A HELPING HAND
Coming to Ellora's Cave on August 27!
Deputy Sheriff Rich Taylor has many secrets. His sexuality is only the top of the list. Even his best friend Dan doesn’t know Rich is gay. For good reason. His feelings for Dan are more than friendship. When Dan’s injured, the thought of losing him forces Rich to admit his years-long lust has turned to love.
An accident turns State Trooper Dan Fletcher’s life, and his car, upside down. With his right hand out of commission, he has to rely on his best friend for his basic—sometimes intimate—needs. After spending most of his life looking for the right woman, he begins to wonder if he’s been looking at the wrong gender—an impossible concept in their small-minded world.
Richard Taylor’s headlights found the state trooper’s cruiser sitting in the dark, off the road and waiting for speeders. Since Rich wasn’t speeding and was actually a deputy sheriff on his own patrol, he wasn’t worried about getting a ticket.
His lips crooked upward at the thought of Trooper Daniel Fletcher—his best friend, a womanizing lady’s man with a heart of gold and the subject of most of Rich’s jerk-off fantasies. His smile slipped. He wondered whether Dan would still be his friend if he knew that last part.
Rich flashed his lights at the cruiser before pulling in beside it. Dan’s hand appeared in the bright beams then pulled the side mirror in so Rich could pull his unit close in the tight spot. Rich grabbed his mirror and did the same as he eased the car to a stop, driver’s window to driver’s window.
“Hey there.” Dan’s face was pale in the light of an almost full moon.
“How’s it going?”
“Slow night.” Dan shrugged. “Only one ticket. Thought about dropping it until I saw her wedding band.” His teeth flashed white in his shadowed face.
Rich laughed at Dan’s implication. Dan was always looking for his next date, but Rich knew he was joking. Dan’s scruples were one of the things Rich liked most about the man. He would no more drop a ticket for a quickie than Rich would.
“Want some?” Dan held up his ever-present thermos.
Addicted to coffee, Dan always shared when Rich showed up. He even kept several small foam cups in his cruiser for Rich’s use.
Their breath, visible in the cold January night air, mingled as they talked. Rich breathed in through his mouth as if he could taste the other man on the frozen air. A hopeless fantasy. He pushed his thoughts to the back of his mind. Something best saved for the morning when he would be alone in his bed. “Sure. You know I never turn down coffee.” Or a chance to talk with his best friend.
Dan started pouring before Rich finished his answer.
“So what happened with Lizzie?” Rich reached across the short distance for the coffee cup. He shivered from more than cold when Dan’s fingers brushed his.
“How’d you hear about that?”
“I went to the grocery store.”
Dan snorted as he poured his own cup. “Lizzie’s sister.”
“Yeah. Gossip central. I swear they could tell you which of your dog’s fleas jumped ship today.” Rich sipped the strong, hot liquid. “So, what’s your side of the story?”
“She’s just not the one.”
Rich smiled behind his coffee cup. Dan’s search for the elusive “one”—the perfect woman—was the talk of the county. After dating nearly half the available women in the small community, Dan still hadn’t found someone.
“It’s not as if I don’t want to settle down, I just can’t find a woman I think I could live with forever.” Dan’s comment wasn’t a new one.
“But Lizzie seemed like a good fit. Not too clingy, not calling all the time. Not like Sharon.” Even the mention of Sharon’s name sent a shudder down Rich’s back. That one had the makings of a stalker. In the pale moonlight he could see Dan had the same reaction.
“Don’t mention her! She’s scary.”
“Hey, you were the one who said she was harmless!” Rich chuckled at the idea of his tall muscular friend afraid of the petite brunette.
“Well, after awhile I thought I’d find her boiling bunnies in my kitchen! She can hold a grudge like nobody’s business.”
Rich laughed. “She’d never boil bunnies. She loves animals. You, on the other hand, are a different story. I thought we’d have to assign a protective detail on your house!”
As they both laughed, a speeding car topped the hill setting Dan’s radar beeping.
“Gotta go.” Dan switched on his blue lights and pulled out before Rich had time to say goodbye.
Rich watched in the darkness as the flashing lights of Dan’s car gained on the speeder. His friend was a damned attractive man and never had trouble getting dates. His chiseled features and deep blue eyes had most of the women he met willing and ready with little effort. Not to mention the great body.
Even his reputation didn’t seem to hurt his chances. The fact he was kind and sensitive to the point that most of his ex-girlfriends had no hard feelings didn’t hurt. Just the kind of man women wanted to take home to meet the parents.
Rich wasn’t overly modest about his own looks. He kept his body in shape, partly out of pride in his physique and partly out of the demands of the job. He never had trouble getting his own dates.
However, his tastes ran more to lean, masculine bodies and hard cocks. A small rural county in Tennessee wasn’t exactly the best place to come out of the closet, and since he wasn’t his best friend’s type, why bother. He hadn’t met anyone he wanted a lasting relationship with, anyone worth the trouble such a revelation would cause.
Occasional trips to see his friend Jeremy in Memphis, one hundred and fifty miles away, helped take the edge off when things got too bad. He could relax with Jeremy and not worry about people finding out his secret.
Lost in his thoughts, it took a few seconds for Rich’s mind to realize the speeder wasn’t stopping.
The radio crackled with Dan’s unit number. “J-12 in pursuit, possible 10-49, northbound 641, mile 6.”
Rich flipped his lights on as he backed out of the spot. He could still see the blue strobe lights of Dan’s cruiser in the distance. A drunk driver was a pain in the ass, but a fleeing one was an accident wanting to happen. He reached for his radio as he pulled out of the shadows and joined the pursuit. “Dispatch, C-6 to assist J-12.”
Tossing his radio mike on the passenger seat as the dispatcher acknowledged, he floored the accelerator. Rich closed the distance enough to see the white tail of a deer flash blue as it ran across the highway.
Dan’s cruiser swerved in an erratic jerk—first left then right—then flew off the left side of the road. The flashing blue strobe danced in the darkness. As if in slow motion, the car flipped.
Rich’s heart was in his throat as he watched it roll out of sight down an embankment. “Dispatch, 10-36 with 10-34. Mile 10 northbound 641.”
His car screeched to a stop near where Dan had gone over. He had the door open before the dispatcher acknowledged his call of an accident with an officer in trouble.