Must Have Monday
Ryder Daniels has spent the last year recovering from rejection. His parents rejected him because of his sexuality and his lover decided drugs were more important than his love. The only bright light in his life is his younger brother and his rescued pit bull, But now his mother’s punishment for the lifestyle she doesn’t approve of has cut him off from his brother he loves so desperately. Devastated, he throws himself into the work of the Pit Bull Foundation he and his friends started.
Jason Mallory can no longer hide the dissatisfaction of his relationship with his longtime girlfriend. Her ultimatum to get married pushes him to break off their relationship and he’s determined not to jump into the dating scene. When a group of injured pit bulls are found on his construction site, he calls the neighborhood rescue for help.
After adopting one of the dogs, Jason finds he can’t forget Ryder, and the two become fast friends. Then one night, Ryder lets down his guard and Jason recognizes his desire. After Jason devises a plan to bring Ryder and his brother together, they can no longer deny the passion between them. Will family differences and ugly prejudices keep them apart, or can they fight to prove that love is precious, no matter the gender?
The pulse of the music pounded into Ryder’s brain. Why he allowed Connor and Emily to drag him here, he couldn’t say. They meant well, but he had no desire to chat up some random guy to have hurried sex in a bathroom stall or a dark hallway.
“Come on, let’s get some drinks. This place looks like it could be fun.” Connor pushed him toward the large glittering bar, waving at the shirtless bartender to get his attention. “Two beers, my man, with lime, and one Sea Breeze.” He grinned, and Ryder saw the bartender wink and smile at his friend.
“Another conquest, Con.” Poor guy would be sad to know Connor was here with his wife. And not into threesomes. Ryder accepted the mixed drink from his friend and passed it to Emily. She stood, facing the dance floor, enthralled by the men dancing, the light show, or both. “Em, here, take your drink.”
“Thanks.” Her hand reached out, but her gaze remained fixed on two men out on the floor. Their bodies were sinuously entwined, arms and lips pressed together. To Ryder, they looked hot, wild, and sexy as fuck.
“They are so free and beautiful, aren’t they?” He had to bend down to hear her. “I can’t see how anyone could think this is wrong.”
A tight little grin thinned his lips. “Well, obviously my parents do, since they have no desire to ever see me again unless I become ‘normal’ in their eyes.” He gulped half his beer, licking his lips afterward.
Connor draped an arm over his shoulder. “Screw ’em, I say. You’re doing nothing wrong. Live your life and find some happiness. We’ll always be here for you. You know that, right?” His friend’s arm tightened around his shoulder as Ryder nodded.
“They’ll come around one day, Ryder. You have to believe that. In the meantime, find someone to share your dreams with.” Ryder watched his friend’s gaze flicker over to Emily, who returned his look with her sweet smile. “It’s no good to be alone, man. It sucks the soul out of you.” Connor took his wife’s empty glass and placed it on a mirrored shelf next to where they were standing. “Now I’m going to dance with my wife, and I want you to find someone to dance with.” He took Emily’s hand and pulled her onto the floor.
Ryder chuckled and took another swallow of his beer. When he finished, he looked to put his bottle down, but instead caught the eye of a man who stood watching him. He recognized that look. It was one of heat, desire, and the need to get down and dirty as fast as possible. His groin responded, but he ignored it and instead returned to the bar to get another beer.
It took a while to make his way to the front of the bar and catch the bartender’s attention to order a drink. A large palm pressed against the small of his back. “Why did you turn away from me?” The voice murmured in his ear, sending tingles up his spine while a hard body pressed him into the wooden railing of the bar. An impressive erection nestled into the crease of his ass. He could feel the heat pouring off the man’s body.
Ryder froze. He took his change from the bartender, then spoke. “You need to take your hands off me.”
“Come on, I only wanted to talk and maybe get to know you better.” The man moved closer, rubbing himself against Ryder’s ass. In another minute the guy would be humping him in public.
That did it. Snarling, Ryder whipped around to face him. “I said back the fuck up, man.”
The stranger was extremely handsome. European, Ryder surmised, with a pale complexion, dark hair and eyes, and a full, sexy mouth that hinted at all things wicked. His six-foot-plus frame was clothed in an expensive suit, which did little to hide his broad shoulders and narrow waist. The thin shirt he wore pulled against the muscles of his chest, and Ryder could see the hard nipples poking through the silky fabric. Heat blazed in his glittering black eyes.
“I noticed you as soon as you walked in, so beautiful with your golden hair and skin and those bright blue eyes like a summer sky.” He licked his lips, drawing Ryder’s attention once more to their fullness. “I like your mouth too. I watched you drink your beer and wished your lips were wrapped around my cock instead of that bottle. Imagine, a grown man being jealous of a bottle.”
