I woke out of a dead slumber with a jolt, my eyes flying wide and automatically wincing against the assault of morning light. Confused, I fumbled to get my bearings, fingertips brushing against soft cotton and then bumping up against warm skin as my vision adjusted. My heart beat wildly in my chest, and I wasn’t entirely sure why until a knock sounded and I jumped all over again, fight-or-flight instinct lacing my sense of bewilderment.
A warm hand slid over the center of my chest and splayed, pressing me back into the mattress as Eric’s voice came low and soft. “Relax, it’s locked. I made sure earlier when I came back from taking a piss.”
His fingers trailed in a sluggish caress over my skin, a heat he took with him as he slid off the end of the bed and ambled toward the door, shoving one hand lazily in his boxers as he went. In my still half-asleep state, I did the only logical thing I could think of: I flail-rolled myself off the other side of the bed, landing heavily on the floor, out of sight of the door just as I heard the lock pop as Eric opened it. I twisted around and rested my head on my forearm so I could peer around the bottom of the bed like I was back in fucking high school hiding from some girlfriend’s parents. It’d happened a couple of times.
“Why bother with an alarm clock when there’s your ass,” Eric groused, and I had to silently agree with him; why the hell were people in this house such early risers? But when I glanced over my shoulder at the clock on the bedside table, I was surprised to find it read 10:00 a.m.
“You seen Nate?”
I froze, and there was a brief pause before Eric replied, “At the thing last night, yeah. He was still there when I left, though.”
Mark made a disgruntled noise. “Weird. His door’s cracked and—dude, can you leash that thing or something? I feel like I need to salute it back.”
“You interrupted my morning briefing.” Eric laughed, and the husky sound of it slid across the room like a shaft of light and pooled in my stomach. I shifted around as my dick got hard at the mere suggestion that his was, too. Great, my Pavlovian instincts had reached even creepier heights. If Eric popped wood in the middle of a forest and no one was around to see it…
I must have made some noise, because Eric shot a look over his shoulder, and I tried to stave off the snicker that was bubbling up in my chest by pressing my mouth to my forearm.
Mark snorted, then continued. “Anyway, he came home with me last night… Guess he could have gotten up really early. Whatever. If you see him, will you remind him that we have chapter today? He’s been flaky as fuck lately, and it’s weirding me out. You think he’s up to something?”
“Like what?” I could hear the skepticism in Eric’s voice and was duly impressed by his acting abilities. I’d have been stuttering.
Mark hedged for a second, trying to come up with something, I guess, and completely clueless that his answer to what I was “up to” was standing in front of him sporting morning wood that I was very interested in giving a happy ending. “I dunno. Maybe banging some chick he doesn’t want us to find out about?”
Eric broke into loud laughter, probably because his thoughts were running along the same track mine were.
Mark joined in. “Like that butterface from Kappa?”
Eric’s laughter trailed off. “I have no idea who you’re talking about.”
“Yeah, guess you wouldn’t. Speaking of chicks, that redhead you’re always hanging out with, Amelia?”
“Amanda,” Eric corrected.
“You hitting that? Because daaaaamn.”
“Nope.” There was a long pause, and I knew Mark well enough to know he was waiting for more. An offer for a hookup or some further explanation. Eric’s tight-lipped game was stronger, though, and for whatever reason, he apparently didn’t want to give anything else up to Mark. After a moment, Mark must have relented with a gesture or something, because the next thing I heard was a quiet, “Yeah, cool. I’m out,” and then Eric shut the door again.
I heard the lock click and dropped my forehead on my arm in relief. I had a singular moment of wondering what the fuck I was even doing—on so many counts—before a billow of air puffed over me when Eric flopped back on the bed and peered down at me as I rolled onto my back to stare up at him. The residual adrenaline running through me made me antsy.
“Don’t need coffee anymore this morning—maybe a tranquilizer instead.”
Eric gave me a tight smile as he eyed me. “This is like a scenario out of a bad after-school special.”
“Jesus, what kind of after-school specials did you watch growing up?”
He flipped some hair from his eyes and folded his forearms over the edge of the bed, resting his chin on top. He looked…nice in the morning. A little softer, and it wasn’t like I was intimidated by him—not physically, at least—but his presence seemed so vivid and commanding in the places we got off together that just the ordinariness of being with him in his room somehow felt weirdly intimate. I kinda wished we hadn’t had such a rude awakening, that…
“None, actually. My parents didn’t believe in TV.”
“How can you not believe in TV?”
“The old ‘it rots your brain’ argument.” He shrugged one shoulder lazily. “So I was left to my own devices.”
“And look how you turned out, getting guys off in libraries and at fundraisers.”
“I think you were there, too, so not exactly an equal argument in favor of TV either.”
“Point.” I laughed and rubbed a hand over the scruff on my jaw. I ached for a shower, and I really needed to go to the gym, but damn, Eric’s mouth was right there, silently telling me what I needed instead was to fill it with my cock. I licked my lips and pushed the heel of my hand against my boxers as I met his eyes and I saw it, that shadow passing through the olive-green tones, the darkening of want making its presence known.
He took a quiet breath, gaze drifting down to my boxers, then back up again. “You threw me for a loop last night.”
“Yeah, well, you’ve been throwing me for about a month now.” I could have worded it better, but it came out as a blurted confession.
He touched the corner of his mouth with his tongue, gaze raking over my body again. It really was a raking, too, like he had the power to drag furrows down my body, leave welt marks behind, hot and pink. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” I nodded and swallowed hard, hoping like fuck I wasn’t blushing, even though I felt the creep of heat over my neck and my cheeks. What was it about the way he looked at me that could turn me from tepid to hell-fire blaze in seconds? Eric scraped his teeth over his lower lip, making it pop out all shiny and slick, reminding me what he looked like when he was sucking my dick.
Silence fell, this kind of tension-heavy pause like a finger hovering over a taut rubber band. And I felt like I was waiting for him to snap it against the inside of my wrist. One of us was supposed to fill it, probably with words, probably with conversation about what the fuck we were doing, and it defaulted to him since I’d been the last one to speak, but it was obvious after a handful of seconds that he wasn’t going to.
Instead, Eric pulled himself forward over the edge of the bed, fingers tensing to brace his weight on either side of me as he slid from the mattress and straddled me in one long, sinuous movement that rolled over me like rippling water. That light, that liquid. His breath on my lips was faintly minty; he must have brushed his teeth earlier. I hadn’t, and probably should’ve been more self-conscious, but I wasn’t because his closeness absolutely fucking consumed me like nothing else. My entire body was suddenly on alert, my nerves prickling with awareness and the hairs on my damn forearms lifting as he dipped down and licked my lower lip slowly while the bottom half of his body pressed into mine, everything about him hard and warm.
Fuck, he had a sexy mouth, and his lashes lay dark against his cheek as his tongue made another pass before he opened his eyes to find me watching him. I opened my mouth to him, let his tongue flick lightly over mine. Not exactly a kiss, but a wet, repetitive caress that was strangely fucking hot and exciting in its weirdness.
He rolled his hips once against me and drew back by an inch when I groaned.
“Want me to throw you again right now?”
“Trick question.” I knew the second I said yes, he’d take me all the way to the edge, then leave me hanging. And besides, the loop throwing was already well in progress. A foregone conclusion. I mean, Jesus fucking Christ, I’d crawled into his bed last night like some desperado. In the light of day, it was more than a little embarrassing. I’d never really been the kind of guy to give chase. Could I blame it on those last several beers?
