Serpentine Walls Excerpt: Christmas Blues, Confused College Guys (NSFW)

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Hello and Merry Day After Christmas (Boxing Day to you Brits)! I was looking through Serpentine Walls for another holly, jolly excerpt (this is said in sarcasm, as Pete had a pretty rough Christmas that year) and was struck by how many scenes I’d written around the winter holidays.

I decided to give you two scenes that include Pete’s cousin Bud, Pete’s best friend John, and sweet Jed who Pete has been “hooking up” with. The first scene is when Bud and Pete are driving home from U.Va. at the start of winter break. I left out the scene right after where Pete’s bestie John advises him to be honest with Jed. We take up again at Bud’s family Christmas party and you get to see how Pete handles the situation with Jed. Not well. It takes Pete quite some time to be honest — with himself and with everyone else. He gets there… eventually.

Many readers felt for poor Jed, so you will be happy to know that I’m writing the third Serpentine novel about him, and he gets his happy ending.

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BUD and Pete sat at a dead standstill in a huge line of cars on I-66.

“I knew this was going to happen. I told you to be ready earlier.” Pete’s voice sounded whiny even to his own ears. Crap. This is a shit way to start winter break, he thought, wondering why he was even in a hurry. It wasn’t like going home was anything to look forward to.

“Big deal. The way traffic is around here, we would’ve needed to leave at the crack of dawn. Can we change the station?” Bud reached toward the dial.

“No!” Pete snapped.

“God.” Bud slumped down in his seat and pulled his baseball cap over his eyes.

After twenty minutes of silence, in which they inched forward about a mile, Pete decided talking to his cousin was better than fuming over the fucking traffic situation.

“What’re you doing over break?”

“Going skiing this week.”

“Cool.”

Must be nice. Bud had only one sister, Heather, and their family was wealthy. Pete tried not to envy them. It wasn’t like his family was poor or anything, but given how many there were of them, they couldn’t take ski trips at a moment’s notice. And now that his parents had split.… Shut up.

“Hey, but I’ll see you on Christmas Eve, bro.” Bud’s parents had hosted a huge party for family and friends every Christmas Eve for as long as Pete could remember. “You and Jed.”

“Jed?”

Bud stared at him like he was dense. “Jed—your boyfriend? He’s gotta meet the family sometime.”

“Jed isn’t my boyfriend. Wait—you didn’t invite him…?”

“’Course I did!” Bud said, indignant. “I don’t care what you call him; you guys have been hooking up for months, right?”

“That doesn’t make him my boyfriend! Crap. Why’d you have to invite him to the family Christmas party?”

“Well, what is he then? What—you too good for Jed? You can’t bring him around? You’re such a snob, Pete.”

“Shut up.”

“No, I’m serious, man. You finally get someone who likes you—a normal guy, not one of those—”

“Bud, shut the fuck up. If you say one more thing, I’m gonna smash your face in.” Pete said this knowing that threats never stopped Bud, and, true to form, he barreled ahead, crossing his arms over his chest with a belligerent scowl.

“All I’m sayin’ is you finally get a guy who’s into you and you blow him off. For what? That Aidan guy? Gimme a break.”

Pete gripped the steering wheel, wanting to pull over and punch Bud out, although he’d never actually do that. He couldn’t pull over anyway. They were trapped on I-66, surrounded by wall-to-wall automobiles, and there was no escaping Bud’s continuing diatribe.

“I don’t even know what you see in that asshole. He fucks everyone in sight. You’re better than him, bro, even if you’re a dumbass at times.”

“Can we stop talking about this?” Pete said through gritted teeth.

“Yeah, fine. But I got one more thing to say. If you don’t think you’re boyfriends with Jed, you should tell him, ’cause he thinks you are. And I ain’t disinviting him from the Christmas party. That’s just rude.”

Stony silence. Pete didn’t stop Bud this time when he leaned over and changed the radio to the country station. He was suddenly in the mood for “Achy Breaky Heart” and all that other lachrymose shit. Yeah, and maybe he was a snob, because he didn’t think either Bud or Jed even knew what “lachrymose” meant, but fuck it. I am who I am.

Not the main point, Morgan. Okay, the main point was Jed. He liked him—Jed played a mean video game and was fun to hang out with. And, yes, they’d been having sex—not exactly regularly, but off and on since September. Someone like Angie could misconstrue that, but Jed was a guy. A gay guy! “Friends with benefits,” right?

