For adult readers only
A Secret Match
Contemporary gay romance by Kelli A. Wilkins
Everett hunkered down in the front seat of Vin’s rented Taurus. Even though he wore his sunglasses and a baseball cap, he was afraid someone might recognize him. After leaving the arena, they had driven to a strip mall twenty minutes away.
Vin parked under a tree behind a dollar store and turned to him. “Okay, what happened? Did you have a run-in with Nick?”
“No, it’s nothing like that,” Ev replied. “I’d rather deal with Nick’s crazy bullshit than this, trust me,” he joked, then bit his bottom lip. How was he going to explain this to Vin? Guys rarely shared their break-up woes about women, let alone men. But he needed to talk to someone, and Vin was the only other person besides Danni who knew about Josh. Vin was like a brother to him. He’d understand. “Josh broke up with me.”
Ev checked his watch. “About six hours ago.”
“Because I wouldn’t…” He stared down at his hands folded in his lap. “I won’t… I can’t…be open about…you know.” You know. That’s how they referred to his status, as you know. Jesus, for all his supposed toughness, down deep, he was a coward.
“That sucks. What happened?”
“He came over for the weekend. We had a nice dinner, went in the pool and…messed around,” he said, then looked away. Even with his sunglasses on, he couldn’t face Vin. “Things were fine. This morning I made breakfast, and he came in the kitchen—” He broke off. “I think he was pissed because I wouldn’t go to his friend’s birthday party at a club. A gay club.”
“Are you crazy? If I’m spotted in a place like that, it’ll be all over the Internet in five seconds. Then what? Nick finds out, the guys hear about it, and I’m done for.”
“You explained this to him?”
“Yeah, and not for the first time. We went through this six months ago and he said he understood. Well, he’s sure as hell done understanding.” Ev rubbed his chin. “He wants me to come out. He’s tired of me hiding him in my closet and only dragging him out when I want sex. He’s sick of being my dirty little shameful secret. He says I only keep him around to use him as a sex toy when I’m horny,” Ev blurted out in a rush. He didn’t care if his words sounded spiteful and bitter. Josh had no right to turn on him like that and walk out.
Vin let out a low whistle. “Whoa! He said that? That’s harsh.”
“He said a lot of shitty things. You don’t know the half of it.” Ev blinked back tears and sniffled. “We were so happy, then he dropped this on me, and bam, he’s gone,” he said, his voice cracking. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be crying in front of you like this—”
“Don’t worry about it. You’re hurting. Crying’s natural. When Melissa fucked me over, who did I turn to?”
“I cried then, remember?”
“Yeah. And you blubbered like a big baby when you and Danni broke up,” Ev teased.
Vin laughed, then opened the glove box and handed Everett a tissue. “You were there for me. Now it’s my turn. Take your time.”
Ev wiped his eyes under his sunglasses and leaned back in the seat. “Josh said his friends don’t believe I exist because there are no pictures of us together. He’s tired of me hiding him and said I need to come out.”
“Is that what he wants, for you to go public?”
“Basically.” Ev watched a squirrel climb up the nearby tree. “He doesn’t want me to hide him anymore. And even though I told him coming out will kill my career, he doesn’t believe me. I don’t want to lose him. I love him. I was finally happy and I fucked it up.”
“No you didn’t.” Vin shook his head and his honey-blond ponytail bounced against his massive shoulders. “It wasn’t fair for him to drop this on you when you were leaving. And if he’s giving you an ultimatum, come out or else, that’s a pretty shitty thing to do to someone you love. Gay, straight, or whatever, nobody should set conditions like that.”
Vin paused. “But I can see his point about wanting to be acknowledged. If you were dating a woman—”
“Josh said the same thing—it wouldn’t have to be a secret. But this is different. I can’t come out. Nick would have a stroke.” He chuckled. “Then again, maybe I’d be doing everyone a favor if the news killed the slimy bastard.”
“There are gay athletes, Ev. A baseball player came out a few months ago.”
“You think I don’t read the news? Sure, gay athletes are out there, but a gay baseball player doesn’t have the type of physical contact with other guys like we do. Does he grab other men when he’s all sweaty and crawl on top of them to cover them for a pin? No. There are all sorts of issues—changing in the locker room, showering together…”
Ev took a bottle of water out of the center console and opened it. “Can you imagine some of the things that would go through the guys’ heads when I tried to put a hold on them? You think they wouldn’t freak out when I touched them if they knew?”
