June 17, 2024

Up Next

Here’s a preview of the book I am currently working on. This one is tentatively titled ‘The Great Gay Bachelor Getaway’. Themes include lovers to friends, bisexual awakening, rescue animals, and saving your best friend from marrying the wrong person.

Please keep in mind that these chapters are completely unedited first drafts. This is not a representation of what the final product will look like, and plot events might in fact change.


Chapter One

Law

“Local cat lady decides she prefers dogs. You’ll never believe what happens next.” My best friend read the headline from the article on my tablet. “What the hell?” With a bemused expression, he took a bite of his burger.

“It’s awful.” I ignored my own meal, even though this was my favorite fast food joint. No matter what I ordered, it was always juicy, greasy, and perfect—especially when you had the munchies, as Derek and I often did. Not today, though. I was stone cold sober.

“What happened?” Derek asked. “Don’t make me click through this trashy article.”

I took the tablet back and swiped to another website. “You heard about the fire in Canton?”

“Uh… I don’t know. I haven’t watched the news in a while.”

Yeah, no surprise there. For someone who refused to work a regular job, Derek was excellent at keeping himself busy with one project or another. When he wasn’t designing absolutely awful toilet paper prints for the family business—because who didn’t want to wipe their butt with Celine Dion lyrics?—, he was either helping out his crazy aunt with her shenanigans, attending a party, or cultivating a revolutionary new strain of weed, which would ultimately turn out to be not so revolutionary after all.

The testing process was always fun, though.

“Never mind about the news.” I looked up from my tablet. “What happened is that she branched out into dogs, then figured that she would love even more diversity. So she got birds and rabbits, and hamsters, and rats, and she let them all run free.” I barely kept my hand from touching my forehead as I recounted the story. “Eventually the rodents chewed on enough wires to cause a house fire, and now we have roughly twenty animals looking for a new home.”

“Damn. That sucks.”

“Elliot has taken in four birds and I have five hamster cages in my room. I need you to take in a turtle.”

Derek’s eyebrows rose. “You want *me* to take care of an animal?”

“We’re out of space.”

“You must be desperate.”

“You have no idea.” I’d barely gotten a wink of sleep over the past 48 hours, and not only because I was harboring five hamsters running in their wheels all night. “We’re over capacity, but so’s the shelter, and you know what will happen to these animals if we surrender any of them to the shelter.” My insides tightened at the thought. It had been three years since I’d started my little rescue organization, and not *once* had I ever sentenced a pet to death. I wasn’t gonna start now.

The problem was finding more volunteers to foster the animals we rescued. And money. Always money. At least half of the pets we’d taken in this week needed more than general health checks at the vet’s office.

“You always tell me I’m not responsible enough to take care of a pet,” Derek reminded me. “And honestly, I think you’re right. My mom found a rat chilling in a bag of flour just last week.”

“Did you catch it?”

“Nah, her screaming scared the poor little guy away.”

I rubbed my face. A year ago, I’d asked Derek to take in a couple of rats. They’d escaped by day three, and *still* randomly resurfaced in his family’s home at the most inopportune moments. “You’ll do better with the turtle, and it’s only temporary anyway.”

“Don’t you have something easier for me?”

“Easier than a turtle?”

“I was hoping for a stuffed toy or a rock. I could probably handle an origami bird too, but I’d have to focus for that one.”

  “Derek.” I fixed my friend with a look. That was all it took for him to understand that I wanted him to take this seriously. He wasn’t my best friend for nothing. We’d been partners in crime since we were toddlers, and he could read me just as well as I could read him.

“Okay, okay.” He held his hands up, demeanor shifting from joking to focused. “You know I’d do it for you. Hell, I’d take in the whole menagerie if you needed me to.”

Something inside of me settled as he said that, as if the weight of the world got a little bit lighter. “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” I said, honestly.

“You’ll never get to find out.” Derek gave me a smile that easily erased another ten pounds of the weight bearing down on me.

As unreliable as he could be in other areas of his life, he was always there when I needed him. He’d been the one to throw snowballs at the bullies who teased me for the lisp I had in kindergarten. He’d been the one to hold my hand at my mom’s funeral, and he’d been the one to search the entire neighborhood with me for three days straight when I lost my dog only a year later.

At this point, there wasn’t any burden I wouldn’t share with him.

Except for the fact that I was gay.

And that I wanted to kiss him.

Fuck that, I wouldn’t stop at kissing.

I’d get to know his body as intimately as I knew his mind. Every last part of it.

“So what’s the turtle called?” Derek asked, pulling me out of my fantasies to abruptly I almost felt caught.

“Regina. She’s very sweet,” I managed to say. “Elliot has her right now. I’ll bring her over later.”

“Sounds great. You’ll have to tell me what I need to do.”

“Yeah, sure.” I took a sip of my drink, mouth feeling dry.

“You’ve got something else on your mind,” Derek observed. “Otherwise you wouldn’t look like shit.”

I almost choked on my drink. How very astute. “Charming.”

Derek shrugged. “Spit it out.” 

“It’s happy news, actually.”

Derek’s expression told me he wasn’t buying it, so I granted his request and ‘spit it out.’

“I proposed to Sandra. She said yes.”

My friend’s eyes grew almost comically wide. It almost made me laugh. When did I ever get to shock him like that?

“You’re getting *married*?” Derek asked so loudly I was sure the whole restaurant could hear his question.

In fact, somebody in the booth behind us clapped for me.

“Yes,” I confirmed. “I figured it was time. We’ve been dating for a year.”

“Huh.” Derek seemed utterly puzzled.

“What?”

“I always figured you were only dating her to get your dad off your back.”

I’d hoped he wouldn’t catch on to that. Stupid of me, considering how much time we spent wrapped up in each other’s business. “I love her.”

“Right. Is she aware that you won’t get access to your trust fund until you’re married?”

I glanced aside. “Same deal for her.”

“I see.”

I dipped a fry in ketchup, but stopped short of eating it. “You can’t talk me out of this.”

Derek crossed his arms in front of his chest. Unconsciously, I held my breath, waiting for him to speak and tell me how absolutely dumb I was being. He didn’t do that, though. “There’s other ways to get money,” he said instead.

“Not this fast.”

“When’s the wedding?”

“Next month.”

“Shit.” Derek blew out a breath. “You’re not fucking around.”

No, I needed to get this over with. Rip off the band-aid. I’d spent over ten years of my life dreaming of a man I couldn’t have. Maybe being married would put an end to that in a way none of my other efforts ever did, and if it didn’t… I would still have the money. I could lose myself in the amount of work it would take to expand my rescue, set up a real building to house our animals, hire and train staff.

There would be plenty of things to keep myself busy.

I met my friend’s gaze. “I need this.”

By the flicker in his eyes I knew he understood that I was talking about more than the money, even if he didn’t know what else I could possibly mean. “Promise me one thing,” he said eventually.

“What?”

“I’ll get to be your best man, and I’ll get to plan your bachelor party.”

“You look like you’re plotting something.”

“Of course I am. Your party. C’mon, give me your yes.”

I huffed a laugh to hide how much I wanted to ‘give him my yes’. “What kind of party do you have in mind?”

“A legendary one.”

“I’m gonna need more details than that.”

“No, you don’t. It’ll be a surprise.”

I hesitated. Derek’s parties were always legendary, yes, but not always in a good way. Like that one time he’d wanted to have a soccer-themed party and rented ‘Super Balls’ to host the event, thinking it was a sports bar. It wasn’t until we got there that we realized it was giant ball pit for kids—after which Derek had promptly said ‘screw it all’ and jumped in. I hadn’t had any choice but to follow him.

To be fair, it was some of the most fun I’d ever had as an adult.

So when Derek asked, “You trust me, don’t you?” there was really only one thing for me to say.

“Don’t make me regret this.”


Chapter Two

Derek

Law helped me set up the tank for the turtle later that evening, leaving three printed out sheets with care instructions which I quickly glanced at before stuffing them in my pockets. For now, Regina seemed happy enough to explore her freshly furnished habitat.

“Hope you like your new home,” I told her. “Still wish you were a pet rock, but I’m sure we’ll get along.”

“What do you have there?” My mother appeared in the doorway to my room. 

I turned to face her. “This is Regina. Law asked me to take care of her for a little while.”

“Oh.” My mom studied the turtle quietly. “Well at least it’s not rats, but still, you should have asked.”

“Sorry, Mom.” Truth be told, I hadn’t wanted to give her a chance to object. “I figured having a temporary pet might make the house feel less empty.”

“I didn’t know you were feeling lonely.”

Yeah, I was not. It was her that I was worried about.

She probably didn’t know this, but I was well aware of her new routine which included a late night glass of wine and a silent self-pity session in the downstairs sitting room. It had been roughly a year since she’d kicked out my dad and a few months since my little brother moved out to live with his boyfriend. This house was too large for just the two of us and the hired help that showed up to do their duties before leaving.

I meant to ask Law if a turtle could work as an emotional support animal, but I forgot.

“Make sure not to lose this pet,” my mom told me.

“It’ll be fine. Regina won’t run away from us like the rats.”

My mother forced a smile. “I’ll be heading down.”

For her wine? “Hey, maybe we should do something later,” I suggested.

She shot me a questioning look. “What would you like to do?”

“I don’t know.” Scratching my head, I tried to come up with an idea, anything to keep her busy and not thinking about the divorce proceedings. “Maybe just watch a movie? Sharknado?”

Mom seemed hesitant, but smiled. “I’d like that.”

“Cool. I’ll be down in a little bit.”

