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By Erin E. Keller

Published by JMS Books LLC at Smashwords

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Copyright 2019 Erin E. Keller

ISBN 9781634868464

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published in the United States of America.

* * * *


By Erin E. Keller

Chapter 1


The regular sound of the windshield wipers and the constant beat of rain on the car roof were the only sounds in the cabin.

Thomas’s hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles were white. He stared down the street while remaining pulled over on a secondary road near his house, one that led toward the police department of Landmeadow. His breath came fast and his heartbeat quickened.

He’d stopped when the first symptoms made him think he was having a heart attack, but he was used to these occurrences by now. He knew it was simply a panic attack. It wasn’t the first time he’d experienced it, but that didn’t mean that when the panic arrived there was anything to do besides trying to limit it. Once the terrible chain reaction started, he just had to find a way to stop it, one way or another.

He hated the condition; he hated his body for not being able to answer to rationality, to being influenced by this nervous short-circuit. There was nothing he could do to stop the flood of bad sensations, the oppressive feeling of death.

He wasn’t dying. In fact, he was quite healthy and young. He took care of himself and didn’t have heart disease. He really wasn’t dying. It was just panic. Bad, suffocating, terrible panic. He wasn’t dying. He only had to breathe. And maybe count. Distract himself.

He tried to take slow breaths, deeply, thinking about taking the pill, but maybe—since he was going to the police station—if he concentrated on the things he had to do, that would be enough. Maybe today, in this corner of South Ireland, there would be a case for him and his colleague. He didn’t hold out too much hope, but no doubt hoping was better than worrying about not having anything to help him emerge from this momentary crisis.

Keeping busy was the only thing he had been able to do since Aiden’s death. Aiden, his partner for ten years. He wasn’t supposed to leave so soon; he wasn’t supposed to leave Thomas alone. It wasn’t how things were supposed to go. They had bought the big house where Thomas was now living, to start a B&B. Aiden would have managed it, and they had planned to live there for the rest of their lives. But accidents happen, and a fatal crash had torn from his hands the man with whom he had spent so many years and whose days had ended far too soon.

Two years had passed since that night, but he still felt the desire to close his eyes and give in to his melancholy. And sometimes cry. He often pretended his reality was something different. He daily searched for the desire to find a new meaning to his life, to break free from the anxiety that had accompanied him since the night he received the news of Aiden’s accident.

In the end, he was lonely in that big house. In spite of the wishes of everyone, including his colleague Anne, he couldn’t follow his former dream of opening a B&B. Who would manage it? He wasn’t at home enough to take care of guests and, actually, the idea of having strangers at home didn’t exactly thrill him. He didn’t feel like being in close contact with people he didn’t know.

But that wasn’t true during those nights made colder by solitude…

Regardless, the house was still beautiful, big and almost empty. White and gray it stood, lonely and silent, in one of the best areas of the village. He loved living there, despite the echo of Aiden’s presence, but sometimes living alone didn’t seem like the best idea. Ghosts whispered and anxieties took over. Maybe it also wasn’t good to stay sitting at his desk at the police station, but work always helped him.

Right then, he just had to reach the office. He had to hope he wouldn’t faint while driving. What if he lost control of the car and wasn’t able to pull over in time?

Those thoughts made him lose his breath again. Thomas got out of the car, letting the rain soak his clothes and wet his face. He lifted his face to the sky and opened his mouth, inhaling and exhaling, reaching his arms out to the sides and stretching his muscles, trying to think about anything but death. He turned around a few times where he stood, continuing to take large mouthfuls of air and water.

Rain dampened his light brown hair and his pale face, sliding past the collar of his shirt and down his chest, leaving cold traces that gave him shivers and distracted him from the oppression he was feeling.

“Perfect. Go away. Come on…” he murmured, loosening his dark tie. He congratulated himself on being able to knot a tie without help from anybody. Which was lucky, because now nobody was the companion he had chosen for himself here in Landmeadow, where somehow, he was playing out a life that no longer felt like his, alone. Thirty-eight years old, county police detective, wealthy family, charming. But lonely.

