From the farms of Tennessee, Beau Watkins had it all in high school: the cute girl, the popular jock lifestyle, a loving family. As a rising freshman at an out-of-state college, he's determined to find out who he really is behind the fake it 'til you make it attitude. He joins Rainbow Connection, the gay student alliance, hoping to find himself.
Instead, he meets Vin Reyes. Raised by his grandparents and the heir to a prosperous company, Vin has been out of the closet since he figured out what that meant. He has it all: fashionable clothing, fancy cars, huge houses, and a real party lifestyle, even a bodyguard. Most of all, he has a secret.
Uncomfortable with Vin's generosity, Beau fights his growing attraction for the president of Rainbow Connection, instead chasing a series of shallow affairs. Vin's never been denied anything he wants, though, and now he wants Beau.
But it isn’t until an old rival puts Beau in the hospital that Vin realizes Beau means more to him than a simple affair. Can the two of them bridge the gap between their worlds and roll with the all the punches life throws at them?
"Well, aren't you magically delicious?" Shannon said, holding her hands up as if to shield her face from the radiance.
Vin turned in a slow circle, arms held up so that everyone could look at his magnificence. He was wearing kelly-green shorts with yellow tights, black combat boots, and rainbow suspenders.
A gaudy ginger wig of curls perched precariously on his head, held in place with a black cocked hat. "I know, right?" He slithered up to Beau. "Want to try my lucky charms?" He offered Beau a sly wink and shook the bag Vin carried over his shoulder. The bag clinked and clattered agreeably.
"God, put a shirt on before you poke someone's eye out!" Beau tweaked the offending nipple under the rainbow suspenders and Vin shivered. Not entirely from the cold. "What's in the bag?"
Vin clasped the bag tighter. "I might show you," he said, snuggling up to Beau's side. "You do put off some body heat, don't you?"
"It helps that I'm not half-naked," Beau said. He rolled his eyes. "Seriously, bro, at least 'til the parade starts. I'll be warm enough in the cab." Beau peeled out of his winter coat -- brand new from the smell and the stiffness of the zipper. "Here, put it on. I'll hold your damn bag."
Vin slid the coat over his shoulders, smelling Beau's cigarettes, the tang of his shampoo and that faint cut-grass smell that seemed to follow Beau around. "Oh, nice," Vin said, stuffing his hands in the pockets and feeling the warm pockets of air inside. He curled his fingers loosely, pins and needles racing to deliver the message to his fingertips that maybe, just maybe, he should have reconsidered his costume. Just a bit.
Beau opened the bag and looked in. He pulled out a handful of Mardi Gras type throws. Small plastic cups, green with the rainbow symbol, and coins in a plethora of colors, each stamped with Rainbow Connection and a leprechaun face on the obverse, and rows upon rows of beads.
"Where did you get these?"
Vin hummed thoughtfully. "Donations."
Beau's full mouth narrowed into a flat line. "You bought them?"
"Oh, come on!" Vin protested. "It's my money, right? I went through all the proper channels and if you keep your mouth shut, no one has to know. We pulled in a couple grand from the alum funding drive, right? No one's going to notice that I slipped in some extra. And it'll encourage participation next year if we have a really great parade, right?"
Beau sighed. "Look, I just --"
"I'll give you a kiss and a coin not to tell anyone," Vin offered, heart suddenly racing. Just the idea of placing his mouth on Beau's made his breath come faster.
"You know I'm not going to rain on your parade," Beau said, then laughed at his own joke. "But let me see here." He looked back in the bag, rooting through the throws. "Um, I don't think you meant to have this in there."
Vin snatched the flask away, unscrewed the cap and drank a few quick swallows. "That's medicinal," he protested. "In case you haven't noticed, it's cold as fuck out here."
Beau cocked an eyebrow at him. "I'm the one from the south," he said. "And it's too cold out here to fuck. My aunt bought me that coat just two weeks ago because my jacket wasn't cutting it, even just to get to class and back." Beau was shivering, his jaw chattering around the words.
"Oh, come here, you idiot," Vin said. He hauled on Beau's sleeve and drew the younger man into an embrace, pulling him up against Vin's side to share body heat and the coat's wind-breaking ability. "Gyah! And I thought my hands were cold!" He squealed as Beau slipped icy fingers around his waist.
"Your hands are cold," Beau said, breathing hot into Vin's ear. "And so are your shoulders and all the rest of you. How many shots did you take before deciding that going to the parade half-naked -- in October -- was any sort of sane?"
The air horn flared into noisy chaos, signaling the ten minutes before the parade. "Here, take the coat," Vin said. "You're sure this rusty heap of yours is good for the parade?"
The look Beau gave him was flat, annoyed, and worthy of a custom frame job. "It's a farm truck, Vin. Believe me, I can haul your wagon from here to Tennessee and back."