Authors: Kade Boehme,Allison Cassatta
“I say anywhere in the world and you go a hundred miles?”
“Shut up. I went to school there.” That his life went tits up there went unsaid. “Even with bad memories, the place has been magical to me. My parents took us all the time. I couldn’t wait to go when I got into Tulane. Mardi Gras, Southern Decadence, soul food, and blues music, baby. What’s not to love?” He used his best Loo-zana accent, earning a smile from Riley.
“Okay, New Orleans it is.”
snapped, then whooshed as it settled down to the only relatively clean spot on the floor. It wasn’t a perfect place to lie around telling stories, but it was definitely better than their beds, under the prying eyes of staff. Oh, wait. Wally never pried.
“Lie down,” Riley commanded. Hunter looked doubtful, arching a brow like Riley had lost his mind. Well, he wouldn’t have been locked in this place otherwise, now would he? “Trust me.”
“I was taught to never trust someone who says ‘trust me.’”
“I’m not just anyone, though,” Riley blurted without thinking. It was a presumptuous but unintentional comment. “I mean—”
“Stop. It’s cool.”
Hunter sat down on the sheet but didn’t immediately lie back. Like he was waiting for Riley to assure him he wouldn’t catch something gross and incurable. Riley assured him with a pinch of lips and a roll of eyes, and apparently that was enough for Hunter to do as he asked.
“Now, you have to close your eyes and use your imagination, okay? You have one of those, right?”
“I don’t know, man. I hallucinate with the best of ’em, but I haven’t had to use it without some chemical assistance in years.” Hunter’s voice was teasing, but Riley had a feeling he wasn’t exaggerating too much. “Yes, Riley. I have an imagination. Eyes are closed.”
“Good,” Riley murmured, voice lilting with the modicum of true happiness he felt right this moment. He was so close to forgetting what he’d had with Andy—the guy who would’ve never actually loved him but did a fine job of making him feel loved in a purely unromantic sort of way.
Except for those few kisses.
“Remember the cobblestones on the Riverwalk?”
“The Mississippi smells like shit,” Hunter grumbled.
“Stop it. You can’t smell that. You smell—” Riley had to think about New Orleans nice and hard for a minute. It’d been a long time since he’d been there, the last foster family to dump him in a home because he was too weird to bother keeping around. “—you smell Cajun seasoning and chicory coffee. You can hear a jazz band playing on the bluff. The night is cool, and it’s just me and you. We’re hanging out, laughing, watching the riverboats.”
The scowl on Hunter’s face faded, transforming in the span of eager heartbeats into an easy grin. Damn, to be a fly on the wall inside his head. Was New Orleans really that magical to him?
“You gonna lie down with me?” Hunter asked in a soft voice. He sounded so at ease.
Of course. How could I not?
Riley took the empty spot beside him, a narrow edge of the sheet. He had to get close, closer than he might’ve under any other circumstance—save for keeping Hunter warm at night.
He closed his eyes and put himself on that bluff with Hunter. The cool air on his cheeks was real enough to be a gust rolling off the Mighty Mississippi. The stale scent of old building became strong and striking: allspice and paprika and bay leaves, lemon and everything wonderful about the Big Easy. But the thing that truly made this walk through a Creole night so incredible was when Hunter reached between them and laced his fingers with Riley’s.
Oh, it took everything Riley had not to open his eyes to steal a peek at Hunter’s expression, to get a glimpse of the guy who’d impacted him so hard in the span of days.
“Hunter,” he whispered without opening his eyes.
“Mhm…,” Hunter mumbled.
“You can kiss me again, if you want.”
Absolute silence followed. No shifting of bodies or the rustling of sheets. No quiet acknowledgement, not even a soft and kindly offered rejection. This time, Riley couldn’t help but open his eyes, and he found Hunter lying on his side, staring so hard it hitched Riley’s breath. And before he could inhale again, Hunter’s mouth crushed to his.
