Brigham: As the author, I’ve spent the last few months with Stephen and Russ. I thought rather than having me interview them, I’d have Allison Hickman, one of my exceptional pre-readers, ask them some questions.
We’re in the living room of the apartment Russ and Stephen share. It’s an open, airy loft in downtown Atlanta. They relax on the sectional, Stephen’s hand falling to Russ’ thigh in a gesture that looks so automatic neither of them notices.
Gentlemen, will you tell the readers a little bit about yourselves?
Russ: *nods* Sure. I’m twenty-eight. Grew up in a small town outside of Macon, Georgia, went to school at Macon State College and after I graduated with my bachelor’s I worked in the city for a few years before I moved to Atlanta. I worked for a few years at a marketing firm here in Atlanta, before I found the marketing analyst position at Vantage Marketing. I’ve been there a little over nine months.
Stephen: *flashing a smile* I’m forty-seven, born and raised on a small pecan farm in Putnam County, Georgia. I moved to Atlanta and went to UGA—University of Georgia, Atlanta that is—got my bachelor’s in finance, my master’s in business administration. I worked as an accountant for a few years and was hired by Vantage right when the firm open. I helped build it from the ground up and I’ve been with Vantage for nearly twenty years now, moving my way up into my current position of Chief Financial Officer.
Brigham: Thank you both. Now I’ll leave you in Allison’s capable hands.
Allison: Stephen, What is it about younger men that attract you? What, other than looks, was it about Russ?
Stephen: That’s a difficult question to answer. In general, of course looks are a factor, as is stamina in bed, but there’s more to it and I have a difficult time putting my finger on it. Something about the dynamic appeals to me. Their energy, their zeal for life makes me feel young.
Regarding Russ specifically, I noticed him at the company holiday party when he was dancing. He’s a great dancer and I noticed that right away.
It was his charm that made me continue to think about him. He’s one of those men who doesn’t realize how charming he is. He puts people at ease and they’re naturally drawn to him. It’s very appealing.
We have more in common than I expected and as we got to know each other his ability to carry on an intelligent conversation about a wide range of topics drew me in. His strength of character is what made me want to stick around.
Allison: Russ, what is it about older men that attracts you? What, other than looks, was it about Stephen?
Russ: *frowning thoughtfully* The best answer I can come up with is that an older man’s confidence appeals to me. I like the self-assuredness and I like how in control of his life an older man is. Not every older guy has that, of course, but the ones I am attracted to do. I don’t seem to find it in guys my age. I would assume part of it is the way I grew up, but I don’t find I have much in common with guys my age. We just don’t mesh well.
Stephen in particular has a lot of confidence. No doubt about it, he’s handsome, but it’s that personal strength that really gets me going. *laughs* He seems at ease in his own skin and sure of who he is and what he wants. Being on the receiving end of that confidence and desire is a huge turn on.
Allison: What is the sexiest thing about the other?
Stephen: I have to say, Russ’ ass. That’s such a horrible cliché for me to say as a gay man, but it is … spectacular.
Russ: *grins* Well, I can’t say I knew that, Stephen.
Stephen: *rubs neck with a sheepish expression* I saw you dance at the holiday party and I was done for.
Russ: Why haven’t we danced together then?
Stephen: *grins back* I don’t know. Maybe we need to rectify that.
Allison: *clearing throat* So Russ, what would you say is the sexiest thing about Stephen?
Russ: His hair.
Stephen: *laughs* Really?
Russ: Really. The silver is sexy. Everywhere.
Stephen: Everywhere? *raises eyebrow*
Allison: Stephen, you mention wanting to go to NZ and Australia with Russ, is there any reason you picked those countries? Have you visited before?
Stephen: I have not visited New Zealand or Australia before. They are countries Russ mentioned wanting to travel to and I am eager to see it through his eyes. For the most part, my traveling has been in the US, but I’ve always wanted to travel internationally and it’s something I want to share with Russ.
