Christopher Rice takes us back to Sapphire Cove—the luxury beachfront resort on the sparkling Southern California coast where strong-willed heroes release the shame that blocks their heart’s desires—and I have a little sneak peek for you from this steamy enemies-to-lovers redemption story.
“I want you to stay.” At the intensity in Mason’s voice, Naser’s eyes shot to his. “I’ve wanted this for years, and I want you to stay.”
Naser nodded, lips parted as if to speak, but instead of saying anything aloud, he nodded with greater emphasis.
Mason nodded confidently, feeling anything but sure. “I’m gonna get dressed and then…” But he was back in the bedroom before he could finish the sentence, desperate to put every moment he had to spend away from Naser on fast forward. By the time Naser emerged from the bathroom, toweling himself off, Mason had slid into old jeans and a fraternity T-shirt. Mason could only think of one way to make the moment less awkward. He found his key ring on the nightstand, pulled the house key off it, and handed it to Naser.
“In case you want to take a walk on the beach or anything.”
Naser smiled politely—politely, after everything they’d just done to each other. Mason wanted to die—then closed his fingers around the key even though he didn’t have a pocket to put it in.
“An hour,” Mason said.
Mason was halfway down the steps when the argument raging in his head resolved itself with sudden clarity. The anonymous in Alcoholics Anonymous was about other people, other people’s names and stories and attendance. Not his. And goddammit, if today wasn’t about being honest.
Baring it all.
When he sprang back into the bedroom, he could already feel the lump in his throat. He felt a rising tide of sadness and fear out of scale to everything around him. Sober sex had done this, he suspected. And the wild ride leading up to it. For years now, he’d done his best to drown uncomfortable feelings. Now he’d gorged on a buffet table of them in a day’s time.
“It’s an AA meeting.” It came out like a shout instead of a confession. Naser looked up like a gun had gone off. “It’s not just some random thing… It’s… I went for the first time a week ago. My—” Any mention of Shirley, or a reference to a neighbor would violate anonymity, so he stopped. Readjusted. His tone was too harsh. He wanted to explain, not to accuse. “A friend took me a week ago and… Um… It’s changing things. Changing me.” Softening his tone had softened the dam inside of him.
The gentle tone of Naser’s voice alerted Mason to his coming tears before his vision blurred.
“And it’s the only thing I would walk out on this for. You see, I agreed to bring cookies. But it’s not just about cookies. It’s about being accountable and consistent. Being connected to something bigger, bigger than…” A dozen ways he wanted to finish that thought. Something bigger than Ferraris and your dad’s money and all the abusive conditions that came with it, and houses that impressed people you didn’t like, and a never-ending wheel of parties that were supposed to seem cool and edgy but where you were too numbed out to feel them because inside you felt like you didn’t belong there or anywhere.
To escape all that, he needed to connect to something bigger than who’d he been, bigger than all the shitty things he’d done.
There was a frog in his throat now, but he could feel Naser gently gripping his elbows. “And it feels like…a really good thing that’s made better things happen. The meetings, I mean. And it’s only been a week, but I just wanted you to know that… I want you to know that I’ve wanted this for years—you, here. Like this. For years I’ve wanted this, and the only thing, the only thing that would make me walk out on it even for an hour is this. Something this serious. Because…because what’s wrong with me is very serious, Naser.”
Their foreheads were touching. Naser sounded quietly astonished by Mason’s display. And maybe his words, too. Maybe he wasn’t used to grown men breaking down into tears in front of him. As for Mason, he felt more naked now then he had during sex.
“I’d take you with me, but it’s a closed meeting and so it’s only alcoholics and I… Please don’t leave. It would mean the world to me if you stayed.”
Begging. Mason had never begged for anything in his life.
He’d never had to. But his life was changing.