Book 2 SOPHOMORE YEAR

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

~*~*~*~

Chapter 17, Part One SKIP A BEAT

~*~*[[ DM ]]*~*~

11 February 2011 Friday / 02:45 PM Irvine High School

"Hi, Daniel." Jaime called as he saw me enter the classroom. I took the seat beside him and dumped a couple of books on my desk with a facsimile of a smile pasted on my face. I really love school. It's just so bright and so joyful and so . . . oh, what the hell! Who am I kidding? Even the idea of going to school makes my solar plexus twist and turn.

Because of athletic reasons, I deliberately wake up at 4:30 in the morning to run around the neighborhood for at least forty-five to sixty minutes, right before taking a hot shower. Then I have breakfast with my sister and my mom; insert there a few chats and bickering about what I'd be doing at school that day. At least that part of the day I can handle. From then is another story. I'd wait for the bus at exactly 6:45 to ensure that I get the best seat available - Translation: the seat where no one could possibly bother and or notice my existence. Then as soon as I arrive at school, I would go to the lockers, pick or drop a few thingamabobs, and then meet up with my friends; that, unfortunately, include my best friend.

Fuck!

My best FRIEND!

Do I hate him? Honestly? No, I don't. I'm . . . pissed at him. There's just something that he did and I . . . I can't tell you now.

Since the start of 2011, I hate the five out of the seven days that we have in a week. I can't look him in the eye. I can't bear having small talk with him. I can't even stand being in the same room with him. Not after he . . .

"So, how was your day so far?"

Thank you, Jaime, for cutting through my thoughts. "Oh, well," I replied. I caught my best friend staring at me from the other side of the room. He grinned at me - giving me his most innocent boyish look. Shit! Fuck him and those green eyes of his! "It's been uneventful." I tried to sound convincing to Jaime's ears. "Yours?" He shrugged, indicating that his was as well.

Then, thinking of the slight dilemma that I've been having for quite a while now and having no other choice in the matter, I added, "So . . . I know you're busy and shit with school and stuff, but there's this . . . thing that I want to buy tomorrow morning. Stacey can't come because of rehearsals and Richie can't 'cause he strategically chose this exact moment to start focusing on his studies, so . . . I'm just asking if you can come with me? I may need your opinion . . ."

"Oh, does it have anything to do with the fact that Valentine's Day is on Monday?" he asked with a knowing smile.

An unnerving number of thirteen people now officially know about my sexuality: there's my sister and my mom. Stacey, Bruce, Richard and Keith. There was Lily. The Trio - Luke, Jake, and Blake. Then, of course, William and Douglas. And, more recently, Jaime.

I rolled my eyes at him. I waited as he thought about it for a few seconds, before answering "Uh. I can't, Daniel. I'm sorry. Tyler and I already have something planned for tomorrow in the A.M."

I paused to blink, my hand stilled on the pen that I was about to get out of my bag. I stared at him. "Tyler as in Tyler Jones?"

"Same one."

I just nodded. I realized then that he and Tyler have been hanging out more often these past few months. I'm not bothered by it or anything. I mean, I'm glad that Jaime has found a friend to be with and all that, but . . . Tyler? And he's saying he has plans? Plans with Tyler Jones? Something definitely smells real fishy with that.

I still haven't forgotten Tyler and my confrontation last November in the Alumni building restroom and . . . hmmm . . . something's definitely up between Jaime and him! Where they . . . ? I can't seem to finish my thoughts without them leading to the one and only thing that I have to get out of my mind nowadays - sex.

I shouldn't think of that.

Not after Keith . . .

So I shifted all of my thoughts to the mystery of the guy sitting right at my side.

"How about tomorrow afternoon?" I tried.

"Hmm . . . I can do tomorrow afternoon, I guess."

"Great. I'll call you then?"

He nodded.

Our Math teacher entered carrying last Wednesday's surprise quiz and everybody quieted down.

'You up for some exciting investigative shit, Danny?' my ever-active mind asked mischievously.

You bet I am!

'Tyler and Jaime,' I wondered. 'What are you two up to?

~*~*[[ DM ]]*~*~

12 February 2011 Saturday / 03:13 PM

I arrived at Tyler's house just before three. Jaime texted me earlier in the morning to tell me that it would be better if I met him here, where it was nearer to the malls. I rang on the doorbell. But nobody was answering. I rang it again. Same results. For the third ring I added a knock on the door. And it swung open.

Hmm . . . it wasn't locked.

"Hello? Mr. and Mrs. Jones?" I called into the seemingly empty house. "Tyler? Jaime? Guys? Anyone?"

Where the hell are they? Upstairs, maybe?

Once I reached the stairs, I registered something odd about the room - the whole place, as a matter of fact. I took a whiff and a foreign smell lingered on my nostrils.

'What's that smell?' I wondered.

I took the stairs at a leisurely pace. Upon reaching the second level, the sound of a guy giggling wafted through one of the closed doors along the hallway. "Damn, that feels good," and the guy gasped. "Oh, God! Dude, you're making it so wet. That's so good. Gimme that. Ohhh . . . GOD. This is heaven. Yeah, take it."

I stopped in my tracks, stunned. What the hell is happening?

"Jaime?" Walking towards the first door, I called again. "Is that . . . is that you?" I opened the door but it was empty. I got farther along the hallway and called out in a louder voice. "Jaime, where the fuck are you?"

"Oh shit, man! Someone's outside." Another voice drawled. Then I heard the bed creaking and the sheets swishing and guys cursing.

WTF! There's another guy in there! And he so much sounded like . . . but what were they doing in there? An image suddenly flashed across my mind.

