Public Display of Everything (15 page)

"Hey, I'm the last man on earth to defend Luke."

"Luke?"

"My uncle's name," I clarify. "Over the next two years, we grew close. He was the opposite of my mother."

"Oh." That surprises Flynn. "I presumed he was your father's brother. Sorry—" he shakes his head quickly "—I remember now you mentioned your mother's younger brother."

"Yeah, much younger." I watch absently as my hands move up Flynn's thighs. More memories come flooding back. Even when I returned to Chicago and Luke headed home to Boston, we stayed in touch. "We flew out to see each other as often as we could. He was…very easy to talk to. Actually, he mostly listened." That should've been my first clue. He kept it brief when he spoke about his fiancée, but not to the point where I became suspicious. Though, his son was another matter. "Only two things got him going; he could talk forever about his son and languages."

I smile a little at that, reminiscing. Dylan, Luke's son, has to be ten or eleven now.

"Did he study languages by any chance?" Flynn's mouth quirks up.

"That’s putting it mildly," I chuckle. "He has a master's in linguistics from Harvard."

"Yowza." Flynn pinches his bottom lip in thought and hums, but then his eyes flash to mine and he smirks. "Well, that’s interesting."

"What do you mean?"

He gives me a
come-on
look. "Your fixation on the Rosetta Stone."

Oh.
That
. "Yeah, uh…I may or may not have figured that out now, too." I rub the back of my neck, awkward as hell. "But in my defense, I've tried my best not to think about him since I left the States. I don’t
want
to think about him."

That shit still hurts. During those two years, he became my best friend, my brother, my fucking role model. I looked up to Luke, and he knew it too. He was incredibly smart, humble, and never hesitated to help me out whenever I needed it. I don’t remember the term—something about a secondary field—but Luke studied historical linguistics, which certainly came in handy when I took a class in ancient languages.

"What did he do to you, Cory?" Flynn's back to concerned. There's impatience, too.

I bet he's tired hearing about my past. I know I am.

"I confronted him." I sigh and scrub my hands down my face. "Once I graduated, I'd already decided to move to London, but I needed to work some more first. I figured Boston could be my pit stop that summer while I saved up." All the crap from my childhood was already there, 'cause Luke lived in a house while I had a handful of roommates in a too-small apartment. I wasn’t gonna pass up the offer of free storage. "Luke flew to Chicago to help me pack up the little I owned there, and the plan was for us to drive my car to Boston."

Flynn's expression tells me he assumes this didn’t happen.

Correct.

"Like I said, I confronted him." I look down, frowning. "We'd had a few beers, and I was curious as fuck. I told him what I saw that first night when I came to his place in DC." It makes me nauseous thinking about it. Whereas Ethan had punched me, Luke had been silent. I remember his sitting there in my ratty chair, just staring at the floor. "I mean, he knew I was gay, so the last thing I expected him to do was apologize. But that’s what he did." I'll never forget it. "He looked
ashamed
. Guilty. He said it was a moment of weakness, and it hadn't happened again. Flynn, he was making
excuses
. To me—a gay man."

As if that wasn’t enough, Luke had apologized for letting me see something so
vile
.

He actually used that word. Vile.

"He said he'd always despised his 'sick urges.'" I practically spit out the words. "And it got me thinking, you know? All the times I'd opened up to him, and he'd listened. He told me 'It's your life. You control it.' But what was he really thinking about me? So, I asked him that, and…" My stomach rolls, and I swallow against the nausea. "Let's just say he's not so different from Mom, after all."

For two years, I believed I had his support. He still visited with my parents every Christmas, but we never talked about it. Except for the time he made it clear he wasn’t fond of them. But all along…despite his own feelings…he shared their views.

"You felt betrayed," Flynn murmurs.

"I felt like a fucking idiot." I laugh, but it dies out quickly. "Whatever. I stayed in Chicago that summer and worked my ass off. Then I moved here. End of story."

Ironically, I met a guy after my first month in London. He wanted everything I'd fantasized about—a healthy, open relationship. But I wasn’t feeling him, nor was I ready. I ended things after two months and swore off all things romance.

