Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Excerpt: Meet Me In The Middle

Title: Meet Me in the Middle
Author: L. A. Witt
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Format(s): ebook, print (coming soon)


The Mallory-Solomon house was always loaded down with smoking-hot men. Seriously, on any given night, that place was a veritable cornucopia of gorgeous bodies and beautiful faces.

This evening was no exception. Rhett Solomon and his husband, Ethan, were both over the hill, but they sure didn’t look the part. Well, okay, Ethan was noticeably gray around the edges, and Rhett had a few lines on his otherwise oh-my-God gorgeous face, but time eventually did that to all of us. Besides, I was pretty sure that living with Ethan or Rhett would’ve had me aging beyond my years, so I’d say they were doing just fine.

Of course, Kieran Frost was there, sitting on a barstool beside the granite-topped kitchen island where Ethan and Rhett prepared munchies for the evening. In true Wilde’s bartender fashion, Kieran was walking eye candy, from his flawless body to his perfectly arranged, almost-black hair. He’d been the much younger plaything that Rhett and Ethan had both been fucking during that dark era a few years back when they’d split up. Apparently, men who fuck hot bartenders together, stay together. Who knew?

Kieran’s fiancé was also easy on the eyes. Alex had been naïve and shy when he first met Kieran—a virgin too, from what I’d heard—but Kieran had dragged him out of his shell and duly corrupted him. The kid had even started dressing a little less plainly, opting for some brighter—but still subdued by my standards—colors, things that fit a little tighter and showed a little more skin. The subtle highlights in his dark hair were a nice touch too.

And then there was, of course, yours truly. Like I said, smoking-hot men.

It was movie night in la casa de hot men, which was becoming something of a tradition. Bad movies, obscure movies, mainstream movies; we didn’t give a shit as long it was entertaining enough to keep us interested until the second or third bottle of wine kicked in. At that point, anything was interesting. Naturally.

Though odd numbers usually bred odd tension, especially when it was two couples and a single guy, that was never a problem with this group. They were affectionate with each other, but everyone flirted with everyone, so I never felt like a fifth wheel. I’d have stopped showing up a long time ago if I’d been the odd man out.

Sabrina Solomon and her boyfriend had been over to have dinner with her dads earlier in the evening, and shortly after Alex, Kieran and I arrived, the two of them were getting ready to go out.

“Well, look at you.” I gestured at Sabrina’s absolutely stunning black evening dress. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say a couple of gay men helped you shop.”

Rhett rolled his eyes. “You’re funny, Dale.”

Ethan muttered something and continued slicing cheese for the tray that was already half covered in artfully fanned-out crackers.

Sabrina just giggled. “Actually, it was just one gay guy this time.”

“You’re welcome.” Kieran winked.

“What?” I put a hand to my chest and glared at Kieran. “You never take me shopping.”

“That’s because you find shit for me to buy, and I end up broke before we stop for dinner.”

I shrugged. “Not my fault I have good taste.”

“Mm-hmm. Expensive taste is more like it.”

Tyson, Sabrina’s boyfriend, put an arm around her waist. “Well, at least she’s got someone to take her shopping.” He smiled, but it was a nervous look, which was odd on someone who was usually so calm and mellow. He seemed in a hurry tonight. Almost twitchy as he said, “Anyway, we’d better run. Doors open at seven.”

“Have a good time.” Rhett came around the island and kissed Sabrina’s cheek. “You know the drill. Call me—”

“If we have too much to drink. I know, Dad.” She gave him a pointed look. “Since you’re hanging around with these miscreants tonight, are you sure you won’t have to call me for the same reason?”

“Very funny.”

“Don’t worry about it, Mr. Solomon.” Tyson shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “We’ll just be downtown. We can get a cab if we need to.” To Sabrina, he said, “Ready?”

“Yeah, let’s go.” She hugged both of her dads, said good-bye to the rest of us, and then they headed out of the kitchen with Tyson’s hand on the small of her back.

Rhett and Ethan looked toward the hallway until the door had closed. Then they glanced at each other.

“Hundred bucks says he’s doing it tonight,” Ethan said.

“I don’t know.” Rhett shook his head. “I was sure he was going to do it last Friday night, and he didn’t.”

Kieran, Alex and I exchanged puzzled looks.

“What are you two talking about?” Kieran asked. “Is he going to propose or something?”

Rhett nodded. “I’m surprised that ring hasn’t burned a hole in his pocket already.”

