PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon Kindle: Big Love
BLURB: Teacher Dane Bernard is a gentle giant, loved by all at Summitville High School. He has a beautiful wife, two kids, and an easy rapport with staff and students alike. But Dane has a secret, one he expects to keep hidden for the rest of his life—he’s gay.
But when he loses his wife, Dane finally confronts his attraction to men. And a new teacher, Seth Wolcott, immediately catches his eye. Seth himself is starting over, licking his wounds from a breakup. The last thing Seth wants is another relationship—but when he spies Dane on his first day at Summitville High, his attraction is immediate and electric.
As the two men enter into a dance of discovery and new love, they’re called upon to come to the aid of bullied gay student Truman Reid. Truman is out and proud, which not everyone at his small town high school approves of. As the two men work to help Truman ignore the bullies and love himself without reservation, they all learn life-changing lessons about coming out, coming to terms, acceptance, heartbreak, and falling in love.
EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: BIG LOVE
“Three Brave Men” by Rick R. Reed
Big Love has three of the characters I love most in any of the books I’ve written. Below, get a short taste of all three. I hope you’re intrigued enough to want to read more about them.
Truman Reid was white as a stick of chalk—skin so pale it was nearly translucent. His blue eyes were fashioned from icy spring water. His hair—platinum blond—lay in curls across his forehead and spilled down his neck. He was the kind of boy for whom adjectives like “lovely” and “pretty” would most definitely apply. More than once in his life, he was mistaken for a girl.
When he was a very little boy, well-meaning strangers (and some not so well-meaning) would ask if he was a boy or a girl. Truman was never offended by the question, because he could see no shame in being mistaken for a girl. It wasn’t until later that he realized there were some who would think the question offensive.
But this boy, who, on the first day of school, boldly and some might say unwisely wore a T-shirt that proclaimed “It Gets Better” beneath an image of a rainbow flag, didn’t seem to possess the pride the T-shirt proclaimed. At Summitville High School, even though it was 2015, one did not shout out one’s sexual orientation, not in word, not in fashion, and certainly not in deed.
Who knew what caused Truman to brook convention that morning when he made up his mind to wear that T-shirt on the first day of school? It wasn’t like he needed to proclaim anything—after all, the slight, effeminate boy had been the object of bullies and torturers since, oh, about second grade. Truman could never “pass.”
He was a big sissy. It was a fact and one Truman had no choice but to accept.
His shoulders, perpetually hunched, hunched farther during his grade school and junior high years, when such epithets as “sissy,” “fag,” “pansy,” and “queer” were hurled at him in school corridors and playgrounds on a daily basis. Truman knew the old schoolyard chant wasn’t true at all—words could and did hurt. And so, occasionally, did fists and hands.
And yet, despite the teasing—or maybe it’s more apt to say because of it—Truman was not ashamed of who and what he was. His single mom, Patsy, his most vocal supporter and defender, often told him the same thing. “God made you just the way you are, honey. Beautiful. And if you’re one of his creations, there’s nothing wrong in who you are. You just hold your head up and be proud.” The sad truth was, Patsy would often tell her boy stuff like this as she brushed tears away from his face.
Dane was gay. He always had been, from as far back as he could remember. An image flashed in his head of a very young Dane, little more than a boy really, kneeling at his bedroom window late one summer night when he couldn’t sleep. The Bernards lived on a busy street that led into downtown Summitville. Back then there were often guys hitchhiking in front of Dane’s house. And he would watch these young men—scruffy, usually, sometimes smoking, with their tight jeans and rebel swaggers—and would feel a curious excitement.
And then there was that one night when his father had crept up silently behind him. His deep voice had startled Dane as he knelt behind his son. “What you looking at?” And he peered over Dane’s shoulder.
There was nothing to see out there on the night-quiet street, really, other than what Dane now figured was a teenaged boy, dressed in ripped-up jeans and a gray tank top, waiting for a car to come by so he could beg for a ride with his thumb. He had long, shaggy hair and a wispy beard. His shoulders were broad, and his ass rode high in the faded jeans. Dane could remember him even now.
But when his father laid eyes on what Dane had been watching, he moved away silently. They never spoke of it.
