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Trust

By Shawn Lane


Published by JMS Books LLC at Smashwords

Visit jms-books.com for more information.


Copyright 2018 Shawn Lane

ISBN 9781634866521

* * * *

Cover Design: Written Ink Designs | written-ink.com

Image(s) used under a Standard Royalty-Free License.

All rights reserved.


WARNING: This book is not transferable. It is for your own personal use. If it is sold, shared, or given away, it is an infringement of the copyright of this work and violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

No portion of this book may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts used for the purposes of review.

This book is for ADULT AUDIENCES ONLY. It may contain sexually explicit scenes and graphic language which might be considered offensive by some readers. Please store your files where they cannot be accessed by minors.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published in the United States of America.

NOTE: This book was previously published by Ellora’s Cave Publishing.

* * * *

Trust

By Shawn Lane

Prologue

“Hey, Brit, shouldn’t you be watching your boyfriend play?”

Justin Lowe didn’t glance up from the lined notebook he was writing furiously in. The sounds of the full-capacity crowd in the football stadium surrounded him.

“He’s in the red zone,” the man sitting next to him, Rick Driver, said.

It had taken Justin a few years after moving from England to California to get used to American football. It hadn’t made a bit of sense when he was thirteen but now as a freshman in college he actually liked it. Of course it was quite likely because his boyfriend of six months, Brad Callahan, was the quarterback on the team.

Justin closed his notebook and shoved it in his backpack. Sure enough, Brad’s team was close to making a touchdown.

Rick gave him a derisive look. “What are you writing in there, anyway?”

He was jotting down notes about the mystery novel he hoped to have published someday, but he was hardly going to tell that to Rick. He couldn’t stand Rick, but he was Brad’s oldest friend. They’d known each other since kindergarten. Rick went on and on about it every chance he got too. Justin was of the opinion the slim blond man hung around them so much because he was in love with Brad himself. But Rick claimed to be straight.

“Class notes,” he lied.

Rick snorted and mumbled something that might have been “dork” but Justin ignored him.

Brad threw a pass and the cheers in the crowd became deafening when the wide receiver caught it. He ran for the touchdown with only seconds left. Everyone stood, screaming. Justin found himself screaming as well.

* * * *

He and Rick waited at one of the stadium exits for Brad to come. Earlier he’d been surrounded by jubilant teammates.

Justin always felt a jolt of anticipation at seeing Brad after a game. Brad was generally pumped up and as horny as hell.

Brad came around the corner, holding his helmet, his dark hair plastered to his head with sweat, a big happy grin lighting his face.

“All hail the conquering hero!” Rick yelled, and ran to him, embracing him. “Man, you were awesome.”

“Thanks, buddy.” Brad ruffled Rick’s hair affectionately. He smiled at Justin. “Hey.”

“Hey, yourself. You were awesome. Great game.”

Brad nodded and pulled Justin to him in a brief hug. “I’m going to hit the showers. You guys wait for me in the parking lot out by the cars.”

“Don’t take too long. I’m starving,” Rick announced.

“I saw you eating two hot dogs in the stand,” Brad said. “Anyway, I won’t be long.”

“Sure, but I’m getting something to eat if you are.”

“Okay, okay. See you in a bit.” Brad headed down the path toward the lockers.

* * * *

The game seemed to have ended long ago with the last-minute victory and Justin thought Brad would have should have come outside to the parking lot by now. Rick had left at least a half an hour ago, saying he was fed up waiting and was hungry. The lot was nearly empty save for a handful of cars.

Justin supposed with the victory some of the team might be having an extra celebration. This would put them in an excellent position to be in the playoffs.

He straightened from his position leaning on Brad’s car and walked back to the locker room. The door handle turned easily.

“Brad, are you…”

By his locker, his jeans lowered down to his knees, stood Brad. Kneeling in front of his six-foot-three frame was one of the running backs, Justin forgot his name, working Brad’s hard cock in and out of his mouth.

