After injury forces Brendan Gateman to stop playing pro football, he falls back on his physical education and teaching degrees and begins coaching high school ball. Settling into a new town and hanging with his defensive coordinator, Dan Roper, Brendan finally feels like his life is back on track. His only regret is that the fear of losing not only his new life but his family forces him to remain deep in the closet. Still, he has two of the three things people always want out of life, and that’s enough for him. At least, that’s what he thinks until he meets paramedic Randy Coughlan. The out and proud man makes Brendan start rethinking his choices. When problems in Randy’s life forces the man to make some tough choices, will Brendan’s insecurities make him walk away? Or will he step up and become the man he never thought possible but always wanted to be?
“Guess we shoulda checked. Is all the paperwork giving us authority to administer medical treatment in order?”
Dan jerked a nod. “Yep.”
Randy’s focus finally left the wound he inspected. “Uh, you know this isn’t life threatening, right? What are the stipulations in your paperwork? Can we really treat him?”
Brendan remembered the wording of the paperwork he’d had each and every player take home to their parents to sign. He could assume medical responsibility for wounds that were diagnosed as life threatening as well as something that threatened a player’s football career. This might be stretching it a bit, considering Ross was only a sophomore and it was only stitches, but if Brendan could figure out a way to get him into the game, he’d be justified.
“The repercussions would be mine, should anything be questioned,” Brendan stated softly, his deep voice drawing attention, just as he knew it would. “Just take care of Ross.”
“Right, let’s get ya fixed up then, Ross,” Wade stated. “This is a local anesthetic. It’ll numb the area up a bit. Deep breath, now, Ross. This will sting just a bit.”
Ross didn’t nod, but responded by focusing on the tent wall and taking a slow, deep breath. Wade stuck him, and Brendan had to look away. He’d always hated needles.
“I’m headed back to round up the boys,” Brendan told Dan.
Dan nodded and grinned. “Good idea. Don’t want the team to be late to our first game.”
Brendan smirked and lifted a brow. “Yep, that would be embarrassing, huh?” He sure appreciated that was the conclusion Dan had jumped to. Unable to resist one more glance toward the cute blond—the most likely straight and completely off limits cute blond, damn it—Brendan caught Randy’s eye. “He’ll be okay, then?” he couldn’t resist asking.
Randy smiled at him and, damn, if the way it lit his vibrant green eyes didn’t hit Brendan like a kick in the gut. His cock plumped in his slacks, and never had he been so grateful for his thigh-length jacket. Well, shit, he’d really need to watch himself around this guy. Randy somehow pushed all his buttons without even trying, and Brendan had no clue why.
Spinning around, Brendan took a step and nearly plowed into a small boy who must have just come sprinting into the tent, judging from the youngster’s flushed face and heaving chest. “Whoa, there, turbo.” Brendan grabbed the kid’s shoulders, so he didn’t land on his butt after bouncing off Brendan’s legs. “You all right there?”
“Uh, huh. You’re tall!” The child peered up at him with wide green eyes.
Brendan chuckled. He figured to a maybe seven or eight year old boy, his six foot four inch height was pretty tall. “You eat your vegetables, maybe you’ll get this tall,” he teased. He’d always loved kids, so helping raise his brothers hadn’t been a hardship. Sadly, he’d resigned himself to not having any of his own when he was a teenager and realized he was gay. Just because he wasn’t out didn’t mean he’d marry some poor woman to keep his secret. He’d never do that to another. Besides, the only way he could manage to get it up for a woman was when he was drunk, and he never wanted to be that kind of a man.
“Hey, Toby, what are you doing here? I thought you were with Lorna,” Randy said, drawing attention.
Brendan released the boy, Toby, and watched him scurry to Randy’s side. “Lorna is outside. She said her dad is doing a barba-barba…” His brows scrunched as he struggled with the word.
“Barbeque?” Randy prodded gently.
Toby nodded emphatically. “Yeah. That. Mister Lewis says we could go. Can we? They’re cooking hot dogs!”
The boy’s obvious excitement at that announcement made Brendan smile. God, they could be so cute at that age.
Randy nodded. “Sure, sport. That sounds like a good idea. Why don’t you head back out with Lorna, and let Mister Lewis know we’d love to come.”
“Okay!” Then, Toby was off, tearing past Brendan and out of the tent. “We can go! We can go!” he hollered to someone outside.
“He’s sure turning out well, even with Candy for a mom.”
Brendan’s brows shot up at Wade’s murmured comment. His gaze flicked to Randy, who smiled faintly and nodded once. Next, Brendan glanced at Randy’s hand, but it was covered in a plastic glove and he couldn’t tell if the man wore a ring.
Giving himself a mental shake, Brendan scrambled from the room. He shouldn’t be wondering anyway. Randy had a boy, and even if he was divorced from that Candy woman, obviously the boy’s mother, Brendan was still in the closet…deep, deep in the closet.
And that’s where I gotta stay.
With that thought firmly in mind, he strode from the tent. For the first time in a long, long while, Brendan realized he felt regret.