Episode 11: Three Is A Magic Number
It’d been two weeks since River was first admitted to Liberty General. He was able to open his eyes now that the swelling had gone down. His bruises were healing up. Although an array of vivid colors still blotted his skin. He’d fractured his wrist on his right arm. The other wrist was wrapped to allow the rest of his cuts to heal. A cracked rib was knitting together seamlessly, Leif had told him. And they’d only had to shave a bit into his hairline to stitch up a nasty split on his forehead.
All in all, between his family and the painkillers his condition had improved. That wasn’t to say River wasn’t struggling. Out of fear he’d lied to the police, to the feds, and just about everyone else he’d talked to upon waking up. No he didn’t remember that night, he said. No he didn’t remember a face, he repeated. No he didn’t have a name, he lied again and again.
Truth was he did remember everything up until that last blow. Owen punching his face in, Shay sobbing behind the water polo pricks who blocked his path, Francis actually trying to make Owen stop—River recalled all of it. Just as Shay had expressed in the rare moment they’d talked after Shay’s attack, before River had been ostracized completely, it was hard to forget every detail of that night. He’d carry it with him forever.
Of being violated. Of being tied up and helpless. Of being subjugated to his tormentor’s punishment. Counting each breath, knowing it could be his last. The exact cream color of the walls as they spun. The heavy smell of floral-scented mopping solution that had lingered on the floor. And the churn in his gut which turned into a wave of nausea that only amplified with each passing second. The fear coated him, and the extension of loathing aimed at Owen had been ever present. All the while River had wondered what the hell he did wrong, what he could have possibly done to deserve such violence.
Backtracking to the memory of Shay’s forced betrayal, the agony in those baby blues, only to fast forward to an image of blackness engulfing Owen’s slit-like eyes as he pounded his fist over and over caught River in a whirlwind of anxiety. He realized he was wheezing. His pain level increased as he clenched his hands and tried to curl in on himself out of reflex. Loosening his limbs, River reached forward to press the call button, just as his saving grace walked into the room, wearing pink scrubs dotted with little red hearts.
He didn’t recognize this nurse’s face. Della was his regular nurse, ever since he’d woken up three days after his attack. She worked the day shift and kept him company when she could, when his mother was on the phone with god knows who and his father was at work. Della was pushy, but kind. She had a little meat on her, which filled out her cheeks, fashioning a jovial, cherubic look when she smiled or bellowed a hearty laugh.
Della thought patterned scrubs were pointless, River remembered, studying the new nurse. In Della’s own words, “There isn’t a cartoon character or a peace sign in this world that can cure all the sick up in here. It’s us that do the healing, not a damn shirt. Plus, they cost more. I ain’t about to fork over fifty bucks so I can make a mess of it. And truth be told,” she’d looked around then leaned in close, “only the newbies wear ‘em because they think it makes them look special, like we won’t kick them into submission if they look cute enough. It’s how you tell the babies from the veterans. I wear my blues with pride.” She’d winked.
Thinking of Della as the newbie nurse checked over his room made River smirk. He relaxed in his bed, fighting the pain. He faked a smile for her. Her smile wasn’t false, more endearing actually. She checked the monitors and the IV. The new nurse smelled of French milled soap that his grandmother had kept in the guest bathroom and a bit like cheddar cheese popcorn.
Her shoulder length dark hair was pulled into a slick ponytail at the nape of her neck. Light freckles smattered her cheeks, giving her a girlish appeal. But her gray eyes held years of experience, more than a twenty-something fresh out of school nurse would. If he had to guess, River would put her in her early forties or maybe late thirties. Yet still she had a youthful aura about her.
River noticed the chain around her neck, dipping into the V-neck of her scrub top. He watched it twinkle in the artificial light from the humming florescent lamps on the ceiling. River was mesmerized for a second. Her Dansko clogs squeaked against the tile, startling him.
Her hand came to rest gently on his shoulder. “How are you feeling today, River?”
“Hurts a bit,” he admitted, drawn to her eyes. Something familiar edged into his mind. Her eyes reminded him of predatory bird, snapping shut then opening slowly as if she was waiting. The dark grey coloring of her irises were exotic, too beautiful to be a predator. They softened, bringing out small slivers of gold and green hiding deep within the gray.
She snapped her fingers. He shook his head. “A bit of pain or a lot? You don’t have to be tough for me. I won’t tell anyone except for Dr. Foster. He kind of has to read the charts.”
He ignored her. “What’s your name?”
“If you promise to tell me the truth I’ll tell you my name.” She pulled up a chair and propped her arm against the railing of his bed when she was seated.
“It really fucking hurts. But I don’t want to overdo it. A few years ago I fell out of a tree and broke my arm and my ankle. They doped me up and I had a hard time coming off of it. I don’t want to—”
“Marcy,” she interrupted him. “My name is Marcy.” Before River could get a word in, he tensed up. Her hand smoothed back his chestnut hair in some bizarre attempt to comfort him; as if they were close; like his mother used to when he was young. “And don’t you worry about a thing, River. They’ll take good care of you here. Before you know it you’ll be right back out there. No meds. No stitches. No bruises.”
River frowned. His eyes rolled up to see her hand pushing over the good side of his hairline again. He didn’t know whether to freak out or be thankful for the affection. “Uh, they? Aren’t you part of they?”
“I’m a volunteer. I visit the patients who sit here alone. Della had to take an emergency call, so she sent me to check on you,” she rushed.
“A volunteer?” River kept calm. On the inside he was starting to grow fearful. Something wasn’t sitting right with him. Call it paranoia from being thrown into a hospital after getting his ass handed to him. Call it fear of a killer on the loose. He could attribute his unease to many things, but most of all it was a plain and simple gut feeling. Marcy was just…off. “I’ve never heard of a volunteer here. I mean, maybe for the charity stuff, but in a private wing…with me? Where is Agent Rogan? He was,” River glanced at the clock, “he was supposed to be here by now.”
