NorthernStar_cvr

 

 

Northern Star

Ethan Day

Available September 25th from

Wilde City Press

Click Here to Purchase

Promotional Blurb: Deacon Miller never had it all—he never really believed he could. Growing up in a broken home with an alcoholic mother and a revolving door of truly pathetic father figures taught him to keep his expectations low. Now at twenty-seven, on the night before Christmas Eve, his life is turned upside down yet again; his boyfriend has dumped him, he just fled the holiday family reunion from hell, and now to top it all off, a blizzard has left him stranded in an airport hotel.

Steve Steele has spent the better part of his forty-four years living a lie, ignoring his attraction to other men in an attempt to fit into the mold of the man he thought he should be, instead of living life as the man he knew himself to be. Recently divorced after coming home from work one day and coming out to his wife, Steve has floundered over the past year, desperately attempting to wade through the guilt and find the courage to start again.

That’s when a chance meeting in a hotel bar brings two lonely men together… and what should’ve been a one night stand turns into something much more than either one ever expected.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

December

 

Staring at the screen on his phone, Deacon Miller periodically tapped it with his thumb each time the back light began the process of going dark in an attempt to save the life of his battery. His email was open and the words were staring back at him in stark black and white, yet he could also hear them playing over and over on a loop inside his head—the voice of his boyfriend for the past year and a half cutting into his chest like a hatchet.

 

I can’t be with you anymore, Deacon, you’re boring. There’s no passion here, the sex has gotten really lame, and if I’m being totally honest, I’m not sure I ever even loved you. Either way, I’m pretty sure I don’t particularly like you, at least not anymore.

 

Hollow—that was how it felt, like he’d been gutted. His insides had been ripped out and tossed aside like waste.

Placing his phone down on the bar, Deacon picked up the rocks glass, sucking down the rest of his Sapphire and tonic before signaling the bartender that he’d be having another. On the emotional scale of totally-horrific-life-lessons-learned, he was currently sitting somewhere between desperation and completely numb. He didn’t intend to stop sucking down booze until he was safely situated completely on the numb side.

Alcohol had never really been his go-to solution for disappointment or disillusionment, having grown up with a raging alcoholic for a mother, but Seth’s email had been particularly harsh. Some train wrecks were simply too horrible to stare down without a filter, and on this night, Deacon had buckled under the pressure and gin had become the filter of choice.

He’d always known deep down what a prick Seth could be—completely conceited and selfish. When they’d first met, his attraction to the man had actually embarrassed him. How could he have ever been into someone who had such a capacity for cruelty? What did that say about him?

Of course, Deacon had never been good when it came to paying attention to warning signs.

Winding Road Ahead? Curves keep life interesting, right?

Road Narrows!?! I’ll go on a diet!

Dead End!!! Too little…too late.

He’d always been a bit of a ‘village idiot’ when it came to men. It didn’t help matters that Seth had a rakish charm, which made the awful things he sometimes said seem like a slightly destructive form of foreplay. Seth had always tested the boundaries to see how far he could push before breaking them, and loving him had felt dangerous as a result.

Living life on the edge.

Glancing back down at his phone, Deacon read the words once again, and another wave of emptiness came over him. “I’d consider us…shattered.”

“On your tab?” The bartender asked, setting down the freshly made cocktail.

“Yup,” Deacon said, smiling slightly when his lips made a faint popping sound, like a cork being violently liberated from a wine bottle.

He did his best to ignore the judgmental expression on the bartender’s face. Glancing down at the name tag, he shook his head, disgusted anyone named Clifford would be casting stones. The pious pity of Cliffy wasn’t what Deacon needed at the moment, and he said as much with the dirty look he offered as a thank you for the drink.

They both turned, hearing a loud group of twenty-something’s come stumbling into the hotel bar. They were all visibly wasted, and from what he could make out from their rather gregarious bitching, they’d each been bumped from their flight as a result of their intoxication.

