Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

**Here’s the next installment in the tale of Cody and Jake!**

I didn’t get much time to talk to Jake, so when he was available, I was glued to my phone. Calls weren’t usually an option, but we had an app that allowed us to message. He was the only one I talked to on it, so my body was cued in to the alert tone. It could wake me from the dead of sleep, or pull me from a work zone out. Which meant I never missed the opportunity to talk to him, since we were working on his schedule.

Being deployed meant he was twelve hours ahead of me in time zone, and busy as hell. When Jake was available, I wanted to be able to speak to him.

But inevitably, the conversations got cut off with him saying abruptly he had to go. Almost always. I expected it, but it was still disappointing when it happened. Tonight had been especially hard, since we’d only gotten a little more than an hour. I tossed my phone onto the coffee table and buried my face in my hands. I wouldn’t cry, but I was frustrated and sad. I missed him so badly. And even though I hated that our conversations were often cut short, at least I knew he was alive and well. That’s what mattered.

“Cody!” The deep voice registered in my brain a second after I realized the front door had opened. I knew I locked it which meant my brother had used his key.

“What are you doing here?” I griped. “And you could have knocked.”

Cole just grinned, and shook something at me. It took a second to recognize my jacket. “Come on. Get bundled up.”

I scowled. “No. What?”

“Yes,” he said, that grin growing even wider. “We’re going to Lights on the Lake. It’s one of the walking nights and we’re going.”

I groaned and flopped backward. No way was I going. It wasn’t that I didn’t love it, because I did. Every year, the Parks and Rec department set up the animated light show along the parkway that ran next to the lake. Most of the time, it was for cars to drive slowly along, with Christmas carols playing on the car’s radio. A few times during the season, they opened it for pedestrians. It was bitterly cold, but so much fun to be walking through the lights.

But I wouldn’t do it without Jake.

“No. Cole, come on. It’s too cold. It’s probably icy. I don’t want to.”

Cole wouldn’t be dissuaded. He was bigger than me, and spent far more time in the gym, so it was easy to grab my arm and haul me to my feet. I protested again and shoved him hard, but he only stumbled back one step. I turned away, but before I could get far, my brother snagged me in a hug.

“I know it sucks, Cody. But come on. You could use a little cheer, and I know deep down you want to.”

“It’s not the same,” I whispered.

Cole squeezed me tightly, then stepped back. “I know. But do it anyway. This is your thing, man. Miss him under the lights, okay?”

I still didn’t want to, and I almost flat out refused. Cole might be pushy–he was my older brother and it was in his job description–but if I really put my foot down, he’d listen. But the look on his face, even when he was trying to grin, let me know he was worried about me. And he had reason to be. I wasn’t myself. How could I be when my heart was half a world away?

So I put on my coat, mittens, scarf, and hat. I pulled on my warmest boots. And I climbed into his monster of a truck for the fifteen minute drive to the lake. I even managed a half smile when he bought me a peppermint mocha and joined the throng of holiday merry makers walking down the path.

As the minutes passed, and the lights twinkled, and the music played, some of my sadness lightened. I would still rather be here with Jake, but watching the kids screech and point as the lights did their thing, exclaim over the jumping reindeer and the dancing trees, hearing the absolute joy that infused the cold, crisp air, something loosened in me and I felt a bit of that holiday spirit creeping in.

We made it to the turn around point, where we’d walk back to the cars through a different set of lights. My breath seized in my lungs as Cole pulled me to a stop. This display had been added last year, a unicorn dressed as Santa, climbing down a chimney. It’s mane was red and green, and it’s horn sparkled gold. I remembered seeing it for the first time with Jake last year, and kissing him hard right on this spot as joy filled me.

Tonight it made me want to cry.

Cole cleared his throat, tossed an arm around my shoulders, and handed me a letter. I cocked an eyebrow at him, but he just tugged me a little closer to the display so that I could read by it’s light.

Oh Sweetheart,

If you’re reading this, then your brother feels you could do with some holiday cheer. I’m so sorry I’m not there with you this year. I know how hard it is. But remember how much fun you have, looking at the lights? You don’t need me there to enjoy it. It’d be better if I was, for both of us. I can’t be there to feel the cold and see the snow, I’m not there to watch the lights dance in your eyes. So enjoy it for both of us, and when I come home, I want to hear all about it. About how everything feels like magic and holiday cheer. You’ve gotta Christmas for both of us, baby boy. Don’t let me down.

I love you,

Jake

I laughed even as I choked on a sob. He was so good at the subtle guilt, but he did it because he knew I needed to hear it. I needed to be reminded he was keeping our country safe while I was at home, pining. So I took a deep breath, and forced myself to take it all in. Cemented it all in my mind so that once he was home, after I kissed him senseless and we spent three days in bed, I’d be able to tell him all about the magic of the lights.

He was counting on me.

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

**Follow along this December as we watch Cody get his Christmas Miracle. Four part series coming your way, with the first three being the Fridays, and the final installment on Christmas Eve**

Normally I loved the holidays. From Halloween to New Year’s, I celebrated everything I could. I went all out with the pumpkins, cobwebs, and ghosts at the end of October, which transitioned into nicely more pumpkins, mums, and gourds for November. Then the snowflakes, snowmen, bells, stockings, garlands, and elves came out on the day after Thanksgiving and carried me into December. The tree went up the first weekend of the month, and carols filled my house. And then I left it all up, but added sparklers and streamers for the last day of the year.