Tension filled her eyes. She glanced over her shoulder at the window looking out into the hall. “I haven’t got much time.” Marcy looked to him. Her demeanor changed on a dime, giving his sixth sense a reason to ring the alarm. “I’m sorry he did this to you. I hate him. I’ve always hated him. It’s taken me years to realize I was just young and scared, and I should’ve trusted my friends because they would have helped. But he would’ve ruined them all. He knows things, River. It’s why I ran. I cared for them. I still care.”
River shied away from her hand, cringing at the pain in his ribs as he did so. “Who are you?”
“I’m someone who gives a shit about what’s happening to you and to all of them. I had to see you for myself. Jackie…oh Jackie. I can’t even imagine.” Marcy put a hand to her mouth to recover. “Trust your friends, River, the ones who will stick by you. They’re all you have. They’re the only ones you can trust. Not because everyone else is bad, but because they’re all pawns in his game to end you. Ever heard the phrase revenge is a dish best served cold?”
River nodded, sniveling under his breath. His fingers stretched towards the call button. He kept his eyes on hers to distract her attention.
“Let’s just say that dish is past cold and he’s had a long time to plan this. He wanted it this way.” A door closed down the hall. Marcy stood. “Trust your friends. Don’t run from this. You’ll regret it as long as you live. You’ll lose everything and everyone close to you.” Her eyes filled with tears.
“Marcy,” River finally gasped. “Who is he? Owen? Is that who you mean?” Come on, Rogan, he thought. Where are you? Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
She shook her head. “I wish to god Owen was behind this. At least he’d be simple to take out.” She leaned down and kissed his cheek. “Stay together. It’s your only chance in hell of surviving.”
“Wait!” River reached out, but Marcy quickly ducked out the door, disappearing out of view.
He laid there panting. His head spun. He slapped the call button over and over. He was losing his fight with the pain. “Dell-Della…”
Della appeared in the doorway moments later. She had a chart in her hands, looking it over as she shook her head. “Can you believe some punk tried to prank call me? At work of all places. Damn fool.”
River sucked in air. Tears rolled down his face. Della looked up, dropped the clipboard, and rushed to his side. “River, can you hear me?” She pulled out a penlight, flicking it across his eyes.
He swatted the light away, pulling on her wrist. “Marcy. The volunteer.” He took a few deep breaths. “She knows. The killer,” he wheezed.
“River, I need you take a nice deep breath for me. Hold my hand here and take in some air, honey.”
“Marcy,” he repeated. “Catch her.” River gasped for air.
“Who’s Marcy, honey? You’re not making sense. Can you breathe?”
River puffed, closing his eyes. “Call security. She was in my room. Had on scrubs. Not a nurse.”
“Shit. The fucking media.” Della snatched the phone from the wall. “June, get security down to room 105. Page Dr. Foster while you’re at. Now dammit!” She slammed the phone back on the cradle. “Hang on, baby. They’re coming. You just hang on.”
“So what do you think about the town, now that you’ve settled into the fucking craziness around here?” Luca sipped his espresso concoction, holding Kelly’s hand. He nudged his head in the direction of the trail butting up to the college grounds. They redirected their walk toward the tree line, where a small opening in the woods awaited.
“I’m—wait. We have to be at The Nook soon. It’s getting dark. I don’t want to be late for my first meeting.” Kelly bit his lip. Luca wanted to take him into the trees where no one would see them. He’d heard about Hideaway Trail from a few of his peers. It was supposed to lead down the coast for a mile before opening up to a local park near some cabins. It was secluded and picturesque with an official mounted plaque on the rusty locked gate. Instead of the eloquent dedication to some old socialite who’d died in the twenties, what it should have said was don’t forget a condom.
Luca’s honey-toned eyes crinkled with mischief. He set his coffee on the lowest rung of the iron gate, then fished around his jean pocket. A jingle sounded. Keys suddenly dangled from his fingers. “One of the perks of being an RA. I thought we could take a walk first, if that’s okay with you? I promise to get you there on time, Cinderella.”
Butterflies danced in Kelly’s stomach. A hot boy stood before him with keys to a gate that secured a local make-out trail. Yes or no? Kelly nodded, blushing furiously. And then word vomit poured from his mouth; a product of his tightly wound nerves and virginal fears. “Sure. A walk sounds good.” His voice cracked. He cleared his throat. “Uh, school is a breeze. I thought college would be a bit more…challenging? But it’s not. Not yet at least. I’m only taking prerequisites. So what do I know, right?
“I’ve been staying in Jagger’s room with Foster. We’re cool with him now. I think. No. We are cool. Do you think that’s weird, that I stay in their room? I didn’t want you to think I was up to anything, if that’s… What are we doing, Luca? Is this a thing or are we casual? Do you date other people?” Kelly sighed. “Of course you do. I bet you’ve had loads of boyfriends. You see, I’m not really, uh, experienced with this. Truth is I’m nervous. I thought I’d play it cool and—”
“I’m blabbering. I know.” Kelly hung his head. His hands flew around as he talked, miming his anxiety to the world. “I just can’t help it. We’re here, in this place, and I know what they do here. I know what I haven’t done. Well I haven’t done anything is the problem. You probably expect more. God I sound pathetic. I am kind of. No. I’m pathetic. I still have the same dirty magazine from high school hidden in my dorm closet because I was too embarrassed to go back and buy another one. The first time was enough. That guy behind the counter, Luca…he was mortified. So was I. Still am actually. In fact I’m pretty mortified right now. We don’t have to take a walk. Do you think we should go back?”
“No. Kelly?” Luca put his hands on Kelly’s shoulders, halting him from running away. They were in the middle of a narrow dirt trail. Tire treads from mountain bikes cut through what dirt wasn’t covered in red and yellow leaves. The trees seemed to move in, too close for Kelly’s comfort. Luca stepped into Kelly’s space. “I like when you talk because you tell me more than I asked. You tell me who you are. You trust me with that information. I really like that about you. I like everything about you, even the parts that haven’t caught up yet. It’s okay if you’re inexperienced. Everyone goes through this. And I didn’t bring you here for that. Unless, well…”
“I see you avoided answering me about us. You can like me and not want to date me. It’s not impossible. Pretty possible from where I’m standing. There’s you.” Kelly gestured up and down over Luca’s body. “Then there’s me. Do you even call this dating? Or do we chill? Are we chilling?” Kelly groaned. “I seriously need a manual for you. Shit, for boys in general.”
