Lee still lives at home with his domineering mother, who makes it quite clear she’s anti-gay. Since Lee’s father left the marital home, Lee’s mother has punished him physically and mentally, ensuring he keeps his love for Ryan secret. One night, when Lee’s mother goes out, the two young men explore one another in Lee’s room.
After an explosive revelation, Lee leaves home, the need to sift through his past and come to terms with who he is paramount. Someone makes it clear Lee must never come back to town, frightening Lee into agreement. The only problem is, he’ll be leaving Ryan behind…
Excerpt (readers 18 years and above only):
The house stands as though abandoned when we get back, the lights out, the curtains shut tight. I slide my key into the lock and motion for Ryan to stay outside for a minute. It wouldn’t surprise me if she sat inside in the dark, waiting to see if I brought Ryan indoors. She’s done it before, but luckily Ryan heard her voice and retreated out the door, closing it quietly so she wouldn’t realise we’d been about to sneak up to my room. Only to shoot the shit, play on my Play Station, nothing untoward, but still, Mum would have suspected otherwise.
Seeing the house is clear, I call Ryan inside and, as he closes the front door, I go into the kitchen and put the washing-up liquid in the cupboard beneath the sink. I take a bottle of Coke out of the fridge—bought it earlier this morning when I got Mum’s paper from the shop—and collect two glasses from the cupboard over the cooker. Back in the hallway, I smile at Ryan, even though he can’t see it in the dark, and walk upstairs, pleased to hear his footsteps as he follows.
Wary, I push the door to my room open, expecting to find Mum sitting on my bed. I flick the light switch and blush at the state of my room, shown in all its cluttered, untidy glory under the harsh illumination of the bare ceiling bulb.
“Uh, excuse the mess,” I mutter, stepping forward to scoop up a pile of dirty clothes and shoving them into the laundry bin. I hadn’t anticipated Ryan coming in tonight; otherwise I’d have cleaned up a bit. He’s only ever seen it presentable.
“No probs,” he says, flinging himself on the bed, unfazed. He grabs the Play Station control and nods at the TV. “Boot it up, then.”
I do then take off my jacket and flop on the bed beside him, reaching to my bookshelf to get the other control. The game starts, and we spend the next hour or so battling it out, Ryan winning every time, as usual. After the best out of five, I drop the control down the side of the bed, and it clonks as it hits the floor. I lie on my back, head against the pillow, and stare at the ceiling. Ryan is close, too close, yet not close enough. His body heat warms my bare arm, and I wonder what it would be like to press my skin to his, feeling it fully, properly.
“You ever thought about leaving here?” he asks, leaning over me to put the controller on the bookshelf.
His belly touches my side, and my stomach flips over. My cock twitches, and I will it not to harden, exposing how I feel for him when he might not appreciate my erection. If he isn’t gay, if I’ve misinterpreted…shit, I’d hate to lose our friendship.
“Um, many times.” I casually lay my hands over my crotch and hope he hasn’t spotted my burgeoning cock. Shit!
“So what’s stopping you?” He moves away, settling next to me, resting on his side, face propped in his hand, elbow digging into the mattress.
“Money. Guts.” I swallow, pushing away images of what could have happened just then if I’d lifted my hand and twined my fingers in his hair. If I’d trailed my hand down his cheek, his chest, and to his groin…
“You could get a bedsit and afford it on your wages. If you did extra shifts at the pizza place you’d manage. As for having guts…one day she’ll piss you right off, and you’ll walk, no problem.”
“I s’pose. I want to get out. Get out of this town, too, if I’m honest.”
Ryan sits up, his fingers curling around my wrist. “Really?”
I stare at his hand, the contact searing, fucking great, and he releases his grip, retaking his former position. I will him to put his hand back so I can feel that rush again, but he doesn’t.
Rob is settled in a great relationship with Stuart, but his past catches up with him in a startling way. Photographs of Stuart engaged in sexual acts arrive in the post, sending Rob into turmoil. Stuart denies cheating, so who is the man in the pictures? Rob aims to find out, discovering someone from his past has a side to him even Rob finds hard to swallow.
The two men turn into amateur detectives and soon realise they have stumbled into something far more sinister than they could have imagined.
We follow down various streets, heading into the heart of Grebe. We’re talking a nasty place here, where a bloke being shanked on a street corner goes unaided by heroes. Who wants the hassle of a gang on their back should they intervene? Youths remain silent around here too—I saw and heard nuffin’, mister.