I rolled upright and intercepted him, pushing him onto his back and catching his startled expression a second before I straddled his knees and yanked the band of his boxers down, exposing the thick cock lying along his thigh. By the time I looked back up, he’d regained his composure, and that smooth amber chuckle came out to spur me on as I lowered my mouth and licked up the length of his thigh, dark hairs tickling the tip of my tongue until I reached his crown and circled it. With a groan, his hands flew to my hair and he arched into me.
“All of it, Sanders, don’t be a tease.”
I played along, wrapping my lips around him, filling my mouth with his cock, and there was something insanely sexy and gratifying about feeling him get hard in my mouth, about all that soft skin tightening and stretching just for me when I bathed it with my tongue. Maybe this was exactly why he liked fucking around with me so much. The sense of control was as much an aphrodisiac as the awareness that it could shift any moment.
And it did, because a second later, Eric anchored his fist tight in my hair, holding me still while he fucked my mouth, drawing back just enough for me to catch my breath when I choked before plunging in again, hard and fast, the muscles in his stomach strained and defined, his thighs like granite underneath me. The scattershot roughness of his exhales urged me on as he propped himself up on one elbow, kept the other hand tight in my hair, and dug his nails almost painfully into my scalp.
“Look at me,” he demanded. “Yeah, just like that.”
I felt my moan vibrating against his cockhead as I met his eyes. What a fucking way to start the morning.
I tasted his precome, lapped the saltiness from his slit as he hissed, his eyes shuttering closed like a cat blinking in the sunlight, and just as soon opening again, because he was a greedy bastard and liked to see his dick between my lips. I kept my gaze locked on his and, just for his benefit, opened my mouth and let him watch the flat of my tongue running up and down his glistening shaft.
He snapped out a curse, and when I felt a telltale quiver of his thighs beneath me, I closed my mouth over him again, gave him one last hard suck, and popped free, leaning back on his thighs.
I half expected him not to let me go, to drag me back down onto his dick and fill my mouth with his release. If he had, I’d have finished him, would’ve been helpless not to. Instead, there was a flare of frustration in his eyes, then dawning understanding and amusement.
“That’s how you’re gonna play it, huh? A little tit for tat?”
“That’s about the size of it, yeah.” I licked my lips clean and wiped my chin with my hand. “You could always ask me nicely to finish you off.” I arched a brow, and he rolled his lips inward to fight off a smile. “But that ain’t happening, is it?”
His eyelids drooped to half-mast, all confident ease as he gave his cock a few light strokes. “Nope. I’d tell you to. And you would, wouldn’t you, frat boy? You’d come right back and open that sexy mouth for me and let me blow my load all over your face.”
“Probably.” Yes. No point in trying to deny it when my dick presented all the evidence in the wet patch that had darkened the front of my boxers. Asshole. He could twist something in a second and it was crazy how addicted I was to it, how much I looked forward to it, even when I tried to test the invisible boundary lines we danced around.
I was so hard it fucking hurt, and I wasn’t even sure why I felt the need to challenge him. He was underneath me, ready to give me exactly what we both knew I wanted, but there was something about the unspoken stalemate and constant anticipation between us that stoked my arousal. I knew I’d spend the rest of the day—hell, whatever amount of time elapsed between now and when we next hooked up—thinking about it, wanting it, playing it in my head, aching for it.
Eric pumped his cock a few more times, so fucking swollen, the crown fat and leaking. I could practically feel his jizz ready to pop off. And goddamn I wanted it. My palms were getting the tops of my thighs wet where I clutched them in an effort to keep from touching myself, determined to carry this out. Not that Eric was making it easy, of course. He never did.
And he didn’t now.
He rolled upright, unseating me from his thighs and wrestling me onto my back where he hovered over me and rubbed his cock against mine in one long, serpentine, nerve-spiking thrust. “You’d let me fill you with my fingers. My tongue. My dick. Whatever I wanted. Wherever I wanted. However I wanted.” Each word spilled like an incantation, a primal rhythm to it that had me spreading my legs wider, only half realizing that I was opening myself up to him. I swear the fucker could cast spells talking like that. He reached down and pinched the head of my cock until I winced, then let go. Blood rushed back in, bringing with it a tingle that made me light-headed. “Wouldn’t you?”
Check. Check. Check. Check. My dick twitched and leaked. I balled my hands into fists to keep from reaching for it or for him. I knew what he was doing. He wanted to see if I’d beg without asking or being prompted, without telling me to do it explicitly. And damn, I was close, feeling his dick hard against mine, his body surrounding me, overtaking me, the hard rise and fall of his chest, and that crazy penetrating, unflinching stare of his, like he’d never been ashamed in his life, like he’d always been perfectly, incautiously fucking filthy and relentless about what he wanted.
I didn’t even have the instinct to try to wriggle free.
“Yes,” I admitted on a moan, digging my nails into my own palms.
He reached for my hand, uncurling my fingers, only to wrap them around his cock, then kept his grip on my knuckles as he squeezed, pressing my sweaty palm into his hot skin. His face was so close that when he licked his lips, I felt the tip of his tongue tease over me. I let out a shaky breath, close to coming just like that.
“But you’re right. Trick question.” His words fell over my lower lip on an exhale, and I could tell by his eyes that he was smiling that enigmatic smile. It was a moot point. He’d just proven that he didn’t even have to open his mouth and I’d do whatever the fuck he wanted.
It irritated the shit out of me.
It also got me hotter than hell.
I scowled as his grin broke wider and he squeezed my hand again, in turn squeezing himself so hard another bead of precome dripped from his slit. I sucked in a shaky breath as it ran down my knuckles.
And then he pulled his hand away and said, “I’ve got shit to do.”
Dismissed in a span of seconds. Typical fucking Eric. It was frustrating to no end, but I couldn’t deny the exhilaration that accompanied it.
He planted his palm in the center of my chest and shoved himself upright, then stood, picking up my pants from the floor and tossing them toward me.
I caught them one-handed, stuck my feet in, and arched my hips to pull them up. “You’re such a dick sometimes, you know that?”
“I know you like it. I know it gets you hard. That’s what I know.”
I rolled my eyes at his back, stood up as I fastened my pants, then headed for the door. “I’ll be around,” I tossed out, as nonchalantly as I could while still sporting a giant, throbbing erection.
I turned back to see him fishing through his nightstand. He took out a folded piece of paper and frisbeed it in my direction. I missed and had to pick it up from the floor before I could open it and stare uncomprehendingly at the numbers. “What’s this?”
“Lab results. If you want to keep doing this, maybe you should get checked out, too.”
My head immediately populated with filthy images of his bare dick plunging inside me. The blazing heat, the unrestrained surge of his come through me, filling me, dripping from my hole. Fucking Christ. The paper in my hands was going limp with how much my palms were sweating over the prospect. I tossed it back on the bed and squeezed my dick through my pants while he smirked.
“Did that after Ashley. All good. I’ve only been with you since.”
He perked a brow in what looked like surprise, then nodded. I don’t know why I hadn’t mentioned it before, except we moved so fast and unexpectedly that I guess I hadn’t really given it any thought, but fuck was it in my head now, knocking around like temptation on fire.
I opened the door and listened to the quiet before pulling it wider. “I’m heading to the gym in a little while, so if you want to tag along…” So much for playing it cool.
