Series: Pride and Joy #1
Author: Robert Winter
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: Dec 9, 2016
Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex
Length: 100000 words
Genre: Romance, May-December, Contemporary, Provincetown, Washington DC
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David James is smart, successful, handsome… and alone. After the death of his lover, Kyle, from cancer, he buried himself in his law practice and the gym. At forty-eight, he is haunted by his memories and walled off from the world. When David injures himself working out, he’s assigned to Brandon Smith for physical therapy. The vibrant young therapist is attracted to David and realizes he needs a hand to get back into dating. What begins as a practice coffee date escalates to friendship, passion, and maybe something more, as they navigate a new relationship in Washington, DC, and the gay mecca of Provincetown.
But David remains trapped behind the barrier of fear and guilt. Will he remain loyal to Kyle’s memory if he moves on? Can he and Brandon manage a twenty-two-year age gap? Brandon thinks he understands David’s concerns, and for him, the answer to those questions is yes. He wants to be with David, and he believes he can overcome David’s barriers. But Brandon fails to account for the world’s reaction to a handsome young man attached to an older, wealthy lover. David’s memories, Brandon’s pride, and an unexpected tragedy might cost them something very special.
Brandon made it to the clinic that morning with about fifteen minutes to spare, dropped his backpack in the break room, and grabbed his water bottle. “Chilly day, huh?” he asked Josh, another therapist, as he filled the bottle. “Did ya catch the Nats lineup? It sounds like it’s gonna be a good season.” They shot the shit for a few minutes as Josh fixed his coffee.
Shari, one of the assistants to the four physical therapists in the clinic, dropped Brandon’s patient files at his work area, along with a short summary on top. He skimmed the list as he drank water to get hydrated for what promised to be a grueling day. Mia Johnson had bad arthritis; she was responding well with heat and stretching. Miz Williams—nice woman, but ugh, never did her home exercises. Maggie Cook had been injured in a bike accident two weeks back, and it was time to adjust her brace. A new patient, David James, had a torn rotator cuff.
Hmm. Fresh injury, I’ll wanna start simply. He read through his patient notes and flexed his hands as he thought about various massage strokes or exercises that should help. He was engrossed, and he vaguely heard the door to the reception area open and a baritone rumble. A few seconds later, a shadow fell over his desk and a deep voice spoke.
“Excuse me. Are you Brandon Smith? The receptionist sent me back.” Brandon looked up at a man who was holding a medical file out to him, and he almost let his jaw drop.
The guy was tall, a little over six feet, and wearing a suit. His hair was chestnut brown with some gray, parted on the left and smoothly combed up and to the back. He had cheekbones like a model and such brilliant green eyes that Brandon wondered for a second if he were wearing tinted contact lenses. His eyebrows were thick but sharply defined, like upside-down checkmarks. And his full lips would definitely be soft to kiss. Seriously good-looking.
When the silence stretched, the hottie prompted, “Umm…,” and Brandon shook his head.
“Sorry. I was just caught up in somethin’.” He gave a big smile as he stood and held out his hand. “I’m Brandon. Are you David?”
David shook the offered hand with a strong, warm grip. His big mitt engulfed Brandon’s hand and drew from him a slight involuntary moan. David met his eye, and Brandon imagined he saw a little speculative spark there. Yes, I’m available. Though it was wishful thinking that the man would care.
“Good to meet you, Brandon. I’m supposed to give you this file.” David offered the manila folder again, which Brandon took as he gestured for David to take a seat. He opened the file as he sat down, and studied a screen print of David’s MRI on top.
“Rotator cuff. Yeah. Tell me how you tore it.”
“I guess it was doing pull-ups. I felt a twinge when I was working out the other morning, and within a day, the pain was pretty intense.”
“I’ll bet. Rotator cuff tears suck donkey balls.” Brandon glanced up from the file and then looked sheepish. “Sorry. That was unprofessional. Have you ever had physical therapy before?” he asked.
“Donkey balls is about the size of it, so no worries.” David grinned at Brandon. “And no. I’ve been lucky. This is the first time I’ve had anything worse than sore muscles.”
Brandon glanced over David’s suit jacket, which was tailored to show his broad shoulders and narrow waist. “Well, obviously you work out a lot. So if this is your first injury, you must have great form.”
David chuckled. “I doubt that. I’ve just had good coaches that make me careful.”
“Let’s start with your routine, so I can get an idea of what might have led to the tear and what kinda treatment and rehab will work best here. You mentioned coaches?”
“I’ve been doing CrossFit for about a year now. Before that I always ran and lifted weights on my own.”
“CrossFit is keepin’ therapists like me gainfully employed,” Brandon said as he focused again on the medical evaluation in front of him. He sensed, however, that he had annoyed David, and he looked up quickly. Sure enough David had a slightly pissed expression on his face.
“I’ve never found anything as good as CrossFit,” David said, irritation clear in his tone. “It challenges me at a level of intensity that I didn’t manage to achieve on my own.”
