Will Ashford lives in two closets. He meets his wealthy father’s goals as both the quarterback for the famous SCU football team and a business major, but secretly he attends art school and longs to live as a painter. And he’s gay. But if he can win the coveted Milton Scholarship for art, he’ll be able to break from his father at the end of his senior year.
In a painting master class, Will meets his divergent opposite, Noah Zajack. A scarred orphan who’s slept on park benches and eaten from trash cans, Noah carefully plans his life and multiple jobs so he has money and time to go to art school. Will’s problems seem like nothing compared to Noah’s. Noah wants the scholarship too and may have a way to get it since the teacher of his class has designs on him, a plan Will isn’t happy about.
When a gossipmonger with a popular YouTube channel finds evidence that Will is gay, the quarterback’s closet doors begin to crumble. Hounded by the press and harassed by other players, Will has to choose. Stay in the closet and keep his family’s wealth, or let the doors fall off and walk out with nothing. Nothing but Noah.
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Will followed Noah up to the low-rise structure that looked more like a shed than a house. Clearly the thing had been built sometime early in the twentieth century without a single permit. Noah unlocked the door, although a burglar probably could have ripped down the walls and gotten in easily.
Hell, Will couldn’t diss the place. He still lived at home.
Noah looked over his shoulder. “Home sweet home.” He walked in and Will followed.
Wow. He was kind of aware that he was in one medium-sized room, but pretty much all he saw was the huge, softly impressionistic painting of a nude man on the wall opposite the front door. Gorgeous didn’t do it justice. It or him. The model was more boy than man, with long brown hair falling down a lean, curved back. Only his profile showed as he gazed off into space with a look of pure longing. Though the face was perfect and Will had never seen such an expression, it could only be one person. “It’s you, isn’t it?”
“Holy shit, how did you know that?”
Will looked at Noah. The guy’s eyes were wide and a little horrified.
“It’s you the way you are inside. Maybe the way you were outside once. Full of hope and longing for joy.”
Will glanced over and caught the fast blink wiping out the unshed tears. “The painting is gorgeous. You’re an amazing artist. Really. I should hate you.” He grinned at Noah.
Noah’s face never left dead serious. “Do you?”
Oh shit, he couldn’t catch his breath. “Of course not.” Change. The. Subject. He looked around. “So this is your place. Doesn’t look like much outside, but you made it really cool.” That was true. Against one wall a daybed, actually made, looked like it could hold one person spaciously and two tightly. Okay, why the hell did he think of that? An old but very serviceable sectional couch divided off the sleeping area and curved underneath that gorgeous painting, with a chair opposite it. The rest of the room contained a kitchenette with a microwave, an under-counter refrigerator, and a few cabinets, plus a small table and two straight-back chairs. “You’re so neat.”
Noah shrugged. “You have to be in a place this small. Sit.” He pointed at one end of the sectional.
Will sat. “I wonder if I’m neat.” He grinned.
“You don’t know?”
“No. I’ve always had a maid.”
Noah flipped a hand at Will. “Jeez. How do you keep your bathroom between maid visits?”
“There you go.”
“I don’t know. If I thought I had to pick up that towel myself, I might reform real fast.” He leaned back. “I guess I should start practicing.”
“Never too early to grow up. Want a beer?”
Coach would kill him. Plus, alcohol looked pretty crappy after last night. “No thanks.”
“I’ve got iced tea.”
“Yeah. That’d be great.” Noah walked over to the kitchenette. Jesus, watching the guy move in a confined space with nobody else around was too much for Will’s overtaxed, underserved cock. He put his hands in his lap.
Noah walked back with two glasses. They didn’t match. He handed one to Will and sat on the other part of the sectional. “So are you moving out soon?”
“Probably not until I finish school.”
“That’s a long time. You gonna be able to carry off the fiction?”
That was the question, but Noah didn’t even know how much. “I made it this far.”
“I’ll bet it gets harder all the time.”
Man, he had no idea.
“What are your plans?”
Noah drank some tea. “Graduate school in art. I want to be able to teach as well as paint.”
“Where do you want to go?”
“I’d love to go to Chicago, but I think UCLA will be good.”
“How will you do it?” He held his breath.
“Scholarships, I hope.”
“Milton?” He was turning blue.
“Sure. It’s the best. And I ought to be a contender. God knows, I can prove hardship.” He laughed.
“But it doesn’t depend on hardship.” Will swallowed hard.
“Sure. But who wouldn’t take it into consideration?” He frowned. “Besides, I hope I paint well enough.”
“Yeah. You’re a great painter. Like I said.” Will downed the cold, bitter tea. Shit, he didn’t want to compete with this kid. His evil voice asked the obvious question. Why, because you think he’ll win? “I should get going.”
He felt weird. “I really like your place.”
He got up and took a few steps toward the door.
He didn’t turn around. Felt too strange. “Yeah.”
“You never answered my question.”
“Are you gay?”
Blood. Ice. “No. Why would you ask me that again?” He heard the couch cushion rustle, then footsteps behind him. Will turned around slowly, frowning. “What’s with you? Why would you think I’m gay?”
Noah stopped directly in front of him and looked up. Not far up. The guy was only a few inches shorter. Drowning in those eyes would be possible. “Because you look at me like you want to eat me.”
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Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 23. Her best-selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft. She lives with her soul-mate husband and her soul-mate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!