“You know, he actually asked Rhett’s permission,” Ethan said to us. “I didn’t even think people did that anymore.”

“As if it’s my call.” Rhett gestured toward the door. “She’s the one he needs to ask, not me.”

I chuckled. “He was probably just making sure you didn’t sic Ethan on him or something.”

“Oh, ha, ha.” Ethan rolled his eyes.

“He’s got a point, actually,” Rhett said with a shrug. “You are a good deterrent.”

“What?” Ethan scoffed.

“Oh, please. You know damn well you’re more intimidating than I am.” Rhett snatched a piece of cheese off the plate and just barely avoided a swat for his trouble.

Ethan released a huff of breath and turned to Kieran. “See what I put up with? Son of a bitch just uses me to chase off guys who want to date Sabrina.”

“Pretty sure that’s not the only thing he uses you for,” Kieran deadpanned.

“Hmm.” Ethan shrugged. “Good point. Fair enough.”

Rhett laughed softly, but then he glanced in the direction Sabrina and her boyfriend had gone, and sighed. “God. It was bad enough when she started dating and when she graduated high school. Getting married?” He grimaced and shook his head. “That’s…a bit much.”

Ethan patted his shoulder. “Welcome to getting old, sweetheart.”

“Well,” I said, “at least you can find solace in always being younger than Ethan.”

Ethan glared at me. Rhett, Alex and Kieran all snickered.

Rhett wrapped his arms around Ethan’s waist from behind and kissed his cheek. “He’s got a point, you know. That’s why I keep you around.” Nuzzling Ethan’s neck, he added, “You make me feel young.”

Ethan elbowed him playfully, and they both laughed.

Alex turned to Kieran. “Hey, aren’t you joining that club soon?”

Kieran eyed him. “Which club?”

Flashing him a devilish grin, Alex said, “Why, the club of elderly gay men.”

“Oh, shut up.” Kieran rolled his eyes.

“What?” Ethan arched an eyebrow. “How do you get to join? You’re not even thirty.”

Alex put an arm around Kieran’s shoulders and kissed his cheek. “He’s just having a bit of a not-quite-midlife crisis.”

I laughed. “What the hell? Did you find a gray nipple hair or something?”

“If I did, then it would’ve meant I was in bed with you.”

“Ooh,” the other guys said in unison.

“Burn,” Alex said.

I flipped Kieran the bird. “You only wish you were in bed with me, darling.”

“Keep telling yourself that, Dale.” Rhett clapped my shoulder. “So what’s the deal, Kieran?”

Alex smirked. “He got an invite to his ten-year high school reunion.”

“That’s it?” Rhett laughed. “Ethan’s coming up on—”

“Zip it.” Ethan shot him a glare.

Rhett just laughed again.

“Ugh,” Kieran said. “I can’t believe it’s my ten-year reunion already. Where the hell did a decade go?”

Alex snorted, offering a less than sincere, “Sorry.”

Kieran glared at him but then laughed and rolled his eyes again. “You are such a brat, you know that?”

“That’s what you get for robbing the cradle,” Ethan said. “You get to hear about it every time some little milestone like this comes along.”

“You’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?” Kieran threw back.

“What? Rhett’s not that much younger than me.”

“You’re still the oldest man in the room, so…”

“Fuck you.”

Rhett snickered. “He’s got a point, you know. I mean, aren’t you coming up on your thirty-year reunion?”

Before Ethan could come back with something snide, Alex broke in. “We’re talking about high school reunions, not college.”

Ethan’s jaw dropped. Rhett, Kieran and I all laughed. Alex wasn’t always so forthcoming with the barbs, but when he threw one out there, it was always a good one.

“Well played,” Kieran said with a wink.

I rested my elbow on the kitchen island and looked at Kieran. “Well, if it’s any consolation, I just got the invite to my twenty-year reunion.”

“Your twenty-year?” Kieran’s eyebrow jumped. “High school?”

I nodded.

He cocked his head. “Did you graduate when you were twenty-five or something?”

What?” I scoffed and stood upright. “Just how old do you think I am?”

He shrugged and gestured at Rhett and Ethan. “Well, you hang around with these senior citizens, so—”

“As do you!”

“Yeah, but you’ve been part of the group longer. Figured you all evolved out of the Triassic era together.”

I exhaled sharply and looked at Rhett. “Why do you guys put up with him again?”

