Please welcome Brandon Witt with the re-release of
Under A Sky Of Ash
More than a decade after leaving Colorado to escape his past, Isaiah Greene returns and builds a life in Denver as a special education teacher. But coming home revives memories of the racist, homophobic violence that destroyed his youthful first love.
When Isaiah meets Ben Woods, the mentor of one of his students, the lightning-quick attraction grows into something deeper. Raised by a bitter and abusive grandmother, Ben is a recovering addict who has made a family with his construction worker boss, Hershel, and Hershel's husband, Daniel—drag queen ManDonna.
Adding Isaiah to his life gives Ben a glimpse of a future he'd never dreamed possible for himself.Isaiah and Ben are survivors, and the revelation that they've both suffered traumatic childhoods forms a bond between them. But when guilt and the secrets of the past threaten to end their relationship, Ben and Isaiah embark on journeys of self-discovery.
Though their path will be difficult at times, humor and love find a way to bring light to the darkness.
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There’s nothing like a drag queen and two gorgeous men in Speedos to make your worries disappear. The frequency with which Charity’s cheeks brightened in a blush as she drank hot tea was the cherry on top of it all.
I let it all go. All the frustration of being blamed for consequences of the disabilities and neglect of my students. The potential fallout from Ben Woods’s assumption. Even the dark shadows of my past quieted in the bright raucousness of Hamburger Mary’s.
The crowd, and it was indeed a crowd, was a good mix of ages and beauty level. There was even a decent segment of racial diversity, which was relaxing.
“Oh, honey! This next question could pitch a tent or two.” ManDonna hiked her skirt, revealing eight-inch spiked heels covered in rainbow rhinestones, then stomped to the left side of the stage. She ran a long gold nail down the neck of the nearest contestant and pulled his shirt away from his chest, making a show of taking a peek, then fanning herself with the cards in her other hand. “All right, red team, name the top five places on a man’s body where size matters most. And, sweetie, if you get this first one wrong, you lose your gay card.” She removed her hand from where she’d been raking her nails through the man’s chest hair and gave his cheek a light slap. “But I’ll think of something to help you earn it back.”
The hoots and hollers that filled the restaurant drowned out the man’s answer at first. When they died down, ManDonna smacked his cheek again. “They couldn’t hear you, lamb. Now say it like you mean it!”
“His cock!” Even though the man’s cheeks flushed a violent pink, he made a grinding motion with his hips, setting the place in riots once more.
Once the catcalls quieted, ManDonna tossed a thick rope of her red lion’s mane hair over her shoulder and addressed the Speedo-clad hunk on her right. “Show us your cock! I mean, show us if cock is up there.”
The nearly naked man walked to the makeshift plywood Family Feud board, grabbed his package, shaking it at the crowd, and then pulled back the slot for the number one answer. Again the crowd let loose a torrent of squeals and whistles as the word Cock was revealed.
Charity touched my shoulder, drawing my attention. Her blushing complexion looked as if it had become permanent, and she had tears of laughter running down her face. “I think we’ve found our new Thursday night routine.”
“Yeah, I think you’re right.”
She motioned toward the other Speedo-wearing stud. “Maybe we should hang out afterwards. I could arrange an introduction.”
I couldn’t suppress a shudder. “I’ll pass.”
She rolled her eyes. “What? Too pretty for you?”
“Yes, actually.” He looked like every other pretty boy who graced the cover of Instinct magazine. “We’d probably just talk about the hours he spends in the gym and all the different types of supplements he takes.”
“Are you the pot or the kettle in this scenario of yours?”
“I can’t believe you just said that.”
“Well, it’s true. You’re every bit as muscled as he is. And did you forget that I’m your roommate? I know exactly how many supplements you take every day.”
“Doesn’t mean I want to date myself.” I turned back to the stage. ManDonna had already moved to the third man on the red team. Before I could see what the last answer had been, my phone vibrated in my pocket. A notification from Scruff was highlighted on the screen. Swiping my thumb over it, the app opened directly to the new message.
