EPISODE 1: Jock in Shining Armor
*The First Week of May*
Jagger Winegarten sat against the chain link fence surrounding the baseball field, digging his combat boots into the freshly mowed grass. Eyeliner came away on the back of his hand, wet and black. He sniffed, staring at his phone, which rang for the tenth time in the last five minutes. It was River. Of course it was River, trying to apologize for breaking up with him for Shay Foster, the future king of water polo from the next town over. Long, muscular legs from kicking around for hours, and blonde hair that dried into perfect waves, Shay Foster was what every guy wanted in a college boyfriend. And wasn't it just perfect of River to dump him for Shay right before they started freshman year, leaving him the talk of Hedgewater over the summer and the loner among their mutual friends, who were really all River's buddies anyway.
Jagger wiped the remainder of his tears on his arm, streaking black across the naked mermaid on his bicep. He sucked his bottom lip piercing into his mouth and stood.
"Fuck you, River. We'll see how your little fling works out. When it doesn't," he smiled wickedly, "I'm gonna enjoy watching you fall."
He lit a cigarette, balancing it between his lips as he adjusted his headphones around his neck. Marilyn Manson went silent with the press of a button and Jagger slithered between the break in the fence, slipping a boot onto the curb. No sooner had he started down the street to his car and his phone vibrated.
Hedgewater Holmes has news for you. Do you accept?
Jagger narrowed his eyes and hit yes. A picture of him popped up on the screen, tears falling down his cheeks and eyeliner smudged. He looked mid-sob and Jagger's blood immediately boiled.
Poor little Jagger got dumped by River for the water polo star. Whatever will he do? Only this summer will tell if he'll sink or swim. Will he be man enough to take on Hedgewater College without his sweetie on his arm or will he need floaties to stay above water?
Same shit, different day.
Jagger whirled around, searching the streets for anyone in sight. Only a group of pre-teen girls walked down the sidewalk. They stared at him, holding their phones. "Loser," their leader spat, giving him a once over. "No wonder he dumped your ass."
They kept walking, laughing hysterically over the Holmes update. Everyone in this fucking town knew now, he fumed. Jagger growled, walked to his car and threw open the door. He tossed his gear into the passenger seat, and slid in, gripping the wheel like a madman. "You fucked with the wrong guy, River."
Keys in the ignition, he threw the shifter into drive and stomped on the gas, turning his music as loud as it would go.
Their fathers had been good friends all their lives, attending Hedgewater College together in their younger days. He’d seen Shay at so many functions, River couldn’t keep count, but every time he did, he wanted to get closer to him. Shay’s smile was bright, infectious, and he talked with his hands, inviting anyone in with a brilliant flick of his fingers. His voice was rich, deep, but not with so much bass that he sounded like thunder during a storm. River wanted to hear Shay’s gravelly morning hello, in his bed, after he’d opened those pretty blue eyes. He wanted to feel those thick arms around him, the same arms that spent hours passing a ball in the pool or swimming laps.
He wanted to smell the salty scent of chlorine before Shay washed it off in the locker room. He wanted to drop to his knees, hitching his fingers in that navy blue speedo to pull it down around Shay’s feet. Not only was his physical attraction to Shay too hot to handle, but they also connected on a personal level. Shay had goals, like himself. He wanted to be someone after college, not just another rich kid with a trust fund to blow on pet camels or tacky oriental rugs. Shay wanted to branch out from his family of real estate kings and queens. He wanted to be a professional water polo player and possibly go on to the Olympics.
He had the drive and the skills to do just that. Unlike Jagger, who after his parent’s divorce three years ago had turned into a reckless basket case. Sure, River still held feelings for Jagger, always would for his first lover, but things weren’t the same now, not at all. Jagger had put up a wall between them. He wanted to be careless, to show off, and get into trouble. He wanted to be noticed for all the wrong reasons, to get his parents to give a shit about him instead of their money or friends, and despite River trying his best to pull Jagger back to the light, it just wasn’t happening. Frankly, after going almost three months without touching or even the slightest kiss, River had been surprised at how poorly Jagger took the break up.