Brad glanced Justin’s way at that moment.

“Holy fuck!”

Justin’s stomach lurched and he stumbled, dropping down on one knee. His heart squeezed. Bile rose in his throat.

Somehow he was aware of the running back scrambling to his feet, throwing a worried look at Brad and then running out of the locker room. Puffing out heavy breaths, Brad quickly refastened his jeans.

“Justin…I…What are you doing here?” Brad’s dark hair was tousled and his blue eyes were wide with shock and guilt.

“I came looking for you. To-to find out how much longer you were going to be.” Justin shook his head and grabbed for the nearest locker to hoist himself up. “I can’t do this.”

“Wait,” Brad said. He spoke quickly and his words were slightly slurred. Justin could smell the beer on his breath from where he stood. “That wasn’t what you think you saw.”

Justin couldn’t look Brad in the face. Couldn’t see the shame, the flushed cheeks. He turned away. “I have to get out of here.”

“No.” Brad grabbed his arm. “Justin, please I’m telling you that was nothing.”

Justin shrugged Brad’s hand off. “He had your cock in his mouth, Brad.”

Brad made a little noise that was half whimper, half sigh. “I’m sorry. It just happened. We didn’t even get that far.”

If he’d kicked Justin in the stomach it wouldn’t have hurt more. Justin clenched his fists and headed for the door that would allow him to escape the suffocating locker room. If only he could so easily escape the sight of Brad getting a blowjob from his teammate.

Brad chased him to the door and threw himself in front of Justin, blocking his exit. “Look, I know how this looks, but I’m telling you it was nothing. It meant nothing. I just had a little to drink. We were celebrating the win. Justin, you and I…we’re together.”

Justin swallowed heavily, shook his head. “Not anymore.”

“You don’t mean that,” Brad said, his expression vaguely panicked.

“Get out of the way, Brad.”

Brad searched his face, his blue eyes drifting over and over again, looking for something, Justin wasn’t sure what.

“You-you weren’t supposed to…”

“Weren’t supposed to come in? Find out? Ever know? Which is it, Brad?”

“I don’t know,” he said, his voice cracking.

“You always do this, don’t you?” Justin whispered, unable to stop the words from coming out.

“Do what?” Brad asked, his voice pained.

“I don’t know what it is about you, Brad, but you have to sabotage everything good in your life. You’ve done that your whole life. You sabotaged that movie deal they wanted to give you because you were such a cute kid. Sabotaged art school. Your football scholarship to Stanford. Sabotaged friendships. Even relationships with your family. The only person who’s been around for a long time is Rick and that’s because he takes your shit.”

“Justin…”

Tears stung Justin’s eyes. “I shouldn’t be surprised, really. But I guess I thought maybe I might be different. I thought you might care about me. But you found a way to sabotage us.”

Brad shook his head. “No.”

“Get out of my way.” Though Brad was larger by quite a bit, Justin must have caught him unprepared, for when Justin shoved Brad, he moved out of the way from the door easily. Justin wrenched it open.

“What about second chances, Justin? Aren’t you the one who told me you believe in second chances?” Brad’s voice was low.

Blinking away tears, Justin nodded. “I thought I did. Goodbye, Brad.”

* * * *

Chapter 1

Thirteen Years Later

Brad Callahan had just forked a bite of chili when the alarm sounded. He shoved the bite in his mouth and scrambled up from the dining table in the fire station. He followed the other men out to the trucks.

“Car accident,” his captain announced. “Off the side of the freeway near the Balboa exit.”

Brad hurried to the paramedic truck and seated himself in the passenger side. His partner Jeff Reeves started the truck and pulled out of the station. The fire engine followed with the rest of the crew.

It had been an unexpectedly wet week with today being the fourth rainy day in a row. January and February were the rainy months in Southern California if there was any rain at all. And no one seemed to know quite how to drive in the rain. Brad had been out at accidents every day since the storms started.

