Have you ever been there, in that single eye-opening childhood moment when you realize you have a crush on your friend? Or maybe it was the boy who lived down the street? You probably even discovered your sexuality in that moment.
Friends to lovers is a very common trope in romance. Those stories are easy to write. The chemistry is just there. The characters know each other, probably even have each other’s quirks memorized. They never fight because they’re best friends and love just works, puppies and kittens, rainbows and unicorns, and happily ever after. But that’s so unrealistic to me. What’s a meaty romance without some drama?
In Three Little Words, Luke–Matt’s best friend since youth–has never been seen dating or flirting with anyone, ever. His sexuality was always a subject of curiosity, but Matt would never ask. It seemed rude. So Matt kept his little crush on the boy next door a giant secret, and like most childhood crushes, Matt and Luke’s fairy tale ended there. No exploration of feelings. No exploration of bodies. Matt continued into adulthood and fell in love, keeping his best friend by his side through those years. It’s not until Matt gets his heart totally obliterated that he finds out his feelings for his best friend weren’t one-sided. Unfortunately, Luke’s timing is pretty terrible.
I’ll leave you with this fun little scene…
Two weeks and more than twenty phone calls later—one telling Brandon he could have the car Matt had bought him—and Matt was no closer to closure than he had been when he’d read that letter from the dresser. The pain remained. The disappointment in himself, in Brandon, in the both of them together, held strong. The anger continued to rage. And Matt began to believe it would never end.
He sat on the kitchen counter with a cold beer in his hand, absently picking at the edge of the label as he stared at a stack of boxes by the bay window of the breakfast nook they’d once loved so much. Zeus curled beneath his feet.
Everything Matt and Brandon had picked out for their house was packed in those boxes, every memory—good or bad—every gift Brandon had given him over the years, carefully cradled in bubble-wrap. Those sad brown boxes were a testament to how horribly off track his life had gone. And to think, he’d planned to ask Brandon to marry him. Who knew things could go so wrong?
“I think I got it all,” Luke said as he leaned against the arched opening leading into the kitchen. He swiped the last dishtowel from the counter beside him and scrubbed his dirty hands
Matt looked up at his best friend of over twenty years and gave him a sad smile. “Thanks, bro.”
“Hey, you did it for me when I moved away to become a fireman. It’s the least I could do.”
That had been about seven years ago, way before Matt met Brandon, back when Matt still wanted to be madly in love with his best friend. Matt never confessed and never would. Hell, he didn’t even know if Luke was gay or straight. Luke never seemed too interested in dating—not a guy or a girl. He’d always focused on sports and working out. He had dreams he chased, and none of them ever included dating. Sexuality was easy not to talk about. Sexuality was nonexistent in their world. Or that’s what Matt always told himself.
Sometimes, on that rare occasion when he thought about growing up with Luke, Matt wondered if Luke ever knew how he felt, if it ever came out in a look or in something he’d said. Luke never asked, and Matt would never dare to talk about it. Not even now, after finding himself unexpectedly available. He’d worked hard to push those feelings aside when it seemed like the two of them would never be anything more than friends. Some subjects didn’t need discussion. Ever.
The sunlight pouring in through the bare bay windows made the tan skin of Luke’s naked muscled chest look almost bronze. It made his blond hair look a rich shade of gold. His blue eyes even seemed to sparkle as he stared right at Matt’s face.
“Dude, you gotta snap out of this. You’re killin’ me,” Luke said.
“Sorry, man. I’m trying. I just—” Matt shook his head as he hopped down from the counter, careful not to step on Zeus. “—can’t believe he did this to me. I mean, fuck, I gave him everything he ever wanted.”
“Yeah, and he’s a damn fool to let someone like you go.”
“Maybe.” Matt shrugged.
“Do you need anything else from me?”
“Nah. Mom hired movers to come pick this shit up and take it to storage. She’s keeping Zeus for me too.”
“I thought your mom didn’t have a yard or anything.”
“Not at the condo she doesn’t, but what else am I going to do with him?”