“Thought you said that’d be a danger to your health?” A muted smile quirked his lips that I couldn’t help but match.
“I was just fucking around. I do have some self-control.”
I expected some quip in return, but Eric only looked at me a second longer and turned away to shut the drawer. “I’ll probably pass. Got a shit ton of assignments that’ve piled up.”
Yeah, if I hadn’t gotten it before, that was definitely a dismissal. I flagged his back a peace sign.
“Hey,” he said, and I paused yet again in the doorway. “I like it, too.”
I wasn’t sure whether he meant this weird morning we were having, the weird power struggle, or just…everything we’d been doing, and it wasn’t until I got back in my room that I thought harder about what that piece of paper and his question meant. It wasn’t like he’d asked me to be his boyfriend or anything, but there was a tacit implication in it that meant he wasn’t sleeping around and I wasn’t either.
I sat down on the corner of my bed and gnawed my lower lip, staring dazedly through the window until my phone buzzed in my pants pocket and I pulled it out, finding a text from Mark stacked on top of a bunch of others.
And it was a good thing. Otherwise, I might’ve sat there a lot longer, going down some rogue emotional path that I had no business being on this early in the day.
Mark: Srsly dude
An hour and a half later, I jogged down the front steps of our house, my gym bag bouncing against my ass as I trotted across the dewy grass toward the U’s gym, which was about a half-mile walk. My breath frosted in the air, and I shoved my hands in the pockets of my track pants as I went. I wasn’t one to romanticize the seasons, but I did really like the fall—and not just because it meant football. The cooler temperatures and smoke-scented air got me a little nostalgic, and I found myself looking forward to going home for the holidays, hanging out with my parents and some of my high school friends. I wondered what it was like for Eric. He rarely mentioned going home, rarely talked about high school. Or maybe I just hadn’t been paying attention before, like he’d said. After all, I’d totally missed the whole bit about his dad and stepdad.
My phone vibrated in my hand.
Eric: Ass is looking good in those pants. Would look better in my hands.
I grinned down at the screen and didn’t even give him the pleasure of looking over my shoulder before I replied while still walking.
Nate: Terrible line, btw
Eric: Never claimed to be charming, just dirty
Couldn’t argue with that.
“Wait the fuck up!”
Damn, that voice lived under my skin. An obnoxious twitch of my cock followed, but I stopped and turned around, adjusting the strap on my bag as Eric trotted through the grass toward me while I tried to ignore the stupid thrill of happiness I got out of him deciding to join me after all.
“Decided maybe I should burn off last night,” he explained, falling in step beside me.
“Pounding me like you were trying to launch me into orbit wasn’t enough?”
“You’re still walking on solid ground, aren’t you?”
“Barely,” I muttered, and he stopped, grabbing my elbow to stop me, too, concern flitting through his eyes and making a firm line of his mouth as he angled toward me.
“Did I hurt you?”
I wanted to roll my eyes and laugh it off, but the sincerity in his expression held me back. I shook my head. “Nah, man. It’s good.”
“You can tell me to ease up, stop. At any time and I would.”
I laughed, a little uncomfortably. “What, like some kind of safe word or something?”
He shrugged. “Maybe, yeah.”
I did roll my eyes then. “Fine, my safe word is: fuck off. I told you it’s all good. Relax.” Because what I’d originally meant when I’d spoken had nothing to do with the physical. At all.
He studied me a moment longer, then released me and we started walking again.
“We’ll get you set up with a nice, light walking program on the treadmill,” I told him, trying to steer us away from the sense of heaviness that seemed to move with us. “And they do have some two- and three-pound hand weights.” I gave him a smartass grin that he mirrored.
“Will I need to spot you with those, or you think you can manage on your own?”
Fucker. I broke into laughter, shaking my head, and yanked open the glass-fronted door, warm air and the tang of sweat and gym equipment rushing out to greet us.
Inside, I claimed a tread and dropped my gear off in the locker room while Eric got started, then rejoined him, punching the screen to start the belt. The long line of TVs in front of us blared newscasts, sports, interior design shows and cooking demos, and usually I just popped my earbuds in and got lost to the tempo of my running playlist, but today I was tuned into Eric beside me, the steady rhythm of his footfalls, his breathing as it sped up, resembling… I groaned internally and focused on a lady on the screen as she dumped a bowl of what looked like vegetables into some kind of batter. Gross.
“You run and I just never noticed it?” I asked, without looking over; he was moving at a pretty decent clip. I’d bumped up the speed on my belt and was starting to get nice and winded, that breathless feeling I loved tightening my chest, firing off dopamine and twitching through my muscles. In absence of a fuck, exercise was about as close as I could get to accomplishing the same sated, muscle-drowsy feeling afterward.
“Here and there. Not much. I played soccer in high school and a few other sports. Think I’ve got decent muscle memory.”
“What position? In soccer I mean.” I snuck a glance aside at him and glimpsed the faint curve of his lips. His neck was shiny with a thin layer of sweat, the muscles of his calves popping with each stride.
“Were you any good?”
He huffed out a breathy laugh. “Not good enough to try to pursue it. It was just for fun. I was home-schooled, so it wasn’t the same as a school team or anything. Didn’t you play football or something?”
“Yeah,” I said, grinning. “Same answer, though—not well enough to do anything with it.”
“Guess the habits lasted better in you than in me. You’re in stupid good shape.” He reached out, knocking down the speed on his treadmill. “I’m starting to fade already.”
“You did it wrong. Gotta start slow and ramp it up.” I wasn’t about to address his comment on my body with some return compliment, because even though I found his lean definition smoking fucking hot, there was no way I’d be able to say it without sounding like a total lech in the middle of the gym. Though shit, he’d probably like that.
“Yeah, that’s one way to do it.” He cut a sidelong look at me that lingered suggestively a couple of beats and sent an extra kick of heat dancing through me.
“You should know.”
We moved to the free weights next, running through a bicep, tricep, and back-focused set in front of the gym’s wall of mirrors. Without my earbuds, I was hyperaware of the other guys around us: the scrawny fella trying to lift too heavy, a rugby dude who was definitely slacking with those 25 pounders, and a guy I’d come to silently refer to as the Grunter who, no matter what he was lifting, always made noises like he was trying to pull a car off an old lady. I’d had him in a survey course once, and he’d been much the same. Grunting with every shift of his body.
After a particularly loud grunt, Eric caught my eye in the mirror, his mouth tight as he tried to hold back his laughter, and it was all I could do not to crack up, too.
As we moved on to the larger weights, Eric passed me by, lowering his voice. “Can you imagine what he sounds like when he comes? Gotta be like an elephant trumpeting. You need to step up your game.”
I did crack up then. “I can’t be anything close to him. Really?” Though, usually when I was in the heat of the moment, I was hardly even aware of what planet I was on, let alone what kind of sounds I was making. Was I really that noisy of a fucker, though?
Eric’s grin was sphinxlike and brief as he turned away to crouch down and select some weights for the chest press. I helped him slide them onto the bar and tried not to stare too long when he ducked his head inside his shirt to wipe sweat from his forehead with the collar, exposing a lean stretch of glistening abs to my hungry perusal.
Next, he positioned himself on the bench, and I stepped closer to his head, wrapping my hands around the bar and preparing to help him lift it out of the cradle.
He gave me a wicked twist of a smile. “I might be being ambitious. Don’t let me die.”
“Don’t piss me off.”
