If you are offended by male/male relationships, or male/male sexual relationships, then you shouldn't be here in the first place. If this conduct is illegal in your area, you must EXIT NOW. This story is not to be copied or posted elsewhere without permission from the author. If you are interested in a story about gay teenage males, then please take your time and enjoy. Feedback/comments/suggestions and even complaints are welcome at DomLuka@aol.com

Desert Dropping

Chapter two: The First Night

Something about eating hamburgers around a former dinner table is just wrong. And, it's not fun when you're surrounded by three guys you don't even know, all family members you didn't know existed until recently. It didn't help matters that all three of them were watching me, trying not to be so obvious about it.

I hated it when people watched me eat. Not that they were watching me eat. They were just watching me. I felt sort of like an intruder. It was quiet and awkward at the table and I had a feeling that when they sat down to eat there wasn't usually such a deafening silence.

"So, how old are you again, Rory?" Jase asked, breaking the silence.

I swallowed the water I had just taken a drink of and looked across the table at my newly discovered uncle.

"Sixteen." I replied.

"Sophomore?" Luke asked.

"I'll be a junior next year." I explained.

And more silence. I wondered how long this was supposed to last for.

"Rory's a swimmer." Eddie said, attempting to help the conversation.

"Oh yeah?" Luke smiled, "I know a few guys from the swim team. Maybe I can introduce you in case you want to join next year."

"Since when do you know swimmers?" Jase smirked at Luke, "The only guys you ever bring around are your wrestling buddies."

"Rick Leto is a swimmer." Luke replied.

"That's okay." I interrupted, "I won't be going to school here anyways."

Both Luke and Jase threw questioning looks at Eddie, who suddenly seemed uncomfortable.

"Rory and I talked." Eddie explained, poking at his French fries with a fork.

"Oh?" Jase said. It seemed almost like Jase was glaring at Eddie, and for some reason the sudden tension between them made me uncomfortable. Maybe that was because this was about me.

"Yeah." Eddie nodded, finally looking up, "We decided that Rory can stay for the summer, and when school starts again, he'll be going back to his grandmother...if he wants to."

I would want to. I had no doubt about that.

"I see." Jase nodded, "Well, Rory, we'll have to do something fun this summer, while you're here."

"Yeah." Eddie smiled, "Maybe we can all take a small vacation or something."

When no one responded, the silence at the table returned until everyone had finished eating. I wasn't sure what people were thinking. Luke kept glancing at me, giving me strange looks, while Eddie and Jase seemed to be having a silent conversation of their own. Eddie looked frustrated while Jase looked upset about something.

Finally, Eddie cleared his throat and looked at me.

"Do you have everything you need here, Rory?" Eddie asked, "We still have time to go out tonight. Have you made a list?"

"I don't need a list." I shrugged, "But I forgot my toothbrush."

"We'll go get you one then." Eddie smiled.

"Luke, why don't you take Rory to the store?" Jase asked, "Maybe you can find your friends, introduce him around a little."

"Rory's tired from his trip, and I can take him." Eddie stated, glaring at Jase.

"He's young." Jase argued, "I'm sure he'd rather be out meeting kids his own age anyways."

"He can do that tomorrow." Eddie frowned.

Okay. Maybe the brothers weren't as close as I had thought.

Luke leaned over from where he was sitting, and tapped the table with the palm of his hand to get my attention.

"Do you want to go hang out?" Luke asked.

"Sure." I replied. I'd rather go with Luke than Eddie anyways. I had a feeling that Eddie wanted to do some father son bonding or something, and I wasn't really in the mood for that anyways.

"Alright, fine." Eddie shrugged and then looked at Luke, "Don't stay out too late. And Rory needs to call his grandma first."

Actually, I did need to call Grandma Alice. I had some questions that needed answering, and to be honest I missed the old lady already. At least her voice would be something familiar.

I ended up taking the phone down to my room to place the call. My conversation with grandma Alice would be a personal one. The last thing I needed was for anyone to hear what I had to say.

The conversation with Alice went just how I thought it would. For thirty minutes she lectured me on behaving myself, being sure to repeat herself in places, and then she moved on to checking on my welfare.

"Did you eat dinner?" she asked.

"Yes ma'am."

"What did you have?"


"Did you have a vegetable?"

"Um, no."

"Then you make sure to eat two tomorrow."

"Yes ma'am."

"And you're warm enough?"

"Grandma, it's Arizona!"

"Yes, well, you can never be to sure. I packed some extra sweaters with your things. I'll be sending them tomorrow."

"Thank you ma'am." I sighed, "Grandma, I called because I need to ask you something."

"Well of course you do. How's Eddie treating you?"

"Uh...okay. Look, grandma, he seems to know a lot about me. I know you two have been talking and..."

"Well what did you expect?" she interrupted, "We couldn't even get you on the phone. You're just as stubborn as your Grandpa John. I loved my husband but I swear that man..."

"Grandma! Please, I need to know what you told Eddie. Did you tell him anything else about me? Like, anything personal?"

"Rory, if you want to know if I told him that you're a homosexual then of course the answer is no."

"Grandma!" I hissed.

"Oh, calm down Rory. It's not like anyone is listening in."

"But you didn't tell?"

"That's your business to tell. Your mom would have wanted it that way. So, when are you going to tell him? I think you should do it soon. It's best to clear the air with these things right away."

"I'm not going to tell him. Are you crazy? I can't!"

"And why not?" she demanded. I could practically see her tapping her foot, waiting for my `good' explanation. "He's your father Rory. Besides, if you don't tell him he'll end up figuring it out on his own, anyways. Honestly sweetheart, you're much to obvious to hide that type of thing from Eddie."

"He's not my father!" I argued, "And obvious? What? Grandma!"

"Calm down dear, you look silly when you get all worked up. And whether you like it or not Eddie is your father. Why your mother didn't tell you about him sooner, I'll never know. You need to give him a chance. Eddie's a good man; they don't make many like him anymore. You might even learn something. And he'll figure you out, you know. He's a smart one, your father. Besides, the way your eye wanders it won't be hard to figure out. Don't think I didn't notice the way you were always looking at that Jason Cross boy when he came over. Your grandpa John had a wandering eye too, you know. Of course, he never looked at the strapping young men that you look at, dear."

"Grandma!" Leave it to Grandma Alice to make me blush from seven hundred miles away.

"Oh, get over it, Rory. And be honest with your father. It'll be for the best, you'll see."


There was a click and I frowned at the phone after she hung up. I hated when she did that. She never said goodbye over the phone. A conversation was simply over when she wanted it to be. But, I guess I could at least be happy that she hadn't mentioned to Eddie that I was gay. Then again, maybe if she had told him before I came here, I wouldn't be here in the first place.

There was a knock on my closed door a few minutes later and I went to open it, finding Luke on the other side with Chey at his heels.

"Ready to go?" he asked.

I had almost forgotten that I was supposed to be going out with Luke, but I found myself nodding anyways. Talking to my grandmother didn't exactly make me feel better about my current situation, so maybe getting out of the house and away from Eddie for a while would help me clear my head.

I followed Luke out to the garage where we climbed into an old green jeep and Chey jumped in with us, claiming her spot in the back seat.

"Does she go everywhere with you?" I asked.

"Pretty much." Luke shrugged as he hopped in the driver's seat and turned the ignition. "She's kinda like my shadow. When I have school I have to keep her kenneled just to keep her home."

"How long have you had her?" I asked, reaching back to scratch behind Chey's ears.

"Well, Jase gave her to me for my thirteen birthday so, almost five years now. She was just a puppy then. Do you have any pets?"

"No. I had a gold fish once that I won at a carnival, but it died after a week."

"Hey, guys!" Eddie came running into the garage before Luke could pull out, and I couldn't help frowning when he came to my window and tapped on the glass. I rolled down the window half way and looked out at him expectantly.

"When do you plan on being back?" Eddie asked.

"Curfew?" Luke replied.

"Good." Eddie smiled at him, "You have your cell?"

Luke affirmatively patted his jean pocket and then Eddie turned his attention to me, digging his wallet out of his pocket.

"If your going the store I figured you'd need cash..." he started, removing a twenty.

"It's just a toothbrush, Eddie." I said indifferently. "I have some money."

"Oh." Eddie nodded. "Um, okay. I'll see you guys later...Rory, maybe tomorrow we can talk?"

"Sure." I shrugged. I wasn't looking forward to tomorrow.

"See ya later Eddie." Luke waved, as we pulled away from the house.

We drove to the nearest convenient store, a fifteen minute drive away with a metal band I had never heard of blaring through the speakers. I thought it sounded loud while Luke was singing along, loudly and off tune, but somehow his unappealing voice took nothing away from the fact that Luke was probably the most attractive guy I'd ever met. Of course, while I was stealing glances at him I continued to remind myself that we were related.

When Luke parked in front of the store I just ran in by myself to get my toothbrush, surprised how hot it was outside even when the sun was setting. There wasn't even a breeze in the air to add a little comfort to the heat. When I got back in the jeep the music was gone and Luke watched me as I climbed in.

"All set?" he asked.

"Yup." I nodded, holding up the toothbrush.

"Cool, so I was thinking we could go to the park. Some of the guys should be there. I mean, if you're up to meeting a few people tonight."

"Sure." It definitely sounded better than going back to the house and dealing with Eddie. I know I promised to at least try to get along with him, but it was only my first night in town, and I wasn't exactly ready to attempt any bonding just yet. But, that didn't mean that I wasn't ready to get a little background information from Luke.

"So, you guys recently moved?" I asked.

"What do you mean?"

"When I talked to Eddie last night he said he got a bigger place."

"Oh, yeah. We moved a few months ago. We were living here in town before that. When Eddie found out you were coming Jase used the excuse to talk him into that big house. Eddie wanted to stay in town, but you'll figure out soon enough that Jase always gets his way." Luke laughed.

"Don't you think it's weird?" I asked.


"You know, two grown brothers living with each other like that. It's just kinda strange."

"Hmm?" Luke arched his brow and stared at me for a moment before the corners of his mouth turned up into a smile, "Yeah. Weird. So, when did you decide that you wouldn't be staying, Rory? Eddie was pretty happy that you were coming to live here. I figured that you'd be around longer than one summer."

"Things change." I replied.

Luke was silent for a moment, stealing a few sideways glances at me.

"You really don't like him, huh? Eddie, I mean."

"I don't know him." I said.

"But you don't want to know him, do you?"

"Not really." I didn't have a problem being honest.

"That's kinda harsh, don't you think?"

"He had sixteen years to get to know me." I retorted, "Now that my mom's...gone...now he wants to be a dad? Why would I want to get to know a guy like that?"

"Maybe you don't know the whole story." Luke suggested.

"Maybe I don't want to know it." I frowned.

"Hey man, I'm not trying to argue with you. I'm just saying, I've known Eddie for a while. He's a good guy. And it's not like you've taken the time to ask him where he was for the last sixteen years, right? Maybe you should."

"So," I said, deciding that it was time to change the subject, "Why are you living with your cousins anyways?"

"Well, I live with Jase and Eddie because my dad's in jail."

I looked over at Luke, a little wide eyed.

"You're dad's in jail? What for?"

The second I asked, I was sorry that I did it. For one thing, it was none of my business, and for another, Luke seemed to grip the steering wheel tighter and through the shadows of the car I could see his whole face twist into a troubled mask.

"Um, hey," I said, "I shouldn't have asked that, sorry."

Luke was silent for another moment and then he looked in my direction and gave me a small smile.

"Hey, no problem. Coming?"

"Huh?" I looked out the window as I realized that we were parking, and before I could ask any more questions Luke was getting out of the truck, with Chey right behind him.

I got out of the jeep and looked around. We were at a park, but there wasn't anything there except for hills of cropped, dry grass and a sidewalk leading around the entire place. There was a basketball park off to one end, but it looked worn down and no one was playing there. Actually, there was no one anywhere.

Chey suddenly barked and ran ahead of us, disappearing over one of the hills. Luke didn't seem to be bothered by the sudden disappearance of his dog, so I didn't worry about it either, and he led the way as we walked our own path down the sidewalk.

"When did you find out about Eddie? He asked. "I mean, obviously you knew you had a dad, but..."

"Just over seven months ago." I replied. "Just after my mom passed."

"Um, I'm sorry about your mom. You guys were close, huh?"

"Yeah." I nodded, wishing that we were talking about something else. Somewhere else. Preferably somewhere with air conditioning.

"I never heard anything about you or your mom." Luke said, "I mean, obviously. But, when Eddie found out about your mom he was really upset. I think he..."

"Look," I frowned, "Can we not talk about him? I know he's your cousin and you guys all seem close, but it's just...too much right now."

"Sure." Luke smiled, "Sorry. I guess this is all kinda overwhelming for you. I mean, I can imagine."

"Yeah, well, I just want to get through the summer."

