Public Display of Everything (3 page)

Flynn smiles and picks at his fries. "What did you major in?"

"History." Which my folks hated. They didn’t stop supporting me, but they made it clear they thought I should've aimed higher. Luke was the only one who was on my side, for obvious reasons, but it wasn’t enough. "Ancient history, to be precise."

"My brother would've liked you." Flynn wipes his hands on the napkin on his lap, then shrugs out of his button-down to reveal a simple T-shirt. "Grant lived for the past. He used to work at the British Museum, too. That’s how he met Amy. They were both research assistants back then."

I wouldn’t mind working at the British Museum. In fact, it'd be a dream job, but being born with two left feet is an indication that you shouldn't go near a place full of ancient relics.

Whenever I'm there, I keep my hands in my pockets, and I don’t go too close the displays.

"Lived?" I ask tentatively.

He nods but doesn’t look up from his lap. "He died two years ago. Car accident outside Newcastle."

"I'm sorry." I don’t know what else to say.

Flynn shrugs it off, though he doesn’t come off as casual about it one bit. "Short as it was, he lived his life without regrets. I try to focus on that."

"Admirable." I polish off the rest of my burger and eye a regular cheeseburger still in the bag, but I figure I've had enough for now. "So, how long have you been here?"

"Grant moved here when I was still in high school. I joined him right after graduation, so…almost five years. You?"

I hold up seven fingers, still chewing. Then I clarify. "Years, not months." I sip my Fanta. "My mom's English, so I have dual citizenship. I'd never lived here before now, but we visited a few times, usually during layovers. I think the first time we came here was after we'd left Korea. Or Japan." I furrow my brow, trying to remember, but I've lived in too many places to keep track of them all.

"Sounds exciting." Flynn's eyes brighten.

Little does he know.

He's not the first one to express envy over so much traveling, but it wasn’t my idea of a perfect childhood. "It had its ups and downs like everything else, I suppose." I smile tightly.

Had it been anyone else, the brush-off would've been harsher, but for some reason, I can't be rude to Flynn. Now that he's not so nervous, he's like a new person. The innocence lingers, but there's no more stammering and he's less awkward.

I had a friend like him when I lived in Germany. I was around thirteen or something; he was an Army brat, too. Same age. He was incredibly reserved and shy, but once he learned to trust me, his guard came down. He'd blurt out the funniest shit, stuff that most people wouldn’t dream of saying out loud, yet he'd think nothing of it.

"Do you not like French fries?" Flynn wonders, pointing to the fries on the nightstand.

"I do, but I'm full." I pat my stomach. "Thank you for dinner, by the way."

"My pleasure." He sips slowly from his shake, his ears reddening. His eyes seem to flicker from point to point in the room, too. Anywhere but at me.

Nervous again?

It grows quiet, and the last few days catch up with me, causing me to yawn. With nothing to do, I lie down on the bed and kick off my shoes. "How long do you have this room for?" It's far from a five-star hotel, but just as far away from a seedy motel. I doubt they have hourly rates, and it'd be nice to stay here tonight.

I'm looking forward to taking a long, hot shower. Maybe I can do some laundry, too. The facilities they have at my hostel are the worst, unless you prefer to wash your clothes in cold water.

"For the night."

I nod to myself, then tilt my face to look him in the eye. "Would you mind if I stayed here? You could just take it from the grand you're giving me later."

Flynn frowns. "You don’t want to go home?"

Oh, that’s right. "I'm, uh…in between places at the moment." I look up at the ceiling instead. Easier. "Besides, it's gonna be late before we're done here tonight." I should've started with that. It would've been a perfectly good—standalone—excuse as to why I don’t wanna go anywhere tonight.

"I see. Do you do drugs?"

"What the fuck?" I cough. I'm shocked; meanwhile, Flynn looks cool as a cucumber. "What kind of question is that? No, I don’t do any fucking drugs."

