A stand-alone gay romance in the Stanford Creek series.
Ty stopped right outside the hospital and forced his hands into his pockets. “Doesn’t matter what you think,” he began, “but I am boyfriending this shit up.” Then he turned on his heels and headed for the car, and all Garrett could do was follow. He easily caught up and swung Ty to a stop.
“What the hell does that even mean?” he asked.
“That you might not think we’re doing anything but fucking, that you have secrets you won’t share with anyone, let alone me. But…” he paused. “I think I’m falling for you in a serious way, and I’m not afraid to tell my brother that, or in fact anyone at all.”
His expression dared Garrett to disagree, or complain. Standing in the snow in the middle of town wasn’t probably the best place to have an epiphany, but that is exactly what was happening today, to Garrett Campbell, right in front of Ty.
“I’m actually okay with the boyfriend bit,” he admitted. “At least to see how things might happen when I haven’t Stockholmed your ass.”
“You know, close proximity, that kind of thing.”
“I know what Stockholm syndrome is, and that is not what we have here.”
“Well then, what do we have?”
“We’re uncles now, officially or not. We have affection, need, awesome sex, and the best hot tub outside of LA. What else do we need? And as to the secrets? You’ll tell me one day.”
First comes trust, then love… then the fight to stay alive.
Pop star Tyler Hart is desperate for peace after a humiliating public scandal. It seems like Stanford Creek may well be the place to lay low. After all, it worked for his friends and former bandmates, Cody and Danny. He borrows a cabin and settles in for a quiet Christmas…well, not quite.
Garrett Campbell is on the run. Wounded in the line of duty, he escapes to the only place he feels safe, Stanford Creek and his brother’s cabin. Only he doesn’t realize he’ll have a roommate, and a sexy one at that.
Amid snow falls and winter winds, passion burns bright. When danger threatens to follow Garrett, he has to decide whether to run again before his secrets could kill him and the man of his dreams.
Los Angeles, Pearson Talent Agency, August
“Just because you’re gay, it doesn’t mean you have to splash your gay everywhere.”
James Pearson, agent to the stars—well, agent to the nearly-stars—leaned over the desk with absolute focus in his expression as he spoke.
That was the polite response, when all Tyler Hart really wanted to say was “‘What the fuck?’”
“God, Ty, I try and support your lifestyle, I do, but do you really think this is going to go down well with management?”
James pushed his iPad across the desk and for a moment Ty didn’t want to touch it. He could see the Instagram layout but whatever had gotten his agent’s pants in a twist probably wasn’t something he’d want to see. James wasn’t normally the guy to panic, but ever since Ty, his twin Zachary, and Samuel Hudson had signed contracts to be the new lineup of Hudson Hart—a trio now—the straps had tightened, and he’d seen James pop one hell of a lot of antacids.
“Look at it,” James said.
“No. I don’t need to see it again.” Once was enough and the shame and horror had conspired to be the first to kill him.
James tossed the iPad to his desk. “I sold Tyler Hart to the record label as settled in a relationship with a normal guy, and you do this to me.”
Ty squirmed in his seat. He didn’t want this conversation, wanted to go to his place, hide in bed, wake up and for it all to be over. His hands were shaking and he curled his fingers into a fist and pushed them by his side in the chair. How had this happened? Why had he let it happen?
James was still looking at him like Ty had all the answers, and temper spiked. “One, my normal guy turned out to be the kind of man who decided he could sleep with anyone he wanted, and two, he was an asshole with reference to point one.”
James huffed in irritation. “But he was safe, a business man, someone with credibility.”
“He stole our money and fucked around on me.”
“No one knows about the money, and at least with him you kept it behind closed doors.”
“What do you mean, it?”
James poked at the iPad. “There are no videos of you being fucked by him out on the ’net.”
“Fuck you, James.”
“No, Ty, fuck you for getting a blowjob in a bathroom and getting caught on film.”
Ty’s chest tightened and the shaky feeling was getting worse. The hits had ramped up on this bathroom video every time he refreshed—by ten, by a hundred, by a thousand, until it had vanished, probably because James had it taken down, only for it to appear as another upload seconds later. Every hit was a violation and Ty couldn’t bear to see it, so he’d stopped looking at the video and the comments.
“James, you have to understand that I didn’t know I was being filmed,” he defended.
“Ty, you were getting sucked off in a bathroom. Couldn’t you have waited until you got home, for fuck’s sake? How the hell can I sell you as being one of the nice gays when there is this shit out there? What frame of reference can I put you in? You’ve gone from being the cute one who danced to being the grown man who couldn’t keep it in his pants.”
