Book One in the Rough Riders stories
Playing by different rules can lead to heartbreak, but changing the game plan can be the tiebreaker.
Luke Briscoe has a good reason to stay in the closet with his team, the Rough Riders. Bitter past experience has taught him to be cautious around athletic teams. But after Mario, his teammate and lover of ten years, leaves him, tired of the secrecy, Luke is forced to confront his fears, especially since the sexy and confident new member of the team, Derek Grimm, has no problem with being out and proud.
Derek has wanted Luke from the first moment he saw him. But he knows the timing is all wrong, and vows to let Luke have the time he needs to recover from his breakup. As time goes on, though, Derek becomes frustrated with Luke’s determination to stay in the closet.
Derek and Mario are out, and the team is fine with it. Why is Luke still holding back? Derek wonders if any amount of time will ever be enough. Maybe it’s time to try a different game plan...
Reader Advisory: This story has been previously released as part of the Gaymes anthology by Total-E-Bound
"It's not like I hide you from the world," Luke protested, arguing one of Mario's most repetitive complaints of late. "But the guys here are not going to be as accepting as the public in general."
Mario rolled his dark eyes in his typical dramatic fashion. "Please. The whole point is that ...Get dressed, you're going to be late." He grabbed the jock dangling from Luke's fingers and slapped it at his chest with hardly a pause in his speech. "...is that we are here all the time. All. The. Time." He punctuated this with pokes to Luke's arm. Luke didn't move and Mario sighed. "Fine. I shouldn't have started this here. But I thought it would give you a chance to rearrange the roster, or at least start thinking about it during practice. Plus you can tell the guys today that I'm off the team."
"What?" Luke shot to his feet. "Why should I tell them? Why don't you tell them? It's as much your team as mine." The Rough Riders was their baby, formed nearly a decade before with a mish-mash of friends and acquaintances that had since become the most competitive three-sport team in the city. They entered tournaments city-wide and regionally in basketball and softball, and just last year had qualified for nationals in flag football.
"Not any longer. And think, Luke." Mario stood as well and leaned in close. Luke closed his eyes briefly as the warm, familiar scent came to him, knotting his insides. "Do you really want me to tell them? Hmm? I have reached the end of my self-control. If they ask me why, I will not be able to lie. And you do not want me to tell the truth." He flipped his hand expressively. "That is the whole problem."
"What if..." Luke stopped, swallowing hard. He fought down the rising panic. "What if I did tell them? Would you stay?"
Mario's handsome face slackened in shock and disbelief, then hardened. "Put your fucking workout clothes on. Meet me outside." Luke touched his elbow warily, and Mario knocked his hand away. "Outside, or I swear to God I will take this fucking roof off." He stormed away, muttering to himself, the stiffness in Mario's normally fluid stride bringing a touch of fear into Luke's heart.
Luke quickly dressed and hurried out the door to the practice area. He looked around with a frown. He should have asked Mario to specify where outside. The sports complex was huge. Maybe he meant by the parking lot?
Luke started walking around the huge building in that direction, and stumbled when Mario grabbed his T-shirt and yanked him into a doorwell, shoving him up against the cinderblock wall and taking his mouth in a hard, demanding kiss. Luke found himself moaning into the rough contact, which drove all thoughts of their whereabouts straight out of his head. He let go of Mario's arms, which he had clutched initially to balance himself, and wrapped his arms around him, desperately returning his kiss. Coaxing the other man in to a softer mutual stroking of their mouths, he willed Mario to give up this crazy ultimatum. God, if he lost him... He groaned as he shifted, fitting himself more completely against the insistent press of Mario's lean, muscular form.
Mario's hand snaked up under Luke's shirt, tweaking his nipple. The jolt brought Luke's eyes open, and they immediately snapped to movement over Mario's shoulder. His eyes widened and Luke stiffened as he saw a tall, superbly fit man running rapidly towards them, his eyes looking directly at the pair with surprise. "Shit," he muttered into Mario's mouth. "Babe." He disengaged their mouths by turning his head, pushing at his chest. Mario kept him pinned. "Mario, let me go, man, someone's coming!" He pushed ineffectually against the well-positioned man.
"I thought you wanted to tell everyone." Mario mocked, his tone derisive, but his eyes were filled with pain. He kept Luke in place as the man ran past, close enough that they could hear the swish of his running shorts as he blew by, apparently wrapping up his workout with a sprint. "He wasn't even someone we know and you froze up. And you think you can tell the Riders?" He snorted and finally released Luke, backing away, shaking his head. "I'm sorry. I just can't do this anymore."