The first chapter was a little too R for Samhain to have on its website and it cut off early, so I'm giving you guys the whole first chapter and a little something from chapter two. Enjoy!
John Andrews’ first experience with public education was as a twenty-one-year-old freshman at the University of Albany. In his first class of five hundred, one girl passed out, two other girls made out and a drug deal went down two rows in front of him. By the end of the week, John had learned that college wasn’t all that different from training camp. Less weight training, still lots of bad food.
In that week, seventeen different flyers for parties, clubs and political rallies came flying under his dorm room door. Each of them went up on the otherwise empty bulletin board in his room, except the one from the Disabled Students’ Association, which had been hand delivered. The guy with the hearing aid had been the only one who’d even noticed, or at least said anything about, John’s cane. That flyer in eye-hemorrhage-inducing orange went immediately into the trash.
John didn’t need it, or the Disabled Students’ Association, or the handicapped room the university had given him—though having no roommate and a private bathroom was a plus. John wasn’t exactly disabled. He didn’t always need the cane—unless he made a quick move and lost his balance, but it didn’t happen all the time anymore. He just couldn’t drive. Or watch a tennis match. Or look out of a second-story window.
Or ever get on a dive platform again.
One of the flyers he’d saved was for a get-to-know-you meeting for some environmental club. Everyone wanted to save the planet. Maybe that was something he could do. Life: Plan B had to start somewhere.
Four fifty-six Madison Place was somewhere downtown, and it took him two buses and a walk down a couple of dark blocks to get there. John had discovered walking was easier in the dark. No contending with the blurs from bright light, less noise. And even if he did stagger, fewer people were around to see him trip over apparently thick air.
Now that he was on the right street, it wasn’t hard to tell which house it was. Lights on, music blaring bright enough on its own, and the added confirmation in the form of a young man puking off the front porch. Getting to know the members of the environmental club seemed to require large amounts of alcohol.
John propped his cane up behind some definitely non-recycled trash on the porch and went inside, remembering just in time not to shake his head in disgust. He didn’t have a problem if people wanted to play beer pong and call it a club meeting. He just thought that if they were going to call themselves Students for a Greener Tomorrow, they might use non-plastic cups and recycle their empties.
He hadn’t needed any pills today. No headaches. No heaving. He could probably have a beer. It wasn’t as if he was driving. And hey, at least the cups were green.
John negotiated his way to the keg. He’d been to his fair share of parties all over the world. The Germans usually had something going on in their dorm at any event, and if they didn’t the Brits did. The Brazilians threw a two-week-long celebration during the Pan American Games, though John’s memory of it was a little fuzzy because he’d gotten knocked down to silver by two freaking tenths of a point and had decided that it was a good time to experience being spectacularly drunk. The resulting hangover had been the benchmark worst experience of his life—until he found out how bad things could really suck.
He found a wall to lean on and watched the beer pong game.
John was aware of the look for a full minute before he began the slow process of turning to see who was aiming it at the side of his head. He hoped it wasn’t someone trying to remember where they knew him from. It usually turned out to be from the cereal box. He’d already suffered through five tearful—on their part—encounters with girls who thought it was so very tragic and how could he bear it and what was he going to do with himself now.
John wished he knew the answer to that last one.
He turned, and sometimes it didn’t matter how slowly he did it. Something clicked over in his brain and the world burst into glittering confetti and kaleidoscopes—two things he’d never enjoy again. Nausea set his stomach on the spin cycle and pain sparkled silver and white through his head. The flashes of color slowed, settled into refracted light. Almost like a bad 3D effect, bending the edges of whatever he tried to focus on.
And in this case it was a guy’s face. The pain faded and took the nausea with it, which John thought was only fair since they always came as each other’s date. But the weird scattered crystal effect kept going on for a full minute, white with red and black streaks, as John tried to focus on the guy’s face.