But this year, things were different.

Jake and I had been together for nine years, and this wasn’t the first time he’d been deployed. And usually I used my love of the holiday season to keep myself upbeat and occupied. But it was the first time since we married three years ago. And that made it feel different in ways I’d never anticipated.

I knew being a Marine husband was hard. I’d been doing it in one capacity or another since Jake and I first started dating. I’d been with him as he came out to his platoon as bi, and was there by his side, nervous as hell, as he finally introduced me to his brothers in arms. It hadn’t always been easy. Nothing worth having ever was. But we’d made it through all of the hard times and we were happy.

Jake was nearing his twenty years, and he’d been stationed here for the past five. I thought, maybe naively, that we were in the home stretch. He had his job on base that he excelled at, and his CO was more than happy to keep him around. Retirement was still officially two years away, and Jake wasn’t even sure yet if he was going to muster out when he hit his twenty years. We were still talking about it. I wanted him to, but he loved being a Marine, and I wasn’t going to stand in the way of that. I never would.

When the orders came through that his platoon was being deployed, my heart sank. I hated being apart from him for such a long stretch. He’d been gone for nine months, and I just didn’t have it in me to celebrate without him. I’d halfheartedly put up some of my fall decorations, but I hadn’t felt it in my soul. And now it was the sixth of December, and I hadn’t changed to my Christmas/winter decorations.

I was feeling it especially hard today as my cubicle mate had been playing carols all day. So by the time I got home from work, the melancholy had settled in deep. I was moping so hard, I almost didn’t see the package waiting for me on the doorstep. Knowing I hadn’t ordered anything, I picked it up cautiously. But it had my name on it, and the black swoop-smile on the side of the box let me know it was probably safe.

Once inside, I set it carefully on the table by the door, took off all my winter gear, and then picked it up and padded in my socked feet to the kitchen. The tape came off easily, and inside was a crystal star. It was gorgeous, the way the facets caught the light, and I gasped at it’s sparkle.

The note was at the bottom.

Hi baby boy,

I know this year is going to be super hard on you. Me too. I want to be with you, to watch your face light up in joy as the holidays approach. To experience your happiness. But I can’t this year. So instead, I’m sending you something I know will put that look on your face, and that spirit in your heart. When you put this on top of the tree, when you see it there every day, know that my heart is there with you and I’ll see you as soon as I can. Enjoy the holidays, sweetheart. Even if I can’t be there with you.

I love you,

Jake

The tears were involuntary but I smiled through them. Carefully placing the tree topper back in the box, I scrambled to the storage space to pull out all the decorations and get busy. I needed everything up and decorated so I could put Jake’s thoughtful gift on the tree and feel his love.

He wanted me to, so I would.

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

**Let’s visit with Cole and Luke from last week!**

I groaned as the alarm went off, then rolled over and buried my face in the pillow. Luke reached over me to silence the alarm, then snuggled up and pressed his nose into the back of my neck.

“Wake up, baby.”

His voice was soft and cajoling, but I’d eaten far too much yesterday and had one too many glasses of wine. After the whole thing with Luke’s mother, I was emotionally wrung out too. I just wanted to sleep.

“No work,” I muttered, the pillowcase sticking to my lips. “Keep sleeping.”

“Oh no,” Luke said with a chuckle and giving me a gentle shake. “This was all you. The whole reason we set the alarm in the first place. Time to wake up.”

“Don’t wanna.”

Luke chuckled again, squeezed me tightly, then attacked my neck with playful, biting kisses. I squirmed, my body reacting to his touch, but just as I was about to really get into it he pulled away. I felt him sit up, and then he whipped the blanket back and gave me a sharp smack to the ass.

I yelped.

“Get up, love. It’s Black Friday.” The sound of him standing was immediately followed but a groan as he stretched. I flopped onto my back quickly so I wouldn’t miss the show, but he was finished by the time I got my bleary eyes to focus. Damn.

“Come on, Cole. I’ll start the coffee, you get dressed. You know what you have to do.” He pointed finger guns at me and I couldn’t help but laugh.

By the time I got into the kitchen, there was a pot of hot, delicious brew waiting for me. I poured a cup, inhaled deeply, then added a dollop of creamer and sipped tentatively, not caring that it was too hot.

“You get everything?” Luke asked. I nodded, still not ready for speech. He grinned. “This was you, Cole. This is what you wanted. I only agreed because I love you.”

Feeling more awake now, I was able to smile. He was never shy about giving me the words and I loved hearing them. I leaned over so I could kiss his neck, and then said, “I know. I love you.”

Luke pressed his lips to my forehead. “Breakfast first?”

I shook my head. “Maybe in a bit.”

“Good then. Let’s get cracking.”