More rejected casualties, redirected to purgatory via this airport adjacent, cheesy-ass hotel bar that hadn’t been updated since the early nineties.

The burgundy and blue commercial grade fabric was rough to the touch, as if designed to ensure you didn’t make yourself comfortable. That combined with the brass railings that ran along the bar and atop the booths located along the far wall, all the mirrors and glassware dangling from above, the entire room screamed Loser-ville.

“And I am right at home with my fellow loser-residents,” he muttered.

Deacon could practically smell the sweaty desperation of yester-year that hung in the air like the scent of stale smoke, from what had no doubt been the scene of many a one-night hookup over the years. Chewing on a chunk of ice, he took a moment to glance around the room at the rest of the poor schlubs.

Two gray-haired business men types were huddled at the far end of the bar. One was a bit of a chunk but had an abundance of snow on the roof. His business-bud was more fit but had little roof left at all. The lights above the bar reflected off the top of the shiny bald-headed portion of his receding hairline, and it dawned on Deacon that perhaps no man was allowed to have it all.

“Fat man, tall man, big dick, small, ain’t nobody gonna have it all,” he mumbled, snickering to himself.

He was certainly beginning to feel less pain thanks to the alcohol.

Perusing the rest of the room, attendance was pretty sparse. There were only a few other random couples and a handful of singles like himself of various ages and sexes nursing cocktails. All making an attempt to avoid the solitude of a lonely hotel room on the eve of Christmas Eve.

They all looked as tragic as he felt, save the older guy who just walked in. He was kinda hot. Deacon watched the man shake the snow off his coat before hanging it on a peg just inside the entrance. He smiled warmly at Deacon as he made a beeline for the bar, taking a seat on the stool next to him.

“Guess I shoulda asked,” the guy said, waving at the bartender. “Was anyone sitting here?”

“Nope,” Deacon said. “Seat’s all yours, pal.”

Mr. Smiley was hunky, in that hetero, somebody’s-father kinda way. Late thirties, he guessed. Very athletic looking, the drool-worthy type you’d expect to find coaching his son’s little league team.

Deacon imagined all the other mommies spent more time watching the coach than they did their kiddies—probably a few of the daddies too, for that matter.

For some reason, that thought made him chuckle.

His new neighbor was dressed more casually in jeans, a black thin cotton sweater and a pair of well-worn leather snow boots.

Very butch.

The sweater looked new, but the man was slightly weathered in the best sense of the word with a bit of gray speckled throughout his sideburns. His face had the slightest hint of stubble, which suited the masculine jawline and chin dimple.

Salesman, Deacon figured, already turned off by that thought. Of course, if he promised not to speak, Deacon would definitely be willing to work the bod.

Smiley’s light brown hair was well manicured, longer on top and combed back with enough product to keep everything in its place. Deacon had just begun to imagine what he looked like naked when Mr. Smiley gave him a sideways glance and began to grin once more.

Deacon turned away, unsure if he was embarrassed or if he’d had too many cocktails to care. He was aware that he should’ve been, though, staring at a total stranger for that length of time, as if he’d actually been considering the possibility.

The stir of activity between his legs was evidence that he had been.

Why not? Nothing like random sex with a stranger to make a boy feel better about himself. Not like I’m in a relationship anymore.

He cringed through the sharp pain in his chest and sucked down the rest of his drink, once again, signaling the barkeep with the clinking sound of ice against glass as he gently shook it.

Again with Clifford’s judgey sigh?

The rat bastard.

Get a different job if you can’t handle the sight of intoxication in process. He glanced over at Smiley to see the man was staring at the television hanging on the wall behind the bar. A basketball game was on, but the volume was muted so it didn’t interfere with the nauseating vocals-with-jazz being piped in through the sound system.

Like that wouldn’t be enough to require one or two extra cocktails.

The current selection was some bastardized-rapage of a Carpenters’ tune, Top of the World, he thought, which seemed a little insensitive considering his current situation—having been dumped and all.