Sirens blaring, Jeff drove onto the freeway and headed in the direction of the accident. Some cars got out of the way, others didn’t really have any place to go. It was jammed.

“This is going to take forever,” Jeff muttered.

This being January, it was dark at six thirty, and with the rain pouring down, it made it difficult for Brad to see far ahead. He estimated they were still about two miles from the accident.

“Goddamn Californians don’t know how to drive,” Jeff said.

Brad smiled a little. Jeff was originally from New York and still had his Bronx accent though he’d been in California for twenty of his thirty-five years. He was a big guy much like Brad himself. They’d both played football in high school and college. Jeff was a little thicker around the middle, which he assured everyone was because of his Mexican wife’s excellent cooking.

Jeff pressed the horn and another car moved, allowing the paramedic truck to just squeeze through. He drove up on the shoulder and managed to find a clear path to the overturned sedan.

Brad grabbed their equipment and headed for the car. He crouched next to the driver’s side to see a young blond man of perhaps twenty-five wearing a seat belt. The airbag had deployed and there was a large gash across the man’s forehead. Brad checked his vital signs.

The engine had pulled up behind their truck and the captain rushed over and bent down next to Brad. “How is he?”

“DOA.” Brad shook his head and stood to go to the other side of the car where Jeff had gone.

“Passengers?” the captain called.

“Just one,” Jeff said. “He’s alive, Cap, but he’s pretty jammed in. May need the jaws.”

“Got it.”

Brad crouched down next to him. The passenger had likewise been wearing his seat belt and the airbag had been deployed. A large bruise was already forming on his cheek and a cut above his eye was gushing blood. The man’s sun-streaked light brown hair was matted with blood.

Brad’s heart squeezed in his chest. It…it couldn’t be, but it was. He nearly stopped breathing.

Jeff frowned. “Hey, Callahan, isn’t that the mystery writer guy you read? He looks like the photo on the back covers.”

Somehow Brad found his voice, though it came out weak. “Yeah, that’s him. Justin Lowe.”

* * * *

Brad stared at the closed doors leading to the intensive care unit. He was shaking all over and couldn’t seem to stop. Had been since seeing Justin lying in the wrecked car, pale and bleeding. Near death.

As soon as his shift ended, Brad changed into jeans and a blue polo shirt and came straight to the hospital where Justin had been taken.

He hadn’t even known Justin was in California. Didn’t his biography on both his books and website say something about upstate New York?

God, Justin.

“Brad, what are you doing here?”

Brad turned to face the pretty African-American nurse who called out to him. He knew many of the staff in the area hospitals. “Hi, Gretchen. I was just wondering how the accident victim we brought in is doing.”

“Oh, the writer? He’s critical. They’re watching him closely for brain swelling.”

No, please.

“The press has been calling ever since they learned of the accident,” Gretchen said. She sighed, crossing her arms. “We’ve already had some trying to get in to take pictures.”

Brad swallowed the bile rising to his throat. Paparazzi in Los Angeles were like piranhas.

“Listen, Gretchen, do you think I might be able to see him for a minute?”

“You? Why? Brad, you know only immediate family is permitted.”

Brad nodded. “I know but…Justin has no family out here anymore.”

“Do you know, Mr. Lowe?”

“Yeah, we…we were good friends once.” Brad blanched. His heart threatened to leap into his throat.

Gretchen stared at him, her mouth twisting in consideration. “All right, but only for a few minutes. Come with me.”

He followed her through the double doors and past several rooms, most of which were merely covered by curtains. He heard groans of pain coming from some of the rooms and low but poignant weeping from the room next to where Gretchen led Brad.

“Wait here,” she told him. “I’m going to tell his nurse.”

Brad stood outside the room covered with one of those ringed curtains. He felt sick and wasn’t sure he should even be there.

