With his college graduation gown expertly pitched into the trash, Justin Akron is ready for the road trip he planned with his best friend Landry— and ready for one last summer of escape from his mother’s controlling grip. Climbing into the Winnebago his father left him, they set out across America in search of the sites his father had captured through the lens of his Nikon.
As an aspiring photographer, Justin can think of no better way to honor his father’s memory than to scatter his ashes at the sites he held sacred. And there’s no one Justin would rather share the experience with more than Landry.
But Justin knows he can’t escape forever. Eventually he’ll have to return home and join his mother’s Senate campaign. Nor can he escape the truth of who he is, and the fact that he’s in love with his out-and-proud travel companion.
Admitting what he wants could hurt his mother’s conservative political career. But with every click of his shutter and every sprinkle of ash, Justin can’t resist Landry’s pull. And when the truth comes into focus, neither is prepared for the secrets the other is hiding.
Megan Erickson worked as a journalist covering real-life dramas before she decided she liked writing her own endings better and switched to fiction. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids and two cats. When she's not tapping away on her laptop, she's probably listening to the characters in her head who won't stop talking.
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More than a thousand graduation caps flew into the air behind me, but I was already walking down the aisle between the concrete bleachers. My sneakers scraped the macadam as I unzipped my graduation gown and slid it off my arms. I fisted it into a ball.
Landry’s lighter steps echoed off the bleachers behind me. He didn’t call to me, or ask me to wait for my mom. He knew better.
When I reached the entry gate, I stopped and turned, holding my gown between my hands. Then I went through my windup and pitched the gown—curveball grip—into the trash can.
I wanted to spit on it. Then scrub my skin raw to wash off the stink of four years of undergraduate work in a major I detested while my mother’s stiletto heel threatened to crush my windpipe.
Landry stopped next to me and peered into the bin. My crumpled navy-blue gown lay among ketchup-covered French fries, dirty napkins, and a broken noisemaker. My right index finger twitched and I longed for the comforting grip of my camera. I’d take a picture of my gown in the trash can and label it “Justin’s Feelings About His Undergraduate Degree.”
“Well, I was going to ask if you were sure you wanted to throw it out, but now I don’t care, because I’m not digging in that trash can just so you have a souvenir.” Lan grimaced and then gave himself a little shake in disgust. If he were stranded on a deserted island with only ketchup to eat, he’d starve. He hadn’t touched it since he came down with a stomach flu in sixth grade while we were at the town fair. He’d thrown up a lot of hot dogs and a lot of ketchup. Sometimes the red stuff even made me queasy now.
“Gown’s right where I want it.”
“Let’s just go, please?”
I waited, because Lan had a habit of arguing every little point until I wanted to strangle him, but once I saw him nod, lips pursed, I knew I’d won this one. I should mark it on a calendar.
The stadium was turning into chaos as relatives and students were finding each other. Laughing. Taking pictures. Congratulations hung in the air around me and I wanted to swat the words away.
A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have hesitated to grab Landry’s arm and pull him after me. Because we’d been best friends then. I guess we still were, sort of, but my hesitation showed the strain our relationship had taken toward the end of college. So instead, with a longing in my gut, I jerked my chin in the direction of the parking lot. He followed, his long strides matching mine as we cut through the swelling crowd and burst out into the parking lot.
And that’s when the freedom bubbled inside me, rumbling and growling and boiling, until I had to release the steam. So I did, right there in the middle of the stadium parking lot at Brackett University in California. I fisted my hands at my sides, arms straight, and screamed at the Saturday afternoon sun. I’m sure I looked like a lunatic. I felt like a lunatic. And I didn’t care. Because I was a free lunatic.
At least for the summer. I didn’t want to think about the fall yet.
Lan was smiling at me, the smile I liked, the big one that showed his crooked bottom-right incisor. The smile that brought out the deep creases around his mouth and wrinkled his forehead and made his dark-blue eyes glint.