So what? argued an opposing voice, as a vision of Jed’s double bed and shy smile arose in his mind. What makes gay guys exempt from wanting a relationship? He was not going to dwell on his next memory: Aidan, naked on top of the coverlet, telling him, You want someone to love. Aidan had that all wrong. (But he’s not as big of an asshole as you think, Bud.)

Back to Jed, Pete knew there had been signs of Jed getting attached to him since the beginning. But tell him they weren’t boyfriends? Pete could just imagine that conversation:

Uh, Jed, it’s come to my attention that you think we’re boyfriends, and I just wanna let you know that we’re not. ’Kay?

Oh. Sure, Pete. Thanks for letting me know. Wanna play Mortal Kombat?

And what if he brought it up, and Jed looked at him like he was nuts because Bud had gotten it all wrong? As his cousin who’d been stuck with him all their lives, Pete was aware that the likelihood of Bud getting shit wrong, especially when it came to people and relationships, was high.

So, what’s the plan? Ignore it and hope it goes away? That sounded good to Pete. Jed hadn’t brought it up, so he sure as hell wasn’t going to. He had a week before the Christmas party; he’d think about it later. That resolved, Pete cut off Blake Shelton and turned the music back to his R&B station.

 

MISSY slowly pulled up the long driveway at Uncle Jerry’s and Aunt Barb’s. The house was ablaze with an ostentatious Christmas light display featuring moving reindeer and a blinking JOY TO THE WORLD stretched along the roof.

“Rad,” Nate said, looking impressed.

Missy slowed down even more as she stared at the house. “Wow, their lights get fancier every year.”

From his vantage point in the backseat, Pete thought it looked tacky as hell. Mom sat beside him, and when he caught her eye, he saw her lips twitch like she was trying not to laugh.

“Interesting,” she commented drily, putting her hand on Pete’s and squeezing for a moment. They exchanged a smile. “Is John coming?”

“Yep. Cleo’s in Boston with her family.” He cleared his throat. “Another guy we know from school is going to be there. Jed.” He waited. No reaction from Missy or Nate.

Mom nodded. “That’s nice to see some of your friends.” 

Good. Bud hadn’t said anything, then. Taking the coward’s way out, Pete had texted Bud with his lie about having talked to Jed. It seemed to have had the desired effect. Now all he needed was to get through the party with Jed being there. Bud has a great video game selection if worse comes to worst, he thought as they piled out of the car and walked up the steps to the house, where Aunt Barb stood in the open doorway.

“Laura!” Aunt Barb’s voice was just a touch too loud as she ushered them inside. She gushed in her Southern drawl, “You look wonderful! Hi, kids! Nate, you must have grown three more inches. Why, Missy, that’s a gorgeous sweater! And Pete, you’re looking so handsome, home from school.”

Pete spied John and Bud over by the dining room table. “Hey, Aunt Barb,” he said in greeting. “I’m just going to take these over there.” He held up a basket of his Mom’s homemade sausage rolls.

“Thank you! Laura, come in here. I want you to see the new cabinets.” His poor mother was literally in Aunt Barb’s clutches and being herded to the kitchen, while Missy and Nate got cornered by Uncle Jerry.

“Pete!” For once, Bud’s voice was more welcome than the alternative. “I been waiting for those sausage rolls, bro. Hand ’em over.”

“Here you go. Where’s the beer?”

John pointed to the deck, where a red-and-white cooler sat jammed full of bottles, and followed Pete out through the sliding glass door.

“So, how did it go talking with Jed?”

Instead of responding, Pete bent over the cooler like he was searching for the exact right beer.

“Oh. You didn’t talk to him, right?” John seemed more resigned than accusing.

Pete was saved from answering by the door sliding open and Jed himself coming out, with Bud yelling over his shoulder to them to hurry up and get back inside. Jed had dressed up for the occasion in a nice sweater and slacks, and he carried a small present.

“Hi,” Jed said. “Merry Christmas.” He offered the wrapped package to Pete. Shit. Feeling like a douchebag, Pete took it while John cleared his throat and sipped his beer.

“Hey. Thanks. I… didn’t get you anything, sorry.” He could see John raising his eyebrow significantly behind Jed’s back and resisted the urge to flip him off.

“Oh, that’s okay, dude. I promised to lend you Call of Duty: Black Ops, so I wrapped it up instead. You can keep it, though.”

Pete laughed, relieved. Jed’s version of being boyfriends was so laid-back it was easy to miss. Still, he was beginning to feel like a jerk, because Jed deserved more than Pete was willing to give. And Jed was awesome in his own way, proving it again tonight by providing them with the video game excuse to escape his family’s prying eyes without Pete even having to suggest it.

