When college student Jake is left for dead on the side
of the road, he has one thing on his mind: Learn to
defend himself against the men that gay bashed him.
And fight back or die trying.
At his sister’s suggestion, he tries self‐defense
courses. Little does he know when he asks the man
to teach him, he’ll be guarding more than his body,
he’ll be guarding his heart.
Aspiring MMA trainer Benjamin is on his last leg,
literally. As a wounded warrior, he’s scarred from a
broken heart that has nearly broken his spirit.
So when Jake approaches him for lessons and tells him his story, it touches his heart.
The more time Jake and Benjamin spend together, the more they realize they’re
becoming best friends.
The more time they spend together, the more they realize they can’t live without
The more time they spend together, the more they realize they’re falling in love.
But Jake has a secret, one that could change everything….
The roar of the ocean was deafening, the mist even stronger as the wind
picked up and swept between them. It was isolated, not a soul in sight which is
why Benjamin wanted to go here.
“Used to love coming here all the time,” Benjamin said, lugging a picnic
basket with him. They’d picked it up at Costco on the way to the beach. Jake
loved how he was spontaneous like that.
“With your best friend? What was his name?”
Benjamin exhaled as if he were letting out something that had been in
him a long time. “His name was Cole. It was the one place we could both go
and be totally ourselves. No one could see us. We were safe here. We could say
what we wanted to say, do what we wanted to do …” He nibbled Jake on the
side of the neck which would only turned Jake rock hard in two‐seconds flat if
he didn’t think about something else. Jake cracked a smile.
“Love that smile of yours, man,” Benjamin said, sliding his fingers in
between Jake’s. It felt so perfect walking with him without worrying about
someone seeing them, but there was also a wave of guilt.
He tried to change the subject. “What’s in the basket?”
“Just a few tasty items,” Benjamin said, nonchalantly.
“Like what?” he asked. He hadn’t paid any attention in the store when
Benjamin grabbed the items. His mind was too much on how he’d explain to
him the secret that had been eating him alive for so long.
“Some olive oil, veggies … everything we need.”
“Everything we need?”
There was a hint of mischievous in his expression. “Yep … You cool?”
Benjamin asked. “Cold?”
“No, I—” Jake started to say, but it was too late. Benjamin took off his
shirt and draped it over Jake’s shoulders, revealing that killer body of his. As if
he needed another reminder of how sexy the man was. He had to look away or
he was going to get hard again, which would make what he had to do even
“You’re getting pretty swoll, you know. I can tell, your body’s improving.”
“Well, if those workouts you’re giving me doesn’t do it, I don’t know
“And it will only improve. With me by your side, nothing’s impossible, so
long as we’re together.”
Why did those words have to soothe his soul? Why did they have to be
exactly what he needed to hear after months of feeling alone without Alberto?
Yet, why did they have to feel so wrong at the same time, knowing that they
were coming from his step‐brother?
“You’re a natural, Jake. I’ve trained a lot of guys and you’ve got the skills.
You just gotta get that fucker who did that to you out of your head. He’s
fucking up your mind.”
“Easy for you to say,” Jake said.
“Not quite. I know what it’s like to be picked on and I know what it’s like
to pick on someone too.”
“What do you mean?” Jake asked.
Ben sighed. “I wasn’t always such a nice guy, dude. I had a shitty
upbringing, a lot of insecurities and I took them out on people. I guess helping
you is my way of making amends. That’s why I say, don’t let that guy trip you
up. You got something he doesn’t, a beautiful heart. And the skills to back it
Jake’s face softened. He’d never had anyone believe in him that much, not
even Alberto. His best friend would have laughed if he heard he was training,
but Benjamin saw something in him and it warmed his heart.
“What do you want to do? I mean, in the future,” Benjamin asked.
“Like for a career? That’s why I’m in school. Trying to figure it out,” he
“You’re lucky, you’re smart like that. Always wanted to go to college. Too
dumb, too late.”
“Too dumb? Not quite,” Jake said.
