Just a Bit Confusing

By: Alessandra Hazard

Ryan’s heart clenched when he saw pain flicker across Jamie’s face. It was gone quickly and Jamie smiled, but it had been there. It  was still there: the years of pretending and putting on a happy face for his sake—old pain, never truly healed.

He cradled Jamie’s face in his hands and leaned their foreheads together. “We will thank him, then. We will be very, very nice to him.” A lazy smirk stretched his lips. “It will confuse the hell out of him. It will drive him crazy. Tristan gets hilariously flustered when people are nice to him.”

Jamie’s lips trembled against his before laughter erupted from his chest, unburdened and happy.

Grinning, Ryan wrapped him in his arms and held onto him—his best friend, his lover, his other half, his happiness. Labels didn’t matter if they all meant the same thing: Jamie.


(Excerpt from Just a Bit Ruthless)

Months later

Luke Whitford sat by the pool, watching the brightly illuminated house. He could hear the laughter and music even from here. It was James’s twenty-third birthday, and since James was practically living with the Hardaways these days, his birthday was being celebrated at Zach’s house this year.

Wrapping his arms around his knees, Luke smiled wanly. He was glad for his friend, glad that everything was finally going well in his life. James and his brother were getting along well enough, though it was still a work in progress, considering what a prickly bloke Tristan was. They still ribbed each other mercilessly, but it was obvious that they enjoyed their banter. Even James’s relationship with his father had improved: Arthur seemed to be slowly coming around and accepting that James and Ryan were the real deal, and nothing would keep them apart.

And Luke knew nothing would. He had never seen his friend so happy. It was a striking contrast to the guy Luke had left in Moscow, and Luke could barely believe his eyes when he saw James again months later, after Luke’s…return.

Yeah. He was happy for James. And it was nice to see that love this strong really existed and happily ever afters weren’t a thing of fairy tales.

Biting his lip, Luke lifted his eyes to the moon.

He should probably go back inside. But God, he was sick of being on the receiving end of pitying and concerned looks, as if he was terminally ill. He was sick of telling everyone that he was fine. No one believed him, anyway.

A movement on the terrace caught his attention. Luke smiled a little, noticing the two tall figures standing there in each other ’s arms. Ryan and James were kissing under the full moon, hands in each other ’s hair, mouths greedy and tender at the same time. They kissed like they owned each other. It must be nice to love and feel loved.

Realizing that he was staring at them hungrily, Luke dragged his eyes away, to the smooth dark surface of the pool. Another burst of laughter came from inside the house.

He didn’t belong here. But then again, he wasn’t sure where he belonged anymore.

Behind him, a branch cracked.

Luke tensed up, goosebumps running up his spine as the most peculiar awareness filled him. He held his breath, his heart hammering against his ribs. Thud-thud, thud-thud, thud-thud.

It was silly. There was no one behind him. He was back in England. He was back home.

He couldn’t be there.

A big, calloused hand wrapped around his neck.

A shudder rolled through Luke’s body. It wasn’t possible. He was imagining things. This couldn’t be happening.

Swallowing, he turned his head slowly.

Icy blue eyes met his, and Luke couldn’t breathe, drowning in their cold depths, like a rabbit caught in a hunter ’s snare.

He could scream. Ryan and James would hear him easily if he did.

“Miss me, solnyshko?” said a deceptively soft voice.

Luke lunged forward and slammed their lips together.

The End

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