Red lips, dark for a guy, but the color didn’t look artificial, more like he bit them a lot. Hair a warm brown, close-shave on the sides and spiky on top. Now that the broken-glass effect had faded, John finally got a good look at the guy’s eyes. Maybe this was a new perceptual distortion from the fall, but those dark eyes looked back at him like John had every answer in the world. Like John was Jesus and a gold medal and the guy holding a check for a million-dollar endorsement all at once.
John’s hands got cold. And then the dark gaze dropped before making a long, slow trip back up John’s body, pausing for a hard stare at John’s crotch where even the loose fit of his Dockers couldn’t hide what that attention was doing to John’s dick.
The guy noticed all right. His tongue swept over his full bottom lip. Sauna heat rushed over John’s body, prickling his skin even as it melted his bones. Jeez. Was it really this easy? After all that sneaking around and crap with Roald on tour, here you could just have a guy check you out at a party and that was it?
John might not have a lot of experience, but he knew what this was. Cruising. He’d even seen the 1980s movie with Al Pacino. It hadn’t worked out too well for the characters in that movie, but it wasn’t the 1980s anymore.
So. In the middle of this party with straight couples slobbering on each other and people half-passed out on the beer pong cups, the one gay guy had found him. And it hadn’t even taken a flyer from whatever gay student organization they had here.
No, John didn’t have much experience, but he had seen a lot of movies, though not as many of the kind that would help him out in this situation as he’d like. He hooked his thumbs in his pockets so that his fingers framed his dick and met the look in the other guy’s dark eyes. He smiled and walked up to John, steps nowhere near as steady as his gaze.
“Wanna get out of here?”
John would have nodded, but that would have gotten the whole kaleidoscope going again, so he blinked. Apparently that was good enough because the guy knocked back whatever was left in his cup—which didn’t smell like beer—and tossed the cup away.
No way was John getting into a car with this guy. Sexy lips, eyes and seriously ripped arms or not. His life might suck right now, but he wasn’t ready to become a drunk-driving statistic.
“I don’t have a car.”
John thought of the long bus ride back to his dorm. “I live on campus, uptown.”
The other guy hooked his finger through the belt loop on John’s khakis and pulled him close enough that their hips touched. The guy’s breath hit John’s cheek, warm, almost enough to burn with the fumes from whatever had been in that cup. “I’m right around the block. Okay with you?”
A hot guy’s hand was a few inches from John’s very happy dick, and his lips were even closer to John’s ear. Like any second he’d be kissing him and yes, it was okay with him. This guy wasn’t Roald and evidently didn’t give a shit if anyone else knew he was gay. And since no one was handing out endorsements for brain-damaged former gold medalists, neither did John.
Belatedly, John realized the guy was waiting for an answer. “Umm, yeah.”
“So let’s go.”
They threaded their way through the front room of the party, which was now made up of people jumping up and down to some song, pounding out muddy reds and oranges as the thump of their feet hit the floor just a split-second off from the beat of the music. Between the color wheel and the moving bodies, John wondered if his brain was going to provide him with another one of those fly-eye faceted views where he had to decide which of the dozen images was the right one so that he would not trip over what had moved in his path, but the other guy reached back and slid his hand just under John’s shirt and pulled him along.
When they got to the door, the guy stretched out one of those hard-muscled arms and yanked John close. Roald didn’t kiss. And kissing one of the girls on the synchronized diving team had only confirmed what John had already suspected about him and girls.
This was what he’d wanted, right? A chance to get in all the stuff he’d missed during twelve-hour practices and plane rides and tutors.
John opened his mouth for his first kiss.
A dizzy lurch in his stomach that finally had nothing to do with the new way his brain saw the world. This was like flying, like springing into air and daring gravity to catch you. The closest thing he’d had to his old life since he’d woken up in the hospital. His body buzzed, alive like it had only ever been when he walked out on the platform.
He brought his hands up, palms sliding across the crisp fuzz on the sides of the other man’s head, and sucked that spicy tongue in deeper. A contact high was what they called it, right? Getting drunk or stoned off someone else’s buzz? That had to be it. Because if kissing felt this good, why didn’t people do it all the time? Why didn’t Roald want to do it?
