Book Title: All the Way Out
Author: Ingrid Sterling
Publisher: Literary Wanderlust
Release Date: April 1, 2021
Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance, New Adult
Trope/s: One-night stand turned into true love; Forced proximity; Athlete with musician; closeted sports star
Themes: Self-acceptance, coming out publicly
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 79 000/263 pages
It is a standalone book.
Even at that young age Zach knew that those two truths - all-star athlete and homosexual male - could not exist concurrently. So, he’d started dating Rebecca, his devoutly Catholic girlfriend who wants to wait to have sex until she’s married, during his junior year of high school and never looked back.
But on the last night of a team trip to Rome, on the cusp of his senior season at Northwestern University, a Heisman, a number 1 draft pick and a National Championship, Zach seeks out one last anonymous encounter. He opens Grindr and slips out into the Italian summer night to meet Liam - Liam who has a face that looks like it was carved from Carrara marble by one of the ancient greats and whose brazen facade becomes sheepish when he’s asked about his past in Paris. The night is intense, better than Zach could have imagined. But like all one-night stands, it comes to an end by morning’s light.
But what happens to Zach’s carefully manicured plans for a professional football career and a life in the closet when Liam shows up, not only on the Northwestern campus the first day of the fall semester, but in Zach’s upper-level Plato seminar, too?
“What are you doing in my upper level classics seminar?” Liam snapped.
"Um, I’m fulfilling my degree requirements,” Zach snapped back. “What are you doing in my upper level classics seminar? You live in Rome.”
“No, I was regrouping in Rome. I’d been going to school in Paris before that but—Wait, degree requirements? You’re a Classics major? Mr. Hotshot-starting-quarterback is a Classics major?” Liam’s voice came out shriller than he would have liked.
Zach set his hips back against the table, crossing his arms with a sudden smugness. “A Classics major focusing in Pax Romana philosophers with a 3.7 GPA, you mean? Yeah. I am. How do you think I recognized that ridiculous Metamorphoses quote on your Grindr profile?”
“I figured you Googled it like everyone else usually did.”
Zach’s face softened at Liam’s unintentional reveal. “Why didn’t you say anything about coming to school in the States that night?” Zach asked.
Liam leveled him with a look. “I don’t remember us doing an awful lot of talking.”
“We talked enough. You could have mentioned it.”
“I’d only decided to come here a week or so before we met,” Liam explained. “I barely knew anything about Northwestern aside from the fact that it has a pretty well-respected music program. Certainly not enough to know it has some big deal football team. And besides, what were the chances?”
“I’m not a betting man, but I definitely wouldn’t have taken these odds.” Doe-eyed panic lingered on Zach’s face even as he shifted to a more conversational tone. “So, the music school, huh? That’s cool. I remember you had music on your desk. What do you play?”
“Piano mostly, but I’m a composition major. I added a Classics minor ‘cause I can, here. My other school didn’t offer liberal arts courses.” Zach nodded, and Liam realized it was probably his turn to attempt conversation. “A jock with a brain, then. Color me impressed.”
Zach gave a bored lift of his shoulder. “It makes for a great human-interest story. I think every bad pun about Greek gods or Roman gladiators has been made about me at least once. The ESPN announcers think they are so fucking clever.”
Liam stared at him. “You keep saying these things thinking I know what they mean.”
“ESPN.” Zach gave him a patient grin. “It’s a cable sports network that shows games. You know, on the TV.”
“Yeah, alright.” Liam’s pursed lips morphed into an unbidden smile.
It was impossible not to note how the tension in the room had slipped away. The looks that passed between them carried a certain playfulness once they were forced to accept the inconceivable fact that they were both here in the same city, at the same school, and even in the same class. And into that ease slipped the feelings of attraction and memories of the intimacy they’d found on Liam’s mattress by the end of their night together. Liam had sought hidden parts of Zach’s body with his fingers. That small, insinuating touch, burned into his memory, had ignited such terrified want in Zach’s bright blue eyes that Liam had known that he would have been allowed to feel Zach from the inside if only they’d had more time. One more night. One more hour, even. And now here Zach was, standing before him. It was as baffling as it was thrilling. Liam certainly wouldn’t mind if they wound up hooking up again.
“Look,” Zach started, “This is crazy that you’re here, and I hope you love your time at Northwestern as much as I have, but it’s probably for the best if we don’t interact.”
Liam was rendered mute.
“I mean, I know we’re in class together,” Zach continued. “We’ll have to interact, discussion grades and everything, but what I mean is, we shouldn’t be friendly.”
“Why not?” Liam asked after another stunned beat.
“It’s nothing personal. In fact, I think you’re—” Zach stopped. He pressed his eyes closed and shook his head sadly. He took another steadying breath before speaking again. “It would make things really difficult for me. Like I told you in Rome, no one knows about me. About me and…” He spoke the next word at a careful volume. “Men. In fact, you’re the only person on this entire campus who does.”
Zach’s sexuality was a secret that should have bound them. But instead, Zach was using it to put a wedge between them, between even the possibility of them. Liam didn’t think the conversation could get any more ridiculous.
About the Author . . .
I named myself "Sterling" after my dad's boyhood dreams.
I'm a Yankee who has lived south of the Mason Dixon for a decade and I use 'Y'all' without irony. I dance in my kitchen. I vote. I love all the cats in the world and a good IPA. I will scream over college sports.
I write about love, with love, because #loveislove.
With two degrees in music performance, I strive to make my words sing. The rhythm and pacing of the prose are as important to me as my complicated, imperfect characters and my guaranteed happily-ever-afters.
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