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 18 THE CALL

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

I woke up to the wonderful smell of sizzling bacon and the enticing aroma of freshly brewed coffee. As my eyes settled on the unfamiliar surroundings, I realized I was no longer at home. Home. My Uncle William's apartment has been my temporary home ever since my mother's death. It was in his, Douglas' and Richard's company that I somehow felt optimistic about my life, in a way. They were there with me the first few months of my grief. With their loving guidance, I knew that I could face a new day without caving in to my despair.

My mother has been everything to me. Ever since I was a little boy, she would be the one who'd tell me bedtime stories - from planets filled with treasures, to magnificent pirate ships, to slimy little frogs that turn into handsome princes with just the power of their true love's kiss. Yep, she told me that, too. Back then it was simple. Every story would start from "Once upon a time . . ." and end with ". . . and they lived happily ever after." Everything had a beginning and would always have a happy ending. But with everything that's happening to my life right now . . . I see no happy ending lurking from the near-distant future. And I'm still sixteen, for God's sake!

The barrenness of the walls and the sheen of the stainless steel furnishings in the room gave their best to capture and hold my attention. But they were just plain. Clinical. Nothing in this room says anything about me. Sure, it was wide and conducive and comfortable; perfect for a guy who needs his space. But there were no posters. There were no banners. No stolen street signs. No trophies. This isn't my home. This isn't my room. This just isn't me.

I got up from the bed and decided to go for a shower. And, of course, my father's suite should have the most luxurious accommodations!

What. A. Shock.

I rolled my eyes. The shower could easily hold a dozen people in it. Or more. I cringed at the thought.

I have nothing against my family's wealth. Really. It was what helped my mother to hang on. Even for a few precious months. And I was glad for that. Thankful. But. I'm just . . . well . . . I'm just overwhelmed with everything, I guess. Everything just seems bigger here. More expensive. Our humble three-bedroom Texan house has nothing compared to this Manhattan penthouse, but what it lacked in luxury and style; it overflowed with the wonderful feelings of peace - of love, of home.

The water was getting cold when I decided to step out of the shower. I looked at myself in the foggy mirror. I seriously have to work on my body. That stomach should be flattened. Those baby fats should go. That waistline should be reduced. That chest should be firm. And those biceps should be further defined. I honestly don't know what Daniel sees in me.


I groaned.

I donned the first pair of designer clothes that I can pick from the fully-equipped wardrobe. Most likely, Arnold arranged them prior to my arrival. At my father's instructions, of course. Gah!

"Time to face the wrath of the titan." I mumbled as I stepped out of the room. I walked the few steps along the hallway outside my room and sauntered out into the living room. To my left was the entertainment lounge, and to my far right was the kitchen, where the smell of breakfast was concentrated. I felt my stomach rumble. Rumbling, traitorous stomach. With a scowl on my face, I went for the kitchen.

"Good morning, son." Gregory Adams' enthusiastic greeting made my scowl deepen. I preferred to ignore him, to just eat my breakfast and go rot in my room, but I knew that my silence would just backfire on me in some way or another. So, I grunted a simple "Morning" back to him and went to take my place opposite him - where a plate of eggs, toast and bacon was served. I started on my meal.

"How was your sleep?" my father asked.

I looked at him, wondering if he was serious. He was. I wanted to punch him for asking. And at the same time, I wanted to cry. Did he really just ask me that? He jetted me out of California for no apparent reason, without telling me about it first, and he's asking if I slept fine?

"Okay," I answered shortly.

He poured me coffee and passed me the cream and sugar. I made my coffee and sipped a generous amount, grateful for the warmth and aroma.

"How are Will and Doug?" he asked. "I hope California suits them well." I held the urge to groan. Why can't he just leave me alone and let me eat? I tried to not roll my eyes and changed the subject.

"Don't you have a meeting, Dad? An appointment or something? Really, I don't want to keep you from your affairs." I said dryly.

His scowl was as clear as day. But it quickly vanished and was immediately replaced by a sweet, satisfied smile. "Actually, I cleared my schedule for the next few days. I'm all yours for the rest of the week," he proudly stated as if that was what I craved most in the world; to spend time with him. "So, what do you wanna do?" He asked jovially.

I hissed under my breath. "Dad, I'm still in school. Or, at least, I was. Why did you fly me here to New York?"

"I wanted to see my little boy. Is it so wrong for a father to want to spend some time with his son?" He whined.

"It is, if you're distracting him from his studies. It's the start of the second term." I fumed back. "And I'm no longer your little boy. Why did you bring me here, Dad?"

He sighed. "I wanted to have a talk to you. It's important."

"Dad, there's this new thing called 'cellphone'. It's really a great breakthrough in the telecommunications industry, you know. You can talk to someone through it even if you're states or countries apart. I'm sure you've heard of it." I replied heatedly, sarcasm rich and deep in my voice, unable to control my temper any longer.

"I don't appreciate your cynicism, son."

"Then tell me why I'm sitting here in New York, having breakfast with you, when I should have been on the other side of the country, sitting in first period right now?"

He huffed. "Why don't you get dressed first?"

"Why?" I snapped childishly.