A shift, a pause and John knew he was supposed to kiss the other man back. He gave it what he had, stroking his tongue over those full red lips, following into his mouth where everything tasted even spicier. And it definitely wasn’t beer.
The other man pushed him away. “Fuck. Umm…?”
“Mason.” The other guy offered his own name. “You’re eighteen, right? Please tell me you’re eighteen.”
“I’m old enough to buy my own beer. Legally.”
He pulled open the front door. It wasn’t that cool outside, but after the heat from all those bodies, the shift in air pressure made John wish he had his cane. Hanging onto the siding for balance, he stepped toward the pile of trash where he’d left it.
“You’d think if they were concerned about the environment, they’d be more into recycling,” he commented to Mason.
“Students for a Greener Tomorrow. The meeting?” He pointed at the house.
“That’s not a meeting. That’s Friday night at Billy’s.”
“But it’s four fifty-six Madison Place.”
“No, that’s four fifty-six Madison Ave.”
“Did you really need to be there?” Mason had come up behind him, heat against John’s back, a particularly warm and heavy press sliding along his ass that felt good and terrifying at the same time. Like trying a reverse off the three meter for the first time.
“No.” What John needed was to finally find out if sex was everything people said it was. Especially if you had it with someone who wasn’t just using your mouth because he had no one better to do.
“Then let’s go.”
If Mason had a problem with John’s cane, he didn’t say anything, which was nice because a breeze sent the few fallen leaves spinning across the sidewalk in front of them. Without the cane, John would have ended up tripping over one of the eight curbs he saw in fragments after the leaves had passed.
At the corner, they turned down a much darker street. No cars moved past, and the maple hung heavy and dark over the narrow pavement. The breeze stirred the leaves, a higher pitch to the rustle now, bringing a touch of gray to it. During the summer the sound had been dark as molasses.
Maybe John could become a weatherman. This thing, this whatever in his head that gave colors to sounds, maybe it would help him predict the weather. There will be a bright orange cold front tomorrow, with a fifty percent chance of light blue freezing rain. Yeah. That was why he’d kept this color-hearing thing to himself. The rest of it, the dizziness and the headaches and the shattered-glass confetti were bad enough. They’d probably lock him up if he told them he heard colors.
Mason’s hand had been resting on the small of John’s back and now it slid down to cup his ass through his Dockers. His dick liked that a lot. He hoped it wasn’t far to Mason’s house.
“So, John, what do you like?”
His voice. Screw the wind, Mason’s voice curled around John’s ears like dark purple velvet. John’s favorite color, a purple so dark it was almost black. The same color as the collared shirt he’d worn to the party. It was bad enough for the sound to have color, but to feel it? That purple voice slid against his skin.
“You up for fucking?”
“Oh, man.” Mason moved closer, and that just made the color more intense as he whispered into John’s ear. “First time? That’s kinda hot.”
Mason’s hand landed on John’s dick. Maybe he was just being nice, trying to make sure John was really interested, but John thought the fact that he was here answered that already. And they might be in Albany, New York and not Waco, Texas, but John didn’t want to stand out here as a target for anyone who decided that tonight was the night to get rid of some queers.
“C’mon.” Mason tugged him down a driveway made up of two uneven strips of sidewalk that ran parallel to one of the houses on the street. They climbed up the back porch steps, and Mason let them into a dark kitchen. As he opened the fridge, the light showed a sink full of dishes and a table full of books and papers and a laptop.
“Want another beer?” Mason asked over his shoulder.
John’s throat was dry, but beer had too much vitamin pee in it, and he didn’t want to screw this up by having to work on getting his dick to switch functions halfway through.
Mason uncapped a bottle for himself and drained half of it. Moving more swiftly than he should have been able to, he rolled the icy lip of the bottle across John’s lower lip.
“You’re fucking hot, but you look scared. You okay with this?”