The smile I hadn’t seen turned in my direction in way too long.
The smile that socked me in the gut and brought me to my knees because he didn’t know how badly I wanted that kiss I’d never taken.
And probably never would.
I smiled back just so he knew I wasn’t possessed, and with that, he turned with a laugh and continued walking.
His steps were sure and strong. I faced the ground but looked up through my lashes, fascinated by the confidence of his stride, his unzipped graduation gown billowing behind him. It’d been a long time since it was just the two of us. Our last years at school, I’d felt him slipping through my fingers. He’d inked his skin and pierced his ears. His clear eyes, which used to fill with humor, had darkened with cynicism.
I wanted him back. I wanted our friendship back. This trip was the beginning of that, and I already started to see some of the old Landry.
He stopped abruptly, and since I wasn’t paying attention, I nearly smacked into him. He rolled his eyes and then pointed to something front of us.
The camper sat in the corner of the back lot, which we reached after about a half-mile trek through several parking lots teeming with visiting cars.
It was a 1972 Winnebago Brave. A red stylized W by the driver’s-side window stretched into a stripe down the side, ending with the word BRAVE. That and a blue cracked rail along the bottom were the only colors on the stained, once-white paneling.
The eighteen-foot camper was the possession with the most monetary value awarded to me in my father’s will. But the nondescript silver canister inside held the most worth to me.
It was why I stood there, in front of a vintage Winnebago, itching to hold the hand of my best friend before we took a road trip across the country to visit twelve important sites from my father’s life. For the first time, I stood up to my mother, demanding to let the only pieces of my father left rest in the locations he held sacred.
The May breeze ruffled Lan’s blond curls, the sun highlighting the streaks of red. “You sure you don’t want to go talk to your parents?”
He shook his head. “They understand that it’s important to us to get going as soon as we can.”
Important to us. Would he ever know how much I wanted to grab his words and rub them into my skin like a balm?
When I didn’t answer, he turned to me with raised eyebrows. “Well? Get in, asshole. You need an invitation?”
I shoved him with a mock glare and he laughed as I sprinted around to the other side of Sally, my dad’s name for his camper. My dad had wanted a Mustang, but he and his camera equipment couldn’t live out of a Mustang as he crisscrossed North America, taking pictures of beautiful locales for luxury travel magazines.
We clambered into Sally, already stocked with food, supplies, and luggage. Landry removed his gown and stuffed it into his bag. I sank into the blue polyester–covered seat, the cinnamon-candy smell of my dad surrounding me, and rubbed my fingers over the stains his hands left forever ago on the leather-bound steering wheel.
Barefoot now, Landry flopped down beside me, wearing the cargo shorts and black tank top he’d had on under his gown. He buckled the large, silver clasp around his lap with a snap and then propped his feet up on the dash, crossed at the ankles. His feet were perfect, long and thin with a high arch. Mine were calloused, my left big toenail always infected after an ill-timed slide and collide with a second baseman this year.
One-inch black gauges hung in his ears, and the sun reflected off the colorful tattoos on his left arm as he raised it to scratch his head. They made him even hotter, but they were also a reminder of when he began slipping away from me. Not needing me anymore, which made me realize how much I needed him back.
He slid a pair of mirrored aviator sunglasses over his face and rooted under his seat before coming up with a bag of white cheddar popcorn.
I didn’t hide my gazing at him. He had a boyfriend. And he thought I liked tits and pussy.
Landry threw his head back to toss a handful of popcorn into his mouth. After he swallowed, he turned to me. “Let’s fire up the old bitch, Justin.”
I laughed, stuck the key in the ignition, and turned it. Sally roared to life. Well, she grumbled to life, sighed when I coaxed her with a pat on the dashboard, and then offered her grudging acquiescence.
“Yeah?” he said around another mouthful of popcorn.
“Thank you.” My voice cracked on the “you,” but I kept my eyes on his. I’d cried in front of him before, so it was no big deal.
