*Please note this content contains adult language and themes. It is intended for a mature audience.*
By Lynn Hagen
Giovanni sat with his car idling as he stared at Nicholas’s house from the curb. His thoughts were scattered to the four corners, trying to figure out what was going on in his screwed-up brain.
Could Teresa be right?
Tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, Gio thought of the argument he’d had with his girlfriend—correction—ex-girlfriend. He replayed the scene in his mind for what seemed like the hundredth time.
You call his name in your sleep and spend every waking moment with him. Nik is all you talk about. Nik, this. Nik that. I’m tired of it, Gio. I’m starting to think I don’t have what you need. Nik does. Go screw him instead. It’s over.
Gio blew out a breath as his head fell back onto the headrest. Nik had been his best friend since grade school and work partner for two years. They just connected really well. She had to be wrong.
Punching the dash, Gio cursed. There was no way he was in love with his best friend. Wouldn’t he have figured that little fact out sooner in the twenty-five years they’d known each other? He wasn’t in love with Nicholas. Loved him, yes, like a brother. In love? No fucking way.
Gio chewed on his thumbnail as he stared out of the windshield for what seemed like forever, flipping the problem over and over in his mind. The glass began to speckle as tiny raindrops started to fall.
Mrs. Pots who lived three houses down grabbed her bags from the back of her car and made a dash for the front door before the skies opened up. Off in the distance, the storm clouds were dark and threatening. The thunder boomed as night approached.
It was a nice neighborhood. One step up from the rougher side Gio and Nicholas had grown up on and where Gio still lived. Here the lawns were mowed, trash taken out with lids on the containers, and the streets were clean. Nicholas didn’t have drug dealers perched on the front stoop. It didn’t seem to matter that Gio was a narcotics detective. The dealers ignored him as he ignored them. They had an unspoken agreement—don’t break into my place and I won’t have you busted.
Nicholas had bought a house on the outskirts of the city. Gio was honestly happy for his best friend. At least Nicholas had gotten out of the old neighborhood. Gio could move, but what for? Rent was cheap and bills were low. Not that a detective’s salary paid much but it gave him a little wiggle room to indulge in the things he normally wouldn’t be able to afford.
The sides of Gio’s mouth pulled up when the passenger door opened. “Always did know when I was around,” he said as Nik slid in.
They sat there silently, both watching the approaching storm. Since as far back as Gio could remember, Nik’s mood always matched his. It was just weird that way.
The windows began to fog as the rain came down in sheets. Having Nik sitting next to him gave Gio a level of comfort—made him feel as though everything was going to work out. Nik had an aura about him that had always put Gio at peace. But not tonight. Gio had a feeling nothing was going to calm his nerves.
“Ready to go in?” Nik’s deep voice brought Gio out of deep thought.
“Guess so. My butt’s getting numb.” They both made a run for it, rushing through the front door. Towels were sitting on the back of the sofa, as if Nik had anticipated the downpour. He tossed one to Gio.
“Thanks.” Rubbing the water from his hair, Gio watched Nik’s back as they made their way into the kitchen. Gio took a seat as Nik heated the kettle for tea.
Did he really love Nik like Teresa accused him of? Nik’s back was strong, lean and rippled as he moved around. His tight Levi 501s cupped his ass to show off that even his glutes were toned. Maybe he was looking at his best friend differently because Teresa had planted the seed. The last thing Gio wanted to do was bring up why they’d fought. He didn’t want his best friend turning his back on him.
Gio’s darted his eyes away as Nik turned, picking up the sugar from the table. His best friend smiled at him before turning back around.
“Teresa?” Nik asked as he prepared the cups.
Gio shouldn’t be surprised that Nik knew part of the problem. His thoughts were never his own around the guy. “Yeah. She dumped me.”
Nodding, Nik crossed the room and grabbed a bottle of dark amber from the shelf before he a poured a dollop of whiskey into each mug. Setting the bottle down, Nik passed Gio his cup while taking a seat.
