This is the story of how one perfect couple becomes three.
Austin and Riley have been together since high school. They've always loved each other and know they'll spend the rest of their lives together. But when they start playing soccer in college, they meet a sexy blond named Luke who, as far as they know, is the stereotypical conservative rich kid with the perfect GPA, who might also be their answer to a question they never asked.
For Luke, college life means keeping his head down and working hard, denying his own needs until he graduates and can get out from under his father's thumb. It works, until he meets Austin and Riley, smart, gorgeous, and in desperate need of someone to look after them. Luke longs to be that someone, but is he willing to give up his future to have an amazing now?
Austin leaned against the wall outside the bathroom at the coffee shop while he waited for Riley, arms crossed on his chest. A defensive posture, he knew that from psych class. But why not? He'd been on the defensive for the past ten fucking years. He and Riley both, when they'd come out together in fifth grade. Though living next door, they'd snuck into each other's houses for as long as he could remember.
Customers flowed passed him, most of them regulars, students rushing between classes, with a nod or wave at him. He'd nod in return, or not, preoccupied. If Riley didn't finish soon ...
The latch on the door clicked, and he pushed off the wall as Riley came out. Head down, his lover skirted him and headed for the exit, coat clutched in his hands. Austin's stomach churned as he followed, feeling eyes on them. That was nothing new, either. He was just another guy on campus, but Riley was pretty enough to be in the movies, perfect skin and big hazel eyes and lots of soft brown curls. Austin watched his sweet ass in skinny jeans as they traversed the room and knew a lot of other guys did the same.
Riley remained silent as they crossed the campus and Austin let him be, knowing he needed time to collect his scraps of courage before going home. All too soon they turned onto their tree lined street. Their houses stood side-by-side halfway down the block, but Austin steered Riley to the small park across the street and the bench they often took refuge on beneath a spreading oak tree. Overgrown bushes gave them a little privacy and Austin sat close enough their thighs touched, both of them needing the contact.
"Let me see," he murmured when Riley kept his face averted. Riley turned to him and Austin winced. They'd iced Riley's face at the coffee shop, but still a dark bruise was forming on his cheek, his cut lip swollen and a little bloody.
"I'm sorry, babe," Austin said helplessly and placed a gentle kiss on the corner of his mouth. Things had been better for them lately, most people either accepting or ignoring them altogether. Until this year, when they'd joined the soccer team and Gabe Allister decided to make Riley his target.
Austin's thoughts jumped inevitably to the team captain, Luke Parson, and his heart pounded. Luke had stood up for Riley twice that day. Austin could love him for that alone. But the man was also intelligent and funny, with all those gorgeous muscles Austin wanted to lick.
He sighed and put Luke from his mind. They'd experimented with other guys before, but this was the first time both he and Riley crushed on the same guy, Riley shyly confessing Luke made him feel safe. That was rare. Come to that, he made Austin feel protected and cared for as well, and that never happened.
Riley shifted on the bench and spread the damp coat out on his lap. "I couldn't get all the blood out," he said, and Austin hated the defeat in his voice he heard too often lately.
"Fuck," he muttered, touching the rusty stains down the front of the coat. Suddenly, it was too much, and he fisted the fabric. "Fuck it all. Living on Murphy Court would be better than this," he asserted, mentioning the homeless camp that had sprung up over winter.
A light flared in Riley's eyes, hope, but then his shoulders dropped. "No. It's almost summer break, then three quarters to go until graduation. After that you'll have your business degree and we can live anywhere we want."
"And where does my lovely artist want to live?" Austin nuzzled against Riley's ear, licked the delicate tip peaking from the light brown curls.
Riley giggled and scrunched up his shoulder. "San Francisco?" he replied, mentioning the city they'd often talked about. But there was a hesitant note in his voice and Austin followed his gaze to the battered Honda in Riley's driveway.
Austin clenched a fist again. "No. I'll grab a few things and we'll leave --"
"No!" Riley jumped up and faced him, his breathing ragged. "You've worked too hard --" His anger left as quickly as it had flared and he slid his arms around Austin's waist, slim body fitting perfectly under his chin. "Let's just get through this last month, then see what we can do over the summer. If we both work all we can, maybe we can scrape together enough for a deposit on an apartment this time."
"Sure," Austin agreed, though he had his doubts. He held Riley tighter, heart aching that he couldn't take care of him properly. Couldn't even take him home. His parents barely tolerated his own sexuality, making it clear there would be no room in their house for his boyfriend.