Title: Double Dutch Courage
Author: Helena Stone
Word count: 63k (approx)
Release Date: May 12, 2018
Buy link – Available through Kindle Unlimited
Ronan Collins has spent most of his life in Dublin hiding who he really is. Coming out would hurt his mother, and Ronan isn’t going to be the second gay man to do that. When he receives news the father he has never known has died, leaving him both a house and a business in Amsterdam, he jumps on the opportunity to get to know the man who fathered him and to discover what he’s been denying himself for years.
Lucas Brandt thought he had it all when Paul Kelly offered him a job and rooms to live in. With Paul deceased he fears he may be about to lose both. He didn’t even know Paul had a son, and now this stranger is on his way from Dublin to pull the rug out from under Lucas’s feet.
The two men don’t expect to like each other, never mind feel attraction. With numerous reasons why hooking up would be a bad idea, why does giving in feel so much better? And is Ronan’s back story really as he’s always imagined it to be?
Sudden changes require great bravery. Can both men find the courage to be true to themselves and each other?
“So, what does it say?”
Ronan glanced up from the letter in his hands to his mother and back again, his mind blank. She’d thrust the envelope at him as soon as he’d arrived home from work. Of course, he didn’t get registered mail from the Netherlands very often — make that ever — but that still hadn’t explained the nervous tension radiating from her. After opening the envelope and reading the letter, the fraught atmosphere made sense. The contents of the missive on the other hand…
“I don’t understand.” Ronan stared from the piece of paper to his mother. He’d read the words twice now, and still he couldn’t get his head around what any of it meant. For what felt like an eternity, rain and wind from the vicious storm hitting the windows was the only sound in the living room.
“It says.” Ronan took a deep breath. “The letter offers me condolences on the death of Paul Kelly, and informs me that I’ve been awarded a large portion of his estate in his will.” He read the next few lines again, hoping repetition would lead to comprehension.
“Does it give specifics about that inheritance?” His mother’s voice sounded flat, and distant.
“Yes,” Ronan said. “There’s talk about a house which also holds a business, as well as an unspecified, but apparently not insubstantial, amount of money.” None of it made sense. “I don’t understand. Why would he leave anything to me? He ignored me my whole life. Why would he suddenly remember my existence in a document I wouldn’t be made aware of until after he had died?”
He diverted his attention from the letter just in time to see a horrified expression cross his mother’s face.
“Ma, what’s going on?”
She gazed at him for a moment, as if trying to figure out what to tell him, before averting her gaze. “I don’t know, lad. To say your father has always been a law unto himself would be a gross understatement. I’m sure he had his reasons. Maybe guilt got the better of him after all this time?”
Ronan studied his mother, certain that something wasn’t right. It wasn’t so much that he thought she was lying, but he couldn’t shake the feeling there was more to the story. Questions burned on his tongue, and vague suspicions sprang up in his mind but he pushed them back, two decades of not prying too hard getting the better of him.
He’d been a mere eight years old when he’d realized that asking about his father caused his mother pain. By then he’d known the story by heart. Paul had been married to his mother for just under six months before leaving her when she was three months pregnant with Ronan. It was ridiculous how easy it still was, even after twenty years, to remember the pain and anger in her voice whenever she used to tell him that the man who had fathered him had left because he’d decided he couldn’t deny his homosexuality any longer. His father being gay had hurt his mother, the message had been loud and clear, and Ronan had heard and heeded it. He’d made a point to not ask after him since the day she’d broken down in response to his endless questions. He could still hear the words; two decades not long enough to erase them from his memory.
He left, Ronan. He left because he was gay and couldn’t or wouldn’t love either me or you enough to stay.
He’d accepted those words at the time and, since his father had never been in contact, he had no reason to doubt them. Except that…
“I still don’t understand why he named me in his will.” Ronan looked at the paper, unclenching his fist as soon as he realized he’d scrunched the letter into a ball. “Surely after all this time, he would have other people in his life to leave his stuff to.”
“I can’t help you there, lad.” His mother smiled tentatively. “I have no idea what he did after he left me. In fact, until that letter arrived I didn’t even know whether or not he was still in the Netherlands. He told me that’s where he would be going, but that was twenty-eight years ago, after all.”
“Oh,” Ronan said, acknowledging that his mother wouldn’t be his source for additional details, although he still couldn’t shake the feeling she wasn’t telling him everything. “There’s a number for me to call for more information.”