“Frame of reference? What? Since when is who I love an issue? I’m gay, I sing, I dance, it’s who I am. The bathroom was a mistake, everyone makes mistakes.”
And what the hell was a nice gay?
None of this was making any sense. He’d been out since he was fifteen, out in the band, to his friends, to the public. He was labeled the cute gay one in Hudson Hart and he kind of liked the freedom he had with the honesty of it all.
James nudged the iPad closer and Ty looked down, peering close at the blurry image. At first, all he saw was a mix of dancers on a dance floor. Then his eyes zeroed in on Zach and Sam, and he knew without a doubt that the blurry figure with their shirt off to the left was him, even though it wasn’t obvious.
“Have you seen the other photos out there? You’re practically naked on the dance floor.”
“We were all dancing. At a club. It was hot. I don’t see what’s wrong with that.”
“Dancing I can handle,” James said. He rubbed at his eyes, and for the first time Ty saw a man who was on the edge. Likely he’d put out worse fires than this, but Ty wasn’t stupid. He knew this was bad. And then James passed over a piece of paper. “This not so much.”
The paper was actually a print out of an email, from some weird combination of letters and numbers at a Gmail account. The heading simply said, read this.
So Ty did. The words were simple and to the point. “‘Two million or I’ll release the entire video.’”
There was more? For now the video cut off with a close up of Ty’s face, his head back against the wall, his mouth slack, his eyes closed. What else had been videoed? The money shot? Shock spiked inside him as he read the next sentence threatening to release the video in forty-eight hours.
“Two million or the full video is released,” James summarized in case Ty hadn’t already realized exactly what was happening here.
“Who sent this?”
James ignored the question. “What happened that night? Is there more? Did you have… full relations… in the bathrooms at this club?”
The night was hazy, but Ty knew he’d gotten off at some point, remembered the hot wet suction, the short feeling of euphoria, the dizziness of alcohol making his muscles lax. He closed his eyes, desperate to remember it all. “I went out,” he began, “it was after I went home and found my ex in bed with another guy. I was a fucking cliché.” He paused as familiar anger and resignation twisted inside. “Zach and Sam took me out. Okay, we danced, had some beers, Zach got me home. I know I went into the bathroom and I know I … did that.”
“You have proof you went straight home after, no full sex in bathrooms?” James did that thing where he wrinkled his nose again. Okay, so bathrooms weren’t a good thing, but getting sucked by someone who knew what they were doing, that was something else altogether.
“I went home, on my own.”
“Why did you go to the bathroom? Was it to elicit this? Do you know the man who is on his knees? Hell, did you pay him?”
“I was drinking beer. Jack and Coke as well.” Some of that night was fuzzy, but Zach was looking after him. His twin never left his side, except for the bathroom visits. God, he’d been so angry that night at finding Cyrus in their bed with not one, but two, guys. Worst was that Cyrus asked him to join in, and thoughts of a future with a picket fence and kids was gone in an instant. He’d gotten in his car, driven at the speed limit to his brother’s place, the home he’d only moved out of a couple weeks before to go live with Cyrus. Zach took one look at him and, dragging Sam along with them, they’d headed out to dance. He’d said that Hudson Hart needed to relax, and Ty didn’t argue. He, Sam and Zach…they were born to dance and sing.
That was his escape, and alcohol helped.
When he woke up in the morning in his old bedroom back at the house he’d bought with Zach, he was alone, sore from overdoing the dancing. Yes, he’d felt like at some point he’d had some kind of awesome blowjob, but not at the club, more in his dreams. He’d had way too much to drink. The video told him the bits that were missing. In graphic detail.
“What is on the rest of the video, Ty? What did you do?”
“I wouldn’t… not in a bathroom…” He scrubbed his face with his hands.
He’d spent an hour dancing, sometimes pressed against other men—this was a gay club, after all—and he’d been pissed at Cyrus, wanted nothing more than to just have fun.
Why did I go to the bathroom and let that happen?
Then a thought hit him. “You’re not paying the person with this video, right?” he asked. “We’re not going to acknowledge anything else exists?”
Although, part of him just wanted the money sent to whatever fucked up bank account this email sender had. Not that he had two million in his bank, but he could maybe sell his share of the condo he’d bought with Zach; that would give him something.
“No. We’re not paying, you’re not paying, the record label is considering pulling you on the morality clause. I’m turning this email over to the police, and they’ll want to talk to you.”