Lonely in so many ways he didn’t even want to think about. Lonely, more out of choice than need. Which didn’t mean that six-letter word made him feel less empty inside. He’d promised himself not to get close to anybody else, not to let anybody get close enough to be able to hurt him again. Everything was meant to end—everything. Sometimes too early, too violently.

So, he lived a compartmentalized life. There was his job: his current partner and other colleagues. His female colleagues were always smiling at him and hoping to end up with him in some dark corner, as if being suddenly “widowed” could have changed his sexual orientation. There were also his parents, whom he rarely spoke with, and the people he was working for. That was the fake stable reality that was his life. And then there were those nights when loneliness was so heavy it pushed him to go out and look for a body to share it with for a few hours. A body that, the morning after, would leave the house before it was daylight, because Thomas didn’t want them to stay long enough to warm up the surrounding air.

His career and his job were what he concentrated on the most. He had found a good rhythm, a kind of pathological balance. And usually everything worked perfectly.

But he was lonely. And he was alone right in this moment too. He was afraid of dying and not having anyone to call.

“What are you doing? Dancing in the rain?”

Thomas jumped and turned in the direction of the voice. A guy, wrapped in a jacket that was too large for him, was staring at him from under the dripping gutter of a house close to where Thomas’s car was parked. He had his arms crossed and his hands under his underarms. His black hair was so long it fell over his eyes. He seemed thin and very young, but from the little Thomas was able to see of his expression, he was anything but innocent or young.

Thomas didn’t know how to answer such a question, nor did he even understand why the guy felt like talking to him.

“No,” he simply answered, then opened the door and quickly got back inside his car. What a fucking question. “Shit,” he swore when he realized he was getting everything wet. He turned back to the sidewalk and noticed the stranger was still looking at him. What did he want? Well, at least the short distraction had helped him to recover better than twirling under the rain.

He passed his hands through his hair, over his face and his short, well-trimmed beard, trying to wipe off as much water as he could. His eyelashes were full of raindrops, and he blinked rapidly.

He heard somebody knocking at the window and turned to the passenger seat, finding the guy from the street staring at him from outside the car. Thomas could see his face better now. He had sharp features, and he seemed to have dark eyes as well as dark hair, even if Thomas couldn’t be sure of what was hidden behind his long, wet locks.

Thomas started the car and lowered the window a little, turning off the heating to get rid of the condensation on the windshield.

“What do you want?”

“A ride. Can you give me one?”

Instinctively, Thomas would have said no, but at that moment, he was grateful to the boy who had distracted him from his panic attack. Also, it was pouring rain and he felt bad for him. Thomas nodded and waited for the guy to get in and close the door before speaking again.

“Where do you need to go?”

“Far from here.”

Thomas looked at him, puzzled. “Okay, listen, I’m sorry to let you down, but I only have a ten-minute trip to make, so you won’t get very far with me.”

The guy turned to look at him but didn’t say anything. He moved his hair a little off his face and blinked. Thomas noticed that his hair was as long and wet as his own was.

“Okay, so let’s go for the ten minutes. I’m going where you’re going.”

Thomas wrinkled his nose but didn’t speak, and pulled away from the sidewalk, back onto the road. None of their conversation had made any sense, but he was still confused by his anxiety and he didn’t feel like thinking too much about what was happening. He only hoped that, if the guy was a delinquent, he wouldn’t pull out a knife to rob him because even though he was a police officer and armed, Thomas felt like he was on the edge of an abyss. Not that Landmeadow was full of criminals, but you could find bad eggs everywhere, even in a lovely Irish village. His heart contracted in an unpleasant way, and Thomas started tapping nervously on the wheel to push away the bad sensation.

Panic, just go away. Thanks a lot, shit brain.

The trip continued silently. The stranger kept his face stubbornly turned toward the window, and Thomas couldn’t stop himself from wondering who he was, now that he had decided—or almost—that he wasn’t a danger, or looking to assault him, rob, or slice him open. For no particular reason, he felt curious. It also felt strange that this guy was sitting in his car after he’d dealt with his panic attack, asking him for a ride. Now, thinking about it, Thomas could have been dangerous too, for all the guy knew.

