For Robbie Russo, only one man has ever owned his heart, Kyler Christenson. The years at each other's sides never diminished his love for him, but with the rise to fame in their rock band, Black Heart Down, more than a few challenges hindered their relationship. Now, he's reached a crossroads, either he'll have all of Kyler, or he'll walk away from everything they've built together.
Kyler may be fearless on stage, but if there's one thing to send his heart crashing down, it's losing Robbie. When Robbie delivers his ultimatum, Kyler's willing to do what it takes for things work. But change doesn't happen quickly, and when he makes a terrible mistake, all their history together might not be enough to save their future.
Robbie walked out of the airport. He glanced to his left, to his right, and exhaled a heavy sigh. He turned and went to lean back against the building, sliding down the wall until he sat on the ground. He lowered his head so his Michigan Wolverines cap covered his face, though it was already nearly impossible to recognize him with the dark sunglasses he wore. Still, the last thing he needed was fans in his face hounding for pictures and autographs.
Right now, he didn't feel like being Robbie Russo, the lead guitarist for Black Heart Down. He just wanted to be Robbie Russo, the guy who grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who had never dreamed of becoming a rock star...until he entered his life.
Robbie pulled out his cell phone and glanced at the time. He had rushed through getting his bags, worried about making Kyler wait, but he should've known Ky would be late picking him up.
He let his head fall back on the building, letting out another sigh. He didn't know why he expected things to be different. One week away wouldn't change anything. It wasn't like they hadn't spent time apart before. Hell, even when they separated, they were together. Being in the same band, they could never fully break away from each other. Anytime he walked away, it was only a matter of time before he had to come back to Kyler.
And he always did. Even more, he always ended up falling back into bed with him. So what did that say about him? Why couldn't he come back and not want Ky's lips on his, Ky's hands exploring him, his cock buried inside him?
Robbie closed his eyes. He could see him in his mind, young and arrogant on the first day Kyler transferred to his high school in their senior year. Kyler's family had moved from Indianapolis to Ann Arbor with the hopes that taking him out of a big city would keep him out of trouble. Drinking, partying, getting into fights, even at seventeen years old, Ky had a bad boy rock star attitude. Moving him to a college town really wasn't the best solution, but since Kyler's father had a brother there, they thought having more family around would work to keep him in line.
But it was more than teenage rebellion that caused Kyler's parents to move him. Kyler had been caught doing something his family never forgave him for, and to this day it had left a mark on him. Of course, it was just one of many scars Kyler's family had left on him.
Back on that first day, when Kyler walked into his school, people flocked to him as much as they did now. Robbie didn't, though. At the first sight of him, Kyler made him feel things he wasn't ready to face, and those feelings made Robbie want to avoid him, pretend he didn't exist. But as in all things, Kyler wasn't about to be denied.
The first time they spoke, he was sitting on the porch of his parents' house, playing his guitar, and when he looked up, there was Ky standing on the sidewalk watching him. Without waiting for an invitation, Kyler took a seat on the porch beside him. He stopped playing to ask what Kyler wanted, but before he could get a word out, Kyler started criticizing his guitar skills. Robbie became instantly pissed at his arrogance, and yet at the same time, found himself unable to turn away from Kyler's hazel eyes, captivated by the flecks of green shining in them.
After that day, Kyler would find him in the halls at school, sit by him at lunch, come over to his house. It seemed wherever he went, Ky would appear. Before he knew it, he found himself seeking out Kyler during the rare moments he didn't show up on his own. He had to admit, it was an amazing feeling being swept up in Kyler's popularity. People wanted to be his friend because of how close he was to Ky. Only, no one knew how close they really were.
Thinking back on it now, he realized how stupid he'd been. He let Kyler do anything he wanted. He'd like to say it was youthful naivety, but after eleven years, nothing had changed. He still let Kyler do whatever he wanted and forgave him for all his wrongs. But the memories of how devoted Kyler was to him in high school, and even afterward when they moved to New York together with the hopes of building a band, carried him through. During those early years, Ky's beautiful eyes gazed only at him.
Maybe it was wanting to recapture those old feelings that sent him running back to Ann Arbor for a week. He told Kyler he wanted to visit his family before Black Heart left on tour. Really, he just needed some space. Too bad for him the trip hurt more than helped. Staying in the place of so many happy memories made his present life feel all the more messed up.
