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Authors: Cherie Noel

Tags: #Contemporary

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BOOK: Worth a Thousand Words
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Hustling over to the closet, Adrien pulled out his Renaissance Faire find—from Goodwill, thank you very much—and laid the pretty dress out on the bed. Then he went back for the coronet, which he’d placed all by itself on the closet shelf to protect it from possible accidents. As he lifted it down, Michael Clarke Duncan came streaking into the room to zip across Adrien’s bare feet. He screamed, jumping back. The coronet slipped from his fingers, bounced off the edge of a hangar and flew in a perfect arc to smash itself against the edge of his dresser.

“Dammit Michael, where were you when I needed a cuddle earlier? You only show up to help me break stuff now? Is that what this is? I didn’t make Sam leave, so don’t take your bad temper out on me!”

Oh, good Christ. He was yelling at a fat, vindictive tom-cat as if Michael were actually going to respond. He cringed. Avoiding the broken glass by the dresser, Adrien picked his way back to the bed.

He used the special underwear Tyrone had shown him where to buy to tuck his penis away, and then pulled on his hose and under-shift before slipping the dress over his head. Thank god he had a few drag-queens in his circle of friends, or he’d never understand how to do things like tuck his dick away. The makeup he could ask LaTrece or the Avon girl about, but lessons in how to smuggle one’s equipment could be a little harder to come by.

He’d just finished lacing up the front of the dress when the doorbell rang. Adrien hurried to answer, hoping Benji would—for once—not have his antennae fine-tuned for unhappiness in his friends.

Chapter Eight

By the time Rose showed up, Devon was a snotty faced, sweating mess. Catherine Marie had him booked in for four more appointments in the next two weeks. She said the intensive schedule would help him deal with the stress of the holiday. He pictured one of those meme things on Facebook… a picture of him as he was right now, looking like a complete basket case, with Betsy the well-hung wolf killer snarling in the back ground and cheery looking letters reading off: Get Therapy They Said. It’ll Be Fun They Said.

Rose took one look at him and turned into the kitchen, gesturing impatiently for Mrs. Simpson. Devon called out to him.

“For Fu—Pete’s Sake, Rose, she can’t tell you anything. Patient-Client confidentiality factors here. You are aware of those, aren’t you?”

Popping back around the corner of the kitchen door for a moment, Rose flew him two birds. Devon laughed, maybe harder than he should, but it felt good to just deal with Rose being Rose. Anything was better than tearing his emotional guts out and laying them out for inspection on Mrs. Simpson’s dining room table. The woman was scarier all by herself in a forty-five minute time span than all the insurgents he encountered during his entire last tour of duty in the middle east. He blurted out the first thing he thought without following where the thought led.

“Rose. We need to go. I have to go find a costume, and then I gotta get Dieterman set up at my place. I—can I crash with you for a few days? I thought I’d be staying with Adrien when I said Dieterman could use my place.” Devon stopped there, not wanting to delve back into the whole sticky morass of crap he’d been wading through with Catherine Marie.

“Michael, come get your cocoa, dear. I’ve got it in a to-go cup, and there’s a little bag of those cookies you like as well. Why don’t you go wait in the car. I need a moment with Devon before he leaves. You can talk to him about all of this tomorrow, alright? Michael, don’t you badger him, or I’ll call Mrs. Jimenez and let her deal with you.”

Rose straightened up, turning his head back toward the kitchen entry.
“Oh, hey, Mrs. Simpson there’s no need to pull out the big guns. I promise I’ll behave. And thanks for the cookies.” There was a loud smacking kissy noise, and then Rose hightailed it to the door in a waft of chocolate scented air. “See you downstairs in a few, man. Wash your face or something, Sarge. You really do look like hell.”
The door clicked shut on Rose’s last word. Mrs. Simpson came back into the dining room, carrying the same two mugs as earlier, this time filled with more of the cinnamon scented cocoa. Both mugs sported a fluffy whipped cream dollop on top and a red and white candy cane resting against the side. Devon tilted his head at them. He didn’t recall her taking the mugs when she got up to answer the door and then dragged Rose into the kitchen, but he’d been busy trying to clear his face of the worst ravages of his little breakdown.
Catherine Marie set the mugs down with a little clink, and then reached into her pocket, pulling out a travel pack of baby wipes. She grinned slyly at him as she tossed the packet to him. “Weren’t these like a shower on the go when you were deployed?”
Devon found himself startled into laughter again, and this time the feeling ran through him from his head to his toes.
Catherine Marie nudged his mug closer to him. “Wipe your face, and then drink that down. The sugar will make you feel better. You can take the cookies with you, and the candy cane, but you need to drink the hot chocolate now.”
Pulling the baby wipes open, Devon plucked one from the pack and scrubbed at his face. He used four of them before his face felt half-way presentable again. Then he nodded his thanks to his new therapist, and picked up his cocoa. Huh. It was just a whole damn week of new things, wasn’t it? New job, new boyfriend, new therapist… and Dieterman arriving rounded the whole list of new things out. Dieterman was actually his first former soldier to look him up for help. He’d told them all they could always call or email if they needed help, given them lists of numbers to call if things got bad and they couldn’t even get to him.
Maybe the only one he’d forgotten to tell how to get help was himself.


