Authors: Mia Downing
Tags: #erotic romance
“I’m a bully.”
“To yourself, yes.” Erik nodded, but he took Gavin’s hand in his and squeezed it. “You had a shitty life. I get it. Your sister died, I get that. And you rose above all that and became this wonderful, beautiful, clean, and sober guy. You paint magnificent things. Your soul is in every one of those paintings, laid out for the world to see.
“You said the other day that the negative words caused more damage than a beating, and you’re letting those words define you. You let them come into your world and toss the good you in the dumpster.”
“I don’t.” But he did, and he could feel a part of himself curling up, into a ball, wanting to escape being ripped to shreds inside. The need for a beer, a toke, anything to get him high and away hit him freight train hard, square in the chest.
“What did they tell you, Gav? What words hurt you?”
“No!” He squeezed his eyes shut. Small and weak, and no one would protect him. No one ever protected him until Erik came into his life.
“You’re going to let the words win?” Erik taunted.
“What if they’re true?” His worst fear, right there. So stupid, because the rational part of him knew they weren’t. But sometimes, it was much easier to believe the filth others said.
“Then I’ll tell you they’re true, and we’ll find a way to survive it.”
Long moments passed in silence except for the crickets chirping in the grass. Fireflies danced along the edge of the wooded barrier between the pavilion and the beach. He loved Erik. If he could share that horrible, sick fantasy, he could share the words, right? Gavin swallowed the bile and searched for one of the less powerful words and tossed it up in a weak serve. “I’m weak.”
“Okay. Not true. Not physically, not mentally.” Erik’s hand slid to his shoulder, kneading the tight muscles there.
“I’m a disgrace.”
“Not true. I’m so proud of you, Gav.”
He closed his eyes, because this next one stung. He’d heard this one since the beginning of time. “I’m stupid.”
“Absolutely not true. You have dyslexia. You got all A’s and B’s in college-level courses in high school. You were on the honor roll in college despite being high all the time.”
He nodded. Breathed deep. Went deeper. “No one will ever love me. I don’t deserve it. I’m not good enough.”
Erik grabbed his chin and forced him to look him in the eye. “I love you.”
Gavin trembled, hating how weak he felt as he met Erik’s loving gaze head on. Big, big serve, up and over the net. “I don’t deserve to live.”
“Oh, Gav.” Erik enveloped him in his arms, tugging him close and hard. Fierce. “No one deserves to live more than you. If you hadn’t lived, I would have died two days ago.”
Gavin inhaled deep, catching the gentle spice of Erik’s aftershave, the same brand Erik’s dad used. He let Erik hold him, despite a part of him wanting to run, hide, drink. Erik’s arms felt safe.
Erik’s lips touched his neck. “You okay, Gav?”
He nodded against Erik’s chest. He felt better. Saying the words…it was like being set free. “Sometimes, I just wanted to die. It was like being trapped in this haunted mansion and fucking scary things jumping out and grabbing you and screaming shit and no one would let you out.”
“You’re out, Gav. Look at me.” Gavin looked up from Erik’s chest, and Erik smoothed Gavin’s jaw with his thumb. “You’re out. Those words can’t hurt you here. I love you.”
Erik sighed. “Will you stand up for yourself? Will you put the bully to rest?”
He wanted to, but
was it scary. “I can’t change overnight.”
“Will you try?”
“Then you need to stand up for yourself. Right now. Tell me what I want to hear.”
“I love you.”
“That’s not the issue. You know that.”
Gavin pulled away from Erik and dragged a hand through his hair, tortured still. He never trusted words, especially not the positive ones. Maybe because words were never his friends. Being dyslexic meant the words were sometimes confusing going in and though he usually had no problem vocally, the words were still scary, especially when those words involved how he felt about Erik. Painting had been a much easier route to expression, but he couldn’t paint Erik. It would take for-freaking-ever.
“I’ll show you.” He jumped from the picnic table, jogged to his car in the parking lot, the single light a dull, yellow gleam in the growing dusk. His vehicle and Erik’s were the only ones left. He grabbed a bag in the front seat, then a blanket and trotted back to Erik, giddy, terrified, and turned-on, all at the same time. “Let’s go.”
“To the beach. You’re going to make love to me. I’m going to let you.”
I get to make love to Gavin.
Erik was fairly sure he was dreaming as he stood in the dusky pavilion, staring at Gavin as he stood there patiently, blanket under one arm, his beach bag over his arm. He shifted nervously but held out his hand, ready to take the next step. His Gavin, ready to prove he was worthy.
Erik glanced around wildly. “What? No, not here. What if the cops come?”
Gavin dropped his hand. “Randy’s on duty tonight. I often leave my car here, and he knows yours. As long as we’re gone by eleven, he won’t care. And he’ll call first.” Randy was a friend from high school, and he’d been with the police department for a year now.
Erik’s eyes narrowed, still thinking this was too good to be true. “Do you take lovers to the beach often?”
“No. I paint on the beach, sometimes, in the full moon. It’s not quite full tonight, but it’s enough. I’ll show you when we get home. The light is incredible.” Gavin held out his hand again. “Okay?”
Erik took his hand, relishing the warm strength. “Okay.”
They walked, hand in hand, down to the sand. Gavin smoothed the blanket out, got out a strip of condom packets and the lube, then turned to Erik. “You want that fantasy? Me on the lifeguard stand? Now’s the time.”
Erik stared at the little pile of condoms and lube blanket-side. “You have lube and condoms in the car.”
As soon as Erik said it, he wished he hadn’t. He knew Gavin was…experienced. He also knew Gavin loved him. Damn his nervousness.
