High Ball: Stepping Stones Copyright © 2007 by Carol Lynne All rights reserved. No part of this eBook may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information address Torquere Press, Inc., PO Box 2545, Round Rock, TX 78650. ISBN: 978-1-60370-311-6, 1-60370-311-X Printed in the United States of America. Torquere Press electronic edition / March 2008 Torquere Press eBooks are published by Torquere Press, Inc., PO Box 2545, Round Rock, TX 78650.
Stepping Stones By Carol Lynne Chapter One The ringing woke Donovan from a sound sleep. He fumbled for the phone on his bedside table. "Hello," he mumbled. "Donovan?" Sitting straight up, Donovan gripped the phone tighter. "Declan? What's wrong?" Donovan felt his chest tighten as he thought about his twin brother. "I need you. I was hoping you'd let me come stay with you for awhile." Taking a deep breath, Donovan closed his eyes at the lost sound in his brother's voice. He'd moved across the country to get away from the temptation that voice presented. Now, Declan wanted to invade his safe haven, but Declan was his brother. The love of his life. How could he ever turn his twin away? "Is this about Chet? Did he hit you again?" When Declan remained silent, Donovan continued, "Declan? Did he?" "I just… I don't want to talk about Chet. Can I come or not?" Could he come? That was a hard question for Donovan to answer. If he said no, what kind of brother would that make him? If he said yes, please come and stay with me and love me forever, what kind of brother would that make him? When Donovan heard what he thought was crying at the other end of the phone, his decision was made for him. "Sure you can come. Are you okay to fly into Savannah?" Donovan scrubbed a hand over his face, waiting for an answer and wondering whether or not he was doing the right thing. "I'll have one of my friends take me to the airport in the morning if that's okay? Can you meet me if I call with the time?" "Sure." Donovan swallowed around the lump in his throat. "What did that fucker do to you this time?" There was no answer for several very long seconds. Finally Declan spoke in an almost whisper, "I'll tell you everything when I get there. Let's just say, I don't look the same as the last time you saw me." Stepping Stones - 3 .
Donovan felt his blood pressure soar. He'd always been the one to protect his brother. At six- three and two hundred thirty pounds, Donovan O'Hurley had taken on anyone who'd try to pick on his much smaller twin. "Where's Chet now?" Donovan ground out between clenched teeth. "I don't know." "Catch the earliest flight you can. Call me when you have the arrival time." Donovan wiped the moisture from his eyes. "Thanks. I've missed you." "Yeah, I've missed you, too." Donovan hung up the phone and fell back onto the bed. Taking deep breaths, he tried to calm his racing heart. It wasn't until he was seventeen and figured out that he was gay, that he realized why Declan had this effect on him. Everyone in the family had assumed from early on Declan was gay and he'd always been honest regarding his attraction to males over females. His features were more feminine than masculine, right down to the light application of eyeliner he started wearing in high school. Declan had been born second and it had been apparent that Donovan had received more than his share of nutrients in the womb. Declan only weighed three pounds at birth, while Donovan was a strong, healthy eight pound six ounces. His mother once told him, "You took what Declan needed to be strong. Now it's your responsibility to be strong for him. Keep him safe. You owe him that." Donovan felt his eyes sting at the memory of his mother. Their father had taken off soon after their birth, leaving her with two infants and a stack of medical bills. She'd worked two jobs to feed and clothe them, before dying of a brain aneurism when the twins were barely nineteen. Realizing he wasn't going to get anymore sleep, Donovan sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. His mind kept going back to his junior prom. The night he'd set out to take Elizabeth Lory's virginity and instead realized he was in love with his own brother. He'd left Salinas soon after graduation to work for a construction company in San Diego. At the time, it hadn't mattered where he went or what he did, as long as it was away from the temptation of Declan. Declan was the artist of the family and had been lucky enough to receive a full scholarship to the San Francisco Art Institute, where he continued his painting and found a new passion for graphic arts. Since graduating, Declan had worked as a graphic artist for various publishers and magazines. Stepping Stones - 4 .
