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Watch that first step. It could turn your life upside down.
Fragments, Book 1
Until a fall ended his Olympic diving career, John Andrews lived for the seconds he spent in the air. Now he’s adrift on a college campus, grounded by paralyzing vertigo and double vision. Worse, he sees shimmering colors over everyone’s heads.
The last is hardest to ignore, and impossible when it comes to Mason. While sex with the hot, moody computer major gives John a rush as heady as diving, Mason’s the only person John’s ever seen surrounded by two distinct colors.
Mason feels like a stranger in his own life. His lover is dead, and he drowns his guilt in bourbon and sex—until John’s innocence reawakens the man he used to be. After Mason gives the young virgin a proper introduction to sex, he plans to send him on his way. But John sees too much to make things that easy.
For John, their connection is more than just sizzling sex, it’s something worth fighting for. The more he learns about the colors, though, the more he realizes the free-spirited Mason isn’t free at all. John doesn’t take second place to anyone—even the dead.
Product WarningsAnyone wishing to read this title should be an adult, free from any condition that might be aggravated by the presence of a not-too-scary haunting, sizzling sexual chemistry, and angsty young men having mildly kinky sex. Other restrictions may apply. No additional equipment needed—unless you like that sort of thing.
Copyright © 2010 K. A. Mitchell
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
John Andrews’ first experience with public education was as a twenty-one-year-old freshman at the University of Albany. In his first class of five hundred, one girl passed out, two other girls made out and a drug deal went down two rows in front of him. By the end of the week, John had learned that college wasn’t all that different from training camp. Less weight training, still lots of bad food.
In that week, seventeen different flyers for parties, clubs and political rallies came flying under his dorm room door. Each of them went up on the otherwise empty bulletin board in his room, except the one from the Disabled Students’ Association, which had been hand delivered. The guy with the hearing aid had been the only one who’d even noticed, or at least said anything about, John’s cane. That flyer in eye-hemorrhage-inducing orange went immediately into the trash.
John didn’t need it, or the Disabled Students’ Association, or the handicapped room the university had given him—though having no roommate and a private bathroom was a plus. John wasn’t exactly disabled. He didn’t always need the cane—unless he made a quick move and lost his balance, but it didn’t happen all the time anymore. He just couldn’t drive. Or watch a tennis match. Or look out of a second-story window.
Or ever get on a dive platform again.
One of the flyers he’d saved was for a get-to-know-you meeting for some environmental club. Everyone wanted to save the planet. Maybe that was something he could do. Life: Plan B had to start somewhere.
Four fifty-six Madison Place was somewhere downtown, and it took him two buses and a walk down a couple of dark blocks to get there. John had discovered walking was easier in the dark. No contending with the blurs from bright light, less noise. And even if he did stagger, fewer people were around to see him trip over apparently thick air.
Now that he was on the right street, it wasn’t hard to tell which house it was. Lights on, music blaring bright enough on its own, and the added confirmation in the form of a young man puking off the front porch. Getting to know the members of the environmental club seemed to require large amounts of alcohol.
John propped his cane up behind some definitely non-recycled trash on the porch and went inside, remembering just in time not to shake his head in disgust. He didn’t have a problem if people wanted to play beer pong and call it a club meeting. He just thought that if they were going to call themselves Students for a Greener Tomorrow, they might use non-plastic cups and recycle their empties.
He hadn’t needed any pills today. No headaches. No heaving. He could probably have a beer. It wasn’t as if he was driving. And hey, at least the cups were green.
John negotiated his way to the keg. He’d been to his fair share of parties all over the world. The Germans usually had something going on in their dorm at any event, and if they didn’t the Brits did. The Brazilians threw a two-week-long celebration during the Pan American Games, though John’s memory of it was a little fuzzy because he’d gotten knocked down to silver by two freaking tenths of a point and had decided that it was a good time to experience being spectacularly drunk. The resulting hangover had been the benchmark worst experience of his life—until he found out how bad things could really suck.
He found a wall to lean on and watched the beer pong game.
John was aware of the look for a full minute before he began the slow process of turning to see who was aiming it at the side of his head. He hoped it wasn’t someone trying to remember where they knew him from. It usually turned out to be from the cereal box. He’d already suffered through five tearful—on their part—encounters with girls who thought it was so very tragic and how could he bear it and what was he going to do with himself now.
John wished he knew the answer to that last one.
He turned, and sometimes it didn’t matter how slowly he did it. Something clicked over in his brain and the world burst into glittering confetti and kaleidoscopes—two things he’d never enjoy again. Nausea set his stomach on the spin cycle and pain sparkled silver and white through his head. The flashes of color slowed, settled into refracted light. Almost like a bad 3D effect, bending the edges of whatever he tried to focus on.
And in this case it was a guy’s face. The pain faded and took the nausea with it, which John thought was only fair since they always came as each other’s date. But the weird scattered crystal effect kept going on for a full minute, white with red and black streaks, as John tried to focus on the guy’s face.
Red lips, dark for a guy, but the color didn’t look artificial, more like he bit them a lot. Hair a warm brown, close-shave on the sides and spiky on top. Now that the broken-glass effect had faded, John finally got a good look at the guy’s eyes. Maybe this was a new perceptual distortion from the fall, but those dark eyes looked back at him like John had every answer in the world. Like John was Jesus and a gold medal and the guy holding a check for a million-dollar endorsement all at once.