"Because I'm taking you somewhere." He answered impassively.




"You need to know something."


"Bruce, enough with the stupid questions!" my father snapped angrily. "I know that you know why I have to take you away from California and don't you dare deny it, young man! I know your mother told you everything about him. Now get dressed and just do as I say!" He stormed out of the kitchen.

I froze in my seat, the eggs and bacon staring sympathetically at me. And realization gripped me, crushing my already broken heart to a million jagged pieces. "He knows." I muttered weakly to myself. And there was nothing that I could do about it.

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

Tuesday. Post-Valentine's Day. I sprained my neck from stretching it too much, craning my head above the crowded hallways looking for my big, blonde, bulky, bastard friend. The nerve of that guy! All throughout the bus ride after Keith left my house I rehearsed what I would say to Bruce on the mirror. Or yell at him. Whatever. I had it memorized in my head; word for fucking word. For no fucking good. He didn't fucking show up.

Wednesday. I spent most of my classes asking if anyone saw 'Adams from the Football team.' They gave me the shrug and told me they haven't. I sure haven't seen his gigantic back in the classes that we shared. Even Richie - Bruce's very own cousin - doesn't know a thing. Or if he does, he isn't telling. Traitorous bitch!

Thursday. I somehow made Keith pissed at me because I was always wondering what happened to Bruce, why Bruce was still absent, why Bruce hasn't called me back, et cetera, et cetera, Bruce-cetera. Afterwards, I kept wondering why he got so pissed. I mean . . . he knows that Bruce and I have 'something' between us. And he's my best friend. Plus he told me that what I'm having with Bruce was fine and was none of his concern. So why did he have to get pissed at me for worrying about my 'friend'? God, he's a confusing guy.

Friday. I approached the 'higher power.' With a hesitant Richie following behind me, I entered the Guidance Office and asked to see Douglas - um, I mean Mr. Connor - about Bruce's whereabouts. I tried to stifle my growl with his response. He. Doesn't. Know. I got angry like a mother hen and started squawking at him with my claws drawn out and deadly. He was basically Bruce's stand-in father - or stand-in mother, whatever - and he hasn't the slightest idea where his other son is. Bullshit. I stormed out of his office thinking he was no better than his son - or daughter, whatever - when it comes to extracting valuable information. Screw them!

Saturday. Afternoon. With my schedule eventually free and the musicale play's first draft finally passed, I decided to visit the cowardly bastard. Upon opening their apartment door, William told me that they were busy and it wasn't really a good time - all the while I was hearing Douglas and Richie howling in their living room, shouting horrible comments at a certain reality game show on TV, sounding not so busy at all. I raised a brow at a blushing William. 'God, he was really gorgeous!' I shook my head to clear my lusty thoughts.

"Where, William?" I asked him point-blank. "Where's Bruce? I need to talk to him." I tried to get inside but his huge and muscular body wouldn't let me through. "Damn it, William, where is he?" I demanded. Why wasn't anyone telling me anything? I held myself and tried to ignore the clump in my throat. I wasn't going to cry. I'm not going to cry. "Please, Will. I need to know where he is."

William looked at me with sympathetic eyes. He nodded and sighed. "He's with his father, Daniel."

I took a step back and went over his words one more time. With his father? What is he talking about? Bruce's father was in the East Coast. In New York, as what he said. Why was he with him? And for how long?

"I don't know, Daniel." I heard William say. And I realized I must have muttered my thoughts out loud. I willed myself not to cry.

"Why didn't he tell me?" I managed to say without my voice breaking. I don't understand. "Is there something wrong?"

"I'm so sorry, Daniel, but I really don't know." William said sadly. "Someone was sent here last Monday night to take him to New York and . . . I'm guessing his father didn't want him to say no. But I'm sure it'll be alright."

I tried to take in his words. But it was too much. He left. Will everything be alright? Will it? He's gone and no one knows if he's coming back.

Bruce. What's going on?


I slammed my phone to the mattress. "Damn it!" I cursed.

"Still nothing?" my sister's eyes emerged from the top of her magazine.

I rolled to my stomach and looked at her. "I think his phone's still turned off. My calls are going straight to Voice Mail."

"For over a week?" she mentioned with a wondering look.

"Yeah, I know. It's stupid. Maybe he's just busy . . .?" I suggested hopefully.

"Doing what exactly?"

"I don't know. Stuff?" I was still thinking positively.

"That the best you got? Stuff?" my sister chimed, humorlessly. "Daniel, it's been ten days since he left. Ten. He's in New York and not one single text message? Don't you think that that means something?"

I glowered on my phone. 'Yeah, he's shrugging me off, that's what.' A chill swept all throughout my body when I thought of this.

"How could he do this, Steph? One day he's all sweet and charming on me and making me smile and then - Snap! - he's off the face of the planet, leaving me in a restaurant with not even a message to explain why." I paused when I saw her expression. "And now you're giving me that disgusted look on your face."

Stephanie laughed. "That's not my disgusted look. I just think you look annoyingly cute when you brood over your love life and frown lines pop out of your forehead." She paused, laughing. "Daniel, maybe you should just -"

"If you say 'move on', Stephanie Allison, I'll make sure to make that disgusted look of yours into a disgusting face instead. Don't tempt me, missy!" I growled.