Those first few years they were apart didn't diminish Donovan's inappropriate feelings toward his brother. They'd kept in touch only occasionally, but then, out of the blue, Declan called one night, just like he had this time. Declan had called to ask for his help and of course he couldn't say no, so he'd hopped a plane to San Francisco the same night. Declan's live-in-lover, Chet, had beaten him severely. Just the thought of seeing his brother's battered face was still enough to have Donovan's hands clenching into tight fists. He'd stayed long enough to doctor his brother and try to convince Declan to seek a restraining order. Declan kept insisting it was his own fault he'd been beaten, that he'd said something to Chet to set the man off. When Donovan tried to get Declan to talk about what he'd said, Declan had shut down and refused to discuss it further. After Declan was well enough to return to work, Donovan went back to his life in San Diego. When Declan had phoned two weeks later telling Donovan it had all been a bad misunderstanding and he was back with Chet, Donovan knew he needed to get further away than San Diego. He'd picked up and with the help of his best friend, Marc, he'd moved across the country. Now living on the east coast, Donovan was a successful businessman. He'd worked long and hard, but he'd managed to start his own construction company and it had grown into a thriving business. Marc had eventually moved to South Carolina as well. Donovan had a good life in most people's view. The phone call earlier and the thought of his brother in his home was suddenly more than Donovan could bear. He didn't know how bad Declan's injuries were this time. He only hoped he could get his brother away from that monster for good. Standing, he went to his dresser and removed his workout clothes. After getting dressed, he went out the back door and stood on his deck. The wind ruffled his thick, black hair as he looked out over the water. Nothing was more calming to him than the sound of the ocean waves slapping against the sandy beach. He stretched quickly and took off down the decking that created a path over the dunes and salt grass toward the beach. What he needed just then was to run long and hard enough to get his mind cleared of the images of his brother. Stepping Stones - 5 .
Chapter Two Pacing back and forth behind the security partition of gate seven, Donovan felt his stomach begin to roll again. He'd already tossed his breakfast this morning, so he knew if he threw up again it would be nothing but the acid he seemed to have an overabundance of since the late night phone call. As the passengers began to disembark, Donovan took several deep breaths. When he spotted Declan, he nearly dropped to his knees. The once stunningly beautiful face was now heavily bandaged on one side. He was so fixated on Declan's face that he almost missed the cane his brother was using to help with the rather pronounced limp. What the fuck had that man done to his love? Donovan pushed his way through the crowd toward his brother. He was still so small and fragile looking, made even more so by the recent attack. It took everything Donovan had not to scoop him up and carry him to safety. Declan spotted Donovan and smiled. Donovan motioned him over to the side of the crowd. "You looked like you were about to be run over." Donovan looked into Declan's soulful blue eyes. His twin's hair had gotten a little longer since the last time they'd seen each other, curls almost to the shoulder. He liked it. He couldn't help himself and pulled Declan into a tight hug. "How are you? Did the flight wear you out too much?" Burying his face in Donovan's chest, Declan’s voice faltered as he started to cry. "I'm much better now." He took a stuttered breath. "I just…I needed you." Donovan held his brother in a protective embrace. He kissed the top of Declan's head, "You've got me." Damn. If Declan only knew how much Declan had him. Breaking away enough to tilt Declan's chin upward, Donovan looked over his brother's face. Other than the large bandage, he could see the faint discoloration where bruises had once been. Something finally struck him; he narrowed his eyes as he looked at the healing bruises. "How long ago did this happen?" Declan tried to look away, but Donovan held his chin in a gentle but firm grip. Licking his lips, Declan refused to look into Donovan's eyes. "Almost three weeks." "What! This happened three weeks ago and I just got a call from you last night?" Now it was Donovan's turn to look away. He sighed and shook his head slightly. "Am I that bad of a brother you couldn't call me when you were hurt?" "No. You're a great brother." Declan was quick to say. "I just had some things I needed to work out before I could call. I spent my time in the hospital doing a lot of thinking. I couldn't have done that with you around." Declan looked like he was about to fall over. "Take me back to your house. We can talk there." Stepping Stones - 6 .
