Joey – Chapter 15

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Dennis Carter was gay?

How in the hell was the lead guitarist for The Ports—as in a “girl in every port”—gay? Ethan had seen him on the front cover of magazines, news sites and social media with a different girl every week. How had he kept that quiet?

“Are you likely to be swarmed by reporters soon?” Joey asked Dennis.

Dennis shrugged. “Who knows. They seem to find me no matter where I go, but hopefully, they’ll leave us alone for now. No guarantees there won’t be photos somewhere, though.” He paused. “I’m surprised you didn’t know I was gay. It’s headline news at the moment.”

“I’m sorry about that.”

“Wasn’t your fault. I just wish I could’ve done it when Elliott was…still here.”

Ethan could see the pain flow across Dennis’s expression. There was more to his story than he was sharing. Joey settled onto the steps, a couple down from where Dennis was, and Ethan sat at Joey’s back, giving him strength through touch instead of words. It wasn’t his place to say anything, anyway.

“Dennis, what—” Joey started.

“Denny. Please.”

“Denny, what happened the night of the party? One minute, Elliott disappeared into the crowd. The next, we were going home. What happened between the two?”

Denny sighed and threaded his fingers, rubbing his thumbs together. “We hooked up. I’d sent him a message to meet me in an upstairs bedroom. We’d done it before. Several times, in fact. We were there for probably…an hour. Maybe less. Elliott kissed me goodbye before he left the room, and I waited ten minutes before following. Again, we’d done it before.”

“You make it sound like something different happened this time?” Ethan leaned harder against Joey’s back when his voice broke.

Denny nodded. “When I exited the room, there was a man waiting for me. An older man I’d never met before.”

“Who was he, and what did he want?”

“He said his name was Robert, and he,” Denny huffed a laugh before continuing, “offered me money to stay away from Elliott. Said it was up to him to keep an eye out for him, and what we were doing was irresponsible and disgusting.”

Joey leaned forward. “What did you say?”

“I told him to get lost, in not such pleasant words. I had no idea who he was.” Denny shook his head. “Not until Elliott’s funeral. Robert is his uncle, and from what I dug up about him since, he’s not a man to be trifled with.”

Was Joey going to be truthful about Robert’s relationship to Elliott? Ethan wasn’t sure if it would be beneficial to the investigation or not.

“So I’ve been told,” Joey said. “Did anything else happen that night?”

“No,” Denny said. “I only saw passing glances of Elliott with other people at the party. The last time I remember catching a glimpse of him was around eleven o’clock. He looked trashed, which was unlike him.”

Joey nodded. “That was roughly what time we went home.” He sighed. “I should’ve known something was wrong.”

Ethan squeezed his shoulder. “Elliott appeared to be adept at hiding things, Joey. If he didn’t want you to know, you wouldn’t, it seems.”

Joey stood, pacing from one side of the bandstand to the other, sliding his finger through his hair. Ethan hated seeing him so ravaged by pain. He wished there was something he could do to help, but he was working blind from this. He didn’t know Elliott when he was alive, and he only had his impartial opinion to add.

“I wonder if Robert cornered him?” Joey asked suddenly.

“What difference would that make? They’re family,” Denny said.

Joey glanced at Ethan, who nodded once. “I’ve recently found out that Robert is not actually Elliott’s uncle. He’s his father.”

Denny’s eyes widened, and he sat up straighter. “Holy shit.”

“Why did you have to come out?” Ethan couldn’t keep the question from escaping his mouth.

Denny glanced at him and then away into the distance. “When I declined Robert’s offer, he threatened to out me. I told him to shove it, saying it was Elliott’s choice. The day after Elliott…” He cleared his throat. “The newspaper ran the news about me. I assumed it was Robert, making good on his threat.”

Ethan frowned. “But why would he have done that when Elliott was dead? You wouldn’t be seeing Elliott anymore. He didn’t need to throw you to the wolves.”