Now he felt guilty, almost sick to his stomach with apologies, but Jagger had made it clear where they stood at this point. To Jagger, River had been written off completely. They weren’t friends, booty calls, or anything of the sort. They were finished.
River had lost his best friend. He’d lost the first guy who ever touched him with care. He’d lost Jagger Winegarten forever.
And although this was only River’s third date with Shay, Jagger believed it had been going on for longer. He’d always been jealous of their friendship. But who cared, it wasn’t River’s problem to worry about anymore. Harsh as it seemed, he needed to move on, and he wanted to do it with Shay. He had for a long time now. It was only right to break things off with Jagger if he wasn’t in love anymore. Stringing a guy along had to be a sin, and River had enough sin in his life already, such as the thoughts going through his head at the moment.
He was extremely horny. Going from scorching hot, messy, almost every night sex to nothing at all for three months was excruciating. His thoughts were starting to take sides, push Shay into sex, or wait it out and play it cool. Sex was winning by a lot. River took a deep breath, holding Shay’s hand as they walked outside the movie theater, downtown Hedgewater. There had been some kissing, some petting, and shared popcorn, but now it was closing in on go time.
Rain poured down on the other side of the striped awning wrapping around the theater. People laughed, running to their cars or talked and mingled around the glass ticket booth window. River wanted to get away from them all. He wanted privacy with Shay. His parents had left two days prior for a cruise in the Cayman Islands. He had the house to himself. The devil on his shoulder urged him to lean in.
“Hey, I have an idea,” he whispered, pushing a stray blond lock away from Shay’s face.
Distracted, Shay turned to him. “What? I’m sorry. I was thinking about that ending. It was pretty epic.”
“No biggie. We should get out of the rain. My car is right over there.” River pulled his hood over his short brown hair, and yanked on Shay’s hand. “Come on! It’s pouring.” He laughed.
Shay followed for a second before he redirected them into the darkened doorway of the bakery next door, which was closed for the night. He slicked back his wet hair, wiping droplets off his face. “Hey,” he murmured.
“Or this is good.” River leaned in.
Shay smirked, putting a hand between them. “I’ve had a lot of fun tonight, and it’s good to know you like to put chocolate in your popcorn, too. However, I can’t, Riv. Not tonight.”
Playing off his irritation as indifference, River shrugged. “Can’t what?”
“Go home with you.” Shay leaned in, cupping his face. “I know that look. I want to,” he husked. “I want to so bad, Riv. I’ve thought about us for a long time, you have to know that.” He brought their lips together, slowly kissing River in the shadows as everyone ran past. “I have my last polo game early tomorrow morning and then I’m all yours…for the entire summer, Riv.”
“I forgot about the game.” River hung his head. “Shit.”
“I figured you did. You were getting pretty direct in there.” Shay chuckled. “I liked it.”
“That doesn’t make me feel better. I was hoping…never mind.”
Shay slid a hand down River’s wet sweater and kept going. “I can feel how much you were hoping.” He looked to both sides, making sure no one could see before he pushed River into the brick. “Just a little bit to tide you over.”
“Of what?” River exhaled, catching the moan before it left his lips. Shay pulled his collar to the side, sucking at his neck while his hand went to work below.
“Next Thursday, I’m back to stay at my brother’s place here in town. My parents know about us, but they’re still worried about you and me staying together under one roof. Leif’s cool with me staying out, though. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind a sleepover either.” Shay panted in his ear. “I’ll make it up to you, promise, Riv.”
River grabbed onto Shay’s rock hard shoulders, pulling him closer. “I’m gonna be hard the entire way home.” He arched his back, loving Shay’s tongue sliding over his lips.
“Call me when you get there. I wanna hear you cum,” Shay rasped. He ground against River, biting his lower lip between his teeth.
“Talk any more shit like that and I’ll drag your ass into the alley to take care of business.” River shuddered, closing his eyes tight when Shay squeezed the bulge in his jeans.
