Available as a standalone ebook, and in print as part of the multi-author Hearts From The Ashes anthology.
Scott and Keegan have both known their share of manipulation and abuse. Can they rise above the heartaches of their separate pasts and build a future together?
Scott Jasper needs a change in his life. Stuck in a dead-end relationship with a man who manipulates and uses him, Scott wants out but hasn’t found the one thing to motivate him to leave. Until the night his partner takes him to local gay swinger’s club Ganymede’s Grotto, where Scott meets the man who might just be The One.
Keegan Rourke – a.k.a. “Eros,” the most popular stripper at Ganymede’s Grotto – has been burned before. Determined never to let another man rip his heart out, Keegan doesn’t let anyone get close enough to love him. Until Scott comes along, offering Keegan the gentle, unconditional love he’s always needed but has never experienced.
For Scott and Keegan, the road to lasting committment isn’t a smooth one. A lot of roadblocks stand in their path– Scott’s trepidation about his own dominant tendencies, Keegan’s abusive past and resulting fear of intimacy. Can they can rise above past sorrows and find their happiness in each other’s arms?
© Copyright 2007 Ally Blue
The Saturday night before Valentine’s Day, Scott walked up to the front door of Ganymede’s Grotto with a brand-new membership card in his hand. “Hi Patrick,” he said, grinning at the tall, gangly young man at the window. “How are you?”
“Gettin’ by,” Patrick drawled in his honey-thick accent. He nodded toward the card in Scott’s hand. “Finally joined up, huh?”
Scott laughed. “I figured I might as well, since I’m here nearly every day anyhow. It wouldn’t be fair for me to keep taking advantage of Keegan like that, coming in as his guest all the time.”
After that first afternoon and evening as Keegan’s guest at Ganymede’s Grotto, Scott had begun to spend more and more time there. Stopping in for a couple of hours after work had become a habit. He knew all the staff now and had been more or less adopted by Earl, who fussed over him more than his own parents ever had.
At first Scott had tried to pretend that he kept going there to get away from Logan’s increasingly erratic behavior. But he couldn’t lie to himself for long. Ganymede’s Grotto was a nice club, clean and friendly with a laid-back, no-pressure atmosphere, but it wasn’t a place where he would have normally spent so much time. He went there to see Keegan, and everyone knew it.
Scott continued to stubbornly insist he felt nothing but friendship for Keegan. Even he was having trouble believing it anymore.
“It made Earl pretty happy that you joined, I bet,” Patrick observed, taking Scott’s card to scan it. “He’s been dying to sign you up ever since day one.”
Scott raised his eyebrows. “Really? Why? Is it my incredible good looks, or my enormous bank account?”
“Smart-ass.” Patrick handed Scott’s card back. “Keegan likes you, and Earl spoils that boy rotten.”
“Keegan’s almost thirty,” Scott said, putting his card back in his wallet. “Hardly a boy, and definitely older than you.”
“Maybe, but he looks way younger.” Patrick grinned at him. “Speaking of Keegan, he says come back to the dressing room, he wants your opinion on what costume to wear for his show tonight.”
Scott’s heart tried to jump right up his throat. He swallowed it back down. “Oh. Okay. So he’s, um, he’s not being Eros tonight?”
“You know he changes his act around now and then, just to keep things interesting. You’ve seen some of his other acts.” Patrick chuckled. “Man, when are you gonna make a move already? You know he’d be putty in your hands, right?”
The blood rose in Scott’s cheeks, because he did know it. “Come on, Patrick, don’t.”
“Yeah, I know. Logan.” Patrick shook his head. “I’m not sayin’ a word, man. Have a nice night.”
“You too. See you.” Scott pushed the door open and escaped into the welcoming dimness of the club.
Making his way through the already crowded bar to the tiny dressing room behind the stage, Scott smiled and spoke to the staff and a few of the members he’d gotten to know. He thought, not for the first time, that he should thank Logan for bringing him here that night. He felt comfortable and accepted here, even though he never did anything but sit at the bar and talk to Keegan. And watch him strip, Scott reminded himself.
The thought was enough to tighten Scott’s balls. He bit his lip and forced his mind away from the memories of Keegan looking like a debauched angel in that obscene G-string and those huge white wings.
When he reached the dressing room, Scott tapped on the door. “Keegan? It’s me, Patrick said you wanted to see me.”
“Yeah, c’mon in,” Keegan called, his voice muffled.
Scott eased the door open, slipped through and closed it again before looking at Keegan. When he did, he burst out laughing. “What the hell are you doing?”
Keegan’s blue eye glared at him over a strip of black lace. “Shut up and help me, I’m stuck.”
Still snickering, Scott strolled over and walked in a circle around Keegan, trying to make sense of the tangle he’d made. “What is this, a dress?”
“Yes.” Keegan wriggled in a way that had Scott adjusting his crotch, and managed to get an arm through one sleeve. “It’s not a tear-away, and it’s really fucking tight. Could you just straighten it out in back there? Then maybe I can get it all the way on.”
Scott obediently tugged on the tangle of black fabric wound around Keegan’s back. Heat flared in his belly when his hands brushed Keegan’s skin. He longed to slide his arms around Keegan’s slender waist and pull him close, bend and kiss the curve of his pale shoulder. He satisfied his urge to touch by tracing his fingertips over the naked, pale blue pixie tattooed on Keegan’s back.
Keegan laughed and turned around, slipping his other arm into the sleeve and yanking the dress down. “You feeling up Blue Boy’s cock again?”
“No,” Scott said, truthfully for once. He’d been fascinated with the tattooed pixie’s frighteningly large erection ever since he’d first gotten a good look at it. “I was feeling up his fangs this time.”
