After two years of internet chats and crappy video calls, Nathan and Leonardo will finally meet face-to-face, and the anticipation is killing them both.
Their slow-simmering desire to be together soon boils over as Nathan shows Leo around his hometown of Boise, Idaho. Witty conversation fills their days, passion fills their nights, and both young men know they belong in each other’s lives. But how can a romance, let alone a relationship, work when Nathan’s career is in Boise and Leo must soon return to his home in Italy? Since neither is ready to say goodbye to the budding love affair, they’re determined to find a solution before the end of Leo’s holiday.
Author: Zhara Freytes
Release Date: August 31, 2017
Cover Art: Brooke Albrecht
Word Count: 16,206
Sex Content: Non-Explicit
THE BOISE Airport was buzzing when Nathan arrived, as most airports were during the peak hours of any given day, people coming and going, hurrying to catch their flights to parts unknown. Though he lived less than ten minutes away, Nathan had been standing in the same spot waiting for Leonardo’s flight for thirty minutes, trying to push down the nerves that continued to boil within him as time ticked by. The crowds around him weren’t helping either. He never did do well in large crowds; it always took him back to third grade when he peed himself during the choir event as they were singing “Silent Night” for the Christmas special. And that very thought was what led him to the nearest bathroom, wobbly knees barely holding him up on his quest through the hustling establishment.
Giving himself a short pep talk in the men’s bathroom, he told himself there was nothing to worry about, that everything was going to go as planned, and boy, had he planned for this. Ever since Leo first talked to him about coming to the States a little less than a year ago, Nathan had been coming up with places for them to visit and things for them to do while he was here. Part of him was terrified the man he’d grown attached to would be disappointed if he came to find out Nathan was a homebody who would much rather lie on his bed watching his soaps or reading a good book as opposed to going out and partying like any normal twenty-two-year-old. The other part half assumed the Italian native knew how boring his life was whenever their conversations boiled down to the “so… what did you do today?” cringeworthy questions. Work, home, sleep, work. That was what Nathan’s life pretty much consisted of.
Nathan imagined himself barreling through the rows of occupied chairs as passengers made their way toward the baggage claim area in a sad attempt to flee from having to see Leonardo. Watching tired face after dragging feet, he became more and more nervous, shifting his weight from one leg to the other until there was suddenly a pair of piercing blue eyes he’d come to memorize over the years locked with his not-so-extraordinary brown ones, and a smile that mimicked the intensity and beauty of a thousand suns flashed toward him.
Leonardo Reyes was even more beautiful in person, and Nathan was hypnotized by the way he walked and the way he had to tilt his chin to meet his eyes. Standing at six foot one, Leo was taller than Nathan, who’d been left behind by nearly everyone he knew in high school at five foot ten. His frame was covered by a plain white T-shirt that stretched over his strong shoulders and long torso, hugging hips that swung with every step. His torso and legs clad in gray joggers that left little to the imagination—and to say Nathan had a vivid imagination would be an understatement.
Fuck, he nearly melted at this god’s feet from the sound of his name rolling out of licked-pink lips. It’s not like he hadn’t heard it before, each time nearly walking through the pearly gates, but to hear it in person, up close, the scent of a sixteen-hour flight radiating off this man he’d been pining over for some two-odd years, was overwhelming. He knew he wasn’t going to survive the next couple weeks.
“Leo,” he managed to choke out, his lips curling into a smile as he reached his arms around the other man, unable to stop himself from drowning his nose in the crook of his neck. God, he smelled so amazing, like sweet lavender. “How were the flights?”
The chuckle that escaped Leo was warm as he pulled away, adjusting his backpack’s strap on his shoulder before dropping his arm to circle his fingers around his carry-on. “Long. Almost got lost when we deplaned in Seattle during my layover, but some nice old lady helped me find my way.”
“Gotta thank the old ladies, huh? They never can resist rescuing a damsel in distress.”
“I’m hardly a damsel.” Leo smiled, long eyelashes fluttering with every blink as he looked around the full airport before staring back down at Nathan. “But for you I will be if you promise not to let me get lost in your town.”
