Hey! So, this wasn't completely expected, but I've decided this will be the last chapter of Cursed. My idea for this is honestly too long, and there are a lot of ideas I want to cover more thoroughly than putting this all into one book will allow. So I'm making Cursed into a series! Anyhow, thank you everyone who has read with me, and if you have any suggestions or ideas for making these chapters more of a whole work, let me know! Critique and ideas and thoughts and impressions are all very helpful! Anything at all. :) Please tell me what you think. Enjoy the last chapter.

I wake up to sunlight peeking through my blinds, my eyes opening slow as I shake off sleep, rolling my shoulders and stretching my legs. Careful not to rouse the little thing still snoring on my chest, I lift my arms off his waist for a brief moment to flex my fingers and crack my wrists before I put them gently back around him. He shifts slightly, snuffling, but he's still out cold, open lips drooling on me a little. I smirk helplessly. Gross but cute. Tempting fate a bit, my left hand moves to pass lightly through his hair, smoothing the chocolate waves. So stupid soft. I really want to take a shower together, but considering how much the kid drank last night he might need the bathroom to himself. Thick curled lashes twitch slightly as I continue stroking his scalp, that cute little freckled nose wrinkling up before he sighs. And…not asleep anymore. I smile. Keep petting his hair.

He only shifts his arm slightly where it's laid out over my torso, head nuzzling a bit deeper into my chest. Doesn't want to wake up yet, and no wonder. We went to bed at…what, two last night? My internal alarm clock, while thankfully not set for five am, still doesn't let me sleep past nine—even on a lazy Sunday morning like this. Gaze shifting over, I catch the digital clock on my night stand. Right now it's…eight forty-five. Definitely not enough time to sleep off the bad hangover he's gonna have. My thumb drifts down the side of his jaw, curves up around his ear. Dark brows tug together unhappily.

"Want some aspirin?" I ask in a quiet voice, just in case he really is still sleeping. The boy groans softly in response, lashes crunching against his cheekbones. Then he gives a short nod. "Okay. You have to sit up though." Another groan. Green eyes slit open, a wince taking over his face at the sun. At least I lowered the blinds last night.

"Fuck," he croaks, putting a hand to one side of his face. Emeralds flick up to me, checking over my face a second and then sweeping over our surroundings before he attempts to lift himself up with a sick grimace. "I feel like shit."

"Want help?" I ask, reaching over to the water glass I put on the nightstand last night after Nick crashed. He shakes his head, taking the cup himself and sipping the water, the other hand opening up for aspirin. I drop two pills into his hand. He frowns.

"Dude, I feel like I have a fucking migraine. I'm gonna need way more than that."

"So you can have two more in four hours. Increasing the dosage doesn't exponentially cut down the pain, you know."

"It helps," he argues.

I sigh and reach over to the bottle. "Fine, you can have three." One more plops out onto his palm and the boy stares down at it discontentedly. He takes them anyway, no complaints, washing them back with more water. "Want breakfast?"

He makes a grumpy sound. "What time is it?"

"Eight-thirty," I tell him.

"Holy fuck." Something akin to horror skirts over his expression, and the next second he's slipping back down on his side, drawing the blanket up over his face. My eyes roll.


"Too early," he snaps back.

"Nick, you can sleep after, but don't you think you should eat something first? Come on, it'll be good for you."

"Don't wanna."

"I'll start a shower for you?" I offer. "Or a bath? By the time you get out food will be ready, and then you can go right back to bed."

"Mmph," he huffs. I smile. "Maybe."

"If you do take me up on the offer, what would you want to eat?"

"Dunno," the boy replies from under the blanket. "What'cha got?"

"Eggs, cereal, apples, oranges, pretty much everything for french toast if you want, bacon…oh, but it's low sodium so you might not like it…um…I have potatoes too, if you want hash browns, but that'll take a little bit of time."

"It's okay," he assures me, peeking out from under the covers and pushing a curl of hair out of his eyes. So fucking adorable. "I'm gonna take a really long shower."

I nod. "So what sounds good?"

"French toast doesn't sound bad," he allows. "And yeah, hash browns, but I don't want your gross bacon."

"Okay." I say with a laugh. "It's really not that bad though."

"I bet it is."

My lips tug up in a hopeless grin. "Yeah, it's actually fucking terrible. Tastes like leather."

"I knew it."

"Mhm. Now why don't you—" I sit up on the mattress, stretching my arms. "—hop in the bathroom. And I'll start on food. Sound good?"