Oh, dear God! Could they be?

My feet took me out of the second empty room and led me right in front of the last one.

"Jaime?" I called again, my trembling voice echoed against the walls.

There was no reply now. Only silence.

"Jaime, I know it's you in there, man." I tried the door but it was locked. I knocked on it. "Jaime, open this door right now."

Two defeated sighs came from behind the door and I heard someone mumble "Damn. Now we're busted."

Now I'm sure that that was . . .

The lock clicked open and, in my line of view, came Jaime and - as I suspected - Tyler.

I raised an eyebrow at their blushing faces and crossed my arms. "Care to explain to me what I just heard? Hmm?"

They just giggled and the smell that I noticed earlier flooded my nostrils. Somehow, it was stronger from inside.

"God, what's that smell?" I demanded.

They just giggled again.

I narrowed my eyes at them. I wondered why their hands were behind them. As if they were hiding something from me.

"What were you two doing in there?"

"Not telling." Tyler giggled like a little boy and shoved an elbow to Jaime's ribs. The smaller guy giggled, sharing looks with Tyler.

They kind of looked drunk to me. And I noticed their lips - red, wet and swollen - and a thought crossed my mind, making my eyes widen in shock.

"Oh, my God! Were you two just kissing?"

Their giggles immediately stopped and they stared at me with the same shock that I know was plastered on mine.

Three seconds later . . .

"AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" they both simultaneously doubled with laughter on the floor, clutching their stomachs.

Why the hell were they laughing? I was serious. What's so fucking funny with my question?

"Stop laughing, the two of you!" I barked at their bended figures, kicking them simultaneously on their legs. But they wouldn't stop. I only heard words like "kissing", "another guy", "disgusting" and "hilarious" coming out of their mouths.

It just doesn't add up. Fact number one - last year I caught Tyler suspiciously coming out of the men's room with a supposed other guy. That could have been Jaime, by then. Fact number two - Jaime couldn't go out to buy things with me because he and Tyler already had 'plans' for the day. Fact number three - I just busted them spending their time in a locked room, moaning and groaning about how 'good' it is and to 'give it' to him and to 'take it'. If they weren't having sex, then what were they doing in there?

"Daniel, it's not what you think," Tyler said when he regained his normal breathing.

"Oh, really?" I retorted. "Then what were you doing that time in the Alumni Building's ground floor men's room? I know you were with someone that time and don't deny it. I heard him leaving your cubicle right before I got out of mine." I paused to glare at him. "And now, I finally catch you with Jaime locked inside your own room - with no one else in the entire house. Were you with him back then? What were you doing in there?"

Jaime was still giggling. Tyler just stared at me, his face clearly contemplating on whether he should spill it or not. Sighing, he replied, "First of all, Daniel, I want you to know that Jaime and I were not doing anything sexual like what you're implying. And second, I wasn't with Jaime that time. He's straight. Believe me, he is."

Fine. That's a start. But my eyes still narrowed. "Okay," I breathed for a bit. "Then who were you with back then?"

He hesitated. "I don't think it's in my position to say anything," he answered stiffly. "Surely, you can understand that."

I breathed, and I nodded, taking in how serious his expression suddenly changed. "But what were you two doing in here?" I still demanded. "And what is that God-awful smell?"

"This," Jaime finally blurted, raising one of his hands in front of me, a hand that was holding a . . .

"Is that a joint?" I exclaimed into a near falsetto. Jaime giggled once more and Tyler gave me a sheepish look. "You were taking hits in here? That's why you were making those moaning and hissing sounds?"

The two giggled.

Damn. My assumptions were 'slightly' wrong. They were doing something nasty, but as it turned out it had nothing to do with sex. I laughed as I realized how stupid I must've looked like right then.

As I waited for Jaime to come down from his . . . high . . . I sat and chatted with Tyler regarding his multi-sexuality. He told me that as much as he liked girls, he liked guys, too. He confessed that he was "experimenting" with his sexuality and that he truly was with a guy that time when I caught him sneaking out of the men's room. We agreed on keeping each of our secrets to ourselves. Tyler made me promise to keep his and Jaime's secret, too. I agreed - but in the condition that they would only do it anywhere but in school, or anywhere but in public. I have to say, I am truly against drugs, but even I can't tell them what to and what not to do. So I promised.

And fuck! Tyler Jones, the school's very own Tyler Hoechlin, even though still unofficial and still has a lot of doubts - in my own opinion, is now playing on my side of the fence. Damn, you really can't tell behind all the muscles and all the masculinity.

What a lucky guy - the guy he was banging. So if it wasn't Jaime, then who? I wonder if it was someone that I knew.

The search is still on, then.

~*~*[[ BA ]]*~*~

13 February 2011 Sunday / 10:21 AM Apartment 3A, Edinger Building

***

"Come on." Callan turned without addressing the other man again and drew her from the room. When they reached the stairs, he didn't make her climb them herself. He picked her up in his arms and carried her to the big bathroom off their bedroom. He didn't speak, his expression didn't soften. But he was hard. His cock was like a poker, steely and hot against her hip. His eyes blazed with lust. He locked the bedroom door behind them, then with a simple jerk at her pants, bared her from the waist down.