She giggled while rolling her dark hazel eyes at me, then she sighed deeply. "It's okay, Daniel. I'm here. You're going to go through this all right and I'm gonna take you shopping with Richie for summer apparels and we're gonna have a really good time." she promised.

"Steph, you make it sound as if I just broke up with my not-sure-if-he-is-my-boyfriend-yet-boyfriend." I whined into my pillow, muffling my voice. I then heard Duke whine beside me. I grabbed his tiny, fluffy body and ruffled his silky, soft fur against my neck.

"Um. Sorry." Stephanie dumped her magazine on my desk and rolled beside me. She held my hand. I kept stroking Duke's fur and my head buried in the pillow. "He'll be back, big brother. He's stubborn and his asshattery is totally off the asshole charts but the many times that he's been here . . . he couldn't take his eyes off you."

Duke barked in approval. My heart actually beat faster. I smiled a bit and I took comfort in her words. For a bit. But it wasn't enough. I stomped out of my room and dashed to the kitchen, with Keith's birthday present bouncing gracefully down the steps behind me.

Duke and I rounded the corner. And I saw her. Perfect. She's cooking dinner.

"What is going on?" I asked clearly when I reached the island in the kitchen, Duke stopping beside me.

My mother looked up from her vegetables and gave me a startled look. "What do you mean, Daniel? I'm cutting us healthy veggies for our hungry tummies. Nyum nyum nyum! Isn't that right, Duke, darling? Nyum nyum nyum!"

But, loyal as ever, Duke didn't pay attention.

"Bruce," I answered my mother - completely ignoring her attempts to baby-talk me and my dog - not bothering to further my meaning. I was sure that his name was explanatory by itself. I waited with my arms crossed; my body slightly leaning on the kitchen island.

My mother stiffened marginally while slicing and dicing the remaining carrots and potatoes before facing me. She shoved the vegetables into a bowl and took a composing breath. "I don't want you to see him anymore." She said easily, looking at me.

"Yeah, Mom, you told me that exact same thing on Valentine's Day." I snapped.

My mother's calm expression turned stern - hard, strict - and she snapped back at me, "And I'm telling you again. I don't want you to see him anymore. Not anymore, Daniel. Not anymore."

"But, Mom, why?" I yelled in protest. "We aren't doing anything wrong!"

She was about to go full rage on me, but she caught herself and she breathed through bared, clenched teeth. "He isn't who you think he is. I don't want you to see him anymore."

I laughed with all the sarcasm that I could muster. "And I'm tired of you going cryptic on me, Mom. He isn't who I think he is? I spent most of my days with him. I stood with him when Lily died. I was there when they buried her. I held him when he cried. And you think I don't know who he is? Mom, just tell me what the hell is going on. Is he in trouble? Just, please, tell me. I'm going crazy here! Why now? What changed? Why did he leave? What did you say to him to make him leave?"

"Leave?" She blinked, looking confused. "He left?"

I paused to glare at her. "His father brought him to New York the Monday before last."

"His father?" she asked, wide-eyed.

"Yes! Mom, what is going on?"

"So Gregory took him home?" she added.

"What? Mom, who's Gregory? We're talking about Bruce."

"Gregory: Lily's husband, Bruce's father," she answered uncomfortably.

"You know him?" I asked in surprise, my mind processing things a hundred miles an hour.

"I . . . uh . . . I sort of do." she muttered.

"You sort of do." I couldn't help the sarcasm in my voice. "Now this just keeps getting better and better. Is Mr. Gregory a homophobe? Did you tell him about my and Bruce's relationship? Is that why he took Bruce with him? Is that why he took Bruce from me?"

"No!" my mother actually screamed. "I did not tell him about you and Bruce. I didn't even know that he would take his son. I honestly thought that Bruce is living with William and Douglas," she answered coldly, tilting her head. "But whatever Gregory's reasons are I'm sure that they're for the best."

"The best. How could you possibly know that?" I croaked weakly.

"I just do," she replied. "Now, go back upstairs and tell your sister to stop browsing in her magazines and do your homework. Pull yourself together, Daniel. For goodness sake, he's just a boy! I'll call when dinner is ready." And she returned to her veggies.

I growled in defeat. He's not just a boy. I thought she would understand. But she doesn't. I stomped out of the kitchen and went back upstairs.


The whole month of March was a constant replay of the week succeeding Valentine's Day. No messages. No e-mails. No calls. No Bruce. He did call me on Valentine's but his words were vague. He said he was sorry and that he would be back. I was too angry and confused to listen to him. That's when I yelled that he better have a pretty good explanation for his actions or whatever we are is over. And I changed his ring tone back to a more 'masculine' beat.

