Title: Bare Threads
Author: DP Denman
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Liam is not a family man. He learned to avoid the entanglement and its mire of expectations; expectations he feels destined to crush. Unfortunately, Justin is pushing him into the arms of his new family and he’s fighting every step.
When a person he never expected to see again reappears, Liam finds a reason to make a few concessions for the sake of real love and the only man he is willing to call family.
Book four of the Saving Liam Series
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Award winning author DP Denman writes character-driven contemporary romance about gay men. Her stories are real and intense, but resolve in endings that make people want to read the book all over again. She is from the Pacific Northwest and bases all of her stories in Vancouver, British Columbia.
In her spare time, she is a dedicated LGBTQIA rights activist, fighting for those who have been marginalized and abused. To that end, 25% of the royalties from every book go to support LGBT charities.
The crisp air hit Liam with a slap of winter when he stepped from the plane. He burrowed deeper into the collar of his coat, squinting against the cold and plodding down the steps to the tarmac. He hated the holidays. October in Alberta wasn’t likely to change his mind. He’d wanted to stay in Vancouver and let Justin visit his parents alone, but Thanksgiving with strangers was the sort of sacrifice boyfriends made.
Strangers meant to be his adopted family.
Strangers he preferred remain strangers.
He trudged toward the unimpressive single-story airport with steps he hoped didn’t look like a deliberate attempt to delay the meeting even if they were. For over a year, he had anticipated that moment with resigned dread.
“You okay?” Justin’s hand landed on the back of his neck.
“Just tired,” he lied.
“Me, too. We might need to start this visit with a nap.”
Justin tugged open the door to the building and a blast of warm air rushed out to meet them. The next greeting was equally warm. A woman he recognized from recurring video chats wrapped arms around him and squeezed him tight.
“Here they are!” Judy Evans sang, enveloping him in a pillow of soft arms and a cloud of perfume.
She let him go to hug Justin.
“Hi, Mum,” Justin grinned.
A man he didn’t recognize stood steps away, watching the scene with a pleasant smile. His thinning gray hair and dark blue jacket a counter to Judy’s copper tresses, bright lipstick, and lime green coat.
“Hi Dad,” Justin gave the man a brief hug.
“Good to see you.” His dad followed the hug with a gentle pat to Justin’s face.
Judy took Liam’s arm and tugged him closer. “Morris, this is your new son-in-law. Isn’t he handsome?”
Justin’s father stuck out his hand. “It’s good to meet you, son.”
Liam shook it and hoped Morris didn’t notice his sweaty palm. “You, too.”
He had scuttled from the mere thought of that introduction since the first time Justin mentioned meeting his parents, reluctant to be judged and found lacking by another father.
Optimism and anxiety sparred in his head, pulling his eyebrows into a knot while he transferred clothes from his suitcase to one of the drawers in the dresser.
“What?” Justin sat on the edge of the bed while Liam grabbed a pile of socks for the second trip.
He looked at Justin. “This isn’t going to work.” He stuffed the socks in a drawer.
“Avoiding the truth all weekend.”
“What truth?” Confusion wrinkled Justin’s brow.
“That I’ll be wearing more clothes in the next two days than I do in a week and a half at home.”
Justin took his hand when he was in reach, using it to pull Liam into his lap. “Nobody’s avoiding anything.” Justin wrapped arms around him. “It’s not that big a deal. So, you dance for people. I’ll admit, it’s an unusual career choice but, they’d treat you the same way if you were still waiting tables.”
He nodded at a speech he’d heard before and scowled at the carpet unconvinced. Fingers touched the side of his chin and turned Liam’s head leaving him no choice but to meet Justin’s eyes.
“If you plan to spend all weekend anticipating judgmental bullshit you’ll be disappointed.” Justin caressed his chin with a thumb. “They don’t blame you for something that wasn’t your fault.”
He stared into warm brown eyes and read the rest of the speech. This wasn’t his house or even his town. The hateful people he expected to confront lived one province over and they weren’t coming to dinner. Justin pulled him closer by the fingers on his chin and kissed him.
“Once they get to know you they’re going to love you just like I do. Okay, maybe not just like I do but you know what I mean.”
He smiled at the attempted humor and draped an arm around Justin’s shoulders.
“That’s probably for the best,” he said.
“Probably. Let’s finish unpacking before they wonder what we’re doing in here.”
“I could bounce on the bed a little to answer the question.”
“Always the tease.” Justin pushed him from his lap. “None of that this weekend, okay?”
“It’s not like we can’t be quiet about it.”
Their first apartment had taught them about muting the volume during sex.
“I doubt anything you do could inspire an erection with my parents in the next room.”
Liam cocked an eyebrow at the challenge.
“No.” Justin shook his head and opened his own suitcase. “If you want to get your rocks off you can do it when I’m not in the room.”
“Not even a little of this?” He raised his arms over his head and rolled his hips to an imaginary beat.
“Not even a lot of that.” Justin carried shirts to the closet and swatted his ass on the way by. “Behave yourself.”
He nodded along annoyed by the reasonable advice and the situation. He didn’t like admitting it, but they were right. There was no reason to rush. He had just imagined coming home from the trip, unpacking his suitcase, falling to one knee, and having Liam in his arms laughing and crying and accepting his proposal. Meeting the family was supposed to tip the balance in his favor. As tempting as it was to blame the ill-timed conversation for Liam’s continued refusal, it wasn’t his parents’ fault.
Liam had a way of clinging. Waiting for him to change his mind was tradition in their relationship. He didn’t jump into things, not even the easy ones. Every new opportunity represented a threat. He thought the step from living together to marriage would be easy, but apparently, it took the same patience and careful persistence as everything else.
He ended the video chat seconds before Liam walked through the front door.
“In here,” he called back.
He heard the dull thump of sock-covered feet on the floor before Liam appeared sweaty and wearing a timid smile.
“How was the workout?” He tried to shrug off the annoyance still thrumming across his forehead, threatening to burst into a headache.
“Good.” Liam stepped further into the room.
The tension between them rippled across his stomach. He didn’t want things to feel strained just because they couldn’t agree on how it would look when they celebrated their twentieth anniversary. They both wanted one. It was a good start.
“Come here.” He held out his hand and pulled Liam into his lap. “I’m sorry for pushing this marriage thing so hard.” He wrapped arms around him. “I want it but not enough to tear us apart trying to get it.”
“It’s my fault, too. I’m being a pain in the ass.”
He twitched a smile. “Stubborn is nothing new for you.”
“It’s not because I don’t want to be with you.”
“I know that.” He kissed Liam’s shoulder. “If I thought you planned to leave this would be a totally different conversation.” He looked up into Liam’s face, studying what he had already memorized. “I want to be with you for the rest of my life. You want to be with me for the rest of yours. That’s enough for now.”
“For now?” Liam cocked a challenging eyebrow.
“I’m not giving up on this.”
“One day you’ll understand what I’m talking about and we’ll have a honeymoon so hot we’ll melt the sheets.”
Liam smiled. “If this is a ploy for hotter sex we can skip the ceremony and find some new tricks online. There must be a blog somewhere with decent ideas.”
“I’m sure there are several.”
Liam didn’t need any help being hot in bed. He had a great imagination, little inhibition, and thousands of hours of experience in porn. The only way things between them could get any hotter would be the first night he made love to his new husband, gold bands gleaming in the sunlight, and knew Liam was his.