Yeah, sure.

“Shouldn’t you be at school?” he asked, trying to lighten the atmosphere, since his last thought had given him another to worry about. It was ridiculous that a grown man could be afraid of a teenager, but that strange feeling was really weird. And he wasn’t feeling that good at the moment.

“Why would I be?” the boy answered, turning slightly to look at him.

“I don’t know, you seem…young. Don’t they go to school at your age?”

“At my age? How old do you think I am?”

Thomas shut up and studied him out of the corner of his eye. “Eighteen? Seventeen?”

A sound similar to a woof came from the boy, and Thomas jumped a little, realizing only afterward that it had been a curt laugh.

“I’m twenty-three.”

Thomas turned and observed him better. “Well, it’s impossible to see your face with all that hair and you’re…thin. You look younger.”

A couple seconds passed before the man answered. “Do you usually prefer them bigger? Guess I’m not your type.”

Thomas almost slammed on the brakes in the middle of the street. He swerved a little and felt his blood pumping in his temples.

Who was this man? What did he want from Thomas? Did he know him? How could he? Had he crawled from the hidden night life to mix with Thomas’s life on the surface? What a fucking start to the day!

“Who are you and what do you want from me?” he asked, hoping his voice wouldn’t crack as he looked at the man from the corner of his eye.

The young man shrugged his shoulders. “My name’s Elias. I’ve seen you a few times at the Black Sheep. I followed you. I’ve seen where you live.”

A pulse at his temples started up violently, in a worrying way.

Oh my God, what if I have a stroke right now?

Elias is a strange name around here.

What has he seen? With who? When?

My temples are pulsing so much.

Count! You are not going to have a stroke.


“What are you? A stalker?” Thomas asked in a harsh voice, keeping a strong grip on the wheel, pushing away the last terrible thought.

Elias smirked. “I don’t know. Is that what you’d call it? I wanted you to notice me.”

What the fuck?

Thomas didn’t know how to respond. He turned back to the guy again, keeping an eye on the road. The humidity in the car made it difficult to breathe, and the rain on his clothes was drying, leaving a bad, sticky sensation. He was used to the weather, and despite everything, he loved it. Still, he deeply hated the feeling of his clothes stuck to his skin.

“I could be your father. Don’t talk bullshit.” It was useless to deny it. The guy knew exactly what he was talking about.

“I don’t care. Don’t you like me?”

Oh God.

“I can’t even see your face. How the fuck can I know if I like you? What do you want me to say? No, you’re twenty-three, Elias. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know. Listen, get out please.”

Thomas pulled over on the sidewalk and looked at Elias, but the young man didn’t move.

“Don’t make me get you out of the car by force.”

Elias didn’t move and didn’t speak; he stayed looking at Thomas with eyes as dark as deep abysses. Magnetic abysses like black holes that could suck you in and never let you come back up to the surface.

“Okay, that’s enough.” Thomas got out of the car and spun around. Keeping a hand on his head, he opened the side door and took Elias’s arm to pull him out of the car. “I told you not to push me,” Thomas said, a moment before he found two arms around his neck and a soft wet-from-the-rain mouth pushing against his, a soft tongue searching for his tongue, a thin body pushing against his.

It only lasted for a few seconds, but to Thomas, it seemed like an eternity. If the violent beating of his heart had been caused by anxiety and neurosis before, it now resounded in his chest for a totally different reason.

He pushed Elias away, held him back by the arms, and stared into his eyes, puzzled, shocked, and shaken. For a moment, he was breathless and speechless.

“Are you crazy?” he was able to say after a moment.

Elias licked his lips and remained silent for a while. “I want to see you again.”

Thomas opened his eyes widely. “Do you speak my language or not? No. No. N. O. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t want to know. I don’t want to see you again, okay? Shit, this feels like the Twilight Zone.

Thomas stopped for another few seconds, maybe waiting for a reaction, maybe to realize it wasn’t a dream or his imagination. Then he turned, got back into the car, and slammed the door before taking off with a spin of the tires, leaving Elias on the sidewalk, looking after him. The fact that Thomas knew Elias was looking at him because he’d checked him out in the rearview mirror, didn’t mean anything.