* * * *
“Wanna talk about it?” Nik sipped his tea as he watched Giovanni. The relationship was doomed from the start. If the guy ever got a clue of who and what he was, then Gio may live a happier life. But Nik wasn’t going to be the one to clue Gio in. With his best friend, Gio had to come to the revelation on his own. But waiting was wearing on Nik. Over the years, he’d watched one relationship after another of Gio’s crash and burn.
Gio stirred the spoon around, watching the dark liquid as he shrugged. “Same song and dance.”
Nik grinned. “Hours are too long. Never home. Blah, blah, blah.”
Gio laughed. “You know it.”
If Gio only knew how handsome he was when he smiled. “Drink up. We have a whole bottle to polish off.”
Once the cup of tea was empty, Gio started taking straight shots. It had to be serious for Gio to do that because his best friend wasn’t a drinker. The man was obviously trying to forget something.
After the third shot, Gio started to argue with himself. Nik knew it wasn’t the alcohol making Gio act this way. It was a habit Gio had since they were kids. Most of the time Nik found the habit comical as hell. But not tonight. Tonight he found Gio’s quirk informative and highly intriguing.
“Teresa is wrong. She just has to be. There is no way I’m in love with Nik. I can’t help whose name I call in my sleep.”
“Is that why she left you?” Nik asked softly, astonished that someone finally bought a clue. Too bad it had to be Teresa and not Gio.
Gio’s head snapped up, his eyes wide. The chair banged against the floor as Gio stumbled away from the table, his moves erratic and uncoordinated. Nik knew it wasn’t from the whiskey, but the need to escape his humiliation. But there was nothing to be humiliated over.
“Giovanni, stop.” Nik grabbed his friend around the waist.
“Let me go.” Gio damn near snarled the words.
“Not until we talk about this.” Nik hadn’t waited all these years for Gio to finally figure out that they were meant to be together for Gio to run off. He pulled his best friend into the living room and deposited Gio on the couch.
“Please don’t hate me, Nik.” Gio shoved the palms of his hands into his eyes, wiping away tears that Nik hadn’t even know where there. “Damn Teresa for doing this to me.”
Nik highly doubted this was Teresa’s fault. It was a long time coming and Nik was glad their attraction toward one another was finally out in the open.
Nik had an uncontrollable urge his whole life to make his friend’s pain go away any time Gio hurt. Growing up, Gio wasn’t a self-motivator. Nik pulled him through school when his friend had wanted to quit. He’d kept Gio on the straight and narrow when his friend had hit a rough patch years ago. Nik had promised himself that he wouldn’t leave Gio behind and he hadn’t. He’d even made sure his best friend made detective alongside him. Nik had pulled strings to get Gio as his partner. That was what best friends did.
And in all that time, Nik had prayed that Gio would wake up and realize he was gay. Nik had seen it. Hell, even Nik’s father had zeroed in on the fact that Gio clung to everything Nik said and did. Over the years, Nik had caught the way his best friend looked at him whenever Nik was barely dressed. Nik harbored those same feelings, but had refused to act on them until Gio was ready.
“Walk away. I won’t be mad,” Gio said as he looked away.
Nothing Gio ever did would ever make Nik walk away. There was one question he needed answered though. “How long?”
Once again Gio wiped his face with the palms of his hands.
“How long?” Nik put more force behind the question.
“I don’t know! Just…I don’t know,” Gio answered dejectedly.
Nik moved from his kneeling position to sit on the edge of the couch, running his hands through Gio’s hair. “Hey, look at me.” Nik waited until Gio reluctantly turned toward him. “Buddies, right? We talk about everything.”
“Don’t worry about this. We’ll figure it out. We always do.” He gave Gio a reassuring smiled.
“You’re not gonna punch me or tell me to get out?” Gio’s brows pulled together in confusion. “You’re taking this a little too well, Nik.”
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