“Well, you grow up with a mom and step‐dad like I did, telling you that
enough times, you start to believe it. Nah. If I could do anything, I’d be an MMA
“You’d be great at that!” Jake said. He could imagine Benjamin coaching
with the best of them. “You’re tough, but patient. You know your shit. I mean,
look what you’ve done with me in such a short time.”
“Just dreams.” He smiled. “So long as you’ve got someone that has your
back by your side, doesn’t matter what you do.”
Fuck, there he went again. Jake had to let it out, or the secret that kept
them from truly gelling would break them apart.
As if reading his mind, Benjamin asked, “Oh, what was it you wanted to
Jake sighed. Fuck, his nose stung and the sea air wasn’t making it any
better. Don’t fucking cry, he told himself. He breathed, hoping it would give
him the strength he needed as his heart pounded in his throat. “This is really
“What is it?” Benjamin asked, his frown lines deepening with concern. He
squeezed Jake’s hand to comfort him and Jake had to pull away.
“You know how I feel about you. You’re right. You’re amazing I—”
“Are you cooling it between us?” Benjamin asked. “We’ve just started.
You’re not into me?”
“No, the exact opposite. I’m very into you. I’m more into you than I’ve
ever been into anyone. I’m so into you, I can’t even see straight. I can’t even
sleep at night without thinking about you, that’s how into you I am.”
Benjamin smiled. He touched Jake’s cheek with the back of his hand. “Me
too. I haven’t felt this way, this connected to anyone in as long as I can
remember. Fuck. Whenever I think about the future, all I can see is us
together. I plan my whole day thinking about how it might affect you, and I
think about when I can squeeze in time to see more of you. It’s fucking weird,
but it just feels right. I don’t know what it is, Jake. I feel like we’re … family or
“Oh, Jesus,” Jake breathed. This was harder than he thought it would be.
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Benjamin pulled him over to the side of a hill,
cornering him, his eyes narrowing him. He was going to fuck him right then
and there on the beach. Jake could feel it and though he knew he should stop
it, he couldn’t bring himself to say anything. “Isn’t it?” Benjamin repeated.
“Yes, but—” Jake started to say and Benjamin moved closer to him,
kissing the side of his jawline, then his neck. He placed the picnic basket down
and put Jake’s face in his palms, his eyes dancing, glint with possibilities.
“Ssh. Then, let’s not think anymore. Let’s enjoy … the moment?”
Before Jake could respond, Benjamin’s lips massaged his, slipping in and
out like a kissing connoisseur. Their lips danced in perfect motion
rhythmically, like the perfect tango partners. Benjamin’s tongue teased Jake’s.
Kissing him deeply, his hands slid down the man’s back, under his pants,
through his underwear, spreading his cheeks apart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JEFF RIVERA / JAMIE LAKE
True love exists and if I can inspire people to know that, then I’ve done my job.
My stories take place in the towns I lived in while searching for my purpose: Oregon, Nevada, New
England, the South and the heartland of America. They are dedicated to the angels I met along the
way who showed me true love comes in all forms, unconditionally.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was living in my car with my mother and pets. But whether it was being
abused as a child, bullied at school or taking care of my family’s illnesses, one thing kept me going:
I knew if I kept writing from the heart, people would connect and one day my dream of being an
author would come true. ~~~
Jeff Rivera is an author and inspirational media personality. He has appeared on national television,
radio and print in such outlets as Forbes.com, The Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly, Right On!
Magazine, Rotarian Magazine, TMZ, WABC, WNBC, WCBS, SITV, American Latino and NPR.
He also writes or has written for Entertainment Weekly, Mediabistro, GalleyCat, Publishing
Perspectives, Digital Book World, Examiner, American Chronicle, School Library Journal and the
Huffington Post and has been invited to speak and inspire groups all over the world from South
Carolina to Nigeria. He has been on panel discussions for The Library Journal, Authors Guild, the
Harlem Book Fair and many others.