Saturday, November 30, 2013

Breaking Chains

Grandma Kelly, Me, Dad, Great Grandma Neil
For as long as I remember I have been a night owl. My mom tells stories about how she would get up in the middle of the night to find me up, dressed, and playing with my little brother through the bars of the crib. The closer to the time I needed to begin kindergarten, Mom enforced the staying in bed policy. I would lay there staring at the ceiling, sometimes sneaking out of bed to play in the dark. I even remembering talking to Grandma Neil in the middle of night, being she was the only one up.
I also remember my mom's worried conversations when she thought I wasn't listening. Dad would say that I was like Grandma Neil who only slept four hours at a time. Everyone treated it as if I did this by choice.
For years I tried to keep the hours everyone else did. When I was a teenager mom required that everybody get up on the weekends at 8:00 am. I got in trouble time and again for being up past midnight and the bummer of it was I couldn't make myself sleep. So I went without it.
After high school when I thought that I could be my own person, set my own schedule found it all to be a lie. I was still chained by work and family obligations that started at the crack of dawn.
The best job I even had was a second shift receptionist position when I was 19/20 years old. My hours were 3 pm-11 pm. I FINALLY felt refreshed and alive. I went to bed when I was tired and woke when I was rested. No alarm clock need. It was freaking fantastic and loved the hours. But in order to advance in the company I would have to take positions at the butt crack of dawn again. Six months into it and I wanted to go back. I begged to go back but my mentors all counseled me to suck up it and grow up.
Needless to say, I have sucked it up for years.
Since I quit the day job to write full time I don't have the same obligations but I continue to try and keep the normal people hours. Over the last year it has become an increasingly failing endeavor.
My body follows sleep cycles. I sleep 1.5-3 hours which is one to two sleep cycles. Then I'm awake. Nowadays I get up and do whatever. Twelve hours later I will lay down for another 1-2 sleep cycles. When I wake, I'm alert.
Staying up late nowadays means that I will see the sunrise before I go to bed. I've tried to back off and go to bed a 3 in the morning only to get up when the husband's alarm clock goes off at 4:30 because I didn't sleep.
For the longest time I felt guilty until my husband pointed out I slept while he worked. He also was the one who told me he thought I was a true night owl and showed me all this nifty research he did.
But even with the research and the encouragement, I've struggle with letting go. Breaking the ingrained thought process, the chains so to speak. This last month has been exceptionally difficult. The other day I wondered why I was fighting to so hard?
So starting December 1, (hehe, in a couple of hours). I'm going to let my body and mind settle into the natural pattern it chooses and I'll just going along for the ride. I will set up my meal schedule and exercise routine for those hours. I will ignore the comments and the looks that say, "Wow, she's lazy," and simply be me.
And be happy. ^_^
I have been meaning to put up a quick post about the Less Than Three Advent calendar for December. (As you can see, I'm on day one of the list)
LT3 is aiming to feature authors for this sale series, and as such each day will feature authors whose last names start with ascending letters of the alphabet.
The sale will include anthologies (ex. Bad Moon Rising, That Famous Happy End, Rocking Hard: Vol 1) and print bundles (this mostly applies to Kiss Me at Midnight paperbacks). It won't include the collection bundles (since they're already 15% off on a normal day and the 25% off deal for individual is better) and anything listed as coming soon (but it will include preorders if a book is at that stage).

At the end of the 25% off author sales, we'll be doing a three-day catalog-wide 15% off sale that will include everyone and everything. Feel free to spread the news if you're inclined, and if you've got any questions or if I've spaced and left you out, let me know.

A – December 1Julia Alaric, Lexi Ander, Ann Anderson, Quinn Anderson, Talya Andor, Angelina Aniyah
B – December 2Alison Bailey, Kayla Bain-Vrba, Sandra Bard, Jamie Brindle, Paul Brownsey
C – December 3Isabella Carter, Leona Carver, E.A. Clarke, Casey Cloud, Rachelle Cochran, Casey K. Cox, Sol Crafter, James L. Craig, Siobhan Crosslin
D – December 4Elizah J. Davis, Debora Day, Megan Derr, Megan Dorei, Lupin Drake, Jude Dunn
E – December 5Alessandra Ebulu, Mell Eight, Cate Enslin
F – December 6Sally Franicevich
G – December 7Emily Gould
H – December 8A.F. Henley, J. Hepburn, R.D. Hero, Sophie Hung, Laura Huntley, Leta Hutchins
I – December 9Mara Ismine
J – December 10India Jackson, Janette, A.R. Jarvis, Nico Jaye, Diana Jean, Remy Jensen
K – December 11Erica Kealey, Evie Kiels, Harper Kingsley, Annabelle Kitch, K-Lee Klein, T.T. Kove
L – December 12 – L.J. LaBarthe, Liz Lambdin, Emma Lanner, Clare London
M – December 13 – Mina MacLeod, Julia March, Mac McCarthy, Ashelia McGregor, J.L. Merrow, Summer Michaels, Terry Milien, Sasha L. Miller, Shayla Mist, Michelle Moore
N – December 14 – Melissa North, Kaseka Nvita
O – December 15 – M.J. O'Shea, Zachary O'Toole, E.E. Ottoman
P – December 16 – J.K. Pendragon, Cassandra Pierce, Alex Powell, Angel Propps
R – December 17 – M. Raiya, Ana Reese, May Ridge, Holly Rinna-White, Jaime Riordan, Jay Robin, Spence Rook, Lilliana Rose
S – December 18 – Andra Sashner, Ashley Shaw, Howard Shen, R.L. Shephard, Diana Sheridan, Hollis Shiloh, S.S. Skye, Jamie Sullivan, Michael Sutherland, Zach Sweets
T – December 19 – Eleanor Troup, Kathleen Tudor, Melanie Tushmore
V – December 20 – Piper Vaughn, Tami Veldura
W – December 21 – Remington Ward, Jaidon Wells, Rachel White, Robin White, M.J. Willow, Sylvia A. Winters, Beth Wirth, Sammi Wolf
X – December 22 Xara X. Xanakas, Xelly