Luca tipped Kelly’s chin up with a single finger. Luca exuded sex and temptation, a little bit of boy next door comfort, and oozed safety. “First off, I’m not a boy. We’re men having an adult conversation. And two, ask me again.”
“Ask me if we’re dating.” Luca sipped his coffee, then licked his lips whereupon a glossy coating of saliva mixed with a sugary sheen of vanilla latte. Luca pulled a Luca, swishing his bangs out of his eyes. Kelly fell for it like a pre-teen girl at a Justin Beiber concert. For a split second of unadulterated adoration Kelly wanted to be the boy that wore I heart Luca t-shirts under his hoodies and doodled Luca’s name on his binders.
“Are we dating, Luca?”
“That’s the fifth hot chocolate I’ve bought you this week. I don’t shell out my money on fancy sprinkles and mocha whip for just anyone.” Luca wiped his thumb across Kelly’s bottom lip. He brought it back to his mouth, licking it clean. “Delicious.”
Kelly flushed, looking down. He tried to act cooler than he was, shuffling his foot into some leaves, snorting under his breath. He cocked his head up, producing a heated stare. “Are you trying to woo me with sprinkles? I can’t be bought, you know.”
“I’m not trying to buy you, Kelly. I’m treating my boyfriend to something that makes him happy. I like it when you smile. Not a lot of people smile around here and yours is…its fucking sexy.” Luca breathed out slowly, stepping in so close Kelly almost yipped.
“Boyfriend?” Kelly couldn’t swallow. His mouth flapped open and closed. “You want me to—me?”
“Boyfriend,” Luca confirmed, setting down their drinks. When he stood up again Kelly thought he’d faint. Luca pressed in close, aligning their chests. His body heat pulsed through Kelly. Something else pulsed against him; something hard and so very warm. Kelly finally swallowed so he could drag in a gulp of air.
His hair was swept back from his neck, leaving his alabaster skin exposed to Luca’s mouth. His hood stretched away from his head under Luca’s other hand. Luca expertly pressed his lips to Kelly’s skin.
“I want to protect you. I want to know everything about you, Kelly De Angelo Let me make you mine,” Luca whispered in Kelly’s ear.
Kelly was surely on drugs. His mind swam. Everything around them, the trees and the trail seemed to blur away. Only Luca grounded him. Only electric tingles zipping through his nerve endings kept him from closing his eyes to the spell wrapping him up. Luca’s fiery kisses proceeded up the column of his neck. His tongue lapped behind Kelly’s ear. His hands slipped down Kelly’s Saints Row hoodie to rest on his ass, where he squeezed firmly. Kelly finally groaned one pure note of satisfaction.
“Yes,” Kelly murmured. “Okay.” What else could he say? Luca was a lusty man-wizard who wore battered jeans and smelled like eau de toilette le fucking amazing. Kelly almost wept.
Luca’s wolfish eyes were inches from his. Against the red and yellow leaves winding down from the canopy above, they almost glowed, picking up shades of gold within his irises. Kelly became a hungry man. He reached forward, dragging Luca as close to his body as physically possibly. Their mouths slammed together. Teeth gnashed into his soft lips with his untalented kiss. It kind of hurt. Then again Kelly was past caring about his pain tolerance.
He wanted his RA. He wanted Luca’s warm body grinding against his. He wanted to live out every teenage fantasy he’d ever had for a man, not a boy; a man he trusted implicitly, no matter how little he really knew about Luca. There was something between them. It wasn’t only lust. It was care, maybe something more. Kelly had never been in love before. He didn’t know what it felt like, so he vowed to give it time between them before he made such a deeply intimate proclamation of the heart.
Right now he wanted to enjoy his kiss. He liquefied in Luca’s arms. A tree trunk greeted his back. He was hoisted onto Luca’s hips. Fantasy number one had been achieved. Number two came naturally when he was free to push his hand through Luca’s caramel mane. So thick yet soft, Kelly thought as his mouth was filled with his boyfriend’s tongue. His boyfriend! His eyes lit up behind his lids. If it were possible he would have exploded into thousands of gold coins.
He ran his fingers down the back of Luca’s neck where his hair had been clipped close to the skin. Prickly, he mused, loving every touch Luca allowed him. Shivers thrummed under his hand. Luca chugged in air and went for another searing kiss. They couldn’t kiss enough it seemed. Kisses led to groping; a part of his newfound love for sucking face that Kelly really liked. He liked being handled this way, identical to two lovers reunited after years apart. They just did whatever felt good, what felt right.
Caution was a word used by crosswalk guards, not two teenage boys in the peak of passion.
Kelly wondered if everyone else in the town of Hedgewater could feel the electricity they let off. He wondered if any other lonely boy out there would know this kind of pleasure and satisfaction. He also wondered what the hell he would do with the erection fighting behind his zipper. Was he ready for that kind of action? Was Luca?
The tiny beast pushing into his groin said yes. Yes. They were ready.
“Luca,” Kelly whined. He thrust his hips, snagging his hoodie on tree bark. “Luca, please. I’ll beg. I’ll so fucking beg.”
Luca gasped off of Kelly’s neck. His lips were swollen. His hair was ruffled. To Kelly he couldn’t have looked sexier if he tried. “You want to…here?” Luca grinned. “No way.”
“Oh.” Kelly clamped his lips shut. His chin trembled. “Right. I guess that’s a pretty stupid idea, huh?”
“Hey now.” Luca nuzzled his nose in Kelly’s hair. “Don’t be like that. Please don’t get upset. It’s my fault. I kind of lost it with you.”
