Kunal, relative newcomer to the strange town of Harmony, has his hands full preparing for Diwali. That should be enough to keep anyone’s mind pre-occupied, but Kunal can’t really ignore that he’s nearly thirty, single, and still buried in the closet.
Out of town at a gay club one night, he bumps into Oscar, proprietor of Harmony’s only sex shop, and figures his secret is now officially out. What he doesn’t expect is a slow seduction, or to have to decide what it is he really wants in life.
The throbbing beat of the music at Rock Bottom made Kunal painfully aware that he was getting too old for this. He was going to be thirty soon, a few days after Diwali to be exact, and it was coming up sooner than he wanted. It was no wonder his parents were on his case about being single.
By the time she was thirty, Kunal’s mother had not only been married, but she’d also given birth to her two eldest children. He was lagging behind.
Not to mention what little he knew about gay culture told him that he was basically going to be dead at thirty. Time to start looking for twinks because he’d have to be the bear in the relationship, right? Of course, Kunal knew next to nothing about gay culture at all, which was why he was in the position he was in. Closeted and clueless. On the plus side, he looked a bit young for his age, which meant most everyone thought he was still around twenty-five. While that did mean he still had his fair share of fresh out of—or into—college boys too interested in his muscles to care about anything else, at least it meant he wasn’t dead yet.
The problem was those young men tended to be all the same. Slender, attractive, and looking for something exotic to fuck them senseless and send them on their way. As much as Kunal hated being reduced to that, it was safe. He knew they wouldn’t get attached, and he sure as hell wouldn’t either. But he was sick of the feelings that came afterward, the self-loathing that he’d been some guy’s “first fuck with an Indian guy.”
He couldn’t keep doing it. So when the first pretty boy blond came over his way, Kunal tightened his hand around his drink and shook his head. “No, thanks, I’m meeting someone.” The lie slipped out easily, but it didn’t work as expected.
The young man introduced himself as Drew, smiled wider, and leaned closer. “Three’s company.”
Kunal forced himself not to recoil. “Sorry,” he replied, his voice tight. “Not into that.”
Drew shrugged and walked away, tossing a “your loss,” over his shoulder. Kunal tuned back to his drink, wondering why he’d bothered to come out tonight if he was just going to turn down sure things and waste money on alcohol.
He decided to call it an early night. After paying his tab, he got up to leave, vacating his seat at the bar to the man who’d just approached. “All yours,” Kunal said. “I was just leaving.”
“Well, that’s a shame. Here I was about to ask to buy you a drink.”
Kunal paused to look at who was speaking and froze. He was right. It was just a matter of time before he ran into someone he knew. Someone from Harmony. Someone who could recognize him. Dammit, the reason he came here was so he wouldn’t run into people from Harmony. So of course, not only did he bump into someone he knew, it had to be Oscar Murro, local proprietor of things Kunal couldn’t even begin to mention. It wasn’t as though he’d even been in Oscar’s shop, but he knew what was sold there. And he knew who Oscar Murro was. In a town like Harmony, some people stood out.
Oscar was not just the sole Filipino man in Harmony, he was also one of the most attractive men in town, period. Kunal had noticed, and now he was worried Oscar had noticed him noticing.
Oscar blinked as the guy turned around. He’d seen him from behind and liked what he saw. There was something familiar about the bit of profile he could see, but he didn’t expect to recognize the guy when he turned around. He didn’t expect it to be Kunal Sadaram, of all people. He didn’t bother to ask the obvious question—what Kunal was doing here. He had the same reasons Oscar did. So instead of calling attention to the surprise, Oscar just smiled. “So is that a yes or a no?”
Kunal swallowed, his eyes a little wild. “Yes or no?”
“The drink. Yes or no?”
A voice behind Kunal piped up before he could respond. “This is who you were waiting for? You sure y’all aren’t into a threesome?”
Oscar tilted his head, squinted at the blond who’d reappeared by Kunal’s side. “Drew, right? Yeah, you made the same offer to me two months ago. I’m flattered, but I’m still not interested.” Oscar smiled to soften the blow of letting Drew down. Drew gave a huge, exaggerated sigh and left again, disappointment in his gait.
Oscar shook his head. “That should keep him away until, mmm, his next three drinks or so. And you, Kunal, still haven’t answered my question. Drink?”
Kunal’s eyes widened, panic in them. “I was just leaving,” he repeated, moving to sidestep Oscar.
“So that’s a no? Shame. I never get a chance to talk to you in town.”
Kunal stopped in his tracks, turning back to look at Oscar. “Uh, about that…”
Oscar nodded. “I know. You don’t want anyone in Harmony knowing you were here. Kunal, you know what kind of shop I run, right? I know how to keep secrets.” Kunal exhaled. “Thank you. But uh, I really am heading out. Thanks for the offer but…” Kunal trailed off, and without finishing his sentence, slipped into the crowd.
Oscar watched his retreat with a thoughtful expression then shrugged. Kunal’s presence confirmed something Oscar had already suspected—hell he’d even speculated-slash- hoped with Olli, when he’d first noticed the handsome new addition to Harmony—but it had still been a surprise to see him here at all.
But it also confirmed something else: Kunal Sadaram was deep in the closet, and it didn’t seem like he was ready to let anyone in Harmony know.
Freddie Milano lives with her partner-in-crime, two adorable and devilish cats, and far more ideas than she really has time to set down on (electronic) paper. She’s been writing since she could hold a pen, though most of the embarrassing stories thankfully never made in onto the internet, and can stay safely buried.
She loves wine, Korean pop music, tea, chocolate, coffee, mythology, and both video and tabletop gaming. An ESFJ surrounded by introverts, Freddie has learned the art of socialization in moderation. Besides, staying in just leaves her more time to write.