Ryder sucked in his breath. He’d never been so blatantly seduced. In his mind he pictured this man stripped bare, pale body, glowing damp with perspiration, draped over Ryder’s own naked flesh. If he wanted, he knew he could take him, lead him to the back, and have him on his knees within minutes. Ryder imagined sliding his zipper down, pulling out his dick, and stuffing the man’s sexy, full mouth.
Sex with a stranger, in a club. How predictable and fucking depressing.
Finishing his second beer, he reined in his temper. “I don’t like people touching me unless I give them permission first.” He leaned closer, catching a whiff of the man’s cologne, mixed with the faint aroma of tequila and sweat. “And I didn’t give you”–Ryder touched the man’s nose with his fingertip–“permission to touch me.”
A groan burst forward from the man’s mouth as he closed his eyes. Ryder took the opportunity to escape and join his friends on the dance floor. Emily slipped her arm around his waist. “What was that all about, sweetie? He looked hot and totally into you.”
Ryder shrugged and swayed his body to the music as he danced with his friends. “Nothing and nobody. Someone looking for a fuck buddy for the night.” The music changed, and he made a face. “I hate this song. Come on, let’s get another drink.” He grabbed her hand, pushing his way off the dance floor, Connor trailing behind them, grumbling about rude friends.
“I’ve got this round, Connor. What’ll it be?” It was so tight by the bar they overlapped shoulders. Connor, touchy-feely bastard that he was, clasped the back of Ryder’s neck, resting his hand there.
“Get me another beer and Em another Sea Breeze.”
He’d given the bartender his order when he came face-to-face with the man he’d left before. Only this time the sexy mouth was sneering, and his handsome face twisted in an ugly grimace.
“So you let this pretty boy touch you, but you disappear on me?” His anger had Ryder taking a step back, forcing Connor to grasp him around the neck. The man’s eyes flashed. “He came with a woman. I saw. You like it three way, maybe? I can arrange for that.” He stepped in closer, and Ryder knew he had to get out of there.
“I’m out.” He spoke over his shoulder to Connor. “See you tomorrow.” Ryder pushed past the man and hustled out of the club. The cold wind bit through his shirt. Shit, he forgot his jacket inside. He texted Connor to get it from the coat check and take it with him when he left. There was no way in hell he was going back in there. Hailing a cab was simple, and within minutes he was hurtling down Broadway back home. Another disaster. Letting his head fall back on the headrest, he closed his eyes, and as always when he was alone and depressed, his thoughts turned to his former lover, Matt.
Was the man even alive, or had the path he’d chosen–drugs over his love–sent him to an early grave? What a waste of life. Matt had been so vibrant and healthy when they’d first met at the gym. But his easygoing, California-surfer-dude mentality hid a dark side. Drugs had always been prevalent in the music industry, but Matt wasn’t into weed. He was into the hard stuff–heroin. Ryder begged him to get help, to go to rehab, but his boyfriend insisted he didn’t have a problem. Working for an Internet radio station gave him easy access to all the drugs he could ever want.
The last ugly episode, when Ryder came home to find Matt passed out with a needle on the floor, would remain forever scalded in his brain. Never in his life had he been so scared as he was at that moment.
“Matt, Matt.” His earsplitting screams had no effect on his unconscious lover. Waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Ryder thought he’d go mad. He tried slapping Matt, pushing him, anything to rouse him out of his stupor. But Matt remained unmoving.
Three days later in the hospital, still looking like shit, Matt tried to joke it off. “Come on, dude, it wasn’t so bad. I promise I’ll cut back.” He grinned that wide-open smile that before had always melted Ryder’s heart.
Not this time.
“I can’t do it anymore. You have to make the choice.”
Matt’s grin faded. “I don’t know, man. It makes me feel good. And life is about feeling good, you know?”
No, Ryder didn’t know. “I’m sorry, but no. I don’t want any part of it.” He stared at the man he thought he loved. Did he even exist anymore, or had the drugs leeched into him too deep to let go? Was he wrong, forcing him to choose? “Aren’t I enough to make you feel good?”
“If you loved me, you wouldn’t make me choose.” Matt’s face tightened in anger, and his brown eyes darkened. “But it’s no problem, dude. I’ll pick up my stuff and head over to Troy’s. He’s cool with me.”
Pain sliced through Ryder’s chest. He gasped. “Have you been sleeping with him?” Though they always practiced safe sex, he didn’t want to know his lover had cheated on him.
