Chapter One: The Crush Revealed aka West fights with Devin
"Are you ever going to tell him?"
West turned his head at the question from the long limbed boy beside him, arched a brow. "Tell who what?"
Joe McKinley – a.k.a. West's best friend – frowned. "Don't be deliberately obtuse."
West just grinned. "I'm being deliberately obtuse?"
"Yes," Joe ground out. "And you're pissing me off."
"West!" Joe jerked upright, glared at the boy lounging beside him.
West looked up at him, at the silhouette created by the sun, and his grin widened. "What?"
"God." Joe flopped back down again and, reaching out, punched his friend on the shoulder. "You know exactly which buttons to push, and you take full fucking advantage."
"It's the perks of knowing you best," West said in a smug voice, putting his arms behind his head and, with a roll of his shoulders, relaxing his body completely.
"Yeah, yeah. Well, here's my perk of knowing you best; bugging you to ask Devin out."
West, who'd closed his eyes, now opened one a crack to peer at Joe. "And why would I want to ask Devin out?"
"Because you've liked him since we were thirteen. Because that like has now evolved into the hots for him. And because you just lying here checking him out is driving me bonkers."
Damn. Sometimes, Joe still managed to surprise him with his outspoken attitude. West closed his eyes again, turned his head to the sun's rays. "I was not checking him out."
"Sure you weren't."
"Don't say that in that tone of voice."
"What tone of voice?"
"Hah." Satisfied, Joe sat up, swung his legs down so he was facing West. "Not so nice when you're one on the receiving end, is it?"
"Shut up," West ground. "And there's no way in flaming hell I'm asking my sister's best friend out. One; he's my sister's best friend and, therefore, off limits."
"Where in the rule books does it say that?"
"Shut up. Two; I'm not even sure he's gay."
"So the rumours of him doing the tonsil tango with Greg Summers just went over your head?"
"And three; the guy hates my guts."
Joe paused. "Damn. Can't find anything to argue that."
"Ha," West said in the sour voice. And, because he was now too tense to fully relax, he sat up, drew his knees up to put his elbows on them. He watched the boy in question cannon ball into the pool.
They were at Joe's house, in the backyard. West had invited himself over to take advantage of the pool; Joe had invited West's sister, Iris. And everyone knew where ever Iris Graham went, Devin Todd was sure to turn up, ergo why Devin was currently swimming to the edge of the pool, where Iris sat, legs dangling into the water, with sure strong strokes. West found it funny Joe got along with Iris better than West did. But maybe it was a twin thing. As far as his experience went, twins usually had two relationships; the freaky close one where they knew each other's thoughts, or the one where they were so different, they just couldn't click. Obviously, he and Iris had the latter relationship.
Feeling broody now, and restless, which he just hated, West shoved his fingers through his hair, squinted at Joe. "Why do you do this to me, Joe? We've had this argument how many times?"
"I lost count after the thirtieth one."
"So what's the point of rehashing old ground?"
Joe shrugged. "'Cause maybe it'll open his eyes if you ask him out."
West's answer was a sour snort. "Yeah. And maybe you'll sprout pink wings." He lurched to his feet. "God, I need a drink."
"Dad keeps the beer in the fridge in his study."
"I know that. And I don't mean that kind of drink."
He disappeared into the cool house.
Devin watched him go, then turned to look at Iris. "What's the point of coming to a house with a pool if all he does is lounge there? I get Joe; he lives here, it's his pool, he's used to it. But your brother…" Devin waved a hand aimlessly, shook his head.
Iris rolled her eyes and dropped her head back. "We might have been born on the same day, but he might as well live on Mars. That boy's pretty much a stranger to me; you know that Dev."
Devin shrugged. "Yeah, I know. It's just that he irritates me."
"That I don't get. I mean, I know West is irritating. Hell, I live with him. But you don't usually get irritated easily."
"I don't know." Devin frowned, hunched his shoulders. "Something about him just…pisses me off."
"Now that I get." With a grin, Iris turned. The gleam in her eye had him shuffling away.
With a laugh, her hands shot out, shoving him into the pool. He twisted as he fell, grabbed her wrist, and, with a squeal, they hit the water together. West, emerging from the house with a glass of ice water in his hands, watched them, his free hand tucked into the front pocket of his khaki shorts. Joe had rolled over and was now lying on his stomach, reading a book.
West walked to the deck chair, sat down and put his glass on the table between them. "What book?"
"'Marley and Me'," he replied without taking his eyes off the pages.
