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The Dom vs. The Virgin
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I’m a Dom. She’s a Virgin. But not for long.
How the hell I allowed myself to be part of a reality show, I’ll never know. But here I am, facing nine single women who see only two things — fresh man meat and big dollar signs.
Beautiful, young, innocent Emery Rose didn’t plan on being here either. She’s flown under the radar too. But that won’t stop me from hunting her. Or from her hunting me.
She doesn’t know what she’s in for. Yeah, I might be the Beasts’ Daddy, but the real beast is me.
*** This is a full-length STANDALONE romance novel with an HEA and NO CLIFFHANGER, which is also book five and last in my bestselling series, The Beasts of Baseball. All FOUR other standalone novels of the series are also included in this copy as a bonus for a limited time, so you can read the COMPLETE series when you one-click this book today! ***
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The single word continued to float around me as mourners — no, rubberneckers — filed away from the gravesite. Rain pattered the gray granite of the simple headstone as the cold West Virginia wind tunneled down the mountain. It caught my umbrella, nearly ripping it out of my hands, but my numb fingers held on.
Held on to the shelter.
Held on to my sanity.
Just as I’d been holding on for the past year.
“Didja know?” I startled as the clipped words rang near my ear so unexpectedly. With a long sigh, I turned to face Ryan’s mother. Her usually haggard-looking face had collapsed into a mask of anger and grief, turning the lines in her skin into deep rivers that contrasted harshly against her pale complexion. “Didja know my son was…?” She shook her head, unable to say the word. She looked up to the cloud-filled heavens and crossed herself before turning angry eyes to me. “Didja?”
A camera flashed, and I turned away from it and all the news cameras behind it. Turned away from the reporters lying in wait to ask stupid “how do you feel” questions that only served to prolong the horror of the nightclub shooting that took place exactly one year ago today. Twelve were killed, including my precious Ryan. My best friend since I was ten years old.
Marlene Steadman’s claw-like hand grabbed my arm, turning me to face her again. “Tell me, Emery! I wanna hear it from yer own mouth. Didja know my son was gay?” She spat the word out, as if it tasted like a combination of brine and venom. Her eyes were accusing, like it was my fault her son wasn’t “normal.”
That was the word Marlene used when we buried him. When she ran out of the funeral home, crying tears of not grief, but embarrassment in front of the news stations blasting stories about the victims. She hadn’t even attended her own son’s funeral, and I was surprised to see her here now.
Pushing my long, dark hair back from my eyes, I examined her face, wondering what to say. After all, there was no reason to protect the secret any longer. Ryan Bradley Steadman’s greatest fear had been revealed by his death three hundred and sixty-five days ago.
“Yes, Mrs. Steadman. I knew. And I loved him anyway. Can you?”
My face burned where her hand connected with my cheek, and I stifled the cry of not only pain, but surprise. The woman looking at me with so much hatred now had practically raised me since elementary school, providing me an escape from my own home for many years. I’d sat at her table. Spent the night at her house. Helped her clean and wash clothes, anything I could think of to be helpful so she would let me stay as much as possible.
So I wouldn’t have to go to my own home.
So I could be clean.
So I could be near my only friend, Ryan. The boy who had offered me his protection. The boy I’d protected in return.
But now, my relationship with her was dead too, it seemed. As dead as the boy beneath my feet. Today was my first day back to my hometown since we buried Ryan all those months ago. During that time, I hadn’t had to face the questions and accusations I knew would be hurled at me in my small coal mining town. But I was back now. And not just for the memorial service being held in all the victims’ honors, but because I’d failed in New York, and there was nowhere else I could go.
I couldn’t pay the rent.
I couldn’t afford to buy food.
I tried, but after Ryan’s murder, the city had become too expensive for me to live in on my own. Even with two jobs and two new roommates, I couldn’t pay the exorbitant monthly payment. Ryan had been the one taking care of the finances. As a professional football player, he could afford the beautiful apartment in which we lived while I went to school and worked part-time on Broadway and at Rockefeller Center, gaining experience so I could follow my dream of one day writing my own screenplays and directing movies.
In return, I was Ryan’s shield from a world that didn’t take kindly to homosexual professional football players, just as I’d been his shield from the small-town bigotry we’d grown up in for so long. As “boyfriend and girlfriend,” we protected each other. We took care of each other.
Until a hate-filled bullet destroyed it all.
A year later, I couldn’t do it any longer. After today’s memorial service, I would talk to my father about moving back home. My things were packed, and all I needed to do was rent a U-Haul and drive back with my meager possessions to Shitville, West Virginia.