December 23 – December 25 – Entire catalog

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Excerpt of Striker

Finally Woman!! This morning I completed the line edits and beta feedback review to submit  Striker (The Valespian Pact #2) to Less Than Three Press. Yay! #abouttime!
After cuts and edits the manuscript was paired down to 87694 words. The longest story I submitted before this was Dreams of the Forgotten at a little over 64k, if I remember correctly.
I was a little late with this. I had originally anticipated finishing the story by the end of August. With other obligations and working on multiple projects that were due, well it didn't happen. So I concentrated solely on Striker all of September and October, completing the story on October 30th. The first round of edits shaved off 8k and then I sent it out to the beta readers.
I don't know about anyone else, when I look at a manuscript for so long, going over and over scenes and points, by the time I send it to a beta I am ready to claw my eyes out. I have to have break from the story, a couple of weeks at least, to be able to come back with a fresh eyes. If I don't, and I know this from experience, I will cut and slash the ms until it unrecognizable only to come back later and add everything back. It's not pretty and a huge waste of my time.
So last Wednesday I reviewed the beta notes and started line edits (which is an activity that takes up two levels of hell). I had moments when I looked at the paragraph and thought, "WTF. That does not even make since." But it's all good.
The edits were wrapped up and I sent the story in. Now I'm waiting.  While I wait I thought I'd share an excerpt. I had to find one that didn't give away spoilers. I thought it would be nice to give a little of Empress Ashari's POV. She's kind and fierce. More than once she caused me to tear up. This takes place in the later half of the book. It's a little long but I have the idea y'all won't mind. :) I hope you enjoy the excerpt.
Copyright © 2013, Lexi Ander
Ashari reached the top of the ramp and stepped on to the landing pad. Four ships covered the surface, ramps lowered allowing people to disembark. She sensed him as any Mar'Sani mother could. He was close, so close and yet she could not see him. Her gaze searched the crowd, looking for a familiar face or form. The majority of the people were Monticore but she noticed robotic forms she had come to know as the Feteine and others who were not Mar'Sani who she surmised were a part of the crew of Zeus's ship. She thought it curious no one made their way to the waiting vehicles but seemed to be waiting.

From the closest vessel a group of Monticore bristling with weapons strode menacingly down the ramp fanning out at the bottom in a semicircle. Their posturing caused her own Basilisc guards to go on alert, closing in tighter around her. She watched their hand signals. A noise at the top of the ramp drew her attention.

Warlord Sohm'lan strode down the ramp in front of six males shouldering long poles baring an oblong capsule made of mother of pearl and encrusted with barnacles and shell fish. Behind them came another six males baring Zeus aloft on a stretcher. Her breath caught even as her stride quicken.

Two. Two sons so close together that her ties to them blended, hiding the presence of one. Ashari blinked rapidly. That they were being carried out did not bode well. Her mind supplied dozens of scenarios of what could be wrong with her young before she had taken two steps. Sohm'lan noticed her and called a halt before meeting her at the edge of the Monticore guard.

"Your Highness, it is a pleasure to see you again." Sohm'lan bowed deep. She thought he appeared haggard but whole.

"My sons?"

"Are tired but unharmed."

Ashari slipped through the line of guardsmen and stopped next to the capsule to place an unsteady hand against the smooth, cool side. She had never dared to hope to see him again in her lifetime. She had resigned herself to be content to know Canry was alive. Would he remember her? Did he want to see her? Was he angry because she had not found him? Ashari pushed the tumble of questions away and pressed her trembling lips together.

"Warlord, how is Canry?" She hated that someone else knew her son's wellbeing better than she did.

"He is whole in body and mind. He has grown to become a unique treasure to our people," Sohm'lan replied. When she gave him a questioning glance he said, "It is his and Zeus's story to tell, although I believe their exploits have already made it to the capitol."

She nodded. She heard the outrageous whispers among the guards, hoping half of what she overheard to be untrue. She strode towards Zeus's litter and came face to face with a fierce male with flashing green eyes and golden feline features. A single line of copper hair stood straight up like a bristle brush and dark stripes on either side of the line of hair. Teardrop shaped ears lined with golden hoops and dangling gemstones. About his collarbone rested a symbiote of dark green, the color almost as dark as the robes the male wore.

"Empress Ashari, I would like to introduce you to Prince Zeus's Udens Mahte'lan, Captain Dargon Kal-Turak from the Dar Massaga planet of Hedisa, and his symbiote Alpha."

Valdor told her Zeus had mated but the males' identity had been kept secret for the safety of the younglings they bore. Dargon's expression was wary, telling her he was unsure of the reception he would receive. She would discover why later but for now she held her hands out. "Dargon, I have heard much about you already. I would like to welcome you and Alpha into the family."

He grasped her hands lightly in his. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Empress. Zeus will be overjoyed to see you when he wakes. He has been worried for your safety and even though he received word you had reached Haven unharmed he will not believe it until he sees you with his own eyes."

She matched Dargon's polite grin. He seemed to be having an internal discussion with himself and when he met her gaze next she knew he had made some sort of decision. Retaining the grasp on one of her hands he led her to the head of the litter. The guardsmen gently lowered Zeus so she could see him.

"Zeus overtaxed his body. He simply rests now," Dargon said as she cupped her son's pale face.

His hair had been sheered short, his thick dark lashes rested against his cheeks. She could make out the dots from the warrior's dye still faintly staining his skin. Tenderly she pressed he forehead to his. She had missed him terribly, a part of her heart had been set adrift in space when he left. She hoped he found what he had been searching for. When she glance back to Dargon, she noticed the loving way he gazed at her son, she thought Zeus may have found more than he bargained for.

Stepping back from the litter, Ashari took Dargon's arm. "Thank you both for taking such good care of my son."

To his credit, Dargon accepted her proprietary hold without a second glance. "It is he who has taken care of us, Your Highness. Our mission would have failed without his aid."

Ashari knew there was a story there but did not press. There would be time enough for tales later. "You seem uncomfortable. I would say you are unsure of me or ... I am not certain. I would have you speak frankly, Dargon. You will soon be mated," — she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye — "I guess in a way you already are but soon your union will be official. You will become a part of House Vondorian and I would have us start out on the right foot."

Dargon seemed to contemplate her words before answering. "I agree but this is not a conversation for public consumption. Warlord Sohm'lan has bid me to hold my tongue until he could sit down with your family."

Ashari glanced to Sohm'lan who kept pace a half step behind her. Valdor spoke to her earlier about urgent news Sohm'lan refused to give over the open airways. She turned her attention back to Dargon. "Valdor has set aside time later today. When we get back to the city we will meet with him and hear of this news."

Halfway across the tarmac, a group of riders bypassed the vehicles waiting to transport the Mar'Sani to Haven. Ashari heard the rumors of the returned Valuzial Guardians but had yet to see them. The Fal'Amoric people stayed in a temporary camp outside the city so the guardians did not venture into the city.

Six riders loped toward them. The beasts were hairless, striped with varying shades of brown and black. The tail curved over the back of the creature, the bulbous tip spiked. Intelligent violet gaze searched the crowd but never wavered from their path toward Zeus.

She pinpointed their leader riding in the middle. The female who resembled Zeus did not slip Ashari's notice, drawing out an instinctual possessiveness she struggled to contain. Valdor had warned her the Fal'Amorics had identified Zeus as one of theirs but he attempted to reassure her all would be well. He told her it may help Zeus to know where he came from. She understood, truly she did, but Zeus was her youngling. She would do what was necessary to ensure he was happy but she would not stand by and allow a people who threw him away to try and reclaim him.

The guardian reached a hand-like paw up and assisted the female to ground. Her dress of black feathers caught in the wind to billow about her resembling a flock of birds taking flight. The lavender corset sparkled with gems contrasting with the layered boned necklace and the wood and horned headdress. No matter how Ashari viewed the ridiculous outfit, she did admire the quiet strength she saw within the female.