The profile picture showed a shirtless blond man, who looked similar to the guy on stage Charity had pointed out.
You are gorgeous. I’m at the table to your right. Want to get together after this? Top or bottom?
Glancing up from the phone, it only took a moment to spot the sender at a table nearby. He was as good-looking as his profile picture, which was rare. He lifted his chin in acknowledgment and gave a wink.
A wink? Really?
After a chin lift of my own, I looked back to the phone and tapped his profile. He looked familiar. I scrolled through his information.
Online, 200 ft away
White, 5’ 10”, Smooth
Into: Military, Discreet, Muscle, College
Open to: Relationships, Random Play/NSA, Dates
What I’m looking for: Smart, Good looking, Confident. No Asians or Blacks.
I stopped reading. If I had a nickel…. It didn’t even make me angry anymore at this point.
I started to close the app, then instead hit Reply.
You can see I’m black, right?
After hitting Send, I looked back at the man. He glanced away a second later, turning his attention to his phone, and typed something with his thumbs. Then looked back toward me with another wink.
Within a moment, the message came through.
Yeah. But you’re actually hot.
Unreal. Completely unreal.
Most of the time, I wouldn’t respond. But I just couldn’t help myself.
True. Way too hot for you.
He smiled when I looked back up—a real one this time, without a wink. Probably certain I’d bend him over a table at such a lavish compliment. He looked down at his phone long enough to read the new message and type a response, then back up at me. He flipped me off, then turned back to Family Feud.
The phone buzzed in my hand, causing me to flinch. I swiped my thumb once more to reveal the message, though I knew what it would say.
Huh. Actually nicer than I’d expected. No names. No threats.
Maybe not a bad guy. Just ignorant and douchey. Not that I was going to feel bad for a second for my response to him. Just because he didn’t call names didn’t mean he wasn’t an ass.
“Everything all right?”
I turned to Charity, who looked concerned. “Yeah. I’m fine. Think I’m going to run to the restroom real quick. If the server comes back, would you order me another beer? And cheesecake. I need cheesecake.”
To my surprise, the restroom was empty. Not overly clean after a long night with a couple hundred gay men going in and out, but empty. Though I didn’t actually need the facility itself, it was a relief to be away from the crowd. I got back on Scruff long enough to block Mr. Smart, Good-looking, Confident, then shut off my phone.
I peered at myself in the mirror. I should’ve had enough experience to not let words and people’s stupidity affect me. Normally I wouldn’t. I chose to blame the entire day, not just pretty-boy’s ignorance. Still, the reflection in the mirror didn’t show the hot man who had been enough for him to overlook his “preferences.” I was good-looking. Beautiful even. I knew that, for what it was worth. Once in a while, I’d even see that man looking back in the mirror. Not tonight. Tonight was like too many others. Tonight there was a twelve-year-old boy. Thin. Skinned, ashy knees. Swollen black eye. Hurting and dirty.
How many years in therapy had there been?
Might as well have been none.
Even from here, ManDonna’s voice rang out. She was good. I’d seen her a couple of times before and always enjoyed her camp. At the moment, though, it was all a little too much. Too loud and over the top. Too…. Just too much. Time to call it a night.
Maybe take the cheesecake to go.
Exiting the bathroom, I had to step around a couple of men making out in the hallway. I was a few feet past them when my mind processed the image I’d just seen.
There was no way.
Still walking, I angled my face back toward the couple so I wouldn’t draw their attention.
I needn’t have bothered. It would have taken a rampaging bull to interrupt their exploits.
And I hadn’t been mistaken.
There, with his back pressed against the wall, was Ben Woods.
Ben, his lips smashed against a tall linebacker of a man who had one hand shoved up Ben’s shirt, the other moving in jerking motions inside Ben’s jeans.
I watched for a few moments longer than I should—not that they noticed. If I’d thought Ben was sexy before, it was nothing compared to watching him like this.
Didn’t see that coming.
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