* * * *


Passing his tongue over his lips, he could still taste toothpaste, mixed with saliva, mixed with rain. Maybe it hadn’t been the most appropriate way to approach the man who, for weeks now, had become the magnet for his gaze. But after all, Elias didn’t have appropriate manners. He didn’t even know what appropriate meant. He’d grown up in a world that wasn’t appropriate at all.

Sure, maybe following him, appearing in front of his house, and kissing him was a mix of events that could create some problems for him. But he hadn’t premeditated everything. Maybe some of it, but not everything.

He only knew that that man, who seemed kind, with short brown hair that was always a little messy, a well-groomed beard, and green eyes, had to notice him. Because, shit, he’d noticed everybody, but not Elias. And usually, other people noticed him.

The first time Elias had seen him at the Black Sheep, Thomas was smiling at a tall not-very-good-looking guy who wasn’t muscular or charming. A normal guy Elias wouldn’t have looked at twice. But Thomas looked at the other man with a kind smile, and kept a hand on his arm and talked into his ear, as if he really enjoyed the conversation. And then, they’d left the bar together.

And the scene repeated itself every time Elias had seen him at the Black Sheep. And every time, Elias had seen him leave with a different guy, without ever noticing him.

It didn’t make any sense, but Elias was set on it, and he was sick of seeing others smiling in peace while leaving with that guy.

It was easy to find a dick to satisfy his body, but he hadn’t yet found a man able to fill the other parts of him that were empty.

It was already annoying, the thought of admitting to having those holes, but being convinced that he’d found someone who could patch up his tattered soul, and that somebody didn’t even look in his direction, was definitely too much.

He could have waited to see him at the Black Sheep. He could have approached him, maybe sucked him off. Maybe he could have dragged him into the dark and knelt between his legs, but something, some part of him that was missing, had forced him to look for the guy outside of the pub. To look for that man in a real place, not distorted by the darkness of the club and alcohol. Because it was easy to find the perfect man when clouded by sensations and substances, but it was also easy to make a mistake and find yourself next to a pale imitation of an average guy the day after.

Thomas on the other hand…oh, that guy was real. More than real. He was real while he stood under the rain like a weird Jesus Christ on the cross. His embarrassment was real, and so was his anger and his shock. The gray in his eyes was real, and so was the way he’d reacted to Elias’s kiss. Sure, it hadn’t been a very positive reaction, but that just made it even more real.

Elias shook his head, trying to stop his thoughts, trying to bring himself back to the present, and sniggered while he fingered the leather wallet he’d stolen.

There was a part of him that wasn’t able to conform, and that part led him to do strange things to obtain what he wanted. Odd and sometimes bad decisions.

Like stealing a wallet from the guy he wanted to get to know.

Or like following him to find out where he lived. He could say he wasn’t proud of himself, but he had to be honest. He had done worse things already.

And anyway, he wasn’t stalking Thomas to hurt him. Elias was stalking him because, somehow, he hoped to help himself.

* * * *

Chapter 2


“What…holy shit! That asshole!”

Thomas was checking his pockets after putting his things into his desk drawer.

“Thomas, is everything okay?” Sergeant Anne Lynch asked him after she heard him swearing furiously. She was already sitting at her desk with coffee so diluted, it was beige. She liked it that way. Thomas thought it was disgusting.

“No! Yes! Forget it,” he concluded, sighing. “A guy stole my wallet.” Fortunately, his badge had been in the other pocket, or it would have been a tragedy. Such a weird guy walking around with a police badge? He shook his head and swore again.

“Oh, shit! Where? You should report him,” she answered, staring at him with her icy blue eyes, which perfectly matched her platinum blonde hair. She looked like a strange fairy from a northern country, if not for her bad temper, her sailor’s language, and her hands that were as strong as a man’s. Connecting with her hadn’t been easy, but with patience and a lot of work, Thomas could now say they were much more than just colleagues—they were friends.

He didn’t immediately reply, but he shook his head. “I’ll think about it later. For now, I’ll block the credit cards,” he said, trying to control his nerves. He fell into his chair and picked up the telephone like it was his worst enemy.

If he’d known his day would turn out like this, he would have stayed at home.

“But how did he get your wallet?”

The image of Elias hugging and kissing him gave Thomas a strange vibration in his stomach, and he pushed away the memory violently.

“He…asked for some information, and I got out from the car to answer him.”

“I should be used to bad people on the streets, but sometimes it happens.” Anne sighed. “Are you sure you know where to find him?”

Thomas nodded. Even if he wasn’t sure, he had the feeling going to the Black Sheep would be a good idea. And then he had to make sure people didn’t find out that Elias, twenty-three years old, had taken his wallet while kissing him. Fortunately, Anne didn’t ask him how he knew where to find the guy.

After blocking the credit cards, he concentrated again on Anne, and frowned. “No robberies, assaults or something to focus on right now?” he asked harshly.

Stop thinking about that asshole.

The good thing about this crazy day was Thomas had completely forgotten about his morning’s panic attack, and all day long his brain kept quiet, with no images communicating his imminent death. Ten consecutive hours of complete oblivion.

Could kissing a crazy thief with stalking tendencies be the solution to all his problems? He was really up shit creek.

He was working late, but he still had time to go home, get some rest, and plan how he was going to get back what was his.

* * * *

The Black Sheep’s lights were soft; people’s shadows moving inside seemed like dark souls waiting for a body to enter. In fact, people came to this specific pub for that reason. He wasn’t the first to use the privacy given by the place to find a hot body to lose himself in. Thomas entered and looked around, a worried expression of his face. His fists clenched, arms stiff at his sides. He headed to the bar and leaned an elbow on it, observing the surrounding people, the darkest corners, the private rooms, and the dance floor, a small area that only fit a few people. The music was rhythmic but not too fast. It was kind of sensual, so different from the folk music you usually heard in most Irish pubs.

Adrian, the barman, slid a glass in his direction.

“Here you go, the usual,” he said, winking.

Thomas nodded and answered with half a smile, putting the money on the counter. He turned away for a few moments before looking back at Adrian.

“Do you know Elias?” he asked.

Adrian seemed to think for a moment. “Thin, black hair, even darker eyes, sexy as hell?”

Thomas blinked. From the description, it sounded like Elias, even if Thomas didn’t personally find him sexy as hell. That is, he couldn’t deny what he’d seen under those long locks was something magnetic, that his body seemed thin but not skinny, but…

Thomas shook his head. He was a boy. And a thief. And a stalker. And who knew what else? And he wasn’t interested in him in that way.

“I think so,” he finally replied.

Adrian smiled and gestured to a hidden corner of the tiny dance floor. There, wearing a pair of tight jeans and a white T-shirt, was Elias, dancing with a guy behind him who had one hand on his chest and the other on his belly. His eyes were closed, and he was moving his pelvis. Sexy as hell, actually. His head was reclined, leaning on the shoulder of the man behind him, and he had his hand by his side as he swayed.

Thomas picked up his drink and took a long sip. That boy owed him an explanation. Suddenly, he realized he couldn’t accuse him of anything without some kind of evidence. For a very short moment, doubt ran through his mind: had it really been Elias, or had Thomas finally lost it? Maybe when he’d been twirling under the rain like an idiot fighting his panic attack?

When he looked at the dance floor again, Elias had disappeared.

“What the fuck!” he burst out, frustrated, a second before feeling somebody touch him, a solid body pushing against his back and a voice speaking in his ear, softly enough so as not to be heard by anyone else.

“If they told me to choose who to fuck, I would choose you.”

Thomas turned suddenly and almost spilled his Guinness on himself.

There he was—Elias.

Thomas observed him for a few moments, and his brain registered different things. This time, he could see Elias’s face, even if it was barely lit. It was a very unusual face: thin, big black eyes, a sharp nose, and a large, full mouth. Elias wasn’t as thin as he first seemed. Or, yes, he was thin, but the right definition would have been slim. The stretch T-shirt highlighted his long muscles, as well as his tight jeans, which underlined the contour of his hips, molding his legs. His hair was long at the front and really, really black. His gaze in that moment was particularly intense. The corners of his mouth were turned up in half a smirk.

Thomas suddenly looked away from his lips, the taste of which he could still feel on his mouth, and took a sip of beer.

“I saw you while I was dancing. You came looking for me,” Elias continued.

It wasn’t a question. It was an assertion.

“No. I came looking for my wallet.”

Sure, he could have beaten around the bush, but this guy somehow got on his nerves, and he wasn’t in the mood for acting kindly. He waited for a question from him, even outrage. What he wasn’t expecting was Elias taking his hand, turning it over, and putting the wallet in it.

“And what does this mean?” Thomas growled. “If this is a joke, it’s not funny.”

“Isn’t that your wallet? Didn’t you come here for it? Here it is. No joke.” Elias’s expression was unperturbed.

“You stole it.”

“Had it on loan.”

“I could report you.” Better yet, I could arrest you. But he didn’t say that out loud because he didn’t want Elias to know anything else about him.

“Does it look like I’m stopping you from doing anything you want to do?”

Thomas itched to hit this asshole, but he tried to remain calm. He clamped his jaw shut and put the wallet in his pocket.

“What kind of game are you playing?”

“No game. I wanted to see you again, but I knew it wouldn’t happen without giving you the right incentive. I knew you would know it was me, and I hoped you would remember where I told you I’d seen you. It seems my plan worked out perfectly.”

Thomas grunted and turned to the bar, irritated as hell that this guy had played him and succeeded in his plan with no effort whatsoever. Was he so predictable? He finished his Guinness and thumped the glass down on the bar before climbing off the stool and getting ready to leave the pub. He wouldn’t even talk to him. If the boy thought he could set the terms, he was wrong. Thomas felt a little fucked around.

Suddenly, a hand with long fingers closed around his wrist, and a moment later, Elias’s mouth was against his ear.

“Stop. Please. Stay a little.”

A shiver ran through Thomas’s body. He wondered why and whether Elias had noticed it.

His voice was different from how it had been earlier, from how he remembered it. Somehow, it seemed hesitant. And it didn’t make any sense. Elias seemed anything but hesitant.

“What the hell do you want from me?” Thomas asked, turning a little, but not too much, in order to avoid finding himself mouth to mouth with Elias. His tone, anyway, had lost some of the rancor it had held earlier.

“You. Only you. For a while.”

The honesty of his answer shifted Thomas. More of his anger fell away. He tried again.

“You don’t even know me. You’re just a boy. Why are you persisting?”

Elias touched his cheek, making him turn, and his mouth found Thomas’s mouth once more. And again, Elias possessed his mouth. And again, this caught Thomas by surprise, who found himself closing his eyes for a moment and returning the kiss, leaning his hand on Elias’s side, turning more toward him.

He meant to stop, but a second later, Elias ran his fingers in his hair, holding his head, and the kiss was taking his breath away. Elias’s tongue killed his ability to think while it caressed him in an erotic dance, destroying any attempt to rationalize what was happening.

It wasn’t the first time he’d found himself in the clutches of a stranger in that place, nor the first time the stranger was younger than him, but they had never been so much younger. But then, he’d never met anyone like Elias. He was so…disconcerting. Because even though Thomas was trying to avoid how he felt, he wasn’t enthusiastic about the young man following him, stealing his wallet to see him again, and alternating moments of volubility with strange silences and sexual aggression.

A little voice inside him told him to end the absurdity as soon as possible, but Elias’s tongue continued to move hypnotically, slow and languid, making Thomas’s knees go weak. At thirty-eight years of age, he shouldn’t be going weak at the knees.

He put a hand on Elias’s chest and forced himself to push him away gently.

Elias moved his mouth away, but he grabbed Thomas’s hips and pulled their bodies together, moaning when he felt his erection—hidden under his jeans—pressed against Thomas.

“Are you sure this is what you want? You want to push me away?”

“Elias, you…Okay, you’re good-looking, and okay, I also feel tempted and you have an effect on me. But I can’t understand why you are so obsessed with me, and you’re…”

“If you say I’m too young one more time, I’ll kneel down right here and give you a blow job. It’s up to you.”