Then, in a blink of an eye, March said goodbye and April arrived. She brought a sunnier and warmer weather typical for a week of splashing and lounging on the beach. The gang - which consists mainly of Richard, Jaime, Tyler, Timothy (or also known as Garrett to his friends), Stacey, Tessa and Diane (Stacey's left and right hands), Luke, Jake and Blake (the despicable trio), Stephanie, Keith and me - made plans to spend most of Spring Break on the beach. Typical. The girls took the opportunity to work on their tans and the boys (the straight ones, at least) took their sweet chance to watch over the girls working on their tans. Eye-roll. But I think the plan was great. Right now, any form of distraction from my miserable love life is terribly welcome. Any form of entertainment is strongly needed and prescribed. And what more can I ask than the company of my friends to while the time and to separate my miserable self from my room, my bed covers and my copies of the Twilight Saga. Why the Twilight Saga? Well . . . let's just say that it was a really great form of distraction, because I really hated what Bella was doing in the books. Damn, I'm pathetic! Plus, I decided I could do my time under the sun. Like a normal teenage kid. Yes. That's what I will do. I'm sixteen. I'm smokin' hot. And I'm not selfish enough to forbid myself of California beach eye-candies. No no. I need eye-candies! Hot, sweaty, half-naked, male eye-candies. Yep. That's what I need.

Half-naked football players. Half-naked twins. Half-naked college dudes. Oh God! At least now I have something to look forward to.

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

"Giuseppe, have you heard from my parents lately?" I asked our long-time family butler slash legal guardian while the maids were setting breakfast.

The old man looked up and smiled warmly at me, "Yes indeed, Master Princeton, your father has called from Italy late last night after you turned in and asked me to arrange Sunday dinner in two days' time. With the Collins."

My spirits lit up. "They'll be here for Spring Break, then?" I literally exclaimed.

Giuseppe nodded, a warm smile washing over his wrinkled features, "Yes, Master Princeton, the whole week."

Great! And the Collins will be here as well! Aunt Jen, her husband, Kyle, and my cousins Jake and Blake. And I can't wait to see little Charlie! I bet he'd love to play with my G.I. Joes again.

The two days never passed as quickly as it did and I was in my den playing video games when I heard the distinctive sound of the front doors opening and our butler's heartwarming greetings.

I bolted to my feet and rolled down the stairs. "You're home!" I called while jumping the five remaining steps down.

"Oh, my baby!" My beautiful mother greeted me with a warm smile and her arms opened wide. I squeezed her to me, missing her softness for the past few weeks that she was gone. "Oh, goodness! You've gotten a stronger grip! And taller! Wow!"

"That's the quarterback you're hugging there, if you've forgotten, Ana!" my father chimed proudly. I laughed. "C'mere!" he beckoned impatiently.

I got out of my mom's tight embrace and welcomed my father's tighter one. "Glad you're home, Dad. I haven't seen you guys in forever." Though it has just been two and a half months at most, it felt like years. But I missed them. And I can see that they missed me, too. So I called it quits and left it at that.

"Has Lucas arrived yet?" My father addressed Giuseppe as soon as I stepped out of his embrace.

"Mr. Lucas has informed me earlier that he might be delayed. He mentioned something about some final requirements to accomplish before the break." Giuseppe answered curtly. My father just chuckled knowingly. He has a very fair idea on what Luke's 'final requirements' means, and that it has ultimately nothing to do with school, whatsoever. Giuseppe added after the pause, "Though he's asked me for you to call him as soon as you and Mrs. Princeton arrived, Sir."

"Oh," my father said, his brows pulling in. "Did he mention what for?"

Giuseppe shrugged slowly. "He hasn't said anything other than for me to pass the message, Sir."

"Michael, why don't you give Lucas a call," my mother suggested to him, wrapping an arm around my waist. "While Keith and I help take care of the luggage. You up for that, Baby Boy?" she turned to me.

"Aw, Mom!" I moaned, pulling a disgruntled look. "Don't call me that! It's disgusting!"

Ana Lucia Princeton just laughed, pushing me out to their car.


"Blake, do you remember the time when eleven Ashleys stormed into our apartment looking for Luke at the same time? Eleven! And all of them said that they were there for their date with Luke," Jake said enthusiastically, making sure that the whole table could hear. "Thing was, they had no idea that Luke was already out with another girl. Another Ashley."

"Hey, it wasn't his fault if he 'accidentally' sent the message to all the Ashleys registered on his phone. Ashley M. Ashley P. Ashley K. Ashley S." Blake supplied in a serious tone, then rolled his eyes. "So, obviously, what happened was first come, first serve. And Ashley J. got the first place."

The table laughed and chuckled mirthlessly. Luke just shook his head in amusement, a tinge of red flushing his cheeks. "Yeah that was really fun, wasn't it?" he mused. "But that doesn't beat the one time when a bet was made by the female population of NYU on who would be able to screw Blake "The Beefcake" Collins first! Dad, hear this, the pot money actually made it to over thirty hundred grand!"

Michael and Kyle's eyes widened in amusement. Our fathers laughed boisterously.

"So, the one who gets to screw him first gets all the money?" I asked incredulously, my mouth gaping wide open, thinking of all that money. Luke nodded voraciously.

"What's 'screw'?" A cute, shrilly voice suddenly rang above the rambunctious laughter. Everybody stopped breathing and turned to Charlie - my nine-year old, super cute and adorable baby cousin - all of us wearing deer-caught-in-the-headlights expressions. Our fathers cleared their throats uncomfortably. Blake, Jake and Luke exchanged highly amused expressions, trying so hard to stifle their laughter. Aunt Jen and my mom's jaws hung open awkwardly.