John wasn’t scared, just startled. And he was more than okay with it. It wasn’t as if he were saving his virginity for a special occasion. When he found someone, he’d kind of like to know what he was doing. At the rate Mason was drinking, if John did something stupid, Mason either wouldn’t know or wouldn’t remember. Good enough for tryouts.
Mason tipped the bottle, and John let some of the beer slide down his throat. With a small smile, Mason moved the bottle down over John’s lips to his chin to his throat, until it rested in the notch of his collarbone. John shuddered.
“This is gonna be fun.” Mason finished the bottle and added it to the dishes on the counter, and then tugged John close for another kiss. Definitely beery this time, but still good, setting his heart pounding, blood reheating all the spots that Mason had chilled with the bottle.
“C’mon,” Mason said again, though John had hardly been the one to hold anything up. He left his cane at the foot of the stairs and followed Mason to a room with piles of clothes on the floor and a tangle of sheets on the bed—which was just a mattress on the floor.
Mason flopped on the mattress and unbuttoned his jeans. “Get naked. I can’t wait to see what you’ve got.”
Mason had his jeans around his ankles and was kicking them away as John peeled off his shirt.
“Oh shit. Never mind. Slow down.” Mason reached up and pulled John onto the bed, running first his hand and then his mouth over John’s chest. He jumped when Mason’s tongue flicked hard over a nipple.
“All right. Let’s get your pants off before anything else happens.” Mason’s fingers had trouble with the rivet, so John arched his hips and shimmied out of the pants himself.
Mason did much better lifting the elastic of John’s jockstrap. “Mmmm. This is why your ass felt so good even through those pants.” Mason dragged the elastic down over John’s knees and tossed it away.
John was wondering if he was supposed to say something too. Mason was still in his T-shirt and shorts, so John couldn’t see much besides his legs. He was glad Mason had left the lights off. It was easier, and John’s head exploded less when it wasn’t too bright. He was thinking he’d need to wear sunglasses to class, even if everyone called him Stevie Wonder.
Apparently, Mason didn’t need any conversational skills from his bed partners since he pushed John onto his back and started flicking at his nipples with tongue and fingers.
“God, what I’m going to do to your ass.”
It was fine. Because John could just let that voice float all around him, wrap him in that warm purple velvet while every stroke of Mason’s tongue made John’s dick pulse and twitch.
“Gonna eat you. Loosen you up with my tongue until you beg for my dick.” Mason’s mouth moved below John’s navel and not talking was good because he was pretty sure that the only thing that would come out of his mouth was “Finally.” Roald didn’t kiss, and reciprocating a blow job was out of the question.
“You’re gonna scream a little when I get it in you, but then it’s gonna feel so good.” Mason’s thumbs started under John’s balls and stroked up in the crease of John’s thighs, coming to rest on his hips like he was going to hold him down.
Not necessary. John wasn’t going anywhere.
“Sweet cock.” Mason licked the head. “Anybody ever do this to you before?”
“No. No one.” Maybe holding John down wouldn’t be a bad idea because he wanted to arch up, slam his dick to the back of Mason’s throat, and as he knew from personal experience, that took a minute or so to work up to.
Mason’s lips wrapped tight around the head, tongue flicking the slit. Hot. Wet. Oh God. This was so worth…
The tongue stopped moving, the pressure eased. John brought his hands to that soft prickle of hair just above Mason’s ears.
Silence. John lifted his head and then propped himself up on his elbows.
If John didn’t have a sense of proportion, he might have thought it was the shittiest thing that had ever happened to him. But shitty or not, Mason had passed out, head heavy on John’s thigh, lips slack, stuttering breath teasing the wet skin on John’s dick.
John let his head flop back against the mattress. This was so not his year.
A million laser light beams forced their way under Mason’s eyelids, and he squeezed them shut. The skin might as well have been rice paper for all the good that did. He thought of the bottle of Jim Beam tucked between the head of the mattress and the wall and scrubbed at his face with his hand.
