It's time to come home, Finn.
It’s been seven years since Daniel Finley left his hometown in Florida for the hustle and bustle of Chicago’s city life.
Since then, he’s worked hard for his position at the prestigious law firm Leighton & Associates, even when it’s caused distance and isolation from his family and friends. But that’s all about to change.
On his thirtieth birthday, he receives the one thing he never dared hope for. Something that was promised to him years earlier—a note. One simple sentence from the man he’s never been able to forget.
Six words will forever change the course of their lives.
Brantley Hayes has it all. Or so he thinks. When he first made the decision to take a job down in Florida, his family thought he was crazy. But, after years of living in the quiet beach town, he finally feels a sense of community. He’s surrounded himself with friends who are like family, has a job he loves, and owns a spectacular beachfront property that is his sanctuary.
Yet he still feels unfulfilled, as if a piece of the puzzle is missing, and he knows exactly which piece it is. On an impulse, he follows through with a promise he made years earlier. A promise to call home the one he sent away.
Nothing is as simple as it seems.
After years of separation, the former lovers are reunited, but Brantley wasn’t expecting to encounter the high walls now guarding Daniel’s heart.
Daniel may not be the same person he was when he left, but he knows that the first step to healing is the note in his hand.
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I am the author of the Exquisite Series, including Exquisite, Entice and Edible. I also released my first Erotic Novel, Blind Obsession in March 2013.
I'm a happily married woman and mother to a crazy cat. I've been writing ever since I fell in love with falling in love and I credit that to my Nan who handed me my first romance novel.
Currently I reside in the Southern portion of the United States of America.
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BRANTLEY KEPT A discreet eye on the final student to leave for the morning as Mr. Finley strode down the stairs to the front of the classroom. They were three weeks into the semester and he was ashamed to admit that, with every day that passed, his fascination with the young man grew.
At first, he’d tried to convince himself that it was purely academic. The kid was smart. He’d aced all the weekly quizzes, and Brantley was more than aware of the way he watched him lecture with keen, intelligent eyes that never strayed from him.
Oh, he was fascinated, all right, but he made sure to tell himself at the end of every class that it had nothing to do with the mischievous grin Daniel would flash at his friends or the easygoing laugh that would bubble up out of him at any given moment. But he knew he was lying. Daniel was quite possibly the happiest person he’d ever met, and his joy of life lit up the room and everyone in it. Including him.
When Daniel stopped in front of him and dropped his paper on the desk, Brantley acknowledged him with a glance before returning his gaze back to the notes he was going over.
“Any big plans this weekend, Professor?”
The question had been so unexpected that he didn’t think to catch himself before he replied, “Nothing too big. Just going out with some friends. You?”
Daniel smiled at him as he shoved his arms through the loops of his backpack, and Brantley couldn’t help but look at his shirt as it stretched across his broad chest.
“I’m going to hit the beach. Such great waves right now.”
“Ahh, you like to surf. That explains it.”
When the side of Daniel’s mouth crooked up, the effect was charming as hell. The kid was a knockout.
Annoyed that he’d made such a stupid slipup, he looked back at the papers in front of him, hoping Daniel would get the message and leave. No such luck.
“Explains what?” he asked again.
Brantley sighed and rested his arms on the desk as he studied Daniel’s inviting face. “It explains your hair.”
“My—oh,” he said, touching the ends of it. “Do you like it?”
Stunned by the direct question, he sat back in his chair and fought the smile tugging at the corners of his lips. “Do I like your hair?”
“Does it matter?” Jesus, fuck. Stop it. Stop flirting with him.
But it was too late. Daniel put his hands on the desk and leaned forward, Brantley toed the ground, shoving his chair back.
“No. No, it couldn’t,” he said as he got to his feet, shaking his head.
Daniel straightened and tucked his thumbs into the straps of his backpack, no doubt to taunt him. His eyes were too knowing for someone his age, and when they held his longer than was acceptable, Brantley’s heart skipped a couple of beats.
“Was there something else, Mr. Finley?”