****

It took the better part of the morning, but by the time we stopped for lunch, everything was pretty much done. The tree (fake because Luke was allergic) was up and fully decorated, the white lights sparkling from every branch. We didn’t have a ton of ornaments, but what we did have meant something to us and it looked incredibly pretty. The garlands were up above the doorways, candles and bells decorated the end tables, and my collection of elves had found homes throughout the house. We even had candles in every front window, the battery operated kind that would flicker and cast a warm glow without lighting the curtains on fire.

Soft carols played over the speaker, and Luke had just laid down the finishing touch: a dark blue rug with snowflakes all over it. It looked fantastic in front of our space heater, which I only got because it looked like a real fireplace. Or a close approximation anyway.

I sighed happily, and sat on the couch to take it all in. Luke joined me a few minutes later, bringing with him mugs of hot chocolate. It was the instant kind, but it was the thought that counted. I kissed him as I took my mug, and then snuggled into his embrace. We sipped and he hummed along with “Adeste Fideles.”

Warmth and happiness filled me. I had Christmas and the man I loved. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

**Hey y’all. Flash Fic Friday is back!**

I shoved my hands deeper into my coat pockets and bounced on my toes. The wind whipped around me, but my anger…my hurt kept me warm.

“Baby, it’s freezing out here.” Luke’s voice was soft, cajoling, but I just shot him a scathing look over my shoulder. I hadn’t heard the door, but it had taken him long enough to come after me. And that, too, added to my hurt and anger.

“I’m aware,” I bit out.

Luke stepped around me so he could hold my gaze. I met his stubbornly, raising my chin. Defiance just poured off me.

“We’re about to serve dinner,” he said in that same tone.

I scowled harder. “I’m aware.”

He blew out a breath and chanced a step closer. He lifted one hand, as though he was going to touch me, and normally I would be all about that but not right now. Luke must have seen that in my face because he let his arm drop.

“Cole, honey–”

“Your mother is mean to me,” I said, trying for firm but it came out more like whine. I shook my head and shored up my resolve. “She’s so rude.”

“I know,” he murmured.

“The things she said to me! And not just today.” I made an angry noise, and I caught the twitch of Luke’s lips, because he always found it amusing when I made that noise. But he knew better than to smile.

“I know,” he said again.

“And you just let her. You let her say…” I trailed off because that was the worst part. That his mother spoke to me with rudeness and disdain was hard enough to bear. But to have Luke just sit there, let her speak to me that way, that was so much worse. I loved him more than anything on the planet, and for the past two years he’d been my everything. My rock, my solace, my confidant. And I was the same for him. From the moment we met, we just clicked. It hadn’t taken us more than a few weeks to go from friends to lovers, and we’d been inseparable ever since. Which is why I put up with his mother in the first place.

We didn’t see much of her, but it’s was Thanksgiving, and she insisted Luke had to be here for the family dinner. Which meant I was here too. Because wherever he went, so I did I.

Luke took another step closer. “Do you trust me?”

I sighed, half exasperation, half affection. “You know I do.”

“Then please trust me.” He held out a hand. “Come back inside.”

I didn’t hesitate to take his hand. Because really, no matter how angry and hurt I was, no matter that his mother was a wretched woman, no matter what was going on between us, I loved and trusted him.

The scents of turkey and stuffing assailed me as we stepped into the house and removed our outer wear. Once we were done, Luke took my hand again and he led me into the dining room. His entire family was gathered around the table, and the feast itself looking like a Norman Rockwell painting. Every dish was picture perfect, and there were even candles around the centerpiece of autumnal flowers. Luke pulled out my chair and I sat, steadfastly refusing to make eye contact with anyone. Least of all his mother.

The room was quiet, but that wasn’t unusual. I’d been to enough dinners with his family over the years to know that every one remained quiet until after Luke’s mother said the blessing. I kept my gaze down, but smiled a little when Luke slid into the seat next to me and put a hand on my thigh under the table.

“Dear Lord,” his mother began, and I fought not to flinch at the sound of her voice. “We gather together as a family today to share in the joy of us all and partake of this amazing food You’ve provided for us. And I ask that you help open my heart to this beautiful soul my son has fallen in love with.”

My head shot up, I couldn’t help it, and Luke’s mother was looking right at me. She gave a tiny smile and drew a breath.

“I suffer from the mother’s affliction that no person in this world could be good enough for my son. And it has caused me to be rude and judgmental, when Cole has shown this family nothing but kindness. My own son had to call me to task, point out my behavior and show me how unacceptable it is. Lord, I ask you to forgive my sins in this regard. But Cole, I also ask you to do the same. I should be thankful that such a wonderful person loves my Luke, today especially, but every day. I’m sorry I hurt you, Cole. And I promise to do better.”

I was stunned. Because for the first time, I actually heard genuineness in her words. She meant it. All I could do was nod.

She smiled, a little shaky, but it was there. “I’m far from perfect. And I’m sure I’ll mess up again. Next time, just call me out on my rudeness, okay Cole?”

“Uh, sure.”

Everyone laughed, his mother closed the prayer, and I turned to Luke as everyone dug into the food, chatter starting up. He was wearing a huge grin.

“I’m thankful for you, baby. Every day. Every hour. I love you.”

