My Last Day Without You
Chapter 9: The Story of Us

by Quinn D.K.

All expression vanished from Henrik's face. "Coach."

"I gotta tell you something, Ford." Taggert lumbered down the patio steps and lit a cigarette. He took a drag, a habit based more on utility than pleasure. "Out of everyone on the team, you're the last man I ever expected to treat this day off like Spring Break."

Henrik tried to steady his breathing, which escaped his throat in low, frustrated grunts. As coach and captain, their relationship oscillated between respect and defiance quite frequently. Lately, it had been more of the latter. "That's not what's going on."

"No? You wanna explain why I just had to fend off a reporter from Entertainment Tonight Canada outside the hotel? Listen, what my men do in their spare time isn't any of my business until it becomes a headline. Until it becomes... what's everyone calling it now? Viral?"

"Me and Ezra were trying to keep our heads low and get through the day, alright? A mistake was made. Now the world is trying to use us as clickbait just because I'm-" Henrik stopped himself.

Taggert took another drag. The hardness in his face eased a little. "I know," he said, lower. "I know it's... different... for guys like you. But I'd be saying the exact same thing to Xavier if it had been a picture of him in bed with a girl. Something like this, accident or not, is a serious blow to the integrity of our team and how our organization is perceived. PR forwarded me an update from TMZ about how you that and boy have been going on a god damn tear through the city, breaking some pap's camera and threatening PopViral to take the picture down. I mean, Christ. This has gone all the way to the top, Ford. Management's worried we're going to lose sponsorships over this."

Henrik looked to the sky. "Give me a fucking break."

"Okay, forget management, I'm worried about you. Gotta say - I'd hate to see something like that Patrick debacle happen all over again."

"Ezra's not like that," Henrik said immediately.

"You didn't think Patrick was, either. You don't think it's a little suspicious this kid started warming up to you so soon after losing his job?"

"You are seriously overstepping your bounds here."

"I'm only reporting how it looks from the outside. Something I want you to consider."

Henrik's stomach turned to iron. He took a step forward. "You don't know what you're talking about."

The coach met his gaze, even and cool. As a former hockey player and star goalie, Taggert wasn't easily intimidated. "Maybe, maybe not. But your play date is over now, Ford. What I need from you is to be a captain to your men. I need your focus back. We're supposed to talk about last night's win to the press, but now? That's not the subject these journos are gonna push. And you skipping out on this conference isn't an option."

"What the hell am I supposed to say to them?"

"You're only gonna say one thing about this whole day." Taggert stubbed out his cigarette. "And it's going to be an apology."


Ezra stood on the balls of his feet to peer into Violet's backyard.

His vantage point from the kitchen window didn't offer the greatest view. Henrik and this man, this Coach Taggert, stood partially hidden behind a willow tree. He couldn't make heads or tails of what they were saying or how they were saying it.

Violet joined his side and frowned. "Someone's grumpy," she said at the soundless image of the two men.

"Yeah," Ezra mumbled, distracted. "You think they're talking about me?"

"You're such a narcissist. And, yes, I do."

A third voice, a male one with a familiar French accent, spoke from behind them. "What are we all looking at?"

Violet spun around and screamed, grabbing a nearby sauce pan and holding it defensively before the male stranger. "Who the fuck are you?!"

Xavier's handsome face screwed in confusion. "Ezra, you need more friends who watch hockey."

"Vi!" Ezra cried and held her back with an outstretched arm. "Power down, Pink Ranger, that's one of Henrik's teammates. Xavier, this is my sister Violet. Like any prey animal, you have to approach her head on or she'll just run away." She elbowed him in the rib for that. "Ow."

"Enchanté." Xavier started for Violet's hand but she drew back, still tense.

"What are you doing in my kitchen?"

"Ah, I came up with Coach Taggert. I was in the car with that driver, erm, Ned - but he's fallen asleep."

"That dude really needs a coffee," Ezra said.

"I really do apologize," Xavier tried again.

Violet shot him a withering stare before setting the pan back down. "I have a doorbell for a reason, Pepé LePew."

"And they told me Canadian women were polite." Xavier mimicked being shot through the heart.

Ezra took Xavier by the arm and drew him away from the window, out of Henrik and Taggert's line of sight. "Why is your coach here?"

"He still needs to prep Hank for the presser and didn't want to wait for him to get back to the hotel."

