Seventeen-year-old Connor works his butt off to maintain the golden-boy persona he’s created.
He has the grades, the extracurriculars, the athletics, and a part-time job at his dad’s shop… every detail specifically chosen to ensure the college scholarships he needs to get the hell out of the Podunk town where he lives. The last thing he needs is an unexpected attraction to Graham, an eyeliner-wearing soccer phenom from St. Louis, who makes him question his goals and his sexuality. Sure, he’s noticed good-looking boys before—that doesn’t have to mean anything, right?—but he’s got a girlfriend. There’s no room on the agenda for hooking up with Graham, but the heart doesn’t always follow the rules.
As he and Graham grow close, other aspects of Connor’s life fall apart. Family pressure, bad luck, and rumors threaten to derail his carefully laid plans. Suddenly the future he’s fighting for doesn’t seem quite as alluring, especially if he has to deny who he really is to achieve it.
He dusted his hands on his jeans and stood back from the now-empty bin. “I think this is a good place to stop for the day. I’ll haul the cart with the trash to the dumpster if you want to start putting away the rest.”
Graham nodded and grabbed an armload of cross-country skis to take into the shed. He’d returned to the court for the next batch of equipment when a whistle pierced the air. Roy and Clint walked across the court. Clint scooped up a baseball that had rolled a few feet away from the pile of good balls. He tossed it from one hand to the other, the gesture casual, but with an edge of menace. Graham wiped suddenly sweaty hands on his shorts.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
Clint smirked. “We heard you and Golden Boy were out here playing house. We had to see it for ourselves.” He made a show of looking around. “Where is the Golden Boy? Surely he didn’t leave you alone to do all the work.”
Roy looked at the piles of random sports equipment and empty crates. “So you guys, what, spend the day playing with your balls?” He snickered.
“Each others’ balls, more like.” Clint smiled as though he’d made a particularly funny joke. The way Roy laughed, he must have thought so too.
Tucking his thumbs into the waistband of his shorts, Graham shrugged. When in doubt, bluff. “Since you guys are the reason we got stuck in this particular punishment, it’s only fair for you to join us.”
Clint’s face twisted in disgust. “You wish.” He tossed the baseball and caught it again. “I’m actually a little surprised to see you here. Figured you were too good to do manual labor.”
“I’m not afraid of a little dust.”
Clint stalked a little closer. “I don’t like you.”
Graham snorted. “There’s a surprise.”
“I don’t like people like you. You walk into town, with your fancy clothes and fancy cars, looking down your nose at regular, hard-working folks.”
“And here I thought it was the queer thing you had a problem with. And all along it was, what, my car?”
“You show up, and Clint gets dropped from the soccer team. You got a spot on the team, just like that. You weren’t even there for tryouts. Once they found out you were a fag, they were probably too afraid to kick you off. I bet you haven’t had to work for anything in your life. Whatever you want, you get. No questions asked, right?”
This was new. He’d grown up with plenty of money, yeah. He’d never been attacked for it before. He shook his head at Clint. “Dude, you have issues. You should mind your own business.”
Clint’s grip on the baseball tightened, turning his knuckles white. “You think you’re so much better than the rest of us.”
“You don’t know anything about me or what I think.” He turned his glare to Roy. “Do you have anything to add to this entertaining conversation? I didn’t think so.” He turned and headed back to the shed.
Graham whirled around in time to see Clint hurl the baseball at him. He didn’t even have time to blink, let alone duck. He squeezed his eyes shut, preparing himself for the pain. Instead of a ball to the face, he heard the smack of an object hitting flesh. His eyes popped open. Connor was there, the baseball gripped in his hand, mere inches from Graham’s face.
He looked like some kind of avenging god. Tall, broad, and blond, Connor became Thor facing his enemies across a field of battle. “You did not do that,” Connor growled, lowering his hand and dropping the ball.
Clint swallowed heavily but stuck out his chin. “What are you going to do about it? Tattle to a teacher?”
“I don’t need to tell a teacher.” He dipped and grabbed a baseball bat off the cracked surface of the court. “Twelve years of baseball has given me a hell of a swing.” He rotated the bat and stepped forward.
Graham grabbed Connor’s shoulder. No way was he letting him get into an actual fight with two dumbasses. He didn’t have to worry, though. Clint and Roy sneered and grunted, but didn’t waste any time hightailing it to the parking lot.
When they were out of sight, Connor dropped the bat and scrubbed his hands over his face. “That was fun.” He flexed his hand, the one he’d used to catch the ball.
Review by Claire Potterton
This book is a real tale of self-discovery, a story of accepting who you are, letting go of the past, and looking forward to a better future. Connor and Graham are both incredibly likable characters; flawed in some ways, but very real, doing their best to live up to the expectations of others, whilst holding onto themselves. There are some great secondary characters, and some not so great ones; a wonderfully supportive family and a handful of stereotypical, homophobic jocks. (Personally, I don’t believe this stereotype is necessarily a bad thing, sadly these groups of people do exist, in every town, every community, every school or college in some form or another.) This book is very sweet at times, quite emotional too, and has a relationship that you desperately want to see work. These boys are good together, good for one another I think.
I’m not sure that I would consider the conclusion of this story a happy ever after, but it is certainly a happy for now, which I will happily take.
Star Rating: 3.5
Meet j. leigh bailey
j. leigh bailey is an office drone by day and the author of Young Adult and New Adult LGBT Romance by night. She can usually be found with her nose in a book or pressed up against her computer monitor. A book-a-day reading habit sometimes gets in the way of… well, everything…but some habits aren’t worth breaking. She’s been reading romance novels since she was ten years old. The last twenty years or so have not changed her voracious appetite for stories of romance, relationships and achieving that vitally important Happy Ever After. She’s a firm believer that everyone, no matter their gender, age, sexual orientation or paranormal affiliation deserves a happy ending.