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**And we’re back with episode 6 of Kyle and Asher’s tale. (Click here if you need to catch up) And as an added bonus, it also has a cameo from Alan…who’s finding his own relationship with Jon over at Nell’s house. I adore Alan so much, I asked if I could borrow him. And Nell decided to use Kyle as well. So here’s the other side of the conversation, and what happens next. Enjoy!**

I heard Kyle’s voice before I saw him, and just that much made me smile. The past few weeks had been amazing, and I looked forward to coming home more than I ever had. Because I was coming home to Kyle.

I just finished my shower when Kyle’s voice drifted up through the cracked open window. I stopped mid-towel.

“Okay. Stop being an idiot.” He paused for a second, and then “What’s going on that you need to be reminded of this?”

I chuckled. That answered whether he was talking to himself or not. Clearly he was on the phone. I dropped the towel in the hamper and pushed up the sash a bit more. Kyle paced back and forth on our patio, and he’d already lit the fire. Now that I’d cleaned the worst of the day off me, I was anxious to get down there and enjoy the evening with him.

I dressed at top speed, occasionally catching snippets of Kyle’s conversation that out of context meant absolutely nothing. But just as I was pulling on my sneakers, I heard something that made me freeze.

“Alan, babe, you really are an idiot.”

Babe? He was calling someone else babe? No. There was no way in hell he was dating someone else. I wouldn’t believe that. Kyle was not that guy, and even though we hadn’t talked in explicit words about what we wanted, it seemed clear to me we were on the same page. Or at least, I thought we were. I wasn’t worried, exactly, but I did jog down the stairs at a greater than normal speed. I needed to talk to him.

“You got that right. Go. Call me later and let me know what happened. Love you.”

Kyle blew out a breath as he thumbed off his phone and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Who do you love?” I hadn’t meant to say that, but now that it was out, it seemed as good a place as any for the conversation to start.

“What?” Kyle gave me his confused face, the one where the line between his brows squinched tight.

“Who were you calling babe and telling you love them?” When Kyle clearly still didn’t get it, I gestured to the phone in his hand. “Who were you talking to? You voice carried through the window.”

“Oh!” Kyle’s face lit up and then he shook his phone at me. “Alan. The fool. I love him, but holy crap. Poor man is high strung sometimes. Totally adorable, but high strung.”

I wracked my brains trying to put face or story to the name, but I was coming up empty. “Alan?”

Kyle nodded and cross the space between us. He shoved his phone in his pocket and wrapped his arms around my neck. “Alan. My best friend.” He inhaled, and added, “Damn you smell good.”

This close, my body reacted to his. I grabbed his waist and pulled him in tight so I could feel him everywhere. Then I bent my head and kissed him thoroughly and completely. I knew he wouldn’t cheat, and I hadn’t even considered the best friend as a possibility. I’d met Alan once a few months ago. Kyle’s assessment of him was pretty spot on.

Kyle eventually shoved me back, needing to breath, and he gave me a wicked grin. “Why Asher. You weren’t jealous were you?”

I shook my head, and then grinned. “For like, two seconds. Before I realized that there was no way you were cheating. Had to be something else.”

“You’re damn right. I’ve finally got you, I’m not letting you go and I’m not going to do anything to mess it up.”

“Same goes for me.” I kissed him again, and then tugged him down next to me in the oversized deckchair. It was a tight fit, and he had to drape a leg over my lap. I was fine with that.

As the night settled around us, I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. A few months ago, I’d never have imagined this as my life. Now, with Kyle tucked against me, I couldn’t imagine anything else.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Episode 5 of Asher and Kyle’s story! Click here if you need to catch up. Enjoy!**

“Are you going to tell me where we’re going?”

I chuckled, and I didn’t miss the way Kyle shivered at the sound. I caught the curl of his lips, and I had to check my own impulse to shudder. God, he was so sexy. And there was something about him wearing a blindfold that I, surprisingly, really enjoyed. I’d picked up the black silk scarf just for this occasion, and I was pretty sure I’d have to keep it around. Maybe Kyle would want to play with it in other ways one day.

“Ash?”

“No,” I said softly. “I’m not going to tell you. That would ruin the surprise.”

“You’re no fun,” he huffed, but there was that twitch of his lips again.

I dropped my voice deliberately. “You’ll find I am all kinds of fun.”

He swore softly, then pressed a hand to the front of his pants. I was so enraptured by the sight, I didn’t realize the light had changed until the car behind me honked. I took off, a little faster than necessary, but I was anxious to get to our destination.

It only took another ten minutes, and Kyle was petulantly quiet the whole time. I knew him well enough by now to know it was just an act, but I appreciated it nonetheless. And I knew my surprise was going to make up for any minor disgruntled feelings. I parked close to the entrance, ordered Kyle to stay put as I got out, then jogged around the truck to open his door and help him down. He clung to my arm, and I knew he was uncertain without being able to see. Slowly, carefully, I released the knot holding the scarf, and pulled it away from his eyes.

He blinked, wide eyed and staring, and then turned to me. His grin was huge, but his eyes were narrowed.

“It’s the aquarium.”

“It is.”

