Saturday, September 16, 2017

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Tidal by K Evan Coles & Brigham Vaughn

Title:s Wake & Calm
Authors: K Evan Coles & Brigham Vaughn
Series: Tidal #1 & 2
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: Wake - May 30, 2017
Calm - September 12, 2017
Cover Design: Emmy Ellis
Publisher: Pride Publishing

Wake #1
A love worth the wait.

Carter Hamilton and Riley Porter-Wright room together as Harvard undergraduates. An immediate friendship forms, but as the years pass it deepens into something neither man understands. As attraction simmers under the surface, lines begin to blur. When they move back to Manhattan, they gradually slip into the lives their families have envisioned for them.

Both men marry, but in time, Riley realizes he’s ended up in a passionless relationship like his parents’ while his career takes center stage. Although he loves his wife, Carter misses the emotional and physical connection he shared with Riley.

The weight of Riley’s feelings and his growing discontentment with his life eventually push him to tell Carter the truth about how he feels. Shocked and unable to face his own feelings, Carter rejects Riley.

As each man comes to terms with the lies they’ve told themselves, each other and the people around them, they find their lives changing in ways they never imagined. They soon discover that the truths they’ve been longing to tell shake the foundations of their friendship.

πŸ’”πŸ’«πŸ’žReader Advisory: This book contains polyamory and infidelity, expressions of homophobia by multiple secondary characters, divorce, scenes of M/F/M intimacy, references to parental neglect, disownment, one brief scene involving a physical altercation.πŸ’žπŸ’«πŸ’”

Calm #2
A love worth the wait.

When Riley Porter-Wright comes out as bisexual and confesses his feelings for Carter Hamilton, it severs their friendship. Carter’s rejection forces Riley to move on and he’s shocked to learn Carter’s marriage has fallen apart.

Overwhelmed by his failure as a husband and father, Carter misses Riley, but feels guilty for disappearing after Riley's coming out. After Riley extends an olive branch, the former friends agree to repair their relationship.

Slowly, Carter pieces together a new life. He admits his attraction to men, and confesses his feelings for Riley. Leery of Carter's initial rejection, Riley turns his focus on a new man, Will Martin.

Riley and Carter’s renewed rapport intensifies, and Will becomes insecure. Will's resentment increases until he issues an ultimatum, forcing Riley to refocus his energies away from Carter.

Disappointed, Carter fosters new friendships with men like Jesse Murtagh. Aware of the changes in Carter’s life, Riley is uncomfortable knowing Carter has moved on.

Carter and his ex-wife, Kate, navigate new waters as their children learn their parents are dating other people. Will can’t deal with his jealousy and ends his relationship with Riley.

Unattached for the first time in years, Riley and Carter slowly transition their friendship into a relationship. Carter comes out and leaves his job, accepting the reality of being disowned.

Riley and Carter go public with their relationship, but worry the fallout will affect their families. Drawing strength from each other, they meet the challenges of being an out couple head on.

πŸ’”πŸ’«πŸ’žReader Advisory: This book contains polyamory and infidelity.πŸ’žπŸ’«πŸ’”

Wake #1
Original Review May 2017:
I have been a fan of Brigham Vaughn for a few years now and she has never let me down.  K Evan Cole is a new author to me that is definitely on her way up.  Put the two together and we are blessed with an amazing journey of friendship, lust, hesitation, fear, and heart.  After only a couple of chapters, I knew that if I was smart I would put Wake aside until the second book was released so I wouldn't be tortured with waiting but I was also already sucked in and couldn't even begin to contemplate the idea of putting it aside, so I continued on and simply put - I LOVED IT!!  I can't imagine not having read it even with the possibility of a lengthy wait to finish Carter & Riley's journey of friendship & freedom to be themselves.

Now, as for the boys, I love them both and I feel for them at the turmoil they both are facing trying to come to terms with who they are.  Having said that, Carter definitely tries my patience more than once, talk about a character that needs a good shaking or a sharp whack to the back of the head but I love him anyway.  That's about the extent of any spoiler hints you are going to get out of me but I will add that Wake will keep you hooked from beginning to end, it was pure torture when I had to put my kindle aside when pesky daily tasks such as work, eating, and sleep reared their ugly head.

As a straight woman, it's easy for me to pass judgement and say to Carter and Riley, "just admit it, be yourself" but I cannot even begin to fathom what either are facing in the society they live in so I can't stress enough to go in reading Carter and Riley's journey with an open mind and full heart.  You just might walk away, not only having experienced a very entertaining heart-warming tale of friendship but you might also learn something about yourself along the way.

As I started with, Brigham Vaughn has never let me down and after Wake I can safely say I'll be saying the same about K Evan Coles in a couple years down the road.

Calm #2
When last we saw Riley Porter-Wright and Carter Hamilton, Riley had recently come out and admitted he was bisexual but Carter wasn't open to Riley's new found freedom and in the process wasn't there when his best friend needed his support. Now, as Carter's marriage has fallen apart, as disappointed as Riley was by the lack of support from his friend he decides to reach out to Carter and together they decide to rebuild their friendship. Calm focuses on Carter's acceptance of his sexuality and explores his attraction to men all while repairing his much loved friendship with Riley. As well, we see Riley himself has a new man in his life, Will Martin. Will the boys' new found self-acceptance lead them to a better direction, not only in love but also with family, friends, and each other?

I am just going to start by saying WOW!!! As much as I loved Wake, Calm surpasses it. I pretty much touched on as much of the plot as I am going to in the above paragraph so let me just say that there is so much heart in this story, frankly I can't think of a more appropriate word to describe it than "heart". As with Wake, there is a little bit of everything in here: family(both good and bad), heat, passion, and even though this duology is a love story, for me it's even more a tale about friendship and discovery.

I won't lie, I was not overly happy with Carter when book one ended but the author's assured me that his journey was really only beginning and they were right of course. I love both men but I do think Riley tugged on my heart a little more, simply because he was the first to accept himself and a part of me just can't forget how Carter basically turned his back on his friend. Having said that, Carter will break your heart with the struggle he faces but he doesn't let himself get beaten down, he's a fighter even when he doesn't see it in himself.

Not only are you getting an amazingly well written story with intriguing characters but you may walk away learning something about yourself or at the very least, be reminded of what's really important in life. It may seem a cliche but happiness is not about the things or the stature but the people and emotions they fire up within you. Calm will leave you breathless, will leave you in tears, will break your heart but it also warms you, makes you smile, and can open your mind and heart to the possibilities out there, not to mention showing you just how important friendship truly is.

