Dan Young and Noel Murohy have been together since Dan auditioned to dance at the bar where Noel worked. Now they’ve found a home to call their own: Barnacles Cottage, a quaint little house on the beach—their forever home.
But not long after they move in, their dream becomes a nightmare: a car accident puts Noel into a coma. Dan’s and Noel’s parents keep a bedside vigil, but Noel doesn’t wake. Then Dan finds a picture in the attic. At first it seems to be a painting of a young boy, but even as Dan watches, the boy’s face changes… into Noel’s. To save his lover’s life, Dan will have to unravel the artifact’s history—and he’ll have to do it before the picture takes Noel away from him forever.
NOEL MUROHY made that choking noise that Dan associated with really good sex—when you want to speak, but all your brain functions are totally scrambled.
Dan Young looked up from his e-reader to see Noel staring at the screen of the laptop. “Are you all right, babe?” Dan asked, concerned at the glassy-eyed expression on his husband’s face. He’d been reading while Noel scrolled yet again through the listings on one of the realtors’ sites.
“This is it. The one. This is the fucking one.”
To Dan’s consternation Noel slammed his hand on the table, making the laptop leap into the air.
“Noel, babe, what’s going on?” Dan rolled off the sofa. “You’re scaring the shit outta me.”
Noel pointed to the screen. “I’ve found the house we’re going to buy. This is it. Our Forever Home.” As usual, his voice rose an octave in his excitement.
Dan didn’t rush over to the laptop. There had been other forever homes. At least six in Maine, if he remembered correctly, and a couple out of state. Noel had been just as enthusiastic about each one, although they hadn’t provoked the choked sex noise. Still, Dan wasn’t going to go into raptures about yet more bricks and mortar. Location, location, location. That’s what everyone kept telling them. If they were going to find their forever home, it wasn’t enough that the place was big or it was in a gated community. The next house had to be everything they had been looking for all wrapped up in one neat package. Their forever home, because they both hated moving, and the next time was going to be the last time as far as they were concerned.
Dan dropped his chin onto Noel’s shoulder. “Show me the fucking one. Let me see what’s got you all worked up.”
Noel pointed again, and there it was. Barnacles Cottage, three bedrooms, with an attic or a garage that Noel could use as his studio. Painted a deep blue, the cottage seemed to blend in with its surroundings. Ocean-fronted in a thriving rural community, and a place that was within their price range. Even to Dan, it seemed perfect and close enough to Portland that Dan could still travel to work.
“Thank you, Granddad,” Dan murmured.
Noel reached back and stroked Dan’s head. The only reason they could afford a place like Barnacles Cottage at their age was the sizeable inheritance from Dan’s grandfather, who had died earlier in the year. Otherwise, they lived on Dan’s just about okay salary and Noel’s bar money. Once in a while Noel sold a picture, and then they really celebrated.
“It has a pool,” Noel said, as he read the details.
They shouted it out simultaneously, and Noel started giggling as Dan blushed.
“Look at you. Your mind slipped straight into the gutter. I’m so proud.” Noel said.
Dan gave Noel a shove. “I was innocent before I met you.”
Noel gave a derisive snort. “Sure you were. And where did I meet you?”
“I told you. It was an accident.”
“You mean you just happened to be passing by the pole in the strip club and your clothes fell off?”
“With a little help from you,” Dan agreed, burying his burning face in the back of Noel’s neck.
The truth was not far from that. He had been innocent, and starving, and desperate to supplement his student income. His friend had mentioned that they were looking for dancers at a local club. Still new to the city and unaware of the nature of Hot Wired, he’d visited the club during the day. The club had been dark and empty. The only person in sight had been the barman, a gorgeous man, probably a couple of years older than him, with black, wavy hair, dark eyes, and a filthy mind. Once he had stopped laughing at Dan’s youthful innocence, Noel initiated him into what exactly he’d be doing. Noel had laughed even harder as Dan’s face heated up. But needs must, and Dan was sick of being hungry. Once he’d gotten past the shame and embarrassment of taking his clothes off and wriggling around a pole, Dan discovered he enjoyed his new life, and he enjoyed the barman even more.
Noel was an artist. Every second he wasn’t serving overpriced drinks, he was painting huge canvases with the verve and passion he brought to everything, especially initiating Dan into the art of making love. Dan had been as innocent about that as everything else. Eight years on, the passion hadn’t decreased. Noel loved his young lover, and Dan returned it tenfold. That didn’t mean they wouldn’t look at hot pool boys, though.
Still buried in Noel’s neck, Dan closed his eyes, his eyelashes teasing the sensitive skin below Noel’s hairline.
“You’re doing that deliberately,” Noel murmured.
Dan smiled, pressing a kiss into Noel’s skin. “Yeah,” he agreed. “I like touching you.”
“Hmmm.” Noel leaned back against Dan. “So are we going to buy Barnacles Cottage?”
“It’s probably already gone,” Dan said, practical as ever.
“Then it’s gone. But there’s no harm in checking, is there?”
Dan straightened up and took another look at the cottage. It was amazing, and it seemed to have everything they were looking for. “Give them a call, babe. Don’t get too excited, yeah?”
Noel had been devastated at the loss of some of the other potential buys.
“Yeah, yeah,” Noel said, sounding distracted.
Dan sighed as he sat back down on the sofa and picked up his e-reader. It was like talking to a brick wall sometimes. He’d be there to pick up the pieces when the sale fell through.