Denny turned sad eyes to him. “Some people don’t need a reason. They enjoy throwing their weight around, making others see what they’re capable of. Maybe he wanted me to know just how much reach he had.”

“How has it been since?” Joey asked, settling back onto the step.

Denny blew out a long breath. “Rocky. The band is fine about it. The management not so much. After all, it’s not ‘appealing’ to change our tagline to ‘a girl or boy in every port,’ so I’m told.”

Ethan rolled his eyes. It wasn’t anything he hadn’t heard before, but it still stung when people didn’t just accept them for who they were. He narrowed his eyes on the distance, where he could see some people heading their way.

“We’re about to have company, I think,” he told them.

Denny stood, brushing off his jeans. “I better go.”

Joey rose to meet him. “Have you told the police anything?” Denny shook his head. “Am I able to tell them about you if it might help them?”

Denny frowned. “Help them with what? I thought it was a suicide.”

“It was, but I’ve found some inconsistencies that I’m considering taking to the police. I’m less and less convinced he did it on purpose. With all the information coming to light, he had things to live for.”

The war inside Denny was evident, but he squared his shoulders. “Yes. I’ll do whatever it takes to help.”

Joey held out his hand. “Thank you.”

They shook, and before Denny walked away, he hesitated. “I never got the chance to tell Elliot…I loved him,” he finished in a whisper.

“I can tell,” Joey said, pulling Denny into a hug before letting him go.

They watched him walk away, and several of the people that had been heading towards them changed direction. Before Denny met them, several large, imposing guards joined him, holding them at bay. Ethan hadn’t seen them anywhere, so wherever they had hidden had been good.

“Things are not adding up,” Joey repeated.

“I don’t know Elliott, but he seemed to have too many things going on to want to leave this place,” Ethan conceded.

“He wouldn’t have left Grey, not with Robert still around. If he is the threat he seems to be.”

Ethan sighed. “We won’t get any more answers here. Shall we go home?”

Joey smiled and slid his arms around Ethan’s waist, lowering his face to his neck. “I love the sound of that.”


Joey lifted his head, spearing Ethan with his gaze. “Home.”

Ethan’s heart skipped a beat at the happiness in Joey’s eyes. Where had this man come from? He’d appeared in Ethan’s life when he had needed him, even though he hadn’t realised it then. Since that moment, Ethan’s life had changed for the better. Not that it had been bad before, but he’d been lonely. He’d wanted more than what he had, and then Joey had shown up and sent everything spiralling out of control.

The kicker? Ethan wouldn’t change any of it. He would be away from his family and friends for extended periods, but he couldn’t give Joey up. Wouldn’t give him up.

As he stared into Joey’s eyes, Ethan knew he would never be the same.

“Let’s go home.”

Joey beamed, and they wandered back towards their car, hand in hand.

“Joey! Joey Reynolds! What were you doing meeting with Dennis Carter? How do you know him? Ethan, do you have any problems with Joey’s past? Can you forgive him?”

The reporters came out of nowhere, and Ethan jumped at the first shouted question. Joey tightened his hold on Ethan’s hand and increased their speed. There was no getting away from them, though. They surrounded Joey’s car. They pushed through them, and Joey shoved several out of the way, no less hard than they deserved. Joey unlocked the car and opened the door for Ethan, while the reporters threw more and more questions at them. Joey climbed into the driver’s seat. He revved the engine, giving the reporters enough warning that they were going to move, but they barely stepped back an inch. Joey shrugged.

“It’s their toes.”

He inched forward and then squealed onto the road, leaving them behind. Ethan doubted it would take them long to follow, but for now, at least, they were free of prying eyes. He rested his hand on Joey’s tense thigh, and it was enough to relax him. Marginally.

“Sometimes, I wish I’d chosen a different career. Or at least, a quieter business. I could have still done tattooing but for regular people.”

