Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #18 (6.2)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

First encounter with Salvation's angel/backer, and Ryan isn't sure what to think. Everything is overwhelming right now. It's been quite a day, hasn't it? The action continues in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #18 (6.2)

Ben didn’t say anything as they trudged across the yard, so Ryan didn’t break the silence. He couldn’t read Ben’s mood, and he didn’t want to say anything potentially upsetting. This day already contained too many ups and downs for his liking, and he wasn’t sure where he stood, to be honest. But that’s what life was about, wasn’t it? Wasn’t this what he wanted, to actually live? To do more than exist? To become the writer he was sure he could be? Then he’d have to accept that not everything would be pleasant. Life wasn’t all about rainbows and unicorns and happiness, the bad happened too and you learned to deal with it.

Wow, how intense was that?

At least he was with Ben again, and that’s what really mattered. The rest could be handled.

By the time they joined the rest of the band, they were clustered around Cameron in the sitting area. Cameron sat at one end of the couch, while Deacon and Keanu perched on ottomans. Aiden and Abby sat together on the love seat directly across from everyone else. Ben waved Ryan toward the open end of the couch, and took the space between him and Cameron, almost protectively. Ryan couldn’t help but remember how he had been the one to look out for Ben when they were younger. He felt a warm glow inside knowing Ben was there for him now, even if he wasn’t quite sure why he seemed intent on guarding him from his investor. He was probably reading into things. Writer’s imagination, right?

Cameron was in the middle of telling a story, and since Ryan had missed the whole beginning and had no frame of reference for what he was talking about, he used the moment to surreptitiously observe the members of the band.  These weren’t characters he was creating, these were real people, and the more he got to know and understand them the better.

Both Keanu and Deacon were listening attentively, laughing at appropriate moments. Whatever tension had existed before between Keanu and Ben had apparently dissipated— he seemed as relaxed as his boyfriend. Ryan shifted his attention to the loveseat, where the twins sat. He noticed that Aiden sat slightly forward, almost on the edge of the seat, as if ready to spring up at any moment, and Abby’s hand lay in his. Abby seemed to be watching Cameron, but not in the same way the others did, although why he thought so, Ryan wasn’t sure. Maybe it was the pensive expression he saw play across her features. Or the way she had backed herself into the corner of the loveseat.

Abby turned her head toward him in that second, and their eyes met. Was that annoyance he saw there? Or something a lot stronger? She glanced away from him, toward her brother, and he began to doubt he’d seen anything at all. She was probably just anxious to get back to rehearsal. That must be it.

“Well, Ben, it’s about to happen, isn’t it?” Cameron relaxed back into the couch and crossed his legs.

 “Your first gig is what… Thursday, right? Thibodaux?”

“That’s just a private party,” Ben replied. “First real stop is in Houma, an underground club.”

“Underground club? Sounds kinky.” Keanu laughed.

“Party? What kind of party?” Aiden asked. “I didn’t think we were doing those anymore.”

Ryan felt Ben tense up beside him, but before he had a chance to react, Ben had already relaxed, facing Aiden with a confident smile.

“It’s a birthday party, that’s all. The birthday boy’s a huge fan of ours, apparently. How could I say no?”

Aiden and Abby exchanged looks, but Ryan had no idea what they were thinking. Keanu was still smiling, and Deacon seemed his usual laid-back self. Ryan knew they’d been playing together, at least for a little while, maybe in private venues. Why would this be a problem all of a sudden? They’d have to do all kinds of jobs, wouldn’t they, until they were noticed and made the big time? They were a unique act, and they were very talented. If it was him, he’d do everything in his power to get the band’s name and music out there. Everyone had to start somewhere.

“Besides, these are the same kids who’ll be screaming to get tickets for Houma,” Ben finished. 

“Consider it advance publicity. At least for now.”