The streets are a tangle, a maze of roads that only a Grebe resident born and bred would know how to navigate. I don’t know where the fuck we’re going or how to get out if we have to go back the way we’ve come. We’ll have to rely on those two up ahead to lead us back to the outskirts where they live.
“Got a bad feeling,” Stuart says.
I can only nod; not feeling too bright myself. The brief thought of fucking off comes to mind, but a stronger force pushes me forward. Intrigue and, if I’m honest, downright nosiness makes me put one foot in front of the other in a place no one should be unless they have no choice.
The tunnel entrance looms ahead at the end of a cul-de-sac. Traffic from the main road behind it creates whooshing noises—tyres on a rain-slicked road, jetting along at speed. The houses either side of us give way to ratty scrubland, all knee-high grass growing out of an uneven, pot-holed surface. It skirts the whole of Grebe, a no-man’s-land of rough terrain the council didn’t have enough cash to fill with homes. It wouldn’t surprise me if a few dead bodies rest there, residents neither knowing nor maybe even caring whether they do. Just another day in the life of people struggling to mind their own, with perhaps a thought or two for the day they can pack up and leave—go somewhere the air isn’t tainted with the stench of death and violence.
“Shit, here we go,” Stuart mumbles, hands out of his pockets now as Dave and Muscle Man head into the tunnel unevenly lit by rectangular orange lights.
Patches of gloom hang between each illumination, and the tunnel bends halfway down, curving for about a hundred metres before the exit. That would bring us out, funnily enough, to the edges of the estate we live on. I’ve been through here once before, and let me tell you, it was enough. Just glad I was pissed at the time. It didn’t seem so sinister then, but it shit me up all the same.
Back to back, the two estates couldn’t be more different. At least on our streets we can almost guarantee help if it was needed. Folks round our way try hard to pretend Grebe and those living in it don’t exist.
We wait a minute or two at the entrance until the two round the bend. Fuck knows what we’re going to find down there, but with the mention of a gun and my suspicions about drugs, I have a damn good idea.
“You sure you want to follow?” Stuart raises an eyebrow, fists clenched at his sides, and shifts from foot to foot. The first light shines on his face, making him look the colour of a pumpkin.
“Uh, yeah. You?”
“Not really, but we’ve come this far so…”
“Right.” I breathe out and look down the tunnel. “Let’s go.”
Grit beneath our tread seems to shout our existence, the sound amplified in the confined space. I walk lightly but may as well not have bothered—a shouted “Oi, Davey!” rips through the tunnel, resounding until it dies out. A ripple of adrenaline spears my gut, filtering through my body, bringing me to a stop.
Should we go forward or back?
I glance at Stuart, who halts, arms rounded beside him, chest puffed out.
“Fuck!” He stares at the bend ahead then back to me. “Shit!”
He takes off, and I follow, heart beating like a bastard, my legs wobbly. Various scenarios flash through my mind, none of them nice, and we reach the curve and peer around it.
Dave and Muscle Man stand a short way ahead with their backs to us, legs apart, body poses those of men readying themselves for an attack. Some guy in front of them—I can only see his face between their heads—scowls, brows so low they almost obscure his eyes. His hair hangs lank and long—needs a bloody good wash—and an unkempt, scraggly beard and moustache cover the lower half of his face. The light they stand under brightens his red hair several hues.
“You got my fuckin’ money?” Redhead’s chin juts out, and the thin, tight line of his mouth disappears inside all that facial hair.
“No,” Dave says, hands clenching and unclenching beside him. “But I’ll be getting it Tuesday.”
“Tuesday. Right. And I’m meant to believe that, am I?” Red cocks his head to the side, as though listening really hard for the sound of bullshit. He sniffs. “And you got me here to tell me that.” Bland statement. “Right.” He widens his eyes and leans his head forward. “Anything else?”
Dave steps back—reckon that man’s breath must stink if his appearance is anything to go by—and slides a hand in his coat pocket. “Yeah.” He shrugs then rounds his shoulders, body jerking. “Uh, I need some stuff.”
Red throws his head back and laughs. I give Stuart a sidelong glance; he looks ahead, jaw rigid, body poised to flee, his face half in shadow.
I stare ahead again and whisper, “Get your phone out.”
In my peripheral, I see him do as I ask. He presses some buttons. Hopefully he’s got the camera ready to go.
Red takes a few paces backward, bringing into view his filthy grey coat, his hair laying over a multi-coloured scarf around his neck. “You want me,” he laughs again, “to give you some gear when you owe me ten grand? Give me a fuckin’ break!”
“I need it.” Dave eases his hand out of his pocket, snaking it behind him.
Jesus Christ, he’s got the gun.