Sterling's head fucking hurt. Maybe he shouldn't have gotten so wasted last night. Damn, why the fuck had he and Remy thought they could down shots like fucking sailors?
Remy. Had he left or stayed? Sterling opened his eyes to a slit. He groaned. "Goddammit," he muttered. That light fucking hurt.
He rolled over and hit another body. What the hell? He forced his eyes to crack open; the splitting headache burned his eyes and made his whole body fucking throb.
He blinked several times to clear his blurry vision. The sun was streaming through the partially open gray curtains. The black leather couch was in front of him. What? He lifted his heavy ass hand and hit...a person?
"Shit," Sterling said. That body next to him — on the fucking floor of his goddamn living room — was Remy. He squinted at the rumpled blue t-shirt and messy blonde hair laying smushed between him and the couch.
Remy moaned quietly. "Why is everything so damn noisy today?" His voice sounded like fucking sandpaper scraping down a chalkboard.
Sterling rolled his body away from Remy's — which motherfuckin' hurt. "Why the hell was your body plastered to mine?"
Remy huffed as he tried to move. "Damn, that hurts."
Sterling laid on his back, staring at the ceiling. God, he felt like shit.
Where was the aspirin?
He managed to get himself up onto all fours. The coffee table was next to him and he used it to heft himself up. "Jesus Christ."
"Shh, you're talking too loud."
"I'm not talking loud." Sterling paused as his head spun. "And you're in my goddamn house. I'll talk however the fuck I want."
Remy rolled over and squinted at him. His brows were turned down. "I think I passed out on your floor."
Sterling slowly got to his feet. "I think we both did." Empty bottles and shot glasses littered his coffee table and there was even an open bottle of vodka on the couch. Damn, he hoped it had been empty when it'd tipped over on his leather sofa.
He stumbled into the kitchen, his head hurting like a fucker and his vision blinking in and out.
He somehow managed to find a clean glass and fill it with water. What the hell had he been thinking? It'd been a couple of years since he'd gotten this drunk.
He heard a moan from the living room. "I don't think I've ever drank so much," Remy said.
He fumbled around in the cabinet above the sink until he found some bottles. He squinted at each one until he came across the aspirin.
After swallowing some down, he somehow made it back to the living room. Remy had passed back out on the floor, right where he'd been all night.
Sterling knew he wouldn't make it up the stairs. He fell into the couch and was out before his head head hit the cushions.
Sarah was going to be fine, but she needed some help for the first couple of weeks. His mom felt that help should be her.
"Are you sure you're going to be all right heading back by yourself?" His mom rubbed her arms and bit her lip. "You're only sixteen, and its two hours away."
"I'm sure, Mom," Aubrey reassured her for the tenth time.
"Why isn't your father answering his phone? It would be so much easier if he'd come and pick you up! I can't believe this. What could he possibly be doing that is so important that he wouldn't pick up his phone?" She tapped her foot and crossed her arms. "I'm going to try calling."
"No!" Aubrey said too quickly.
She furrowed her brows.
"It's just that, I already tried so many times." He only tried once. "And you know he always picks up his phone." Except for this one time when a random guy answered. "He's probably out with some friends or something." Like that guy.
"This early on a Saturday morning?" She looked skeptical.
She sighed. "Why don't you wait until tomorrow? You can stay one more night with me and I'll drive you back tomorrow sometime."
"I told you, Mom, I have lots of school work that needs to get done before Monday." He didn't have anything except some math.
"I wish you'd brought it along." She shifted in the hard plastic hospital chair.
"I didn't think of it. It was a rushed trip."
She sighed again and glanced around the white walled waiting room. It was cold and smelled like disinfectant. "I don't like you going back by yourself. I'm worried."
He put his arm around her shoulder. "I know, Mom, but I promise I'll be fine."
"You can't promise that. There are crazy people on the road. Not to mention drunk drivers." She straightened. "Forget it, you can't go by yourself. I'll take you myself."
"Mom," Aubrey said gently. "You need to stay here with Aunt Sarah. You're the only family she has. I'll be fine."
