“What if I told you I was afraid?”
Duke chuckled softly on the other end of the phone. “Afraid of what?”
Jay sat silent for a long moment. He picked at a stray thread in his comforter as he pondered his answer. “Being left alone.”
“News flash, dude, you kind of are alone. Unless there’s a boyfriend you didn’t tell me about. ’Cause you know three-ways are extra.”
“I thought you said this one was off the clock.”
“Relax. I was only joking.”
Jay lay back and let Duke’s easygoing baritone calm his racing thoughts. He wondered how he sounded to Duke. Before the two of them had started talking, Jay downloaded an app that gave him the voice of someone else, just in case Duke didn’t like the voice he already had. “I don’t know. My whole life has been ‘Leave or get left.’ With everything. So it makes sense that it would transfer to my love life too.”
“You know what I think?” Duke grunted as though he had sat up in bed. “I think you’re full of it. No one wants to get dumped, but it happens. It’s stupid if you’re gonna hurt somebody who might actually be into you just because they can’t live up to impossible expectations.”
“Yeah. That leave-or-get-left thing might be part of your problem, but we’ve been talking long enough that I think I’ve figured out what the real one is.”
“Really?” Jay sat up himself, intrigued. “And what might that be?”
“You keep watching all these fucking movies, and then you’re disappointed when these guys in real life aren’t the heroes you want them to be. Life isn’t a romantic comedy. There isn’t always a happily-ever-after around the corner if you work hard enough for it.”
“But why couldn’t there be? Why can’t the perfect guy be waiting somewhere for me right now?”
“I’m not saying he isn’t. And I’m not saying it can’t happen. All I’m trying to say is that it’s not guaranteed. And there are some really good guys out here you could be missing out on because you’re expecting too much.”
Jay thought about that. Maybe Duke had a point.
Duke grunted again. “Do me a favor?”
“Sure.” As if he even had to ask. Something about the way Duke’s voice washed over Jay always made him extra receptive. He was starting to think maybe he had a thing for deep voices.
“Close your eyes.”
Jay did as instructed. “Okay.”
“Imagine me and you are together. Like together, together.”
“I don’t even know what you look like.”
“That’s why you’re supposed to use your imagination, doofus. Make me up.”
A body appeared in Jay’s mind’s eye. Exceedingly ordinary at first, but the more Jay thought of Duke, the more it took shape. Deep-cut abs, pecs you could bounce quarters off, sky-blue eyes, shaggy blond hair. “Okay.”
“So we’ve been going out awhile, right? Everything is going great until you find out…I dunno, I have a drug problem or something. We fight about it a few times, and I swear I’ll stop. Because I don’t wanna lose you, right? But then you come home one day and find me doing it again. Then there’s this huge blowup, and there are lots of fuck-yous and I-hate-yous and baby-I’m-sorrys being thrown around. So you storm out and tell me it’s over, right? What do you expect me to do then?”
It took Jay a moment to pull himself back to reality. He’d been so wrapped up in Duke’s scenario that he’d found himself getting angry over this made-up problem. “I’d expect you to follow me. If you care about me as much as you say you do, you’d follow me and try to convince me to come around.”
“Okay. Let’s go with that. Let’s say you took the car. And it’s raining. And you’re not answering my calls.”
There was that chuckle again. The one that made Jay’s insides curl with something he wasn’t ready to feel.
“So you want me to chase you down on foot in the rain? And what if I do all that, and I make it to your place, and I stand there in the rain, banging on the door and begging and pleading for you to forgive me, and you still don’t open the door?”
“If you really want it that bad, then you’d wait for me to come out.”
“Right. So you want me to stand out in the rain, possibly catching pneumonia and dying, until you’re ready to come out and talk to me?”
Jay remained silent as he considered the options. Sure, Duke’s scenario was extreme, but he honestly couldn’t see himself wanting anything less.
