It’s Jaye Larson’s nineteenth birthday, and all he wants is to spend time with his boyfriend, Kris, and his mother — the people he loves most, who make life worth living. But faced with his mother’s demons, the imperfections of his relationship with Kris, and dangerous, homophobic strangers, one by one, all of Jaye’s dreams are soon derailed. Plunging into a waking nightmare, shortly after going to bed alone, Jaye wakes in an alley, pinned down by two men with slow, bloody rape and murder in mind. It’s just the start of Jaye’s fight for his life, and his sanity, as time and time again, he’s forced to make impossible choices to survive, no matter what it costs. (M/M)
It was one of Jaye’s favorite spots, which was why he’d chosen it for his birthday date with Kris. The slices of cake on the menu were a bonus his raging sweet tooth appreciated. They were always huge portions of a slew of many tempting flavors with heaping mounds of icing, though his favorite was the pistachio cake with honey vanilla buttercream icing. His mouth watered, thinking about it. Just being there, across from Kris, and with nothing left to worry about, made his spirits rise. Slowly, he allowed himself to forget the rest of the things trying to weigh him down.
“This is perfect. I’ve been looking forward to being here with you all day. Work was good?” he asked Kris, who looked kind of great, actually, in a blue V-neck sweater and khakis. Kris worked in the mortgage department of a local bank, after rising through the ranks from an entry level position he’d landed thanks to a temp agency.
“Yeah, same as usual. Lots of paperwork. Nothing to complain or get excited about either. You?”
Jaye leaned forward over the table, trying to tune out the hustle and bustle around them. If he worked to focus only on the sound of Kris’s sweet, smooth voice and the faint scent of his cologne, Jaye could almost pretend they had some privacy. Under the table, he nudged Kris’s foot and tried to get him to grin.
“It was good. Normal. Not too busy. Layla surprised me with a cupcake after my shift was over and sang Happy Birthday. It was crazy thoughtful of her.” He left out he parts about Mark making things tense. Whenever Jaye mentioned things like that, Kris would urge him to quit and find a new job, but Jaye had worked too hard to climb the ranks at the store to ever think of bailing because of one tight-ass kid. He didn’t want to have to start over somewhere new.
Kris got a weird look on his face, a sour smile. “That’s a little weird though, right? She’s not your girlfriend.”
“She’s just a nice person. It’s not a big deal. She just thought it would be a fun surprise, since I had to work on my birthday and all. Why, you jealous?”
Jaye bit his lip with a sly grin, turning on the charm to draw Kris out, the shyer of the two of them by far. He held Kris’s gaze as he tried not to answer, which was totally an answer. Beneath the table, Jaye slid the toes of his right foot up Kris’s calf, getting a cute little smile out of him.
It was just loud enough for them to hear, and came from one of the older guys on the stools, to their right.
“Ignore it,” Kris said tightly. He lifted the menu, looking down at it and pulling his leg away from Jaye’s foot.
Furious, Jaye had to look around. It figured that as soon as things would start to get good, some loudmouth would ruin it. He was pretty sure the asshole homophobe was one of the barrel-chested guys in hunting gear seated a few feet away.
“Stop looking!” Kris hissed.
But Jaye kept on staring, feeling his anger rising, fast. At first, the big hunters kept their gaze averted. Jaye’s fists clenched. His legs tensed. He would have loved nothing better than to spring out of their booth and punch those motherfuckers in the face for throwing hate at strangers who were minding their own business.
One of the guys met his gaze, then held it. He was the one without a beard, or a chin either. It had been swallowed by his neck.
Yeah, that was the guy.