“Why don’t you phone them and see what exactly you’re dealing with? Once we know what we’re looking at we can figure out what to do next.”
Ronan knew his mother was right. He had to make that call even if it did feel as if life as he’d known it, as he’d constructed it with great care, was about to come to an end. Whether that would turn out to be a good or a bad thing remained to be seen, and there was only one way to find out.
Ronan seemed to search Lucas’s face for something, then lowered his gaze until Lucas was convinced he was staring at his lips. He mused that the sunshine had to be getting to him as the afternoon took on a dreamlike quality. Ronan licked his lips, the tip of his tongue tempting Lucas, teasing him. When Ronan leant forward Lucas wondered what was happening, whether he was imagining things. Surely Ronan wasn’t about to —
The soft press of Ronan’s lips against his elicited a sigh from Lucas. He would have been embarrassed about his reaction if he hadn’t been lost in the moment. It was the second time Ronan had taken him by surprise in this manner, except on this occasion he didn’t appear to have any intention of pulling back.
With so many reasons why this was the worst idea ever, it didn’t make any sense that the overriding thought running through his mind wasmore.
He cupped Ronan’s neck, keeping the pressure light, barely there. Ronan reacted as if Lucas had used force and pressed his lips firmer against his, parting them in the process.
Lucas was helpless against the onslaught. It had taken him days to stop obsessing about Ronan’s mouth after that quick, shy kiss a week earlier. There would be no coming back from this. He had no doubt he would end up hurt. Even as he had the thought, Lucas parted his own lips, slipped his tongue through the gap and tentatively caressed Ronan’s mouth.
“Oh.” Ronan’s soft exclamation meant his lips parted farther and Lucas took advantage. Fuck being sensible. Fuck worrying about tomorrow, or next week, or six months from today.He was here, now, and the tongue hesitantly exploring his was nothing like what he’d expected and everything he wanted it to be.
The kiss transported him back to his teenage years, to the first boy he’d ever kissed. Clumsy and with clashing teeth, it had been as awkward as it had been exciting. Pretty much as it was now, except this time it didn’t make sense.
He pulled back until the tips of their noses were the only parts of them still touching. Ronan’s lashes fluttered before he opened his eyes. They widened and he lowered his gaze.
“That bad, eh?” Ronan directed his words at the grass beneath their knees.
“Not bad.” Lucas tried to figure out what to say. Not sure what he was reacting to, he didn’t know which words to use either, so the truth would have to do. “It just brought back a memory of something I hadn’t thought about in ages.”
Ronan still wouldn’t look at him and Lucas didn’t like it. He lifted Ronan’s chin with his index finger. “It reminded me of when I was fourteen and me and Hans, my best friend back then, decided to find out what the big deal about kissing was.”
“It was like your first kiss?” Ronan still tried to avoid meeting Lucas’s gaze.
“Yes.” Lucas smiled. He couldn’t believe Hans had slipped his mind. They’d done a lot of exploring together before Hans decided he was interested in girls after all. He got so lost in his reminiscence he almost missed the words Ronan muttered.
It hit Lucas like a ton of bricks. Here was yet another reason why getting involved with Ronan was the worst idea ever. If he was right, he would be Ronan’s first in everything. The thought that Ronan’s inexperience might include kissing hadn’t crossed his mind until this moment. He wasn’t sure he could make that journey with Ronan without getting emotionally involved. He had to know for sure.
“I’m your first?”
The combination of shame and defeat Lucas read in Ronan’s expression tore at him. He didn’t need an answer. He also didn’t need to think about what to do next. Yes, he would end up getting hurt, but he’d deal with it. It wouldn’t be the first time or, in all likelihood, the last. He could be Ronan’s first and make it a good, a memorable, experience.
“I want to be your second, too.” He didn’t wait and pressed his lips back against Ronan’s before he could respond.
About The Author
Helena Stone can’t remember a life before words and reading. After growing up in a household where no holiday or festivity was complete without at least one new book, it’s hardly surprising she now owns more books than shelf space while her Kindle is about to explode.
The urge to write came as a surprise. The realisation that people might enjoy her words was a shock to say the least. Now that the writing bug has well and truly taken hold, Helena can no longer imagine not sharing the characters in her head and heart with the rest of the world.
Having left the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam for the peace and quiet of the Irish Country side she divides her time between reading, writing, long and often wet walks with the dog, her part-time job in a library, a grown-up daughter and her ever loving and patient husband.