If the Stars Fall, page 1
If The Stars Fall
The Making of A Man
Copyright 2013 by Diane Adams
First eBook publication: 2012
Cover design by Meredith Russell
Edited by Chris Quinton
If The Stars Fall
Jared Douglas and Alex Ross share a life many people envy. When disaster strikes, it hits hard and their long standing relationship is put to the test, making Jared realize how fragile love can be.
* * * * *
For sixteen incredible years Jared Douglas and Alex Ross share their lives and their hearts, each golden moment seeming to promise a lifetime of the same. When calamity strikes, it hits hard leaving the couple shell-shocked in the aftermath.
As Alex struggles to recover from an injury and cope with the resulting depression, Jared's efforts to help are ineffectual. Alex is slipping away and Jared can do nothing but love him and cling to hope.
When things are darkest, Alex and Jared continue their struggle to find common ground; what they discover comes as no surprise. Sadly, even the strongest love can be stretched too far. They don't want to lose what they had but is looking back the answer?
All Rights Reserved:
This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission. This book cannot be copied in any format, sold, or otherwise transferred from your computer to another through upload to a file sharing peer to peer program, for free or for a fee. Such action is illegal and in violation of Copyright Law.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
Especially for those of you who helped make writing If the Stars Fall such a memorable experience. It wouldn't have been the same without you.
The authors acknowledge the trademarked status and owners of the following wordmarks used in this story:
McDonald's: McDonald's Corporation
Camaro: General Motors Company (GM)
Marry Me: Amanda Marshall / Rob Misener
Coke: The Coca Cola Company
iCloud: Apple Inc.
A Moment Like This: Kelly Clarkson / written by: Jörgen Elofsson and John Reid
Picasa: Google Inc.
Facebook: Facebook, Inc.
MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
BMW: Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft
YouTube: Google Inc.
IBM: International Business Machines Corporation
Chapter 1 – How Long Since This Story Began
Chapter 2 – The Look In Your Eyes
Chapter 3 – Only For You
Chapter 4 – How Did Life Get So Rough
Chapter 5 – Give It All Away
Chapter 6 – Finding The Way Home
Chapter 7 – Nothing Without You
Chapter 8 – More Than A Feeling
Chapter 9 – Don’t Look Back
Chapter 10 – Tangled Up In You
Chapter 11 – From The Moment We Met
Chapter 12 – Some Days Are Golden
Chapter 13 – In The Spring
Chapter 14 – Finding It Hard To Believe
Chapter 15 - The Only One
Chapter 16 – For The Lucky And The Strong
Chapter 17 – The Place We’re From
Chapter 18 – You Light Up My World
Chapter 19 – There For You
Chapter 20 – ‘Til The Day I Die
Chapter 21 – Hope It Never Ends
How Long Since this Story Began
Standing next to their bed Alex Douglas-Ross braced his forearm against the wall and watched his husband sleep. He noted that over the last few weeks several white strands had dared to salt themselves through Jared's dark auburn hair, matching the silver at his temples. It didn't make him look old, no one ever put him at fifty, much less his very real fifty-five. With an unconscious need for physical contact Alex reached out to touch the silk of his hair, but jerked his hand away just before his fingers brushed against the fine strands. He needed his rest.
Jared's naturally fair skin never tanned well, but the sight of his current unnatural pallor against the dark blue of the pillowcase constricted Alex's heart, making it painful to breathe. The stark visual, an uncompromising reminder of how long Jared had been out of the sun, inevitably brought his mind back to the afternoon he'd come home to find him lying in a pool of his own blood.
Fighting back tears, Alex buried his face against his arm. He felt ridiculous. He hadn't cried once in the weeks following the accident, but after receiving the doctor's assurance of Jared's full recovery earlier that day, he began to unravel. Now, silent tears wet his face.
Despite Alex's efforts not to disturb Jared, he moved, restless, as if sensing Alex's distress. Dark blue eyes blinked open and Jared's voice broke the silence.
"Hey, come here." He considered reaching for Jared's outstretched hand, but unwilling to burden him with after-the-fact hysterics turned to leave instead.. "Alex, please."
He stopped, torn between the sanctuary offered by the bathroom door and his inability to deny Jared. Slowly, he returned to the bedside. Jared didn't say a word as he lifted the blanket in silent invitation. Alex hesitated only a moment before toeing off his shoes and crawling, fully dressed, into the haven of Jared's arms. He pressed his face against Jared's chest. The security of his embrace, the familiarity of his scent, overwhelmed him and toppled his last barrier.
"You scared me," he accused, struggling to stem the sudden rush of emotion that threatened to break free in another torrent of tears. He pulled away, sitting to snag a tissue from the nightstand to wipe his face and blow his nose.
"I know I did." Jared reached up and cradled the back of his head, fingers tangling in his hair, tugging a little, attempting to coax him into lying down again. "I'm sorry."
With a sniff and a resigned sigh, he settled back into the warm niche against Jared.