He winked at me, then lifted the bar. His nostrils flared as he exhaled, straining under the weight as he lowered the bar, paused, then pushed it back up. I kept my hands hovering at the ready, watching for any telltale wobble.
Veins at the sides of his temples popped into relief, but he kept his breaths measured and steady, chest puffing out with each inhale, shorts drawn tight over his tense thighs and crotch. Jesus, I could get down with him staying like this forever, stripping him right where he was like a goddamn sin buffet there for the taking. I blinked the imagery away and darted my hand out to help guide the bar back into its cradle as his biceps trembled. Somehow in the span of a month, I’d become deeply depraved.
After another set, we switched places.
“Don’t you need more weight?” he asked as I settled beneath the bar and found my grip.
“I’m doing an easy day today.” I cut him a grin as I lifted the bar, all too aware of the heat rolling off his body near my head.
“Braggart. You come every day?”
“Pretty much.” I paused with the weight close to my chest, then exhaled and pushed it up again in one smooth, solid contraction of muscle that felt good.
“Why?” I tilted my head back to look at him, and Eric flicked his hand out to steady the bar as it tilted to one side.
“I got it,” I assured him. “Clears the clutter, I guess. I dunno. Or it’s habit. Don’t think there’s some deeper motivation there, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Just curious what it takes to maintain.” Eric stepped closer, his shorts brushing the top of my head as I busted through another couple of reps. I slowed as I caught his gaze drifting over my body and going hazy and hungry. My dick responded immediately and I pushed the weight up again, then fit the bar back in its home base. “Watch it.”
He gave me light, teasing crinkle of a smile. “I am.”
“Well, stop. Not like that when I’m spread out on a bench in shorts this goddamn thin. Do you know how fucking annoying the way I react to you is?”
He caught my wrist as I released the bar and sent it skimming along the fabric over his crotch. Quick, but enough for me to feel his semi. “What do you think?” he asked before letting me go.
Somehow we managed to finish working out without becoming completely obscene. I was drenched and Eric wasn’t much better off, and we stopped at the water fountain so he could grab a drink and I could refill my water bottle.
“Gonna shower and head to my chapter meeting.” I thumbed toward the locker room as he sucked at the stream of water.
He straightened, tipped his chin in a slight nod, and glanced over his shoulder before his gaze swerved back at me as he wiped his mouth.
I considered for a second, then added, “We could go get something to eat later. Shoot pool or something.”
Goddamn the smirk that spread over his face. It hit me like a flinch, but there was something in his eyes that belied the cocky expression, and that was the only reason I didn’t roll my eyes at him and tell him to forget it, because my stomach was already flip-flopping all over itself for asking in the first place.
“Just you and me?”
“Unless you want to invite your fan club of two, yeah.”
“And after that?”
I hesitated. I knew what I wanted. Still wasn’t keen on asking for it. But shit, I was pretty sure Eric wanted it, too. That’s why he was standing there, right? Why he’d kissed me back the way he did last night, like he didn’t care if he ever breathed again. “There’s that spot at the quarry.”
“We gonna cuddle up nice and cozy while we listen to the radio?” he teased.
I eyed his raised brows. “No, asshole. No radio. Just those noises you make when your dick’s in my mouth and maybe some of my own when you’re fucking me and I don’t have to worry about how goddamn loud I’m being.”
Heat shadowed his eyes, and he glanced over my shoulder as he slid a hand through his sweaty hair, then rubbed his jaw. There was something about the combination of gestures that struck me as unsettled. Good. And just when I was about to continue on my merry way to the locker room, unwilling to stick around for his limbo antics, Eric sucked a breath of air through his teeth and nodded. “You’re on.” Like we were setting up a wrestling match or something.
Hell, sometimes it felt that way.
Once in the locker room, I stripped down next to one of the benches, then carried my clothes and gym bag into one of the shower stalls, dragging a towel from the cart after me before I yanked the curtain closed. The stalls used to be open, but a while back there’d been some campus-wide movement on body consciousness or something, so now the stalls all had shower curtains. Which was kind of nice, since it meant I could take as long as I wanted without someone eyeing me up and silently implying I needed to hurry the fuck up, as had happened a few times before.
I turned on the shower and stepped under it, enjoying the contrast of the cold tiles against my feet and the hot spray beating down on my shoulders. Tipping my head back, I let the water cascade over my face and whoosh through my ears, occasional conversation of guys coming and going, then silence. A deep, satisfied exhale rolled from me, and I ran my hand over my cock, thinking about Eric on that weight bench earlier—this time my mind providing the bonus version: him stripped naked, looking up at me with that sex-stoned gleam in his eyes as I lowered myself on his cock. Fuck yeah, that was sexy. We hadn’t done anything like that before, and I was kinda curious if he’d even be down for that, given how he liked to take over and plow me.
Even better was imagining him in a darkened car, his hand on my head, forcing me down onto his big dick, invading my mouth and making me splutter. I gave a gentle tug to my balls, then a harder one like he would, and swallowed a groan. Eyes still closed and centered on that mind’s-eye image, I fumbled blindly for the shower gel dispenser screwed into the wall, ready to take care of what had been building up all morning.
A low, hushed chuckle rose as I knocked into the dispenser, and I jerked my hand away, eyes flying open to find Eric standing in the little changing area on the other side of the shower curb.
What the fuck? I mouthed.
He shrugged casually in return and lifted his index finger, circling it around. Voices filtered in from the other side of the curtain, rising in volume as what sounded like a crew of guys entered.
A month before, this would have terrified me. Today, I was intrigued. And okay, a little terrified, too. Both sensations twisted around in my stomach like a Möbius strip, endless and confusing. My dick bobbed and twitched in the air, suffering none of my internal turmoil, and Eric fucking smiled like I’d answered my own question.
He repeated the motion with his finger, and I arched my brows at him to let him know what I thought about his request before making a quick circle. He shook his head and slowed the motion of his finger down. Slower.
I fixed him with a hard look a second before I complied, feeling the water sheet down with varying intensity as I did another 360, giving him plenty of opportunity to take in the sight of me twirling like a damn ballerina in a music box just for him. This time when I circled back around, he nodded, seeming satisfied as he tugged at the front of his shorts, adjusting himself so his cock lay thick and visible down the side of his thigh. Pinned in place, I guess, by his briefs.
Without taking my eyes from him, I finished what I’d intended to do before he interrupted, pumping the soap dispenser into my hand and soaping up my dick in a slow glide. His gaze went hot and dark before he slid his hand into his shorts, and fuck, I’d never had this kind of view of him before. It was mesmerizing, watching him stroke himself, getting only this frustrating glimpse of his hand moving behind his shorts and wanting desperately to see him exposed.
I got that there was some kind of exchange going on, but I wasn’t entirely sure what the parameters were. To test my theory, I stopped jacking myself.
He stopped, too.
I ran a soapy hand over my chest and pinched my nipple until my eyes watered and my chest shuddered and the skin went red and angry around it, then started stroking my cock again.
Eric pulled his shorts down a couple of inches, keeping his gaze on mine as he licked his thumb and circled the fat head of his cock with it.
Without really even thinking about what I was doing, I lowered to my knees on the floor of the shower, the tile rough and frigid on my kneecaps.
I don’t know who was more surprised, me or him, but it showed in his expression and I fucking loved it. He seemed to consider his next move before pulling his shorts back over his dick, stepping forward to the edge of the shower curb, and dropping one hand to the top of my wet head as I leaned in and pressed my face into his crotch. If I’d stopped at the moment to actually think about what the fuck I was doing, I would’ve been mortified. So I didn’t. I just fucking acted. Just did exactly what my body was aching to do.