“Let me take him home. I have a huge yard. Plenty of running space.”
Zeus popped up from the floor as if he knew they were talking about him. Tail wagging like crazy, he brushed his head against Matt’s leg. Matt leaned down and began scratching the spot behind his ear. “You’d do that for me?” Matt asked, still looking down at his furry best friend.
“Man, I appreciate it. Zeus would be a hell of a lot happier with you. He knows you better than Mom, and you can play with him. She can’t. She’s just too old and not in any shape to be chasing around a puppy.”
“You coming back for him?”
“Probably. When I get settled in… somewhere. I’ll be on Mark’s boat for a little while. We’re taking off out of New England next week. I don’t know what I’m gonna do after that. Might stay up there for a few months, see what happens.”
“A few months with your brother? How are you gonna survive?”
“Who knows?” Matt said with a hint of laughter.
The conversation came to a dead halt. With a sigh, Matt stood, but Zeus didn’t leave his side. He tried not to stare as Luke crossed the length of the galley kitchen. He tried like hell not to watch the flex of his best friend’s muscles as Luke reached in the fridge and grabbed a bottle of beer.
“Hand me one too,” Matt said.
And when Luke rose up from the fridge, he was face-to-face with Matt, and goddammit if Matt didn’t want to pull him into a kiss. No, he wasn’t over Brandon already, but he’d had this thing for Luke for half a lifetime and right now, he just wanted… someone, someone who wouldn’t run out on him and leave him heartbroken. Luke would never do that. Even if he didn’t have the same feelings, he’d never do anything to hurt Matt.
Luke pressed the cold, brown bottle to Matt’s hand. Their eyes locked, and no matter how badly Matt wanted to, he couldn’t force himself to look away. He took a breath and swallowed so hard he could hear the loud sound of his throat muscles tightening.
“You okay?” Luke asked.
“No. I’m not. I’m not okay at all.”
The air surrounding them suddenly became thick and hard to breathe. Something in Luke’s stare changed, though Matt couldn’t really describe it. His eyes softened, darkened even, like maybe he had something he needed to get off his chest too, but maybe he was too afraid. Matt tensed his jaw and narrowed his eyes.
“What?” he asked in a bitter rush, because he couldn’t stand the way Luke stared at him.
“I don’t like seeing you this way, man. It’s freaking me out.”
“Because you’re not this guy, Matt. You’re… fun. You’re lighthearted and always smiling. This shit ain’t you, man.”
“I’m trying. I gotta get out of this place. Everywhere I look, I see him. I don’t want to see him anymore.”
“I know,” Luke said softly as he laid his hand on Matt’s shoulder. The warmth of his palm felt like heaven on Matt’s sweaty skin, even with the heat radiating from his pores. It was the kind of sincere, caring touch Matt needed.
He let out the breath he’d been holding and looked down, catching a glimpse of Luke’s toned chest as he averted his eyes. If he kept looking at Luke, Matt would end up throwing caution to the wind and plant his lips against his best friend’s mouth. He couldn’t do that. He’d already lost one person he cared about. He couldn’t lose another.
A strong, moist hand wrapped around his chin and lifted his head, forcing him to look at Luke again. That dark, weighty feeling returned to Luke’s beautiful blue eyes. His stare made Matt’s heart beat faster, then slower. And before Matt even had a chance to blink, Luke’s lips landed on his.
Is it better to keep some secrets locked away?
Matt thought his life was perfect, but he learns there’s no such thing when the man he planned to marry breaks his heart and leaves him holding the pieces. Needing to escape and lick his wounds, Matt heads to New England to spend time on his brother’s lobster boat. A one-night-stand proves to him that empty sex does nothing to mend old hurt, and neither does running away.
So when Matt’s best friend, Luke, a firefighter, is seriously injured, Matt steps up, even if it means facing bigotry and ignorance. Luke has been hiding his feelings from Matt all their lives, and revealing them after so many years won’t make life easier for either of them. But nothing worth having ever comes easily….
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