Probably Clifford’s doing—the little weasel had it out for him.

Deacon sneered, glancing up at the speaker in the ceiling above his head.

The crappy song choice aside, they’d apparently hired the horrifically off-key singers featured on Dancing with the Stars, adding insult to injury. What asshole gave those tone-deaf fuckers a recording contract?

Stupid show.

Seth never missed an episode. Perhaps that was the silver lining to the knowledge Deacon was apparently an un-passionate, cold-dead-fish-fuck in the sack? He’d never have to sit through another episode of DWTS.

In an attempt to be a little stealthier, Deacon took to further examining Mr. Smiley utilizing the mirror behind the bar.

Definitely a hot dad type. A real man, no doubt. Bet he doesn’t watch totally gay reality television. Of course he unfortunately probably fucks like a straight man too—just shoves it on in and starts pounding away. Deacon hated that.

He sure was sexy, though, like the older male models featured in the back of his mother’s JC Penney catalog, which Deacon used to jack off to as a teenager—the ones posing in their Jockeys.

He smiled at the memory while attempting to ignore the wood growing in his trousers.

The guy’s probably married.

Clifford reluctantly placed Deacon’s fourth cocktail onto the bar.

“Tab it,” Deacon said, not giving Clifford the opportunity to recommend any other alternatives. “I’m staying in the hotel, dude. Not driving, so tab it.”

Clifford held up his hands like he was shocked by the insinuation that he gave a good goddamn either way, which made Deacon wonder if he hadn’t been imagining the whole thing. Perhaps he was mildly sensitive at the moment? The knockdown, drag-out with his mother followed by having been ruthlessly dumped by his boyfriend via email had caused a mental breakdown, and as a result, he’d been forced to invent someone who cared about his well-being?

That was a particularly sad and wretched thought. Poor Cliffy’s getting the raw end of that imaginary deal.

Need to try thinking about something else.

Deacon glanced back into the mirror behind the bar, deciding his new neighbor on the stool to his left would do in a pinch.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, should I fuck Smiley in a bathroom stall?

He grinned to himself, deciding one thing was certain. Deacon was seldom wrong when it came to sniffing out the gay, regardless of the married-het vibe the man exuded. That meant Mr. Smiley was either bi or a gay man who’d gotten married back in the day and now trolled bars looking for cock while on business trips.

It was a particular breed of gay that Deacon didn’t like thinking about—the self-loathers. They depressed him. Fortunately, thanks to Seth, he was already depressed, so fuck it if he gave a shit at this point.

Taking in his own reflection in an attempt to ascertain his physical state, he smirked, deciding while he might not be the hottest piece of ass out there, he was indeed attractive in that cloned-gay-way. Deacon wasn’t overtly fem, or at least he didn’t think so, but he had the look—over-primped and manscaped down to the nearest centimeter. Too tan, despite the fact it was the dead of winter and he wasn’t visiting from Florida or southern California.

All he was missing was some glitter.

With well-gelled, dark hair and sharp blue eyes, he was borderline pretty, but Deacon spent enough time in the gym to keep his body tight. He’d been a fat kid and teased to the point he was now overly sensitive about his waistline as a result. It had become an unhealthy obsession.

Deacon utilized the mirror to glance back over at Smiley only to discover he was being watched. He wondered how Seth would feel if he took Mr. Faux-het up to his room and cold-dead-fish fucked him.

That’d learn him.

His attention was diverted back to the loud lot now laughing hysterically at their friend who was so drunk she’d limply slipped out of the booth and onto the floor underneath their table. He couldn’t imagine how they’d managed to find their gate in the first place, but that, no doubt, made not being allowed to board even more upsetting.

Deacon had been bumped from his flight too. Though in his case, it had been self-inflicted. By the time they began announcing his flight was overbooked, he’d been staring at his Dear John email for a good forty minutes in disbelief. When they asked for volunteers to opt for a later flight, Seth’s evil words finally sank in…he no longer had anyone to rush home to. Then his later flight got cancelled due to the blizzard.

