Just a Bit

By: Alessandra Hazard

“I do respect it,” Ryan said. “But Jamie isn’t just someone.”

“Jamie is late for work,” James said, placing a fifty pound note on the table. “And Jamie really can’t be late.”

“Don’t you work for a company owned by your family?” Hannah asked.

A brittle laugh left his lips. “That’s exactly why I can’t be late. See you later, guys.” He strode toward the door briskly, hoping Ryan would leave it alone.

But of course he didn’t. Ryan caught up with him outside before James could reach his car.


Suppressing a sigh, James put on a neutral face and turned to Ryan. “I’m really running late—”

“Listen to me, you git,” Ryan said, his eyes dark and hard. “I’m not sure what’s going on in that head of yours lately, but don’t do anything stupid, okay? Don’t agree to Arthur ’s plans only because you think you have to.” Ryan lifted his hands to cradle James’s face. Jamie went still, his heart hammering as Ryan looked him in the eye intently. “You deserve better. You deserve marrying someone you’re crazy about. Someone who would love you for being you—not for your money or your family name, but because you’re the best person I know.” Ryan smiled at him crookedly. “Being in love is pretty fucking great, actually. You deserve to find your Hannah.”

Jamie wondered if it would actually hurt more if Ryan stuck a knife in his gut and twisted it slowly. He thought he smiled. He hoped he was smiling. His face hurt, so he must be.

He said, “Sure I will. Later, mate.” He was surprised by how absolutely normal his voice sounded.

He smiled again and turned away.

He walked to his car.

He got in.

He closed the door.

He put his hands on the steering wheel.

His throat worked as he tried to swallow the painful lump in his throat. He couldn’t. A terrible, choked sound came from his throat. His chest began to heave. He pressed his hands to his eyes and breathed in, breathed out.

Chapter 2

James wasn’t sure when exactly it had started—when he had fallen in love with his best friend.

He couldn’t remember a time he didn’t love him. Even when they were kids, he’d had a pretty bad case of puppy love: Ryan was the first real friend he’d made on his own, the only one who wasn’t impressed by James’s family and liked him, James. Ryan was everything he wasn’t: daring and pushy, reckless and determined. But as the years went by and they grew up, James’s puppy love shifted into something else. Something it was never supposed to be.

His early teenage years had been confusing as hell, because he couldn’t  figure out what he wanted from Ryan every time Ryan touched him. At the time he still thought his love for Ryan was brotherly, but popping a boner when Ryan threw an arm around his shoulders and pulled him close was hardly something a brother would feel. A brother wouldn’t wank thinking of Ryan’s mouth and hands on him. A brother wouldn’t feel lovesick whenever Ryan smiled at him. It had been embarrassing. It was mortifying. It was  awful, because he knew Ryan didn’t feel the same way. Ryan’s affection for him was easy, friendly, and brotherly. Even at thirteen, Ryan had a girlfriend already.

Ryan was straight as an arrow. If Ryan found out what James wanted, he would probably be weirded out and uncomfortable.

At thirteen, James still hoped those inappropriate feelings and urges would pass within a few months.

By twenty-two, he didn’t have any hope left.

He had thought he was coping well enough. But seeing Ryan with Hannah, seeing the way he looked at her, drove the final nail in the coffin of his silly, irrational hopes. Ryan was in love with her.

Even if Ryan fell out of love with her, he would never want James that way. Ryan would never love him back. No matter how ingrained in him this love was, it was one-sided and always would be. He needed to accept it and try to move on. Not every love was returned; that was the cruel reality.

His phone buzzed in his pocket, making him flinch.

James pulled it out.

He had a new text from Ryan.

Sorry about Hannah. I did want to hang out just with you. It’s been ages.

It had been. Ever since they’d both graduated and acquired full-time jobs, ever since Hannah’s entrance in Ryan’s life, the time they spent together had been shrinking rapidly. It scared him. Were they drifting apart?

A part of him told him it was a good thing. If they stopped living in each other ’s pockets, it would be easier for him to move on.

Except…except he didn’t  want to move on. He didn’t know what sort of person he would be without Ryan. It was fucked up, but it was the truth. This love, no matter how hopeless and painful it was, had been a part of him for so long. It was a part of what made him James Grayson. Jamie didn’t know who he would be without it.

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