Ethan squeezed his leg. “It doesn’t matter. We’ll deal with it, as we’ve dealt with everything that’s been thrown at us so far.”

Joey peered at him for a brief moment and faced the road again. “How are you taking everything so calmly?”

Ethan snorted. “There’s no reason to do anything else. It’s not like I can do anything about it. It’s your life.”

“You could leave.”

Ethan removed his hand and stared out of the window. “Do you want me to?” He was afraid of the answer.

“Not in the slightest.”

There was no hesitation in Joey’s voice, and that, more than anything else, removed the tension in Ethan’s body.

“I was just saying you could leave if you wanted to.”

“No, I can’t.”


“Because I love you too much to leave you alone with this. You’re stuck with me.” Though he had some more questions. Mainly, what did the reporter mean about forgiving Joey for his past? What had he done that needed forgiveness?

There were reporters hanging around the entrance to the car park when they arrived back at Joey’s house, and after inching the car forward enough to tell them he meant business, Joey got them parked. They ignored the questions shouted at them and climbed the steps. When they were secure behind closed doors, Joey pulled him in for a hug.

“Thank you for being here.”

Ethan tightened his hold. “You don’t have to thank me for that.”

Joey lifted his head. “Still. Thank you.” He dropped a kiss on his lips and tugged Ethan towards the sofa. “So much has happened. I don’t know what to do with it all.” He rested his head back.

Ethan snuggled beside him, listening to his heartbeat beneath his ear. He didn’t want to bring up his questions, though he would eventually. “It’s a lot to take in. First Grey being Elliott’s brother, and then Robert being their dad, and then Denny being Elliott’s lover. It’s a lot.”

“What else didn’t I know about Elliott? Why was he hiding this all from me?”

“He could’ve been trying to protect you.”

“From what?”

“Robert would be my first guess. It seems like he’s trouble from what Grey and Denny have said.”

Ethan let Joey have the silence while he digested everything. He couldn’t even begin to understand what Joey was going through. If Christi or Kole had secrets like that, he would probably react the same way. He would want to know the truth, just like Joey did, and that meant he would need to broach the subject of his past at some point. He wasn’t sure he wanted to be blindsided by revelations later, when they could be cleared up in the beginning. Joey had enough on his plate at the moment. This could wait a few days.


Ethan sat on the comfortable chairs in the reception of Life in Ink while Joey tattooed his client and checked his emails. He’d received one from Meredith asking when he was likely to return, and he’d replied that he didn’t know. She had given him two weeks and had said he could have more, but he knew they were short-staffed. He hated leaving things so up in the air, but until he and Joey had more concrete plans, he couldn’t give her a more definitive answer.

He had one from David, too. Rolling his eyes, because David was probably asking the same thing as Meredith, he opened it, eyes darting across the screen as he read. He went rigid when he finished.

“Everything okay?” Ani asked from her perch behind the counter.

Ethan closed the phone and rested it on the arm of the chair. Blowing out a breath, he said, “Yeah. My assistant manager is being an ass. As always.”

“What’s he done?”

Ethan stared at the phone, contemplating what he should do about it. “He’s threatening to go to the media about Joey’s…activities while he was in Whitby.”


“The work he did, where he stayed, everything he knows and has gleaned from other people. He’s always been an ass, but this takes it to the next level.”

“Isn’t it illegal for him to talk about employees?”

“Probably, but Joey wasn’t officially signed up. He was just a handyman.”

Ani snorted. “It’s funny to think of Joey doing that, but I don’t know why. He’s always been doing stuff like that here.”

“I need to ask him what he wants me to do about it.”

“He’ll probably tell you to ignore it.”

“Maybe.” Ethan wasn’t so sure. He couldn’t say what David was capable of. He’d always thought the man was slimy, especially with how often he touched Ethan’s arm without him saying he could. He stood far too close to employees and guests alike, but Ethan had never said a word about it. Should he speak to Meredith?

