Marty Lincoln and Chris Lawson are only happy when they’re in each other’s arms. Unfortunately, their relationship remains long-distance as Marty completes his final months in the Army. Chris has a new and challenging job that keeps him busy, but he yearns every day for Marty. Marty suffers from PTSD and needs Chris as his anchor. Time apart feeds the doubts each man harbors as they deal with their tragic pasts and try to hold on to the love blooming between them. Will fear make them give up before they even get started? Or will love find a way?
Marty pulled up into the parking lot of Chris’s apartment complex in his mid-sized rental car. The evening heat and humidity clung to his skin. He and Chris had talked at least three times a week since that first phone call a month earlier, but he’d really wanted to see the man again. They’d decided to meet up on Chris’s first weekend off since becoming day manager at the bar. Marty had the jitters. What if they didn’t have the same chemistry? The same spark? All their intimacies since June had been via phone.
Chris had suggested video chat, but Marty had been too much of a chicken. Living in the military made a man paranoid about privacy. He pulled his tee shirt at the collar to let in some air, mustering his courage. The heat exacerbated the oily scent of the recently tarred parking lot. He smiled, remembering the choice words Chris had about the tar sticking to his tires. The outside steps leading to the second floor were concrete. Marty gripped the metal railing. His leg ached as he walked the flight to apartment 3B.
He bit his upper lip, running his fingers through his hair, as he stood at the door. His stomach ached with a misery born of anticipation and fear. His impulse was to bang down the door, but instead, he simply knocked. Twice.
The door opened. Chris smiled. “You made it.” Chris wore a kiwi-green tee shirt that brightened the green in his hazel eyes and a pair of low-slung jeans that hugged his narrow hips. His chestnut hair was neatly combed, and his narrow, angular face was clean shaven.
“You look nice,” Marty said.
Chris stepped back inside his apartment. “Come in. You’ve had a long trip. The bathroom is the door across the way.” There were two doors off the living room. Chris pointed the nearest one. “If you need to use it.”
“I’m fine,” Marty said. The living room and kitchen were combined in the small apartment. Chris had a blue couch, a coffee table, a recliner, and a small flat screen on a stand across the room from the couch in the living room. The kitchen had a three-by-three wooden table, four chairs, a fridge, dishwasher, sink, stove, and limited counter and cabinet space. The place wouldn’t win any decorating awards, but it was clean.
“Do you want to sit down?” Chris asked.
“Sure.” Marty felt let down by Chris’s mild reaction. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but this congenial greeting hadn’t been it. “It’s good to see you.”
“You too,” Chris said. “Can I get you a drink? Beer? Wine?”
“Sure. I’ll take whatever beer you have.” He watched Chris open the fridge and heard the telltale clinking of bottles.
Chris brought two beers into the living room. The bottles hissed as he popped the tops with an opener. He sat on the couch next to Marty. “Here you go.”
The cold bottle sweated against his hot, clammy hands. He swigged the beer, glad to have a reason not to talk for a moment. They’d talked so much on the phone over the past month that he’d assumed they’d never run out of things to say.
“So,” Chris said. “Long drive, huh?”
Wow, this conversation really was going nowhere. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Chris said. “Yes, of course. Why? Is everything okay with you?”
“Sure.” Marty scratched at the small hole near the knee of his jeans. “Good.” Why was this so goddamn hard? He turned to Chris and waited for Chris to meet his gaze.
They both laughed nervously.
“Maybe you should kiss me,” Marty said.