As the blurb indicates, Sean’s courtship of Rob proceeds at a slow and careful pace because he does not know how deeply Rob is involved with Daniel, although the older man does not treat Rob kindly. Sean also senses Rob is very spooky and timid, afraid that any attraction only ends in abuse and domination. Keep that in mind in the following excerpt.
After that first evening, Sean often dropped into the bookstore. Rob welcomed him warmly each visit although he refused to go out afterwards. It didn’t take Sean long to catch on.
“It’s Daniel, isn’t it? He’s very possessive and he can be mean when he thinks he’s losing control. I don’t think you really love him, though. Do you?”
Rob shook his head with only the slightest hesitation. “I thought I did and I felt like I owed him so much. I really was on the street when I met him. Things weren’t quite as dire as he likes to paint them but he did take me in. He gave me a home, food, shelter and someone caring about me, or at least seeming to. I needed that. I felt like a worthless piece of shit, a loser and useless. But now it’s just like with my stepfather, except the sex part. You could say the old man abused me, but never that way. I finally see how Daniel’s using me, a lot more than I’ve used him…”
He paused for a few seconds. “That’s not love; it’s possession, control, maybe power. And I don’t have to love back when that’s all there is.”
“No, you don’t! And you’re not worthless, not a loser. Much less a piece of shit. You can’t let yourself believe that. I—I won’t let you.”
At the moment, no one else was in the shop. Acting on an impulse too strong to resist, Sean wrapped both arms around Rob and pulled him close. He truly believed it was only a friendly, comforting hug but within seconds it became much more. Rob lifted his head, starting to push back but all Sean saw was his face, so close, lips parted as if he was about to speak.
He didn’t want to hear any protests so he silenced Rob the only way he could, with a kiss. Sean tried to keep the kiss gentle but a flare of heat seemed to weld their lips together. He heard Rob’s gasp as if from a great distance.
The jingle of the door bells broke the spell. They were standing behind one of tall shelves that crossed the middle part of the shop, out of sight of the door. Rob almost tore himself out of Sean’s embrace. “No. I can’t take this. Not from you, too.”
“It’s not like that,” Sean protested but Rob had already fled around the barrier. Sean heard him call a greeting to the person who’d entered. His voice sounded a bit higher pitched and more breathless than usual. It could be nerves, fear or shock. Sean didn’t know if the clue was a good sign or bad, but he realized he’d have to be very careful. Right now Rob connected passion with possession, demands and perhaps even abuse. Those things were the last experience Sean wanted to share with the other man.
Rob had only told him the barest hints of a troubled childhood and past but Sean read between those few lines. Sympathy and a great urge to show his new friend how much more life could hold, what real love could be like filled him. Although it would take time to convince Rob his view of it all was not the true or only one. Sean knew he would persist. Surely he’d been made to cross Rob’s path for that very purpose, although patience had never been his strongest suit. Maybe now was time for him to develop that virtue.