This had been his first trip home to Detroit since he’d left six years before.

If you could call it home.

His mother, Patricia, was pretty bad off, facing real jail time after her third DUI in too many years. Patty’s latest piece of shit trailer-trash boyfriend had run off to boot, leaving he and his half-sister, Ashley, to deal with the fallout. It was difficult to feel bad for his mother considering the last time he’d seen her, Patty had told him she’d rather have a dead son than a gay one.

Yeah, a real sweetheart, proof that some people shouldn’t be allowed to breed.

Were it not for Ashley, pleading for him to come home for Christmas in the first place, Deacon wouldn’t have bothered. He’d lasted a day and a half and was now departing two days before Christmas due to the incessant fighting.

Patty drank so much and so often that Deacon was never sure what was the booze and what was truly Patty, and though he decided to blame the booze for her general evilness, he’d made the decision to leave Detroit years before and had never looked back…until now.

So he’d gone from family drama to boyfriend drama and now found himself all alone in the world once again. The fact Seth had sent an email should have been Deacon’s first clue that something was up, the man was addicted to texting. Perhaps Seth decided a breakup message of I hate you was too harsh for a text?

From where Deacon sat, fewer words could’ve been utilized.

The apartment they’d shared back in Chicago was Seth’s, and he’d sweetly mentioned that he’d be on a cruise over the next week and could Deacon please have all his shit moved out by the time he got back.

Nice to know Seth was worried enough about his well-being to give him so much time to find a new place to live. The entire day had pretty much sucked ass, and he’d been in a daze since getting out of bed that morning. He couldn’t even remember walking up to the counter at the gate and throwing himself onto his sword for the rest of the poor schmucks who were attempting to make it home for the holidays to their so-called loved ones.

People were entirely too horrible to one another in general, Deacon wasn’t sure why he kept trying to connect with anyone at all. It inevitably brought him nothing but heartache.

“From boyfriend to bitterness in…” He glanced down at his watch. “Three hours and forty-two minutes. Impressive.”

Deacon sighed, chuckling sarcastically over his disappointment, taking another quick sip. He became aware that someone else was snickering right along with him. There was no one sitting on his right, so that only left one other option, Mr. Smiley.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to eavesdrop on your little rant there,” Smiley said, though the expression on his face said otherwise.

“You look real torn up about it.” Deacon smirked, shaking his head when Smiley began laughing harder.

The bartender had placed a Bud Light long neck on the bar in front of Smiley. Deacon was fairly certain he’d never actually ordered it, which meant his neighbor was somewhat of a regular.

Probably trolls for trade here a lot.

“From boyfriend to bitter, huh? Sounds like trouble. He dump you or the other way around?”

“He eviscerated me, if you must know.” Deacon took a sip from his glass and scooped up his phone with his free hand. He tapped on the screen, bringing it to life once more before reading the same horrible paragraph aloud so Smiley could be brought up to speed.

“Jeez,” Smiley said. “That was…wow.” He held up his beer bottle to toast, clinking it against Deacon’s glass. “I’m impressed you’re in as good a shape as you appear to be. Did you love him?”

“It hurts, so I musta, right?” Deacon shrugged, not waiting for an answer before asking, “Say, what’s your name anyway? Can’t keep calling you Mr. Smiley in my head, it’s distracting.”

“Names Steve, Steven actually, but most people call me Steve.”

“I’m Deacon Miller,” he said, before adding flatly, “nice to meet you, Steven Actually.”

“Funny,” he said.

“Hey just ’cause I’m gay and newly eviscerated doesn’t mean I’m tacky. If we end up doing it later, I wanna know your last name.”

One of Smi—Steve…one of Steve’s eyebrows arched as he took a swig off his beer bottle. “It’s Steele. Steven Steele is my name.”

Before he could manage further comment, Deacon interrupted, “Your name is Steve Steele?”

“Um…yeah?” Steve seemed confused. “Have we met before?”