Justin’s nurse, an older woman with gray curls, piercing blue eyes and a name tag that said Betty, walked over to him. “Are you a family member?”

“No, ma’am. I-I used to know Justin. I don’t know where his family is now. I’m one of the paramedics who were called to the accident.”

Betty appeared unimpressed but she shrugged. “Two minutes. We’re keeping him sedated so he won’t even know you’re here.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She sniffed and drew the curtain aside to reveal Justin looking very small and ghostly white in the hospital bed. Tubes stuck out of him and a white bandage had been wrapped around his head.

“Two minutes,” the nurse said again then sort of nudged him in the direction of Justin and pulled the curtain closed behind him.

Brad walked within touching distance of Justin. He was so pale Brad could see little blue veins beneath his skin. Justin’s lips were almost as pale as his skin and there was a cut and a bruise next to his mouth.

He had an uncontrollable urge to touch his former lover’s face. His hand shaking, Brad reached out and touched his index finger along Justin’s cold cheek. Somehow it seemed a violation. He had no right to touch this man. He’d lost that right years ago.

His chest constricted and he dropped his hand away from Justin. His ex had always been smaller than him. Justin was five feet eight inches tops. But lying helpless in the hospital bed he appeared even smaller and frailer. Just as heartbreakingly beautiful, though.

Justin wouldn’t want him there, of course. Brad was well aware Justin hated him. He’d screwed up bad in college, and even after Justin walked out of the locker room, Brad had tried to talk to him. Justin would have none of it and had even moved away to avoid Brad. He’d given up then, not wanting to be Justin’s stalker.

Still, he followed Justin’s very successful career as a mystery novelist. Brad always knew he would do well.

The curtain moved and Brad knew his time was up. Had been thirteen years ago, really. The foolish prick of tears stung his eyes. The heartache never went away.

“Time’s up,” Betty said unnecessarily. She stood with her hands on her hips, looking like a bird protecting her baby in the nest.

“How is he doing?” Brad asked.

The old nurse shrugged. “About as well as can be expected. Airbag saved his life but he hit his head pretty hard. Doctors are monitoring him and so far there’s no swelling of the brain.”

Brad nodded, aware one of the tears he’d tried to hold back fell hotly against his cheek.

Betty’s face seemed to soften a bit. “Want to be sure there’s no spinal damage too.”

Oh God.

Brad stepped away from the bed and Betty closed it off again. He felt a little lightheaded.

“You can come back tomorrow if you want,” Betty said with a sniff. “In the morning.”

Brad found he couldn’t speak so he mouthed the words thank you and walked back through the double doors and out into the regular wing of the hospital.

* * * *

Brad pulled the orange juice carton out of his apartment refrigerator and drank directly from it. He lived alone so there was no one to scold him.

He’d showered but hadn’t bothered to shave. He ran his hand over his five o’clock shadow to wipe off the juice that had dribbled there. The toaster flipped up and he scooped up his waffles and set them on a paper towel. Maybe not the best breakfast but it was something.

The phone on the kitchen bar rang. “Hello.”

“Hi, honey.”

“Mom, what’s up?”

“Nothing, just checking on my baby.”

Brad rolled his eyes. “I’m a little old to be your baby.”

“Says who? Anyway, I wanted to know if you wanted to come by for dinner tonight.”

He took a bite of waffle. “Can’t. I have to work.”

“Work? Didn’t you just finish your shift yesterday?”

“Uh-huh. I volunteered to cover someone else’s.” Brad returned the carton of juice to the fridge.

“Brad.”

“Mom.”

She sighed heavily. “You work too much. I’m worried about you. You don’t get enough rest.”

“I’m thirty-two years old. I can take care of myself.” Brad walked into the living room to search for his keys.

“But you aren’t taking care of yourself. Do you ever go on any dates, Brad?”

He pulled the phone away from his ear and glared at it. “No. Look, I have to go.”

“I don’t want you to spend the rest of your life alone.”