“But it closes at eight and it is…” he made a show of tapping his Fitbit so the time popped up. “Eight-oh-five.”

“You’re right about that.” I took his hand and tugged him toward the front doors. My friend Marcel was waiting just on the other side, and he unlocked the doors and ushered us in. It was deadly quiet inside, and the lights from the huge tank in the lobby cast an eerie glow.

“Asher,” Kyle whispered. His fingers squeezed mine and held tightly. “What’s going on?”

“We can only have an hour, but there’s nothing better than viewing this place at night without crowds. Marcel was kind enough to give us time. And since he runs this whole place, I figure he’s got the right.”

Kyle’s eyes were huge again, and I chuckled. Marcel grinned too, and then made a sweeping gesture with his arm. “Enjoy, gentlemen.”

“How did you know?” Kyle asked after we’d wandered in silence for about fifteen minutes. I was happy to meander at his pace. The aquarium was huge, and I knew we wouldn’t get to see everything in the time allotted us, especially with what I had planned. But we could see a good deal of it.

“Know what?” I knew what he was talking about, but I wanted to make him say it.

“How much I love this place? What it means to me?”

I lifted our joined hands and kissed the back of his. “I listen, baby. You told me stories about your grandfather bringing you here as a kid, and how much that time meant to you. And how it’s still a place you love to be, but it’s always so crowded you don’t get to enjoy it. So I called my friend, and he was able to arrange this.”

“This is…amazing.” Kyle stopped dead in the anteroom to the huge cylindrical ocean aquarium. He pushed into my arms and kissed me hard. When he pulled back, his eyes were blazing. “Thank you.”

“You haven’t seen the best part.” I gestured to the doorway, and we went through. When Kyle saw the small, candle lit table already set for two, he clapped a hand to his mouth. I’d had the meal delivered directly here, and Marcel had taken care of the rest. I owed him free landscaping for the rest of the summer, but the look on Kyle’s face was worth it.

I led him to the table and pulled out a chair. His pasta primavera was still steaming, and the sight made me smile. Kyle, however, couldn’t take his gaze off the manta rays swimming by. I sat myself, and poured the wine, then set a bread stick on the edge of his plate. Eventually Kyle tore his gaze from the tank and looked at me.

“This is the best date I’ve ever had. You’ve spoiled me for anyone else.”

I stood and leaned over to kiss him, and I looked him straight in the eye when I said, “Good.”

He chuckled, pecked my lips again, and then set to eating while repeatedly glancing up at the tank. I sat back with a smile. I’d done this for him. Gave him this much joy. And it was the perfect start to what I hoped was a very long relationship.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

** And here’s episode 4. If you need to catch up, just hit the serial tag here and you can read all of the adventure. Enjoy!**

I should be freaking out.

It was midnight, I’d just realized I was bi, and that I wanted my neighbor turned best friend. There should be some sort of internal crisis going on. But there wasn’t. Weirdly, I found the realization to be comforting some how. And when I took a few minutes to really analyze why, it was simple. Kyle might be the first man I’d acknowledged my attraction to. He might be the first one that I actually wanted to do something with. But he wasn’t, in fact, the only man I’d ever looked at and considered pretty. And with that thought, everything settled in my brain.

It was sort of like a piece I didn’t know was missing slotted into place. And with that, I took a deep breath and relaxed. So what if I was bi? It didn’t change anything about me. Just who I might have a relationship with. And in this case, that was a very good thing. Because I wanted more than just to hang out with Kyle on the patio, talking with him. I wanted to do that and then kiss him. Touch him. Fuck him.

I just didn’t know how to get there.

***

Three weeks later, and I was still in limbo. Kyle recovered from his ordeal with no issue. He’d been a little off for a couple of days, but hanging out seemed to fix it. He relaxed and was himself again.

I’d been trying to figure out if he felt anything for me. He’d always been free with his affection, and a touch on the arm or his hand ruffling my hair wasn’t anything new. But I spent so much time just watching him, trying to see if there were signs, that he kept asking me what was wrong.

“Seriously,” Kyle said, a bemused sort of grin on his face. “What is with you?”

“Nothing.” I didn’t know why I just didn’t come out and say something. Maybe before that whole thing happened to him, I might have. But I didn’t want him to think I was being forceful. “I’m just tired. What were you saying?”

“I knew you weren’t listening.” Kyle chuckled and threw me a fond look. He sipped his wine and then sighed happily after swallowing. “And I was saying that I have a date Friday.”

My blood ran cold and he had my complete and undivided attention. “What?”

“Yeah,” he said and smiled. “Jane…you remember, my friend Jane from work. Anyway. Jane has this friend, and he’s exactly my type, so she was telling him about me and me about him, and we decided to meet. We’re getting together for drinks.”

For a split second, I froze. He seemed happy about it. But I knew this was the moment I had to speak or forever lose my chance.

“I’d rather you didn’t.”

My words came out soft, and for a second, I wasn’t sure Kyle had even heard. Then he turned to me, his brows creased in confusion. He set his glass down very carefully on the table between us.

“What?”

I cleared my throat. “I…I don’t want you to go out with that guy.”

He squinted. “Why not?”