West grunted, gulped down his drink and lay back down. "I'm going to sleep. Wake me up when they're done."
Joe looked over at him. "Why the hell do you never swim when Devin's around?"
"Because," West said, knowing Joe knew the reason. "Wake me up, okay?"
"Fine." Joe watched as he settled down, closed his eyes. The green short he wore rode up, revealing a hint of tanned stomach. Further up, Joe knew, was a long ugly scar that slashed from the bottom of his left pec to just above his navel – a result of a motorcycle accident three years ago. As a result, West had yet to get on a bike, and he never took off his shirt in public.
Joe went back into his book, was just getting to the heartbreaking chapter of Marley's demise when he sensed movement behind him. He turned, only had time to make out Devin's and Iris's devilish grins before they'd hauled him off the deck chair and tossed him into the pool. "Shit!" He surfaced, spluttering, then his eyes widened when he saw them dragging a struggling West to the pool.
He hurriedly swam out of the way while, on the count of three, they threw West in as well. He hit the water hard, splashing more spray into Joe's face. Shoving his hair from his eyes, Joe wrestled his way to the edge, pulled himself out while West surfaced, gasping. He glared at Devin and Iris, who were howling at the pool side.
"Pair of fucking ingrates," he growled, shoving his way to the pool edge. Joe, though, was beginning to see the humour in it all – hell, Devin had, with the help of Janie, who was no heavyweight lifting champion, managed to toss two pretty well built guys, one of whom was a basketball player, and in the space of about one minute. Pretty good accomplishment, in Joe's eyes.
West was, to say the least, not amused. He swam over to where Joe lay, laughing his ass off, and hauled himself out, sitting on the edge of the pool to catch his breath while he glowered at Iris and Devin through the dripping strands of hair hanging over his eyes and blocking his vision. He shook them away with an impatient toss of his head. "How old are you?" He demanded of his sister and her best friend.
His laughter fading away, Devin looked at West with nothing less than scorn. "Get a funny bone Graham. God knows you could use one."
"There's funny and then there's just childish."
"You're not even twenty yet, how the hell do you know the difference?"
"Unlike you," West said in a superior tone that he couldn't control, "I have maturity."
"Yeah. Just like cheese; the older you get, the more you stink." With that, he turned on his heel, walked into the house.
Iris, shooting her brother a contemptuous look, followed him.
West dropped his head back, let loose a string of the foulest words he knew. Joe just chuckled as he walked over to his deck chair, picked up the towel he'd draped there. He ran it over his hair as he turned to look at the teen still sitting on the pool's edge. "Nice going there, Casanova."
"Shut up," West growled, fisting his shirt in one hand and pulling it off. He threw it over his shoulder, where it landed with a wet plop. Joe raised a brow as he stood, pulled off the shorts and threw them backwards as well, leaving him in only his tanned skin and baggy swim shorts. "You know if you don't pick them up now, they're just going to bug you, and bug you, and bug you, then you'll be moaning about the state of them later on."
"No I won't," West shot back. Then he cursed. "Damnit. Yes I will." He turned, picked up his shirt and shorts, shook them out and laid them carefully over the deck chair.
Joe turned his head, to where the sun was lowering in the sky. "You sure you want to swim?"
"Yeah. I came here to swim, didn't I?" West scowled at Joe. "But you just had to invite Iris, knowing Devin would turn up as well."
Joe shrugged. "I like their company."
"Why the hell are you still my friend?"
"I let you swim in my pool."
"There is that. But dad's considering moving to a house with a pool, you know."
"But in the meanwhile…I'm heading in. I'll call you for dinner."
"Thanks." West turned, dived in as Joe collected his book and, with the towel draped over his shoulder, headed in.
He paused when he saw Devin standing in the patio doors. He was looking past Joe. Following his gaze, Joe watched West swim the length of the pool, do a forward roll, push off the wall. He turned back to Devin, a smile curling the corner of his lips. "See something you like Dev?"
"What?" Devin's eyes shot to his. Then he shook his head. "Oh, hell, no."
"Jesus. Don't make me sick. I forgot my cap and shirt, that's all." So saying, Devin strode to the deck chair where his belongings had been carelessly tossed and picked them up. Then, without a pause, he turned, walked back to where Joe stood. He passed with just a quirk of his brow.
Joe looked back, watched West do a surface dive and knew he'd watched the whole exchange. And hadn't said a word.
With a sigh and a shake of his head, Joe walked into the house.