"I can't wait." He backed her up to the wall, lifting her, pushing her pants free with one foot. He spread her legs then plunged his cock deep. Merinus gasped, unaware how ready she had been for him. Her vagina clasped his erection with a hot, slick grip as tight as a fist as he buried himself inside her. Her head fell back against the wall, her hands gripping his scratched bloody shoulders as he bent, buried his head in her neck and began to pound into her. He was groaning with hoarse pleasure with each thrust. His erection was hard, scalding hot, driving her into a passion as natural and as deep as love itself. Heat and fire seared her body, pleasure rushed over her in a tidal wave of sensation, sweeping away any doubt, any residual fears left in her. His hands gripped her hips, her thighs clasped his and his cock buried itself over and over inside her. Stretching her, he filled her, burned her with his need. This was no hormonal demand, no kiss to encourage the heat, no preliminaries, just hard, honest passion. His teeth bit at her neck in the place he had marked as his own. His rough tongue stroked her. Callan grunted harshly as Merinus' moans rose in intensity. She could feel her climax building, gathering inside her, the explosion only moments away.

Fighting for breath Callan increased the pace of his thrusts. Wet flesh slapped together, her cunt made suckling sounds as his cock slid easily inside her over and over again. Then she trembled, shook, she fought her scream, and managed to keep it down to a loud cry when she felt the barb emerge, lengthen, harden until it locked him deep inside her. That hot caress sent her careening over the edge. Her orgasm struck hard and deep, tightening her body as she felt him spurting his release inside her, distantly wincing as his satisfied roar echoed around them."

***

"God," My cousin gasped breathlessly after reading. "Merinus is such a lucky bitch! I wish I could find a man who would ravish me that way."

I snorted in amusement despite the fact that my cock was at half-mast from listening, making its way down my right leg like a predatory snake on a mission. "Are you finished? Can you go back to your room now?"

My cousin turned to look at me, his eyes still dreamy from reading one of the erotic novels that he bought earlier that week. Trying desperately not to show his annoyance, he just smiled as he hissed, "You are such a sweet asshole."

I snorted once more. "And you are such an impossible bitch."

His smile broadened. "Can't help it."

I groaned in impatience, "Richie, can you just go back to your room?"

"Why? I like it better here. I'm not even finished reading 'Tempting the Beast' yet. And besides, my sound system is broken and my bedroom lights keep flickering on and off like a horror flick . . . and most importantly I'm afraid of the dark."

"Then go and fix your god damned lights!"

He gaped at me, clenching his heart as if I had just dreadfully insulted his "inner femininity." God help me, he's such a freakin' diva! So, I chose to ignore him then and returned to the card that I was desperately working on.

"What are you doing there, anyway?" he asked curiously with a smile. He got up from my bed and sauntered towards my desk. "My, my, my. Is that a Valentine's card?" he laughed as he spotted the unmistakable shapes of hearts printed on the paper.

"Mind your own business!" I grumbled, my face heating up.

"Oooh. Is that a yes, little cousin?"

"It's none of your business!" I growled. "And what are you talking about 'little'? I can cut you-"

"Oh, my god! Is it for Daniel?" he cut me instead.

"It's none of your god damned business, Richard!" I snapped at him and he had no other choice but to narrow his eyes at me, purse his lips and dramatically retreat out of my room. Diva.

I sighed, contented, with the silence that surrounded the room.

Finally.

Today is the thirteenth of February - the day before Valentine's Day. All morning I have been making cards for Daniel, tearing it to pieces all over again when I thought it was a little inadequate, or too artsy, or too colorful, or too cheesy and shit. I wondered once - or seventeen times - if he even likes receiving Valentine's Day cards. Then I thought, 'What if I just ask him out in person, face-to-face? That would be the right thing to do, right?' But, then again, I can't do it in front of the student body. Can't risk that.

I picked a red colored pen and drew minuscule cupids on the edges of the card that I was currently working on.

Today is the thirteenth of February - the day my mother died. With the memory of the grief that the loss of my mother brought mixed with all the cards and all the cupids and all the compassion running aplenty all around the globe, was it right for me to take Daniel out on a date?

What would my mother say?

Now, that is the million-dollar question. But, as always, I immediately shoved it to the farthest corner of my mind.

'You don't care about that. You can't care about that.' I told myself.

Taking a deep breath, I went back to working on the tiny, little, pink and red hearts on my desk when my phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and I can't help but smile before answering. "Hey, gorgeous."

A chuckle answered my greeting. "Gorgeous, huh? Aren't you sweet this morning." Daniel chuckled on the other line. "What are you doing today?"

"Um, nothing much." Obviously, I can't tell him about the fucking cheesy cards, so I went for the first thing that unfortunately popped out of my mind, "I'm visiting my mom later in the day." Great. Way to go, Romeo!

"Well . . . How about I go with you? I haven't been to Lily's in a while," he said softly.

"That would be fine, I guess." Thank God I have Daniel to deal with this. "I can use a handsome company like you." I answered gratefully.

He chuckled once again, filling my heart with enough excuses on why I should listen to my dick and not with my brain. Damn, I'm screwed.

"I'll see you later, then?"

"Already looking forward to it." I replied.

"So, what are you up to right now?" he asked me about ten seconds later, probably trying to gap the silence between us.

I smiled. "Why? You got plans for me, Fockins?" I whispered slowly, huskily, and I heard him gasp on the other end of the line. Bingo!

"Oh God, Bruce," he hissed as I heard the unmistakable sound of his bedroom door closing. "Not now!"

My smile widened into a full-on-teeth-and-gums-showing grin. "I don't know what you mean, Fockins?"

"Oh, don't play the dumb jock on me, Brucey! I know you damn well know what I'm talking about," he answered heatedly, and I can vividly see the blush spreading rapidly from his neck to his cheeks.

"I know you like it. I know you want it," I whispered onto the receiver. "You. Want. Me."

He gasped. "Oh, shut up. I-I don't," was his snarky reply.

"Liar," I chuckled darkly. "I bet you even got a boner right now, don't you?"