“Because I want you to go out with me.” The words were rushed, but Kyle heard them.

“Friday night? You’ve got something you need my help with?” He was so confused. I heard it in his voice.

“Uh, no. I mean…” I let out an explosive sigh. “I want to date you. I don’t want you going out with someone else. I want you with me.”

Kyle went very quiet and I held my breath until he spoke again. “I don’t understand.”

“Yeah you do,” I responded softly.

“But you’re straight.”

I shook my head. “Bi.”

“Huh. You never said.”

It sounded a little bit like an accusation. And I got it. I did. He’d told me he was gay, and I’d implied I was straight. How did I explain that I’d been denying the knowledge of my own sexuality? It hadn’t been on purpose, but I’d still ignored it. I wavered for a few minutes and Kyle’s frown grew. So I took a deep breath and told him everything.

He listened quietly, nodding occasionally but never interrupting. After I was done, he still didn’t speak. I got fidgety and had to clasp my hands together to keep them from shaking. As the silence stretched, the crackle of the fire and the burble of the pond all I could hear, my worry grew enough that I finally spoke.

“If you’re not…” I cleared my throat and tried again. “If you’re not interested, I’ll understand. We, us, this doesn’t have to change. I would never–”

I stopped because Kyle stood so fast, and before I could figure out why, he was in front of me, his hands on the side of my neck. He looked down at me, and I got lost in his deep gaze. I couldn’t read his expression. Then he swept his thumb along my jaw and I shivered.

“I was hoping,” he whispered. “I tried not to, because falling for the straight friend is such a bad idea. But you…I wanted you. And you came when I called and you hugged me so tight.”

I turned my head and kissed his palm, then looked up at him again. His face was much closer, and I parted my lips. Kyle’s mouth kicked up into a sexy grin, and then he closed the last few inches between us.

He tasted like his wine and the steak we’d had for dinner, and I groaned and pulled him closer. He came easily, collapsing down into my lap as he wound his arms around my neck. It was all heat, and lips and tongue, and I couldn’t stop even when I needed to breathe. A quick gulp of air and I dove in again, devouring his mouth as though it was the last drink of water and I was parched.

After a while, Kyle gentled the kiss, sweet little nips of his teeth and tiny licks of his tongue. He pulled back and my gaze immediately dropped to his kiss swollen mouth. God, he was so damn gorgeous and with that mouth and the firelight playing across his features? I could have stayed right in that moment forever.

“So,” he husked. “A date?”

I chuckled and kissed him again, quick but full of heat. “Yes. A date.”

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**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.

“Hey.”

“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.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**Asher and Kyle continued. Read Part 1 here if you missed it. Enjoy!**

I’d bought my half of the duplex ten years ago, and in the past decade, I’d had several neighbors. Kyle was, by far, the best one. I never heard him. We only saw each other if we left or arrived at the same time, and then he always had a cheery wave and greeting for me. Sometimes we talked for a few minutes as we walked to our front doors. But never more than that.

Which is why I was surprised to answer the door one evening and find him standing there. He was wearing a smile that lit up his face, and holding two bottles of local microbrew that I loved. He held one out to me, and I took it with a hearty thanks.

“So,” he said, leaning back against he railing of my porch. “I noticed by the sticker on your truck that you’re a landscaper.” He gestured with his bottle toward the logo on the driver’s side door.

I squinted at him as I took a pull from the bottle. The beer went down smooth, hoppy and delicious, with just a hint of a citrus aftertaste. “Mhmm.”

His grin turned mischievous. “So I have to wonder, why haven’t you done anything with the backyard?”

I laughed and shook my head. The duplexes shared both a front and back yard, and I had a deal with the guy who owned Kyle’s house that I’d split yard work with his tenant. The family that had lived there before Kyle had mowed the back, because they took their kids out there to play, and I’d taken care of the front. I knew the backyard was overgrown. The hedges were ridiculous, but I’d never felt the need to go back there. The pavers that acted as a patio out my back door were far enough, and only because I kept the grill out there.

I shrugged. “Don’t spend too much time out there. And I guess I get enough of it at work.”

It was his turn to squint. “But I would think, if you love your job, you’d want to take care of your own place. Unless you don’t?”

“No, I do,” I assured him. I took another drink, trying to think of what to say. “It’s satisfying right down to my bones. And I enjoy every part of the process. But like I said, I’m never out there. Plus, the last people had kids, and I didn’t want them to ruin all of my hard work.”

He nodded. “Makes sense. So, would you mind if I did some stuff out there?”

I shook my head and straightened up from where I’d been leaning against the door frame. “Knock yourself out. What did you have in mind?”

His whole face brightened, and he practically leaped off the porch, beckoning me with his free hand. “Come on, I’ll show you.”

I followed along in his bouncing wake, amused by his enthusiasm. He was always full of energy whenever I saw him, whether that was six o’clock in the morning, or eleven o’clock at night. I didn’t know where he got it all, but I was happy to be apart of it. He jogged the last few steps around the house, and by the time I turned the corner, he was standing in the middle of the patio with his arms spread wide.