Gavin blanched. “When I plan on making love to you, yes. I put that stuff in earlier. I haven’t had a lover since I’ve been home full time. Just you. Only you.” He stepped closer and tugged Erik’s hips to connect with his in a blaze of heated groins. “I wasn’t planning on letting you go, Erik. I woke up when you almost died, as scared as I am. I knew you’d need more. I was going to fumble my way through trying to give you more.”
“You’ll let me make love to you.” Erik sighed and sagged against him, relieved. Finally willing to believe. “Yes. God, yes. Let me love you.”
Gavin nodded. “I want to hop in the water first, though. I’m sweaty.”
“You can’t,” Erik said, his hands tightening on Gavin’s hips, his fingers digging into the skin there. It was stupid to be afraid, but he couldn’t help the gurgle of fear bubbling to the surface.
Gavin let his lips brush Erik’s. “The water is calm. No currents. I’ll just go in a bit, get wet, okay? I won’t die on you.”
Erik nodded but didn’t look sure. “Hurry.”
Gavin kissed him, quick, then ran down to the water and jumped in.
Erik watched earnestly from shore, wondering if he’d ever swim again. Not without that churning fear, probably. Gavin didn’t go far, his head visible in the moonlight, the light an ivory sparkle through the spikes of his wet hair.
God, Gavin had been through so much shit. Erik felt like an asshole for making Gavin go to that dark place, to say the words that had haunted him for so long. But in truth, they were nothing more than what Erik expected. Hurtful, damaging yet so, so simple to say. If you were told those damaging words long enough, obviously you believed it. He could see it in Gavin’s eyes afterward. He didn’t want to believe, not in Erik’s arms. But he did. That would take time.
Erik sighed. God help him, how could he leave?
Gavin emerged, dripping in the moonlight, wiping the water from his eyes, his trunks clinging in that way that turned Erik on so much. It wasn’t just the physical attraction, either. Love burst with desire, melding into a hot inferno of need. He needed Gavin, needed to love him, to feel his arms around him, almost more than he needed to breathe.
Gavin trudged up the beach. Unable to stop himself, Erik met him halfway and did what he always wanted to do. He grabbed Gavin by the back of the head and kissed him, hard, his lips demanding, punishing. Hot. He didn’t want gentle, and Gavin seemed to not mind. He moaned and opened his mouth, let Erik’s tongue take control.
Erik pulled away, panting, his cock hard and straining against his shorts. He yanked his shirt off over his head then kissed Gavin again, his lips a bit less demanding though the need hadn’t lessened. He pressed against Gavin’s wet chest, the icy cold of Gavin’s body a stark contrast to the heat in his. Erik backed up until his feet hit blanket, and he turned them. He broke the kiss.
“On your back,” he whispered.
Gavin went down, wiggling his ass on the blanket to make a suitable, comfortable dent. Erik shirked his shorts and boxers and landed on his knees next to Gavin. He tugged the waistband of his swim trunks, and Gavin lifted his hips. Off they came, and Gavin’s erection bobbed free, full and jutting from the dark, damp hair of his groin. Erik ignored that.
Instead, he slid up Gavin’s torso and claimed his mouth again, this kiss just as needy but slower, deep and wet, the way he’d always dreamed of kissing him. Gavin’s fingers started at Erik’s elbows, gripping, and then they inched around until he clasped Erik tight to his chest. Every inch of his skin seemed branded by the chill of Gavin’s torso, and it excited him more. He rocked his hips a little, his cock rubbing Gavin’s. They moaned at the same time, and Erik froze, then relaxed. Gavin wanted him, too.
Erik let his mouth wander the way he had always fantasized, across the stubble of Gavin’s strong jaw, down his throat, over his Adam’s apple. His skin tasted salty and earthy as he lapped the droplets of water from his body. Down Erik went, indulging in that dip in his throat, the rounded curve where he’d broken his collarbone in sixth grade. Gavin’s hands slid into his hair and tightened, as if afraid to have him love him there.
“That’s where I broke it.”
Gavin’s hands tightened, and a shiver scampered along Erik’s spine as he realized the truth. Gavin had never fallen from his bike like he’d said. How many more scars were there? How many more lies? Slowly, he tongued that spot again, spreading love over the damage that had healed. The mental scar was still present.
“My ribs,” Gavin gasped. “Kiss me there.”
Erik obliged, his tongue parting the gentle brush of chest hair, over his tight, tiny nipple, down to lave the ripples of bone under them. He’d broken four in eighth grade, two here…and two there. He lapped them all.
“The scar, on my hip.”
Erik knew exactly where to go, dancing his lips along the long scar across his bone, kissing away the lie that went with it.
“My face,” Gavin pleaded.
Erik wormed his way back up, pressing his chest against Gavin’s, making sure every inch of skin that could be covered, was. He rained kisses over Gavin’s face, his nose, his jaw, then bit his earlobe, using his tongue to rim that sensitive spot. He sat up just a little and stared into Gavin’s eyes, glittering in the dim light.
“Me. Kiss me,” he whispered, his voice laced with desire and pain. “Love me.”
“I do love you. Every inch of you.” How could Gavin not know?
A sigh shuddered through Gavin, and he closed his eyes, his entire body relaxing underneath Erik. “You make me feel safe.”
. It should have hurt, hearing that, but Erik sensed safe was a hell of a lot deeper than loved. He rewarded Gavin’s honesty with a gentle kiss, full of love. Or safety, whatever Gavin needed. “You are safe with me.”