It was a horrible, ridiculous fact that he was the one person I needed to make this trip with and also the one person I shouldn’t be around if I was going to stay on track to a future already mapped out for me.
But right now, I focused on his lips and that smile—that one smile—and the tip of his tongue as it peeked out the corner of his mouth.
“Of course, Justin.” His voice was low, the honest emotion behind it sending my head whirling.
I gunned the engine and put Sally in drive.
We left Redding at two in the afternoon, hopping on Interstate 5. Lan bade farewell to the Sacramento River by belting Coheed and Cambria at the top of his lungs. He trilled along in that high falsetto he had, the one I pretended to hate, just to tease him. So I furrowed my brow and rolled my eyes appropriately, but meanwhile, his voice fuzzed my head like the first pint of a good, hoppy beer.
Traffic was light and the finicky air-conditioning unit in the roof wafted in the scent of sun-baked asphalt and the dead grass lining the road. We had Lan’s GPS, which he dubbed “Simon” because of the voice—a man with an English accent—that he had paid extra to download because, “the guy sounds hot, Jus.”
I sort of agreed.
My dad’s atlases were stacked in the cabinets above our heads, all of them dog-eared and coffee-stained. My father insisted on using them, meticulously taking note of landmarks he wanted to photograph, the best routes, where to get the best angle for his shot.
Lan had been there when I found them, tears streaming down my face as I read notes like, “Tell Justin I saw a tailless squirrel” and “Bring Justin to see this waterfall.”
He drew doodles in the margins, circled 69 anywhere he could, and wrote a “Ha-ha” next to it.
God, I loved him.
The grief rose up in my throat, cutting off my air. My tongue dried and thickened like cotton. I gripped the steering wheel, wishing my hands could turn into his, that he’d appear and crush on his candies with his molars, his husky laugh and the click of his camera shutter in my ear. His salt-and- pepper hair flopping onto his forehead, his furry forearms sticking out from the rolled-up sleeves of his ugly plaid flannel shirts.
But instead, all I saw were my hands, all I smelled was the stale cinnamon.
Then Landry’s voice, clear and high like Freddie Mercury on helium, cut into my thoughts, belting about how he believes in a thing called love, and the mist over my eyes cleared. The grief receded into the pit of my stomach and I took a deep breath. It’d come again when I didn’t expect it, but for now Landry beat it back.
I smiled at him and he threw back his head and laughed, the pale skin of his throat bared. He gestured toward his iPod and the speaker dock. “Want me to turn it down?”
I shook my head. And pretended to cringe as he sang on.
Two hours later, we passed the green sign welcoming us to Oregon.
“We should stop at the stable and purchase new oxen.” Landry said, his voice hoarse from all his screeching.
“Well, if they die, then we’re stranded.”
“Oh my God, are you making Oregon Trail references?” Lan was a graphic artist and had a vice for old computer games. Because of him, I must have died of dysentery and drowned in high waters five hundred times in my life.
“How long are we going to be in Oregon?”
I ran my hand over the top of my head. My friend Mia insisted I get my dark-brown hair cut before the trip, since it was staring to curl around my ears. I was glad I listened. It was too hot for that. “I want to make it into Washington before we stop tonight. So I dunno, another five hours or so?”
He grinned. “So I have five hours to talk about covered wagons. Excellent.”
I groaned. “You’re cruel.”
“You hungry yet?” He slapped my stomach with the back of his hand—an easy touch for him, but torture for me. “I need to fatten you up. Get a little padding on those abs.”
He stood up and I heard him rummaging around in our “kitchen,” likely making instant mac and cheese in our microwave, which was powered by our generator.
I stared out the windshield, feeling the mark of his hand and the sear of his eyes on my skin through my T-shirt.
