TITLE: Wide Open Spaces
AUTHOR: Renee Stevens
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
COVER ARTIST: Maria Fanning
LENGTH: 35,632 words
RELEASE DATE: August 31, 2016
BLURB: Devon fled Wyoming as soon as he turned eighteen, leaving behind his high school love, Levi. After six years in the big city, Devon returns to his hometown. Not much has changed, except that Levi is no longer in the closet. He’s also single and living his dream—managing the local wild horse population. Both of them are very interested in picking up where they left off, but Devon is no more ready to reveal his orientation than he was as a teenager.
No one is going to shove Levi back in the closet—not even Devon. For a relationship to work, they’ll have to put the past behind them and find the courage to face the future as who they really are—a couple in love. But Devon doesn’t know if he’s strong enough. Maybe Levi would be better off without him—and his hang-ups.
States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.
Devon dug his keys out of his pocket and headed for the door. He’d get something to eat and then maybe stop at the store to pick up a few staples. Paper plates, sandwich fixings, some chips, and he’d be good for a couple of days. At least it would give him time to get a few things—like pots and pans—unpacked. Then he could do a full grocery shop.
An hour later he was comfortably full from a greasy burger, fries, and a shake. He’d never eaten a lot of fast food, but he had few other options. He headed to Walmart, determined to stick to his list of sandwich stuff and maybe some eggs. Surely he could dig out some pans before the food expired. He headed to the chips first and scanned for the familiar bag of Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles. They were his all-time favorite, though he also knew he’d want something else after a day or two. So he grabbed a couple of other bags and headed for the eggs and then the freezer aisle.
Sandwiches and chips would get old fast. He found some frozen breakfast sandwiches he could microwave, tossed them in the cart, and moved on. Frozen lasagna quickly joined the few other items in his cart, followed by some potpies, a few TV dinners, and a bag of chimichangas. So what if he wasn’t sticking to his mental list?
He was more focused on getting groceries for the next few days than on the people around him.
He froze when a familiar voice spoke his name. He closed his eyes briefly, ducked his head, and steeled himself. He knew it would happen eventually, when he found out Levi still lived there. He thought he’d have more time to prepare. He swallowed—hard—and turned to face the man who had at one time meant everything to him. The man he’d risked being found out for. He lifted his head and gazed into the moss-colored eyes.
“Levi.” He hadn’t changed much. The goatee was new, but the shaggy black hair was the same. Devon kept his gaze squarely on Levi’s face, despite wanting to look him over completely. Not that he needed to. Levi had always been his exact opposite when it came to looks. Green eyes to his blue. Black hair to his blond.
Slender and toned where he was more stocky and muscular. The only similarity was their height. Devon was no giant, but he was a little taller than average, and Levi was only slightly shorter than him.
“I wasn’t sure it was you at first.” Levi smiled, but Devon could still see the same hurt in his eyes as the day he left. “I thought you were never coming back here. At least that’s what you said when you left.”
There was no accusation in Levi’s voice, but Devon winced just the same.
“I never planned to.” He forced himself to shrug like it didn’t matter. “I tried to stay away, but the city is nothing like here. Too many people, too much traffic, and you have to drive quite a ways to be able to see the stars.” Devon shifted from foot to foot, and he opened and closed his hands at his side. “We don’t have to do this.” He motioned from Levi to himself and back. “In fact I’d understand if you hate me and want nothing to do with me.”
“I never hated you.” Levi sighed. “I understood why you left. Even if I wished you didn’t feel the need to.” Levi scanned him from head to toe. He smiled, but there was a sad quality to it. “You look good. When did you get back?”
“A few days ago.” Somebody reached around him, and he realized he was blocking the burrito section. He moved out of the way and motioned with his head for Levi to follow him. He wasn’t sure if he was happy or not when Levi complied. He headed to the fruit and vegetable department, knowing there was a spot near the bananas where they could talk without being in anyone’s way. He stopped by the display and turned back to Levi. “I wasn’t sure if you’d still be here.”
“You know me.” Levi glanced away for a second and then turned back. “This is home. Are you back for good?”
“Yeah. I learned I’m truly a country boy at heart.” He chuckled. “Guess I should have listened when you told me I’d hate the city.”
“You never were very good at listening.” Levi shook his head. “I should let you go before both of our groceries start thawing.”
Devon wanted to stop him but wasn’t sure it was a good idea. He’d never completely gotten over Levi. Devon studied his ex as he walked away. He was still slender, but he had more muscle tone than he had at eighteen. Levi stopped and looked back.
“Maybe we could get together sometime. Catch up over a few beers?” Levi’s voice was barely more than a whisper, like he wasn’t sure he was doing the right thing, but Devon heard him. “I’m sure we have a lot to talk about.”
Every reader has their go to, the type of book that never fails to satisfy and leave you with a smile on your face. Mine is second chance love stories. I absolutely adore them. Throw in two guys from a small town who used to be best friends, well, then, I'm all over that in a heartbeat, which is why I was so excited when I saw the blurb for Wide Open Spaces by Renee Stevens. As part of Dreamspinner's States of Love series, I was really looking forward to this story set in Wyoming. There really is just something about imagining all that land and sky that pulls you right in.
Devon Rhodes left his hometown of Rock Springs as soon as he turned eighteen leaving his best friend, Levi, in his wake. Levi left as well, to go off to college, only to come back out and proud. When Devon shows up after six years, both men have changed. As a teenager, Devon couldn't wait to escape his small town, but finds that city living isn't quite what he was expecting. Neither man has ever really gotten over the other and when their paths cross, old feelings that have been buried simmer to the surface. Only problem is, Devon isn't any more ready to be out than he was at eighteen.
I'll admit, it took me a while to warm up to Devon, and since the book is so short, I didn't really have time to get to the point where I was rooting for him and Levi to get their HEA. There is quite a bit of back and forth as far as Devon is concerned. Sure he's still in love with Levi and wants to be with him, but not enough to be honest about who he is. After spending so much time out and proud, Levi's refusal to go back into the closet makes sense. There also really wasn't quite as satisfying an ending as I would have liked. The book is well written, but I found it a little hard to be too invested. All in all, this is a decent book and a nice way to spend an hour or two.
Renee Stevens first started writing in her teens but didn’t get serious about being an author until her mid-twenties. Since then she’s written a number of contemporary stories, as well as delved into the paranormal. When not writing, or spending time in the outdoors, Renee can be usually be found working on GayAuthors.org in her capacity of admin and Anthology Coordinator.
Renee resides in Wyoming with her wonderfully supportive husband and a menagerie of four-legged critters. Making the most of the nearly constant negative temperatures and mounds of snow, Renee spends much of the winter months in hibernation with her laptop, the voices in her head keeping her company while her husband works. When she needs a break from writing, Renee takes to the sewing machine to design, and make, beautiful quilts.
When the snow finally disappears, usually around May or June, Renee can be found in the great-outdoors. She spends her time on the mountain, at the lake, and just anywhere that she can do some camping, take some photos, and ride the four-wheelers with her hubby. Once back at home, it’s back to writing.
Winner’s Prize: No More Hiding ebook, Challenging Fate ebook, $10 Amazon GC.
Runner Up Prize: No More Hiding ebook.
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