Devlin “Devil” Brown had run away from home at sixteen to join the circus. Cliché, certainly, but it was either that or, at minimum, get kicked out if his father ever found out he was gay. Devlin figured it was better to go on the offensive. He’d already experienced his father’s kind of solution to problems, and Devlin being gay would have been more than a problem. Devlin’s father would have killed him.
But now, seven years later, Devlin was worn out, tired of the nonstop performances, the too many adrenalin rushes, and constant vigilance when in any town. Devlin wanted to go home. But there was no home for him, and the one person he wanted to see in the entire world probably didn’t even remember him.
Devlin had a crush on Elister McBowan since he was twelve. Four years of yearning for the older boy, and seven missing him. They’d been friends, and Devlin suspected El knew he was attracted to him, but Elister always treated Devlin like an annoying little brother. There was never any interest back that Devlin had seen. And, to top it off, Devlin had run out on El too, disappearing without a goodbye, not that it would have mattered. El knew how bad Devlin’s home life was, but there was nothing he could do. His wasn’t much better.
Devlin had to do something soon though, or he was going to lose his mind. The circus was scheduled to perform in his home town in two weeks. That’s when Devlin would seek out the only man he’d ever loved and see if maybe he could at least salvage their friendship, though he wouldn’t hope for anything more.
Elister knew his sister Carol was right. He went through boyfriends like most people went through toilet paper. But they were all substitutes for the one man Elister wanted. A boy that disappeared one night seven years ago. No one knew what happened to Devlin Brown. The authorities hadn’t put much effort into finding him, mostly because his father was the local sheriff and that man hated his son. Blamed him for his wife’s death giving birth to him.
Elister had a lot of regrets in his life, but the biggest was not telling Devlin he wanted him. He knew the younger man was attracted to him, but Elister had been too scared to acknowledge his feelings back then. He’d been just a teenager, a kid, trying to figure things out, and dealing with an alcoholic mother that was clingy and dependent. He didn’t even come out until after his mother succumbed to liver disease. Carol had been supportive, Elister’s brother had not. But then, he was deputy to Devlin’s overbearing and extremely homophobic father.
Elister just couldn’t connect with any of the men he’d been with no matter how hard he tried. They weren’t Devlin. Being alone was something he’d accepted a long time ago. He would forever be missing a part of himself, and there was nothing he could do about it. He couldn’t let Devlin’s memory go, couldn’t let the ghost of a boy, who would be a man now, go.