She didn't look convinced.
"I'll come pick you up when you're ready to head home."
She shook her head. "Don't worry about me, I have Aunt Sarah's car."
"I don't think you'll be able to drive it home."
She shrugged. "I don't know what will happen. But I'm trying not to think too far ahead."
He leaned over and kissed her cheek. "It'll be fine."
She patted his leg. "You're such a good son."
He smiled. "It's because I have good parents."
She laughed. "You're amazing at flattery."
"It's only flattery if I want something."
She raised a brow. "And don't you? You want to drive back, right now, by yourself."
He did. And what his mom didn't know, is that he was going to make it to his dad's house today whether she approved or not.
Aubrey was nearly to his dad's. He'd drove straight through, unable to rest until he saw what was going on at his dad's house. It was noon, so his dad should be there, unless...he didn't want to think about the possibility of his dad being with someone. That was... too much.
But Aubrey wasn't going to overreact. He wasn't a stupid teenager that jumped to conclusions. He was going to wait until he got to his dad's house and see what was really going on.
He pulled into the lot where his dad's townhouse was and stopped. The parking space next to his dad's red truck was occupied.
What. The. Hell.
Okay, Aubrey, it's cool. Don't freak out.
He pulled into a guest parking spot across from his dad's townhouse.
He took a deep breath and got out of his mom's Toyota Highlander. The air was thick and sticky. Even though it was October, Florida was still record breaking hot.
He tried to shut his mind down, but the closer he got to the patio gate, the more his mind spun with crazy scenarios.
The gate creaked a little as he opened it. His dad never locked it. He said there wasn't anything worth stealing on the patio.
He jingled the keys in his hand as he walked to the door. He wanted to run, he was a bit too desperate to see what was on the other side. Using the key his dad had given him, he unlocked the door with shaking hands. Shit. Chill out.
The house was dark, and it was bright outside. So that meant...
Aubrey glanced into the kitchen. The lights were off and the curtains shut. He looked into the living room. The curtains were mostly drawn shut and...he blinked.
His dad was passed out on the couch. And...
He stepped closer. A man was asleep on the floor. Pressed right up against the couch. Did that mean—?
Aubrey stepped a little closer. Had they been sleeping together on the couch? And the guy had...fallen off?
Aubrey didn't know what to do. He stood there, staring. He didn't recognize this man. He wracked his brain, trying to remember if his dad had a friend with blonde hair.
He darted his gaze around the room. There were empty bottles of hard liquor and a couple of glasses on the coffee table.
The guy on the floor moaned softly. Aubrey shifted his eyes back to the blonde man. He rolled slowly onto his back.
Aubrey didn't move. He really didn't know how to feel or what to think.
He wanted to believe this wasn't what it looked like.
He also wanted to yell at his dad and hit this strange guy.
The man squinted his eyes. "Where am I?"
Where am I? Aubrey scrunched his nose. What kind of question was that?
The guy rose to his elbows. He finally noticed Aubrey standing there.
Aubrey crossed his arms. "Who are you?"
His dad stirred on the couch. "The fuck?"
"Hey, Dad," Aubrey said.
"You're the kid," the guy said. He blinked a few times at Aubrey.
He wanted to roll his eyes. The kid? Great. It was nice to know he had been mentioned.
"Aubrey?" His dad's voice sounded like gravel.
"I came back early."
His dad struggled to a sitting position.
"I tried calling, but..." he glanced at the man on the floor. "You didn't answer."
His dad's hair was sticking up all over the place and his shirt was wrinkled. Aubrey quickly darted his eyes to his pants. They were still on, and buttoned. He probably shouldn't be so relieved about that, but he was. He shifted his gaze to the floor guy. Same. Pants still on.
"I didn't know you called."
He didn't want to accuse, and he didn't want to flip out like an asshole.
"Your friend didn't tell you?"
"Tell me?" His dad looked at the blond guy, who was still lounging on the floor. He looked just as bad as his dad did. "You mean Remy?"
Great. Now he knew the dude's name. Which was bound to happen, so get a grip.