But Dane had crawled back into his twin bed, face hot with deep shame, feeling caught and that there was something wrong with him. His dad had passed away not long after that—lung cancer; he smoked three packs a day—and Dane, maybe not consciously, vowed he would never feel that shame again.
So even though he might have known, on some weird subconscious level, that he was gay, he didn’t accept it. His big size, his athletic prowess, his general manliness as he grew older, made it easy to “pass,” and Dane was grateful for that ability. He felt sorry for the sissy boys he witnessed as he was growing up, those who frequented the libraries, or the glee club, or the drama society. They couldn’t hide who they were. It was too constitutional for them. And although Dane never experienced the teasing and bullying those boys were subjected to, he pitied them.
But pity sometimes, in Dane’s darkest hours, turned to envy. How freeing it would be, he thought, when he had no one to answer to save for himself, to just be who you were, to not have a choice in the matter, as he had believed he did.
Seth was surprised at the pulse of longing and electricity that coursed though him at just a glimpse of this stranger, who must also be on the faculty, because Seth would have judged him at least a few years older than himself.
And he was gorgeous! First, it was just his sheer size, his magnitude that caused Seth’s pulse to quicken. Seth liked ’em big, he always had, and this guy was a giant. He must have been around six feet six inches and was, as they said in the ads, HWP, or height and weight proportionate. What? Two hundred? Two twenty? No matter. Seth’s fickle lust could only imagine what all that height and weight would feel like spread out on top of him. A man blanket. The mind reeled.
Shame on you, Seth Wolcott! his conscious mind admonished in the voice of Dana Carvey’s Church Lady. In that same superego-inspired voice, Seth asked, “What’s gotten into you? Satan?” And he answered, ignoring the reference to Satan, “I don’t know, but I know what I’d like to get into me.”
Seth shook his head and permitted his sad-sack self an indulgent grin. He pulled his messenger bag on his lap to both get himself going and to hide the burgeoning erection in his jeans. Just as he was about to open the door, the giant turned his head to look at a colleague coming up the front walk, and it was his face that really sealed the deal. That face, so angular, so manly, so kind, caused Cupid to release his arrow from its bow. “It’s hopeless!” Seth wailed. “I haven’t even gotten out of the car yet on my very first day, and already my heart has been stolen.” His erection, growing ever harder, reminded him that, in all actuality, another organ was the object of thievery.
But the guy was beautiful, the kind of man Seth’s fantasies would conjure up and file under the word perfection. Seth admonished himself in a whispering voice, hoping no one saw his lips moving, “He’s probably the wrestling—or no, the football—coach and is as straight as they come. Let’s not sentence ourselves to unrequited pining on our first day! Get out of the fuckin’ car and be a professional, not one of those adolescent boys you are about to teach—ones whose hormones are in overdrive.”
The wind, despite the snow dribbling down to a few spotty flakes, was bitter when Seth opened his door. He watched as his giant went inside the school and wondered if he’d have the chance to meet him today. Seth hurried up the walk. He had an appointment with the principal, Doug Calhoun, first thing, and he didn’t want to be late.
Just as he neared the door, the giant turned, as if he felt Seth’s rapt gaze upon him. Or maybe he had—what was the word?—a presentiment that Seth was about to do something righteously embarrassing and hysterical.
And perhaps because Seth worried about making an ass out of himself in front of this man he found gorgeous, he did precisely that. The universe, once again laser-focused on Seth, caused his right foot to come down on a patch of ice cunningly hidden in a shadow cast by Summitville High. His foot went dramatically forward, extending so much it called to Seth’s mind an old Monty Python sketch, “The Ministry of Silly Walks.” Right leg extended beyond what was natural, Seth crumpled to one knee, a silly grin barely masking his pain. He tried to grab his messenger bag to keep it off the wet ground and succeeded in somehow flipping his body down so that he did a cheek plant on the asphalt. His glasses skittered across yet another unseen patch of ice.
He lay on the ground gasping, wishing that blizzard-like snow would return and mercifully bury him. Wasn’t there some way he could just make himself melt into the ground, a la the Wicked Witch of the West?
About the Auhtor: Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love.
He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). He is also a Rainbow Award Winner for both Caregiver and Raining Men. Lambda Literary Review has called him, "a writer that doesn't disappoint."
Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever "at work on another novel."
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