Not today. One day he would. One day it would just be easier to drink away his hangover and never come back. And it would finally be over. But today, he still liked living enough to put up with the pain. All of it.
Christ, he reeked. The bourbon bled out of him and into the sheets, soaking them both with the stench of sour sweat. He curled his nose. One thing he didn’t smell was sex and that was weird because he could have sworn he’d brought someone home last night.
He used his fingers to pry his eyes open, looking for signs. No uncapped lube on the nightstand. No condom wrappers. Actually the new box wasn’t even open. Maybe he’d imagined the whole thing. He swung himself out of bed and his toes tangled in a piece of elastic. He squinted down and kicked the jockstrap away. Okay. So there had been another guy here last night, because Mason sure as hell had never been high enough to wear a man-thong.
So. If there was no come on the sheets and no condom debris, what the fuck had happened?
His stomach soured more than what he could blame on sour mash alone. Shit. Had he done someone raw? Or…he tightened his own ass. No. He hadn’t been fucked, unless the guy had a No. 2 pencil for a dick, in which case things would never have gotten that far.
Shit, shit, shit. He buried his head in his hands and tried to remember. Billy’s Friday party. A guy. Thinnish, until he took off his shirt and then damn. Muscles like carved marble. Okay. That much he remembered. Tall too, tall as Mason. He’d remembered the random thought that had made him need that last beer when they got to the house. Eye level, he’d thought as he leaned in to kiss the guy. No chance of a crick in his neck or that strain in his knees like when he’d hunched down to kiss Alex.
So there’d been that extra beer. And maybe an extra round with Jim when they hit the room. And then…Mason shut his eyes. An ass that clenched every time Mason touched it. A virgin. He’d fucked a virgin bareback? A guy too innocent to know you couldn’t trust any asshole who just wanted to get his dick in your ass? He wouldn’t. No fucking way.
Mason tumbled out of bed and across the hall. With the shower on arctic, he stuck his head under the blast and then staggered downstairs.
“There he is.” Lizzy’s voice was a blare, carefully calculated to send off more sirens in Mason’s bourbon-soaked brain. But that wasn’t the worst, because sitting at the kitchen table, dumping sugar into what looked like the last fucking cup of coffee from the sixteen-cup coffee maker Mason had bought for the house, was the guy whose jockstrap had practically killed Mason when he tried to get out of bed this morning.
Maybe the last was an exaggeration, but it was hard to think between the hangover and who’s-making-more-coffee and the holy-shit-what-did-I-do?
A waffle popped out of the toaster, and Lizzy dropped it on a plate which she handed off to jockstrap guy. Mason would have glared at her, but it hurt too much to focus his eyes. Carrie was unrepentantly belting out Britney Spears as she and her headphones danced at the sink and occasionally washed a dish. Even the fourth member of their household, Kai, who never seemed to come out of his room now that he was studying for the LSATs, looked up from the papers he was highlighting to watch the entertainment.
It wasn’t like Mason never brought guys home. He’d just done it last…a while ago.
“Don’t worry.” Lizzy put the syrup bottle in front of jockstrap guy. “He’s always like this on Saturday mornings.”
“And Sunday and Monday. And Wednesday and Thursday.” Carrie sang the days to the beat in her head.
“Tuesday is his designated sober day, right, man?” Kai added.
What the hell? Why was this so fucking entertaining for everyone? Mason and Kai had been roommates since freshman year. He barely had to lift a finger to flip him off.
He ignored his tormentors and watched the quiet guy pouring syrup on his waffle. The one missing his jockstrap, the one with the soft, innocent-looking eyes and the far-from-innocent sweet curve of ass Mason hadn’t been able to keep his hands off as they walked from the party.
Which brought him back to his question.
“Need to talk to you.”
The guy put the syrup bottle down. Kai capped his highlighter. Lizzy stopped fussing over the guy like he was her long-lost son, and even Carrie took out one of her headphones.
“Alone,” Mason mumbled.
