Chapter One

Some things are more important than sleep.

That's what Richard Belkins was thinking when he woke up twenty minutes before his alarm Friday morning. In his dimly-lit room—illuminated only by the dull streetlight hidden behind his curtain—Richard fought the urge to turn over and sleep longer.

He was running out of time.

He knew it was only a matter of thirty minutes before his mom—or maybe his dad—would burst through his door to make sure he was up. He had considered feigning sickness—who even goes to school the last Friday before Spring Break, he wondered—but remembered he had an afterschool yearbook meeting with Conner.

And he didn't want to miss that.

Richard smiled at the thought and checking his nightstand clock—5:43—rolled over onto his back. He could feel his head sink comfortably into his pillows and the feel of silk on his bare torso as he turned. His sheets weren't real silk, of course, but everything felt a little more comfortable than usual.

Still smiling, Richard shut his eyes again and began to trace his hand slowly over his smooth frame. He wasn't built, but he could feel the small indentions of his upper abs as his hand snaked down to his waistline. Once there, he slipped just his fingertips below both his pajama bottoms and his underwear and stopped.

He lay there like that a moment, hesitating. Then, as if he had finally made a decision, continued downward to grip a hard boner. His felt his body tense and then relax back into the satin-feel of his bed as he did so and gave his clock a final cursory glance.

He had time.

Richard had dreamed about Conner last night—that the two, who had been working together late every afternoon designing the yearbook, had been locked in the school for the weekend. The dream, fueled by the unparalleled lust and raging hormones of a teenaged boy, had quickly turned sexual. And though it wasn't exactly the romantic situation Richard envisioned in his own daydreams, he found that he couldn't complain.

He stroked faster now as the fabricated images of Conner's naked body began to flash in his mind. In reality, he had never seen more than Conner's muscled torso. This, he remembered, had been on a particularly-hot day in May of last year when he had gone to the track after school. Conner, along with the rest of the Oak High cross country team, had been there too. Richard, who had come to do some mindless running of his own, changed plans and simply sat and watched as his sweaty, chiseled crush bested his previous 5K record.

Conner had looked dashing, he now remembered, when he finished running. Richard was on the track now, standing off to the side near an old faucet, as Conner slowed his run to a brisk walk before finally coming to a halt in front of him. Richard had felt nervous—why was Conner walking toward him? Should he say hi?—before remembering the faucet nearby. Wordlessly, a panting Conner had bent forward, hands on knees, before turning on the water.

Richard had stood there watching him. His running shorts were cut incredibly high—at least two inches above his knee—revealing strong, muscled thighs beneath. He traced his eyes over the exposed skin that was much smoother than his own.

And that's when he saw it.

Swinging almost imperceptibly back and forth was a pronounced bulge between Conner's runner's thighs. It moved with a slow, seductive cadence as Conner splashed running water over his face. Richard, thankful that he hadn't changed into running clothes of his own, could feel an unmistakable throbbing below the waist.

But he couldn't do anything. So he just stood there watching the soft, weighty rhythm of Conner's manhood, trying to picture it without his running shorts. The only thing, he now realized, keeping him from seeing what his crush looked like naked. His mind wasted no time in slowly undressing the teen—who was now surrounded by his sweaty teammates.

"Hey, Conner, save some water for the rest of us," Jose Martinez had called out, and then, all-too-soon, Conner had turned to walk away. As he did, Richard caught one final swing, and then he was gone.

He remembered the moment a little differently now. Instead of turning away, his now-nude crush was standing naked in front of a sweaty gaggle of his teammates.

"Nice ass, dude," Jose now said, causing the boys behind him to hoop and holler. His mind running wild, Richard now pictured Conner taking it from behind, as his teammates lined up behind him one by one. Richard, still standing off to the side, could see Conner's face contort in both pain and pleasure, as he dug his palms into the ground below him.

Face down, ass up, Richard breathed now, once more quickening his pace.

The flashing images became fragmentary, as the sensation in his groins grew into a white light that blotted out all else. His boner—which had earned him the nickname "Dick" in freshman year—swelled in his hand. He thought again of Conner's swinging bulge and wondered if it were as big as his own.

He is taller than me, Richard thought suddenly. He had read somewhere that height—not foot size—was the most accurate determinate of penis length.

