I am pleased to welcome Michaela Grey on Queer Books Unbound to celebrate the release of Butterfly, the second book in her Portland Seabirds series. Please join me in giving her a warm welcome!
Felix Papillon is determined he’ll never be hurt again. He may look like he has his life together from the outside—starting goalie for the Portland Seabirds, fancy car, adoring fans clamoring for his autograph—but he won’t allow anyone to see the scars on his heart.
When he meets Fisher Montgomery in the back of a dimly lit bar, the attraction is instant and mutual. But Felix isn’t going to drop his guard just because of a pair of pretty brown eyes and excellent shoulders. He’s learned his lesson. So he gives Fisher a fake name, and he makes it clear from the beginning that no matter how compatible they are in and out of bed, their relationship will never be more than physical.
That’s just fine by Fisher. He’s got enough to handle being a closeted gay man teaching kindergarten in a conservative private school. Someday he wants to settle down, but right now, with student loans, an old car about to fall apart, and a parent taking an inappropriate interest in him, Fisher doesn’t have time to wonder why the man he’s sleeping with looks vaguely familiar.
For a while, things seem to be going just fine. But nothing lasts forever, and soon enough, both men will be forced to confront the ghosts of their pasts if they’re going to have any hope for a happy future.
Fisher answered the door in a pair of soft, weathered jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt that did a lot to showcase his very excellent arms and chest. Felix gave him an appreciative once-over and Fisher’s lips quirked as he stepped back to give him room to come inside.
The house was as spotless as ever but there was one difference this time—Felix rounded the corner and stopped dead at the sight of a sleek greyhound asleep in front of the fireplace.
“You have a dog!” he said, delighted.
“I do,” Fisher rumbled, putting a hand on Felix’s lower back and urging him forward a step so he could slip past him. “Her name is Maya, and as you can see, she’s an excellent guard dog. Are you hungry?”
“Can I pet her?” Felix asked. Maya had raised her head at the sound of voices and was examining Felix intently. She was a solid nut-brown, with a white chest and white toes like she’d stepped in paint. “Hi, mon pitou,” Felix told her, and she rose languidly to her feet, yawning and displaying rows of very white teeth before padding over to sniff the hand he held out.
“That’s more her decision than mine, as you can see,” Fisher said, sounding amused. “Would you like some lunch?”
“I actually already ate,” Felix said. Maya was as silky soft as she looked, leaning rapturously against Felix’s leg as he rubbed her ears. “How come I’ve never met you before, eh?” he asked her, and Maya licked his hand, her tail wagging in graceful sweeps.
“Well, to be fair, you’ve only been here late at night when she was already kenneled, and you’ve already discovered that she doesn’t really give a shit about who’s in my house.”
“You’re perfect, don’t listen to him,” Felix told Maya, and Fisher laughed.
“Can I at least get you something to drink?”
“Sure,” Felix said, straightening reluctantly to follow him into the kitchen. Maya tagged along and Felix sat down at the table in the corner as Fisher rummaged in the refrigerator. Maya put her head on Felix’s knee and Felix went back to petting her.
“Water? Juice? Soda?”
“Water’s fine,” Felix said. He accepted the glass Fisher handed him and took a quick sip, marshalling his thoughts. “So I think we need to talk.”
Fisher raised an eyebrow, sinking into the chair opposite him. “Already?” He pitched his voice high. “Baby please, I can change, I promise, I’ll do better. Just tell me what to do.”
Felix kicked at him, smothering a laugh. “Shut up, you ass. I just want to make sure we are on the same page, yes?”
Fisher grinned at him and made a go-ahead motion.
“This—” Felix gestured between them. “It’s just sex.”
Fisher arched that dark brow again and inclined his head.
“Nothing more, I mean,” Felix continued.
“No relationship,” Fisher offered.
“Yes, exactly. I don’t want—” Felix swallowed. “I’m not ready for that. I may not ever be. So I think it’s best if we keep personal details to a minimum. You don’t ask me what I do. I won’t ask what you do. No names other than what we’ve already given each other.”
Fisher nodded slowly. “I can work with that, I guess.”
“You guess?” Alarm caught in Felix’s chest. “Is it not what you want?”
