Cover Artist: Valerie Tibbs
Publisher: Loose Id, LLC.
Editor: Heather Sedlak


 Irus Beaumont, cornerback for the Highlanders, has an issue with his nemesis: wideout for the Pirates, Jackson McCoy. Partly jealous over Jackson’s skill and ability to scrub coverage, Irus also struggles against an unbearable attraction to the receiver. Firmly ensconced in the closet, Irus also has a no football player rule, leaving his desires for Jackson unfulfilled. Anti-gay sentiment in the league keeps Irus closeted, even though he’d rather be out and proud.

When Jackson McCoy suffers a gay bashing at the hands of his team mates after winning the national championship, he finds himself traded to the Highlanders. Spring training brings out Jackson’s competitive nature, eliciting the aggression of his new team’s cornerback, Irus Beaumont.
In practice, Irus hurts Jackson badly. The injury places Jackson on the reserve roster. Jacks has plenty of time to contemplate his life, career, and his attraction to the sexy cornerback. Off to Orlando for the best rehab, Jackson can’t stop thinking about Irus, or what the season holds for his team.

Guilt inspires Irus to spend every evening on phone with Jackson encouraging him to heal. A friendship forms. Desire infuses their training. Trust creates a bond stronger than team mates or lovers.


Excerpt: 1st and 10 Charity Football Camp
Irus Beaumont:
The sun shines brilliantly for a spring day in the Pacific Northwest. The warmth is surprising but welcomed. The natural grass shines as bright and beautiful as a well-manicured golf course. The field’s just waiting to be tore up by a bunch of football playing foster kids. I’m a little nervous. Not sure what to expect since I’ve never done one of these events. Coach Daily said I’d have a lot of fun, and the kids are great. So here I am.
“Irus, my man! How you been?” A portly black man named Walter advances on me, his cultured southern accent out of place in the northwestern environment.
“Not too bad,” I say.
“Tough watchin’ those Pirates steal that championship, eh?”
Smooth. Dig where it hurts, Walt. Yeah, we all know Walter Park. He’s been around football for a lot of years. No one takes offense at his blunt remarks. The man tells it like it is and sometimes brutally. Today he’s being kind. Sort of.
“Well, you know how it is, shit continues to happen,” I say. “We’ll get ‘em next season.”
Walter is a big, former defensive lineman. When I say he’s big, I mean he’s gotten larger than when he was playing. I make the mistake of offering to shake the man’s hand. Two sweaty slabs of meat engulf my lone hand. He pumps wildly, and leaves me feeling like I’ve got rhino cum all over my palm. When he’s not looking, I swipe my hands down the side of my sweatpants.
“Well, we got some great kids for you to work with, Irus. A great bunch of boys.”
“That’s cool.”
“I’m gonna hook you up with one of the organizers of the event. He’s a wide receiver. Give a defense/offense kind of perspective. Just teach the kids some fundamentals. How to hold the ball, a little pass and catch, nothing too in-depth. Mostly, we need you guys to be role models. Help inspire these kids. Lift them up. Most come from sketchy backgrounds.”
Walter gives me a look, like I’d understand, but my home was never sketchy. The neighborhood maybe but not the home. A rock solid foundation. Not traditional, though. Two parents who still love and cheer me on but had nothing to do with the raising of me. My Auntie Linda and Uncle Clyde raised me. He’s a high school football coach, and she’s an English teacher. The summers were spent with my Auntie Beulah in the city. She got me out of the dusty suburbs and introduced me to a whole new way of thinking. Beulah’s the reason I don’t judge people. Well, I try not to judge people. I certainly don’t blame my parents for giving me up. They gave me to Linda and Clyde who wanted kids but couldn’t have any of their own. Auntie Linda said it was God making everything right. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a loving family.
“I’m just waiting for your receiver to show up. Then I’ll take you to your kids.” Walter peers around looking for someone.
follow his glance, not sure who I should be on the look out for, when I see Jackson McCoy. Lord, why do you always have to test me here?