Ezra raised an eyebrow. "So, what, Taggert is the angry parent and Henrik's the disobedient teen who's been staying out too late?"

Xavier cleared his throat and looked away. "Coach is just... concerned."

"About me and Henrik?"

"About.. events... in general."

Ezra looked at him squarely. "I'm an adult, Xavier. You don't need to protect me."

The patio door opened, startling all three of them. Taggert stepped inside, his frame and equally massive air of intimidation filling the room. He silently evaluated the sibling pair before pointing at Xavier. "Don't get too comfortable here. We're leaving soon."

"Yes, sir," Xavier replied.

Taggert nodded at Violet with a curt 'Ma'am' and left through the front door. It took Ezra a moment to realize his sweaty hands had been balled into tense fists.

Xavier, too, seemed uncharacteristically daunted. "I'm gonna go check on Hank."

"No, I'll go," Ezra said. He slid open the patio doors and tried to ignore the unsettled, worried look on his sister's face. The cool outside air would've been a soothing tonic for his jangled nerves, except for one thing.

Henrik wasn't in the backyard.

Ezra's phone rang before he could make sense of Henrik's absence. The area code gave him pause.

212. Why is a New York number calling me?

Reluctantly, he answered. "Hello?"

"Ezra Grayson?" a bewildered man said from the other line. "Christ, I can't believe I actually got through. Ezra, listen, this is Lex Millard. I'm a segment producer for the Today Show on NBC."

"Sorry, I don't want to talk to-"

"Before you hang up, I want you to know that your situation has touched a lot of us here at Today. The viral response has been a little bombastic, but we recognize there are two human beings at the heart of this. We think that, as the world's first 'NHL boyfriend' so to speak, you have an incredibly unique story that deserves to be told."

It was the most sensitive any member of the media had been with him, Ezra had to admit. "Look, Lex, I appreciate the call but I don't really want to put myself out there like that."

"We can accommodate any format you feel most comfortable with, whether we do a remote segment in Toronto or you come down here for a studio interview. Your flight and accommodations would be paid for. I'm sure you've been inundated with producers and journalists today and that's got to be exhausting. But I'm giving you the opportunity to put all of that to rest and let the world know your side - the definitive side - of 'Hezra'. A segment called 'The Day That Changed His Life' or something similar. NBC is willing to offer $50,000 for your story."

The air escaped Ezra's lungs.

"You don't have to give me a yes or no right now," Lex continued in the absence of a reply, "But we need to hear back soon. I'm sure you're familiar with how quickly the news cycle moves. "

Ezra never had $50,000 in his entire life. Hell, his bank account never once moved beyond four digits. It was pretty unheard of for anyone in his generation - bar the trustfund kids - to have that kind of dough.

"Call or text me at this number when you've made up your mind, alright? We're really looking forward to working with you."

Lex bid him farewell and Ezra breathlessly ended the call. His hand fell limp. $50,000 was more than his salary at PopViral. He wouldn't have to worry about finding a job so quickly, or rent, or his bills. At least for the rest of the year. And all that for what? A single hour long interview?

He was getting dizzy and his backflipping stomach wasn't helping. Ezra walked in a circle through the grass before settling on the wooden swing attached the backyard's lone willow tree. The seat creaked beneath his weight.

'The Day That Changed His Life' was pretty tin-eared as far as titles went but Ezra didn't think it was far from the truth. He couldn't imagine anything being the same after today no matter what choice he made. But as nice as the momentary financial security sounded, it seemed... hypocritical. He and Henrik were fighting so hard for their privacy.

Do you really want to undo everything to pay the rent? Henrik's worth way more than $50,000. That seemed true and right and noble. And yet...

You barely know Henrik, an opposing thought butted in. What's more important? A tentative relationship with a man who doesn't even live in the same city or being able to feed yourself and keep a roof over your head?

More thoughts and voices invaded him, each nagging a different opinion. Ezra shut his eyes and tried to clear his clouded mind.

Buzz. A text message from Lex:

'Great talking w/ you just now. Please think about our offer. Fee is totally negotiable btw. Your story is v. valuable to us at NBC.'

Ezra drew a breath, his resolve hardening. Okay. He wants an answer? I have an answer.

He tapped the call icon and waited for Lex to pick up.


