Moments in Time 02 - Moment Of Truth


To WM, who spent many happy summers on Fire Island. You are missed.


Many thanks to Karen Booth, KD Wood, Kira Decker, Amanda Usen, and Mandy Pennington for being beta readers extraordinaire.

Couldn’t have done it without you!

And a special thank-you to my agent, Saritza Hernandez, for making this book possible, and to Sue Adams and the rest of the Dreamspinner staff for making the editing of these books such an enjoyable experience.

You’re the best!

Moment of Truth |
Karen Stivali


Chapter One

I DIDN’T expect the bed to be so big. And I didn’t know there would only be one. Tanner had described the beach house to me in detail. Five bedrooms, right on the beach, old and weathered but still in good shape. It looked exactly as I’d pictured. Gray shingles. Sandy driveway. Creaky wooden staircase. He’d even told me that he’d made sure we got the one room on the top floor for extra privacy.

But I hadn’t realized that room had only one bed. One big king-size bed. Compared to the twin-size ones we’d had in our dorm, it looked enormous. Decadent. I couldn’t wait to sprawl out in it with Tanner and put it to full use. I also couldn’t help but think about how everyone in the house would know we were sharing a bed.

My heart rate accelerated, and it had nothing to do with the two flights of stairs we’d just climbed. We’d been together for three months, but still almost no one knew we were a couple. My family, a disaster that still made me cringe when I thought about it. His family, who couldn’t have been nicer—his mom had let us crash at her place for the week between moving out of the dorm and to the beach, and his dad had gotten us tickets to two shows and taken us out for an expensive dinner. And Wendy, who quietly referred to herself as our personal fag hag.

Tanner dropped his duffel on the floor by the big window and yanked the cord to raise the blinds. The view took my breath away. I knew we were only a short walk to the beach, but I hadn’t realized there was nothing but sand and tall sea grass separating us from the ocean.


“Told you. Pretty awesome, huh?”

“I’ll say.”

Tanner undid the latch and shoved the window open. It squeaked as he lowered it a bit, then hooked his fingers underneath the wood and hoisted it higher. The muscles in his arms and back flexed, making my pulse race for a different reason. He turned and caught me staring. His sexy mouth curved into a wicked smile.

“You know,” he said, eyeing me in a way that made me feel like I was melting from more than just the summer heat. “They say everything tastes better at the beach.”

“Oh they do, do they?”

He tugged me into a kiss. Hot. Hungry. His tongue swept around mine, but it might as well have been circling the head of my cock. I pressed against him, sighing into his mouth and grinding my hips into his.

Tanner’s mom couldn’t have been more welcoming, but she was also home all the time, and I hadn’t felt comfortable enough in her small apartment to do anything more than kiss him good night. The week of celibacy had me so horny, I could barely see straight.

Kissing him deeper, I sank my fingers into his hair. I’d missed the silky feel. The humid air filled with the coconut-lime scent of his shampoo, and I breathed it in, savoring him—his smell, his taste, his hardness. I pulled away enough to tug his shirt up and over his head.

Tanner grabbed a handful of my T-shirt and flopped backward onto the gigantic bed, pulling me along with him. For a solid week, I’d wanted nothing more than to feel his body against mine. Rubbing against him had stars dancing behind my eyes. I could have come just from that. Just from feeling him next to me. Just from knowing he was as hard as me, that he wanted this as much as I did.

Forcing myself to breathe, I rolled away, not sure what I wanted to take off first, my shirt or his shorts. Either way I wanted fewer clothes separating us, the sooner the better. Before my sex-scrambled brain could figure out what to do, a door slammed.

“Woot! We’re here!”

Voices boomed from downstairs followed by the muffled sound of suitcases rolling into the house and footsteps thudding up the stairs.

My body stiffened, and not in a good way. I sat up so fast I nearly fell off the bed.

Tanner sat up alongside me and rubbed my back. His hand felt warm and comforting, but it wasn’t enough to calm me.

