Harold Dugan’s boyfriend flipped him off and told him to keep out of his life. His wife said it was the final straw and filed for divorce.
His life is a total mess.
An abusive past keeps him from making the right decisions. He turns to alcohol and cheap tricks in the local gay bar. Then Ryan Winfield sweeps into his life and he is totally unprepared for this man who has different ideas of how a relationship should be. Ryan is not a one night stand. Not a cheap trick. All he wants is to show Harold how love can transcend a horrible past. True love. Will Harold allow Ryan into his life? Can Harold love anyone other than himself?
On Thursday night, and after he’d quit his job a few days earlier, Harold wondered about Chaps. Stupid name for a gay bar actually, but hey, Harold was a stupid name for a kid. Fair was fair. He didn’t mean to be an idiot the other night. They laughed at him, and his problem was that he didn’t know whether they figured he was funny, or just a fool. He had a hard time reading people for anything but sex. As he thought about it, he realized that Ryan was good looking—downright handsome. He didn’t recognize him from the bar, so likely he was passing through and would never see him again. He spent a long time deciding what to wear, but finally, he chose a pair of jeans and black tee shirt. When he checked in the mirror, he saw plain old Harold staring back at him. He took the train instead of driving. That way, he would have an excuse to leave if things became uncomfortable. He got hit on a lot at the bar.
At Chaps, he went directly to the bathroom. When he returned, Ryan stood at the bar with a beer in one hand, and a club soda in the other. Yep, Ryan was actually better than good looking. With his dark brown hair, piercing blue eyes, and full lips that invited someone to kiss them, he was gorgeous. He was maybe a hair shorter than Harold, but had the build of a Greek god.
“Let’s see if I can do this properly this time, shall we? Hi. I’m Ryan Winfield. I have a club soda here with your name on it.”
Harold smiled. “Harold Dugan. Thank you for the soda. It’s my favourite actually. Clear, sparkling water, that tastes like absolute heaven when served with a twist of lime.” He was running on at the mouth and blushed. “It’s equally good without lime.”
“How about joining me at a table? I didn’t do well by you when we met, and I’d like to get to know you.” Ryan paused, noticed the wary look on Harold’s face and quickly added, “I’m not trying to get into your pants. I do like you.”
Harold blushed. “Not much to like, but thanks. Um, would you like to go get a bite to eat after these drinks? I didn’t have dinner, and I got my severance money today, so I’ll buy.”
“Sure, I can do with nourishment. Severance huh, were you laid off or something?”
“I quit. They wanted to make a big deal of things I did that made the company profitable. I don’t like being in the spotlight.”
“If I promise I have no devious motive, would you be willing to get takeout and eat at my place? I don’t live too far from the next train station east of here.”
Harold glanced at him. The guy wasn’t looking for sex. “Sure, if you want. There’s a great Fish and Chip place nearby, or Mexican if you prefer spicy. I’m more of a bland eater.”
“Tell you what, since I’m going to be the host, why don’t you buy a pack beer from off sales, and I’ll order a pizza when we get to mine. Any brand is fine by me.”
Harold frowned. “I can afford to feed us. I’ll get the food as well. I’d like your company, but I’m not looking for charity.”
Ryan was surprised as all that tumbled out of Harold. “I never thought of you as a charity case. I was thinking we could split the effort. That way no one feels like he owes the other. Besides, the beer will likely cost more than the pizza anyway. Are we good? Ryan wondered what made this handsome man tick. He can’t say “no” to people, seemed to have a low opinion of himself, and he hated recognition for good things he accomplished. He made a mental note to talk to a psychologist friend of his.
“Maybe I should head home. No need to go through all this trouble anyway.” He drained his club soda and stood up to leave.
“Harold, it isn’t any trouble. We can grab a bite at either of the places you mentioned earlier. Seafood is fine for me as you aren’t a fan of spicy. I’d just like to hang with you. Nothing else, I promise.”
Harold sighed in defeat. “I’ll get the beer, you get pizza. We can grab a taxi to your place if you prefer.”
Ryan didn’t prefer, but he wouldn’t cause poor Harold more anxiety than he was already dripping. “I’ll ask the bartender to call a cab, and order the pizza on the way. Anything you don’t like? Or better still, what’s your favorite?”
Harold grinned. Ryan thought that smile was seldom used, but gorgeous. “Hawaiian with feta cheese on thin crust is awesome.”