It was four in the morning, and Nick was falling down drunk. After watching him stumble around for awhile with another drink sloshing in his hand, I decided if I didn’t do something soon, he’d probably end up toppling right off the stage and ruin the rest of the cruise for us both, so I went over to him and ducked under his arm, draping it around my shoulders for support. It hung there like a large snake, limp and heavy, weighing me down. “How can I be half your weight and still drink you under the table, huh, Nicky?” I teased him.
Nick smiled and shook his head, his whole body swaying along with it. “’Cause you ain’t human, Howie,” he slurred. “You’re a motherfuckin’ machine.”
I slipped my arm around his waist to hold him steady. “Well, I think it’s about time for this mothereffin’ machine to recharge his batteries. Whaddya say we call it a night?”
“Whaaaaat? But we can’t go to bed now; we still got a whole bunch of beautiful honeys who wanna party wit’ us! Ain’t that right, ladies?” Nick said into the microphone, gesturing vaguely toward the small cluster of girls who had gathered at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for us to come down from the stage. They all shrieked their approval.
I snatched the mic away from Nick. “Don’t encourage him, ladies.” I winked at the girls, earning more squeals of laughter. What a weird job we have, I thought, looking out across the lido deck of the Carnival Imagination. We’re getting paid to party with a bunch of girls. I still couldn’t believe so many people would pay so much money to be on a boat with us, the Backstreet Boys, but our twentieth anniversary cruise had sold out completely. Just a couple of hours ago, the ship had been swarming with a sea of fans, dressed up in costumes for our Halloween deck party that night. The guys and I had gone as The Village People, with Nick as the construction worker, AJ as the biker, Kevin as the cowboy, Brian as the cop, and me as the Indian.
The deck had cleared considerably in the last hour, the crowd thinning as many of the fans drifted off to their cabins to catch a few hours of sleep. They’re the smart ones, I thought. In the morning, they’d all be lined up outside the Xanadu Lounge to take pictures with the five of us. Nick and I were going to be dragging. The rest of the guys had gone back to their cabins a long time ago, but not us! It had become kind of a competition between Nicky and me, to see who could stay out the longest. I always won. Not to brag, but even though I’m six or seven years older and at least thirty pounds lighter, I can outdrink Nick any day. The guy’s a sloppy drunk; he never could hold his liquor. He may have the reputation for being a party guy, but that’s only because I prefer to fly under the radar. That’s me… Stealth D.
“You know, next year, we should do the photos the first day, not the last one,” I told Nick, pulling him away from the microphone. “Whose bright idea was it to schedule our earliest event on the last day, when we’re going on next-to-no sleep and nursing a three-day hangover? You realize we gotta be up and ready to take pictures with all these girls in, like, six hours?”
Nick pulled his phone out of his pocket and squinted at it for a few seconds before he put it back. “Seven,” he said. “We gotta be up in seven hours.”
“No, the first photo session starts in seven hours. We need to be up in six so we have time to eat breakfast and get ready first,” I corrected him.
Nick snorted loudly, sending a fleck of snot shooting into the side of my face. I don’t know why I put up with him, since he does that sort of sick stuff to me all the time. “Speak for yourself, dude,” he said, as I wiped off my cheek on his shoulder. “Not all of us need a whole fuckin’ hour to do our hair.”
“Yeah, well, some of us actually like to look presentable in our pictures with fans – you know, the pictures they’re going to frame and show off to their family and friends and post all over the internet? Some of us would rather not roll out of bed and go straight to the photo session wearing the same see-through white t-shirt and jizz-stained red sweatpants we’ve slept in for three straight nights.”
Nick doubled over, laughing like a hyena. The hard hat slipped off his head and crashed onto the stage, but if he noticed, he didn’t seem to care. “Hey,” he said, slamming into my side. “For the record, that was toothpaste – NOT jizz – and I do not sleep in those clothes. You wanna know what I sleep in, Howie?” He shoved his face up close to mine, so close our foreheads were almost touching, and waggled his eyebrows.
