Please welcome Vivien Dean and Rick R. Reed with
Stranded With Desire
a Dreamspun Desires title
When their plane crashed, their desire took flight.
CEO Maine Braxton and his invaluable assistant, Colby, don’t realize they share a deep secret: they’re in love—with each other. That secret may have never come to light but for a terrifying plane crash in the Cascade Mountains that changes everything.
In a struggle for survival, the two men brave bears, storms, and a life-threatening flood to make it out of the wilderness alive. The proximity to death makes them realize the importance of love over propriety. Confessions emerge. Passions ignite. They escape the wilds renewed and openly in love.
When they return to civilization, though, forces are already plotting to snuff out their short-lived romance and ruin everything both have worked so hard to achieve.
There’s something about the dark of night, the intimacy of close quarters, that tempts even the most stalwart among us into confessions. Toss in a few secrets and a desperate desire for honesty, and it becomes almost impossible to resist. That’s the case for Maine Braxton, the CEO hero of Stranded with Desire, when he finds himself holed up in a deserted cabin after a plane crash in the mountains. He’s not alone. With him is Colby, his personal assistant and the one person in his life he trusts more than anyone. The crash has forced Maine to face more than one truth, not the least of which is the depth of his feelings for Colby. The trick will be in not revealing that truth to Colby, no matter how much he wants to.
He drank in the strong line of Colby’s profile, the pout of his full lips, the slope of his strong nose. In the dim lighting, it was so easy to admit to the desires, especially without Colby’s knowing eyes on him to bear witness. It made it easier to add, “Why is it so hard to accept that’s how I see you?”
“It’s not,” Colby said on a long breath. “I just never expected to hear you say it.”
“Get used to it. I plan on things changing from here on out.”
For a moment Colby closed his eyes. His nostrils flared as he inhaled deeply, his chest rising and falling before he spoke again. “I didn’t realize you thought it was so bad before.”
“It wasn’t. Not like how you think. It’s just... my life has turned out exactly like I knew it would.”
A wry smile twisted Colby’s mouth, and when he glanced over, Maine ducked his own gaze to avoid getting caught out.
“You predicted we were going to crash? A little heads-up would’ve been nice.”
“No,” Maine said with a small chuckle. “But the rest of it—the company, Helen—that’s been on the books as long as I can remember. The only time I thought it might not was in college.”
The soft query floated between them, seemingly as light as air but weighted with years of missed opportunities. Colby couldn’t know how dangerous it was, but Maine was tired of dodging the past.
“I met someone.”
“Let me guess.” His brow wrinkled as in mock contemplation. “A goth art student with a nose ring who your parents didn’t approve of.”
Maine couldn’t help but laugh. “Not quite.”
“How about... the president of the College Democrats of America who thought you were going to be the next JFK?”
“No, but if that had been the case, I might’ve actually done something, just to see Hart’s head explode.”
“So who was this magical girl who almost made you throw it all away?”
Not a girl, he almost said, but years of conditioning stopped the confession. “Just someone I met on vacation.”
“She can’t be just someone if she had that much of an impact on you.”
No, there’d been nothing ordinary about Eligio. “Maybe not.”
“So why didn’t it work out?”
Because he’d been too scared. On his last day in Tuscany, he’d avoided Eligio all day, reluctant to say good-bye, until he found Eligio in his room when he went to bed.
“I know why you go.” Eligio sat on the edge of his narrow bed, his nearly black eyes wide and bright. “And I won’t ask again for you to stay. But we still have tonight, sì? You are not gone yet.”
And he’d been tempted. God, he’d been tempted. He’d even sat down next to Eligio and kissed him until his lungs ached and his body burned with the memories of all the hours they’d spent entwined in each other’s bodies over the summer. But when Eligio slid off the bed and pushed Maine’s suitcase out of the way so he could kneel between his legs, Maine had frozen. He couldn’t stop staring at the case, a high school graduation gift from his grandparents, more worn from his summer travels but still an anchor to a life that had no room for someone like Eligio.
“We lived in different worlds,” he said. “It didn’t matter that I was in love. I had obligations. I couldn’t ignore them just because the sex was—” He stopped. That was a step too far. “Nobody would’ve understood.”
“But you loved her.”
Him. “Yes. Aren’t first loves always intense, though? The world drops away, and they’re all you can think about, dream about. When you’re in the middle of it, you start believing anything is possible. Then it ends, and you realize the world has been waiting for you to come back and join it.”
“Is that what you really think?”
“That love has to end.”
“No,” Maine conceded. “My parents are proof that it doesn’t.” They’d been married for over forty years, together since they were teenagers. “But it’s hard not to be envious of how lucky they are.”
“You have Ms. Daniels.”
Mention of Helen drove his eyes back up to Colby’s face. Color had returned to his cheeks, a pink stain that hinted at unseen heat. The softness in his mouth was back too. Thank goodness. Maine hated having tension between them, even if their circumstances made their shorter tempers understandable.
“It’s different with Helen,” he said. “We’re a good fit.”
“That’s not very romantic.”
“At my age, sometimes romance takes a backseat to other things.”
Colby rolled his eyes. “You make it sound like you’re ancient.”
“Why don’t we pick this topic up again after you hit thirty?”
“You’re not old,” he pressed. “You’ve just had a lot of responsibility put on your shoulders. That’s no reason to think you can’t have romance if you want it.” He paused. “Do you want it?”
He hesitated a moment too long. He saw Colby catch the fleeting wish before he could hide it. “There’s a million kinds of love,” he said, cutting off Colby before he could pursue a more awkward line of questioning. “It’s not always about passion. And I do love Helen, no matter what it sounds like.”
That wasn’t a lie. She was generous and intelligent. Just because they didn’t spark sexually didn’t mean they couldn’t build a solid marriage. Mutual respect was an excellent foundation for any relationship.
Colby chewed at the corner of his lip, lost in thought for a moment, and Maine’s mouth abruptly watered. He took a deep breath, trying to drive away the impetuous desire for a kiss. He needed to stifle these urges. He was usually so good at it, but they had to be happening because he had Eligio on the brain. This wasn’t Tuscany. He wasn’t that man anymore. Most obviously, Colby wasn’t Eligio.
No, he’s better.
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Meet the authors:
Vivien Dean is a firm believer that love doesn’t care about gender. That’s why her titles encompass both GLBT and het, erotic and sweet, as well as a wide variety of genres. After growing up in the snowy and isolated Midwest, she went off in search of her creative muse. She performed on stage, wrote and directed indie films in Orlando, then met her British soulmate online. One wedding, two children, and ten addresses later, she resides in the Bay Area where it’s easy to indulge in her favorite pastimes—good theater, great movies, and amazing food.
Vivien is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner and collaborated with Pepper Espinoza to write as Jamie Craig for five years.
Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love.
He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). He is also a Rainbow Award Winner for both Caregiver and Raining Men. Lambda Literary Review has called him, "a writer that doesn't disappoint."
Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever "at work on another novel."
Promotional post. Materials provided by the authors.