Yes my sweets, I am up to my eyeballs in editing and Match will be ready for a January release. Until then, here’s a short deleted scene to whet your appetite.
WARNING: Contains mild spoilers for Ace.
IT WAS THREE thoroughly exhausted players who returned to the house that afternoon; exhausted but happy. We’d had a good day, our coaches were pleased, and I’d bumped into more than one circuit acquaintance who’d slapped me on the back and welcomed my return. It gratified me further that they were keen to meet Lexi and expressed their support for us both. My old adversary Jake Ross, an American I’d last defeated in the third round of this very tournament, even went as far as to threaten dire repercussions for anyone who was anything less than totally supportive.
“Not necessary,” I said with a laugh. “But I appreciate the sentiment.”
“It’s about time we had some gay players,” he continued.
“I was always a gay player,” I pointed out. “Lexi, too.”
Jake rolled his eyes. “Out, then. Openly gay. Whatever. I thought the NFL was going to beat us to it.”
Lexi laughed. “Not likely.”
“You never know,” Jake mused. “You lot are cropping up all over.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Us lot?”
He grinned, and I returned the smile. Jake was a nice guy, and he knew Lexi from their Academy days. He’d even inadvertently helped me woo him, letting slip some of Lexi’s favourite foods upon discrete questioning.
“Did you ever know about me?” I asked curiously. I’d never hidden my sexuality from those who’d asked, and I couldn’t deny I was intrigued to know how far the rumours had spread; how shocked or otherwise the players had been when I finally came out.
“Whispers,” Jake admitted.
“But you never asked me about them.”
“Nah, man. None of my business. Although I totally knew you two were doing the dirty when you started asking all about Lexi.”
“Hey, I was subtle!” I protested.
Jake laughed. “About as subtle as a sledgehammer.”
I turned my wounded expression on Lexi as he started sniggering.
“Never thought it was serious though,” Jake continued. “Have you two really been together for a year?”
“Almost.” I looked at Lexi and smiled, a warm feeling rising in my chest that only grew warmer as I saw my expression returned.
“You’re going sappy on me, aren’t you?” Jake asked, suspicion lacing his tone.
“Not at all.” I pulled Lexi into a bear hug. “We’re manly men, we express our manlove through wrestling and Call of Duty.”
“Gerroff me!” Lexi shoved me away with a laugh before pulling me close again.
“Seriously, guys.” Jake clasped both our arms. “I think it’s great. And I mean it—if anyone gives you any shit, send them to me.”
I coughed to clear a sudden lump in my throat. “Mate, with you on our side, who would dare?”
The tourist party had yet to return to the house when we arrived, Cole and Jamie in sole residence playing some death-or-glory game on the PlayStation. We stuck our heads around the lounge door to say hello and were received with distracted greetings in return.
Jared immediately joined them, while Drew and Tony made for the kitchen, no doubt to dissect our performances in private. I caught Lexi’s eye, identical thoughts flitting between us as I took his hand and led him up the stairs.
“It was nice of Jake to say those things,” Lexi said, later.
“Jake. Earlier. Being supportive.”
I snuggled closer under the duvet, curling myself around Lexi’s hard body. I was sated and sleepy, but he was clearly in a talkative mood.
He stroked his fingers through my hair and I butted my head against his palm like a cat seeking affection. If I could, I would have been purring.
“Tired, love?” he asked with a smile.
I opened my eyes a crack and looked at him. His hair was a dishevelled mop, a little scruff adorning his chin that tickled when we kissed. Freckles shifted across his nose as he bent to touch our foreheads together. His breath was warm and sweet against my lips and I flicked out my tongue to tease his mouth.
He palmed my cheek, my fingers knitting between his to hold his hand in place. His hands were slim, his wrists so delicate-looking it hurt, but there was untold strength in his lean frame and slender muscles. The hairs on his chest scratched over my nipple, sending a ripple of sensation straight to my groin. If I hadn’t just come my dick would be hard again from that contact alone. As it was, it still tried to stir in response.
He blinked and I tracked the sweep of his dark lashes, tipped in gold. I loved that only I knew that little detail, a secret hiding in plain sight. No one got as close to him as me; nobody saw Lexi the way I did. Saw him like this, stretched out naked and content, his eyes filled with loving wonder, his legs keeping up a constant movement against mine, stroking my calf with the flat of his foot.
“The others will be back soon,” he said softly, pressing our lips together in a string of small kisses.
I grumbled and pulled him closer, burying my face in the crook of his neck. My teeth lightly grazed his skin and I swiped the spot with my tongue. He clasped the back of my head, holding me close.
I hadn’t thought it possible to love someone as much as I loved him. I chuckled for sheer joy at my good fortune.
“What?” Lexi tipped my chin and looked at me, a bemused expression on his face.
“Nothing.” I kissed the tip of his thumb. “Just happy. I want to go back in time and tell my fifteen year old self that one day he’ll be this happy.”
Lexi kissed the bridge of my nose. “That’s sweet. Perhaps you could do something when we get home.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Last time I checked, they hadn’t invented time travel.”
He laughed. “No, but you’ve already been through it, haven’t you? You survived. What about the kids going through it right now?”
I frowned, not following the train of his thoughts. “What about them?”
“You could do something now for all the kids who are feeling like you did.”
“Like what? I already came out.”
“You could do an ‘It Gets Better’ video,” he suggested.
“Maybe.” I pondered the idea. What would it have meant to me at fourteen or fifteen, to see a pro athlete stand up and own his sexuality?
On the other hand, did I really want to be that guy? Surely I set a better example by simply being what I was: a successful sportsman who just happened to be gay. Did I really need to make a big deal of it? After all, there were gay people everywhere—in every field and at every level. Most of them lived their lives perfectly happily, being successful without making a song and dance about their romantic lives when they got there.
Was it true that more people needed to come out in order for the general populace to consider sexuality a non-issue, or did the ever-increasing list of out celebrities propagate the belief that being gay was, of itself, newsworthy? I wasn’t sure.
Somewhere downstairs a door slammed and voices called from the hall. We both groaned and curled closer in each other’s arms, knowing we’d have to leave our cosy bed to go be polite and sociable. I nuzzled his jaw and kissed him again, just because I could. He was mine, I was his, and all was right with the world.