His shorts were damp with sweat, a musky, masculine, metallic scent surrounding me as I rubbed my face against him and closed my mouth around the shape of his cockhead through the fabric, licking and sucking him through it. Eric shifted his stance, spreading his legs, letting me tease him until his dick was straining against the spit-soaked cotton before he grabbed me by the jaw and bent low to whisper in my ear. “You might be fucking crazier than me.”
No fucking surprise there. I’d clearly lost my mind the first time I invited him into my room. Unlike in the library, or at the fundraiser, we were surrounded by people. I could hear the pattern of the water spray change as the guy in the next stall moved around, smell the waft of soapy steam, hear the booming laughter of someone out in the changing area. And I still wanted nothing more than to struggle to keep my shit together while he took me apart. Yeah, it was probably safe to say I’d fucking lost it.
Swallowing hard against the mix of fear and arousal lodged like a rock in my throat, I lifted my eyes to find Eric’s as he rose again, waiting to see what the fuck he was going to do with me now that I was on my knees.
Apparently nothing, because he hauled me up, speaking quietly in my ear again. “Didn’t tell you to do that, though it’s a sweet gesture, frat boy. I actually came in here for something else.”
It had better be to get me off, but I’d hardly even given him a questioning look before he laid his hands on my cheeks and kissed me. Soft and slow—so damn slow—a stark contrast to the way we’d come together the night before, when it’d felt more like a wreck of primal urges than sensuality. And unlike this morning’s tease, this was the full onslaught, like something you’d do while lying in bed post-fuck. Lingering and indulgent, his tongue stroking my lips, opening them to slide inside.
His fingers drifted down to my chin, pinching, guiding me like a rudder as he covered every inch of my mouth as if he was mapping out the damn territory. But goddamn it was a good kiss, and my whole body hummed and glowed with it.
I’d never even given that much thought to kissing, but Eric made it as sexy as anything else he did. He was like a one-man band of eroticism, and no instrument was beyond his capability. Though I thought maybe I liked his mouth the most. Not just for the way it felt on me, but for the things that came out of it. Things I’d never imagined myself wanting to hear before him. I imagined us in his bedroom, no one around. Quiet and dark. All the time in the world to explore and be explored. There were parts of him I’d not even touched and fuck, now I wanted to.
Some guy a couple of stalls over started singing jokingly, and a couple of other guys laughed and joined in. Eric scraped his teeth over my lower lip, bit my chin, and pulled away, taking a step back.
I caught him by the wrist and dragged him back to the edge of the shower with a shake of my head, because fuck that, he wasn’t going to leave me in this state again.
The look he gave me was both appraising and curious at once, then he mouthed, “Really?”
I nodded resolutely and we both stared down at the front of his shirt, damp where I’d pressed against it. He reached at the same time I did, took another step out of my reach, and peeled his clothes off, dumping them unceremoniously to the floor, along with his shoes. I watched, transfixed by his thick, bobbing cock, the sinewy definition of his abs and thighs, flushed with blood from our workout. Then, I lifted my hand and crooked my finger at him, loving the amused quirk that tipped the corners of his lips. That was the beginning and end of my demands, though, because as soon as he stepped into the shower basin, he shoved me under the spray and it was clear I was all his again.
Eric pumped the soap dispenser and lathered his hands, but instead of going for my cock or my ass like I expected, he went for my shoulders, soaping up the tight muscles, sliding his hands up and down my arms and leaving a trail of bubbles in his wake. My back, my thighs, my calves, my chest. He washed me unhurriedly, thoroughly, his gaze focused and attentive as I shifted and swayed under his caress, because fuck it was good. Firm and tantalizing at once. A different flavor of encounter, but still just as sexy.
When he finally got around to my cock, I was so blissed-out and relaxed that instead of a jolt of arousal, it was a slow, mellow warmth that began building inside me as he stroked his hand up and down my shaft. And just when I’d start to buck into his hand, he’d drop down to my balls, tug and massage them in his slick grip, or run his fingers down my crack and tease my hole, press his finger against the muscle until it gave and let him in, and then he’d be gone again.
His dick bobbed against mine, and eventually, he took them both in his hand, the soft friction of his cockhead combined with the tightness of his grip driving me crazy. My breaths deepened with the effort to keep quiet, my mouth falling open as he pushed and pulled and tugged me ever closer to the edge. He leaned in, licking a hot stripe up my throat and sucking on my lower lip and was in my ear again before I could capture his mouth with my own.
“Think you can be quiet if I pound that hole raw?”
I nodded, reaching between us to pinch my dick, stave off the surge of arousal brought on by those words and imagining Eric fucking me right here with god knew who else five feet from us. When he leaned back, I could tell he had his doubts. His doubts could suck it. I could do this.
I started to turn and put my hands against the wall, but he grabbed me by the shoulder and cranked me back around, pressing in close against me as he ran his hands down my arms.
“No lube. Gonna fix that.” He spoke quietly into my ear, then cut me a wicked smile and dropped to his knees in front of me, taking my dick in his mouth so fast I didn’t even have time to appreciate the sight of his lips wrapping me before my vision sheeted white.
He sucked me hard and fast, no fucking around, flicking his tongue mercilessly against my head, driving it into my slit while his hand pumped my base. My molars ground together as I tried to stay quiet, my chest rising and falling and my heart pounding so fast and hard I heard it in my ears. Pleasure roared wild through me in hard, endless streaks, assaulting me from all sides as he tugged on my balls.
He pushed a wet finger into my hole, working me open with shallow thrusts until I was shaking, then slowed down, stopped taking me all the way to the back of his throat, and rubbed his lips around my head, instead. Over and over, the friction concentrated and intense, velvety hot and hard at the same time.
My mouth dropped open in soundless gasps, and my stomach muscles contracted with the force of trying not to moan or whimper. I dug my fingers into the meat of his shoulders so deep there was no doubt I was leaving marks, and he didn’t even flinch.
My balls tightened up, and Eric took me deep in one long stroke as I unleashed with a full-body shiver. He sucked me through it, turned me inside out and kept going until I was shaking and shoved him away from my sensitive head. My cheek hit the cold tile wall with a light smack as Eric manhandled me into it. Then he stretched my arms out over my head, yanked my hips back, and bent me over.
He pulled my cheeks apart and opened me with his thumbs; then came the warm hit of his lips and a flood of heat. Oh sweet fucking goddamn. I understood then what he was doing, and my dick started twitching all over again. My own jizz coated my hole, slid down my legs, and the idea that he was going to use my load as lube felt so fucking dirty and hot at the same time that I had to sink my teeth hard into my lower lip to stave off a moan.
Eric gripped my asscheek with bruising firmness, and I knew he wished he could smack it like he had the other night, but that was a no-go in an echoey shower stall. So instead, he was gonna brand me with his fingertips. Unsurprisingly, I was down for that.
The tip of his cock pushed inside me a second later. Just him, no barrier. Just his hot skin gliding against mine as I gulped air and scrabbled for purchase against the wall. In one smooth stroke that had me grinding my teeth, Eric buried his cock so deep I could feel the quiver of satisfaction that ran through his body like it was my own.