He made off-the-cuff references to my body all the time, telling me how the girls talked about my ass in the pants of my baseball uniform, the curve of my biceps, the shape of my back. He probably thought I wanted to hear it, to build up my confidence to ask one of them out on a date.
But I hated it because it reminded me of the lie I lived with every day, the one thing I kept from him.
I didn’t want those girls. I didn’t even want other guys. I wanted Landry. His skin and his freckles and his soft curls between my fingers. His lips on mine, saying my name in passion instead of teasing me.
My cell rang, drowning out Lan’s humming and the whir of the microwave behind me. I glanced at the caller ID and then turned my eyes back to the road. I didn’t want to answer it, but if I didn’t, she’d keep calling, like an alarm clock that never shut up.
“Hey,” I said.
“Justin.” My mom’s voice was forced warmth and starch and severe powdered blush. “You’re on the road, then?”
“Just passed into Oregon.”
There was a hum in response, a muffled instruction, and then a rustle of papers. I imagined her sitting in her mayoral office after hours, pretending to be busy while lording over the janitorial staff, telling them they “missed a spot” while vacuuming. I should ask her how work was. I should ask her if she was excited to announce her campaign for Senate in the fall.
But I didn’t. Because I was still pretending the fall would never come.
Landry stumbled between our seats, Sally’s rocking making him unsteady on his feet. He set a cup of mac and cheese next to me on the console and then sat down in his seat. He started to eat, but I shot him a look and he made a show of buckling his seat belt before taking his first bite. I smiled.
My smile dropped instantly. “Yeah?”
“I asked if you still plan to be on the road until August.”
We’d been over this. Many times. “August or beginning of September.”
More papers rustling. Would that be my life come September? I looked over at Lan. He slurped his noodles and hooked his fingers on the top of his head like devil’s horns, sticking his tongue out—the silent symbol for my mother. I laughed.
“Is—” She cleared her throat, “—Landry there?”
Like she didn’t know he was coming. “Yep, right here. Just made us some gourmet mac and cheese in a cup in the microwave. Living the high life.” I kept one hand on the wheel and braced the phone between my ear and shoulder so I could fork some food into my mouth.
Mom snorted derisively. “Come fall you’ll be making real money. No instant noodles for you.”
The sodium-laced cheesy sauce turned to paste in my mouth. Fuck her. I happened to like instant noodles. And Landry. She didn’t like either.
“Well.” There was the sound of nails on a keyboard. “I’ve sent you some e-mails that I need you to start taking a look at. There are fact sheets of my voting history and charity work. The campaigns I’ve helped to implement. I need you to be an expert on my history. That will be your main job as a member of the campaign team—the go-to man for facts on my career.”
If Landry wasn’t in the RV, I might have driven it straight into a tree.
“I know you know a lot of this already,” she continued, “which is why you’re best for the job and an invaluable part of the team, yes?”
Was I supposed to answer? Maybe I could act like my battery died. And my e-mail was hacked. And I had decided to live off the grid for the rest of my life.
“Yes, Mom,” I said automatically.
She made a sound, something like a growl. “Please acknowledge you heard what I said and will check your e-mail.”
I was a robot now. “I acknowledge what you said and I will check my e-mail.” Probably the day I arrived back home in Pennsylvania, but I wasn’t admitting that.
“Right,” she said, her voice full of irritation, and I wondered if she could read my thoughts. “I also wanted to check in. Make sure you were all right. Please drive safe. And call if you need anything.”
I glanced at the Saint Christopher medallion hanging from the rearview mirror with a leather cord. Dad said he was the patron saint of travelers, and his job was to watch over them, keep them safe, and help them find their way on their journey. He’d given me the necklace when I graduated high school. He’ll be with you when I can’t. Which was a lot.
“Right, thanks,” I said into the phone to my mom.
“You too, Mom.”
When I hung up, I threw my phone over my shoulder behind me, listening for the thunk as it landed on the sofa cushions.