“It’s fine,” Fisher assured him. “Really, it is. You’re ridiculously hot, I’m down to fuck you six ways from Sunday anytime you want. But—”
“I do want a relationship someday,” Fisher said bluntly. “Not today, not for a while, not until the right person comes along, but when I meet him, this, us—” He repeated Felix’s gesture. “It’ll have to end.”
Felix relaxed. “Okay. That’s… okay. You tell me, it’s over. I’ll understand. And in the meantime… do you wish to be exclusive?”
Fisher eyed him. “What do you want?”
“Exclusivity implies relationship, to me,” Felix said carefully. “I might want to play with someone else. Would that bother you?”
Fisher shrugged, folding his hands on the table. “Contrary to the impression I may have given you, I don’t really get out much. I spend a lot of time with work and I tend to take it home with me, so unless Leo drags me somewhere, I don’t actually hit the bar scene that often. But I’m not going to be bothered if you do, as long as you communicate and play safe.”
“And same for you,” Felix said. He leaned forward and touched Fisher’s knuckles with one finger. The hair curled crisp and tight, Fisher’s skin warm under Felix’s touch.
Fisher shivered. “Are we done talking?”
Felix smiled at him, letting the want shine through plainly on his face. “We are definitely done talking.”
“Oh thank God,” Fisher said, and surged from his chair.
“Are you sure this is something you can do?” Leo asked again.
Fisher chopped carrots a little more aggressively. “I already told you I can. Why are you pushing on this?”
“Because that’s why you keep me around,” Leo said, kicking his feet. He was perched on the counter, watching as Fisher prepared dinner. “That and occasionally excellent sex.”
“Always excellent sex,” Fisher said, nudging his knee. “Don’t sell yourself short.”
“Well of course it’s always excellent,” Leo said, grinning at him under the silvery fall of his hair. “I just meant it doesn’t happen that often. Because you’re a homebody and a stick in the mud and any other term for boring you can think of. But we’re off-topic. You want a relationship. You want a perfect little nuclear family, with the white picket fence and the porch swing and cocoa at Christmas and stockings over the fireplace and dirty diapers and little league and—” Fisher got a hand over his mouth and Leo immediately licked his palm.
Fisher made a disgusted noise and yanked his hand away. “I don’t want that now.”
“But you wouldn’t say no if it came calling.” Leo’s eyes were knowing.
“Yes I would.”
“Liar.” Leo kicked his feet again. “You’re domestic as fuck, Fisher, and you want someone to share that life with you.”
Fisher sighed, defeated. “Yeah. I do. Happy? I do want that. But I also want him. We’re ridiculously compatible in bed. He’s hot and funny and I very much enjoy the time we spend together, especially since most of it’s naked. I’m not going to get hung up on him or start wanting my apple pie life with him, because I know it’s not what he wants. Why can’t I just enjoy hot sex on acceptable terms until the right guy does come along?”
Leo hopped off the counter and went up on his tiptoes to wrap his arms around Fisher’s neck. “I just don’t want you to get hurt, Fish,” he said against his ear. “Because I love you, and you’re my best friend, and as your best friend, part of my job is helping you protect yourself.”
Fisher hugged him back. “I’m not gonna get hurt,” he muttered.
“You’re gonna get hurt,” Leo countered, taking a step back. He looked old beyond his years suddenly, weighed down with bitter truths learned the hard way. “But maybe we can keep you from completely wrecking yourself. Now. Tell me more about this compatibility in bed.”
Michaela Grey told stories to put herself to sleep since she was old enough to hold a conversation in her head. When she learned to write, she began putting those stories down on paper. She resides in the Texas Hill Country with her cats, and is perpetually on the hunt for peaceful writing time.
When she’s not writing, she’s watching hockey or blogging about writing and men on knife shoes chasing a frozen Oreo around the ice while trying to keep her cat off the keyboard.
Genre: Contemporary Genre: Romance Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Self Published Tag: Celebrity / Famous Person Tag: Friends with Benefits / No Strings Tag: Guest Post Tag: Long Distance Tag: Mistaken Identity Tag: Part of a series Tag: PoC Tag: Sports Trigger Warning: Domestic Abuse Trigger Warning: Emotional Abuse Trigger Warning: Gaslighting Butterfly Michaela Grey Portland Seabirds