Johnnies: Book Three
Evan Costa learned from a very early age that there was no such thing as unconditional love and that it was better to settle for what you could get instead of expecting the world to give you what you need. As Ethan, porn model for Johnnies, he gets exactly what he wants—comradeship and physical contact on trade—and he is perfectly satisfied with that. He’s sure of it.
Jonah Stevens has spent most of his adult life helping to care for his sister and trying to keep his beleaguered family from fraying at the edges. He’s had very little time to work on his confidence or his body for that matter. When Jonah meets Ethan, he doesn’t see the hurt child or the shamelessly slutty porn star. He sees a funny, sexy, confident man who—against the odds—seems to like Jonah in spite of his very ordinary, but difficult, life.
Sensing a kindred spirit and a common interest, Ethan thinks a platonic friendship with Jonah won’t violate his fair trade rules of sex and touch, but Jonah has different ideas. Ethan’s pretty sure his choice of jobs has stripped away all hope of a real relationship, but Jonah wants the whole package—the sexy man, the vulnerable boy, the charming companion who works so hard to make other people happy. Jonah wants to prove that underneath the damage Ethan has lived with all his life, he’s still gold with promise and the ability to love.
Part I: Baby Steps to Porn-Star Success
Step 1—find an appropriate mentor
EVAN COSTA’S mother was Italian and his father was half-Italian, half-regular-white-bread, and Evan was the youngest of five. By the time he was born, the family fight as to what to name the child was beyond old. His sisters were named Allegra, Belladonna, Carmina, and Daniela. By the time Evan popped out (or so his father liked to say), all of the Italians had to be content with his middle name—Fernando—because there really weren’t a lot of Italian names they liked that started with an E.
Of course, family legend said that was the last time either parent agreed on anything, but Evan remembered that wasn’t always the case.
Evan, in particular, remembered the last time his mother hugged him. Specifically, he remembered the thing that happened before she hugged him for the last time. It seemed innocent enough.
He was five years old, riding his bicycle on the front drive. The new bicycle was sized exactly for him—a sturdy kindergartner—and it had his favorite monster on it: Godzilla. The streamers from the handlebars were green and silver, and it had one of those little clippy things on it that made it go “bap-bap-bap-bap” with every push of the pedals, and he loved it. He rode faster and faster, going around the circle of the little neighborhood and waving at the man in the house behind his with every circle. On his third pass around the block, the bike lurched abruptly, the back end flipped over, and Evan found himself flat on his face with skinned palms, skinned knees, and a skinned chin.
The neighbor he had waved to came running, laughing a little bit breathlessly and checking to see if he was okay.
Evan controlled his wobbling lip and pulled himself up to his hands and knees. “I’m okay,” he said, his voice wobbling as much as his chin. “I’m okay. It was just bamboo.”
The neighbor, a perfectly nice middle-aged bachelor who drank too much beer and kept his front and backyard like a showplace, blinked at first. “Bamboo? Little man, you hit a rock. I don’t see any bamboo—everyone here has too much sense to plant it.”
Evan’s hands hurt and his knees stung and his chin was screaming bloody murder, and he couldn’t hold back his tears or remember his promise to be quiet anymore. “But the aide said that’s what bamboo does. It fucks you from behind.”
The poor man. He jerked his head back at hearing the five-year-old swear, and Evan picked up his bike, completely demoralized.
“Kid, where’d you hear that word?”
Evan’s whole body started to shudder. “I know what it means,” he wailed. “It’s what the teacher’s aide says before he sticks out his bamboo!”
“Oh Jesus,” the guy muttered. “This is completely above my pay grade. C’mon, kid. Let’s go find your mom, and then we can tell her about the teacher’s aide’s bamboo.” His hands fluttered near Evan’s shoulder then, and Evan was kind of hoping for a hug or a reassuring shoulder squeeze, but then the guy must have rethought, because he jerked his hands back and hefted the bike over his shoulder. He didn’t even hold Evan’s hand as they rounded the corner and walked up the hill in the sweet little Folsom suburb.