"Ugh." The boy frowns, pain knotting his forehead. "I don't wanna get out of bed. Bring the shower over here."

"Can't do that, unfortunately," I answer, leaning over the bleary-eyed boy. "But I can carry you if you're so inclined."

"Okay," he answers simply. My eyes pop open in surprise. That was easy. Slipping my arms underneath his back and thighs, I lift him from the sheets and carefully scooch us to the end of the bed so I can stand up safely. The sweats I put on him have tugged down a little bit so his hip is showing as well as a small edge of pubic hair, and my eyes catch on that for a second. I have to shift him slightly to open my bedroom door, and when I do Nick drops his head against my arm. Comfortable. Easy. No hissy fit. Then unexpected fingers trace with pretend casualness over my bare chest, and I flinch, my feet carrying us down the hallway faster. Knuckles drag up over one of my pecs, nails scraping lightly on the way back down, and wow, okay, let's get to the bathroom before I have a raging boner. A thumb and forefinger close around my nipple, tugging. I flush.

"Nick," I say, looking down at him as I push open the bathroom door. He's watching my face closely, completely hard in his pants. "Uh. You still want the shower right?" He nods. "Want me to come with?" I ask. He considers a second, then shakes his head.

"Nah, I'm hungry." I nod understandingly, trying to keep my sanity in check while I let him down on the tile. He's not even trying to be subtle about his hard-on, or the way he notices mine. I would think he's trying to tease or manipulate me, but there's something different in his eyes, something free of ulterior motives, which is definitely not the norm with this kid. "I'll, uh, go then."


I hurry to the kitchen with a confused quirk of my brows, realizing while I'm washing russet potatoes that he must be morning drunk. That behavior smacks of last night. And wow, last night. He was so…open. Defenseless. To a fault of course, considering the incident that now numbers as the first and only time I've tasted pussy. But still, there were some good things about it too. Asking me to hit him like that…christ. If that doesn't tell me what I want to know I don't know what will. Of course, then there was that other bit. Smiling helplessly, I pull the eggs and milk out of the fridge, along with a couple oranges. I shouldn't be so stupid about it, because I already know he likes what he sees when he looks at me. He's just in denial. But…hearing it like that. That was nice. Wish the pussy thing hadn't happened, but…yeah. Really nice.

I put the diced hash browns in a nonstick pan, setting them on the burner. And then there's the fact that he called me last night. On his birthday. Me of all people. I was the one he wanted to see. Humming a little, I mix some milk and eggs in a bowl, stirring in a good helping of cinnamon and sugar before adding a few drops of almond extract—mom's secret. Yeah, that was all pretty unexpected. Considering his earlier texts and the way his messages started dwindling over the evening, I figured he'd be too busy having a good time with his friends. Guess not, though. I smile, pulling out another pan. Guess, for some reason or another, he wanted to see me.

I've just started two plates up when Nick wanders into the living room in the same sweats, his hair wet and dripping down his neck and over his ears. Looks pretty cold. "If you want, Nick," I call over to him, scraping up potatoes. "You know in my room, the cherry wood dresser?" The boy gives a lazy nod of his head. "Great. So third drawer down there's some more pants, and my closet has a ton of sweaters. Just find what you need. I don't think I have any underwear that will fit you, but in the second drawer there's socks so your feet don't get cold." The boy gives another nod of his head before walking quietly away. My eyes can't help but follow him until he disappears into the hallway. Fuck, he's sexy as hell. Wish I'd cranked up the heat so he didn't have to wear a shirt. By the time I'm done with the plates and am busy slicing oranges, Nick comes back in wearing a grey sweater from a youth camp I mentored for and a white-striped pair of Nikes soccer pants. No socks. I smirk.

"Alright, breakfast is—"

"What are the black tote boxes?" My cheeks go abruptly hot as Nick leans up on the other side of the counter, emerald eyes scrutinizing me. "On the top shelf of your closet."

"Uh, well." I look back down to the oranges so I don't cut myself. "Equipment. For domming."

"BDSM stuff?" he asks. I nod. "You have three fucking boxes of it?"

"Some of it's…extensive. But the majority is just basic sex toys, gear, things you've already heard of."

"Like what?" he asks, pulling one of the plates toward him. His hand wraps around the glass bottle of syrup I put down in preparation earlier, liberally dumping maple flavored sugar across all of his food, even the fried eggs and potatoes. I grimace. Guess that's one way to do it.

