64 Windsor Street, Gerdview, Germiston, Gauteng
South Africa, 1401
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A novel by
Louis J Harris
Cover design by
Louis C Harris
www.123rf.com/profile_curaphotography’ / curaphotography 123RF Stock Photo
Keegan Mansfield is the star of the track and field team and he’s destined for Rio 2016. But there are problems; he’s lost, lonely and a social outcast. You see, Keegan Mansfield is a bilateral amputee. A T4 Paralympian whose life is filled with false friends and dysfunctional parents. What will it take to change his world? Love? Honour? Trust? Conrad Smith is a fine able bodied athlete, he runs for the same team and saves Keegan from a potentially violent incident. Conrad believes in Keegan. Falls in love with him. Then breaks his heart. Keegan switches to survival mode, but will he ever forgive Conrad? And when tragedy strikes like a lightning bolt from heaven, will Keegan continue his Olympic dream? Only Keegan can change his world for the better, and he knows that if he doesn’t do so soon, his Olympic dream will be in vain.
About the author
My first book, Revival, published in 2006 by the South African Short Story Publishing Association, introduced South Africa to her first Gay Literary detective, Rain Godart. I now self publish my M/M Romance stories under the Coooldudes Publishing banner, a publishing company started up to distribute my works. In 2008 I won the Marion Scher award for pushing the bounderies of writing, and I head up the editing program for gayauthors.org. I am an affiliate member of PEG (Professional Editing Group) of South Africa. I have a full time job as a despatch manager and at night I turn into a wordsmith almost magically. I currently edit for many writers abroad, and also act as a literary agent for many of my clients. I live in Germiston, South Africa, 6000 feet above sea level where no Tsunami can touch me or my family. I am married to my best friend, have a son, and two damned naughty Yorkshire Terriers named Bobby and Caesar. Strangely, my husband’s name is also Louis, and our son’s name is Louis too. Well, make that Louis three. I have fallen in love with M/M erotic romance, and chew too much gum while writing the heat scenes for my stories. I know that’s bad for teeth and gums, right, but I can’t seem to stop, chewing gum that is.
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Not many people invited Keegan out. There was the time that Patrick invited him to play ten pin bowling and the time that he and Jean went to movies at Sandton City. It was difficult for him to get around. Not having a car inhibited his movements. He would dearly love to go out more often but it was no fault of his that he did not have transport. He couldn’t afford it on his bursary. Having to reply on others for transport meant that he would have to schedule lifts to and from varsity, to and from practice, to and from competitions. It wasn’t easy. It felt as if he owed the whole world favours.
The first thing that surprised him was that Conrad opened the car door for him. Nice touch. Gentlemanly. From that moment Keegan held a new respect for him. It felt like he was being courted, and he enjoyed it.
‘Hey handsome, you’re looking good. How’s the elbow?’
‘I washed it properly in the bath and applied more disinfectant. Hurts a little but otherwise it’s just fine. You look different.’
‘Must be the hair.’
‘It is, hey you shaved it off. Actually, bald suits you. Brings out your brown eyes.’
‘My hairdresser was surprised when I told her I wanted to go bald. You know what she said?’
‘She said that such a change means that something drastic had happened in my life.’
‘She said that?’
‘Yup. I told her I don’t really think the word is drastic as much as fantastic.’
‘You said that? So what did you mean? Did you win the lotto?’
‘Not as crazy at that. I meant you. I never once thought you and I would ever be friends. I think that’s fantastic.’
Keegan’s face burned from the compliment. ‘Well, that’s…that’s …likewise. Thank you. The feeling is mutual,’ he said.
Conrad shut the passenger door and climbed into his side of the vehicle. ‘You still hurting?’
“A little. Not much.’
‘I wish it was me that he’d beat on.’
That statement was enough to send Keegan’s mind into overdrive. Guy friends didn’t say that to each other. Well, they did, especially if there’s caring involved. And then he said something even stranger.
‘It hurts me to see you in pain, bro.’
‘Believe me, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of Marx’s punches. Not cool. So where are we going? What do you have in mind?’
‘A quiet supper. Just the two of us.’
‘You don’t mind me taking you out for supper?’
‘It’s not like we’re on a date, right? I mean, we’re just two guys enjoying a supper, right?’
‘Yes. On both counts. Just two guys enjoying good food. Nothing more.’
‘Then why would you ask if I mind?’
Keegan found out very quickly why Conrad had asked him that question
The restaurant, settled in a neat suburb just off the main highway, was cosy, dressed in warmth and the smell of Italian cooking from the kitchen. They were ushered into a small booth with a candle lit table and soft music plying the airwaves. A violinist met them as they entered the cubicle and played Moonriver. Keegan smiled at the maître d’ as he invited them to be seated.
‘I’ll leave you for a moments, Conrad,’ the maître d’ said.
‘Thank you, Simon.’
As Keegan sat down, he said, ‘You’ve been here before?’
‘My favourite restaurant would you guess?’
‘Never have guessed.’ Keegan laughed.
‘Simon is my sister’s husband.’