“Yeah, well, that’s another erogenous zone for him, I hope you know.” Keegan faced the mirror, eyeing his reflection critically. “So what do you think? Should I put on make-up and be the Goth-Chick-With-A-Dick, or be lazy and drag out the devil costume?”
Scott considered. “I kind of like what you’ve got on. But how do you get it off again if you had this much trouble getting into it?”
Keegan grinned. “Tear it off.”
“Oh.” Scott groped behind him for the chair he knew was there and hung on for dear life. “Yeah, do that.”
“Hot idea, huh?” Keegan rotated his hips in a slow, teasing motion, tongue flicking at his lip ring. “I can only rip the dress in half once, but it was only two bucks at the thrift store, so it’s no big deal.”
The mental image of that tight little black lace mini-dress ripping away to reveal Keegan’s sleekly muscled body did not a damn thing to reduce Scott’s arousal. Before he could think of what he was doing, Scott stroked a hand down Keegan’s lace-clad chest.
Keegan went still, wide eyes locked onto Scott’s face. “Scott? What are you doing?”
Scott blinked, shook himself and pulled his hand back. “I…I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
Keegan smiled. “Hey, you know I wouldn’t turn you down. You’re the one with a boyfriend.”
The mention of Logan dragged at Scott’s spirits like an anchor. “Yeah, I know.”
Keegan tilted his head and stared hard at Scott. “Did something happen? With Logan, I mean.”
Scott heard the stubborn edge in his voice, but he couldn’t help it. He didn’t want to think of how Logan had blatantly propositioned the check-out boy at the grocery store that afternoon. Or how he’d turned nasty when they’d gotten home, calling Scott a spineless eunuch and worse when Scott didn’t react with the anger he’d clearly expected.
Keegan crossed his arms. “You’re not fooling me, Scott. Spill it.”
Scott sighed. Keegan could read him with terrifying accuracy. “We had a fight. Or rather we didn’t, which I think was the problem.”
“I’m not following you,” Keegan said, frowning.
Scott looked at his feet. “He came on to some kid this afternoon while we were out shopping. But he does it so often I just ignore it lately, so that’s what I did. I just pretended it wasn’t happening. And that pissed him off. He jumped all over me when we got home. Basically told me I was a pussy.”
“For not calling him on what he did?”
“Yeah.” Scott raised his head to meet Keegan’s unusually thoughtful gaze, and decided to take the plunge. Lord knew Keegan was the closest friend he had. “He’s doing it on purpose. I don’t know why, or if he even realizes it, but that’s what’s happening. He keeps coming on to other men just to make me mad.”
Oddly enough, Keegan didn’t seem surprised. “That explains something I’ve been wondering about.”
Scott frowned. “What do you mean?”
Keegan pinned Scott with a penetrating stare. “I don’t know if he told you this, but the first night you guys came here? I told him off for how he acted.”
“No, he never mentioned it,” Scott murmured, unsurprised.
“Figures,” Keegan said, rolling his eyes. “Anyhow, I told him that I’d come on to you and you turned me down.”
Scott blinked. “You did?”
“Yeah. Listen.” Keegan leaned forward, red-gold curls cascading over his shoulder. “He told me that I should take a good look at his back in the morning and then see if I still wanted you.”
“Oh shit.” Scott groped for the chair again, swung it around and sat down heavily as the epiphany hit him like a brick. “I only ever did it when I was angry. So that’s why…” He closed his eyes. “Fuck.”
“I figured he must like getting some of the rough stuff, but the whole thing just felt wrong, you know? He talked like someone who was being abused, but I could tell he wanted it. And I knew you weren’t the abusive type anyway.”
Scott opened his eyes and stared up at Keegan, who was tonguing his lip ring like he always did when he was thinking. “How could you have known that, Keegan? Hell, how do you know that now? Maybe I’m exactly the monster he wanted you to think I was.”
I sure as fuck feel like one. It didn’t matter that Logan had some twisted need for pain inflicted in anger. It didn’t even matter that Scott had always known Logan enjoyed it more than he did. The fact remained that Scott had done those things, and he’d gotten off on them. Worse, it had never even occurred to him that Logan might need help. And he clearly did, if he felt the need to hurt and manipulate his lover in order to get what he wanted.
The feel of fingertips on his cheek brought Scott out of his thoughts. Keegan stood between his knees, close enough that a breath could push them together, stroking Scott’s jaw. His eyes brimmed with painful memories, underscored by a longing Scott could feel in his bones. He realized with a shock that it was the first time he’d seen past the lighthearted, teasing wall Keegan kept between himself and the world.
“You’re no monster, Scott,” Keegan said, so softly Scott barely heard him. “Believe me, I’ve known my share and you’re nothing like that. Nothing at all.” Keegan’s callused fingertips traced the outline of Scott’s mouth, making his pulse race. “You’re kind. And compassionate. And gentle. You’d never hurt m…anyone, I mean, you never would’ve gotten rough with Logan if he didn’t want you to, but you knew he liked it, even if you didn’t know he was manipulating you into doing it.”
It was a quick save, and Keegan’s subsequent babbling almost distracted him from the slip. But not quite. He’d heard what Keegan almost said, seen the man’s eyes widen just slightly. He reached up and buried his hands in Keegan’s shining curls like he’d been dying to do since the moment they met.
“You’re right,” Scott heard himself say, as if from a distance. “I’d never hurt you. Keegan…”
He didn’t have to say anything else. Keegan bent down, cradling Scott’s face between his palms, and pressed his mouth to Scott’s.
Everything went still and silent for a heartbeat. Then Keegan’s lips parted, his tongue traced Scott’s lower lip in a feathery touch, and Scott’s world turned inside-out. He tilted his head and opened to Keegan, kissing him with a hunger he hadn’t felt in years.