“You won’t know if you never take the risk. I was okay with it when you came out to me.”
“And the only reason I did was because Josh was in our room and you came back from the gym early. I had no choice but to confess,” he replied, taking a sip of water. “I’ve done such a good job of hiding it all these years I should win an award. Nobody has a clue.” He took another sip of water and watched people going in and out of the parking lot. “I almost wish someone would ask me the question, so I could say ‘yes’ and be done with it.”
“Maybe Josh has the right idea. Maybe it’s time to stop hiding,” Vin suggested. “Talking to me about it is a start, but the two of you need to sit down and hash this out. Couldn’t you tell Josh’s friends? They all came out at some point.”
Ev pulled his sunglasses down and looked at Vin. “And trust they wouldn’t blab and tell the whole world? Have you ever heard of social media? Believe me, I’d like to stop hiding, and it kills me that Josh is right. I am a coward, afraid to tell the truth and be open about who I am. I’m a fake.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s—”
“It’s true. When I was on the plane, a ring rat wanted me to join the Mile-High Club with her. I was tempted to say, ‘No thanks, honey, but how about your brother? If he’s here, I’ll give him a go,’ to shock the shit outta her, but I didn’t. I turned on the fake Ev charm and bluffed my way through it like I’ve been doing ever since high school.”
Vin cleared his throat. “Let me ask you something, and you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but… Did you know back then?”
Ev shrugged. “Well, it’s not like you don’t know.” Vin had never asked him anything like this before, and he was glad to finally tell someone besides Josh. “I wasn’t into girls, but I pretended I was because it was expected of me. I had to play along and fit in. I didn’t mind dating. I liked going to movies, concerts, plays, football games, whatever. That was fine, but when the girls wanted to fool around, things always got…icky.”
Vin furrowed his eyebrows. “Icky?”
“Yeah, I felt like I wanted to throw up or run away. Or I felt nothing. Blank. I wasn’t turned on at all, even when I slept with them.”
“I wasn’t gonna pry, but—”
“Guys are supposed to like girls, so I figured one good piece of pussy would fix me. I thought if I screwed a girl, I wouldn’t have these feelings, emotions, longings… Well, I was wrong.” Ev watched an old man walking his beagle cut through the parking lot and continued.
“The first one or two were experiments, try it out, see how it feels. When I felt nothing, I figured maybe it was me being nervous or inexperienced. Finally, I was with this one girl, she was pretty, nice tits, eager… She’s down there sucking away and I have no reaction. Nothing. Not a spark of interest. I’m thinking, great, now I’m a limp-dicked dude. Like I need that, right?”
“Yeah.” Vin rolled his window down halfway, letting a cool breeze blow through the car.
“So I start fantasizing. Five seconds later, I’m as hard as a freaking tree. I banged the hell out of her. Later, I went home, threw up, and cried for two hours,” he admitted, bowing his head.
He took a deep breath and steeled his nerves. This would be hard to say out loud, even to Vin. “I was only able to get hard and fuck her because…I was imagining I was with a guy.”
“Oh. I guess that settled it, huh?”
“Pretty much. And from then on, I hated it. Hated myself. Hated feeling that way. I felt so ashamed.” Tears burned his eyes and he took off his sunglasses to wipe them away. “When I was in college, I tried to come out to my parents. I was petrified, but I thought they would understand. Bad idea. It was a fucking disaster. My father knocked me across the room and said, ‘No son of mine is going to be a homo fag who sucks men’s cocks.’”
Vin’s mouth dropped open. “Christ, what a prick. What did you do?”
“I got up, wiped my bloody nose, and said, ‘What if I just give him a hand job and let him fuck me up the ass?’”
Vin gasped. “You didn’t!”
“Hell yes I did,” Ev replied with a chuckle. “The truth will set you free…and give you the worst beating of your life. When Daddy Dearest finished kicking the crap outta me, I was thrown out of the house. Goodbye parents, so long college. After that, I hid it from them, myself, everyone. I had to push it away and pretend it didn’t exist, deny a part of me, and I’m still denying it now.”
He sipped some water and continued. “Jesus Vin, I’m thirty-two years old, a grown man for Christ’s sake, I should have the balls to admit who I am. But then I wonder, why should I? It’s nobody’s business who I screw.” He sighed. It felt good to get it off his chest, to say it out loud.
