Available in ebook from Loose Id and in print from MLR Press.
Dan Corazon is a man with a secret. A secret he’s kept for most of his life, hidden away from the world. Over the years, all the little deceptions designed to hide his homosexuality have become the basis of his life. So he keeps his secret, in spite of the loneliness it causes, because it’s easier to hide behind comfortable lies than to risk everything he cares about by coming out.
Stevie Sanger is a man trapped by circumstance. Homeless, penniless, and with no one to turn to, he supports himself the only way he can: by selling his body on the street. He uses the smile that’s earned him the nickname ‘Sunshine’ to hide the pain of his nightmarish life even from himself. Because denying his unhappiness is easier than facing it head on.
Dan and Stevie want each other from the moment they meet, when Dan finds Stevie bruised and bloodied by a sadistic john and offers to help him turn his life around. That attraction quickly blossoms into something deeper, something that could become permanent. But first, they need to overcome all the obstacles in their way. Dan’s fear of his own nature, Stevie’s belief that he’s not good enough for Dan. The unresolved pieces of Stevie’s past. Building the relationship they both want may be a challenge too big for either of them. But nothing worth having is ever easy.
© Copyright 2006 Ally Blue
Shit, Dan thought, I’m in trouble.
Deep, deep trouble.
He’d had his share of problems in his life. The death of his parents in a car crash when he was seventeen, the struggle to finish school and hold down a job so he wouldn’t have to live with a foster family. The life-shattering realization that girls held no attraction for him, but boys did, a fact he’d first discovered at age fourteen and had successfully hidden from his parents and friends. Was still hiding it, as a matter of fact.
But this was the first time trouble had ever walked into his life with honey-gold curls and eyes like the summer sky and the sweetest smile he’d ever seen. Just walked right in, reached down inside him and made him feel things he’d never felt before.
Dan jumped at the sound of Stevie’s voice. “Yeah?”
“Where’s the towels?”
Dan turned around. Stevie stood in the bathroom doorway, naked as the day he was born and dripping wet. Dan gulped.
“In the closet there,” he answered, pointing at the small linen closet in the hallway just outside the bathroom. “Sorry, should’ve told you that before you got in the shower.”
Stevie grinned. “No problem.” He opened the closet, snagged a giant striped towel, and started drying himself right there in the hall, grimacing a little when the cloth rubbed over the cuts and bruises.
Dan turned back to scanning the interior of his refrigerator, trying desperately to stop seeing Stevie’s naked body in his mind’s eye. “Uh, you want a beer?”
“Sure.” Stevie wandered into the kitchen with the towel wrapped around his hips and took the bottle Dan held out to him. “Thanks.”
Dan watched him out of the corner of his eye. The way his smooth pale throat worked as he swallowed made Dan’s skin ache.
“Oh, man, I needed that,” Stevie sighed. He set the half empty bottle down on the counter and turned his wide blue eyes to Dan. “You want me to cook dinner? I’m a good cook. Or, well, I used to be, before. Guess I still am.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“No, really, I am!”
Dan laughed. “I didn’t mean that. It’s just…”
“Oh, I get it. Yeah, I know it’s early for dinner, but what the hell. Don’t know about you, but I’m starved.”
“Well, yeah, I’m kind of hungry too. That’s still not what I meant though.”
“What, then?” Stevie leaned his elbows on the counter and gazed guilelessly up at Dan.
Dan shook his head. “Stevie, not eight hours ago I found you naked and beaten and barely able to stand up. You spent a whole night being… being used by that sick fuck, and now you think you have to cook for me? No. Uh-uh. You’re gonna go set yourself down, put your feet up, and relax while I cook. Got that?”
Stevie smiled, showing deep dimples. “Okay, boss. Thanks.”
“No problem.” Dan smiled back, trying to keep his eyes on Stevie’s face instead of grazing them down that sleek little body. Small pink nipples, hard muscles in a flat belly, hipbones showing above the towel…
Dan shook himself. “Why don’t you put some clothes on? You can borrow something of mine if you want.”
Stevie laughed. “Yeah, you know what? I think your clothes would probably fall right off me.” He unwrapped the towel and padded naked into the living room, dragging the towel behind him. “It’s okay. I can go without ‘til I get a chance to go get my stuff.”
Dan tried to set his beer on the counter and nearly dropped it, because he couldn’t tear his eyes from the sight of Stevie’s firm little ass and strong, slim legs. He was the most beautiful thing Dan had ever laid eyes on, though the sight of that lovely skin marred by bruises and whip marks made him want to strangle the shithead who’d put them there.