After Mom left, I closed the door to my room and stepped out onto the balcony, gazing out at our backyard and the lake that was part of it. Yes, we owned a lake. At least, for now we did. My old man might end up with the house when everything was settled.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t care too much about losing the lake access. It was that little vegetable patch I had in the backyard that I didn’t want to part from. I’d raised all those plants myself. Carrots, turnips and radishes almost ready to be harvested.

I’ll admit that I got into gardening because I wanted to grow my own weed, but seeing a plant go from a seed to a whole ass vegetable that you can put on the table? That was freaking wild. I loved it, and I would hate to lose all the work I put into that garden. 

Thinking about it made me want to light up a joint, but there was something else that needed to be done first. Something I needed a clear head for.

Pulling my phone out of my pocket, I scrolled through my list of contacts until I hit my brother’s name. It took him almost a full minute to pick up. “Am I interrupting something?” I asked when the other end of the line clicked.

“No,” Oliver answered, obviously lying. He’d been busy with his boyfriend, hadn’t he? I should feel honored he chose to answer the phone at all. “What do you need?” he asked.

“Your gaydar.”

“My what now?”

“C’mon, you know what I’m talking about. I need to know how to tell if someone’s gay.”

“Uh, seeing a guy kiss another guy is usually a pretty good indicator,” my brother pointed out.

“This person never kisses anyone.”

“That makes it harder.”

Wasn’t that the truth? I’d had my suspicions about Law for a while now, but no definite proof.

“You were in the closet for a long time,” I said, “what made you want to step out?”

Oliver didn’t answer right away.

I rested my arms on the balcony’s railing, trying to be patient. It was my family’s fault that this wasn’t an easy topic for my brother, and I was partly to blame. I’d been oblivious to his struggles forever, letting our father spew his hate at the dinner table because I never even realized that my own brother was ‘one of them queers’.

Was it any wonder that Law didn’t want to confide in me either?

Ever since Oliver had come out to me, I’d been a tiny bit more aware of the world around me, and I’d noticed things about Law that had never stood out to me before. Like the fact that he was never seemed to be interested in any of the girls at any of the parties we went to. Even Sandra, his ‘girlfriend’, rarely seemed to feature in his thoughts. He tried to tell me he loved her, but that was a lie.

And then there was the fact that I’d caught him checking out the men in the magazines my aunt left lying around the house on our last visit. I’d asked him about it, and he’d gotten weirdly defensive. He wouldn’t talk to me for three days straight after. The longest stretch of time the two of us had *ever* spent not communicating.

So yeah, there was something iffy.

Something Law didn’t want to get into.

I couldn’t blame him. His family was much like mine when it came to outdated views. Hell, his dad being friends with mine was the reason *we* were friends.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Oliver said after a long pause. “I guess I figured out I couldn’t spend my whole life hiding who I was.”

“But what led you to that realization?”

Rustling on the other end of the line as if my brother was walking with the phone in hand. “Love?” he suggested. “I wouldn’t give Wes up for anything.”

 That made sense, and confirmed my own suspicions. If Law was in love with someone, he wouldn’t marry a woman he had no feelings for. “So I only need him to fall in love between now and the wedding. Easy.”

“Who are you talking about? What wedding?”

“Law is getting married. Except he’s not. Getting married, I mean. I’m putting a stop to that.”

Oliver took a second to process this. “You’re trying to sabotage your best friend’s wedding? That’s a new low, brother. Even for you.”

“I’m not sabotaging anything.” I was trying to help Law, but of course Oliver wouldn’t see it that way. He and I had always seen the world through different eyes—and I’d only recently noticed that I had blinders on. It was time for me to make up for all the grief I’d caused with my ignorance. I might not have been able to support my brother as much as I should have, but I was going to do my damnedest to make sure that Law would find happiness. He deserved it, more than anyone I knew. “I’m going to throw him a bachelor party, and it’ll have all the hottest bachelors,” I revealed my plan.

“So… what? You’re gonna wait to catch him making out with another man in the closet?”

“Kinda hoping they won’t be in the closet, but yes.”

“You’re insane if you think that’s gonna work.”

“You have so little faith in me. Let me paint you a picture of the gayest, most rainbow colored party you have ever been to.” I stretched my hand out in front of myself as I spoke, even though my brother couldn’t see me. “We’ll have rainbow cake, dick-shaped straws, naked men bathing in champagne…”

“And what’s all that going to accomplish?”

“He’s gonna find someone.” Surrounded by an atmosphere of tolerance, of gay *pride* like that, he might finally be comfortable enough to *look.* Even that would be a huge victory, and worth every ounce of effort I’d have to put into the party.

Oliver sighed. “At least you’re not having a hooker show up at his door like you did for me.”

“I didn’t send you a hooker, I sent you a dancer.”

“Yeah, right. Did you know that ‘dancer’ left his handcuffs behind on my bed? That was a fun conversation to have with Wes.”

“Well, it got you two talking, didn’t it?” I huffed a laugh, picturing my sometimes awkward little brother trying to explain his kinks—or lack of them—to his date. “Everything turned out fine.”

“No thanks to you!”

“Anyway, tell your boyfriend I said hi. I need to go watch Sharknado with Mom.”

“You’re watching Sharknado with Mom?”

“Yup. Enjoy your night, little brother, and you’re welcome for the free handcuffs.” I ended the call before Oliver could get another line in, a smile lingering on my lips.

The air was getting a little fresh outside so I zipped up my hoodie and went back into my room. Regina glanced my way. “Sup, turtle? You wanna be let out of that tank?”

She swam to the opposite corner of the aquarium, which I took as a no.

“Are you upset because I said I’d rather have a pet rock?”

No response.

Of course not.

I could get used to that, though. A roommate who didn’t tell me that every single one of my ideas was insane? What’s not to love?

For now, though, I needed to head down and spend time with my mother. Sharks were waiting.

Tomorrow, I would take the first step toward planning the gayest bachelor party anyone had ever been thrown, and it would be marvelous.

Screw all the haters.

Aunt Rosy would understand.

***

My aunt was no ordinary old lady. In fact, she’d slap you with a glittering pink dildo for insinuating as much. Crazy? Yes, but as the CEO of her very own kink and lingerie franchise, Aunt Rosy could do whatever she wanted.

In short, she was my idol.

Not that I wanted to get into the kink business, but living life my own way and telling everyone who didn’t like it to fuck off? That was the dream.

Besides, there was never a dull moment around Aunt Rosy’s house.

When I rang her doorbell, a young brown-haired man dressed only in speedos led me inside. A new hire, probably, because I hadn’t seen him before.

“What happened to your last beach boy servant?” I asked my aunt as I met her in her downstairs living room, after she was done hugging the life out of me.

“Oh, Chase moved on to greater things.”

“Things greater than you?” I raised an eyebrow at my aunt. “How’s that even possible?”

“You want something from me, don’t you? No, don’t try to deny it. You never pull out the flattery unless you want something.”

Yeah, I wasn’t going to fool her.

“Sit down.” She motioned at one of the plush armchairs in front of the fire—although how she could stand sitting by the fire, I didn’t know. Her house was already kept way too warm so her staff could feel comfortable running around in underwear.

“Very cozy,” I made myself say in spite of all this. 

“Isn’t it just? Would you like some tea too? I could have Darren get you some.”

“Nah, thanks.”

“As you wish.” She lifted her own cup to her lips. “What brings you to my house today, dear boy?”

How best to sell this? If I wanted this bachelor party to be as awesome as possible, I absolutely needed to secure Aunt Rosy’s funding. It wasn’t like I could ask Daddy dearest for money these days—or like he’d ever have supported the kind of event I had in mind. Aunt Rosy on the other hand… she might be on board if I only worded this right. “I’ve got this huge situation to take care of,” I started. “Exactly the kind of stuff you love to meddle with. Involves love and being true to yourself and sabotaging a wedding and all that.”

Aunt Rosy raised a hand to her chest. “Oh, I would never sabotage a wedding.”

I shot her a look because I knew what she’d done last Christmas, attending her ex’s wedding—with her ex’s son as her date.

“I’m always on my best behavior,” she insisted.

“Well, best case scenario, this wedding is never gonna happen.”

“You’re trying to stop someone from getting married?” Was that a hint of intrigue in her voice? She’d taken the bait. Now I only needed to reel her in.

“My best friend proposed to his girlfriend, but he’s actually gay. The issue is that he doesn’t want to admit it.”

“Lawrence is getting married? How wonderful for him. He deserves to find happiness.”

“Are you not listening? He’s marrying the wrong person.”

Aunt Rosy’s eyes focused in on me. “And who would be the right person?”

“Someone who doesn’t have boobs.”

Aunt Rosy looked at me meaningfully. I didn’t get her meaning, though.

“He’s *gay*,” I enunciated carefully.

“I see.” Aunt Rosy stirred her tea thoughtfully. “You would like him to marry a man instead of a woman.”

“That’s what I’ve been saying.”

“Have you told him this?”

“He denies everything, obviously. I blame his homophobic asshat of a father.”

“Most unfortunate, but not uncommon in certain circles.”

“His family business is *condoms.* You’d think they’d be a little more open to… sexual stuff.” I gestured widely.

“You’d be surprised how many people in this industry are in it for the money only. They’ll gladly take your cash and condemn you behind your back. It’s a shame, truly.” Aunt Rosy carefully put her cup down on a small table beside her. “I don’t do business with those people, of course.”

“No, you’re one of the good guys.”

“I’m a lady.”

“That’s what I meant.”

“Of course.” Aunt Rosy paused. “How do you intend to stop this wedding?”

“I’m in charge of Law’s bachelor party, naturally, and I plan to make it the gayest bachelor getaway anyone’s ever seen. Picture male strippers in lingerie, dick shaped pool noodles, rainbow colored cake, the works. If he doesn’t fall in love there, he’ll at least recognize that it’s okay to be the way he is. That it’s worth celebrating, that *he* is worth celebrating.”