The kiss was hungry and greedy and so hot that sensations Riley hadn’t experienced in a while rocketed down to his crotch. But it wasn’t until Hunter’s tongue plunged deep into his mouth that Riley had to reach down between them and get a handful while silently praying the hint of pressure eased the ache.
Their bodies curled around each other, Hunter’s arms encircled Riley, holding him wholly, and Hunter shifted until he lay on top, blanketing Riley. Soft moans left the press of their mouths. Riley wasn’t sure who’d made the sound. Maybe they’d moaned in unison. Maybe Hunter’s heart raced like his. Maybe Hunter craved what he craved. When Riley felt his thigh slip between Hunter’s legs and the grinding of a hard bulge, he knew Hunter wanted exactly what he wanted.
into Riley’s mouth. He tasted so real, so alive, like the cheap toothpaste the hospital provided and the disgusting fruit punch that seemed to be free flowing in the godforsaken common room. When Riley’s leg ground into Hunter’s aching crotch he thought he might lose it right there. It’d been such a long time, unless he’d hooked up with someone the night he was admitted for the OD. He didn’t remember much about that night.
Just thinking about that night sucked some of the joy from dry humping Riley’s strong thigh. Then Hunter opened his eyes and saw just how lost Riley was in the moment and realized this could easily be something they regretted in short order if they did more than swap spit.
When did he become noble? He was easily the… well, easiest guy he knew. He didn’t know why his brain was coming back online and telling him
No! Stop! Mayday!
All he did know was he never wanted Riley to look at him like Hunter had disappointed him. And getting in his pants the first time they got alone time together seemed like one of those things that wouldn’t prove him worthy of Riley’s friendship. Not when Hunter hadn’t even told anything about himself, while Riley had opened his own wounds and bled in Hunter’s arms, shown Hunter his forbidden wing and something he considered magic, an escape he’d shown no one else.
Hunter disengaged and pulled his head back, though Riley must have known it was coming because he’d already opened his eyes and gentled his kisses.
“You okay?” Riley asked.
“We, uh…. We shouldn’t….”
“Is it me?”
“No.” Hunter rubbed his knuckles gently down the side of Riley’s pinkened cheeks, cheeks flushed from kisses and arousal. That didn’t help cool Hunter’s ardor. Fuck.
Could this guy get any more beautiful?
“No, it’s not you. Not at all. I just… I don’t think it’s the right time.”
“Or place, huh?” Riley’s expression had grown dark, shuttering against Hunter.
No, no, no!
“Hey, don’t think on it. This is all me. I’m just… I want to do right by you, y’know?” Hunter looked away, embarrassed at how sentimental that statement had been. “You’re my friend, first person I would say that about in a long time.” He looked back at Riley, whose gaze was intense. “I don’t know why, okay? I just don’t want to fuck up with you.”
“I get that.” Riley licked his already kiss-glistening lip.
Dear. Fucking. God.
He swallowed and gave Hunter one of the most forced smiles he’d ever seen. “I’m sorry for… telling you to kiss me, I guess.” Riley frowned. “I mean, I’m not sorry for the kiss, but I… I think I’m going to shut up now.” He snorted out a light laugh.
Hunter grunted as he dropped his forehead to Riley’s shoulder. This had gotten fucked up even without the tingling orgasms and sticky come and the touching of skin. All it took to fuck everything up was Hunter and his stupid brain. Yeah, a drink would’ve been really nice right about then. At least he’d just have shut up and gone with it.
But, no. No way. He sat up, sitting ass to calves, and yanked Riley into a sitting position before planting a brief, chaste kiss on those amazing lips. “Don’t apologize for that. Never apologize for wanting to kiss me. I wanted to kiss you. I want to kiss you again. But I don’t want to… do
.” He waved his hand between their bodies, indicating their dicks. “Not today, not like this. It’s our first date. We were just walking by the river together.” He smirked at Riley. “What? We’re gonna fuck on a bench in public? Here that’ll get you arrested, even in Nola.”
Riley scowled. “That’s the first time my game has been used against me.”
