Brandon Reese isn’t ugly, but he thinks he is. He knows he looks better now that he’s lost over 200 pounds, but he can’t get over feeling, well, less like the handsome men he writes about in his gay romances. Then he meets Rhine Walken. He’s intrigued. But the next time he sees Rhine there’s something really wrong with the young man. Like really. Brandon finds out that Rhine suffers from a traumatic brain injury that manifests in a strange manner, one that makes a relationship pretty much off the table. Damn that sucks. Because he could love this man.
Before he knew it he had arrived at the checkout. He hoped his watching the guy hadn’t been noticed. Brandon handed his bags over to the young man and pulled out his card to pay. He had gotten close enough to see the name tag and learned that his name was Rhine. Brandon thought it was a very interesting name and one he’d not heard before. Rhine also seemed a little older than the other bag boys and girls around him. Maybe that explained why he was so adept at the chore.
As Brandon finished paying for the groceries, Rhine asked, “Do you need help out to your car, sir?” Rhine’s voice was deep, kind of rough, but respectful.“No,” Brandon said, “thanks, though.” He put his wallet in his back pocket and turned to take hold of the cart.
Brandon couldn’t help it, for some reason, as he was walking past Rhine, he blurted out quietly, “I could so put you in a book.” He didn’t even know when he’d decided Rhine would be good for his books, but Brandon felt he really could form a character around this good-looking, low-voiced, serious young man who seemed so out of place working as a bag boy.
Slightly embarrassed that he’d said anything, Brandon didn’t wait around to see if Rhine had heard him or what effect his words caused. He was very proud of his work, his influence on his readers, and his success, but he would always feel that inferiority of being morbidly obese for a large part of his life. Now he was continually working on changing that self-image. Attending the support group he’d joined right before the surgery, had helped, and now he encouraged new members. Brandon was one of the success stories, but he was still shy about being on display, in front of others, the center of attention.
As he closed the trunk and headed for the driver’s door, he heard crickets. He smiled. It was his editor, Cammie Sharden. He used to have the cricket sound as his ring tone and she always hated it, while he had liked that he didn’t have the same one as everyone else. When he upgraded his phone plan and could assign ring tones to individual people he had to choose the crickets for Cammie, just to piss her off.
Cammie was his star, his mentor, his life saver. He would not have the success he had now if not for her. She loved his work and pushed him, encouraged him, and basically took care of him. She didn’t have to crack the whip to get his manuscripts in on time because he loved what he did.
“I hear crickets,” he said, as he answered.
“Shut up,” she said, before continuing with, “your bullying series is going to audio. They want to know who you’d like to have read them. I’m sending you samples of several men’s voices. You pick the one you like and we’ll deal. This is great, Brand, just wonderful. The more people who read those books, the more good they do. Oh, and I heard back from the lady who petitioned her daughter’s high school to put the series in their library. She didn’t get a firm yes, but says she’s still hopeful. You do good things, in the sexiest way, don’t you know?”
Brandon sat in the car and beamed at the news.