He closed his hand around the back of my neck, holding fast as he fucked me, and I loved every second of it. The control in the near silent glide of his body, the way each thrust forced me onto the balls of my feet and made me tense my thighs to stay balanced. I wasn’t even sure how the fuck he was managing to be so quiet until I twisted a look over my shoulder and caught his expression. Taut and strained with how he was holding back, his lips pressed together and rolled inward, pale with the pressure. His glassy-eyed gaze focused on my ass as he pumped in and out of it. I locked eyes with him in a silent, desperate exchange, and he slid his hand from my neck down my arm, yanking me upright to close his fist around my dick again.
I jerked—too much intensity too soon after I’d blown my load—but when I pulled his hand away, he came right back, pressing insistently into me and speaking softly in my ear.
“You’ve got another one in you, and I want it. Gonna fuck you ’til I get it.”
He slammed into me hard at the same time he gloved my dick with his hand and I cried out, shouted, whatever; I made enough noise in protest of the pairing of pleasure and pain that Eric clapped a hand over my mouth and hissed in my ear just as someone the next stall over called out.
“Okay over there, dude?”
We both froze. Eric’s hand slid from my mouth to my throat, a firm, warm assurance as he spoke. “Banged my head on the dispenser.”
“Done that before. Sucks. Just checking.”
“S’allgood,” Eric slurred out.
Against my back, his shoulders started shaking with laughter.
His soundless laughter set off mine, and that might’ve been the bigger challenge than staying quiet while he was fucking me, because I couldn’t seem to stop once I got started. It was like an amped-up version of what happened in a church or in a big lecture class sometimes: that near-hysterical rush of emotion looking for release in all the wrong places. My chest heaved and my stomach ached with it.
Eric squeezed my biceps and slipped from my ass, guiding me around to face him, and that was what finally settled me. Because he’d stopped laughing and was now looking at me with a mixture of amusement and concern that was too damn close to what’d happened before outside with all the safe-word talk and weird consideration for my well being—like he was fucking rethinking what he was doing. And I definitely didn’t want that.
I gave him a pointed look, grabbed his dick, and tried to awkwardly and ineffectively cram it back inside me until he took over, nudging my shoulder and reaching behind my knee so I’d lift it and plant it on the bench just outside the stall. I didn’t know how I felt about revisiting face-to-face fucking, especially when the way he was looking at me was so goddamn fervent, but apparently my body had no qualms, because the second he coated his cock in spit and nudged my hole again, I instinctively tried to spear myself on it.
He went slow, trailing his fingertips over my ribs, then grasping my hips, sliding inside of me, then all the way out, letting his head glide along my balls and my hole before he’d reach down and push himself inside again. His gaze flicked between my stiff dick and my eyes, and I got the sense he was gauging my reactions as he thrust. Something about that made me feel more vulnerable than the first time in my room when he’d had me on my back, more vulnerable than at the fundraiser when I’d been standing in front of him. This was usually the point where I’d shutter my eyes against it, mentally check out, and let the sizzle of pleasure move through me as my orgasm mounted.
This time I fought against it, kept my gaze on Eric as he fucked me, and it was like he was everywhere. Inside me and outside, this acute awareness of every point of contact between our bodies, his cock owning my ass, his gaze enveloping me and drawing me into a universe that existed solely of him and me. I knotted my fingers in the wet ends of his hair and held on for dear life, expecting him to pick up speed at any second and rail the hell out of me. But he just kept up that steady glide, like he was rocking me in increments closer to orgasm, and then he put his lips right to my ear so I could hear each shallow inhale and exhale, the jumble of syllables that tried to become words and failed. I caught the meaning anyway; it was the sound of desire, the sound of how fucking good we were making each other feel.
Instead of hurtling toward ecstasy, I coasted on the sensations moving through me, and the realization hit me square between the eyes—always fucking inconvenient in timing, because it almost floored me how much I liked him, how much I wanted him. Not just the fucking, but everything that came along with it. The way he read me, seeming to always know exactly what I needed and how to give it to me. I wondered if I did the same for him.
Eric’s grip around my neck tightened and he shifted, sucking in a deep breath. This time when he spoke, it was one hundred percent coherent. “You’re gonna come for me again, and then I’m gonna pump that tight hole full of my jizz so the rest of the day when you’re walking around, you’ll feel me.”
I didn’t believe him. About the orgasm part at least. The latter part had my hips rocking harder against his as he grazed my prostate, because I wanted that, wanted to feel him shooting deep in me, dribbling down my thighs when I walked.
My entire body was overly sensitized. Even his hands on me burned as much as they soothed. Every caress bruised, and when he fisted my cock, I tried to flinch away from the friction, but just as before, he held on until irritation ceded to prickling pleasure that took flight and soared through me unexpectedly.
I pulled the ends of his hair, chasing the reluctant orgasm until suddenly it was right there and I came hard and fast, shooting over both of us, breathing heavily through my nose. A split second grin of satisfaction gave way to bared teeth as Eric grabbed my hips and buried himself deep inside me. And fuck, I felt it, pulsing out of him and into me, thick and hot, coating my channel as he dropped his head to my shoulder and trapped his moan against my wet skin.
We slumped against each other, panting openmouthed until my legs threatened to give out and I dropped onto the bench. Eric stepped under the showerhead, then eased down next to me a few seconds later.
Resting our heads back against the wall in silence, we listened to the sounds of the locker room. When I glanced over, his eyes were shut, a peaceful slackness to his features as he dropped one hand to my thigh heavily and swept his thumb over my quad in gentle arcs.
I wanted to talk like we usually did. Joke and banter and mess with each other, but that was impossible, and after a few minutes, and with one last squeeze to my thigh, Eric stood up, shook his arms and legs out, then bent over and gathered up his clothes. Me? I was gonna need a few more minutes to recover. He turned back around to face me, tucking his clothes and shoes under one arm as he studied me, then mouthed, “You good?”
I gestured lazily to my spent cock, the jizz scattered over my stomach and thighs, and gave him the A-Ok sign along with a sarcastic smile that made him grin. I was more than good; I was light-headed with post-fuck euphoria.
Eric was still grinning when he snatched my fucking towel from the hook and sauntered out with it.
I rested my elbows on my knees and leaned to rummage through my bag and pull out my phone to check the time. No surprise, I was forty-five minutes late for the chapter meeting, totally screwed in more ways than one.
I was also starving. So I decided fuck it. After I finished dressing, I caught up to Eric outside the gym and we stopped in the student center cafeteria and grabbed a bite.
We sat at one of the tables scarfing sandwiches and talking randomly about classes and how we’d chosen the U in the first place (me: scholarship, strong Greek presence. Him: the caliber of the structural engineering program). It struck me as odd that we’d never really hung out before, that I’d hardly paid him any attention at all when he’d moved in and now I couldn’t stop seeing him. He wasn’t a huge talker, and really neither was I, but he was cool. Laconic and funny in a dry way that I found really fucking sexy. Most of the girls I’d dated were cute. Like that was their trademark. Cute little nose wrinkles. Giggles. Sassy smacks. Of course there were other girls out there who didn’t do those things, but I mostly seemed to gravitate toward and attract cute. Eric was about as far from cute as a person could get.
“So did you, like, come out as bi? Do people do that?” I asked, poking through my chips.
Eric chuckled and set down his sandwich, then swiped his palms over his thighs. “I told my mom and stepdad, yeah, when I was seventeen, I think. My friends already knew.”
