Sunday, December 31, 2017

Farewell 2017

I think, ever since I was a kid, the last day of the year has been a reflective time for me. A dividing line between the old and the new. A day of letting go. A day of hope. A chance of renewal. A clean slate.

2017, on national, global, and personal levels, was a year of great change--extreme highs and extreme lows. For me, it was a year of reckoning--with who I am, with who I know I can be.

This year brought a chance to start over in an entirely new environment and I am SO grateful that that new environment has panned out as a place I already think of as home--a place I can see myself in years and years from now, maybe even until that final transition (I don't know yet if relocation expenses will be covered for that one).

Because of the changes of 2017, especially personally, I approach the new year with hope and with faith that things are always moving forward, progressing, and headed toward our greatest and highest good (even though that may not always be immediately apparent).

So, my friends, I hope you peek through the door into the new year with optimism...

Friday, December 29, 2017

#FLASHBACKFRIDAY Raining Men and My Most Redeemed Character

Today, I'm thinking about Raining Men, my heartfelt love story about a sexually-addicted man finding his way toward loving himself and, at last, that special one.

It's not an easy journey and it's one fraught with danger, missteps, and outright peril. But if you travel along with Bobby Nelson, you'll also discover hope, joy, and the transformative power of love.


The character you loved to hate in Chaser becomes the character you will simply love in Raining Men.

It’s been raining men for most of Bobby Nelson’s adult life. Normally, he wouldn’t have it any other way, but lately something’s missing. Now, he wants the deluge to slow to a single special drop. But is it even possible for Bobby to find “the one” after endless years of hooking up?

When Bobby’s father passes away, Bobby finally examines his rocky relationship with the man and how it might have contributed to his inability to find the love he yearns for. Guided by a sexy therapist, a Sex Addicts Anonymous group, a well-endowed Chihuahua named Johnny Wadd, and Bobby’s own cache of memories, Bobby takes a spiritual, sexual, and emotional journey to discover that life’s most satisfactory love connections lie in quality, not quantity. And when he’s ready to love not only himself but someone else, sex and love fit, at last, into one perfect package.

“Rick R. Reed makes the commitment to write about issues of interest in the gay community and he does so regularly. Sexual addiction is certainly one we hear about and it’s universal. I found myself pulled into this story as I realized what was going on with Bobby. I wanted Bobby to show the vulnerable aspects of himself he has buried over time to avoid hurt. I wanted him to be whole, to be happy and to find himself. This is not an easy journey, but a journey very worth taking.
Read the review.

“...another amazing story...Never in a million years would I have thought that I would love Bobby. Only a truly talented author could turn a character like him around as he did.”
Read the review.

From SID LOVE M/M Reviews
“...definitely a keeper. I would recommend it to anyone…a real deal, with a believable storyline and some great writing by a very talented author.” 
Read the review.

From MM Good Book Reviews
“And while this is definitely a romance with a HEA I get to say that the achievement of that HEA has never felt more realistic and approachable...The entire book felt as if the author handpicked the characters straight from out on the streets, stripped them of their stories and wrote their lives for us to have a glimpse of…A very remarkable book that the forever-romantics would not want to miss.”

Read an excerpt

from Dreamspinner Press in ebook or in paperback
Kindle version

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Pitfalls of Being a Male Escort


It’s all fun and games in the escort business until someone gets hurt, or falls in love. Here’s what happened to one of the escorts in  A Dangerous Game.


Sex can be a dangerous business. So can love.

On the worst day of his life, Wren Gallagher wants oblivion when he steps into Tricks for a drink. When a mysterious stranger steps up to pay his tab, he offers Wren the key to fulfilling his dreams of prosperity and true love.

But appearances are not always what they seem.

His savior owns the escort agency À Louer, and he wants the young and handsome Wren as part of his stable of men-for-hire. Down on his luck, Wren figures, why not? He needs the money. When he joins, though, he doesn’t count on meeting Rufus, another escort with whom he falls hopelessly in love.

But their love story will have to overcome the obstacles of not only trading love for money, but À Louer’s dark—and deadly—secrets.

1st Edition published as Rent by ManLove Romance Press, 2012.


During this time together Evan realized he had done the unthinkable and crossed the line he had been told, not only by Dave but by other escorts, that he should never cross—he had fallen in love.