"Why don't we sit down first?" I suggest, shuffling the oranges onto a small plate. "Grab a fork and I'll tell you all about it." Reluctantly, the boy acquiesces, making his way to the coffee table and plopping down on the couch. I put what's in my hands down on the table too before going back into the kitchen for hot water. Tea seems like an especially good idea now that this is being brought up. "Do you want English breakfast or chai?"

"English breakfast," he replies with his mouth partially full. An affectionate smile tugs up on my mouth. "No sugar. With milk."

"Got it."

"Only a little bit though. I don't like it when it's all yellow."

"Okay." I've never really prepared tea like this before so I have no idea what he's talking about, but I get it ready for him to the best of my ability and then pour myself some coffee from my french press. Coming over with the two cups, I set his down, spoon still inside, and sit down. "So. What do you want to know?"

"Just the boxes," he answers, shoveling food in his face like it's gonna up and run. Jesus. His eyes dart from his plate to me when I accidentally get stuck watching, and he swallows a large mouthful, before saying, "Um. It's really good. Thanks."

"You're welcome," I reply, just holding back a laugh. "I'll make you food whenever you want. It looks like you need it anyway."

The boy shrugs, murmuring some unintelligible response in between bites that I take to be general concession. Finally tugging my gaze away, I grab my own plate and put my fork through a square of potato. "So what's in them?" Nick asks again after a second, putting down his cleared plate.

"Like I said," I answer, grabbing my coffee to take a sip. "Most of it's just basic stuff. You know, dildos, vibrators…" I trail off, realizing that's actually the end of the list as far as basic stuff goes for Nick. My plate goes back to the table. "Well, and some other things, too. Different kinds of cuffs. Gags. Cock rings, anal beads, plugs, wands…" My gaze slips over to Nick who looks somewhere between dumbstruck and intrigued as he grasps his cup of tea. With a quick check I note that it is, indeed, not yellow, but a warm brown. Have to remember that ratio then. "Do you want to know what else?" I ask hesitantly. "It might freak you out." No matter what he says, I'm definitely not telling him about the restraint system under my mattress. I need him to feel safe in my bed.

Nick chews into his lip somewhat aggressively, worrying me, but then he just blows on his tea and asks, "What's a wand? And plugs?"

"Butt plugs," I clarify, and yep, he knows what those are. "Wands aren't anything really, just…fancy dildos I guess. Usually glass or something like that. One of my old partners really liked them being put in the freezer first." Nick's brows wrinkle in disbelief. "For contrast of temperature."

"Well, uh, why do you need all the dildos anyway?" he asks, looking indicatively to my crotch before flushing bright red. There we go, there's the embarrassment I'm used to. There's the hesitancy. "I mean, don't you only need those for, like, yourself?"

I shake my head. "Some people want something different, something smaller, something bigger, another texture. Plus, using a dick to do everything isn't always the easiest, since it's attached to my body, and I can only go for so long. Admittedly," I grin "that's a pretty long time. But still. They're pretty useful."

"Do you ever use them on yourself though?" he pushes in a curious tone. Alright, getting invasive. I suppose that's fair.

"No," I answer him smoothly. "I don't like bottoming."

His brow does that tug thing again. "What? Have you never done it before or something?"

My eyes roll. "Yes, I've done it; no, I still don't like it." I take a sip of coffee. "Any more of my business you're desperate to pry in?"

"I wanna hear the rest now," he says, taking a quick drink of tea. "The freaky stuff."

"Of course you do."

"C'mon. Spill. Do you have a catheter?"

"No," I reply, smirking at the kid. He's right back to that naughty and rebellious attitude, just…daring me with that flat gaze. But jesus, this isn't slamming him against a wall or shoving my cock in his face. This is…exposing myself to him. More than I've ever done before. Sighing slightly nervously, I gulp down some of my coffee. He leans back against the couch, watching me. Waiting. Fuck. "Well. You know I like bondage. So there's some rope. Different kinds, different colors." He nods. That was an easy one. "There are also some…harnesses. Nothing too crazy, they're just designed to keep your body in a certain position for a long period of time." The guy draws up his legs, folding them against his ass. I suck at the inside of my lip. "They're not…for everyone. But they can be convenient."

"What kind of positions?"

"That's up to you," I say.

"To you," he corrects, drinking his tea. I shake my head.

"No, to you. The sub has the control, always."

"Yeah, but when they give it over…" He waves his hand indicatively. "It's up to you. So what else?"

"Um…" My brows pull down uncertainly. "Well, there are some things for spanking."

"You have a whip," he says right away.