Evan’s mother had already started looking for him—was, in fact, running in their direction—and Evan was so very, very glad to see her. He ran into her arms and let himself cry, glad because that was what moms did, right? They took the bad away. Nothing ever felt as good as a mother’s hug, right?
That hug, folded in her arms, smelling her sweat in her pretty polyester shirt and the heavy rose-scented powder she wore—he could close his eyes and feel that, feel the heat from the bright June sun, feel her softness, her love. She stood up and put her hand on his back, and the man set his bicycle down and then stopped her with a tap on the shoulder.
“Uhm, Carolina, can I talk to you a minute?”
Evan’s mom sent him in the house with Allie, who was actually a pretty good nursemaid. She scrubbed his hurts thoroughly, which wasn’t fun, but by the time his mom came in, her eyes dripping ugly black makeup, and reached for the phone, Evan was on his second giant bowl of ice cream.
He had to finish in the living room, though, because his mother, her voice hysterical and shrill, sent him and Allie there to watch cartoons while she called Evan’s father at work, and then called the police.
And that was the last time Evan got hugged by his mother.
Step 2—fix the damage the first guy caused
“EVAN, I’m sure you’re exaggerating.”
Evan huddled, twelve years old, skinny and pathetic, in the corner of the couch.
“I remember it,” he said stubbornly, picking at the knee of his jeans. He liked the way they felt under his fingertips, and he liked touching things. “How come you’re all so sure I remembered that thing with the teacher’s aide right but nobody thinks I remember that my mom didn’t hug me yesterday, or the day before, or the entire seven years before that?”
His shrink—the same one he’d been sent to when he was five, actually—pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. He’d been a young man when Evan was five, and for a little while, Evan had heard pride in his voice when they were talking. After all, with his help, they got all the details they needed, right? They locked up the child molester, and Evan got written up—anonymously, of course—in the papers. He’d been so brave, right? Of course, he hadn’t felt brave. He just had to tell the judge who the guy was with the squirting bamboo.
He called it a dick now.
But then, that’s what he was starting to call his shrink behind his back.
“Evan, I’ve heard you say it before, and the thing is, I’ve met your mother. She seems like a lovely person. She puts her hand on your shoulder, and it looks like a natural gesture of affection—”
“A natural gesture of control,” Evan snapped, because that was true. At five, he’d thought that hand on his shoulder was support. At twelve, he was starting to feel like it… it steered him from place to place. Here, Evan—let’s go to a new school, with a new start. Here, Evan, I know you’ve got friends at your old school, but this other school will feel like a new start. Just don’t tell them, like last time. It’s not something we talk about. Here, Evan, go talk to your shrink again. If you talk to your shrink, you won’t have to mention it at home. Here, Evan, you go to your room and stop asking your sister about her boyfriend. Here, Evan, if you do exactly what I say, exactly when I say it, you’ll only need to see your shrink once, and I won’t make you go three times, because really, you should be over this by now.
He was over this by now.
What he wasn’t over was his family’s reaction to it, which had never really seemed to heal.
“You don’t see,” he said a little desperately, scratching the cotton of his jeans until the thread frayed. He liked doing that—the denim was soft under his fingers and the threads had an individual feel until they started to bloom like cotton flowers. “You don’t see. It’s like… like I grew up then. Like I was five, and I grew up, and they never had to hug me again, and they never had to hear me cry anymore. Like, it will all get better once you talk to your shrink, Evan. Yeah, let’s talk to the shrink and he’ll make it all better. And you made some of it just fine, Dr. Stottemeyer, you really did. I could… I don’t know, write a textbook on why I’m not bad because some asshole jerked off on me when I was a little kid. I… I could be a counselor myself, right, because I read all that shit you gave me, and it’s… it’s great advice! I’m not bad, he was a deviant, I know not to transfer his deviant stuff to my own life… I’m good. But my parents do nothing but argue, and nobody throws their arm around my shoulder.”
