Derek lives for his work with his only outlet being the friends he has on social media. When he meets Tyler in an author’s group, Derek is enchanted by the man’s contagious bright smile, laid-back attitude, and lust for life. Derek understandably wants more. He spontaneously requests a friendship, and soon the two men are inseparable in an undeniable bond that transpires over the internet. Derek shares his inexplicable draw to the charismatic Tyler in a love story that brings Derek to life.
They were standing together by the bank of elevators talking about last year's conference. It was obvious by their loud and boisterous discussion that they'd been friends for years and had many stories to reminisce and re-live. He knew some of the names to go with their faces from stalking them on social media. He had read many of their books and followed their author groups and various accounts for years. Though he'd known about the yearly conferences, he'd never been able to attend due to his tight schedule and court responsibilities until this year—at least, that was the excuse he told himself. It'd been his lucky year when the organizers announced that the retreat would be in his home town, Denver, on the same weekend that he expected his caseload to lighten up before the next assignment. So he was able to take the needed week off to attend.
The conference was across the city, and he’d opted to stay at the hotel where the events were taking place. He’d heard from his virtual friends that the festivities often bled into the wee hours of the morning and Derek wasn’t sacrificing a single moment of debauchery. His nerves were flooded with adrenaline from the excitement of finally meeting his friends and the authors that he loved so much. Even though Derek lived so close, he still brought two suitcases full of belongings. One bag was full of costumes and clothing changes while the second held books that he was hoping to have signed by his favorite authors. To say he was a fanboy was a gross understatement.
Derek was nervous with sweaty palms and butterflies in his stomach quickly turning into bats. He stood in line to check into the hotel while trying to take quick peeks at the group of authors chatting amicably and surveying the lobby for more arrivals. There was quite the array of attendees with most of them being women. When he'd first learned about the genre, he was surprised that a majority of women loved gay romance. He'd only known about it for about ten years when online shopping. He couldn’t recall how he'd wandered into that particular corner of the electronic books section, but it had changed his life for the better. He'd been ravenous, consuming so many stories that it felt like he'd been in a book bubble for months. Once he’d resurfaced to real life, he’d found his favorite authors online, and it was like a holiday when he found that he could befriend them on social media. Having conversations and discussions about his favorite characters was the highlight of every lunch break at work, and meeting friends in a chat group to talk about upcoming stories was the best before bed. He'd felt like he'd made real friends, and after exchanging phone numbers and email addresses, he'd kept in touch with all of them outside of social media.
“Are you checking in, sir?” Katie—as indicated on her shining brass name tag—motioned for him to approach the gleaming black marble counter. He handed her his driver’s license and credit card he’d made the reservation under and signed all of the required paperwork.
“You’ll be needing two key cards. Is that correct?”
“Yes. My close friend will be coming in tomorrow. Can I leave a key for him here at the desk?”
“That would be fine. He will just need a form of identification and your name. Then, everything can be arranged. Here is also a welcome package from this week’s GEL conference.”
“Thank you.” The colorful folder was adorned with a beautiful nude model, respectfully turned so as not to reveal too much, but was considerably different from other conference welcome materials he had received at other events.
“I must say that we’re enjoying the attendees at this conference and the acronym GEL Con is hilarious. Gay Erotic Love, who thought of that one? Some of those other cons tend to look down their noses at hotel workers and think we’re at their personal beck and call, but your group likes to have us join in the celebrations. I think we are all going to have a great time this week.” Katie winked and handed Derek his key card. “Will you be needing anything else this evening?”
“I’m good. Thank you.”
“Have a pleasant stay, sir. If you need anything, please feel free to let us know.”
He’d heard about attendees who shared their rooms with a complete stranger from a document that circulated on the group website. Not being quite so adventurous, Derek was sharing a room with his best friend.