"No," I say, a breath of laughter puffing out of my nose in spite of my trepidation. Maybe because of it. "We already covered that, remember? I don't know how to use them. But there are…ah." I slide my vision to the side so I can really only see him out of my peripheral. "…paddles, and…and riding crops."

"Like in porn."

"Like in porn," I admit reluctantly.

"Have you ever thought about doing porn? Like BDSM stuff."

"Absolutely not," I snap, unnecessarily sharp. "I'm a fucking teacher, Nick."

"Oh yeah, right." At least he doesn't seem fazed by my abruptness. It's a valid question, from someone who doesn't understand the scene. There's no reason to be a dick about it. I take a drink of my coffee.

"Anyway. That's about it." Looking forward, I finish off my cup. By the time I get around to looking the boy in the eye again, however, he has his head tipped to the side, unimpressed. "What?"

"No it's not," he states drily. I flush. "There's more. What is it?"

"Nothing, Nick. That's it."

"Tell me." He lifts his arms. "I'm not freaked out, see? Just say it."

"You won't like it." Fuck, I'm whining. I sound like a little kid. The truth is I'm just embarrassed about what else is in those boxes. There's a reason they're hard to reach, even for me.

"Don't care. Tell me or I won't let you use any of those things on me." My eyes go wide. Jesus. Did he just bargain his fucking body? "C'mon."

"Ah. Nick." I clutch my empty mug. He's goddamn relentless today. More difficult to manage than usual. But I suppose he has a right to know. "It's…it's not for everyone. Really. I'll never get any of it out unless you want me to. And even if you did we're nowhere close to that stage"

"No shit. Now tell me before I die of curiosity."

"Okay, okay, just be fucking patient. It's hard for me." Blushing, I tap my nails against my cup. "I…I already told you I'm not interested in a master-slave relationship, and I'm not. I don't want a twenty-four-seven power exchange—"

"A what and what?"

I sigh. "There are some people in the scene—I mean, into BDSM—who enjoy it as more of a…lifestyle. They take on separate roles as partners, all day every day."


"Well, like I said, a common one is master-slave. It's like if…I wanted to be Dom all the time. And I wanted you—" I point to Nick, who's only looking on thoughtfully at this point. "—hypothetically of course—to be a sub all the time."

"Like…licking your boots and stuff? Making you food?"

"Yeah. Maybe. It depends on the needs of the people involved."

"Well, uh. I can't cook."

"I know. I know." I don't actually know, but it's not a difficult assumption to make. "I said hypothetically."


My brows lift. "Hypothetically?"

"Yeah, what?"

"You don't know what that means?" I ask disbelievingly.

The boy grimaces at that, folding his arms over his chest. So much for the temporary peace. "No shit Sherlock. Don't gotta make me feel bad about it."

"Alright, alright. It…it means…" Fuck, I'm a middle school teacher for a reason, right? "A…possible situation. If things were different. So, for instance, if things were different, and I wanted you to be my…" I bite my lip. "…slave, I would…want you to make me food."

The boy chews at his lip a second. "And lick your boots."


"But you don't want that."


"Good, 'cause I'm not doing any of that."

"I don't want you to."

"Good. So what else is in the boxes."

I sigh heavily. "Do you really need to know?"

"You're making it seem interesting. So, yeah."

"Okay, fine. But you might be…disappointed. It's nothing much, just…just…" Okay, it might scare the shit out of Nick. Stuff like this is usually reserved till you get your partner to subspace a few times. Our established trust is like a thin vein that might break at any second instead of the all-encompassing thing it needs to be for reveals like this. "I have…collars," I begin anyway. "For-for people, not for dogs. And…leashes. Chains. Blindfolds."

"For outside?" Nick insists, horror washing over his face.

I lift my hands abruptly. "No! I'm not into exposition! Just for in bed. I promise."

"So what's the point then?" the boy insists, clearly not convinced. I sigh.

"It's…it's the idea. The objectification."

"Speak English."

"I am Nick, just—" Green eyes glare and I let out a heavy breath. "Alright, so I'm getting you a dictionary for your birthday, but for now, it's…it's about the image. What someone looks like when they're put in a position like that. It can make people feel really vulnerable, when they're being led around, forced to…to do things."


"Sex things. Mostly."

"Do you have one of those dick leashes?" the guy inquires with narrowed eyes. "I've seen those before."

"Nick!" I shout.

He lifts his brows."So…yes." I turn bright red.

"Fuck, Nick, I-I fine. Yes, I do. Happy?"

"Maybe. Is there anything else?"