Sometime in the tension, I somehow cleared my throat. "Um. Screw means hug, little guy." I managed to lie; looking at Charlie's oh so innocent face, cooing in a very childish manner, before nervously downing the pinot noir that my parents allowed to let me drink.

"Oh," little Charlie nodded seriously, completely unaware of my false elucidation, then he turned to Aunt Jen. "Mom, I screwed Keith earlier because he let me play with his G.I. Joes!" he announced proudly.

I sputtered wine on my lap. And everybody around the table just started laughing all over again. It was one of my favorite nights.


"Dad, do you have a minute?" I asked my father when he was about to turn in for the night. The Collins had already left an hour earlier, making mom and dad promise to spend a week over the summer at their place in the Greek Isles. But, really, it was my and Luke's prodding and whining that finally made them cave.

"Sure, son, what is it?" my father answered, turning to me.

I motioned for our back porch and in my wake he followed. The night was colder than I anticipated. Or maybe I was just really nervous as hell to breach a topic that has been kept close for almost five years now.

I stopped just before the railings and my eyes wandered across our yard. I breathed in the night air and released it with a heavy sigh. "I want to know more, Dad." I started nervously. "About Danny. About the transfer. About why it is so important to look out for him . . ."

My words ended through a whisper. I waited for him to lash out and tell me to just do as he says like what he had told me before when I got curious enough. But there was only silence. A silence that seemed to amplify the coldness that surrounded.

I turned to face him. My father gave me a long, pensive look. Then, miraculously, he answered. "It is because of a favor that I promised years ago."

A favor. Now we're getting somewhere. "To keep an eye on him?" I wondered. "But why? What for?"

He sighed. "Keith, I promise that I will tell you everything when you're ready. Everything." I protested but he cut me off. "All you have to know for now is that Daniel needs to be watched over. At all times, if possible. If they find him, then everything that his father did will be for nothing."

Wait, what? If they find him? Who are they? Oh, God. Is Danny in some kind of trouble? And Danny's dad? What has he got to do with any of this? As far as I know, that bastard was nothing but a nameless card sent on Danny's seventh birthday and a boxer brief on his twelfth. He was never in the picture. He was nothing but a memory. So, why?

"Dad, what does Danny's father have to do with . . .?" But I never got to finish my question. I was facing nothing but the cold night air. My father was already back inside.

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

Mary needs to turn her phone off. Or better yet, she had to throw her SIM card away and buy herself a new one. To keep him away. To forget about him. To shove him back to the past - where he should belong and where he should remain.

She was already on the process of punching the power button off when a silent Ping! rang from the evil device and immediately her fingers traitorously dashed to unlock it and pushed the tiny envelope flashing on the brightly-lit screen. And she knew that that simple reaction was not a good sign. Her heart and mind was humming one tune - to ignore him entirely, but her body was singing a completely different song.

But inside, she knows that even if she changes her phone number or even if she changes her name, he would always find her. No matter where she goes, he would always find her. He always does. Always. And that thought gives her butterflies in her stomach. Shit! Not a good reaction! Not good!

Her fingers were trembling. Her cheeks were flushed. Her breathing was heavy and strained. Her heart was beating off of her chest. And most importantly - or most shockingly, in this case - she was totally drenched and leaking on the spot right where her thighs and upper torso met.

Just because he sent her a message.

She hasn't even read it yet and she's already responding this way? She shouldn't be this . . . responsive, this excited, this aroused, this soon, right?


Ever since she met him, her body immediately made some sort of a magnetic connection to his. A type of a push and pull reaction that leaves her completely breathless and, unfortunately, at the same time, completely brainless. Brainless and aroused. All thoughts leave her brain, completely, except for all thoughts about him. Him and his gorgeous smile. Him and his rippling body. Him and his panty-dropping charm.

'For the love of God and all that is holy!' she thought in panic. 'Mary Elizabeth Mockins, stop acting like a hormonal teenager. You're thirty-six years old! You're a mother of two. Focus! Ignore him. You don't want him. Ignore. Ignore. Ignore.'

She kept muttering the words to herself.

"Mary, are you okay?" Mary gasped and swiveled in her chair. Vivian was staring at her, giving her an irritated expression, her brows furrowed and scrunched. The redhead sighed dramatically. "You haven't been listening to me, have you?"

Mary mentally slapped her forehead. Vivian sighed again. Dramatically. Damn. How could she zone out on her friend like that? In the middle of a conversation?

Just because he sent her a message.

A shiver went up her spine just thinking about what he sent her this time.

"I'm sorry, Viv. I was just thinking about . . . something." Mary said while unconsciously fiddling with her phone, which gave another silent Ping! that this time caught Vivian's undivided attention.

"Oh," her friend's face suddenly morphed into a knowing look when she saw the notification, her brows shooting up questioningly. With lightning fast reflexes, she snatched Mary's phone from her hands and read the sender's name. "Oooh! Who's Mr. Sexy Slimeball?" Vivian chirped excitedly, gaining curious looks from their officemates.