The thought was enough to push him over the edge. Richard suddenly wished that he had waited—he still wanted to fantasize—but it was too late. His stomach and chest were covered in sticky pools of cum.

He glanced at his clock. 5:59. He had made it with a minute to spare.

Wiping a sweaty arm across his brow, Richard swung his feet over the side of the bed and gently stood up. Turning off his alarm, he made his way softly to his door, opening it a crack and looking out.

The lights were still off.

Good, he thought, glancing down the hallway toward the bathroom and his parents' room. Looking now at his cum-covered body and still swollen, but not hard cock, Richard started for the bathroom. It wasn't something he would usually dare, but he was feeling particularly brave this morning.

Maybe it's because of Spring Break, he thought as he made his way toward the bathroom. People usually go crazy this time of year.

He, himself, had never been one to participate in any Spring Break parties. This is about as wild as I come, he thought to himself before having to stifle a laugh. No pun intended, he added, glancing at the thick white substance now slowly dripping down his stomach.

He reached the bathroom door, flipped on the light, and stepped in. Taking a deep breath, he glanced at himself in the mirror. His father had installed fluorescent lights only two weeks ago, and Richard was still not used to how bright everything looked—at how well he was reflected in the mirror.

"Man, I look great," he said, but only half-heartedly. His thin frame wasn't exactly something one would expect to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated, but he figured he could live with it. His face, with its big blue eyes and softly-curved nose, could have its moments. But his good features, he knew, were offset by his longer-than-average face and annoyingly-curly hair. It was hair that was now cut short, faded down at the sides. It was a style that took him from about a solid average five to a strong seven on his good days.

"It's gonna be a great day," he said, still looking in the mirror. And he meant it too. Mrs. Gilmore was going to leave the yearbook meeting an hour early, and his other group members were also darting off to go on vacation.

That's okay, he thought now. You can have the beach. I'll take Conner.

With that, he started and stepped into his shower, still thinking of the day to come.

"Did you see the news?"

Richard looked up from his tray toward the voice sitting across from him. It was his friend Gabriella, a short, dark-haired teen whom Richard had met in freshman year.

He shook his head. "What news?"

Gabriella rolled her eyes. "Seriously, Richard, do you even try?" She didn't specify exactly what it was he should be trying, Richard noted, but he thought he understood all the same. After all, this wasn't the first time that he had missed out on some breaking revelation. In fact, just last week it had been that school king and queen Jack Dalton and Madison Lacey had broken up.

For the hundredth time, Richard had thought wryly at the news. That didn't keep the rumors from spreading, though, and soon every click—from goth to football jock—could be heard discussing the latest developments in Oak High's hottest romance.

But something in Gabriella's tone made it seem more serious this time. Richard thought he noticed a slight downturned pull of his friend's lips—a sign that she wasn't in a particularly great mood.

No, this time, Gabriella was looking to share more than just gossip.

"What's wrong," he now asked, only slightly nervous. Something about Gabriella's look bothered him—he had seen it before; he was sure—but he couldn't place what. He studied her face for a moment, with its usually-playful eyes and mouth now looking grim. She was wearing a dark purple eye shadow, he noticed, but he didn't think the dark colors had anything to do with it.

"Martin Ray escaped from prison this morning," she said flatly, almost as if the news weren't worth reporting. She might as well have been telling him that she had checked her email or brushed her teeth that morning.

But Richard knew it was more serious than that. Martin had become somewhat of a local legend in Oak, Georgia after committing the worst murder spree the city—no the state—had ever known.

Richard cleared his throat. "You mean that guy who chopped those women up when we were little?" he asked, but he knew the answer already.

Gabriella nodded, unpacking her lunch. An ardent vegetarian, she had been trying to convert Richard to join her for three years now to no avail. She picked up a sandwich before replying.

"Yeah." She took a bite, and the two fell silent. Richard looked at his own tray—packed with a pathetic-looking hamburger and fries—when Gabriella spoke again.

"You know they say he even mailed his victim's body parts to the police." It was a detail, Richard thought suddenly, that he could have gone without hearing. Despite being a big fan of horror movies, he had never become desensitized to actual violence, and the thought made him feel a bit squeamish.