The Monticore allowed her through their line without question which caused Ashari to scowl.

"Dargon! Is Zeus hurt?"

"No Athena. He is sleeping," Dargon replied.

The female, Athena, gazed affectionately at Zeus but when she attempted to touch him, Ashari hissed a warning. She met Athena's surprised gaze. She would not bare her teeth in challenge — yet.

Ashari straightened her shoulders as Athena gave her an assessing glance. Dargon stepped forward placing himself slightly in front of Ashari, not that she needed the protection, but Athena would.

"Princess Athena, I would like to introduce Empress Ashari Vondorian."

The corners of Athena's mouth tightened. "Then you must be a part of his adoptive family."

"You are mistaken. On Atlainticia we do not adopt people as you would adopt a pet. We take people into our families. They are as flesh and blood to us as those we have birthed. Zeus is my young, he suckled at breast, he bares our name, and he swims where none but the Mar'Sani can."

Athena's ice-colored gaze blazed with anger. "You believe he will not come back to his people?"

Ashari felt Dargon's gaze on her. When she turned her attention to him she realized her answer was important to him. "We raised our son to be good, brave, and just. He has a noble heart. He knows what he wants and does not hesitate to go after it." She turned her gaze back to Athena. "Make no mistake, I may have raised my son well but I will drop all accoutrements of civilization and morality to protect my young. I know every detail of what was done to him by his people before Poseidon laid him at our doorstep. He has a forgiving heart. I am his meme, I do not forgive."

 Happy Thanksgiving!  Thank you for stopping by and reading!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Chapter Three - Leap of Faith

Last day! I wish this was longer. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed writing this little story. I hope you liked it. I'm thinking about adding another scene to this because I really want to know what they do when they get home. I think that will be a reward for myself when I finish writing Fate and Destinies.

Don't be shy if you have a comment. I am expanding it and would love to hear your thoughts. What would you like to see? Or if  I was thinking about doing a sequel, do you think the best friend can be redeemed?

Thank you for reading!!

Copyright © 2013, Lexi Ander
A Leap of Faith

Chapter Three


Ben was terrified he'd screwed up. He should've admitted he wanted to go to dinner with Dawson as his date but he'd chickened out at the last second and ran. He grabbed a couple of Clorox wipes, ignored the probing glances Dawson threw his way, and started cleaning his station.

He'd seen the way Dawson watched him when Dawson thought he wasn't paying attention. Ben had been patient and waited for Dawson to make a move. He wasn't sure what spurred him to ask Dawson out but he felt like a fool. He'd ruined what had started out as a great morning.

"Did you want me to finish the tail of the phoenix today?" Dawson flipped through the appointment book at the counter. Alice, their office help, had asked for the day off so they had to man the front desk between appointments.

"What's on the books for today?" Ben made himself stop cleaning the chair before he wore a hole in the vinyl.

"The morning appointments were rescheduled. As long as we don't have any walk-ins, I can finish up your bird in no time."

"All right," he said before he thought it through. He'd probably regret working the rest of the day after Dawson finished the tattoo but he didn't care. It was an excuse to have Dawson touch him.

He pulled his T-shirt over his head and lay face down on the chair. Ben closed his eyes and waited. When Dawson started working, he concentrated on the brush of Dawson's fingers. He was grateful he lay on his stomach because it hid the erection he got every time he was in Dawson's chair. The sting of the needle didn't take away from his fantasies.

"So, this date tonight," Dawson's voice was smooth and low. "I imagine I'll need a suit."

Ben swallowed past the lump in his throat, he felt like a giddy teenager because Dawson called it a 'date'.

"Only if you want to."

Dawson gave him a stinging smack on the ass and Ben thought he was going to lose it and come in the chair. "What the hell, man?" he panted, struggling for control. He'd never told anyone about those secret desires.

"Don't placate me. The invitation has been posted on the fridge for a while. I'm well aware of the restaurant and their dress code. Give me a little credit. I would've said no if I couldn't swing it."

Ben panted softly, well aware that Dawson hadn't moved his hand from Ben's ass.

"Now, do I need to wear a complete suit with a tie or can I get by with a dress shirt and pants?" Dawson squeezed Ben's ass cheek and he couldn't help but to push up into Dawson's large palm. "Well?" Dawson prompted.

Ben drew in a couple of deep breaths and struggled to control his body. "You don't need a complete suit."

"Better," Dawson purred and soothed Ben's stinging ass cheek.

He vehemently wished he were naked. He couldn't count how many fantasies he'd had of Dawson taking him in that very chair.

"Ben, are you listening to me?" Another smack hit his other ass cheek and he bucked in the chair.

"What the hell, man?" Ben rolled to his side to see Dawson.

The man stared back at him, lust stamped on his features. Nothing was hidden from Ben, including the outline of a large hard cock trapped in Dawson's jeans.

"You weren't complaining." Dawson's eyes boldly traveled the length of Ben's body. "In fact, I think you loved the hell out of it and," Dawson palmed Ben's dick, rubbing the erection through the pants, "I'm pretty sure you want me to do more than smack your ass." Ben embarrassed himself with a whimper when Dawson's hand withdrew. "My question was, since we're going on a date, does that mean I get to kiss you? But I think I already have my answer."

Ben's heart beat hard in his chest. "You want to kiss me?"

The bell over the door jingled. Dawson leaned in and whispered. "Oh, I want to do more than merely kiss you."

David Burk, Ben's lawyer, stood by the front counter. "Hi, Ben, Dawson. I have the contracts for the sale for you to sign, Ben."

David was Annie's boyfriend and he'd helped Ben navigate separating his property from Javier and the legal mess of selling his half of the advertising firm. As much as Ben loved David for all of his help, the man had picked the worst time to drop by. Dawson slathered A&D Ointment on Ben's lower back and affixed a bandage to the newly inked skin of the phoenix's tail. Scowling, Ben discreetly adjusted himself before leaving the chair. Dawson chuckled evilly, sending a chill through Ben.

"Hey, David," Ben replied then cleared the gruffness from his throat. "Are you and Annie going to be at the dinner tonight?"

David set the briefcase on the counter and grinned.

"We'll be there, although Annie is having a fit because she wanted us to spend the evening alone." A rakish expression crossed David's face. "I'll have to make it up to her."

Ben accepted one of the packets. "I don't know what is more disturbing. The expression on your face or that you're talking about my sister."

David laughed. "Oh, I've heard how Annie talks with you. I'm nowhere near as graphic as she is."

Ben listened intently as David explained what each bundle contained, initialing and signing where indicated. He lost count of how many packets he signed off on. The door jingled and Ben ignored the newcomer, knowing that Dawson would handle the walk-in. He signed the last page, feeling like he'd cut off the last of the dead weight from his past.

"Where is he?"

Ben froze. He knew that voice even if he hadn't heard it in a long time. There were some things you never forgot.

David moved away from Ben. "Sam, what are you doing here?"