I was surprised she hadn’t tried to talk me out of it. She was pissed when her ex-husband left me Sally, furious when he awarded me the possession of his cremated remains, and livid when I told her my cross-country plan to scatter his ashes. Each location was picked based on the latest calendar published by Charlie Akron—my dad.
All she cared about was that I showed up in the fall, clean-cut in a suit, and straight, not that she knew there was any other option. Because that’s the kind of son who would help run his mother’s election campaign. That’s the kind of son I’d been, never wanting to disappoint her, yielding to her pressure to major in political science.
So I’d kept quiet and closeted, unwilling to add “rogue gay son” to the top of her list of personal failures, next to divorce. And now I’d stayed silent too long. I was in too deep. If I gave in, told her who I was, who I wanted to be with, I’d not only lose her and a job, I’d hurt her conservative political campaign. So many times I wondered what would have happened if I took a different path. But I’d started this career decision in high school, and with every step, it had been harder to change course. And now, I couldn’t get off the damn train.
I looked over at Landry, licking the tines of his fork.
“So, how was the she-beast?”
“Landry.” I sighed, but my voice lacked heat.
“Come on, you usually laugh.”
“I don’t know. Same. Didn’t try to talk me out of it again, so that’s an improvement, I guess.”
Landry picked at the frayed hem of his shorts. “She doesn’t get it. This is important.”
It was. But only Landry understood that. Understood me.
“Oh, and hey!” Landry clapped his hands together, cheeks flushed. Then he reached down and pulled his slim netbook out of a wooden basket nailed to the wall by his seat.
“You still doing that?” I asked, feeling a mixture of embarrassment and elation that he cared enough to use his talents to blog our journey. We planned to take pictures of Dad’s urn at each location. Corny, but who the fuck cared?
“Yes, Jus. I am. I know your teammates said it was ‘gay,’ and it probably totally is, but you know they’ll be checking it. Or getting their girlfriends to read it for them.”
I laughed. Lan blew off my teammates and their comments. They didn’t understand our friendship, but I explained that we’d been friends since middle school. And when they saw Landry attend every game and cheer the loudest, they’d reluctantly accepted him into the fold. Plus, their girlfriends loved Landry. He was like a one-man chick magnet in that way gregarious gay guys were, so my teammates risked female scorn if they weren’t nice to him. Which held more power than my scorn.
“Will you quit thanking me?”
“But all summer away from Jud—”
He put his hand up to silence me. “Stop. I want to be here. He understands.” Lan didn’t even say his name, but that he was a kick to the balls. “Now shush, because Landry has a blog post to write.”
He furrowed his brow and his lips parted in classic Landry Concentration Mode. So I shut up. And I focused on the road. And we flew with Sally through Oregon.
Just a quick note to let everyone know we are on our way. We left California this afternoon and are currently chugging our way through our own Oregon Trail. Thankfully we haven’t died of cholera or typhoid or measles. Thank God for vaccines. I wanted to shoot a bear for dinner but Justin said no. Buzzkill.
I included a picture in this post of Sally. Isn’t she pretty? The only woman I’ll ever be in. Oh shoot, don’t tell Justin I just wrote that.
Our first stop is the Charles W. Bingham Forest Learning Center at Mount St. Helens in Washington State. Mr. Akron took a beautiful shot of the volcano and an elk in the foreground. I don’t think we’ll be so lucky to see one of the beasts because of the season. I read that elk are more visible in the fall because that’s when they are getting all macho and fighting each other for females. So maybe I’ll layer one in with Photoshop (kidding).
Okay, well, it’s starting to get dark and I need my beauty sleep. Good night, and hopefully next time I check in, we’ll have our first picture for you.
12 To Go
Mia: Have a great trip, guys! Justin, quit being a buzzkill.
Trenton: Katy said I had to comment. So, here’s my comment. Akron—you still keeping that arm in shape?
Chase: Stay safe!
