Elijah Kerrigan is gay with two big strikes against him: his father is a preacher and he himself is a professional baseball player. Divorced from a sexless marriage, he feels that coming out of the closet would destroy his life and, worse, hurt his parents whom he deeply loves. He plans on being alone for the rest of his life, but he doesn't count on meeting Wesley Grayson.
Wesley Grayson is a tall, handsome young artist and the son of a famous rock star. The moment he lays eyes on Elijah, he knows the two of them are destined to be together. Wesley's developing psychic powers leave him so drawn to the handsome ballplayer that he is certain he's found his eternal soulmate. Out of the closet and comfortable in his skin, Wesley introduces Elijah to hot, kinky gay sex and a leather club that melts his boy in his arms. But that doesn't make the relationship easy; Elijah's still deeply in the closet.
Two homophobic thugs team up with a female tabloid writer and threaten to expose Elijah's secret. Will he have to abandon the best thing he's ever had to keep his family and his career? Wesley has no intention of letting go of him, but, in the end, unless Elijah mans up, it may not be his choice.
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Loose Id, LLC
April 04, 2011
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Excerpt from Manning Up by J. T. Steele
Elijah Kerrigan took a soothing sip of hot coffee, still reeling from his ex-wife's stinging words as they'd stood outside the courtroom less than an hour ago. He had ducked into a small coffee shop to be alone. He tried to relax but was finding it difficult. While relieved to be free of his sham marriage, he worried about Janine's threat to write a book about their almost nonexistent sex life unless he coughed up more money than he'd offered her. After all, wasn't he one of the highest paid baseball stars in the United States? She wanted all of his money, not just half of it. Maybe he should let her have every last dime and screw it. Life sucked sometimes.
Elijah sipped on his coffee again, hoping the New York Yankees cap -- a team he had never played for -- plus his dark sunglasses would keep him from being recognized. It was midday, and the coffee shop off the main drive in downtown Chicago was empty except for him. He hoped it stayed that way. He was in no mood to be visited by fans but couldn't quite go home to his empty house yet either. He'd lived with Janine longer than he'd wanted to, partly to look good to the public and also because he loathed being alone. Yet to act on his greatest need, to actually find a man he could love, might destroy him. If Janine didn't ruin him first.
The coffee shop's door swung open with a cool gust of wind, and a tall, good-looking man sauntered in. He had an appealing boyishness about him with his shaggy dark blond hair and a devil-may-care grin. As he happened to glance in Elijah's direction, Elijah got a good look at his merry blue eyes and strong, classic features. His full pink lips were perfect for kissing. Elijah dropped his gaze to the man's hand, clutching a large sketchpad. Even with curled fingers, his hand looked big. Elijah felt a wave of dizziness and shame as he wondered how hard that hand could slap his ass. He hoped his face hadn't turned red. He often fantasized about being dominated by some gorgeous man who was even stronger than him. Not many men were, but this guy looked very capable of manhandling him. Elijah's cock stirred, and he took a long bracing drink from his mug, keeping his eyes on the new arrival. The man wandered up to the counter and immediately started flirting with the cashier. All the good ones are straight. The man swept his hair off his face and grinned at her, and Elijah, hunched over in his corner booth, tried to hear them. He couldn't make out the man's words, but the girl had a loud voice that carried.
"Wesley Grayson, of course I know what you want," she said, batting her eyelashes at him. "An Irish cream latte, like always. I'd think an artist like you would prefer more variety, since you're a creative sort."
Elijah didn't move, willing himself to hear Wesley's answer. This time Wesley spoke up, his voice a deep, pleasant drawl, as if he'd spent some time in the South before moving up to Chicago. Or maybe he was visiting. "I'm creative in my art but habitual in the rest of my life," he said cheerfully.
Elijah took another sip of coffee, envying the artist. He wished he could be so problem free and breezy, void of secrets. Wesley exuded confidence, and it was undeniably attractive. He assessed the man with a sharper eye as Wesley waited for his latte to be made.
The hunk stood well over six feet tall, probably close to his size, and wore a rock band T-shirt, tattered jeans, and beaten-up gym shoes. There was an athletic look about him. He was buff, and his shoulder and thigh muscles strained the material of his clothes. Elijah was aware that his own shaft was straining his zipper. To have a man like that...