“Okay, so.” His grin got even bigger and I was afraid it would hurt his face. “Obviously trim the bushes and cut the grass. That’s the first thing. But also, I was thinking of getting those big cement planters, right? I mean, I only lease, so I’d want to take them with me if I ever left. With bright colored flowers, though I don’t know what kind, to bring some color back here. And I would put them around the patio.” He gestured, making sweeping motions with his hands. “I’d love a fire pit right here.” He pointed to the edge of the patio. “And I’d get some great furniture out here. Loungers and a table. Oh! And over here.” He jogged to the edge on my side of he patio. “I know it’s your half, but man, this would be the perfect spot for a pond. I’ve been researching, and there are above ground pond kit thingies. If you wouldn’t mind me taking some space up, I’d love to do that.”

I stared at him, my breath catching in my throat. His joy was infectious, and I could see everything as he’d laid it out. He made it sound perfect, like an oasis, and if I had that kind of space back here, I’d sure as hell spend more time out here. For a minute, I felt foolish that I’d never done anything more than the basics in the back.

“Sounds great,” I said, and I had to clear my throat. “I’ll help.”

Kyle went still, and then slowly turned around to face me. “You don’t have to. I mean, that’s not why I talked to you. I just…you know, thought I should get your approval before I do anything. Since half of this is yours.”

“No, I want to. Help, I mean. It’ll be great. Together we can make a great space.”

The smile on his face made my heart pound.

***

We’d made plans to get started on the backyard that weekend, but when a mix up at my job site had me calling it an early day on Friday, I got started early. Saturday morning, I met him outside at eight like we agreed. Kyle was standing in the middle of the patio, his hand over his mouth. When I walked out my back door, he turned wide eyes on me.

“What?”

“You…” he gestured, first to the fire pit I’d installed, and then to the hole I’d dug. “That’s…you.”

I shrugged, ridiculously pleased for some reason that he was overwhelmed. I could see how much he loved it already, and that made me stupidly happy.

“Well, if we’re going to put in a pond, we might as well do it right. I have the stuff in the truck to line it, and the pump. But I needed more daylight to do it. I thought I’d do that while you did the hedges and the grass, and then we can head to the garden center and get your planters, flowers, and potting soil. Sound like a plan?”

He nodded mutely. I hid my grin.

“The mower and shit are in the shed.” I jerked my chin to the back of the yard. “Get to it. We’re burning daylight.”

He nodded again, and I could swear I saw him wipe his eyes when he turned away. I ignored that, not knowing what to do with it, and went to get the crap for the pond out of my truck.

***

It had taken us the whole weekend, but the backyard was done. Snapdragons, petunias, and marigolds were planted in long, rectangular planters strategically placed around the patio. We had a fire in the pit, and I’d grilled steaks that we’d enjoyed sitting at his new table. The night air was cool, but not cold, and we sat in the silence–save for the crackling fire, the burbling pond, and the occasional cricket–and just enjoyed the space.

Kyle reached out, put a hand on my arm, and squeezed. His touch felt like a brand, and I savored the warmth.

“Thank you Asher,” he said reverently. “This is…this is perfect. Exactly what I wanted.”

“You’re welcome,” I responded softly. My heart was thumping again, and I didn’t know why I was so happy that he was happy. I shook my head, tipped my bottle at him in salute, and then smiled. “Any time.”

And I meant it.

Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

*Here’s part 1 of the serial story! I’ll tag them all so they’ll be easy to find. And in upcoming weeks, I’ll link back in case you need to catch up. So without further ado, meet Asher and Kyle. Enjoy!*

“Goddamn motherless son of a wonky titbasket!”

The curse was creative. I had to give him that. The questions was, though, why was it being shouted outside my house?

I’d just finished my workout, so I was sweaty and hot. But I put down the water bottle and headed outside to see what the commotion was about. The Uhaul parked next door explained part of it. The other half of the duplex had been empty for months–ever since the family with two screaming toddlers moved out–and I’d relished the silence. But apparently that was changing today.

He was standing on the ramp stretched from the back of the truck to the front porch. The broken box spilling half of its contents on the muddy ground explained the curse. I stood for a moment, just taking in the scene. The frustrated man had his hands in his dark hair, knuckles white, as he breathed deeply. Trying for calm? Probably. He was smaller than me, leaner and shorter, and it looked like he was alone. I felt bad for the dude.

I pushed my sweaty hair out of my eyes, then jogged closer.

“Hey, need some help?”

He squawked and turned quickly, nearly losing his balance and toppling off the ramp. I ran, but he righted himself before I made it across the yard to him. He pressed his hand to his chest, his brown eyes wide.

“Jesus Christ, you scared me.”

I tried for an apologetic grin. “Sorry.”

He flapped a hand at me. “It’s okay.” Then he looked down at the mess, sighed heavily, and dropped his hands. “Fuck.”

I had to check the grin. “Basically. Really, you need some help?”

He bit his lip, and looked into the truck. I was close enough now that I could see it was still pretty packed. Boxes and bags filled every available space, tucked in tightly around a couch, several dressers, and what looked like a dismantled table and matching chairs. He shook his head.

“I don’t want to impose.”