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t want to know, but sadly, I already do.”
“Nothing! That’s right; I sleep naked!” Nick announced, breathing in my face. His hot breath reeked of booze. I shoved him away, but not before the mental image of him sleeping in the nude invaded my mind. I tried to stop myself, but when my hand caught him in the chest and I felt his firm pecs flex underneath my palm, I couldn’t help but imagine what he would look like lying in my bed. I could picture him there, stretched out on his back with his arms folded behind his head, a thin sheet draped across his bare torso, a treasure trail of wispy blonde hair disappearing underneath…
I shook my head, forcing the image out of it, and shuddered at the thought of how Nick would react if he knew. It wasn’t like I’d never seen him naked before – I mean, we do change clothes in pretty close proximity backstage during shows, and he does like to go commando, if you know what I mean… but to Nick, that was no different than teammates changing in a locker room. To me, it meant something more.
I tried to tell myself it was wrong to feel that way. Nick was like my little brother! But somewhere along the way, my feelings for him had changed.
I guess it happened when he changed.
I’ve known Nick for over twenty years now. I got to watch him grow up, going from the goofy little kid he was when I met him, to the gangly teenager he’d become by the time we hit it big, to an overgrown child in an adult’s body that had been punished by years of partying too hard. He’d been a hot mess for most of his twenties, but in the last five years, Nick had turned his life around and undergone a total transformation. I couldn’t help but look at him in awe – sloppy drunk, yet, somehow, still sexy in his denim construction worker costume. Take it from me: a pair of tight-fitting jeans can make any guy look good, but Nick, with the defined contours of his chest visible through the thin cotton of his white t-shirt, was simply stunning.
It wasn’t just the physical change that had attracted me, though. Sure, Nick’s ripped new body was nice to look at, but what struck me even more was his newfound emotional maturity. These days, he was confident in a way that wasn’t cocky… still silly, but capable of being serious, too, especially when it came to the music business. It was like he had finally caught up to me, like the six or so years that separated us in age had shrunk down to nothing. We weren’t just like brothers anymore, but best friends, two people who were actually able to relate to one another without just ripping on each other all the time. With AJ working on his sobriety, Brian wrapped up with his family, and Kevin out of the picture for the past few years, Nick and I had gotten a lot closer, bonding in a way we never had before. We even hung out outside of the band and did stuff together during our breaks, something we never would have done back in the day. So it was no surprise that we were the last two left standing at the deck party, long after the other three had gone to bed.
“I dare you to say that into the mic,” I teased Nick, trying to play it casual and hoping my thoughts hadn’t betrayed me.
Nick made a face, poking the tip of his tongue out between his teeth. I loved when he did that; it always made me wonder what it would be like to have his tongue in my mouth. “Nice try, but I ain’t that drunk. If I do that, it’ll start a riot, and you’ll run off and leave me to get my clothes ripped off by a pack of rabid girls.” He flung his free arm toward the fans who were waiting by the stairs, watching us like hungry sharks.
I chuckled. “Hey, you did say you like to sleep naked – I’m sure they’d love to help you get undressed.” And so would I, I added in my head, hoping I wasn’t drunk enough to say so out loud. I wasn’t as wasted as Nick, but I did have quite the buzz going myself, and if he didn’t hurry up, I was going to have to get my bodyguard to take me to the bathroom – again – at which point half the herd of fans below would follow me and wait outside the door for me to come out. I would rather just go back to my cabin and take care of business on my own. “Listen, I’m serious about turning in,” I said to Nick. “You can stay if you want and brave the herd on your own, but I’m heading to bed.”
Nick’s shoulders slumped. “Nah, it’s no fun without you, Howie,” he said, laying his head on my shoulder, and even though I knew he was just drunk, I have to admit, I enjoyed it. I knew he wouldn’t want to stay out there by himself; he never did, and that’s part of the reason I rarely lost our little bets about who could last the longest.