The words, as they lay side by side in Dan’s king-size bed, slipped out of him just before they drifted off into slumber. “I love you,” Evan whispered huskily into the darkness, wishing, as soon as the words had escaped his mouth, that he could take them back. In what world, Evan had wondered, was it appropriate for a prostitute to say such a thing to a client? He lay still, feeling heat rise to his face, waiting for Dan to tell him he’d better go, that he would call him a cab.

But that wasn’t what had happened. Dan had risen up on one arm to gaze down upon him in the wan light afforded by a crescent moon shining in through the window. Evan couldn’t bear to look at him, certain Dan’s face would reveal disappointment, ridicule, anger, disbelief.

He never imagined that Dan would be smiling—and not in a mocking way. When he allowed himself to look, Evan could have sworn his heart leaped into his throat, because even in the darkness he could see Dan was happy, yes, maybe even a little thrilled, with his admission.
Dan reached out to run a hand across the smooth expanse of Evan’s chest, then leaned down and kissed him, his lips a soft counterpoint to the rough stubble scratching against Evan’s smooth face.

Dan pulled away and, gently stroking Evan’s cheek, said, “I love you too. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but there it is. I wouldn’t have said anything if you hadn’t spoken first, but I do believe, Mr. Maple, I have felt this way from the very first moment I laid eyes on you.”

“Me too,” Evan whispered, hot tears of joy gathering at the corners of his eyes.

“You were not the first escort I hired, but I do believe you’ll be the last.”

Evan could see in his mind’s eye the enraged and disapproving glance of Davidson Chillingsworth as he let even more unwise words slip from his lips. “Oh, Dan, I could never charge you. Not again. Not with what we know.”

Evan, who was all of twenty-four, had yet to experience real love in his young life, and his mind flooded with fantasies about a future with Dan, leaving his escort days behind him, becoming a couple.

Now Evan took a sip from the latest drink the bartender set before him and shook his head, remembering how quickly Dan dashed those fantasies.

Dan had slowly made circles around each of Evan’s nipples with his forefinger, at last letting out a long sigh. He spoke. “Yes, you will charge me. Because what we have here is what fits.”


Monday, December 18, 2017

What An Honor! PERILS OF INTIMACY Named 2017 Book of the Year by OnTopDownUnder Reviews!

I was beyond thrilled to wake up to the news that OnTopDownUnder Reviews picked my novel about the triumph of love over addiction, THE PERILS OF INTIMACY, as its Book of the Year for 2017!

Reviewer Cindi chose it because "(Rick) writes real stories about real people." 

Read about the other books honored here

Jimmy and Mark make an adorable couple. Jimmy’s kindness and clean-cut cuteness radiate out of him like light. Mark, although a bit older, complements Jimmy with his humor and his openness to love.

But between them, a dark secret lurks, one with the power to destroy.

See, when Mark believes he’s meeting Jimmy for the first time in the diner where he works, he’s wrong.

Mark has no recollection of their original encounter because the wholesome Jimmy of today couldn’t be more different than he was two years ago. Back then, Jimmy sported multiple piercings, long bleached dreadlocks, and facial hair. He was painfully skinny—and a meth addict. The drug transformed him into a different person—a lying, conniving thief who robbed Mark blind during their one-night stand.

Mark doesn’t associate the memory of a hookup gone horribly wrong with this fresh-faced, smiling twentysomething… but Jimmy knows. As they begin a dance of love and attraction, will Jimmy be brave enough to reveal the truth? And if he does, will Mark be able to forgive him? Can he see Jimmy for the man he is now and not the addict he was? The answers will depend on whether true love holds enough light to shine through the darkness of past mistakes.

Dreamspinner Press ebook
Dreamspinner Press paperback (if you buy the paperback, you get the ebook for FREE)
Amazon paperback
Amazon Kindle


“This story had me hooked from the moment I started reading…and that ending was the perfect touch…
Dog-Eared Daydreams 
“This story was truly everything I was hoping it would be. I was already a fan of Rick R. Reed’s books, but this one might just be my favourite so far.”
Love Bytes Reviews
“This book is about love, hope, second chances, and the reality of many gay men. It lets the reader into a very real world, with detailed descriptions of drug usage and recovery–of pain, wishes, mistakes, and transformations.  It might not be everyone’s perfect love story, but it is perfect for Marc and Jimmy. It’s their journey for us to learn and for them to tell.”
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Reviews
“I highly recommend this one to those who love a gritty, emotional M/M romance. And if you like the works of Stephen King, you will likely appreciate that extra little touch this author, who I happen to know admires Mr. King, offers at the end of this story.”
Hearts on Fire Reviews

Thursday, December 7, 2017

My New Holiday Story is NOW AVAILABLE!