Duke apparently took the silence as an answer. “Fuck that, dude. Because let me tell you how it’ll really play out. I’m just as fucking angry as you are, not to mention hurt because I know that I fucked up and hurt someone I care about. So I’m gonna give you your space and time to cool off before I try to talk to you. I need that time too, right? I have to clear my head and think of what I’m gonna say that’s gonna be so mind-blowingly amazing that you aren’t going to have any choice but to forgive me. I deserve at least that, right?”
“Well, yeah. When you put it like that…”
“You know why it played out the way it did in your mind? Because that’s how it would have happened in a movie. Dude would have totally lost his nuts and gone chasing your car through the rain, trying to get you to see it his way. But in real life, if that happened, he probably would have gotten run over and died, and you would have felt guilty because you’d know that he would have never been in that road if you hadn’t expected him to be.”
Jay fought a grin. He hated it when Duke did this to him but couldn’t help loving it at the same time. “How do you do that?”
“Completely deconstruct everything I think and somehow manage to turn me into the bad guy?”
“I’m not turning you into the bad guy, man. I’m just opening your eyes to how fucking crazy you really are.”
Jay scoffed. “I’m not crazy. I just want things to be a certain way.”
“Yeah, it helps when that way is realistic. It helps the rest of us be able to live up to it.”
“It is realistic.” But now Jay wasn’t so sure. Not after the way Duke had painted that picture for him.
“Sure, it is. I’m gonna go, all right? Got a class at eight thirty.”
“Okay. Wednesday still on the house too?”
“You’re gonna get me fired, dude.”
“You lost the bet, not me.”
“I know.” Jay could hear the smile in Duke’s voice. “It’s still on the house. Just remember to call my personal. They check the minutes on the work phone.”
“Gotcha. G’night, Duke.”
A moment of silence, then, “Night.”
Jay’s roommate barged in as soon as he’d ended the call.
“Hey,” Chris said. Like clockwork, he let his bag slide to the floor and pulled his shirt off.
As usual, Jay narrowed his eyes and stared off into a corner of the room. “Can’t you ever keep your shirt on for, like, five minutes?”
“It’s been on all day. Way longer than five minutes.”
“You know what I mean.” Jay scrubbed a hand over his cheek and tried to force himself to think of something boring. Hopefully Chris wouldn’t see the blush creeping up.
“I know. I just like fucking with you.” Chris flopped down on his bed and grabbed a book off his nightstand.
Jay chanced a peek in Chris’s direction. He had his nose buried in the latest Patterson. If Jay had learned anything in the time since the college had assigned them as dorm mates, it was not to mess with Chris when he pulled out a book. It was almost as though he went into a trance, ensconced in the pages and unable to focus on anything else.
Jay stopped himself before his gaze drifted any lower. Chris was hot, sure, but he was also the poster boy for straight guys of America. He didn’t flaunt how hot he was, but Jay didn’t come on to guys who looked that good unless he wanted to be rejected. Jay had seen guys like Chris before, though. In movies. You thought they were straight until you got them drunk enough, and then they started stalking you to make sure you’d never tell anyone.
“Hey, um…” Jay cleared his throat. “You gonna be up for a while? I wanna watch a movie.” Chris didn’t respond, so Jay added, “Wanted to make sure I wouldn’t keep you up.”
Chris blinked a few times, as though the pages still had a hold on him. “Yeah, that’s cool. I’m not going to sleep until I finish this. Only got a hundred pages left.”
Jay marveled at Chris’s reading drive as he picked up his laptop off the floor.
Duke floated back into his mind as he pulled up his video streaming account. No way his expectations were too high. There had to be a guy out there who could live up to them. But what if there wasn’t?
Would he spend his entire life alone?
* * * *
Jay couldn’t understand why the morning had to start so early. He rolled out of bed and yawned. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the light, but once they did, he nearly fell over again. The sheets over Chris’s crotch stuck straight up, his morning wood a delicious tease.
Jay wanted to reach over and drag the cover away, to get a peek at what it was hiding.