Seven years down the road, I met Flynn.

When all I've ever wanted is within reach, the last thing I wanna think about is my past.

"Can we go to bed now?" I force my weary eyes to meet Flynn's gaze. "I want it to be tomorrow."

"Of course." He makes a move to get off my lap, then hesitates. "I just want you to know I admire your strength. You're very brave to go after what you want, even when the odds are against you."

My brows furrow as his words settle. I've never seen myself as brave, and I still don’t. After being let down and rejected, I've gotten thicker skin, but that’s about it.

"Come on." He stands up and extends his hand to me. "Let's call it a night."

 

Chapter 14

*

Cory,

I had a meeting in the city with a new client yesterday. It was only a few minutes away from Cooper's Row, so I simply had to visit after my appointment. Seeing those ruins brought me back to when you told me about Londinium. As you know, I prefer Ancient Greece myself, but you've always been an excellent storyteller. I can still remember the anecdotes you shared about Roman London and how you reeled me in.

My loss. I threw that away.

Hope you're well,

Luke

*

I wake up the next morning to the smell of coffee and chocolate.

No work today
.

Rolling over, I shift closer to Flynn, who I realize is sitting up against the headboard. "It's early. Go back to sleep," I mumble drowsily. In an attempt to drape an arm over his hips, I nearly knock over the laptop in his lap. "What the…?"

"Easy there, Klutz." Flynn chuckles and steadies his laptop. "And how can you possibly know what time it is?"

I groan and stretch, closing my eyes again. "
Feels
early." I nip at the sliver of skin between his T-shirt and boxers. "Why are you dressed? You should close the laptop and get naked with me." My morning wood agrees, already pressed against Flynn's leg.

"Don’t tempt me." He sounds horny now, too. "I'm waiting for Sarah to get online."

I'm no math genius, but if it's morning here, I'm pretty sure it's late in California. "What time is it?" I drag a hand over my face to rub the sleep from my eyes.

"It's four in the afternoon."

A silent
what the fuck?
falls from my lips as my eyes flash open in shock.

We went to bed
early
last night.

He brushes some hair from my forehead, a gentle smile on his face. "You needed it. Yesterday wasn’t easy for you."

I grunt, having no desire to comment on yesterday. "I'm gonna take a shower. I hope to find you naked when I get back."

Flynn grins and watches me as I get out of bed. "No breakfast first?" He points to a tray on the floor next to him.

Following his line of sight, I see the mugs with steaming coffee and the dessert we didn’t touch last night. "Is that chocolate cake?" He nods smugly. Fuck. But…it only changes my priorities a little. "Shower, breakfast,
then
sex."

I hear his laugh as I duck out of the room to take my shower.

*

When I return, I untie the towel from my hips and run it over my head. Then I get back under the covers and mirror Flynn's position, leaning back against the headboard. I trap my coffee mug between my legs, my stomach growling for cake instead. Unfortunately, Flynn's messaging with his friend, so I guess sex will have to wait.

"Dessert for breakfast—I fucking love being an adult." I shovel some cake into my mouth and peer over at Flynn's laptop. The photo Tammy took of us is now his little profile picture. "Will you help me with that Facebook shit later?" The design has changed since I last checked mine.

"Definitely." He sends me a quick smile before typing away something to that Sarah girl. "I tracked you down and sent a friend request."

"I suppose I can grant you that," I drawl.

He shoulder-checks me playfully.

With nothing else to do, I finish my cake quickly, then grab my tablet from the shelf above us. I still gotta fine-tune the details of my next Public Display plan. Flynn doesn’t want me to come off as
available
to others. After this, there will be no doubt in the matter.

Reluctant as I am to use the credit card Flynn has given to me for "household things or whatever you feel inclined to purchase," I swallow my pride when I find the perfect hotel. The important thing is to make it a memorable stay. A sexy-as-fuck stay.

I'll book the room later.

"Okay, I'm finished." Flynn closes his laptop. "I'll talk to Sarah again when she's done fawning over your picture."