“Collin, it’s okay. Everyone living here is totally cool. With everything.”

He’d said that before, but I’d been too freaked-out to ask what that meant. “You know them all?”


“And they know… about me?”

“They know you’re my roommate from school. And yeah, they know you’re my boyfriend. Trust me. No one gives a shit. Besides, they’ll like you.”

My eyes darted to his. He looked sympathetic but amused. His fingers kneaded my shoulder, and I wanted to shove him down on the bed and finish what we’d started, but I heard voices again.

“Tanner? You up there?” a guy called.

“Be down in a sec. We just got here too.” He smoothed his hand over my hair and cupped the back of my neck, forcing me to look at him.

“You’ll feel better after you meet them. Unless you want to stay up here until we’re done…. You might be calmer if….”

Tempting. So fucking tempting.
I shook my head. “No. I can think of better first impressions than having them hear me moaning.”

“You think there’d be moaning, huh?”

“I haven’t come in four days.”

Tanner laughed. “We were at my mom’s place for seven.”

“I jerked off in the shower one morning.”

“I’d have come with you.” His eyes twinkled at me. Fucking
like goddamned gemstones. Like they thought his joke was the funniest thing they’d ever heard.

“I know you would have. That’s why I got up early that morning.”

“Just that one time, though? The whole time we were there?”

I looked down at the floor again and nodded.

“Well, we’re gonna make up for that. And you’re not going to have to feel like that here. This is our house, for the whole summer. And we are most definitely not the only people who will be having sex in it.”

Even the thought of us having sex made me smile. “Tell me again who’s living here.”

Meeting my new housemates with a raging erection was not part of my plan, so I needed to focus on something other than Tanner.

“Suzanne and Bill own the house. They’re in their late twenties, married about five years, I think. My dad knows them from the theater circuit. Bill’s a set designer, and Suzanne’s a writer. They can’t afford this place and their apartment in the city unless they rent the other rooms.”

“That’s how you lived here last summer?”

“Yep. The last two summers. My dad heard they were looking for renters, so Wendy and I each took a room. That’s how Wendy hooked up with Dex, who’s also living here again.”

“So they’ve been together two years?”

“Almost to the day. Last summer they shared this room, but this year they took one of the smaller rooms downstairs since Wendy can only be here on the weekends.”

She’d told me she was bummed about that, but she’d scored an internship at some fashion magazine—her dream job—and she hadn’t been able to turn it down. “Is Dex working at the restaurant with us?”

“Nah. He’s a trust fund brat. Pretty sure all he’ll be working on is a tan. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do anything other than read and play guitar, and I’ve lived with him two summers.”

“Do you not like him?”

“He’s nice enough. We just have nothing in common.”

Except that you’ve both slept with Wendy.
I kept that comment to myself. “Is that it? Housemate-wise?”

“Nope. There’s Bryan. He’s Suzanne’s younger brother. Pretty sure he’s our age. He goes to NYU. He’s a photography student, but he’s also a kickass musician. His band plays all over, but in the summer he books a bunch of gigs out here. So he’ll be here when he’s not touring around.”

Tanner paused, a smile playing at his lips. “Oh yeah. And he’s gay.”

My eyes bugged. “Really?”

“Yes. And very out. When I said no one here would think twice about us, I meant it.”

That sounded too good to be true, but I really hoped it was. “That it?”

“No.” There was an edge in Tanner’s voice I hadn’t heard before.

“There’s Maggie.”

Something about his tone made me think “ex-girlfriend.” Was that it? Were there two women in the house Tanner had slept with? “What’s she like?”

“Maggie is….”

A giggle echoed through the stairwell. “Maggie is what?”

A pixie-ish girl with heavy black bangs and a ponytail high atop her head peered around the corner of our doorway.

Tanner rolled his eyes.

Pixie-chick fluttered her long fake lashes and gave him an exaggerated innocent-face. “Maggie is what, Tanner? And who’s your friend? He’s cute.”

