Prologue / Christian
There were a number of reasons the McGreggor family’s lake house was Christian’s favorite place in the world. For starters, the land around it was beautiful—miles of trees, water, and hills. Besides that, staying at the lake house meant Christian wasn’t at his own house, and that was always a plus. But maybe the best thing about the McGreggor family’s lake house was Jonah. Not that he would ever tell Mason that. Mason didn’t need to know Christian liked his cousin. That would just make things weird.
It didn’t stop Christian from liking him, though.
Reaching into a bag on the table, Christian grabbed a marshmallow and stuck it on his skewer. It was really too hot to be making s’mores. Christian’s t-shirt stuck to his skin and his swim trunks had long since dried from their earlier dip in the lake. But it was the last time they’d be here for a while, the last hurrah at the cabin before school started again, and Richard and Annabeth had insisted on making the last night perfect.
“Hey Chris, grab me another marshmallow while you’re up,” Jonah called.
Christian’s face flushed. At least in rapidly-setting sunlight, it wouldn’t be as visible. And if it was, he could always pass it off as sunburn. Ordinarily, he hated being called Chris. The long string of his mother’s boyfriends always called him that, when they actually called him by name, instead of ‘stupid shit’ and ‘little bastard.’ But when Jonah called him that, his stomach swooped and electricity sparked along his skin. He picked up another marshmallow.
There was an empty space by Mason, but instead of taking it, Christian walked over and sat in the chair next to Jonah. Smoke billowed toward the sky from the top of the fire pit, the logs below crackling as they were consumed by flames.
“Here you go,” he said, holding out the marshmallow.
Jonah took it, their fingers brushing together, and Christian’s cock twitched. No. He’d done so well this entire trip—just as he had every trip before—to make sure Jonah didn’t notice. The last thing he wanted was for Jonah to think he was a creep. He needed to be in control of his body, especially tonight of all nights. Tonight, he was going to tell Jonah he liked him.
“So, junior year, huh?” Jonah said, threading the marshmallow onto the skewer. “You excited about getting your license?”
Christian shrugged. He had his intermediate license, sure, but he’d had to forge his mom’s signature on the driving log most of the time. Besides, it wasn’t like he’d get to drive much even once he got his unrestricted license. His mom didn’t like him taking the car unless it was absolutely necessary—and nothing was necessary unless it was a booze and scratch-off run at eleven thirty at night.
“I don’t have enough money for a car, and I don’t think Mom’s gonna let me drive,” he said, staring hard into the fire.
He didn’t talk about her much around the McGreggors, but he didn’t need to. It was an open secret that Debbie Miller was not only a terrible mother, but was also generally disliked by the other parents in town. She was known as a trouble-maker and had a reputation for hanging out with the wrong sorts of men. But the McGreggors never treated him any differently because of it. They threw birthday parties for him just like they did Jonah and Mason, and every year he had a Christmas stocking on their mantle.
“I’m sure Uncle Richard would be happy to go down to that used car lot of Joe’s and see if he couldn’t hook you up with something,” Jonah said. He pulled his flaming marshmallow back and blew it out before sandwiching it between two graham crackers.
“I dunno. It’s not important. Anyway, what about you?” he said, desperate to turn the conversation from himself. “You’re all graduated and everything. What’s next? Still planning on moving to LA?”
“Yep,” Jonah said around a bite of s’more. “Been saving for four years.”
Christian’s stomach plummeted. It had always been Jonah’s dream to move out to Hollywood and become a big-name actor. And if anyone could do it, it was him. Christian had gone to every single play he’d ever been in since middle school and sat in the front row each and every time. He could do everything, from playing a lovelorn soldier in South Pacific to a cheating resident of Salem in The Crucible. No, Jonah would have no trouble landing roles. He could do anything he wanted, once he set his mind to it.
“I’ll miss you,” he said quietly.
At first, he didn’t think Jonah had heard him, but a few minutes later, Jonah said, “I’ll miss you too.”
Christian sneaked a glance under the pretense of grabbing a piece of chocolate. Jonah was the most gorgeous boy he’d ever seen. Tall and broad shouldered, with jet black hair that hung slightly too long and dimples that looked like little crescent moons when he smiled. He was perfect.
“I don’t want to go back to school,” he said. “I wish we could stay here forever.”
“I know, but it’ll be fine. And in a couple of years, you’ll graduate and then you can come see me in California. I might even have a guest room by then.”
His heart beat faster at the thought of visiting Jonah. California seemed like another country entirely, one where he could finally be who he wanted to be. No one would blink twice at the fact that he was gay. And if he and Jonah got together, they might actually be able to get married.
But first, he actually had to tell Jonah how he felt. He swallowed hard and cleared his throat, doing his best to steel his nerves.
“Hey um… I’ve got something I need to talk to you about,” he said.
“Funny you should say that. I’ve got something I wanted to talk to you about, too.”
His heart skipped a beat. Could it be? Could Jonah really feel the same way about him as he felt about Jonah? Christian forced himself to remain calm. Jonah might regret telling him if Christian freaked out on him.
“Okay,” he said, doing his best to sound relaxed about the situation. “What is it?”
Jonah pulled out his phone and flipped it open. A moment later, he turned it around so Christian could see the picture of Jonah, his lips pressed against the cheek of an attractive blonde he was pretty sure had graduated with Jonah. It felt like his s’mores had been replaced with concrete.
“Who, um… who is she?”
“This is Samantha. We’ve been going out for a couple of months, but we decided to make it official last week. It’s gonna be tough, the whole long-distance thing, but she’s planning on transferring to UCLA in a year or so, so it’s not forever.”
The fire in front of him blurred, and he blinked slowly, doing his best to keep the tears from spilling over and down his cheeks. He didn’t want Jonah to suspect he was anything other than thrilled for them.
“I’m sure it’ll be great,” he said, trying and failing to keep his voice from cracking. He cleared his throat. “I’m happy for you.”
Jonah beamed, his smile shattering Christian’s heart even more, if it were possible. “Thanks. I knew you would be.” He took another bite of s’more and then stopped. “Oh shit. I forgot. What was it you wanted to tell me?”
“Nothing,” he said quickly. “Just um… I decided my major. I want to go into journalism. I really liked working on the paper last year, so I’m gonna try and do that.”
Still smiling, Jonah slung an arm around his shoulder. “You’ll be great at it. I know you will.”
Christian hoped that were the case. At least, he hoped he was better at it than he was at not falling in love with straight guys.