I pull up a new window to hide the hotel search and raise a brow at Flynn.

He shakes his head and rests it on my shoulder. A second later, his hand moves down my abs, underneath the covers, and palms my junk.

"Go to Facebook," he instructs.

"Uh…" I give him an incredulous look, but he doesn’t see it. "Are you kidding me? Fuck Facebook. Let's continue what you're doing right now." I'm about to push away the covers when he stops me.

"No." He lets go of my slowly hardening dick and gestures to the tablet. "I apologize. It appears I have a little green monster inside me, and it reared its ugly head when Sarah wouldn’t stop talking about how hot you are." He huffs, to which I stifle a laugh. "I don’t know why I did that. I didn’t mean to tease you. Tammy's already added me on Facebook, and she told me to make sure you get online, too." He mutters something else about "Cory joining the digital age," which I know Tammy would say.

"Whatever." I'm definitely riled up now. I could've been having sex with Flynn, who's evidently feeling territorial at the moment, but instead I'm logging on to a site that I don’t give a shit about.

I gotta retrieve my password too, 'cause fuck if I remember the old one. And once that’s done, I log in and am met by a familiar sight. A blue header and a bunch of little red dots that won't go away.

"I don’t know what those are." I point.

Flynn sits up straighter and smiles patiently. "They're alerts. Friend requests, private messages, and regular notifications."

Speak English, goddammit. Before I can fire off a question, Flynn takes control and… "Did we just become friends?" I ask.

"Yes." He does some other shit and my profile page comes up. "Soon we will be in a relationship, too." Right. Because it's not real unless it's on Facebook. "Okay, done. Now you should check your messages."

I have no clue about who would contact me here. Most of these alerts seem to come from people I've worked with over the years. So what, they just hunt me down and
let's-be-friends
on Facebook?

Can't help but wonder what happened to meeting up in person. In the real world.

Clicking on my messages in the sidebar, a new page pops up and I blink in shock when I see one of the names.

Lukas Rowe
.

His name hits me with an invisible blast that slams into my brain and my ears start ringing.

"Is that…?" Flynn's voice trails off.

"I think, um—" I nod dumbly. Dread, hope, and disbelief…a combo that leaves me confused. But the cynical side of me soon jumps in. "You know what, it's probably old." I plaster a grin on my face.

It would make sense. After I asked Luke to leave that night, I removed myself completely from my old life. I rented a cheaper room, changed numbers, and registered a new email.

I forgot fucking Facebook.

But if Luke wanted to reach me—presumably shortly after we parted ways—this would be it. 

Flynn eyes me skeptically. "All fourteen of them?"

My head whips back to the screen, and just as I'm about to ask how the hell he knows how many there are, I see it below Luke's name. Fourteen unread messages.

"Do you want some privacy?" Flynn drops a kiss to my shoulder.

"No—" I clear my throat. "No." Fuck, no. I don’t have anything to hide from him. "Stay."

Taking a deep breath, I click on the PM and follow Flynn's instructions to scroll up toward the oldest one.

Cory,

I've tried calling you…

 

Chapter 15

*

Cory,

I merely logged in to check your activity, as I sometimes do, and I noticed the little "read" sign at the bottom of my PM thread, indicating that you've seen my messages. You've also changed your avatar, and you're in a relationship. You look very happy, for which I'm glad.

As you haven't replied, I assume you have nothing to say. I will stop bothering you. I'm incredibly sorry for hurting you.

I wish you well,

Luke

*

"Shit," I mumble, dropping the plate back into the sink. Dishwater splashes across my T-shirt, and I get suds in my eye.
Why is it always my fucking eye?
Grabbing the rag tossed over my shoulder, I wipe my face and shut off the faucet.

"You know we have a dishwasher." Flynn enters the kitchen. I look over at him as he sits down at the table with my tablet. "So…I'm going to take a wild guess. It's another
distraction
." The last word comes out with no small amount of irritation. I clench my jaw and stare down at the sink as he goes on, this time more indifferently. "Anything I can do for you? Name it. I pulled up the documentary you wanted to see on Netflix."

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