“I didn’t mind. Up until the part where rejection cut me up, you know.”
“Kelly I wasn’t rejecting the idea. I rejected the timing and the place.” Luca’s breath burned over Kelly’s ear, sending tingles to his groin. “When we get to that part I don’t want to have to worry about the police locking us up for public indecency. And I don’t want to worry about Priest yapping a hole in my face over why I didn’t bring him his fresh meat. I want it to be unhurried. I want it to be a night you’ll never forget.”
Kelly’s lids fluttered as he sighed. “I’m so hard I could cut through steel.” His eyes flashed open. “I did not just say that out loud.”
Luca laughed quietly into Kelly’s neck. His laugh grew louder until it echoed through the trees. He let Kelly slide from his hips. “Oh yeah you did. Cut through steel? Is it really that bad?”
“Eighteen years of hormone torture over here. Uh yeah. Fuck it. You owe me for this.” Kelly braved a look at Luca. “I’m not kidding.”
Luca stifled another laugh. He wrapped Kelly up in a hug. “I’m glad you’re not. We’ll take care of your super powered junk later tonight. That I promise you.”
“Yeah?” Kelly asked coyly.
“Yeah.” Luca’s hand found Kelly’s. He kissed the tip of his nose. “But first you should feed it some hot chocolate. I hear sugar takes the edge off when you have a hankering to cut through metal.”
“I don’t know if I want to be your boyfriend anymore.” Kelly tried his hardest to keep a straight face.
“Take that back.” Luca scooped up the hot chocolate, handing it to Kelly. He took a sip of his latte, mock brooding.
Kelly untangled their fingers. He turned around. “Make me.”
Luca licked his bottom lip. “That can be arranged.”
“But not until tonight. Catch me if you can,” Kelly teased and took off running down the trail, laughing the entire way.
“I just got done with practice. Leif’s picking me up to see River at the hospital. I guess he had a panic attack today. There was a security breech or something. He’s pretty rattled. Leif and Agent Rogan think it’s a good idea if I try to talk to him now that he’s had time.”
Jagger zipped down the coastal interstate in his two-seater convertible. His rock hard hair actually moved in the wind at the speed he was reaching. He gripped the wheel with both hands, pressing the speaker volume up under his finger. “You sure you’re ready for that? I mean, what if he freaks out,” Jagger shouted over the wind slicing around him.
“Thanks for your support.”
“I’m trying to be realistic. I told you before. I don’t sugarcoat it, toots.”
“At least I’ve been upgraded to toots.” Shay growled through the speaker. “I guess I have to try it out. See how it goes. If not you’ll be the first to know.”
“Just,” Jagger grumbled. “Don’t go back to the room and pull a crazy. If you need to—okay, if you need to talk just call me. Don’t do something stupid.”
“I tossed the pills. Remember, you were there?”
“Yeah well excuse me for being a little leery of you walking into a hospital with drugs abound. Next thing you know you’re gonna be like Nurse Jackie, swiping pills from her little in-house pharmacist mistress and grounding them up to put in sweet-n-low packets for her coffee.” Jagger tightened his grip on the wheel, taking a sharp curve. He jetted out onto straight road again with a raging smile.
“What the hell are you talking about? Who’s Nurse Jackie?”
“Television, ever heard of it?”
“Fuck off, Winegarten. Can’t you just wish me luck?”
Jagger pressed the gas pedal as low as it would go, entering Cotton Grove Township at a speed that would scare the skin off his mother. “Yeah, Foster. Good luck cheering up my ex-boyfriend that chose you over me. I wish you lots of swans and glitter hearts. Go Team Shiver!”
“Ugh, you fucking jerk.”
“Love you too, buddy. Bye.” Jagger ended the call, breathing through the moment. He was trying to deal with Shay. He really was. But he couldn’t seem to get over the whole River wanted to fuck Shay thing. That was to say if they ever got back together.
Jagger rolled his eyes. Of course they would. They were so perfect he could spit, or breathe fire, or shit nails. He had many unrealistic options to disperse his anger at the moment. Wasn’t it just so perfect that Jagger was on his way to see River’s older cousin too. Asia had been his friend for a long time. If he remembered correctly, Jagger had met Asia at the ripe young age of thirteen, where the artist had walked down to Thanksgiving dinner at the Hathaway’s wearing nothing but a rawhide thong, beaded necklaces, and war paint under his eyes. As the eccentric artist of the family, Asia claimed he wanted the Native Americans to be represented among the rich white people at the dinner table.
Jagger had liked Asia ever since. If anyone could cheer him up it was Asia Hathaway. And damn he needed a dose of that right now. That and pot. Asia always had the best.
The drive out to Cotton Grove was quick yet scenic for Jagger. He pulled his car onto a wide, private dirt drive, kicking up dust behind his tires. His classes had taken it out of him, as well as the whole River incident. Kelly was off with Luca. He didn’t want to just sit in the room by his lonesome either.
He just needed some downtime, some space to process the entire ordeal. His heart hurt. His thoughts were a mess. And Cotton Grove was just the place to let loose, if one knew the right people. It was also the only place out from under the watchful eye of Holmes or any of the other yuppie, Hedgewater socialites. They wouldn’t be caught dead around these parts. Cotton Grove was too rural for their liking. No tanning beds or lattes. No gardeners or tea rooms.
Cotton Grove was just another place. A place Jagger wished he’d grown up in his entire life. It was normal.
Nestled under a few low hanging Willow trees was a single story house. Painted a subtle blue, the color of faded Levis, the house blended into the wide open scenery. A pond, scattered with fall leaves from a
lone white oak, still reflected the dying sun. Double French doors were open from the master bedroom off the side, allowing gauzy mandarin curtains to sway in the breeze.
Jagger parked his car and got out. He knew Asia was home. An inconspicuous sedan peeked out from the other side of the house, tipping him off. Well, that and the open doors. Unless Asia had been so high he forgot to close them before he took a walk or something. It wouldn’t be the first time, Jagger considered. Walking to the whitewashed fence, he heard a smoky beat drifting through the open windows; a familiar female voice he couldn’t put his finger on.