Two men. One Christmas Eve that changes the courses of both their lives.

Henry’s homeless and only wants a warm place to sleep on the coldest night of the year. A forgotten open window in a darkened house entices Henry inside with the promise of warmth and comfort. He knows it’s bad, but he promises himself he’ll be out before the owner wakes on Christmas morning. Except he oversleeps and the homeowner, Jim, discovers a bearded stranger sawing logs under his dining room table. When the shock and the drama that ensues dies down, Henry and Jim discover that they might have found, quite unexpectedly, the Christmas miracle they’d both been longing for—love and home.

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2017 Advent Calendar "Stocking Stuffers."

BUY FOR $1.99
Dreamspinner Press

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tripe and Potato Stew: Good for the Soul

Although Dinner at Fiorello’s doesn’t contain actual recipes, it does contain a lot of food. Below is an excerpt that shows you our main character, Henry Appleby, on his very first—and very nervous—visit to the restaurant where he hopes to go against his family’s wishes and apply for a job working in the kitchen. 

Read the excerpt, and if you’re intrigued by what Rosalie serves Henry, read on for the recipe. You should note that the Tripe Stew is a dish my Sicilian mom would make—and that I would always turn my nose up at. Now that Mom’s in Heaven, I’m sorry I never gave it a try. It always smelled delicious.

EXCERPT—“Tripe Stew and A Case of the Nerves”

Rosalie, as this must be, seemed like she’d come straight from central casting where the request was for someone who looked like an Italian mother. Rosalie had an upsweep of salt-and-pepper hair and wore a black dress and what Henry mother would call sensible shoes. Her nose was big, her features careworn, but there was something about her eyes, a greenish-brown in color, that exuded warmth and maybe, if he looked really hard, mischief. She didn’t smile. “Did Carmela get your drink order?” she asked.
“Yeah, she’s bringing me some water. And bread.”
“Good. Take a look at the menu and see what you want. The fish today is good. Snapper with olives, garlic, and tomatoes. It’s fresh.”
She hurried away, and Henry opened the menu and began to scan it. He wanted to let out a little sigh. For him, this collection of food was like porn was to some of his peers. Right away, he could see the offerings leaned toward what Henry imagined was southern Italian comfort food—baked manicotti, ricotta pie, braccioli, greens and beans in tomato sauce, a pepper and egg sandwich on “Mom’s homemade bread,” were just a few of the things that set Henry’s mouth to watering.
The menu was like the family photos on the wall. It made him feel like he was visiting someone’s home, sitting in their kitchen, and being welcome. No pretense. Just a suggestion of “we’re so glad you’re here.”
When Rosalie returned, Henry ordered a cappicola sandwich with mozzarella and arugula, also on homemade bread.
“Anything else?” Rosalie asked. Henry noticed she hadn’t written anything down.
“Does it come with anything?”
The question finally got Rosalie to crack a smile. “We don’t have fries. I can have the cook make you a nice salad, or we got roasted red potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, and garlic. Very tasty.”
“Sounds like it. I’ll have the potatoes.”
“Good choice. You could stand to gain a few pounds.” Rosalie looked him up and down.
Henry was surprised to hear her assessment. His mom was always getting on him about watching his calories and carbs.
Without another word, Rosalie turned and walked away. She disappeared into the kitchen. She came back out moments later and set down a small cup full of what looked like some sort of stew.
“What’s this?” Henry asked, inhaling the rich aroma of tomatoes and garlic. “I didn’t order it.”
“On the house. Just something to tide you over until Vito makes your sandwich. It’s what we had at our family meal today.”
“What is it?”
“Tripe with tomatoes and potatoes. It’s good. Mangia!”
Henry wanted to ask, “Isn’t that cow stomach?” but Rosalie had already taken off to wait on another table. He picked up his spoon and moved it around in the cup with more than a little doubt. Hey, if you’re thinking you’re some kind of foodie and today could be the start of a new direction for you, you can’t be a candy ass about trying new things. Just take a bite.
He did. The tripe was a little chewy but had a wonderful meaty richness to it that was complemented by the sauce, which was redolent of tomatoes and garlic. Henry could also taste carrots, onions, and herbs like oregano. He was surprised that it was actually quite delicious, and in no time he had finished the small bowl and found himself wishing for more.
The rest of Henry’s lunch did not disappoint him and continued on its theme of Italian comfort food. Everything he ate was filling, richly flavored, and bore all the signs of being prepared fresh right here on the premises. The bread was a revelation—light, airy, with a golden crust that stood up to the bite. The crust was hard, but in a delightful way.
He pushed his plate away and wondered about dessert. Rosalie, after all, had said he needed to put on some weight. But he was so stuffed—that sandwich was huge—that he was afraid he’d burst if he ate so much as another morsel.
Now came the moment of truth. Of course he’d pay the check; that was a given. But did he have the nerve to do what he’d really come here to do?
Baby steps. He told himself he’d be a fool and a coward if he didn’t at least fill out the application. He could always refuse the job if he decided he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, as the universe expected him to do. That way he could turn it down if they called him, which even Henry knew was unlikely.
Working here would be fun, Henry thought, even if he wouldn’t fit in with his flaxen hair and blue eyes. So what? He could be from northern Italy. They had blonds there, didn’t they?
Rosalie brought him his check. “Take your time,” she said. Henry pulled out the cash he had brought along—no way was he using a credit card for this—and put down enough to cover the bill and a generous tip for the “warm and welcoming” Rosalie.
And then he sat back. Everything he had eaten began to churn. I can’t do it. It’s more than just filling out an application and waiting to see what happens. It’s defying your family. You know they’ll be unhappy, especially Dad. Unhappy? He’d be furious, ashamed, and questioning my sanity.
If I do this, and they just so happen to offer me the job, I will want it. No doubt. And this is not a summer job. It’s not fair to take it under the pretense that I can just leave when school starts in the fall.
So at least you understand yourself now and what’s at stake. No illusions.
He picked up a piece of cappicola that had fallen out of his sandwich and gnawed on it, its rich spices and heat bursting on his tongue. He slowed his breathing to listen to the bustle in the kitchen. Someone shouted, “Throw it away! It smells rotten.” Henry grinned.
He took in all the other diners. They seemed happy, content, their bellies full. Wouldn’t it be something to feed people as his life’s work? Wouldn’t that mean more than managing stuff like portfolios, hedge funds, and other things his dad talked about over the dinner table? Henry was pretty much clueless about what his father did, and worse, he was sure he had no interest in finding out.
Do it.

