Authors: Garrett Leigh
5032 Capital Circle SW
Suite 2, PMB# 279
Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of author imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
© 2014 Garrett Leigh.
© 2014 G.D. Leigh.
Cover content is for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted on the cover is a model.
All rights reserved. This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of international copyright law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines, and/or imprisonment. Any eBook format cannot be legally loaned or given to others. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886, USA, or http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/.
Digital ISBN: 978-1-62798-292-4
Printed in the United States of America
For Big G and the Mini Gs, as ever, with love…
Paula, Nic, and Carla… partners in crime :)
Loss of brain function can occur even without much visible damage.
Eleven little words that struck a fear in me beyond any fear I’d ever felt before. Inside I was cowed in the corner, screaming, and yet somehow, I was still by his side.
been busy while I’d been gone. I stood in front of the shiny new door to his apartment and wondered for a moment if I’d come home to the right place. Then I remembered the coarse message he’d sent me a few days ago, telling me in no uncertain terms what a bitch the new door had been to fit. A separate message—perhaps an afterthought—told me he’d left a key on top of the frame.
I reached for it and turned it over in my hand. It was silver and shiny. The old one was battered brass, bruised and familiar. It felt heavy in my pocket as I slid the new key into the lock. I considered the fate of the old key now that the door it belonged to was no longer there. Pete said I pondered the strangest things.
The new door swung open with a whisper. It felt odd after two years with a door that crunched like a gearbox. The new door was like a ghost, all shimmery and silent. I wasn’t sure I liked it.
A wry grin crept over my face.
Four days without Pete and you’re worried about a door?
I took a tentative step forward. The door closed with a quiet click, and this time, I paid it no heed.
I glanced around the apartment. It was quiet and still. No TV, stereo, or signs of life. That was no surprise. I was a few hours early. Despite hating every moment of the flight between Chicago and Philadelphia, I’d caught an earlier plane home. Pete wasn’t expecting me, but I could feel in my bones that he was home. The invisible cord between us pulled me along, and a minute later, I found him passed out in our bed. He was asleep on his stomach, something he only did when he was alone or too tired to notice. It used to make me uneasy—sometimes it still did—but not today. Today his bare back was exactly what I needed to see. I sat down by his head and brushed my fingers over his stubbly jaw. He didn’t stir, even when I leaned down and breathed in the clean smell of his skin.
His back caught my attention again. I loved his back, perhaps because I so rarely got to see it like this—naked and still. A while ago he’d considered getting some new ink on his back, something small on his shoulder, but I’d refused to do it. I’d draw him anything he wanted, anywhere he wanted—just not there. His back was amazing—smooth, olive-brown, and flawless. It didn’t need anything else.
I leaned down and pressed a soft kiss between his shoulder blades. Dr. Gilbert, the therapist who had the pleasure of dissecting my messed-up brain, told me every week that I should
the things I wanted to do—trust myself to do them—before I overthought them. I’d wanted to kiss Pete’s back for years. Now seemed as good a time as any.
His warm skin felt good, so good I did it again, and again, until he began to stir. I pulled back and waited as his arm fumbled for me, but he didn’t open his eyes. Instead, he rumbled out a chuckle that came from deep in his belly.
“I must be fucking dreaming if you just did what I think you did.”
His voice was gruff and sleepy, but it had been four days since I’d heard it. My chest felt warm. “Open your eyes and see.”
He didn’t answer with words. Instead, he rolled over and pulled me on top of him. I went willingly and kissed him until he needed to breathe. When he pulled away, he noticed how damp my clothes were. I’d gotten caught in the rain on the walk from the L, one of those autumn showers that washed away the humidity and made everything smell fresh and clean. I liked that kind of rain; it felt good on my face. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get home, I would have stood in it longer.
Pete shoved me away, feigning irritation, but his sleepy eyes belied his humor. “You’re soaked.”
He blinked a couple of times and rubbed his face like he wasn’t entirely awake. I laid my forehead against his and laughed. It felt so good to be home.
Beneath me, Pete shifted. He was half-asleep, but I knew what he wanted. Since the first time I’d ever laid a hand on him, he’d always been a sucker for skin-to-skin contact. He tugged on my shirt with clumsy hands, and I was more than happy to pull it over my head. He stilled when he had me where he wanted me, and his breathing became deep and even again. I raised my head from the crook of his neck and eyed him. I felt like I needed to get closer, like I could climb inside his skin and still not be close enough. After a moment of deliberation, I reached for the one part of him that was
Pete was the master of the slow, torturous fuck. The way he played my body was something I still couldn’t quite believe. It wasn’t often I caught him in the mood to be on the receiving end, but as I watched him drift in that hazy world between awake and asleep, I knew that now was my chance to indulge him. I worked him over real slow with my hand. He hummed and shifted a few times, but when he came it was with a quiet sigh, and he was snoring again before I’d even let go of his dick.