“Marge knows what she’s doing. I trust her,” Deacon said, giving Ben a lazy thumbs up. Oh yeah, that was the manager’s name. Marge. She’d seemed very nice when he’d spoken with her on the phone. Ryan thought Ben would appreciate the vote of confidence, and that would be the end of the matter. When Ben didn’t reply immediately, he shot him a quick look. Something in Ben’s expression told Ryan Ben was holding something back. What that might be, though, he had no clue.

“Marge is great,” he said at last. He squeezed Ryan’s hand before rising from the couch.

“So,” he said, “let’s go over our sets. I’m thinking of making a couple of changes.”

“Well, boys, that’s my cue to go.” Cameron laughed. “I have a little business to take care of, but I’ll be back for dinner. Let’s take Ryan someplace nice for his first night, whaddya say?”

The general consensus seemed to be that was a good idea. At least no one argued against it. Cameron approached Ryan, who quickly stood and grasped the older man’s outstretched hand. “Good to meet you, Ryan,” he said. “Welcome to Salvation.” He left with a backward wave for the band, letting in a momentary glimpse of Louisiana sunshine on his way out.

“Okay then,” Ben said. “Let’s get to it. Ryan, how about for now maybe just take down your impressions of the music and stuff? You can quiz us all later about more personal information.” He gave Ryan a quick wink, as the band headed back to the stage.

to be continued

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #17 (6.1)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

A new player has entered the field. Will this be a good thing or a bad? See what's happening in this week's In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #17 (6.1)

The speaker was an older man, somewhere around Ryan’s dad’s age, maybe, although he could have passed for a lot younger. His dark hair was thick and wavy, barely touched with a hint of gray, falling just to his shoulders, and his forehead showed just the slightest signs of a thinning hairline. His hazel eyes exuded good humor, while the lines around his full pink lips showed a man who smiled a lot. Like now. The man was very casually dressed in a pair of relaxed jeans that looked well-worn and comfortable, and a T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of the Mona Lisa.

“Hope I didn’t startle you,” he went on, when Ryan didn’t immediately answer, too taken aback by his sudden appearance to string two words together. “Why don’t I start then? My name’s Cameron Pope.” He held his hand out to Ryan.

Of course. Duh. What more normal than the man of the house be in his own home. He reached for the proffered hand, rising at the same time.

“Sorry, Mr. Pope. I’m Ryan Fremont.”

“I had a feeling you might be. And please, call me Cameron. Or Cam. So you’re the writer Ben’s been so anxiously awaiting?” He released Ryan’s hand, his eyes traveling up and down Ryan’s body, as if taking measure. Ryan felt slightly uncomfortable at his scrutiny.

“That’s me,” Ryan admitted. “And you’re Ben’s angel, right? This is your house?”

“That I am,” Cameron replied. “And yes it is. You know, Ben’s got one hell of a group there. I believe Salvation’s going places, and I’m honored to be a part of getting them launched on their journey to fame and fortune.”

Cameron’s voice was a little gravelly, but not unpleasantly so, and he spoke with a soft, unhurried drawl. At the same time, there was something almost electrifying about the man, something that seemed to burst with energy. A man constantly on the go, maybe? Also, considering his apparent wealth, a man accustomed to getting what he wanted? And why did Ryan find that thought somewhat annoying?

“I just heard them for the first time, but I was very blown away by what I heard,” Ryan said. “I think they’re phenomenal. And Ben’s got a beautiful voice. Not only that, but his lyrics… they’re amazing.”

“That they are,” Cameron agreed. “That they are. I was just on my way back to surprise the boys. I’m guessing they’re rehearsing, right? Care to join me?”

“Oh yes, yes, I just came in to get my lap top. I told Ben I’d come right back.” Ben must be wondering what was taking him so long to run a simple errand.

Almost as if on cue, he hear a step on the stairs, heard Ben’s familiar voice floating up to him.
“Ryan, you okay? I wanted to make sure you didn’t get lost or some—”

Ryan could see Ben now. He stood just behind Cameron, in the doorway, clearly surprised at his unexpected appearance. For a split second, Ryan thought he saw something unpleasant flash in Ben’s eyes, something more than the unexpected sight of his backer might elicit. Anger? Jealousy? Or something deeper?

