For the next several days I’ll be doing a FREE CHAPTER READ of each of my books. Next up is His Fragile Heart. Keep reading to get to know Nathan and Justin…
Do you believe in the power of love, even after death? After losing his lover in a car accident two years ago, actor Nathan Marshall wasn’t interested in another relationship. Until he meets waiter Justin Kowalski. Something about him seems so familiar that Nathan is instantly drawn to the younger man. Surprised at his capacity to love again, his relationship with Justin blossoms. But then an unbelievable truth is revealed – one that could break both their hearts for good.
Nathan hadn’t had so much fun in a long time. It was two days later, Saturday night, and he and Justin were on their first date together. After the initial awkwardness of first-date jitters, they settled into easy conversation together over dinner, enjoying their meals and each other’s company.
The more time Nathan spent with Justin the harder he fell for him. Justin was just so bright and alive, a ray of light into Nathan’s life that had been dark for so long.
Justin talked with those large hands of his and his laugh was infectious. Nathan wondered what it would feel like to have Justin’s hand cupping the side of his face, Justin’s lips pressed softly against his own. And Nathan again marveled at the fact that he was able to feel any of this again after Mark’s death. There really was something special about Justin, to bring out these feelings in him again, and he hoped Justin was sensing the same connection.
Their dinner finished, they decided to take a walk through the park near the restaurant, enjoying the beautiful evening, eating ice cream.
“So,” Justin was saying between licks of his chocolate cone. “Are you originally from L.A., Nate? I’m thinking I detect a slight accent under your polished Hollywood speak.” Nathan nodded. “You’re good. I still fight to keep the Texas drawl out of my voice.”
“Well, you shouldn’t,” Justin said, leaning in closer to Nathan, his voice low in Nathan’s ear. “Cowboys are sexy.”
Nathan turned his head to see a slow smile slide across Justin’s face, then he winked and moved back, leaving Nathan with a stomach that was again doing flip-flops and a flushed face at Justin’s suggestive tone.
Justin chuckled at Nathan’s expression and bumped him with his shoulder. “Where in Texas are you from?”
Nathan swallowed, finding his voice. “Um … Dallas. My parents and brother and sister still live there, so I fly down there a couple times a year to see them.”
“Man…” Justin sighed. “I can’t wait to finally get on a plane.”
Nathan cocked his head. “Wait. You mean you’ve never flown before?”
Justin shook his head, taking another lick of his ice cream. “I couldn’t because of my h—” Justin cut himself off, his fingers fiddling with the button on his shirt. “Because of my granddad,” he said quickly. “He’s always needed help with the restaurant, so there’s never really been any time for me to travel.”
Nathan took a bite of his strawberry cone. “You’ve never mentioned your parents. Are they gone?”
Justin nodded, glancing down at the ground. “My mom died when I was five. Congestive heart failure.”
“God, I’m sorry.”
“My dad took off soon after that. Couldn’t handle raising a kid by himself. I’ve never seen him again. Thank God for my granddad. He took me in, raised me.”
“I’m glad you have him,” Nathan told him. “Family’s important.”
Justin grinned. “He likes you, you know.”
“I like him, too. He did say something to me the night I came to pick up my phone that kind of confused me, though.”
“Oh? What did he say?”
“Well, when he opened the door for me he said ‘Ah, it’s you’ like he knew who I was, but I hadn’t even said a word, that I was there to pick up my phone or anything.”
This time it was Justin’s turn to turn a shade of pink to match Nathan’s ice cream.
“Um, well… I may have talked about you a little bit after you left that night,” Justin confessed.
Nathan laughed at Justin’s little embarrassed smile. “That’s okay, I talked about you, too,” Nathan told him. “Granted, it was to my dog, but…” he trailed off with a grin, and this time it was Justin’s turn to laugh.
They came to a stop at the entrance to the park, having walked all the way around it while they were talking. Justin looked over at Nathan.
“I’m not really ready for the night to be over,” he told Nathan.
“Neither am I,” Nathan replied, glad that Justin had said exactly what he’d been thinking. “Any place in particular you want to go?”
“Actually … it’s a really clear night out. Want to go out to the Observatory?” he asked, and Nathan started, his jaw dropping open slightly.
Justin furrowed his brow. “You okay?”
Nathan shook his head, blinking. “Um, yeah,” he said slowly. “It’s just that I really like it up there, too.”
Justin smiled brightly. “Well, let’s go then!”
It was a beautiful night up in Griffith Park with a gentle breeze blowing and not a cloud in the sky to obscure the stars. Nathan and Justin made their way past the tourists and took their place at the wall with several other couples, all gazing down at Los Angeles. They stood there in silence for a few minutes, Justin a warm presence next to Nathan, their arms just barely touching.
“I love it up here,” Justin said quietly. “Looking down at the city like this reminds me there’s a world of possibilities out there for me.”
“I said the exact same thing first time I came up here,” Nathan replied, then cleared his throat nervously. “This is gonna sound really juvenile, but it’s been a long time since I’ve done the dating thing.” He paused as Justin looked over at him. “Can I hold your hand?”
Justin’s warm smile went straight to Nathan’s heart as the young man slipped his hand into Nathan’s, lacing their fingers together.
Nathan dropped Justin off at the back of the restaurant about an hour later, hopping out of the Jeep and walking with Justin to the patio gate.
“I had a really nice time tonight,” Justin said, reaching out to take Nathan’s hand, thumb rubbing his skin.
“So did I,” Nathan replied, stepping closer to Justin, his heart starting to beat a bit faster.
“Being with you … it just feels so right,” Justin breathed, head dipping down, eyes sliding closed.
Their first kiss was abruptly aborted when Sheba jumped up on the gate, barking excitedly, startling Justin so badly that he jumped, smacking his forehead against Nathan’s.
“Ouch!” Nathan stumbled back, his foot slipping off the curb and he fell against the Jeep, catching himself on the side mirror.
“Oh God!” Justin jumped forward, grabbing Nathan’s shoulders, then both men couldn’t help but laugh as they made eye contact.
“Okay, wow, that didn’t go exactly like I’d hoped.” Justin chuckled as Nathan rubbed his forehead.
“You want to give it another shot?”
“God, yes.” Justin smiled, cupping the side of Nathan’s face, leaning in.
Nathan let his eyes slide closed at the first touch of Justin’s lips against his, and then they were kissing – soft and slow and so damned perfect. Nathan just let himself go, let himself be swept away, arms sliding around Justin, holding him close, drowning in the feeling of Justin’s body pressed so tightly against him.
It was long moments later when they finally pulled apart to catch their breath. Justin’s face was flushed, his eyes bright, smiling softly. He stroked a thumb across Nathan’s cheek.
“I’d, um… I’d better go.”
Nathan cleared his throat, trying to focus. “Yeah,” he drawled, still a little dazed.
Justin chuckled, kissed him again. “Night, Nate,” he whispered against Nathan’s mouth, then moved back, turning for the patio gate.
“Night, Justin.” Nathan smiled, watching the other man go, and he didn’t stop smiling the entire way home.