"BRUCE GREGORY ADAMS!"

Oooh, how that tone takes me from zero to ninety in a millisecond! I quickly strode to my door and bolted the lock before heading for my bed while I listened to him screaming indecency and outrage through the phone. I guffawed as I leaned back on my pillows and whispered some more, "Say it again, please?" I cut in.

"Say what?" he asked in indignation.

"My name," I answered as I unbuckled my belt and lowered my pants. "Whisper it to me, Daniel. Please . . . whisper it to me. Real slow."

I heard him moan involuntarily. Jackpot!

"Oh, God, you have no idea how sexy you just sounded."

"Bruce, what are you doing?" he whimpered on the phone, to my ear, and straight to my stiffening cock.

"What do you think, baby?" I murmured as I fisted my hardening shaft, ready for another session of dirty, dirty phone sex with my not-yet-but-going-there-boyfriend.

Another moan escaped Daniel's mouth, and his blushing face resurfaced on my mind; his brown eyes and full, thick, red lips giving me the perfect image to jerk myself off.

Lucky me!

~*~*[[ KP ]]*~*~

14 February 2011 Monday / 02:37 AM Princeton Manor

Awake again. Can't evade the feeling that something's not right. True, the night was silent, the air-conditioning pleasant, and the bed was soft and warm. But, still, something's bothering me.

He is definitely avoiding me, I can tell you that much.

Why do I say so? It's because of a lot of things, actually, but for you I'll narrow it down to three:

(1) These past few weeks, I noticed that he's no longer sitting on our usual table during lunch time. Or more specifically, he's not sitting with me. It was always either with Stacey, or with Richard, or with Bruce, or with some other random acquaintance that he met by the pool or outside the Biology Lab - but never with me. I risked a confrontation with him about it one time during a bus ride home where I even had to corner him at the back of the vehicle just to be able to talk to him. When he realized that he had nowhere else to go but out through the window, he just gave me a wide, innocent, lopsided grin and said, "Really? I haven't noticed." I blinked. I wanted to yell at him, "Like, fuck, you haven't noticed!" but I didn't. (2) All of my texts, all of my calls, and all of my emails were rarely, if not scarcely, answered. He'd apologized to me about it once and said that he was just so busy writing the script for the musicale play that he didn't notice that he was not noticing me. "Yeah, right! And hearing from Stacey that you often talk with Bruce on the phone falls under "writing-the-musicale-play-script" busy." But, again, I did not say it. (3) He wouldn't let me sleep over at his house anymore, and neither would he sleep at mine, saying "had-to things" like he "had to finish making an English assignment" or that he "had to be up early tomorrow for a certain this or for a certain that." Which, I know, are complete bullshit!

Fuck. What the hell have I done this time?

I have repeatedly retraced all of my activities - words, thoughts and deeds - right from the very start of the restoration of our friendship but I couldn't find a single thing that I could've said or done that would make him keep his distance from me.

We are friends. He reassured me about that. But still . . . something's not right. There's something he's not telling me and I wouldn't find some peace of mind until I know what it is.

'You really have a great way of messing things up, Princeton. Even you have no idea of what you did. You're fucked up, man.'

Acknowledging that the real world has triumphantly pulled me out of the alternate universe of "Everything Danny" that my mind has created in my sleep, I stumbled out of my bed and went straight to the basement - to where a gym was installed.

For the next hour or two, I worked entirely on keeping my body fit. Glad that just by doing that, I can temporarily banish other thoughts from my mind. Images of Danny spread wide open below me, my cock slowly sliding into his warm, tight confines, his arms clenched tight across my back while my hand held onto his hip, his nails digging onto my shoulderblades while I bit onto the hollows of his collarbone. As I pounded my way into and out of him, my hand tangled in the softness of his hair, his hot breath scalding the curvature of my neck every single time my name came out of his lips, words of pleasure seeping into my brain.

Fuck!

Those images looked so vivid - so real - I wondered if my mind was playing games with me. Truth was, I so wanted them to be real; I want to be able to hold him in my arms and tell him what I really feel.

But then, as I was about to explode inside him, I wake up, and reality comes crashing in. Realization then tells me that I can only hold him like that in my dreams. And I have to be content with that. For the sake of the both of us, I have to be.

~*~*[[ DM ]]*~*~

14 February 2011 Monday / 12:45 PM Irvine High School

"Do I even have to ask who that came from?"

I chuckled and turned around, a smile plastered on my face. "That obvious, huh?"

"Well, for one, your cheeks are as red as my ass when it gets spanked," was his remark.

"Richie!" I gasped horrifically. "I so did not want to hear that!" I can't let the image of him bent over naked and spanked on some muscular stud's knees add to the list of why I should not think about sex. I can't think of sex. I just can't right now. It hurts too much. I can't.

Sex.

'Daniel Christopher Mockins, don't think of sex!'

Sex. Sex. Sex.

'NO! Please, don't think of sex!'

SEX. SEX. SEX. SEX. SEX.

'NO! You can't think of sex! Not when he . . . .'

"Whatever. Just telling you." Richie broke me out of my own internal battles. He shrugged and leaned himself onto the lockers. "So, what did my dear cousin say this time?"

I cleared my throat before I started reading the third card that Bruce has shoved inside my locker that day.

"If I profane with my unworthiest hand This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

You've always had my heart, Danny . . . Have a lovely Valentine's Day."

"EWWW! Can he be any more disgusting?" Richie sputtered while laughing. "So, that's why he wanted me out of his room yesterday - to make this disgusting card? Are you even sure these ones are from him? This, personally, does not scream "Bruce" to me."