"Someone who is true and honest to his name." Mary muttered indifferently, even though all she wanted was to scream and scream and scream and scream until he vanishes from the face of the earth and leaves her alone.

'You were always a bad liar, Ms. Mockins.' his whispering words from two weeks ago when she foolishly accepted to have 'dinner' with him echoed in her ears, taunting her, making her squirm in her seat, making her tighten her thighs to reduce the tension. 'I can tell just from looking at your beautiful eyes that you want this, too, Mary.'

She immediately grabbed her phone back from Vivian's lingering fingers to shut out the thoughts from her head.

Vivian chuckled. "So, who is Mr. Sexy Slimeball, Mary? Is he from here? Oh, stupid question. Nobody in this office fits that description. Sexy. Slimeball. Ooooh! Where did you meet him? Have they met Daniel and Steph already? Have you fucked him? Was he good? Does he have -"

Vivian was cut off from her yacking; Mary's hands were already on her mouth. "Shush!" Mary hissed under her breath, already turning an awful shade of pink. "Shut it, Vivian, before you give poor Mrs. Andrews a heart attack!"

Vivian nodded while giggling. Mary released her reluctantly. "Fine. Over lunch, then? Come on! It's almost time, anyways. I want you to tell me everything about him!" she said while dragging Mary into the elevators.

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

"You know . . . this is exactly what I need," I heard Richie mumble from where he was lounging with the girls, his purple-rimmed glasses reflecting the glare of the shimmering sun, while he coated himself with lotion. "I seriously need to work on my tan. I look like a ghost!"

I shook my head in amusement. Seriously, he looked fine. He was just such a girl to not lie almost naked under the sun, enticing men and women alike with his sexy body.

I was sitting shirtless on a large towel just farther to their left, chatting with the guys.

Tyler was with me on the towel, propped up on his elbows, his hairy legs outstretched recklessly on the sand, and his sweaty abdominals bunching up to resemble a fucking washboard. I discreetly licked my hungry lips for Eye-Candy Number Five, especially now that I know he plays for both teams. And I want to play with him!

Jake was sitting on top of the cooler across us, drinking a beer, equally sweaty, shirtless and buff as a professional defensive lineman. Identically beefy and delectable, his twin, Blake was on the sand leaning against the cooler, nursing his own beer. Eye-Candy Number Four and Three made me ooze and drip like a leaky faucet. And they know I was watching them! Blake just winked! Jake just licked his lips! Damn!

Jaime and Garrett were nowhere to be seen - ever since two Woodbridge cheerleaders sauntered quite obscenely before our group and gave meaningful glances to the both of them - so Eye-Candy Number Seven and Six didn't affect my heightening libido, whatsoever.

And as far as I know, Keith was with Luke bringing food and drinks so I was glad that Eye-Candy Number One and Two were still not here, or else I would have already exploded in my shorts. My cock was so hard it's a mystery how no one notices.

The guys laughed at some joke that Blake said. I laughed with them, but only halfheartedly. I stood up carefully to hide my arousal and made my way for the beach.

"Hey, where are you going?" Tyler called when he noticed my departure.

"Um. I'm going for a swim." I answered gruffly.

"Oh. Okay."

I continued walking.

"Hey, Daniel, watch out for the sharks!" Blake called out, glancing at the group of college twinks that we passed by earlier. I laughed at the recent memory where one of them blatantly stroked my abs in front of everybody, licked his lips and gave me a seductive wink.

"Or the sirens!" Richie reminded me of a similar occurrence happening just an hour ago when we were heading to the bathrooms, but this time with a group of bikini-clad high school cheerleaders.

I shook my head, chuckling, but I kept on walking. I passed a group of freshmen girls from Irvine High shamelessly eyeing my ass so I flexed them for their benefit and I actually heard a couple of them moan audibly. I took a quick look over my shoulder and winked at them. I think they orgasmed unitedly. Ha!

I reached the water and as I got knee-deep, I heard someone splashing behind me. I turned to see Jake following me. I waded into the water and started swimming when it got deep enough. I stroked and I paddled and I released all my frustrations into the ocean. When I was between one or two hundred meters from the shore, I stopped.

"How are you dealing?" Jake asked breathlessly beside me as soon as he caught up, his golden hair damp and wild from the short, rigorous swim.

I gave him a tight smile. "I'm . . . dealing."

Jake took my hand and squeezed. He pulled me closer to him and gave me a firm hug. He stroked my back and held my head against his chest. It was obvious that he was comforting me, but a specific body part of mine was getting the wrong idea.

"Um, Jake?" I mumbled awkwardly.


"I know that you just want to make me feel better but you got to let me go now."

"Why?" I can hear him frown.

I giggled against his muscular chest. "Can't you feel that?" I humped my groin against his.

Jake laughed out loud in understanding. "You want me to take care of that for you?" I gasped when he actually squeezed me. "Gunther said I'm really good with holding my breath."

I moaned against him, thinking of Jake giving me an underwater blowjob. I was leaking so hard. But I pulled away, giggling. Jake was a really good friend. The older brother that I never had. I can't take things that far. "Thanks for the offer, Jake, but I'm gonna have to decline. For now." I said with a sexy wink.