"Maybe the next time you get sick you could say something and skip the whole passing out, bashing your head on the cabinet thing?" Alex buried his face into the strength of Jared's shoulder, an unsuccessful attempt to ward off the haunting memory of him lying in a pool of blood. His skin had been too pale, his breathing shallow, and his body had burned like a furnace under Alex's hand.
"I promise. I thought I just had the flu or something. You know the fever didn't crop up until days after my stomachache. I didn’t realize there might be a connection."
"I know." Alex shuddered, only slightly comforted when Jared's arm tightened around him.
He'd heard the story more than once in the last weeks. Feeling achy and feverish Jared had been determined not to miss work and on his way out, he stopped by the kitchen to grab a couple of aspirin. He'd passed out and didn’t remember falling or hitting his head on the marble edge of the countertop. The resulting gash on his forehead accounted for the pool of blood that Alex claimed had knocked years off his life.
"Anybody else would sue them for the misdiagnosis that almost killed you," Alex grumbled. He didn't really believe the doctors had been negligent, but he couldn’t help wanting to hold someone responsible for his terror as he’d waited for them to figure out what was wrong with his husband.
Jared hugged him a little closer. "You know it wasn't a misdiagnosis, just incomplete. I did have septicemia. It's not the hospital's fault that instead of getting the blood infection from some outside source, I walked around being poisoned by my own body. They saved me. By all rights, I should be dead."
Alex had appendicitis as a child. They'd cut out the useless scrap of organ and, much to his mother's dismay, he'd tried to go back to school three days later. As a result, he'd never thought of having appendicitis as being serious, much less life-threatening. His simple laser surgery was a far cry from what Jared had gone through after walking around for two or three days, poison leaching into his entire system. Jared hadn't regained consciousness after arriving at the hospital. Even after they began treating the infection he'd lain still and silent, white as the sheets covering the sterile hospital bed. The continuous drip of antibiotics into his arm from an IV the only thing that stood between him and death.
"You should not be dead, so don't say that. Not ever." Alex choked out the words, tears threatened again and he held on to Jared, refusing to acknowledge the few that squeezed out to trace his cheeks.
Alex's lack of control made him feel half his age. He'd been a pillar of strength throughout the whole horrifying experience. His fear for Jared's life had only increased once the doctor explained the source of his infection. A burst appendix often proved fatal under the best circumstances. Survival usually dependent upon swift and accurate diagnosis, Jared had received neither.
He'd remained steadfast and made decisions about Jared's life with unwavering confidence. He stayed at Jared's side, holding his hand, talking to him, and showed no sign he believed in any outcome short of full recovery. His assurance worried the hospital staff. Jared’s doctor and his nurses had gently tried to prepare him for the unfortunate reality that things may not turn out as he hoped. Alex waved them off, refusing to listen. He didn't have the will to contemplate the idea of losing Jared. As long as Jared breathed, hope beat in his chest.
"Alex." Jared inhaled deeply, he had more to say. It weighed between them, but instead of speaking, he buried his face in his hair.
Alex clutched him. After the surgery, he had been so pale he seemed bloodless, and Alex still didn't remember exactly what the doctors had said they'd done beyond removing the appendix. He had a vague impression of something about washing Jared's insides, but that couldn't be right, and whatever they had done wouldn't have been in the sudsy kitchen sink that tormented Alex's dreams. He had better recall of his elation when, after the surgery, the antibiotics had begun to work. The doctor grew cautiously hopeful, and though rarely conscious, Jared regained a little color.
The day they'd taken out his staples, leaving a glaring red wound across his abdomen that made Alex wince every time he saw it, the doctor finally told him in plain English that Jared would be fine. Not long afterward he graduated to oral medication and Alex got to take him home.
"You know the chances that you and I are going to exit this world at the same time are very slim." Jared finally voiced his thoughts, though spoken with gentle compassion the words tore at Alex's heart.
"No. You are not allowed to leave me." His jaw clenched and his hold on Jared tightened.
Bringing Jared home had been the beginning of a new trial for Alex. Keeping Jared in bed when he felt so much better had often been a practice in futility, but he had suffered every moment with grace and patience. Only two things mattered. Jared was home and healing. The horrible alternative had been avoided. Knowing what could have been, turned the endless arguments over whether he was ready to climb the stairs, cook dinner, or water the plants into a strange celebration of life.
If he's arguing, he's improving.
Alex had taken the doctor's words to heart. He'd weathered it all just to fall apart when he had nothing left to worry about, since, beyond all medical expectation to the contrary, Jared had recovered.
Jared cupped his face in his hand, and used his thumb to swipe away the few straggling tears. "We have to face reality. I'm fifty-five, you're fifty-one. We aren't getting younger and this could as easily have been a stroke or a heart attack."
"Shut up." Alex propped on an elbow to glare down at him. "Shut up or I'm never letting you eat bacon again."