He clicked open the front gate and walked up the stone path to the front porch. The door pushed open under his hand. Jagger stopped, smiling. Heady, jasmine incense wafted up his nose, along with the thick scent of marijuana. Slipping inside, Jagger scanned the open layout of the living room and kitchen. Large silk pillows in jewel toned pinks, oranges, and blues, were scattered over the glossy birch floor. Wisps of translucent fabric in similar tones, draped over wide beams running horizontal across the peaked ceiling.
Jagger glanced down at the decorative urn by the door, next to a large jade Buddha on the floor. At least a hundred snuffed out incense sticks jutted out from a pit of white sand. However, in the middle, two sticks burned, giving off twin curls of smoke to permeate the air. As was a little tradition for good luck, Jagger crouched and pulled a fresh stick out from behind the urn. He lit it up with his lighter and pushed it into the sand.
Standing up, he heard a soft moan coming from the studio near the back of the house. If Asia was working, it meant there was a reason for two sticks of incense already burning before his had joined the party. Jagger grinned, taking a deep whiff of the place into his lungs and kicked his boots and socks off. He padded across the floor, shucking off his leather jacket, allowing it to crumple on the low seated couch in the corner.
The music was louder near the studio. The scent grew more intense with every step. Through stained glass doors Jagger watched Asia run his hand down a naked man’s backside, cupping his firm rear before traveling lower. Asia’s silky black hair was knotted on top of his head. Long tendrils escaped around his face and neck. His pale legs were bent at the knee, stifling the beautiful length of them.
A colorful silk robe barely covered his ass and hung open at the chest. Beaded necklaces draped over his boyish chest, probably matching the robe if Jagger knew anything about Asia. One thing he knew for sure was how involved Asia became with his model of the moment.
This model was no exception. Whoever he was, he was getting the full treatment under Asia’s long, artistic fingers. One of those hands pushed between the model’s legs with a lover’s caress, measuring the weight of his testicles with a confident squeeze.
Standing on his low platform, the model’s legs shook, almost buckling. He coughed out a moan. Smoke pushed past his open lips, clouding the space around them momentarily.
Jagger had never seen anything more erotic than Asia’s work. The artist claimed he needed to memorize a model’s body with touch, feel their reactions, and discover who they were before he could begin his true creative process. In reality, everyone knew that was bullshit. Asia just liked men… a lot. And Jagger liked to watch Asia work. It always relaxed him—that and the pot.
Creaking open the door, Jagger slipped into the studio and was stunned by all the natural light. Even though he’d been to the house a thousand times before with River, and sometimes by himself, the amount of floor to ceiling glass never ceased to amaze him. It was a good thing Asia didn’t have any neighbors. Else they’d get an eyeful with all the windows. Smiling to himself, Jagger wordlessly took a seat on a mound of pillows across the room. He faced the naked model, drinking in his fit body and hooded eyes.
The model blushed, turning his face away. “I didn’t know you were expecting—”
“Shh,” Asia hissed, glancing at Jagger. The artist’s electric sage eyes burned with heat. His hand curled around the model’s cock, skimming his black painted nails over the head. “Look at our guest, Marcus. He wants to see what I see.”
The model, apparently named Marcus, gulped and flicked his wide brown eyes back to Jagger. He tried his hardest not to let the moan slip, even bit his lip to keep it in. But Asia stroked him roughly, using his other hand to delicately smooth up the back of Marcus’s leg at the same time. Marcus shuddered looking into Jagger’s eyes. The joint in his hand fell to the floor. Ash spattered in every direction. Marcus’s legs shook, then gave out. His knees hit the platform. His hands barely caught up.
Marcus jerked his head up, begging Jagger to make the teasing stop. Who knew how long they’d been at this? Jagger just grinned. He didn’t want to mess with Asia’s project unless asked to be involved, which he’d never been asked to do before. Instead, he watched Marcus push his ass against Asia’s hand like he was in heat.
Asia made an amused clucking noise, eyeing Jagger. “He likes you.”
“No, he likes your hands.” Jagger put his hands behind his head, stretching out on the mound of pillows. He spread his legs for good measure, just to fuck with Marcus.
“I bet he’d like yours, too.” Asia tilted his head, glancing at Jagger from underneath his thick lashes. “Marcus, why don’t you bring our guest a refreshment? He looks like he could use a bit of something.”
“I could use a bit of everything at the moment.” Jagger pulled his lighter out of his back pocket, trying to keep his cool as a very naked Marcus crawled between his open legs with a spliff between his teeth. “Thanks.” Jagger took it away and lit it up. He noticed how Marcus didn’t move away. Instead the model moved in closer like a puppy to its master.
“If you’ve come here to talk about my cousin, I only know as much as you do. The family doesn’t really acknowledge me or my work now that I’ve come into my inheritance. That also means I’m not privy to details of the insider gossip.” Asia pushed to his feet. He walked to his work bench and reached for his signature peach tea between two half-molded blobs of clay. “For what it’s worth, J, I am sorry about River. I’d hoped he would come to his senses and get whatever was bugging him out of his system, but in the state he’s in now, I don’t think you’ll be the one to reach him. I think Shay is—”
“I don’t want to talk about River. I can’t talk about him.” Jagger quickly his the joint again. He inhaled, closing his eyes and resting his head against the wall of glass. Marcus’s hands pushed under his tank top, moving up slowly. The first tingle prodded the back of Jagger’s throat. He huffed at the joint repeatedly, watching Marcus work his way closer and closer. He wanted to forget everything.
“That makes two of us.” Asia joined them on the pillows. “I refuse to bring those kinds of emotions in here while I’m working.”
Jagger passed Asia the joint. He avoided looking down. He was afraid he’d freak if he caught Marcus’s brown eyed stare and bolt out of the house. “And what are you working on now?”
“A series of sculptures on modern male eroticism. It’s a follow-up project to my last show.”
