JUST PRETEND

A shrouded corridor, an unused stairwell.

An unseen moment.

'I can't.'

Foreheads leaned against each other, noses touching. Fair cheeks were warm as tanned hands cupped them, as two thumbs danced, tracing gentle circles, and slender fingers reaching to cradle the back of a sensitive neck.

'You deserve more than this.'

Shared harsh, staccato breaths mingled; lips inches away, just barely brushing. Obsidian orbs clung stubbornly shut; not wanting to see the end of this moment. But insistent fingers pressing almost painfully against a fair neck forced them open, and amber brown eyes, raw in their honesty, glimmering with a million shards of fractured emotions, pierced through the shades of illusion.

'I love them.'

Because his family was waiting for him, his daughter who saw him as her entire world, his wife who trusted him beyond all measure. With all his heart, with all his soul, even as he had pledged for all eternity, he loved them. They were his everything, every drop of blood that flowed through his veins, every breath of air that gave him life.

He would not betray them.

Breaths hitched.

'I love you.'

Because his first love deserved more, so much more, than guilty kisses and desperate embraces. Their time had passed; the opportunity gone, stolen away by circumstance like a thief in the night. If they could not walk together, not without the taint of regret, the agony of betrayal, and not without skulking around in shadows instead of proudly standing together with their heads held high, he would rather deprive them both of a temptation that would only drain them and not fulfill them.

For what they had was not a dirty secret, and he refused to sully it this way, sully him this way.

Without a backward glance, Damien Wesley left, the door swinging in his wake.

And, James Riley ached.

For once, he wanted Damien to stop being kind, to stop being gentle. He wanted Damien to stop thinking, stop caring, to just be selfish and let James indulge in a moment of shared weakness.

Because Damien's kindness was cruel, his gentleness harsh.

And it made it so much worse when all James wanted to do was just pretend.