He missed that. Miserably, he pulled his knees up to his chest and hugged them, rubbing that spot again, because that was the closest thing he could get to human contact these days. His sisters would hug him sometimes, but, God, he’d always go overboard, draping his gawky arms over them, trying to snuggle into them, and they’d usually whine and push him away, saying something like, “Evan, get off of me! You’re totally creeping me out!”
And then his mother would say, “Evan, don’t be inappropriate with your sisters!”
And his father would say, “Carol, leave the kid alone, for sweet Christ’s sake. He just wants a hug!”
And Allie or Belladonna or Mina or Danni would groan and bang their heads against the table and glare at him. “Jesus, you little psycho, do you have to make things complicated?”
And his mother would say, “I don’t know what you want me to do—Dr. Stottemeyer says he’s fine.”
“So you just leave the kid to the shrink? Jesus, Carolina, no wonder he needs a hug!”
“You hug him!”
“Right, so you can report me to the cops?”
Because after the trial, two of Evan’s teachers had gotten in trouble for hugging him when he’d wanted it, and neither one of them had done anything wrong.
“Nobody’s touching him,” his mother would snap, and then the fight would be on, all the kids would run to their rooms, and they’d eat takeout over a cold table that night.
Dr. Stottemeyer wasn’t a complete dick.
“Look, Evan—I’m sorry. I’ve tried to get your mother to come in and talk to me, and I’ve even suggested marriage counseling, but….” He shook his head.
“Yeah, I know,” Evan muttered to his blooming white knees. “It’s all Evan’s fault ’cause he let the teacher’s aide spooge on him.”
“No.” Even when he was young, Dr. Stottemeyer had been totally invested in that whole shawl-collared sweater thing, and it was one of the things that made him not look young anymore. His curly dark hair only had a few silver strands in it, but he wore it soft and sweet over his brow, and his eyes were big and brown and almost liquid. Evan sort of liked that look, actually. He looked trustworthy. He looked warm. But as warm as he looked, he was a complete professional. Not one hug, not one, not in seven years.
“No?” Evan wanted to get up and pace, but he wasn’t really a pacer. He was more of a settler. He could “settle” for long periods of time—usually with Lisa, the family cat, on his lap. (His sisters had named her. He would have named her Ninja, or Catzilla, or something totally cool like that.) But Lisa didn’t mind being hugged or touched or petted—in fact, she just sort of collapsed into him and returned the favor. And her fur was so soft.
So he settled farther into the corner of the couch and hugged his knees tighter and watched as Dr. Stottemeyer got up and paced.
“It wasn’t your fault that the aide abused—”
“No bruises, Doc, remember? No bruises. Just took me behind the partition and dropped our pants.” People forgot that the guy had been in his early twenties—he’d been appealing to look at too. There had been no warning, no “oogies” that he was going to do something unpleasant.
“Yeah, but he took advantage of your trust. We’ve talked about this!”
“Okay, I get it. He took advantage of my trust, but here’s the thing. I… I want to whack off now too. I want to whack off all the time. What makes me different than the stupid playground guy?”
Dr. Stottemeyer sighed and rubbed his face. “Do you make anyone else join in?” he asked, and Evan shrugged. His one knee was completely exposed now, so he raised his other knee and started worrying those threads.
“Well, at your age, sometimes. But the thing we’re looking for here is ‘consensual.’ Do you know what that means?”
“It means everybody’s on board.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it does. That’s the only way sex is good or good for you, Evan. If everybody’s on board.”
“Does the same thing go for hugs?” Evan asked plaintively, and Stottemeyer sighed.
“Yeah. Except with hugs, everybody’s afraid of crossing the line. I think that’s what’s going on at home. You were touched in a bad way once, when you were a kid. But now everybody’s afraid every touch is going to be a bad touch.”
“Well, why can’t you tell them it’s not?”
Dr. Stottemeyer ran his hands through his hair in the first sign of exasperation Evan had seen in him in ever. “Because unless she walks in here and says she’s my patient, it’s not my place,” he muttered. He took a deep breath and got hold of himself, and then he turned his attention specifically toward Evan.