The next second that had passed, and Ben wore a big welcoming smile.

“Cam, didn’t expect to find you back so soon. I see you’ve met Ryan.” As Cameron turned to greet him, Ben managed to slide past him into the room. He quickly took up a position beside Ryan, facing Cameron, and slid his arm around Ryan’s waist. A gesture which was impossible to miss, which Cameron didn’t. A wry smile crossed his lips.

“I just did, Ben, I just did,” Cameron said. “And I have to say, you have great taste in… writers.”

Somehow Ryan knew that wasn’t what he meant. Indignation bubbled in his chest, but he held it in. This was not the time or place. Especially since it was Cameron’s house. And even more especially because he could be totally wrong and reading into things that didn’t exist. Right now, his emotions were too much of a mess for him to remain objective. Time to just shut up and listen.

“Ryan is a very special writer,” Ben said, tightening his grip on Ryan just a little. “He’s perfect for Salvation. You’ll see.”

“I’m sure I will. I was just about to go out back and see what’s going on with you guys. Shall we go?”

“Absolutely,” Ben said. “We can talk about the tour and get some rehearsal in.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Cameron winked. “Meet you two out there, then.” He nodded at them both, before giving a brief two fingered salute, before pivoting. As he headed down the hall to the stairs, Ryan heard him whistling something, but couldn’t place the tune.

He felt Ben heave a deep sigh. He released his hold on Ryan. Taking his hand instead, he looked up at him with his amazingly crystal blue eyes. Ryan had the feeling there was something Ben wanted to say. He held his breath, and waited.

“Let’s just join him, shall we?” was all that Ben said. Their eyes locked for a brief moment, before Ben broke the gaze and they headed toward the stairs.

to be continued

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #16 (5.4)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Ryan got a big surprise last week when he listened to Salvation play, especially when he learned that Ben composed the music and the lyrics. There is no doubt in his mind that he's still in love with Ben, even if he isn't sure what to do right now. But things have changed, right? They're both older now. See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Then go visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to!  Their links follow my tale!  Enjoy!

In Pieces #16 (5.4)

By the time Ryan reached his room, he decided sitting down was not only a good idea, it was required. He grabbed his laptop from his luggage and tossed it on one of the beds, then took a shaky seat beside it while he collected his thoughts. Everything seemed to be catching up with him at once. His dad’s death and funeral. Getting a new job and having to postpone his first day. The flight to New Orleans. And the biggest shock of all—running into the person he’d wanted to see more than anything in the world.

Cassie would flip when she heard the news. She’d be very happy for him too, he knew. He’d confided in her as much as he dare reveal about his feelings for Ben. He’d still been sorting everything out at the time Ben had disappeared. Cassie was very perceptive about things like that, as well as being very kind-hearted. No wonder his dad had been drawn to her.  She never sat in judgment on him, simply listened, and provided a strong shoulder to cry on, when needed. If Ryan was into women—and if she hadn’t been his stepmother—he could see himself with Cassie. But his heart belonged to Ben, and had for a long time.

Not that he hadn’t dated anyone after Ben left. He was only human, after all. There’d been a few guys over the last ten years. Nothing serious. And nothing physical. That had usually been the kicker. The straw that broke the camel’s back. Not like Ryan hadn’t been interested, or hadn’t tried to do what he thought they wanted. But his body refused to cooperate, as if it knew better and wouldn’t settle for second-best. His few boyfriends had given up in frustration and a certain amount of disgust. Some belittled him for his failure to properly respond to their charms—in blunt terms, for not being able to get it up with them— and some accused him of being everything from a eunuch to asexual or a woman in disguise.

The truth of the matter was that in the privacy of his bedroom, Ryan had no problem in getting hard… when he thought of Ben. And that was the problem. No one else moved him the way Ben had, and his heart refused to cooperate, his body following close behind. Eventually, he gave up and resigned himself to a solitary existence.

And now here Ben was. Surely that was some kind of a sign that they were meant to be?

