Authors: Sierra Riley
Copyright © 2016 Sierra Riley
All rights reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without express written permission of the copyright holder. This book contains sexually explicit content which is suitable only for mature adults.
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, completely frozen. Time slowed to a crawl, and he heard every beat of his racing heart, felt every droplet of water as it traced a path down his overheated skin. He was held rapt by the slow movement of Russ’s hand as it neared him.
He was so close. Mere inches away now. Every cell in Jake’s body ached for his touch, and when Russ’s outstretched fingers ghosted over the curve of his arm, he sucked in a breath. He’d never been more aware of anyone in his life, and when Russ finally touched him, he felt it throughout his entire being.
It was just a touch. It didn’t mean anything. That’s what he kept trying to tell himself. But Russ’s hand didn’t stop at his arm. He didn’t suddenly remove it after stopping Jake from leaving the bathroom. Instead, Russ’s callused hand moved from his arm, to his chest, slowly skimming lower.
“What are you doing?” he asked, his voice choked.
“I don’t know.”
A full-body shudder overtook Jake. Russ’s voice was rough, laden with unmistakable desire. And still Jake’s mind worked to rationalize this moment; to explain it as something other than what it was.
He had a much harder time of that as both of Russ’s hands moved down his abdomen, caressing outward toward his hips. When Russ’s thumbs traced the lines of his hips, Jake’s brain shut off completely, and a soft moan caught in his throat.
Oh, God. He didn’t know how much of this he could take.
“Don’t send me mixed signals, Russ,” he said, his voice a strained whisper, and almost a plea.
“Not trying to.”
Russ’s hands moved back up his body, and this time when he reached his chest, he paid special attention to Jake’s nipples. At just the slightest brush, the pads of Russ’s fingers swiping across the pebbled tips, he bit down on another moan.
Jake lifted his gaze to meet Russ’s, and he knew he was exposing himself completely, his every desire clear to see. He was so sure Russ would come to his senses at any moment. And so sure he didn’t want him to.
Russ’s mouth was on Jake’s in an instant, hard and hot and demanding. Russ clutched at his back, and Jake wound his fingers through Russ’s thick hair, his other hand gripping his shirt, pulling him closer.
Electricity danced between them as their bodies met. Jake’s lips parted eagerly, welcoming Russ’s tongue. And the roll of Russ’s hips against his nearly undid him, even with the excess of fabric that got in the way. The towel Jake wore wasn’t nearly enough to hide his straining erection, though, and even Russ’s pants couldn’t conceal his.
It was surreal. In the back of his mind, Jake knew this shouldn’t be happening. There was no way his
best friend was slowly grinding against him, kissing him with a hunger that threatened to consume him. No, he was just having another fantasy. He’d wake up in a few moments, left only with his hand and a vague memory to satisfy him.
But then Russ’s hand slid down between them. His fingers moved past Jake’s abdomen, down to the start of the towel that was slung low on Jake’s hips, then lower still.
“What are you doing?” He repeated, still in a state of complete and utter shock.
Russ’s breath was hot against his lips as he answered. “Making good on that bet.”
Jake knew exactly the bet he meant. The only bet he still dreamed about to this day. The one that stopped just short of Jake having Russ’s hand wrapped around his cock.
As Russ’s fingers skimmed over the hard ridge of his erection, it became clear that Russ meant what he said. This time, he wasn’t going to stop.
in the hard aluminum stands in Deerfield Park, wishing he’d brought a pillow. The sun was at its most brutal, beating down on him, forcing him to shield his eyes. He was surrounded by loud, obnoxious parents who were currently locked in battle over who could scream the loudest. But for the first time in nearly a year, he actually felt normal.
At least as normal as the people sitting in the stands with him. They had all come to watch their kids play in the junior league championship game, and so had Russ.
There wasn’t much prestige in it. It was a local match, and both teams would receive trophies just for participating. But Russ was ridiculously proud of his son nonetheless. Proud, and happy to be here. Maybe even content, if only for the moment.
Because right now, for the duration of this game, he wasn’t thinking about Carrie.
Since her death, every moment of every day had Russ feeling like he was being buried, a shovelful of dirt at a time. Now he was at least peeking up at the sky, clawing away a little patch of ground to try and dig himself out of the massive hole he’d fallen into.
