Bang! Bang! Bang! The wooden doorframe shook when Michael pounded his fist against the apartment door.
“Asssher,” Michael shouted from the hallway, an unmistakable slur to his words. “Come on, Asssh, I knooow you’re in there--”
Without warning, the door suddenly swung open. Ian rushed into the hallway and punched Michael square in his jaw. Michael’s head bounced back, slamming against the wall with a loud thud. Luckily, Milo was only a step behind Ian. He quickly wrapped his arms around Ian’s chest, pulling his boyfriend away from Michael, preventing a second blow.
“You’ve got some nerve showing your face around here,” Ian yelled at Michael.
“Look, Ian, I have to talk to him,” Michael begged, his eyes were swollen and laced with tears.
“You’re fucking drunk,” Ian growled.
Milo frowned at Michael and Ian arguing in the hallway. “He doesn’t want to talk to you, Michael.”
“Asssher?” Michael hollered again from the doorway of Ian and Milo’s apartment.
Shaking his head, Ian broke free from Milo’s grip and shoved Michael several steps back. “He’s not here, asshole! Don’t you get it? Asher couldn’t stand hearing anyone telling him, ‘I told you so,’ after you fucking shattered his heart into a million pieces.” Ian pushed Michael again.
“Ian!” Milo’s tone was sharp as he stepped in front of his boyfriend, blocking the view between the two men glaring at each other.
“But it’s true,” Ian seethed.
Michael leaned closer and pointed his finger in Ian’s face. “You don’t know the first thing about Asher and me, you jackass!”
Milo raised his hands, forcing both guys to separate. “I’m sorry, Michael, but Ian’s right, Asher’s not here.”
Michael’s face fell. “Where is he?”
“Stay the hell away from him,” Ian growled. “You’ve done enough already.”
When Ian turned and stomped off, storming back into their apartment, Milo gave Michael a sympathetic look. “Hey, Mike, I’m sorry things didn’t work out for you guys, but you really need to go.”
“Go where? I’ve been by Asher’s apartment, but he isn’t there. He hasn’t been home in days and he still won’t answer any of my calls.”
Milo shrugged his shoulders and sighed. “Just give him some time.”
“Dude, thanks for letting me crash on your couch for the last few days.” Asher yawned and stretched his legs on the worn leather sofa. The football game on television was currently tied, yet the action on the screen wasn’t the focus of Asher’s attention.
Ziggy handed Asher another beer before sinking into his tattered old recliner and kicking his heels up on the wooden crate that doubled as a coffee table. “No problem, but don’t you think you’re avoiding the situation?”
Asher rolled his eyes. “No, I just need a little more time before facing Michael, that’s all.”
“That the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard. You’re just scared.”
“Shut up,” Asher grumbled and kicked at Ziggy’s feet.
“And you think hiding from the guy who broke your heart is going to help?” Ziggy asked. “What are you going to do if Michael shows up at the bar? You’re scheduled to work tomorrow, so what happens if he causes a scene in the middle of Chapel Chase?”
“That’s never going to happen.” Asher shook his head and snorted at the absurd thought.
“How can you be so sure?” Ziggy questioned Asher. “The guy’s called you over a hundred times. He even showed up at Ian and Milo’s place, beating down their door looking for you.”
Asher set his beer on the makeshift table harder than he intended, causing the foam to spurt out the top and slosh down the side of the bottle. “Have you seen Michael Waters in the bar? I’m talking about really paid attention and watched him?”
“He’s not exactly my type.” Ziggy chuckled and winked at Asher before taking another long drink of beer.
“Mikie smiles, timidly flashing those sexy dimples, he acts calm and collected when his co-workers are around. He’s cautious, calculating every move he makes to ensure that nobody from his real life misinterprets his intentions. He quietly sits at the end of the bar--”
“Jeez, Asher, Michael’s not a freaking homophobe.” Ziggy suddenly interrupted him.
Asher stopped and glared at him for a second. “Maybe not, but he is a hopeless closet case who’s terrified of anyone finding out that he has feelings for me.” Admitting it out loud brought the painful memory of the scene in the park crashing back.
A smirk twisted Ziggy’s lips as he unexpectedly turned the tables on Asher. “Well then, Mr. Burkhart, if he’s so hopeless, what did you see in him in the first place? You knew the guy was straight, yet you still got involved with him.”
Rubbing his fingers across his chin, Asher scratched at the overgrowth of stubble covering his face as he whined, “I know, but can you blame me? Those dimples and gorgeous smile, that cute butt, and not to mention the sex was so incredibly hot!”
“Whoa, dude, too much information!” Ziggy’s face scrunched up with horror.
Asher flashed a devious grin as he continued to make Ziggy uncomfortable. “I never thought in a million years that a guy like Michael Waters would bottom, but he let me fuck him so hard. God, that man would cum buckets while I pounded his sweet ass.”
“Lord, I need a lot more alcohol if we are going down this road.” Ziggy jumped up and grabbed four more beers from the refrigerator.
Reaching out for another bottle when Ziggy returned to the couch, “Thanks,” Asher said, but Ziggy playfully slapped at his hand.
“Nope, these are all for me.”