"I apologize."
Now
he looks flustered. "I didn’t m-mean to offend you. I have a room I don’t use—Well, I have two, but that’s beside the point. I'm really sorry, Cory. I was merely asking because-because it's customary to make sure a housemate won't rob you." I open my mouth to cut him off, but he's on a roll. "I wasn’t insinuating that you're an addict of any kind—"

"Hey!" I drag myself up into a sitting position again and reach over to put a hand on his knee. That shuts him up. It also makes his eyes grow large, and they focus on my hand. "Jesus Christ, Flynn." I let out a low laugh and shake my head. "You're too damn—"
Sweet
. No, too much. "—nice," I settle for. "But it's not necessary. Okay?" I back away slowly. "There's always someone waiting to scam a poor schmuck with a room full of mildew and bedbugs." I grin to show I'm kidding, even though I've certainly experienced both. "I'm a big boy. Something will turn up. It always does."

"Bed—" Flynn wheezes a breath, horrified. "
Bedbugs
, Cory? And mildew can cause asthma. Tell me you are exaggerating."

I smile and shrug. The kid has obviously never had empty pockets.

"Simply atrocious." He massages his temples. "Would you please consider moving into my guest room?" He looks at me as if he's afraid a big bedbug is gonna eat me alive. "You can even pay rent if you like! You said it yourself, something will turn up. 'It always does,' you also said." He uses air quotes again. Fucking cute. "As you can see, this is an opportunity that has
turned up
."

My shoulders are shaking with silent laughter, but I can't help it. Maybe I've been down in the dumps—more than I already knew—because Flynn Wright is like a breath of fresh air. Or perhaps he's just that refreshing on his own, regardless of my state.

"Well?" he demands. "Do you have anything to say for yourself?"

I show my palms, down to chuckles. "Slow your roll, Flynn. We only just met—"

His face falls. "I thought we were friends."

"We are!" I hurry to reassure him, despite the fact I had no idea we were already considering ourselves friends. But hey, you can't have too many of those, and I could always use another. "We're
new
friends. Definitely. Yeah." I rub the back of my neck. "We just…don’t know each other that well?" I don’t know why I phrased that as a question.

He purses his lips and cocks his head. "Would you get to know a stranger who's renting out a room before accepting an offer?"

"I—" Um.

I can't really argue with that logic. Of course I wouldn’t get to know someone who was looking for a roommate. But it feels very different with Flynn.

I usually don’t have roommates I'm attracted to.

"Can you think of any reasons why you think I should live with you?" I ask cautiously.

Flynn is an incredibly nice guy; I'd be lucky to rent a room from him. But…if I don’t keep my distance, he'll see all my bad sides.

I'm no slacker, but at thirty, I don’t have much to show for myself.

"There's a plethora of reasons." Flynn folds his arms across his chest. "Will you at least think about it?"

"I'll probably do more than think about it," I reply honestly. After all, it's not like I have any options. "We can talk about it later, all right?"

He nods, his green eyes alight with triumph.

I haven't said yes yet, kid
.

Though, who am I kidding? I can't afford pride.

"We still have another hour." He taps his watch. "We could fill in my profile."

"Sure." Thinking about
another hour
makes my stomach flip. One hour. In one hour, I will remove my clothes and jerk off in front of that large window over there. The shade will be rolled down to hide my face, but the rest of me will be on full display.

Feigning comfort, I lean back against the headboard and lace my fingers together over my stomach. In the meantime, Flynn retrieves a laptop and powers it up.

"Was it okay that I stay here tonight?" I ask, remembering I never got the answer before. I could crash now and sleep for ten hours; that’s how tired I am.

"Certainly!" He shoots me a quick smile before refocusing on his laptop. "Is it okay if I stay here, too? That way, I don’t have to take the train back home. It's not as safe at night, not to mention it'd be a fairly long ride."

I grin lazily. "I'm not gonna kick you out of your own room, kid. Of course you should stay."

"Great." This time, his smile is stiffer. He doesn’t say anything, though. Not for several minutes while he taps away on the keys. But eventually, he speaks up, softer now. "I'm not a kid, you know." He doesn’t look at me, nor does he stop typing.

Shit. I never thought he'd be offended. "I'm sorry." Fuck, now I feel bad. "I hope you know it's not an insult. Tammy—the bartender?" He nods with a dip of his chin. "Yeah, we call everyone who looks younger than twenty-five kid. It's more a joke than anything. It's even been my own nickname in the past." Though, it wasn’t Tammy who called me that. 