He'd never had a man at all. He'd forced himself to bed women only, knowing his family would throw him out if he even breathed the word "homosexual." His preacher father and religious mother would disown him. And what about his brother? He loved his younger brother and didn't want to lose his respect. Elijah knew he was doomed to be alone the rest of his life -- pretending to his family that he lived a playboy's existence. Hell, pretending to his fans...
It would almost be a relief if Janine blew his cover, although he hadn't really confessed. She had accused him, because of the lack of sex, and he just hadn't denied it. If his teammates ever caught wind of her accusation, he would be finished as a ballplayer. The macho world of sports often set his teeth on edge. A steady flow of gay jokes -- especially from two of the other stars -- made him want to beat the crap out of his teammates. They had no idea why he was aloof from them, just thought him a quiet sort.
"Elijah Kerrigan, right?"
Elijah looked up and caught his breath, finding himself staring at the imposing Wesley Grayson, who was holding a to-go cup of coffee. Instead of being annoyed at the attention, he felt tongue-tied and intimidated. What for? He probably just wants an autograph. "I don't have a pen," he said in a cool voice, pleased that he'd sounded so controlled. "If you have one, I'll sign."
Wesley gave him the sexiest grin he'd ever seen, and chills shot through his veins. He could feel the sexuality oozing off the man's hot body. Still, he forced himself to remain stoic.
"I'm not an autograph collector," he said in a good-natured voice, surprising him. "Actually, when I saw you walk in here, I admit I followed you without letting you know it." He took a seat across from him, and Elijah's heart sped up.
"You followed me." The thought both excited him and made him wary. "If you don't want an autograph, what is it?"
Wesley raised his sketchbook and replied, "I'm an artist," then leaned back, looking for all the world like a sleepy schoolboy in a man's body. He took another sip of his coffee, and Elijah found that simple gesture incredibly sexy.
"I really didn't notice."
"Of course not. A big celebrity like you wouldn't...although...in my world, I'm getting to be a celebrity too." He grinned again, and it lit up his face, blowing Elijah away. "But an artist isn't the same as a baseball player. I'm sure you try to hide from fans."
Elijah mumbled and half-shrugged, too befuddled by the grin to speak.
Wesley didn't seem to notice. "This is a good place to hide; you must have figured out that it's quiet at two p.m. on the weekdays. People are working, and your season is over. Too bad about that last series. You guys almost made the playoffs."
"Almost doesn't count," he said.
"Well, it was an exciting year for fans like me. I can't tell you how honored I am to meet the greatest player Chicago has ever had."
Elijah couldn't help smiling. He was so engaging and charismatic and really made him feel good. Elijah knew he was far from the best player Chicago had ever had. "Thank you."
"I wanted to know if I could paint you for my nephew."
Elijah froze up. He hadn't expected this and wasn't sure he liked it.
"Let me explain," Wesley said, and he reached over to take Elijah's hand, then let go.
Elijah was breathless after that. Had it meant anything...sexual? He could barely understand the rest of Wesley's words. He forced himself to try to concentrate.
"My sister's son, Tyson, has had a long, long battle with leukemia, and baseball is his first love. You're his favorite player. I'd like to paint you and have you autograph it. And I have connections with the Chicago Star. I'll make sure you get a lot of good publicity for doing my nephew a good turn."
Elijah's head was still spinning. "Why not just take a picture?"
"Not the same. My nephew is also artistic, and it would mean more to him if I did a painting. I'd pay you, of course."
Elijah felt himself going soft. "I wouldn't take money. I have enough money. How old is your nephew?"
"The bravest little eight-year-old on earth. And my sister and I keep doing things to keep him motivated through his painful treatments." For the first time, Wesley frowned, and Elijah could tell that he was a little older than he'd originally thought, maybe several years older than his own twenty-six. "Unfortunately he had a relapse and lost his hair again and has to stay home from school."