Not to mention, he let his sister drive his Porsche after she begged him for two days and she managed to blow the transmission, which blew his freakin' mind. She'd told him she could drive a stick. Clearly she couldn't. Either way, rather than rent a car and drive back to Chicago, he decided to catch a flight. Another bad idea. Between all the damn delays, it took twice as long to fly than it would've to drive. Plus, it left him dependent on Kyler, a position he didn't like being in these days.
"Can I ask why you're sitting on the nasty ass ground?"
Robbie's heart jumped at the sound of the voice, the deep baritone bordering on being a bass. After all their years together, off again and on again, his body still reacted to it the same way it had when he was a teenager.
Robbie turned his head, his gaze traveling up the long legs clad in dark brown leather pants, pausing for a moment on the full crotch and mentally kicking himself when he did. He looked higher. With his brown leather jacket open, the black shirt Kyler wore conformed to his body, giving glimpses of the lean muscle beneath.
Robbie's gaze reached Kyler's face, his features slender, sharp, and beautiful. He couldn't help himself from staring at Kyler's lips, so perfectly shaped, and envision how they had moved over his body so many times. Kyler's golden blond hair was bound back in a ponytail. Sunglasses shaded his eyes.
Robbie shook off the feelings Kyler raised in him. "I'm sitting on the nasty ass ground because I got tired of waiting for you. You're late."
Kyler offered a hand to him. "I'm not that late."
Robbie ignored his hand and stood. "Either way, it shows you didn't care enough to be on time."
Kyler let out a frustrated huff. "Christ, there was traffic, okay?" He reached for the black duffel bag on Robbie's shoulder. Robbie twisted, attempting to evade his grasp. Kyler snatched the duffel bag's strap regardless and yanked it off Robbie's shoulder, carrying it toward the silver Land Rover parked close by. "I don't know why everything has to be a battle."
Robbie watched him walk away. With a sigh, he followed after him. He climbed in the SUV and gazed out the window as Kyler pulled away from the curb. After several minutes of silence, he glanced at him. Kyler drove with his right hand resting atop the steering wheel, his left elbow propped against the door with his cheek on his fist, his posture, his expression, all revealing he was tense and upset.
Robbie broke the silence by clearing his throat. "I'm sorry. I was being shitty back there. I'm just pissed about my car and all the crap trying to get back here."
Kyler looked at him, a forgiving smile on his lips. "It's alright. You should've let me come and get you, though."
"There wasn't any reason for you to drive all that way."
"Yeah there was."
Kyler reached across the distance between them and brushed Robbie's cheek with the backs of his fingers. "You."
Robbie gazed at him. "What about your vow never to go back there again?"
"If it was for you, there's nowhere in the world I wouldn't go."
A slow smile curved Robbie's lips. "Why do you make it so damn hard for me to stay pissed at you?"
Kyler rested his hand on Robbie's thigh. "It's not my fault you can't resist my charm. Besides, just being late isn't worth getting pissed about. Save it for when I do something really worthy of being pissed over. I'm sure it'll happen before the day ends."
Robbie rolled his eyes and laid his hand over Kyler's. That was the simple truth of things; he couldn't resist him.
"I know what we can do that'll put you in a good mood," Kyler said. "Let's hang at my place. We can order a pizza and watch a movie."
Robbie shifted beneath Kyler's hand. The idea sounded great, the words meant to be kind, and yet to him, it screamed at how separate they really were. They lived in the same building, but had separate homes. It'd been that way for a long time. Pretty much ever since they struck their fame and fortune. But then, that's when everything changed. Together, but separate. That's what their lives had become.
Robbie shook his head slightly. "I'm really tired, Ky."
"That's fine. You can crash at my place."
"And how's that going to help me?"
Kyler grinned at him. "I'll be good. Promise."
Robbie shot him a doubtful look.
"Seriously." The tone of Kyler's voice softened with a concerned edge. "You look really tired. I'll let you rest."
Robbie stared at him, trying to tell if Kyler was being genuine. That was always the trick with him. Kyler was a master at knowing the right things to say and the right way to say them to get what he wanted. He usually could tell when Kyler was trying to pull one of his stunts on him, and right now, it seemed like he was being honest.
"Alright. Have you heard from Adam and Kevin? I haven't talked to them in a couple days."
"Yeah, I talked to Adam last night. They're hanging in Vegas for an extra couple days. Kevin's sister's wedding was yesterday and they haven't stopped partying since. I told him they better cool it or else they'll be burned out for the road, but I don't think he could hear me over the slots. He's going to come back broke, I know it."
"He always loses his ass in Vegas."