Violet checked and rechecked her email, trying to ignore the inquisitive eyes of the strange French athlete who'd taken up a seat at her kitchen table.

"Do not worry about Hank," Xavier said.

"What? Do not- what?" His thick accent was throwing her off.

"Do... not... wor-ry ab-out Hank."

Violet's eyebrows pinched. "I'm worried about my brother, thank you."

"They are grown men, ma chèrie."

Violet put her phone down. "Do you ever not talk like a comic book character?"

"I just find it useless to worry about them."

"I'm gonna worry about Ezra until we're both elderly and decrepit. That's just how the older sister thing works. Are you an only child?"


"I can tell."

Xavier smirked. He had an attractive smile, Violet had to admit - though he clearly didn't need the ego boost. "Hank may as well be my brother."

She stared out of the patio doors, lost in thought. Henrik was nowhere to be found but Ezra was having a rather passionate phone conversation. She turned back to her guest. "Can I ask you something?"

"Anything. Please."

"What kind of man is Henrik when he's in a relationship?" She liked Henrik from the brief time she'd met him, but whether or not the man was a stable and respectful boyfriend - that was something she had no insight into. Not to mention that argument with his coach, whatever it was about, gave Violet some pause. She recognized that look on Henrik's face - both desperate and defiant, the clipped expression of an alpha male who knew he was losing something. That look... it troubled her.

"Erm, actually," Xavier started sheepishly. The question clearly threw him off. "Hank has only been in one relationship, as far as I know. And I only found out after it was over. I know that sounds strange."

"No, it doesn't. Ezra's been... secretive about his love life, too. I mean, he's never even brought a boyfriend home before."

"So this is new for both of us, oui? Seeing our brothers like this." Xavier grinned. "Listen, Hank is a great man and he wouldn't hurt Ezra."

"You don't know that," Violet said. "And Ezra hasn't known him that long."

"Well, Hank hasn't known your brother that long either."

"What's that supposed to mean, smart guy?" she shot back. Great, now you really do sound like mom...

Xavier stood up from his seat. "It means that this isn't worth arguing about! Hank is a protector. If he cares about someone, he'll go out of his way to keep them safe."

"Keeping someone safe and not hurting them aren't always the same thing."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean I think your coach was preparing Henrik for a conversation he doesn't want to have but can't avoid anymore."

Xavier said nothing. His phone rang, some shrill European pop song that Violet didn't recognize. He frowned at the call display. "That's Taggert. He's waiting in the driveway." He started toward the front door then hesitated. "If you see Hank, can you tell him we're ready to leave?"

Their gazes met for a brief moment before Xavier left. A hint of something deeper than concern. Violet couldn't worry about that now. Grumbling, she rubbed her temples and hoped for both her and her brother's sake that this rampaging tornado of a day would be over soon.


Ezra perked at the sound of a hockey stick hitting pavement. He followed the noise across Violet's backyard to the small side road behind her house, where Henrik was shooting a rubber ball into a kid's hockey net.

"Hey," Ezra relaxed, "I think that actually works better with more than one person."

Henrik caught the ball and leaned into the hockey stick like a crutch. "Few kids were playing earlier, just keeping the equipment warm until they're back. I'm sorry about running off like that. Needed to clear my head."

"That's alright. I had the same idea." Ezra squeezed his hand. Henrik squeezed back, but much fainter. Weaker. Ezra wrinkled his brow. "Is everything okay?"

"I have to talk to the press soon."

"I know that," Ezra nodded slowly. Henrik looked so drawn and anxious - so very not like the man he'd spent the whole day getting to know. "Is that what you and Taggert were talking about?"

"Yeah." Henrik stared at the ground. He chuckled entirely without humor. "God, I wish I was like you, Ezra."

"What?" That was certainly news to him. "You do know that only one of us is the hugely successful pro athlete, right?"

"I meant I wish I could be as brave as you." Henrik kneaded his stiff neck. "When you went to PopViral and told them how you really felt, I mean, that took some guts. I'd never seen anyone take a stand against their boss before. I'd give anything to have that courage."

Ezra softly caressed the lapel of his jacket. "I think you're really brave. You're Superman, remember?"

"No." Henrik shook his head and broke from Ezra's touch. The curt reaction surprised them both. "I'm not, okay? And I'm tired of everyone telling me that I'm a hero."

Ezra's mouth opened but he said nothing.