Remy looked at his dad, then he looked at him. The dim lighting was getting on Aubrey's nerves. He went to push open the curtains.
"No," his dad muttered. "I don't think I can handle bright light right now."
Aubrey wanted to say he didn't care if Remy could handle light or not, this wasn't his house. He didn't belong here. He wasn't welcome here.
But Aubrey gritted his teeth and stepped back from the curtains. "Okay, fine. Would you like to tell me why you didn't answer your phone?"
"You're looking at it."
Aubrey looked around the room again. "Yeah, I guess I am." He looked at his dad. "Just how wasted did you get last night?" And why?
His cheeks puffed out as he exhaled. "I don't know exactly. But pretty wasted."
"Yeah, pretty wasted," Remy mumbled his agreement.
"I'll get you some aspirin." He turned.
"I already took some this morning." He pinched his brows together. "Is it still morning? Is it Saturday?"
Remy chuckled, then groaned. "Shit. I could use some aspirin."
Aubrey scrunched his nose. Was the guy waiting for him to get some?
Remy didn't even look at his dad or him, he just carefully, and unsteadily, got to his feet.
"It's above the kitchen sink," his dad said.
Remy gave a thumbs up as he shuffled to the kitchen.
Aubrey sat down next to his dad. "Who is he?"
"I told you, Remy." His dad put his elbows on his knees and rubbed his temples with his fingers.
"Yes, you told me his name." Aubrey swallowed. "But...what is he to you?"
His dad looked confused. "What is he to me?"
"Uh, a friend." His dad looked like he was thinking about it. "Friend—ish."
Aubrey scrunched his nose again. "What's that mean?"
His dad's mouth curved up on one side. "Did I tell you I love when you do that?" He patted Aubrey's nose with his forefinger.
"All the time."
His dad leaned forward and kissed his nose. Aubrey held his breath. What—? It'd happened so fast, and like it was a reflex. Did his dad not know how that affected him?
His dad grinned at him. His eyes were bleary and his face creased from sleeping on the couch.
Aubrey stared into those dark eyes. He could melt right into them and never come out, and he'd be fine. He'd not need anything for the rest of his life. He thought, maybe, that was what he was meant to do — get lost in his dad and never escape. He'd been given the exact shade of blue as the smudge in his dad's left eye. It connected them, and every time Aubrey saw it, he couldn't help but feel like it was a reminder that his dad was home.
His dad stared at him. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
Aubrey couldn't help the smile that broke out on his face. "I'm looking at home."
"Home?" His dad rasped.
He nodded. "Yes, Dad. Home." And Aubrey didn't care how much he had to say it, he'd never stop. Because he knew, without an ounce of doubt, that they were destined for each other.
Remy came back into the room before his dad could say anything.
The kitchen light had been turned on and in its reflection, Aubrey was able to see Remy better. He was good looking for a guy. He was taller than him, but shorter than his dad. He had broad-ish shoulders and slim hips. Damn, he looked like he went to the gym like his dad. Is that were they'd met?
Whatever this guy had, he had nothing compared to Aubrey. He was his dad's son and best friend. They'd always been close, and no one, not even a woman, had come between them. It'd always just been the two of them.
"Hey, I'm Remy," he said. He held out his hand as he walked towards Aubrey.
"Aubrey, his son."
"You look just like the picture he showed me of you."
Aubrey shifted his eyes to his dad. "What picture?"
His dad smoothed a hand over his face. "The one you texted me last night."
Okay. That was...weird. Since when did his dad show pictures of him to his friends? "Uh, okay." He scratched the back of his head. "I didn't know you were going to show it to anyone."
He shrugged. "It was kind of a spur of the moment thing." His gaze collided with Aubrey's and held.
Aubrey felt the air in the room shift; it became hot and heavy. The feeble lighting couldn't hide the love and lust in that dark gaze. Aubrey swallowed hard. He knew his eyes reflected the same intense stare. He was feeling so much.
Remy cleared his throat. "Um, thanks for letting me crash here last night."
His dad blinked and the moment was gone. "Sure," he croaked. He cleared his throat.