“What are you, porn star or car salesman?”

Steve laughed, blushed slightly as well. “Car salesman, though I’m surprisingly flattered you thought I could pass for a porn star.”

“I’ll admit that porn seemed less likely in Detroit, but hey, who am I to judge, you know?”

“Um…okay,” Steve grinned.

Deacon cringed. “That made sense in my head. Too much liquor, I guess.”

“Considering the day you’ve had, I’d say you’re entitled.”

“Very kind of you, considering you’re a car salesman.”

“Ouch,” Steve said. “I own the dealership if that helps raise my likability quotient.”

“Might be worse, but I’m not really thinking clearly at this point. Sorry. I’m not usually this rude.”

“It’s okay, I am kind of a dick, too.” Steve grinned as Deacon stared back at him in shock over the admission. “What is it you do? Cure nuns with cancer?”

Deacon laughed over the sarcastic delivery. “I’m a nobody, one of those cashier drones, I work at a Target.”

Steve smiled, turning on his stool to face Deacon. “Bet you look awfully cute in those red shirts and khakis. Though I could offer a few suggestions for where they place that bull’s eye.”

Deacon laughed. “Knew I wasn’t wrong about your proclivities.”

He wiggled his eyebrows and took another swig off his beer. “How’d you manage to get time off working retail this close to Christmas?”

“Had a family emergency kinda-thing.”

“Everything okay, I hope? Aside from the ex dumping you, I mean. You know with your family?”

“Just peachy.” Deacon faced Steve, propping up his elbow on the bar for support. “Say, you can’t be too much of a dick, you at least asked how I’m doing, right?”

“Well, you did mention doing me before. I became infinitely more invested at that point.”

Deacon started laughing.

“We’ll blame your evil ex for your rude behavior.” Steve said. “I take it he neglected to mention what a fucking asshole he was.”

It wasn’t a question, more of an assumption.

“No, I apparently suffer from low self-esteem and have an unfortunate attraction to loose-moraled men with little to no character.”

“Sweet, so my chances of getting lucky just skyrocketed.”

Deacon laughed but could feel the heat rushing to his cheeks. “Oh yeah, nothing short of you turning out to be a cannibalistic serial killer could spoil that, buddy.”

Steve looked at him sideways. “At some point, I’ll be inquiring about the fact your statement leaves the door open for non-cannibalistic serial killers, but at the moment. I’m too distracted by the possibility of sex to offer any further judgments.”

“Makes sense.” Deacon nodded. “Though as you heard before, I’m apparently not very passionate in the sack, so I wouldn’t get overly excited if I were you.”

“I don’t buy that for one minute,” he said.

“I’m not selling it, dude, so we’re all good.”

“Still don’t believe it.” Steve’s voice lowered, getting slightly huskier in the process as he leaned closer and said, “Lips like yours were made for sucking cock, baby.”

Steve’s warm breath brushed across Deacon’s face as he said the words, resulting in a positive reaction between his legs. He took a drink, using it as an excuse to break eye contact.

“That’s the sweetest thing anyone’s said to me all day.”

“I’d be more impressed with myself were I not aware your ex shit all over you earlier today.”

“So there’s nowhere to go but up…up to my room…up to your room if you prefer…either way I can feel myself getting up as we speak so…whenever you’re ready.”

Steve smiled, showing off his pearly whites and the slash-like dimples in his cheeks. “I’m not actually staying here, so it will have to be your room if that’s all right?”

“Christ, why would anyone come to this shit-hole if they weren’t staying in the hotel?”

Clifford coughed, making sure Deacon was aware he’d overheard that. The guy was hacking into a lime with a paring knife, which made him seem slightly more menacing.

“My bad.” Deacon shrugged an apology. “Put down the knife and step away from the fruit, buddy.”

Clifford sighed, shaking his head and further signaling his disapproval.

“Let’s just say that tonight is sort of an anniversary of mine and leave it at that,” Steve said, picking at the label on his beer bottle. “I’m here…not celebrating so much as commiserating?”

