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Edge of Nowhere


by Devon Cross



© 2017 Devon Cross


This is a work of fiction. Any names or characters, businesses or places, events or incidents, are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any way, including information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author.




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1

Simon

Sirens.

That was what David called the Hooded Crows the last time they played at the bar. Granted, these were the lull-you-into-a-trance type of sirens, and damn if that hadn’t changed. If anything, their songs had gotten even better—their lyrics more personable—and when Bree called to tell us they were taking a break from their tour to visit, I knew we had to have them back.

Standing behind the bar with David, we were just as enraptured with the music as my regulars. I hadn’t mixed a drink in over half an hour, and until the Crows stopped playing, that wouldn’t change.

I laced my fingers with David’s and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze when he flinched. “Relax.”

He cocked an eyebrow at me and forced a smile. “Is it just me, or have they gotten better in the last year?”

“If that’s even possible.” The way the Crows were going, I was starting to wonder if there would ever be a time when they didn’t sound this good. Most bands had one or two decent hits, then it was the slow decline into memory. Not the Hooded Crows. Every song was memorable in its own way, and David was right; they kept getting better. “I’ll say this much, though… Bree must be one hell of an inspiration. I think they’re on their fifth new song.”

Seeing Bree now with her short brown hair and that telltale glow, I knew there was more to this visit than just a break from their tour.

“Make that six,” David said as he bobbed his head to the beat of a new song, closing his eyes as if to memorize the melody. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to pick a favorite.”

I waited for him to open his eyes before dropping my shoulders. “I thought I was your favorite.”

David frowned and punched me in the arm. “The songs, jackass.”

I rubbed at the imaginary bruise, then grabbed his hand. “Do that again, and I’ll be tying you to the bed.”

He laughed. “I bet Jace has rope to spare.”

I grinned. Bree had taken her time confessing her relationship with Jace wasn’t the usual rock-star-and-groupie fling. And if the silver band around her neck was an indication, there was probably a lot she hadn’t told me on the phone.

I narrowed my gaze at David, smiling as his body tensed, then relaxed. “Who says I don’t have some of my own?” And you can moan as loud as you want.

David wet his lips and looked as if he was about to kiss me, then dropped his gaze. When his gaze met mine again, it was filled with the mischief I’d come to expect. “Promise?”

I sighed with mock disgust. “You like punishment a little too much, I think. I may have to try something else.”

“Aww, don’t say that.”

“Why not? I thought you’d like to try something new.”

“Oh, it isn’t that. It’s just with the band here, we’ll be lucky if you close before three in the morning.” He glanced behind us at the clock. “Jesus. It’s already one. Don’t they have to sleep or something?”

“You might get your chance soon enough.” I nodded in Bree’s direction. “Looks like they’re ready for their water.”

David leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. “See you upstairs.” The playful lilt in his voice was more than enough to give me my second wind. Knowing him, I’d need it.

After gathering an armful of bottles, I made my way over to Bree and the rest of the band. She sat in one of the nearby chairs, and I couldn’t help noticing the same glow I’d seen earlier. All right, girl, out with it.

“What did you think?” Jace quickly drained his bottle of water, then sat beside Bree. “You okay?”

“Tired.” She waved a hand as if to dismiss the question completely.

Ignoring Bree’s not-nearly-as-enthusiastic-as-usual personality for the moment, I looked at Jace. “The new songs are great. You must be writing with every spare minute you have.”

“Pretty much, but I’ve had some help.” Jace took Bree’s hand in his, but his eyes were showing the same exhaustion she did.

“Okay, you two, what’s going on? I thought it was just Bree, but now you look as tired as she does, Jace.”

“Can’t you tell?” Bree grinned. “I thought gay guys had a radar for this kind of thing.”

“We do—pride ourselves on it, actually—but I’d rather hear it from you.”

She rolled her eyes. “Promise not to squeal like my mom? I need hearing in at least one ear.”

“Honey, guys don’t squeal.”

“Tell that to those paper-thin walls upstairs.”

“You think that’s bad, you should take back your room for the weekend.” I laughed when her eyes widened. “What? You’re not the only one who’s been getting some action.”

“No one’s living here yet?”

I shook my head. “Just us. Your room’s still vacant, so if you’re interested…”

“And hear you two crescendo through the walls? No thanks. I’m perfectly fine sleeping in the hotel.”

I shrugged. “It’s probably for the best. More comfortable, I bet.” I took the empty water bottle from her and sat on the other side of Bree, waving away the media who were still close by. Lowering my voice, I asked, “How far along are you?”

Seeming just as cautious with the reporters around, she licked her lips and looked to Jace. “Six weeks maybe? Possibly more.”

“And you didn’t call me?”

“On tour, remember?”

“Not to mention our horrible reception,” Jace added as he stood. “I’m going to take care of this interview so you two can talk.”

I smiled at Jace, then squeezed Bree’s hand once the reporters were out of earshot. “Were you planning to tell me your big news while you were in town?”

“Tonight, once everyone left,” she said.

I nodded as her gaze followed where Jace had gone. “Meaning the media.”

“Yeah. It’s bad enough they hang on every detail of our life as a couple, but they’d have a fit if they found out about this.”

“Bree, love, I’m not sure how much you learned in biology, but they’re going to find out. And if I were you, I’d want to get it out of the way sooner rather than later. That way, when the baby comes, you don’t have the media stress on top of it.”

“Yeah, but they’ll still be crawling all over the place.”

“True, but at least then, the public won’t care as much. The media will report on it, of course, because they have nothing better to do. Without an audience to feed, their reports will be short-lived.”

“So I can expect them to stop reporting by the time my kid’s five, right?”

“Or when Jace stops putting out these great hits.”