"I'm sorry." Henrik raked his fingers through his hair. "Management is giving me an ultimatum. I have to apologize to the press for everything I've done today that's landed me in the public eye. If I don't, I'll be suspended for the rest of the season."

The bottom of Ezra's stomach fell out. "Apologize? You didn't do anything wrong. I was the one who tweeted the picture-"

"They don't care."

"It was my idea to go to PopViral-"

"They don't care, Ezra," Henrik repeated. "You know what Taggert told me? The video of me breaking that paparazzi's camera leaked and now I look like this huge asshole."

"You were defending your privacy. And mine! Why don't they understand that?"

"Because that's not how it looked. They said my antics today have 'embarrassed' both the Portland Knights and the NHL. Sponsorships and endorsements have already threatened to pull out if I don't make a statement."

Ezra's mouth went dry. He sat on the street curb and rubbed his face into his hands. "So what are you going to do?"

"I have to apologize."

"Henrik, no."

"I don't have a choice!"

"Of course you do!" Ezra's voice raised to a level that made a passing mother and her wide-eyed infant daughter stare as they walked by. "You can tell your management how fucking insane they're being!"

Henrik said nothing and neither did his expression. Ezra wished the man didn't look so damn inscrutable, just this once.

"Ezra, when I signed this contract I knew there would be a certain amount of bullshitting required when it came to the press. Hockey isn't the only game I have to play."

"But just think about what they're really telling you to do. Do they want you to apologize for your behavior or for your relationship with me?"

His phone vibrated. Fuck. Now is really not the time. Ezra hit ignore and placed the device face down on the curb.

Henrik took a seat beside him, his face heavy with worry. "I'm just trying to do what I think is right. But it's not like I'm going to say, 'I'm sorry I met this really great guy'."

"Then what are you going to say?"

Henrik didn't look away from the hockey stick laying on his lap. "I don't know yet. Haven't had any time to think about what the hell's been going. I've spent so long being the captain, the teammate, the mentor. Today feels like the first time I could enjoy being... a man. With another man."

Ezra examined his face - all of its hard angles, dips and valleys. He may have had six years on Ezra, but Henrik's vulnerability made him so much younger.

"Been juggling so many damn hats," Henrik continued, "I'm still trying to figure out how to make 'boyfriend' fit."

Ezra's hand traveled the long, muscular trail up Henrik's arm to his sturdy shoulder. "I can't tell you what to do. But I think apologizing would be a huge mistake."

Neither of them said anything for a while, only letting the moaning wind fill the silence. Ezra hugged his jacket closer to his chest. "What if I talked to Taggert?" he said. "If he heard it from my side, maybe he'd be more forgiving."

"It's not just Taggert," Henrik sighed, "It's management, it's the owners. It's too far up for me to fight alone."

"But you don't have to do this alone! Remember how you said you wanted to protect me? It goes both ways." Ezra's voice lowered. "I can keep you safe, too. In my own way."

Henrik shook his head at the pavement. "I don't think there's anything you can do."

"I won't know if I don't try." Ezra got back on his feet. "Where's Taggert? Still in the driveway?"


"I'll just be a few minutes."


He walked away without another word said, cutting through Violet's backyard and into the narrow alley beside her house. Henrik's protests fell silent behind him. He entered the front yard where Coach Taggert barked into a cellphone beside Ned's car.

Summoning all his courage, Ezra waited for him to finish. Taggert turned and, upon recognizing the younger man, bid his caller a terse farewell.

"What do you want?"

"You know, I'm not sure why I expected someone who barged into my sister's home uninvited to be gracious." Ezra's voice came out harder than he meant, but he didn't correct himself. "Maybe I should stop trying to see the good in everyone."

"Look, if you want to scold me for ruining your Boys Gone Wild day, go ahead. But we've got a schedule to keep and Ford knows that."

"I'm talking about you shaming your star player into giving a public apology that you have no right to ask him for."

Taggert looked at him with a strange combination of pity and anger. "You've got no clue what you're yapping about, kid."

"You threatened Henrik with a season suspension if he doesn't apologize tonight. He told me."

Taggert brought himself closer and Ezra - finally understanding how massive the man was - tried not to look intimidated. "That's how a professional sports team is managed. If one of your players fucks up, they say sorry."

"He didn't fuck up! I did!"