I can't wait to see what these two bring us in the future, both solo and combined efforts. Brigham Vaughn has firmly set her place on my favorite author's list and K Evan Coles is well on her way to being there too. When I first decided to go from reading slash fanfiction to published work, I asked some of my reading BFFs where to start, well it was K that first suggested I start with RJ Scott's Texas series and it has come full circle because now I am loving K's own work.


Wake #1
August, 1996
Cambridge, Massachusetts
“These rooms always look so much bigger online.”

Carter Hamilton flinched in surprise at the smooth voice behind him. Blinking slowly, he drew a breath to quiet his heart, then turned to meet a pair of lively blue eyes.

“Sorry.” A guy Carter’s age stepped inside the door, his expression sheepish. A smile lit his handsome face and an intriguing flush colored his cheeks. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Carter shrugged before standing up from the couch where he’d been reading. “I’ll live.”

“I knocked, but no one answered. The door wasn’t bolted, so I assumed no one was here.”

“Ah, that’s my bad.” Heat crept up Carter’s neck. “I got caught up in my book and didn’t hear you. I’m Carter and I’m guessing you’re one of my suitemates—are you Riley or Daniel?”

“Riley Porter-Wright.”

Riley walked forward with a grin. Riley was lean and tall, though still an inch or two shorter than Carter, who stood six foot three. His stylish black shirt and trousers were immaculate compared to Carter’s T-shirt and jeans and his dark hair fell forward onto his forehead as he shook Carter’s hand.

A small smile crossed Carter’s face. He’d been exchanging messages with his suitemates for weeks. Daniel, who had yet to show himself, hailed from Philadelphia, while Riley, like Carter, lived in Manhattan, though the two had never met. They’d coordinated basic furnishings for their Harvard University rooms and agreed to fill in gaps later.

“I’m Carter Hamilton,” Carter told him with a laugh, “which you know. And since I was the first here, I guess it’s okay for me to say it—welcome to Wigg.”

Riley rolled his eyes, making Carter smile wider. He’d been amused by the freshman dorm’s nickname, too, but Wigglesworth was highly desired, with large suites and convenient placement for the university libraries. Carter watched Riley approach the window and frowned upon noticing he carried only an overnight bag and nothing more.

“You planning on staying?” Carter eyed Riley’s bag when he turned and cocked his head in question. “I know from your email messages that you’re not big on decorating, but one bag seems like taking traveling light to new extremes. You said you’d bring a fridge, too, in case you forgot.”

Riley glanced down at himself and laughed, the clear boyish sound echoing through the sparsely furnished common room.

“I didn’t forget. I did bring a fridge and more boxes and bags, too—they’re in a moving van stuck in traffic on Storrow Drive. One of the movers called me twenty minutes ago,” he added, drawing closer to set his bag against the side of the couch. “I’m not sure I buy their story, though. They probably got here hours ago and found someplace to have lunch and a couple of beers before they drop my shit off.

“Nice couch, by the way.” Riley nodded at the charcoal-colored couch Carter and his father had carried in earlier. “You picked out a bedroom already?” he asked, taking a seat.

“Not really. I got here late this morning, so we moved everything in and pushed it out of the way.” Carter sat down too, waving at the boxes and suitcases lining the wall to their left. “The way I see it, once Dan shows, we can figure out who’s going to share and who’s got the single.”

“Someone had a productive day,” Riley teased, raising his brows and making Carter laugh.

“Yeah, well, my parents wanted to stay and meet you guys, but I didn’t want them hitting rush hour on their way home. You’ll meet them soon, anyway—they’re already talking about their next trip up.

“I bought them lunch before they left,” Carter added, unsure why he was sharing so much information with a guy he’d just met. “I figured that was the least I could do after they helped me drag my stuff up three flights.”

Riley blinked several times, appearing vaguely surprised. “Your parents helped you move in?”

“Sure,” Carter replied with a shrug. “My dad’s an alumnus and my mom graduated from Wellesley—they enjoy visiting Cambridge.” He chuckled. “They were definitely excited to help me settle in, even if it meant manual labor.”

Riley’s expression became thoughtful. Looking down, he traced a frayed spot on the right knee of his jeans with his finger. In a flash, Carter understood Riley was on his own.

Riley glanced up at Carter again. “My parents couldn’t make the trip,” he said, his voice light. “They’re having dinner with friends tonight and didn’t want to be late. I took the car up from the city.”

Carter nodded. The idea of his parents choosing to socialize over seeing him off to school seemed utterly alien. Did it bother Riley that his parents were uninterested in what had to be an exciting day for him?

An impulse struck Carter to make Riley comfortable. “You know, you never told me where you live in the city.”

Riley smiled, though a trace of melancholy flickered in his eyes. “West 86th Street. That’s where my parents live, and I suppose I’ll be there for a while longer. What about you?”

“East 63rd Street.” Carter grinned. “That’s funny.”


“We live in the same city separated by twenty-three blocks and the Park. Doesn’t seem like much when you consider we had to come to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to meet.”

Riley’s eyes brightened. They chatted easily about their trips from New York until the door banged open, then watched a figure shoulder its way in with a stack of boxes. The boxes landed on the floor with a thump, revealing a cheerful-looking guy with a wiry build, golden-brown skin and inquisitive gray eyes.

“Dan Conley,” he said, flashing a smile. “My dad’s parking the car. You guys want to arm wrestle now or later to settle the whole double vs. single room thing?”

After a quick discussion, it became clear Dan and Riley preferred the single room, while Carter was willing to share the double. He sat on the couch with Dan’s parents, watching his new friends flip a coin. Dan won the toss and celebrated with an exaggerated touchdown dance, complete with slo-mo action that made Riley roll his eyes.

Riley’s movers arrived then and made short work of bringing his load of boxes and bags upstairs. The trio started arranging furniture and unpacking, with Dan’s parents providing useful—if unsolicited—feedback.

After the rooms were in some order, the Conleys insisted on taking all three suitemates to Grendel’s Den for dinner. They got to know each other better over sandwiches, while Dan’s parents asked Carter and Riley about their families. They had a pleasant evening, though Riley shared little about himself and even less about his parents. He talked easily about New York and the traveling he’d done during school vacations but shut down personal questions. He wasn’t rude—if anything he seemed the opposite, with his open expression and bright gaze, but spent more time listening to the others than talking about himself.

It was late when Carter finally dropped onto his bed with a grunt. Dan had already been asleep for an hour and Riley had headed for the shower while Carter closed his eyes and took mental inventory of his sore muscles.