“Not gonna happen,” Jace said as he came back to join us. “There. Interview is done and over with.” He flopped in his chair. “In all honesty, I don’t know what’s more exhausting, the media or trying to get ready for a baby.”

“Well, you still have plenty of time,” I offered. “Six weeks and then some is what? Half a trimester?”

“Yeah, but I’m not talking about clothes and toys.”

She smiled. “He’s been spending most of his nights writing, even when we’re on tour. I don’t think he’s had a decent night’s sleep in months. If he isn’t singing, he’s writing. And if he isn’t doing either of those, we’re visiting family and friends or meeting with his agent.”

“I figure the more songs we have ready before the baby comes, the better.” Jace leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “I think we have something like four or five songs in different stages of production right now. That should be enough to put out a few nibbles until Bree and I have recovered from baby land.”

“Will you be touring after you deliver?” I looked between them. Is it a good idea?

“We haven’t decided yet,” Bree said with a yawn.

“Well, you know you can always crash here. I promise, we won’t be too loud.”

She scoffed. “Too loud. Too quiet—they don’t seem to make a difference here, do they?”

“No, I guess they don’t. But you know, you really should come up and tell David.” Rising from my chair, I said, “Jace, want to help me get the regulars out so I can close up?”

He nodded, and together we managed to get the bar closed before two in the morning. By the time we were done, Bree was half-asleep. She can tell David in the morning.

“Still want to drag her to a hotel?” I asked Jace, cocking an eyebrow.

He glanced down at Bree, who seemed just as unresponsive as he was. “It probably isn’t a good idea. Is her landlord still around?”

“No, but luckily I have the spare key. It’s in our room.” I waited for Jace to help Bree from her chair as I let the rest of the band out for the evening. Once I was sure everything was locked, I led Jace up the steps to the hall joining the two apartments. “I’ll just go get the key, and we’ll be set.”





David

“Come on, Simon. Are you going to tell me, or am I gonna have to beg?” I asked once Simon and I were showered.

“What makes you think I’m keeping something from you?” He leaned over to pick his socks and shoes off the floor before heading to the living room to put them on.

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because you came in here last night all smiles, then went to bed without telling me.”

He yawned, and I couldn’t decide if it was forced or if he was still waking up. “You’ll just have to wait and see.” He held up a hand. “I’m not saying another word. I promised.”

I sighed and sank into one of the recliners. “Hey, look!” I pointed at the television screen. “It’s the band.”

Simon squinted at it and stopped in the middle of lacing one of his shoes. “And there’s us.”

I frowned. “You okay?” He looked paler than usual.

“Hmm?” He glanced at me as if he were in a daze. “Yeah, just surprised is all.”

“Well, what did you expect? I mean, the band did come here to play a fundraiser. It’s about time this old place got some attention.”

“I guess.”

“You said it yourself. Business has been good ever since Jace announced their coming here on that website of theirs.”

“Better than good, actually.” He headed into the kitchen and grabbed a mug out of one of the cabinets.

I turned off the TV, then followed after him. “So what’s the problem?”

He took the milk out of the fridge, his hands shaking from the slight movement he made.

“Simon?”

“It, uh… it’s just unexpected is all.” There was a hitch in his voice. “At this rate, I’m going to have to hire more help. Getting hard to keep up, you know?”

“Yeah.”

In fact, most nights he’d come to bed so tired that a kiss was about all he had the energy for. Some nights he found his second wind, but those nights were growing farther apart. And now that the band had made an appearance, I didn’t doubt everyone would want to drink where Jace and the Crows had once played.

“You could cut back the hours,” I suggested, taking his mug from him before he dropped it. “Jesus, look at you. You’re exhausted.”

“You noticed, huh?”

I forced a smiled. “Hard not to.” I carried our coffee back into the living room and handed him one of the mugs after he’d sat back down. “Sorry if I’ve been asking too much of you.”

Simon brought the mug to his lips, inhaling the strong coffee as if it’d wake him up. “It’s not your fault. I really am sorry I haven’t been making time for you the way I did a few months ago. Strange how publicity does that.”

“Still, if you open a little later, I don’t think anyone would notice.”

“Probably not, but what about the folks who drop by right after work? Granted, they might not be the majority, but they’re still my customers.”

His voice shook at the end, but I didn’t press him. The bar was all we really had. Simon had been working the tap for years, and he was good at it. Better than good. Everyone knew him. They came to him because he was approachable. Chatty. Sure, the publicity from the Crows would probably mean a sudden influx of new patrons, but it was Simon who would get them to come back. He always did.

And it wasn’t like we couldn’t use the money. Living above the bar was great, but there were times when an extra room would’ve come in handy. Take my nieces and nephews visiting, for example. A playroom or even a guestroom would’ve made this whole uncle thing a lot easier.

I glanced at him when there was a knock at the door. “Company? This early?”

He shrugged and smiled the same way he’d done last night. “Answer it, will you?”

I glared at him, then went to open the door, not entirely surprised to find Jace and Bree on the other side.

“Oh, good, you’re awake,” Bree said, craning her neck until she met Simon’s gaze. “And dressed! That’s a new record.”

I laughed and stepped to the side so they could come in. “Coffee?” I headed into the kitchen to put on a fresh pot.

“Decaf, please.”

I grinned as she pestered Simon, likely teasing him for one reason or another. Bree was the sister Simon never had. In fact, he had no family to speak of, so it never surprised me how close they were. Even when she went on tour with Jace, she and Simon talked constantly.

“Jace, you take it black, right?” I asked.

“The stronger, the better,” Jace replied, breaking away from Bree to join me. “It’s almost like we never left.”

“With those two? It’s amazing they aren’t married. I swear, there were times I expected it, but then you showed up. Thank God.”

“I’ll drink to that.”