Laughing, Shay pulled back. “Not tonight you won’t. Don’t forget to call.” He stole one more kiss before he walked into the rain. His eyes flicked over his shoulder, water slicing over his head and shoulders. “I’m happy, Riv, I really am when I’m with you.”
River swallowed, about to say something, but Shay took off, leaving him high and dry. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, half angry Shay was gone and half satisfied with Shay’s parting words. God, River loved his voice. He loved everything about Shay. But he wasn’t sure he could last until next week. Thursday was a very long wait.
Shay hurried into the alley that fed into the theater’s parking lot out back. He didn’t mind the dark. He was too happy to give a shit about the rain either. Smiling, he continued into the service alley, keeping to the middle until his phone buzzed in his pocket. Hoping it was Riv, maybe wanting one last kiss, he pulled out the phone. The screen was immediately wet, not allowing him to swipe his thumb and unlock it.
“Stupid smartphone,” he hissed. “Sorry, Riv.”
Shay stuffed the phone in his jacket, taking two steps forward. Against the brick wall, he saw a shadow move. He spun around, hearing something metallic jingle, keys possibly. His heart thumped in his chest. His feet didn’t seem to work.
“River? Is that you?” A body pressed to his back and he smiled, all the breath leaving his lungs in a rush. “You dick, you scared the shit out of me.”
“Good,” someone whispered and a white cloth covered Shay’s mouth. Gasping was the wrong thing to do. Whatever was on the cloth, he inhaled through his nose quickly, causing the dark brick in front of him to blur and then go black.
*Last Week of August: Freshman Welcome Week*
“Seriously?” Kelly yanked on the cart, trying to free its tiny wheels from a crack in the sidewalk. Students and parents kept walking around him, acting like the scrawny teenager and his massive, canvas moving cart were invisible. “Anyone? A little help? Beuller?”
Not so much as a glance his way. “Good thing I’m not parting the fucking sea with my staff here, people. Just a thousand snobby guys and their just as snobby parents avoiding my moving cart situation, not an act of god, or humanity, apparently,” he muttered.
He thought about calling his aunt back to help, but he saw her bright red jeep pulling out of the front gates from a distance. “Fuck.” Shaking his head, he cracked his knuckles, stuck his tongue out and planted his feet. “It’s just you and me, cart. You’re going down.”
Pulling on the handle, Kelly grunted. He felt the cart move and gasped in victory, only to fall on his flat on his back when it shifted into the crack once again.
“Damn, you okay?”
“Huh?” Kelly looked up into the face of a handsome dark-skinned man with light brown eyes.
“Did you hit your head, too? Here we go,” he put his hands under Kelly’s arms, “I got you.”
Hoisted to his feet, Kelly looked up. “Thanks. I’m cool.”
The stranger smirked. He reached out and plucked a stray leaf from Kelly’s knit beanie. “Good, looked like you took it pretty hard there.”
“Nope.” Kelly hid his grimace. His tailbone throbbed. “I’m all good. I just can’t get this cart to move. I’m hoping someone has some teleportation abilities here at Hogwarts, then again, someone would have to actually talk to me to know I’m in need of assistance.”
Smiling wider, the guy cracked up. “I’m Owen, captain of the water polo team.” He held out a hand.
“Kelly De Angelo, scholarship nerd from Jersey.” Kelly grasped his hand. “Water polo, huh? I figured it was Lacrosse or Rowing or some other privileged sport. You don’t ride ponies too, do you?”
Owen shook his head. “I don’t think a pony would hold me. And I’ll have you know water polo is a privilege. It’s hard work.”
Kelly scanned Owen’s form, impressed with his muscular upper body and sheer size. “I can see that.”
“Eyes up here, Fresher.” Owen snapped his fingers, winking. “Now that we’re friends, you need a hand with this thing or what?”
“Me. Friends with the water polo captain.” Kelly sputtered a laugh. “That’s a new one, but sure, I’ll take the help, seeing as how the rest of Stepford is too busy ignoring me.”