The way he said it, with a bit of hesitancy, made it known that he would really like the help but he didn’t want to ask. Since I offered, I figured he was off the hook. I started picking up the bedding that had fallen out of the box, wadding it around itself until I had a makeshift sack.

“No imposition. I’m not busy, and we are neighbors after all. Let me help.”

He eyed me for a long moment, before he heaved another sigh. “Thanks. I really appreciate it.”

“No problem. You can pay me in pizza and beer when we’re done.” I shot him a grin. “That’s the customary payment for helping someone move.”

He laughed, and I liked the sound. “You got it.”

I waited until he retrieved another box, then followed him into the house with my bundle. I knew where the bedroom was, since his house was the mirror opposite of mine, but I thought maybe he’d want to wash the sheets and blankets I held, considering they’d been on the ground. I took the whole thing into the laundry room off the kitchen, then met him back in the entryway.

“Thanks.” His voice was softer, and now that we were close, I could see how tired he was. His big, dark eye were lined, and had bags underneath big enough to be luggage. His T-shirt sported a faded rainbow, and hung off his frame. Put together, it gave him a careworn look.

“You’re welcome.” I took a step back, putting some distance between us, because I knew I probably stunk. But I held out a hand. “I’m Asher.”

“Nice to meet you. My name’s Kyle.”

We shook, and then I gestured for him to proceed me out the door. When we were both tromping up the ramp, I said, “So Kyle. Don’t you have any friends that were willing to help?”

He laughed a little, a short aborted sound, and shook his head. “Too busy. I didn’t give them enough notice. Once the house next door to me blew up, I decided to move fast. I didn’t have time to round up a moving posse.”

I froze. “Blew up?” I couldn’t keep the incredulity out of my tone.

Kyle waved his hand again. “Just a little explosion.”

I stared at him, automatically taking the box he handed me but not taking my gaze off him. He turned and retrieved a bag, but when he looked back at me and saw me staring, he cocked an eyebrow.

“What?”

I shook my head. “You can’t just put that out there and not explain.”

“They were cooking meth.”

My expression must have shown my shock, because he laughed again. “Just a little batch. So only a little explosion. But no way was I staying around after that. So I gave notice, and found this place, and paid extra so I could move in right away. I think the landlord was happy to have someone reputable, because he said it had been vacant for a while, and he didn’t give me too much of a fuss when I asked.” He cocked his head to the side. “Are you going to earn your pizza and get moving?”

I chuckled and turned, heading back into the house. “And don’t forget the beer!”

***

It took us the better part of three hours, but we worked well together so the time flew. I went back to my house to shower and change, and by the time I knocked on Kyle’s door, he had hot pizza and cold beer waiting on his newly reassembled table. Boxes and bags were still stacked everywhere, but it would take him a while to settle in.

Kyle gave me a huge smile when he let me in, but neither of us said much until after we’d both sated ourselves with several slices and a long neck apiece. He sat back in his chair, and patted his stomach.

“The pizza alone is worth moving to the neighborhood.”

I grinned. “It’s good. I order from them at least once a week.”

He shot me a look as he stood up. Kyle threw out the garbage before he turned back to me, resting a hip against the counter. “Not much of a cook?”

I snorted. “Hell no. I burn water. If I ever find a woman to put up with me enough to live with me, I hope she’ll want to cook.”

Something flickered over his face, but it was gone before I could put a name to it. Then he smiled and shrugged, and crossed the floor to pick up the few remaining pieces and put them in the fridge.

“Tomorrow’s breakfast.” He laughed. “I love to cook. Maybe sometime I’ll make you a meal.”

“You any good?”

Kyle scoffed. “I should hope so. My mother is a gourmet chef, and she taught me everything she knew. I think she was determined to give me that skill, knowing that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

I saw it then, the little flinch, and it took me a second to work out why. He was gay, and he was worried about what I’d think or say. Or do. But he didn’t have to be.

“You won’t have any problem snagging a man then.” I paused, considering. “Unless you already have one.”

He breathed out a soft sigh, and his smile was sweet. “Not at the moment. Not for a while, actually.” He shooed the thought away, a quick flap of his hand. “But I’m not worried about it. Yet. I’m not even thirty, not for another year. I’ve got plenty of time.”

I studied him for a moment. I thought he was younger than that. I only had five years on him, but his skin was smooth and clear, showing none of the age mine did. Of course, I worked outside and the sun had done a number on me.

“Anyway, Asher, I really appreciate your help today. If there’s anything I can do to repay you, just let me know.”

“You already did.” I held up the beer in salute. “But if you want to be a good neighbor, then don’t throw any wild parties, and keep the noise down. That’s all it takes to make me happy.”

Kyle snorted out a laugh, and then tossed his empty bottle into the recycle bin. “You’re easy.”

I waggled my eyebrows. “You have no idea.”

We said goodbye a few minutes later. He thanked me again for the help, I thanked him for the pizza, and left him standing on his front porch. Our gazes caught when I looked back at him before opening my own door, and we stayed like that for a long moment. The wind picked up, and a lock of his hair blew across his forehead. Kyle really was a very pretty man. He was funny and kind. I had no doubt he’d find someone to love him someday.

I lifted my hand in a wave, and went into my house.