Authors: Cameron Dane
A Younger Man
Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © 2012, Cameron Dane. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Liquid Silver Books
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
Recently divorced and out of the closet, Noah Maitland is a regular Joe, salt-of-the-earth kind of guy who is newly navigating the world of dating other men. So far he hasn’t had a lot of luck. Noah is a father first—he has two teenage sons. The owner of a handyman business in a small community, Noah wants someone to love who is also appropriate for where he is in his life.
Zane Halliday is a young man—much too young for Noah—who is struggling to take care of his brother and sister and meet his bills every month. Recently thrown out of his apartment, Zane stumbles on Noah, literally, and Noah offers Zane some much-needed help.
Each man is dealing with his own set of problems, and both crave someone to talk to and trust. Soon a friendship between Noah and Zane blossoms. But Noah could never fall for someone so much younger than he is—not to mention Zane is not gay. But what if sexually innocent Zane isn’t as straight as he assumed he was? How will Noah be able to resist this much younger man once Zane figures out the only person he wants is Noah?
For everyone who fell in love with Noah Maitland in
, this one is for you. I can’t thank you enough for all the encouragement and support. I hope you like Noah and Zane!—Love, CD
“Why won’t you at least go out with him?”
The female voice rang in Noah Maitland’s ears, the question rubbing his last nerve raw. Noah sat across the dinner table from his oldest son, Seth, and Seth’s girlfriend, Kim. After processing her comment—no, her nerve—Noah just barely held in the need to roar down the walls of his kitchen with a shout to get the hell out of his cabin. And Noah loved his son, loved the kid like hell. The boy had been his pride and joy from the moment his mother put the crying infant in his arms nineteen years ago on Thanksgiving morning. The only day that had matched his first son’s birth had been the night his second child, Matthew, had come into the world fourteen years ago. In this moment, though, Noah could only be grateful his youngest son hadn’t come to dinner with his eldest.
“Mr. Maitland, why won’t you at least go out with him?” Kim, this young redhead Noah hardly knew, continued to drill a hole into his forehead with her stare. “Ken is a really nice guy, and I’d be more than happy to set you up.”
Noah silently listened to the clock tick on the wall, and counted to ten.
She means well. Just breathe.
Only Noah’s knowledge and respect for how much Seth liked this Kim girl kept Noah from telling her to back the fuck off and get out of his face. But shit, the girl clearly had no sense of boundaries. Had Seth cleared this line of conversation with Kim before arriving for dinner? One glance at his son—the kid continually shifted in his chair and played with his glass—told Noah everything he needed to know.
still uncomfortable with me being gay.
Noah sighed and ran a hand through his hair. His chest ached with the new distance between him and Seth. “I don’t want you to set me up with this Ken person, Kim,” Noah kept his voice nice and even, “because you just finished telling me about his birthday party you went to last week—where he turned twenty.” Christ, the guy wasn’t even a full year older than Seth. “He’s way too young for me. It wouldn’t be appropriate.”
Kim brushed his comment aside with her hand. “People don’t care about stuff like age difference anymore when they’re dating; you go out with whoever you want, and screw anybody who doesn’t like it.”
Noah parted his lips to disagree—at least where his personal dating choices were concerned—when Seth blurted, “How can you even say you’re really gay anyway?” A hard edge filled Seth’s tone, and a glint of cold steel iced his usually warm hazel eyes. “You told Mom, you got your divorce, and you’re in your own place now. Matthew and I get to deal with shitty comments from people we thought liked us, but what for? You’re always home. You never fucking go out.”
“Hey.” Noah raised his voice. “Language, Seth.”
Seth snorted. “Matthew’s not here to hear me.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Noah replied. “You have a guest. Be respectful of that.”
“Kim has heard me curse before. But you know what,” Seth threw his arms up in the air, “fine. My point is still the same, and it’s one you don’t want to hear. You said you got divorced because you couldn’t ignore the fact that you’re gay anymore, but what has changed? You’re still home every night, just like you were when you lived with us and Mom. And whenever I or Matthew calls you, you’re never doing anything—like being on a date—that you can’t interrupt, so why did you even bother? How do you really even know you want to be with another dude if you never even go out and talk to one, or kiss one? You might as well have just stayed married and kept everything a secret.”
“And then your mom wouldn’t be with Tom right now,” Noah pointed out to his son.
“Oh,” Seth’s dark brows shot halfway up his forehead, “so this was about Mom then? Letting her go so she could be happy, not you.”
Backed into a corner, Noah couldn’t exactly tell his son—particularly not with the kid’s girlfriend sitting at the table—about Sirus. About this beautiful man whom Noah had found himself wildly attracted to, to the point where he wanted the guy so much he couldn’t hide his feelings anymore, only to discover Sirus was already passionately in love with someone else. By that point Noah had already separated from his wife—ex-wife now—only to find himself alone.
Haggard and weighed down all of a sudden, Noah could only say, “It’s complicated.” His gut twisted a little less now with thoughts of what might have been with Sirus, something that had in truth ended before it had even begun. “You’ll have to trust me on that.”
With pinpoint focus, Seth said back, “Or maybe you don’t really want to go out on a date with another man. Maybe you’re not as gay as you thought you were.”
Noah’s lip curled. “I know what I feel.”
