Ryan Richards returned from Afghanistan with more than a shattered body. His heart was in tatters, too. For the three years since then, renovating houses and patching up fighters has been the only thing to quiet his demons—those foisted upon him and those he has created himself. At DS Fight Club, he has a purpose. And when he spends time with sexy trainer Junior Maldonado, he feels more like a real man than a shadow of one.
Injured in the Middle East while an Army Ranger, Junior shared an instant camaraderie with wounded corpsman Ryan…and more than a little bit of attraction. And although Junior has reunited with his high school boyfriend, Ryan’s haunted whiskey eyes are never very far from his mind. He knows Ryan is hurting, and wants the best for his friend.
When Junior returns to Atlanta after his second-chance romance fails, he finds Ryan careening toward rock bottom. Overwhelmed by uncontrolled physical and emotional pain, Ryan is fighting for his life…and hiding the truth. It’s up to Junior to help him see that real men come in many forms, and they are all entitled to love.
“Mano, what the fuck is this? You running scared because you think we fucked last night?”
Ryan snorted. “Uh, I’m pretty sure I don’t just think we—”
“Let me set you straight, Ryan Richards. We didn’t fuck. We absolutely did not fuck. I made love to you. I loved you. And you know what? I’ve never done that before. Ever.”
“What?” Ryan’s voice was a mere whisper.
“That’s right, Ryan. I’ve fucked a lot of men. A lot. But I’ve only ever made love to you. And yeah, this is fucking scary. I get that. But I’m not going to let you run away from me now that I’ve gotten my head out of my ass, not when we’re on the verge of something great. Now, we can take a step back, we can take a whole bunch of steps back, but I’m not going to let you sabotage this.”
Ryan rubbed his face with a shaking hand, and Junior held his breath until Ryan decided to speak.
“Fuck, I thought the ‘have you ever wanted kids?’ conversation was intense.” Ryan’s gaze met Junior’s, and his lips curled up into that crooked grin of his for a brief moment before settling into a contemplative line. “So, yeah. Um, I’m scared shitless, Junior Maldonado. Okay? Scared that I’m . . . not going to be enough. For you. For myself. For anyone. But I promise I’m gonna try, okay?”
Junior reached out and caught Ryan’s hand in his. He raised it to his lips, and after giving it a little squeeze, kissed his fingers. “That’s all I could ever wish for.”