"Not a single bite." Alex smirked at Jared's dismayed expression. "We've ignored the reality that something might happen to one of us for the last thirty-five years and I don't see any reason to change that habit just because you think you're old. We'll go vegan if that's what it takes to make you stop talking about heart attacks and strokes."
"Vegan?" Jared looked horrified.
"Vegan." He kept his voice firm despite the urge to laugh at Jared's reaction.
"Well, now that I consider all the circumstances, I think it's much more likely we'll die peacefully together in our sleep on our one hundredth anniversary." Jared hurried to change his tune and even managed to look as if he had convinced himself.
With Jared's insistence they talk about surviving one another safely averted, Alex could relax and enjoy being in bed with him for the first time in too long.
* * * *
Silence fell between them, allowing Jared time to study Alex's face. He understood what Alex was going through. His recent illness hadn't been the first time one of them had a brush with death. Tilting his face with a gentle touch, he brought Alex's mouth to his and tasted tears in the kiss. His misery wrenched Jared's heart, driving him to make impossible promises.
"I'll never leave you."
"I know," Alex breathed. His fingers slid into Jared's hair and his body pressed close. Jared's breath caught at the feel of Alex against him. He slid his hand under Alex's shirt to the small of his back and brought their hips together, allowing him to feel his rising interest. "You know, the doctor cleared me for all activity and I've missed you." Jared stroked the tender skin under his fingers.
Alex made a sound low in his throat, fingers tightening against Jared's scalp as he rubbed against the thigh Jared pressed between his legs.
"Oh, God, Jared."
Heat curled through Jared in reaction to Alex’s soft sight of submission. He growled his arousal and deepened their kiss. He pulled his husband’s slighter form under his as he worked the T-shirt off his arms. They parted long enough to get it over Alex's head before their mouths locked together again. Jared settled into the welcoming cradle of Alex's hips and plundered his mouth, licking deep before tangling their tongues. Alex suckled hard in return, sending tiny shocks of pleasure through Jared. He groaned, rutting against the hard bulge of Alex's cock, only to hiss sharply and jerk away when the action rubbed his tender scar against the rough denim.
Alex's expression transformed from passionate to concern in the blink of an eye. "We shouldn't be doing this." He propped up on his elbows and tried to move, but Jared restrained him with a reassuring hand on his chest.
"It's fine. The doc said the scar will be sensitive for a while. There’s an easy fix." His hands went to the button fly of Alex's jeans. "We'll remove the source of my discomfort."
Shaking his head, Alex opened his mouth to protest, but whatever he'd been about to say died on his lips when Jared slid the buttons of his fly free, one after the other. His knuckles brushed the soft skin of Alex's belly, and they both trembled.
They hadn't been together for weeks, not even a stolen hand job to help pass the time. Alex's fear of losing Jared kept them on the straight and narrow all the way through his lengthy convalescence. Jared had never been so relieved to hear the words 'you may resume full activities'. He blushed a little remembering the amused curl of the doctor's lips at his questions meant to ensure Alex understood 'full activities' included sex.
When the last button opened, he raised his gaze to meet Alex's, sliding his fingers inside to rub the hard length of his cock through the soft cotton of his boxers.
Alex's eyes closed and he groaned, lifting his hips into Jared's touch. "How do you do that?" he gasped. Still propped on his elbows, he let his head fall back.
Heat licked through Jared's veins at the sight of his exposed throat.
"Do what?" He leaned forward, unable
"Make me feel like if you don't touch me I'm going to die." With a low moan he dropped from his elbows to sprawl across the bed.
Continuing to torment the soft skin behind Alex's ears, Jared found the opening in the front of Alex's boxers and slid his hand inside, brushing against the hard flesh trapped there. Crying out softly, Alex arched into the brief touch.
"Oh God, just like that."
With a low murmur of appreciation, Jared eased Alex's jeans off his hips. "Mmm." He licked along Alex's jaw, lapping at the sandpaper texture of his chin. Jared's beard grew in slowly making it possible, even in his fifties, to skip a day shaving if he wanted. Alex's coarser hair gave him the beginnings of his five o'clock shadow by late afternoon and it annoyed him. Jared didn’t mind. He’s developed a weakness for the rough masculine feel of rough stubble against his skin.
Alex turned his face away without warning. With a gentle touch, Jared cupped his chin and turned him back to meet his gaze. The doubt Jared read on his face came as no surprise. His exuberant confidence had been taken a beating many years before and though he’d healed, it often gave way before his worry about aging.
His eyes shadowed, Alex fingered his stubbled chin. "Don't you ever miss the boy?"
The dark places Alex sometimes slipped into didn't concern Jared as they once had, because over the years he'd learned how to dispel them. He rubbed their cheeks together before pressing his lips to Alex's ear.
"Why would I miss the boy when I am so enamored by the man he grew into?"
Alex quivered beneath him, gasping when Jared’s breath brushed his skin. His eager response quickened Jared's pulse, reminding him of everything he'd missed while being sick.