Deacon opened his mouth to demand more info but was interrupted by the drunkards in the booth.

“Hey, barkeep! It’s almost Santa-fucking-Claus time already! How ’bout you be playin’ some Christmas music? Let’s cheer it up in here with a little Ho, Ho, Ho-ing!”

All the other idiots in his little group began clapping and cheering him on by heckling right along with him. Clifford rolled his eyes, reluctantly heading to the other end of the bar where he began fiddling with a remote. Magically the sound of sleigh bells filled the bar as Tony Bennett crooned ‘Winter Wonderland’.

“Yeah, man, that’s the stuff!” the guy screamed, before he began singing along…badly. “Come on, Scroogies, time to go caroling!”

Before anyone could manage to stop it, the table of women sitting in the next booth began singing, then it bled over into the next booth, and the next, like a virus that couldn’t be neutralized. By the time Frosty the Snowman came on, the entire bar had joined in, even the sadistically judgey Clifford who kindly brought Steve and Deacon another round of drinks and some sort of Irish-creamy peppermint shots.

Deacon couldn’t carry a tune to save his life, so he mainly mouthed along while trying not to laugh. Steven-Actually-Steele had quite the nice voice, however, deep and soothing in an odd way, which somehow made him seem completely un-dick-like, despite having claimed otherwise. Maybe it was the older guy thing, but he put off a disturbingly comforting protective-Dad-like vibe, and Deacon found himself wholly disarmed by it—though the booze likely helped.

They’d run through five or six songs and were both laughing hysterically when Deacon finally reached over, giving Steve’s leg a squeeze. His laughing slowly subsided when Deacon didn’t remove it.

Steve nodded, swigging the rest of his beer in one long gulp before hopping up off his bar stool, signaling he was ready to go. Deacon did the same, waving down the bartender so he could finally settle that tab. Steve tossed a couple of fifties on the bar and winked at Deacon before making sure Clifford had seen him leave the money.

‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ was being sung/screamed as they walked out. Deacon could hear Steve singing softly from behind him. They paused long enough for Steve to collect his coat, and Deacon realized he was already having trouble catching his breath, knowing what they were about to do. He was drunk enough to not overthink things, and his body was screaming for naked friction, yearning for the comfort that came from the heat of a hard body pressing into his.

Deacon wanted it so much he could feel the heat of his need burning his skin. Nothing else seemed quite as important to him in that moment. He was aware of the questions buzzing around in the back of his mind, most prominently dealing with Steve Steele’s marital status. He pushed all that away. The man wasn’t wearing a ring and as far as he could tell, didn’t appear to have been wearing one recently.

Deacon was determined to let that be enough.

He needed this, if for no other reason than being wanted by someone, hell, anyone at this point. It was paramount to boosting his will to move forward into tomorrow.

There’d be time enough for sadness and heartache later, but tonight he wanted to be the object of someone else’s desire, the object of Steven Steele’s hard, wet affection.

They were staring at one another as the elevator doors closed. The younger couple with the whiney, cranky toddler was likely the only thing that kept them from attacking one another right then. The father was doing his best to soothe the spawn, but somehow, the young mother was aware of the animalistic lusty heat between Steve and himself. Perhaps it was some sort of pheromone thing that only gay men and women were genetically attuned to sniff out, but she was blushing with a slight grin and doing her best to avoid making eye contact.

Deacon, on the other hand, was barely able to tear his gaze away from Steve’s—tension building with each and every ding as the elevator passed another floor. He could practically taste the anticipation—that sensation of the familiarly-unknown that came from a one-night stand with a total stranger.

Christmas was coming early, and Deacon was anxious to unwrap the package standing before him, ready to see what the universe had laid at his feet. He wanted to forget—was ready to have Steve fuck any lingering memories of the past twelve hours away, if only for a little while.

That’s what Deacon needed most in that moment, and Steven-Actually-Steele was willing to help.

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