A sigh of relief escaped him when Matt shook his head. “Nah, man. Troy’s not gay. We’re friends.” His face softened. “I’m sorry, Ry. We had fun, though, right?”
Fun. That was all their year together meant to the man? Matt didn’t love him, never had. Ryder turned on his heel and left Matt’s room and the hospital.
He never saw Matt again.
The gruff voice of the cabbie interrupted his thoughts. “Hey, buddy. We’re here.”
Swiping his credit card, he tipped the driver, then took his receipt. He scrambled out of the cab, anxious to get inside and out of the cold night air. By the time he made it to the entrance, he was shivering. Clarence, the doorman, pulled open the door.
“Mr. Daniels, where is your coat? It’s freezing tonight, sir.”
Ryder chuckled. “Clarence, you’re like a mother hen. Connor has it, and I’ll pick it up tomorrow. I trust you had a nice holiday?” He pulled his keys out of his pocket.
The elderly, gray-haired doorman smiled. “Yes, all the grandchildren were there, and they kept my lap busy. I trust you had a nice holiday, sir?”
Ryder nodded and knew his strained smile didn’t fool the man. “Well, good night, Clarence.”
“Shane wanted me to tell you he walked Pearl and fed her tonight. He even stayed and played with her a bit. Good night, sir.”
“When you see him, tell him how much I appreciate it, please.” Ryder took the elevator to the sixteenth floor and was greeted by a whining Pearl. She hated being left alone. Ryder gave her some treats, drank two glasses of water, and after shedding his clothes, fell into bed. Within moments he was asleep, his arm around his dog.
* * * *
At eleven o’clock on Monday morning, Ryder sat, manning the phones at Rescue Me, when an emergency call came in.
“Tell me the address, please.” He jotted down an address in Red Hook, Brooklyn–an area well-known to harbor dogfighting rings. “Okay, we’ll be there within half an hour at the latest. Don’t touch the dogs, and give them plenty of space.” He hung up the phone. Emily was readying herself for the trip. She took out muzzles, large blankets, and some food and bowls.
“I’m ready, Ry. You’ll fill me in on the way there.” She, along with Laurel and Hardy, jumped in their van. Crates were clipped to brackets on the floor. Ryder slammed the door shut, and they started out for the drive to the construction site, where it seemed the foreman had come upon some pit bulls he didn’t know how to handle. Afraid of getting bitten, he called the rescue.
Not twenty minutes later, they were bouncing along the cobblestone and broken-up streets of one of Brooklyn’s strangest areas. On one block were some of the toughest housing projects in the city, and on the next were gentrified townhomes, IKEA, and expensive, charming restaurants. They pulled into a double-wide parking area, their van squeezing by a truck with Malloy Bros. Construction emblazoned on the side.
From the passenger seat, he could see a crowd of men standing around, some in hard hats, along with curious onlookers. One man in shirtsleeves, tall and beefy with curly brown hair, stood off to the side talking into a phone. It was the other man who caught Ryder’s attention.
He was tall, a few inches over six feet. His dark hair fell in loose waves that brushed the top of his collar and curled at the bottom of his neck. He was built strongly, and Ryder could see the muscles bulging through his button-down shirt. As cool as it had been on Thanksgiving, the temperature had risen to an almost balmy fifty degrees today. His shirtsleeves were rolled up to his elbows, showcasing his powerful arms.
“Wow, that is one cute guy.” Emily nudged him. “I see you staring at him. Make sure you go over and speak to him.”
Ryder scowled at her. “I’m here to work, not make a date.”
Emily squeezed his thigh and poked him. “Maybe you can do both.” She winked and gave him her saucy smile.
He kissed her cheek. “Now I see why you and Connor are perfect together. You’re both annoying.”
Her eyes sparkled as she kissed him back. “You love it. Come on, let’s go.” She opened the van’s door and hopped out.
When Ryder looked out the van’s window, he locked eyes with the dark-haired man’s intense stare. He licked his lips, inexplicably nervous.
What the hell is that about?
All thoughts fled as he saw a group of men approach the row of houses and start up the stairs. They had bats in their hands, and one held a chain. In a flash he jumped down from the van and raced toward the group of men.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
Copyright © Felice Stevens
Felice Stevens has always been a romantic at heart. She believes that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. She started reading traditional historical romances when she was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until she picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that her interest in romance novels became renewed.
But somewhere along the way, her tastes shifted. While she still enjoys a juicy Historical romance, she began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. And once she picked up her first, she became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, she knew she wanted to write her own.
Felice lives in New York City with her husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of her own. Her day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. She practices law but daydreams of a time when she can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.