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You Can Choose Your Friends [MultiFormat]
eBook by Zahra Owens

eBook Category: Romance/Gay Fiction
eBook Description: Twenty years before You Can't Choose Your Family, Jay Molenski saved Fran Galloway's life. Franklyn Galloway is the youngest son of a conservative Evangelical minister, and it goes without saying that he is stuck in the closet. He dreams of being an architect, but his father puts a stop to that faster than Fran can say "Frank Lloyd Wright." So when Fran meets popular, laid-back Jay Molenski, he does everything he can to deny the sparks flying all around them. It only works for so long. After a brutal trip home, Fran finds himself staring down a fifth of vodka and a bottle of sleeping pills. How can Jay and his family make Fran see that he deserves not just love, but the freedom to be himself?

eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, Published: 2012, 2012
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2012

5 Reader Ratings:
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Franklyn Galloway arrived at college with mixed feelings. He was glad to be away from home, away from the stifling yoke of being a pastor's son and the black sheep of the family, but on the other hand, he was fully aware how little he knew about real life. He'd always lived a sheltered existence in affluent communities in small Midwestern towns where life was simple and minds were narrow. They moved around quite a bit so he never had friends for very long, but he was a bit of a loner anyway, so he didn't really mind. The only one he truly missed was his sister, Caroline, who was just over a year older than he was. She had married her high school sweetheart, and she and Lloyd were trying for a family, so Franklyn knew she had better things on her mind than hanging out with her baby brother. He was just going to have to make the best of his time at college and study hard so he could get a decent job and would never have to return to his parents' house.

Before leaving home, Franklyn had received a stern talking to by his father. Franklyn wanted to study architecture or something else that spoke to his talent for drawing and designing. His father found those pursuits "flighty" and "unfit for a man," so Franklyn had been told to enroll in economics and business courses. Franklyn had agreed reluctantly, and only because the first eighteen years of his life had taught him he could only get his father off his back by nodding and not arguing. He would take some business classes, figuring they would always come in handy, and then try to slip in some design or art classes, possibly as a minor. Being away at college and out from under his father's constant scrutiny, he was sure he could get away with that.

Franklyn's roommate was a jock who snored and brought girls back to the dorm, but Franklyn didn't care. Anything was better than being at home.

College life got even better when he walked into the liberal arts campus, which was across town from where he usually took his classes, and entered his first illicit design class. It was where he bumped into a tall, well-built guy with long, flowing blond hair and a multicolored shirt. Even before he heard the guy's name, Franklyn was smitten. He didn't want to be. He'd known about his attraction to guys for as long as he could remember, but it wasn't right, so he'd never acted on it. If his father ever found out, there would be hell to pay, and it would be a lot worse than if his father had caught him taking design classes, so he wasn't going to act on it now either. That didn't mean he couldn't enjoy the view. Although he'd never show it on the outside, Franklyn was thrilled when he found there was a space to sit right next to the eccentric-looking guy.

Franklyn was well aware that he wasn't going to remember anything the professor said during the lecture. Although Franklyn didn't doubt that what the man was saying was interesting, he might as well have tried to explain rocket science to him. Or Chinese. All Franklyn could think about was the blond's arm brushing against his when he sat down, and feeling the tiny hairs on it. It gave him goose bumps that he hoped his neighbor couldn't feel. Several times he tried to focus on what the teacher was saying, but every time he failed because the guy moved his arm or shifted in his seat. By the end of the class, all Franklyn could think about was rushing back to his dorm and beating off while thinking about the guy with the Hawaiian shirt and the long blond hair. He couldn't actually do that, though. Letting the thoughts run freely through his head was as evil as committing the actual sin, and beating off was out of the question as well.

As they all got up out of their seats, Franklyn heard someone call out "Jason," and the object of his attraction turned around. Jason waved at the girl who'd called his name and smiled at her.

"Hang on, I'll move so you can go to her," Franklyn said, walking out of the narrow row of benches to make way for the other man to pass.

While Franklyn was walking away, he felt a strong hand on his elbow. "That's okay. She's the sister of a friend of mine. We talk all the time, and she just wanted to show me off to her friends." The blond gave Franklyn a once-over, and it made Franklyn uncomfortable to be scrutinized that closely, especially since he was holding his books in front of his groin to hide that he was sporting wood. "I'm Jayson, by the way. With a Y."

"A why?" Franklyn asked, sounding like a parrot.