"I tailed you, David. Javier said today was the day of the sale and I knew you would meet with Ben. He doesn't go to your office and so I followed you. I know he's here somewhere. Is he hiding in the back? He can't run from me forever."

"Sam, do you know how wrong it is to shadow me?" The anger in David's voice was audible. "You can't make Ben see or talk to you if he doesn't want to."

Ben turned to see David had stepped in front of him, blocking Sam's view. Dawson stood off to the side, arms crossed as he scowled. Ben hadn't wanted to talk to Sam. There was nothing Sam could say that would mend their relationship. He'd thought Sam would move on. Obviously he was wrong.

"He didn't give us—me a chance to explain. You don't throw away a lifetime for nothing."

That's rich.

"I'm pretty sure it wasn't for nothing, Sam," Ben bit out.

He was acutely aware that he hadn't put his shirt back on. The way Sam's eyes slid down his body made him uncomfortable. Had Sam always gazed at me with naked desire?

"Ben?" Sam stepped completely around David, eyes rounding as he scanned Ben's muscular frame. "What happened to you?"

He considered Sam's artfully disheveled appearance and knew his ratty blue jeans and hiking boots were a far cry from what Sam had normally seen him wear in the past. The small changes Ben made to his appearance had to be shocking to his former friend.

Ignoring Sam's questions, Ben approached Dawson. "Can you hand over my shirt? My first client will be here in fifteen."

"Dammit, Ben! Don't ignore me. Wait, are you wearing eyeliner? When did you start that? Holy shit, what is with the earrings? Not that it's bad, you're fucking hot, but this isn't you." Sam's hands waved in the air at Ben.

He presented his back to Dawson and gave Sam a hard stare. "What would you know about that?"

"If you hadn't cut me out of your life, I would know…" He waved a hand at Ben again.

Ben shook his head at Sam's words. "That's not my fault."

His former friend ran a hand through his hair, glancing around and scrutinizing the shop. "So you—what—work here now. You sold your interest in the firm for this place? You could do much better—you know that—come back home. You can't be happy in this dump."

He felt Dawson stiffen behind him. "I'm part owner of this dump," Ben snapped. "You don't get to judge me or my friends. Your opinion isn't needed or wanted."

Sam's face flushed a bright red. "What? Are you screwing another one of your business partners?"

Dawson's hands held firmly onto Ben's hips, derailing Ben's thought of knocking Sam out. The man's touch reminded him where he was, who he was. "No, that would be you screwing my partner, Sam. What I'm doing now is none of your damn affair," he spat back.

Sam's voice softened, the anger leaching out of the tone. "Look, Ben, that's not what I meant. I'm angry and jealous. I've been searching for you for months and you've changed everything about yourself to get back at us. I get it. I really do, but it's time to come home. You gotta know that we love you. Dammit, I love you and you can't leave us—leave me like that. We were going to talk to you about it, and there didn't seem to be a good time, then we were afraid you wouldn't be open to a three-way relationship. You didn't give us a chance to explain. It could work, but you walked away like we meant nothing to you. How could you? You were supposed to love us or was that a lie too?"

Ben studied Sam. What was he supposed to say to all that? Where would he even start?

Dawson stepped from behind Ben, his large hand falling onto the nape of Ben's neck.

"Sam," Dawson said, drawing the man's attention. "I don't imagine you'd recall who I am, but I most certainly remember you." Dawson turned his arresting blue eyes to Ben. "You blew it, pal. Friends don't do what you did, and just so you know, Ben's not interested in what you have to offer now, any more than he was back then." Dawson's eyes flicked down to Ben's lips. "I'll take that kiss now," he said softly.

Ben gave a startled laugh as Dawson pulled him in. He expected a heated crush of lips and was surprised by the gentle brush of Dawson's mouth over his. A hand cupped the back of his head and the other palmed his ass, drawing his body flush with Dawson's. The hard line of Dawson's erection against his hip had him opening his mouth in a moan that was quickly swallowed by Dawson's masterful kiss. Ben slipped his arms around Dawson's waist and he wished their clothes were gone. He ached to feel Dawson's skin next to his.

A tongue swiped across his and he opened wider, slanting his head as he chased Dawson's taste. The slow exploration turned to hot panting and muffled groans as the desire bounced between the two of them. Reluctantly, they parted to gasp for air.

"Ben, Dawson," David said from the doorway. "It's been a pleasure to see you."

Dawson licked and sucked on Ben's chin before kissing his way down the column of Ben's neck.

David chuckled, his free hand grasping Sam's elbow. "I'll tell your parents something came up and you won't make dinner. I don't think that I have to warn you to be prepared for Annie's visit tomorrow."

Ben barely registered David leaving, dragging a protesting Sam with him. He didn't care. Dawson was driving him crazy with his kisses. Dawson pulled away, his hair a little wild, pupils swallowed by lust.

"Your appointment will arrive any minute," Dawson reminded him.

Ben glanced around and pulled in a couple of calming breaths. "You expect me to work after that?" He'd much rather go into the back room and beg Dawson to fuck him.

Dawson smirked as if he could read Ben's thoughts. "David did us a favor and gave us the evening together. Life doesn't stop simply because you're horny."

The door chimed. Ben shot a glare at Dawson's sly smile before pulling on his T-shirt. Glancing at the clock, he mentally counted down the time to close. His body hummed with new excitement.

The past year had been hard but it hadn't broken him. As hurt and distraught as he'd been the night he'd met Dawson, he'd still had the ability to take a leap of faith that had changed his life for the better.

He peeked at Dawson who diligently cleaned his station. Dawson had renewed his faith in people and friends. And hopefully, later on that night, they'd take their friendship one step further. Ben was excited to see where it would lead.



The End

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chapter Two - Leap of Faith

Copyright © 2013, Lexi Ander
A Leap of Faith

Chapter Two


Dawson scowled at the crinkles at the corner of his blue eyes. Crow's feet. Laugh lines. Whatever they were called, they made him appear old. He grunted at his reflection, snatched up a towel, and started drying his dark hair. He could smell the breakfast Ben made. He didn't know that offering a hand to a stranger not quite a year ago would gain him a friend and business partner. He thought Ben would be with him two days—tops—until he could pull himself together. The man had seemed pretty pitiful when Dawson had first seen Ben in that hot sequined outfit. With glassy eyes, shaking hands, silent tears tracking black eyeliner down his face, the man hadn't appeared injured but when Ben had stared at him with those large hazel-colored eyes, so lost and hurt, Dawson couldn't simply leave the guy alone.

It was the best thing he'd ever done. Ben spent a week helping him clear the property the cabin was on. For the first couple of days they didn't talk much. Dawson watched Ben and made sure the guy wouldn't accidentally hurt himself with the power tools.

By day three, Dawson didn't care if he had to talk to himself because the silence was killing him. So he'd started chattering about his business as a tattoo artist. The conversation helped to bring Ben out of his funk somewhat.