“You have a mouth on you.” Owen grinned. “It’s refreshing.” He yanked on the handle once. The cart came free, rolling to a stop at Kelly’s hip. “And Stepford has nothing on…”
Kelly was too busy staring at the cathedral to notice the cart’s freedom or Owen’s stare. Three news vans rolled through the front gates. Tires screeched to a halt in front of the stone building. Reporters practically tripped over themselves to set up between a dozen or so journalists ready to get the mysterious scoop that Kelly had yet to understand. Two police cruisers escorted a luxury town car past the cathedral, to Murphy Hall, Kelly’s dormitory.
“What’s going on? Don’t tell me binge drinking season started without me.”
Owen elbowed him. “Not funny. They’re here about Shay.”
“Am I supposed to know what that means?”
Frowning, Owen turned to him. “You don’t know about Shay Foster or the murder? You know…the attacks all summer.”
“Jesus. Murder? Um no, that wasn’t in the school handbook. What happened?” Kelly swiped a piece of dark hair out of his gray eyes, tucking it under his black beanie. He looked around the courtyard. Others had stopped to watch the camera armed gaggle pervade the cathedral steps. A tall, thin man exited the front doors of the mammoth holy building, and took his place in front of them. Someone from the college probably, Kelly assumed.
“At the beginning of the summer some guy attacked Shay Foster, our new freshman player on the team. They raped him and beat him within an inch of his life. Two weeks later, another guy was attacked three blocks away. My dad said they have evidence it was the same guy all five times after that. Two weeks ago, the bastard’s last victim didn’t survive the attack. He died at the hospital. Sucks, he was supposed to graduate from Hedgewater this year. I knew him, too. His name was Garrett Fromme. He was an R.A. Nice guy, too. It’s so fucked up. I don’t think anyone’s really let it settle in yet, and the college is trying their best to smooth the whole thing over so they don’t lose enrollments. Jersey, you said?”
Kelly nodded silently.
“Then you definitely wouldn’t have heard about it. I only know a few of the details because my dad’s the chief of police here. Other than that, he’s staying quiet while the feds work on the case.”
“Dude, there have been six attacks, all rape and assault, and one murder. I’d be surprised if the feds didn’t get in on a serial case like this.”
Kelly turned to him. “You know, for someone who’s not supposed to know a whole lot, you do.”
Owen leaned back. “You got something to say, De Angelo?”
“Yeah, did they put any security measures in place? The least they can do is keep us safe if they refuse to let us know a freak is on the loose beforehand.” Kelly shrugged.
Owen was relieved. “Cameras were installed in all of the common areas, the hallways and around every building, even behind them. There’s a fifteen foot fence around the entire perimeter, but that’s been there since the school was founded back in the late 1800’s. Now they have private security guards walking the grounds, too. I hope to god they don’t issue a curfew. It’s bad enough feeling like you’re in prison sometimes without being able to go out on the town, too. This is my senior year, man. I want to have a little fun.”
“Isn’t senior year supposed to be the most taxing?” Kelly challenged. “Aren’t you going to be too busy to play around?”
“Nah, that’s first year.” Owen leaned back, checking out Kelly’s phone in his back pocket. He snatched it up.
Kelly reached. “What the hell, dude? Please give that back.”
Owen held their phones together, out of Kelly’s reach, and swapped info at the press of a button. “There, now you can call me if you start getting scared, or if you need someone to buy you beer.” He gave the phone back, pointing to Kelly’s t-shirt with a piece of cake next to a 2D bust. “Or play Portal.”
“Shut the fuck up. You play Portal?” Kelly held his phone to his chest, excited.
“Cake, and grief counseling, will be available at the conclusion of the test,” Owen quoted, wagging his brows. “I’m not just your average jock, and I’m not a Madden fan.”
“No, you’re certainly not.” Kelly bit his lip. “Maybe we could play sometime this week? I don’t really know anyone else.”