Smiling, I called back over my shoulder once there was a break in their conversation. “Cream, Bree?” I grabbed some of the instant decaf from a cabinet before starting up a second pot.

“And sugar. Thanks, David.” Bree jumped right back into teasing Simon. “You can’t possibly be that tired. You just want to get rid of me, don’t you?”

Simon said something I didn’t hear, and they both laughed.

“You better not be sharing secrets without me,” I said, carrying some more coffee into the living room, one for Bree and the other to hand off to Simon, who, by the look of it, still needed the liquid fuel.

“You didn’t tell him, did you?” Bree looked from me to Simon.

I frowned and sat on one of the chairs. Jace took a spot on the small two-seater couch and patted the cushion beside him, but for whatever reason, Bree didn’t sit.

“Tell me what?” I asked, looking at Simon’s hands, which were shaking just as badly as they’d been before his first cup of coffee. Nice to see you’ve calmed down.

“I’m pregnant,” Bree said, almost dumping her cup of joe.

Jace jumped from his seat to take it from her. “Sit down before you ruin their rug, will you?”

“Party pooper.” She frowned at him, but when Jace gave her the same look, she did as he’d asked.

“The carpeting thanks you.” I smiled at Jace. “How far along are you, Bree?”

“About six weeks.”

“And how long have you known?” I lifted my eyebrows at Simon, who held a mug up to his lips as if it could hide the wide grin on his face.

“Since last night,” Simon said. “Sworn to secrecy and all that.”

“So that’s why you were all smiles.”

“Pretty much.”

“Does that mean you two are staying in the States?”

Bree shrugged. “We’ll be in town until after the holidays, I think. Might go and visit our folks at some point, but we haven’t really gotten that far yet. There’s a possibility of going back on tour, but…”

“I told our agent to cut back our commitments, or at least, my commitments,” Jace said. “The band will continue on tour without us once Bree is later in her pregnancy.”

“But won’t that complicate things?” I asked. “I mean, if you aren’t singing, what do they plan to do?”

“You’ve never heard Amy sing, have you?” When I shook my head, Jace explained. “One hell of a singer. We’ve done duets from time to time, and we even have a song or two coming up where we’re recorded together. Bree said it gives us more flavor.” He shrugged.

“Well, yeah, I get that but…?” I chewed my lip. “I’m not sure how this works, but won’t your fans be disappointed when they go to see you and you aren’t there?”

“That’s actually something we talked about in our last meeting with our agent. We’re going to play it by ear. Once we know what’s going on with Bree and the baby, we’ll make a public announcement to let folks know that Amy will be singing for a bit. That said, some of the fans have actually written about her singing in the past. They want to hear more of Amy as well as the two of us singing together so…” He offered me a sheepish smile. “I catch a break. The fans get what they want. Everyone’s happy, you know? Besides, like I said to Simon last night, I have a few things in production right now so once Bree delivers, we can kind of chill for a bit before starting up again.”

“Which is a long time from now,” Bree pointed out. “At least wait until I have a bump before you three start planning to lock me in my room.”

I smiled. “Now, why would we do a thing like that?”

“Well, maybe not you, David, but with these two, as overprotective as they are, it’ll be amazing if they let me walk to the bathroom without some help.”

“I’m not that bad, am I?” Simon asked, staring into his coffee.

“Since you asked, yes,” I said. “You kinda are. A little.” My grin widened when he met my gaze. “Okay, a lot. For example, you remember that time we went out to dinner and the waiter dumped your wine on my new suit? You almost jumped in the poor kid’s face. In fact, you would have if I hadn’t been able to hold you down.”

“Hey, that was an expensive suit.”

And the stain came out at the cleaners, just like I said it would.”

“You two argue about some of the strangest things,” Jace teased, leaning his head back against the couch. “Please tell me we won’t get like that once we’re married.”

“Married?” Simon snapped to attention.

“Jeez, you talk about marriage, and he perks right up,” I said.

“Actually, we wanted to talk to you about that,” Bree said. “Thing is, it wouldn’t be traditional.”

“You do realize who you’re talking to, right? Traditional isn’t something we do.”

“Hmm, good point.”

“Listen, so long as we don’t need to see no girly bits—”

“David!” the three of them said.

I held up my hands. “Okay, okay. That was probably a bit much.” I shivered. “Cooties, you know?”

Bree rolled her eyes, and Jace’s face turned various shades of red as he tried not to laugh. “Anyway, it’s a bit aways and probably won’t happen until after the baby comes, but I’d love it if you two could make it.”

“Of course! Just let us know if you need any help with—”

“No. No, we have everything figured out. We just wanted to make sure you’d be there.”

“You’re planning for a wedding and a baby? Honey, you have got to tell me your secret,” Simon said. “I can barely run the bar without losing it. Not to mention you two being on tour.”

“It’s been a lot,” Jace admitted, offering us both a serious glance. “I’ll give you that.”

“But it’ll be worth it, right?” Simon asked.

Ooh yes. To be honest, I’m looking forward to the break from tour—a real break. Love the fans, but touring on top of everything else is a bit much. So if we can get Bree’s delivery and our untraditional wedding in the same stretch, it’ll be even better.”

“You know, the four of us should go out to eat sometime,” Simon said.

“Are you listening to yourself?” I asked. “You just saw the bar on the news and were all up in arms about the publicity. If we go out in public, you do realize it won’t just be us inside the bar that ends up on some reporter’s camera, right?”

“He makes a good point,” Jace said, “and I could do without that noise.”

“What about the old Chinese place down the street?” Bree asked. “Is it still there?”

I frowned. “I think so. We should actually have their menu somewhere around here.”

“Great. Then it’s settled. We’ll eat in and avoid the mess. You have work tonight, Simon?”