Ben never discussed what had happened, but over the next couple of weeks, Dawson had picked up on certain things. When he spoke to Annie, she told him enough to know Ben was better off. He suggested Ben stay and they had become roommates. Ben offered his talents as an artist to Dawson, which led to an apprenticeship. Ben had been working for Dawson ever since and the arrangement had worked out well for both of them.

Dawson vigorously dried off, his body a map of his life. An Aries tribal tattoo spanned his shoulders on this back, he had a blue water tribal armband, and a full color jaguar that was wrapped around his left side from the middle of his back to the center of his chest. His legs were covered with tribal designs, not that anyone had seen them lately.

A fist banged on the door. "Come on, primping time is over, breakfast is ready."

Chuckling, Dawson wrapped a towel around his waist and sauntered out of the bathroom. The smell of food was stronger out in the hall and his eyes damn near rolled up in the back of his head. Ben had made cinnamon rolls. The man was a god in the kitchen. Since Ben cooked most of the meals, Dawson had to put in extra time at the gym and Ben had taken to joining him.

Hurrying, Dawson tugged on a pair of jeans and threw on a shirt. He donned four large silver rings, his two inch wide leather wristbands, and his brown coconut shell necklace with the blue bone beads before he made a beeline to the kitchen. Ben stood at the stove with his back to Dawson. He nearly didn't catch the groan that tried to escape. Ben was shirtless. The tattoo of a rising phoenix rippled over his strong, muscular back. The last several months, Ben had bulked up and his once slender frame had become a work of art.

Dawson noticed all of the changes, not only the physical ones, Ben had made. The vulnerable, heartbroken man he'd met a year ago had been replaced by a confident, happy Ben. The combination made for one hell of a package. Not that Dawson hadn't found Ben attractive before, because Ben had been smoking hot in those ridiculous shoes and tiny pants. But Ben had needed a friend, so Dawson had shelved his lust and given a helping hand.

The last couple of months, Ben had been different and, lately, Dawson imagined licking the hollow between those shoulder blades. It was too easy to imagine Ben with his hands tied behind his back, ass rising up to meet the firm swat of Dawson's hand. Maybe one day Ben would be interested. Discreetly he readjusted himself before he walked into the kitchen.

"You made cinnamon rolls." He brushed against Ben as he reached around for a warm roll and shoved the whole thing in his mouth.

Ben smirked. His gaze followed the pastry, his hazel eyes expertly outlined with dark eyeliner. Dawson loved the touch of color because Ben had amazing eyes. When they were highlighted like that, Dawson wanted to drag the man into his bedroom and find wonderful ways to convince his friend that his bed was the best place—the only place Ben wanted to be. Ben's blond hair was cut short on the sides, the top long enough to brush the man's earlobes. His friend had become very good at manipulating the layered lengths. This close he could smell Ben's aftershave. Dawson had pierced both of Ben's ears, four hoops on each side and a bar through the top of the left ear.

"Today I had something a little extra to celebrate." Ben poured Dawson a cup of black coffee after he tore his gaze away from Dawson's mouth.

Dawson chewed slowly, aware that Ben was staring. He knew what today was and how important it was to Ben. "The sale goes through today?"

Ben nodded, blinked a couple of times as Dawson experimented with licking his lips. "Um, yeah." Ben glanced down and cleared his throat. He seemed a little flustered. "I'll sign the documents of sale for my share of the firm this afternoon. David said he'd bring everything by the shop so I wouldn't have to go downtown."

Dawson took a couple of long swallows from his cup of joe. The bitter mixed with the sweetness in his mouth and balanced out his taste buds. "Are you sure this is what you want to do? You could hire someone to see to your interest in the business. You built that company from the ground up." He grabbed another roll and tried to swallow it whole. Damn, he loved those things!

Ben shook his head. "I'm not that guy anymore. He was the guy who went with the flow, played everything safe. I'm not sure I was happy being him. I can't remember ever being actually content."

"And you're happy now?" Dawson asked around the food in his mouth.

Ben's lips quirked up, his eyes flicked up to Dawson's. "Yeah," he admitted almost shyly. "I wasn't sure I'd ever feel right again. My parents didn't help. They made me wonder if I'd been wrong refusing to work things out with Javier."

Dawson vividly remembered that visit from Ben's father. Two weeks after Ben had come to stay with him, a limo had stopped in front of the cabin, and an older man in a three thousand dollar suit stepped out. Ben had cussed softly under his breath before he went out to meet his parent. Dawson had leaned against the porch railing, giving the two some privacy, but not leaving Ben alone. In the brief time they had spent together, Dawson had not only started to like Ben, but had come to care for him as well. The scowl on Mr Hamilton's face was a warning of things to come.

"You know your dad's sorry about what he said when he came by that day." Dawson knew Ben had shared a good relationship with his father until the fiasco with his fiancé. Mr Hamilton had been harsh and demanding with Ben, lecturing his son about loyalty and responsibility.

Ben gave a weak smile. "That's what I get for avoiding my parents because I didn't want to talk about what Javier had done. I had to get tested because I was afraid my partner had unsafe sex with multiple people. That's not something I wanted to discuss with my family. My parents loved Javier from the moment they met him and they didn't think to question him when he went to them the day before the wedding. When dad found out Annie had made the calls to cancel everything—that was a small fortune down the drain. He had every right to be angry, at least about that."

"You couldn't have known what would happen. I still think it was better to find out before you were married." Dawson snagged another cinnamon roll, this time taking a single bite and chewing carefully. Ben hardly ever talked about what had happened. Dawson worried Ben would keep it bottled up and turn bitter over the betrayal, so when Ben felt the urge to talk, he listened. He knew it was the best thing he could do for his roommate. Although, he did harbor the secret wish to one day meet up with Javier so he could knock the bastard on his ass.

"I agree." Ben sighed. "But the cancellations caused talk about our family and my parents have always been very careful to keep their private and public lives separate. We made news in some of the smaller publications and the tabloids hounded them for weeks since I couldn't be found. I hid and left them to deal with the fallout without explaining why. All they had to go on were Javier's lies."

Ben searched the dregs of his coffee as if attempting to read something there. Dawson wanted to pull the man into his arms and make him forget about those first couple of months. He wanted to wipe Javier from Ben's mind, along with every other man Ben had known, until all Ben could see was him.

"They understand why."

Dawson recalled how Mr Hamilton's bluster had dissipated when Ben, with a shuddering breath and an embarrassed blush, explained to his father what had transpired the night he'd disappeared. Dawson's opinion of the older man increased tenfold when he snatched Ben up in a bear hug. Dawson's old man, fed up with his mother's drug addiction, had left when Dawson was fourteen. His mother died of an overdose not long after and Dawson had been placed in foster care when his father hadn't been found and no other living relatives would take him in. Dawson's opinion of family was slightly skewed.

"I know, but it doesn't make me feel any less guilty for my actions." Ben gave a tiny grin. "Although, you getting all of us rip-roaring drunk that day was illuminating. I'd never seen my dad sloshed before. Once the alcohol had loosened him up, it took both of us to hold him down to keep him from leaving and searching out Javier."

