HE’D BROKEN THE RULES. Not just any rules. His rules. And the “golden rule” at that. He knew as much when he glimpsed the hairy bronze cyclist’s legs in the dining room archway. Fuck! He reached for his half-empty cup of coffee. This isn’t going to end well.
Malachi winced after gulping the lukewarm liquid, returning the black mug to the table with a loud clank. He sat back in his chair and yawned, his mouth open wide and revealing his uneven teeth. Then he flinched. The tall, lean figure stood naked before him with his arms folded across his chest and seemingly unaware, or unconcerned, about his present state of arousal. The morning after was never easy. Why did he think this would be different? Ogling the man’s waist, Malachi felt his cock twitch and then the heat burn in his cheeks. He dropped his head and drew in a deep breath. You know better. You should have been stronger. It only ever ends one way. Badly.
“Do you mind …” The guy’s voice broke off, as if something had unexpectedly lodged in his throat. He made several attempts to clear the blockage but nothing worked.
Malachi levelled his gaze at the man, who now stood with his legs spread slightly apart like a model posing for a photo shoot. Maybe it’s just a dream. I’ll wake up soon and be alone. Like always.
“Do you mind … if I … take a shower?”
“Oh …” Not a dream. Damn! “Sure.” Malachi stood, unable to take his eyes off his guest. The guy unfolded his arms and ran his hands through his dark bed hair, pushed back from his low brow, that darted in a thousand directions. The graceful movements reminded him of their tender and passionate lovemaking, and made the hair on his neck stand up.
He looked down as he left the room to retrieve a towel and facecloth from the hall closet. He returned to the dining room, purposely walking light-footed to go undetected, and locked his gaze on the handsome figure’s pale backside. Oh, God … He swallowed hard, his excitement building again as he remembered, with a mixed sense of pleasure and dread, having had his face between that firm ass for most of the night. You were stupid. Don’t be stupid again. He cleared his throat.
The man spun around, took the linens from Malachi and held them in front of his crotch. “It’s Cole,” he said, sidling his eyes at Malachi. “My name, that is. In case you’ve forgotten.” He took in Malachi’s blank stare, fully aware of its significance. When there was no response, he shrugged and disappeared down the hallway towards the bedroom.
Malachi went into the living room filled with the bright morning sun. It was a day to feel hopeful yet a familiar heaviness pressed down on his chest. He sat down on the worn brown leather sofa and stared blindly at the hardwood floor. That heaviness had him choking back a metallic taste in his mouth. He wasn’t sick or needing to see a doctor. It was the usual side effect as his repulsion lingered the morning after, like there was something absolutely criminal about sex.
“Criminal,” he said, curbing his urge to laugh. The faint smile disappeared off his face. He liked the thrill of the chase, the way he let himself go wild with a stranger. That was why he hadn’t tried hard to resist Cole’s advances. That was the criminal act. He let a pure animal lust dominate him, which had him lapping up that murky, disheartening world of one-night stands. Criminal, yes, when one-night stands seemingly held the promise of love. But it was one night of unbridled sex that made him feel like he wasn’t alone in the world. It wasn’t as though he’d taken a vow of chastity. He was a man. With needs. So what was the big deal?
The big deal was this. Every time he longed to be touched, to feel loved when he was not, the supposedly meaningless meet-ups for anonymous sex provided comfort. And that didn’t disturb him the way he thought it should. One-night stands were for guys who were afraid of commitment. I’m not like that. I’ll settle down when I meet the right guy. He sighed. He’d never had “meaningless” sex with the guys he’d met. It always created some type of bond, even when he didn’t want it to. Like now. Deep down, he didn’t necessarily believe that to be true. But he’s not the one. I mean, he can’t be. You don’t fall in love with a guy after just one fuck. God, I’m not desperate. One day I’ll fall in love again and be happy. Like before. That metallic taste was back, had him almost gagging as he thought about the last few months and the number of guys he’d brought into his bed. Maybe I can’t commit. Am I still too afraid? He rubbed his eyes. I can do better. I deserve better. With his thirtieth birthday looming, he wanted to do better. He wanted to search out something real, permanent … true.
What am I really looking for? The contradictory nature of his current situation pained him. He’d been “weak,” unable to outrun desire and her mighty grip on him. He wanted to believe he was better than most single men who thrived on the thrill of arousal. Was he a sex addict? No, because he always revelled in the afterglow of energetic lovemaking. Like now. He was weak because he was unwilling to see the possibility before him. Why couldn’t something permanent and true evolve from it? Because the crudeness of one-night stands made their currency short-term, depreciated.
He felt his lips curling into a smile. He had not forgotten Cole’s name. It carried a certain presence and authority that was both attractive and intimidating. A tingling sensation swarmed over his body as he pulled up the image of Cole standing in front of him, naked and insouciant. He loved the way Cole’s short, pointed nose drew attention to the runnel above his thin red lips and the dimple in his chin. God, those eyes! Those narrow blue eyes expressed unremitting desire, hopeful friendship. He could almost feel again the warmth of Cole’s body pressed against his and the joy that swelled within him as they held each other.
For everything he thought about one-night stands, waking up with Cole beside him didn’t summon the outrage he’d expected. Why not? After all, Malachi had ignored the rules that governed one-night stands. His rules. A covenant he’d signed his name to, secured by the whole of his being. That covenant had been broken the moment Cole approached him at Groove, the lone gay bar in Claredon. He introduced himself as Malachi Bishop, breaking the cardinal rule of first names only. He tried to ignore the significance of that because, in his mind, he had no intention of hooking up with Cole or anyone else. He was at Groove because of Shane Martin, his best friend, whose week-long nagging about going out dancing had worn him down. Drinking and dancing to the early morning hours wasn’t his scene. Not anymore. He’d done enough of that during university, suffering through the next-day hangover and piecing together the fragments of memory. Yet there he was reliving those chaotic, sleepless nights of his youth and, surprisingly, having the time of his life.