“The orgy one?” Jagger grunted. Marcus pulled Jagger’s tank off, throwing it across the room. Lips attached to his nipple. A hand worked the button of his jeans. “Fuck.”
Asia watched Marcus go to work, pleased at what he was seeing. “Not an orgy. It was a representation of sexual freedom and the celebration of the human body. People get so offended when they see a penis in an orifice. It’s nature. It’s art. I say get over it.”
“Orgy,” Jagger whispered, stroking Marcus’s hair.
Asia moved in closer. He took Jagger’s hand and put it at the tie holding his robe together. “Do you even know what an orgy is, Jagger?”
“Liar. I bet you’ve never had two men on you like this, much less more than that. There’s something so freeing about letting go, just feeling out your pleasure in the desires of others. Not caring what they look like or what their day job is, or a name even. Only caring that they share the same frequency as you, that they want the same passion you hide away. Their hands and feet melting into the throng of moans rushing over you until you come again and again. You lose count of your orgasms or who took them with their mouths or on their skin. Mmm,” Asia groaned, urging Jagger’s hand to untie him. “That is a collective of sexual beings, of artists who paint with their tongues and whispers. Not an orgy.”
“Either I’m already high or that was the hottest thing I’ve ever heard.” Jagger pushed his finger through the silken knot of Asia’s tie. He paused. “But why are you telling me this? Why are you doing this? You’ve never done this. I’m—”
“Not his anymore and you’re hurting at the prospect of life without him. Breakups are terrible. But they can also be constructive. How do you know who you really are if you attach yourself to someone who doesn’t love you anymore? They’re just a ghost now. Someone who gave you memories to store away and grow upon, but they aren’t the one. You have to love being yourself before someone else can love you again.”
Jagger lifted his hips in a high-induced trance. Marcus slipped his jeans down, leaving behind Jagger’s lime green briefs. For all his sexual bravado, Jagger felt vulnerable. He felt like he’d switched places with Winegarten; a virgin all over again. Despite what may or not have happened with the guy the night of the hunt, Lee, Jagger had only ever slept with River. He’d been the first and the last. The prospect of having two men all up in business at the moment scared him shitless. Maybe the pot was making him paranoid. Any guy who loved men would be into this, right? Possibly? Jagger wasn’t sure he was ready to embark on a new adventure exploring his body or other’s, no matter how aroused he was.
Yet as Jagger watched Marcus sheath his cock in his mouth, he couldn’t find the words to protest. It felt good. “I just came to chill,” he murmured.
Asia gently grabbed his chin and forced Jagger to look at him. He brought his lips close and pressed them to Jagger’s. Smoke filled his mouth. He inhaled, filling his lungs and his bloodstream with nerve-easing magic. “Make it stop hurting,” Jagger pleaded, tugging on Asia’s robe tie.
Silk fell away, revealing the sculpted beauty of Asia’s nude body. Jagger pressed his palm to Asia’s chest, sliding down until he teased the hair above the artist’s cock. “Please,” he begged.
“You came here to get away from it all. Just let go. You’re safe here. Take the edge off of life for a minute.” Asia soothed Jagger onto his back. “Enjoy it.”
Marcus continued to glide his petal soft lips up and down Jagger’s erection. Asia moved closer, painting Jagger’s mouth with the head of his cock. Wanting to forget his life at the moment, wanting it to all just wash away, Jagger opened up and took Asia into him. The taste was clean against his tongue as if Asia had just stepped out of the shower. Asia purred, propping a hand against the window. His sage green eyes sparkled with pleasure; pleasure Jagger soaked up like the best kind of compliment.
He needed the touches and caresses. He needed to be with his friend—the one person who could erase the constant memory of River’s hands on his body. Jagger eased into his new situation. He moved his hand up the back of Asia’s leg, urging him closer. He took Asia deeper into his mouth. He hummed as Marcus sucked harder.
He couldn’t believe what he was doing. He couldn’t believe he’d never done it before. Letting go was so hard for someone like him; someone who took pride in being in control. Jagger, for the most part, used to be the one who told his lover what to do and how he liked it. Comforting and pleasuring River was what got him off in the past.
Now, as he lay helpless between two men, he knew what it was like to be the comforted one. He basked in the safety Marcus and Asia offered him. No strings. No build up to a crashing heartache. Though there were emotions involved, their sexual encounter was one of give and take, of teaching and learning. It was just a time to feel and wonder.
Asia was right, Jagger thought, there was nothing wrong with expressing how you felt without words. And Jagger had a lot of expressing to do. He leaned his head back on the pillow, giving Asia room to straddle his chest. The artist brought Jagger’s hands to rest on his ass as his cock proceeded to drive back into Jagger’s mouth.
“You would make an excellent model,” Asia whispered. “You have so much to say with your eyes. I’ve always thought that. But I didn’t want to upset…him.”
Jagger slid a hand between Asia’s ass cheeks, teasing over his entrance. Asia’s wild black hair slipped over his shoulders. His head fell back. His hips began to thrust. “Marcus,” Asia begged, planting a hand on Jagger’s shoulder. The model appeared behind Asia, hands folding around his waist. “Get the stuff.”
Marcus nodded, then kissed Asia’s neck before moving away to fetch ‘the stuff’. “He’s a fool for leaving you, but fools rush in and out of love carelessly. If he chose to let you go, so be it. Better for me because I find you to be one of the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen. Do you know that, Jagger? Do you know how lovely you are?”
Sometimes Jagger thought Asia talked like he was the love child of a Greek goddess and a stuffy old English professor quoting Shakespeare. But it wasn’t an act. Asia never lied. It was why people were so afraid to be around him, because he told it like it was in the most eloquent way imaginable. He sucked you in and reflected everything you knew to be true with his eyes and words. It was terrifying, exhilarating, and in the end you didn’t know what to make of the artist and natural poet.