Kyler laughed. "And not in a good way."
Robbie chuckled with him. "I'm still surprised you didn't go."
"Why would I? You weren't going."
"Yeah, but since I went to see my parents, you could've gone off with them rather than stay here by yourself."
"A little quiet time once in a while isn't a bad thing. Besides, I wanted to stay close in case you needed me. And you did."
Robbie gave him a skeptical glance. "You're starting to freak me out. I can't figure out if you're full of charm or bullshit today."
"Maybe I'm just trying to say I missed you," Kyler said softly.
Robbie stared at him for a moment longer. He tightened his hold on Kyler's hand. "I missed you, too. And I'm sorry for our fight before I left."
Kyler took a deep breath. "No, it was my fault. I shouldn't have been flirting with Alanna after I told you I wouldn't. Even though I never intended to follow through with anything, I shouldn't have been doing it. It's just, flirting is such a habit, I don't realize I'm doing it half the time."
Robbie looked forward. And that just shot what little bit of a good mood he'd gathered straight to hell. Of course, it was the truth. Kyler flirted with every attractive man and woman who crossed his path, and sometimes that path led to the other person's bed. Kyler managed to not take that step when they were actively together, proof he was capable of some semblance of faithfulness. But then, he already knew that from their early days together.
The constant flirting, even if Kyler had no intentions behind it, was normally what pushed him to the edge to walk away for a while. During those "breaks," he'd go off on his own, finding other people to have flings with, and Kyler would do the same. Ultimately, whether because they truly loved each other, or their history together, or they couldn't fully get away from each other with the band, they always ended up sleeping side by side again.
He liked to think it was because they truly loved each other. Though, sometimes it seemed like wishful thinking. He didn't doubt the love he had for Kyler. He could feel it inside him, so deep he knew it had to be entwined with his soul. Feeling it from Kyler wasn't always as easy.
But putting the blame on Kyler for their problems was easy. Kyler made it so. Sometimes, when he thought back to how they'd gotten to this point, he wondered if the fault was really his own. The first time they'd separated, they had just released their first album. Overnight sensation was the exact definition of Black Heart Down. They dominated the charts, fans pounced on them wherever they went, and a tour playing major venues was booked.
He got caught up in the rush. Everywhere he went, people fawned over him. And the men, so many men hit on him. Kyler had been his first kiss, his first touch, his first everything, and he'd been the only one since. He couldn't deny he was curious about what it'd be like to experience someone else, and he made what he now believed was the worst mistake of his life; he told Kyler how he felt.
They had gotten into a raging argument that ended with "maybe they'd be better as friends rather than lovers." They broke from each other's beds, the apartment they still shared, and separated, but never fully severed, their relationship. In time, they hit a point where it was almost as if they had an understanding between each other, and they'd simply walk away from each other's beds with hardly a word and fall back in the same way.
Except now, he was tired of walking away, and if he had to one more time, he wasn't sure he'd have the strength to come back.
"You're really quiet," Kyler said. "I said something wrong, didn't I?"
"Don't worry about it. I was just thinking."
Kyler nodded and pulled out his cell phone. "The usual on the pizza?"
As Kyler ordered the food, Robbie continued his thoughts. He didn't want to walk away. It was the last thing he wanted. What he wanted most was a life with Kyler, and not just any life but one in the open. It seemed an impossible dream. Kyler wasn't out publicly on being bi, which really, even though he flirted with women, actually sleeping with them was rare and had become even more so in recent years. It was just more publicly accepted for him to look like the rock star stud with women, and if there was one thing Kyler did love, it was his rock star image.
Kyler liked his men, though. A lot. And that's where so many problems lay.
Another sigh escaped Robbie. Really, the problem could be with him, too. Where before he was content to have any part of Kyler in his life, now he wanted all of him again.
Recording the last album at the Phoenix Records studios hadn't helped, either. They went in at almost the same time as Conquest, and while it was great becoming good friends with their guitarist, Kenny Cooper, and better friends with lead singer, Jesse Alexander, there was a downside. Superstar singer, Evan Arden, was also with Conquest as not only their new manager, but Jesse's husband. Seeing them together, witnessing their care and devotion to each other, it made him look at all that was missing in his own life.
Robbie glanced down at Kyler's hand resting on his thigh. All those missing things could be his if only the man he wanted would be willing to give them. He turned his gaze back out the window. Hope could be a hard thing to keep hold of, and he wasn't sure how much longer he could cling to it before it finally slipped free.