"Oh, shut up, Richard! Of course it's from him. Who would give me cheesy Valentine's cards but him?" I replied with a chuckle. I gave him a challenging look. "Just say it! Say that you're just a jealous harpy who's happy enough to antagonize every living - and loving - thing because he has no Valentine's date."

His lips curved into a perfect O, and so did his eyes. "Take that back, you wretched bitch! I do have a date this Valentine's Day!"

"Oh, really?" I sneered, crossing my arms across my chest. "Who?"

His lips parted to speak, but no words came out. He closed them again.

"See?" I chuckled. I picked a few books from my locker and shoved them into my bag. "So, are you free for this afternoon?"

"Um . . . nope. I promised to myself that I would be working on my Chemistry project - starting today." Richie said sternly. "Why?"

"You're already given a chemistry project? The second semester has just started. Why so soon?" I wondered. "Anyway . . . I bought Bruce something for Valentine's last Saturday and I want you to see it and tell me if it's okay or not . . ." I tried so hard not to let my heart pump so much blood that my face would flush. Unfortunately, it didn't work.

"Aw . . . ain't that shweet!" Richard pouted, giving me a really convincing puppy-dog look.

I socked his arm.

"I really hope you thought of buying something nice. Valentine's Day is today, dumb ass. And if you're just asking me now on my opinion, then it certainly wouldn't help. You wouldn't have the time to change it, anyway." He laughed, walking backwards. "But if you ask me . . . this afternoon, after dismissal, why don't you buy him something sweet and chocolaty . . . and let him lick it off your cock. I think he'd love that," he answered with a genuine look.

I would have beaten him to a pulp but he was already running for his next class, laughing all along the hallways, screaming "Lick my chocolate fuck stick!" for the whole county to hear. Bastard!

~*~*[[ MM ]]*~*~

14 February 2011 Monday / 02:5& PM Mockins Residence

For the later part of her afternoon, Mary Mockins was preparing for her family's dinner, despite the irritating fact that it was Valentine's Day.

"Spaghetti would be nice," she mused as she thought of her children who would soon be home from school. "Stephanie would surely love it! And Daniel would crave for some pie. And maybe some apple turnovers, too."

She went on smoothly with her preparations - boiling water, beating dough, peeling apples, slicing spices - when the sound of her doorbell echoed all around her house. Expecting no one on the day of hearts, she washed her hands free of flour, managed to keep her billowing hair in a descent bun, and strolled towards the front door. Without looking through the peephole, she swung the door open with a welcoming smile. And she nearly jumped on her own feet. Her eyes rounded into perfect sapphire discs of surprise and her giggle transformed into a gasp as she took in the man standing on her front porch.

Memories flashed before her - her first date, her first dance, her first kiss - the years when her life was on its happiest, years of pure pleasure and passionate love.

'Why is he here? And on freaking Valentine's Day? Dear Lord, why are you doing this to me?'

She took him all in. He still was the man that she remembered him to be; unchanged by time, untouched by the forces. His short-cropped, brown hair was tousled, probably by constantly running his fingers through them in apprehension, his rugged features more pronounced by the two-day stubble of his beard, his sharp jaw, his prominent cheekbones, his long, straight nose, his full, perfect lips, and his intense, dark-brown eyes so like his son's. Like wine, he only bettered in time and, Mary thought lecherously, that Hugh Jackman or any other man, in fact, had nothing on this guy. On her guy. Mary wondered if, like wine, he tasted . . .

"Mary," he greeted in a deep, husky, resonating voice that made her knees turn to mush. The smile that once ensnared her heart was splashed all across his face, making her feel as if she was the only thing that he ever wanted in his life, the only thing that ever mattered in this world.

Which was not true.

It may have been once . . . but not anymore.

'He left you. Stop mooning over the man who left you.' Mary brusquely told herself, and she cleared her throat and regained her composure. Or she hoped she did.

"Christoper. What are you doing here?" Thank God, she found her voice. She can't let him see how disoriented she was right now with his presence. She can't let him see her . . . what? See her what? Desperation? Lust? Longing? Oh, great.

Christopher sighed and his spirits dampened right before Mary's eyes, sadness and age claiming over the facade of strength and invulnerability that he was trying so hard to maintain. "You won't even let me in now?" he said sadly.

Closing her eyes, Mary pondered if it was wise to let the man into her house, back into her life. What if she gets foolish enough to believe his lies once more? Or worse, What if he makes her fall all over again? Make a fool of her all over again?

It was one lie.

Yet it was one lie too many.

But against her better judgment, and being the respectable woman that she was, she stepped aside and let him into her house; reigning in the feelings that she had kept buried in her heart for more than a decade and a half.

Leading him straight into her kitchen, Christopher seated himself on a stool. His large frame made the chair look insufficient and she feared that it may give in to his size. He was broader. Thicker. Manlier.

'Why does he have to be so big and muscular?' Mary thought and quickly slapped it off of her mind.

Looking into her refrigerator instead, she decided to pull out a bottle of champagne - mostly, for her jittery nerves - and a pair of champagne flutes. Uncorking the bottle, she poured Christopher and herself ample amounts of the cool, bubbling liquid.

"How are you, Mary?" His voice was gentle as he asked. "How are the kids?"

She took a generous sip before answering, the bubbling liquid giving her the courage to snap, "Let's skip the pleasantries and just cut to the chase, shall we? My children will be home soon and I can't have Dan . . . I can't have my son seeing you." Mary's eyes narrowed with impatience. "What brings you across the country, Christopher?" she bluntly asked.

