Gil Davis hated high school. Ever the geek, he has no intention of attending his 10th year class reunion. The last thing he wants is to relive the taunting and teasing he received during his teenage years. However, there is one thing he missed from high school: the star Varsity football player. The one he had a crush on since the first day he laid his eyes on him.
The last thing he expects is the now pro football player to come back to their home town to attend a lame high school reunion. Known as the Bad Boy of the NFL, Ripley “Rip” Cord, not only shows up, but shows up without a date and an eye for Gil.
The smell of stale sweat mixed with athletic socks assaulted Gil’s nostrils as he followed Rip through the door.
Rip hit the switch, flooding the locker room with harsh fluorescent light.
Dizziness rocked Gil as the nightmarish memories returned in full force.
“I’m not so sure…” he began, but the rest of the words caught in his throat.
“What,” Rip prodded, clearly not noticing the beads sweat forming on Gil’s forehead and upper lip.
As they weaved their way through the aisles of gym lockers and wooden benches, Gil wondered what the point of coming into the locker room was. They could have stopped at any restroom throughout the hallways for Gil to clean up.
“I’m sure you have a better memory of this room than I do.”
“Well, this was my second home.” Rip continued to wind through the lockers without even looking back. “Still is.”
“I’m sure.” Gil studied Rip’s legs as they moved farther into the room. He imagined those legs, the corded muscles of his thighs and calves, encased in the snug Lycra of his uniform pants.
Rip stopped and turned suddenly, a fierce expression on his face. Gil bit back a surprised yelp.
“Gil, I want you to feel comfortable with me. I know how much everyone played tricks and jokes on you.”
“Why… Why didn’t you come to my rescue?” Gil cursed himself for letting his disappointment be so recognizable in his voice.
Rip looked away. Good. Let him be uncomfortable. Rip’s small pang of guilt now could not compare to what Gil had gone through then.
“I had a reputation to uphold. I was a tough football player. I was captain of our team. I was someone the guys looked up to.” He blew out a harsh breath, dragging a hand through his hair. “Wrongly so.”
Gil studied him for a moment. “Why, Rip? Why was that more important? Why couldn’t you have stepped up and told them to stop?” Gil’s voice caught. “Do you know how many times I was stuffed into a locker? Do you how many times I received a wedgie? Do you know how many times I was dumped into the bin of wet, dirty towels?” Tears burned Gil’s eyes. But he refused to break down. He was a man now, not that weak, confused teenage boy.
“I know. I’m sorry.” Rip clenched and unclenched his fists, which were held stiffly by his side. “I feel I still have a reputation to live up to. I’m the Bad Boy of the NFL. That’s who I am. Who I’m expected to be. I don’t know how to be anyone else.”
Gil was almost afraid to ask, but he asked it anyway, “Can you be yourself with me?”
Rip spun away and continued through the locker room. “I don’t know. Sometimes I just don’t know myself anymore.”
A show of weakness, a break in Rip’s hard exterior was one more mind-blowing occurrence tonight. And the night wasn’t over yet.
A sudden, overwhelming urge to be completely naked with Rip came over Gil. He would love nothing more to have sex with him properly. In a bed. Not rushed. With cuddling time afterwards. Gil had a feeling that cuddling and Rip just didn’t go together. His display of affection would be more like pat on the back or even a smack on the backside.
“It was in this room I realized how much I liked men.”
His softly spoken confession caught Gil off guard. “Really? I’m sure that went over well with your teammates.”
Rip shot a glance behind him at Gil, his face grim. “They didn’t know.”
Rip finally stopped in front of the large cavernous shower room. Shower heads lined all three tiled walls and several large drains dotted the floor.
Gil had never wanted to shower after gym class. He never was brave enough to bare himself in front of his schoolmates. He had been skinny and lanky back then. He had worked hard over the years to develop some muscle and weight. He would never be as built as Rip or one of his fellow football players. But with weight gainer and some working out, he had matured enough to have some lean muscle and was no longer so self-conscious of his body.
At least none of his former lovers had pointed and laughed.
“Anyway, I know what you went through. It’s too late to do anything about that now. But it’s not too late to make a new memory here. A better one.”