Dawson chuckled into his coffee cup. "Yeah, your old man swore he'd give the flighty bastard a good ol' gentleman's one-two for messing with his family. I was stunned at some of the cussing that came from a man so well dressed."

Ben released a genuine hoot of laughter. "I'd never heard him cuss before. I thought I was going to piss my pants I laughed so hard."

"Are you going to dinner with them tonight? The invitation has been clipped to the refrigerator for a couple of weeks."

Ben scratched the back of his head and gave Dawson a sheepish glance. "About that, I wondered if you would go with me?"

"Sure," Dawson readily replied. "I can be your moral support and help you bail when you've had enough."

He'd seen Ben in a suit only once and the man had been fucking fine. Dawson had more than one fantasy about deliberately stripping him out of the expensive garment with nothing but his teeth.

Ben coughed into his fist, his face turning pinkish as he tried to smile brightly. Dawson always thought that Ben sucked at hiding his feelings.

"Yeah—friends—I'd appreciate the company."

Before he could reply, Ben had dumped the last of his coffee into the sink and walked through the garage door. What was that all about?

Dawson washed his hands in the sink and gulped the last of his coffee. Had Ben asked him on a real date? His eyes slid closed with the dawning realization. It was possible he had mucked up his only chance to have the relationship he'd been dreaming about with Ben.

Dawson braced his hands on the edge of the sink and hung his head, remembering how Ben's open expression had slid off his face as he blushed. At the same time his heart began to race at the knowledge that Ben had been asking for more. No, he wasn't going to let Ben walk away now. The door had been open and Dawson was determined to find a way through it.

Following his friend out to the garage, Dawson watched Ben with a new awareness. He could see now how Ben watched him out of the corner of his eye. The pulse in the column of Ben's neck visibly jumped as Dawson drew closer to straddle his hog. He noted how his friend's breathing sped up just enough that he wasn't quite panting. But mostly, he noticed the erection straining against the crotch of Ben's jeans and how the man tried to hide his arousal from Dawson.

Ben straddled his motorcycle, wearing the leather jacket that Dawson had loaned him the first time Ben had ridden on his bike. When he'd first loaned the coat to Ben, it had practically swallowed the man. Not anymore. He liked how Ben filled out the worn leather as the shoulders pulled tight over the man's new muscular frame. Dawson felt a little possessive at the sight of Ben wearing his threads. Ben pulled on his gloves then strapped on his helmet. They both started the bikes, the loud rumble deafening in the garage.

Dawson followed Ben to the tattoo shop, contemplating how to get his friend back on the subject of a date. He'd always kept how he felt under wraps. But if Ben wanted more, then Dawson would grab on to the sexy man and not let him go.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chapter One Leap of Faith

As I said earlier this month I thought about posting a blog story. This is Not a blog story but a sort of test. I'm not sure how often I should post or how long so I'm going to mess around and yall get to watch me fumble around.

I donated a story for an anthology that I have the rights back to. It's a fluffy story. My first attempt at contemporary and only around 8k. I'm going to expand this and fill all of the spaces in between and give it a nice sexy afterwards. :) Alas, I have a few stories to complete before and I didn't want this sitting on the shelf gathering dust if someone would like to read it.

The inspiration for the story was an image I had in my mind of a geeky guy waiting for an elevator wearing a pair of silver go-go boots and itty-bitty shorts. He is joined by a huge intimidating biker dude. What happened? Why are they there? Where do they end up? I hope you enjoy the little bit of fluff!

The schedule I have settled on is a post every other day starting today. :)

Copyright © 2013, Lexi Ander
A Leap of Faith

After building his business from scratch with his lover, Ben prepared to take the next step and marry Javier, the man he loved. How could he have known that being the surprise at Javier's bachelor party would change everything? Heartbroken and lost, a chance encounter with a kind stranger gives him a helping hand.

Dawson didn't realize giving Ben a place to stay for a couple of days would change his life or gain him a friend. He only wished Ben wanted more than friendship. A small misunderstanding makes Dawson realize he may have read Ben wrong. Does Dawson have time to correct his mistake before the past comes back and tries to take Ben from him?

Chapter One


Benjamin Hamilton squatted, hunched in the small confined box, for so long that sweat was running down his back. He estimated he'd been in the fake cake for five minutes or so but these things weren't made for a person's comfort. How had he thought this was a good idea for a surprise?

Oh, wait—it was Annie who'd talked him into doing this. His sister had picked out the outfit, if that is what you'd call the little bit of clothing he wore. He'd never seen so much glitter in his entire life. The sparkly stuff had gotten everywhere, and some of those places weren't remotely comfortable. His normally messy blond hair was carefully spiked, the tips bleached white. Annie had helped him with the eyeliner. Ben thought he resembled a raccoon but his sister swore his hazel eyes popped. He was sure that before he jumped out of the box that eyeliner would join the sweaty ooze of sparkly spackle and he'd appear truly hideous. Everything from his pits to his groin had been waxed, an experience he'd never put himself through again. Pain wasn't his forte and hair removal was painful no matter what anyone said.

How much longer did he have to wait before they rolled him into the bachelor party? In two days, Ben was marrying his fiancé and business partner, Javier Salvador. Five years ago, he and Javier started an advertising firm together. In that short time, the business had grown by leaps and bounds, making them very successful men.

Ben's family came from money but he wanted to make his own way. Even though his parents were dying to help him out, he steadfastly refused, despite Javier's worry they'd go belly-up in the beginning. Ben's stubbornness caused more than one fight with his lover but Ben was glad he'd stayed firm because now they were a successful independent firm.

Stable and profitable, the only thing left to complete his dreams was to marry his lover. Ben had proposed to Javier in front of family and friends at a private get-together at the home they'd built together in Malibu. Ben's parents were ecstatic. They adored Javier and treated him like a son.

Holding on to his patience as he waited, he pictured Javier's surprise. Ben imagined Javier with his suit jacket open, tie pulled loose, slouched tiredly in a chair. Javier would want to be home with him, and not drinking at a bachelor party, until Ben stepped out of the fake cake. Ben could see in his mind how his lover would run his hand through that silky black hair as lust-clouded eyes traveled down Ben's body. He anticipated lots of kissing, groping, and some very hot sex.

Recently, the wedding had caused tension between the two of them. Ben knew it didn't help that exhaustion from their hectic schedules had them falling to sleep as soon as they hit the bed. He missed the alone time with Javier, and he excitedly anticipated their two week honeymoon in the Caribbean. No work, no more planning, no more parties, only the two of them. The surprise would be the opportunity they needed to get a jumpstart on their honeymoon.

He braced himself to keep balanced in his squat position as the cake rolled down the hall of the hotel. The blare of music drowned out all other sounds. The knock on the roof signaled he'd arrived. His heart beat hard and fast as he counted down from twenty. He braced his feet, hit the switch, and carefully stood up. The switch released the walls of the cake, allowing them to fall outward as he stood up.