Allison: Russ, this is a very personal question, so feel free to tell me if you don’t feel comfortable answering. Did you have any contact with your mother after she left?
Russ: *sighs* It’s fine. I don’t mind answering it. No. For a while in college I thought about trying to track her down but in the end I decided not to. She did what she felt like she had to do and I made my peace with her leaving. It still hurts and clearly, there are some issues that stem from it, but overall, I’m content to leave it in the past. It won’t change what happened and I think in the long run I’m better off letting it go. Letting her go.
Allison: Stephen, what happened to the farm after your parents were too old to care for it?
Stephen: The bank foreclosed on it. If I’d known they were in such dire financial straits I would have bought it. My father would have pitched a fit about me doing it, but the foreclosure happened before I knew what was going on. Their health had been on the decline for years and the farm had never been prosperous but the last I knew they were still getting by. As they got older, they weren’t able to work the land and make payments so they were foreclosed on. Because we were estranged, I had no idea their finances were so precarious. The farm sold before I could buy it.
Allison: Russ, what is the sweetest thing Stephen’s done for you?
Russ: Bringing me home from the hospital and taking care of me after the concussion and sprained ankle. He didn’t know me and he could have left me to fend for myself but he brought me to his home and did everything he could to make me comfortable even though he didn’t expect anything in return. Few people would do that. It meant a lot to me. I may have a lot to learn about accepting help but I do appreciate what he did for me.
Stephen: *reaches out and grabs Russ’ hand to squeeze*
Allison: And you, Stephen? What is the sweetest thing Russ has done for you?
Stephen: On a larger level, convincing me that it’s worth letting go of my past and attempting a relationship with a younger man again. Giving me an opportunity to be happy again. On an everyday level … I love when he picks out ties for me. It’s so small, but I feel like I have him with me throughout the day when he does.
Russ: *smiles at Stephen* I love that.
Allison: Russ, do you think you’ll ever be completely comfortable with the income disparity?
Russ: I hope so. I am trying. I can’t say for sure, but it’s something I know I need to work on and I am committed to making it happen. Stephen is more important than my pride, so I’m doing everything I can to be okay with it.
Allison: It’s about time to wrap this up, but what is the one thing that you most want to be for the other?
Russ: Stephen’s equal. His partner. It’s such a difficult issue for us and I want to be sure I’m not worrying about it so much I let it get in the way of our relationship, but at the same time it’s something that’s very important to me. I want to be the kind of man he deserves. The kind of man he’s been for me.
Stephen: His rock. He struggled so hard for so many years to get where he’s at, and I want to be there for him in the future. I don’t want to push or try to take over but I want him to know that if he needs me, I’m here for him, without question.
*Russ and Stephen exchange glances that make it seem as though they’re in their own private world*
Brigham: Thank you for the great questions, Allison! And thank you Russ and Stephen for joining us today.
BLURB: Too busy to date while he worked to put himself through school, Russell Bishop’s dedication finally pays off; he has a great job with Vantage Marketing. Stephen Parker, CFO of the marketing firm, has resigned himself to a life without a partner. For six months, they wanted each other but it isn’t until Russ slips on spilled coffee, and Stephen rushes to his rescue that they discover their attraction is mutual. However, the twenty year age gap between them proves difficult when they begin dating. Fiercely independent, Russ isn’t sure he’s ready for long-term commitment. Scarred from a previous relationship, Stephen is afraid history is repeating itself. Is there any way for them to meet in the middle and become equals?
AUTHOR BIO: Brigham Vaughn has always been a voracious reader with her own stories to tell. After many years of abandoned plots, something finally clicked. Now she’s eating, sleeping, and breathing writing and is excited to have finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. In the little time that isn’t spent writing or reading, she loves cooking, yoga, photography, and remodeling her ninety-year-old home. Brigham lives in Michigan with her four cats and an amazing husband who has always been her biggest champion.
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