Can Dex survive a nightmare that won't let go?
Dex's life has gone into a tailspin. One night that ruined his entire world. He can't sleep, he can't eat. He's lost his job, and is about to lose the last of his sanity. When the world crashes down around him, he's ready to let the world win.
Dex has friends, though, who are determined to not let him self-combust.
One man will be there to guide him through his nightmare, to hold him to keep the demons at bay, and still let him be strong enough to find the strength to love after his darkest hour.
Dex sat gingerly on the fabric covered chair in the quiet, private office. He was healing, but damn, healing hurt. It didn't help make sitting any more comfortable, either.
"How are you today, Dex?" Dr. Michaels, his therapist, asked. She gave him a kind smile once they were both settled.
"Better." Unfortunately, it was taking a long time to get completely well.
"Would you like a water?" She started to stand and he waved her into the chair.
"I'm fine." Really, she was already sitting. Why bother now?
She tossed brown hair behind her shoulder and got comfortable, crossing one leg over the other, like they were going to spend the next hour chatting.
Dex supposed they were.
All about him.
He stroked a hand up and down his arm, waiting for her. She placed a small notebook on her lap and clasped her hands lightly around a knee. "What would you like to talk about?" Her voice was firm, but lyrical. He honestly didn't mind talking with her, it was the subjects they talked about. Not his favorites.
"He's out on bail now." It almost fell out in a rush and he clutched his upper arm in a huddled grip, fighting to stay calm. It was difficult to stay the ripples of fear that were threatening.
"And the police know this, I'm sure," she offered with a tipped head of understanding.
"They should. They did it," he returned.
"Are you worried he'll find you?"
"No, well, not really. He doesn't know much about me other than what I look like and my first name." Though if the police had revealed more, he had no idea.
"I'm also sure he's been warned away from you. That's standard procedure."
"Doesn't always work," he pointed out.
"No," she agreed, calmly, though saddened. "But we have to move you forward. The police can deal with Mr. Carson."
Dex shuddered. That name... He'd learned to despise it and fear it all at the same time. Conrad Carson. He dreaded hearing that name.
"So tell me what you've done this week. How is Brian? He's still your guardian angel, I take it?" She smiled again, this time as though she shared a secret.
"Him and a few more. They're being so supportive and sweet."
"I'm glad to hear that."
He was too, more than. It wasn't like his family was going to suddenly show up and offer any kind of tenderness.
He talked with his therapist for the hour he had, and occasionally she wrote a note, or asked about a comment, but this was one more week, another hour to work through the fear that still gripped him. Nightmares that refused to leave him alone.
He could barely walk outside his own door since that night. Dex felt safe with Brian and Chad, and even Sonny, as big as he was. Anyone else? He couldn't even speak. It had taken two sessions with Dr. Michaels to be able to talk to her about any of those fears.
His fear of men beyond those he trusted had forced them to find not only a female counselor, but a gay-accepting one as well. She had to be accepting. Not merely indifferent- embracing. Because right now, Dex could hardly stand the feel of air against his own skin. Dealing with any person who couldn't empathize with Dex one hundred percent was useless to him.
The only two people he allowed to get that close were Brian, more out of necessity that he'd adjusted to, and Chad, a friend who had become an angel in disguise.
The stitches may be gone leaving the scars on the outside, but they were only a fraction of the pain that the world could see.
* * *
It was supposed to be a night of fun dancing. It turned into a nightmare. Dex had spotted Chad when he'd walked in that Saturday night. It was only the second time he'd been to Shakers-Dex didn't have the confidence to attempt Slick's. Even at barely twenty-one, he knew its reputation-that it could get a little too wild in the corners.
Finding the confidence to approach the good-looking man, Dex had asked him to dance.
That had been wonderful. Chad had been strong and sweet at the same time and Dex had hoped to dance with him again. When Conrad had caught his eye to dance, he was still feeling flushed from dancing with Chad and hadn't thought anything of how the man was groping him all over. What was inappropriate didn't have time to cross his mind. He'd told Dex over and over how cute he was. Conrad used a lot of his body. Now Dex knew what that meant.
Conrad had been much taller, with large hands and a broad, strong body, but that was fine. He hadn't really cared how the man was built. Dex had wanted to dance.
Conrad had wanted more.
He'd followed Dex into the men's room and backed him against the wall. What happened then... It was one of the many things he'd been working through with Dr. Michaels: How he'd struggled with those invasive hands but couldn't stop the pawing. Feeling utterly helpless when he couldn't keep Conrad from jerking and tearing at clothing as he bit at Dex's mouth and neck. Not kissed-bit. Dex hadn't been drinking a lot, but there simply was no contest against the man's strength.
He couldn't imagine another man touching him now, much less being intimate. The desire to be desired was gone. There had been blood, too. He remembered that. And the fucker hadn't used a condom. He'd forced Dex against the wall, rutting like a beast Dex had never suspected existed.
Dex had tried to fight but he simply couldn't break the drunken strength shackling him. That was also when he realized Conrad had blocked the door. He had the mass to keep people out.
It hadn't taken the asshole long, leaving Dex limp, in shock, and sobbing quietly. He hadn't cared at all that he'd cried like some little girl. Still didn't. All he'd wanted to do was to shrivel into a hole and never come out. He'd never felt so violated. It was a word he was still coming to grips with, with his therapist's help.
Conrad had washed Dex's face with sloppy hands, making sure he was dressed. Sort of. It wasn't until Conrad marched him through the club and outside that he realized his night wasn't over.
He really didn't remember much beyond that. He'd shut down into a quiet place in his mind. From the statement Chad had given, he didn't want to remember. He'd awakened in the hospital ER with Chad at his bedside. It was through Chad that Dex had met Brian that night. He'd learned afterward that they'd interrupted Conrad's second attack as they were leaving for the night. Brian convinced him to press charges, to take that much of a stand despite the fear and shock coursing through him.
Now he was managing with slow steps to navigate the humiliation. It wasn't easy. He'd been so naive. He'd finally been able to exist in his own skin, no longer the gay kid in his class, and this was what it got him. All he'd wanted was to dance and meet some people.
He didn't care in the least if he never walked into another dance club again.