I didn’t know what time it was as we approached the border into Washington State. I knew it was late. Grit coated my eyelids, my ass was sore, and my arms were like jelly from holding headstrong Sally on the road.
Landry rolled his head to the side, yawning.
“You could have slept. I wouldn’t have minded,” I told him.
“No way. That’s Road Trip Buddy Rule Number One. I need to stay awake to keep you company.”
“Rules were made to be broken, Lan.”
He guffawed. “Oh really? Okay, Mr. Straight and Narrow.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“What rule have you broken in your life?”
“This is a stupid conversation,” I grumbled.
Landry cocked his head, then shifted in his seat, a knee on the cushion so he faced me. Oh fuck, he was in hunter mode. I was in for a chase, a bullet between the eyes, and then grilling over an open flame.
“Come on, seriously, Jus.”
This conversation was a little déjà vu. Landry spent all senior year of high school convincing me to apply to schools with prestigious photography programs. I hadn’t applied to them, but I’d looked. At the time, my dad was constantly on the road. He’d asked me to take care of my mom, and she was under a lot of stress as she campaigned for her second mayoral term. I was eighteen, still in denial about my attraction to Landry. So I’d committed to the major my mom wanted for me and to a straight and narrow path.
I hadn’t realized how much I’d come to regret the decision.
“Okay,” I said. “What kind of rules are we talking here? Like, a ‘Thou shall not steal’ rule? Or like, ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you’?”
Lan nibbled on his bottom lip. “Something you did that was the opposite of what was expected of you.”
He was trying to rile me up. This is how he’d been with me lately—antagonistic. “I refused to date her friend’s daughter.”
Landry dropped his chin to his chest. “You still took her to that fund-raising campaign.”
“But I didn’t date—”
“And you let her grab your ass—”
Landry shuddered. “She wanted to unwrap you like a present.”
“Landry.” I sighed, remembering the immature, handsy socialite.
“That wasn’t a good example.”
In that moment, I would have hated him if I didn’t love him. Because he knew what he was asking. He knew expectations were my guide in life, the carrot in front of me I never reached, but, like the definition of insanity, I tried anyway.
“I know what you’re trying to do.”
He shrugged. “I’m not trying to hide it.”
“Can we forget—”
“Just answer the—”
“This trip!” I yelled, banging my hand on the steering wheel. To his credit, Lan didn’t even flinch. “This trip,” I repeated in a normal tone. “I stood up to her, told her I wouldn’t start the job until the fall. Told her I was taking this trip with you.”
It’d taken me twenty-two years to stand up to her, but I’d done it. And this trip, my father’s legacy, meant everything to me.
Landry wasn’t in the mood to hand out participation trophies, apparently. “But this fall, you’ll follow that rule handbook again, right?”
“I’m going to do my job—”
“Are you going to marry the person she picks, too?” His words chipped at my brain, shorting out wires as sparks flashed behind my eyes. “Some pretty, petite brunette from a good family, like Mia—”
Why was he harping on this marriage thing? It’s like he suspected . . . “Drop. It.” My voice wasn’t me, it was some bitter monster. The boy beside me turned me into Mr. Hyde, but he was also the one who could turn me back into Dr. Jekyll.
So when his faced softened, the monster receded, and I was just left with a headache from beating back the beast.
“Okay, I’m sorry,” he said.
“And Mia’s just a friend. I’ve told you that.” She was a year behind us in school, and we met during photography classes. She came on to me one time, at a party. And I rejected her advances as nicely as I could. She took it graciously, and then cocked her head, green eyes shining, and asked if we could be friends. I said yes, and never regretted it. She didn’t bug me about dating, and she never judged my relationship with Landry. I think she knew, in a way, what I didn’t have the balls to admit out loud.
I sighed. “It’s okay, but . . . I’d like to spend this summer like the fall isn’t coming.” Like we used to be. “Is that okay? Can we do that?”
