Finding Chandler

Finding Chandler

Claire Thompson

The Solitary Knights of Pelham Bay

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The Solitary Knights is a club for the romantically disinclined—until they start musing on love lost. So begins the tales of the Solitary Knights. What will they find on their adventures into the past? Stop by Pelham Bay Pub to hear their stories. Book 1: The man Eric discovers isn’t the boy he left behind so long ago… Will finding Chandler mean finding love at last?

 
PUBLISHED BY: Romance Unbound Publishing
ISBN:
PUBLICATION DATE: 2009
WORD COUNT: 12000
SEXUAL CONTENT RATING: 4 4 4 4
EBOOK READER RATING:
CATEGORIES: ManLove, Contemporary, Erotica, Free Romance Books
KEYWORDS: m/m, manlove, erotica, erotic romance, gay, glbt, claire thompson
 

EBOOKS BY Romance Unbound Publishing

EBOOKS BY Claire Thompson

 
EXCERPT
COPYRIGHT Claire Thompson/2009

“The Solitary Knights of Pelham Bay Pub will come to order.” Eric Moore tapped his beer mug with a spoon, his voice rising over the individual conversations of the dozen or so guys sitting around the table. “I see we’ve got a new member—another convert to the wisdom of staying footloose and fancy free.”

“Meet Seth Larson,” Steve Cohen offered, touching Seth’s forearm as he spoke. “Seth has realized the errors of his ways and sworn off relationships forever.” He spat the word “relationship” like a curse, amidst a smattering of applause.

Seth offered a weak smile. He had that lost, bruised look of someone with a newly broken heart.

Jack laughed and raised his mug, his voice loud. “Welcome.” He eyed the newcomer with a comical leer. Drawing the tip of his tongue suggestively over his lips, he said, “Steve told you about the initiation, right?” Seth looked blank while the others around the table smirked. “You have to have sex with every guy at the table.”

“You mean he gets to,” Steve interjected with a grin.

Several of the guys laughed and cheered. Seth blinked, his mouth falling open with confusion. Jack laughed and gave Seth a playful punch in the shoulder to show they were kidding, though Drew knew if Jack had his way, he’d be first in line.

Drew Kensington, proprietor and bartender of the Pelham Bay Pub, watched from behind the bar with amused tolerance as the men introduced themselves. The group called themselves the Solitary Knights, so named because each claimed to have learned the hard way that relationships invariably ended in misery and pain, and remaining single was the best way to go.

A quiet pride surged through him as he looked around his Chelsea neighborhood pub. He’d been horrified by the metal and plastic eighties techno bar he’d first walked into, almost rejecting the deal because of the tacky décor. In retrospect, it had turned out to be his salvation.

Instead of brooding over the shambles of a life he’d left behind in London, he threw himself into the renovations. To distract himself as much as anything, he worked alone every day until nearly dawn those first few weeks, falling asleep in the back room where he’d set up a cot for his bedroom and a hot plate for his kitchen.

Given carte blanche by the owner of the building, he replaced the mirrored walls with rich wood paneling and tossed out the plastic cubes that served as tables in favor of comfortable booths. Instead of a dance floor lit by flashing disco balls, there was now a carpeted area with a pool table and his beloved dartboard complete with its own mahogany cabinet, first prize in the Pig Bristle Pub annual dart contest back when Drew was still a lad in England.

The clientele at his pub had changed over the three years since he’d leased the place, which suited Drew. His mainstay customers were gay men in their thirties, forties and fifties—guys looking for a quiet place to unwind and share a beer with friends. There were no backrooms for illicit couplings, no dance floor and no DJ. Drew piped in low key British rock, just enough to create an atmosphere without being intrusive.

“I’m Jack Harris.” Jack’s booming voice shook Drew from his reverie. “A founding member of the Solitary Knights. Everyone at this table knows that love’s a fucking joke. Meaningless sex, and lots of it—that’s our philosophy.”

There were several grunts of agreement. Marcos, who sat across from Jack, shook his head, an expression of disapproval on his haughty, elegant face.

“What?” Jack challenged. “You got a problem, Savakis?”