"Just a collapsible chair," I admit. "To tie people to. If they want."

"Yeah, yeah, I get it. Only if they want to." Rolling his eyes, he puts down his teacup. I sigh.

"Nick, listen," I start, putting my own mug down. "I get that you're curious. Who wouldn't be, right? This is a whole new thing." The boy shrugs, grabbing his knees and bringing them toward his chest. "But…but you're not the only one with limits, you know? There's a sort of…way to do this. To ease you into it. And pushing me like this just for the sake of curiosity, Nick, that…makes me uncomfortable."


"No, not whatever. You have to respect my boundaries." Those green eyes have turned down to the coffee table, avoiding me. Great. "I'm under a lot of pressure, introducing you to all this, and I just want to do it right. Can you understand that?"

One shoulder lifts, falls, chin dropping on the top of his knees.

"Nick," I push after a space of silence. "Are you even listening?"

Instead of answering, the kid puts the nail of his pointer finger in his mouth and says in a false casual tone, "Hey. You remember that school thing?"

"What?" I ask, brows quirking with confusion. "What does this have to do with anything?"

"Nothing, just…" He bites into the nail. "You remember?"

"Yeah, of course," I answer, still a little bit caught off guard. The boy shifts with his lids half-mast and, stomach dropping, I realize. Of course. This is it. He's gonna tell me he has to go back home. That must be why he's been so desperate to see me and compliment me and invade my privacy. To get all that he can get before he has to leave. My guts tighten up. "What about it?"

Those eyes stick to the table a second, perusing over our plates and mugs and the magazines. "Uh, well, yesterday, um." Curled dark lashes blink slow and long, and I really want to pull that nail out from between his teeth. But I'm frozen in place, waiting for the verdict. "My mom called, and…" I suck in a quick breath. Here we go. "…my dad, he…" There's a small sniff and I watch emerald eye glaze over before he blinks quickly again, banishing the wetness. "…he knows."

"Knows? Knows what?" I demand sharply before I can spare a thought to sensitivity, sitting on the proverbial edge of my seat. Nick flashes me a look like he's not sure what I'm asking, but just squeezes his legs to his chest and continues,

"About the…getting kicked out thing."

"I thought he already did," I say. Maybe hope isn't completely lost then.

"Well, I mean, just that he's visiting, you know…?" he begins tentatively, looking carefully to me for approval. Aw, shit. I'm being fucking pushy. "It's just gonna…suck, is all."

Trying to warm up my approach, I slide in closer and soften my tone. "I thought he was already going to find out, though? From the way you were talking I figured he'd know by now regardless."

He shakes his head. "Not really, I mean, it's not like he gets letters from school or anything. I thought maybe it could wait, just till after we got to spend some time together, but my mom, she—" Abrupt and unexpected loathing paints over his expression. I swallow. "—she decided to tell him without even fucking asking me."

"Oh," I reply, not exactly sure how to tread through the sudden minefield of emotional stress. "I—hey, here." Arms open, I gently pull the boy against myself, and he gives over easily, falling right against my naked torso with a sad sound. Oh. My hand strokes down his back. "So you're afraid your dad's gonna be mad at you?"

"I know he is," Nick croaks in a miserable voice.

"And how long has it been? Since he last visited, I mean."

"Since—" He sniffs. "Since Christmas."

"Oh…" My mouth pulls down in a sympathetic frown, forehead creasing. "I'm sorry. That's tough."

"Yeah," he says, voice cracking. "And now he's gonna be angry, and-and probably disappointed, and…I just…w-wanted…" Shoulders shaking, he gives a little sob into my chest, and I wrap my arms tighter around him. "G-goddamnit," he voices, snuffling and wiping at his eyes with a hand. "I just—fuck, I—"

"It's okay," I assure him. "Crying's good for you."

"Y-yeah?" he asks.

"Yeah," I answer as he trembles in my arms, the boy releasing soft hiccups of sound. "Been scientifically proven and everything. Releases endorphins."

"O-oh," he replies. I pause, considering.

"Endorphins are—"

"I know what fuckin' endorphins are," he snaps, wiping his eyes. "Ugh. It won't stop."

"Want a tissue?" I question, squeezing him tight. He pushes his face against my bare chest.