"J-A-Y-S-O-N instead of just J-A-S-O-N," Jayson spelled. "What can I say, I have hippy parents. I guess after David and Mark, they wanted a third son with a slightly different name. Then again, my mother always tells me she knew I'd be a handful, so she gave me a strangely spelled name."

"I like it," Franklyn replied, feeling goofy.

"So what's your name?" Jayson asked.

"Franklyn," Franklyn answered. "Also with a Y."

"Instead of an I? Cool. Guess we're a match made in heaven."

Franklyn felt himself blush and wished he could just run away and hide, but he couldn't make himself walk away from Jayson now that they were talking.

"It's a bit of a mouthful, though," Jayson continued. "What do your parents call you?"


"Oh man! That's lame."

Franklyn didn't know what to say to that except, "I'm not a fan of it either, but that's my name."

"How about I call you Frank?"

Franklyn drew a disgusted face.


Franklyn wasn't totally happy with that either and he guessed it showed.

"I'm not calling you Franklyn. It sounds like I'm talking to my lawyer or something. You need a hipper name. No parents here, so you can be whoever you want to be. You really can't live with Fran? I think it suits you. You can call me Jay and then we'll both have a monosyllabic name."

"Okay," Franklyn conceded.

Jay grabbed his books. "So what are you doing for lunch?"

Fran shrugged. "I don't know. Grabbing a sandwich from the cafeteria?"

"Sounds good."

Fran stopped him and pointed a few rows higher up. "But those girls are waiting for you. Wouldn't you rather go with them?"

Jay eyed them and then looked back at Fran, scrutinizing him with what Fran could only decipher as interest. "No way. Let's split."

It was still a pretty sunny day, and Fran was sweating in his dress pants, white shirt, and wool sweater. He looked at Jay who was walking next to him, one hand deep in the pocket of his Bermuda shorts with that loud Hawaiian shirt over it, and felt sort of jealous, although he couldn't begin to imagine going to school in something that casual. Jay looked immensely comfortable, though. Everyone seemed to know him, as people waved at him, called his name, and casually high-fived him when they came from the opposite direction.

"So what's your major?" Jay asked.

"Economics," Fran replied.

"O-kay," Jay said, eyebrows raised. "Guess you have a head for numbers then?"

"Not really," Fran admitted. "So what's your major?"

Jay looked at Fran with a teasing smile. "I haven't decided yet. Plenty of time for that, I suppose. Definitely want to do something with design, but I also like plants and water and working outdoors, so I'm taking some biology classes as well. Don't know if I'm that smart, though. It's becoming very complicated, very fast! And I'm more of a hands-on sort of guy. I'm not very good at bending over the books, if you know what I mean."

Fran just smiled. He didn't know what to say after hearing Jay ramble on like that, but he didn't want him to stop either. Jay's voice had something musical to it, and Fran thought he could listen to it for hours. He was smitten, all right.

"So what made an economics major end up in a Natural Design class?" Jay asked just before they entered the noisy cafeteria.

Fran didn't answer until they were standing in line for their food. "My parents want me to get a business degree, but I like to draw and sketch and stuff, and I thought that I could do something like that on the side."

"Those are the same parents who call you Franklyn, right? And they're paying for your education?"

Fran shook his head. "My dad's church pays some of it, and there's financial aid."

"Ah," Jay replied. "That's tough. You one of those religious types? You look like a Mormon."

The way Jay said it was casual, like he didn't mean any harm, and Fran was glad of it. The last thing he wanted was to feel offended by a guy like Jay. "I'm not a Mormon. My father's a minister and yeah, he's pretty religious, but I'm not. They always made me go to church, but I don't know if I believe everything they say." Fran was sort of surprised to hear himself say that. He'd never expressed those feelings to anyone, and only very rarely entertained them himself.

"That's life," Jay replied casually. "Bet your folks aren't too happy about that, right?"

"They don't know," Fran admitted as they paid for their food.

Jay nodded that he understood and found them a table to the side where the noise was a little less loud. A few more people stopped by their table, most of them girls who looked a little older than Jay or him. Fran didn't know any of them, but Jay was open and friendly, shaking hands and smiling at all of them.

"You know a lot of people," Fran remarked when the steady stream finally seemed to dry up.

"Not really," Jay said. "But both my brothers are here too, and they're jocks. They're pretty popular guys, so everyone is checking out the youngest of the litter."

Fran swallowed around his sandwich. "Three kids in college? Your parents must be loaded!" As soon as the words left his mouth, he ducked down, ashamed of his crassness. When he dared to look at Jay, he knew there really was no need. Jay was chuckling, his mouth full of tuna melt.