"You never know. Maybe you'll end up staying. I mean, not because you have to, but because you want to."

"I don't think so." I laughed. "No offense, I'm sure you guys are very happy together, but I have a home. And a life. It's just not here."

"Fair enough." Luke shrugged.

We continued to walk and I noticed that it was getting darker, but there weren't many streetlights. There was only two I could see, one over the basketball court, and one off in the distance, shining down over a tree, right where we were headed.

"This is where we come to hang out." Luke explained, "There isn't exactly a lot to do around here, especially during the summer. Most of us come out here after dark, too hot during the day."

"It's too hot now." I complained. "How do you guys stand the heat?"

"You get used to it." Luke smiled, and then suddenly pulled his shirt over his head.

Once again my eyes were drawn to all of the muscles in his chest and abs, even his arms. He was already sweating, like I was, and it left a shine over his skin, still visible in the dark. I couldn't help looking. His entire body was attractive to me. Maybe it was all that muscle. My friends back home had been swimmers, like me; thinner, developed, but more tone than muscular. Jase had mentioned Luke's wrestling buddies. I wondered if Luke was a wrestler. I wondered what it would feel like to have Luke pin me, not that I was about to admit it.

When I caught myself staring again I quickly moved my eyes back up to his face, to find that he was watching me, smiling. Damn it. The last thing I needed was to be caught staring at my...cousin? I turned away; blushing, and jumped when Luke reached out and tapped my arm with the back of his hand.

"You could take your shirt off." He suggested, "It doesn't help much, but it helps some."

I glanced back at him, avoiding his eyes as I shrugged and pulled my shirt over my head. I wasn't exactly shy about my body. It's kind of hard to be shy when you're always wearing Speedos for swim meets.

I tucked my shirt into my back pocket, the way that Luke had, and glanced over to find him smiling at me again. It was a little unsettling, the way that he was looking at me, like he was amused over a joke that I wasn't privy to. The idea that he had caught me staring at him was unsettling. If he found out that I was gay he could turn my life into a living hell, and I wasn't ready for that. I'd definitely have to be more careful.

I heard Chey bark and looked towards the tree as she ran from underneath it, and I realized that there were a few picnic tables and a drinking fountain there. Occupied picnic tables. As we got closer, I realized that the park wasn't as empty as I thought.

It looked like a group of guys at the tables, a few were even running around on the grass, and as I got closer I realized that there was a water balloon fight going on. Mostly, because I was splashed by the tail end of one when it hit Luke, square in the chest, and drenched him.

"Damn it Dave!" Luke half yelled, half laughed, "I've got a civilian here!"

I watched as a guy about the same height as Luke approached us. He had dark, spiky hair and huge smile of large white teeth, and his clothes were wet from the fight he had been engaged in.

"Sorry." He laughed, looking between Luke and myself, "That one got away from me."

"Uh-huh." Luke frowned, and then as he shook the guys hand he gave him a half hug before turning to me, "Rory, this is Dave Barnes, my best friend...on the good days."

"Shut up." Dave smirked, and then extended his hand to me, "Hi Rory."

"Hi." I replied.

"Rory's Eddie's kid." Luke explained, "The one I told you about."

"Right," Dave smiled, "You just moved here, right?"

"Just visiting." I replied.

"Right, for the summer." Luke added in a sarcastic tone that had me cutting a glare at him.

"Well, it's nice to meet you, Rory." Dave said, "Are you guys coming? We've declared war on Aaron Keslin."

"Aaron's here?" Luke groaned, his smile suddenly fading, "Damn it, why didn't you tell me that when I called you?"

"Sorry." Dave shrugged, "We didn't know he was coming. But hey, we've got water balloons, maybe you can get a few shots in."

"Do the balloons have acid in them?" Luke mumbled, and then forced a smile at Dave, "You go ahead. I'm gonna go introduce Rory around. Just do me a favor and keep Aaron away, will you? I'm not up for dealing with that asshole tonight."

I guess Luke had enemies. I decided not to comment though, as he led me towards the tables. There were at least twelve guys crowded around the two tables, not to mention those who were pelting each other with water balloons and the two filling them at the drinking fountain; so needless to say, I didn't remember everyone's names. But, Luke did, as he went around the tables and introduced me to everyone.