To serve 4, you’ll need:
2 lbs. pre-boiled tripe, cut into bite-sized strips (you need to pre-boil it for about an hour, just to tenderize it)
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
Olive oil
A couple tablespoons white wine
8 oz. can of whole tomatoes, crushed up with your hands
4-6 small potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Bay leaf
1 teaspoon each: dried basil, dried thyme
Parmesan for serving

1. In a large, heavy pot, sauté onion, carrot and celery in olive oil until soft, making sure not let any of them brown. Season with salt and pepper as you go.
2. Add the tripe strips and stir well. Simmer for a few minutes to allow it to take on the flavor of the aromatics. Then add white wine, raise the heat, and let the wine cook off.
3. Add tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you add them to the pot, together with the bay leaf and herbs. Mix everything well and cover the pot. Turn down the heat to low and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the tripe is tender and the sauce reduced. About halfway through the simmering, add the potatoes, mix them in, re-cover the pot and continue simmering. When the tripe is tender, if you find the dish too liquid, uncover the pot and raise the heat to reduce for a few minutes, until you have the consistency you like. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
4. Eat with grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil on top.

Henry Appleby has an appetite for life. As a recent high school graduate and the son of a wealthy family in one of Chicago’s affluent North Shore suburbs, his life is laid out for him. Unfortunately, though, he’s being forced to follow in the footsteps of his successful attorney father instead of living his dream of being a chef. When an opportunity comes his way to work in a real kitchen the summer after graduation, at a little Italian joint called Fiorello’s, Henry jumps at the chance, putting his future in jeopardy.

Years ago, life was a plentiful buffet for Vito Carelli. But a tragic turn of events now keeps the young chef at Fiorello’s quiet and secretive, preferring to let his amazing Italian peasant cuisine do his talking. When the two cooks meet over an open flame, sparks fly. Both need a taste of something more—something real, something true—to separate the good from the bad and find the love—and the hope—that just might be their salvation.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Irresistible Pull of Love

Below is an excerpt from The Couple Next Door, and it’s a scene where two lost souls—Jeremy and Shane—at last unite, under very difficult circumstances. See, Shane has been physically and emotionally abused by the man with whom he lives. Jeremy has been witness to it and has tried to be a friend, to help, to perhaps even be a savior. He’s tried to keep a respectable distance.

