more beers, they’d have something else to talk about when he came back. He pushed away from the table, stood, and grabbed the empties.
“I’ll get the next round.” He didn’t wait for a reply and escaped to the bar. He needed to put a little distance between him and his so-called friends before he said something he shouldn’t. He stalked up to the bar and plopped the empty bottles down on the gleaming surface. It took a minute, but the bartender eventually noticed him. He motioned to the four bottles. “Another round, please.”
It didn’t take long for the empties to be replaced with full ones. Devon dropped enough cash on the bar to cover the drinks, plus a tip, and headed back to their table. He handed them out and resumed his seat.
Blake lifted his beer to his lips and took a hefty drink. “Damn. That hits the spot.” He set it down and looked straight at Devon. “You didn’t suspect? You spent more time with him than you did with us. You had to have guessed something.”
“C’mon. You can tell us.” Travis motioned to himself, Blake, and Seth. He leaned farther over the table and grinned. “How many times did he hit on you?”
“We’d have known if he’d tried anything.” Seth smirked. “Devon would have knocked him on his ass, and it would have been all over school.”
“I bet he checked out all the guys in the shower.” Travis grimaced. “I even had gym class with him one year. He better be glad I never caught him looking at my junk. I’d have gotten suspended, or expelled, but it would have been worth it.”
Devon hated himself. He should speak up and defend Levi. Everything in him screamed for him to say something, but he couldn’t. He didn’t want anyone to know about him—not yet anyway—and saying anything would raise questions. He struggled to find a way to say something without it being obvious he was supporting Levi. Inspiration struck, and he grinned.
“Oh, come off it.” Devon leaned back in his chair. “I remember catching every one of you checking out other guys in the showers, for no other reason than you wanted to make sure you were bigger. Remember when that new kid came in and you were all pissed that he was hung like a fucking horse? He put all of us to shame.”
“Fuck you.” Blake scowled. “I don’t need the reminder. After word got out, the sluts were all over him.”
Devon chuckled. At least he’d gotten them off the subject of Levi. “You were only pissed because they preferred him to you. Now if you’d actually dated instead of sleeping around, maybe you’d have found someone who could resist him.”
“Says the guy who never dated.” Travis leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “Got something you need to tell us? Maybe the fag did come on to you, and you enjoyed it.”
“Screw you, Trav. Just because I never talked about it and wasn’t the school whore—like you guys—didn’t mean I never dated.” Devon scowled at Travis. He was not going to get into the same argument they’d had in high school. He’d always been more private than his friends. Yes, he had dated. No, he hadn’t talked about it. They didn’t need to know everything. Besides, he hadn’t been out back then, and no way in hell would his friends have embraced his dating Levi.
Levi hadn’t been out either. But apparently that had changed, and he still lived there.
Devon let the other guys bicker among themselves and relaxed into his chair. It was only a matter of time before he’d see Levi around town. He wasn’t sure what he’d say when they crossed paths. Levi had every right to hate him for the way he ran away six years earlier. It wouldn’t surprise him a single bit if Levi completely ignored him. Devon was an ass back then, but he’d also been eighteen and scared out of his mind.
Levi had been just as scared, but he’d been determined to stay. He begged Devon not to leave, but Devon truly believed he had to go. He had to get away from the small-town life—where everyone knew everyone else—and start over somewhere bigger. It had torn Devon up to leave Levi behind, but he believed a clean break would be best for the both of them.
He hadn’t come back for visits and never picked up the phone. And he never planned to come back, never planned to have to face Levi. Yet he hadn’t been able to stay away, and eventually he’d have to face the man whose heart he’d broken.
Fuck. He needed another drink.