*** Once Declan was settled on the couch, Donovan went back out to his pickup to retrieve the luggage. Taking the bags to the spare bedroom, Donovan stuck his head back in the living room. "You want me to unpack some of this for you?" Staring out the wall of glass toward the water, Declan shook his head. "I can get it later." He looked over at Donovan. "You've got a beautiful place here. No wonder you never come out to San Francisco." He turned away from Donovan to stare outside again. Stepping further into the room, Donovan ran his fingers through his short, black hair. He walked through to the kitchen and took a beer out of the fridge. "Hey, you want a beer?" "No thanks. I'm still on meds. A glass of water would be nice, though." Opening the fridge, Donovan started to grab a bottle of water and stopped. He smiled to himself and extracted a green plastic pitcher instead. After filling a glass with ice, he topped it off with the bright red liquid. Grabbing his beer off the counter he walked back into the living room. "Here." He held the glass out to Declan. Looking up at the glass, Declan really smiled for the first time since he'd gotten off the plane. "Kool-Aid? Please tell me it's cherry." Declan took the glass and held it to his nose. "Ahh. It is cherry." "Of course it's cherry," Donovan answered as he sat on the couch next to Declan, "I never drink anything but cherry." Declan hummed approval as he took a big drink. "I thought you always liked the grape or that nasty green kind?" Shrugging, Donovan lifted his beer toward his mouth. "People change I guess." They sat in silence for a few minutes before Donovan set his beer on the side table. He crossed his ankles and leaned back on the couch, cocking his head toward Declan. "Talk to me." Finishing up another mouthful, Declan set the half-empty glass on the table before turning back to Donovan. Donovan couldn't help smiling. "What?" Declan asked. Reaching out, Donovan wiped at his brother's perfectly shaped lips, being careful of the long, white bandage. "You're still a kid. You've got a pretty red Kool-Aid mustache." Blushing, Declan wiped his mouth. "Kool-Aid will turn anyone into a kid again. It feels nice," he said reflectively, "I haven't felt young in along time." Stepping Stones - 7 .
Lightly touching the bandage on Declan's face, Donovan looked into his eyes. "Show me." "It's not pretty." Declan took a deep breath before pulling the surgical tape away from his skin. He lifted the gauze pad and once again refused to look at Donovan. The cut was about four inches long with another smaller cut jetting off toward Declan's chin. The sutures had been removed, or had already dissolved, Donovan didn't know which. "How did it happen?" When Declan shook his head, Donovan could tell his twin was shutting down again. Donovan decided to skip that line of questioning for the moment. "Why are you still wearing the bandage? It looks like it's healing nicely." "I look like a freak and I didn't want people staring at me on the plane." "So you think the big, white bandage draws less attention to you?" Donovan shook his head. "How did it happen?" When Declan tried to secure the bandage back to his face, Donovan stopped him. "Leave it off. I'll never look at you like you're a freak." Pulling the bandage the rest of the way off, Declan set it on the table next to his glass. Declan was silent for so long Donovan didn't think he would answer. Finally, Declan licked his lips and looked down at his hands. "Chet threw me out our second floor window. I cut my face and a few other places on the glass." Declan pointed toward his leg. "Screwed my knee up real bad when I landed, but it's better than a broken back." Without thought, Donovan pulled his brother into his arms. This had been more than a beating. Chet had tried to kill Declan this time. "Did someone file charges against him? Please tell me he's not going to get away with it this time. I know you told me you didn't know where Chet is, but are the police at least looking for him?" "Yeah, I filed, but Chet knows people all over the world. No telling where he's run off to." Declan snuggled deeper into Donovan's arms. "Thanks for letting me come here." Despite the horror of what his brother had just told him, Donovan's body refused to focus on anything but the feel of Declan in his arms. He felt his cock straining against his zipper and reluctantly pulled away. "I'm going to go make us some dinner. Why don't you go sit out on the deck? You look like you could use some sun." Stepping Stones - 8 .