Patting him on the head, I said, “C’mon, Nicky, let’s get you back to your cabin.” I gave our bodyguards a nod, and they both clomped up to the stage to collect us, keeping the fans from swarming us as we staggered down the stairs. Nick leaned heavily on me as we left the lido deck and headed back down to our own.
After two days at sea, I wasn’t aware of the rocking of the ship until we were in the stairwell. Then it suddenly felt like we were in a funhouse, with the floor tilting underneath our feet and the stairs seeming to slant. I clung to the banister with one hand and held onto Nick with the other, dragging him down the three flights of stairs. Our bodyguards escorted us to the end of our hallway, where two more members of our security team stood guard, blocking a small group of fans from seeing where we slept.
“Goodnight, girls. We’ll see you in the morning!” I told the fans, trying to be polite, as our security hurried us past them. “Thanks, guys,” I added, once we’d rounded the corner and were safely out of their line of sight. “We can take it from here. I’ll make sure Nicky here gets back to his cabin.”
“Thanks, Howie,” Nick slurred, nuzzling his head into my neck. I rolled his eyes, secretly enjoying its warm weight as I inhaled the scent of his hair.
The bodyguards exchanged glances and chuckled. “You sure?”
“Yeah… we’re good. Goodnight!”
We went in opposite directions, heading off to our respective rooms. Nick and I walked arm in arm up the hall to Nick’s cabin, weaving a little as the ship swayed. “You got your card?” I asked, and Nick clumsily patted his pockets until he found his room key. “Give it to me.” I slid it into the lock, opened Nick’s door for him, and held it as he staggered into his stateroom. He headed straight for his bed and flopped down onto it.
“Oh man, Howie,” he groaned, rolling over onto his back. “I am so wasted right now, aren’t I? Everything’s all spinny.”
“Well, we are at sea,” I pointed out, “but, yeah, you’re pretty drunk.”
Nick looked up at the ceiling and laughed. “That was a fun deck party, though, right?”
“Yeah, it was a good one,” I agreed, squirming a little as my bladder threatened to burst. “Hey, can I use your toilet? I seriously need to pee.”
“Whatever, man, just s’long as you don’t piss on my floor,” Nick mumbled, and I hurried into the bathroom to relieve myself. Through the closed door, I could still hear Nick rambling. “Y’know what the best deck party was? That pajama party last year. That was dope, yo. Wish I’d brought my Ninja Turtle PJs this time… they were a helluva lot comfier than all this denim shit. Ugh, get me outta these fuckin’ clothes!”
Smiling at the memory of Nick prancing around the ship in green footie pajamas, I finished my business and flushed the toilet. I ran my hands quickly under the faucet before I came out of the bathroom. Seeing that Nick had made no move to start getting himself ready for bed, I dutifully sank down and slid the heavy work boots off his feet. I tugged his socks off, too, and tossed them aside. “There ya go, buddy,” I said, patting his leg. “You’re on your own for the rest.”
I was about ready to head back to my own room, figuring Nick would either finish undressing himself or sleep in his costume, but as I stood up to leave, the ship suddenly lurched. I lost my balance and fell forward onto the bed, landing – no lie – on top of Nick. He let out a loud “oomph!” and then looked up at me and laughed. “Well, hi there, Howie!”
My breath caught in my throat as I found myself face to face with him, looking right into his eyes. They were slightly bloodshot, but the tinge of red around his irises made them look even bluer. I released my breath shakily and said, “Hey, Nicky.” I knew I should pull myself off of him and go back to my cabin before I lost control, but those blue eyes of his were like tractor beams, drawing me in to their depths. Before I could stop myself, I bowed my head and kissed him lightly on the forehead.
Of course, I expected him to recoil, so it came as a total shock when Nick simply closed his eyes, like he was giving me silent permission or something. So I kissed his cheek. And when he still didn’t push me away, I lowered my lips onto his and kissed him full on the mouth.
It was then that his eyes flew open. He blinked several times, giving me this bewildered look with his brow all furrowed. “Dude… what’re you doing?”
My feathered headdress fell to the floor as I scrambled off of him, knowing I had really screwed things up. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, feeling my face heat up with embarrassment.