Christ, there was a lot of uncomfortable throat clearing happening this morning.
"You were in no condition to drive last night," his dad said.
Remy chuckled awkwardly. "Right." He shuffled from foot to foot.
Aubrey bit his lip and kept his eyes on the coffee table in front of him. He was literally in the middle of them. It was weird to have them talking to each other over his head.
"I should probably go," Remy finally said.
"Are you kidding?" His dad frowned. "You still aren't sober enough to drive. You'll probably kill someone."
Aubrey stood up. "I'm going to get my bag out of the car."
His dad rose to his feet too.
"I'm fine," Remy said. "It's the next day, I'm not still drunk from last night." He stepped back as Aubrey passed him.
"Hung over then, what the fuck ever." His dad followed him outside. "Jesus Christ, that's bright."
"You didn't have to come with me. It's just one bag."
"So what happened? Why are back early?" His dad walked beside him.
Aubrey inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. "Mom is going to be staying to help out her aunt. So, I convinced her to let me drive back to your house."
His dad stopped abruptly. He turned Aubrey to face him. "You drove back by yourself?"
Aubrey look into his eyes. "I did," he said quietly. "I wanted to see you." He licked his lips. "I missed you." He shifted his gaze away from those dark eyes.
His dad squeezed his shoulders. "I missed you too." He chuckled humorlessly. "I didn't know what the fuck to do with myself so I ended up going out with Travis and his girlfriend."
Aubrey looked back at his dad. "Is that how you met Remy?"
"I met him before, the first night Travis met his girlfriend. He's a friend of hers." He shrugged like it wasn't a big deal. "I don't really know him very well, but we both wanted to leave the bar. So we ended up back here." He nodded towards the house.
Aubrey stepped away from his dad's touch. "Okay. Is that why he answered your phone?”
“What?” His dad looked confused. “Answered my phone? Why the fuck would he do that? I didn’t give it to him.”
Aubrey nodded. “Okay, it was probably just a mistake or something.” He took a deep breath. “Were you planning on telling me you'd hooked up with a guy?" He wasn't angry, and he didn’t sound angry. He was hurt.
His dad's brows pinched together. "What?"
Aubrey went to the trunk. He heard his dad's footsteps behind him.
"Are you fucking serious right now?"
Aubrey opened the back of the SUV and pulled his bag out. "Dad, it's—"
"It's what? Okay? Is that what you were going to say?"
He closed the trunk and swung his bag over his shoulder.
His dad crossed his arms and glared at him. "That's really fucking disgusting that you'd assume I'd hook up with someone the moment you're out of the picture."
Aubrey lowered his head. "It's only..."
"Only what?" His dad stepped closer, so close his body brushed against Aubrey's. "Only normal?" He put his finger under Aubrey's chin and tilted it up until he had to look into his dad's eyes. They burned.
"You think I'd be able to be with anyone after tasting you?"
Aubrey felt heat sting his eyes. "Don't say that," he whispered. "Don't say that unless you mean it."
"I do fucking mean it!" His dad slid his fingers from his chin into Aubrey's hair. "I can't even look at a woman, and a man?" He shook his head. "That's never going to happen. I wasn't attracted to men before this, and I'm not attracted to them now."
"Stop it," he said quietly. "You can't say things like that." He stepped back. He inhaled and blinked several times, trying to get his emotions under control. His dad just stood there, his hair and clothes a mess and his eyes burning holes into Aubrey.
"I know, you're right. I'm sorry. I know I've fucked everything up." He rubbed his mouth with his hand. "I just..." he looked alway. "I want to do the right thing. But that doesn't mean I can..." he swallowed. "Move on."
Aubrey looked at him for a few seconds. He'd already realized his dad was his home, his forever, his always everything. When would his dad come to the same realization?
"Okay, Dad." He nodded. "How about we just head back inside." He was already sweating. Damn sun was brutal.
They headed back inside together.
"How long are you staying?"
"I'm not sure yet, but at least two weeks."
"Really?" His dad smiled. "It will nice to have you around that long."
Aubrey smiled back. Yeah, it would.