Law didn’t value his own happiness highly enough. Given a choice between finding fulfillment for himself and making a random stray’s life just a little bit more comfortable—he would always choose the stray. He was kind and giving and entirely too selfless. Which made it my duty, as his best friend, to step in and make sure he didn’t run himself into the ground.

“It sounds like quite the event.” Aunt Rosy eyed me pensively for a long moment, as if she was looking at something entirely hidden from my view. I didn’t let that bother me, though. Aunt Rosy had always had a unique view of things. “I assume you want me to pay for it?”

“A little help wouldn’t hurt,” I admitted. “I thought you’d love to help me organize an event like this.” It was right up her alley, after all.

“I would never say no to a celebration of love and freedom and things that glitter,” Aunt Rosy conceded, “but if you want my funding, you’ll have to give me something in return.”

“What’s that?” I braced myself, because my aunt looked exactly the way I did when I was scheming something. Seriously, the family resemblance could be uncanny.

“I want to see you go on a real date with someone,” Aunt Rosy announced. “Not a hookup,” she added before I could protest. “It’s all well and good that you want to save your friend from a loveless marriage, but I want to see you put some effort into your own love life for once.”

Ouch. “It’s not like I can’t find a date,” I defended myself.

“Then what’s stopping you, my boy?”

I made a vague motion with my hand. “I don’t know. Never felt worth the hassle.”

“Well, then you won’t mind doing this little thing for your dear old aunt. I’ll even give you a free account on my dating app to make it easier for you.”

I must have made a face, because she went on speaking, “It can be after your party, but I’ll want to see pictures—and don’t think you can fool me with somebody you’re not really interested in. I can always tell!”

Somehow, I had no doubt that she *would* be able to tell.

“Fine,” I relented. “I’ll find myself a date after all of this.”

I wasn’t exactly interested in getting a girlfriend, but if it meant helping Law, this was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

Anything for him.


Underdog Animal Rescue would like to introduce:

Val (Cat, female)

Breed: Domestic Shorthair

Biggest Crime: Figured out how to make one-click purchases on Amazon. Ordered dog muzzles.

Chapter Three

Lawrence

Three Weeks Later

When Derek talked about throwing me a bachelor party, I’d expected him to take me to a club for a night of fun and drinking or something. I had not expected him to show up to my house with plane tickets to some tropical island where his aunt ‘knew the owner of a resort who owed her something.’ The date on my ticket was less than a week away.

“It’ll be a bachelor’s getaway,” Derek told me cheerfully, ignoring all my protests about how I didn’t have time to vanish for three whole days before my wedding.

“Who’s going to take care of the four hamsters in my bedroom?” I asked him.

“Can’t your dad do it?”

I shot my friend my best ‘yeah, right’ look. “My Dad couldn’t keep a patch of mold alive, and Silvester is very delicate.”

“That’s the white one?”

“Beige, yes. Satin fur. He’s the most adorable little thing, but easily spooked. He hates strangers.”

Derek nodded as if taking all this into consideration. “Can’t one of your friends come over once a day and check in? You won’t be gone for that long, and you deserve it.”

I sighed, even as I was already pulling out my phone. “I’ll have to ask Sean. Elliot’s already overwhelmed with the parrots. Can you believe nobody wants to adopt them?”

“No, that’s shocking to me. Who wouldn’t want a feathery companion who insults them all day?”

“It’s not their fault their previous owner was more interested in teaching them curse words than in taking proper care of them. I’d be cursing too if that was my life.”

Not that my actual life didn’t make me want to curse from time to time, anyway.

I was getting married to Sandra Albrecht, for fuck’s sake.

Already, I pictured myself popping a blue pill before crawling into bed with my wife while having completely inappropriate thoughts of my best friend.

Seriously, fuck my life.

Maybe this bachelor’s get away was exactly what I needed.

Three days away from reality would do me good.

“You know what? I’ll figure something out.” I told Derek.

“Awesome, man, I knew you’d come around.” Derek gave me a grin and a bro-hug. One of those one-armed hugs that are supposed to be more manly than going all in. The very definition of a ‘friendly’ embrace.

Fuck, I wanted a real hug.

But I wasn’t going to ask for it.

There was no time, anyway, because Derek left as quickly as he’d showed up. Something he needed to take care of. Last-minute preparations. I wasn’t surprised by his sudden departure. Derek could be the laziest, most laid-back person in the world, but once he set his mind to a plan or project, he kept more plates spinning than three circus clowns combined.

A few of them would get dropped, naturally.

I’d learned not stand in line of the shards.

Once my friend was gone, I dropped down on the couch of our spacious yet sparsely furnished living room. The leather felt cool to the touch, grounding. I rested my head back against it, listening to the silence of the house. In an hour or so, I’d start to hear clatter from the kitchen as dinner was being prepared, but for now, everything was quiet.

Too quiet to drown out the noise in my head.

Unlocking my phone, I scrolled the rescue’s website, looking at the new postings. Every day, we featured a different animal, cross-posting a short bio to social media that included their name, picture and a short line about what made them unique. Their biggest crime, as we called it, because we’d all decided not to be that rescue that lied to people about how perfect all our pets were. Pets were never perfect. If you could not accept that reality and love your pets in spite of their flaws, you would only end up bringing the animal back, anyway. 

I glanced at today’s posting, chuckled at Val the cat, and navigated to the text chat app we used for any communication related to the rescue. There was a tab for general chat, a tab for news and emergencies, one for fundraisers, a help section… and then there were my private conversations. I selected a group chat I had going with Elliot, Sean and Dave. The guys who helped me run this rescue.

Law: I need someone to check in on the hamsters next weekend.

Elliot: Are you going away? Can I come? Pedro the parrot keeps trying to eat my eyelids and my stupid sexy neighbor has decided his lawn needs to be mowed every morning after my night shift.

Sean: You have a sexy neighbor?

Elliot: Fuck no, that was autocorrect.

Sean: Autocorrect doesn’t work that way. The system is essentially the same as a word processor’s spell checker. It finds matches as you type. It doesn’t randomly put words in your sentence.

Elliot: Nerd.

Dave: Could be auto-fill if he often refers to his neighbor that way.

Elliot: Weren’t we talking about hamsters?

Sean: By the way, I still need pictures of them to update the website.

Law: Yeah, sorry, I got busy. If you could drop in this weekend to check on them, you could also take pictures at the same time. I’d appreciate it.

Sean: Okay.

Elliot: Seriously, though, where are you going?

Law: A tropical island to celebrate the end of my life as a bachelor.

Elliot: Damn, now I definitely want to come. Hide a cabana boy in your luggage for me on your way back, okay?

I let my phone sink, exhaling. Elliot was so damn open about his sexuality, I never knew how to cope around him. I was super grateful to have him and the other guys in my life to help with all the work that was required to run this rescue, but sometimes it felt as if we were inhabiting completely different worlds.

One breath, two, and I looked back at my phone. The guys were congratulating me on my upcoming wedding.

I didn’t find it in me to respond. 

***

Five Days later

When I stepped off the plane that had taken me to White Tiger Rock, I thought I was prepared for the days ahead.

I thought I was prepared for whatever awaited me on the other side.

I was wrong.

For one, the sun burned so hot, the heat felt almost like a physical obstacle I had to trudge my way through.

For another, I had no idea what Derek held in store for me.

Having arrived a day earlier than me, he fetched me from the small airport in a blue rental car with an open roof. He asked me how my flight had been and we chatted about how the I was sweating through my clothes already. “Don’t worry, though,” Derek said, “there’s a pool.”

I gestured at the sparkling ocean to the side of the road. “Who needs a pool when we’re on an island?”

“Trust me, you’ll love the pool.” The ominous way he said that should have sounded the alarm bells in my head, but I was still tired from the journey, so I decided to lean back in my seat instead, close my eyes and breathe in the salty seaside air.

It had been a long time since I’d been on any kind of vacation, so why not enjoy this?

“I hope you’re ready for the party,” Derek said.

I half-nodded. “Let me guess. Blackjack, hookers and cocaine?”

“Not exactly.” Even with my eyes closed, I could hear the grin in Derek’s voice. “You’ll love it.”

Well, that sounded promising.

Derek pulled up to the resort about ten minutes later. I’d looked it up online before, but only briefly. This was the kind of place my parents would have loved to go on a holiday, back when my mom was still alive. At least, that was what the place looked like at first glance. Tall palm trees surrounded sleek white buildings with large glass paneling that offered a panoramic view of the surrounding beach and the ocean.

*New Horizons Resort* the place was called, as announced by the sleek lettering above the front door.

Almost as soon as we entered the foyer, a bellboy approached and offered to take my suitcase up to my room. So far so good. “Marques and Fernando will be with you soon,” the tanned young man let me know before he disappeared with my luggage, his words accompanied by a flirtatious smile.

That was the second time an alarm bell should have gone off in my head.

I turned to Derek, question marks clearly written on my face.

“I figured we’d start off slow,” Derek said in a move that was entirely uncharacteristic of him. When had he ever approached anything slowly? “Don’t look at me like that. I booked us one of those fancy massage sessions so you could unwind.”

“Seriously?” A massage session? That sounded good. In *theory.* However, Derek had said he’d booked the massage for ‘us’, which implied that he’d be there with me and I generally tried to avoid being naked around him… or him being naked around me.

There were only so many ways you could hide an accidental boner if you weren’t wearing any clothes.

“I don’t need a massage. I’m fine.”

