You can lock your door, but can you lock your heart?
Finding the courage to end his relationship with his manipulative and vicious boyfriend, Jamie Wheeler turns to his close friend Ed Corrigan to help him get his life back on track.
Jamie and Ed have been inseparable for years, and all it would take is a small step to cross the divide from friends to lovers.
It would be the biggest mistake they could make.
Jamie seeks the security of a settled long-term relationship, but Ed vows never to put his heart on the line again after a devastating betrayal. Anything beyond friendship is a risk, and could break them forever.
As Jamie’s vindictive ex causes trouble from the side-lines, a face from the past makes an unwelcome return. Jamie’s life isn’t getting back on track, it’s coming off the rails, as a series of seemingly random events lead to only one of two conclusions: either somebody’s playing a dark and sinister game, or Jamie’s losing his mind.
“I like what you’ve done here. Redecorating and wiping away all traces.”
“It was long overdue.”
So much truth, in those two little words. There was nothing I could say and silence settled in around us.
“I just wish you’d told me earlier what was going on.”
Ed’s voice was tight and hard as though he’d had to force the words out. His deep blue eyes bored into mine, and I couldn’t drag my gaze away.
“Why, Jamie? Why didn’t you say anything to me? I could have dealt with it – with him – and stopped everything from escalating. Don’t ever hold back on me like that again.”
“I—” Shame filled me and I looked away, no longer able to hold Ed’s steady gaze.
Had I really thought I could deal with Callum and everything he was doing to me? The drugs, the intimidation, the men he was fucking and not bothering to hide from me. Little by little, drip by drip, Callum had made me feel worthless, and that what he was doing was somehow my fault. But hadn’t I allowed him to treat me like that? Hadn’t I, in some way, been complicit?
I jumped, the sear of electricity shooting through my nerves as Ed trailed his fingers along my forearm. I swallowed down the hard, dry lump lodged in my throat.
“I—I didn’t want you to think I was weak and stupid, even though that’s what I was.”
“What?” Ed sat up straight, his face fighting shock, anger and indignation. “You think I would blame you in some way? I’d never, ever do that. You’re not responsible for him and how he was, and don’t even begin to think you are. Hey, look at me.”
I could feel the heat and pull of Ed’s gaze, and there was nothing I could do to resist. Ed tilted his head, just a little, and the ghost of a smile sat on his lips. He spoke, and his voice lost its edge as it became quieter, deeper.
“Did you think I’d shake my head and walk away? That I’d leave you to struggle?”
“No, but. . .” But what? I was floundering, sinking into the depths of Ed’s unwavering gaze. “You and Callum,” I croaked, “things were always tense between you. I wanted to keep some kind of, I don’t know, peace I suppose.”
“Peace? Between me and Callum?” Ed shook his head. “There was no peace. I hated him from the very beginning, and it wasn’t long before I had him worked out for the user and parasite he was. He had just enough going on in his vicious little brain to know I’d figured him out. But that wasn’t all, it wasn’t even the main part of it.”
“I don’t understand.” The words were a lie. I understood perfectly.
“Don’t you? We were jealous of each other. Right from the start we were at war.”
Ed’s eyes held my own, never, never before so serious and focused. Focused on me. If the world around us stopped spinning I wouldn’t have cared, because in that moment we were the only world that mattered.
I tilted my head as Ed leaned into me, his breath warm, damp and just a moment from my lips. In some tiny, dark corner of my mind a little voice whispered we were crossing a line which could never be uncrossed. I didn’t care. I closed my eyes as my mind shut down and my body took over, ready for the kiss that would alter the course of my life and seal my fate.
A heavy crash, and the angry, loud creak of floorboards. My eyes flew open, both of us jerking backwards, away from the kiss that would have changed everything forever.
We stared at the ceiling, open mouthed and wide-eyed, as the lightshade swung from side to side.
A E Ryecart – or Ali as she’s known to many of her readers – writes contemporary mm romance and gay fiction. From the warm, sweet and fuzzy to the gritty, hard-hitting and challenging, Ali doesn’t hold back from making life just that little bit (or a lot) difficult for her men. But then who said the road to love and happiness was an easy one?
Ali’s stories are often set in London, where she was born and raised, providing the perfect metropolitan background to the main action. Now she’s older, if not wiser, and lives just outside of the big bad city with her husband, an overactive imagination, and a huge pot of coffee as she pounds the keyboard of her trusty laptop.