Marcos offered a faint, disdainful smile and shrugged lightly. He spoke softly with a faint accent. “I would have thought by this stage in your life, you’d have more discrimination. Screwing everything in one’s path hardly seems like the way to happiness.”

Jack stiffened, his face drawing down into a frown. He crossed his beefy, tattooed arms over his black leather vest. “At least I—”

Eric cut him off. “Hey guys, knock it off. We’ve heard it all before.” He turned to Seth. “I’m Eric Moore. I’m what you’d call a slow study. I had not one, but three different guys break my heart before I finally figured out if you don’t hold it out there, they can’t break the damn thing.”

Most of the men nodded, several clinking their mugs in agreement. “We’re glad to have you with us, Seth.” Ryan, a handsome guy in his mid-thirties, offered. “I fell in love once a long time ago. It took me a while to get it through my head that it takes two. Since then, I’ve bounced from one screwed up relationship to the next. I’ve finally figured out it’s best to avoid the whole damn mess altogether.”

Seth, who looked even younger than Ryan, spoke for the first time. “But you’re so young! You’ve really given up?”

Several heads swiveled to stare at Seth with disapproval. “You sure you’re in the right place?” Jack demanded. He was smiling, but his eyes were hard. “We don’t do love here. That’s the whole point.”

“Relax,” Steve, who had brought Seth to the gathering, interjected. “He’s still shell-shocked. In our circle of friends, we all thought Seth and Richard were this perfect couple. Seth had no idea Richard had this whole secret life on the Internet, or that he’d up and move to L.A. for his online dream guy.” He shook his head in dismay. “Crazy stuff.”

Seth nodded, the pain returning to his eyes. Steve patted his arm, offering a paternal smile. “This group is just the thing for you, Seth. We help each other keep our sense of humor, if nothing else. We remind each other why we’re here, by telling our stories. You know mine already, but it bears repeating.”

Steve took a long pull from his beer mug. “I thought all my problems stemmed from passing as straight, which I did the first thirty-two years of my life, if you can believe that. I even got married, that’s how in denial I was. When I finally busted out, I was determined to do the entire gay population on the island of Manhattan.”

Steve shook his head with a rueful laugh. “Then I met ‘Mr. Right’.” He held up both index fingers, making a motion in the air that indicated quotation marks. “Boy, what a joke that turned out to be. After catching him not once, but on four different occasions with four different guys, I finally figured out what he’d known all along. Love is for losers. I’ve been happy ever since.”

Drew looked up as Steve made this last remark, thinking how very unhappy the man looked, despite the wide smile pasted beneath the sad eyes.

“Damn right,” Gordon added. “You made the right decision, Seth, joining this group. We’ve all been around the block a time or three. Maybe you can learn from our mistakes.”

A few more members recounted their disastrous encounters with love, glossing over the pain with laughter and jokes. Drew wiped down the already-spotless counter as he listened. It was a rainy Tuesday night in mid-November and the bar, other than the Solitary Knights, was nearly empty.

What did it say about these men, that their stated mission as a group was to avoid love at all costs? Hadn’t any of them, at least once, at least for a while, found the right guy? Why was it a foregone conclusion that just because they’d failed at love before, it didn’t exist?

Before he realized what he was doing, Drew began to speak. “If you’ll pardon the interruption." He spoke quietly, but his voice was deep and it carried, and the men turned to look at him. Aware he now had their full attention, he felt himself flushing, but forged on, determined to have his say.

“My apologies for sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong, but I’ve been listening to you blokes all these months now and I can’t help but wonder. Are your hearts really as hard as all that? Maybe you’ve just been unlucky in love. Is it really as hopeless as you make it out to be? People change, situations change, you’ve changed.”

Half-wondering if he was speaking more to himself than the guys sitting in front of his bar, Drew kept talking. “What if you could go back and do it again? What if you could find that unrequited love, that one guy—if only you knew then what you know now—who you could have really had something with?”

Several of the men protested vehemently, but just as many others were quiet, their expressions thoughtful. It was to those men that Drew directed his attention. Feeling reckless, he threw out the challenge, “Why don’t you find that one guy—the one that got away, the one you’ve never quite let fade from your dreams? Track him down. Reconnect. Then come back here and tell us what you found out.”

 
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