Nick just squinted at me for a few more seconds, then shut his eyes again. “’S’okay,” he murmured, a smile spreading across his face. “Feels good, dude… You don’t gotta stop…”
My eyes widened, as I stared down at him surprise. My heart was hammering hard. Had he really said what I thought he’d just said? “Seriously?”
Nick just moaned something unintelligible in response. He was drunk out of his mind, and I knew I shouldn’t take advantage of that, but sweet jesus, I had been fantasizing about this moment for so long. Cautiously, I crawled back across the bed and lay down next to Nick. My fingers trembled as I reached out to touch the side of his face. I waited to see if he would pull away, but when he didn’t, I leaned in for another kiss.
Nick licked his lips and rubbed them together. “Your lips taste like hot sauce.” He laughed to himself. “Taco-flavored kisses…” he sang that stupid song from South Park in a high-pitched voice with a bad Puerto Rican accent.
Even when he was making fun of me, I found him irresistible. I captured his mouth with mine, mid-song, and slipped my tongue inside. This must have caught Nick by surprise, because his teeth suddenly clamped down on my tongue. “Ow!” I cried, jerking away. “What the fuck was that for? You bit me!”
“Oops,” Nick giggled, gazing up at me through glassy eyes. “My bad…”
I swished my tongue around in my mouth, tasting blood. “Maybe I should go back to my room now,” I said, frowning at Nick. I started to get up, but Nick’s hand shot out and caught my arm.
“No, you don’t have to go,” he mumbled, his eyelids already drooping again. “Stay…”
I couldn’t begin to understand what was going on inside his head or how much of this he was really aware of, but if Nick said to stay, I was going to stay. He patted the bedspread beside him, so I removed my leather vest and lay back down. His eyes were closed. Tentatively, I tilted my chin and touched my lips to his cheek to see if he was still awake. He didn’t say anything, but I felt his warm, soft skin pull tight as his mouth stretched into a smile. He actually seemed to be enjoying this.
Encouraged, I planted a row of kisses along his chiseled jawline, letting the coarse, blonde stubble of his beard brush against my lips. I finally made my way back to his mouth, and this time, he was ready for me. I could feel his tongue hesitate as I caressed it with my own, but then he returned the gesture, and our tongues tangled together as I deepened the kiss. Nick sighed when we pulled apart, smacking his lips together. I was breathing hard, my heart racing with anticipation. How far would he let me go?
I reached down and slid my hand slowly under the hem of his t-shirt until I felt my fingers touch his warm, soft skin. Nick giggled and squirmed, ticklish, but he didn’t try to push me away, so I lifted the t-shirt, sliding it up and over his head. The denim vest slipped off his shoulders as he shook his arms free of the confines of the material. I picked up where I had left off, making him writhe with pleasure as my lips nuzzled his neck. Then I continued kissing him all the way down to his collarbone, lingering over the lump of his adam’s apple, which bobbed up and down in his throat as he swallowed. Shivers ran down my spine as I felt his hands roaming over my back, his fingers crawling through my hair.
I scooted further toward the foot of the bed, slowly unbuckling Nick’s utility belt as I continued working my way down his body. I left a trail of kisses to mark my progress, my lips brushing every inch of bare flesh above the waistband of his jeans. I could feel the heat of the Caribbean sun baked into his tanned torso and taste the brine on his skin, a salty blend of seawater and sweat. He apparently hadn’t bothered to shower after we got back from the beach party that afternoon, but I didn’t mind his musky scent. It was so… Nick. I inhaled deeply, breathing him in. I used the tip of my tongue to trace the faint outline of one of the two footprints he’d once had tattooed on his chest, barely visible now, but still there. Then I turned my cheek and let my head rest between them in the center of his chest, listening to the sound of his heart beating in my ear. My head bobbed slowly up and down as his chest rose and fell, falling into rhythm with the rocking of the ship over the rolling waves. I tried to make my breathing match his, but while Nick was relaxed and on the verge of sleep, I was wide awake, my heart still racing.