“Oh, don’t worry, big boy. I’m not gonna let you out of my sight.” That was a promise because Nathan had no idea how he was ever going to stop himself from looking at Leo as if he owed him his life. He was beautiful. “Are you hungry? We could get something to eat on the way to my house, if you want.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
THEY DECIDED on Thai food from a little restaurant minutes from Nathan’s apartment. The sun was beginning to set as they arrived and brought everything up to the second floor of his building. His place wasn’t anything to boast about; it had the essentials, and that was all he really needed, though he was lucky to get an apartment with a balcony that overlooked the pool area. Nathan rarely used the balcony, but the scenery was calming, and he often sat out there after a long day at work or when he simply needed to get some fresh air.
“I FEEL like I know this place already.” Leo cut into his train of thought, setting his bags by the couch and looking around, his gaze always wandering and taking in his surroundings. “Are you finally going to give me an official tour?”
“I don’t know if you deserve one. You know, I spent all day yesterday cleaning the house, and you’re already making a mess. I’m not sure that’s gonna work out too well for me.”
“I believe you were given a fair warning before you offered to let me stay here instead of a hotel. Cleanliness is not a strong suit of mine.”
“Oh, believe me, I know. I’ve seen your bedroom.”
Leo chuckled and scrunched his nose at Nathan, which sent his stomach into multiple somersaults and left his mouth drier than the Sahara Desert. “I’ll have you know I cleaned it before I left. Now a tour, please.”
Nathan curled his fingers when Leo grabbed his hand, sure he was going to have to visit his lawyer soon to update his last will and testament. His inexperience in matters of affection, including pet names, cuddling, and all the good stuff that came with being in a relationship, paled in comparison to the stories he’d heard from Leo. The half Italian even dated someone for a couple months in the two years they’d known each other, and Nathan had to suffer through talks about that horrid relationship because they were friends and they had never talked about being anything more than friends. Friends that indulged in foreplay on-cam, talked about their likes and dislikes in lovers, and pretty much exhausted every conversation about what they would do to each other if they were together at any given moment, but friends nonetheless.
“And last but not least, the bedroom, which comes with an adjoining bathroom for all your pampering needs. Just don’t hog it up, Princess. There’s only one bathroom in this place, and I have a bladder the size of a pea.”
One of the most endearing qualities about Leo was the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled and the fact that, every time he did, Nathan knew it was sincere. For some reason this gorgeous man found him funny and amazing—his words. The attention given to him at a time he desired it the most was one of the main reasons why Nathan got so attached to Leo in the first place, and it was by pure luck they bonded over a mutual love of Star Wars and their hatred of iPhones despite both owning one. They had a strong relationship with their dads, and though Leo lost his mom to cancer when he was young, Nathan was estranged at sixteen from the woman who gave him life when his parents’ divorce was finalized. He and his father packed up and left their lives in the small town of Weiser, Idaho, moving south about an hour to Boise, where there was a lot more action and opportunity.
“IF I kissed you, would you freak out?”
Nathan lifted his eyebrows in surprise, and the palms of his hands began to sweat. He suddenly regretted his inability to consistently use ChapStick because nothing would be more embarrassing than his lips being dry while a man who looked like Leo kissed him. But he shook his head despite that and smiled through the tinge of fear that settled within him, shifting his eyes down to Leo’s full mouth as Leo moved closer. His scent was intoxicating and his hands were large, filling out every inch of Nathan’s hips as he grabbed hold of them. Nathan’s head tilted back and he fluttered his eyes close as their lips met in a soft embrace before dancing along each other like two old lovers finding themselves lost in a song they hadn’t heard in ages. It was a simple kiss, but it made Nathan’s spine feel like there was a lightning bolt repeatedly crashing against it, and his head swam and swirled until the moment their mouths parted and they each took a slight gasping breath.