“How?” He tilted his head at me, a smile ghosting over his lips. “Probably because I was seeing both a guy and a girl at the time.”
“Like, all together?”
He shook his head. “Separate. They both knew about each other, though. They were cool with it.”
“Jesus. Your friends must’ve been way kinkier than mine. That shit wouldn’t have flown.”
“Lack of high school hallways cut down on the bullshit social politics some. But the people who mattered didn’t give a shit, you know?”
I didn’t. I wasn’t sure if I knew anyone who wouldn’t care about that. But maybe I was wrong.
“How’d you know I was…” I paused. What the fuck was I? I was bi, I guess, by default. “How’d you know I’d be down to…”
He shrugged. “I didn’t. Not for sure. I guess it was the way you looked at me in the kitchen that morning after I busted in on you.”
“Like I was completely embarrassed?”
His gaze flickered up to meet mine. “No. Like you were curious and didn’t want to be.”
“Seems kinda risky, though, doesn’t it?”
“With great risk comes great reward,” he teased. “Isn’t that the saying?”
“So I’m something like a blue-ribbon prize, then, right? The jock who switches teams. Or plays both fields?” I meant it as a joke, but his expression became guarded.
“Maybe you’re still a risk.”
“Then maybe you should keep your eye on the prize.”
“Maybe.” He balled up his sandwich wrapper and tossed it on the tray along with mine as I stood and picked it up.
Outside, I stuffed my hands in my hoodie as we trudged toward home.
“You going home for Thanksgiving, I guess?”
“Yep.” I peered at him sidelong for the question. “You?”
“Not sure. Depends on where my mom will be. She doesn’t know yet.”
“You could come home with me if you don’t have anywhere else to go. It’s only an hour away.” I said it off the cuff, but damn how the idea bloomed inside me: having days and days of just Eric outside of our crowded house, outside of the frat and homework. I bit the inside of my cheek, nearly drawing blood, because…what the fuck was I thinking? This was dangerously close to a…I mean, hadn’t I just put the total kibosh on going home with Ashley months before? And now I was seriously inviting Eric home with me?
Eric turned his head to look me over. “Thanks, but I’m good. Also, if you’re gonna give an invitation, it’s usually better received if you’re not glaring when you give it. Pro tip for the future.” He laughed, seeming unperturbed.
Was I glaring? Yeah, the tightness of my forehead said I was. “I wasn’t meaning to, just thinking is all.”
“Overanalyzing. Don’t, though. Even if it’s sexy as hell watching how it makes the muscles on your jaw flutter.”
He widened his eyes and waggled his brows at me suggestively.
I trailed up our front steps after him and sent a kick into his ass as he flung the front door open. He tripped over the stoop and shot a look back at me. When I gave him an innocent grin, he bared his teeth.
Jesse lifted his hand in a lazy wave from the couch as we entered. Mark rose slowly from the lounger nearby, fixing us both with a look that had my smile sliding from my face like sludge down a window. I’d never seen him look so angry. My skin prickled, some kind of prescient sensation making my stomach drop.
“You missed chapter,” he said. “Again.”
“Got caught up at the gym.” I tried to keep it light, but Mark wasn’t having it.
“We need to talk.”
“All right, so talk.” I dropped my bag by the couch and folded my arms over my chest, instantly defensive.
Eric shot a quick look at me as Mark shook his head. “Not here.” He thumbed over his shoulder toward the kitchen.
Jesse glanced up from his controller in surprise, looking between the three of us curiously, but kept quiet. I shrugged one shoulder at him as if to say, who knows?
“You too,” Mark said to Eric.
Oh fuck. Ohhhh fuck. I felt the color draining from my face, my limbs growing heavy as Mark led the way through the kitchen and out the back door, me trailing behind Eric, who twisted a hawk-eyed look over his shoulder at me before catching the door in his hand and holding it open for me.
Outside, Eric folded his arms over his chest, staring down Mark, who waited for the door to close before turning to me and speaking. “What you missed in chapter was that the director of Merriweather Gardens called this morning, mad as hell about two guys sneaking behind the ropes into their fucking executive offices. What the fuck, dude? They got both of you on camera, and they want money for the cleanup and damage to the office.”
I tried to speak and couldn’t. My heart had left my chest and was now trying to beat its way out of my throat. I was certain Mark would see it throbbing there. I sucked in a breath and tried again. Fuck, I was in no way ready for this, but what the hell else was I going to do? I’d been a willing participant.
“It’s load of bullshit, the damage part. We were…we were—there are cameras in the offices?”
Mark glared at me. “They saw you on the hallway cams, but it was obviously you two. He shared the screencaps with us.”
Eric cut a swift look aside to me before taking over. “We were just doing some blow, for fuck’s sake. And you can leave Nate out of it because it was my idea anyway. They want some money, what the fuck ever. I’ll pay it.”
“‘Just doing some blow’ in the executive’s office? Jesus Christ, couldn’t you have just gone to the fucking bathroom and snorted lines in a stall like every-fucking-one else? Is this what the hell has been wrong with you lately, dude?” Mark narrowed his eyes at me. “Please don’t be another Cam Jeffers, man—I don’t want to see you kicked out or in rehab.”
“I’m not a coke addict, you dick. I’ll pay the bill. It’s fine.” I dragged my hands down my cheeks and chuckled, a little hysterical. It definitely wasn’t funny but fuck, there was an absurdist catch-22 factor involved. I’d just been standing there about to out myself. Completely unready to do so since I had no idea what was going on with me and Eric and still wasn’t entirely sure where I stood on the whole issue of my sexuality. Mostly I felt like I was sliding around on some slippery surface I’d spent years convinced was solid ground. But maybe it was time to have that conversation with Eric. And sooner rather than later.
Mark glared at me. “Yeah? I’m glad you find this funny. The guy who called? He was talking about pressing charges.”
“Stop.” Eric’s voice was quiet, but firm. “Nate…” I didn’t miss the warning tone in the way he said my name, but he trailed off and leveled his gaze back on Mark. “I already told you it was my idea. I’m the one who went up there first. It was my coke. I’ll pay for the damage, like I already said, and if they want to charge anyone, they’ll charge me. Can we call this fucking done, now? I’ve got a paper due tomorrow.”
Mark looked between us, his brows knit tightly, a scowl on his face as he wet his lower lip. His gaze lingered on me the longest, and I felt it like a hole in my chest. Guilt sprang up in me at the faint note of sadness I thought I detected behind the anger in his eyes. Had we really grown apart that fast?
“Yeah,” he said finally. “It’s done. Just make sure you get your fucking story straight in case you need it, because both of you are fucking standing in front of me lying, and I don’t know what you’re hiding, but Nate, if it’s…” He clenched his fists and shook his head. “Just figure your shit out. And I swear to god if you’re becoming a Cam, I will kick your ass.”
Cam had been in our pledge class, and he and Mark had been really tight. But not tight enough that he’d known about the drug habit Cam had formed. None of us had. He’d kept it completely under wraps until Mark was the one to discover him OD’d in his room at the frat house. It’d fucked with all of us, but Mark most of all. Cam’s parents had come and whisked him away like he’d never been there at all. No one had heard from him since. Not even Mark, I didn’t think.
Mark stormed back inside, letting the door slam behind him. Eric pinched the bridge of his nose, then turned and brushed past me on the way to the door before I caught him by the arm and yanked him back. “What the fuck was that?”
“Me saving your ass? Or did that not come through clearly?”