Trying to hide the bulge behind his fly, Donovan walked into the kitchen. He watched through the cut-out in the wall as Declan rose and picked up the cane. Donovan's throat constricted as he watched his brother struggle just to get to the deck. Why couldn't he just get over his lust? Oh hell, who was he kidding? It wasn't lust he felt for Declan. It was love. The undying, forever kind of love that a man should only feel for someone outside his own gene pool. *** He was just sliding the grilled ham and cheese sandwiches onto a plate when the phone rang. Wiping his hands, Donovan picked it up. "Hello?" "Hey, hope I didn't catch you at a bad time. How's Declan?" his best friend, Marc, asked. Leaning back against the center island, Donovan looked out the window toward the deck. "Not good." Donovan quickly brought Marc up to speed on Declan’s injuries. "Oh shit. I'm sorry, man. What's he doing now? Because I can always call back later." "He looks like he might be asleep in the lounger out on the deck. What's up?" "Remember that Browning job we were talking about the other day? The big place I designed for that rich guy from Savannah? Well, I was talking to him about contractors today and told him yours was the perfect company for the job. He wants you to go down to Savannah and meet with him. I told him your brother just got into town and I didn't know, but I'd give you a call." Running his hand through his hair, Donovan looked out the window again. Marc was a successful architect, and often passed work to Donovan's construction company, knowing that Donovan's crew would do a good job. An opportunity like that was almost too good to turn down, regardless of the situation. Jasper Browning had a lot of clout up and down the coast. "Let me talk to Declan about it and see if he'll be all right here by himself for an afternoon. I'll let you know in a couple of hours." "Sounds good. I'm working at home for the next few days, so I can always stop in and check on him if you need me to." "Thanks. I'll let you know." After ending the call, Donovan put the plates on a tray along with some fruit and a couple of big glasses of Kool-Aid. He stepped through the open French doors and set the tray on the deck table. When he looked at Declan he felt his heart flutter. Even with the jagged looking scar Stepping Stones - 9 .
running down the side of Declan’s face, he still thought his brother was breathtaking. Declan's body looked so tiny and fragile. The image of his twin being tossed out a second-floor window caused bile to rise in his throat. Donovan walked over to the lounger to wake Declan and knelt beside it. This was his chance to really study the man he'd been in love with since he was seventeen. Declan's black brows were perfectly sculpted; Donovan could tell Declan'd done a little tweezing, but not enough to look feminine. He worked his way down, cataloging each perfect feature of Declan's face, from the long, curling, black lashes to the perfectly shaped nose and mouth. Asleep, the dimples in his brother's cheeks were barely visible, but Donovan knew they were there. Donovan allowed his eyes to wander down to Declan's small but sculpted chest. He wondered whether Declan still had the chiseled six-pack that used to make Donovan's mouth water every time he saw his brother without a shirt. One thing he was sure hadn't changed was the size of Declan's cock. Donovan smiled to himself, remembering how proud Declan had always been of the overly large size of that equipment. It was the only big thing on Declan's small frame and his brother used to walk around the house displaying that pride and joy all the time. Donovan didn't think his twin would have done it if his mother had been home, but with her working all the time it was usually just the two of them. Looking at the bulge behind Declan's softly faded jeans, Donovan stared in awe as it started to grow and harden under the fabric. Automatically, he started to lean toward it, when it finally dawned on him. He snapped his head back toward Declan's and saw his brother looking right at him. Donovan jumped up and walked toward the table. "Lunch is ready. I was just about to wake you." He turned back toward Declan as he sat down at the small outdoor table, and then cursed himself as he watch Declan struggle to get up from the lounger with that bad knee. "Fuck, I'm sorry." Donovan rose and went to help his brother. He didn't think twice before lifting Declan into his arms and carrying his brother to the table. Declan seemed surprised at first, and then relaxed for the short ride across the deck. Setting him gently in the chair, Donovan went back and retrieved the cane. "Thanks," Declan said in a soft, sleepy voice. "You're welcome," Donovan said before turning his attention to the lunch tray. "Eat up. I need to fatten you up while you're here." Taking a bite of his -- now cold -- grilled ham and cheese sandwich, Declan looked out toward the water. "I don't know if I ever want to go back." Sweat prickled on Donovan's forehead. "What do you mean? Are you afraid to go back?" Stepping Stones - 10 .