“Maybe that’s what I want, okay, Mom?”

“People make mistakes, Brad. How long are you going to let this penance of yours go on?” If there was one thing he hated it was being analyzed by his mother. Okay, so she did that for a living but he wasn’t a patient.

He gritted his teeth. “Mom, I really have to go. I’ll call you later. I can come over for dinner next week. Bye.”

Brad tossed the phone on the nearby couch, shoved the last bite of waffle into his mouth, and left the apartment. He had just enough time to check on Justin before he had to get to the station.

* * * *

Brad entered the small private room Justin had been moved to that morning according to his new nurse Louise. The doctors felt he’d improved tremendously and would wake any time.

Justin still looked pale and small in the bed. Brad was happy to hear they no longer feared any brain swelling or spinal damage.

Louise told Brad they hadn’t located any family for Justin and wondered what he knew. He knew that both of Justin’s parents had passed away and his brother lived somewhere in Europe. He didn’t confess he only knew that from reading Justin’s website.

Brad pulled up a chair next to the hospital bed.

“Hey, you. They say sometimes those who are unconscious can still hear the people around them, so I brought a book to read to you.” He waved the paperback of Justin’s latest novel. “It’s probably a bit familiar to you.”

And so he read a few passages of the first chapter to Justin. He couldn’t stay long, of course. He was expected at the station in less than an hour. But if Justin was going to wake soon his time was limited.

Brad wanted Justin to wake. Prayed for it even. It meant, though, that his visits with his former lover were nearly through. Once Justin woke, he would throw Brad out.

Brad learned thirteen years ago if you pissed off Justin he stayed that way. The day Brad finally gave up was the day about two months after the locker room incident when he’d called and left a message for Justin to meet him at a local park just to talk. Brad sat on the park bench for hours past the time he’d asked Justin to meet him. It grew dark before Brad got up and left. He learned only a few days later through a mutual acquaintance Justin was moving out of state.

He closed the book. “Genius, wouldn’t you say?”

Brad got no response from the unconscious man.

Standing and stretching, Brad knew it was time to leave. He took a few steps to gaze down at Justin’s face. Almost of its own accord, his hand reached out again to touch Justin. He stopped himself in time.

“You know you never let me tell you all those years ago, but I guess there isn’t anything stopping me now. I’m sorry I screwed us up. More sorry than you can imagine.”

Justin’s eyes fluttered.

Brad held his breath.

The light brown lashes lifted, lowered then lifted again. Though Justin’s olive green eyes were unfocused, he was looking at Brad.

Brad swallowed the emotion clogging his throat. He should get the nurse to tell her Justin was awake.

“Brad,” Justin said in the barest whisper.

“Yes.”

The lashes lowered again, in a painful slow-motion kind of way. “Road.”

“What? Justin, what?”

Justin’s eyes opened. “Off the road.”

Brad nodded. “Yes, you went off the road.”

Justin made a little noise somewhere between a sigh and a whimper.

“Shh, it’s all right. I’m getting the nurse.” Brad pressed the call button for the nurse.

The door of the room opened a few seconds later. Louise, a middle-aged woman, stood in the doorway with her hands on her hips.

“He’s awake,” Brad told her.

She bustled in. “Wonderful. Hello, Mr. Lowe, my name is Louise. I’m going to get the doctor to check you out in a moment. But first I’m going to check your vitals. Can you tell me how you feel?”

Justin shook his head a little, his gaze staying on Brad. “Brad…”

Louse glanced at Brad too. “I’m afraid you’ll have to go for now, Mr. Callahan.”

Brad went to move, but Justin reached out and grabbed his wrist in a surprisingly strong grip. Brad frowned.

“Forced off the road,” Justin said.

Brad’s stomach dropped. “What?”

“Mr. Callahan, please,” Louise admonished. “You need to leave. You can come back later to see Mr. Lowe.” The nurse removed Justin’s cold hand from Brad’s wrist. “Be still, Mr. Lowe. You can visit with your friend later. Do you know where you are?”