When Jay finally swallowed, he was still smiling. "I'm like you. I have a partial scholarship. Not like my brothers, who both play football and could probably turn pro if they don't get injured before they finish college. I'm not that sporty."

From what Fran had seen of Jay, he begged to differ, because Jay had nicely developed calves and sinewy arms that he desperately wanted to touch. He could only imagine what was hidden under the loud, oversized shirt, but of course, he wasn't going to do that. Guys didn't fantasize about their friends in that way, now did they?

"Although I do run a bit," Jay continued.

That explained the lean physique and nice calves, Fran thought.

"I won a design contest for a garden and they gave me this partial scholarship. Financial aid helped, since they know my family's financial situation, but I work at the video store for the rest of it, and I share a dorm room with two other guys to cut costs. My brothers are looking into finding an apartment for the three of us, maybe, but it's not easy to find something that isn't a total dump."

Fran just nodded. He liked the fact that Jay did all the talking.

"So how about you? Are you into any sports around here?"

Fran looked up and smiled. "The only sport I get up to is biking. I don't have a car, so that gets me everywhere."

Jay sniggered. "At least it'll prevent you from turning into a couch potato."

Fran couldn't stop smiling at Jay, although he tried hard to push away the thought that he'd love to end up on a couch with Jay and would gladly become a couch potato with him. He shouldn't have those thoughts, but then, those thoughts made him happy, just like Jay's voice and Jay's smile and Jay's eyes and.... Fran stopped smiling as he felt his arousal rise. That happened every time he thought about what another boy looked like, and he had to dispel those thoughts. They were wrong and sinful and bad. They were brought on by Satan tempting him. God would strike him down for those thoughts, yet sometimes he felt like he was willing to risk it.

"Everything okay?" Jay asked, pushing his plate away. He was leaning forward a bit to try and catch Fran's eye.

"Why?" Jay's smile was so alluring, so soft and beautiful and sinful. Fran wanted to kiss his mouth, especially when Jay licked his lips like he did now.

"We were having fun. You were smiling and then all of a sudden you stopped. Was it something I said?"

Jay sounded unsure of himself all of a sudden, and it was such a departure from the confident attitude he'd seen from Jay so far that Fran finally dared to look at him again.

"It's nothing," Fran said by way of apology. "I was just thinking that we're having such a good time, and then I remembered that I don't come to this campus every day. I'm across town, and I only came down here for the design class."

"And the next one isn't until next week," Jay finished Fran's thought. Then he seemed to perk up. "You could come over here to help me in the garden. Or I could skip class here and come over to one of yours. I could probably do with some business classes if I ever decide to start my own business, right?"

Fran nodded and tried to smile. He knew he shouldn't expect anything from Jay, but it did feel nice to have a friend.

"We could study together," Jay suggested.

"I could help you with biology," Fran agreed. "I was pretty good at science in high school."

And so they ended up spending a lot of time together. Under the guise that Jay needed help with biology, Jay would come over to Fran's dorm room to study. Fran's roommate was often away for sports games or out with girls, so they frequently had the place to themselves for most of the evening. Jay's biology books were always open, but rarely used. Most of the time they talked about other things that had nothing to do with school.

When Jay had to work at the video store, Fran joined him there. It was a pretty busy store, catering mostly to the college students, but Jay still managed to educate Fran where movies were concerned.

"I can't believe you never saw any Halloween movies."

Fran shook his head.

"Freddie Krueger? Texas Chainsaw Massacre? They're making a third one."

Fran threw Jay an apologetic look. "We never really went to the movies. And my parents only let us watch PBS on TV."

Jay leaned over the counter as Fran handed him another stack of empty video boxes. "Oh man, you're in dire need of some cinematic education." He motioned at Fran to join him. "Follow me. Let's pick out a movie to pop your cherry."

Fran's eyes grew to the size of saucers.

"Proverbial cherry," Jay said with a smile. He leaned closer to Fran across the counter and spoke in whispers. "Although we do have porn under the counter."

Fran pulled away from the desk as if it had been electrically charged.

It made Jay shake his head. "Boy, you are green, aren't you?"

"No, I'm not," Fran replied without a lot of conviction in his voice. To his considerable relief, Jay just smiled and didn't give him a hard time about it. Instead he just held out his hand.

"Let's go pick out a slasher movie."

"Can we get something a little less gory?" Fran asked. "I'd hate to see that spaghetti we ate come up again."

Jay rolled his eyes and picked out The Fly, which turned out to be all Fran needed to upchuck his dinner.

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