“You did say I was an asshole.”
“I didn’t say you had to prove it.”
Hunter laughed and jumped up to standing. Okay, he could do this. He was getting into it. He was seriously imagining how awesome it’d have been walking on a lazy summer night with Riley, belly full of gumbo and beignets, holding hands and listening to the people milling about by the rushing water. He’d almost felt the wind, tasted the food.
He held out his hand, which Riley eyed skeptically. “Come on. We can’t end a date like this.”
Riley rolled his eyes but eventually grabbed Hunter’s hand and allowed him to help him to stand. “Date, huh?” Riley asked, expression teasing but voice sounding wistful.
“Yes, now stop teasing me. This is your thing, so sorry if I get it wrong.”
“Get what wrong?”
Hunter stepped up to Riley, still holding his hand firmly, and wrapped an arm around his waist, resting his palm on the small of Riley’s back. He really thought he was gonna fuck this up, but hey, what was two fuckups in one night?
He pulled Riley close, rubbing his cheek to Riley’s. “Close your eyes.” Riley’s body was tense, but Hunter wouldn’t stop, even if his pride was poised like a balloon on a sharp point. He exhaled slowly and asked, “Are they closed?”
“Yes,” Riley said breathlessly. Breathless was good.
“We were walking along, and you just finished telling me a silly story. I can’t even remember what it was because I was too busy thinking how damn lucky I am. I mean, damn. There I was, with
. And you were with me on this beautiful night in the city.
“Then we heard it. A jazz band in a restaurant just down the way. I asked you to dance, and you acted like I was an idiot. But that’s why you like me.” Riley started to relax, chin resting on Hunter’s shoulder now.
Please let this be a good idea.
It was cheesy, overly romantic, but this was what they had. It was a first date, after all. He could be silly on a first date.
“The music was pretty typical for New Orleans. The saxophone was the first thing you could pick out, but the blues guitar is there too. It was slow, though. Slow and peaceful, like the river floating by us and the lights twinkling on the bridges up from us. I can’t even tell you the name of the song, but I just have to dance with you.”
Hunter almost sighed with relief when Riley held him tighter, then followed when he started moving them. And he was there. He could see it. There were streetlights and benches. He could feel the breeze whip Riley’s hair into his face. The city had that special glow he loved so much. He couldn’t think of anywhere else he’d rather be.
“The city is beautiful at night,” Riley said.
“Yeah, yeah it is.” He kissed Riley’s cheek and kept swaying with him. The music was just close enough to hear, but they were far enough from everyone that only the occasional person could see them. This was their special place, a piece of sidewalk in their corner of the world where just the two of them existed, and they were ending a great night.
Like all good things, though, the music had to end. It faded, and they still swayed together, stealing just one more moment for themselves. Hunter moved his face so he could kiss Riley full on the lips. But it didn’t burn as hot as their earlier kisses had. They just stood there, taking in the beauty of the city around them and the night air, even if the Mississippi did smell like shit. It was perfect.
Then Hunter opened his eyes and stepped back. “Thank you for going out with me.”
Riley gave him a lazy, indulgent smile. “It was nice.”
While he hated to say it, it was late. “We best get you home before we both turn into a pumpkin.”
Riley rolled his eyes. “I’m not a princess.”
Hunter licked his lips and gave Riley an exaggerated once-over. “Oh, I know that. Trust me.” He wished he had a watch. “But we can’t stay at the ball much longer. It’s getting late.”
Riley chewed his bottom lip and looked over Hunter’s shoulder, regretful. “You’re right. We should go.”
He started moving toward the door, but Hunter pulled him up short, wrapping both arms around Riley’s chest from behind, and whispered in his ear. “Really. Thank you. For sharing this with me. You’re amazing.”
Riley leaned his head back, briefly resting his body, completely and blessedly relaxing against Hunter. Then he straightened, took Hunter’s hand again, and led him back out of what Hunter had decided was definitely an awesome place. Their awesome place.