Daniel Self, the former college football hero, returns from the battlefields of Afghanistan to find that he has lost everyone in his life he truly valued. Dunnelly takes him to the gravesites of his mother, sister, wife, and then, at the corner of a chain link fence, with nothing but weeds and grass burrs, is the flat unadorned grave marked Jamie Lee Barnes. The man who lived his life as a female deserved so much more. Jamie’s friend, Lauren, formerly Larry, must do her best to fill the void.
In the midst of coming to terms with his past demons, Daniel meets a woman who reminds him of his former wife. Her name is Melanie Carlisle, a woman accustomed to getting what she wants, and she wants Daniel. She’s his boss, and she’s out for revenge for something Jenna did years ago. But Melanie isn’t Daniel’s only problem. David Towne is a sports icon and celebrity who gives the appearance of being a happily married man, living in a big Highland Park house, but is just as lonely and needy of love as anyone. In reality, he’s married to a real lizard of a woman who has her girlfriends and goes her own way, while he likes to play with the boys, and he wants Daniel as one of his boys.
Daniel leaned back as he felt the warmth consume him. He was feeling a surprising moment of relaxation and a freedom from the petty irritations he dealt with in his day to day demands. He not only felt a warm and relaxing place, but a feeling of liberation and lack of expectations. Was this about sex, or need, or friendship? David Towne was a man who could have whatever he wanted, and he knew it. What was in it for Daniel?
They both leaned back in silence, eyes closed, with no need for conversation. Their feet gently touched and their legs made casual contact. Minutes passed in comforting silence as David opened his eyes, found his beer and took a sip. Daniel didn’t move as David leaned in and kissed him on the lips. It was at first a gentle kiss as he paused for reaction, and when Daniel showed no reaction, he moved in for a more passionate kiss.
Daniel didn’t react, he simply enjoyed, as if it were a kiss from anyone. He found no need to react, and he remained quite still, wordless, but thinking of the face and the man that had just kissed him. Daniel opened his eyes and he could see David standing over him with a slight smile.
“You’re not surprised…” Daniel placed a finger over David’s mouth in a motion to not speak.
David moved in closer and sat back in the water. His point had been made. He had his arm and shoulder around Daniel’s neck, and he gently massaged his shoulder.
“Does Michele have a problem with you being involved in situations like these?” Daniel asked as he opened his eyes.
“Hardly,” David answered, “She’s off on a trip with her girlfriend now, and I’m sure she’s enjoying herself,” he smiled.
Daniel, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about you, and I wanted to get to know you in a more personal way.” Melanie smiled slyly as she spoke. “How are things going for you here at the company?” she asked.
“So far so good, I suppose,” Daniel replied honestly.
“Well, I understand your sales have really taken off. Everyone seems to be talking about you,” she continued as she crossed her legs seductively. “Tell me a little about yourself, Daniel. I hear you’re just out of the military, and as well, a combat zone. That must have been very tough on you.” She removed one stud earring from her ear and massaged the lobe seductively, which was something right out of the Jenna Samms playbook. She continued to look Daniel in the eyes as she reinserted the post and stud. “So Daniel, I understand you recently lost your wife. I’m so sorry.” She paused and took a breath. “I wanted to ask a favor of you. I was wondering if you would be kind enough to assist me in the booth on the convention floor in New Orleans.” She surveyed his face for reaction.
“Well, I guess…whatever the company needs,” Daniel said as he answered reluctantly. “Just let me know what you need from me, and I’ll do my best.”
She smiled slyly, as if she had a secret to share.
The cheers, whistles, and cat calls subsided and the lights dimmed as Lauren took center stage under a pink spot which cast an ethereal glow as the music began. The crowd was drawn to the moment, as most knew Lauren, her history with the club, and more importantly, her memories of Jamie. Tonight was for Daniel. Jamie had loved him for her own reasons, but Lauren loved and respected him for who he was.
Daniel stood out of view behind the curtain, but he could see Lauren from behind. David stood close behind him, with his hand on his shoulder. Daniel’s eyes flooded with tears as memories of the river bank back in Willow, his moments with Jamie, with Dunnelly, and with Jenna came to him. It was all so long ago, but etched in his memories. They would always be there. He moved away from the curtain as Lauren quickly left the stage.
In the rush of the moment, she caught the look of sadness on Daniel’s face. She gave him a knowing peck on the cheek, “Man up, Mister. This is only the beginning,” she said to Daniel, and laughed as the music began for the next performer. She could tell by the look on David Towne’s face that he was in unfamiliar territory.
Lauren made a quick change as she turned to David. “Zip me up, will ya, and get that look off your face, this ain’t the fifty yard line, is it?”
Daniel and David watched backstage in jaw dropping awe as the drags rushed back and forth. Wigs came off, dresses fell to the floor, and tubes of lip gloss rolled across the makeup table.
David looked at Daniel, “Michele could have saved a shit load of my money on all those surgeries to her face if she had just spent a couple of hours backstage here,” David laughed.