He averted his eyes and turned away. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
He wondered what Duke would say if he were here. Duke would probably say something dirty, as he did most of the time. The two of them had had a conversation once where Jay wondered what it would be like if they were roommates. Duke insisted that it would be all sex all the time, because Jay wouldn’t be able to get enough of him. He supposed Duke was right. That was probably why he wanted Chris so bad.
He wished Chris was open to the idea. All he wanted was one time. One really good fuck that left him breathless like he’d seen in so many movies. He got up and headed for the door but stopped with his hand on the knob. He chanced one more glance at Chris’s tented blanket and grinned. It was a scenario like this that had made him search out the phone-sex line Sexy College Studs in the first place. Jay had woken up one morning to Chris groaning in his sleep. The sound had been so hot Jay had real trouble not jacking off right then. He’d tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t. Before the day had ended, he’d hunted down Duke’s profile online just to get his mind off Chris. But now something deeper had sparked. It felt like he and Duke were friends. Friends who would fuck like rabbits the first chance they got. Friends who—
A pinch brought Jay back to the present. He’d bitten his bottom lip so hard it smarted. Fuck, he needed to get out of here before Chris woke up.
By the time he got to the floor’s communal bathroom, his erection pressed so insistently against his boxers he thought it might explode. Thoroughly pleased he had the room to himself, he stripped and climbed into the shower. The icy water helped clear his mind, but the image of Chris’s morning wood still greeted him defiantly from behind his eyelids, daring him to do something about it. When he refused, his cock throbbed. It demanded release, but Jay wouldn’t give in. He knew from experience that if he ignored it, it would subside on its own. So he stood there and forced himself to think about the least sexy things he could imagine.
Ten minutes later he was about to give in when he heard the door open. He froze and moved the curtain to the side just enough to see Chris standing at the mirror. Perfect. Just fucking perfect.
Chris hummed something as he brushed his teeth. His gaze flitted in Jay’s direction, and Jay’s breath hitched as he let the curtain close. Had Chris seen him? Heart pounding, he peered out once more. Chris still stood there as though nothing had happened.
Jay breathed a sigh of relief and finished his shower. At least that little scare had been enough to put the kibosh on his hormones. He waited until he heard the shower next to his start up before he turned off the water. He dried off totally before he wrapped the towel around himself and stepped out of the cubicle.
The plan was to run out of the bathroom as quickly as he could, but he stopped dead before he’d gone ten feet.
Chris had left the vinyl open. He faced the wall, running shampoo-covered hands through his dark hair. The water cascaded down his back, and he glistened in the crappy fluorescent lighting. His hips swayed slightly as though to the beat of music.
Jay found himself hypnotized. He shouldn’t have been surprised, because Chris was the biggest exhibitionist he knew, but damn. He couldn’t move. Couldn’t think. He grew hard once again, and it took everything he had not to climb in that shower with his roommate. His mouth watered as he took in Chris’s form. The broad shoulders, the muscles in his back, the plump bubbles that made up his ass. Fuck, even his calves were sexy. Jay tried to remember how to move, but there was no blood left in his brain.
Maybe Chris would be okay if Jay just explained what he wanted? A one-time thing. No strings attached. But what if Chris turned him down? Jay might die of embarrassment. He’d have to change rooms, but that wouldn’t be enough, because he’d still see Chris around campus. Pretty soon he’d be so mortified he’d have to change schools and move to a different state under an assumed name just so no one could find him. It wasn’t like he and Chris were really friends, but Chris could still make his life hell if something like that got out. Who’d want to be around the creepy perv who asked his roommate to bend him over and fuck him like he was being punished?
Jay was so horrified by his own scenario he was about to run. But then Chris turned around.
Jay’s jaw dropped. Chris was hung like a fucking god. He wasn’t even hard, and the damn thing dangled proudly between his legs like a cat toy, begging Jay to come play with it. Silently thankful his roommate still had his eyes closed as he washed the suds away from his face, Jay ran and didn’t stop until he was shut safely back in their room.