The sound of the bathroom door opening roused Carter from his dozy thoughts. He peeled an eyelid open to peer up at his roommate, who was moving around the bedroom and taking pains to be quiet. Like Carter, Riley wore a pair of dark sleep pants, though he had forgone a T-shirt. Droplets of water fell from his still wet hair, shining in the low light as they rolled over his bare shoulders and back. Carter was still trying to understand why he’d even think such a thing when Riley turned, looking pensive. Carter rolled onto his side and propped his head on one hand.

Riley jumped, startled by the sudden movement. “Jesus, Carter!”

“Um, just Carter will do—no need to get formal.” Carter bit his lip against a smile.

“You scared the shit out of me. I thought you were asleep, you sneaky bastard.”

Riley’s words were sharp, but the glint in his eyes told Carter his irritation was mostly for show.

“Sorry. Consider it payback for scaring me earlier today.”

Carter pushed himself up to pull back the bedding and slip underneath the duvet and sheet. He watched Riley puttering about, getting ready for bed and his amusement faded. Despite his roommate’s smile, Carter sensed Riley had something on his mind. He lay quietly, worrying his lower lip with his teeth until Riley sat on the edge of his own bed.

“Is this bothering you?” Carter asked, waving one hand in a vague circle. Riley eyed him blankly. “The room-sharing thing, I mean. I know you’ve never had a roommate before, so I can sort of see where you’d be feeling weirded out.”

“No, I’m—” Riley began before pausing, his lips pressed into a thin line. He blew out a slow breath before he spoke again, his voice low and calm. “I’m okay. It is a little weird sharing a room. I mean, my room at home is bigger than the whole suite.” He grimaced a bit at Carter’s laugh, and shrugged. “But you probably guessed that already. You come from the same world.”

Carter reached up to fold his hands behind his head. “It does seem like culture shock in a lot of ways. I have almost a full floor at my parents’ and now I’m sharing three rooms with strangers. In the middle of freaking Red Sox country, no less.” Both guys laughed. “I like it, though. Yeah, it’s small and all bricks and ivy but it feels…I don’t know, right. At least to me.”

“I get it.” Riley ran his hands over his damp hair with a sigh. He was quiet for so long Carter wondered if he would speak again. “My parents aren’t the warmest people in the world. You probably gathered that when I told you they couldn’t be bothered to even meet me here.”

Carter nodded, Riley’s words settling over him.

“I’m used to it,” Riley added, rubbing his forehead. “I’ve never known any different. Oh, my parents have always taken care of me and they’ll give me almost anything I ask for. Except for their attention. They leave that to the nannies and minders and secretaries, who give me attention because they’re paid to.”

The air grew heavy, charged with emotion Carter understood Riley didn’t want to acknowledge.

“My parents aren’t interested in me.” Riley held up a hand when Carter opened his mouth to protest, though he didn’t meet Carter’s eyes. “They’re not, trust me. I’ve known it for a long time and I can’t remember when I last sorry for myself about it. My parents aren’t interested in each other, to be honest—they can’t even drum up enough feeling to fucking fight with each other.”

Riley’s words came more slowly as he continued, dropping his fingers to trace a spot on the right knee of his sleep pants. Carter had watched him do the same thing a few times already, always when he seemed to be masking some emotion.

“Watching the Conleys today,” Riley said, “listening to you talk about your parents and to them after they called… I started thinking, Carter. I’m so used to the way my parents behave I’m almost at a loss to understand how normal families function.”

“I’m not sure my family is what you’d call normal, Riley.” Carter’s voice was quiet. “They’re certainly not average compared to Dan’s parents. The Conleys are pretty well off, but we both know Dan’s here on a partial music scholarship.”

Riley made a dismissive noise. “Over half of the students here are on some kind of scholarship. It’s not like that’s particularly unusual. Sure, your family has a lot more money than the Conleys. I’m talking about the connections, though, between people. Between you and your parents, between Dan and his. Hell, between your mom and your dad, and Dan’s mom and—”

“I get it.”

Something in Carter’s gentle interruption caught Riley’s attention. Suddenly, he met Carter’s gaze and held it.

“I don’t know why I’m telling you this. No, that’s a lie—I do know. I don’t want to be like that. Like my parents, I mean. Frozen with this hard shell wrapped around me.” Riley’s eyes flashed with something raw. “I don’t want to be one of the Porter-Wrights and make my life about the job and the parties and how many cars and houses and boats I can buy.”

Carter pursed his lips, struck by Riley’s choice of words. “Your focus doesn’t have to be about the material things, man. But unless you plan to cut ties with your family, parties and cars and houses and boats are going to be part of your life.”

“You’re right. Possessions shouldn’t be anyone’s focus, or at least not all the time.” Riley closed his eyes for a moment, fatigue written across his face. “I’m glad I’m here. Away from them and that life.”

“At least until Thanksgiving, anyway,” Carter teased. He didn’t know why Riley was suddenly opening up, but he wanted to offer his roommate some cheer. “You can come to my house for dinner. We’ll show you how the Hamiltons party like the Founding Fathers.”

Riley grunted, then stretched out, pulling the bedding over himself before he spoke again. “I’m down. My parents usually go away for Thanksgiving. They’re partial to Grenada. My mother works on her tan and my father works on his golf swing. I used to go with them, but last year I decided to hang out in New York.”

“Was it weird?” Carter couldn’t imagine Riley’s parents leaving him to rattle around a huge apartment alone while they went on vacation.

“No—it was fantastic.”

Riley turned his head and the genuine warmth in his expression made Carter feel lighter.

“Some of my friends from school came over. We bought a ton of Thai food for dinner and smoked some weed and just sat around on the balcony for a while. The party went on for a couple of days.”

Carter raised an eyebrow. “Sounds pretty debauched.”

“Oh, you know it. I still hear stories about what happened in my own house. Fucking animals.” Riley rolled onto his side. “The best day, though, was Sunday. I took the car uptown to this church in Harlem that one of my father’s secretaries attends. They put on a Thanksgiving Gospel Concert every year, so I hung out and listened to music. Amazing.”

Carter smiled at the awe on his roommate’s face. “It sounds it.”

“Come with me this year,” Riley urged suddenly, propping himself up on one elbow.

“Sure. If you come to dinner at my house,” Carter bargained, “assuming your parents will be out of town.”

“Fuck it.” Riley grinned. “I don’t care where my parents are, Car—I’ll be at your door for dinner whenever you want me.”

“I’ve never been to a Thanksgiving concert before,” Carter mused. “No one’s ever called me Car before, either.”

Riley’s eyebrows shot up. “Really? Not even your parents or friends?”


“I can stop, if you want.”

“Doesn’t bother me.” Carter smiled lazily. “Anyone call you Ri for short?”

“Sure. The nannies and the minders and the secretaries call me Ri. Kids at school. My teachers. Anyone who’s known me for more than a couple of hours.” Riley’s laugh was rueful. “Basically, anyone but my parents.”