Words stuck to the tip of his tongue as confusion took over. The surprise he was going to shout stuck to the roof of his mouth. The scene that met Ben's eyes made him wonder briefly if he'd been delivered to the wrong room. He stood there in a pair of silver-sequined boy shorts and silver go-go boots. Covered in sweat and glitter, his skin now chilled outside the hot box, but that wasn't what had caused the goose bumps that peppered his body. His hazel green eyes slowly scanned the room with rising horror and trepidation.

This was unlike any bachelor party he'd ever gone to. Out of the multitude of faces, Ben recognized only a handful of people. There wasn't a body that wasn't actively engaged in a sex act. Men and some women writhed around on the furniture, the floor, any flat surface, and some vertical surfaces as well. He wondered dazedly why hotel management hadn't been called.

With a falling heart, Ben searched for his fiancé. Off in a corner, Javier had John Weis from purchasing over the back of the arm chair. Javier's golden brown skin appeared rich against John's pale complexion as Javier ate John's ass. Javier always balked at rimming Ben. He loved it when Ben indulged but refused to return the favor. Well—only with him because John, on the other hand, yelled like Javier was doing a damn fine job.

Ben's eyes began to burn and he noticed a fine tremble in his hand when he reached up to rub the back of his neck. He scanned the room, relieved he didn't see his best friend, Sam Nolan. He tried to block out the noises, ignore John's growing excitement as he spoke dirty words to Javier. Everywhere he turned there was sex, the potent smell of cum, the lurid sound of people engaged in fucking. Over all the activity he still heard John's whining, nasal voice prompt Javier to give him more, lick him deeper, to not stop. Ben blinked rapidly, struggling to draw a deep breath. His chest felt as if there were steel bands squeezing him and he knew he had to get out of there quickly. Ben started for the suite's double doors, struggling to control his emotions.

The door to another room opened and out walked Sam, bare-ass naked, carrying a box of condoms and a tube of lube. The pain of treachery bloomed in Ben's chest as Sam walked up behind Javier and palmed Javier's ass.

"I found them, babe. Here, stand up and I'll put it on for you," said Sam as he knelt behind Javier.

Dropping a kiss on the small of John's back, Javier stepped away. His erection pointed at Sam's face. Sam brushed sandy hair out of his eyes before he placed a condom in his mouth, and then expertly rolled the latex down Javier's shaft.

"Oh, yeah, babe, just like that," Javier started pumping in and out of Sam's mouth. "Yeah, you like taking my dick, suck me, suck me hard." Javier grabbed Sam's hair and actually started choking Sam on his cock.

Ben cringed but Sam seemed to eat up the rough handling.

"Javier, don't forget about me," John whined, wiggling his ass at Javier, which garnered him a stinging slap on the butt.

After pulling out of Sam's mouth, Javier added lube to his sheathed cock and John moaned aloud as Javier pushed inside him and started a slow steady rhythm. Sam hopped to his feet, rolling on his own condom. Javier paused as Sam gradually slid into him.

"God, babe, you're so fucking tight on my cock. I'll never get tired of the way you feel," Sam groaned loud and clear.

"Need you, Sam, need you to pound me with your fat cock. Don't stop, don't ever stop," Javier gasped as Sam set a hard, fast rhythm that shoved Javier into John.

Ben stood there frozen, watching as his life tumbled down around him. How long had Sam and Javier been lovers? How many employees had Javier fucked at the office? How many people who worked for him knew and either pitied his naiveté or laughed at his blind stupidity? How had he not noticed something had been going on? How could he not have picked up on the nuances between Javier and Sam? Was he that oblivious? His stomach rolled as he watched the two most important men in his life betray him.

Sam had been his best friend since childhood. They'd come out to their parents together. They'd shared everything, and it appeared, he'd been sharing Javier with Sam too. He felt inexplicably lost, set adrift, and he didn't know what he'd do. He trapped a ragged sob behind clenched teeth but it didn't stop the tears from falling.

"The stripper's here." Someone called from behind him, pulling him out of his thoughts.

"Good, have him come over here and put his cock in Javier's mouth," Sam called.

Ben's legs were rooted to the spot and refused to cooperate. He mind screamed for him to move, to hurry before anyone recognized him. He wanted to hide, to be invisible. All his dreams were gone, stolen, taken away by secrets and lies. Shouldn't he be mad? His mind said he should be but all he felt was a body-numbing chill that made his heart feel too large for his chest. He didn't want to be seen or talk to Javier right then. But at that moment, Sam glanced over his shoulder and the happy bliss drained from his face as he recognized Ben staring back at him.

Coolly, Ben turned and walked out the door. He strode on wooden legs down the hall to the elevator. Pressing the call button with more restraint than he felt, he watched the progress of the elevator in the numbers overhead. He wondered if it would be quicker if he used the stairs. Forty floors were too many to attempt at any other time, but now the need to leave nearly made him throw away caution.

A tall, dark-headed man who carried a heavy leather jacket and motorcycle helmet approached from the opposite direction. The guy's visual perusal reminded Ben of the ridiculous costume he wore. How did he ever think these sequined boy shorts would turn Javier on? Now he had nowhere to go with a muscular hunk walking toward him. The biceps on the guy would crack Ben's paper-pushing ass in half just by flexing. He watched the man from the corner of his eye. He never knew how people were going to react. A straight man wouldn't be caught dead in the outfit he wore. The last thing Ben needed was to get his ass handed to him if the guy was offended.

"Some party." The stranger placed the helmet under his arm.

He wasn't as tall as Ben had thought. They were about the same height, though the guy was wide, very wide, with much more shoulder width than Ben… and the most amazing crystal blue eyes.

"I guess you could say that. My fiancé appears to be fucking his way through our employees and my best friend is fucking my fiancé." Ben stopped breathing. Had he just blurted—yes he had.


The man held his helmet out to Ben and he automatically accepted it. He didn't know why. Maybe it was the way the stranger didn't blink when Ben said his fiancé was a man. The guy pulled on his heavy motorcycle jacket.

"I guess the upside is you found out before you got hitched."

He rested the helmet against his stomach, attempting to hide his body while swallowing back his anguish. The elevator dinged and the doors silently slid open. The stranger motioned for Ben to enter first before following.

Ben heard his name being called and he couldn't help the way he flinched. Sam slammed his hand on the elevator door to keep it from closing. His chest was bare and sweaty, Sam's jeans hung loose on his lean hips.

"Ben, wait, let me explain."

He could only stare at his best friend. What did Sam think there was to discuss? There was no way he could misconstrue what had been going on.

"Look, I know what you… it's not what you think. If you give me a chance to explain, it's not all that bad. Really. We were going to… we needed time to… you were so… this can be worked out. Don't walk away right now. Come back and let's talk." Sam shoved his sandy-colored hair out of his face in frustration. Worry was stamped on his features as his lips trembled and his eyes turned liquid with unshed tears.