Their playful banter continued until Asher’s cell phone suddenly started ringing in his pocket. Fishing it out of his jeans, Asher gasped at the screen. His face flushed red and his heart started racing, seeing Michael’s name.
“Can’t you just talk to him and listen to what he has to say?” Ziggy asked.
Asher blew out a long frustrated sigh. His fingers trembled, holding the ringing phone in his hands. He wanted to answer the call, but he didn’t. Instead, he swiped his thumb across the reject button and tossed the phone aside. “I can’t!”
Ziggy tossed his hands in the air. “Well, nobody’s perfect.”
“I never said he was perfect,” Asher grunted.
“I wasn’t talking about Michael,” Ziggy said, raising an eyebrow at his friend.
“Look, Zig, the trial starts in a few days,” Asher huffed. “If I didn’t have enough to worry about right now, I might be able to deal with Michael, but I just can’t.”
Ziggy rolled his eyes. “You’re not the one on trial.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Asher said, glaring at him. “Philip warned me that Allen’s attorney is going to do everything he can to get that asshole acquitted, including destroying my reputation. They are going to attack my character. Do you think Michael is going to stand beside me when they’re calling me a perverted faggot in open court?”
“But that’s not fair,” Ziggy growled. “You didn’t try to kill someone!”
Asher shrugged. “Still doesn’t matter. It only takes one member of the jury to hate gays to cause a mistrial.”
“Well, I’ll be there supporting you, no matter what,” Ziggy said.
“You better be there. I took a fucking bullet for you,” Asher chuckled, before punching Ziggy in the leg.
Rain pelted the window in Michael’s office. Several files were scattered across the top of his desk and two messages stamped with large red letters marked ‘URGENT’ were sitting beside his telephone.
Michael’s fingers flew over the letters on his keyboard. He typed fast and furious before suddenly stopping midway through a sentence. The muscles flexed in his jaw while his dark eyes scanned the computer screen.
“No! No! No!” Michael shook his head and snarled at his work. Angrily thrusting his fingers through his hair, disheveling the dark locks, making them stick out from his head in every direction, Michael continued to grumble out loud.
“Fuck!” He growled, using the mouse to highlight the entire page. “That’s a total piece of crap,” he said, and with the click of a finger, the work disappeared from the screen.
“What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get it right?” he mumbled under his breath to the empty room.
“Get what right, Michael?” a soft voice spoke from the doorway of Michael’s office.
Michael flinched and whirled around in his chair. Lana Dawson stood there clutching a clipboard to her chest.
“I’m sorry, dear, I didn’t mean to startle you,” she apologized, stepping further into Michael’s office. “You haven’t submitted your holiday request forms to the Human Resources Department, yet. I was making the rounds, picking up the last few stragglers so we could get a jump start on the holiday schedule. Is yours ready?”
Michael stared at her. He blinked several times, but he didn’t respond to her inquiry.
Lana gave Michael a soft smile, the rosy color made her plump cheeks glow. “The building is practically a ghost town at this time of year with employees taking vacation time to spend the holidays with their families and loved ones. I think the entire Accounting and Advertising Departments are taking off the whole week of Thanksgiving. Old man Ashcroft is such a cheapskate, it wouldn’t surprise me if he actually shut off the water and power in those departments to try and save a few bucks.” The woman’s easy laughter was light and musical.
The wind outside picked up and started spitting sleet and hail against the windowpane. Michael shivered and rubbed his hands over his arms. “Loved ones,” he scoffed, “I don’t think I have to worry about that, anymore, so you can mark down in your calendar that I’ll be here. I’m not planning on taking off any time soon--”
“But what about the court case?” Lana abruptly asked. “It’s been all over the news these last few weeks. Won’t you be taking off time to be with your,” she hesitated before finishing, “to be with your friend during the trial--?”
“We broke up,” Michael’s voice trembled.
Lana gasped. “Oh dear, I’m so sorry to hear that.”
Michael stared at the gray clouds rolling passed the window as he quietly admitted, “It was all my fault. I panicked and ruined everything, so I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to be at the trial.”
“Did you love him?” Lana’s question was direct. Michael’s head snapped back. He stared at her hovering beside his desk, her arms crossed, waiting for his answer.
“That doesn’t matter.” Michael frowned, trying to avoid her question.
“Of course it does!” she chided him while tapping her foot, still waiting.
“Yes, I loved him,” Michael whispered, “And I still do.”
“Then you should be there, showing him your support.”
“What if Asher doesn’t want me there?” Michael sighed. “He won’t talk to me. He’s been avoiding my phone calls and texts, so why would he want me at the trial?”
Lana shrugged her shoulders. “He might not, and that’s a chance you just have to take, but wouldn’t you feel better knowing that you did the right thing and stood behind your friend in his time of need?”
Michael took a long slow breath and nodded his dark head. “You’re right. Can you mark me off for those days?”
“I’ve already done it,” Lana happily chirped. With a quick wink and a devilish smile, she turned on her short, stubby heels and sashayed out of Michael’s office.
As I peek out from under my bed, I see most of you have put away your pitchforks. Are you still mad at Michael...Asher...Me??? They made me do it!!! LOL Thanks for checking out the new chapter. Let me know what you think. KC