“Sounds like I’m in good company then.” Carter rolled over with a yawn and closed his eyes. “Night, Ri.”

* * * * *

Carter, Riley and Dan fell into their lives at Harvard with ease. Dan was a music major minoring in French, while Carter and Riley were both business majors. The time the friends spent together each day increased after all three gained membership to the same club, Phoenix-SK.

The final clubs were Harvard’s version of Greek fraternities. They promised networking opportunities after graduation but also provided social outlets away from the dorms. Carter’s and Riley’s fathers had also belonged to Phoenix-SK but had missed knowing one another by a few years.

Carter was pleasantly surprised to find himself comfortable with Riley’s almost constant presence. They shared many of the same interests, including cyberpunk novels and Quentin Tarantino movies, and even had similar tastes in food and music. The more they talked and spent time together, the more firmly their friendship cemented.

The one activity Riley refused to consider was heavyweight crew. Carter had rowed with a junior club during high school and was eager to use his height and powerful build as part of the Harvard Crimson. Riley thought Carter was out of his mind.

“I don’t understand you.” He cocked an eyebrow after Carter explained rowing was a Hamilton family tradition. “What kind of person voluntarily sits in a boat with a bunch of other meaty guys while someone screams at them through a bullhorn?”

Carter rolled his eyes as Dan joined in chuckling with Riley.

“A me kind of person, I guess. You should at least try it before making a decision, guys.”

“You know, it sounds fun,” Dan said. He held up a placating hand while Riley made an outraged noise. “But I’m an inch under six feet and we both know that’s too short for heavyweight crew.”

“True. You could try out for lightweight, instead,” Carter offered, narrowing his eyes at Riley’s snort. “Shut it, you.”

Dan gave Riley the finger. “I could, but I need to spend time in the music rooms downstairs, anyway. If you and I were on the same team, that’d be one thing, but…”

“I get it, man,” Carter replied and he did. Dan’s academic schedule was busy enough before club activities—add time at the piano composing and he needed every spare minute he could find.

Carter aimed a beady eye at Riley. “What about you, funny guy—you up for a free workout with a view? The river’s awfully pretty, especially first thing in the morning.”

Riley laughed. “Yeah, you lost me at ‘first thing in the morning.’ Look, you say rowing crew is Hamilton family tradition. Fine, that’s your business. The Porter-Wrights have traditions, too. They include not getting up at the crack of ass every morning to risk drowning in a muddy river. Thanks, but no thanks.”

Despite the teasing, Riley and Dan seemed genuinely pleased when Carter came home with soggy shoes and a place on the team. Carter suspected they were just being polite, but he appreciated their efforts nonetheless.

Carter enjoyed rowing for the Crimson and losing himself in the simple physicality of the task and feeling part of a team. He looked forward to the quiet hush of the river, the lap of the waves against the side of the boat and the collective breaths and grunts of the team as they worked together.

There were negatives, of course, starting with practice at dawn and the feeling he just didn’t have enough hours in the day. Carter focused on being grateful when Riley helped him bandage his blisters and smiled at the protein bars Dan stuffed into his coat pockets. Riley and Dan attended races when they could, sharing thermoses of Irish coffee and cheering while the Crimson’s boats slipped by on the river.

As the weeks passed, Riley lost the shell he’d confessed to hating. Carter doubted anyone outside himself and Dan saw the subtle difference in their friend. Riley’s dress grew more casual, as did his speech. He talked more about himself, which gave people a chance to get to know him better. He still didn’t say much about his parents and when he did, he often dropped his right hand to his knee to draw circles on his pant leg with his fingers. Riley didn’t glance away anymore, though, and he met the gaze of whoever he was speaking to unwaveringly.

It was during a Halloween party in one of the dorms that Carter became aware of how others perceived his friendship with Riley. He’d been chatting with Susannah, a pretty girl from his calculus class, and had been about to ask her out for coffee when she put a hand on his forearm and sighed.

“What’s that about?” Carter peered under the brim of Susannah’s midnight-blue witch’s hat and gave her a smile.

Susannah grimaced slightly. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Carter—you know I like you. If you were straight, I’d be really, really interested in you.”

Carter frowned, the word straight still sinking into his brain while Susannah continued.

“I don’t understand why the only guys who ever talk to me at parties are gay. You know?” Susannah twisted strands of her long, dark hair around one finger. “Honestly, I’ve basically despaired of finding a man of my own. I’ll have to hang out with you and your boyfriend and pray people think we have some kind of polyamorous arrangement going on.”

Carter shook his head slowly, Susannah’s words beginning to make a kind of strange sense. She wrinkled her brow as Carter stood silent and she stepped closer, to squeeze his arm gently.

“Dude, I’m sorry. Did I… Was the poly thing too much? I was just joking, I swear.”

“Susannah, are you under the impression I’m gay? That Riley and I are together?”

Susannah cocked her head. “Well, yes. Aren’t you? Gay, I mean. And Riley’s boyfriend?”

“No, I am not. Gay or Riley’s boyfriend.” Carter fought conflicting urges to be angry and amused. “Riley’s not gay, either. Where the hell did you get that idea?”

“Oh, my God, I’m so sorry.” Susannah’s face flushed deep red and she put her fingers over her mouth. She looked so stricken that Carter gave in to the impulse to laugh. “Jesus, I’m so embarrassed!”

“You should be,” Carter scolded, though he laughed harder at the expression of horror on her face. “Why would you think that, woman?”

“You’re always together!” she exclaimed. “I’ve never seen either of you with a girl and you told me Riley is your roommate. I assumed it all added up to the two of you being, you know, together.”

Carter laughed hard enough he had to put down his drink. “What about Dan? He lives with us and we hang out all the time. Is he one of the boyfriends, too?”

“Dan goes on dates, Carter. He dates women. Okay, one woman,” Susanna clarified, turning to search the crowd, and pointing when she found the right faces. Carter craned his neck to follow her gesture. He nodded at Dan with his arms around Melanie Howard, another music major who often came by their suite. They’d coordinated their costumes, with Dan dressed as a devil and Mel an angel, and come to the party with a group of friends.

“Everyone knows Dan and Mel are dating,” Susannah said. “They’ve been together practically since the first day of classes.”

Dan and Mel really were inseparable. She was double majoring in music and psychology and planned to go into music therapy. Mel was a petite beauty, with dark hair, creamy golden skin and greenish-gray eyes. Carter appreciated her bright and sarcastic brand of humor and knew Dan really liked her.

“Okay, I see your point.” Carter glanced back to Susannah with a steely expression. “Making assumptions about Riley and me, though, is not cool.”

