Just a Bit Confusing

By: Alessandra Hazard

“I’ll go,” Ryan said curtly, cutting him off. “If you can have a visa arranged for me fast—”

“You’ll have it by this afternoon,” Arthur said. “My plane is ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

I’ve already spoken with your employer and he agreed to give you a vacation.”

Ryan would have laughed if his stomach wasn’t tied in knots.

“How thoughtful of you,” he said. “But a little presumptuous, don’t you think?”

“Is it?” Arthur said. “I’m not blind, Hardaway. You could never say no to my son when he needed you. You’re as pathetic about him as he is about you. You’re the perfect person to send to Russia, because I know you won’t return without him.”

Ryan wondered what Arthur would say if he knew the extent of his attachment to his son.

“Bring my son back, Ryan,” Arthur said, startling him by the use of his first name. “Tell him to cease being such a drama queen.” He added tersely, “Tell him his family wants him back. His point has been driven home.”

He hung up, leaving Ryan wondering if he understood Arthur correctly.

Chapter 25

Time passed in a strange, dream-like state, days bleeding together until James was no longer sure how many days had passed since Luke had left. Sometimes he ate when the hotel staff wouldn’t quit knocking on the door. Sometimes he got sick of lying in bed feeling sorry for himself or watching the few English-speaking channels on the TV, and he went out. He wandered the streets aimlessly, listening to unfamiliar speech all around him, until his nose was running and he was as cold on the outside as he was on the inside. He got lost a few times, but the GPS helped him find his way back to the hotel. The two women in the vestibule kept casting him strange looks and whispering to each other in Russian whenever they saw him. James usually ignored them and went straight to his room, where he took a long, hot shower—he might be a miserable, depressed fuck, but he refused to stink. After the shower, he went to bed. Sometimes he wanked, trying to get rid of the restless, horrible  want eating him from the inside. It didn’t work, no matter how hard he fucked himself on his dildo. Afterward, he just felt more pathetic and hollow. So he crawled under the comforter and didn’t get out of bed until the next morning—a very late morning.

That morning was no different from the others.

Until a knock on the door cut through his sleepy thoughts.

James didn’t bother getting up. It was probably the staff. He wasn’t hungry.

But the knocking didn’t stop.

When it became louder, James sighed, dragged himself out of bed and padded toward the door, rubbing at his eyes.

He opened the door and froze, his breath catching in his throat.

Ryan stood on the other side, tall and larger than life, his hands in the pockets of his dark, thick jacket. Ryan’s jaw was set, his face difficult to read as his green eyes roamed all over James. That made him realize that he was wearing only a pair of gray boxers.

“You look terrible.” Ryan stepped into the room and shut the door.

“Thanks,” James said when he found his voice. It was scratchy, as if from lack of use. Come to think of it, when was the last time he’d spoken to anyone? He crossed his arms, tucking his hands under his armpits to resist the almost overwhelming urge to jump onto Ryan and wrap around him like an octopus. “What are you doing here?” His voice came out hostile.

Ryan’s eyes narrowed. He took his jacket off and threw it onto the couch. “We were worried.

Luke has been missing for ten days.”

James blinked. “Ten days?”

Ryan stared at him. “You didn’t know?”

Frowning, James shook his head. He knew Luke had been gone for a while, but it hadn’t seemed that long. Shit. When had he lost his grip on reality?

“Your father was worried about you. I can now see why.”

“Dad called you?” he said numbly.

“Yes,” Ryan said, stalking over. He took James’s shoulders in his hands, gripping them hard.

“What the fuck, Jamie?”

Breathing shallowly, James lifted his chin. Ryan smelled of winter and crisp, fresh air and  Ryan.

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