Author: Sean Michael
Word Count: 101,000
Page Count (pdf): 416
Date Published: September 15, 2021
Publisher: Sean Michael
Heat Rating: 5
File Types available: epub, mobi, pdf
Combining two previous Sean Michael novels, The Center of Earth and Sky and Painting the Desert, Center focuses on twins Grey and Raine Holstein, who have a good life together. But that doesn’t mean they’re not willing to play. When they meet schoolteacher Whit, they both want to take him home.
Whit is quickly drawn into a sensual world where passion overcomes panic, where a simple meal becomes an erotic feast, and where love is the paramount rule. The three of them try to find a way to make a life together, making sure no one is left out.
Grey, Raine and Whit seem to be living a charmed life, but their whole world is threatened when Grey is diagnosed with cancer, and everything starts to fall apart. Grey is their rock, and as he’s ravaged by the cancer treatment, Whit and Raine struggle to hold it together. Will Whit find the strength to be what his lovers need him to be? Can he remain in the center of such a storm and survive it intact?
This Sean Michael Classic was originally released by a different publisher and now includes the short story The Celebration, originally in the anthology: Toy Box: Twins.
The need between them never faded.
They couldn’t remember the first time they made love, the first time they kissed, the first time they wanted. Raine thought they were in love in their mother’s womb, fingers entwined as they breathed fluid flavored by the other’s skin. Grey thought it was even before that, but he never said so. He never had to.
They were born during a storm, the gray clouds pouring life down onto the desert, the lizards and mice running, the people closing windows and pulling in laundry off the lines. Grey was first, alone in this world for a terrifying six minutes before his Raine joined him. Their mother said the morning after their birth, the desert bloomed.
They slept in the same wicker basket, then in the same crib. The same room, the same bed. They never asked for their own rooms, never asked to be separated. Grey didn’t speak until he was six; Raine was his voice. Raine couldn’t sleep unless Grey was there. Grey read first, Raine wrote first. They fought about the television and whether Corn Pops or Sugar Smacks were better. When they went to school, Grey did the history papers and the book reports while Raine wrote the poetry and finished the math problems. They always did poorly in science. They came in first and second in the swim meets and second and first in wrestling.
Raine slept with a girl once after a dance while Grey got drunk and threw up in the deep desert. They lasted in separate college dorm rooms for three weeks before Raine crawled into Grey’s arms, shaking and hollow-eyed, tears streaking his cheeks. Grey hid his triumphant smile and held Raine as they slept for three days.
They graduated together and left for San Francisco. They never discussed it; they simply went. Grey took his photographs and worked for an antiques dealer, Raine wrote reams of poetry and organized art openings. They partied, they laughed, they played.
They spent every morning sound asleep in each other’s arms. Raine fell in love with a boy, black and fine, thin-boned and graceful. A dancer. Someone who could help him sleep, too. Someone who talked. Someone who thought what they did was wrong. One day Grey came home from work and Raine was packing his things into moving boxes. Raine looked at him with sorry eyes and Grey turned around and left.
It was the longest month of their lives. Grey screamed for hours until his voice died. Then he stopped speaking, stopped taking pictures, worked and slept for hours and hours. Raine simply hurt, his heart missing half its beat. When Raine crawled home one early Sunday morning, he spent hours watching Grey, tears flowing even in sleep, curled around hundreds of pictures of him. When Grey woke, Raine was in his arms, hands cupping his face.
It took two days before Grey’s voice came back and it never sounded the same again.
They were never the same again. They were more.
He settled at the bar, asking for a draft as the bartender went by. It was delivered on the next pass and he grabbed the bowl of beer nuts, munching as he drank.
He liked O’Hoolan’s. Quiet and simple, you could come here just to drink, or to drink and cruise, but it wasn’t loud and bright and crowded like most gay clubs. It was an honest to God bar, just with a bent clientele.
He stared critically at the image reflected back in the dozens of mirrors over the bar. He was a good-looking guy, looking a touch younger than his twenty-eight years: light brown hair, brown eyes, high cheekbones, and a firm jaw. Fuckable. His dress shirt was white, his tie one of the silly ones — the kids liked that, liked that Mr. Whittaker wore ties with cows or chickens or smiley faces on them.
So how come he was almost thirty and still single, looking to pick someone up for a night of tension-relieving, hot-kinky-amazing sex? Of course, tonight he was willing to settle for just tension-relieving sex, and there was no guarantee he was even going to get that.
The barstools two down from him were filled, but a muscular redhead coming out of the men’s room had caught his eye, so he didn’t look. Well, not until he heard a deep, rich voice order a scotch on the rocks and a vodka and tonic.
When he turned his head, he blinked. Two men sat at the bar, carbon copies of each other. Dark skin, black eyes, hooked, hawk-like noses, cheekbones that wouldn’t quit, and the same long, black hair. Either one would be good looking, but together, they were stunning.
