Title: OFF BALANCE
Author: JAY HOGAN
When JUDAH MADDEN flees his tiny suffocating home town in New Zealand for the dream of international ballet stardom, he never intends coming back. Not to Painted Bay. Not to his family’s struggling mussel farm. Not to his jerk of a brother. Not with his entire life plan in shreds. And certainly not into the tempting arms of MORGAN WIPENE, the older, ruggedly handsome fisheries officer who seems determined to screw with Judah’s intention to wallow in peace.
But dreams are fickle things. Shatter them and it’s hard to pick up the pieces. Hard to believe.
Hard to start again.
And the hardest thing of all? Finding the courage to trust in love and build a new dream where you least expected to find it.
I braced a hand on the ice-white tiles and jerked myself off to the image of a man who had no business occupying my boathouse shower on a Saturday morning, especially after I’d thrown his sorry arse off our property less than twelve hours before. And yet here he was—in my head. And where was my hand? On my fucking dick. Go figure.
The upside? I actually had the energy to expend on a little self-pleasure. I’d managed to sleep until ten and it had been five days without a full-blown vertigo attack—the drop attacks didn’t drain me quite the same way. Go me. Maybe the meds were finally working. It was enough to have me looking at the world in a better light, at any rate.
So Morgan had been married, huh? And there he was again, front and centre in my pea-sized, lust-addled brain. Still, I hadn’t seen that particular twist coming. But then, an attractive guy like that, it made sense that someone nailed his arse down at some point. I couldn’t imagine losing someone so important after such a short time.
And judging by the tone in Morgan’s voice, the loss was still painful, still fresh. What would it feel like to be loved by someone, by a man, by Morgan, so deeply? There was an intensity to him that promised you’d never have to question it. He’d show you every day.
I shook my head at the thought. Like Morgan would be remotely interested in someone as fucked up as me. For a quick fuck? Sure. For more than that? He’d have to be a raging masochist.
Nothing said doomed relationship like a guy with no job, no prospects, a bad attitude and a chronic illness. Which is why I needed to keep this thing between us to friends. I liked Morgan, more than was good for me, or explicable from the brief time we’d spent together. I liked him enough to know that if we started something, I’d miss him when it fell apart. But if we kept it to friends, then maybe he’d stick around for me to enjoy, and I liked the idea of that, liked it a whole lot.
I dried off, threw on some old dance leggings and a T-shirt, and froze once again at my reflection in the full-length mirror, briefly contemplating a life where I didn’t have Meniere’s and could give free rein to the attraction I felt for Morgan.
How the hell had this become my life?
I stared at my reflection and realised the answer didn’t matter. It was time to stop wallowing. Enough.
I sucked in a deep breath all the way down to my diaphragm and my thighs flexed like they were hopeful or something, tentatively lifting me up on the balls of my feet.
Move. The imperative pushed at my brain.
I stretched a leg behind, teetering a little, testing the weight I hadn’t carried in months—arms out, reaching for that point of balance, clocking into the ‘office’ I worked in, the place I called home, and hearing that silent but familiar addictive mental click when I reached it and tipped over into weightlessness.
There. Like a soft sigh in my head. The rush of connection, the sweet sing of my body surging to life, adrenaline ticking up my heart.
A fouette spin. And then a second. The centrifugal pull to another, and another. I nailed them all. But a stutter on the sixth as the world tipped slightly with the roar of the sea in my ears. I fell out of the spin and hit the floor in a graceless lump.
Fucking, fuck, fuck. My sneaker hit the mirror and a sea of fissures exploded across its face. Less than a year ago I’d have done thirty-two spins without breaking a sweat. Five was a joke.
No. More. Wallowing.
I gave myself five minutes to fall apart then scrubbed my hands down my face, ripped the sheets from my bed and threw them in the wash. That done, I stood barefoot in my kitchen and studied the current state of my tiny house while I chewed on a slice of stale toast and jam.
The picture told a sorry tale. I could’ve started my own recycling plant with the number of empties from my determination to singlehandedly underwrite the local liquor store.
It wasn’t hard to imagine what Morgan must’ve thought—nothing good, for sure. I blamed my perpetual brain fog for even inviting him in. These days my grey matter functioned like a rusty, poorly tuned Lada, as opposed to the hot pink sharply primed Audi convertible it used to be.
His opinion shouldn’t matter. Morgan was an overbearing boor, if somewhat sexy, because that shit couldn’t be denied—cue my recent shower scene for confirmation. Not that we’d be crossing paths again if he could take a hint. I didn’t need yet another person treating me like a pretty but fragile ornament, thinking they knew what was best for me.
And if only he’d stop texting me an endless supply of more than decent apologies, I might even begin to believe it. The man had a good line in grovelling and my resolve was wavering.
‘I’m an arse.’
‘I have no excuse.’
‘I should never have said what I did and I’m sorry…’
‘I was worried for you…’
‘I would never have forgiven myself…’
‘You were right to be angry.’
‘I hope we can still be friends.’
A pestilence upon all your houses.
When I woke up this morning and read them all, I’d texted one word. ‘STOP’.
He had, and I’d been checking my phone ever since.
Author Name: Jay Hogan
I am a New Zealand author writing in m/m romance, and romantic suspense. I have traveled extensively and lived in the US, Canada, France, Australia and South Korea. In a past life I have been an Intensive Care Nurse, Counselor, and a Nursing Lecturer.
I'm a cat aficionado especially of Maine Coons, and an avid dog lover (but don’t tell the cat). I love to cook, pretty damn good, love to sing, pretty damn average, and as for loving full-time writing, absolutely… depending of course on the day, the word count, the deadline, how obliging my characters are, the ambient temperature in the Western Sahara, whether Jupiter is rising, the size of the ozone hole over New Zealand and how much coffee I've had.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/