Shame flooded Ty at the thought that people would want to know everything. Why did he drink so much? Why did he cling onto the stall when some random stranger went to his knees? Why did he let this happen to him?
He stood and for a second he didn’t know what to do. The shakiness was worse, the need to run was forcing his steps.
“I need to go,” he mumbled.
“Go home,” James said, with no affection and absolute focus, “let me deal with this fuck up until I can hand it over to the police.”
Ty turned to leave, but with his hand on the door handle his agent’s voice had him stopping.
“Ty, you’ll want to find a new agent. I’m done with you, and with this shit.”
Ty didn’t say a word.
He just nodded.
He made it to the bathrooms with moments to spare, falling to his knees and losing what little breakfast he’d managed to eat.
Unspecified Location, September
“Just because you’re gay, it doesn’t mean you can’t find love.”
Garrett Campbell ducked his head as another round slammed into the rocks above them. The bad guys were way too close and he cursed his stupidity at not calling for backup earlier.
“We’re talking about this now?” he snapped at Emmet who, like him, was ducked low behind the only freaking rock they could find.
All it would take was for the insurgents to realize they were out of ammo and they’d flank them and it would be over. They’d been cut off from their SEAL team and there was no way out of here. They had to hope and pray that the SEALs were out there doing whatever crazy shit they did to save the two idiot translators stuck on a mountainside.
“It’s never the right time,” Emmet said, and pressed his other hand on top of the first that was already covered in blood. “It’s a gut shot, but even with those you run out of time,” he added, and coughed. “And you won’t listen to me apologize again.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for.”
Emmet looked at him with tears of pain in his eyes. “It was all for the best,” he mumbled and his eyes shut, his mouth slack.
“Fuck you, Emmet,” Garrett snapped. “Wake up.” He tapped Emmet’s cheek and Emmet opened his eyes, blinking at him, and for a second everything narrowed to this point in time. His friend needed medical attention, and soon, and he was pale and in agony, and he was still talking, albeit slurring.
Garrett could do this for him. He could talk his heart out until the world was put right.
“Like I’m in one place enough to find a man, let alone fall in love with him.”
“Have a normal life, find your dancer.”
“What the fuck?”
The guns had silenced and he knew that it was just a matter of time before the men with the weapons and intention to kill would begin to circle around, cautiously checking behind the rock, finding two men—one with a stomach wound so severe that he wasn’t going to get out of here, and the other with a bullet in his lower back, and pain that radiated up his spine. He knew it was nearly time, Emmet knew it was nearly time, and yet there was a cautious acceptance and a hesitant smile on Emmet’s lips.
They’d been friends for over five years now, ever since Garrett signed up for the translating contracts. Five years of having each other’s backs, and it had all gone to hell.
“That little guy, the one you had a photo of… on… your phone.” Garrett coughed again, and this time the cough didn’t abate, even though he was desperately keeping it in.
“Tyler Hart, you mean?”
“Yeah, the singer, ass…” he coughed and there was blood there. He wiped it away, his hand shaking. “… and smile and dance moves.”
Garrett saw the blood, counted down the seconds until his friend’s death. “One day, buddy.”
“Not again, you want to hear it all again?”
Emmet nodded, blood on his lips, his eyes half closed.
“Yeah, my sister is marrying Tyler’s friend, I told you that story a million times.”
“Again,” Emmet sounded weaker.
And so, forcing back fears that threatened to steal his voice, at the anguish and pain on Emmet’s face, at the fact they wouldn’t see another day, he told Emmet how one day he would find Tyler and tell him about the poster the guys had put up on his wall, about the teasing, and the stories. He’d tell Tyler exactly what he felt, about how he had a stupid lusting crush on him, and he wouldn’t hold back on a single detail. The promise was an easy one to make; they weren’t getting off this mountain alive.
Men’s voices grew closer.
That was a bad sign, the language foreign but the meaning simple. They know we’re out of ammunition. Dead. Ours. We won.
And meanwhile Emmet was dying, and Garrett was so cold in the half light of early morning. When the first attacker appeared, lips drawn back in a snarl, cautious with his gun held straight in front, Garrett sighed quietly. He’d kind of known this was how things would end for him, ever since he signed on the dotted line as a translator. He tipped his chin and looked at the man who would be killing him in the eyes, steady and sure; he wasn’t afraid to die.
But he had regrets that were acid inside him.
That he’d failed on this last mission.
That he couldn’t save Emmet.
That his family would never know who he really was. And that he never once got to kiss a cutie who moved and sang like Tyler Hart.