After being disappointed too many times by the hook-up sites, Broadway dancer Darrin Houghton takes down his profiles. However, when he gets a message from an intriguing hunk on a site he’d forgotten about, Darrin sets up a meeting despite his reservations.
Brad Grabosky is a deeply closeted football player in the NFL. Brad has a preference for no strings attached, anonymous, one night flings in seedy motel rooms.
However, love has a way of complicating the intentions of both men, leading them to make compromises they never thought possible. Will Darrin and Brad find a way to get to first and goal and ultimately score a touchdown? Or will their chance at happiness be fumbled away?
He opened the Google app. “Okay, Google.” When the phone beeped he said, “Find images of football players that wear number eighty-eight.”
Within a short time, dozens of pictures filled the small screen. Darrin scrolled through them, surprised and irritated at the number of players who wore that particular number. Near the end of the images he found him, Charlie’s rugged handsome face was smiling out at him. Darrin clicked on it to enlarge it. Yes, it was definitely Charlie. Next to the image was a name: Brad Grabosky, tight end, currently playing for the New York Hounds. It listed his school, playing history, stats, and family. Three brothers were also football players. Darrin quickly skimmed through the information. When he got to the end he shook his head and said, “Well, at least he’s single.”
He’d no more said this when the door opened. Charlie, now exposed as Brad, walked in.
Darrin looked up at him, held up his smartphone so that Brad could see what he’d been looking at, and said, “Hi, Brad.”
The man responded as if the wind had been knocked out of him. He let out a groan and closed his eyes. His head slumped.
Darrin was surprised at the man’s reaction. It seemed a bit extreme. He got off the bed and walked over to the giant. “It’s okay. I won’t kick you out just because you play football,” he said, trying to lighten the mood.
The man raised his eyes to look at Darrin. “You won’t tell anyone, will you? Please.” His voice almost shook.
Darrin was touched. Here was this giant of a man, so big, so strong, and yet so vulnerable. “Of course not.” Darrin put a hand on the big guy’s shoulder.
Although things were changing somewhat, Darrin understood that homophobia was still rampant in sports. He’d read an article somewhere about how a few athletes in big time sports had come out, one a football player, but that hadn’t turned out well.
This was Darrin’s first exposure to what fear of being outed could do. His coming out had been so easy, so natural. He was a dancer, after all. It was almost a given you were gay or at least bisexual. In theater circles no one seemed to give a shit either way, not so in sports. In sports coming out could mean the end of a career.
Darrin led Charlie, now Brad -- he’d have to adjust to that -- to the bed. They sat down. Brad put his head in his hands.
“This is what I get for breaking my own rules. I shoulda never met anyone here in town, where I play, where I live. ‘Once, Brad only once,’ I told myself. ‘Don’t go back for seconds, no matter how good it is. It’s too dangerous. Someone’s gonna recognize you and that’ll be it.’ I shoulda listened to my own advice.”
Darrin was reminded that he had broken all of his rules about meeting someone, as well. He had done it because there was something about this gentle giant, something he couldn’t explain, that kept him wanting to see more of the guy. “Hey,” Darrin said, now rubbing Brad’s broad left shoulder, “I would never out you.”
Brad looked at Darrin as if he wanted to believe him. Then looked away.
“Why did you decide to meet me again?” Darrin asked.
Brad waited a few seconds to respond, then said, “That first time we was together, well, it weren’t no ordinary fuck. For me, anyway.” Brad turned his face to Darrin’s. “For me it was special, something I never felt before, or wanted to let myself feel. But I just couldn’t get it, or you, outta my mind.”
Darrin’s mind went back to their first meeting. He hadn’t imagined it. Brad had felt it, too: that indefinable sense that something deeper was going on between them, something more meaningful than just sex.
Darrin didn’t know what to say, how to let Brad know he had felt the same way. Brad was still looking at him, searching Darrin’s face as if needing reassurance that his secret was really safe. So rather than try to put it into words Darrin leaned in and kissed him.
Brad pulled away. “Don’t play with me,” he said gruffly, evidently misunderstanding what Darrin’s kiss implied.
“I’m not,” Darrin said. “I’m trying to let you know I feel the same way ... that there’s more here for us than an afternoon romp in the hay.”
Now it was Brad who seemed not to have the words. He just stared at Darrin.
Darrin took the big man’s hand in his. “Look, it’s been a while since I let myself be open to anything more than shallow hook-ups. But I’d like to try and see where this goes.”
Darrin could almost see the struggle going on in Brad’s mind. It was reflected in his face, his body language.
“I guess ... I guess I’d like that, too,” Brad said, tightening his grip on Darrin’s hand slightly. “But I don’t know what I got to offer you, other than this.” He gestured around at the small motel room.
“Maybe that’s enough for a start,” Darrin said.