However scared Jagger was he knew those were the words he needed to hear. After his parents, for all the good they’d tried to do, had basically cast him aside. After River abandoned him when Jagger needed him the most. After knowing Shay had tried to commit suicide, a thought he had dealt with many times. He didn’t feel so beautiful anymore.
Jagger sat up, letting Asia fall into his lap. His tears were like paint to the artist, who wiped them away with his fingertips, only to trail a wet path over Jagger’s chest. “You know now,” Asia murmured. “Cry all you need to cry, but don’t waste a drop on things you can’t change. Cry because it feels good to do so and nothing more. No one will judge you here.”
Before he knew what he was doing, Jagger’s lips were on Asia’s. Like kindling to a flame, they turned up the desire with their tongues until a raging fire built between them. He had to crane his neck to keep kissing Asia while Marcus shimmed a hand between them. Latex rolled onto Jagger’s erection, finalizing his decision to proceed.
Asia was the first to move. He lay on his back, spreading his legs, letting Jagger collect himself and choose. Was this what he wanted? Did he finally want River to be number one out of two or did he wish to preserve their faded love and run home with his tail between his legs? He chose the first option. Asia was too gorgeous all sprawled out with his hair fanning around his head. Jagger couldn’t wait.
He worked the lube Marcus poured onto him up and down his shaft, enthralled with how the model began to prepare Asia for him. Jagger was well aware Asia wasn’t a virgin and he probably liked it rough sometimes, but he still wanted to take his time, build up the anticipation a little. Marcus took care of that, simultaneously working a digit in and out of Asia’s entrance while stroking Asia’s penis at the same time. When Asia scooted down so their flesh was touching, Jagger knew he was ready. Marcus leaned back on his heels, allowing them a moment to experience entry.
Jagger brought Asia’s legs up flush with his chest and rubbed his dick into the warm crevice of the artist’s ass. The fusion of their heat lit the room up until the air was so thick it became hard to breathe. Jagger parted Asia’s legs, moving between them. He pressed kisses to Asia’s chest then reached up to kiss him on the lips one more time.
“Thank you,” he murmured, aligning his cock with Asia’s entrance. “For this.”
He pushed inside, trapping the head of his cock within tight, hot muscle. Groaning from deep in his belly, Jagger slowly eased all the way in. Pushing away the memory of River’s face staring up at him was hard. But Jagger did it. He swallowed down his past, making way for what lay willingly before him. Asia. Sensual, well spoken, eccentric Asia Hathaway let him inside.
Jagger began to move, slow thrusts at first, not even pulling out all the way. He allowed Asia time to adjust, time to connect with him on a deeper level. Asia wasn’t his soul mate. Unless the universe had a future planned that Jagger couldn’t see. They weren’t in love, maybe as friends, but not passionately in love. But they felt the same. Both rejects in their small bubble. Both of them misunderstood, yet still human beings who craved to know they were still wanted in some small way.
Like he was psychically linked to Asia’s mind, Jagger saw the same awareness build in Asia’s eyes. He thrust harder, not too rough, but enough to slap flesh against flesh. He groaned, biting his lip and let go.
The first moan from Asia’s lips was worth more to Jagger than any painting or sculpture the artist would ever sell. Making another man verbally deliver the pleasure he felt was a powerful experience; one that couldn’t truly be described unless a person could see and hear it for themself. But Jagger knew. He knew he’d been set free in Asia’s body; in his silky groans and in his penetrating stare. Jagger knew that while he controlled his body and the pleasure between them, none of it would be possible without the willing consent of the man beneath him.
Jagger heard latex snap. He couldn’t stop to look at what Marcus was doing. Thrust in. Pull out. That was all he knew. Look into Asia’s eyes. See how much of a man he still was and all he had yet to learn. It wasn’t until Marcus’s hand soothed Jagger down to Asia that he understood. He panicked a little, pausing above Asia with fearful eyes. Marcus rubbed something cold and wet over Jagger’s rear.
Asia pulled Jagger down for a kiss. “How do you know unless you really know?”
“I’m not. I-I…”
“It’s a just a finger. If you like it we’ll keep going,” Marcus said softly. “Relax.”
Jagger realized that River had been the only person to top him or put anything in him before. Marcus’s fingertip felt invasive and foreign, lacking the warmth River always gave him. River used to kiss his neck and stroke him. He used to whisper words that Jagger held dear. He used to love him.
“Come here,” Asia coaxed. His arms opened wide and Jagger fell into him. He buried his face in Asia’s chest while Marcus fingered him. “It’s okay to like it. I know it’s not him, but you have to let him go now. Just feel, J.”
Jagger’s eyes shut tight. He pushed back on Marcus’s finger, testing himself. Marcus stopped being so clinical. He eased another finger into Jagger while kissing the small of his back. Care was a trigger to Jagger. Kisses, body contact, or some sort of connection was needed for him to enjoy himself.
When Marcus comprehended this, he put in a lot more effort. His hands were everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. Soon his fingers disappeared and his rock hard cock slid up and down Jagger’s ass.
“Asia,” Jagger moaned and pushed hard into him.
The artist clutched Jagger’s shoulder, smiling. “Like that. Ah that’s good. Deeper, J.”
Marus lit up another joint that had been sitting on the floor next to them. He exhaled smoke, lending a haze to the sexual air they’d created. He covered Jagger, tilting his head so Jagger would kiss him. Their open lips met. Smoke was exchanged. Jagger groaned, sandwiched between a frenzy of hips and thrusts.
“Just breathe,” Marcus murmured. His cock head at Jagger’s entrance made time stand still.
Staring into Asia’s understanding eyes, Jagger planted his hands on the floor and lowered his upper body. He gave permission over to Marcus. He knew he had to test his strength to let go. Not that this was the only way, sex and drugs. But it was the best way for Jagger. He’d always been a rebel and he would go down as one.
He would let River be. And Jagger would be himself without River. Jagger liked to be fucked. He liked to fuck also. He liked this. And he would not say no because it felt too good to refuse. For a second it burned, but only for a second. Then he felt full, full and…he was smiling. Jagger smiled against Asia’s neck, nuzzling under his chin.
