Kokoro Press Ratings:
Happy Ever After (HEA) – YES
Heat rating – 2 Flames – Stories will have some love scenes. These will be more sensual then graphic and will mostly rely on euphemism.
Cover art: Les Byerley
Damien and Christian are best friends with VERY different destinies. One faces eternal bliss while the other is headed straight to hell.
Damien has a lot going for him. A recent college graduate, he’s landed the perfect job and has already purchased his first home. What he doesn’t have is someone to share his success with. When his best childhood friend Christian pays him a visit, Damien discovers Christian is headed into the ministry. He’s going to be a missionary to Brazil. Before leaving Christian wants to say goodbye to Damien and try to convince him to turn his life over to God. Christian fears that Damien’s hedonistic homosexual lifestyle can lead his friend to one tragic destination: hell.
The two go out for breakfast together and engage in a heated debate. Still upset, Damien pulls out in front of a semi-truck and both of them are hurled into eternity. What happens next? Only the devil knows…
“What is that fucking pounding?” Damien groaned and covered his head with the pillow.
“Dude, someone’s at your door.” The voice came from beside him, the overnight guest that Damien had brought home with him. Gary, was it, or Jerry? Damien couldn’t remember.
“Oh, what time is it?” Damien’s question came out more like a moan.
“It’s after nine, man. Look, I should probably get going. Think I could use your shower first?”
Damien uncovered his head and looked over at the cutie beside him. He smiled sincerely. “Sure, knock yourself out. Towels are in the linen closet just inside the door. You get your shower and I’ll get the door.”
Just then another round of pounding commenced. “Hold on!” Damien screamed at the top of his lungs. Gary/Jerry winced, then smiled. He leaned in and kissed Damien on the forehead, then slid out of bed. Wow, sweet ass. Too bad Damien was too hung over to remember whether or not he’d actually tapped it the night before.
Clad only in his boxers, Damien swung the front door open, expecting a solicitor or salesperson of some sort. His mouth dropped open when he realized who it was. “Christian! What’re you doing here?”
“I’m home on summer break, and I thought I’d drop by. Wondered if you’d wanna grab breakfast or something.”
“Dude, come on in,” Damien said. He reached out, placed his hand on the back of his friend’s shoulder and guided him into the house. He quickly closed the door and ran a hand through his hair. “Let me throw some clothes on real quick. You want coffee or something?”
“Uh, no, but thanks. Go right ahead and get dressed. I’m real sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Well, have a seat. Turn on the TV if you want. Remote’s on the coffee table. Give me a minute or two and I’ll be right out.”
In the bedroom, Damien cringed as he took in his reflection in the mirror over his dresser. His hair looked as if he’d just stepped out of a wind tunnel, and the dark circles under his eyes reminded him he needed at least another dozen hours of sleep. “Ugh,” he groaned. Of all mornings for Christian to make an unannounced visit.
The two had been best friends all through grade school. They’d met in kindergarten and were close all the way up through middle school. In high school, they’d drifted apart somewhat, mainly because Christian had transferred to a private school, some religious academy. Once in a while they got together, but things weren’t quite the same. They’d last seen each other the previous year when Damien graduated with his bachelor’s degree. Christian had come to the ceremony, and Damien was touched by the sentiment.
Damien’s guest was using the shower in Damien’s room. He had a bathroom connected to his bedroom. He heard the water shut off and spoke through the door. “Hey, man…uh, I’ve got company. A friend of mine showed up and we’re going for breakfast. Wanna join us?”
The door opened and Gary/Jerry stood there, a towel wrapped around his waist. “Oh hey, I appreciate the offer, but I should get going. Hope you don’t think I’m being rude. It’s just that, well, I’ve probably got someone waiting for me.”
“Oh, no problem. You could’ve, ya know, said something. I would have set the alarm for you.”
Gary/Jerry shook his head and waved his hand dismissively. “Nah. It’s okay. Marcus just gets a little worried when I don’t call. I just sent him a text, though.”
“Yeah, my boyfriend.”
Damien raised his eyebrows. “You have a boyfriend?”
“Oh, don’t worry. We have an open relationship, and Marc’s not the jealous type.”
“When I tell him about you, he might even be up for a little, ya know, ménage trois, if you know what I mean.” He gave Damien a suggestive wink.
“Um, I’ll keep that in mind. You want us to give you a lift back to the bar on our way to breakfast.”
“Nah. Just give me your address and I’ll call a cab.” He sidled up next to Damien and planted a kiss on his lips, then made a face. “Morning breath,” he whispered, then laughed.
Damien rolled his eyes and stepped into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
* * * * *
When Damien and his houseguest stepped into the living room, Christian glanced over at them. A shocked expression eclipsed his smile as he continued to stare.
“Christian, this is my friend, um, Jerry.”
“Jared,” his companion corrected him.
“Sorry. Uh, this is Jared. And Jared, this is my best friend, Christian. We went to school together.”
“Nice to meet you, Christian.” Jared’s voice dripped with sugary sweetness as he extended his hand. Christian stood up and stepped over to greet him.
“Likewise,” Christian replied, stone-faced.
“Ah…I see what’s going on here,” he said to Christian. “Well, guy, don’t worry. I’m not interested in your boyfriend here. I already have one of my own. Daniel and I were just having a little fun…a one-time thing, ya know.”
“Damien,” Damien corrected him with a stage whisper.
“Yeah, sorry. Damien.”
Christian looked perplexed. “Damien and I are not boyfriends,” he said. “I’m not a homosexual.”
Jared shook his head. “Too bad. Well, my cab’s here. It was nice meeting you both.” He turned and opened the front door, then winked before crossing the threshold.
Damien stood there looking at Christian for a couple moments. The stony silence was deafening.
“Um, not exactly how I wanted to come out to you.” He nervously ran a hand through his hair and bit his bottom lip.
“Well, I’m kind of glad it’s out in the open because I have to be honest. Your alternative lifestyle is the reason I’m here.”
Damien moved into the living room to a recliner opposite the sofa where Christian had been seated. Christian returned to his seat, sitting on the very edge of the cushion and leaned forward as he looked into Damien’s eyes. “I’ve known for some time, and I’m very concerned about you.”
The sincerity of Christian’s expression, his translucent blue eyes now wide and staring into Damien’s face, touched Damien’s heart. He didn’t sense judgment or even a hint of animosity from his friend. In fact, Damien felt a wave of emotion sweep over him and wanted nothing more than to embrace his dear friend, the one person he’d most feared coming out to.
“You know I’ll always love you, right?” Christian asked. “We’ve been, like, best buds all our lives.”
“I know.” Damien felt embarrassed to have choked on his own words. He gulped, hoping to clear the lump in his throat and tried to hold back the tears that were now forming in his eyes. “How did you find out?”
Christian shrugged. His slender frame was lithe and appealing to Damien. He’d always gone for sleek guys more so than bulky. Perhaps it was the contrast that attracted him, being that he possessed an athletic build himself. And Christian, even back in grade school, had always seemed vulnerable. Damien was often his protector—a bodyguard, so to speak—when he was victimized by would-be bullies.
Maybe that was why Christian had turned to religion. It was a sort of shield. It also provided cover, Damien suspected, when people mocked Christian for being softer or sissified. No, he’s not queer. He’s just special. Deeply religious.
As Damien came into his adolescence and fully discovered his own same-sex attractions, he’d hoped Christian would do the same. He wanted to open up to his best friend and tell him the feelings he’d harbored for so long. But that was right around the time Christian changed schools, and their relationship devolved. They no longer had as much opportunity to spend time with each other, and Damien was very active with sports and other school activities. Their friendship kind of fell by the wayside.
Perhaps Christian was at last ready to open his heart and acknowledge that he too was gay. Damien leaned forward in his seat and rested his elbows on his knees.
“Well, you know there is always talk,” Christian said. “Rumors. And I could tell by some of the things you posted on Facebook…”
“Oh, right. You mean the stuff about the marriage equality issue? I was pretty active with the college student union. LGBT rights were one of our causes…”
Christian rolled his eyes, then took a deep breath and released a sigh. “I too have been involved in several civic-minded causes.”
It was an odd change of topic, but Damien nodded. “Oh yeah?”
“In fact, I’m quite active with the local chapter of the National Organization for Marriage.”
“Huh? Isn’t that the anti-group?”
“I wouldn’t call it that,” Christian said before clearing his throat. He straightened his shoulders and sat upright. As he raised his chin and tossed back his head slightly, the gesture seemed incredibly gay to Damien. He couldn’t help but smile.
“Well, that’s kind of disappointing, that we’d be on opposite sides of an issue like that. I kind of thought you might be more supportive.”
“Damien, I’ll always support you. I think you know that. As I just said, you’re my best friend and I love you.”
“But you don’t want me to have the same rights as everyone else?”
He again leaned forward and reestablished eye contact. “I think we’re getting off track. Why don’t we head out for breakfast, and we can continue our conversation after you get some caffeine in your veins.”
Damien slapped his palms against his knees and nodded. “Now that sounds like an excellent idea. Can’t imagine arguing politics on an empty stomach.” He gave his friend a sincere smile. Christian really was cute; it was too bad he was so messed up with his religion, though.