**Here’s episode 3. You can catch up by following this link. Enjoy!**
Kyle had a date.
I was weirdly edgy and restless. I’d grown used to hanging out with him in the evening, winding down, shooting the shit, enjoying our fire and our pond. The reason for the hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach was as easily explained as that. For weeks we’d been spending our evenings together, and since I didn’t get that tonight, everything felt off. Unsettled.
I tried to remember what I’d done before Kyle. After a shower and dinner, I used to sit down in front of the TV and watch whatever until I was tired enough to sleep. But there was nothing on TV tonight. Nothing to hold my interest anyway. I flicked aimlessly through the channels. All the way up to the top until they started over, and then did it again. And again. My agitation grew because what the hell? A few weeks with Kyle and I suddenly couldn’t entertain myself anymore. That was bullshit.
The phone rang, loud in the room, and I scrambled to answer it. I was stupidly pleased when I saw Kyle’s face on the screen. It was a shot I’d playfully snapped, and the firelight danced on his features, making his eyes shine.
“H-hey. Uh.” Kyle’s voice shook, and I sat up straight. “Uh, can you come get me?”
I was on my feet before I even thought about it. “Yeah. Of course. What’s the matter?”
Kyle drew a ragged breath. “He, uh…he didn’t understand the word no. I got away but…” I heard a small whimper. “I need a lift.”
Rage boiled in my veins but I managed to keep it out of my voice. “I’m coming.”
“Shit. Lift. I should have called a Lyft or an Uber or…never mind, Asher. I’ll just–”
“No!” My voice came out loud and harsh, and I softened it immediately. “I’m coming. Are you somewhere safe?”
“Yeah.” He blew out a breath, and I knew I didn’t imagine the relief in that one word. “I’m at a diner. Plenty of people. I’m okay.”
Thank God for that. “Which one?”
He told me, his voice a little surer, and I relaxed.
“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. Okay?”
“Okay. Thanks, Ash.”
I drove faster than I should have, and maybe ran a red light or two, but I was anxious to get to him. I didn’t like the way he sounded, and I was worried. Whatever that rat bastard had done to him had shaken him up, and I’d be sure the asshole got what he deserved. After I made sure Kyle was okay.
The diner was brightly lit, and I saw him the moment I pulled open the door. I beelined right for him, and he looked up as I approached. The tears in his eyes were a surprise, but the utter relief I saw on his face was a gift. I grabbed his wrist as soon as I got close enough, and yanked him out of the chair and right into my arms. I squeezed him tightly, pressing his body into mine, and held him. His breathing was harsh against my neck, but he hugged me back just as tightly. I rubbed up and down his spine, wanting to soothe.
He made a noise and I literally felt him calm and settle under my touch. After a moment, I chanced a whisper into his hair. “You okay?”
“Yeah.” Another breath shuddered out, ghosting on my skin, and it made me shiver. He sucked in a breath and then eased out of my hold. “I’m all right.”
I looked down at him, and that’s when I noticed the red mark on his cheek. I grabbed his chin, and narrowed my eyes as I tilted his face.
“I’ll kill the fucker,” I growled.
“Hey, no.” Kyle wrapped a hand around my wrist, and buried the fingers of his other hand in my shirt. “He didn’t hit me.”
My scoff let him know I didn’t believe him.
He gave me a tremulous smile, and something else, some other emotion I couldn’t name, seeped into his eyes. “He didn’t. I swear. I fell when I was running away. This wasn’t him.”
I released my hold on Kyle’s chin, and then slid that hand around the back of his neck, holding him lightly. I stared at him, and I saw the truth of it in his eyes. Okay then. Maybe the asshole hadn’t hit Kyle, but that didn’t mean he didn’t deserve retribution.
“What happened?” I asked softly.
Kyle shrugged, and his expression turned sad. “Just…I don’t know. We were getting along fine, and then he was suddenly all over me. I said no, but he didn’t seem to think I meant it. I finally managed to get him off me and left. But he drove, so I was stuck and…” He shrugged again. “Can we go home?”
“Yeah, of course.” I didn’t want to let him go, but I needed to so we could walk to my truck. I pulled away slowly, but stayed close as we headed outside. I opened the door for him, helped him up, and then made sure he was seated before shutting the door and jogging around to the other side. Kyle closed his eyes and leaned back against the seat as I pulled into traffic.
I kept stealing glances at him as I drove. The streetlights flashed across his face, temporarily lighting up his features. He looked like an angel, his skin flawless and perfect, his dark lashes resting against his cheeks. I wanted to reach out and touch him, rub my thumb along the sharp crease of his cheekbone, or across the fullness of his bottom lip.
What the hell?
I was grateful he was okay. That’s all this was. Just relief that he was well and whole and hadn’t been hurt.
Even as I thought it, I knew that was wrong. I was grateful he was okay, but that’s wasn’t all it was. It took me the last five minutes of our journey to put a name to the feelings swimming around in my gut.
Holy fuck, I had feelings for Kyle.
I pulled into the driveway and stopped a little harder than necessary. The jerk of the truck shook him, and he sat up straight. He blinked as he peered around, and then turned a smile on me.
“Thanks for coming to get me. I really appreciate it. I needed you. To come for me, I mean.”
He opened the door and hopped down before I could say anything and I scrambled after him, dogging his steps up onto his porch. He shot me a curious glance, but let me take his keys from him and open his door. Kyle sighed wearily as he toed off his shoes, and I hung his keys on the little hook by the door where I knew he liked to keep them.
“You need anything?”
Kyle shook his head, then winced a little. “Maybe some ibuprofen. And sleep.”
“Go lie down,” I ordered, already heading for the kitchen. “I’ll be there in a minute.”
He gave me a confused look, but did as I said. I got a bottle of water out of his fridge, then put some ice in a plastic bag and wrapped it in a dish towel. After a stop in the bathroom for the pain killer, I headed into his bedroom. Kyle was just pulling on his T-shirt, and I got a glimpse of his smooth stomach before it disappeared beneath the cotton. He slipped under the covers before he looked up and noticed me there.
I handed him the pills and water, and watched him take them before I sat on the edge of the mattress and held the ice to his face. Kyle gasped at the cold, and then gave me a small, sweet smile.
“It’s really not that bad.”
I shrugged one shoulder. “This will help. You don’t want it to swell or bruise.”
Kyle put his hand over mine where I held the ice pack and I felt electricity dance along my skin. He squeezed my fingers, and then I slowly slid my hand free.
“Thanks for taking care of me.”
“Always.” The word was out of my mouth before I thought it, and Kyle’s dark gaze widened at it. But he didn’t say anything. And neither did I. I didn’t want to take it back, but I didn’t know how to go forward either. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know if I should.
“Make sure you lock the door on your way out.”
I was being dismissed. Part of me rebelled at the thought, wanting to stay and make sure he was okay. But the other part realized that Kyle wanted some time alone. And I didn’t know what to do with myself in the moment anyway. I stood, and then before I could second guess myself, leaned down and kissed his forehead.
“Sleep well. I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said gruffly, and then I turned and left.
It wasn’t until I was back in my own house that I let myself think about what happened and what I was feeling. The jealousy earlier tonight that I’d played off as an interruption of my routine. The swoop in my stomach every time he smiled at me. The way he smelled and the way I loved listening to him ramble. It all coalesced into one shining realization.
I sat down hard on my couch, letting the thought seep into my brain and settled there.
I wasn’t straight. I was bisexual. And I wanted Kyle.