Reggie Mitchell has been sitting at the end of the bar in the Sunset Club waiting for Mark Randall to see him as something other than a customer, so when it's Mark in trouble, Reggie steps in.
Reggie Mitchell has been in love with Mark Randall for close to two years but Mark only sees him as a rich college kid trying to go slumming with a bartender. Then Mark gets in trouble helping Reggie's friend Bobby.
With a violent ex-lover threatening Mark, Reggie offers Mark the safe haven of his basement apartment. Can Reggie convince Mark that his safe haven is his arms instead?
Asbury Park ~ Eight Years Ago
Mark Randall rode his bicycle down to the 7-11 on Route 71. He was out to get cigarettes for his mother; she was too drunk to drive and Mark wasn't allowed to drive her car.
When he pedaled into the parking lot, he was taken aback by the sheer number of motorcycles and their riders that stood on the black macadam. As he entered the store, he felt eyes boring into his back. Mark didn't turn around, he knew better. He was gay and he looked the part. He was small, slender with curly black hair, eyes that bordered on dark violet in the right light and had a tendency to be seen as feminine. Not over the top, he thought, just a little bit frilly. Mark didn't want any trouble. Sometimes if you even glanced at a straight guy you were asking for a beating. He went back to the refrigerated display cases, ostensibly looking at water and juice. He figured he'd hang out back there until they left. Initially, there were three of them at the register, now there were four. The one biker's eyes were setting Mark's windbreaker on fire. He could see the guy's reflection in the glass as he stood in front of the case.
Realizing he couldn't stay back there forever, Mark watched them. As soon as they left, he went up to the register, purchased a bottle of water, his mother's smokes, and went out the door. He was greeted by a bicycle with two flat tires.
Mark didn't even think; he was so angry. He shouted out, "Which one of you assholes did this?" He pointed to the bike. God damn it, it's my only means of transportation.
"That would be me." A big, good-looking guy with dirty blond hair, blue eyes, and arms covered in tattoos walked to the front of the pack. This was the same biker who'd stared at him inside the store. Shit...I better forget about the bicycle and get ready to run. Wait, the guy is smiling at me. Maybe this isn't as bad as it looks. The fire in his eyes is singeing my eyelashes. I thought it was anger, maybe not.
Mark shrugged. "I'll go to the gas station down the street and get the tires fixed. So what did you accomplish besides pissing me off and making me walk?"
"Without the bicycle, I figured you'd ride with me. You'd look slamming on my bitch seat with those silky black curls blowing in the wind."
"I don't want to be anyone's bitch." Mark grabbed his bike and started to walk.
The biker took charge. "I think you'll want to be mine. My friend here will get his truck and follow us to your place and we'll have an opportunity to introduce ourselves to one another."
"I don't think so."
"It's only a ride on a public road. What have you got to lose?"
Mark looked at the guy. He was good-looking, seemed sincere, and taking care of his mother gave Mark no time to have a boyfriend. He was about to turn eighteen and he was still a virgin.
"You'll take me home and nowhere else?"
"I said I would."
"I won't ride with you unless you have an extra helmet."
The biker snapped his fingers and one of the others handed him a helmet.
"Okay." Why not? We're on a bike out in the open.
Mark stuck out his hand. "Mark Randall."
The biker reciprocated. "Billy Cruz." Billy gave Mark the helmet. "With this I can talk to you. There's a microphone inside."
Mark put the helmet on and climbed onto the back of the bike.
"Are you in school?"
"No, I had a scholarship to Monmouth University, but I couldn't afford the fees."
"What about Brookdale?"
"I might have been able to afford community college, but I don't have a car and it's all the way over in Lincroft. Right now, I work in the head shop on Asbury Avenue."
"The Smoking Den?" Billy asked.
"That's the one. I make better money there than I did bagging groceries at Acme." Billy turned a corner and Mark grabbed Billy and held on tighter.
"If you were mine, you wouldn't have to work and I'd pay for your schooling."
"I don't belong to anyone but myself."
Two months later, just after his eighteenth birthday, Mark moved in with Billy.
* * *
Asbury Park ~ One Year Later
Mark cowered in the corner. "I didn't flirt. I swear."
"He was staring at you." Billy stood over him, fists at the ready.
"I can't help that he leered at me. I didn't look back." Billy took his fat fist and punched Mark in the belly. Mark went down to the floor clutching his stomach. He rolled into a ball trying to make himself small and give Billy less surface area to kick.
Billy's boot connected to his ribs, his arm, and his thigh again and again. "If you weren't trying to attract him, then how did you see he was leering?"
Mark moved his leg in pain and Billy gave him a vicious kick to his balls. He swallowed a sob. "Please, I passed him on the way to the bathroom. You came with me, remember?" Billy ignored what Mark said, giving him another few kicks in the ribs.
"You dress like that to attract attention to yourself."
Mark whimpered and tried to make himself smaller. He thought to attempt to reason with Billy. "Please, listen...you buy my clothes. I wear what you tell me to wear. How can I dress provocatively if you buy me all my clothing?" Billy started to kick his ribs again with his biker boots.
Mark knew he had broken ribs, it was difficult to take a deep breath. He couldn't tell if he had a punctured lung and his arm lay funny under his chest and hurt like hell. Mark figured his eyes were blackened because he couldn't see out of either one, and his head pounded in enough pain that he suspected a concussion. He had blacked out, but he couldn't tell how long he was unconscious. When he opened his eyes again, the pain was relentless.
Now, Mark was sobbing without making a sound, he knew if he cried out, the beating would get worse. Billy wasn't even drunk this time. Mark finally realized that Billy beat him not because Mark did something wrong; he beat him because Billy was mean through and through. He didn't want a boyfriend, he wanted a bed slave to use as a punching bag. The only hope Mark had was that the others would arrive for their meeting tonight before Billy beat Mark to death.