“Evan, look, I can’t make your family hug you. All I can tell you is that you deserve all the good touches you can stand. I can’t ensure that no one’s going to touch you bad. But I can tell you that you don’t deserve it when they do. I’m not going to tell you not to whack off, because as long as you do it in private, that’s sort of one of the joys of being human. I am going to tell you that it’s not going to take the place of being hugged, and I don’t know what to do with that.” Dr. Stottemeyer linked his hands behind his head and sighed, leaving Evan with a keen sense of frustration.
“Well, is there anything you can tell me that I can actually control? Besides whacking off, that is?”
Dr. Stottemeyer turned toward him, those liquid brown eyes suddenly brimming with sympathy. “You’re twelve, right, Evan?”
“I can tell you that your peer group is about to change.”
“That means that you’re getting to the age where girls like to hug.”
“Not boys?” Evan was sort of disappointed about that, and Dr. Stottemeyer must have caught that note in his voice.
“Would you like boys to hug you?”
Evan shrugged. “I just… I don’t know. I like the way boys look.”
Stottemeyer made a soft grunt like he was assimilating something. “Well, some boys will want to hug you, but in this day and age, you need to make sure they’re not going to bang you on the head for trying it. Choose your friends, okay?”
“So… choose friends that hug?” Lamest. Advice. Ever.
“Yeah,” Stottemeyer said, but his lips were pursed, like he knew it wasn’t the keenest thing a shrink ever said. “Choose your friends.”
Well, why not? Mom and Dad weren’t doing it for him, right?
“Got any suggestions for how to do that?”
Stottemeyer shrugged. “Still like comic books?”
Because comic books and Godzilla were still on Evan’s top-two list of things that never let him down. “Yeah.”
“You got an animation club at your middle school?”
Evan blinked. “Yeah.”
“Are those people nice?”
He fidgeted. Those people were the kind of people you didn’t want to get involved with unless you liked your hair done by swirly. “They’re not very popular,” he hedged.
Stottemeyer grimaced. “Buddy, those are usually the people who need hugs the most.”
It was like Evan saw a bright light in front of him, shining down upon the ragtag bunch of übergeeks who spent their lunches hiding from the bigger kids but who always seemed to have each other’s backs.
“It’s a good thing it’s summer vacation,” he said practically, and Stottemeyer gave him a bemused smile. God, he was pretty. Not “pretty” pretty, because his nose was a little big and his lips were a little full, but Evan realized with a buzz that he’d been trying to get this man to smile at him since he was a traumatized five-year-old.
Evan tamped down on the attraction, because it would probably freak the whole world out. It didn’t matter anyway. Finally, finally, he had a plan to tackle the one thing that had been bothering him since his mother had shooed him into the living room after he flipped his bike and scraped his knees. “Because if I’m gonna hang with those people, I need to work out a little. We’re gonna need a lot of protecting.”
Stottemeyer shrugged, and his eyes measured Evan from top to toe. Evan knew he wasn’t going to be that tall, but even worse, he probably weighed eighty pounds soaking wet before a good poop. “Couldn’t hurt,” he said practically. “Physical activity is a really positive outlet for a lot of problems. Ask your gym teacher for some advice on how to bulk up.”
Evan nodded, liking this plan. He would work out, get pretty, and hang with people who liked Godzilla. So far, the proposition was win-win.
“So,” his mother said as he emerged from the tiny little office at the mental health center, “How’d it go?”
“Great,” Evan said, smiling widely. “I’m gonna work out!”
“Great, Ev,” she said, her long Italian face lighting up with genuine enthusiasm. “That sounds healthy!”
He grinned back, and she put her hand on his shoulder and steered him to the car.
I thoroughly enjoyed the emotional journey I experienced and I recommend these books to all who enjoy extreme heart-pulling with your sexy stories.
Read the full review at
Amy Lane has a knack of creating really beautiful characters that jump off the page and make you think they’re real.