Elijah thought of Janine's miscarriage. He had wanted the child desperately, although he had no idea what would have happened if his kid had someday learned the truth about him. "I like kids," he said, trying to ignore the ongoing commotion in his pants. "Why don't I just visit him? Wouldn't that be better than a painting?"
"Would you?" Wesley's jaw dropped, and Elijah just wanted to wrap his arms around him and give him a tongue-swapping kiss.
"But can I paint you too?"
Elijah adjusted his cap. "I don't see the point."
"Take the cap and glasses off."
Elijah was surprised at his command. It had sounded like a command.
"I don't want everyone to recognize me."
Wesley laughed a deep, pleasant, melodic timbre. "Everyone? You mean the cashier? Shelly doesn't like baseball, won't recognize you. Nobody is here but you and me. I'd like to see if you look the same as you do on my HDTV."
"Why?" He took in a deep breath, both hopeful and afraid.
"I think you'd make a good painting subject. Can you please just do it?"
Elijah looked around the shop; then his gaze was drawn back to Wesley's. He loved the dark blue hue of the man's eyes and his long, long golden lashes. He was quite good-looking, although not really in a conventional way. His nose was blunt, his lips too wide, and he had a slight gap between his two front teeth. Still, his flaws only made him hotter. Without a word or too much thought, Elijah took off his cap and glasses. "But I have to put them on again if anyone comes in."
He watched to see Wesley's reaction to him, starting to wonder if they were on the same page. He felt chemistry between them. "So do I look different?"
"You have a lot of hair. More than I realized. Longer than mine." He laughed.
Elijah felt it even more. "Yeah, kind of my trademark. I like it longer...and messy." He heard the teasing in his voice, then instantly sobered, watching Wesley assess him. Why is he staring at me that way?
"Nice color too," Wesley went on. "Kind of chocolate brown but with golden highlights."
Elijah's cock was ready to explode. In a minute, he'd have to go into the restroom to relieve himself, but he didn't want to leave Wesley.
"From an artist's perspective, you have interesting coloring," Wesley said, and Elijah's hopes cooled a bit. "You have interesting eyes too...amber with some green flecks. Classic features, like somebody sculpted you. You'd make a great subject for me to paint. Of course, being an athlete, you have a nice build."
"Why would your nephew care about that?" He was tapping his foot under the table, dying to ask him the obvious question, yet unable to do it.
Wesley wasn't smiling. "This would be for me."
Elijah's heart slammed against his chest. "I thought it was for him."
"One for him and a special one for me. How about that?"
"Special?" He gulped.
Wesley leaned forward, and Elijah almost stopped breathing.
"Very special." He turned away and cleared his throat. "How about you posing on the beach? The girls would love it. I can sell the rights to use it on calendars and other stuff and make a mint. I know you said you don't need the money...but I'd donate all of it to the children's cancer association in honor of my nephew. I don't really need the money either."
"I see." He didn't, though. Not quite. Was Wesley hitting on him, somehow having figured him out, or was Wesley just an eccentric artist? He hoped it was the former.
Wesley reached into his pocket and handed him a card. Elijah got a closer look at his hand. Big hand, big cock? No, that's feet.
"Call me. At the very least, we can make my nephew happy. But think about letting me paint you. I'm told I'm quite good, and I'm gathering a following. I've painted other famous people. Check me out on the Internet. I won't keep you anymore." With that he reached over and grabbed Elijah's cap. With a devil's grin, he slapped it back on Elijah's head, then handed him his sunglasses. Before Elijah could put the glasses on, Wesley stood, towering over him, filling up the room. His personality and good looks seemed to overpower the small coffee shop and everything in it.
"I hope to hear from you," Wesley said as he swung around and walked out of the coffee shop, leaving the smell of earthy musk behind him.
Elijah pulled out his wallet and stuck the business card inside it. He wanted to jump up and follow him. Instead he forced himself to stay put. But as he watched Wesley's upbeat stride, his broad shoulders swinging back and forth, and his sexy tight ass bouncing as he walked, Elijah knew that his days in denial were over. He hadn't a doubt in his mind that he would call him. And he hoped they had the same thing in mind, although he wasn't sure. Usually he could tell, but Wesley was a puzzle, maybe because it mattered so much to him.