"Doesn't matter if you're the one who leaked the picture, son. Doesn't excuse the bad behavior that came out of Ford after that. He's the one with a contract and corporate sponsors."

"What are you talking about?"

Taggert pulled something up on his phone and showed Ezra the screen. A headline on E! Online read 'THE VIKING ATTACKS TMZ PHOTOGRAPHER!' accompanied by a still image of Henrik throwing the paparazzi's camera to the ground.

"Oh, god," Ezra groaned, fear like an icy fist in his belly. Henrik had just told him that their scuffle with Mr. TMZ leaked, but seeing it for himself was disquieting.

"And not a minute later, this little gem surfaced too." Taggert swiped to Gawker's homepage where a grainy video played of Ezra and Henrik in PopViral's office. "One of their employees recorded that. I mean, shit. You two went on the fucking attack today."

"We were defending ourselves."

"Yeah? Well, the defense needs to be benched. I'm calling an end to the game."

Jaw clenched, breaths rapid, fists balled, Ezra tried to remind himself he wasn't there to antagonize Taggert - though he was doing a spectacular job of it. "I'm just asking you to be understanding. Henrik hasn't fucked up before."

"Which is why I need to reign this is in before it gets even more out of control than it already has," Taggert explained like was talking to a child.

Ezra frowned. "You're not gonna stop us from being together and neither is some faceless committee of owners and managers."

Taggert shook his head and checked his phone, clearly uninterested in the argument. "No one is telling Ford to 'break up' with you. Hell, no one even needs to. You've already got everything working against you, son. You know how many of my guys have started these one-day flings in all the cities we've traveled? You know how many of 'em tell me, oh, this is the one. No, this is the one. No, wait, this is definitely the one. You're fighting a losing battle. So do me a favor and tell Ford to get his ass back to the car. We've only got a half hour to get to the hotel for the presser."

As Taggert stepped back into Ned's vehicle, Ezra's voice rose. "This isn't the last day Henrik and I are spending together!"

"Keep telling yourself that," the coach replied before shutting the car door.

The outrage, locked in Ezra's chest like a coiled snake, tightened another notch as he stormed back into Violet's backyard. He desperately needed to kick or punch something - preferably something shaped exactly like Taggert's head.

"Ezra," a deep voice said. He half-turned, finding Henrik by the willow tree. He looked stiff, uncomfortable.

"Hey," Ezra approached him, frustrated but desperate to cool down. "So I just had a very civil and mature conversation with your coach. We're BFFs now. I'm gonna let him borrow my notes from math class."

"He's only looking out for me," Henrik replied evenly.

"He says you have to leave with him now. But we still haven't figured out our... you know... our later. What do we do after the press conference? What happens when you catch your flight back to Portland?"

Henrik's face remained still.

"Viking? Are you with me right now?"

Something's wrong.

Henrik took Ezra's phone out of his pocket. "You left this back on the road. I took it so you wouldn't forget it there - I didn't mean to look at the screen. But you got a text when I picked it up."

Ezra brought his phone's screen to life and read the new text.

'Ezra, it's Lex from NBC Today again. We can negotiate yr fee. If 50k is too little we can bump up to 75k. All u need to do is say yes. Then we can sit down & u can tell us whatever you want - about today, about Henrik etc. It's yr story. Ratings will be huge. Let me know ASAP.'

His eyes rose to meet Henrik's. The hockey captain's normal, easy-going tenderness had hardened into something much colder.

"You've been negotiating with NBC about selling your story. The story about us," Henrik said.

"No," Ezra shook his head, every vein in his body pulsing like thunder. "No. They got in contact with me-"


"Earlier, but I-"

"And you never told me."

"But it was only-"

"Why were you keeping this a secret?"

"I wasn't!" Ezra couldn't believe how quickly things had escalated. The words bunched up in his throat but they weren't getting through fast enough. "I was- I- they called me and I said-"

"Did you say no?"


"When they called you and asked for an interview - did you say no?"

"I said... I don't think I said anything."

Henrik's face fell. "Ah."

Ezra's insides churned. The entire day had been the two of them against the world. Why the hell were they turning against each other now?

"Henrik, please help me connect the dots here. I should have told you about it, yes, but why are you so angry?"

"I am not angry," Henrik said with a Herculean amount of control. "I'm confused. I know we're still getting to know each other but I thought you cared about me a little more than that."