And Cole … Cole surprised him. He didn’t ply on the platitudes about how beautiful and sexy he was. After the introductions were made, he’d said, “Tell me about your biggest dream and what you’ve done to make it real.” Malachi’s body went rigid. Most guys asked where he was from or complained about the weather before asking what he was “into.” Conversation came easy to them, and Cole made him laugh. His defenses shut down when Cole dragged him onto the dancefloor, their bodies pressed tightly together, as they slow danced to “Take Me to Church.” When they ended up at Malachi’s, again locked in a crushing embrace, it wasn’t having sex that upset him the most. It was that he’d allowed Cole to sleep over. Another rule broken.
He’d always, always, stuck to his rules. Almost immediately after orgasm, he’d shepherd his “guest” out of the condo. No pillow talk. No revealing of unnecessary details about himself. No planning a future hook-up. Sometimes he’d let them catch their breath, clean up a bit or even shower. But as soon as they were dressed, he escorted them to the door, accompanied by an awkward silence. And the scene always played out the same. “Do you have everything?” he’d ask. “Wallet? Keys?” He didn’t want them coming back, didn’t want to face them again. It made it easier to accept the unprecedented role desire played in his life.
He listened. Nothing. He hadn’t noticed that the shower had stopped. He rose from the sofa and made his way to the bedroom. His gaze fell on the sheets and counterpane bunched near the footboard and half hanging off the bed. His throat clenched. He was, one more time, fighting that metallic taste in his mouth. He went over to the bed and frantically started to strip it, as if that would wipe out its history. He’d just stuffed the bedding into the laundry hamper when Cole appeared from the bathroom. Their eyes locked, and it seemed like they were each probing to find some hidden truth. What does he expect me to say? Malachi wondered as he watched Cole pat his dark brown hair that was wet and fell flat against his head. Why do we have to say anything? Why can’t we just walk away? He gestured Cole out of the bedroom, then followed him down the hall and into the foyer.
“This is awkward,” Cole said, stepping into his shoes.
“I don’t think we could expect it to be otherwise.” Malachi waited until Cole had retrieved his black leather jacket from the closet before adding, “Do you have everything?”
“I think so.” Cole smiled and slipped on his jacket. “Actually, I’d … I’d like to see you again.”
Malachi raised an eyebrow. “Let’s not complicate this.”
“What?” Cole crossed to Malachi. “Did you enjoy last night?”
“That’s not the point.” Malachi’s tone was sharp. He can’t see what’s happening. We’re two grown men trying to romance the notion of love into perfect firsts. The first glances exchanged. The first hellos. That first touch. It doesn’t work. It never does. “Last night was fun. Let’s leave it like that.”
“I don’t get it …” Cole touched his hand to Malachi’s face. “If you thought last night was fun, why don’t you want to see me again?”
“Last night was a mistake.”
“A mistake?” Cole, his eyes on fire, withdrew his hand. “Where did that come from?”
“Well, what do you expect?” Malachi stepped around Cole and stood near the living room entryway. “Do you really expect us to fall in love after spending one night together? That we could actually have some type of meaningful relationship?”
“It’s not impossible,” Cole snapped. “It happens all the time.”
“Not with me,” Malachi shot back.
“It could … if you could see beyond the moment.”
“I don’t think you’d like what I see.” Malachi looked down. He thought about the crudeness he associated with one-night stands, and suddenly everything about his current situation felt disgusting and immoral. He wasn’t sure why, but perhaps with any other guy he wouldn’t be making such a big deal about it. He could let sex be sex and not overthink it. Cole was different. He felt that. And his life was complicated enough. He didn’t need Cole adding to the mix. He raised his head, he and Cole staring at each other with wild, lusting eyes. But Malachi, who let logic and reason guide him more than his heart, foresaw that the scene had only one ending. “You should just go.”
“All right.” Cole let out a low, exasperated sigh. As he walked to the door, he reached into an inside pocket, pulled out a taupe-coloured business card and set it on the occasional table next to the closet door. “I’m in town a few more days. If you change your mind, you can reach me at the number on —”
“Oh, I see,” Malachi broke in, shaking his head. Then came the disparaging chuckle. “Seeing me again is less work for you.”
“Malachi, that’s not —”
“Just another quick fuck.”
Cole bristled. “You know what? Just forget it.” He grunted as he pulled open the door. He was about to step into the hall when he turned and looked critically at Malachi. “I thought …” He bit down on his lower lip. “I thought we had a connection. I felt something, but maybe I was wrong. But I don’t … If you … How long do we wait on happiness before it completely escapes us?” He didn’t wait for an answer, rushing into the corridor.
At the sound of the soft thud of the door hitting the metal doorframe, Malachi went over to the sofa and collapsed. His heart was in his throat, his thoughts shifting between images from his past and visions of his future — yet he could not see the paradox of his own world.
Writing is a journey, and I’ve learned a lot over the years. Working with thEditors.com on my first self-published novel, The Flowers Need Watering, taught me a lot about the writing and publishing process. I’ve always loved the story of my first novel, Freestyle Love, but what I learned from my experience with theEditors.com and from reader reviews, I saw how Freestyle Love could be so much better. So I’ve decided to rewrite it to address its significant editorial shortcomings (plot, character development, syntax, etc.). I’d love for you to tell me what you think.
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