Clearly hurt with using 'My' instead of 'Our' to refer to their son, he set his glass down before looking at her. "I wanted to talk to you, Mary. There's something you need to know."

'Fifteen years and he shows himself and decides to talk to me?' Mary wondered what he would say now.

"Fine," she huffed. Better finish this as soon as possible. The sooner, the better. "Talk, Christopher."

Sighing, Christopher rounded the kitchen counter and stood before Mary. He took her hand. Immediately, electricity crackled along the skin where their fingers touched. That simple reaction scared the hell out of Mary. After all this time . . . it was still there. How can this be?

Taking her trembling hands, he led her to a stool and seated beside her.

Now, what?

"It's about what happened after I . . . after I left Miami," he paused. "It's about my family."

Mary's heart pounded against her chest and again she found herself catching her breath. His family? What is he talking about? Did something happen to his father? His mother? Or maybe one of his siblings?

"Your family?" she inquired, meaning it to sound plain and bored but only succeeded in making it sound curious and concerned. Damn this man for making her feel confused like this!

Christopher nodded slowly, never taking his eyes off Mary. "It's about my wife . . . and my son."

"Oh," Mary's eyes widened with shock. Her throat dried out in an instant. Her whole body stiffened. Of course he has a wife. And a son. How silly of her to think he wouldn't move on. Dumb girl! Mary couldn't take in the information, but she knows that she had no other choice but to control her feelings and not let the tears betray her. He can't see her like this. As if she was hurt by his words. Which she was. Unfortunately, she was. Extremely hurt . . . and broken.

"Do you remember what happened right after . . . right after our graduation?" Christopher asked her softly a minute later.

Mary's gut twisted. How could she forget that terrible night? Was he here because of that incident all over again?

"Christopher, if you're here to explain again why you slept with-"

"No, Mary. Please listen to me first. You have to know everything before you kick me out of your house. Out of your life," he begged. "That, I ask you much. Please. You have to understand what really happened that night. And what happened after. We're grown-ups, for God's sake. All I ask of you is to listen. Please."

Mary paused to calm herself, then nodded. Whatever he had to say, she knows that she had to listen. She had to know now. It was time she understood why the love of her life left her when she needed him the most. She had to know why her best friend betrayed her when she all but supported her all through her problems and insecurities. She had to know why.

For Daniel, she had to know.

~*~*[[ DM ]]*~*~

14 February 2011 Monday / 05:16 PM Mockins Residence

An hour and a half later, after again storming through Irvine's shops, boutiques and malls, I thanked Jaime for coming with me. Again. I headed home. I got off the bus. I walked for a few blocks before turning towards the corner where our house would be. But the sight that appeared stopped me on my tracks.

On the sidewalk right where a Land Cruiser was parked, my mom was hugging someone - a big, hulking someone. I could not clearly see his face, but from afar, I would say he looked to be around my mother's age. They hugged for a while, with the guy gently stroking my mom's back as she repeatedly nodded on the nape of his neck. He was clearly comforting her.

Fuck! Why was she crying? What for? Why does she need comforting? Was my mom going through something that I should've known? What was wrong? And who was this guy? To hug and hold her like that?

Then the thought crossed my mind.

'Oh, my God. Were they dating?'

The loyal part in me towards my biological father made me suspicious of this guy. Despite the fact that I never really had a chance to be with my father, for he left us when I was at a very young age, I still felt bad for him.

But then again, my mother needed this. Without her telling me, I know that she deserves another chance in love, and if this guy - if he was dating her - is making her happy, then who am I to take it from her.

I waited until the guy finally drove off in his car before I continued towards the house.

"Mom, I'm home!" I called in as I got through the door. I heard her call back from the kitchen.

"Hey, honey," she greeted sweetly as I dropped quick kisses on her cheeks. "How was school?" No matter how happy and normal she might sound, there was something dark lurking in her eyes. I noticed that she already had cleared all signs of her tears. Damn. What is going on?

"It was fine," I told her curtly. But, a heartbeat later, the curious part in me had to ask. "I noticed a Land Cruiser driving off from the house. Who was it?"

My mother was on the sink washing utensils with her back to me when I registered her momentary shock - her shoulders shuddered, the nape of her neck noticeably went from pale to pink in an instant, and her breathing tensed - before she turned to me and replaced it with an almost convincing smile, "Oh," she tried for nonchalance, like I was stupid enough to not notice. "It was just one of my colleagues from high school," she paused. "He's a successful businessman and he just had a few . . . business proposals for me. We just had a talk."

I glanced at her and I can't help but notice that she was really . . . flustered? Wait a minute. The redness on her neck was now spreading across her cheeks. Was that a blush? "Ooookay." I stretched the word. And I chuckled.

She turned to glare at me. "I don't like it when you give me that look," I heard my mother say after I bowed down to take a bite from a pie.

I tried to stifle my laugh. "What look?" This time, I took a bite from one of her apple turnovers and feigned innocence as I downed it with the orange juice she served me earlier.

"That I-smell-something-fishy-but-I-ain't-telling-you look," she narrowed her eyes at me, her playfulness back. "He's just a colleague, I swear."

I chuckled at how well my mother knows me, "Okay. Okay. He's just a really tall, really hunky, and maybe even a really handsome 'colleague.' Fine. You don't have to be defensive about your 'colleague,' mom."

"I am not being-"

But I shot her a look that says otherwise and she shut her mouth and returned to her task. I sighed.

"Mom." my voice was now low, dry with - sadness? - and I downed the rest of the juice just to clear it.

"Mmmm?"

I sighed and blurted, "Do you miss dad?"

She fumbled with the beater for a bit, tensing all over again. Then, looking at me, she said with a sad glimmer in her eyes, "I do."