A bitter laugh escaped Ben and his vision clouded for a second with a watery haze. Sam stared at Ben with regret and hurt. It was an expression that always called to the protectiveness in Ben. Sam was like a brother to him, and in the past, he would've come to Sam's defense. Now it was the countenance of a man who'd taken something precious from him. He stepped forward and pushed Sam out of the elevator car, calmly stepped back and flipped off his stunned best—former best friend.

"I believe," the biker said, "that was a big fuck you." He leaned forward and pressed the 'close door' button before Sam responded.

"The name's Dawson Green." The biker took back his helmet, giving the attached glitter a raised eyebrow.

"Ben Hamilton." He crossed his arms over his chest, feeling completely naked again.

"Nice to meet you, Ben. Where you off to?" Dawson's voice was deep and calm.

What a good question because he didn't have a clue. He couldn't go to the house or his parents'. His sister's place was out of the question because he didn't have the energy to keep her from killing someone. Annie would have questions he didn't have answers to. Up until ten minutes ago, he thought he knew the course of his life, and that delusion had been shattered.

"I'm not sure," he replied.

"Well, I know you don't know me from Adam, but if you wanted to get away for a couple of days, I could drop you off at my cabin. It's about forty miles outside the city limits. Your call."

Ben knew he should decline. Dawson could be an axe murderer for all he knew.
With how he currently felt, he wouldn't fight back if someone tried to kill him. Ben regarded the man next to him. Dawson had chin-length, slightly wavy, dark brown hair and stunning blue eyes, a bold, straight nose, and full, plump lips. He'd noticed the biker had a couple of tattoos before they were covered up with the jacket. But Dawson's eyes—they were nice. He kept returning to and gazing into them. Dawson's stare didn't make him feel uncomfortable or awkward. There wasn't any judgment or pity, but warmth and the hint of possibly a new friendship. He had a feeling he'd need some new friends in the very near future.

Socially, Dawson was the exact opposite of Ben. Someone he wouldn't normally spend time with, and Ben wondered if that had been the problem. He came from money, went to expensive and prestigious schools. His friends were from families who associated with his parents. He had a preset social circle from birth and he'd never thought to venture outside of it. He had no reason to, until now. Maybe it was time to make a few changes, redefine a couple of things about himself and reset the course of his life. He'd do something unexpected and break out of the mold that up until now had defined him.

Contemplating on accepting help from a complete stranger was not a sane action. But the numbing ache in his chest and the burn in the back of his eyes reminded him that, at that moment, strangers were safer than the people he knew.

"I'd like to take you up on that offer, Dawson. I can pay for the…"

"No man, not necessary." Dawson waved off the offer.

"You can't mean to let me stay for free." Ben eyed Dawson with a little bit of suspicion.

"No, I had hoped you'd be willing to help me clear some of the property. It's a heavy duty job and I need an extra hand. I'd thought to handle the work myself, even though it would take longer, but you seem like you'd enjoy the distraction."

Ben agreed he needed a diversion. He wasn't out of shape and occasionally did some of his own landscaping. He didn't believe Dawson meant him harm, but then again he hadn't thought Javier was a lying-cheating-rat-bastard either. New pain bloomed in his chest as he remembered the fuck-fest. He needed to get away and he didn't care where. He'd call Annie and let her know where he would be and leave it at that. He'd trade a bed for manual labor for a couple of days and decide what he wanted to do next.

Ben pulled in a couple of calming breaths and glanced at Dawson. "I appreciate your offer and I'd love to help you out."

Ben watched Dawson hesitantly reach up and gently brush at an escaped tear on Ben's cheek. The elevator dinged, announcing their arrival on the ground floor and the biker withdrew his hand.

Clearing his throat, Ben asked, "Can you wait a second? I need to get my bag from the concierge's desk."

Ben ignored the stares and derisive sniggers as he approached the front desk. He pulled his ID out of this boy shorts and waited for his small duffle. Inside were his wallet, phone, and a change of clothes. As soon as he could get out of the silver-sequined outfit, he would burn it.

He followed Dawson out to the parking garage, and they walked to the far corner, to the largest motorcycle Ben had ever seen. The bike was massive with a red, fire-breathing dragon painted on the gas tank. Ben pulled his clothing out of the bag then quickly drew on his blue jeans over the ridiculous boy shorts, and added a long sleeved T-shirt. He barely kept from chucking the go-go boots across the garage, opting instead to shove them rather forcefully into the public trash can.

Dawson pulled a bundle out of his side bag and tossed it to Ben. "See if that fits. The wind is cold when you ride at night."

Ben eyed the beat-up leather jacket but it fit with room to spare. He pocketed his wallet and cell from the duffle before Dawson stowed it in the saddle bag. Ben stared at the screen of the phone. If he told his family what happened, that he and Javier were done, then there wouldn't be a way to take the news back. If he said nothing and kept tonight to himself, then what? Would he and Javier be able to work their relationship out privately, away from the prying eyes of public scrutiny? What would happen to his company? There were people who worked hard to make it successful. What would happen to them? He was supposed to get married in two days. The guest list was close to a thousand for the event. What would he tell them? What would they think?

Did he care?

With shaky hands he dialed Annie.

"Did it work?" she asked excitedly.

Ben froze. He didn't know what to say. He wasn't sure how long he'd stood there mute when someone took the phone from his hand.

"I'm sorry. Ben's a bit upset." Dawson watched him intently. "No. My name is Dawson Green. I'm an acquaintance of Ben's. It appears Javier has seriously fucked up and Ben needs some time away. I'm going to give you the address but I'd appreciate it if you didn't give it out." Ben felt like an idiot. A stranger was handling his affairs. "No, Annie, he's not okay," Dawson said.

Ben held out a hand, silently asking for the phone back. Dawson smiled. "Yes, Annie. You'll hunt me down and rip off my balls if Ben isn't safe. Got it. Here, Ben's ready to talk."

Ben took a breath and put the phone to his ear. "Hey, Annie."

"What did he do, Ben? Never mind, my imagination is supplying enough scenarios. Does Sam know?"

Ben swallowed and blinked back the tears. His silence was obviously enough of an explanation because Annie swore fluently on the other end of the line.

"What do you want me to do?"

Ben wiped at his eyes and sighed. "Nothing. I'm going to help Dawson for a couple of days. I'll call you back and let you know. Annie—I love you."

Dawson held out a half shell helmet to Ben as he sat straddling the fat boy. Ben climbed on behind the biker. He had never been on a motorcycle before. What was the appropriate protocol? Where did he put his hands? He didn't see any handle bars for him.

Dawson seemed to sense his dilemma and reached back for Ben's hands and placed them on his hips. "I don't bite, Ben. Riding a motorcycle is both freeing and intimate."

Ben nodded and jumped when Dawson started up the beast. He grasped Dawson's waistband tightly when they gradually accelerated. Once outside the garage and on the street, Dawson kicked up the speed, causing Ben to plaster himself onto Dawson's back, arms wrapped fully around the biker's waist.

The rumbling vibration, the wind, and the speed weren't like anything he'd experienced before. It pushed back his sorrow somewhat and he decided he'd never drive a car again. Rain or shine, this was how he'd go.