He grabbed his phone, opening the email again.


Hope you’re doing well on your holiday.

I would like to remind you I have photographic evidence of Mr Reynolds’ actions during his time here, and I would like you to consider remuneration for keeping those details from the media.

Take your time to respond. I know you must be busy figuring out how to live in the limelight. This is just a way for that to happen sooner rather than later.

Have a wonderful time.


Ethan stopped himself from deleting the email, and instead, closed out of his account. He’d talk to Joey about it once he was done for the day. After all, Ethan was no longer alone in this. Certain decisions needed to be discussed before he could make them.

“Hey.” He glanced at Ani. “Don’t worry about it. Whatever happens, happens. You’ll both get through it. It’s nothing he hasn’t been through before.”

“I know. I just hate that I’m the one bringing it to his door.”

“Honestly, don’t worry.” She shuffled some paper. “Come on over here, and I’ll talk you through some more things you might get to do if you decide to take the job.”

Ethan allowed Ani to distract him for the rest of Joey’s two-hour tattoo session. The more he learnt about the job, the more he believed it would be a good fit for him. It would encourage the organisational side of him, and he could change things as he needed to, which gave him more scope for making the role his while still ensuring everything gets done that needed to.

“Do you know what, Ani?” Ethan said, leaning a hip against the counter. Ani raised her eyebrows at him. “Go for it. I’m in.”

Ani’s eyes widened, and Ethan could barely keep himself from chuckling at her. “Seriously?”

“Yep. Why not? I’m staying with him, and regardless of where we end up, I might as well do the job. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. But I’ll give it my best go.”

Ani threw her arms around him and held him in a vice grip. “You’re bloody amazing, Ethan. You won’t regret this, I promise.”

“Won’t regret what?”

Joey’s voice sent shivers down Ethan’s spine, and he glanced over his shoulder as his boyfriend walked over to him. As Joey’s arms slid around his waist and his head rested on his shoulder, Ethan closed his eyes and sighed.

“Ethan’s agreed to the job,” Ani said, pumping a fist in the air.

Joey turned Ethan to face him. “Really?” His expression showed he was teetering on the edge of hope.

“Really.” Ethan cupped Joey’s face. “I want to be with you, and this is a job I know I can do and will enjoy. Why not?”

Joey kissed him, stealing every bit of air from his lungs before pulling back. “I love you.”

Ethan grinned. “I love you. So, where do I sign up?”

“I’ll sort the paperwork for you,” Ani said.

“I need to let Meredith know,” Ethan said. “I don’t think she’ll be too surprised about it.”

Joey tightened his hold on Ethan. “I’m so glad you decided to join us.”

Ethan was, too. He shared a glance with Ani, who nodded towards Joey, and Ethan looked away. He would bring up David’s email soon.

Ethan’s phone rang, and he disentangled himself to pull it from his pocket. He frowned at his dad’s name. “Hey, Dad. How are you?”

“I’ve been better. Your mum’s taken poorly. She’s okay, but she’s staying overnight at the hospital.”

Ethan’s heart skipped several beats. “What’s wrong with her? What happened?”

“She had a fall. She caught that uneven slab in the back garden and broke her arm. The doctors aren’t worried. They’re only keeping her here because they found her to be dehydrated.”

Ethan settled the more his dad said, but he needed to see her for himself. “Okay. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

“No. She wouldn’t want you to bother yourself. You know that. I just wanted to let you know in case someone else told you and didn’t have all the information. I didn’t want you worried.”

Ethan snorted. “Yeah, like that’ll happen.”

“It’s not us you need to worry about.”

He frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Have you heard from Kole lately?” his dad asked.

“Not since I came down here. Why?”

“You might want to call him or Christi.”

Ethan’s heart picked up again. “What happened?” he asked for the second time in the conversation.

“Someone attacked Kole during one of his tours.”

Continue to chapter 16