Chapter 1 – Teaser 3
“You know, I met you literally a quarter hour ago and I have no clue what you look like, but I can already picture that, Mr. Workaholic. But you’re deflecting. So you had a work disaster; I get how that’s a key event for you. But what did you do to Chris?”
Cam groaned, equal parts impressed and annoyed to be called out on his avoidance tactics. Then again, they weren’t something he usually used—he was a man who preferred the direct approach.
“That’s the timing thing I was referring to,” he told Riley. “See, the day the systems crashed . . . that was our fourth anniversary. I left Chris sleeping in the morning, and I got to work to find myself faced mid-afternoon with Crashmageddon with the pitch looming in less than twenty-four hours and no company computer systems to work with. The team ended up at someone from Graphics’ house, using her personal computer to recreate everything. It took us all night to put it all back together, and then we had the pitch at nine.
“I didn’t even remember what the date was until I turned my phone back on after the pitch to a series of increasingly livid messages from Chris—and naturally, I was horrified. So I thought I could take him to dinner that night as a belated celebration, and I could start making up for things by picking up lunch on the way home—obviously, we were all taking the rest of the day off. Now, I was running on coffee and fumes at the time. I stopped by Chris’s favorite bakery for sandwiches and muffins, and they had this new flavor they were trying out called ‘Toffee Delight.’ Chris loves toffee, so I just picked a few up without reading the small print or thinking to ask about the ingredients.”
Cameron stopped and gulped, the look on Chris’s face as he collapsed flashing through his mind again. It had been, beyond any doubt, the worst moment of his life.
“Oh God, I can see where this is going . . .” Riley sounded equal parts apprehensive and sympathetic, the latter of which just made Cam feel worse.
“Yeah,” he responded, voice choked. “Apparently the delight was that toffee goes brilliantly with nuts . . . to which Chris is really—and I mean really—allergic. Cue epi pen, ambulance, and a stay in the hospital. I don’t think I need to elaborate on what happened next.”
“Sorry? You stay out all night on our anniversary, without even letting me know, and then you come home and try to poison me, and all you can say is sorry? Well I’m sorry, Cam, but I’ve fucking had it with you! I am sick and tired—literally sick and tired!—of coming second to your work. I am fucking sick of having a closer relationship with your cell phone than you. Hell, it’s like a fucking ménage a trois, except it feels like I never get to see you because you’re too busy making love to your phone. I bet you’ve even named the damned thing. You should start a phone sex service, because you’re a complete fucking failure at face-to-face relationships. Now get the hell home and start packing my stuff, because I sure as fuck won’t be spending another night under your roof.”
“What? Please, Chris, calm down. I’m more than sorry; I’m distraught. What do you want me to say? I’m stupid, irresponsible, the worst boyfriend ever? Done. Just please think about this. We live together, for God’s sake—where are you going to go?”
“The worst boyfriend ever? Too damn right! I’m glad you realize that, but you’re seriously asking me to stay? After this? How little self-respect do you think I have?”
“Four years, Chris. I love you! Does that mean nothing?”
“You love me? You have a funny way of showing it, Cameron. What I’m looking for in life is a home, a family, a boyfriend who’s around when I need him . . . but at the end of the day, I’ll settle for one who doesn’t put me in the hospital. Now, do I have to ask again? I’m serious, Cameron. Get the hell away from me and pack my shit so I can leave, or you’ll really regret trying to add insult to injury.”
“And I’m serious too, Chris—I love you, and I’m worried about you. Where are you going to go?”
“I’ll find somewhere. Becca’s, or Colin’s, maybe even Mom’s. Yeah, Mom’s would be a good idea. No chance of running into you in Alaska. Now please leave.”
“I stayed and tried to fight for us,” Cameron said, his voice dreamy and far away before he sighed. “I mean, I know with hindsight it wasn’t the greatest relationship, but I honestly loved him, y’know? I thought walking away would’ve been the biggest mistake of my life. Forty freaking phone-sex calls later, I guess I was wrong.”
“You could say that. Or you could say that Chris’s done you a favor,” Riley suggested, and Cam’s answering frown was practically audible.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, this break-up’s pretty recent, right?” Riley hazarded. “That’s how you’re making it sound, anyway. And how long does it take to get a phone-sex ad out in a major gay men’s magazine? Like, one, two months? Maybe three, tops. And I’m not a psychology graduate, but I honestly don’t think turning your ex’s cell into a phone sex line is the kind of thing you do way after the break up, when you’ve had time to calm down. It seems like an immediately-after, heat-of-the-moment kind of thing.”
“Yeah, that makes sense . . .” Cameron agreed. “And you’re right; it was about two and a half months ago. Our anniversary was May second.”
“There you go then. And I believe you when you say you loved him; four years doesn’t happen without love or a lot of money involved—and because I’m a hopeless romantic, I’d prefer to think love. So yeah—love doesn’t disappear in two and a half months after a four-year relationship, but I bet you love Chris a lot less now than you did forty phone calls ago. Gotta make it easier to get over him, right?”
There was a pause, as if Cameron was turning the suggestion over in his mind, and then a reluctant chuckle drifted down the line.
“That actually makes sense, and you’re right. Two months ago I wanted to scream and cry because of the break-up; I still feel like doing those things, but for an entirely different reason now. Fuck it if I’m writing him a thank-you note though.”
Riley laughed. “I don’t think that’s necessary. Just let go of the pain and you’ll be fine. I guess you’re planning to change your number?”
“However did you guess?”
“It might have had something to do with your obvious aversion to phone sex.”
“Oh, I’m not averse to phone sex—just not with strangers. It’s a relationship thing.”
Riley wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that, given how this conversation had started, but before he could find a neutral answer, Cameron spoke again, sounding almost nervous.
“Hey, I was wondering . . . when I change my number, can I keep yours and maybe call you again? I’ve actually enjoyed talking to you.”
Warmth spread slowly through Riley, and he couldn’t help but smile. “I’ve enjoyed it too,” he responded honestly. “So yeah, that would be okay. I’d like that.”
He could hear Cameron’s answering smile when he replied.
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