Going old school on you (well as old school as someone as new to writing as me can get...and yes that sentence actually made sense in my brain before I typed it out...lmao) and gonna do the excerpt today for Harlan's Ryde. My very Very VERY first Story Orgy prompt story I wrote...the first real book I ever blogged...the first thing I ever truly put all the way out there for people to enjoy.
Okay – if I keep prattling on I'm gonna get mush all over us, so to the excerpt please!
Ryder made a mistake Harlan can't forgive. Will Ryder cross a line no man should cross to obtain a second chance?
Ryder Halloway made a life changing decision about his relationship with Harlan when he was young and stupid. Thanks to one rash moment, he lost it all. He lost the only man he would ever love, his drive to even try to finish college and his zest for life.
Seven years later finds him in front of Harlan's house preparing to take back what he lost with a vengeance. He's prepared to use all the tricks in his arsenal to plow through every wall, protest and excuse Harlan might come up with.
Of course, he never expected Harlan to put him in the hospital.
Harlan Mychels had his heart broken in college by the popular Ryder. He learned his lesson about love and since then hasn't allowed anyone even remotely close to his heart. Then one morning he turns and sees the one person able to tear his walls down and destroy what is left of it.
He uses every defensive tactic in his possession to keep Ryder at arm's length, but Ryder is persistent. Harlan's not sure if he can stay safe from heartache, and he starts wondering what the real heartache is – letting Ryder in again...or letting him go for good.
Harlan Mychels grabbed sodas out of the fridge for him and his man. He loved saying that. His hot-as-all-get-out, buff, and delicious man. He sneaked a peek into the living room at the man in question, Ryder Halloway.
Harlan couldn't believe his luck as to have Ryde's attention, not because of any college status scale, or because of his Roman-gladiator build, or even because Harlan lacked self-esteem—which he didn't; realists ran in his family. No, he couldn't believe it because Ryder had never hung around Harlan's crowd; they attended the same university, but they ran in different circles. Harlan didn't even know that he blipped on Ryder's screen until the day that Ryde had approached him with the charming line, "Yep, I'm taking you out to dinner tonight. Hope you do Thai, and me." Then the smirk came and down Harlan went. Figuratively, not literally—well, not that night, at least. He couldn't even get pissed at Ryde's audacity; that smirk gave him a free pass. It flustered Harlan so badly he had jotted down his phone number with a pathetic doodled heart on Ryder's hand, then gone home and sat by the phone waiting.
That happened six months ago, six of the best damn months of Harlan's life. He looked forward to the next six months, hell, the next six years. He knew a keeper when he saw one; he could feel it. Today, here, now—time for this discussion had come. He returned to the couch and looked into his soulmate's eyes. No matter how corny it sounded, Harlan was positive.
They drank their sodas and discussed inconsequential items, the nice easy banter that doesn't fill up the silence but enriches it. Then he did it. He faced Ryder on the couch, took his hand, and let it rip. "Ryder, half a year, you and me for a half a year." He swung his pointer finger between them and smiled. "That isn't a long time for people just starting their adult life. But long enough for me to know for sure, this works. We work. When I wake up in the morning, I think of you. I have to stop myself from calling you and hearing your voice. I make breakfast based on your favorite things to eat. I get dressed according to what you like to see me in, even if I don't plan on meeting you that day. When you aren't around, I miss you, and when you are, I can't touch you, look at you, be close to you enough." He stopped to catch himself before he started blubbering. He aspired for maturity here. "What I'm trying to say is I love you, Ryder. I want us to have a long, happy life together, and I think we should start that life by finding an apartment of our own."
Harlan sighed with relief that he had actually gotten through his spiel without making an ass out of himself and smiled at Ryder. For all the doubts he had about himself, this he didn't doubt. He knew in his heart how Ryder felt.
Seconds turned to minutes, and his smile froze on his face. Why wasn't Ryder professing his own love in return? He watched as the light left Ryde's eyes, as the smile faded. What had he said wrong? Ryder loved him, he knew it; he just knew it.
