Revealing Me

an excerpt

Chapter One

Kenley Kissinger loved balls, but not this kind of ball. Fantasy gatherings with elaborate masks and groups of people together having fun-not awful, but not great for a guy who preferred to keep to himself.

He adjusted the mask over his eyes. He hated masks. Truth be told, he hated to have his face covered. He preferred honesty, but this damn ball wasn't about honesty. It was a celebration, and no one gave a rat's ass about his feelings.

He stepped into the Annex building and sucked in a long breath. His neighbor, Nadine, had rallied the neighborhood and conned everyone into holding a masquerade ball to celebrate the end of the summer. The kids were back in school and the floods that had ravaged the neighborhood over the summer were finally gone. The water levels for the Jeromesville Creek had reached record heights. But then the whole summer had been full of crazy weather and most people in Jeromesville, Ohio weren't used to so much rain.

He turned his attention back to the dancers out on the street. He didn't see how a party would make much difference, and boost morale after flooding, but whatever. He played along.

Maybe Peter would be there.

His breath clogged in his throat. He'd had a one-night stand with Peter two months ago, even called his cell phone a couple times afterwards, but Peter was always too busy to get together again.

In the course of one night, he'd fallen into lust with Peter Barnes. He had to be crazy. Peter wasn't interested, but he kept thinking about the blond guy down the street. Why did Peter seem so sad? Why wasn't he interested in getting together again? Why couldn't Peter give him some sort of closure?

God only knew.

He and Peter hadn't said anything about not wanting to share personal information. They seemed to be rather tight during the evening they'd shared, but then in the morning Peter disappeared. He wasn't even sure what Peter did for a living.

He turned his attention back to the makeshift dance floor in the street. The DJ played 80's dance music requiring everyone in the crowd to do the same steps. He'd never been good at those kinds of dances. His coordination didn't work that way. He usually tripped over the person next to him or ended up five steps late on each move.

Leaning against the brick mailbox structure, he watched the dancers. A man with blond hair and a tailored suit danced along to the music. The black masquerade mask covered his eyes and forehead, but the rest of his face was up for viewing. When he smiled, a dimple deepened on his right cheek. Did he have scruff? Too hard to tell from so far away. He admired the build of the man's body, strong like a bodybuilder… wider in the shoulders and narrow around the waist with long legs. He sighed and bit back a grin. He liked men with long legs.

Peter had long legs and a dimple. He shivered. The memory of Peter's kiss lingered in Kenley's mind. He wanted to feel that desire again, and wanted to be loved.

The man seemed to look in Kenley's direction. He smiled again and dipped his head once. Was he trying to catch Kenley's eye? His heart skipped a beat. He had to be crazy, but he could've sworn the man watching him was Peter.

Kenley gathered his courage. What would it hurt to talk to the man? If the guy was indeed Peter, he might be able to get some closure, or there was the chance they could have a second night stand. He forced himself forward, but the rush of people kept him from getting anywhere. He shook his head and backed up. Maybe he'd go around the dancers. When he glanced over to where the blond guy had been dancing, the man wasn't there. He wandered around the throng of people, but the more he looked, the harder time he had finding the guy. Had the man disappeared? Just poof and gone?

His heart sank. He should've known even with a fancy mask and a nice suit, he wasn't going to attract a good-looking man, and if the guy was truly Peter then no wonder he'd gotten the hell out of there. Getting together again could end up being a disaster. Kenley groaned. His ex-boyfriend had been right-he needed to stop aiming so high and head home. Parties weren't his thing.

But what if the guy was Peter and he wanted a second go-round with Kenley? Would he push Peter away? Not a chance. He wanted the laughs and hot times they'd shared for that one night.

A woman with a bright purple mask, adorned with glitter and rhinestones, boogied up to him. He'd have known the woman from anywhere-Nadine. She loved the color purple and worked the bright hue into every one of her outfits.

"What do you think?" she asked and shimmied against him.

"It's nice." He couldn't muster much more of an answer. He'd give the party a couple more songs, then wander out without a word. No one would miss him. He doubted anyone except for Nadine even knew he was there. Besides, he needed to stop thinking about a one-night stand with no chance of it happening again.

"You're too cranky." She stopped dancing and rested her hands on her hips. Her lavender maxi dress hugged her breasts. Had he been a boob man, he might have liked the view. But he wasn't.

"I'm not a party animal. The music is loud and I don't know anyone here other than you." He gritted his teeth. He wasn't much of a people person, either. He sighed. "Sorry, Nadine. I need to go."

"You can't go now. Golly. These are your neighbors. So what if they have masks on? Who cares?" She smiled and tugged on his necktie. "Besides, I want to introduce you to someone."

"Doesn't that defeat the purpose of the masks?" He stood firm. He needed to live a little and allow her to fix him up, but not today. "How about I let you find me a date later? Not tonight."

"The masks were because it's fun and you bet your buns I'm finding you a date." She yanked him forward. "I'm tired of you hiding in your house. There is more to you than being alone. You could always go back to Frankie-no, don't do that. He's not any good for you."

She would have to bring up his lousy ex-boyfriend. Christ. "He's old news."

"But you're not. I love that you're a wiz with computers and know coding like nobody's business, but being alone isn't good for you." She led him around the people dancing in the middle of the street then hauled him up to his own front door. "Now, there's someone in here who is dying to see you. It's on the level, it's not creepy and if you run right back out, I'll find you and chop off your arms."

"Chop off my arms? Nadine." She'd lost her mind. "I'm not-comfortable with this." Everything within him curled into a ball. Crap. Something wasn't right.

"Of course you're not okay with me doing this-that's why I have to do it." She smiled and shoved him into his house. "You resist change and hide. Not today. See you." She tugged the door shut and left him in his living room.

God damn it. He tried the knob. She'd locked the door, but the door locked from the inside, so the joke was on her. He hooked his fingers into his pants pockets. She'd gone to the trouble of finding him a date. He might as well at least meet the guy.

"Hello?" He ventured into his dark home. Kenley reached for the switch. "Who's here? Look, I don't like surprises and I'm not fond of masks. Whatever Nadine set you up to do, I'm not sure, and I've got reservations." He flipped the light switch. The room filled with warm yellow light.

He glanced around the space and didn't notice anyone. Fucking balls. "Nadine, God damn it," he muttered. Now even she wanted to make him feel silly? She'd been his only friend to stick by him after Frankie walked out. Frankie had been such a dick, but Nadine seemed to understand. Frankie wanted to club, wanted to be free, and hated kids. Kenley wanted not only monogamy, but to adopt a kid and have a quiet life at home. Nadine had proved to be a lifeline after the split. He couldn't handle losing her-even if she wasn't a very close friend.

"Come on." Kenley pinched the bridge of his nose. "I don't like being the butt of the joke."

"I don't want to scare you."

Kenley froze. He knew that voice. Peter? Kenley turned around to face the door. The man with the shimmery black mask stood in front of the door. In person he was even taller. He had a good three inches on Kenley's six-foot frame. He sure as hell sounded like Peter. Same body type, same height… same cologne, woodsy and spicy.

"If I remove my mask, will you stay?" he tugged the black mask away from his face. Peter ruffled his fingers through his hair. "Hi Kenley."

Kenley wobbled on his feet. He'd wanted this moment, dreamed about it, but never expected for it to happen. Now Peter was there. Kenley debated his next move. Part of him wanted to throw himself into Peter's arms. The rest of him wanted an answer.

"Aren't you going to say something?" Peter smiled again and the dimple deepened.

Kenley grasped the back of the overstuffed chair for support. "Are you going to stay a while?"