Leo breathed out through his nose as he bit down on his bottom lip, and Nathan wanted nothing more than to be able to read his mind in that moment, despite the fact he was smirking slightly and his eyes were still closed. Rolling back on the balls of his feet, he dropped his hands from Leo’s hips and cleared his throat, unable to stop himself from mimicking the smile that rested on the other man’s lips, though his was intensified to the highest of degrees.
“Food.” Leo laughed as if he had forgotten their first stop and nodded, finally opening his piercing blue eyes to stare down at Nathan. “Yes, I’m starving.”
To avoid further embarrassment by stripping the man down and finally breaking in his bed the proper way, Nathan agreed and offered to serve the food, telling Leo to make himself right at home. He went into the kitchen and grabbed two plates from one of the cabinets, rinsed and dried them off before shuffling through the large bag to pull out the cartons of food. After serving each of them a decent amount, he set the plates on the small dining table before going back for utensils, cups, and a two-liter of soda, then set everything in its rightful place around the two plates of food.
Leo walked over from the entertainment center, which held some pictures of Nathan when he was younger, specifically in high school during his basketball years. There was one of his dad too, and his favorite cousin, who went to study abroad last year, as well as his grandma, who passed away when he was fourteen.
“Can I have water instead?”
“Right, I forgot. You deny yourself the great pleasure that is soda.” Nathan smirked and shook his head as he reached over for Leo’s glass and headed back in the kitchen to get a bottle from the fridge.
“It’s bad for your teeth and has too much sugar. My dad damn near sent me to the seminary when he saw me drinking the stuff one time.”
“Bible camp!” Nathan exclaimed, amused. “I forgot how much of a saint your dad is. Crazy how you turned out to be such a sinner.”
Leo laughed as Nathan returned to the table, thanked him for the water, and took a sip before responding to his rib. “I’m not a sinner, but it’s true what they say. Most of the kids who grow up in a strict home like I did turn out to be some of the worst. I’m not saying I’m a devil worshipper, but liking boys and sneaking out past my curfew to make out with the priest’s son isn’t exactly what I should’ve been doing, according to my father. I was a classic rebel cliché. I’m making it up to him now, though. He definitely still enjoys bossing me around.”
“How’s the store coming along?”
“The store’s great, actually. Dad says he has a few years left in him before either selling it or handing it over to me. I haven’t decided what I want to do yet.”
“You didn’t get your degree in business for nothing, L.” Nathan looked up at him as Leo was slipping a piece of shrimp into his mouth. It was erotic how his lips looked wrapped around his stainless-steel fork, and Nathan had to look down at his plate before he drove himself crazy. Or should he say crazier than he already was? “I say you finally put it to good use.”
“When the time is right, I definitely will,” he responded before a hum vibrated from him and the previously mentioned fork clinked against the plate. “This is amazing.”
“Let me have a bite.”
“Get your own.”
Nathan glared at the older man and couldn’t help but break his offended expression when Leo burst into laughter before swirling his fork in the noodles skillfully. He topped it off with a large shrimp and reached across the table carefully to feed it to him. Their eyes remained locked as Nathan’s mouth exploded with sweet taste, one that differed from the basil chicken he just had a few seconds prior. Licking his lips, he nodded in agreement, then got up to retrieve the carton of shrimp noodles and set it on the table between them.
“I’m not a big seafood person, to be honest. My dad’s allergic, so we never really had it growing up, but I might just become an avid eater after tasting that.”
“Before I leave here, we’re definitely upgrading your meal plans.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my meal plans, Mr. Fit Body. I’m plenty healthy. I’m just not a freak about it like you.”
“You really think I’m a freak? I think I’ve toned it down a little bit since I met you.”
Nathan smirked, leaning forward to rest his chin against his palm. “Are you saying I’m changing you into a better man, Leonardo Anthony Reyes?”
“I’m saying you’re annoying, and this is going to be a long two weeks if you keep teasing me, Nathan Edward Wilder.”
“Oh, I haven’t even started to tease you, babe. If you can’t handle it, you wasted one hell of a trip down here.”
“Nah, I think we can find a way to make it worth my while.”