“Thanks, man. Hey, Bud’s got a system in his room, let’s grab some food and go play.”

 

IT WAS 12:10 a.m. and officially Christmas Day, but instead of being at midnight Mass, Pete sat in Jed’s car in the dark parking lot of his old elementary school, getting a blow job. He clutched Jed’s hair as Jed moved his mouth up and down his dick. Jed’s technique had definitely improved. Oh fuck, yeah.

“That’s good.” He stifled a groan as Jed sucked him harder and put his hand at the base of Pete’s cock. “Yeah. Like that.” A memory of Aidan’s generous mouth engulfing him helped to tip Pete over the edge, and he came with a strangled gasp.

Jed raised his head, red-faced and panting a little, with a dribble of Pete’s come on his chin, and he smiled when Pete wiped it off. Pete then set to work unbuttoning Jed’s slacks. Jed’s erection tented his underwear, and Pete reached in, enjoying the feel of his hard, warm cock. It jerked in his hand, and Jed made a soft sound, twisting his body to face Pete more fully. He was always quick to come, which was good, because Pete was getting paranoid about the possibility of the cops cruising by. Christmas would be a screwed-up time to be busted for indecent exposure or worse.

He bent down and slid his mouth over Jed’s cock, and a few hard sucks, along with his hand groping Jed’s balls, was all it took for Jed to come with a muffled groan. Pete sat up, swallowing. Neither of them moved for a moment as they caught their breath. Then they rearranged themselves and started pulling up their pants.

“That—um, that was good,” Jed said.

“Yeah.”

“What are you doing New Year’s Eve?”

Crap. New Year’s Eve. Kissing at midnight. It was definitely a boyfriend-type activity.

“Uh, my family’s got something. I kinda have to do it, I mean, for my mom’s sake.”

At Jed’s puzzled look, Pete realized he’d never even told him about his parents getting a divorce. He’d never told Jed anything, actually. He tuned back in to what Jed was saying.

“I was thinking we could hang out or something. My family sits around and watches the ball drop on TV. Major excitement.”

Pete smiled at Jed’s rare display of sarcasm. “Yeah, that’d be nice, but I’m kind of roped into this thing with my mom.”

There was no “thing” with his mom, but Pete didn’t want to spend New Year’s Eve with Jed.

“That’s cool.” Jed turned the key in the ignition, and Pete peered at him as the engine came to life. He didn’t appear to be upset, but Pete still felt like a shithead.

Just tell him.

“Uh, Jed.”

“Hmm?” Jed drove the car slowly out of the school parking lot. “Do I take a left here?”

“Yeah, and then the second right.”

The car moved smoothly along the empty streets.

“Did you—were you going to say something?” Jed glanced over, and Pete froze. Fuck me. I can’t.

“Naw.” Jed made a right onto Pete’s street. “I’m the third house on the left, the one with the Ford minivan in the driveway.”

He should wait until they got back to school. Maybe… if he kept not getting together with him and not responding to texts, Jed would figure it out on his own. Maybe he’d even get interested in someone else, someone who was really into him. Right. Maybe pigs will fly. Not that he thought Jed wasn’t capable of attracting someone else, but the way Pete’s life was going, he wasn’t going to hold his breath.

Jed pulled up in front of the house and kept the engine running. “Well….” He shifted in his seat.

Pete opened his door and then turned back to Jed. “Thanks for the video game.”

Jed nodded. “No problem. Merry Christmas.”

After he got out of the car, Pete leaned back in, his hand on the doorframe.  “You too, bro. Happy New Year.” Bro? Jesus Christ.

Pete shut the car door and walked quickly up the driveway, berating himself. Safely inside, he stopped at the sight of the Christmas tree, its colored lights twinkling in the darkened living room, piles of presents underneath, filled stockings lying on the hearth, just the way they always had. He felt a deep wrench as unbidden memories appeared—memories of childhood Christmases when life was safe and full of promise.

Merry Christmas, Pete, you asshole.

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Oh, the angst! If you’d like to see how Pete-the-asshole finally figures out his life and finds love, here’s the link: Serpentine Walls.

 

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If you’re intrigued by the mention of sexy Aidan, you can read his whole story here: Aidan’s Journey. Warning: it’s a psychological journey and even darker than Serpentine Walls, but it has a happy ending, promise!

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And if you’re in the mood for something a bit lighter, I have a new novella coming out next week: Wild and Precious.

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