“Don’t be like that. It’s complimentary.” Derek clapped my back as if I’d been worrying about the cost. Yeah, right. In truth, I’d pay to get out of this.

“Really, I’m fine,” I protested.

“Don’t be so shy.” He ruffled my hair, and I tried not to become hyper aware of every one of my skin cells that he touched in the process. “It’ll be fun,” he said.

I huffed. How often had those words gotten us in trouble?

And yet I fell for the hopeful smile he delivered along with them every. Damn. Time.

I couldn’t say no to him when he looked at me like that. Call it a character flaw.

“Fine.” I blew out a breath.

“Awesome.” The victorious glint in my friend’s eyes made up for everything that was about to happen.

At least that was what I thought until ‘Fernando and Marques’ arrived.

Excuse my bias, but when I thought of massage therapists, I thought of slender guys who got their nails done and kept their eyebrows in shape. Fernando and Marques were not that. They were burly guys with full beards. The type you expected to see in a bikers’ pup. Fernando had shaved his head while Marques had some salt and pepper left on his.

And they were wearing nothing but thin loincloths.

Thin loincloths with leopard print.

What the hell?

I stared.

Rude, yes, but seriously, what the hell?

“Close your mouth,” Derek teased. “You’re letting all your intelligence escape.”

I shook myself out of my stupor to shoot Derek a stern look. He’d plotted something, and this was part of it, but I had no clue what he was trying to accomplish by hiring some circus bears to massage us.

“What’s going on?” I whisper-hissed at him while we followed Fernando and Marques to the spa area. 

“What do you mean?” he asked as if nothing at all out of the ordinary was happening.

I dropped the question because there was no talking to him when he got like this. Whatever he’d planned, he’d already set things in motion and now all I could do was wait and see—or rather, strip out of my clothes and brace myself.

The changing room smelled of lavender and lilies.

“Lilies are so overrated,” Derek commented as we entered.

“I’m sure it’s scented oils.” Like the kind they would be rubbing into our skin soon, making it all soft and slippery and pliant and… God I had to think of something else. “You planted lilies last year, right?”

“My mom’s a big fan of them. Personally, I think hyacinths are better in every way. Sturdier too. I mentioned that to my mom, but she said lilies are beautiful *because* they’re fragile. I don’t see the logic in that, but whatever. If the lilies make her happy, I’ll grow lilies.”

I made an agreeable noise, as if I was listening to what he was saying. In reality, I needed all my focus to keep myself turned away from him while he peeled himself out of his clothes. All the times we’d gone to the pool together, and I still I hadn’t developed an effective coping strategy for moments like this.

Large white towels had been hung on hooks next to the door. I grabbed one and sort of awkwardly pulled it around myself with one hand while trying to take my shirt off with the other.

At least at the pool I could still wear boxers.

Why had I ever agreed to this?

Right, because Derek had seemed excited and I was a sucker.

Story of my life.

Behind my back, Derek laughed.

“What?” I whirled around to glare at him, forgetting for a moment why that was *not* a good idea. As my eyes fell on him, my best friend stood before me in all his naked glory.

*Don’t look down, don’t look at his groin, don’t check out his dick.*

“You look constipated,” my friend commented. “Did you have weird airplane food?”

“I’m fine,” I bit out, tearing my gaze away from him. Fuck. Of all the straight guys I could have fallen for, why did I have to fall for the one I couldn’t avoid? It wasn’t fair.

“If you say so…”

And now I’d made him worry. Great. “Let’s just go get massaged.”

Once I got this part of the day over with, the rest would be easy.

Right?

Taking a deep breath, I set about taking off my clothes, piece by piece. I simply needed to turn my mind off and let my body go through the motions. After all, I’d undressed millions of times in my life. This was no different.

Except that I was hobbling around awkwardly as I tried to keep the towel draped over my delicates.

Because Derek was watching.

*It doesn’t matter,* I told myself. *He’s not into me.*

Still, my skin burned as if his eyes were physically touching me while I unbuttoned my pants.

“What did you think of the massage therapists?” Derek asked, sounding almost a little *too* casual.

“A little strange,” I admitted.

“Strange how?”

I shrugged my shoulders. At least this conversation was taking my mind off the fact that I was getting progressively more naked. “Not exactly what I expected.”

“Really?”

“You didn’t notice anything unusual about two big dudes in loincloths?”

“We’re not in the states anymore. Maybe this is how they do things here.”

I almost threw Derek another look. “Were these guys hired by your aunt?”

“Nope. I hired them all by myself. Don’t you think they look nice?”

What sort of question was that?

“I guess they look like decent people.”

“Huh.” Apparently that was not the answer Derek had wanted to hear. “Oh well. Let’s go. Can’t wait for someone to work these kinks out of my neck.” He rolled his head from side to side.

I had sinful thoughts watching him, hearing him say that.

Thoughts of his naked body under me, my thumbs sinking into the sore muscles of his neck until he moaned. The image flashed through my mind so fast I couldn’t stop it. In truth, I didn’t want to stop it.

I couldn’t afford to pop a boner either, though.

Wrapping a towel around my wast, I made myself shrug the fantasy off.

Time to deal with reality.

***

Derek and I were getting our massages in the same room. Fortunately, the procedure required me to keep my head turned down, so I couldn’t look over at him.

*Unfortunately*, my ears were still fully functional and able to pick up on every little sound he made.

I had never heard anyone enjoy a massage so damn much. Fernando was working over his back, but it sounded as if Fernando was over there sucking his dick. Now *that* was an image I didn’t need in my head. Derek getting sucked off by some bottom of the barrel biker daddy in a leopard print loincloth.

I groaned—which Marques mistook to mean that he needed to lean harder on my right shoulder. “You carry a lot of tension,” he told me in heavily accented english that somehow *still* managed to sound as if he was spreading his pinkie finger while he spoke.

“I’ve had a stressful couple of days.” Weeks. Months. Years. How long had it been since I’d hit puberty and realized I wanted to touch my best friend’s cock even more than I wanted to touch my own?

Too fucking long.

“Let me help you relax,” Marques said.

He gave me no chance to protest before his strong hands kneaded all the stiff muscles of my neck and my thoughts were temporarily drowned out by a sea of bliss. Damn. Maybe Derek hadn’t been wrong about how much I needed a massage.

It was only too bad that all of my tension immediately returned when Derek let out a moan on the table next to me.

“Shit, Fernando,” he ground out. “Do that again. No, harder. God, yes, that’s the spot.”

Blood shot to my groin.

Fuck.

He had to be doing that on purpose.

There was no freaking way he was just saying that.

“Now this won’t do.” The tip of a very pointy elbow dug into my shoulder as Marques once again misinterpreted the source of my stiffness. This would have been fine if Marques was one of the dainty massage therapists in my imagination, but Marques was built like a brick shit house, and this was *not* fine.

I let out an embarrassingly high-pitched yelp. Fuck it. This treatment was turning out to be the very opposite of relaxing. “Not there. I’m fine there,” I stated, hoping Marques would move on to another spot.

“Let me get some oil.” Along with his words, the scent of lavender wafted through the room. I could only imagine burly Marques rubbing his hands over my naked body, getting ready to rid me of *all my tension.*

How was this my life?

Surrendering to my fate, I expected to feel Marques’ hands on my shoulders again, but instead, his thumbs dug into my lower back, working on the muscles along my spine, drifting lower.

Shit, I shouldn’t have told him to move on from my neck.

This was fine, though.

This was just a massage.

Right?

Even

Relax, I tried to tell myself. The guy was only doing his job, even if he was about as straight as a banana. There was no reason this had to be weird.

No matter how hard I told myself to relax, though, the moment Marques’ hand touched my naked butt, I jumped.

This was *not* okay.

“So much tension!” Marquest reprimanded me while I shot up from the table and whirled around in search of the towel I’d discarded. Enough was enough.

Marques gestured at Derek—in whose direction I was *not* looking. “See your friend,” he said. “He knows how to enjoy massage.”

Right.

Shit, now I was looking. And hearing.

Marques wasn’t wrong. Derek really did know how to enjoy a massage, and how to do so loudly. “Right there! Yes! God, so good.”

I swallowed hard. My gaze zeroed in on Fernando’s hand on Derek’s naked ass. Repulsion and attraction went to war inside of my chest. All of this was so wrong. Derek was hot as hell, but I shouldn’t be ogling him, and he shouldn’t have another man touching him, and most of all, he shouldn’t be moaning as if he was having sex with that other man.

I needed to get out of here. Right now. Before I said or did something stupid.

Before anyone could see that I was getting hard.

Finally catching sight of my towel, I snatched it and bolted from the room.

***

I was fast enough to get out of the hotel and onto the beach before Derek caught up to me. Unlike me, he’d put his pants back on, but he wore them inside out, unzipped. No shirt or shoes.

At least he wasn’t walking around in nothing but a towel like I was.

What a pair we made.

“Wait!” Derek yelled as he closed up to me. “What’s wrong?”

How to answer that question?

*“Sorry, I freaked out over the image of Fernando sucking your dick and Marques wanting to suck mine?”*

Yeah, that would go over well. 

“I’m stressed,” I said.

“Bro, I know. The massage was supposed to help with that.” Derek gestured back at the resort. “I didn’t think it would stress you out even more.”

“Turns out I can’t handle massages right now. I’m sorry.”

Derek’s features softened. “Nah, I’m the one who has to apologize. Didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“Don’t worry about it.” I gave my friend a smile. As pushy as Derek could be, he wasn’t incapable of recognizing when he messed up—and honestly, this time it wasn’t even his fault. There was no way for him to predict how I’d react.

I took a deep breath and exhaled. “Seriously, though, where did you find those guys?”