Tanner threw me a look I couldn’t quite read—a cross between annoyance and concern. He drew in a breath. “Maggie is a dancer-singer- actress who works on a ton of my dad’s productions.”

Maggie grinned. “I prefer the term ingénue.”

Nothing about her looked the least bit innocent or naïve to me.

A muscle in Tanner’s jaw twitched, but he kept his voice even. “And she’s his ex-girlfriend.”

This was who he was talking about when he said his dad was dating someone our age?
Holy shit.

“See?” she said, looking straight at me with her cartoonishly big black- rimmed eyes. “Ingénue. The femme fatale stole him away from me.”

“No new director to seduce?” Tanner teased, but I could hear the hint of edginess behind his words.

“Not yet. I’m between… projects.” Her gaze flitted between Tanner and me. “I think I’ll go younger this time. Maybe a student in my class.”

“You teach?” I asked. I couldn’t imagine her teaching anything.

“Yoga and tai chi. On the beach. Three mornings a week. You should come.” The breathy pause before she said the word “come” earned another eye roll from Tanner.

The screen door slammed again. “Anyone home?”

Maggie’s eyebrows rose. “Who’s that? He sounds hot.”

Tanner took a step toward the door, ushering Maggie into the hall. “It’s ninety degrees out, and the house isn’t air-conditioned. Everyone’s hot.”

“Everyone in this room, at least.” She winked at me and trotted down the stairs.

“That’s your dad’s ex?” I’d met Tanner’s dad. He was like an older, graying version of Tanner. Easygoing. Smart. Movie-star attractive. And clearly able to get girls I’d have been too scared to talk to even if I’d been into them. Especially if I’d been into them.

“Yep. Ready to meet the rest of the house?”

“Let’s do it.” After Maggie, I was pretty sure nothing would be a surprise.

Chapter Two

THE FIRST floor of the house had become a sea of boxes and suitcases. It amazed me how much stuff there was. With Fire Island’s no-cars-allowed policy, everything had to be carted to the houses from the dock by wagon or wheeled case. Not conducive to bringing a lot of stuff. Tanner had warned me, so all I’d brought was a backpack with my laptop and a suitcase full of clothes. Pretty much everything else I owned was in storage at the auto shop that was doing bodywork on my car after the accident. I’d worked for the owner a few times, and he’d said he didn’t mind keeping my stuff for the summer.

Tanner and I stepped around the boxes as we made our way into the kitchen. “How’d they get all this shit here?” I asked.

“Those kids at the dock with the wagons are like island bellhops.

They’ll haul your stuff for a few bucks. Plus Suzanne owns one of those big wagons that were in that lot by the dock.”

Crazy. I never imagined I’d live anywhere that didn’t have cars. It was cool, but it was going to take some getting used to. I’d had a hard enough time being without a car since the crash. I really hoped I’d make enough money this summer to cover the cost of the repairs I couldn’t do myself.

The kitchen was by far the largest room in the house, open and light with windows along one entire wall and a slider out to a big deck, which wrapped around two sides of the house. The cabinets were old and whitewashed, but the countertops looked new—black and shiny. Marble or granite. All the appliances were stainless steel and looked pretty new too. Rows of pots and pans and bowls covered the shelves that lined one of the shorter walls. Someone here must like to cook.

I tensed as we entered the room. We were spending an entire summer here, with all these people I didn’t know.
What if they don’t like me? What if Tanner’s wrong about everyone being “okay” with us being here, as a couple?

A woman in cut-off jeans and a black tank top stood on a step stool getting pitchers out of the cabinet over the double-door fridge. Her brown hair was twisted into a makeshift bun and held in place by what looked like a binder clip. She grimaced as she tried to reach farther into the cupboard.

“Need some help with that?” Tanner asked.

She turned toward him and broke into a huge grin. She had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. They lit up as she hopped down from the stool and threw her arms around him. “Tan-Man!”

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