Something shifted in Landry’s eyes, but then it was gone. He nodded haltingly. “Of course. We can do that, Justin.”
“Thanks,” I whispered, drained.
We passed into Washington and took one of the first exits off of I-5, to a rest stop in Sara. I parked the RV in the designated overnight parking lot, turned off Sally, and leaned back, rubbing my sandpaper eyes with the heels of my palms.
I stumbled to the back of the RV to pee and brush my teeth. When I returned to the main cabin of the RV, Landry had pulled out the sofa to make the bed and had thrown on a sheet and two pillows. He flopped down on one side, wearing only a pair of boxers. He was so thin, having lost weight in the last year. I could see the definition of his back muscles and a few ribs. But my eyes were drawn to the two dimples in his lower back, just visible above his waistline, and I wanted to go right back into the bathroom and hide. Maybe I could sleep in the shower stall.
“Um . . .”
“Come on, Justin. Lay down. We have a big day tomorrow.”
There were no other places to sleep in Sally. I knew that going into this trip, but now, facing the reality of sleeping with Landry, I didn’t know if I could do it. I couldn’t tell him I would sleep on the driver’s seat. That would just be weird. But this bed was barely bigger than a twin. And I didn’t know how I was going to sleep on it with him for three months. I’d slept next to him before, but we’d either been encased in our own sleeping bags or we’d been drunk off our asses and passed out.
I stripped quickly, glad Landry’s face was turned away from me. And thankful I was so nervous that my dick hadn’t gotten the memo it’d be right next to another dick.
Then I crawled under the covers next to him and lay on my stomach. He turned his head and in the dark, I could barely make out the slope of his nose, the jut of his chin. Fingers brushed my bicep and I squeezed my eyes shut. My dick got the memo now.
“Tomorrow,” he whispered.
“Yep, tomorrow,” I whispered back.
Silence, then, “You doing okay?”
“Yeah Lan, I am.” Or, I would be if he would just sleep.
“Okay. Night, Jus.”
I’d slept in beds with girls a couple of times at the beginning of college, when I was still trying to pretend I was attracted to them. I had worried I’d elbow them in the head in my sleep, or kick them. I was aware of their soft breasts and hairless legs.
But sleeping next to Landry, listening to his deep, masculine breaths as he slipped into sleep, was completely different. I wanted to roll into him, let him take my weight, brush our legs together, and touch foreheads, lips, hips.
I didn’t know when this had all grown so big. I had thought I liked girls in middle school. Freshman year of high school, I started looking less and less at cleavage and cheerleaders’ asses and more at bulges in dudes’ pants and Landry’s ass in the little cross-country shorts he wore. Back when he laughed freely.
And then it was only Landry. His smile and his legs and his hands and his laugh.
He had a boyfriend, though, this Jud Cameron guy he’d met online in a chat room, who went to college in Los Angeles. I had never met him, which made me uneasy, but I saw his picture.
I was better looking.
Landry was happy. Jud seemed to treat him well. And in my mind, I pretended the boyfriend didn’t exist. It was easier than constantly feeling rage at someone else getting to be with Landry like I wanted to be. I’d asked him what Jud thought of our trip and Landry had brushed me off with a he’s not worried.
And why should he be?
Because I was a rule follower. And Landry was against the rules.
I woke up with a hard-on from hell, inches from Landry’s left forearm where it wrapped around my waist, the swirls of blues, reds, and greens vivid against my undecorated skin. He was a stage-five clinger in his sleep. Always had been. But before I’d been able to get up and get away from him—leave the bedroom or house or fucking state depending on my situation below the belt.
I didn’t have that option now.
I scooted out from under him and shoved my pillow in his arms, which he promptly snuggled with a huff.
It was difficult to piss with a raging boner, but I managed to wrestle it into submission so I could whiz. That helped the rigid situation a little. I hopped in the shower and turned on the cold water, hoping it took care of this hard-on the rest of the way for me. But as I scrubbed the shampoo into my hair, I closed my eyes, imagining Landry’s breath along my face and his voice in my ear.
