Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bully & Exit by Brigham Vaughn

Title: Bully & Exit
Author: Brigham Vaughn
Series: Midwest #1
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 10, 2015
“What happens when the past won’t let you go?”

Theater student Caleb Stockwell is ready to leave college behind. Too bad his past isn’t ready to let him go.

With less than a month to go until graduation, Caleb runs into Nathan Rhodes at a house party.  Nathan is a star hockey player for Western Michigan University and finally ready to step out of the closet.  He’s also the guy who broke Caleb’s heart in high school.

Nathan’s determined to make amends for what he did four years ago, but Caleb isn’t willing to risk getting his heart stomped on again.  With only a few weeks left before they go their separate ways, it’ll take all of Nathan’s creativity and help from some interfering friends to convince Caleb to give him a second chance.

I am just going to jump out of the gate by saying this story is amazing and the characters are perfect.  Now, I know what you're thinking "perfect? Where is the fun in that?"  Well, I guess it depends on your definition of perfect.  To me perfect is not about being a "utopian" character it's about having flaws, surviving and flourishing because of those flaws.  And that's exactly what Caleb and Nathan have, flaws.

You will definitely hate or at the very least despise high school Nate and you will most definitely want to shake college Caleb more than once.    Plain and simple this is a story about making amends.  We all did at least one stupid thing in high school that we regret, that we would love to have a chance to step into HG Well's Time Machine and set right, but life doesn't work that way.  We live with those mistakes and so does Nate but now that he has "grown up" he wants to make things right.

Going back and forth from past to present gives us a rich blend of who they were and who they are.  Some times not letting go can be as damaging as the event we refuse to deal with.  This is one amazing story that shows what great things can come from acceptance of both, past events and who you are.  The story of Nate earning and Caleb finally giving that chance is one you really don't want to miss.


They were silent at first, but their arms brushed every so often, and Caleb would swear he could feel Nathan’s gaze on him. His palms were sweaty and his heart fluttered as their arms bumped when they passed on the stairs or their hands grazed when they reached for the same box. Caleb found himself craving those touches—innocent though they were—and he realized he was shifting closer, angling to make it happen again. When his fingers grazed Nathan’s for the umpteenth time, he realized he needed to stop.

The last thing he wanted was for the hockey player to think Caleb was flirting with him, even if it was true. Even if every part of him wanted to feel Nathan’s skin against his again and again. Although he was careful not to bump Nathan in any way, it kept happening. Tired and on edge, keyed up from the accidental touches and the strangeness of being around Nathan, Caleb blurted out the question that had been lingering in his mind. “Why are you doing this anyway?”

Nathan paused and straightened, pushing his sleeves up his muscled forearms as he gave Caleb a baffled look. “You need help.”

“Yeah, but … you’re … you, and since when do jocks help out drama freaks?”

Tugging at the brim of the baseball cap he was wearing, Nathan shrugged. “Look, that’s stupid. You need help, I’m here, and I can lift. Who gives a shit?”

Caleb brushed his hair out his eyes. “Uhm, the rest of the school, apparently.”

Nathan frowned. “That’s idiotic.”

“Yeah, no shit, but it doesn’t change anything.” Caleb reached for one of the last two boxes on the floor, grunting when it was heavier than he realized. He straightened and found himself face to face with Nathan, who had lunged forward to help him lift it.

“I can help.”

Caleb stared at the bead of sweat trickling down over Nathan’s temple. “I’ve got it,” he grumbled, irritated Nathan was treating him like a weakling, and that even though a part of him resented Nathan, he was still turned on by him. His half-hard dick had been nudging at the fly of his jeans since Nathan showed up.

Nathan’s fingers pressed against Caleb’s as he wrapped his hands around the bottom of the box. “Let me help.”

Caleb looked up and, for the first time, noticed that Nathan’s eyes were more grey than blue, slightly slanted, and his brown hair had a little bit of a curl to it where it peeked out from under his ball cap. Caleb swallowed hard and looked back down at the box. His arms were starting to hurt, and he cleared his throat before he embarrassed himself. “Fine, I’ll go up the stairs first.”