Benji stood shoulder to shoulder with Adrien. They both stared down at the broken bits of Adrien’s coronet strewn across the top of his walnut dresser. They’d painstakingly picked up every piece they could find in hopes that the crowning glory, literally, of Adrien’s costume could be salvaged. Poking at the place where several bits had broken off, Benji shook his head.

“Sugar, this is hopeless. We’d need, like, a Golden Glitter alert and a team of jewelry elves to fix this sad Panda of a tiara in time for the party.”

Adrien laughed ruefully. “Yeah, you’re right, Benji—except it’s a coronet, not a tiara. Tiaras point up and coronets point down. I just really wanted to have the whole outfit, you know?”

Markus swanned in from the hall way to the kitchen, munching on an apple and shaking his head vigorously. “You’re both wrong. Geez. It’s a diadem.” He threw himself dramatically onto the bed in a faux swoon, one pale mocha colored arm thrown over his face. “Dear Lord Above! What where the two of you doing during ancient civ. class? Painting each other’s nails?”

Benji looked started for a split-second. Then he poked the head gear again. Adrien eyed it, his mouth turning down doubtfully. He leaned over to poke Markus in the ribs.

“Okay, smarty pants, what makes—or rather, made this a diadem?”

Markus uncovered his slender oval face, waggling his perfectly shaped brows. “Diadems enclose the head completely and have stuff that dangles down. Tiaras don’t go all the way around the head, and coronets point up.”