See, I hadn’t gone there yet. I’d watched gay porn when I needed to get off, pointedly focusing on the guys in the video and not picturing Landry’s face.
But now? Here? He was all I could picture as my soapy hand coasted down my chest and over my abs. I braced my right forearm on the wall of the shower in front of me as my left hand reached the trail of hair leading down to my cock.
Then I took a deep breath and wrapped my fingers around the shaft. A small sound escaped my throat at the first tug and heat rushed through my body, sending spiky tingles down into my toes.
Shit, I couldn’t let Landry hear this. I took a couple of steps forward and closed my teeth over the fist of my right hand to muffle any sounds.
And then I stroked. And finally, while he was asleep feet away in another room, I let my mind go there. I pictured him with kiss-swollen lips and hair tangled in my fingers. I heard his moans. I felt his heat and hardness. What would it feel like? To hold him in my hand like I held myself now?
I stroked hard, twisting when I reached my crown, then gathering more suds off of my body to maintain the slickness. I widened my legs more, thinking of Landry’s smile and glinting blue eyes. And the last thing I pictured as my orgasm roared through my body were his hands in place of mine.
When my mind cleared, I panted, registering a pain in my hand. I unlocked my jaw and stared at the teeth marks in my fist. That would be fun to hide from Landry. How do you explain bite marks on your own fucking hand?
The water pounded on my back, and I reached around and turned it off. Hoping I left him some hot water. He’d kill me if I used everything in the tank.
But damn, that’d been the best orgasm I think I’d ever had.
Because I pictured my best friend.
Who I’d be in close quarters with for the next three months.
I. Was. Fucked.
When I stepped out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around my waist, Landry was awake, lying on his stomach, hands folded beneath his chin. Shit, had he heard anything? I wondered if my skin showed a blush. I guess I could have blamed it on the hot water. His eyes roamed my chest and I gritted my teeth.
“Hey, a shower would be awesome.”
I pointed to the bathroom behind me as he hopped off the bed. “All yours. I might have taken all the hot water.” Might have. Probably definitely did.
“Dick,” he said, smacking my ass as he walked by me.
The door shut behind him and I let out a ragged breath.
I pulled on a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, sweatshirt, and boots, because it was still cool in Washington in May. I shoved the bed back into a sofa so we’d have room to move around. Then I whipped up some scrambled eggs for us and popped a couple of bagels in the toaster we’d brought along.
Landry rested his chin on my shoulder as I piled some eggs on plates, startling me since I hadn’t heard the bathroom door.
“You want some eggs?” I asked.
“Sounds awesome. Thanks.”
We ate quickly, sitting at the little table across from the stove.
“What a good little RV wife you are,” Landry crooned.
“What? If anyone’s the wife, you’re the wife.”
His eyes narrowed in challenge. “Oh, really? Why? Because I’m gay?”
“No, because I’m driving, so I’m the husband.”
“No, you’re driving because you’re the wife, and I’m the husband who’s better at navigation.”
“You’re also a better cook.”
Landry shoved his legs in a pair of skinny jeans and pulled a long-sleeve T-shirt over his head. “I microwaved food like an eight-year-old. You actually cooked. And the majority of successful chefs are, in fact, male.”
He rolled his eyes. “Okay, you’re husband J and I’m husband L.”
Seriously? He’d basically just condensed my life fantasy into one sentence. “Fine, I’m HJ. You’re LJ.”
Landry snickered as he slipped his feet into flip-flops. “HJ. You sure you want to claim those initials?”
Landry opened up the door to the RV and motioned with his head. “I’m just going to pop into the gas station. And how do you not know this? HJ? Hand job?” He laughed and banged the door shut behind him.
Fuck, I needed another shower.
My brain felt fuzzy and my skin itched. I needed something to focus on that wasn’t Landry.