"Yeah." Keeping him against me with one arm, I carefully lean forward and grab the Kleenex on the table next to my untouched plate. I'll heat it up later. For now I place the box in front of Nick and he takes one, smudging at his eyes while he continues to tremble. And for a minute I let him do just that, simply rubbing his back and petting his hair as he cries against me. Every now and then Nick will pull slightly away from me to blow his nose or get another tissue, and those green eyes will flick up, just for a split second, bloodshot pink and wet and asking for reassurance. Each time I ruffle his dark locks and he goes right back into a fresh wave of tears, curling into me.

When he does it a fourth time, though, I can't help it. He's so fucking pretty like this. His lashes are clumped with tears, and his eyes are such a vivid jewel green. His flushed cheeks have pink trails down them where tears have dried in their path. So I kiss him, tasting the salt on his lips, and the quiet surprise he vocalizes is still tinged with sadness. So sweet, that sound. Even better than the tentative slide of his tongue over my own. My arms wrap tight around his waist, maybe almost too tight, and my fingers dig into his sides none-too-gently. "Babe," I breathe when I pull off his sticky lips, feeling totally selfish as I allow the words to continue from my mouth. "You know what would help?"

"Wh-what?" he asks, tears building in beautiful sparkles on his lids before one spills abruptly down his cheeks. He wipes it away before it can leave a proper streak mark, and I have to bite my tongue to keep from asking him to leave it.

"Stay here," I tell him instead, pushing the boy off my lap where half of his body has settled. The kid frowns. "Don't worry," I assure him. "Nothing scary." Well. Objectively.

"Something…from the boxes?" he asks.

"No," I say, shaking my head and moving down the hallway. "Just hold tight."


It doesn't take me long to grab my laptop from the top of the dresser where I put it yesterday and pull up the page of the local community college. Finding the application page and making sure the computer is charged enough not to die for a while, I walk over to Nick with it in my hands, heart pounding slightly. The boy is eyeing me curiously, body twisted on the couch so he can peer over. I drop the computer in his lap.

Nick's face instantly twists up. "No way," he dismisses it, shoving it onto the cushions. Shoulders squared, I walk around the couch and sit down beside him, pick up my computer, and put it back on his knees.

"Yes, Nick. This will help. Just fill it out."

"I don't even know my SAT scores," he argues. I shake my head.

"You don't have to worry about that. Just fill this in, and we'll call the school, order a copy of your transcript to be mailed over. The university has all that."

Green eyes scan over the page, dark brows tugging together. I put an arm around his shoulder. "My GPA?" he bites out, shaking his head and lifting his hands. "If I put my fucking GPA they won't accept me."

"Yes they will," I promise. "It's a community college; they take everyone. People way worse off than you."

"But what's even the point?" he insists. "I'm already into my degree, you can't complete a major—"

I interrupt, "At this point, you just need to get your two-year and move back to university with a cleaner slate. It sucks, and it's not the quickest way to do things, but it's what you've got." He shakes his head, mouth popping open slightly as if to argue, but I cut back in again before he can. "If it makes you feel any better, you've probably taken enough classes already that it won't take long to get your A.A. Or A.S."

"But…" he starts, wiping away the remaining dampness in his eyes.

"But nothing," I retort. "Do this, and at least your dad will think you're trying to make something out of a bad situation. Do nothing and not only will he be angry with you, you'll probably be forced back home with your mom." Those eyes twitch, and guiltily, I continue. "From here at least, it seems like that's not an ideal situation for you. Now do you want to go to college where you can still be around all your friends, or do you want to go to the exact same school as this one—" I rap the screen with the back of my nails. "—except in Oregon?"

The boy's tongue slips out barely, wetting his lips. "I…" His face crumples into a look of defeat. "I'll fill it out."

"Good boy." My lips press to the side of his head. "I know it's difficult to see right now, but I promise you can recover from this. You just have to take some initiative. And do your homework. All of it."

"I know," he gripes, annoyance pulling over his features.

"And take notes."

"I know."

"Attendance is really important too. Every d"

"I fucking know, alright!" he snaps angrily, jaw clenched tight and emerald eyes on fire. My mouth clacks shut. "I already did a pretty good job failing out of school! Now do you want me to fill out this fucking application or not?"

"Okay, okay," I soothe him, squeezing his shoulder. "I'm sorry. I'm just remembering all the reasons I didn't do too hot in some classes."

"Shut the fuck up. You didn't get expelled."

"No," I admit. "I didn't."

"Mmph," he replies to that, sniffing lightly. Looks like he's run out of steam for now. Quietly I look to the screen, watching him spell out his name. Nicholas J. Lan.

"What's the J for?" I ask.

"James," he answers. "It's my dad's middle name too."

