Taking You Home --Out now from Samhain Publishing
A Forces of Nature novel.
Hunter Willis’s “Guy Town” passport was stamped and in as good working order as his Harley. Like a good Midwestern jock, he’d ride that manly machine to his construction job every day, even throw back a few beers with the boys. Hockey and baseball filled out his single-dude weekends.
Then, summer heat worked its magic, and he fell in love with his best friend, sexy stockbroker Maxwell Daniels. The Harley is still in the garage, but the man is definitely—and lustily—out of the closet. As in tearing the door off its hinges.
Now that Hunter’s in love, he’s in all the way. Even proposed—and Max has accepted. But before their dream wedding in Vermont next spring, they must face the greatest danger to their perfect love.
Meeting the family.
It’s not just enduring the Daniels clan’s magnifying glass. It’s facing the deep, dark fears and secrets that are suddenly brought into sharp focus. Forcing them to decide if theirs is only a summer fling…or a love that can flourish even in the chill of winter.
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Copyright © 2011 Cooper Davis
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
It can’t always be this hot in Winchester. I mean, not if people actually live in this sleepy outpost of a town. We live in Los Angeles, for God’s sake. I thought Virginia would be temperate and pleasant by comparison.
I fumble with the air conditioning vents, directing one on to Maxwell, especially when I see the thin sheen of perspiration that has formed on his forehead and upper lip.
“Hot as hell here,” I grumble, but really, I’m just worried about him.
“Always has been this time of year.”
He turns to stare out the window, at the mountains and rolling highway. I’ve manned the steering wheel ever since leaving Dulles Airport, just trying to get him to relax, but so far I can’t say it’s done much good. He keeps fiddling with the CDs, so silent I have to fight the urge to shake him just to get some kind of reaction.
I remember how he calmed me on the plane last month on the way back from the beach. I’d agreed that I was ready to come out to all our friends about being gay, about loving him, but that didn’t mean the decision was easy. He held me together on that plane and when Louisa met us at the airport.
“It’s going to be fine,” I encourage, even though I have some pretty serious doubts myself.
For a moment, we hold hands and ride in silence, the radio blaring some cheesy disco song. I almost miss the sign that promises Winchester, dead ahead. There are pictures of caves and roadside tourist stands, and someone’s selling boiled peanuts along the roadside. Max’s hometown is the weirdest thing about him; no wonder being gay was so damned easy.
Until today. Until facing his past and his twin sister, Leah. Until taking me home to meet his parents for the very first time. Damn, I want it to feel good for him because I’m really comfortable now. I’m gay and that’s cool. It’s like I’ve felt about Maxwell from the start, just this raw, blazing pride about being with him. And who wouldn’t? I mean, he’s handsome and sexy, smart as hell and has great taste in just about everything. Like me, I think with a wicked little grin, and am about to say so, but my laughter dies on my lips.
“She won’t accept you.” He stares straight ahead, expressionless.
It’s like he’s speaking to me from another lifetime.
“She hates that I’m gay, Hunter,” he explains in a thick voice. “Hates this part of me.”
“Why?” I’m treading as gently as I can, not pushing, just following his lead. These are the things he wouldn’t say back in L.A. Maybe it took excavating his past to get him to open up.
Max shakes his head, doesn’t answer as he stares out the window.
“Tell me why.” So I guess I am pushing after all. I love him too much to let it go.
“It’s disgusting.” He cuts his eyes at me. “That’s what she told me when she realized.”
“Well, fuck her.” How dare she hurt him, how dare she make him feel ugly and ashamed about this? About us.
“Hunter, please,” he whispers, raking a hand through his hair.
“She should love you! She’s your goddamned sister.”
He fires right back: “She should love you, because I do.”
Not much I can say to that, as he turns toward me. “That’s what hurts, Hunter. Don’t you get it?”
That it matters to him at all perplexes me, but I just nod my head. I know families are complex and byzantine. I know it even though I’ve barely ever had one. Maybe that’s the reason why I do understand.
Funny, but the thing I notice in that moment is the engagement band glinting on his finger, and I can’t suppress a swell of pride, knowing it’s a promise of what will happen between us in the spring.
Knowing he’s marked as mine, just by the wearing of it.
Almost as if he reads my mind, he fiddles with the band, turning it on his finger absently. Maybe he regrets not leaving it in his leather jewelry box back in L.A.
“You can take it off,” I suggest. “I’d understand.”
“I won’t walk in that door without it.”
“Max, maybe it’s better to just…I don’t know.” I shrug. “Maybe to work up to that, you know? With your family.”
“They know we’re together, and I’m not going to lie. I love this ring.” He gestures with his hand, and for a moment, I flash back to the night I slipped it on his finger. “I love you and I’m walking in the door wearing it.” The familiar temper has kicked in now, and I’m actually glad, because so long as he’s fighting, I can handle anything with his family. It’s his morose, nervous mood that’s left me feeling uneasy all morning.
His hand rests in his lap, the gold band contrasting with his tanned skin, and I trace the outline of it with my fingertip. There are three small diamonds set into the ring—one symbolizing each of us, and then a center stone for the union that’s yet to come. That diamond is the largest of the three; perfect because it represents the biggest freaking change that my life will ever know.
It’s definitely an engagement ring, although it looks plenty damn masculine, being a thick gold band and all. Max claims he’s had a few curious looks down at the office from the crew who I now jokingly refer to as “the gaytraders”.
Then again, while it may be a guy kind of ring, it’s still an engagement band, and Max has no shame about wearing it right on his ring finger. So it’s no time for me to regret that it might draw attention; I made my choice the day I walked into the jewelry store and selected it. If I’d wanted subtlety, then that was my moment, right then and there.
But I didn’t want subtlety. I’d finally embraced the truth of who I was, how much I love Maxwell, and I wanted something a little bit obvious. I wanted people to notice.
And frankly I was anticipating this day, and I wanted his family to notice, too.
So far, they have no idea what we’ve planned. In fact, although they’ve figured out that we’re together, Max has never openly admitted that we’re a couple, even after I moved into his place three weeks ago. I’ve answered the phone a few times when his mom has called, and she’s been polite, distant. Kind of acted like I was the maintenance man who just happened to be grabbing her son’s phone.