"What are you talking about?"

Henrik grew the full length of his 6-foot-5 frame. "I don't like being used."

For perhaps the first time that day, Ezra was able to see why Henrik was such a feared opponent on the ice. The air felt different around him - heavier, darker. It took a long time before Ezra found his voice again. "How could you say that I'm using you?"

"What am I supposed to think, seeing that on your phone?"

"You are really jumping to conclusions here." Fingers shaking, Ezra tapped his screen, dialed a number, and put his phone on speaker mode. They waited for a few rings before a man picked up.

"Hello? Ezra?" It was Lex's voice.

"Lex, I'm here with Henrik Ford."

"You're-? Holy shit," Lex practically shrieked. "So you changed your mind? Are we including Henrik in the interview now, too? God, this is the score of a lifetime. My boss is going to fucking flip. Hold on, let me get her on the line-"

"No," Ezra answered firmly. "I want you to tell Henrik what I said when I called you back a few minutes ago. After our initial conversation. I want you tell him every word."

Henrik stared at him, confused, as Lex continued.

"Uh, well, you said... you called back and said, 'Hi Lex, thank you for getting in touch, but I'm rejecting your offer. I can't do this to Henrik, it's just not worth the money.' That's pretty much word-for-word."

When Henrik's eyes found Ezra again they were heavy with remorse.

"But if you're calling to re-negotiate then I'd be ecstatic-" Lex's voice came to an abrupt stop as Ezra ended the call.

Both men stood in an awkward tableau for several moments. "I'm sorry," Henrik said at the ground. "I'm... I didn't know what to think when I saw that text. It wouldn't have been the first time someone tried to..." He trailed off, letting his silence fill in the blanks.

"You can't do this." The anger that clenched Ezra's insides surprised him. "You can't start a relationship with someone if you're already expecting the worst from them."

Henrik threw up his arms in defeat. "I didn't want to think those things! But I didn't know when I boarded that plane yesterday that I'd be flying right into a goddamned soap opera."

"Well, that's not insulting at all."

"I didn't mean it like that."

"Then how did you mean it?"

"I don't know!" The frustration that boiled inside Henrik spilled forth uncontrollably. "I thought when I met you that I was finally ready to let somebody in."

"What are you saying? That you're not ready?"

Henrik turned and leaned against the willow tree, his free hand raking through his thick head of hair. "I don't know what to think anymore," he said in a lost, plaintive voice.

"Henrik... just be honest. Talk to me. Please."

"You want me to be honest?"


"I'm thinking that I went too fast. I'm thinking that I can't handle this right now."

Stunned, Ezra's eyes widened. "Handle what?"

"You and I."

The gaze both men held with each other curdled and tore. Ezra tried to speak, tried to move, but his senses wouldn't cooperate. It felt like he'd been hit with a sledgehammer.

A cold wind rustled between them.

"Don't do this," Ezra finally said, small and tired. "Don't come into my life and tell me you want to be with me-"


"-and then abandon ship when the going gets tough. I don't deserve that. What happened to being on the same page?"

"This isn't just about me," Henrik started, "I've been dragging you through this with me all day. This isn't the kind of life I want you to have - dodging photographers and getting made fun of social media. Wouldn't have happened if it was any other other man except me. I want to keep you safe."

"You don't get to decide that!" Ezra's voice reached a desperate pitch. "This is my life, too!"

"I can't do this right now. I can't," Henrik shook his head, his eyes deep and stormy.

No, Ezra's mind blared like an alarm. You can't give up on us now. Not this late in the game. He reached for Henrik's arm, but the hockey captain turned away and started for the alley to Violet's driveway.


By the time Ezra reached the front yard, Henrik had stepped into the passenger side of Ned's car and closed the door.

"Wait!" Everything Ezra had - or thought he had - was escaping him in a charcoal grey Cadillac. He ran for the vehicle but it was too late. The engine started and the car took off - Ned, Taggert, Xavier and Henrik inside.

Ezra stood, numb, watching the car vanish down the road as heat and tears pooled behind his eyes.

In the dark square of the car's passenger window, Ezra could have sworn he saw Henrik angrily brush something rolling down his cheek.

End of Chapter 9
To Be Continued

Sorry for the delay and thank you for sticking around. :) This story is finished, it's just a matter of publishing the remaining chapters now.

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