Things went from bad to worse when Stevie spread the towel out on the couch and lay down on it, all pale and golden and absolutely fucking perfect. The sparkle in those enormous blue eyes said that Stevie knew exactly what sort of effect he was having on Dan.
Dan tore his gaze away and started scanning his cabinets for anything that looked like dinner. He made a huge effort and managed to get his brain to think about what to cook instead of what he’d like to be doing at that moment, which was running his hands over all that silky bare skin on display in the next room.
A sudden banging on the door of his apartment destroyed Dan’s dogged concentration and made him jump. “Yo, Dan! Open up, amigo!”
Carlos. Dan groaned. “Yeah, just a sec!” He raced into the bedroom, pulled a pair of shorts out of a drawer, ran back into the living room and tossed the shorts at Stevie. “Here, put these on.”
Stevie obeyed without a word. Something seemed so automatic about it that it tugged at Dan’s heart. No one should be that used to doing what other people tell them.
Dan opened the door as soon as Stevie had the shorts on. “Hey, Carlos, what’s up?”
“Just checking up on you, after all the excitement this morning.” Carlos wandered inside, slapping Dan on the back. His eyebrows went up when he saw Stevie.
“Um, this is Stevie. Stevie, this is Carlos.”
Stevie stood, hanging on to the too-big shorts with one hand, and held his other hand out to Carlos. “Hi, Carlos. Nice to meet you.”
“Yeah, you too,” Carlos replied. His dark eyes were cool, and Dan could see him sizing Stevie up in his head as they shook hands.
“Want a beer?” Dan asked.
Carlos shook his head. “No thanks. Just stopped by to see how everything was. And Joe wants to know are you coming to work tomorrow.”
“Depends,” Dan said. He turned to Stevie. “You gonna be okay on your own here?”
“Oh, sure,” Stevie said. “I’ll be fine, no problem. You don’t need to miss any more work on my account.”
Carlos smiled at Stevie. “So, you’re the kid Danny rescued, huh? What happened to you? You look like you got beat with a big stick, man.”
“Hey, come on, Carlos, leave him alone,” Dan protested. “Stevie, you don’t have to say anything. Carlos doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut.” He smacked Carlos on the head, and Carlos laughed.
“It’s okay,” Stevie said. “Can’t blame him for wanting to know. I mean I do look pretty rough. And you missed a whole day of work because of me, and I’m betting Carlos had to pick up the slack. That right?”
“Yeah.” Carlos grinned. “But I’m used to picking up his slack.”
“Watch your mouth, boy,” Dan threatened.
“Ooo, I’m so scared!” Carlos teased, laughing. “Seriously though, Stevie, I wanna know something, I just ask. You don’t wanna say anything, that’s no problem, just tell me to mind my own business. I don’t take offense.”
“It’s nothing anyhow,” Stevie said. “I was with somebody, and things got a little out of hand. No big deal. All I needed was a little rest and a cold beer.”
He and Carlos both laughed. Dan laughed along with them, but his mind was going ninety miles a minute. Wondering what it was that made Stevie want to pretend that everything was fine when it so obviously wasn’t.
“Okay,” Carlos said, “guess I’ll head back home. Shawna says she’ll expect you on Saturday at six. And hey, Stevie, you come too, okay? If I know my wife, she’ll find a date for you.”
Dan looked over at Stevie. “What about it, Stevie? Shawna’s the best cook in the city, but her price for letting you eat her food is letting her fix you up.”
Stevie laughed. “Hey, I’ve done worse for less.” Dan cringed inwardly, but kept quiet. “Sounds like fun. Thanks for including me, that’s awfully nice of you both.”
“This is turning into a regular dinner party, isn’t it?” Dan said as he walked Carlos to the door. “You tell Shawna we’ll be there, but I’m not looking for a relationship so she’d best not hold her breath over it.”
“Tell her that yourself, bro,” Carlos said. “Me, I don’t wanna bust her bubble. I gotta live with her. Stevie, good to meet you. Later.”
Dan shook his head as he shut the door and turned back to Stevie. “Don’t let him bug you. He likes to mess with people, but nobody’s a better friend than Carlos.”
“I can tell,” Stevie said. “Must be great to be such good friends with somebody.”
Dan glanced sharply at Stevie. He was still smiling, but Dan could see the loneliness peeking out from behind the carefree mask. He wanted to say something comforting and kind to take away that lost look. But he didn’t know what to say, so he didn’t say anything.