Susannah gulped, and dropped her gaze to the drink in her hands. “You’re right. You should know I’m not the only one who thinks you’re together, by the way.”

Carter frowned, trying to understand how to feel about what Susannah had told him. He’d grown up with a diverse group of friends and he didn’t much care whom a person spent their time with. As far as Carter was concerned, whatever and whomever made a person happy was fine by him, provided everyone involved consented. The idea people thought he was someone’s boyfriend, however… That didn’t fit into Carter’s world. It certainly did not fit into his family’s, either.

“People really think Riley and I are together?”

“Well, girls, mostly,” Susannah replied, “and that’s because they’re trying to figure out what’s going on with you and Riley.”

“Nothing is going on, Susannah.”

“I know.” Her voice dropped low as she tried to smooth Carter’s ruffled feathers. “I’m sorry we gossiped. Two good-looking guys, in each other’s company more than anyone else’s…a girl’s gonna try to put the pieces together.”

“Uh-huh. Put the pieces together incorrectly, you mean,” he replied. Carter imagined his parents’ reaction to the rumor and his stomach knotted.

The dejection on Susannah’s face softened his annoyance, however. He’d really wanted to take her out for coffee before she’d let her ‘secret’ slip. And his heart beat a little faster as he understood taking Susannah out would nip the ‘boyfriends’ rumor in the bud, too.

“Are you very angry?” she asked quietly, concern visible in her green eyes.

Carter smiled. “No. You surprised me, that’s all. I might have been a little offended, too, but only because you could have asked me instead of gossiping. That shit’s not okay, Susannah. Especially because I planned on asking you out.”

Susannah’s mouth dropped open. “You did?” she squeaked, then cleared her throat, obviously working to recover her composure. “You could still ask me, you know. Or, maybe you should let me take you out. So I can apologize for being a gossipy shrew.”

Her words warmed Carter and his grin slowly widened. “Sure. I think I can handle that.”

* * * * *

A chill fell over New England as the Thanksgiving holiday approached, one that seemed to match Riley’s overall mood. He continued to attend classes with Carter but began studying away from the suite. He was rarely available for activities at Wigg or Phoenix-SK and getting him to agree even to share a meal became impossible. Tension crept into the suite when Dan or Carter brought their girlfriends back and both friends became accustomed to Riley leaving the rooms instead of subjecting them to his stiff silences.

Carter tried to talk to Riley about his behavior on several occasions but found himself shut out. He was surprised by how much that stung. Riley and Dan were more than just Carter’s suitemates and he’d grown particularly close to Riley. After his family, Riley was the first person Carter thought of to share good news with and the first person he went to with a problem. Riley had become Carter’s sounding board and confidant and Carter hoped Riley felt the same about him.

A few days before school let out for the holiday, a thump woke Carter out of a sound sleep. He squinted at the clock through the darkened bedroom and smothered a groan on realizing it was after two o’clock in the morning. A second, louder thump followed a pained grunt and Carter leaned to turn on the bedside lamp, shocked to see Riley lying sprawled on the floor.

Carter sat up and tossed off the covers. “Ri? What the fuck are you doing?”

“Carpet inspection,” Riley replied in a strained voice.

“Are you okay?” Carter swung his legs over the edge of the bed to crouch beside his roommate, who still hadn’t stirred from his prone position.

Riley grunted again. “Not really. I face planted pretty hard. That’s gonna leave a mark.” He paused for a moment before rolling onto his side, his voice lower and more somber. “Help me?”

Carter leaned forward immediately, sliding an arm under his friend’s shoulder to guide Riley up to sit. The smell of beer and stale cigarette smoke filled Carter’s nose, but he said nothing, waiting until his friend nodded before helping him to his feet.

“Too many beers?” Carter kept his voice light and helped Riley to his bed.

“No, not exactly. I had a couple at Grendel’s with some guys from the club,” he said with a chuckle, “but honestly, I’m just tired. And your goddamned sneakers are inside the door again.” He sighed while Carter sat down beside him.

“Shit, I’m sorry.” With a grimace, Carter leaned forward to catch Riley’s eye. “I meant to move them, but—”

“You forgot, I know. It’s fine. I should know by now than to come in here without checking the floor first.” Riley lifted one hand, prodding gingerly at his cheek and grumbled in discomfort. “Ow.”

Carter stood. “I’ll get some ice. Stop,” he commanded when Riley moved to join him. “Sit still, and try not to trip over anything else. I’ll be right back.”

Riley had removed his coat by the time Carter returned with ice cubes and a washcloth. A red welt was already visible on Riley’s cheekbone when he glanced up, but to Carter’s surprise, he didn’t appear to be angry. If anything, he seemed amused.

“Is it bad?” Riley asked.

“It’s not good.”

Riley sighed and held out a hand out for the ice pack, looking puzzled as Carter knelt in front of him. “What are you doing?”

Carter dropped his hands to unlace Riley’s shoes. “How bad does it hurt?” He ducked his head after Riley pressed the ice to his face and swore.

“Enough to make me want to kick your ass,” Riley replied, an undertone of humor in his voice. He lifted one foot, then the other for Carter to remove his shoes. “Too bad my parents will be out of town over Thanksgiving. A black eye would have given them something interesting to talk about over turkey.”

A hollow feeling settled over Carter at the mention of the holiday. He and Riley had spoken several times about spending Thanksgiving dinner together, but now, Carter had no idea where they stood. Slowly, he eased himself up to sit beside Riley on the bed. Leaning forward, he propped his elbows on his knees, turning to hold Riley’s gaze for a few moments. Riley’s eyebrows pulled together, uncertainty filtering over his face at Carter’s silence.

Finally, Carter dropped his gaze to the floor. He felt almost pitifully grateful Riley was there beside him and talking, rather than pushing him away, so he drew a breath and ignored his nerves.

“You know, the invitation for dinner is still open.”

A melancholy smile touched Riley’s lips and made his blue eyes darken. “Thanks. But you don’t need to do that, Car.”

“Do what?” Carter stared blankly at him. “Invite you to dinner when we’ll be in the same city and your parents are going out of town?”

Riley began to trace circles on his knee with the fingers of his right hand. “I wasn’t sure you’d still want to hang out after…”

“After you froze me out?” Carter nodded at Riley’s wince. “Yeah, well. I don’t know why you did it but that was pretty lame, Ri. For Dan, too. What the fuck?”

Riley grumbled under his breath. “I wanted to give you guys some space. You know, with the girlfriends and all.”

Carter cocked his head. “What for?”