They were dressed similarly — black t-shirts, jeans, and leather jackets. The man farthest from him had an earring. The bartender handed the closer man the two drinks; he kept the scotch and handed the vodka over to his… companion.
He tried not to stare, but he couldn’t help himself. He watched them over the top of his beer glass, wondering what their story was. Were they together? The thought made his cock twitch hard.
They had settled, not speaking, not doing much of anything. Every now and again, the man with the earring would catch his gaze in the bar mirror, holding his eyes for a while and then looking away.
Flirting. He was being flirted with. So was Earring gay and his twin along for moral support?
The next time Earring caught his eye, he smiled. Earring pinked, smiling back and nodding once, holding his eyes for a little bit longer before the gaze dropped to his glass.
He licked his lips, trying to decide if he should move closer, let Earring know he was interested. But he couldn’t just slide down; Earring was on the far side…
He asked for another beer.
The next time he looked the twins were speaking to one another, dark heads close, voices inaudible. Then, as he watched, Earring reached up and cupped the other one’s cheek, stroked it once. Then Earring stood and sat one barstool away from him at the bar, still nursing the vodka.
Well, the worst that could happen would be getting shot down — wasn’t anything that hadn’t happened before. Swallowing his nerves, he shifted over one seat. “Hi.”
Earring smiled at him. “Hey.”
Earring’s voice was soft, not rough or husky. He grinned. He’d expected them to sound the same.
“Can I get you another?” he asked, nodding at the vodka and tonic.
“Oh, thanks.” A wide, square hand was offered, heavy copper bracelet shining in the lights. “I’m Raine Holstein.”
He offered his own hand back, hoping to hell it wasn’t too damp. “Bartholomew Whittaker. Please call me Whit.”
He couldn’t help glancing up over at Raine’s twin.
“That’s Grey.” Raine smiled over at his twin, who gave him a slow, smoldering look, then turned to nod to Whit.
“Hi,” he managed, with a nod and without squeaking. He wasn’t quite sure what was going on. Raine seem interested enough to flirt at least, and move closer, but Grey looked like he was all about Raine.
“So, I, uh… haven’t seen you here before — you new in town?”
Raine nodded his head. “Yeah, actually. We got here a few months ago. We own a gallery and a little antique shop. Just got things settled in finally. Decided to come and play.” Raine flashed him a quick smile. “I like playing and Grey… well, he says he humors me, but he likes to play too.”
“Together?” he asked, probably a little too eagerly, but the idea excited him and he figured it was better to be honest and let that show than try to pretend a casualness he wouldn’t be able to follow through on later.
“Yes, together.” Grey’s deep, gravelly voice sounded as his hand settled on Raine’s shoulder. He had a matching bracelet, heavy and beautiful. “Raine doesn’t play without me.”
Raine chuckled and nodded, nuzzling Grey’s hand. “We’re a matched set.”
He smiled, the possessiveness in the tone and gesture moving through him like a wave, hitting his balls hard. “I bet you’re beautiful together.” The words just slipped out and he bit his lip. There was honesty and then there was honesty, and he hoped he hadn’t just blown it.
Raine blushed again as Grey chuckled and took a seat. Apparently they didn’t mind honesty. “Thanks. Do you come here a lot?”
“On the weekends — it’s a nice place to relax, have a beer, maybe meet someone to spend some time with, you know.”
Raine nodded. “One of the gallery artists recommended it. Said we would like it here. The atmosphere is nice, yeah, Grey?”
Grey nodded. “Not bad. Need a better house scotch.”
“I’ve got some twenty-year-old Glenkeith at home.” What he wanted to know was who the hell had tampered with his brain/mouth connection, because it was working just a little too well and bypassing the ‘make sure you really want to say it’ center.
A long look passed between Raine and Grey, and then Grey nodded. Raine looked over. “Is that an offer, Whit? To share a little scotch and maybe play?”
He forced himself to think about it. To really think about it. All he kept seeing was these two guys making love while he watched, and he knew, even if that’s all it turned out to be, he wanted it. “Yeah, it’s an offer.”
Two sets of identical black eyes glittered at him and then the guys nodded and stood as one.
Raine smiled as Grey helped him on with his jacket. “Should we follow you? We’re on the Harley.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the sound of his cock bursting through his zipper.
“I’m–” He cleared his throat. Twice. “I’m not that far — I walked.”
“Oh, okay. Should I walk with Whit, Grey?”
“No. Drive him home, Raine, and then come back for me and we’ll go together.”
“Okay.” Raine gave him a smile and tilted his head. “Wanna ride?”
Not trusting his voice, he just nodded. He was harder than hell — he sure hoped the Holstein brothers really were into honesty, ’cause if he had to ride behind Raine, the man was going to know just how turned on he was right now.