Ryder began to talk, but the visuals Harlan got from Ryder's face and body language were so strong that he only caught half the words: drunk, wrestler, future, fling, satisfied.
Finally Ryder's ramblings stopped and they just sat there looking at each other.
The silence between them was no longer amicable. Harlan ingested the words spoken, his brain finally arranging them into the proper order. He didn't satisfy Ryder. Ryder had sex with another man who did. Harlan felt his lips start to tremble, felt the moisture pool in his eyes, and knew he had to get out of there. He couldn't—no, he wouldn't—cry in front of the man he had just spilled his heart out to.
One fact was clear in his mind above everything else. His future didn't have six more months, much less six more years. His future didn't have any more anything.
He dropped his half-empty can of soda on the table and watched it teeter, then fall off the edge. He stood, using every ounce of strength not to fall the same way that can of soda did. The pain shooting up his left side and landing in his heart felt real. His heart pounded, thundering against his chest, threatening to break right through. It felt real. But hey, everything healed in time.
Without uttering a single word to Ryder, whether in retaliation to his confession or in anger to his own hurt, Harlan made a beeline for the front door and out of Ryder's life. He changed his phone number that very same night and instructed his family not to pass any information either way. He transferred to the local community college, needing the distance away from his first broken love to have any hope in completing his studies. He had successfully blocked all means by which Ryder could hurt him again...
Ryder pulled the faded cut-to-size picture out of his wallet for his daily reminiscence. A plain picture that wouldn't win a photo award, just the back of his hand with a seven digit number and lopsided heart scrawled in green marker. A disconnected phone number now, but he didn't keep this photo for the information it gave. He kept it for the sentiment and for the reminder that he was the biggest ass in the world. How many people have a chance for true love but turn their backs on it? Only one that he knew of.
He glimpsed his reflection in the rearview mirror, hardly recognizing the man staring back at him. He supposed he had aged well. He didn't have any wrinkles. None from age but also none from smiling and laughing and loving life either. His shaggy brown hair needed a cut, something he should've done before coming here, and his dark brown eyes had no shine to them. He wasn't anything that anyone would give a second glance to, and here he sat, about to ask for so much more than a second glance.
Ryder ran his hand over his face, then replaced the picture carefully. Today was the day. He'd promised himself this for three weeks, ever since the private investigator had taken that last five hundred dollar payment and handed him the paper that had the power to change his life in return. Yeah, it had cost him a pretty penny to find Harlan, everything in his savings and an advance from his job, but it was worth it. He had to know if Harlan still thought of him, if Harlan still wanted him, if Harlan still loved him like he had all those years ago.
He grasped the sheet and double-checked the address against the one on the mailbox. It matched, a simple house, probably two or three bedrooms and a small front porch with its single rocking chair and wooden rails.
He tossed the paper on the seat next to him and reached for the door handle, just as the front door of the house opened and a beautiful red-haired man stepped out.
Ryder froze and tried to gulp air. Realizing he needed some help with this effort, he reached for his inhaler, prepared for the wheezing to start. As he pumped two blasts of medicine into his airway, he kept his eyes on the man who had haunted him for the last seven years. Harlan hadn't aged any, still lanky and geeky and so damn gorgeous that Ryder's jeans suddenly became snug.
Ryder took advantage of his parking job one house away on this residential car-lined street and decided to just watch the beautiful man for a few moments. He took another hit on the inhaler when Harlan, probably oblivious to the set of eyes on him, showed his back to Ryder and bent to retrieve his newspaper off the deck. It should be illegal to wear pajama bottoms that damn tight across the ass. They didn't look like they were comfortable to sleep in; they looked like they were bought for showing off the goods. But the PI had promised that Harlan was single, so he couldn't be wearing them for anyone else. Ryder said a quick little prayer that the PI had earned the fee he demanded.