Rhett shrugged. “He gives good head?”

Alex choked on his wine.

“So you claim.” I gave Kieran a pointed look. “I have yet to verify this.”

Kieran grinned and wrapped his arm around Alex’s shoulders. “I have three witnesses. That’s enough to convince most juries.”

“Well, consider this jury hung,” I said.

All four men groaned.

“Oh my God, Dale.” Rhett face-palmed. “That was a bad one even for you.”

I put up my hands. “What? It’s true.”

“Mm-hmm.” Kieran shook his head.

I just chuckled and took another drink. To this day, I had no idea if Rhett, Ethan and Kieran had curtailed their “extracurricular activities” after Alex came into the picture. Sassy as he was, the kid had been a shy, naïve virgin before Kieran got his hands on him, but I had complete faith that Kieran had done his duty and turned Alex into a cock-hungry sex fiend. Whether or not that meant he’d turned their threesomes into foursomes, I didn’t know. And if it did, oh Lord, what I wouldn’t have given to watch that for a minute or five. Or be in the middle of it.

Before I got carried away with that little fantasy again, I shook myself back to life. “And anyway, yes. I’m going to my twenty-year reunion.”

Kieran scowled. “You’re actually going?”

“Of course. I haven’t seen some of these people in years.”

“Yeah, I thought that was kind of the idea,” Kieran muttered. “If I wanted to stay in touch with them, I would have.”

“Well, yes, but there are some I only want to see once every ten or twenty years. You know, see if time was as cruel to the jocks and cheerleaders as the movies always promise it will be.” I paused for a sip of wine and then turned more serious. “And I have lost touch with a few people over the years, and this can be a way to reconnect with them. A little more personal than Facebook, you know?”

“Exactly why I’m not going,” Kieran said. “I’ve got some friends from that era, but if I haven’t seen them in ten years, I’m not flying to California to get reacquainted with them.”

“You never know,” I said with a shrug. “Could be fun.”

“He’s right.” Alex nudged Kieran with his elbow. “You could have a good time.”

Kieran looked at him. Then he sighed. “Okay. Maybe. I’ll think about it.”

“Might as well go to this one,” Rhett said. “You know, before they start holding your reunions in old folks’ homes.” He patted Ethan’s arm.

“Keep it up,” Ethan said, “and you won’t have to worry about going to your next reunion.”

“You’re so adorable when you’re menacing.” Rhett turned Ethan’s chin toward him and kissed him lightly. Ethan tried to glare at him, but they both laughed, and Rhett kissed him again.

Then Ethan looked at us. “So are we going to watch a movie tonight or not?”

Rhett glanced at the clock on the microwave. “We wait too much longer, we’re going to fuck up Ethan’s bedtime.”

“Ass,” Ethan muttered. “Come on, let’s go see what god-awful DVD Dale brought this time.” He paused. “Rhett, would you mind grabbing another bottle of wine?”

“Good idea.” Rhett turned to the rest of us. “Anyone else?”

“I’ll take a glass,” Alex said and downed what was left in his glass.

“Same here,” Kieran said. “Can’t watch a movie with you guys without some wine.”

They all started toward the living room, but I hung back. “You’ll probably need an extra pair of hands to carry all that. I’ll help.”

Rhett glanced at me, but he didn’t say anything, and everyone but us cleared out of the kitchen.

As soon as we were alone, I said, “I need a little advice.”

“Sure, what’s up?” He leaned down to take a bottle off their well-stocked wine rack, but paused. Then he held up a finger and called over his shoulder. “We sticking with red, or does anyone want white?”

There was some murmuring in the other room before Ethan called back, “Red.”

“Red it is.” Rhett pulled a bottle off the rack. “Sorry about that. What’s up?”

I leaned against the kitchen island. “It’s about my high school reunion, actually.”

“You’re going, right?”

“I’m…not sure, to be honest.”

“Oh?” Rhett looked up from opening the bottle. “What’s wrong?”

“Well, there’s a lot of people I want to see, but…” I exhaled. “Let’s put it this way. If I could see a list of who else is coming before I committed and bought my ticket, that would help me make the decision.”

“Someone in particular you want to see?”

“Someone in particular I don’t want to see.”

Ooh.” He set the cork and corkscrew on the counter. “An ex?”

“Well, he’s not an ex, per se,” I said. “We never dated. We just…fucked. Once after graduation, and again at our last reunion.”