I gritted my teeth. “Don’t ever fucking speak for me again. You want to order me around while we’re messing around, fine, but don’t mistake that for permission to act on my behalf. I don’t need a savior.”
“Yeah? Were you getting ready to tell him how far I had my dick up your ass an hour ago?”
“I was…” I faltered. “I don’t know. Yeah, maybe?” The uncertainty bled out in my tone. Because I wasn’t fucking ready. I wasn’t ready to say shit to anyone, and I liked what Eric and I had going on just the way it was.
“Yeah, that sounds about right.” An arctic chill fell over his features, and he rocked a step back, looking up at the sky and drawing a breath that he let out slowly. “And you think the school will want to keep paying your scholarship if you get charged with something, huh?”
I felt the air sail from my chest all at once. My scholarship should have been the first thing I thought of. Instead it’d been Eric.
“That’s what I thought,” he said softly, taking my hesitation as an answer.
I leaned back against the side of the house, a million thoughts reeling through my head. “This is…this is…” I wasn’t sure how to fill in the gap. Something was fucking wrong with me. I was being cavalier, skipping out on duties to my fraternity, putting my scholarship in jeopardy. For what? But as I lifted my gaze to meet Eric’s, I knew.
And I needed to tell him. Even if he didn’t want to hear it.
But his next words caught me in my side like a thousand fishhooks and dragged across my chest.
“This is sideways, that’s what. And it stops now,” he said evenly.
I straightened abruptly from my lean. “What the fuck does that mean?”
“Exactly what you think it does.”
“You’re just going to make that decision for us?”
“There is no us. There’s never been an us.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it.” There might not have been an “us” in technical terms, but the way we’d been last night and today, that we’d planned on hanging out again tonight…that was more than fucking nothing.
Eric gave a sharp shake of his head. “There’s you and there’s me and as it turns out, maybe I’m not as comfortable putting you at risk as I thought I was.”
“So that’s it, then, easy as that? You’re not comfortable ‘putting me at risk’? What a load of horseshit, dude.” I had to laugh at his audacity, but it was a laugh that came out serrated with my bitterness at how he could turn on a dime.
I felt my molars grinding with the intensity of my stare. Eric didn’t say anything, just maintained that impassive fucking fortress of an expression, but I didn’t buy it, and instead found the whole situation maddening beyond belief. Every muscle in my body felt taut, coiled for release, begging for it. And this time not for what Eric could give me. I’d gotten in a few scuffles before. Mostly on the field in football or drunk at bars, but never in my life had I wanted to hit someone as badly as I did at that moment. And for as shitty as I felt about that, I think mostly I was driven by the desire to force a break in that walled-off gaze he’d aimed at me.
“Do it if it’ll make you feel better.” There was nothing in his tone that was cajoling or challenging. It wasn’t a taunt, just plain-spoken acceptance. The words held the same passivity written over his face.
I let out a sound of exasperation and gave up. “Fuck you, Eric, you obstinate dick.”
He turned away to walk back inside the house, leaving me out on the porch.
How did he fucking do that? How’d he just stand there and turn it off like that? Unbelievable.
I dropped down onto the stoop and stared out into the alley beyond our yard, trying to think logically. What had I expected anyway? It’d been about fooling around from the get-go. And what Eric had said made sense: I was risking some shit with our antics that maybe I shouldn’t be, considering my position. But shit, I craved it now, and I really wanted to make that all his fault instead of my own. But it wasn’t. Not really.
Maybe it was for the best. It’d begun as an experiment, and hadn’t we done enough that I should have the conclusion blazoned on my brain undoubtedly? I liked dick. Or, at the least, I liked some dick. Now I knew for sure and could move on.
It was just fooling around.
I said it over and over again to myself, but the words refused to sink in; they just sat on the surface of my brain with nowhere to go because all the dark recesses of me were already filled with him.
Ansel was slicing plastic wrap from a pizza when I came back inside while Jesse stood at the stove, twisting the knob to set the oven timer.
Ansel glanced up at me. “Want some? It’s meat lovers.”
“Maybe, I dunno. I ate a late lunch,” I answered vaguely, aware that Jesse was staring at me.
“Everything cool?” he asked. “Mark seemed pretty pissed.”
I hedged before sighing and giving in. “Eric and I were doing some blow at the fundraiser thing last night. In one of the offices. They found out and were pissed. Called the frat. Want money for some bullshit damages that didn’t happen.” At least I didn’t think they had. Now that I had more time to think about it, I wasn’t sure. I guess we could’ve scratched the desk or something, but it wasn’t like we’d broken anything.
Jesse’s brows bunched up in a fierce furrow as he leaned back against the stove, still staring. “You…were doing blow with Eric. You do coke?”
“Not often, Jesus, but yeah, sometimes. I was fucking bored.” I needed to get out of there. I hated fucking lying, and yet lying was all I seemed to be doing lately. Jesse’s gaze bored into me like I was a goddamn alien with two heads. I noticed that his disbelief was weighted heavily on me, not Eric, which made me kinda wonder… What the fuck ever. That wasn’t the point. None of this was.
I reached into the fridge for a beer and took it with me, calling over my shoulder, “Never mind about the pizza. I’ll probably grab something out.” I had no desire to sit around with Jesse and Ansel if Jesse was going to keep looking at me like that.
I cracked the beer on the stairs, had guzzled half by the time I got into my room, and spent the next half hour staring uncomprehendingly at my philosophy homework, not in the mood to get fucking ponderous about esoteric shit when I couldn’t even logic my way out of a simple cause-and-effect problem. So when Mark texted me, I was glad for the distraction.
Mark: Bunch of the guys are on way to Pfeiffer’s
Mark: Strongly suggest you make an appearance
I showered and shaved, avoiding glancing at Eric’s stuff because it made me think about how I’d been ready to stick my nose in his toiletry kit a month back. Lame.
I didn’t knock when I stood in front of his door, just turned the knob like I had the night before and let myself in. Eric sat propped up on his bedspread, the lamp on his nightstand on, a textbook open and resting on the tops of his thighs. I shut the door quietly behind me and leaned against it with my hands behind my back, palms pressing into the cool wood surface. My gaze traveled the room, making a stop at those bridges he’d built, drawn again to the precision and finesse of the construction. On one wall, he had a framed poster of Dali with his famously askew mustache. Atop his dresser were a couple of framed photographs of his family I’d never paid attention to before. Him with his mom and stepdad. And another, him with a man I guessed was his dad. Both of them smiling the same smile, Eric’s chin tipped up as he squinted against the sunlight that fell across them.
I thought I’d come in here with more to say, but as I looked back to Eric, his gaze unwavering upon me, I no longer knew what it was. My whole body felt fatigued, as if with muscle exhaustion, like I’d gone too hard in the gym or I was coming down with the flu. It wasn’t either of those things, but maybe I could pretend for a while.
“You’ll get over it,” he said, surprising me that he’d spoken at all.
I sucked at my lower lip and nodded as I lied again. “Yeah, probably so. But will you?”
It was a shot in the dark, because with Eric, for every certainty I felt about him, a hundred other doubts popped up. He shifted constantly, even in my own mind, and maybe I just didn’t have enough experience to pinpoint the dynamics the way a guy like him could, no landmarks I could rely on. But a flicker of regret passed through his eyes. Or maybe it was hurt.
Whichever it was was enough.
I didn’t wait for an answer that wouldn’t come, but turned and walked out.