Gesturing with the hand holding the ice pack, Riley waved at the two single beds and the desks crammed into the other corner. “This isn’t exactly romance central, Car. The least I could do was try to clear out so you had a little privacy with Susannah and Dan with Mel.”

Carter pressed his lips together and tried not to punch his friend. “You’re an asshole, you know.”

“What? Why?”

“Because you didn’t even try talking to us. You just cut us off. Dan and I haven’t known what the hell is up with you for weeks. I worried something was going on with your family. Dan asked me if you were planning to transfer.”

Riley’s cheeks flooded with color. “Shit, I’m sorry. None of that is happening. I’m fine! I just didn’t want to be a fifth wheel, you know?”

Carter’s irritation faded as he understood his friend was actually fine. “Talk to us. Talk to me. We could have worked something out about the rooms and Susannah. We’ll have to when you bring girls back here, anyway.”

A cocky grin flashed over Riley’s face. “Who says I haven’t?”

Carter’s brows shot up before he grimaced playfully. “Really, dude? What, in between classes?”

“Maybe. I don’t kiss and tell, Hamilton. I’m a gentleman.”

“No, you are a jackass.”

Riley burst out laughing and that clear, boyish sound made Carter’s whole being feel lighter. He nudged Riley’s knee with his own.

“Come to the East Side for dinner. You can tell my parents you tried to fight my sneakers and lost.”

Riley laughed again, softly, and something tight in Carter’s chest unfurled. Standing, he motioned with his hand for his friend to lie down. He talked about his mother’s amazing apple crisp recipe while Riley stripped off his sweater and crawled under the duvet. His eyes were already closed, the ice pack balanced on his cheek as Carter switched off the lamp.

“I’m sorry about your face,” Carter told him before turning back to his own bed.

“I know, Car. S’okay.”

“You coming to dinner?” he asked, holding his breath for the few moments that passed before Riley replied.

“Yeah.” Riley’s words were slightly slurred with sleep. “Someone’s gotta look after you.”

Calm #2
Riley Porter-Wright whistled as he let himself into his West Village apartment on a warm Thursday night in April. He’d left work with a spring in his step. He had a date with Will Martin—his boyfriend—that night, and a three-day weekend ahead of him.

As senior vice president and head of the e-pub division of his family’s publishing house, Riley had been delighted to share the year’s first quarter data for his division at the board meeting that afternoon. The numbers had been high enough to impress even Jonathon Porter-Wright, the CEO of the company and Riley’s father. He was a demanding man under the best of circumstances and the flicker of pleased surprise that had crossed his face during Riley’s presentation had been gratifying.

Although completely estranged from his parents since his coming out and divorce the previous fall, Riley still had to deal with his father at work. He was no longer concerned with living up to his father’s expectations, but Riley felt perversely pleased that the better he performed, the more of an ass his father appeared to be. There was a certain measure of satisfaction in proving to his father that being an openly bisexual man hadn’t done a thing to affect his career. If anything, finally feeling content with his life had improved Riley’s performance.

He’d left the office immediately after the board meeting and hurried home. He hastily dressed in a tux, then checked his watch to be sure he wasn’t late as he dashed out of the door. Why the Metropolitan opera held premieres on a weeknight, he didn’t know, but thankfully, Will didn’t have any classes to teach at NYU that evening.

Riley texted Will on the way to his building. He came out to meet Riley after the town car pulled up. The driver held the door while Will slid inside and gave Riley a brief, warm kiss. “Hey, good to see you.”

“You, too.” They’d both been busy in the past few weeks and hadn’t been able to spend much time together. Riley smiled at him, struck again by Will’s high cheekbones and classic good looks. Riley hadn’t seen him in a tuxedo before, but he wore it well. “How was your day?”

“Mmm, faculty meeting this afternoon and most of my students seem to have spring fever, so I’m glad it’s over,” Will replied with an easy grin, his blue eyes brightening. “Getting better now, though. Yours?”

“Great, actually, and I’m looking forward to tonight.”

They kept the discussion light while the car crossed Manhattan, but Riley’s anxiety rose as they neared the Kennedy Center. He straightened his bow tie for the umpteenth time. Will set a hand on his thigh, the touch warm and heavy.

“Are you sure you want to do this tonight?” Will asked softly. “You seem jittery.”

“Of course.” Riley gave Will a reassuring smile. “I’ll admit I’m…anxious about how it will go, but I refuse to let anyone keep me from living my life. I love opera and I want to share that with you.”

That night was the gala premier of Giulio Cesare and Riley had spent the better part of a week debating if he should invite Will to be his date. Riley had done little socializing with anyone from his past since his abrupt coming-out the previous November and subsequent divorce from his now ex-wife Alex. The possibility of seeing his parents was nerve-racking. Even worse was the thought of seeing his former best friend, Carter, and Carter’s wife, Kate. Carter had been shocked by Riley’s coming out and Riley’s confession that he loved Carter had driven a wedge between them. Riley hadn’t had any contact with Kate and, other than a brief and awkward run-in during the holidays at Serendipity when Carter had been out with the kids, Riley hadn’t seen Carter, either.

Will knew enough about his past that he wouldn’t be caught off-guard if an awkward situation arose, but that didn’t make it any easier. The thought of Will and Carter in the same room caused his anxiety to rise.

In the three months Riley and Will had been seeing each other, Will had more than lived up to Riley’s first impression of him. Not only gorgeous, he was thoughtful and well-read. Patient, too, while Riley shook off the hang-ups from his past and struggled to figure out the new path he was on. In fact, he’d been more than patient.

Although they’d been intimate in every other way, Riley hadn’t reached a point where he was ready to let Will penetrate him or vice versa. Will assured Riley he shouldn’t feel rushed and reminded him some men never wanted anal sex, but, still, it bothered Riley. They’d decided not to see other people, but sometimes Riley held Will at arm’s length when he should have been pulling him closer. Taking him to the opera tonight was one way to include Will in another part of his life. He genuinely cared for Will and thought maybe, in time, he could fall for him.

Riley could hardly say he was over Carter, but thoughts of Carter had grown less and less frequent. As time passed, the acute pain of losing him had faded to a dull ache. Time certainly did heal wounds, but, unfortunately, it did nothing to lessen the feeling that something important was missing from his life.

“I’m glad you invited me,” Will said, bringing him back to the moment.

Riley smiled warmly at him. “I’m glad you were willing to come. I don’t think my ex-wife will be there—she really only bothered with the events here to network—but I can’t promise anything. Let’s just hope we can make it through the night without any drama.”

“If there is, we’ll either ignore it or cut out early.” Will shrugged and slid his hand a little higher. He leaned in to whisper in Riley’s ear. “No matter what happens, the night can end in my bed with your dick in my mouth and you coming so hard you see stars.”