Coming from my mother at that moment, those two words never held so much meaning. It was clear that she loved him - loves him still, in my own selfish opinion - but the truth was, he left, and I can't help but feel glad that my mother was now starting to move on. I was glad for her. I smiled.

Trying to change the topic, I told her about my . . . night with Bruce.

"You can't go!" she suddenly growled across the kitchen counter, her eyes staring straight through mine to further intensify the meaning of her words, and all I could do was return her glare with a confused look.

"What?" I heard the sound of my voice, but it seemed like it was coming from a tunnel I could barely register it.

"You're not going. You can't see him," she stammered, her eyes shining in tears, as if the words hurt her more than it did to me. "Anymore."

The confusion twisted my guts. Anger swelled in my heart at what she's trying to say. "Mom, what are you talking about?" I croaked.

"It's quite clear, Daniel. You can't be with that boy anymore. Whether you like it or not, I can't let you." The sternness in her voice shocked me. It was like she threw acid to my skin, like she pushed me off the car and let a sixteen-wheeler truck run over me. She sounded like she was on autopilot, like someone else was inside her telling her, forcing her, what to say. And I simply can't comprehend why she's acting this way.

"That 'boy'? Mom, that's Bruce we're talking about. I care about him a lot and I think our relationship . . . I don't understand." I worked the words out of my mouth. "You were never against our . . . against my relationship with him. You were even glad I found him!" I slammed the words out towards my mother. I haven't realized that I was now standing up, my eyes looking down on her, my fists clenching the black, cold granite counter top, its edges almost cutting through the skin. "Why, Mom?"

She sobbed. Which just added to the list of things that I could not understand. Why was she telling me this, and then cry?

She didn't reply but her tears went on falling, her face hidden behind her palms.

Heading towards the stairs, I called in a steady voice, "I'm going tonight."

My mom just cried.

~*~*[[ BA ]]*~*~

14 February 2011 Monday / 05:21 PM Apartment 3A, Edinger Building

I walked out of my room, ready for the night. I looked nice. I smelled nice. I felt nice.

'Tonight, I'm going to tell him. Tonight, I'm going to make him mine.' I thought excitedly.

Mine.

Just the thought brings unimaginable thrills to my entire being. I'm doing this tonight and I'm going to be . . .

I reached the bottom of the stairs and I immediately stopped in my tracks as soon as I saw who was waiting for me by the front door.

"Arnold?" my voice actually cracked halfway through the syllables. Oh, no. This is not good. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to take you home, Master Adams." He replied straightforwardly.

My heart crashed. "No. What are you talking about? This," I gestured to William's apartment "is my home now."

Arnold never quivered. He remained as stone-like as he was for as long as I could remember.

I should tell you that our original home was in Texas. But because of some . . . personal issues, my parents decided to take us to New York, where I finally discovered that my farmer of a father was actually the heir of one of the most powerful companies in New York, it was where I realized that I have a multi-billionaire grandfather, it was where I learned about the truth regarding my roots - who Bruce Gregory Adams really is.

A couple months later, my mother and I transferred to California for my studies. My mother insisted that I should have a normal high school life. As much as possible. And California couldn't be any more normal.

Arnold just kept on staring at me. Waiting for me. I haven't seen our butler ever since we transferred here in California.

But why is my father doing this to me now? I'm happy here. How can he do this to me?

"I apologize, Master Adams, but your father has ordered me to come pick you up. You of all people know he doesn't want any delays. He wants you home as soon as possible."

"But I don't want to go. I'm happy here and I'm going on a date!" I whined like a five-year old. "I can't go with you. Tell my father to suck it up."

"I'm so sorry, Master Adams, but you are coming with me. Whatever . . . activities you have here doesn't matter any longer. Your father's orders." Arnold said sternly. Then he turned for the door. "I will be waiting downstairs by the limousine. The jet leaves in thirty minutes."

I tried to protest, but when it came to my father there was nothing I could do if he made up his mind. My tears fell as I dialed his number. I would plead if I have to. I have never pleaded before. I want him to know that my happiness is here and I can't live without him. I need him to understand.

Tears continued streaming down my face when I reached his voicemail.

"Fuck!"

I screamed.

And I surrendered.

The last thing that I thought of as the plane embarked was the wonderful guy sitting in a restaurant, surrounded by couples, waiting for a date that will never come.

"I'll come back for you, Daniel." I whispered to myself. "I'm so sorry."

~*~*[[ DM ]]*~*~

14 February 2011 Monday / 06:45 PM Antonio Gustav's Place

How stupid of me. Did I honestly think I could go through with this date without puking my guts out in nervousness? God!

I glanced at my watch for the third - or like the thirtieth - time and a gush of nervousness came out of my lungs.

At least I was fifteen minutes early. This way, I still have time to find my inner peace and control my emotions. And to stop fidgeting with the flowers and the candles on the table.

'You can do this.' I told myself. 'It's just a date.' Heh. A nervous chuckle came through my parched-dry lips. I glanced at my watch once again. Damn! Only forty-five seconds have passed by.

"Close your eyes, hum, and just wait for him." I mumbled.

And I waited.

~*~*[[ KP ]]*~*~

14 February 2011 Monday / 07:47 PM Antonio Gustav's Place

"Have I told you that this is the most twisted idea to ever come out of that muddled-up brain of yours?" Stacey mentioned.

"Only for the zillionth time, I think." I mused as I scanned the place. On a corner set on a raised wooden platform, a jazz band was playing the greatest love songs of all time; soft lights, hearts and cupids hung from the ceiling; candles and flowers overflowed the restaurant; the wait staff was busy serving their patrons - giving them everything that they needed. Everything looks perfect.