Asia’s hands stroked his hair. Marcus covered his back. The three of them rested momentarily, content to feel how very connected they were.
“This is art,” Asia giggled. He caressed Jagger, then Marcus’s shoulders.
Jagger was too elated to move yet. He inhaled deeply and felt Marcus’s length slide back inside him. He groaned and wiggled his hips. With every thrust from behind, Jagger’s cock pushed into Asia. They soon found a rhythm. Jagger found his energy somewhere along the way. To be in someone with someone inside of him was…just damn.
Jagger came to the point where he didn’t know whether to breathe or scream. Marcus knew what the hell he was doing from behind, smacking into Jagger until he started to quiver. Asia was making noises not even Animal Planet could recreate, all arms and legs and arching back. And Jagger, well he came so hard he drew blood from his bottom lip.
Asia’s hand flew up and down his slick length, drawing out stream after stream of milky white semen from his angry red cockhead. His eyes shut. His head thrashed until every last drop had been squeezed out of him. Marcus withdrew from Jagger and snapped off his condom. He came across Jagger’s back, gripping his shoulder for dear life.
They collapsed in a heap on the studio floor. Jagger wished he could crawl into an icy bath he was so hot. His skin was almost on fire between the two men. He wondered whether he was supposed to kiss Marcus or Asia. He wondered whether this was the part where they cuddled. Did either man enjoy the same things he did? Did they even have the energy to care?
Minutes passed in silence until everyone regained control of their lungs. Asia pushed Jagger over onto Marcus. He laid his head on Jagger’s shoulder. “That was incredible, Jagger. So inspirational. Tell me you’ll model for this piece.”
“Asia, I just had my first three-way. Will you just let me think for a minute?” Jagger chuckled, absentmindedly combing his fingers through Asia’s hair.
Marcus kissed his temple. “Seriously, though, that was pretty hot. I didn’t think you were going for it and then you just…wow. Have you ever thought of going into porn? I think you’d do well. I know some people.”
“He actually does. I found Marcus through a friend of a friend; a friend in production, if you know what I mean.” Asia propped up on his side. “Usually I get my models through want adverts or online, sometimes at nearby colleges, but Marcus is the real deal. He’s even been in GQ. Dapper little thing, isn’t he?”
“I’m not little.” Marcus laughed then shoved Asia.
“Can’t argue with that.” Asia’s eyes roamed Marcus’s body. “Jagger, what do you say? If you’re not going to go into gay porn, then at the very least you can model for me. It’ll be a good distraction. You’ll meet new people. You can even bring your little Kelly doll with you. That’s his name, right?”
“Kelly, that’s him. And no way would I bring him here. We’d have to cart him out on a stretcher after he went into cardiac arrest. He’d see naked men strutting around and everything would go dark.” Jagger sniggered.
“Virgin,” Marcus and Asia confirmed.
“Oh yeah, but he’s sweet. He’s a good kid.”
“He’s sweet? Oh, Jagger, you must bring him here. I have to meet the guy who’s got you using the word sweet.” Asia lazily traced Jagger’s tattoos. He smirked. “Does your little sweetness smoke? Maybe that would entice him.”
“He might have at the hunt party. I’m not sure, though, now that you mention it. I—”
Loud boots clomped towards the studio doors. Jagger was quick to try and look for his pants. “Who’s that?”
“Dammit.” Asia rolled his eyes, flicking his hand at Marcus to fetch his robe. “He never called me back so I figured he wasn’t coming.”
“Who?” Jagger managed to find his tank top, which was a little worthless for covering his junk.
Asia pulled on his robe and got to his feet. Marcus hid behind him. “My dealer. That was the last of my smoke I’m afraid. He was supposed to bring me a refill this morning. Never called. Never showed. Then again he’s always doing that. He’s a dealer.”
The studio doors pushed open. The dealer stopped and whined. “I have been calling you for over an hour. I don’t have time to just waste on you, Asia. My time equals money.”
“Says the man who spends his days eating Doritos in front of the television, high out of his mind.” Asia snorted. “Hold on. I already set aside your money. Marcus, have you met Andrew? He’s friends with some of your friends.”
Marcus shook his head. He stepped closer to Jagger, who was busy pulling up his pants with his back to the door. “Uh…no, we’ve never met.”
Jagger caught Marcus’s nervous stare. He turned to the doors and his eyes almost jumped out of his face. The dealer stiffened. His eyes darted around, anywhere but directly at Jagger. He took a step back.
Jagger stepped forward. “Lee?”
“Sorry, man. I’m Andrew.”
“No.” Jagger fisted his hands. “I know you. You’re Lee from the hunt party. I’d remember you anywhere.”
“Sure about that? Those kids were so fucked up on E I don’t think any of you remember much about it.” Andrew rubbed his hands together.
“How would you know?” Jagger snarled. “I know, because you were there. You gave me that pill and left me in that damn clearing. You were the one who put the sign up in the fire pit. Roses are red, violets are blue, sound fucking familiar to you, Lee?”
“Jagger, you’re being rude to our guest. I’m sorry Andrew, he’s a little high.” Asia faked a smile and handed over a few hundred dollars. His smile faded when Andrew tossed the pot and backed up to the door. “Andrew, what’s going on?”
“Andrew my ass,” Jagger growled. “He told me his name was Lee. He got me fucked up and I don’t remember what happened to me, but when I woke up there was a death threat waving above my head and cops were crawling all over the fucking place.”
“Why didn’t you call me?” Asia put a hand to his chest. “That sounds serious, Jagger. Is this true, Andrew? Why would you do that to him?”
Andrew panted, ready to crawl out of his skin. He put his hand on one of the doors. “Because he paid me to.” Then Andrew, or Lee, whatever his name really was, took off running through the house. Jagger shouted a string of curses and gave chase.
TO BE CONTINUED...
AUTHOR'S NOTE***** I will be updating the music videos, music and chapter links tomorrow. Stay tuned!