Thomas suddenly closed his mouth and shook his head. After a moment, he asked, “Why me?”

“Why not? I’ve seen you here many times, and you’ve never noticed me. I’ve seen the men you took home, or wherever you take them, and you never noticed me.”

Thomas looked at him carefully. “There are tons of men here, and you’re attractive and sexy. You could have whoever you wished. It doesn’t make sense for you to waste your time on me.”

Elias tilted his head back and again laughed harshly, almost like a bark. “Look, I’m not a pure virgin whose heart you are going to break. I’m not asking you to marry me. Or for anything else. I don’t want a date if that’s what’s worrying you. I just want to stay with you a while. Shit! Is it so difficult to believe?”

Thomas licked his lips and rubbed his forehead. He mentally noted that, even if Elias was a barefaced liar, he hadn’t told him that he wanted to fuck. A warning surfaced in his mind, but he was so perturbed by the crazy day he’d had, that he decided to ignore it.

“It’s not that it’s difficult, but you have to admit there’s something strange in the way you…acted.”

Elias stared into his eyes for a moment, then shook his head. “You know what? Fuck you.”

Thomas blinked. “Sorry?”

“Fuck you,” Elias repeated, shrugging. “I did everything I could to get you here, and you don’t give a shit. I get it. It’s better not to waste any more time. What else am I supposed to do?”

“Well, to start with, maybe you could have approached me like a normal person, instead of following me and stealing my wallet!”

Elias glared at him but didn’t speak. Thomas was frustrated. He didn’t want to have Elias around, but now that he was telling him to get lost, it annoyed him terribly. This guy made him feel uncertain about everything. He never did what Thomas expected him to do.

“Do you want to say something?”

“Already did. Fuck you.”

* * * *


Fuck you. His eyes, his false hesitations.

Like Elias hadn’t seen that Thomas would like to fuck him. He was as hard as a rock. Elias had felt it; he wasn’t stupid. And then the way Thomas had looked at him, how he’d responded to Elias’s kiss. But no, Thomas couldn’t admit to wanting to see him. He’d prefer to scream at Elias for stealing his wallet or doing something even worse, which he totally deserved. But Thomas’s annoyance at the false theft had quickly drifted away; Elias noticed that from Thomas’s gaze. And Elias had overreached himself for the first, inexplicable time, admitting to wanting Thomas’s company.

Maybe that was what annoyed him the most. Yes. Asking somebody to stay, trying for once to be honest, but realizing once again it was never worth it. Thomas, in the end, was just like everybody else. Would he ever meet somebody decent? Somebody dedicating him a fucking hour of their life, not just to have their dick sucked or pushed up his ass?

Elias left the pub without turning back, quickly walking into the night. His legs covered an ever increasing distance, his muscles stretching and contracting and becoming numb, but he wouldn’t stop. He wouldn’t turn around and he wouldn’t go back. He jumped on the first bus that passed. He let himself fall onto the seat, put his headphones on, and crossed his arms over his chest.

Fuck you.

You may as well go home.

Hoping Liam hadn’t already returned. Hoping to have some peace, for once in his life.


* * * *

Chapter 3


He didn’t like hospitals. Not since Aiden had passed through the emergency room doors, never to come back through them. Not since his panic attacks had started. There was that smell of disinfectant and the foul air that never allowed him to breathe deeply, to inhale enough oxygen to control his synapses.

But when you worked at a police station, it was inevitable that you would have to go to hospitals, like right now, since they had just taken the declaration of an old lady whose purse had been stolen and was in the emergency room to make sure nothing had been broken.

The lady had been kind and even rather rational while giving her statement, especially considering her age. But Thomas had spent half the time tapping his pen on his notebook, constantly moving his right foot to stretch his ankle, trying to find a way to keep his body busy with something other than inhaling illness smell and foul air.

“Doyle, shit, what’s up your ass?” Anne hissed as they exited the little room, heading toward the exit across the corridor.

“I don’t like hospitals.”

“Sure, because I really love them, right?”

“You’re normal.”

“I might have something to say about that.”