"Well, we've got no reason to worry," he said suddenly. "I'm sure they'll catch him soon—and even if they don't, I doubt he's going to stick around here longer than he has to."

No, he thought, now chewing a fry, I bet that bastard will be gone before we know it. I bet he's already on his way to the Mexican border hoping he won't be caught.

"Yeah, I guess you're right," Gabriella said. "It still spooks me out a bit, though." Gabriella, Richard thought, had a fear of death ever since her parents had died in a car crash when she was little.

That's what she had confessed to him anyway, one night when the two were sitting alone at her house. He had come out to her already—only her—he thought, and they had spent the night watching scary movies in her aunt's room. But as late night talks typically do, things had eventually turned serious.

And that's when Richard remembered where he'd seen that downturned look before.

He had been propped up on his elbow, halfway covered as Scream 2 played on the TV across from them. The nightstand clock read 4:52, and Richard thought that neither of them seemed much interested in movies anymore. The room was dark, and he was getting ready to ask Gabriella where he should sleep when she interrupted his thoughts with a question of her own.

"Hey, Richie?" she said, voice hesitant. He looked at her then, sitting on the bed crisscross, applesauce—Indian style as they liked to say—hands folded over her lap. She looked serious, and Richard, suddenly uneasy, gave her a reassuring glance.

"I don't know what to do," she said, and then she was crying. He held her then, not knowing what to do, not really good at comforting, as she told him of her parents' death and her subsequent abuse from her uncle. He didn't know how long they had sat like that—it seemed like forever—but he could still remember telling her that everything would be okay. He didn't know if that were true, but it felt like the right thing to say.

Now, he looked at her again, half-expecting to see the same bleary-eyed girl, with smeared mascara, staring back at him. Instead, Gabriella was flipping through her phone, eating what Richard could only guess was a something-and-tomato sandwich.

"So, are you ready for the Gulf?" he now asked, changing the topic. Gabriella, he knew, spent her Spring Break vacations in Gulf Shores, forgetting her problems at the beach. He had been invited to go one year but had declined, not wanting to impose.

"Yeah," she said, barely looking up. "My aunt's checking me out after fifth period." She paused and then looked up.

"I still don't know how you didn't see the news this morning," she said, bringing the topic back up. "It's literally been all over Facebook."

"I forgot to charge my phone last night," Richard admitted. "I only had thirty percent when I woke up, and I've got to save my charge for later." He smiled, and Gabriella took notice.

"Expecting something, I see" she said with a smirk of her own. Richard had told her of his crush on Conner and how they had spent the last week after school together.

In fact, he remembered, it was Gabriella's idea I join yearbook in the first place. She had suggested it to him after the pair had discovered Conner was part of the team.

"Come on, Richie," she had said. "It's a great way to get to know him—and besides, it beats joining the cross country team."

Richard had hesitated at first, but he couldn't deny that she was right. Now, nearly seven and a half months into his senior year, he was glad he had joined. While he wasn't sure that he and Conner could exactly be called friends, they did speak when they saw each other.

And he had gotten Conner's number.

Even better, he smiled at the thought, he asked me for mine. Richard knew that it was just so they could coordinate the yearbook meetings and design together, but he had been thrilled all the same.

But it hadn't all been easy. He could remember the many now-erased texts he had thought of sending his crush while lying awake late at night.

"Hey, Conner, we need to talk," was probably the most common, he guessed, but these had been supplemented by a number of "Conner, I'm gay, and I like you" and subtler "Conner, what do you think of gay people" iterations. In the end, though, all had been scrapped.

Now, he was waiting for a text from Conner on the final head count for this afternoon's meeting. He had a sudden fear that it might be canceled based on Gabriella's news, but soon dismissed the thought. They had a tight deadline, and he didn't see Mrs. Gilmore calling that off for a serial killer who was most likely several states over by now.

"Just some yearbook stuff," he said at last, before finishing his tray. Gabriella smirked but said nothing, and the two finished their lunch in silence.

When the lunch bell finally rang, Richard had forgotten all about Martin Ray and any thoughts of the meeting being canceled. Instead, he bustled out of the lunchroom after Gabriella, looking around to see if Conner were caught up in the throng of people heading back to class.