“That was a wild night,” Richie Corelli said as he threw the wrapper from his cheeseburger at his roommate Lance Sturgis. He lifted the straw to his lips and finished the soda he’d been drinking. His head was still swimming from the drinks they’d had at the club, and he was still coming down from the epic vibes Lance had been hired to spin. He normally kept his party level to a minimum as he didn’t want to deal with the consequences as much as he had in the past. Before, a long next day was worth it, as long as he had a good time. But this time, somewhere between the booze, dancing, and the music, he gave up and gave in. That’s when she came into the picture.
He'd gone home with a girl he met and she’d been a strange one. He still smelled like peppermint oil and incense. He had sneaked out during her morning yoga, but she caught him and made him share a herbal cleansing tea with her. His mouth was still burning. He just wanted to get home and get as far away from her as he could. A stop at the local burger joint would cure the thought of her and the experience.
“I can’t believe the amount of fast food you eat. Aren’t you supposed to be a culinary genius? I mean, you know what that stuff is made of, right?” Lance grumbled, batting it away without looking up from his phone. He had his entire six-foot frame folded up into a little ball on the couch as he “liked” things on Instagram.
“Yes, I am, and yes, I do. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the finer things in life. Jodi’s has the best burgers and fries, and they’re off the hook for hangovers and bad one-nighters.”
“You’re not even sober yet. How can you be hungover?” Lance grunted.
Richie popped another fry in his mouth and grinned. “It’s preventative measures. Don’t knock it. Oh, hey, did you see Addison? She was looking fine.”
Lance looked up and just rolled his eyes—not particularly in the mood to deal with Richie’s fawning over the prettiest girl on campus. In fact, the “Addison looks fine” speeches annoyed Lance just as much as Richie’s fast food.
“She looked like a cheap, two-dollar hooker,” Lance said as he put his phone down and looked up at his best friend and roommate. She hadn't. She had been stunning. He was always struck by the popular girl’s effortless beauty. Yes, he was jealous in a strange way, and this time expressed it with a snotty remark.
Richie frowned, caught off guard by his friend’s unusually harsh tone. Lance rarely had anything bad to say about anyone. “What the hell is your problem?”
Lance blew out a long sigh and shook his head. His shoulders sagged as he rolled his neck from side to side. “I’m sorry, it’s just been a long night, and I have a couple tests on Monday, and I’m not going to have time to even study for them.”
“Why not?” Richie asked as he stuffed another fry in his mouth.
“I’ve got the Waterfront Rave tonight.”
“Really?! That’s supposed to be a wild time. I've heard from several girls that are going.”
Lance shrugged. “I guess. I just hate last-minute gigs like this, but at least it pays well. Hey, you wanna come? I can bring a guest.”
Richie’s blond eyebrows shot up. “Seriously? You don’t want to take Kevin?”
Lance just shook his head and dropped his gaze to his phone, his heart pinching tightly in his chest.
“Hey, Lance? What’s up?” Richie’s concerned voice said from the other side of the table.
Lance lifted his gaze, not ready to see the pity on his friend’s face. However, when his eyes met Richie’s, he saw nothing but genuine concern. His stomach fluttered lightly as Richie’s light blue eyes studied his face. They were the bluest eyes he’d ever seen, reminding him of the sky on a summer day, rimmed with a darker blue ring. His blond hair was still tousled and thick with product from the night before—giving him a surfer-boy look. Lance had always thought Richie looked like he belonged on the beaches of California instead of the streets of New York. It was strange because his mother was as Italian as they came.
He hesitated for a few moments. Finally, he put his fist to his mouth and cleared his throat from the gravel that seemed to have suddenly piled up there. “He decided that he needed to go find himself? He was being a dick.”
Richie frowned and then snorted. “Find himself? What the hell does that even mean and who needs to find themselves?”
“It’s fine, whatever. We’re in college. Who wants to settle down and be in a monogamous relationship, right?” he said deadpan.
Richie didn’t laugh. Instead, he studied his friend. He knew that sound in his voice and knew the situation. “When did this happen?”
“Monday,” he said picking at the corner of the cheeseburger wrapper that had fallen in front of him.
“Monday? It’s Saturday and you’re just now telling me this?” Richie’s voice rose an octave, taking Lance by surprise.
“You’ve got classes and work and other shit to worry about. You don’t need my drama to worry about.”
“Dude, you’re my best friend, you shouldn’t have to deal with this shit alone. Seriously, man. You could have said something.”
“I’ll be fine. I think I’m going to go get a little sleep. Maybe I can get in a little studying after I wake up.”
“Are you sure? I mean, I may lose my man card for sounding all girly and shit, but I’m here if you want to talk. We can go shoot some hoops or something.”