“Promises, promises,” Riley teased, his voice more breathless than he intended. He closed his eyes for a brief moment as Will feathered kisses against his jaw, then glanced at the driver in front of him. He was grateful for the man’s discretion and that he hadn’t once glanced at them in the rearview mirror. Although finally at ease with showing affection with Will in public, Riley didn’t want to make the driver uncomfortable.

Will pulled back when the car slowed to a stop and Riley looked up in surprise, realizing they were already in front of the Lincoln Center. He stepped onto the sidewalk and waited for Will to follow, nodding at a few people mingling outside the entrance whom he recognized. He couldn’t resist a peek at the fountain, half-expecting to see Carter standing beside it. But the familiar silhouette was nowhere in sight, so he turned back to Will.

“Still nervous?” Will asked quietly as they walked through the lobby, with its endless red-carpeted floors and the mid-century Sputnik-style chandeliers that had been a gift from the Austrian government.

“A little,” Riley replied. “Mostly trying not to think too much about your comment in the car. I’m afraid these pants don’t hide much.” He grinned wryly wry and Will laughed.


“As long as you follow through, I have no complaints.” Riley’s grin faded when they stepped into the cocktail reception. He glanced around anxiously. To his relief, the only familiar faces in sight were distant acquaintances and he and his date were able to get a drink and mingle. People stared, of course—he’d expected that—and there were a few who gave him and Will a suspiciously wide berth, but frankly, it went better than he’d anticipated.

Riley had just begun to relax when he spotted his parents. His good mood immediately plummeted, replaced by an increasing tightness in his chest. “That’s my parents ahead,” he murmured. “Brace yourself.”

The woman standing next to his mother noticed him. “Oh, look, Geneva, it’s Riley.” Her tone held a nasty note, as if she merely wanted to make a jab at his mother. Riley didn’t know Helena Finch well but enough to remember she was someone who should be aware of the current situation. Perhaps she disliked his mother, or maybe she just wanted to catch a bit of the gossip. He smiled thinly when he approached them, hoping for Will’s sake that the typical Porter-Wright way of handling difficult situations would hold out tonight. Ignoring the situation and acting politely in front of company sounded good to him.

“Will, this is Jonathon and Geneva Porter-Wright.” He nodded to his parents. “Jonathon, Geneva, this is William Martin.” He didn’t see any point in elaborating on Will’s part in his life. “Will’s a law professor at NYU.”

His mother nodded frostily and his father put out his hand. The gesture seemed hesitant and begrudging.

“Nice to meet you both.” Will’s tone came across as polite, but there was little of his usual warmth.

“Likewise.” His father didn’t try to hide his disdain.

A rotund gentleman who looked as if he might pop the buttons on his jacket at any moment held out his hand to Will. “Marcus Finch. I went to NYU law myself back in the day.”

Riley glanced at his mother, but she wouldn’t meet his eye. Outwardly, she appeared cool and composed, but Riley would bet agitation churned under the surface.

Helena gave Riley a knowing smile. “And Will is here with you? How interesting.” Her voice dripped with innuendo.

“We’ve been seeing each other for a while.” Riley kept his tone polite but cool. “On top of being a law professor, Will is a writer. We have a great deal in common.”

Will made small talk with Marcus while Riley remained silent.

“It appears they’re seating for dinner,” Geneva said after a few minutes, her voice brittle. “Come, Jonathon, we should find our seats. Nice seeing you, Marcus and Helena. Riley. Mr. Martin.” She disappeared before they could reply and Riley made polite excuses to the Finches. He and Will found their table, grateful to end the encounter. His parents would make sure their paths didn’t cross again that evening.

Riley didn’t relax until dinner had concluded and Will followed him to his box for the beginning of act one. He took a seat next to Will, relieved that dinner had been calm and uneventful.

“I’m glad you came with me tonight,” Riley told him with a smile. Will briefly touched Riley’s knee.

“I am, too.”

The final knot of worry in Riley’s chest dissipated and he got comfortable, eager to see the production. Unfortunately, the good mood only lasted until intermission.

Riley and Will were enjoying the champagne and dessert when a blonde in an ice-blue dress crossed his field of vision. Riley tensed at the sight of Kate Hamilton. He glanced around, trying to be casual as he searched for Carter, but found him nowhere in sight. Riley frowned. The crowd was thick, but Carter stood tall enough to be seen in any group. Perhaps he was in the restroom or had stepped outside to take a call. Kate headed toward him, although she hadn’t made eye contact yet.

Riley set down his champagne glass, his hands suddenly nerveless and clumsy when Kate spotted him. Her eyes went wide and she came to an abrupt stop. “Riley.”

“How are you, Kate?”

“I’m fine.” Her smile seemed automatic, forced. Riley paused, really looking at Kate. She appeared to have lost weight and her normally bright eyes and smile were dimmer than usual. Although beautifully made up as always, something was off.

“Will, I’d like to introduce you to Kate Hamilton, a good friend of mine. Kate, this is Will Martin, law professor, writer and my date this evening.”

The corners of Kate’s mouth briefly tightened before she smiled at Will and held out her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Will.”

“Likewise.” Will, in turn, appeared relaxed and comfortable. Clearly, whatever was obvious to Riley wasn’t to someone who had never met Kate before.

“Are you as big of a fan of opera as Riley is?” Kate asked.

Will grinned. “I’m not sure anyone’s as big of a fan as Riley, but I do enjoy it.” Will brushed his fingertips across Riley’s back. “I’m glad he wanted to share it with me.”

“Oh, I’ve been known to give Riley a run for his money,” Kate said lightly.

A little more warmth appeared in her eyes, but she still seemed off and Riley turned to Will, laying a hand on his arm.

“Would you get me another glass of champagne? I’d like a moment to talk to Kate, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course,” Will reassured him.

“Thank you. I’ll try not to be long.” Riley squeezed Will’s arm.

“Take your time. I’ll be over by the bar when you’re done.” He nodded at Kate. “Very nice to meet you, Kate.”

“You, too.”

Will left with a smile and Riley felt grateful for his understanding. He turned back to Kate, growing serious. “Are you sure everything’s okay? You don’t seem…” He wasn’t sure how to finish. Kate seemed unhappy, stressed. “Is it that Carter’s around and you’re worried about us running into each other?”

She shook her head. “No. Carter’s…Carter’s not here with me.”

Kate’s fingers trembled as she smoothed them over her pale blue dress and, although it took him a moment, Riley finally registered what was wrong with the picture. A faint stripe of lighter skin adorned the third finger of her left hand instead of the glittering diamond ring Riley had carried in the breast pocket of his tux the morning of Carter’s wedding. He wanted to ask her about it but realized there were too many people around. “Can we talk? Privately?”