Brandon held up a hand in a placating gesture. “Hey, I’m glad it works for you. I know some people are crazy about it. But understand, I only see the fall-out when somethin’ goes wrong.”
David relaxed a bit. “That makes sense. I suppose it’s all in the quality of the coaching.”
“Sure. But even the best coach can’t prevent all injuries. It’s inevitable when you train that hard.”
“What’s the program here? How soon will I be able to get back to it?”
Brandon tilted his head and studied the image of David’s shoulder. “That’s hard to predict. I’d say we’re talkin’ weeks, not months.” David groaned, and Brandon couldn’t help smiling a bit. “Look, you’re not gonna lose all that muscle if you rest a few weeks. Let’s get started, and I’ll have a better sense of what we’re gonna try. Okay?”
Brandon rose, gestured for David to follow, and led him to a cubicle containing a padded table and curtains that could be drawn for privacy. “I’ll need to get at that shoulder to see what’s what. Take off your jacket and shirt and your T-shirt, if you’re wearin’ one. Just call out when you’re ready.” Brandon left David and pulled the curtains around.
A few minutes later, David called out, “Ready.” Brandon slipped through the closed curtains, and he caught his breath. David had a beautiful body, which was bared to the waist. His shoulders were broad, with perfect traps connecting his long neck to cannonball-like deltoids. His pecs were almost perfectly smooth. Wonder if he shaves that chest? His biceps and triceps were cut, and his forearms were thick and lightly dusted in silky-looking hair. A nice V-shape ran from his belly down to where his belt and suit pants covered the rest. Brandon flicked a glance over the bulge at David’s crotch. He guessed what was hidden was equally spectacular, and he tried to think of a reason to make David drop trou for a shoulder injury.
“Wow. Forget what I said and stick with CrossFit.”
David laughed and asked, “Are you just trying to keep a steady line of business going?” Brandon flashed him a grin, and David clearly began relaxing into the therapy despite his flirting. Or maybe because of?
Brandon stepped closer and peered up. He was about five inches shorter than David. “Well, I could climb you like a tree, but I think it’ll be easier on both of us if you sit down while I check out your shoulder.” Brandon hooked over a stool with his foot, and when David sat, Brandon grasped his right wrist in his left hand. “Let me do the movin’.” He gently placed the arm in various positions, studying David’s reaction and stopping each movement when he saw the slightest grimace or wince. After a few minutes of that, he—reluctantly—released the arm and leaned back against a counter.
“It seems pretty straightforward, David. This is a common injury, and nothin’ indicates permanent damage. Also, there’s nothin’ troublesome on the X-ray. I’m sure it feels like shit, and you’re probably gonna get mad at me from the exercises I put you through, but I can help. Don’t do anythin’ to the point of pain, but if you want results, you’re gonna need to do a lot of work, here and on your own. The weights will be light, but you’ll do so many reps it’ll be a ball buster. Feel free to curse at me when I push you, but be honest about your pain level. How does that sound?”
“Fair enough. Do we start today?” David asked.
“Absolutely. So, scale of one to ten, what’s your pain like right now?”
“I’d say… five?”
“Well, don’t ask me, cowboy. This is your rodeo.”
David laughed at that. “Then five.”
Brandon leaned against the counter, arms crossed as he looked David in the eye. “Dr. McCracken has you on an anti-inflammatory, right? Good. Okay. I’m gonna get some heat on that shoulder first, and then we’ll go through some light mobilization work.”
Something in David’s gaze—a smolder—made him pause. Although he’d been flirting a bit, it wasn’t with any real expectation that David would respond. Is it possible he’s gay…? He stamped on the thought and continued. “I’ll give you a series of stretches and exercises that I want you to work through at least twice a day until I see you again on Monday. Then I’m gonna put some kinesio tape on the shoulder to help ease the stress. You’ll sleep better, I promise.”
“Let’s do it,” David said.
Brandon flushed a bit at what David had unintentionally signaled and the image it sparked. Don’t flirt any more. You’re probably wrong, and it’s unprofessional anyway. Brandon retrieved a heated towel and laid it over David’s injured shoulder. “Too hot?”
“No, not at all. That feels good.”
“You should do this at home, or at the office if you can manage it. You can just warm a damp hand towel in a microwave. Heat first, then the rehab exercises I’m gonna give you. Finish up with ice. Now you sit quietly for another five minutes while I get some materials together.”
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Meet the Author
Robert Winter is a recovering lawyer who likes writing about hot men in love much more than drafting a legal brief. He left behind the (allegedly) glamorous world of an international law firm to sit in his home office and dream up ways to torment his characters until they realize they are perfect for each other. When he isn’t writing, Robert likes to cook Indian food and explore new restaurants.
Robert divides his time between Washington, DC, and Provincetown, MA. He splits his attention between Andy, his partner of sixteen years, and Ling the Adventure Cat, who likes to fly in airplanes and explore the backyard jungle as long as the temperature and humidity are just right.
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