Brad bit his lip and stepped away from the bed. Justin must be suffering from the accident or something. He couldn’t mean they were actually forced off the road, could he? He glanced at his watch. Damn, he really did need to go.

“I’ll be back, Justin,” Brad called from the door. He only hoped Justin would want him to come back.

* * * *

Chapter 2

They hadn’t had a normal first date. There hadn’t been a time when Brad asked Justin out or he’d asked out Brad. In fact, when Justin first noticed Brad in a freshman literature class, he hadn’t even guessed Brad was gay. Justin spent the first two weeks of that class staring at the good-looking, athletic, dark-haired man and daydreamed him into every fantasy.

Then one rainy night when he found himself leaving campus a little later than usual, he noticed Brad’s car pulled over to the side of the road, broken down. Brad was bent over, looking under the hood. Justin didn’t know a thing about cars, but he drove over and parked next to Brad anyway.

“Hi, need any help?” Justin had asked as he got out and approached Brad. “I’m Justin Lowe. We have lit class together.”

Brad smiled and grasped his hand. “I know who you are. Brad Callahan.”

“I know who you are too. Everyone knows. You’re on the football team.”

Brad brushed a wet lock of brown hair off his forehead. “Know anything about engines?”

“No, sorry. Can I call someone for you or give you a ride? I don’t live too far. We can call someone for you from there. And you can get dry.”

“Yeah, that would be cool. I can call my dad.”

Even then, as Justin drove Brad to his tiny studio apartment, he didn’t think Brad shared his sexual orientation. And even if he had thought about it he would not have thought Brad would be attracted to him.

“Damn, my dad’s not home.” Brad frowned at the phone. “Can I leave him your number?”

Justin gave Brad his number and Brad left a message. Justin offered to make coffee and then dinner as neither of them had eaten yet.

He didn’t know how he had the nerve to ask, but Justin blurted out during dinner, “So do you have a girlfriend?”

Brad smiled. “No. Actually, Justin, I’m gay. What about you? Have you got a special girl?”

Justin had stared at him, dumbfounded.

“Justin? Are you freaked out because I’m gay?”

“No, I…no. I’m gay too. I just didn’t think, you know, a jock—”

Brad smiled. “I know, I know, I get that a lot. It’s okay.” He stood. “Let me help you clear the table.”

Justin stood too. “I can get this. Why don’t you try your dad again?”

Brad walked to the phone and tried his call. Justin threw the dirty dishes in the sink, figuring he’d just take care of them when Brad left.

“Still no answer. I guess maybe I should call a tow truck.” But Brad didn’t pick up the phone again. He stared at Justin. Silence stretched between them.

Justin took a step toward Brad, his gaze searching Brad’s.

“Justin,” Brad whispered. He crossed the distance between them. His hand reached up to cup Justin’s jaw, his thumb brushed Justin’s bottom lip.

Justin shook and closed his eyes just before Brad’s mouth lowered to his. The press of Brad’s warm mouth sent jolts of lust through Justin. Brad’s tongue prodded his lips open and it slipped in.

He moaned low and pushed Brad against the wall, his hands inching across Brad’s abdomen, shoving up the hem of Brad’s T-shirt.

Brad helped him, reaching down to yank the shirt up and over his head. “Condom and lube?”

Justin nodded. “In the bathroom. I’ll be right back.” He’d hoped he wasn’t dreaming. Hoped Brad wouldn’t be gone when he returned with a condom and lube. Justin had pulled off his own shirt and tossed it in the wicker basket he used as a hamper. He kicked off his shoes too. Reaching under the sink, he’d grabbed a foil packet and the tube of lube and walked back into the main room of his studio.

He was delighted to find Brad had not only not left or disappeared, but he’d lowered Justin’s Murphy bed and pulled back the blankets. He’d also already unzipped his jeans.


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