The box bumped his thighs as they tried to work together to carry it, but after a moment, they figured out how to walk in step to make it easier. He concentrated on keeping his footing steady; it was easier than looking Nathan in the eye. When they reached the top, he set the box down on the table. Nathan stepped back, pulling at the shirt clinging damply to him.

“Fuck, it’s hot up here.”

Yeah, definitely not the only thing that’s hot, Caleb thought. He turned abruptly, irritated with the way he reacted to Nathan. He shouldn’t be thinking about him that way; it was bound to end badly. He was going to get his ass kicked if he wasn’t careful. He jogged down the stairs, wanting a moment away from the jock, but Nathan followed. “Just this bench then?”


Caleb refused to make eye contact with Nathan as they carried the old, wooden bench up the stairs. They were both sweating by the time they reached the top. Caleb’s T-shirt stuck to his skin, and he watched—wishing he could tear his eyes away—when Nathan pulled his Henley off. He was wearing a thin white undershirt underneath, but it was so drenched with sweat it was nearly see through, and it clung to every line of his body. Caleb could see the ridges of Nathan’s abs and the dark circles of his nipples. He had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep himself from getting fully hard.

“Is it always this hot up here?” Nathan muttered.

“Yeah, pretty much.” Caleb looked away, staring at the racks upon racks of costumes from previous shows.

“Seriously, feel this.” Nathan’s hand closed around Caleb’s wrist, gently tugging. Caleb struggled to maintain his balance, and his left hand landed on Nathan’s hip, the other on his chest, palm pressed against the hot, hard muscle there. It should have been disgusting—Nathan was dripping with sweat—but Caleb’s breath hitched, and his eyes rose to meet Nathan’s. Lips parted, eyes locked on Caleb, Nathan’s fingers slipped between Caleb’s. He slowly dragged their joined hands across his chest until they rested right over his heart.

Caleb didn’t know if initially it had been an innocent gesture on Nathan’s part or not, but it wasn’t anymore. He could feel Nathan’s heart racing under his palm, and they were too close. He could see Nathan’s dark eyelashes and the scar above his upper lip. The air nearly shimmered with tension. All the blood in Caleb’s body was currently in his dick, and combined with the heat, he felt lightheaded.

Other than those stupid kisses during party games, he’d never done anything with another guy. He’d never held a guy close. Never felt his sweaty chest. Never had a moment of breathless anticipation, waiting to see what would happen next. “Yeah,” he said hoarsely, not knowing what else to say. He had no idea what was happening, why Nathan was here at all, much less, why they were close enough to kiss. Thoughts whirled through his brain as he stood there. Could Nathan be gay? Caleb’s heart leapt at the thought, but it was crazy, wasn’t it? And even if he was, he wasn’t likely to come out about it, especially not to Caleb.

So why was Nathan leaning closer? Why was he licking his lips and looking at Caleb as if he was the last bite of chocolate cake he was dying for but knew he shouldn’t have? Caleb could hear himself breathing, the choppy, ragged breaths loud in the otherwise silent room.

“Caleb?” Nathan said hoarsely, looking as bewildered as he felt.


“I …” He dipped his head lower, so close Caleb could feel the exhale of air against his lips, and his eyes involuntarily closed. His heart raced, waiting for the contact of soft lips. He held his breath in anticipation … waiting … waiting … until the heavy thud of a slamming door in the distance broke the spell. He jumped, jerking away from Nathan as his eyes flew open. Equally startled, Nathan reached for him, but Caleb bolted for the stairs.

“Caleb, wait!” he heard Nathan call after him, but he was already halfway down the stairs.

Author Bio:
Brigham Vaughn has always been a voracious reader with her own stories to tell.  After many years of abandoned plots, something finally clicked.  Now she's eating, sleeping, and breathing writing and is excited to have finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up.  In the little time that isn't spent writing or reading, she loves cooking, yoga, photography, and remodeling her ninety-year old home.  Brigham lives in Michigan with her four cats and an amazing husband who has always been her biggest champion.


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