"Okay." His shoulders appear less rigid now, so I guess he gets it. Still, I'll make sure not to call him that anymore. "I already have my eye color and hair color here, but as no one will see your face, I don’t think it will make a difference." Smooth change of topic. "How tall are you?"

"Six foot one." I study him, hoping like hell he's not hurt. Despite his rather different job, he's given me the opportunity to make some money. Of course, there's also the offer of renting his guest room,
and
he brought dinner.

I gotta make it up to him—show him I'm grateful.

"I can list my own birthday, too," he mumbles. "Hmm. Year. How old are you?"

"Turned thirty this May."

He types some more. "You're only eight years older. Then I'm definitely not a kid." He glances over at me with a small grin.
Teasing. Testing the waters
.

Relief washes over me. He's okay. "You're right." I smile.

He nods, and that’s that. "I think I will change my sexual orientation info to blank," he says pensively. "More mysterious."

Doesn’t fucking matter to me. I already know he's straight. "What made you start Public Display of More?"

I gotta admit, I'm curious. It doesn’t really add up to me; he's this sweet, kinda shy guy, but then he runs a site like that…?

Flynn considers it for a moment or two. "I did a paper on human behavior my senior year in high school, and I stumbled on to exhibitionism. After the paper was handed in, I read more about it. It reeled me in." He pauses, looking down. "I've never had many friends, and I'm sort of alone here in London. It's just Amy really, and we don’t see each other that often anymore." A pang of sadness hits me at that, and I wonder why he didn’t move back to Seattle after his brother passed. "But I do enjoy people watching. It's a fascinating distraction, and it's a hobby that doesn’t require friends." What a terrible fucking reason to devote time to a hobby. "So as you can see, voyeurism wasn’t sexual for me in the beginning."

But it became sexual later?

"Gotcha." I clear my throat and shift on the bed. Truth be told, with each word Flynn speaks, I get more and more intrigued. Not necessarily by voyeurism, but by
him
. Just during the hour or so I've been in this hotel room, I've spent most of that time watching Flynn. But I wish his reasons for enjoying voyeurism were different. There's an air of loneliness around him that affects me more than I thought possible.

I like his expressions. His honesty shows with every movement. If he's nervous, it shows. If he's happy, it shows. If he's thinking hard about something, I can tell.

"So, that made you start the website," I guess.

"I saw a demand for it." He shrugs a little, as if it's
that
simple. For him, possibly. For me, not so much. "I've always been good at programming and building software. Building a website was nothing." His eyes light up. "In my spare time, I create apps. I'll show you one day."

That right there. The pure enthusiasm. He's fucking sweet.

 

Chapter 3

*

Cory,

I'm probably speaking to a proverbial brick wall, but I don’t care. I'm so incredibly sorry. Do you not see my messages? Or are you ignoring them? I understand if it's the latter. Again, I'm very sorry.

Selfishly, I wish you were here now. Jennifer's pregnant.

Hope you're well,

Luke

*

Stepping out of the shower, I tie a towel around my hips. I run a smaller towel over my head and walk over to the sink. There's no real reason to brush my teeth, but I'm stalling. With my toothbrush in my mouth, I open the door a couple feet to let out some of the steam. The chill from the room hits my chest, making me wanna close the door again, but considering Flynn's gonna stay in here while I entertain this little corner of the world, I figure it's best to let in some fresh air.

"I know I said I wouldn’t peek outside, but this is too good not to," Flynn says from the room. "My online persona is flattered by the volume of members in the parking lot. They're very discreet, though."

I snort quietly at the mirror, still brushing my teeth. A rock of self-consciousness has settled in my gut, and I can't help but wonder if Flynn's expectations are too high. Tammy jokes around about the goddamn modeling, but I hardly have the body for that anymore. That would take grooming. My abs aren't as cut as they used to be, only visible when I tense up. Models don’t have hair on their chests either, do they? I don’t have a lot, a dusting of it, but I don’t look polished.

I am who I am; I haven't changed a single thing about myself for anyone. Even if I could afford it, I wouldn’t. Nevertheless, I can't help but want Flynn to at least be impressed.

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