Lance gave him a sad smile. “I’ll be fine. I’m just tired.” He pushed away from the table and walked to his room, closing the door quietly behind him.
Richie sat and watched his friend disappear, his shoulders slumped in sadness. It was obvious that his friend was hurting, but he had absolutely no idea how to even fix it. Richie felt like an ass for not noticing sooner that his friend was hurting. His mind raced over the past week trying to find the signs of obvious heartbreak. But his stomach called for more food. Anyway, he wasn’t exactly into talking about his feelings. But when it came to Lance, he would make an exception.
Richie stared at Lance’s closed door. Maybe going to the rave and getting his mind focused on amping up the crowd would lift his spirits. After all, DJ Danger was the most sought-after spinner in Ithaca. Hell, his reputation was rapidly expanding beyond the borders and into other reaches of New York. It never ceased to blow his mind at how Lance was almost like two completely different people. He looked nothing like a lot of the DJs he’d seen.
When he was spinning, he wore jeans and a simple t-shirt. Sometimes he wore a baseball cap. Other times he wore a beanie. When he wasn’t at the turntables, he dressed in jeans and pressed, button-down shirts. Two totally different people.
Richie scrubbed his palms over his weary eyes. The greasy burger and fries were doing their job and the alcohol was beginning to fade. Leaving grogginess in its wake.
With a yawn, he pushed away from the table and gathered his trash. He was too tired to clean up, but knowing that Lance hated when their apartment got too cluttered, he figured he could at least pick up the wrappers. Lance always said just because we’re a couple of guys doesn’t mean they have to live like a couple of guys.
After tossing the papers in the trash, Richie crossed the living room and walked into his room. His thoughts tumbled and spun around in his head. Why hadn’t Lance said anything about his breakup? It wasn’t like he didn’t care what happened to his friend. Heaven knew Lance had listened to him complain about his girl problems over and over again.
After stripping down to his boxers, he fell into bed. He stared at the ceiling as Lance’s comments about Addison came back to him. It truly had been out of character. As a child, Lance had been bullied relentlessly, and when he came out as gay in his junior year of high school—even accepting as the world was—it hadn’t come without its ramifications. There were still sly remarks and obscene hand gestures that went on when others weren’t aware. Lance just kept quiet and went along with life as usual. Good thing for him, his inner circle of friends were caring and listened quite well.
As a result, Lance was kind and caring. Hearing him say something so biting and cold toward another human truly meant that something was bothering him. Maybe there was more to the breakup than he was letting on.
Before he could think much more about it, however, Richie’s eyes slowly closed. His last thought was of his friend’s broken heart. He thought of ways to help him get through, maybe a night out with the guys or some kind of party. As Richie drifted further into sleep, he had nightmares about herbal tea and incense.
Lance leaned against his closed door and took a deep, steadying breath. Feelings that he thought had long ago vanished threatened to resurface. Just when he thought his life was making sense and he was in a good place, something had to happen. This time it was the genuine concern and sincerity Richie had shown him after he’d mentioned his breakup with Kevin. It wasn’t that Richie was never concerned for him, it was the fact that he was genuinely concerned that was the issue.
His mind was all over the place trying to figure out his feelings. He was what his friend Dot would call a “hot mess.” As someone who prided himself on always having it together, this was upsetting for him.
He'd only been partially truthful with his friend concerning the breakup. The real truth of the matter being that Kevin hadn’t been the one to do the dumping. That had all been on Lance’s shoulders. Kevin had been great—attentive, loving, supportive, and all the things that anyone would want in a boyfriend. However, he lacked one thing. He wasn’t Richie.
It was insane wanting what he couldn’t have. Richie was not only straight, he was a textbook womanizer. It just wasn’t in the cards for them. Lance struggled daily with trying to keep his feelings hidden. How would he react if he knew? Would he freak out and never speak to him again? Or would he say it was all in his head? Would he then wonder if he had been watching him like some kind of creepy live-in stalker?
Wearily, Lance changed out of his clothes and into a pair of flannel pajama bottoms—his bed all but screaming an invitation to him. He collapsed onto the thick covers and slung an arm over his forehead. He needed to go to sleep and put these thoughts out of his mind. It would never happen and could never be.
Lance tossed and turned for a few moments. Sleep refused to find him. His mind was busy with questions after questions of “What ifs?” From one scenario to another, his mind raced with thoughts of the two of them being together. An hour of drifting from one daydream to another, he climbed out of bed and walked over to his desk. If he couldn’t sleep because he couldn’t quieten his mind, then he surely wouldn’t be able to study.
Removing his headphones from the drawer, he plugged them into his laptop and removed his soundboard. In a manner of minutes, he was swept away with the beats and thumps he created. Everything melted away and that was perfectly okay with him. He could spend hours mixing. It was his drug of choice.