Five years of repressed feelings had suddenly boiled to the surface, and I found I could no longer contain them. Lifting my head, I lowered my lips to his flattened stomach, forging a path of frantic kisses down the treasure trail I’d fantasized about earlier. I felt Nick’s abs tighten as I dipped my tongue into his naval. “Tickles,” he giggled and reached down, as if to swat me away. I grabbed his hands and guided them to the fly of his pants, waiting while his fingers fumbled with the button. Once he’d loosened the jeans, I helped him slide them down over his hipbones, revealing a tight-fitting pair of black boxer briefs.
“Wow, you’re actually wearing underwear today,” I observed, unable to take my eyes off his bulge. “Good for you.” I traced my fingers slowly across the elastic waistband of the shorts, wondering if I dared to slip them underneath.
“Heh… not so good for you,” muttered Nick. I could see him growing hard, the cotton-spandex material straining as it struggled to contain him. Without another moment’s hesitation, I took hold of the waistband and tugged the shorts down, unleashing his erection. I gasped, feeling myself harden in response.
For a few seconds, it was enough just to look at him, but eventually, temptation won me over, and I just had to touch. Nick groaned as I followed the treasure trail to its end, where pleasure awaited us both.
Hours later, I woke to the sound of knocking on the door. It was only once I opened my eyes that I realized it wasn’t my door, that I wasn’t in my room or my bed at all. I looked over and saw Nick sleeping beside me, looking a lot like I had imagined him last night, except his arms were crossed over his chest instead of behind his head.
Wow, I thought, my eyes widening as I became aware of what we had done. It wasn’t a dream!
Someone was still outside, knocking on the door. I sat up, letting the covers fall off me, and realized I was wearing nothing but the briefs I’d had on the night before. My brown leather pants and vest, beaded top, and Indian headdress were strewn across the floor, along with all of Nick’s clothes. Underneath the covers, he was completely nude. “Nick!” I hissed, poking him in the shoulder. “Wake up!”
Nick sighed and scrunched up his face, opening his eyes to mere slits. He squinted at me for a second, then groaned and shut his eyes again. “Lea’me ‘lone, Howie,” he mumbled, batting me away.
“Nick, there’s someone at the door.”
The pounding came again, more persistent this time. “Nick?” I heard the voice of his bodyguard, Mike, call from the hallway.
Nick’s eyes flew open all the way this time, and he sat up. As the sheet slid off his bare chest, he looked down at himself, then over at me again, his eyes widening with horror. “Dude! What the fuck?!”
My stomach dropped. I should have known that he wouldn’t remember, that he wasn’t fully aware of what had happened in the last six hours, and that he’d freak when he found out. But I still wasn’t prepared for his reaction.
“Howie, what the fuck?!” he cried, leaping out of bed. Then he looked down again and realized he was naked. “Oh god… oh god!” He ripped the sheet right off the bed and wrapped it around his waist to cover himself as he ran around the room, yanking on his red sweatpants and white Fruit of the Loom t-shirt in record time.
“Nick, you okay in there?” Mike asked, rapping on the door yet again.
“Fine! Coming!” Nick called. He looked back at me like a deer in headlights, his eyes desperate. “Hide!” he hissed.
I scrambled out of bed and ducked into his bathroom, pulling the door shut just as Nick opened the door to his cabin.
“Heh, morning, Mike,” I heard him say with a nervous laugh. “Sorry, musta overslept.”
Mike chuckled. “It’s all good, man; that’s why I came to wake you up early. You’re s’posed to get dressed and go eat brunch before the photo session starts in an hour.”
“Okay. Just gimme a few to get cleaned up.” Nick closed the door, and I came back out of the bathroom. My heart was pounding, not because we’d almost gotten caught, but because I was afraid of what Nick would say next. The look he gave me was one of pure loathing. “Listen,” he said in a low voice, glaring at me with eyes that were as hard and cold as two blue marbles. “I don’t know what the fuck you’re doing here or what the fuck happened last night, and I don’t wanna know. I just want you to wait ten more seconds, till Mike’s gone, and then get the fuck outta my room.”