“Aunt Rosy keeps a catalog around the house.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Maybe.” Derek’s eyes glinted in a way that made it impossible for me to tell if he was lying or telling the truth. “I thought they were a fun couple.”

“They’re a couple?”

“I guess? Fernando was consoling Marques after you ran out on the poor guy. That’s never happened to him before.”

Ouch. “I didn’t mean to hurt the guy’s feeling.”

“I’m sure he’ll get over it. He’ll be telling that story for years.” Derek’s lips twitched. “You ran out of there as if a wild rabbit was chasing you.”

“A rabbit?”

“Those little critters can be terrifying.”

“You’re only saying that because they ruined your harvest last year.”

“Entirely my fault too. I should have secured those carrots.” He didn’t sound too broken up about the fact that he’d lost half his plants to animals. Then again, he’d told me more than once that he enjoyed gardening for its own sake, rather than the results. In fact, he’d donated his remaining carrots to me so they could be fed to the bunnies we housed with the rescue.

Every time I thought I could get over my crush on him, he turned around and did shit like that and I fell a little bit deeper. It was a hopeless matter.

“I’m sure you made those wild bunnies very happy,” I made myself focus back on the topic at hand.

Derek seemed distracted, though. Something behind me had caught his interest. When I turned to see what it was, my eyes fell on a ball of yellow fur bounding toward us from the beach.

“What…” My brain scrambled to process what was coming. “Is that a dog?”

“It is!” Never one to hesitate, Derek called out to the animal. “Hey, doggie!”

The dog’s ears perked as it changed course to run for Derek.

“Where’s the owner?” I scanned the beach for traces of other people, but Derek and I were alone.

God…

Was this a stray?

Had I spent days offloading my responsibilities at the rescue to my friends in order to take this vacation… just so I could pick up a stray on a tropical island?

Yeah, that seemed like the kind of thing that would happen to me.

Lawrence Kurs, lover of friends, closet-dweller… stray-magnet.

While I was searching the beach with my eyes, Derek was too busy dropping to his knees and hugging the fur ball to pay attention to my concerns. “You’re a good boy, aren’t you? Or a good girl. I guess you could be a girl too.”

The dog slobbered all over Derek. He looked unkempt, as if he’d been running around the beach for longer than a day or two, long yellow hair hanging into his big brown eyes.

A memory tugged at my heart, watching him with Derek.

I held my breath, trying to push the emotion away, until my friend voiced the thought I didn’t want to acknowledge. “He looks just like Amon, doesn’t he?”

He did, but I didn’t want to admit it. Amon was the dog my dad got me after Mom passed away, to ‘keep me company.’ A yellow-haired Labrador, the best boy in the world, a faithful companion.

Until I lost him on a camping trip.

It was stupid. I got drunk; he chased after a fox or a badger or some other critter I couldn’t see, and I never found him again. We searched for *days,* Derek and I, but nothing.

I never kept a dog after, not even as a foster. Just couldn’t do it.

“He has a tag.” Derek fumbled with the stray dog’s collar. “Um… I don’t speak this language.”

“What language?” I bent so I could see the tag as well. *“Je’m apelle Boris.”* Wait, was that…? “It’s French. My name is Boris”

“French?” Derek let go of the tag. “Does it tell us anything about the owners?”

“Not as far as I can see.”

“Well, at least we know his name now. Isn’t that right, Boris?” Derek scratched the dog behind his ear. Boris looked up at him as if he was in love, mouth open and tongue hanging out. “Maybe someone at the resort will know where you belong.”

I straightened. “We should take him back and get some food and water into him.”

Boris turned my way. I expected to be slobbered on or to be asked for pets.

Honestly, all these years working with animals should have taught me better than to let my guard down. Boris did not want to be petted. Boris wanted to *play.*

And he made this clear by snatching the towel off my waist.  

Holy shit.

My hands flew down to cover my genitals while Boris chewed on the towel, tail wagging happily as he stared up at me.

“Give that back!” Removing one hand from my groin, I grabbed one end of the towel hanging out of Boris’s mouth. 

Boris saw this as an invitation to play tug-o-war.

“No! Stop that! Give it!” My skin grew so hot I felt like I was glowing—or as if I was a lobster who’d just been thrown into a pot of boiling water. I probably looked much like a lobster too.

And what did my best friend do instead of helping me?

He laughed his fucking ass off. “He really is just like Amon!”

“Shut up!” I snapped at Derek—and then I immediately regretted my words when they made my friend focus on me instead of the dog. Overly conscious of my current state of undress, I let go of the towel to cover myself with both hands once more.

As soon as I did, Boris raced off with the spoils of his victory.

“No! Don’t! Wait!” I yelled after him.

Derek laughed even harder.

“Stop that dog,” I demanded while I flopped down on the beach and shoveled sand onto myself in an effort to bury my family jewels. “Stop laughing and do something.”

“All right, all right. How do you say stop in French?”

“I don’t know. Just do something.” I gestured vaguely in between my attempts at camouflage. “Please.”

“Okay. Stop panicking.” Finally, Derek turned and went after the dog, who was halfway back to the hotel at this point.

I groaned and resumed my attempts at turning myself into a sand sculpture.

My life would be so much easier if I was a sand sculpture.


Underdog Animal Rescue would like to introduce:

Jolene (Dog, female)

Breed: Black Mouth Cur

Why has she not been adopted yet? Ever since she ate the Christmas ornaments her poop looks a little too festive.

Chapter Four – Derek

I chased the dog all the way back to the entrance of the hotel where he stopped and turned to look at me expectantly, one end of the towel in his mouth, one end dragging through the sand. It seemed he wanted me to grab it and continue the game.

“Sorry, buddy, but my friend really needs this.” I grabbed the towel and gave it a hard tug.

Boris tugged harder than me, making me stumble forward.

Damn, that dog was *strong.*

I tugged with more force.

He growled playfully, teeth sinking deep into the cotton.

Yeah, Law wasn’t getting that towel back. At least not without holes in it.

Time to enact Plan B, then.

This would be *fun*.

“Wait here,” I told the dog while I dashed into the hotel and up to my room. This whole time I’d been wondering how I’d convince Law to put on the outfit I’d picked out for him for tonight’s costume party… Now he wouldn’t have any other choice but to wear it if he didn’t want to walk back into the building in all his naked glory.

Memo to self, feed that dog some treats later.

The costume party was an idea that Aunt Rosy had sparked in my head. At one point she’d told me that she loved masked carnivals because the masks lent confidence to shy people. Law wasn’t shy, but he did feel insecure about certain parts of himself—parts of him that I wanted to appeal to with this party. If we were all in costume, it might be easier for him to let go a little, do things he wouldn’t normally dare to do.

I got the clothes I’d picked for him out of my suitcase, shoved them in a bag and went back downstairs.

Boris was still waiting for me by the door that led outside. “Good boy,” I told him once more.

He yipped around the towel in his mouth.

Yes, he was definitely getting all the treats later.

“Stay,” I said.

He tilted his head at me, then followed as I walked down the beach toward Law.

“We’ll have to work on how well you follow commands.”

Boris said nothing in response to this.

Fair enough.

“Not a big fan of authority, huh? Yeah, me neither.”

Boris’s tail wagged.

I approached Law, who’d done a fine job of building a sand castle over his groin. “I should snap a picture,” I said. “Blackmail material for years.”

“Don’t you dare.” Law scowled at me.

Adorable.

He glanced at the dog who was still carrying the towel, then at the bag I offered to him. “What’s that?”

“You were supposed to wear this to the party tonight, but I guess it won’t hurt if you get changed early.”

“You got clothes for me?”

“Well, the costume party was supposed to be a surprise, so I could hardly ask you to bring our own. Don’t worry, I made sure you’ll be the best-looking guy at the party.”

Law frowned at this, studying the contents of the bag. “What’s the theme of the party?” he asked as he studied the outfit in my right hand.

“No particular theme.”

“So what you’re saying is there was no pressing reason for you to pick *this* costume.” He pulled the fireman helmet out of the bag and held it up. “This isn’t even a complete costume. There’s no jacket.”

“No, it’s meant to be topless. You’re not just *any* firefighter, you’re a sexy firefighter. Trust me. This is your party. You’re gonna be in the spot light. You wanna look good.” And maybe get hit on by some of the men who will be there. I didn’t say that last part out loud, but it had figured heavily into my choice of costume for Law.

“I’ll look ridiculous.”

“Nah, you won’t. There’ll be people there with way more ridiculous outfits.”

“Like what?”

“Like tentacles. Would you rather have tentacles? I’m sure I can find you some.”

Law groaned. “Why can’t I just wear my regular clothes?”

I offered him a smile. “You see your regular clothes anywhere around here?”

“I can’t believe you’re using this situation to your advantage. Is that dog really French or did you train it to trap me here?”

The accusatory note in Law’s tone made me laugh. “Like I could have known you’d run out here wearing nothing but a towel. That’s all on you, my friend.”

Law blew out a breath, letting the helmet fall back into the bag. “I really gotta wear this?”

“Yup. Unless you’ve got a costume in your back pocket. Oh wait, you don’t have a back pocket, and I doubt you can pull a costume out of your ass, but if you can, you’re welcome to.”

“I hate you.”

“I know. I love you too.”

For a fraction of a second, Law’s eyes widened, as if I’d said something surprising, but the expression was gone again as soon as it appeared. He murmured something I didn’t quite catch.

“What was that?” I asked.

“Nothing.”

“Okay. You need any help digging yourself out of the sand?”

“No, thanks,” Law said quickly, as if I’d suggested something scandalous. He was so funny sometimes.