Ryan was his light. He always had been. If Carrie was the moon, Ryan was the sun. And if he couldn’t have the moon anymore, at least the sun was shining brightly today.
It was a thought worthy of a fucking Hallmark card, and one Carrie would probably rib him over if she were here.
Russ sighed. He was doing it again. Damn it. He’d told himself today was about Ryan. Nothing else. No one else. He could drown in his grief some other time. Any other time.
Just not today.
A soft voice broke him away from his little bout of self-loathing. He’d almost forgotten about Jake’s presence. Not that Jake was easy to forget, he’d just gotten so used to dealing with all of this alone that hearing his friend’s voice was a surprise.
“Yeah, fine. Just the usual.”
He gave a half-assed smile that Jake picked up on in an instant. Jake wasn’t stupid, and it didn’t take a psychiatrist to know exactly what was wrong with Russ.
But unlike everybody else, Jake didn’t pity him. Or if he did, he didn’t show it. He was just there. Quiet, usually. With a few words if Russ needed them. But mostly Jake was really good at making him feel like it was okay to not be … okay.
Jake was dressed casually, but somehow to Russ he still always had that vibe of someone important. It might have been the way he held himself. Russ had a bad habit of slouching, but Jake sat straight and tall, with a build that rivaled the coach’s.
The crowd got noisy around them, and his attention was drawn back to the game. The opposing team was making a strong run downfield. One of their forwards had the ball and was quickly coming into the Hornets’ side of the field, where his son was waiting to play defense.
Russ’s gaze trained on the player who had the ball. It looked like he’d already hit a growth spurt, because, while Ryan wasn’t exactly short for his age, this kid was closer to what he expected a thirteen-year-old to look like.
He leaned forward on the hard metal bench as the ball carrier got closer. His hands were clenched into tight fists and he held his breath. One quick move, and the Eagles could probably score, putting his son’s team down a goal. The forward faked to the left, and it should have been a clear shot to the goal.
But Ryan must have read the move. He was there, charging to meet the drive. Russ heard that satisfying sound the ball made thanks to a powerful hit before it sailed over the head of every player and landed on the other side of the field.
He and Jake were both on their feet, quickly becoming another pair of loud, obnoxious spectators.
Fuck it. Right now, Russ wasn’t afraid to make an ass out of himself. He’d spent the past ten months hoping to be invisible so no one would give him that pitying look or ask him how he was getting on. It felt good to be excited for once. It felt good to recognize that rush of adrenaline pumping through his veins, instead of just being numb to everything. It felt good to smile and laugh and cheer until his throat was raw.
And it felt fucking amazing to have the people around him look at him like he was insane instead of looking at him like he was some poor, pitiful creature. Everyone except Jake, of course. His friend was right there with him, getting the same stares. His partner in crime since college; someone he could always depend on to make himself look just as crazy.
He could do this. With Jake here and his focus solely on Ryan, he could make it through.
When they finally settled down and took their seats again, Russ was actually smiling. Jake must have noticed the change, because a smile lit his features, too, lighting his pale blue eyes.
“Thanks for coming,” Russ said. “It’ll mean a lot to Ryan to see you here.”
It meant a lot to him, too. Jake still made time for them when he could, but things had been a lot more scheduled since he opened his private practice.
“I wouldn’t miss it.”
“How’d you swing it with work? Aren’t you open on Saturdays now?”
“Since January, yeah,” he confirmed. “Lynn’s covering for me. Saturday’s our walk-in day, so it’s a nightmare. I’ll definitely owe her, but it’s worth it.”
Jake had always been the hardest worker out of the three of them. The smartest, too. Probably everything Russ’s dad would have wanted him to be, aside from one little detail.
Jake was gay.
Russ could only imagine the disappointed stare his father would manage if Russ had been gay, too. He already had a picture in his mind of exactly what that would look like, thanks to a family dinner over ten years ago, right before Ryan was born. His mother had badgered Jake for an hour about getting married and settling down, and the entire time his father’s thick brows had just kept scrunching closer and closer together.
The stark silence that followed Jake’s explanation was almost worth it, though.
It didn’t matter to Russ. It never had. Jake had come out to him in college. He had sat Russ and Carrie both down, and neither of them had made a big deal out of it. Carrie had even teased him about cruising for guys out in the quad.
Russ would never have accepted anything less from the woman who would eventually become his wife, because situations like the one he found himself in now proved exactly why Jake was a good man and an even better friend.