It was mesmerizing to see him unconsciously unravel. I could have watched him for hours, but as I stared at his beautiful sleeping form, something in the back of my mind refused to rest. I ignored it for as long as I could, but the call in my head was persistent, so loud there was only one way to silence it. I kissed Pete’s chest and lingered over the biggest star he had etched on his skin, the one right over his heart, before I got up and left him. I padded through the apartment and retrieved my sketchbook from the bag I’d dumped by the door. Like fate, the book fell open to the most recent drawing I’d done of the mysterious baby girl who haunted my sketches. I stared at her, like her face could tell me what I needed to know, but the antsy feeling under my skin persisted until I turned the page on her face and my pencil touched clean paper.
Like so many times before, I was lost then, detached from my surroundings until the scratching of lead on the page petered out. Relieved, I felt better as I sat back and scrutinized the unfamiliar face of the young woman. The way I’d drawn her made her seem like a mystical princess. The brief time I’d spent in Philadelphia already felt like a lifetime ago, and in the darkening early evening, it was hard to believe she was the same girl I’d seen this morning. I had no doubt it was her, though. I’d recognize her anywhere. Her image would be imprinted on my brain forever, because she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen.
believe how long four days could seem. There’d been times in the past when the world had stood still—long days at work and never-ending night shifts—but the four days Ash spent in Philadelphia were the longest four days of my life.
It felt different from the three weeks he’d been missing last winter. If someone had told me back then it was possible for me to love him more, I’d have laughed my ass off. Shit like that was ridiculous, right?
Yeah, more fool me
. Ash wasn’t the same man who’d run away from me back then, and if the past year or so had taught me anything, it was that whatever life threw at us, there was
room for me to love him a little bit more.
And four days without him was the ultimate lesson.
Being without him was torture and it drove me quietly mad, even to the point where I’d dreamed about him coming home early, kissing my back, and jacking me off. At least, I thought I was dreaming until I stumbled out of the bedroom to find him on the couch, shirtless, chewing on his favorite pencil.
He sensed my presence, shoved his sketchbook into its customary place under the couch, and turned to face me.
His lazy grin was fucking amazing.
I glanced at the window, gauging the time. It was still light. For the first time in his life, he was early. “How long have you been home?”
His smirk remained, and I realized I’d been conscious enough at some point for my dirty dreams to become reality.
I stared at him for a long moment. I felt like I should throw my arms around him and tell him how much I’d missed him, but I didn’t. Instead, I mumbled some shit about needing a shower and held out my hand. He took it without hesitation, and after I’d undressed him, he stood with his palms flat on the tiled wall while I reacquainted myself with his body. It wasn’t sexual—the time for that would come later—and it wasn’t that I’d forgotten every muscle, scar, and perfect flaw I had mapped in my head. It had just been four long days. I needed to put my hands on him, and hold him under the spray until the water ran cold.
Later, Ash unpacked while I got dressed. He threw a balled-up hoodie at me. “What do you want to do tonight?”
I pulled some socks over my feet. It was the first time I’d been able to in days. Somehow, he’d taken every pair we owned away with him. “Whatever you want is fine.”
He slung some more dirty clothes across the room and retrieved a T-shirt out of the dresser. After he’d slipped it over his head, he shrugged. “Are you working tomorrow?”
“Yeah, at dawn, so don’t let me get drunk.”
Ash snorted. It had been quite some time since either of us had gotten tanked. He’d been on and off various prescription drugs, and I hadn’t been in the mood. It was hard to go wild when the person you loved was going through hell.
“Do you want to walk around and get some food?”
He knew me so well. It was the middle of September and summer had ended weeks ago, but the weather was still warm enough to make aimless wandering around the city one of my favorite things to do. Add in some downtime with Ash and the chance to fill my belly, and I was a happy man. “Sure,” I said. “You ready?”
We ambled along the streets, shooting the breeze and catching up. I didn’t have much to tell him, because despite knowing he didn’t want me to, I’d spent the majority of the past four days at work. I’d played pool with Joe one night, but that was about it, and Ash wasn’t fooled by my halfhearted efforts to conceal it; he rolled his eyes and moved on. We’d walked all the way to the south of Lincoln Park when I finally asked him what he’d got up to in Philadelphia.