“Nick… I’m sorry,” I whispered, but he wouldn’t say anything else to me. He stormed around the room, picking up articles of clothing and tossing them to me. I caught them as best I could, wincing as the headdress whipped across my face, one of the feathers poking me in the eye. I ducked as he hurled one of my shoes at my head. Hurriedly, I hopped into my pants and pulled on my top. I collected the rest of my costume in my arms and hightailed it out of his cabin, hustling back to my own before anyone saw me.
I dropped my pile of clothing just inside the door and headed straight to the shower, stripping off the rest along the way. I stood for a long time under the scalding spray of water, letting it steam up the small bathroom as I washed my body with soap, watching it foam up into white suds, and thought about how it had felt to touch Nick and feel him for the first time. The dirtier my thoughts grew, the more I tried to clean myself, until my skin was red and raw from being scrubbed so hard. Finally, when the hot water started to run out, I shut it off and stepped out of the shower. Wiping the sweat from the mirror, I leaned over the sink and stared at my reflection for a long time. My left eye looked a little puffy from where the feather had grazed it, but that eye always looked larger than the other one anyway, so I figured no one would notice. It didn’t hurt half as bad as the pain in my heart. Nick’s rejection stung worse than anything.
It serves you right, I told myself, as I got dressed for the photo session. You should have never let that happen. You’re married! And he’s engaged. To a woman.
I felt like even more of a slimeball when I realized I was more upset by Nick’s freakout than the fact that I had cheated on my wife. Again.
It wasn’t like I had ever expected Nick to reciprocate my feelings for him, when I was pretty sure he was straight, but even so, I couldn’t help but wonder: If he’s really straight, why did he seem to enjoy it so much?
I took my time getting ready so I could skip out on brunch. As a result, I didn’t see Nick again until it was time for the photo session. When I entered the Xanadu Lounge with my bodyguard Josh, Nick ignored me, carefully avoiding eye contact. When it was time to let the fans in, he positioned himself so that there was always at least one person in between us. If I was in the front, he stood in the back. If I was on one side, he made sure he was on the other.
I tried to forget him and focus on the fans, but it was hard to smile and make small talk when my heart was breaking and guilt was gnawing a hole through my stomach. Nick, on the other hand, masked his anger well. He laughed and flirted with the female fans, acting as if nothing was wrong. Only I knew otherwise.
After the second session, when he started to stalk off without a word to me, I reached out and touched his shoulder. He shook off my hand. “Don’t touch me!” he hissed, his eyes flashing with anger.
“We need to talk,” I said. “Please?”
I expected him to walk away, but after hesitating for a few seconds, he finally nodded. “Fine. Whatever. As long as it’s somewhere private.”
“Let’s go back to my cabin. Just to talk, I promise,” I added quickly, when I saw the look of panic cross his face.
Reluctantly, he nodded.
We told the others we were going back to our rooms for a nap, and knowing how late we’d stayed out the night before, they had no trouble buying the excuse. Nick and I walked back to our cabins without speaking to each other, though we joked around with Mike and Josh as usual. When they dropped us off in our hallway, we went to my room. I closed the door and sat down on the bed, patting a spot beside me, but of course, Nick was having none of that. He pulled out the desk chair and straddled it backwards, crossing his arms over the chair back. I squirmed under his death stare.
“Nick,” I started, “I am so sorry. I shouldn’t have done what I did last night. I know it’s no excuse, but I was drunk-” And horny, I thought, shifting my weight on the mattress. “-and just wasn’t thinking clearly. I’m sorry for putting you in an awkward position.”
He was quiet for a few seconds, studying me over the top of the chair. I held my breath, waiting for his reaction. Then, all of a sudden, he blurted, “But why? Why would you wanna do that with me? Are you gay?”
I felt myself deflate, as the breath I’d been holding rushed out of me. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to lie, the way I’d been lying to myself for years, but after what I’d done to him, I knew Nick deserved the truth. “I… I think so.”