“Actually, me too.” Thomas smiled and shook his head, giving his colleague a look.

“Can I ask you something?” she asked.

No. “Sure.”

“Do you have a life? Or like, do you get out of your grave to come to work and then crawl back in? Because you’ve been working with me for months, and not only have I never seen you outside of work, but nobody has ever come looking for you. No family, nothing…nobody. I know what happened to you, but…”

“My family lives in London. I don’t see them that much. Anyone else…no. But also, no grave. Really, I sleep in a bed in my big house.”

Anne was staring at him, and he fought the impulse to loosen his tie.

“How are your panic attacks?” she asked, with much more kindness. She knew everything, obviously. He thought it was only right to let her know, since she was his partner and an attack could affect her, especially in a dangerous moment. His bosses also knew, and they had immediately sent him for therapy. Not that it had produced the desired effect. But at least he had the prescription medicine, helping him to keep his problem under control.

“They come and go. This is a very stressful period, because I always feel as if I’m on the edge of a cliff.”

“You should fuck somebody. It helps,” she said, pushing the doors open so they were finally out in the hospital corridor.

Thomas stumbled upon hearing those words, but he followed Anne outside. Anne wasn’t somebody who minced her words. Maybe she should know that the problem wasn’t a lack of sex, and that he was fucking enough. If she did, maybe she wouldn’t be so worried about him and his sexual life.

They walked into the lobby, past the emergency room reception desk, heading toward the parking lot. Thomas turned to the left, inexplicably drawn by something. A shadow.

And then, he saw him.

Elias. He couldn’t have mistaken him for anybody else. Not with that dark black hair falling over his face.

He was sitting on a chair in front of the reception area, and Thomas felt a strange sensation, a mix of annoying euphoria and euphoric annoyance.

Annoyance connected to the fact he wasn’t supposed to feel any euphoria. Absurdly, for a moment, he thought Elias had followed him again, even though he knew it was impossible, and he felt bothered by the convergence of his night life and daily life. Again. And this made the boy even more disquieting in his eyes.

And euphoric…more or less for the same reason. And because the memory of Elias’s soft mouth took his breath away. Because after the fuck-you at the Black Sheep, Thomas had actually thought for a moment about following him. And because he was sorry, he didn’t. But he would have never admitted it to anyone.

“Give me a moment,” he said to Anne, realizing as he moved in Elias’s direction that, for the first in a long time and despite all his conversations with himself, he was about to uncover a hidden part of himself. He was allowing his colleague to see him interacting with somebody unrelated to his work, or their cases. He didn’t know why he continued to hide his sexual life after losing Aiden. Guilt. Maybe you should suffer forever.

Thomas pushed back the thought and went to sit beside Elias, not looking at him but at the people passing in front of them.

“I should be worried. I should think you followed me, but I don’t think you did, right?” he asked, turning to look at the guy who didn’t turn to meet his gaze.

On the contrary.

Thomas watched him jump up and squeeze his fists to his knees, his head tilted down and his gaze toward the basement. A moment later, without speaking, Elias stood up and left, going out the emergency doors.

Oh, this one is good!

He was crazy! Was it possible he was still mad? No. But, what if he was? So what?

“Hey, you, where are you going?”

Thomas frowned as he saw the emergency receptionist standing up. She gave him a sad look.

“Do you know him?” she asked.

Thomas was puzzled, didn’t know what to think. “Not really, why?” he asked, having a bad feeling in his stomach. If the woman had called Elias back, it could only be for one reason. Elias was there…as a patient? Suddenly he felt like a complete asshole.

He tried to stay calm and approached the reception desk.

“What—why was he here?” he asked, showing his badge. His free pass to ask inappropriate questions. He also added a pinch of the smile that could get women talking. And men.

But the receptionist looked at him uncertainly. “Didn’t you see him? Half of his face was all bruised.”

No, he hadn’t. Elias hadn’t turned his face. Shit!

Thomas felt acid in his throat.

“Thomas?” Anne called to him from the door, frowning as he came toward her. “Is everything okay?”

No, everything wasn’t okay, but he didn’t know how to explain it.

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