The gray eyes blinked, kind of like a subliminal nod.
“Don’t forget, I’m going to drive you back uptown,” Lizzy said as jockstrap guy pushed away
from the table.
The guy went out onto the back porch. Mason stared after him and then remembered they’d come in to the house that way. At least part of his memory was clear. You could bounce a quarter off that ass.
It was warm and bright, and the birds were really chirpy. Mason decided to get this over with. “What happened?”
The guy blinked again, like he had to translate the words into another language before piecing together an answer.
“It was too late to catch a bus home so I slept here. I was on my way out and your housemate Lizzy offered me breakfast and a ride.”
More bits came back. Dorm. No car. And that whispered, “No, no one,” as Mason wrapped his lips around a slick red cock.
“I mean, what happened before? Did we have sex?”
“Define sex.” That blink again, slow, steady and fucking infuriating.
This guy could not possibly be as innocent as those eyes and that creamy skin made him look.
“Did anyone come? More specifically, did I put my dick in your ass?” The without-a-condom part he kept to himself for now. One freakout at a time.
“I sure didn’t come.”
Shit again. He’d fucked a virgin, done a crappy job and probably scared the kid off sex for life. The guy looked about seventeen. But he’d been at the party. He’d had a beer. And how many times did you get smashed before you hit legal age, Mason Jackson Kincaid? He’d fucked an underage virgin without a condom. Not one of his finer moments.
“I don’t know if you came,” the guy went on. And now he looked amused instead of blinking like a fucking owl. Only an owl wouldn’t have eyes like that. Not that shade of gray. Not with the tilt at the corners that looked out of place in such an all-American face. “Since I slept on the couch,” the guy finished.
No nod. Just a blink.
“You passed out with your mouth on my dick.”
“Um—” Maybe there were worse things than fucking a virgin without a condom and screwing him up for life.
“C’mon, John. The food’s getting cold.”
Mason had told Lizzy to take her codependent mothering shit somewhere else. She had. She mothered Kai and Carrie, and him she just watched. And now she was mothering— “John.”
As Mason called him, he turned slowly, and Mason noticed the cane in the guy’s right hand. Mason hadn’t seen it before and it surprised him because he had been watching the guy’s ass and he knew damned well he didn’t have a limp.
Why was John looking at him like that? Because you called him back, idiot.
“So could we maybe do this again sometime? I promise…” not to pass out on your dick? “…it’ll be better.”
John blinked and then smiled. “I don’t think so.”
John gripped the door handle for a quick exit as Lizzy stopped her car directly over the words labeling the area “Fire Lane No Stopping or Standing”, putting John as close as possible to his dorm on State Quad. She didn’t offer to help him out of the car or anything crazy like that, but she did wait until he was on the decorative cement that delineated the campus from the road.
“You all right from here?” She leaned out of her window, crystal-pierced lip and eyebrow flashing in the sun, like the warm honey-colored pieces of glass John’s screwed-up vision showed him radiating from her black hair.
John waited for the images to settle, then waved. “I’m fine. Thanks a lot.”
“You know, Mase really is a good guy. He’s just—going through a phase.”
“What kind?” Did people really call alcoholism for someone in his twenties a phase?
“The kind where he’s an asshole to everyone. See you around, John.”
According to the university website, there were 13,432 undergraduates enrolled. He doubted he’d see anyone from that household again. Which, given how badly his balls had ached until horniness had trumped embarrassment and sent him to jerk off in their bathroom, was fine with him. He gave her another wave and his best press-friendly smile and watched her drive away, the buzz of her small engine leaving behind a stream of soft baby blue.
Of course, Mason dreamed about Alex. He dreamed about him almost every night. There was the dream where Mason could feel him and see him but every time he reached out, Alex disappeared. And there was the one where Alex was trying to tell Mason something, but he couldn’t understand Alex because he was mumbling or speaking another language. Mason was used to those dreams. He was just glad he never dreamed about that night. If he had to relive the accident every time he closed his eyes, he would have killed himself a long time ago.