“Cool.” I turned to the dog again. “Once you’re dressed we can go back and figure out what to do with this little guy, and then we can get the party started.”

“Awesome.” He didn’t sound excited.

But that was only because he didn’t know yet what I had in store for him.

Law got into his costume about as awkwardly as anyone who had half their body covered in sand could get into a costume.

“That’s going to be uncomfortable,” I commented as he pulled the pants over his naked ass.

He shrugged. “Whatever.”

“You’re gonna have sand in your butt crack all night.”

He waved my concerns away. “I don’t even care at this point.”

Well, at least he seemed more relaxed now that he had obtained cover for his groin.

He stood and stretched and finished dressing, scowling all the while.

I put the helmet on his head for the finishing touch. “There. You look great.”

“No, I don’t.” He glanced down on himself.

I took a step back to admire him in all his sexy firefighter glory. In spite of myself, I blew out a breath, almost a whistle. One thing was for sure. I’d definitely picked the right costume. “Don’t be silly. You’re fucking hot. If I was gay I’d totally want you to rescue me from a fire. Hell, I’m not gay but I still see the appeal.”

So Law wasn’t the most muscular firefighter I’d ever seen, and he didn’t have perfect abs to show off, but so what? The exposed skin on his stomach might not have defined lines, but it looked as if it would feel perfect to the touch.

Anyone who wasn’t into that was dumb and didn’t deserve him anyway.

Law glanced aside as if he didn’t know how to react. 

He’d never known how hot he was, always keeping to himself at parties, completely oblivious to the looks he was given.

Well, it was time he learned his own market-value.

I rested a hand on his shoulder so he would look at me. “Seriously, dude, you look amazing.”

His gaze met mine. Another great feature of his. He had the kindest, most gentle eyes of anyone I’d ever met—because he was a hero, for all he did for the animals in his care every day. Another reason I’d picked the firefighter costume for him, so everyone would finally see him as the legend he was.

“Trust me,” I said. “I’m not into guys, and even I’ve had funny dreams about you.”

“Funny dreams?” Law’s eyes widened once more. Suddenly, he tore himself away from me, brushed my hand off as if it had offended him. “Stop being weird.”

“Sorry.” I had better not tell him about that time I’d dreamed about him giving me a blowjob.

He was right.

That was too weird.

***

When we asked around the hotel staff, only one of the employees reported having seen the dog before. Sadly, he had no idea who the owner was, either. No one visited this little island, though, except for hotel guests. In short, the dog’s origins were a complete mystery. At least we were able to get some food and water for him, which he gratefully accepted. We sat in the lobby with him, watching as he lapped up the water from a dish and made a mess of the floor.

“C’mon, admit it.” Law nudged my side. “You smuggled him here to mess with me.”

While that did sound like something I would do, I wasn’t responsible this time. “Nah, he must be a gift from Santa.”

“It’s March.”

“So he’s a late gift from Santa. Just because your name is Law doesn’t mean you have to be so pedantic.”

“My name is Lawrence. You’re the one who chooses to call me Law.”

“Lawrence is too long.”

“It’s two syllables.”

“Your mom’s a syllable.”

“That doesn’t even make sense.”

“Deal with it.” I patted the dog’s soft fur, pleased to find that he didn’t growl at me even as I disturbed him on his lunch break.

Law gave Boris a long look. “Should we take him back with us if we can’t locate his owners?”

“Maybe you should adopt him. Didn’t you want to start a family with Sandra? Every family needs a dog.”

“I don’t speak French,” Law said, as if that was the only issue he had with potentially adopting the dog. I knew the real reason he didn’t want to consider it. The fact that he still blamed himself for Amon’s disappearance, as if he had to pay eternal penance for every little mistake he made.

He needed to learn how to kick back and relax.

“You don’t have to speak French. I’m sure Boris will be happy with a full food bowl and daily walks.”

Law leaned back in his seat and sighed. The firefighter helmet fell into his face, making me laugh. I must have picked one that was a bit too big for his head. He still managed to look hot in it, though. No wonder he always collected more numbers than me when we went out—in spite of the fact that he never went hunting for numbers.

“I don’t know if Sandra would like to have a dog,” Law said. “She might complain about the fur getting on everything.”

“How’s she going to cope with all your foster babies then?” Law might not be fostering dogs, but dogs were far from the only animals who could make a mess of your place.

Law closed his eyes for a short moment as if contemplating something—or regretting every single one of his life’s choices. He sounded tired when he spoke again. “I’ll figure something out.”

“I don’t think you should get married.”

Law didn’t seem surprised to hear my thoughts. “I know,” he said simply, offering no room for argument. “Thanks for throwing me a party, anyway.”

“That’s what friends are for.” It was only too bad the helmet his costume stopped me from ruffling his hair. Doing that and watching him pretend he didn’t like it were some of my favorite things in the world. Oh well. There would be more opportunities in the future. I rose from my seat. “Wait here with the dog. I gotta go and get changed, and then the fun can start.”

“What’s your costume? Are you gonna be one of those aliens you mentioned?”

“Wait and see.”

***

I had *not* brought an alien costume for myself. It would have been fun, yes, but I didn’t want all the attention on *me* tonight. This party was about Law, and about figuring out what he might be into. For this purpose, I had hired all sorts of guys to attend the party. Slender types, burly types, older men, well-groomed men wearing make-up… otters, bears, the whole LGBTQ menagerie. In short, I hadn’t left any stone unturned. If Law was into guys, there’d be *someone* at the party who would be his type. That much was guaranteed.

For my part, I’d chosen to honor my 12.5% German heritage and wear a pair of lederhosen with a leather harness on top to complete the outfit and blend into the rest of the party goers. If I could trust Aunt Rosy’s words, I’d fit right in.

I did look hot in my hotel room’s mirror. Completely unlike myself—I usually wore more baggy, comfortable clothes—but I didn’t hate it. Besides, I was supposed to look unlike myself at a costume party, right?

Damn, my ass looked good in those leather pants.

Maybe I should change the picture I’d uploaded to that dating app Aunt Rosy had forced on me. I’d get more messages, guaranteed.

Not that I was particularly keen on getting more messages on that platform.

After all, I had no need for a relationship—and far more important business to worry about.

On my way back down to the lobby, I pulled my phone out and confirmed out scheduling with the resort’s event coordinator. He told me that the DJ had arrived on time and our guests were already mingling in the party I’d reserved for the event. They’d opened the cocktail bar twenty minutes ago to get things started.

So far so good.

I turned a corner into the part of the lobby where I’d left Law.

He stared at me. “What the hell is that?”

Even after asking his question, Law’s mouth didn’t fully close. Funny. I hadn’t expected my choice of costume to have *this* much of an impact on him.

I shot him a grin and turned around myself to showcase my outfit in all its glory. “I’m German. Ja. Nein. Gesundheit,” I recited all the German I knew. “Hand me a beer.”

Law directed his gaze at the floor. “You don’t like beer.”

“That’s never stopped me from drinking it.”

“Did it really have to be leather?”

“What’s wrong with leather?”

“Nothing, I guess.” Still, Law seemed displeased by my outfit. “Did Aunt Rosy suggest this costume for you?”

“What makes you think that?”

“Only the fact that you could star in one of her product advertisements, dressed like that.”

“Nah, her models are all way hotter than me. Though, I gotta admit, my butt does look good in this.” I slapped my own leather-clad ass for emphasis.

Law blew out a breath as if I had personally offended him and focused on the dog instead. How odd. He wasn’t usually this much of a prude. Maybe the stress of the upcoming wedding was getting to him. If that was all, I could offer distraction. 

“Should we get this party started?” I offered Law my arm.

“Yeah, sure. Whatever.” Slowly, Law rose from his seat and hooked his own arm through mine as if we were a couple about to attend the spring ball together, or something like that. Except that Law looked like he was lamb about to be led to the slaughter… and that we had a dog trailing behind us.

“Relax,” I told my friend. “This’ll be amazing. Trust me. When have I ever thrown a bad party?”

Law laughed softly. “McKenzie’s pool party, two years ago. Remember that? The DJ couldn’t make it so you decided to play your own mix tapes. Everyone left early.”

“Okay, *aside* from that. It’s not my fault those guys had awful taste in music.”

“Your music sounded like jazz and dubstep had an illegal love affair and your mix tape was a recording of their horribly disfigured baby crying for attention.”

“That’s just your opinion.”

“An then there was Halloween, last year. Catering didn’t come through and I spent all night cooking.”

“Yeah, you saved that party.” I sighed dramatically. “Whatever would I do without you? I guess I’ll have to learn to take care of myself now that you’re getting married.”

Law seemed like he was about to protest, but stopped himself. “Yeah, I guess.” For some reason, he looked even more worried than before.

For my sake?

Seriously, he should worry about himself.

“Put that frown away,” I instructed. “Tonight, we’re having fun. We got catering and we got music. Now stop stressing out and get your freak on, Mr. Firefighter.”

“For the record, I would never have picked this costume for myself.”

“But it suits you so well.” I grinned at him.

He gave me half an eyeroll.

I tucked him against my side the way I had done hundreds of times before, only this time he wasn’t wearing a shirt and I wasn’t wearing a shirt and his skin felt so shockingly hot against mine that it sparked a broken fuse in my brain back to life.

Yeah, my best friend was a damn good-looking guy.

My plan was fool-proof.

If he didn’t meet someone tonight, I was gonna eat my own underwear.


Underdog Animal Rescue would like to introduce:

Cat looking for can opener

Name: Magic

Breed: Domestic Shorthair

Sex: Male

Quirk: Likes to pee on your things while you’re watching, and only while you’re watching. It’s not a kink; it’s a statement.

Chapter Five – Lawrence

What in the seven hells…?