Nick raised an eyebrow. “For real?”
Looking down at my lap, I nodded slowly. “Yeah.”
“Shit, dude…” Nick raked a hand through his hair. “I mean, we always kinda wondered… but then when you married Leigh, we thought, ‘Hey, he must be straight!’”
“I thought so, too,” I whispered, feeling my face get warm. “Or, at least, I wanted to be.”
“Damn.” Nick shook his head. He dropped his gaze and looked down at his arms. Just when I was wondering if he was trying to count each individual arm hair – which wouldn’t take long on Nick – he looked up again curiously. “So, like… how do you know you’re gay?”
I swallowed hard. “I didn’t. Not for sure. Not until…” My heart started to hammer as I remembered the night of my awakening. “Well, you remember when we were in London this past summer, and we performed at that gay club?”
I took a deep breath and told him the story. “I met a guy there that night. He was hitting on me at the bar, and I just… let it happen. I realized I didn’t mind it. I kinda liked it. He asked where we were staying, and I told him, and after we got back to the hotel, he came by, and we… we hooked up.”
Nick’s eyes widened. “You had sex with a guy?”
I closed my eyes, feeling ashamed. “It was just a one-night stand. I shouldn’t have let it happen; I shouldn’t have cheated on Leigh like that. But once I did… I knew. It just felt different. It felt… right.”
“Was that your first time fucking a guy?”
I nodded. “But I’ve… fantasized… over the years,” I admitted.
“About who? About me?”
I opened my eyes to see Nick recoil, a look of disgust on his face, and I actually laughed. “Don’t flatter yourself, Nicky. Not just you.”
He wrinkled his nose. “This is way too fuckin’ weird,” he groaned and buried his face in his arms.
I watched him carefully. “What’s the weirdest part?” I asked him. “What happened last night, or how you felt about what happened last night?”
Nick looked up suspiciously. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I mean, I know you were wasted, but… since I’m being honest here, you seemed to be enjoying yourself, too. Are you sure you’ve never had fantasies?”
I guess I should have known he wouldn’t take that well. “What the fuck?!” he cried, standing up so quickly that he knocked over his chair. “Are you kidding? I’m engaged, dude! To a girl!”
“A girl who’s as tall as you and twice as ripped. A girl who loves sports and video games,” I pointed out. “Lauren’s your buddy, Nick. I know you love her – and believe me, I love Leigh, too, I really do – but have you ever stopped to wonder why you’re attracted to her more than… I dunno, girlier girls?” I shrugged. “Just saying.”
“Fuck you, Howie!” Nick spat, walking toward the door. “Fuck you for even insinuating that! Look, if you wanna fuck up your own marriage, that’s fine with me, but don’t you dare fuckin’ mess with mine!”
“So you felt nothing last night?” I asked desperately. “No fireworks? Nothing?”
“Nothing!” he shouted. “Nothing except the goddamn booze fucking with my head. God, I can’t believe I let you suck my dick…” He shook his head like a wet dog, like he was trying to rid himself of the memories of that morning. I watched him with regret, wishing it had never happened myself. Suddenly, he turned, his eyes piercing me with another sharp stare. “You better never tell anyone about this,” he threatened. “Never. I mean it.”
I hated that he no longer seemed to trust me, but more than that, I hated myself for what I’d done to deserve that. I’d thrown the last five years of our friendship out the window, for what? For one night of passion?
I shook my head sadly. “Don’t worry, Nick. I won’t say a thing.”
He nodded, seeming to relax a little, though he kept his arms crossed tightly over his chest. Typical defensive body language. He was just trying to protect himself.
I sighed. “Can we… can we please just pretend this never happened? Chalk it up to too much alcohol and move on?”
Nick shrugged. For a few seconds, he just stood there, staring down at the floor as he awkwardly shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “I guess we’re gonna have to,” he answered finally.
But I knew then that nothing would be the same.
Is this the end… or only the beginning?
Find out in the sequel, Sick as My Secrets.