I was so excited to return to the world of Johnnie's, mainly because I really needed to see all of my guys again. Chase, Tommy, David, and Carlos are always there, in the back of my mind. Sometimes I'll find myself in that place between wake and sleep, wondering about them. How is Chase's therapy going? And, Carlos, what new critter has he brought home to tend? And, yes, before you ask. I am fully aware that these are fictional characters and that the Queen of Angst, herself, Amy Lane, conjured them to life. Doesn't mean I don't love them. Doesn't mean I haven't cried for them or worried over them. If I can't have an imagination and a fantasy life, then what's the purpose of all the ugly that happens every day? This author brings the ugly to my doorstep, and she and I, we harbor the good, the life, the love, while never forgetting the ugly exists.
From the very first page, I was captured by Evan. How could I not be? Whose heart couldn't ache at the story of a five-year-old, molested by the teacher's aide? Although, the fact his mother never hugged him after finding out, I felt, was almost worse than the molestation. They sent him to a psychiatrist, but the family seemed to just want to bury the whole thing, as if it never happened. And by the time Evan was twelve, all he really wanted was a hug, just some physical touch that his soul was crying for. He found it, in an unlikely place at school, with the anime kids who read all the same manga and comics that Evan did, and the girls loved to hug him. In exchange, Evan bulked up and became their enforcer against the other kids who ridiculed them. And it was there, with his friends, that Evan learned that looks don't mean anything, and money doesn't matter, but hugs from his friends? Priceless.
Unfortunately, for Evan, high school doesn't last forever, and friends, no matter how close, leave and go to college or elsewhere. So here is Evan, three months into community college with such horrible skin hunger he could barely breathe. And that's when he finds the online application for Johnnies, and Evan becomes aka Ethan. Where he thinks he's died and gone to heaven with all the guys willing to touch him. Not to mention, he finally gets to have sex with guys, instead of pretending to be bisexual so his friends would still like him.
Jonah is a twenty-two year old virgin who lives at home with his mom and little sister. His sister has cystic fibrosis so his mom works for the health insurance, and Jonah works to pay for most everything else. He can't believe it when he meets Ethan, this gorgeous god, who came in to his work in support of his friend, Tommy, who was applying for a job. Because this time period is right after Chase hurt himself, and all of the guys at Johnnies are rotating shifts to help be there for Tommy. And, that's another reason I wanted back to these guys so badly. Every book shows me a little something new about all these guys.
What's even worse is watching the utter devastation that Evan's mother has put him and his four older sisters, and even his dad, through ever since Evan was five years old. The woman has become more and more evil and bitter, eschewing all men as molesters or out for something. It's no wonder two of Evan's sisters have spent their years doing drugs and any guy they could. His mother is an evil, evil, crone. It all comes to a head, when Evan gets inadvertently outed in front of his mom and sisters. Which, actually, is good in that he can finally say the things he wants to his mom and he can leave, but bad because he feels like his sisters need to get away, too.
"Damn. He didn't understand family, this pretty, pretty house in Folsom with the leather furniture and the new carpeting - a different set every two years - and the grown children who should have fled a long time ago, trapped, like spiders under a rock."
Evan drops Tommy off at work and runs into Jonah in the parking lot, and through an offhand comment discovers they both love anime, manga, Yaoi, etc., which begins a tentative friendship. They spend some time together and go to comic book shops, and movies, and slowly begin to share about themselves. But, Evan is afraid of telling Jonah about Johnnies, he doesn't want to lose his friend. Except Evan is starting to notice what a great smile Jonah has, and what a good person he is, and how loving and loyal he is. But Evan does everything he can to push Jonah as far away as possible, which doesn't always work.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because I don't have 'whore' tattooed on my ass, but I should. I need some better way to scare you off."
Jonah is smart though, and he's not letting Evan run away from him. Listening to Tommy and his friends who come in to pick him up, it dawns on Jonah that there's something odd about all of these people having two names. The Internet is a mighty handy invention, though, and it doesn't take Jonah long to find Johnnies site, and watching Evan's interview "scene" he's struck by the very disturbing notion that Evan needs this, he needs the touch for his soul. The confrontation between Jonah and Evan about Johnnies is heartbreaking, soul wrenching, skin meltingly tender and angry and so heartfelt that I, literally, buried my face in my dog's fur and sobbed. And, even that wasn't the worst, as tragedy struck Jonah and his family.