Owen stared at him, his sparkling brown eyes speaking volumes. “It’s a date. Call me.”
Kelly swallowed. “Cool.”
“See ya round, De Angelo.” Owen brushed against his arm, looking over his shoulder. He winked again, something Kelly figured he did a lot of, and disappeared into the crowd.
Kelly tried not to swoon. His inner geek argued that Dante from Devil May Cry was much hotter than Owen, but as far as realistically and physically possible, Owen was completely lickable and very much tangible. Danger, Kelly De Angelo, he thought, Dante might just have to take a back seat.
Francis met him at their usual spot under the tree behind Brown Hall. “Well?”
Owen nodded. “It’s him. De Angelo.”
“And, is he hot or what? His father was a total fucking Popsicle according to the year book I found in my dad’s office.” Francis flicked his golden ponytail over his shoulder. “A delicious on a hot day, dribbling down your chin, sticky sweet kind of Popsicle I might add.”
“He’s good looking, in a different sort of way. Small, though.” Owen shrugged.
“So he’s heinous, that’s awesome.” Francis smacked his lips. “And what’s his defect with Facebook? Why doesn’t he have one, everyone has one.”
“It didn’t come up. I don’t think he’s very social from what I gathered. To answer your next question, no, not a chance in hell he plays polo like his dad, unless it’s on Xbox or something.”
“So we’ve got nothing to go on? Don’t you find that suspicious, Owen? What the hell does a kid from money like that need a scholarship for? Did you even know we had a scholarship to give? It’s suspect, Owen. I don’t like it one bit. What about that nerd herding sophomore at the check-in desk, what did he say?”
“I slipped the kid a fifty, not an ounce of weed and an all-expenses paid trip to Cancun. He told me De Angelo was the kid with the cart and that a chick dropped him off. That’s all I got off of him.” Owen leaned against the tree.
“A girl?” Francis squinted at him. “He doesn’t have a mom. He’s a bastard that daddy paid to keep and he doesn’t have a sister. Hmm… It wouldn’t do to have daddy De Angelo’s son dropped off by just anyone. Freshmen move-in day is quite a landmark to most parents. She has to be someone important to the family.”
“How do you know this shit?” Owen stared at him.
“I listen to my dad, too, nosey. Ira De Angelo never remarried, never had any other children, and moved to Jersey to raise Kelly away from the well-bred brats we’re often mistaken for.” Francis laughed cruelly. “My dad seemed kind of baffled when he heard Kelly was coming to Hedgewater. I’m kind of confused, too. Why would his dad move all the way out to that ghetto foreign shithole to get away, only to let his precious baby come back to his hometown and swim with the sharks? It doesn’t make any sense, Owen, none of it does. Why the scholarship? Who is the chick? Why the hell didn’t daddy drop him off? And why are you wearing that shirt with those pants?”
“For the love of god, Francis, drop it. He’s just some nerd who probably wanted to go to his dad’s alma mater to make him proud. Who cares about the scholarship? That’s none of our business. And Jersey is still part of the United States. It’s not ghetto or foreign.”
“The hell it isn’t, anywhere outside of Hedgewater is disgusting, unless we’re hopping a plane to Italy. Then I’ll keep my qualms to myself.” Francis snorted. “Oh, dearest Owen, everything is our business. Going on four years in this place and you still haven’t got a clue.” He pulled out his phone and fired up the Holmes app. “It’s all right, Clueless, I know just where to start finding some answers.”
“Francis, don’t you dare.”
Francis hit send and looked up. “What? Don’t tell me you’re into the kid or something? And too late if you are, it’s done.” He slipped his phone into his pocket. “Come on, captain, the team has to help our new friend Shay move in. It’s the right thing to do, didn’t you say?”
His sly smile slithered down Owen’s spine. “You’re a snake, Francis.”
“A charitable snake, Owen. I don’t move boxes for just anyone.” Francis picked up his bag and led Owen around to the building.
To be continued…
See you all in May!
MUSIC FROM THIS EPISODE: