Authors: Meg Perry
Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Fiction, #Gay, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Genre Fiction, #Lgbt, #Gay Fiction
Scott was skeptical. “I’m not sure Dave would respond well to that.”
“He may not. But I have to try. And - I was thinking about going tomorrow.”
“You could call him, you know. You don’t have to drive down there for what will likely be a five-minute conversation. If that.”
“I know. But I want to see him. I need to tell him in person, not to hide behind a telephone.”
“He might not be home tomorrow. He spends a lot of weekends helping Jeff and Val at the farm. Or at least he used to.”
“Oh.” Ethan looked disappointed. “How about Monday?”
“He’ll probably be home on Monday.”
“No, I meant - what about you? Can you come on Monday?”
Scott was horrified. “
“I don’t want to go alone. I’d really like you to come with me.” Ethan studied Scott’s expression. “But if you don’t want to…”
“No, no.” But Scott’s brain was groaning,
. “If you want me to come, I’ll come.”
Ethan looked like he’d been told that Santa was real after all. “That’s great. Thank you so much.” He leaned over and kissed Scott sweetly.
Scott kissed him back, thinking,
Damn, damn, damn
Monday, June 29
Ethan hadn’t spent the night on Saturday. After another round of sex, he’d gone home, telling Scott he’d see him early Monday morning.
Sunday passed with no word from Ethan or the police and no action in the chat room. Scott took one of his new reads to the beach and had a pleasant day - when he could keep the idea of visiting Dave Brodie out of his mind.
When Ethan picked Scott up at 8:30 Monday morning, he was disgustingly cheerful. Scott said, “I still think you should have just called him.”
“No. This sort of thing is best done in person.”
“I think it’s a bad idea.”
“I think your involvement with the cops is a bad idea. We’re even.”
Scott hardly thought that an apology for a ten-year-old breakup was equivalent to bringing a killer to justice, but he held his tongue.
However, the closer they got to Oceanside, the more Scott was convinced that this was an epically awful idea. Dave was as likely to shut the door in their face as anything, and they would have driven all this way for nothing. He glanced over at Ethan, who appeared serene and confident. “Are you not nervous about this?”
“No.” Ethan smiled. “I thought I might be, but I’m not. This feels right.”
Scott looked out the passenger window and muttered, “Glad it does to someone.”
“You said you and Dave had gotten along.”
“Sure. At first. But I wasn’t as close to him as you were. For one thing, Jamie and I were only together a little over a year.”
“Yeah.” Ethan looked pensive. “Seven years for me.”
“Time enough for him to feel like a dad to you.”
Ethan’s voice was soft. “Yeah.”
“As you’ve heard, my dad is an involved parent. So I guess I didn’t need Dave the same way that you did.”
Ethan glanced at him. “You didn’t have to come.”
“You wanted me to come.” That was the
reason Scott was here.
Ethan shot him a grateful smile. “Yeah. I did. Thank you.”
The house looked just as Scott remembered - trim and neatly kept. The palm trees on either side of the front walk had grown some. Ethan climbed out of the car and said, “Wow. Those trees were new.” There was regret in Ethan’s tone. Scott was struck by an awful realization.
Ethan wasn’t over Jamie.
. What would that mean for Scott and Ethan? Because the reason that Scott had made this trip was because Ethan wanted him to.
He wanted to make Ethan happy. Another awful realization - as Scott was positive that Ethan didn’t return the sentiment.
Scott sighed as they climbed the porch. Ethan glanced at him. “It’ll be okay.”
“Hm? Oh, sure.”
Ethan rang the doorbell, and they waited. A minute later it opened.
To Scott’s eyes, Dave hadn’t changed a bit. He froze when he saw Ethan, his hand on the doorknob, his mouth slightly open. Then he seemed to collect himself. “Ethan.” Dave glanced at Scott, and disbelief sprang to life on his face. “
Scott smiled weakly. “Hi, Mr. Brodie.”
Dave turned back to Ethan and said simply, “What the hell?”
Scott couldn’t have expressed it any better himself. What the hell were they doing here?
Ethan said softly, “It’s good to see you, sir.”
Dave crossed his arms and studied them for a minute, then flipped the deadbolt on the iron gate. “I guess you’d better come in.”
They walked into the living room, as a skinny kid with light brown hair walked in from the kitchen. “Grampa? Who -”
. Scott thought Colin’s resemblance to Jeff was growing stronger. Colin stopped in his tracks. “Mr.
Ethan said softly, “Hi, Colin.”
It was obvious to Scott that Colin didn’t recognize Ethan. Colin said politely, “Hello.”
Dave said, “Jeff and Val are homeschooling Colin. We’re having a history lesson today.”
Ethan winced. “Oh. Crap. We didn’t mean to interrupt anything.”
“It’s okay.” Dave said to Colin, “Go read that section about Chiang Kai-Shek. I’ll be back in a bit.”
“Yes, sir.” Colin left, with a backward glance.
Scott asked, “Homeschooling in the summer?”
“Year-round, pretty much.” Dave indicated the sofa. “Sit. Can I get you anything to drink?”
Ethan said, “No, sir, thank you.”
Scott could have used a glass of water himself. Or a slug of Jack Daniels. He kept quiet. This was Ethan’s solo. Scott was only the accompanist.
Dave sat in the armchair perpendicular to the sofa and leaned back, drumming his fingers on the upholstery. “So.”
Ethan said quickly, “I’m here to apologize.”
Dave lifted an eyebrow. “You’ve already apologized to Jamie.”
“Yes, sir. But I feel like I owe an apology to the rest of the family too.” Ethan gripped the edge of the sofa cushion, his knuckles white. Scott thought,
Now he’s nervous
“What I did to Jamie was terrible. I know I hurt him badly and that hurt all of you. I’m so sorry. I could plead being young and stupid, but that’s no excuse.” Ethan took a deep breath. “You were my family, the best one I ever had, and I disappointed you all.” His voice and gaze had never wavered, but now his voice did. “Please forgive me.”
Dave’s expression relaxed. “You
young. And you’re right, it’s not an excuse, but it is a reason. We all have regrets from our past.” He gave Ethan a wry half-smile. “It took guts for you to come here.”
Ethan bit his lip. “I had to.”
Dave nodded. “I respect that. Consider yourself forgiven.”
Ethan released his grip on the cushion. “
you. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.”
Dave’s gaze flicked to Scott; Scott thought he seemed amused. He said, “I wasn’t aware the two of you were acquainted.”
Scott said, “Um -”
Ethan jumped in. “I - ah - I’ve moved to Los Angeles. I got a faculty position at USC. Two weeks ago, I went to an author reading at a bookstore and met Scott there.”
“I see.” Now Dave was definitely amused. “I’d like to have eavesdropped on the conversation where you figured out what you had in common.”
Ethan blushed. Scott scrubbed his hands through his hair and said, “You’d have enjoyed the one where I told Jamie about it, too.”
That made Dave laugh. “I’m sure I would have. How are your parents, Scott?”
“They’re well, thank you.”
Dave was still addressing Scott. “So you two are - what, exactly?”
Ethan blushed deeper. He seemed to be leaving this to Scott. Scott said, “Dating. For two weeks.”
Dave leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms, regarding them both with barely suppressed hilarity. “You know what? That could work.”
Scott deadpanned, “That’s what Jamie said.”
Dave grinned. “You sure you wouldn’t like a drink?”
Scott said, “Water would be great, thanks.”
Ethan seemed to find his voice again. “Yeah. I’d like some water, please.”
“Be right back.” Dave disappeared into the kitchen; Scott heard him speak to Colin. He returned with two bottles of water and sat back down. “So, Scott, you got pulled into one of Jamie’s investigations.”
“I did.” Scott grimaced. “I was there when it happened.”
“I heard. That must have been a shock.”
“That’s putting it mildly.”
Ethan looked at Scott. “I wish he hadn’t gotten involved. When I got tangled up in that case two years ago, it didn’t end very well.”
Dave lifted an eyebrow at Scott, who decided to keep his mouth shut. Dave said, “Are you still rowing, Ethan?”
“Yes, sir. I joined the rowing club in LA.”
Colin chose that moment to stick his head into the living room. “Grampa, can I start on the timeline?”
Ethan scrambled to his feet. “We’d better let you get back to school.”
Dave stood, too. Apparently, he wasn’t going to argue. “Yeah, we’re on a schedule. But I’m glad you came.”
Ethan smiled. “Me too.”
Scott shook hands with Dave. “It’s good to see you again.”
“You too, Scott.” Dave looked back and forth between the two of them and raised an eyebrow at Scott again. “Good luck.”
Scott huffed a laugh. “Thanks.”
Ethan held his hand out to Dave, who took it then pulled Ethan into a hug. Ethan responded quickly, wrapping his arms around Dave. Dave thumped him on the back and let him go. “Take care, Ethan.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you.”
When they got to the car, Ethan nearly collapsed into the driver’s seat. Scott said mildly, “That went well.”
“It did, didn’t it?” Ethan turned his head to look at Scott. “I really do appreciate you coming with me.”
“I’m glad I came.” As Scott said it, he realized it was true. He’d liked Dave; it was good to see that he was well. “Are you going to tell Jamie about this?”
“Um - I think I should.”
Scott waited until they were on the 5 and into Camp Pendleton before he broached the difficult subject. “I didn’t realize you still had feelings for Jamie.”
“What?” Ethan gave him a sharp glance. “I don’t still have feelings for Jamie.”
“You sure about that?”
.” Ethan frowned. “Why do you think I do?”
“I think if you didn’t you wouldn’t have needed to make this trip. You said it yourself, this was your family.”
Ethan shook his head vigorously. “You’re wrong. I feel bad for the way I treated Jamie, and I wish I could change things. But that doesn’t mean I have
for him. I don’t. He was my first love, and he’ll always be special to me for that reason. Don’t you feel that way about your first love?”
Scott frowned out the passenger window. “I don’t think I’ve had it yet.”
Scott could feel Ethan’s surprise. He was quiet for a minute then said gently, “Jamie might have been my first love, but he’s sure as hell not going to be my last.”
Scott simply nodded. He wasn’t sure he could trust his voice.
When they got back to West Hollywood, Ethan pulled up in front of Scott’s building. “I’m going to see Jamie now and get this over with. Dinner tomorrow at my place? I’ll cook.”
“Sure. I’ll bring the wine.”
“Okay, make it a white. We’ll have pasta. See you then.”
Scott hesitated for a minute, but Ethan didn’t make any move toward him for a kiss. “Okay. See you then.” He got out of the car and Ethan sped away.
Scott watched him go, then trudged into his building.
Monday evening, I was on the bus when my phone rang. I checked the caller ID.
I answered, “For someone who said I’d never see you again, you’re turning up an awful lot.”
“I know. I’m sorry. There’s just one more thing I want to talk to you about. Are you still at the library?”
“No, I’m on the way home.”
“Oh. Um - can I come over?”
“Where are you?”
“Parked on campus.”
Good; I’d beat him home. I’d have plenty of time to warn Pete. I said, “Fine. 1250 17th Street, Santa Monica. Turn left off Wilshire. It’s a row of white townhouses on your immediate left.” I would
invite him to dinner.
“Thanks. See you in a few.”
When I got home, I found a note from Pete on the kitchen table. “Had to run to Trader Joe’s for a few things. Back soon. xoxo”
I peeked out the back door. Pete had taken the Jeep, so he’d probably be back any minute. I sent him a quick text -
Ethan coming over, we’ll be on the deck
- and went upstairs to change clothes but had only dropped my computer bag in the office when our doorbell rang.
I opened the door and crossed my arms. “This has to stop.”
