Jake has been in love with Quentin throughout college, studying the sexy science major from afar. Quentin has been in the closet his entire life, keeping his sexuality a secret from his political right-wing family. A summer romance brings the two men together but when Jake is attacked before graduation and then later in his home, the truth about the violence threatens to tear the men apart forever. Only when secrets are finally revealed can Jake and Quentin discover a life worth living.
“Are you ready for this?”
“This is it, right? Promise me that this is our last year and that we never have to come back again.”
“I promise. Well…” He paused dramatically. “There is grad school.”
I groaned at his response. Yeah, I knew that this was my own self-imposed hell, but he didn’t have to remind me. Or maybe he did. If I was always giving him crap about his life, then I certainly could take what he was dishing out. Most of the time.
“What the hell are you moaning about? You are always up at this time of the morning, even on the weekends.”
“That’s different,” I responded defensively, and pouting was my right.
He raised a suspicious eyebrow at me.
“It’s different because it’s part of my daily routine to work out at the ass crack of dawn. Somebody has to keep this body in prime working order.” It was my one true obsession. I had a finite number of years to be drop-dead gorgeous and was maybe just a little insecure about aging in general, but with only a handful of summers and beaches in my youth, I sure wasn’t going to waste any of them slouching in front of a TV or computer.
“You know that the lab has no natural lighting and includes sitting on your ass for hours on end, researching and doing experiments, right?”
“You’re doing it again.”
“What?” he asked innocently, raising those damned eyebrows again.
“You’re a goddamned ass and you know it.”
“What was that saying? You know, the one about it takes one to know one?”
“Yeah, yeah. Shut the hell up and let’s get to class, you rat bastard.”
Steve Naessens was an asshole, and I still hated him enough to want to kill him occasionally. My best friend all through high school, roommates all through college. He could talk himself out of any trouble with the many girls he dated, even when caught red-handed.
He was in bed with one girl and talking on the phone with another, when his current girlfriend walked in on him. Not only did he talk himself out of that clusterfuck, but ended up having a threesome. He was good-looking enough for me to be into him. Yeah, I’ll admit that I’m a bit of an eye candy whore and a size queen to boot, and his bright hazel eyes would cause me to have arrhythmia if I stared at him too long. But we had been friends for so long that even crushing on my straight friend wasn’t happening on the best of days. Or even the drunkest of nights. He had fallen into the friends-without-benefits bucket years ago.
So now here we were. This was our last year of college in the upper Midwest, deep in the frozen tundra of Duluth, Minnesota. We were weeks away from getting our undergraduate science degrees and had both been accepted into graduate school, me here in Duluth and Steve off to Michigan, just after we received those diplomas. I’d miss the pain in my ass, but he was my pain in the ass. If only he’d stop giving me grief about my four-year crush, then my life would be perfect.
“Wake up, lover boy. Your man is here,” Steve whispered to me when we reached the classroom.
“You’re shitting me. It’s too early for your mind-fucks, Steve. Where is he?”
“There.” He pointed. “Middle of the room toward the back.”
And there he was, my reason for not dropping out and applying to beauty school, like I threatened each and every semester and especially just before a monster test. Quentin was beautiful. A complicated word for a man, I understand, but he truly was beautiful. His thick wavy black hair, those dark eyes framed by long lashes, a perfect nose, and lips made for―
“Move, asshole. So we can sit behind him before the room fills up. That is, unless you want to make your move now and sit next to him?”
“I’m moving, I’m moving.” It was our fourth year and I hadn’t spoken to Quentin, not once. Ever. We’d had classes and labs together, and never a conversation to be had. For all I knew, he was straight. He certainly wasn’t out like I was and wasn’t involved in any of the social events put on by the few clubs on campus. But it didn’t stop my daydreams, or the night ones for that matter. Four years of sitting behind Quentin in all of the classes that we had together and I barely registered on his radar.
With the most gorgeous man alive in front of me, it was difficult to pay attention in class. Or perhaps it was his fault entirely. His fault and my overactive imagination. I would watch the white board and the PowerPoint presentations for several minutes but then Quentin would make a gesture, ask a question, or lean over to talk to his friend and I would stare at him, daydreaming of taking us away to a secluded section of beach with hot sand surrounded by palm trees.
“Jake! Dude, let’s go already.” Steve’s intrusive voice was always interrupting at the most inopportune times. “Let’s grab some lunch before the next torture session. He’ll be there, too, you know.”
“Shut the fuck up, man. He’ll hear you.”
“Doubtful. I’m standing next to you, and he doesn’t even know you exist. Seriously doubt that he’d hear me. Even if I raised my voice a little bit—ouch!” A hit to his unprotected kidney shut the bastard up, tighter than a virgin’s knees on prom night. “Fucker,” he whispered when he was finally able to stand up straight.
“Remember that the next time you want to embarrass me, asshole.”