Book 28 in the Action! Series
As things ramp up for the men of the Action! Series, the fallout from Mark and Steve’s separation continues to play havoc on the group. What has become intolerable friction between them, splits the close knit men apart, choosing sides.
As Mark Antonious Richfield battles to gain what he lost, his father’s billion dollar business, his husband Steven Jay Miller, forces himself to come to terms with reality.
But all is not lost for the two men… The dust will settle…the love remains. And…an even stronger partnership has been made between them.
Mark & Steve- Falling Hard…we skinned our knees when we did it as kids. As adults, we fall for another reason. Passion and loyalty. And it’s both of those traits that keep the men of the Action! Series from falling…apart.
Wearing tight white pants, a brimmed blue cap, and a numbered jersey, Mark Antonious Richfield held a bat ready.
Stan’s gay coed baseball league had begun spring training, and he had been invited to join.
In the mild Southern California sunshine, Mark waited for his first pitch. To his pleasure, it came right down the pipe, as he had hoped. He swung, making a loud crack-sound and watched it sail.
Standing behind the backstop with his teammates, Stan Charles pumped his arm in joy and screamed for Mark to run the bases. The ball bounced deeply into the outfield, and the opposing side was battling to throw it towards the pitcher.
“Go! Mark! Go!”
Everyone was on their feet cheering.
Mark, running like a gazelle, had lost his cap rounding second, and was barreling towards home.
Stan was so excited he couldn’t believe how incredible Mark’s performance was.
Beside him his buddies were yelling encouragement as they jumped up and down, pumping their arms over their heads.
Mark slid hands first into home plate and at his aggressive move, the catcher lost the ball and stumbled to retrieve it.
Stan raced over to Mark, who was smiling when the umpire called him, “Safe!” Mark’s white uniform was coated in the brown clay dust as he sat up and seemed to appreciate the cheering surrounding him.
Becca laughed when she said, “Let me guess, you’ve played this game before.”
“A bit.” Mark stood, leaning over to brush the dirt from his pants.
Oswald shot Stan a big smile. “You have to be kidding me! He’s going to rock this team into first place.”
Fred handed Mark his baseball cap.
“Thank you, love.” Mark put it on his head, his shoulder-length brown hair flowing under it. Mark wiped his palms on his thighs and caught his breath.
Stan was in awe as Mark composed himself after the home run. Lou was up at bat next, and it felt anticlimactic after the supermodel’s first time at bat.
Stan brushed off Mark’s jersey for him and then pulled him into his embrace. “Where did you play?”
“Stanford. Jackie and I met whilst we were on the same team.”
Becca handed Mark a bottle of water, beaming at him.
“Ta, love.” Mark drank from it.
“Son-of-a-bitch.” Stan shook his head. “Baseball at Stanford U?”
“Yes.” Mark wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “I was invited to join a minor league club, but I didn’t take them up on it.” Mark set the bottle down on their bench as Lou took a ball and backed away from the plate.
Stan tugged on Mark’s long hair playfully, madly in love with him.
“I’m a filthy mess.” Mark looked at his hands and knees.
Stan gazed at the bulge in Mark’s tight white pants and resisted the urge to touch him there.
“Strike!” was called.
Stan and Mark focused on the game, leaning shoulder to shoulder as they enjoyed the day, and the team-building sport.
Steven Jay Miller slouched low on a lawn chair.
A beer in his hand, Steve stared into space as his sister Laura secured a tablecloth to a picnic table in her backyard in Pasadena.
As she struggled to keep it from blowing, Steve said, “Why don’t we eat inside?”
“I guess it’s too early in the year for a picnic-barbeque.”
Steve’s brother-in-law, Barry was turning chicken and steaks on the outdoor grill. His eight-year old niece Chloe opened the back slider. “Mom?”
“Yes?” Laura gave up on the picnic table.
Steve sat up and hoped it was Barry’s mother, since he had not told his parents that he and his husband Mark had separated.
“We’re coming inside, Chloe. Why don’t you set the table?” Laura avoided Steve’s eye.
“The steaks are done, Laura.” Barry used tongs to place them on the platter. “The chicken needs another minute.”
Steve leaned his elbows on his knees, the bottle in his hand. “Laura? You didn’t invite Dad, did you?” Just as Steve said it, his parents entered the backyard.
His mother wore a hand-knit red wool sweater, a large cross hung around her neck. “Hello, Laura. Barry…Steven.”
Steve noticed his father, a former LAPD police sergeant, peering out of the sliding door. He was in a scruffy flannel shirt, and his beer belly hung over his baggy-belted pants. The bitter man had gone completely gray in both his hair and his unshaven beard.
“Hi, Mom,” both Barry and Laura said in greeting.
Steve tried to keep calm. He had taken off his wedding ring recently.
He glanced up at his mother, who was getting old, and looking haggard from what he could only assume was living with his idiot father. He stood up. “Hi, Mom.” He gave her a brief hug. When he turned to see his father, the angry man had walked away from the glass slider.
“Where’s Mark?” Susan asked, “Is he modeling?”
“Uh.” Steve caught his sister’s glance as she took the tray of steaks from Barry.
“Mom?” Chloe asked as she stood at the open back slider, “Grandpa wants to know where he should put the beer he brought.”
“Steve?” Laura asked, “Can you show Dad the cooler in the garage?”
He bit his lower lip and restrained the urge to say ‘fuck you’ to his older sister, since he adored her. But, this was too much. Dealing with his racist, homophobic father, and…having to tell them Mark and he were separated? FUCK.
Susan gestured for Steve to go inside. “Go say hello to your father.”
My father? Do you mean the asshole who aimed a gun at my African American girlfriend? The one who called my husband a pedophile? Steve clenched his jaw and brought his empty beer bottle into the house. His father, who also appeared much older than a man in his early seventies, was standing near a case of cheap beer he had placed on the counter.
“In the garage.” Steve put his bottle on the table Chloe was setting. Since his father just snarled in reply, Steve picked up the case and took it into the garage for him. He loaded up the iced cooler, and took one of the bottles, twisting off the cap. Lingering in the cluttered garage, one that was too full of junk and tools to hold a car, Steve drank his beer and wanted to leave.
His father approached him. “Can ya give me a beer?”
Steve handed him one.
“Where’s your wedding ring?” Dick Miller asked as he held the bottle near his mouth.
Steve was about to toss him a caustic reply but simply couldn’t. He didn’t have the energy to fight.
“Stevie? Dad?” Laura looked into the garage. “Your steaks are on the table.”
As Steve entered the kitchen near her, he snarled, “You didn’t tell me they were coming.”
“Tell them.” She appeared angry.
Steve avoided her and stood behind his plate at the table.
Chloe looked upset. “Are you okay, Uncle Steve?”
His mother, Susan, took notice when she did.
“Yes.” Steve tipped up the beer, wanting no part of this little Saturday afternoon dinner.