Even in the short time since their reunion, it was more than obvious to Ryan that Ben felt the connection between them as much as ever. Things had changed drastically, but in a good way. Ben wasn’t fifteen any more, and the three year gap in their ages wasn’t nearly as wide as it had been then. Back then, Ryan had been all too aware that Ben was still young—a minor, in the eyes of the law, and in Missouri they spelled that statutory—so nothing had happened between them.

Nothing except for a whole lot of kissing, furtive glances, and deep sighs. And “accidental” touches which frustrated far more than they satisfied. Torture of the sweetest variety, which all ended abruptly the morning Ryan arose to find Ben gone, leaving him with an unbearable pain in his heart. One he’d had to deal with alone, since he couldn’t burden his dad with it. Not when Dad was going through so much himself, with the loss of his second wife. So Ryan pushed everything deep inside and focused on being there for his dad. It wasn’t until Cassie came into their lives that he was able to find any relief from his pain. That and writing his book. How was he to know that Brothers would be the key to their reunion?

So what was he so freaked out about? Ben was here, they were together. He was going to write another book. Everything he’d ever wanted in his life seemed to be coming true for both of them.

He knew what was bothering him, without having to analyze the question too deeply. If he were to be honest with himself, he was afraid all of this would turn out to be an illusion. A temporary fix for what ailed him. One that would only end with Ben disappearing again… maybe for good.

Ryan didn’t think he could take another heartbreak.

The very thought was enough to bring tears to Ryan’s eyes, along with a sudden trembling.  He squeezed his eyes shut, and worked at controlling his breathing. Stay calm, everything’s going to be all right.  He couldn’t return to Ben until he overcame this, whatever this was. He didn’t want Ben to think he doubted them in any way. He only wanted what he had always wanted— to make Ben happy. But he had to be in his life to do that, right?

What was that? He raised his head in alarm. Was that a door? Had Ben come to see what was taking him so long? Ryan hastily swiped at his eyes and cheeks. He began to formulate excuses in his mind for what he was doing, although he wasn’t sure any of them made sense. Jumping up, he grabbed his laptop and took deep even breaths.

Come on, dude, Ben’s waiting. Don’t let him see me like this.

Too late. Someone was already standing in the doorway. But it wasn’t Ben.

“Well, well, and who do we have here, you little cutie?”

to be continued

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #15 (5.3)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

In Pieces continues as Ryan hears Salvation play for the first time. What the heck is church metal? Join us and find out! Then don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to. Their links follow my tale!  Enjoy!

In Pieces #15 (5.3)

Ryan had never heard a sound quite so glorious in his entire life.  The single note was plaintive and yet intense. As Ben’s voice began to rise in tone, the sound flowed around him and through him. It seemed to penetrate into the depths of Ryan’s soul, to places that had been untouched for a very long time. He couldn’t explain the feeling, but neither did he attempt to fight it. Rather, he embraced it.

He couldn’t keep from staring at Ben as he sang. Ben’s eyes had closed, an expression of utter serenity suffusing his face. Ryan thought he looked almost like an angelic choir boy.  Paradoxically, the single note was sensuous and enticing, producing an almost palpable ache inside of Ryan which was a far cry from angelic.

Ben’s acapella solo continued for close to half a minute before being joined by the voices of the other members of the band.  “Glorioso,” they sang. “Glorioso luminos.” The rich harmonies soared for maybe another thirty seconds, and then the keyboard made its entrance, followed by the lead guitar.