"Tease." He splashed me with a tidal wave of salt water. Jake cleared his throat. "Daniel, I have a question."


"It's a bit personal, so it's okay if you -"

"Jake, it's okay. Just go. Shoot."

He sighed. "Fine. Um. Are you . . .? Um. Have you . . .?" He paused and puffed out a breath. "Have you done anything sexual with anyone yet?"

I blinked the salty water out of my eyes. My whole body stiffened under the water. That I haven't seen coming. Okay. Should I tell him the truth? Should I tell him about it? This is Jake: the very first person other than my mom and my sis who I told about my sexuality to. I probably should. He would listen. He'd already proved himself worthy. This secret has been with me since November and I don't know if I can bear it any longer.

I made my decision. I told him about what happened that November night after Keith's very first Conference Game.

And he listened.

"So, he doesn't have any clue as to what happened that night?" Jake asked three lifetimes later. Or more like ten minutes later. He looked as pale as a ghost. "Like, nada? Nothing? Zip? Zero? Zilch?"

I shook my head negatively. "He doesn't remember anything, Jake. It was as if that night never happened. That's the saddest part."

I sighed deeply. Weirdly, I wanted to cry because of it. Like a frickin' girl. Sensing my dejection, Jake swam closer and squeezed my hand under the water. I squeezed back, thankful that I finally had someone to talk to about one of the darkest secrets of my life. One of the most beautiful secrets of my life. But it just made me want to tell Keith everything about that night. Which was not good. Damn, how am I going to deal with him when he finally remembers?

Jake and I paddled towards the busy shore a half hour later; him promising to not say anything to anyone about what I have just shared, especially Keith. The sun was almost setting. The air was getting chillier. I shivered when I arrived to where our group gathered.

"Here." I felt a fluffy towel being wrapped around me. I turned around to see Keith securing the towel around my shoulders.

I beamed gratefully at him. "Thanks." I mumbled. "Where have you been? It's almost dinner."

He shrugged. "Luke had a few stop-overs. We had to buy paper plates and stuff. We're eating dinner here, anyways."


He smirked. "Come on. Food's here. You seriously have to eat. You need sustenance after jerking off last night."

My mouth gaped open. "I did not!" I smacked his shoulder. "Maybe you did! No wonder my bed felt like a Magnitude 10.5 just struck it last night."

He laughed at my joke. But really, my bed was shaking last night. I think it was past two. Was he . . .?

I just smirked, thankful for his concern, even though he was being a complete douche. Ever since Bruce left, he had been sleeping over at my house every other night. I bet he just wanted to make sure that I didn't cry myself to sleep, which was what I would've done if he wasn't there to comfort me. He was a calming factor to my horrendous nights filled with nightmares - all with Bruce leaving me forever as the theme. The first few nights were terrible. I'd wake up screaming my head off; clutching the sheets as if I never wanted to let it go. Then one night Keith just barged into my room while I was in the throes of re-reading 'Eclipse', carrying his duffle bag and a huge box filled with DVDs. Apparently, my mom called him over to spend the night. I wanted to tell him to go home, and that I was fine, but I was already too tired to protest. This, eventually, proved to be a good choice. Keith became a temporary fixture. The nightmares lessened. I somehow stopped abusing my poor, comfy sheets. And I no longer greet the morning with a sweet sounding AHHHH!!! I also remember one time two weeks ago, and then another just a week earlier, when I woke up with Keith wrapped up all around me like an octopus. I chuckled at the memory of him clinging to me like a child. A half-naked, muscular, and gigantically aroused sixteen-year-old child.

I shuddered and I pulled the fluffy towel tighter around me.

"OH, MY GOD!" A shriek came from behind us, rattling me out of my reverie. I quickly spun around to see my sister, Stacey, Tessa and Diane running towards Garrett and - Oh, my God! - a bloodied-up Jaime. "Oh, God, what happened?" Stephanie gasped and she and Stacey took Jaime to a chair and assessed his wounds. He was bloody and bruised. What the hell happened? Everyone gathered around, even the guys playing 'patintero' - a game in which Jaime himself introduced earlier in the morning - came to gawk and gossip.

Garrett stood shakily on his feet; he was pale and was obviously in shock, his hands flailing everywhere. "The girls and I were buying s-some tacos and Jaime . . . Jaime said he'd just wait for us on the s-sidewalk because he wasn't r-really hungry, so we left him there. A-After we got our food we went out and . . . and found these . . . these two guys beating the hell out of J-Jaime. One was punching and kicking him, man. The other just stood there like he was some sort of spectator orm something. H-he was . . . he was beating him and the other was . . . he was smiling at them. I yelled at him to stop and the guys . . . they stopped and instantly ran away. I wanted to run after them but J-Jaime . . . man, he was bloody and I just . . . I just wanted to bring him to safety. So I got him here. I didn't know what to do. I'm so sorry."

"Garrett, you did well. You got Jaime to safety. That's what's important. This is not your fault, okay?" Tessa calmed him down. Garrett just nodded.

"Where are the girls with you?" Tyler asked.

Garrett looked around disconcertedly. "I don't know, man. They . . . I-I think they ran when they saw Jaime being b-beat down."