Damn, McCoy looks fine. Blond hair reflects the sunlight. The strands lift lightly in the breeze. He’s laughing, joking around with some people from the charity organization. He’s always laughing. I see him on the sidelines all the time. A smile. A laugh. Even when they’re down on points. My gaze wanders to his ass, snug in faded, torn blue jeans. Tattoos peek out of short sleeves and muscles stretch the thin fabric of his T-shirt. Butterflies hatch in my stomach. No, this isn’t good. Not here in front of all these kids. Jesus, he makes me antsy. When I’m antsy, I get angry and stubborn. Auntie Linda says so all the time.
Jackson McCoy turns my way. Big aviator glasses hides his eyes, but bruises form halos behind them, and his nose looks broke. He looks like he’s been playing against the defensive line and someone’s ear-holed him. With a nod to the guy next to him, he makes his way over to me and Walter.
“Hey Walt,” he calls.
“Jackson, my boy, glad to have you back. You know Irus Beaumont? It’s his first time here. I was hoping you’d help him out with the kids. You know their trust issues.”
“Hey Iris, how you doing?” My reflection plays in his mirrored aviators.
“It’s I-rus. Rus. Man, do you have a problem?”
A shining grin breaks his face. I feel awash in it, and it pisses me off.
“Come on, boys. Let’s work together all nice like, okay?” Walter gives me a stern look like it’s all my fault this guy continues to antagonize me. He double checks me, waiting for a response, before he feels comfortable turning away. I get the feeling he’s in a hurry.
“Sure Walter. I’ll play nice.” The words nearly stick in my throat.
“Good, good. All right now, boys, I gotta run and hook up some more players. Jackson, you know your group. Show Irus here the ropes. Bye, ya’ll.”
Walter takes off at a good clip for a fat man, his dark skin sweating in the sunlight, absorbing all the heat. Jackson begins to walk in the opposite direction, and I rush to catch up, getting a nice shot of his ass once more. I resist the urge to smack it and drop a bit of a shoulder into him to check him up. He takes the impact and rolls with it, not taken off his feet.
It was just a baby hit. Just saying hello. His lack of reaction irks me a little.
“What’d he mean by trust issues? You know these kids?” I ask.
“Don’t you? I sent you a packet with their backgrounds. Didn’t you get it?”
Shit, that’s what that was, damn. “It said Jackson McCoy on the envelope, so I stuffed it down the garbage disposal.”
“I hope it plugged up your sink.” Again he hits me with his sparkling smile.
“So you gonna tell me about these kids before we meet them?”
“I’ve met them. I work with these guys a lot. Most of them come from broken homes. Some of them have parents in prison.” He looks at me. “Moms and dads. Some are in foster care, and others are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
“A rock and a hard place? What’s that supposed to mean?”
Jackson stops walking. There’s a group of boys, white, black, and mixed race who see us coming. There’s recognition on their faces. They all seem to know Jackson, who gives them a small wave letting them know he’s coming, but it’ll be just a moment.
He turns on me, his voice low and tight. “It means they love their parents no matter how hard they hit. They’re not gonna say anything against them.”
“Abused kids? Why doesn’t someone step up?”
“We are, Iris. Right now.”
Jackson spins away, and I get a waft of his scent. God, he smells good. This shit isn’t helping. Golden Boy shines so bright in the sunshine. I can’t ignore him. The way his ass moves beneath his jeans. Small and tight. The rigid line of back. The thin T-shirt revealing the wings of his shoulder blades. I’d love to run my tongue down his spine. Taste the sweat collecting in the furrows of his muscles.
FuckI hate that he has this effect on me.
The urge to make the bastard miserable today overtakes my better judgment. I’m gonna have to get under his skin. Mess his shit up good. Rattle his cage a bit. Can’t seem to fluster him on the field. Maybe outside the game I can rankle him. Make him feel as discombobulated as he does me.
Good Lord, if he wasn’t so fine.
A few little kids run up, wrapping tiny arms around Jackson’s legs, and for a moment, I wonder why these kids take to him so well. Jackson drops to his knees, getting grass stains on his faded jeans, and starts talking to them on their level. Seems like he remembers every kid’s name. Asks them questions about school and family members. They talk to him or shrug their shoulders.