Ryan closed his own eyes and floated bonelessly on waves of pure pleasure. Salvation’s music evoked a myriad of images both religious and irreligious. In his mind’s eyes, he saw a lofty buttressed cathedral filled with rows of priests, knelt in prayer.  Ethereal angels descended from on high above them. They struck provocative poses, enticing the priests from their orisons. The angels were all male, and they were all most gloriously endowed.  Priests and angels began a seductive dance to the music which swirled about them, shedding clothes along with inhibitions. Ryan was both fascinated and shocked by what his mind had conceived.  His hand began to reach down to assuage a growing ache…

With a start, he snapped his eyes open to find Ben’s piercing blue gaze fixed upon him. At that moment, a short burst of drum beats announced Abby’s entrance into the fray, a sound which was echoed by Keanu’s throbbing bass guitar. And suddenly Ryan understood why they called it church metal. This was the most amazing thing he’d ever heard, an erotic combination of piety and sensuality. He’d become so absorbed in what he was listening to that he’d almost forgotten himself to the point of wanting to masturbate in public. One look at Ben, and Ryan knew he understood completely.

Ryan brought his thoughts and his breathing under control as the song continued. It was the story of an angel and a priest, and it spoke of innocent sins and wanton desires and passions. If this song was indicative of what Salvation could do, Ryan had no doubt this group would go far.

The song ended with a flourish and then died away. Ryan could have kept listening for much longer, given the opportunity. No one said anything. Ryan realized with a start they were looking for some sort of reaction from him.

“That was amazing,” he said honestly. The momentary tension dissipated, and everything was at it was before.  Ryan glanced at Ben, and was surprised to catch a flash of uncertainty in his beautiful blue eyes. Without thinking, Ryan held out his hand toward him. Ben leapt off the stage and grasped it.

“Did you really like it?” Ben sounded almost shy.

“Like it? I loved it. That song… your voice… everything was…” For being a writer, Ryan found himself unexpectedly at a loss for words.  “I’ve never heard anything like that. I can’t wait to hear more.”

Ryan’s words seemed to relieve Ben. His sunny smile returned, his cheeks more than a little flushed. “I’m glad you liked it, Ryan,” he said. “That was the first one I wrote. I’m kind of partial to it.”

“You… you wrote that?” Ryan was even more impressed than he was before. “I didn’t know…I had no idea you wrote music.”

“You probably don’t remember, but I wrote poetry when I was younger, back in the day. Lyrics are just poems set to music.”

That’s right. He remembered now. How could he have forgotten Ben’s lush poetry? They’d read them together in their room in the middle of the night. Ben hadn’t wanted his mother to see what he’d written, so those became private moments between Ben and him.

“I still have some of your poetry, actually,” Ryan said. “I always thought it was beautiful.”

Ben pinked even more. “We have a lot to catch up on, don’t we?” he said, dropping his voice.

Ryan swayed toward Ben, tempted to kiss him, wanting to kiss him so badly he could taste his desire for Ben. How could he have ever doubted his feelings for Ben had changed? He’d kept them alive all through their separation, and now they were as strong as ever. The difference was that now there was no one who could separate them ever again.

But he was paradoxically aware that they were far from alone. And much as it pained him to do so, he forced himself to put on the brakes, to slow himself down. Then he remembered they were sharing a room. Their time would come. Later.

“We do,” he said. “I should probably grab my laptop and my camera and get to work. I can get some pictures of you while you rehearse. Some behind the scenes stuff. I thought I’d talk to everyone individually get some background. What do you think?”

“I think that sounds like a great idea. Go get your stuff. We’re not going anywhere.”

For a second, Ryan thought Ben might initiate a kiss, and he felt his own lips part involuntarily. But then Ben turned back toward the band, the moment had passed, and Ryan seized the opportunity to head back toward the main house.

to be continued

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: August 1, 2018

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Ryan is finally meeting the rest of the band, Salvation, but he hasn't really had a chance to put his thoughts into any semblance of order. It's hard to think when Ben is around. Especially after finding out Ben read his novel. See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #14 (5.2)

 “It’s about time,” Keanu muttered.

Ryan shot an anxious glance at Ben, afraid of what his reaction might be. He braced himself for another show of dominance, or at the very least a scathing retort. But Ben ignored Keanu’s words entirely. His good humor seemed to have been completely restored. Keanu’s boyfriend spoke instead.