The way Leo’s voice turned raspy in the duration of that sentence had Nathan reaching for his cup. He sipped slowly on the dark soda, hoping he played off how absolutely crazy he was becoming just sitting across from this man he’d fantasized about on so many occasions. It was different, but in an exhilarating kind of way, being able to feel his presence in real life rather than on camera, when it was easy to get distracted or run out of things to talk about. It also wasn’t quite like when they texted, if someone else was getting Leo’s attention as well, which sparked jealousy within him at the thought.
Just as quickly as he became addicted to the attention Leo gave him in the beginning of this beautiful friendship, he was addicted to having him near, picking up on all the little things he couldn’t spot in pictures and videos. The thin hairs growing at the base of his neck, traveling up toward his chin, or the birth mark he had on the left side of his nose. Nathan drank him in and committed those small things to memory, though it did nothing to drive him less insane than he already was.
AFTER THEY finished dinner, Nathan quickly loaded the dishwasher as Leo set up his space in the living room, where he would be sleeping on the couch that transformed into a bed. He gathered some freshly washed linens for him, set them on the arm of his La-Z-Boy, and then opened the door to his patio despite the warm, still Idaho air. He gave Leo his Wi-Fi password, which earned him a few laughs when he needed to defend his choice to use SpicyTacosLover95 as the login code.
They settled in on the couch, and Leo quickly sent a message to his dad, letting him know he landed okay and he loved him as Nathan pulled up Netflix and began skimming through the vast directory of movies.
“What are you feeling like? I think I could go for some horror right now.”
“Depends on what it is. If you choose something close to A Nightmare on Elm Street, I’m kicking you off my bed and sending you to bed early.”
“Hey, hey, don’t you dare talk shit about the best movie franchise out there. Aside from Star Wars, of course, but that’s another level all on its own.”
Leo scoffed and slipped his arm around Nathan’s shoulders, then grabbed the remote from him with the opposite hand and began skimming the Horror directory. “It’s childish and not that scary. We need something good. Something like Silent Hill. Oh, or The Conjuring.”
“Boring and boring. If you’re planning on putting me to sleep, I’d rather watch My Bloody Valentine. Or better yet, how about a Saw movie?”
“Ugh, definitely not!” Nathan watched Leo squinted as he pushed the button to skim through the selection. “Ah, here’s a promising one. Sinister.”
“Haven’t seen it. Fine, put it on. I’ll give it a few minutes. If it sucks, I want it turned off immediately.”
“Sir, yes, sir!” Leo saluted with the remote, then placed it on the coffee table in front of them and reached for the covers Nathan set out earlier.
They shifted on the couch until his back was against Leo’s side. Leo draped an arm lazily across his stomach, and Nathan wondered if his visitor could notice how much his breathing picked up or feel the thumping of his pulse against one of his pressure points. Taking a deep breath, he turned toward the screen and attempted to focus on the movie, though nothing could deter his attention from Leo’s scent and the thought of Leo’s lips pressed against his.
Zhara Freytes is a Florida native who loves to sit and watch every drama series on TV while watching her three-year-old nephew throw things across the room for fun. She’s a nanny, dedicated to the growth of her nieces and nephews who she loves more than anything in the world. When she’s not being a super aunt or a couch potato, she’s working out or driving to the nearest Taco Bell to undo everything she just did in the gym. Her writing passion began when she was eleven years old, writing about rainbows and unicorns and relationships that are perfect and last forever until she realized life was a little harder than that, thus turning her into a ball of angst that cannot be tamed. Her favorite things to do are waste money collecting things she really doesn’t need, playing games on her phone while ignoring the rest of the world, watching oiled-up half-naked men wrestle each other for the sake of entertainment, and staying up so late that she has to retrace her steps to see which episode of Grey’s Anatomy she was on because Netflix decided to stop her unconscious viewing pleasure. Her mom is her savior and biggest fan in the world. She is the youngest of six, along with her twin brother, following two older sisters and two older brothers. She’s also pretty obsessed with listening to the same songs until they become so annoying that she ultimately deletes them from her phone and doesn’t think about them for the next two years.
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