When Derek told me he’d throw me a bachelor party, I’d expected the usual fare. Strippers, pole dancers, legal *and* illegal drugs, loud music, cringy disco balls and the scent of sweat mixing with that of weed in stuffy air that got progressively more stuffy.

Now, as Derek opened the door to the hall, I was greeted by some of that—except in my imagination, all the strippers and dancers and otherwise scantily clad people had sported boobs. There was none of that here. To be fair, there was one dude with boobs, but I was pretty sure those were fake.

 I felt as if I’d wandered into every homophobe’s worst nightmare.

 “Wouldn’t want you to feel tempted to cheat on your future wife,” Derek commented when he noticed me taking in the testosterone filled scenery.

I nodded dumbly while my gaze continued to survey the room. Two cages had been set up for nearly naked dancers to show off their moves, and… hell, was that Fernando? Yes, one of the dances was Fernando, and he swayed his hips like no other—even if his large frame meant that his hips nearly touched the bars of the cage every time he moved.

The other dancer was a lot more lithe, more ‘stereotypically gay.’ The kind of dancer you expected to see in a gay night club, complete with glittery make-up.

Speaking of glitter, there was a lot more of that around the room. Glittering tablecloths, glittering lights strung from the ceiling… there was even rainbow colored rain steadily falling down on a section of the stage set up in the back of the room. Whoever had to clean that up later had to be charging Derek a small fortune for the work. It did look mesmerizing, though, the way the colors of the glitter reflected in the soft glow of the lights.

Moving on from the glitter, my eyes caught on a giant cake that sat on a round table in the middle of the room. It was a layer cake, big enough for one or two people to jump out of it. Knowing Derek, I suspected that someone or something was hiding in there.

Probably an entire gay pride parade.

It was either that or his weed dealer.

I had no proof, though, and Derek wouldn’t say anything about it. Instead, he led me to another table to sit down.

My seat provided me with a great view of the buffet. As Derek had promised, catering had been taken care of, and not only that. *Drinks* had been taken care of as well. The buffet table was spearheaded by a large Greek-style sculpture of an Adonis. Except that most Greek statues I’d seen in my life had had their genital’s missing whereas this dude’s penis was fully intact… and it had champagne bubbling out of it.

“Please tell me we’re at the wrong party,” I said to Derek—while I tried not to look at the waiters making their rounds around the tables dressed in nothing but pink aprons which left their butts fully exposed.

“No such thing as a wrong party.” Derek acted infuriatingly oblivious to the glaring problem this event had.

“Who are all these people?” I motioned at the party goers who were sitting at other small tables or mingling at the buffet. The various costumes made it hard to tell, but I didn’t think I knew any of these people. At least, I couldn’t think of anyone in my circle of acquaintances who would willingly dress up as a walking tentacle. I most certainly didn’t know *ten* people who’d want to wear those costumes.

“They’re all friendly people who like to party,” Derek assured me. “Figured if they’re all strangers, we can do whatever we want and no one back home will be any the wiser.”

“What exactly are you planning for us to do?”

“We’ll see where the evening takes us,” Derek said as if it was no big deal, as if this wasn’t the weirdest party he had ever organized. He stood. “I’ll get you a drink so you can calm down a little.”

How could he talk about calming down?

*Deep breath*, I told myself.

Because Derek was already gone and I couldn’t yell at him.

Seriously, though, what the fuck?

Why did he think I wanted a gay party?

And this was obviously gay. It couldn’t be any gayer if little fairies dove down from the ceiling and covered everyone in rainbow dust.

Under the table, Boris pressed himself close to my legs.

I took another deep breath. This didn’t have to mean anything. This was Derek’s way of messing with me, of getting a rise out of me. I wasn’t gonna give him that. And I was not going to ogle any of the meat on display here. Holy hell. There was *so much meat* on display here.

Someone walked by my table in a lumberjack costume, followed closely by a bear, who winked at me before passing.

Slowly, I noticed that the bear wasn’t the only one taking a special interest in me. Every other guy in this room was sneaking looks at me. A dude in a tentacle suit, the lithe dancer in the cage south of my table, a blond kid with dildos glued to his clothes. “I’m a dick magnet,” he told me proudly when I asked him what his costume was.

A dick magnet.

Of course.

How hadn’t I seen that?

I gave the kid a smile, which, honestly was the wrong thing to do because he took it as an invitation to flop down in the chair Derek had vacated.

“Hi, I’m Mike.”  He offered me his hand. “This is one of the most fun events I’ve been to recently. Really, kudos for putting it together. That cake is amazing. And the lighting!”

I shook Mike-the-dick-magnet’s hand. “All the credit goes to my friend. I’m just the poor victim.”

“Victim? But you’re our guest of honor! You don’t wanna be here?” Mike leaned closer. He had these large, expressive blue eyes, and he focused his entire attention on me in a way that made it impossible to miss what he was aiming for. The kid fancied himself a dick magnet, and he wanted more than a dildo in him tonight.

The engagement ring on my hand, or the fact that this was my *bachelor party,* didn’t seem to detract him in the slightest.

I cleared my throat, inching away from him in my seat. “This isn’t exactly the kind of party I had in mind.”

Mike glanced around the room. “What’s wrong with it?”

“Well… I’m straight.”

Mike’s eyebrows rose as if he’d not been made aware of this fact, and then he laughed.

Honestly, what had Derek been telling these people?

“Straight, huh?” Mike’s eyes glinted. “How sure are you about that?”

“It’s not up for discussion.”

“Oh, we don’t have to *talk.*” Mike’s full lips twitched, his voice dropped. “I won’t mind if you don’t say a single word all night, and I can definitely keep a secret.”

Wow. It had been a long time since anyone had come on to me that strongly. An even longer time since that person had ticked *any* of the boxes on my list—like being male. Mike wasn’t unattractive, and his words immediately supplied my mind with an image of what his lips would look like stretched around my cock. 

Damn.

He was talking about ‘all night’, but could I just take him to the bathroom for five minutes to get my rocks off? Would he mind? Would he *tell*?

It always came down to that.

No one could ever be trusted not to tell. Especially not some stranger I met at a party, and most especially not a stranger who stuck dildos to his clothes to call himself a dick maget.

I pinched the bridge of my nose to distract myself from the stirrings in my groin. Fuck, I had *just* managed to distract my little brain from the way Derek had touched me earlier.

I was gonna have to watch some porn later in the sanctity of my own room. Jerk off and satisfy myself without the added risk of someone snitching on me.

Sure it would be nice to touch another human being for once—and be touched in return—but it wasn’t worth the risk. Not this close to my wedding… when it wasn’t even the man I loved.

Mike would be nothing more than a warm body, a hot mouth, a tight hole.

I didn’t need those things.

I didn’t.

“Think about it.” Mike’s fingers brushed the inside of my thigh, skating over the fabric of my pants.

I wasn’t given a chance to reject him before Derek returned to the table with our drinks. “Oh, did you two want some privacy?”

I wanted to scream at him. As my best friend, it was his sacred duty to rescue me from awkward situations like this—and also to tease me about them years down the road, but the rescuing came first. “We do not need privacy,” I asserted. “Give me that drink, and then explain to me why this party looks like a gay pride parade.” Even the glass of champagne in his hand had a dick-shaped straw stuck in it for fuck’s sake.

“What’s wrong with gay pride parades?” Derek shot back, entirely failing to see the issue.

Instead of responding, I took a large gulp of my drink. And no, I did not suck on the straw. At least the champagne was adequately bubbly.

God, it had bubbled out of that Greed Adonis’s marble penis, hadn’t it?

How was this my bachelor party?

“Please just tell me no one is going to jump out of the cake.” I could already picture it—some guy in drag bursting from the cake while rainbow glitter rained down on him. YMCA would play from the speakers and then he’d offer me a lap dance… and not listen when I refused.

And all the while Mike would be whispering dirty promises in my ear.

“There’s nothing but sugar in that cake,” Derek promised me. “A whole ton of sugar.”

I downed the rest of my champagne.

“I’ll see you later.” Mike got up from the table, but not without brushing his hand down my arm as he left, making his interest clear once more. I could have him if I wanted him. It was almost too easy.

My lips twitched with the bitter taste of irony.

How was it that I found myself surrounded by beautiful male bodies, many of them on display for me, most of them probably gay and available…

And yet the only one I wanted was my straight best friend?

“If you don’t like the cake, do you at least like the dancers?” Derek asked, oblivious to the thoughts souring my mood.

“I didn’t realize Fernando had multiple jobs.”

“He’s good at what he does, though, right?”

“Very good,” Mike chimed in, eyes glued to the burly dancer.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess he’s good.”

“So you prefer the other one?” For some reason, Derek seemed intrigued to hear my take on this matter.

“They’re both good.” I shrugged. What did my friend want me to say? Admit to him that neither of the dancers was really my type? Admit that I even *had* a type when it came to things like this?

Under the table, Boris pressed himself more firmly against my legs. “Maybe I should take the dog back to my room,” I said. The poor animal was clearly as uncomfortable in this environment as I was.

“Boris will be fine,” Derek said. “You can take him back later. First, I’ve prepared a party game for us to play.”

“What are you talking about?” When was the last time we had played party games? His eighth birthday? 

“Don’t worry. It’ll be fun.” At Derek’s call, one of those apron-wearing waiters appeared at our table, carrying a tray with dildos and donuts. Possibly the weirdest combination I had seen in my life.