"Mine's Alexander," I tell him. "I tried to go by it in middle school after I moved here from San Diego, but it never stuck." I pause a second, then, "My last name's Rowley."

"Rowley?" he confirms. I nod. "Chase Alexander Rowley."


He types in his birthday. "Your initials make CAR."

"Don't I know it," I quip, one corner of my mouth tugging up as I turn away so he can enter his social. "All of my friends thought it was the coolest thing when I was little."

"Did you have a lot of friends?" he asks. "When you were little, I mean."

"Yeah," I reply with a smile. "We were really close, for a while. Like family. But after I left they lost contact."

"Oh, that sucks."

I shrug. "Just the way things work."

"I didn't have that many friends when I was a kid," he discloses. "I was too shy. Also a jerk—hit the other kids all the time. They didn't even have to do anything." I laugh softly, not sure if I'm supposed to think that's funny or not. Still focused on the screen, he gives a small smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes. "Yeah, I was always at the principal's in elementary school. Drove my mom crazy."

"I bet."

"Lucky I figured it out by fifth grade though. I almost had to go to this dumb private school. For 'troubled'students." Eyes roll.

"But you didn't?"

"Nah, my dad convinced them to keep me." The boy grins wide at that. "It was so funny, the principal only ever met my mom, and then my dad walks in. Mr. Bailey was so embarrassed after they talked about whatever, was apologizing and everything. School still made me go to the fucking councilor's office for a couple weeks though. That sucked."

"Counseling doesn't suck."

His eyes roll again. "Yeah it does, especially when you're eleven."

"Fair," I allow. "But you figured it out after that?"

"Yeah, I mean, I was just a kid back then. Plus it sucks being all alone."

I grin, watching Nick fill out the form. "You joined the football team though, so you must have still had some violent tendencies." Smirking, I keep back the obvious or you were looking at the boys in the locker room because that's just plain mean and only somewhat true from my experience. All through track and baseball I only looked at…three guys. Edward Powell, Franky Romero, and Colin Jenkins. All very cute. Ryan Barnett too, when he shaved that disgusting half-beard.

Nick only shrugs in response, that little bit of a smile leaving his face. My brows quirk questioningly until I remember, that's right, Nick said something about being on the bench most of the time. Definitely something weird going on there, unless the kid actually sucked that much? Strange he'd be on the football team in the first place, but maybe they needed an extra. I don't know. "Did you play any other sports?" I try. "Or a club, maybe?"

"Played soccer in middle school," he answers. "Our team was really small though, so it got closed up my eighth year. My first high school didn't even have one, just fucking volleyball."

"Aw, that's no fair," I sympathize. "Can't say I ever gave soccer a solid try myself though. It's hard to keep it between your feet and run at the same time."

"Yeah, you gotta practice a lot. I used to be able to do the knee thing. Like where you move the ball back and forth between your legs? Don't think I can anymore though."

"I bet you could."

He shrugs again, smiling a little. "Maybe."

"We'll play sometime. I can show you my skills," I tease. "How to lose the ball in under ten seconds."

"I'm better at football," he says back with a laugh, fingers stilling on the keys. "Hey. Look away."

"Why?" I ask. Then I note where his cursor has paused. GPA.

The boy flushes. "Just look away, alright?" he bites out.

My head tips against his, fingers rubbing down his arm where my sweater's bunched up. "I'm not gonna judge you, Nick, it's fine."

"Shut up," he hisses. "You want me to submit this shit? Look the fuck away."

"Got it," I allow with a sigh, head turning to the side.

"And don't look."

"I won't." That's a lie. I sneak a peek out of my peripheral. What can I say? I'm curious. Those fingers waver a second, then he's typing into the tiny box. 1.72. Holy shit. Green eyes quickly shift to me and I look away while he scrolls down.

"Okay, I'm done," he announces with a click of the touchpad. "Now what?"

"Now we need to call up the university office for your transcript." Nick groans, pulling up the number for the office on the laptop. "We might need to drive there, have you write them a check."

"I'm not going," Nick snaps acidly. My eyes roll.

"Yes, Nick, we are, because you need to send an official transcript. Unless you want to start your two year degree from scratch?"