Everyone seemed friendly too. At least, they were friendly to Luke. They were polite to me, and did a fine job of making me feel welcome, but as I watched Luke, it was obvious that this was his home and these were his friends. The way he smiled and could pick up in the middle of any conversation, with anyone, reminded me of the way that I felt back home when I went out with my friends. Or at least the way I used to be, before mom died.

It had been a while since I just hung out with the guys. And Luke's friends were guys. Actually, just about every single one of them was built how he was, maybe less defined, and no one was as hot as Luke was, but it was enough to keep my head turning. Several of them had removed their shirts like we had, and as a result I forced myself to remember Grandma Alice's words about my wandering eye. Eventually I chose to stare at my hands, just because they seemed safe, as every once in a while I'd join in a conversation when people talked to me.

I ended up sitting at one table while Luke drifted back and forth between both tables, until two more guys showed up and he went to greet them. The first guy was huge. And I'm not exaggerating.

He was taller than Luke, well over six feet and he was huge. Not even his baggy clothes cold hide the round rolls in his arms and legs. Actually, everything about him seemed round. When he moved his stomach giggled and even his pecks, which seemed more like boobs. But while his size seemed somewhat intimidating he had a certain way about him that made him seem approachable. Maybe it was his big smile or his freckled, kind face. Or, it could have been his short, bright red hair.

I watched as Luke went to greet the big guy first, who picked Luke clear off the ground in a big hug, and then he said hello to the other guy, who seemed to be the complete opposite of most of the people there. Actually, he was about my size, maybe even a little thinner with cropped blonde hair and a narrow nose, but, despite his small size, when Luke playfully shoved him, he shoved right back with more force than Luke had used, and the three of them talked for a few minutes before Luke glanced back and waved me over.


I left the table and approached the two newcomers as Luke gestured towards the smaller one first.

"Rory, this is Rick Leto, and Brian Gurrick. They come over a lot with Dave, so you'll probably see a lot of them."

I shook both of their hands, and watched as Brian suddenly looked around as if he were lost.

"Where is Dave anyways?" Brian asked.

"Over there." Luke pointed over his shoulder, "Someone brought water balloons." And then he added more quietly, "Aaron's here."

"Well shit!" Brian smirked as he lifted his shirt over his large body, revealing a hairy, pale, freckled chest, "Let's go drown the bitch."

Luke groaned, obviously uninterested, but when the other two began to laugh and drag him off, he looked at me and smiled.

"Are you coming, Rory?" he asked.

"No thanks." I waved.

"Are you sure?" Luke asked.

"Come on." Rick called.

"You guys go ahead." I insisted.

I liked water; I'd just rather swim in it than throw it at people. That, and joining a water balloon fight didn't exactly seem entirely interesting to me. Not that these people weren't nice. They were. It's just that, back home we didn't hang out in parks at night. Specifically parks that had nothing in them. We did normal things, like go to the mall or occasionally a concert, or and amusement park.

I wouldn't have minded being home, just then. I wanted my own friends and my own life. Not that these guys weren't nice, I'm sure they were. It was just that now that I was only stuck in the desert for one summer, I didn't see the point in getting to know the locals.

After Luke went off with his friends, I secluded myself from the rest of the group. I sat away from the tables, in the grass-a dry place on the grass-and I was surprised when Chey joined me, and, as she laid her head on my lap and let me pet her, she made good company.

It wasn't that I didn't appreciate Luke introducing me to his friends; I actually thought it was nice of him. But, I was feeling tired now, and if I thought about it, it probably had something to do with my emotionally straining day. Just that morning I had said goodbye to my grandmother, the only family I considered to have left. I had met my biological father for the first time, along with an uncle and a...second cousin? Who I happened to be incredibly attracted to, but I think my attraction to Luke was a whole other problem, altogether.

My new situation was stressful, and I definitely had my problems with it. I wasn't looking forward to getting to know Eddie. I wasn't sure how I'd survive next summer sleeping next door to a wet dream who happened to be related to me, and I had a huge problem with having to hide the fact that I was gay from people who I'd be living so close to. And little did I know, I was about to meet my biggest problem yet.

"Wow. I've never seen her take to anyone so fast. She must really like you."

I turned my head to see who was talking to me, just as a drop of water fell from his chin and landed on my bare back.

