Too early to sleep, but too late to go anywhere. Especially in this weather. Ethan stretched out in bed, the sheets cool and rough. This time was the in-between, the hazy middle ground when his defenses lowered enough to admit what he wanted—or who he wanted.
“Pathetic,” he muttered.
Better to admit the truth, if only to himself. Then maybe he’d finally pick himself up, move to his hometown, and somehow manage to forget her.
Even though years overseas hadn’t made him forget. He was pretty sure leaving town wouldn’t make him forget his best friend’s girlfriend either. But at least he wouldn’t have to watch them, happy together, smiling, laughing, kissing, while his gut clenched in a tight knot of jealousy and shame.
At least he’d be in the countryside, able to breathe again.
Able to breathe without the constant erection he had around her. It was getting harder to hide it. He’d jerk off before seeing her, but that only seemed to make it worse. Because every time he stroked himself, every time he came, gasping, her face flashed through his mind. Then he’d see her in real life, and his body would charge up, ready to make fantasy a reality.
And—oh great—now he was hard again. Alone. In bed.
There was only one thing to do about that, but he wasn’t going to think about Lia this time. It wasn’t respectful to her, wasn’t respectful to his best friend. Fuck, it wasn’t even respectful to himself. He could jerk without thinking of her, couldn’t he? God, he hoped so.
Porn, that was the answer.
He flipped on his phone until he found a site full of beautiful, naked women. Nameless. Faceless. Not Lia’s name. Not her face. Just breasts and hips, just bare skin he could imagine against his. He scrolled down the page—and then stopped. This woman had dark skin—a little darker than Lia’s but it still made him think of her. Lia’s breasts would be smaller, but he could look and imagine. He could touch himself and pretend it was Lia’s hand instead…
No. Stop thinking about her.
He forced himself to keep scrolling until he had a different woman, one with pale skin and fine red hair. She looked at the camera with a sultry expression, a wanting expression, unlike Lia in every way, because damn sure he’d never seen her look at him that way. That expression was for Chris. This… this was for Ethan—a glossy picture of a stranger, cold and emotionless, and his own hand, pulling too hard and too fast, making it hurt. It was all he deserved, and he made himself face the reality of it, the coolness of the sheets against his skin—not a warm body. The emptiness of this room, of his apartment.
The loneliness of it.
And it worked, somehow. Because he was that hard up, that hungry, and his balls drew up tight. Hot pressure raced down his spine, two seconds from coming, on the razor’s edge, something like pain in his cock, fist tightening. His phone bzzzed in his hand, making him flinch, holding him in that sharp moment, almost coming but not yet, and then the image on his screen flipped from the nameless woman to a woman he knew very well.
Lia. He groaned, helpless and pained.
Her eyes were sparkling, because he’d made some stupid joke, and her smile had been so bright he ached with it, and he’d snapped the picture right in that moment and set it on his phone so that whenever she called—
Oh God, she was calling. And he was coming, unable to wait a second a longer, especially when he was looking at the woman he really wanted, the only woman he wanted. His cock pulsed and spurted and spilled hot come down his hand like lava. The air sucked out of the room like it did every time she smiled or talked to him or motherfucking called him while he was masturbating, and he was panting, eyes closed, trying to calm down already. And most of all, trying to pretend like she hadn’t just made him climax when he pressed the Answer button.
“Hey.” His voice came out rough and breathless. He felt like a tool for answering the phone with one hand while his other was still coated in come, but he wasn’t going to miss her call. Wasn’t giving up the chance to hear her voice even if they’d just hung out yesterday.
“Are you okay? You sound funny.”
And she sounded like goddamn air, like relief and life and sex even though he shouldn’t want her anymore. Shouldn’t want her at all. “I’m fine. What’s up?”
“Well,” she said, dragging out the word. “There’s this thing tonight, and I wanted to go. Chris has a work event, so I thought maybe…”
“You don’t even know what it is.”
But you’ll be there. He forced himself to laugh, though it came out choppy and false. “You know me. I always have Chris’s back.”
“Thanks, man,” came Chris’s voice from far away.
And that was when he realized he was on speaker. Great, just what he wanted while covered in his own come—to talk to his best friend. “Don’t mention it,” he said. Ever.
“Do you want to drive or should I?” Lia asked.
“Text me the details,” he said. “I’ll pick you up.”
Then he hit the End button, because shit shit shit, he was so completely screwed. How had he thought he’d get over her? He wouldn’t. He couldn’t. He’d have to move, leave town, and soon—like tomorrow. The idea had been brewing for a while now. Ever since he got back. It would hurt so fucking much not to see her again, but it would hurt worse to stay.