"No," he huffs, hunching up his shoulders. I watch him expectantly and he looks to me, grimacing. "Fucking fine. I'll call them." His hand goes into the pocket of the soccer pants, drawing out his phone. He stares at the screen for a moment, thumb hovering over the keypad. I kiss his ear and he punches in the number. When the line picks up, he talks to the person in this awkward, hesitant voice that questions itself at every turn. Sort of like that time I had him keep quiet while I fucked him. So cute. Seems like it's taking all of his energy not to lose his nerve though, so instead of giving his face another kiss I simply hold him, one palm stroking his thigh comfortingly. "Oh, uh, can I do card?" he asks the guy on the phone. "Y-yeah. To the community college." His fingers go into his mouth unconsciously, teeth biting at his nails, and this time I let myself pull them out. Blushing lightly, he puts his hand into his lap. I take it, rubbing my thumb over his knuckles. "Do we, uh…" He pauses a second, distress cast over his expression. "Um, yeah, just wondering if we can…leave that part out? If it's possible… Oh. Okay. Uh, all of it then, yeah, that's…" He sighs, playing absently with the keys on my computer. "That's fine. Thanks." After another moment where he takes out his wallet and reads off his card number, he hangs up, releasing a long exhalation before dropping his head on my chest.

"All done?" I ask. He nods. "Good. Don't have to go to school or anything?"

"Nope," he answers. "They do credit."

"That's good. See, don't you feel better?" I press my thumb into the center of his hand, smiling. "Your dad'll be proud of you."

"Yeah, so proud of me for going to fucking community college."

"Hey, c'mon. It's the best you can do considering the current circumstances. He'll understand."

He flexes his fingers within mine. "You say that like you actually know my dad, but there's no way he's not gonna be happy. Like, at all." An tragic sound pulls from the boy's throat. "He graduated from highschool at seventeen and got a full ride scholarship to fucking…" He chews the corner of his lip. "Fucking Cambridge. Goddamnit."

"Oh, wow."

"Yeah, and he didn't even go because he got picked up by some super fancy sales company to travel abroad. Cause he's so motherfucking good at everything."

"That's, uh, well." I wet my lips, uncertain how to proceed. "Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, but it's not like he can expect that out of you—not that you're not smart or anything—but, most people can't measure up to that. That's way too much pressure."

"His only fucking kid, a stupid failure. My high school GPA was too shit to even consider any Ivy League schools, let alone fucking Cambridge." I don't even think he heard me. Those eyes have clouded back over. "How's he gonna feel now? Can't even stay in normal college."

"Hey now." Gently I brush the fresh tears off his cheeks. "You've done what you can. There's no point in stressing over it yet. When is he visiting anyway? Is he coming here?"

The boy shakes his head. "No, I'm going to Oregon. Leave Thursday."

"This Thursday?"


"Well, you've still got a few days. Just relax, okay? The best that you can."

He sighs out a shaky breath. "I guess."

"And, hey, when you go? Just give me a call if thing's go to shit, okay?" My fingers push through his hair. "I'm here for you."

"O-okay. I will." He wipes his nose on the sleeve of my sweater. "Promise you'll answer?"

"Yeah, of course. I wouldn't just say that without meaning it."

"Cool. I'll probably cry again."

"That's okay with me."

"Good." He sniffs, and I just hold him, my heart fluttering in my chest. Wow. This is crazy. He's really opening up to me. There's no way this is about sex anymore. It's just not. I mean, of course I already knew that would be the case what with us delving into BDSM together, but I didn't expect this much gratification this quickly. Jesus. We've come so fucking far from him angrily jamming my doorbell just to get into my house. And now he's going to school here as long as things don't go completely awry, and we'll be able to take this further. I'll be able to show him more of what we can do if he just puts his trust in me. Wow. Yeah. Maybe more than that? Not that I should get carried away, but holy shit, here he is, in my arms, after just having cried and spilled his life story, and he's not even freaking out. Just…needing me. Depending on me, for the second time. Letting me hold him. Holding me back. Grasping a handful of my pants and leaning on my chest because I comfort him. Because, whether he realizes it or not, I mean something to him. And that…that makes me feel so warm and, just, good. All of my efforts haven't been for nothing.

Maybe…maybe I really can help this kid. Turn him around. Make him see the things he needs to see. Like the fact that he's lying to himself. Like the fact that it's not normal to go have sex with your girlfriend and be so bored afterward you need to go have sex with a guy. All of that. Maybe I can put his head on straight and actually come out with something more to show for it than failure and a broken heart. I kiss the top of his head, slipping my hand back over his. Maybe.

Again, thank you so much! I hope you liked reading this book. Jeez, I certainly enjoyed writing it. I love Nick and Chase more than anything in the world. I hope by now you love them a little bit too (even if Nick sucks a lot sometimes). Comments, suggestions, reviews, anything. Tell me what you think!