After a quick adjustment to his pants, he opened the door and stepped out, slamming it probably a little louder than necessary. The next few seconds happened in slow motion, it seemed, as he watched Harlan turn toward him. There Ryder stood, in front of his beat-up truck, staring at the one man in the world who could complete him. That same man stood on the porch staring blankly back. The ultimate face off: who would talk first, make the first move, start the ball rolling?
An emotional pain jolted through Ryder. He didn't expect Harlan to embrace him or welcome him with a smile, but this null look, completely devoid of any emotion, felt harsh.
These two elements combined proved too much for Ryder. Seeing Harlan after so many years, in conjunction with this ache, was more than he could take. All the horrible memories of their last encounter came flooding back, too fast and powerful. Ryder's breathing fluctuated and triggered his asthma again. He doubled over on the hot hood of his truck and glared through the windshield at the inhaler sitting on that damn sheet of paper.
"Son of a bitch! What did you do? Come here just so you can croak on my front stoop?" Harlan jogged over to him and started going through his pockets. Precious seconds wasted thanks to Ryder freezing up and now all he could do was put his mental strength toward keeping his body from reacting to Harlan's impromptu search.
"Damn it, Ryde! Your inhaler! Where?"
Ryder tried to breathe as he fumbled in his pocket for the keys, halfheartedly gesturing to the front seat. Harlan cursed again as he grabbed them and rushed around to the driver's side door. Although it felt like minutes—really long and drawn out minutes at that—he knew it couldn't have taken that long. He had Harlan's quick thinking to thank for that. Harlan shoved the inhaler in his mouth and administered the medicine in two forceful pumps.
Ryder took control of the inhaler and allowed himself two more deep drags, not remembering the last time he’d had to use it this much in a month, let alone a single day. He remained slumped against his front bumper, breathing deeply on his own, trying to get control of his lungs, heartbeat, and libido all in one moment.
When he finally got back to rights in two of those departments—because his libido had a mind of its own—he turned to his savior of the moment with a lopsided smile. "Hey, how you doing?"
Harlan just shook his head and started walking back to his house.
Ryder slumped his shoulders and stared at the ground as he turned away to get into his car. His hand touched the handle and he stopped. "No," he whispered under his breath. He whipped around and saw Harlan climbing the porch steps. "No!" When Harlan didn't stop, he jogged across the front yard. "Harlan! This isn't how this is going to go down. We need to talk." Ryder marched with purpose the rest of the way to Harlan, halting on the next-to-top step to even up the eye contact.
"About what, Ryde? What could we possibly have to talk about? Let me think." Harlan pursed his lips, crinkled his nose, and squinted, making the most obnoxious "thinking" face Ryder had ever seen. "Let's talk about the weather, maybe? Or how about we talk about some football, you always fancied that. Or I know." He snapped his fingers in Ryder's face. "Let's talk about the fact that I spilled my heart out to you and then watched it get broken when you admitted to not only cheating on me repeatedly, but then telling me you didn't intend to stop because," he tapped his temple for emphasis, "what words did you use? Give me a second; don't tell me. Oh yeah, because I couldn't satisfy you the way those hard as rock jocks could, and no second best for you...in other words, me. Shall we discuss that?"
Ryder stared into Harlan's eyes, his own eyes mirroring the hurt in his words and voice. Ryde embraced his shallow thoughts. If Harlan still hurt, then hidden feelings of some sort surely lingered. The biggest mistake of Ryder's life was that day seven years ago when he allowed Harlan to walk out the door. If he walked away now, today, then he'd be committing the second biggest one. It was time for Ryder to stop making mistakes and step up his personality to make this work.
So he stood straight and didn't dodge the topics. "Sure, that's definitely on the agenda today, but first let's talk about what an ass I am. Hope you have some coffee made." He patted Harlan on the shoulder and showed himself into the house, knowing that his forwardness would rub Harlan the wrong way.
Don't forget to check out Laura Harner's and Lee Brazil's blogs to sneak a peek at them also *waggles brows*
For the whole Synchronous Seductions series...