This dream was the one that freaked him out. He could understand Alex. Could hear his voice all around. But every time Mason turned toward the sound, Alex wasn’t there. Even knowing it was a dream while it happened didn’t make it any less frustrating, because Mason couldn’t shake the feeling that if he could find him, he would somehow be able to bring Alex back with him. That he’d wake up, and Alex would be next to him. Then Mason could explain that he’d just had a really freaky dream, and Alex would wrap his arms around Mason and hold on tight.
But Mason’s empty bed and empty life were the reality. And the only way he got to be with Alex was in those dreams.
So he was more pissed than usual when Lizzy yanked him out of it with a tug that hauled him half off his bed.
“What?” Mason struggled back toward his pillow.
“Is this it? Are we there yet?”
Mason focused on the rest of the room and then back at Lizzy. The sooner she got to her point, the sooner he could get back to sleep. Maybe this time it wouldn’t be one of those scary dreams, it would be a sex dream, bodies inside each other, everything wet and hot and so good he woke up coming.
“Are we where?” he asked. Maybe Lizzy was stoned. It would be just like her to bogart the good stuff when Mason could have used the help right about now.
Ah. Got it. The intervention speech. Which would get her out of his hair faster, pulling Jim Beam out of his hiding place or making fun of her? “Yes. We have. Despite my consumption of endless empty calories, my bottom remains rock hard.”
“How’s your dick?”
“Now, Lizzy, you know I don’t swing that way. You’re going to have to take your heterosexual perversions somewhere else.”
Shit. He was missing something.
“I just thought that since you were now too drunk to fuck, you might reconsider your decisions.”
“I wasn’t too drunk to fuck.” He’d gotten hard last night, hadn’t he? He’d wanted to. Wanted that firm ass under him, wanted a taste of something new. Something to chase away the bitterness for an hour or two.
“If you weren’t, why was piece of ass number twenty-seven on the couch instead of in bed with you, begging for more?”
“Shut up.” Twenty-seven? There had been a lot of guys when he first got out of the hospital. Mostly because he wanted to prove to himself he still could. When he’d been trying to get back to the guy he’d been before Alex, when a hot ass and a nice cock was all Mason needed out of life. Of course, Lizzy had known him then, their first year in the dorms when he never came home before five in the morning. But there hadn’t been as many the past spring and summer because he’d been working. And tired. It had nothing to do with the bourbon he’d been pouring down his throat these past weeks as he tried to figure out how to fit back into his old life without Alex.
“Maybe I wasn’t that interested. You know, sometimes when you get your new toy out of the package, it’s disappointing.”
“Right. It’s not you, it’s him.”
“Is the lecture over?”
Apparently it wasn’t, because Lizzy dropped down next to him, her head flopping against his thighs. “We gave you a month of wallowing.”
“That’s nice considering I’ve only been in town for three weeks.” Was his grief on some kind of fucking schedule? New school year. Time to move on. Ten months was plenty of time to get over losing the better part of yourself.
“You know, we miss him too. Me, Kai, even Carrie.”
His muscles went tight and his teeth sank hard into his lip to bite back something even more vicious than what came out of him. “Don’t. Shut the fuck up right now.” He didn’t care how much he loved her, if she tried that I-understand shit for a second, he was going to shove her right onto the floor and walk over her on his way out to…wherever.
“Fine.” But she didn’t move.
How was he supposed to go back to sleeping off his hangover if she wouldn’t get off the bed?
“Why are you still here?”
“I’m not going anywhere until you get up and take a shower.”
“We’re doing tough love now, is that it?”
“Who said I loved you?” She started humming, some musical theater thing that Alex would know, the hum growing louder until she squawked the words to the song.
“Christ, I’m up.” He rolled her onto her side and pushed away from the bed. “I wish you’d leave me alone.”
She was lucky he was already slamming the door when she said, “Yeah well, I’m not doing it for you. I’m doing it for Alex.”