Benji snorted. “Damn fashion major would remember every single thing about the accessories.”
Markus sniffed. “Of course.”
Adrien sat down with a thump, missing the bed and ending up sprawled on the floor. Benji smirked at him, bright blue eyes dancing, and Markus peered over the edge of the bed with a faintly concerned frown on his waifish face.
“Heathen. Be careful, or you’ll tear your frock.”
Adrien rolled his eyes.
Benji looked up from his phone, where he’d been busily texting, crowing in delight. “Eureka! Problem solved. Missy says you can borrow the one she got at the Ren-Faire last summer.”
Adrien and Markus exchanged horrified glances. Markus spoke first, his surprisingly deep baritone quaking out her name.
Before Markus finished speaking Adrien squeaked in horror.
“The thirteen year old?”
Benji nodded happily. “She said we can come pick it up right away. Isn’t that great?”
Adrien gulped. Oh hell, now he’d have to borrow whatever monstrosity she was offering, or he’d hurt her feelings. God help him. She’d want to see pictures of him in it too. “Ah, yeah. Great. We’d better get going, then. Don’t want to be late to the party.”
Benji lowered his sandy brown eyebrows. His shoulders stiffened, and his face flushed. “Hey, be nice. She didn’t have to say yes. And you know how much she likes you, bitch.”
Adrien looked down at the floor. “Yeah, I do know. That’s why I’m gonna go get that hideous pink and purple mass of pre-teen-early-teen-hormonal girl ribbon from her. It’s why I’m going to thank her effusively, and wear the damn thing all night. It’s even why I’ll make sure that every picture of me shows me smiling, so she can think about how happy she made me. But I shouldn’t have to pretend to you guys that I want to wear a little girl’s ribbons on a wire diadem instead of the totally fucking cool one I spent every spare moment since Halloween searching for. Can I have that, Benji?”
Benji backed over to the bed as Adrien’s voice rose, crawling half behind Markus. Adrien shook his head. “Never mind me. I’m sorry I yelled. Let’s just go to the damn party—your house first, and then the party.”
Markus and Benji sat stock still on the bed, eyeing him warily. Benji leaned forward, a little frown puckering his forehead.
“Adrien, where’s your guy? The big hottie Michael brought home from the war? I mean—mmmmpf…”
A sudden shifting of limbs had Markus’ hand pressed firmly over Benji’s mouth. Eyes narrowing, Benji lifted a hand, smacking at Markus’ hand. Markus hissed at him, and caught both of Benji’s hands in his long fingered grasp. One hand firmly over his squirming friend’s mouth and the other holding Benji’s hands tight, Markus shrugged at Adrien.
“You look like you’re about to go all ninja-killer on us man. What happened, did you have a fight with tall, dark and sexy?”
Benji’s eyes widened so much above Markus’ hand that he resembled an excited anime character. His jaw moved oddly, and then Markus was pushing him away with all the rapidity of two thirds of their high schools cheerleading squad descending on the newly single quarterback whose girlfriend had been caught cheating with a player from a rival team. The squeals were earsplitting, but the sight of Markus lying prone on the bed again, gagging as he wiped his hand repeatedly on Adrien’s sheets told the full story. Adrien smirked at his friends, shaking his head.
“Benji, you know he’s gonna pay you back for that eventually, right?”
Benji slanted a worried look at Markus, before flipping his hand in a dismissive manner. “Yeah, sure, but why worry about that now? OMG, this is serious. Did he actually de-boyfriend you over the video of you wanking to the sound of his name?”
Markus sat back up so fast he nearly slammed his head into Benji’s shoulder. “What? OMG, I knew I should have gone to Starbucks this morning. One day without my wi-fi and I’m redundant.”
Benji slapped a hand back against Markus’ chest. “Listen up, Doctor Poo, this isn’t about you. It’s about poor Adrien being made a laughingstock and driving away the best thing that ever happened to him because he just can’t control his rampant slutty urges!”
Adrien rolled his eyes. “Whoa. I am not rampantly slutty. I was stroking in the privacy of my own bedroom when Sam busted in with his damn iPad and caught me—in the act.”
Markus and Benji exchanged another fraught gaze. They turned their heads back to him simultaneously. Adrien found himself creeped out yet again by their bizarre mind meld with one another.
Benji spoke first. “Oh, Sam had a sticky little paw in this? That explains everything. That boy has no damn sense at all.”
Markus merely nodded his agreement. Adrien’s eyes got hot and stingy again. He pushed his way between the two on the bed, flopping down on his stomach. He couldn’t see Benji and Markus though, so he rolled over to his back. As he propped himself up on his elbows Adrien noted that Benji’s dog collar and nose were askew.
Hmmm, where was he? Oh, right… describing his horrible fight with Devon. “No. We didn’t fight over the video. Not exactly—he started trying to tell me it wasn’t safe to go out by myself, and that I couldn’t go to the party tonight until he or Michael could take me… and I kinda lost it. Then he lost his ever loving mind. He grabbed me and shook me, like I was a naughty puppy or something. So, I threw him out and told him if he ever wanted there to be an us he’d better bring his sorry ass to Andy’s party tonight. I also told him not to put his damn hands on me unless I ask for them.”
Benji did the big eye thing again. “Ooooh. Definite Glitter Alert.”
Markus glanced down at Adrien, his brown eyes as earnest as Adrien had ever seen them. “Yep. Red Glitter, level three.”
Adrien rolled his eyes again. Jesus, they would feel the need to actually enact an alert over this. And the rest of his mutton-headed friends would hop on the bedazzled damned bandwagon.

Chapter Nine

Catherine Marie, aka Mrs. Simpson, aka owner of the next top Cujo-ite, aka his new therapist, saw Devon to the door with two more to-go cups of cocoa and two little tins filled with cookies.

Mrs. Simpson patted Devon’s arm as she handed over his goodies. “Here you go dear. Make sure if you need to change your appointment that you give me as much notice as possible. I prefer forty-eight hours, but I realize sometimes that’s just not possible. I’ll keep an eye on Adrien when he’s home—I always do. And I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find he’s rather well looked after by his Twinkie Boys. Oh, dear, that’s not what they call themselves… but I can’t recall what their club name is. If you find out, you’d better let me know. In fact, that can be the first half of your assignment for our next session. Find out the name of his little social group, and a little of their history. The second half can be telling him something about your family. Then you can come tell me how all of that felt for you, hmm?”

Devon nodded like a bobble head in the back of a low slung car on an unpaved road. Mrs. Simpson pulled the apartment door open. Betsy pushed past his owner to paw at Devon’s feet, a low whine issuing from his shaggy, muscular throat. Sticking the cookie tins under his arm, Devon balanced both cups of cocoa in one hand via the simple expedient of stacking them and leaning the stack against his shoulder. Once he had a hand freed up, he rubbed Betsy vigorously behind his big, floppy ears.

BOOK: Worth a Thousand Words
4.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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