Braeden’s never had to question anything before. He’s always been popular, always had everything handed to him, and always been straight.
Then he met Jeffrey Young. Quiet, studious, analytical … a guy.
Falling for Jeff ultimately resulted in Braeden’s expulsion. Now he’s questioning everything. Like if he can handle his pill-abusing mother and ruthlessly enabling father much longer. If he’s protecting his siblings out of selfless motivations. If he belongs with Jeff, now his boyfriend. Jeff’s less-than-straight friends are skeptical of his sexuality as well, which isn’t assuaging any of Braeden’s fears.
As his connection to Jeff deepens quicker than expected, Braeden has to face the question he’s been avoiding for weeks: what is he supposed to do with a guy?
14+ due to sexuality, violence, and adult situations
It was getting too warm. The water wasn’t helping much, either. Braeden removed his shirt.
Jeff turned back—then did a double take. He cursed as he stumbled over the curve of a root.
Braeden had to stop before he tripped over Jeff. He grinned. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to blind you.”
“Shut up.” Jeff rubbed his mouth.
It was the cutest nervous habit ever and only made Braeden want to kiss him.
Braeden leaned in close and lowered his voice. “You could always return the favor.” There was something uniquely exciting about this—teasing Jeff. But with that came the trepidation, the fear. If this goes too far, what the hell am I supposed to do?
Jeff rolled his eyes but went strangely still. He stared at a fixed point in the distance. The muscle in his jaw flexed as though he was talking himself into or out of something.
Then he turned to Braeden. Sunlight glinted off his glasses. “Come on.”
Before Braeden could ask, Jeff stepped off the trail and into the dense woods. Braeden stared after him. His pulse quickened and shot downward.
Well, why not? That was the plan—at least, one outcome of it. And he’d done plenty with girls in these same woods. Jeff even knew about that part of his history.
But … here? Now?
He’s going to think you’re rejecting him.
Braeden shoved aside his misgivings and followed his boyfriend. It didn’t take long to catch up. Jeff didn’t seem to have noticed his hesitation.
I don’t know what to do with guys.
Heat threaded through him as they picked their way through wild bushes, dodged trees and large rocks. His heart slammed between his ears.
What the hell do I do?
Maybe Jeff wouldn’t go that far…
Jeff stopped and turned so abruptly that Braeden almost collided with him. The water bottle fell at their feet. Jeff grabbed him. Pulled him close.
Just that contact cleared the thorny doubts from Braeden’s mind. This part was familiar. They’d done this dozens of times, if not hundreds. Jeff’s mouth was warm, almost hot. The faintest hint of stubble scratched Braeden as they kissed, and a new, pleasant feeling flooded into him.
Because this was Jeff.
These firm hands, they were Jeff’s. This acerbic mouth turned eager and giving, it was Jeff’s. Even when Braeden glided his hand down his boyfriend’s back, when the embrace melted into heavy heat, with Jeff’s chest pressing solidly against him, all Braeden could think was, This is Jeff.
And then a new thought, one that tingled its way into full bloom.
I love him.
Braeden threw his shirt to the forest floor. Never breaking the kiss, he shoved Jeff against the nearest tree. A half-annoyed, half-lustful groan erupted from Jeff. Then his fingers were in Braeden’s hair. Then on his chest. Braeden allowed a delightful shiver down his back.
Then Jeff broke away to remove his shirt, and Braeden couldn’t help but smile.
Jeff froze and narrowed his eyes. Shirt wrapped around his wrists, he said, “What?”
“Nothing,” whispered Braeden, pulling him back in.
This, too, was new. Jeff’s bare chest was warm, his hands warmer, yet somehow eliciting cool tingles from Braeden’s core. Jeff’s mouth brushed beneath his ear, down his throat, his tongue lightly touching Braeden’s collarbone. His hands on the waistband of Braeden’s shorts—
And then it was fear—
Braeden gasped and grabbed Jeff’s wrists with both hands. Jeff went stiff in his hold, his chest heaving so hard that Braeden could feel tiny blond hairs brushing against his stomach.
Both stood still, trapped in a moment of time, the air stagnating with each breath. The pounding in Braeden’s ribcage pressed a mixture of waning excitement and waxing dread through his veins.