“Come on, you. Quit grumbling and show our author what magic you can make on the keyboard.” Deacon pulled Keanu into a brief hug, gently stroked his hair. As Ryan watched, Keanu’s face visibly relaxed, his scowl disappearing. They clung together for a moment, before heading up on the stage. Abby and Aiden were already in place.

“I want you to hear what we sound like before our concert,” Ben said. “Give you a taste of who we are. How familiar are you with church metal?”

“I never heard of it before I got the job offer,” Ryan said honestly. “I’ve always loved music, you know, I’m just not in touch with what’s in anymore. I don’t claim to be a music expert, by any means, but I go to concerts whenever I can. Mostly local bands. The tickets tend to be cheaper.”

Ben snorted. “Yeah, don’t I know it. We’re not exactly in a position to pull down the big bucks ourselves. But hey, you do what you can, right? Until you make it to the big time, anyway.” As they approached the stage, Ryan wasn’t sure where he should stand. He waited for some kind of sign from Ben.

“Big time, yeah,” Aiden echoed. He stood near the front of the stage, electric guitar hanging before his shoulder, held up by a wide strap covered in what looked like death heads. “Actual concert venues and stuff. People just dying to scalp your tickets for hundreds of dollars over face price. Then you know you’ve arrived.”

Ryan hated people who bought tickets only to force the price up to ridiculous levels. Wasn’t that illegal? It certainly went against the spirit of concert-going. Those people were only in it for the money, they had no appreciation for the music. They didn’t care how hard it was for some people to afford to go at all, much less at such inflated prices. But he held his tongue. He didn’t think the band would appreciate his point of view, and he didn’t want to risk antagonizing them. He just wanted to hold on to this job for as long as he could. He’d worry about what next when the time came.

“You think we’ll play the Hollywood Bowl someday?” Keanu teased. He looked up from his keyboard, where he’d been throwing switches and running his fingers across the keys.

“You know it. And the Greek,” Ben said. “And don’t forget Vegas. We’ll be playing Caesar’s Palace and the MGM too, right up there with people like David Copperfield and Penn and Teller . You’ll see.” He winked at Ryan. “And, of course, the Fabulous Fox.”

The Fox Theater in St. Louis. Memories flooded Ryan’s brain at the mere mention of the venue. Ryan had taken Ben there, just a couple of months before his mother took him away. He couldn't even remember what group it was they’d gone to see. What stuck out most in his mind was how excited Ben was, and how eager to see everything. They’d walked upstairs and down, took in the view from the balcony that overlooked the lobby, rode the old-fashioned elevator with its actual operator—neither one of them had ever seen such a thing before, accustomed as they were to the push-button self-serve kind. The interior of the Fox was as fabulous as its name, all red and gold, plush and elegant, filled with amazing architecture, statuary, and the hugest chandelier Ryan had ever seen, which hung high above the orchestra section.

That had been a special night—in more ways than one.

Ryan’s thoughts were interrupted when Ben squeezed his hand. “I won’t even ask you what you were thinking of,” he said, dropping his voice to a level intended for Ryan’s ears only. “I already know.”

Ryan felt his cheeks warm. Ben squeezed his hand again before dropping it. “Stand as close or as far as you like, it’s up to you,” he said in a more normal tone, turning and taking his place on stage. Ryan decided to stand closer than not. Center stage. Right in front of Ben. He didn’t want to be any farther away than he could help. Not until he got used to the idea that Ben wasn’t going to disappear again. And maybe not even then. Though he wasn’t about to admit it, either. Who was he kidding? He’d never been able to pull anything over on Ben.

His choice of location produced a smile from Ben. When Ben smiled like that, Ryan knew he would do anything for him.  That smile alone made everything worthwhile. Even if the music ended up blasting his eardrums at such close proximity, he’d survive. Hell, he’d been to heavy metal concerts so loud that the bass reverberated through his whole body, and he’d lived through that. Whatever this church metal was, he was sure he could handle it.

“All right, guys,” Ben was saying to his band. “Glorioso.”

Ryan braced himself for something loud, maybe even abrasive. But when Ben began to sing, a single low note, it took his breath away.

to be continued

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