But the pull between these two men, as you’ll read, is just too powerful….

Does my knowing the truth make me an accomplice? Does Shane knowing the truth make him an accessory after the fact to murder?

What, I ask myself for the thousandth time, have I gotten myself into? The answer comes to me in an image: Shane, smiling, the delight clear in his icy blue eyes when he first sees me.

A man. It’s always a man. If I could learn to live without men, I’d be happy, I tell myself.

Good luck with that.

I go into the kitchen, grab some oranges and a couple of protein bars from a drawer. It’s a meager breakfast, but it’s the best I have to offer.

Knock, knock, knock and Shane opens the door. His eyes are rimmed in red. He looks as though he hasn’t slept—like me. He wears a torn and faded navy blue T-shirt and gray sweatpants. I can see the outline of his cock through the loose jersey fabric. My mind wanders away from danger, scaling other exhilarating heights.

He looks breathtaking. All I want to do is hold him, comfort him, and go from there—proceed directly to his bedroom, do not pass go. Why am I thinking of sex at such a horrible time, when he has shared with me the truth of his history? Now is the time for talk, not lovemaking. Yet the lust persists like an itch right in the center of my brain. There’s only one way to scratch it.

It’s like he’s read my mind. He takes the fruit and the protein bars from me and turns away to set them on the arm of a chair near the front door. Then he comes back to me and enfolds both of my hands in his own.

The moment is too charged with something, some kind of electric connection, for words. Talking would break the spell. The silence is delicious and weighted.

His hands are warm, verging on fiery, feverish. He tugs me toward him roughly, and before I know what’s happening, I’m in his arms. This is no friendly “hello” hug. This is an embrace born of hunger, of desperation, of an animal need for comfort. His mouth seeks mine, starving, and the merging of our lips and tongues is like some kind of communion. It’s more than passion. It’s the uniting of two lost souls.

And with the thought of lost souls, I realize why we both feel such a connection. In his famished kiss, I can feel not only his need for me but also mine for him.

We stop only long enough to turn, to head toward the bedroom. Shane never lets go of at least one of my hands. I can almost feel his need to cling, to ensure I don’t escape.

I welcome it.

He kicks the door closed, and then he’s on me like some kind of jungle cat, ripping the few clothes I wore off, scratching me in the process. I will not see the claw marks until later, until they appear red and scarlet on my flesh. I will rub them, treasuring the memory connected to them. Now, though, there is only animal want and the desire, deep-seated, for human comfort that only oblivion can provide.

We tumble on one of the two beds crammed into the room together, so hungry we can’t stop devouring the other. Not just cocks but nipples, armpits, the crooks behind knees, the tender, sensitive flesh of our thighs, the smalls of our backs. Fluid—saliva, come, tears, all flow, and we exchange them. Greedily.
He mounts me. I mount him. We are in such a haze we almost forget the condoms and the lube.


Time stands still as we fuck. As we suck. As we wait, breathless, and do it again.

It’s not until I am lying in Shane’s arms later, when our respiration and heartbeats have returned to some semblance of normalcy, that we speak.

I mince no words. “Why did he do it?”

With the couple next door, nothing is as it seems.

Jeremy Booth leads a simple life, scraping by in the gay neighborhood of Seattle, never letting his lack of material things get him down. But the one thing he really wants—someone to love—seems elusive. Until the couple next door moves in and Jeremy sees the man of his dreams, Shane McCallister, pushed down the stairs by a brute named Cole.

Jeremy would never go after another man’s boyfriend, so he reaches out to Shane in friendship while suppressing his feelings of attraction. But the feeling of something being off only begins with Cole being a hard-fisted bully—it ends with him seeming to be different people at different times. Some days, Cole is the mild-mannered John and then, one night in a bar, he’s the sassy and vivacious drag queen Vera.

So how can Jeremy rescue the man of his dreams from a situation that seems to get crazier and more dangerous by the day? By getting close to the couple next door, Jeremy not only puts a potential love in jeopardy, but eventually his very life.