He was busy, yeah. Most successful people were. But since Carrie’s death, Jake had bent over backward to make time for him when Russ would accept it. And he’d kept a safe distance when Russ wanted to be left alone.
But Jake was probably getting tired of Russ staring at him, so he focused his attention on the field again. The Hornets had possession of the ball and Michael, one of Ryan’s friends, was nearing the goal. One sharp kick from the corner, a bounce off the post, and in it went.
Russ was definitely going to lose his voice before this was over.
After that goal, though, neither team was gaining much ground. A card was pulled, a penalty was assessed, and Jake leaned into him a little bit so he could be heard over the din of the crowd.
“He doing okay in school?”
Russ’s good mood slipped, but he held on tight. He refused to let it fall away completely.
“He’s passing still, but just barely. His teacher’s been really understanding, but his grades haven’t really recovered.”
“Have you considered getting him into grief counseling?”
“I don’t want him to feel different from any other kid, you know? If I have him sit down with a therapist once a week, he can’t be out here doing things like this.”
This was where he and Jake always butted heads. He could feel his friend tense beside him, and he glanced at the man. Despite having kind eyes and a warm smile, Jake could cut an imposing profile when he wanted to.
“His mom died, Russ. He’s already different from the other kids.”
Russ slipped even further. He was hanging on by a finger or two now. Soon it would just be the very edge of a nail.
“I just don’t want to make it any worse for him.”
Maybe he could admit some level of bias. His parents weren’t exactly big on acknowledging the need to take just as much care with mental health as they would with physical health. His father was the type to always insist his son just go outside and get a bit of fresh air if he was feeling down.
But fresh air hadn’t really helped Russ so far. Maybe there was something to Jake’s argument.
His friend dropped it, though. None too soon, as the whistle blew and the teams jogged to the sidelines. Ryan came up to the stands, a big smile on his face, and for a brief moment, Russ’s worries slid away.
His son’s yellow and black jersey was smeared with grass stains. The white number ten on the front wasn’t all that white anymore. His cheeks were flushed, and his blond hair was matted down by sweat. He looked just like any other kid.
“Hey Uncle Jake. Did you see me stop that goal?”
“That was you? I thought a professional soccer player just randomly showed up.”
Ryan rolled his eyes, but the smile stayed on his face.
Russ squeezed his son’s shoulder gently. “You’re killing it out there. My voice is going to be gone by tomorrow.”
Ryan started to excitedly explain the play, and how he’d read what the ball carrier was doing. Russ and Jake both listened with smiles on their faces, but the call of the coach interrupted them.
“You better get back to it. You’ve got a game to win,” Jake said.
As his son took to the field again, looking pumped up and genuinely happy, Russ felt himself gain some ground. That dark pit threatening to swallow him moved further away.
At least he still had this; these moments of watching Ryan grow up.
Russ settled in to watch the rest of the game, unscrewing the cap on his water bottle. The ball was thrown in, and the Eagles managed to take possession. Apparently they’d had a serious talk during that timeout, because the same forward from before came hard down the field.
The boy was like a train speeding down the tracks, but Russ had faith that he could be stopped. He was playing too aggressively. Letting his emotions get the best of him. Ryan would strip the ball the same as last time.
But when the forward reached Ryan, he faked once. This time, Ryan fell for it. He recovered quickly, but had no time to do anything beyond a slide tackle.
Only instead of a clean move to get the ball away, this one was mistimed. Desperate. The ball-carrier’s momentum was still strong, and when Ryan slid the boy crashed right into him. Hard.
Russ cringed when Ryan caught an elbow to the face. He felt it as if it were happening to him, and his anxiety shot up. There’d been many black eyes and cuts and bruises throughout Ryan’s childhood. He was a growing boy, and Russ and Carrie had both understood that sometimes kids just needed to go through those things.
A black eye wasn’t much to worry about, and the fact that Jake didn’t tense beside him was telling. The boys were a tangle of limbs, until the forward, number seven, got up. Russ expected Ryan to follow soon after. But he didn’t. He lay on the ground, holding his knee.
Russ’s heart stopped. The whistle was blown and the coach rushed out onto the field, but not before Russ was already halfway out of the stands.
As he watched Ryan lying there, a tear tracing down his cheek, Russ didn’t feel like he was slipping any longer.
He felt like he’d lost hold completely.