"You're my lifeline, Ethan. You're the only thing that's going to get me through. The light at the end of the tunnel. My reward for not hiding in a corner and crying like....like...." Like a five year old boy who just lost the baby sister they put in his arms and told him to love very, very carefully."
In case I've given the wrong impression, this entire book is not doom and gloom. There are a few very memorable, laugh-out-loud, moments beginning with the fact that this author knows the best blasphemous expressions around. And, no, I'm not putting it in my review. There was a conversation between Jonah and his dad about sex and Evan that likened it to an Easter basket, chocolate bunnies, and jelly beans, that had me rolling. And, I can now add Evan and Jonah to my list of characters I love and a book worth re-reading. These guys, their issues, their love of one another, their friendship, and the hope they bring to each other will live forever and I'll keep seeing them in my dreams. Thank you, Amy, for giving me the dreams and sharing them with me.
I had never wanted to HUG someone as much as I wanted to hug Ethan and then I wanted to hug Jonah too for being so brave ...
If you have ever go to a trauma in your life ... Ethan will make more sense to you ... His needs ... His fragility ... His heart ...
Jonah ... What a gentle soul ... Brave too ... Lovable person who knew exactly what Ethan and his own family needed.
This is one of the best series I have read. Amy Lane is a brilliant writer.
Black John can not be here soon enough ...
A long story that is worth taking your time with to savor the ups and downs of Evan’s and Jonah’s lives. Gobbling it all down at once may seem like a good idea, but may result in a Thanksgiving-gorge-like hangover.
This story runs somewhat parallel to Chase in Shadow and Dex in Blue, and while each story stands alone, the reader would be better served by reading them in order.
First, a warning: The Johnnies stories tend to run long because of the issues that are handled and the number of events that have to appear as the stories crossover. I still feel the stories are longer than strictly necessary, but I also understand why they're so long, and I enjoy them enough that the length doesn't bother me (except when I'm kept up reading when I should be going to bed).
Because much of the same content is covered in each story, it's commendable how Lane handles the plot points that overlap--hitting major points without rehashing everything, but yet giving the reader adequate information if they haven't read the previous novels. She also develops the events from different perspectives, turning events that may not have been as emotional into a poignant moment.
Ethan/Evan is my favorite of the boys so far, because of his reasons for getting into porn, his general personality, and his relationship with Jonah (the first to be outside the business). Plus, his need to be touched speaks deeply to me.
He's a likeable character and dips into some nerdy elements (or perhaps I should say different nerdy elements, since Kane and his reptiles were pretty nerdy!). The conversations about anime and manga was appreciated (although that element faded as the story went on), although I wasn’t familiar with the particular pieces that were mentioned, so they may have been faulty.
Evan’s story, like most of the Johnnies boys, is a tough one (although none really compares to Chase’s). He had a crappy childhood, and although he’s tough, and he recognizes that, he still has a low self-esteem. Or more like he doesn’t want to bother/sully the people around him whom he loves. It’s commendable, although many readers (like Jonah) will want to smack him for it.
And of course Jonah has his own struggles to handle as well, both familial and in courting the stubborn Ethan. These are two sweet boys who grow together and together overcome great obstacles.
Another fantastic Johnnies’ tale.
Undercover Boyfriend by Jacob Z. Flores eBook
Finding Family by Connie Bailey eBook
Fire and Snow by Andrew Grey eBook
Wolfsong by TJ Klune eBook
Bombs and Guacamole by BA Tortuga eBook
Five Times My Best Friend Kissed Me by Anna Martin eBook
The Cattle Baron's Bogus Boyfriend by Nicki Bennett eBook
Power Play by Avon Gale eBook
Dreamers' Destiny by Tempeste O'Riley eBook
Absinthe of Malice by Rhys Ford eBook
Requires site membership
The President's Husband by Michael Murphy Audiobook