Dreamspinner Press ebook
Dreamspinner Press paperback
Amazon Kindle
Amazon paperback

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Date from Hell

If you’ve read much of my work, you might have noticed I like to have a little fun with what I call “dates from hell.” We’ve all had them, right? And if you answered no to that question, let me congratulate you. It takes a very special person to get through life without at least one date from hell on his or her resume.

The excerpt below is from my semi-autobiographical love story, Blink, and it showcases the date from hell one of my characters, Andy, has before re-connecting with Carlos, the man he’s never forgotten. Are you nervy enough to share one of your own dates from hell in the comments below? I’d love to hear about yours!

Excerpt from Blink by Rick R. Reed

I have just taken a sip of the expertly-made cocktail, reveling in its briny chill, when I feel someone tap me on the shoulder.

I turn around to face Chet. I smile and think that the picture he used on the site had to be at least a few years old. It’s okay, I think, we all want to put our best foot forward. The guy before me still has the beard and the baseball cap I saw in his profile pic, but the beard that was flecked with gray on OkCupid is now fully silver. He also didn’t wear glasses in his profile picture, but now a pair of wire-rimmed oval frames shield his muddy-brown irises.

Which is not to say he looks bad. He doesn’t. Just older. He’s still cute, with a kind of high-school wrestling coach vibe about him, augmented by his outfit—an Abercrombie and Fitch jersey, cargo shorts, and workman’s boots. I try to hold in any judgment I know I would make if I were sitting here with Jules observing him, about a man trying a bit too hard to look manly and young. We would laugh into our drinks and for sure Jules would say something like, “Mutton dressed as lamb.”

I slide off the stool, smiling, to shake his hand.

He grabs my hand and uses it to pull me into a bear hug, planting a too-wet kiss on my neck, which startles me. I move back and hop up on my stool, give a little laugh. I want to admonish him for being fresh, as my mom would say, but instead I ask him what he’d like to drink. “I’ll get the first round,” I say, holding up my glass. “Since I’ve already started.”

He orders a Bud Lite and sits down beside me. Immediately, one of his hands goes to my leg, just above my knee, and rests there. He looks me up and down, and then does it again. His grin, a little lewd, never wavers. I wonder if a wolf whistle is in store. I begin to have my doubts about Chet but again, remind myself to withhold judgment. He just got here, after all. Give the guy a freakin’ chance!

“Man, am I glad I sent you that message. It’s so nice when they look better than their pics.” He leans back on his stool to check me out again and I have to admit, he’s making me more uncomfortable than flattered. Much as I admired my reflection in my condo building’s front door before heading over here, I am not all that. I’m relieved when the bartender, a blond in a black V-neck T-shirt who could be Alexander Skarsgard’s twin, sets Chet’s beer before him.

“You want a glass with that?” the bartender points to the sweating brown bottle.

Chet winks at the kid and asks, “Do I have any other options?” I groan inside.

The poor bartender just looks confused. Then he smiles. “I don’t know. I think we’ve got an aluminum bowl in the back if you’d be interested.”

Chet shakes his head and reaches into his wallet and throws a ten on the bar, in spite of my having said I’d treat. “Keep the change, stud.”

The bartender grabs the cash from the bar and gives me a look. In the look, we’re both saying something along the lines of “Do you believe this character?” He hurries away, presumably to wait on less flirtatious and younger men. Or maybe to find out what the Jeopardy! response is to the answer displayed on one of the monitors: Arizona's motto, ditat deus, means he “enriches.”

God, I think, the answer is God. A fella I fear whose help I’m going to need to call upon before this night is over.

I turn to the guy I agreed to meet, based only on about a dozen or so lines of type and a decade-old (at least) photograph and try to make the best of things. “So Chet, do you come here a lot?”

He shakes his head and crinkles up his nose, as though he’d smelled something bad. “Nah. I just picked this place because it’s kind of neutral, you know?”

I shake my head.

“Pretty boys. Bright lights. Nothing too extreme.”

I think I see. “Good for meeting for the first time, huh?”

He leans in closer to me and slides his hand up farther on my leg toward my crotch. “Right.” He leans even closer and growls in my ear. “If I like the guy, we can always go someplace else.”

Like your place? I wonder, but don’t say. I lean back and away from him. He smells like cigarette smoke, Old Spice, and booze. I laugh and am embarrassed when it comes out a little high-pitched. I try to get him back on course. “So, where do you like to hang out?”

“So to speak?” He raises his eyebrows and laughs as though I said something filthy and then I realize he’s making my reference to ‘hanging out’ into something lascivious.