He couldn’t go on like this. He paced the floor, his mind racing. He pushed the window open to let some fresh air in. For November, the temperature seemed uncommonly low. He stuck his head out and regretted it as the cold bit into his flesh.
But it helped, so he stayed that way for as long as he could stand it, watching the students walk around the quad, bundled up from head to foot.
“So when you catch a cold and die, I don’t want to hear a word about it.”
Jay bumped his head on the windowsill before he could get back in. “What?” he asked as he massaged the now sore spot.
“You’re not wearing shit but a towel, and you’ve got your head stuck out a window when it’s only thirty degrees outside. Again, when you catch a cold and die, I don’t want to hear you bitching about it.”
“I wouldn’t be able to bitch about it if I’m dead, now, would I?”
“Hey.” Chris shrugged. “I’m just letting you know. Nice boner, by the way.” He snickered as he turned to his dresser, and Jay’s face went up in flames.
He couldn’t even feel it anymore, but he covered it with both hands and flopped down on his bed. He tried to position it between his legs so it would stay there until he could reach into his drawers and get some underwear.
“Dude, relax. You act like I don’t get hard too. It happens.”
Jay couldn’t think of anything to say, so he stayed silent.
Once they were both dressed, Chris sank onto his own bed and lay down, hands behind his head. “So what’s on your agenda for the day?”
He asked the same question every morning, and Jay should have been used to it by now, but it still threw him off every time. His whole life he’d been the loner, and no one had cared what he did from day to day. Even some of his exes had been indifferent, which, he supposed, was why they were exes. But Chris seemed to care, and they hadn’t known each other but three months.
“I dunno. I’ve only got two classes today, so after that I’ll probably just come back here and study.”
They made eye contact. “Why don’t you ever go out? It might do you some good to get out of this room for something other than class every once in a while.”
“And do what?”
“I don’t know. But do something. You’re in college, man. Go out and live, or the next thing you know, you’re gonna be forty and wondering what the fuck happened to your life.”
Jay considered that. He liked the idea of going out, but it seemed impractical. He hadn’t hung out with anyone on campus since he and Lucas had broken up over a year ago, and he’d gotten used to staying in.
“I guess I just wouldn’t know what to do by myself.”
“Who said anything about you going out by yourself? Come out with me and my friends one night or something.” Chris sat up and looked at him dead on. “I don’t want to see you wasting away in this room, Jay. This is the time of your life when you’re supposed to have fun and get shitfaced and be an idiot. So do it.”
“What if I don’t know how?”
“Yeah, right. I’ll see you tonight, dude.” He gathered up his things and left.
Jay still had an hour before his first class started, so he sat there, Chris’s words rolling around in his brain. It wasn’t that he wanted to stay cooped up in the room all the time, but he didn’t have anywhere else to go except home. Most of the friends he’d gained since he came here had been Lucas’s friends too, so Lucas had gotten them in the breakup. Though Jay had to admit the idea of going out with Chris and his friends held a certain amount of promise. He’d rather have gone out with Chris alone, but with friends was a start. At least it would give him the chance to spend some time with the guy and get to know him a little more beyond these four walls.
But even better, Jay realized, would be the opportunity to go out with Duke. He knew it would never happen, but he played with the idea a bit. Duke already knew all Jay’s quirks and shortcomings and secrets, and he still hung around. Sometimes even free of charge.
Seized by a sudden urge, Jay grabbed his phone but froze with his thumb hovering over the Call button. It was way too early in the morning to call anyone
, let alone his phone-sex buddy he’d yet to have phone sex with. The conversations they had were more than enough for Jay, but he could feel himself falling further and further into the throes of lust every time he talked to Duke. He was tired of only jerking off to movies. So far, the closest he’d come to any kind of sex with an actual person was with Duke. Whether with Duke or Chris or someone he hadn’t met yet, he just wanted it to be special.
Was that so wrong?