"He looks on edge," Stacey whispered. "Aren't you going to do something?"

My eyes returned to Danny sitting alone in a corner. How I wished I was the one who asked him out. How I wished I was brave enough to have actually done that. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

"Keith, do something!" Stacey cut through my thoughts once again. "He's been waiting for Bruce for over an hour now. I can't believe he'd just stood him up! That bastard!"

I cursed the blue-eyed blonde that should have been here.

I stood without needing Stacey's urgings and made my way out of the shadows and strode towards Danny who was playing with the table ornaments.

"You look great tonight," I said in the most gentle way that I could muster. I could've kicked myself if I could. I hope it didn't sound too . . . intimate.

Danny's eyes, which were fixed on his hands plucking the petals off of a rose bud, immediately shot to mine. His mouth opened and a gasp came out of it.

"What are you doing here?" he said accursedly, looking all around us, probably afraid that someone might see him talking with me. Which is so not BFF behavior.

Dismissing the nervousness seeping out of his pores, I went for the seat right across from him and settled in. "Mind if I join you for the rest of the night?" I asked just for the sole purpose of asking, even though I was already seated.

My heart was having a racket of pounding my chest. He looked even more gorgeous from up close.

Danny's eyes narrowed to slits before he hissed, "Actually, I do mind, Keith," he told me bluntly. "Because I'm waiting for someone tonight. I'm actually on a date if you haven't noticed the roses and the candles and all these stupid Valentine's stuff . . ."

I chuckled. "So where's this 'date' that you so proudly call?" I goaded, yet I won't deny that I actually flinched when he insisted that he was here for someone else. And not to mention that my heart was beating faster with jealous disposition and that I wanted to punch and destroy someone just for . . .

"What are you doing here, Keith?" Danny cut me off before I deformed Bruce in my mind.

I sighed, glad that he was at least straightforward. "You've been waiting here for over an hour now. He obviously can't come. I thought you needed company so I-"

"Hold it, mister," anger immediately crossed his features when he raised his palm, "How the hell did you know that I was waiting for over an hour now? Keith, did you fucking follow me here? Are you spying on me?"

I gritted my teeth. 'Well . . . shit! Busted. Nice move, Princeton.'

I decided on telling him I wasn't but what was the point in not telling the truth? He was already avoiding me like I was the plague - I don't want to add lying to the who-knows-how-tall pile of shit I already have against him.

"I am," I told him plainly.

He angrily glared at me as I canceled Bruce's reservations and ordered for a new set of delicacies. For the next ten minutes, I avoided his acrid glares and happily sipped the bubbles from the delicious champagne that I was able to talk to out of one of the waiters. He just held his in his hands and concentrated on digging a hole on my forehead with the use of his eyes. I smiled inwardly. At least he was not running off.

My orders were served after the next ten minutes. I started on my steak. "Danny, you should eat." I said to him after my third slice.

Giving me one last glare, he went through his food and gobbled it up within the next thirty-thousand seconds. It was my mouth's turn to gape when I eyed how fast he took his food in.

Damn!

I chuckled after he gulped the last of his champagne and stubbornly demanded our waiter for another glass.

We never said a word to each other all throughout dessert. Even at his obvious discomfort, I couldn't help but smile.

"Are we finished here?" Danny sourly asked as soon as I finished my last slice of chocolate mousse.

"Yeah. Sure." I openly, intentionally, purposefully licked my lip clean of stray chocolate icing. And I noticed when his eyes caught my mouth before returning to look at my face. "Let's go." I told him, standing up before he sees my triumphant smile. "I'm taking you to dinner. Get up. You look like shit."

"What?" He demanded, sounding confused.

"I'm taking you to dinner."

He looked surprised, then he said, "Keith, if you haven't noticed, we're in a restaurant."

"So?"

"So . . . a restaurant is made to serve food. That includes dinner. You know . . . the thing that we just ate!" He was oozing with sarcasm and I could clearly see that he was biting back the urge to scream 'Duh!'

I just scoffed, "Danny, we both know that we have a very different definition of dinner. Come on. Get that fat ass of yours. I'm starving."

"My ass is not fat!" he retorted sharply, gaining at least a couple of dozen of eyes. He instantly blushed.

I chuckled. Leaving a generous amount of tip, I made my way out of the restaurant without waiting for him to come and follow.

I breathed in the night. My jeep is just waiting by the parking lot but I felt like using my legs tonight. I stepped onto the sidewalk.

"Princeton, wait up!"

I grinned without losing my stride. I just love how the moon looked like it's smiling down on me.

"Damn it, Keith," he socked my arm as soon as he caught up. "Where the hell are you taking me?"

"I already told you. I'm taking you to dinner." I turned a corner. He followed me. "Trust me, Danny, you won't regret it."

We walked for a couple of blocks before he mentioned, "You're on to something," and then he eyed me suspiciously.

I beamed, "And what if I am? What are you going to do?" and I took a road that would lead us towards the park.

*End of Chapter 17, Part One*

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Guys, I'm so so sorry for this really late update. I'm really busy enrolling myself for the summer classes and I can't seem to find the time to sit down and start writing. I hope you like this hastily-written chapter. Thank you for those who sent me e-mails and for those who followed my Twitter account @ANerdyJock If you want to contact me, here's my e-mail address: [email protected] You can talk to me there. You can send your suggestions and reactions regarding my stories. You can even critique me there. And don't forget your COMMENTS! COMMENTS! COMMENTS! -XOXO NJ

 

Nerdy Jock

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