Why didn’t I call Jules and set something up? You know, the old saw where she would call a half hour after I meet my date and, if it wasn’t going well, I could say there was an emergency at home and I had to go?

“Yeah. Do you go to any other clubs?”

“Me, I like the leather bars.” He stares at me and I wonder if he’s expecting me to rush in with something like, “Oh me, too! I left my harness and chaps at home.”

“Yeah,” he says. “There’s no pretense there.”

Really? Men standing around in biker gear trying to look butch? Okay….

“What I mean is,” Chet continues, “They don’t have game shows on the TVs, for Christ’s sake. Or run show tune videos like that joint down the street. They’re just about what we’re all here for.”

Although I know what he means by ‘what we’re all here for’ I ask Chet anyway, “What’s that?”

“Come on, Andy!” He rubs a hand over my chest and tweaks a nipple. I pull back. I can’t keep the scowl off my face. Undeterred, he leans forward once more to whisper throatily, “Fuckin’ and suckin’.”

I grab his hand, still on my chest, and return it to him, placing it carefully on his leg and nowhere near his crotch.

“I mean, why do gay men come out to the bars? To meet fuck buddies, right? We might as well be honest about it. I know I am. I like the leather bars because even if I don’t meet a guy to bring home, I can always wander into the backroom and get a little somethin’-somethin’.” He laughs. “You know what I mean?”

I’ve had enough. I think I know this is going to go nowhere. Same old story. I feel a little sad. “No, I really don’t Chet. When I go out, and it’s not that often anymore, it’s to meet up with friends, laugh, talk, have a few drinks.”

“And then go off to your bedroom and do the nasty.”

I sigh. I’m impatient now. “Well, I’d be lying if I said that never happened, but it’s usually more of a thing about circumstances turning a certain way, rather than something planned.”

“I was kind of planning on you and me getting together tonight.” He jerks his head toward the door behind him. “I live just around the corner. On Cornelia?” He says, in a softer voice, “Got the sling all set up.”

I laugh. “We have an optimist here!”

“What? You agreed to meet up with me.”

“And that means I agreed to have sex with you?”

“Well, yeah. That’s what guys go online looking for, right? I mean, what else is there?”

I wanted to answer—romance, companionship, friendship, maybe, just maybe, finding true love. But I have a feeling that our Chet here is too far-gone for any of those responses to resonate. Concepts like love and friendship would be lost on him. I don’t think his thought processes go any higher than above the belly button. It’s kind of sad, really. Like his clothes, I suspect Chet is stuck in a kind of faux masculine adolescence. At the end of the night, when he’s alone and covered with sticky lube and his latest conquest is but a memory, does he ever hunger for more?

“For some, I guess, not much.” Finally, I allow myself to touch him, putting a hand on his shoulder. As much as I am a big old introvert and hate confrontation of even the mildest sort, it’s not that hard to be honest, because I know at the end of what I have to say, I’ll be free. “Listen, Chet, I think you and I are after different things.” I gulp down what remains in my glass and set it back on the bar. “I’m gonna take off. Thanks for coming out to meet me.”

He sneers. “What are you after? True love?”

I get down from the bar stool and stand, facing him. “Yup,” I say and turn to walk out the door.

“Good luck with that!” he calls out behind me. “You’re gonna need it.” He pauses. “At your age.”
He laughs and my consolation is that no one laughs with him. I slip outside into the exhaust-choked air, feeling like I can breathe again.

Life can change in the blink of an eye. That's a truth Andy Slater learns as a young man in 1982, taking the Chicago 'L' to work every morning. Andy's life is laid out before him: a good job, marriage to his female college sweetheart, and the white picket fence existence he believes in. But when he sees Carlos Castillo for the first time, Carlos’s dark eyes and Latin appeal mesmerize him. Fate continues to throw them together until the two finally agree to meet up. At Andy’s apartment, the pent-up passion of both young men is ignited, but is snuffed out by an inopportune and poorly-timed phone call.

Flash forward to present day. Andy is alone, having married, divorced, and become the father of a gay son. He’s comfortable but alone and has never forgotten the powerful pull of Carlos’s gaze on the 'L' train. He vows to find him once more, hoping for a second chance. If life can change in the blink of an eye, what will the passage of thirty years do? To find out, Andy begins a search that might lead to heartache and disappointment or a love that will last forever….