“After your stop here last evening? I should probably think so.” Some of the color drained from Simon’s face.

Man, you have got to stop running yourself into the ground like that. He hadn’t even caught up with everything that had happened last night. I could’ve probably run the bar by now, but, knowing me, I’d be royally screwed after half an hour.

“Lunch, then?” Bree asked, pulling me from my thoughts.

“Lunch would be great,” Simon said.

Once we finished our coffee, Jace and Bree returned to her room to get some well-deserved sleep. And after a little coaxing from me, Simon did the same. I still had a few hours before our lunch date, so I decided to busy myself in the bar. I might not have been the best at pouring drinks, but at least I could help get it ready for tonight’s big rush.

2

Simon

After a lovely meal with Bree and Jace, serving drinks at the bar didn’t seem so bad. The band wasn’t playing this evening, but that didn’t mean things weren’t as hectic as before. The chaos was a welcomed distraction, but each time I looked out on the floor, all I could think about was where the Crows played, where the media had set up, and how I managed to get my face on TV.

Fuck my life.

A few bottles of beer exchanged hands as I placed the money in the till. More booze and even more faces I couldn’t quite focus on, even though I was clean and sober. Luckily, I’d been working behind the bar for so long I could run on autopilot, or enough to give someone the right amount of change and not mess up their order.

Beyond that, though, I wasn’t even there. My thoughts were all over the place. The band. The news. Even Bree’s pregnancy somehow made it into my subconscious, but only for a brief moment before my thoughts circled back to seeing my face on the news. No one saw it. It’s fine.

Yeah, right. Who was I kidding? It was the Crows, for crying out loud! There hadn’t been a musical sensation like this in years, and even if their fundraiser had made the local news, that was more than enough for me.

One frame—one fucking frame was all it took for me to go bat-shit crazy. I managed to keep my paranoia under wraps with David around, but now that I was in the bar? All bets were off.

Focusing on anything outside my usual routine was completely out of the question, and when David finally set his hand on my shoulder, I was beyond relieved to have lasted the night.

Closing up the bar was easy when it was the two of us, and soon we were climbing the stairs toward our apartment.

“Can you believe Bree’s pregnant?” David asked once we were back in our apartment, running a hand through his reddish-brown hair moments later.

I worked on the buttons of my shirt. “Or that she wants me to go shopping with her? I don’t know the first thing about kids, let alone what to get for one that isn’t here yet.”

David smiled. “You know it’s a cop-out, right?” He continued when I looked at him. “She wants to play catch-up, and what better way to do that than over a bit of shopping?”

“Why me?”

“Because she knows you better.”

“I’m sure she’d invite you to come along if you asked.”

Ooh no, you aren’t pulling me into that mess. Two sisters and about five kids later, I’ve done more than my share of shopping for cribs, strollers, and Onesies.”

“Lucky bastard.”

“Hey, it’s your turn now.”

“But I don’t know the first thing about kids.”

“What do you need to know? They scream, drool, cry, and latch on for dear life when you hug them close.” David pulled the covers down on the bed.

“Sounds like you.” I ducked just in time to avoid getting a pillow in the face.

“Think you can manage staying awake tonight?” He let his shirt fall to the floor, and thank fuck there was a bed between us. Close to six feet of toned muscle, and that was just him without his shirt on.

“Can you keep from screaming?”

He squirmed and tightened his lips.

“Guess I’ll just have to find out,” I said.

“Guess you will.”

I will. I had to. What better distraction than David, naked in our bed. I swallowed hard and hoped he excused my suddenly rigid posture for nerves. And maybe it was, but even as I tried to plant myself in the here and now, my thoughts moved back to a time I hadn’t thought about for years.

It was a night much like this one—of two men stripping down—Simon, don’t. I couldn’t help it. I’d been on the news. My face was out there. He—

“Simon?” Someone called my name. I blinked when it came again, followed by, “You okay?” David’s voice.

I exhaled and nodded as I removed what was left of my clothes. David did the same. And then I fell back into the present, offering myself the briefest of moments to drink him in. Perfectly formed abs, gentle curves just above the hips along with a cock that was already hard and waiting. Shaking myself out of my daze, I climbed into bed beside him, joining David in a kiss that was on this side of bearable. I parted his lips with my tongue, and he quickly submitted, just like he always did, arching his back when I took his cock in my hand.

Gently stroking and squeezing his length, I smiled into our kiss whenever his breath caught. He rocked his hips, releasing the most delicious moan as he fucked my palm.

“I love it when you’re like this,” I said, tightening my grip on him a little more. “Right before I ride your ass, when I know it’s all you want, and I decide to take things slow.”

He screwed his eyes shut and whimpered when I kissed the side of his neck.

“I know just what gets you off, but I’m going to keep it out of reach. For now.”

This time he groaned, most likely out of frustration. David swept his tongue across his lower lip and opened his eyes. He met my gaze and propped himself on an elbow as he skated his free hand along my side to rest on my hip. He released a hiss of breath, and his head almost fell back as I circled the head of his cock with my thumb.

“Like that?” I asked, smirking as he trembled beside me.

Another whimper, possibly a moan, but before I could respond, he pulled me up against him, exhaling hard when our cocks touched. His hold on me and his hands on my back forced something to coil around the base of my spine. Fear, I realized, not of him but of someone else—of something I’d spent years burying.

Not now. If I lost it in front of David, I’d have to explain myself, and this time I knew using the extra patrons at the bar as an excuse wouldn’t be enough to turn him away.

I flinched when our cocks touched again. Harder this time as David thrust against me. He groaned and held me tight. I tensed, but as he kissed along my jaw, I relaxed.

Of all the repetition in the world, this was the one thing I could never get tired of. David. His lips. His searching hands. The way he murmured just then, when I leaned over to kiss the dip between his neck and collarbone.

In fact, I couldn’t get enough. Hugging him to me, I kissed him again, pressing my tongue under his and hoping to God I had it in me to hold back long enough tonight to see him finish.

He reached down to stroke me the same way I’d done to him, taking my hard cock in his hand. I loosened my grip on his shaft, and my silent pause was all it took for David to wrap his fingers around me. Circling the head. Stroking me. Trying to cover as much of my skin with his own.

I groaned and ground against him as he went from squeezing to barely touching at all. God, I needed him. Wanted him. But knowing David, he’d draw this out for as long as possible the same way I’d planned to do to him. Damn him and his almost too gentle touch.

“Tease,” I whimpered, nipping at his collarbone.

His hold on me faltered as his back stiffened. “Speak for yourself.”

I smiled into his neck and breathed him in. There were nights when I took him just as soon as we reached our apartment, and others, like tonight, when I took my damned time. And after being together for as long as we’d been, we had the luxury of choosing how fast or slow we wanted the evening to go.

And I wanted it slow. Going fast now would’ve brought up too many memories, and I couldn’t afford a flashback. Not now. Not ever. So I held back. I kissed him behind his ear. Ran my fingers through his red-brown hair. Looked right into those amber eyes of his and lost myself in what I saw there. Affection. Passion. Loyalty. Love.

“You’re amazing, you know that?” I asked between gasps for air as he quickened his strokes.

He pressed his erection into my palm. “So the other boys tell me.”

I raised my eyebrows and coughed to get the air moving again. “Others?”

“Oh, come on. You know you’re the only one for me.”

He tried to keep a straight face, but just as soon as the corner of his mouth twitched, we both laughed.

“Get on your back,” I said, carefully sitting on the bed.

And damn it if he didn’t smile and thrust into my hand one last time for good measure. “Says who?”

I glared at him and removed my hand, grinning as his mouth opened in a silent moan. “Don’t make me say it.”

He didn’t move.

I rolled my eyes, then said, “Simon says to get on your back. Now.

Clearly pleased with himself, David rolled onto his back and rested his arms above his head. The things you do to me, David. The way that man could just lie back and cause my knees to buckle had no comparison. No man ever looked so good lying back in my bed—in our bed.

From this angle, the shadows fell onto every curve and contour of his body just right to show enough without being too sexual. His five-o’clock shadow became even more apparent as the light fell onto one side of his face, the deep shadows outlining his strong jaw while at the same time softening his broad shoulders. His gaze met mine, and the curve of his mouth made mine water.

But I didn’t kiss him. I pressed a knee between his legs, coaxing them apart so I could kneel between them. David craned his neck to look down at me, closing his eyes when I wrapped my fingers around his cock. He twitched in my hand from the sudden contact, and I squeezed him harder.

This too resulted in a reaction from him. Then, glancing at him again, I grinned. Yeah, you just keep watching. He wouldn’t be able to keep his eyes open for long.

After steadying myself on arms that, hopefully, David hadn’t realized were shaking, I closed my mouth around his shaft. He wasn’t small by any means, but with years of practice, I knew how far I needed to adjust my jaw to accommodate him. Warm, sensitive skin brushed my lips as I took the head of his cock in my mouth. Came up the whole way, then went down some more.

Inch by delicious inch I went down on him, smiling against him when his breath caught. God, I love it when you fall apart. He wasn’t there yet, but he’d be there soon enough. Take your time.

Pressing my tongue to the underside of his cock, I traced the vein that was there, delighting in the salty taste of his skin and his heady scent as I took as much of him as I could. David grabbed at the bed sheets with one hand and set the other in my hair. I froze. Reminded myself the man I was sucking and the man I could smell was David. He pressed down on my head gently, and with effort I followed his lead, almost as if I’d suddenly forgotten how to do a proper blowjob.

Up. Down. Up. Pause. Deep throat and shudder as he tightened his hold on my hair. Simon, relax. David’s reactions were purely instinctual, but they made me flinch anyway. You’re in control. It’s David. He wasn’t commanding me or holding me down. I could go up and back away at any time, but then there would be questions… questions I couldn’t… ones I didn’t want to answer.

Circling my tongue around the head of his cock, I blew on it before taking him in my mouth again to warm him from the cool air. He opened and closed his hand in my hair, tightening it while his other hand clawed at the mattress and the sheets he couldn’t quite reach.

I did it again. Went down on him. Up. Down. Deep throated him.

“That,” David exhaled, opening and closing his hands when I did it again. “Don’t… don’t stop. Christ, Simon, don’t…”

I closed my eyes tight as my cock strained from his desperate pleas. You have any idea how badly I want you right now? Those words. That sexy voice. God, it was almost impossible to hold back when he was like this, with or without contact.

Every time I went down on him was almost as if he was doing the same to me. Every time his breath caught, every time he moaned, my cock ached a little more. I wanted him. Needed him. I had to fuck him, but not yet. Soon. Very soon.

Swallowing, I slowed my pace, taking his erection in my hand as I teased his entrance with the other. He squirmed beneath me. Met my gaze with one that was no doubt as hungry as my own.

“Please, Simon.” Don’t make me wait, his eyes added.

I came up to kiss him on the lips, and he pulled me even closer. Fingertips tickled the sides of my rib cage, biting at the skin along my hips moments later. I gasped, as much from his assertion as our cocks grinding against one another.

He grabbed at me again, his fingers biting harder, and I just knew there’d be a bruise in the morning. I didn’t care. Not when it was David, and certainly not when he was like this. Especially when he looked at me the way he did just then. As if time had stopped and this was all we had left.

Electricity crackled around us as he pulled me into a desperate kiss. His tongue searched for my own, and I met him with just as much enthusiasm as before. God, I love it when you’re like this. Needy. Horny as hell. So much so he was going out of his mind. Not that I’m doing any better.

The room had started spinning what felt like hours ago, and I could’ve sworn the mattress was tipping to one side. Closing my eyes, I tried to focus on him. On what David wanted. But each time I went to stroke him or tried to deepen our kiss, he’d steal me away with his lips. His touch. His voice.

Placing my hands between us, I gently pried us apart and pressed his forehead to mine. “What’s gotten into you?”

He batted his eyes. “You mean who has gotten into me? No one. Yet.” He set a hand on the nape of my neck as he kissed me again.

“That…” I breathed.

“A kiss?” He grinned. “Such a simple thing to lose yourself over.”

If you only knew. His soft touch could do more to me than another man’s aggression. His sometimes tentative fingers were more than enough to get me halfway into the stratosphere until his gentle voice would bring me back down to Earth again.

He whimpered as I pulled away and headed to the other side of the bed. I reached for the nightstand and rummaged through the top drawer for the lube.

“You have plans or something?” David teased.

“Or something.” I resumed my place between his legs and poured some of the lube into my hand. “You okay?”

“Never better.”

I cocked an eyebrow, and he shivered. Never better, my ass. I leaned over to kiss him, parting his lips when my finger found his entrance. He sucked in a breath. The cool inhalation made my mouth water.

“Tell me what you want.”

“I want…” He licked his lips. Held his breath. Tried again. “I want you to fuck me.”

“What was that?”

Frustration creased his forehead, and I could tell just talking was becoming too difficult. “Fuck me.”

I groaned and sat up. My hands shook as I reached for the lube again, offering David a generous amount before doing the same to myself.

I closed the bottle and tossed it to the side. “You okay?”

“Less talking,” David said through his teeth. “More fucking.”

I smirked and guided myself to him. “With pleasure.”

There was no waiting. No teasing. Neither of us would last, no matter how slow I went, but hell if I wouldn’t try to hold back that much longer.

I thrust in, and my vision turned white. I couldn’t even move without throwing off sparks, so I waited, drawing in a handful of cautious breaths to make sure I was still conscious. There was no way I could hold out when he was like this. David rocked his hips back, asking me, begging me, to push harder. Go faster.

Oh God. I sucked in a lungful of air. Held it until the room stopped spinning. With my arms more or less capable of holding me up, I withdrew. Thrust in again. Swallowed hard as white specks threatened to cloud my vision again. As turned on as we both were, I knew this wouldn’t last. At this point, just me pulling out would’ve been enough.

I steadied myself on one arm and pushed his hand away from his cock, stroking it until his body trembled beneath me. His body tensed, and the first tremor of my orgasm ran through me as I thrust back in. Out again.

“Shit,” David moaned. “I-I’m not gonna—”

Holding his hip with my other hand, I continued to jerk him off as I quickened my pace. Using hard, solid strokes with both my hand and my cock, I drove him to the edge. His teeth chattered. He grabbed at the empty air. His head fell back against the pillow, and in one nearly silent whimper, he came unglued, unloading into my palm.

A gasp escaped my parted lips as he tensed and tightened around me. I grunted and tried to hold myself up. I thrust again, and finally, in one long sigh, I came.

Neither of us moved after that. I crumpled on top of him to catch my breath. His shaking hands rested on my back. His heart pounded against my ear.

I’m not sure how much time had passed when I heard David say something I couldn’t quite comprehend.

“Hmm?” I fought to keep my eyes open.

“I said, do you think we should clean up before going to sleep?”

Lifting my head off his chest, I looked at the bed. Surrounded in a mess of sheets, we were half on, half off the king-size mattress.

“Probably wouldn’t hurt.” I lifted myself up on my arms before rolling off the bed.

David wasn’t far behind me.

3

David

Simon was quiet, even after we got back into bed. And while the sex had been just as good as always, I could’ve sworn he wasn’t telling me something. I rolled over to face him, relieved to still find him lying on his back.

“You awake?” I knew the answer well before the words left my mouth.

“Yeah,” came Simon’s groggy reply.

“You okay? You seemed distant tonight.”

He rolled over to face me. “Tired, I guess.”

I couldn’t see it, but I felt him shrug.

“Why do you ask?”

“You flinched. A few times, actually.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.” I propped myself up on an elbow. “When you went down on me. You didn’t notice?”

“Can’t say I did. May have been a muscle spasm.”

“Yeah, that’s true.”

But I knew what a muscle spasm felt like, and the way he’d reacted tonight wasn’t one of them. Any time I touched him put him on edge. This wasn’t like Simon. Not even close. Shaking hands aside, his advances were as assertive as ever, but I had to wonder if he’d done it more for my benefit than his own. Maybe he’s just tired. Too tired to talk? Not a chance.

He always stayed awake when there was something on my mind. But even as I brought it to his attention, he sounded more interested in leaving it alone than actually talking about it. And when Simon wanted a subject dropped, I knew better than to press him.

“Night, Simon.”

He never answered; he’d already fallen asleep.





Simon

I’m not sure how long I’d been out when a sharp chirp woke me from my sleep. The sound came again, louder this time. After rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I glanced over at David, who was still dead to the world. I considered letting the call go to voice mail, but given the ungodly hour, whoever waited on the other side of the line probably didn’t include a sales pitch.

I drew down the covers, padded over to where I’d left my pants, then took out the phone. I squinted at the screen. At a number I’d left behind ages ago. You can still send it to voice mail. I couldn’t. Not when it was family. And if they’d managed to look me up after this long, something had to have happened.

Glancing over my shoulder at David again, I pulled on my pants and finally answered the phone.

“Hello?”

“Christ, Dustin, where the fuck have you been?”

That voice. My sister’s voice. How the hell did she find my number? Not only that, but how in the world did she know I was here?

I released a hiss of breath. “Give me a minute, will you?” I nearly growled to the woman on the other end of the line.

The light to our bedroom turned on, and I froze.

“Simon? Jesus, it isn’t even”—he paused, then, probably after checking the clock, said—“five in the morning.”

I turned back toward David and leaned over to kiss him on the forehead. “I know. I have to take this.” I pointed toward the front door. Then to my sister I said, “Just give me a second to grab my shoes. Then we can talk.”

David was right behind me. “Who is it?”

I winced and hoped he didn’t notice. “An old friend.”

“Your ex?”

God no. “Just go to bed. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” With that, I left the room and headed into the bar. Knowing Jace and Bree were still upstairs and unsure as to why Chrys had called, I decided to step out back, right under one of the windows to my and David’s place.

“So, what’s up?” I leaned against the building, making damn sure I wouldn’t collapse on the pavement as soon as she spoke.

“You tell me.” She sounded hurt. Angry. And she has every right to be. You bailed on them, remember?

“What are you talking about? I thought you were calling to tell me—”

“That something happened? What happened to you? You have any idea how long we’ve looked for you? And what’s with the fake name? Simon Taferdy, really? I knew it was you as soon as I saw your face on the television.”

Even with the building to support my weight, I almost lost my balance and fell to the ground. “The television?”

“Yes, you know, TV.

“Jesus, I know what it is. What are you talking about? How did you—” I cut myself off before I could finish. By now, David was probably listening from the window, not that I could blame him. The one thing we never kept between us was secrets. You mean aside from keeping your past life a secret? So much for hiding out and starting over. “The news.” No doubt the interview with the Crows had landed on more than a handful of television shows.

“What happened to you?” Concern filled her voice. “Mom and Dad were fucking pissed. If they find out tha—”

“They don’t know?” Please tell me you haven’t blabbed my new identity to the rest of the world.

“Not yet, no. But they probably will once that clip reaches every other station. You know how much Mom loves all that celebrity crap.” There was shuffling on the other end of the line.

Apparently she isn’t the only one. I slid down along the wall to sit on the pavement. “Oh God.”

“Dustin, what happened to you?” More concern. Maybe some tears, but it was hard to tell.

My throat tightened. “I wanted to tell you.” I drew in a deep breath. Of all the people in the world to call me now, my sister was the most trustworthy. I knew what I said to her would stay between us, but by now, she wasn’t the only one listening. “Can we talk about this later?”

“Hey, it’s only been six years, so what’s the rush?” she snapped. “At least tell me where you are. Are you okay? Is it…” She lowered her voice. “Are you safe?”

I winced at the last word. Safe. I may not have told her why I’d run, but she knew everything that had led up to it.

“Yes,” was all I could say to keep my stomach from turning or losing whatever it was I’d eaten hours before. “Look, I really do want to talk, but not tonight. I need some time.”

“Time? You need time? Jesus, Dustin, how long are you planning to make us wait? Ten years? Twenty? How about Mom and Dad’s funeral? Is that enough time?”

“Look, I’m sorry. Okay? What do you want me to say? That I should’ve called sooner? That I should’ve reached out?”

“Or trusted us. What the hell?”

I closed my eyes and released a heavy breath, but it didn’t help the tightness in my chest.

When I didn’t say anything, my sister went on. “You always were the paranoid one out of the two of us.” She sighed. “But if it was bad enough that you needed to change your name, please don’t shrug me off. I don’t think I can take you running again.”

Again.

“Don’t let the next time I see you on the news be because of a body bag.”

I shuddered then and was glad she couldn’t see it. “I’ll call sooner than that. I just…” Need time? Hell, she’d waited over six years. I owed her an explanation and, knowing David was probably eavesdropping, she wasn’t the only one. “Just let me get someplace private.”

“Keep my number, okay?”

I drew the cell away from my ear even though I knew her number by heart well before I ran to Washington. “Yes.”

“Dustin?” More silence. “I love you.”

I swallowed hard. “You too.”

The other side of the line went dead. My heart kept beating. What the hell have you done, Simon?





David

When the door to our apartment opened, Simon sounded more out of breath than a single flight of stairs had any right to cause. I’d heard bits and pieces of his conversation, but not enough to make any sense out of it. His eyes were wide and dilated, and I had no doubt that, if I hugged him, let alone touched him, he’d jump right out of his own skin.

He paced the living room, looking everywhere but at me. “This is bad.”

“Simon, what is it?” My heart hung in the back of my throat.

I couldn’t remember ever seeing him so worked up over one phone call. Maybe it was our landlord. Maybe he was kicking us out. Maybe he was selling the bar, and the new owners didn’t want Simon on as part of the payroll. A million possibilities ran through my mind, none of them serious enough for this kind of reaction. Not from the Simon I knew.

He was always the voice of reason. He took his time to think things through. No, this was something else. Something that had gotten to him in a way nothing else could.

“Simon, who was on the phone?”

His face was blank when he looked at me. “My sister.”

“Sister?” But you don’t have a sister.

Whenever I’d asked him about family, he got quiet and changed the subject. I figured there wasn’t much to say, and until tonight, that little secrecy hadn’t bother me. But seeing him now, pacing the living room and turning on every light in the apartment, I wondered if it probably should’ve bothered me more.

Simon glanced at his cell. “She called me.”

I frowned. “I get that. But why?”

“I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t risk reaching out to them. But now my face is all over the news, all because some reporter had the bar inside a frame when Jace was singing. Just one small screw-up and that’s it.”

“Simon, what are you—”

“My name’s not Simon!” He snapped his mouth shut, but it was too late.