‘I guess it’s always better to have a connection in the restaurant business. This is nice, Conrad. Too nice. I can’t afford to eat in a place like this.’
‘Who said anything about paying?’
‘I can’t expect you to pay for this, bro.’
‘I asked you out. It’s on me. All I want is for you to enjoy this.’
Keegan smiled at him with a softness in his eyes. An appreciation. ‘Next time it’s on me.’
‘Yup. And I don’t mind KFC.’
Both of them laughed and from that moment the evening turned into one filled with music, wine and good Italian cuisine.
Getting to know a person is always like finding a new product. That may sound beaten and clichéd but it’s true. As the evening wore on, they spoke about life and the universe, girlfriends and special friends and what friendship meant to them.
‘Do you have a special lady?’ Keegan asked.
‘A special lady, you mean as in girlfriend?’
‘No. Nothing like that. I can’t afford a girl. That’s not to say that I haven’t ever had a girlfriend. I have. Didn’t turn out well at all.’
‘Sorry. I’m prying here.’
‘Not at all. We had a so-so relationship right from the start. My sister asked us to babysit for them once. That night we had sex. Embarrassing for me, but not for her apparently. I was a virgin. Had no idea what to do. I know I didn’t cum inside her. So when she told my parents and family that she was pregnant, I almost married her. She didn’t tell me first. She ran to my mom and told her instead and before I knew it I was hauled over the coals by everyone. But my mom insisted that she be tested before I committed. Thankfully the test came back negative. I wasn’t ready for a family. Damn, at 18, who is? Anyway, we went on a last date. It was then I told her that we weren’t ready for each other. She asked why and I told her the truth.’
‘Wow. That’s some story. What did you tell her?’
‘I told her I had feelings for guys. I simply wanted to sleep with her to see if I could sleep with a woman.’
‘You said that? Selfish, don’t you think.’
‘No. I knew I would never marry her. But at the same time I felt as though she tried to trap me.’
‘What did she say when you told her you’re gay?’
‘She cried, she said all of her boyfriends had told her that they were gay.’
‘Oh no. You’re serious?’
‘Dead serious. In a way it was so funny. In another it was damned sad, but that ended our relationship. Now, what about you? Tell me about Jean.’
‘She looks after me, there’s no doubt about that. Helps me whenever she can. Transport that kind of thing.’
‘You have any special feelings for her?’
‘You mean is she my girlfriend?’
‘I could have asked if you sleep with her.’
‘I do not sleep with Jean. We don’t have that kind of relationship. It’s platonic. All platonic.’
‘Maybe from your side, but from what I’ve seen, I think she wants more than just a friendship.’
‘It’s not going to happen.’
‘And what do you think of me?’
Keegan sipped at his wine. ‘I think you’re amazing. And this….all this…is very special. You care. You’re a fine guy, Mr Smith, and I’m happy that you and I are friends.’
Conrad responded by turning away from Keegan’s gaze. The sadness in his face caught in the light.
‘Wanna tell me about what you’re thinking?’ Keegan asked.
‘I…I was kind of hoping that….I don’t know, I’m being very unreasonable…’
‘That you…that you were attracted to me in some way. I’ve watched you since you were a freshman and always been too scared to approach you. Now that we’re finally friends, I’ve gone and fucked it up.’
Attraction. Keegan held his glass to his lips for a moment and contemplated the word while Conrad’s brown eyes searched for an honest answer instead of glancing nervously about the room. Keegan had observed his directness earlier that day even though there seemed to be a strange quirkiness to it; he displayed humility, subtlety and tact. Coming to Keegan’s rescue earlier required an impulsive, positive and self-confident nature. Attraction.
Keegan smiled and nodded his head in the affirmative. He reached for Conrad’s hand and held it gently. ‘No…no… don’t think like that Conrad. I am attracted to you “in some way”. If I wasn’t, this dinner would never be happening. My problem is that I’ve never felt like this before about anyone. The other problem is I must discover what it is that’s stopping me from having a relationship. It’s bugged me for years.’
Conrad held his hand tighter. ‘I’m not hitting on you and I don’t want to scare you and if you think I’m coming on too strong, just say so and I’ll back off. Can I be perfectly honest with you?’
‘I wouldn’t expect it any other way.’
‘I looked at you today in the locker room when I helped you strap on your prosthetics, and I noticed that…’
‘What did you notice?’
‘I could have sworn you had a semi hard-on’
A moment of silence followed.
‘I’ll be honest with you too. When you placed your hand on my thigh, the heat was incredible. It felt natural. It felt right having your hand there. And then you kissed my neck and my mind flipped 360 degrees. I…I’ve never felt like that before.’
‘I would like to think that I can make you feel that way again.’
‘I…I think I’d like that. But I need time for it to register.’
‘Then time I will give you. But, I’m not going to stop thinking about you, and I’m not going to stop touching you.’ Conrad said, his hand slid over Keegan’s gently, and when Simon approached to take their order, he didn’t remove it.
‘I think I can handle that.’ Keegan said breathlessly, his heart throbbing. The fullness of his cock wanting escape.