Derek took the items as if they were exactly what this evening needed. “Thank you,” he said to the waiter before dismissing him. He turned back to us. “The rules of the game are simple.” Taking two of the dildos, he used suction cups on their bottoms to stick them upright on the table. “We each get a dildo and we try to stack as many donuts as possible on them without breaking any of the donuts, so you gotta be gentle as well as fast, because the first person to stack the full dildo full of donuts wins.” Derek explained this as if this was a completely normal game and not something weird he’d picked up from spending too many nights at his aunt’s house. 

“How did you even come up with that game?” I asked.

“Please don’t get jealous. You know you’re my best friend, but Google is also a good friend of mine.” Derek patted my back—which was naked. His touch seared straight through my skin and reminded me why everything about this party was a bad idea. 

“You found this on Google?” I asked to make myself focus back on the conversation. “Do I even wanna know what search terms you used?”

“Probably not.” Derek grinned. “We’re gonna play, and then the winner gets to make the loser perform one simple task of their choosing.”

“A task?”

“Yeah, think of it like a dare in Truth or Dare, except you don’t get to chicken out and choose truth.”

“So if I win I get to make you dance on that pole?” I gestured at the stage, which had a pole near where the rainbow glitter rained down.

“Sure, if that’s what you want. You know I’d totally steal the show, though.” 

Yeah, he probably would.

I eyed the game pieces before me. Seriously, how did Derek come up with this shit? How did people on *Google* come up with this shit?

“Scared you’re going to lose?” Derek asked when I hesitated.

“I’m not scared. I’m not twelve either.”

“You hurt me.” Derek laid a hand on his chest. “Implying that I have the sense of humor of a twelve year old.”

I gestured at the pink dildos stuck to our table. “Only because it’s true. Where did you even get these?”

“I don’t know. Amazon? Why? Where do you get your dildos?”

“Not Amazon,” I said, before I could catch myself.

Derek grinned at me. “So there’s another website you frequent? Interesting.”

Me and my stupid mouth. I shouldn’t have said anything. What use did a straight guy have for dildos?

Derek couldn’t know how much I needed them after spending a day with him. He couldn’t know about the tension that built up inside me while I was talking to him, touching him… being touched by him, but never the right way. Never the way I dreamed about.

I had ninety-nine issues and Derek was all of them.

Hell, even now when I was annoyed with him, a part of my brain focused solely on the way his leather outfit clung to his skin, just like how I wanted to cling to his skin.

Goddammit.

“All right, let’s do this,” I said to distract from the conversation at hand.

How much worse could things really get?

Derek’s smile cut right through my nerves. “I knew you’d come around.”

“Yeah, well, let’s get it over with. I’ll win and make you do something super embarrassing.”

Derek laughed. “Okay, you’re on. But first you have to win.”

“Of course.” I had to put a few donuts on a dildo. How hard could it be?

A waiter wearing nothing but a jockstrap come to our table and offered to refill our drinks while another waiter brought us two boxes of donuts. One set of donuts had chocolate frosting, some were only powdered with sugar. They all looked good enough to eat.

Too bad we had to violate the poor things instead.

“My nan would get mad at me for this,” I mused. “She’d always tell me not to play with my food.”

“This is different,” Derek assured me. “This is a serious matter.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Absolutely. We’re celebrating the end of your days as a bachelor. A few donuts are a small sacrifice to pay for this enormous occasion.” As he said this, Derek took one of the donuts out of its box and shoved half of it in his mouth.

“Won’t we need those for the game?”

Derek shrugged. “I’ll start with a handicap, but I’ll still win.” His voice brimmed with confidence, as if he thought he was about to win Olympic gold in the discipline of dildo-donut stacking.

A small crowd of onlookers gathered around our table as Derek prepared the game. One of the tentacle alien was there, as well as a dude dressed in a slutty police man outfit and someone wearing a full-body otter suit that I could only imagine had to be some kind of statement about their sexuality. Like, either they were a furry, or looking for one.

The crowd murmured among themselves as I picked my dildo and placed it in front of me.

Derek turned to the tentacle dude. “You’ll be the judge,” he decided. “You look like the kind of guy who’d know if a hole was broken.”

I couldn’t argue with that… but also, what the hell did that mean?

*Focus,* I told myself. I knew more about inserting dildos into holes than Derek did. For sure.

This should be an easy win for me.

In fact, if I lost, I should find the imaginary gay-card I’d never been given and turn it back in.

Wait a second.

What if Derek *expected* me to win and was only waiting to use my victory as proof that I knew more about the handling of dildos than any straight man should?

“You ready?” Derek asked.

“Ready to kick your ass,” I said, because it wasn’t like I could back out now.

And I wasn’t going to lose on purpose, damn it.

“Start!” Derek announced.

He picked a chocolate donut to kick things off, so I grabbed one of the plain, powdered ones. It made my fingers feel sticky, holding it, which honestly seemed kind of fitting.

Lining the hole of the donut up with the tip of the dildo, I gently lowered the sugary treat.

I’d never wished for a drop of lube so badly in my life.

As it turned out, donuts had no structural integrity whatsoever. By the time the dildo was one inch deep, the donut started to show signs of cracking.

This thing was more vulnerable than a timid virgin on prom night.

“C’mon,” I muttered under my breath, half-praying that the donut would hold as I gave it another slight push. It needed to go all the way down to the base, after all.

When I glanced over at Derek, he didn’t seem to be struggling as hard as I was.

The bastard had practiced, no doubt about it. He’d deny it too, if I called him out on it, but his donut was almost all the way to the bottom and it was still intact, so either he was naturally way better than me at this, or he had experience.

Experience with *donuts,* I had to remind myself. Not any other chocolate-smeared holes.

Jesus Christ.

I needed to adjust myself, but neither one of my hands was free.

*Focus,* I told myself once again. I could still win this.

Slowly, I slid my donut the rest of the way down.

“Pretty big push!” someone in the crowd commented. Otter guy? Maybe.

I tried a smile.

Then I noticed that the left side of the donut had torn.

Goddammit.

Our tentacle judge would notice that for sure.

“Things not going well on your end?” Derek teased as he started in on his second donut.

“We should have been given lube,” I complained. “Whoever does this kind of thing dry is an asshole.”

“They’re just donuts,” Derek reminded me. “But I love your ability to feel compassion for inanimate objects. That must be the baker in you.”

“If you ever do this to any donuts I made, I’m never speaking to you again.”

“Noted.”

I watched Derek’s hand slide down the dildo, squeezing it to make it go through the hole. God, the images that put in my head.

I swallowed hard.

This was a game. A stupid game. Nothing more.

But if he kept that up I was *really* gonna have to adjust myself. Or make a run for the bathroom.

Inhaling deeply, I picked up my second donut. This time, I needed to do better.

“Remember to be gentle,” Derek told me as if he was an expert or something. “All of these donuts are virgins.”

“What do you know about virgins?” I muttered under my breath. He hadn’t *been* one for a long time in any case. I probably remembered the day he lost his virginity better than he did. It had been our first year of high school, at a party we shouldn’t have been at, but Derek had made friends with some of the seniors. Naturally. Somehow he managed to make new friends wherever he went. It was his superpower.

That and stacking donuts, it seemed like. He was already moving on to his third while I was still standing here with my hand hovering in mid-air like an idiot.

Fuck this.

Maybe slow and gentle was the wrong approach. Maybe I needed to go for fast and painless.

Or maybe not.

I brought my second donut down on my dildo in one fell swoop—and ended up with two halves, cleanly split in the middle.

“Ooof,” Derek commented. “That looks painful.”

“Wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of *that*,” someone in the crowd said. I glared in their general direction.

It wasn’t like I’d treat an actual human being this way. Jesus. People really shouldn’t draw they conclusions when they looked at this game.

Even as I was telling myself that, though, I couldn’t help but feel impressed with Derek’s level of finesse. Slowly but surely, he got the third donut stacked on his dildo, again without breakage from what I could see. It did look a little worse for the wear, but not broken.

How did he do it?

“I’ll tell you what the secret is after I’ve won,” he promised.

“I don’t need your help,” I claimed as I proceeded to wreck my third donut.

The crowd laughed and my face grew red.

Damn it, this shouldn’t be this hard.

Was my dildo thicker than Derek’s?

Was that the reason?

I eyed the two sex toys critically—which wasn’t all that easy, seeing as they were both covered in dough now. “My dildo is bigger than yours, isn’t it?” I asked out loud.

“Is that a metaphor for something?”

“It’s not a metaphor. I’m being serious!”

“I didn’t want to turn this into a dildo measuring contest, but I can get a tape if you need me to.”

I huffed. He was making me sound ridiculous. “You know what? Forget it. You’re clearly a master at fucking donuts with dildos. I’ll give you that.” And I would think about that long and most definitely hard when I lay awake later tonight.

Derek smiled. “Don’t tell me you’re giving up already.”

I glanced at the dildo in front of me. Five was probably the maximum number of donuts that would fit around it, and I’d already destroyed three while Derek had scored exactly that many points. “You win,” I admitted, even though I hated it.

At least that meant I could stop playing this stupid game.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. You’re the best. I’m defeated.” I held my hands up. “What else do you need me to say?”

Derek’s smile widened. “Perfect.” He licked his chocolate-stained fingers. “That means it’s time for the fun part of the evening.”

The fun part. Right. The part where he got to make me do a ‘dare’ as if we were teenagers at a sleepover. “What do you need me to do?”

“You’ll see in a minute. I’ve got to talk to Enrique.”

I had no idea who that was, but I knew it couldn’t be good.


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4 thoughts on “Up Next

  1. Oh wow, this story just keeps getting better! It’s lighthearted and fun and full of tension you can feel pouring off the pages. Great work so far!
    It’s also nice there are only a couple minor errors even though this isn’t a finished copy. Well done!
    I’m eager to find out what shenanigans are coming up next.

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