Rhett’s eyebrows rose. “I could see how that might make this reunion awkward.”

“You think?”

Brow furrowed as he thought for a moment, Rhett idly thumbed his wedding ring. “Mind if I ask something personal?”

I picked up the bottle of wine to start pouring the glasses. “Shoot.”

He hesitated. Then, “What would you do if you saw him again?”

I set the bottle down. The question hammered itself into my consciousness. Right into my bones. What would I do? I shook my head slowly. “I don’t know. I mean, it’s been ten years, but it’s…”

“Still raw?”

“For lack of a better word, yes.”

Rhett took the bottle back, and as he poured, said, “What exactly happened? I mean, obviously you slept together, but”—he gave me one of his patented “looks”—“you’ve fucked plenty of guys and never batted an eye. Something else must have happened.”

I watched the wine accumulating in each glass in turn, because that meant not acknowledging Rhett’s scrutiny. “It was…complicated.”

“Isn’t it always?”

“Sex? No.” I grinned. “Sex can be very, very simple.” My grin fell. I reached for one of the glasses he’d already poured, and swallowed most of the wine in a single go.

Rhett blinked. “Must have been really complicated.” He took my glass back and refilled it. “What happened?”

I exhaled. “Friendship gone sour after a couple of fucks that probably shouldn’t have happened.”


“Tell me about it.”

“Will there be people at the reunion you do want to see?”

“Probably, yeah.”

“Then go.” He set the bottle aside and looked at me. “Don’t let this guy control you and keep you from people you want to spend time with.”

“And if he’s there?”

Rhett waved a hand. “Don’t worry about him. It’s been ten years. You deserve to be able to go to this thing, see people from your past, and have a good time.”

I focused on the granite countertop between us. That was the logical solution, of course. “A little easier said than done, don’t you think?”

“Ooh, yeah.” When I looked at him, Rhett grimaced. “You may recall I’ve got some experience with being in the same building with someone I didn’t want to see.”

“Very true.” I was fairly certain the entire damned city remembered when he and Ethan were stuck living in the same house after they’d split up. The silver lining was that it had ultimately brought Kieran into our social circle, but the two-year downward spiral and the short period between breaking up and making up? Jesus. I thought they’d kill each other.

“Honestly?” I said. “Part of me wants to see him.”

Rhett’s eyebrows rose. “Which part?”

“Not that one.” I laughed, but it didn’t last. “I don’t know, I guess I feel like I need some closure after the way things went down before. It’s been bugging me all this time, and I can’t decide if seeing him again will just make it worse, or if it’ll give me a chance to put it to rest.”

Right then, Ethan appeared in the doorway, his lips curled into their customary smirk. “You guys letting the wine age or something?”

From behind him, Kieran called out, “Ethan doesn’t have time to wait for it to—”

“That’s enough out of you,” Ethan threw over his shoulder. He rolled his eyes and looked at us again. His smirk faded. “Everything okay in here?”

Rhett looked at me.

I smiled and picked up three of the wineglasses. “Everything’s fine.”

Ethan eyed me skeptically. “You sure?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Rhett said. They exchanged one of those long, loaded looks they’d perfected after almost a decade and a half together, and Ethan nodded like he’d received whatever message Rhett had been conveying. Then he disappeared back into the living room, and Rhett turned to me again. “You still have feelings for this guy?”

“I’m… Oh hell, I’m not even sure. I mean, we were close friends all through high school, and then we fucked at our graduation party, and then we didn’t speak until our ten-year reunion.” I released an exasperated sigh. “And then we fucked again and haven’t spoken since.” Pausing, I shook my head. “And it’s not even that simple. There’s…more to it. But…”

Rhett watched me silently for a long moment. “Can I offer one piece of unsolicited advice?”

“Rhett, darling, I pulled you aside to talk to you. Any advice is hardly unsolicited.”

He half shrugged. “Okay, point taken. But, listen. Whatever happened, you obviously have some lingering hang-ups about this guy.”

“So, you don’t think I should go to the reunion?”

“No, I think you should go. Just promise me you won’t fuck this guy if he’s there.”

I snorted. “Sweetheart, please. After the last two times? Anything he tries to put in me is getting cut off and handed back to him on a platter.”

Rhett threw his head back and laughed. “Ever the eloquent one, Dale.”

“And that’s why you love me.”

“I wouldn’t go quite that far. Now grab those wineglasses and let’s go see if this DVD is any good.”

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