“You said you were going out with friends this weekend…”
Shit, did I? “Yes, that’s right.”
As Daniel ran his thumb down the left strap of his bag, he admonished himself for noticing every little move he made. He needed to get a fucking hold of himself.
“Are any of them more than a friend?”
If he hadn’t been watching Daniel quite so closely, he wouldn’t have believed the words that had just come out of his mouth. But he had been. So he did.
“I don’t believe that’s any of your business. You better hurry or you’ll miss your next class.”
Satisfied that he’d firmly dismissed Daniel, he sat down and made a show of focusing on the books lining his desk and didn’t dare look and see if he had left this time or not. He wasn’t sure what he’d do if he was still standing there.
He reached up to adjust his tie, which suddenly felt a little too tight around his neck, and with each passing second that he was consciously not checking to see if he was alone, he swore that it was getting tighter.
His head snapped up at his name, and when Daniel had his attention, he continued.
“Are you gay?”
Brantley’s eyes widened, and he wondered how his mouth hadn’t fallen open at the blunt question. Instead, he went with, “Excuse me?”
“I asked if you were—”
“I heard what you said. But I don’t see how that is any business of yours, either. You should think before you speak, Mr. Finley. I’m your teacher, and it’s time for you to leave. This conversation is over.” He flipped open one of the books on his desk and shook his head. He couldn’t believe the audacity of the kid—or the fact that he was so damn forthright. As he sat there, grinding his teeth in an effort not to look at his student—who was still standing in front of his desk—a bead of sweat ran down his collar and he cursed the fact that his nerves were getting the better of him.
“I only asked because, well, I am too. And I thought it would be nice to have someone to talk to.”
Well, hell. He couldn’t fault him for that. The only problem was…talking wasn’t what sprang to mind when he was around Daniel Finley.
He clasped his hands on the desk and stared into the anxious face peering down at him. Daniel was worrying his lower lip with his teeth, and he suddenly looked very much the young man he was.
“Are you?” he asked again, and there was no way he could deny that hesitant curiosity.
“Yes, Daniel. I am.”
As his words drifted between them, Daniel’s mouth slipped into a smile. “Oh.”
Brantley laughed at that. He wasn’t sure what Daniel was thinking right then. He’d thought for sure with the way he’d been looking at him earlier that, if he’d admitted this, he would be fending off—or at least putting up a good show of fending off—an unwanted pass. But, instead, Daniel appeared thoughtful.
“Does that bother you?”
Daniel adamantly shook his head. “No.”
“Are you sure?” he pressed, and the look that entered Daniel’s eyes then was so hot that he thought he may overheat.
“Yes. I'm very sure.”
Oh, fuck. Okay. Where the hell did the nervous guy disappear to? One minute, Daniel was endearingly awkward, and the next, he was looking at him like he wanted to strip him out of his clothes and—“Stop right there,” he said, and he wasn’t sure if he was telling himself that or the contradiction eyeing him with newfound knowledge. “Whatever you're thinking, stop thinking it.”
Yep, he was fucked. That wasn’t a word he generally used, but in this case, he was well and truly fucked. He should’ve just stuck to the run-along-now speech.
“Because I'm your teacher.”
“This isn’t high school. I’m an adult.”
He sighed. “That may be true. But I’m your professor and this conversation is inappropriate.”
“How? I just asked if you were gay and you said yes. I don't see what the problem is.”
When Daniel aimed a mischievous grin at him, Brantley knew he was very aware of what the problem was.
“Out,” he said, pointing to the door. “Time to leave, Mr. Finley.”
This time, he made sure to watch Daniel so he knew he was actually leaving. He walked to the door, but at the last minute, he turned around to look back at him. Not willing to back down and show weakness, Brantley kept his eyes on his student as Daniel ran his tongue along his lower lip.
“You should call me Finn. Everyone else does.”
Christ. The kid was going to drive him to an early grave, but damn if he didn’t laugh at his audacity.
“Out,” he said again, and this time Daniel pushed out the door and disappeared into the hall.
Copyright © 2016 Ella Frank