An older boy stands off to the side, smoking a cigarette, and he’s clearly the subject of discussion from one or two of the boys. The kid’s a pretty big boy. A redhead with pasty, freckled skin and squinty eyes.
“I’ll take care of it, guys. First I want to introduce you to Iris Beaumont.”
I wave a little. “Irus, just call me Rus.”
“I know you! I told my momma I want dreads just like yours and to hit as hard as you.” The boy must be about eleven or twelve, skinny just like I was, and long-legged.
“Oh, yeah? You run fast?”
“Sure do.”
“Think you can take McCoy out if he goes after the ball?”
The boy looks at Jackson and grins. “Oh, yep.”
Jackson laughs. “All right Kyler, you get to be on Iris’s side. You go play corner. Get on your island.” Jackson lowers his glasses a bit and winks at me. A thrill surges through my body, but I keep my angry mask in place. Gotta have my game face on whenever he’s around.
Jackson divvies up the rest of the children, some of them jumping around to be on his side because they seem to trust him more than me. I realize he’s already established himself with these kids.
“I’ll be right back,” he says. “Gotta get Jared on board with you. He doesn’t like new men.”
I get the footballs out and let the boys horse around for a while as I watch Jackson out of the corner of my eye. He approaches the kid, who’s almost as tall as him, and points to the cigarette. The kid hands it over, thinking Jackson wants a hit, but Jackson snaps it in half. The kid lashes out, knocking the aviators off Jackson’s face, but that’s about it. Jackson out maneuvers the kid easily. I rush over, but just stand there staring at Jackson’s face along with the kid.
The kid kneels down and picks up Jackson’s glasses. “I’m sorry, Jacks. Who hit you?” His face is still stern, petulant, and angry. His squinty eyes shift to me. Color burns hot in his cheeks.
“Jared, I’ve talked about you hitting first and asking questions later. What’ve I told you?”
“Only on the field.”
I chuckle. I’m thinking D-line for this kid. I can see him taking out a quarterback. Jackson must be thinking the same thing.
“This guy right here is a defensive player. I’d like you to work with him today,” Jacks says, clapping a hand on my shoulder. The heat of his palm sizzles through me. I fight to not shift under his grasp.
“No. I asked you a question. I’ll work with him if you answer me.”
“Jared—” Jackson starts, drops his hand from my shoulder and leaves me desperate for his touch.
“How many times you make me talk when I don’t want to? About my mom? My dad? He’s outta prison you know? Comes to take me for visitation. Leaves me to watch his other kids, and you want me to talk about how it makes me feel?You won’t even answer one of my questions? Fuck you, Jacks.”
“Hey now,” I say.
Jackson sighs. “You’re right. You know I’m always here, kid. I’ll always be here.” He glances at me and continues, “Truth is, I got in a fight with the D-line of my team.”
A fight? With the whole D-line?
“Why?” Jared demands.
“Sometimes, people don’t like folks who are different. You gotta admit, I’m different.”
Different? How? Like gay, different? Isn’t that what Els said? Shit. I’ve heard a few ambiguous remarks myself… Fuck, jumping to wishful conclusions here. Now my fantasies are gonna shift into overdrive. The ghost feeling of his warm hand on my shoulder tingles with renewed electricity. The sensation goes straight to my gut. Focus, Irus! This isn't the time to go all mushy over a pretty blond wideout. No football players. Never.
“Different how?” Jared asks.
“Well, I’m small. I’m always cracking wise—”
“And that’s irritating as hell, at least he gets your name right, Jared.” I interject for some levity.
The kid sort of laughs. “I’m different.”
“Naw, you’re just a redheaded stepchild. They make good offensive linemen,” Jackson says.
“Oh, no you don’t. This kid’s D-line for sure. He almost sacked your ass.”
Now Jared does laugh. Jackson looks from him to me and back. “Fine, go get ‘em kid.”
Jared shuffles off to join my other D-liners. After I watch him go, I turn back to Jackson. “Fighting with the D-line? You think that’s smart?”
“I fight with you, don’t I? I think it’s rather fun, making you all flustered.” He looks me up and down with an unmistakable heat in his gaze, slips on his shades, and walks away.
I'm fucked.


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