"We should take him to the hospital." Diane suggested unsteadily. "He's bleeding. It needs to stop."

"Let's take my car." Luke said, hurriedly making his way to the parking lot.

Jake and Blake assisted a limping Jaime. He was moaning even from executing simple walking movements. He was in pain. People were staring at our hastily departing figures. God, how could anyone do this to someone as kind as Jaime? The guy would never hurt a fly.

Short minutes later, we arrived at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and the staff immediately tended to Jaime's needs, rolling him into the building on a wheelchair.

After a preliminary examination, the doctor said that Jaime acquired several bruising on his upper torso and multiple lacerations on his arms and legs from the rocky ground where he fell after the guy apparently punched his gut, taking the breath out of him. On his forehead was a deep gash where his head hit a rock. Most of his cuts needed stitching and his bruises would take weeks to heal but Dr. Li told us that he would be fine. Jaime was resting for now so she told us to return later when he awakes.

The whole waiting room released a unified sigh of relief upon hearing the good news. Roberto - Jaime's father - curled back on the couch with his wife, Angela, and wrapped her in a comforting hug. I sent them a sympathetic look and Mr. Dela Cruz gave me a reassuring smile. I returned it.

Two policemen were taking statements from Garrett.

I decided to go out to the square just outside the hospital for fresh air. I needed it after this highly exhilarating afternoon. But I stopped just short before I rounded the corner. I heard Keith speaking, whispering, probably on his phone because I couldn't hear anyone saying anything back. I backed myself on the wall.

". . . a chance that you must be mistaken?" He paused to listen to the person he was talking to. "But why would anyone want to harm him? Who would want to harm him?" Another pause. "How will I protect him if I have no idea who I'm protecting him from? You have to give me more than that." A longer pause. My heart was hammering its way out of my chest. Who is he talking about? Who is he talking to? "So you're basically hiding him from them? All these years, no one knows who he really is? Is that what you're telling me?" Keith scoffed in mock amusement. There was another longer pause. "Fine, I can understand. Yes. No, I will take care of it. I will tell my dad immediately. I will. Yes, sir. Yes. It was also a pleasure to finally meet you, sir, sans the technicalities. I will call you as soon as something comes up." And he hung up.

I stood frozen on the spot. Who was Keith talking to? It sounded so . . . mafia-ish. Oh, God! They were talking about Jaime! The realization finally hit me. Was it a gang who did this to Jaime? But why? What did he ever do to deserve this? And then another realization hit. The drugs! Oh, God! But he and Tyler were only using joints! Sometimes pot. I'm almost certain of that. Or were they using something more mafia-ish drugs behind everyone's back and got tangled into this mafia-ish mess and now he's in the hospital with his parents worried sick of his mafia-ish ass because of his mafia-ish extra-curricular activities?

I'm thinking too much into this. But I couldn't help myself. My bones just won't stop telling me to get involved.

So, I made my way to Jaime's room. I don't care what the doctor said, I slipped into his room without anyone noticing.

"Daniel?" I heard him croak when I clicked the door close.

"Oh, thank God you're awake!" I sighed and took the chair beside the bed. "How are you, bro? Do you need anything? Is something hurting? Are you gonna be alright? Do you-"

"Daniel!" He exclaimed loudly before chuckling, only to wince because of the bruises on his ribs. I gave him a sorry look. "Dr. Li says I'm gonna be alright so stop clucking like a mother hen, okay?" He laughed. And winced again.

"I'm glad." I stroked the escaped tendrils of brown hair out of his forehead. "You scared us back there, man."

He gave a weak smile. Then his expression turned grim.

"What? What's wrong?" I stood over him.

He breathed heavily. "The guy. . ."

"What? Did you know who they were? Why did they do this to you, Jaime? Who were they?" I asked frantically, anger rising up to make my cheeks flush.

"Daniel, right before he . . . right before he attacked me, there was something that the other guy wanted to know." Jaime answered slowly.

"Jaime, what did he want?"

"He asked me if I was . . . you." He replied.

What? Me? I blinked. What did I have to do with this? "Me?" I breathed. "Why?"

"I don't know, Daniel. But when I answered I was not you, he started yelling at me. He must have really thought I was you. He said that he knew you were living here in California, specifically here in the Orange County, but he wanted to know exactly where you were. And when I didn't give him anything, the other guy just started . . . he started . . ."

I clutched Jaime's hand and squeezed it tight when a tear started to fall down his battered cheek. "It's alright, Jaime. You're alright now. You should rest. I'll be back in the morning, okay?"

He nodded weakly. And I watched him fall to sleep.

Me? Who were they? I don't understand, but chills suddenly shivered along my spine. What is happening?

*End of Chapter 18*

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hey Guys! So that's Chapter 18. I hope you liked it. And to everyone who sent me e-mails and tweets, I will respond to them as soon as I could get a break with my schedule. You know, I'm 19, I'm in college, and I need to work on my grades. So please continue on sending me your comments, suggestions, and reactions to [email protected] and, if you want, follow me on Twitter @ANerdyJock. Have a good day! XOXO - NJ


Nerdy Jock

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