Seth sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “So go out on a date with a guy and prove it.”
Words, phrases, lectures, pummeled Noah’s throat in their effort to get out. He slid a glance at Kim, someone not nearly close enough to Seth for Noah to consider her family, and pushed down the volume of frustration living inside him.
Through lips that barely moved, Noah looked at his son and said, “We’ll talk about your tone and how you’re behaving later.”
Seth started to rise from his seat, but Kim put her hand on his arm. “Maybe we should just relax and eat.”
Breathing, fighting the rise in his core temperature, Noah speared a roasted tomato with his fork. “I think that’s a good idea.”
Growling, using a rumbling noise Noah recognized as one he made himself when angry, Seth sat back down.
The rest of the meal was had in silence.
* * * *
Later that night Noah stared in the mirror, growling at himself in much the same manner his son had done during dinner. Noah took care of himself. His work, chiefly as a plumber but also as an overall handyman when needed by his clients, kept him in good shape. Great shape, even. And not just for a forty-two-year-old; just great shape in general. His eyes were a completely uninteresting, dull brown though; nobody would ever get lost in the depth of their blah color. But he still had a full head of hair, and only a very few grays were mixed in with the blond. He wasn’t classically handsome or arrestingly, sexily attractive in any way, but Janice, his ex-wife, had once told him he had a strong, honest look about him that people didn’t forget and that made a person feel safe.
Noah wouldn’t get laughed out of bars or left at a dinner table when a date excused himself to use the restroom.
So why haven’t you put yourself out there and gone on a date?
A year had passed since Noah had told Janice of his feelings for another man, and then had outed himself to Sirus, only to be sweetly rejected—which might have been more humiliating than if Sirus had just laughed in his face and told him to go away.
The truth was, as much as Seth’s accusations had pricked at Noah’s pride, his kid was right. Noah did need to put himself out there in the world. Otherwise he’d broken up their family for nothing. He might as well have stayed married and away from men—as he had done for over twenty years—if, as a single man, he intended to carry on as he had up till now, dateless and celibate.
Noah growled again.
But you’re not breaking that pattern with a twenty-year-old kid!
He would not humiliate himself or make himself the laughingstock of this town, or worse, become the newly gay, horny pervert chasing too-young men and turn himself into an even worse source for local gossip than he currently was. Noah’s skin already crawled with the sensation of people staring at him when he went to the grocery store or a restaurant for a meal. He was determined not to make his homosexuality an even bigger source for fodder—for himself, his children, and his ex-wife. By the same token, it was past time he got himself out into the world again.
It was time to go on a date. With a man.
Noah stumbled and went a little light-headed. He had one episode in his life with another male to draw on as his entire repertoire of sexual experience and knowledge of the same sex. The moment had occurred in college, and had involved little more than frantic kissing and basic foreplay.
Not at all like what you’ll be expected to do when you go out with another adult male.
A tremor rocked through Noah once more.
After taking a deep breath to steady himself, Noah treaded out of his room and picked up his phone to call Sirus and his partner Grey. If Noah was going to plunge into the dating world, he would need some advice about where to begin.
* * * *
“You can take or leave the offer.”
Clint’s final offer from a few hours ago rang in Zane Halliday’s head.
“It isn’t any skin off my ass either way.”
Tunneling his fingers through his hair, pulling at the roots, Zane didn’t know what the fuck to do. The RENT OVERDUE notice loomed large on the fridge in front of his face. The letter from the bank that his paycheck had bounced, explaining Zane now owed them money that they’d already given him when he’d cashed the check a week ago, was tacked right next to the rent notice—both of which caused his stomach to burn with sickness. Good God, he would have an ulcer before he turned twenty-five.
You could call Aunt Patty.
Zane’s gut twisted even harder.
She might give you the money without a hassle.
Even though nobody could see him, Zane vehemently shook his head.
Not a chance.
Suddenly the sound of the front door opening jerked Zane into action. He lunged forward, ripped the notices off the fridge and shoved them in the trash just as his younger brother called out, “We’re home!”
His little sister added, “I won a candy bar at the youth center today!”
Psyching himself up, and putting on a happy face, Zane entered the living area of their small apartment. “That’s awesome, Hailey.” He took her backpack off her shoulders for her and hung it on a hook by the door. “What kind?”
After pushing her dark hair off her face, Hailey whipped a wrapped sweet out of her jacket pocket. “Hershey bar with almonds.”
Zane unclipped the barrette that had slipped to the ends of his sister’s hair, gathered a handful of the long strands, and reaffixed the clip behind her ear. “Yum. You can have half of it after dinner if you want.” That done, Zane followed his brother to the tiny kitchen. “Duncan, did you remember to tell Mrs. Mangioni thank you for dropping you off?”
Duncan, in the way only a twelve-year-old can properly do, rolled his eyes at Zane. “Yes.” He pulled milk out of the fridge and lugged the gallon container to the table. “Just like I do every day. Just like I tell you when you ask every day.”
“Humor me.” Zane tugged on Duncan’s overlong auburn hair. “We’d be in a tough spot if she started to think we were ungrateful and you guys didn’t have that transportation anymore.” Zane had not had a car in close to a year. He took the bus or walked everywhere he needed to go. “Now tell me how school was today. Hailey, you start.”