“You’re right, Ev. It is nobody’s business. But I’m going to be nosy,” Vin teased. “When did you find a guy you could be…open with?”
“You mean screw? It’s okay to say it, Vin. I screw men. See? I can tell you, but not anyone else,” he replied. “College. I was bombing math and getting help from a guy after class. One night he asked me if I was dating any girls. Specifically girls. I said no, I didn’t have luck with women. He asked if I’d like to try a guy, as an experiment. He said he was curious, too.”
“And you were curious together?”
He grinned. “Yeah. I got a lot of tutoring from him. I felt safe and I could be myself with him. That’s why I decided to tell my parents. It was nice while it lasted. I was loved and accepted. I never had that again, until I met Josh. And now that he’s gone, I’ll be alone forever.”
“Not true,” Vin argued. “You’re a great guy. You could find someone else—”
He turned to Vin. “How? I have to keep everything under wraps. Christ, Vin, I’m too scared to rent gay porn because I don’t want it to show up on my cable bill.”
“I’ll buy you some for your birthday,” Vin joked.
“Maybe if I wasn’t a wrestler, it would be different, but I’m on TV and in wrestling magazines. If I walked into a gay bar, my secret would be out in five minutes. And who could I date? Who could I trust? How would I know a new boyfriend wouldn’t be after money, or would keep quiet and not blackmail me or make a sex tape?”
“How did you and Josh deal with this? You were wrestling when you guys met.”
“He didn’t know who I was. I didn’t tell him what I did until after the first six months. Josh didn’t care about Ev the famous wrestler, he liked me for me, the cute guy he met at the gym who likes to read about history, watch westerns, listen to disco, and cook.” He pursed his lips. “I don’t want to lose him, but I can’t announce my preference to the world.”
“How did you two leave it?”
“He walked out and I ran after him, trying to explain. He said he was done listening to my excuses and left. I called him when my plane landed, but he hasn’t called back.” He toyed with the water bottle. “Why should I be surprised? His gay friends probably told him to dump me. I’m not worth the trouble.”
“Give it time. Maybe he’ll apologize. But whatever happens, I’ve got your back and so does Danni. We’re here for you.” Vin bit his bottom lip. “And while we’re being open, can I ask you a…gay question?”
Ev chuckled. “Sure. What the hell.”
“You’ve been with girls and guys.”
Vin leaned close to him. “Who gives better head?”
He burst out laughing. “Vin, my man, you are missing out.
“Really?” Vin’s green eyes widened.
“Now don’t get me wrong, you might find a girl who’ll eat your sausage from now until Christmas, and you’ll love it, but guys have a special touch.”
“How? What do—”
Ev felt his face start to flush. “I’m sorry, but I’ve done enough sharing for one day. How about this? You rent a gay porno and I’ll explain everything.”
He peered at Vin over the top of his sunglasses. ”You would? Seriously?”
“Why not? I’ve never watched one. We’ll get one in the room tonight if you want.”
“Great. We’ll stay up late, eat popcorn, and I’ll teach you all the naughty secrets of gay sex,” Ev replied, laughing.
“I’m glad to hear that.”
He scowled. “What, the gay sex thing?”
“No, you laughing and making comments. It means you’re gonna be okay.”
He smiled. Vin was right. He did feel almost normal. Or at least back to his usual self. “Thanks, man. And tell Danni I appreciate her support, too. How is the world’s hottest wife and valet? Did she ever make up with her uncle?”
“She’s doing fine, and no, she’s done with Uncle Danny and the wrestling magazine He offered her a full-time job with all sorts of perks, and she turned him down. Said it would be a conflict of interest.” Vin glanced at his watch. “Shit. We’d better head back. I have to meet with Nick at seven.”
“Seven? That’s when I’m going to talk to him.”
Vin started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. “Maybe he wants to talk to us about the tag team idea I pitched to him last week. It would be fun to get back together again. We could take the tag belts for the fourth time.”
“I agree, but Nick said he was working on a single’s angle for me because Scott’s out of action. I don’t know what Nick was thinking, letting the Rebelz steal the title belts.” At the last pay-per-view, Dillon and Wayland had purposefully crippled his partner’s left knee. Now he had to start a new storyline to get back in the ring.
“I’ll give Josh another call before the show and hope for the best,” he said. “Thanks for listening. Today started out pretty shitty, but at least it can’t get any worse.”