John’s hands got cold. And then the dark gaze dropped before making a long, slow trip back up John’s body, pausing for a hard stare at John’s crotch where even the loose fit of his Dockers couldn’t hide what that attention was doing to John’s dick.
The guy noticed all right. His tongue swept over his full bottom lip. Sauna heat rushed over John’s body, prickling his skin even as it melted his bones. Jeez. Was it really this easy? After all that sneaking around and crap with Roald on tour, here you could just have a guy check you out at a party and that was it?
John might not have a lot of experience, but he knew what this was. Cruising. He’d even seen the 1980s movie with Al Pacino. It hadn’t worked out too well for the characters in that movie, but it wasn’t the 1980s anymore.
So. In the middle of this party with straight couples slobbering on each other and people half-passed out on the beer pong cups, the one gay guy had found him. And it hadn’t even taken a flyer from whatever gay student organization they had here.
No, John didn’t have much experience, but he had seen a lot of movies, though not as many of the kind that would help him out in this situation as he’d like. He hooked his thumbs in his pockets so that his fingers framed his dick and met the look in the other guy’s dark eyes. He smiled and walked up to John, steps nowhere near as steady as his gaze.
“Wanna get out of here?”
John would have nodded, but that would have gotten the whole kaleidoscope going again, so he blinked. Apparently that was good enough because the guy knocked back whatever was left in his cup—which didn’t smell like beer—and tossed the cup away.
No way was John getting into a car with this guy. Sexy lips, eyes and seriously ripped arms or not. His life might suck right now, but he wasn’t ready to become a drunk-driving statistic.
“I don’t have a car.”
John thought of the long bus ride back to his dorm. “I live on campus, uptown.”
The other guy hooked his finger through the belt loop on John’s khakis and pulled him close enough that their hips touched. The guy’s breath hit John’s cheek, warm, almost enough to burn with the fumes from whatever had been in that cup. “I’m right around the block. Okay with you?”
A hot guy’s hand was a few inches from John’s very happy dick, and his lips were even closer to John’s ear. Like any second he’d be kissing him and yes, it was okay with him. This guy wasn’t Roald and evidently didn’t give a crap if anyone else knew he was gay. And since no one was handing out endorsements for brain-damaged former gold medalists, neither did John.
Belatedly, John realized the guy was waiting for an answer. “Umm, yeah.”
“So let’s go.”
They threaded their way through the front room of the party, which was now made up of people jumping up and down to some song, pounding out muddy reds and oranges as the thump of their feet hit the floor just a split-second off from the beat of the music. Between the color wheel and the moving bodies, John wondered if his brain was going to provide him with another one of those fly-eye faceted views where he had to decide which of the dozen images was the right one so that he would not trip over what had moved in his path, but the other guy reached back and slid his hand just under John’s shirt and pulled him along.
When they got to the door, the guy stretched out one of those hard-muscled arms and yanked John close. Roald didn’t kiss. And kissing one of the girls on the synchronized diving team had only confirmed what John had already suspected about him and girls.
This was what he’d wanted, right? A chance to get in all the stuff he’d missed during twelve-hour practices and plane rides and tutors.
John opened his mouth for his first kiss.
A dizzy lurch in his stomach that finally had nothing to do with the new way his brain saw the world. This was like flying, like springing into air and daring gravity to catch you. The closest thing he’d had to his old life since he’d woken up in the hospital. His body buzzed, alive like it had only ever been when he walked out on the platform.
He brought his hands up, palms sliding across the crisp fuzz on the sides of the other man’s head, and sucked that spicy tongue in deeper. A contact high was what they called it, right? Getting drunk or stoned off someone else’s buzz? That had to be it. Because if kissing felt this good, why didn’t people do it all the time? Why didn’t Roald want to do it?
A shift, a pause and John knew he was supposed to kiss the other man back. He gave it what he had, stroking his tongue over those full red lips, following into his mouth where everything tasted even spicier. And it definitely wasn’t beer.
The other man pushed him away. “Damn. Umm…?”
“Mason.” The other guy offered his own name. “You’re eighteen, right? Please tell me you’re eighteen.”
“I’m old enough to buy my own beer. Legally.”
He pulled open the front door. It wasn’t that cool outside, but after the heat from all those bodies, the shift in air pressure made John wish he had his cane. Hanging onto the siding for balance, he stepped toward the pile of trash where he’d left it.
“You’d think if they were concerned about the environment, they’d be more into recycling,” he commented to Mason.
“Students for a Greener Tomorrow. The meeting?” He pointed at the house.
“That’s not a meeting. That’s Friday night at Billy’s.”
“But it’s four fifty-six Madison Place.”
“No, that’s four fifty-six Madison Ave.”
“Did you really need to be there?” Mason had come up behind him, heat against John’s back, a particularly warm and heavy press sliding along his ass that felt good and terrifying at the same time. Like trying a reverse off the three meter for the first time.
“No.” What John needed was to finally find out if sex was everything people said it was. Especially if you had it with someone who wasn’t just using your mouth because he had no one better to do.
“Then let’s go.”
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