She nodded, the motion tense and jerky. Riley steered them toward a secluded alcove, reminded of the night he and Carter had discussed finding a woman to join them. It seemed like it had been a lifetime ago, rather than just over a year. “What’s going on, Kate? I know you well enough to know you’re not okay.”

She let out a shaky breath. “Riley, a lot has happened since we last saw each other.”

He bit back a disbelieving laugh. “I’m well-aware.”

Her expression softened. “I know. You’ve been dealing with…well, more than any man should. I’m sorry to hear about your parents. They’re completely out of line.”

“It wasn’t unexpected.”

“That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.”

“And what about you? Is something going on with you and Carter? I noticed you aren’t wearing your ring.”

She glanced down at her left hand with a wistful glance. “Carter and I are separated. We’re in the process of filing for divorce.”

Riley blinked at her. “You what? Christ, what happened, Kate?”

The sad smile was trained on him, her tone gentle, but the words barbed. “You came out.”

Blanching, Riley tried to make sense of what she’d said. “I don’t understand.”

Her gaze remained unflinching, but her voice became so quiet he could barely hear it. “Carter told me the truth, Riley. The girls in college, the escort…your feelings for him.”

The news hit him like a ton of bricks. “I’m so fucking sorry, Kate.” His voice grew raw. “We never meant to—”

“I know. But it hurts deeply to know my husband and a man I considered a good friend betrayed me that way.” Kate’s voice shook. Riley saw the strain on her face as she struggled to keep it together. She looked away and he gave her a moment to compose herself before she continued. “How long, Riley?”

“What do you mean?”

“How long have you loved him?”

“Since college,” he admitted. “Probably since the moment I met him.”

She shook her head and dropped her voice to a whisper. “The whole time. Long before Carter and I met.”

Riley swallowed, his throat suddenly tight.

“How could you let him marry me?” she continued. “How could you stand beside him at the altar and hand him the ring when you loved him?”

“Because I truly believed it was the right thing to do. I couldn’t tell him how I felt—I could hardly even admit it to myself. He loved you—he really did—and I thought if he married you, the feelings I had for him wouldn’t matter. Asking Carter to divorce you to be with me last November was out of line. I shouldn’t have done it, but I couldn’t cope with hiding my feelings for him anymore. I thought he needed to know the truth. I’ve never loved anyone the way I love Carter, but I understand he doesn’t feel the same way about me. I know that now.” His voice sounded strained, even to him. “I wish it hadn’t taken the end of both our marriages and our friendship to prove that, though.”

“Me, too.” She stared him straight in the eye. “You know, he’s been a wreck since then, Riley. And when he ran into you before New Year’s, he became so depressed. He barely slept or ate—he just…wasn’t himself. He couldn’t live with the lies anymore and it all fell apart after that.”

“It kills me to know I hurt both of you.” He looked down, unable to meet her gaze. “I’ve come to terms with the fact I’ve lost Carter. I’m moving on now. Figuring out my life.”

“And Will?”

“We’re seeing each other. I care about him, but we’re—we’re taking things slow. He doesn’t know the exact details, but he knows there’s someone else I still have feelings for.”

“As long as you’re being honest with him.”

“I am.” Riley shoved his hands in his pockets. “I won’t live a lie like that again. I never should have done it in the first place.”

“I think the worst part is, I didn’t know I was,” Kate said softly, tears shimmering in her eyes. “I think somewhere deep down, I knew there was something between you and Carter, but I truly didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to believe the happy marriage and family were real.”

“Carter loves you and the kids. I know he does,” he whispered, his voice raw. “There are so many things I wish I’d done differently. Hurting you and the kids…I hope you know how much I regret it. Although I hoped Carter would want to be with me, I don’t think I ever believed he’d leave you. I know he didn’t want to tear apart your marriage or your family.”

“We can’t always predict the outcome of these things.” She laid a hand on his forearm, her smile wistful. “Besides, you coming out may have precipitated this, but it became inevitable. Once Carter stopped being honest with me, this was bound to happen. I am so, so angry at both of you, but I am trying to understand it. I can’t imagine what keeping your feelings a secret must have been like. Maybe once the hurt passes, I’ll be able to forgive you.”

He nodded, his heart aching. “It’s more than I deserve.”

Before she could reply, the lights dimmed briefly, indicating intermission had ended. She offered him a small, sympathetic smile. “I need to head back to my seat, but, Riley, I’m glad we talked.”

“So am I. Take care of yourself, Kate.”

“You, too.”

He stood staring after Kate until someone gently touched his upper back. He turned to see Will staring at him with a worried frown.

“Are you all right?” Will asked.

Riley shook his head to clear it. “Yeah. We should get back to our seats, though.”

Will nodded and fell into step beside him, his gaze worried. Riley couldn’t blame him. The conversation with Kate had completely thrown him and he knew he was acting oddly. He needed some time to process it.

Throughout the second half of the performance, Riley felt grateful for Will’s silent presence. He hadn’t asked Riley to explain, had merely sat beside him and laid a comforting hand on his knee. Riley didn’t know what to think of the conversation with Kate. Despite having wanted Carter to end his marriage, the news that Kate and Carter were no longer together felt like an unexpected blow. It would be difficult to come to terms with his partial responsibility for it. He’d never wanted to hurt Carter or Kate and his heart ached for Sadie and Dylan.

He instinctively wanted to reach out to Carter and see if he needed to talk, but Riley wondered if Carter would welcome it or not. Would he blame Riley for the end of his marriage? Was there any hope of repairing their friendship?

Author Bios:
K Evan Coles
K. Evan Coles is a mother and tech pirate by day and a writer by night. She is a dreamer who, with a little hard work and a lot of good coffee, coaxes words out of her head and onto paper.

K. lives in the northeast United States, where she complains bitterly about the winters, but truly loves the region and its diverse, tenacious and deceptively compassionate people. You’ll usually find K. nerding out over books, movies and television with friends and family. She’s especially proud to be raising her son as part of a new generation of unabashed geeks.

Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn is starting the adventure of a lifetime as a full-time writer. She devours books at an alarming rate and hasn’t let her short arms and long torso stop her from doing yoga.  She makes a killer key lime pie, hates green peppers, and loves wine tasting tours. A collector of vintage Nancy Drew books and green glassware, she enjoys poking around in antique shops and refinishing thrift store furniture. An avid photographer, she dreams of traveling the world and she can’t wait to discover everything else life has to offer her.

K Evan Coles

Brigham Vaughn

Wake #1

Calm #2