Ethan winced sheepishly. “One more time. I wanted to tell you what I did before you heard it from someone else.”
“Oh, dear God. What have you done?”
“Um - can I come inside?”
I sighed. “Sure.” I closed the door behind Ethan, shaking my head. “Go up to the kitchen. We’ll talk on the back deck.”
Ethan climbed the stairs and looked around appreciatively. “This is nice.”
“Thanks. Want something to drink?”
“Water would be great.”
I procured two bottles of water from the fridge and opened the back door. “Come on out.” Since he’d driven, Pete would return to the house from the back. I wanted him to see us sitting outside as soon as he got here.
Ethan took one of the chairs. “This is a terrific setup.”
“Thanks. It was Pete’s great-uncle’s place. You’re stalling.”
Ethan laughed a little, playing with the cap of his water bottle. “You’re right.” He looked up at me but was cringing a bit. “I went to see your dad. Scott went with me.”
I’d imagined a lot of nutty things in the past three minutes, but
wasn’t one of them. When I regained my powers of speech I asked, “
“To apologize to him for letting the family down when I broke up with you.”
“And you took
“I didn’t want to go by myself. I know he didn’t want to go, but he did it because I wanted him to.”
Hoo boy. And here I’d been concerned about how Ethan would manage Scott. Looked like I’d been worrying about the wrong guy. “I can imagine the expression on my dad’s face.”
“Yeah…” Ethan smiled. “I was afraid he’d shut the door in my face.”
“He wouldn’t do that.”
Ethan nodded. “Colin was there, having a history lesson. He looks so much like Jeff.”
“He didn’t recognize you, did he?” The last time Colin saw Ethan, he was barely three.
“No.” Ethan took a long drink of water. “Anyway. Your family was my family, those years we were together. I cared a lot about your dad. About everyone. And being back in California - I felt like I couldn’t move on until I’d addressed this thing that was still hanging over my head.”
Ethan’s instincts were good. My family
been hurt when he broke up with me. I said, “Well. That took balls that I didn’t know you had.”
He huffed a laugh. “I wasn’t nervous until I was actually sitting on your dad’s sofa. It felt - I knew it was the right thing to do.” He dug his toe into the plank of the deck. “I need to finish my unfinished business.”
“So you can move on - with Scott?”
He looked up at me again, smiling almost shyly. “Would that be a bad thing?”
“Not at all. I told Scott, I think you two are pretty well suited.”
“I think we are too.” He began the toe-digging again. “He thought I still had feelings for you.”
“I hope you disabused him of that notion.”
“I tried. I don’t know if he believed me.”
I sighed. “Scott’s not the jealous type, but he won’t waste his time on someone with divided loyalties.”
“Nor should he. He’s really…”
Pete’s Jeep made the turn into the alley and pulled up underneath us. Ethan said, “Crap.”
Pete got out of the Jeep, came halfway up the steps and stopped, observing us with wry amusement. “Hi, honey, I’m home.”
“Hi. As you can see, we have company.”
“Indeed.” Pete came the rest of the way up the steps. “Ethan.”
Ethan stood and held out his hand. “Pete. It’s good to see you again. Congratulations on the wedding.”
I said, “Ethan went to see my dad.”
Pete’s expression was mystified. “Why?”
“To apologize.” Ethan shrugged. “It was unfinished business.”
I said, “Ethan’s clearing the way to move forward with Scott.”
“Ah.” Pete pulled the leg rest section of my Adirondack chair from the front of my chair to the side of it and perched on it. “Good luck.”
“Thanks.” Ethan stood. “I’ll get out of your way.”
We saw Ethan out the front door. Pete said, “Well.
I said, “You don’t know the half of it. When Ethan went to Dad’s, he took Scott with him.”
Pete started to laugh. “Good Lord. I can just imagine the look on your dad’s face.”
“Right?” I sighed. “I hope he’s serious about moving on with Scott.”
Pete stopped laughing. “So do I.”