My knees buckled, and I grabbed the counter for support. Not Simon? What the hell was that supposed to mean?

I tried to walk toward him, but my knees shook too much. Who are you? Where did you come from?

“Not Simon?”

I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think. I was frozen—stuck on what he’d said. What he hadn’t meant to say.

There has to be a reasonable explanation—To keep something like this from his partner? For this long?

Oh God. Who the hell did I share my bed with? I wasn’t sure weather or not to be angry, scared, or a little bit of both.

Here was the man I thought I’d known for close to six years… and he could be a felon? A criminal on the run? Why else would he have hidden from his own family? His own family.

I went to say something but thought better of it when he looked at me again. There was fear in his eyes. In the way he moved. Every step he took seemed to take just as much effort as the last.

He continued toward our room, turning on even more lights as he went. Drawers opened in the other room, and after taking a deep breath, I did my best to follow after him. I stopped in the doorway, and a very frantic Simon sat on the edge of our bed, hands shaking so badly I was afraid to ask why.

“Simon, talk to me.” I knelt in front of him so I could see his face, which was just as blank as before. “Please. You’re scaring me.” Who are you? “What’s going on?” And why did you never tell me you had a sister?

Simon stared at his hands. Made them into fists, which didn’t seem to help the shaking. “I’m sorry,” he choked, his eyes glossing over. “So very sorry.”

I got up to sit beside him on the bed but stopped when he went to dig through the closet for his things. He threw one of our suitcases onto the mattress, and my heart sank.

“Get your things.” Simon placed a handful of socks on the bed. “As much as you can.”

“Simon…”

“Do it now.” He kept his back to me, but the slump of his shoulders told me this wasn’t a trip he had planned. “We need to leave here, tonight.”

“What about Bree? You two had—”

“It doesn’t matter. Please, David, please.” His voice cracked.

“And go where?” Why are you in such a hurry to leave?

“I can’t explain it all. You don’t know me. Had to… been hiding…”

He refused to look at me even as he headed back for the bed. I placed my hands on his shoulders and almost lost it myself when I noticed the tears streaming down his face. I pulled him to me. Held him even though he struggled to get free.

“I can’t… We can’t stay. Damn news. Ruined my life. I need to run. Again.”

My eyes widened as I dropped my arms to my sides. “Again?” What haven’t you told me? “Go where? For how long? Simon, look at me.”

He met my gaze, then broke it, tearing away from me to continue packing.

I followed after him and took his hands in mine. Held on the best I could, but there was a reason Simon was the assertive one.

He freed his hands, and this time, he didn’t meet my gaze. He wouldn’t even talk to me.

“You know I can’t leave. What about my family?” What about us?

We had a life here. Sure, it may have sucked sometimes, but it wasn’t so bad that we had to run. Please talk to me.

Fears of who this man was tried to overwhelm me, but I fought them back. Simon had never given me any reason not to trust him. Up until now, anyway. He’d never lifted a hand to me. Been rough with me. Hurt me or anyone else.

Whatever reason he had for running, it wasn’t something I had to be afraid of. I hope.

He strode back into the kitchen with me trailing close behind him. Then, with tears in his eyes, he kissed me. Light. Barely there. “I-I’ll call you. Once it’s… when I’m safe.”

“Safe?” Safe from what? “Simon…”

Before I could finish, he took his suitcase and closed the door behind him, leaving me in stunned silence.

4

Simon

The look of shock on David’s face was on my mind well after I closed the door. I took one step, then stopped, unable to go any farther. Every ounce of fear and courage I had came together in my stomach, tying it in knots. But as soon as I shut David out, my heart dropped. My legs urged me to run. To get as far away from here as I could before he found me again. Before anyone else saw me on TV.

What about David? I’d left him without any explanation at all, and for what? I’d only get as far as the nearest station before I realized I couldn’t hide again. My savings had gone into changing my identity once before. For me to do it again, without anything to back up my decision, would take too long and cost too much.

I faced the door. Stared it down. I’d already walked out on David, so why was it so hard to walk back in? He’ll have questions. Questions I’d have to answer regardless of weather there was a door between us or not. And to end our relationship just because of my past wasn’t something I could do. Not when David and I had been together for so long. Not when we’d shared so much.

Except your past. I exhaled and leaned my forehead against the door. I could’ve opened it, but for some reason, I felt as though I didn’t belong. As if this apartment was no longer mine.

Straightening my posture, I wiped my eyes, took a breath, then tapped on the door. Noise came from the other side, but once it opened, David’s eyebrows went up. He probably thought you were Bree. I hoped he wasn’t disappointed.

“Look, I…” I ran my fingers through my hair. “Can I come in?”

David hesitated, then stepped to the side, closing the door behind me. He didn’t say anything, and he didn’t have to. My mind was already filling in everything David could possibly say. Or what he’s going to ask. I set my suitcase beside the door and, after taking another breath, headed for the couch.

David didn’t join me right away, and when he pulled our mugs out of the sink, I realized he’d started a pot of coffee. No sense trying to sleep tonight. I didn’t doubt that, after tonight, we wouldn’t be sleeping much at all.

David handed me one of the now-full mugs, then sat beside me, holding his cup in his lap. “Want to talk about it?” His words were hoarse, and while I hadn’t seen tears in his eyes, I could hear them in his voice.

“No,” I said, “but I probably should.”

“You don’t—”

“I owe you an explanation.” I set my mug on the coffee table before reaching in my pocket for my cell. “The same one I owe to my sister.”

David stared at the phone as I punched in my sister’s number, but for whatever reason, he kept his thoughts to himself.

The phone picked up.

“Chrys?” I asked, probably too quiet for her to hear.

“Dustin, I was hoping you’d call.”


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