Have you ever had one of those feelings when you first meet someone, where the world seems to stop for a second? I'm not talking about that love at first sight bullshit that you see in the movies. No, I'm talking about one of those feelings that can mean any number of things. Sure, I guess it could mean love at first sight, or it can be like warning bells going off in your head. It's that sixth sense thing when you look into someone's eyes-in this case a pair of big, brown eyes-and you know that just meeting this person is going to have some sort of impact on your life. That's how I felt in that moment, only, I didn't know if the impact was going to be good, or bad.

He was attractive; I'd give him that. It wasn't in the same way that Luke was attractive, but this guy was every bit as hot. Actually, seeing how he wasn't related to me, he was already a step ahead of Luke. He was tall, and his drenched, shirtless body was even more defined than Luke's. He had brownish hair with gold highlights that could only be natural, cut in the mysterious bad boy way, with long bangs that hung down over his eyes. At the moment they were sticking to his forehead, wet from the water balloons. He had a dark tan and a smile of white teeth, a small, straight nose, and his lips were small, and shaped like a kiss.

I was so busy staring into brown eyes that it came as a shock when Chey suddenly growled and her head left my lap. I pulled my hand away as she sat up, turned her nose up at the stranger, and trotted off.

"Huh, she was never very friendly anyways." The guy behind me remarked, "Don't take it personally."

Me take it personally? It never really occurred to me that I had upset the dog until he mentioned it, but I shrugged it off and looked up at him again as I extended my hand, suddenly feeling like it was imperative that I introduce myself to him.

"I'm Rory Norick." I said.

He smiled a sly smile and shook my hand. I couldn't help noticing that he shook hands the same way that Luke did, just a squeeze.

"Aaron Keslin." He replied as he dropped down next to me.

Uh-oh. Maybe I was new, but since we got to the park, Luke had made it clear that he did not like this guy. Considering that I was living in a house all summer, my bedroom literally next door to Luke's, I thought that I should at least try to get along with him. I don't thing befriending one of his enemies would help me get along with Luke any better.

But, what was I gonna do? Tell Aaron to get lost? It wouldn't hurt to talk to him. Besides, I was oddly drawn to something about him. And, I didn't even know why he didn't get along with Luke. For all I knew, it could be Luke's fault they didn't get along. It couldn't hurt to talk to the guy.

"Where are you from, Rory? You're obviously not from around here. I would have remembered a face like yours."

The way he smirked at the end of that last sentence and gave me a pointed, sideways glance had me feeling butterflies in my stomach. The feeling I had was hard to explain, but that look was one I'd never actually gotten from a guy before. I had, however, gotten it from girls, so there was some familiarity. Maybe this is presumptuous, but I think Aaron was flirting with me.

"Nevada." I replied shortly.

I needed to think. Why was he looking at me like that? He was sitting a little close. Close enough for his damp arm to brush up against mine. `I would have remembered a face like yours.' And that look. Was he flirting with me? Should I flirt back? No. Definitely not. I'm probably just imagining things. At least, that's what I told myself because it was safe.

"So what are you doing here?" he asked.

Well, I could give him the complicated version and tell him that I had been uprooted after my mom died and shipped here to meet my biological father for the first time. But, with an answer like that, there would be too many questions bound to follow.

"I'm just visiting relatives for the summer."

"Relatives?" he asked, "Anyone here?"

"Um, Luke." I replied, unsure if Luke had the same last name as Eddie or not.

"Luke, really?" Aaron grinned, "So you're staying with him?"

"Just for the summer."

"Nice guy." Aaron replied, "We were next door neighbors before he moved away."

That's weird. There was nothing in Aaron's voice that would suggest that he had any problem with Luke at all. Maybe Luke was the only one with the problem.

"Yeah, he seems like a nice guy." I agreed.

"You don't know for sure?" Aaron laughed, "I thought you guys were related."

"Oh, we're...distant relatives."

"That kind, huh?" Aaron smiled. "Well, I hope you enjoy your summer, here, Rory. You know, I live here in town. Maybe I can show you around sometime. There isn't much here, but there are more interesting places than this park."

"That's a relief." I smirked.

"Well hell," he laughed, "We'll have to get together. I mean, unless Luke is going to show you around. But, I figure he'll probably be busy most of the summer working that construction job."

"Oh, yeah." I replied, as if I knew what he was talking about.

"I'll be glad to show you around, for him." Aaron said.

"Sure." I shrugged, noncommittally. After all, I didn't even know this guy; the only thing I really did know was that Luke didn't like him.

But, as I continued to talk to Aaron, I started to like him. He'd make the stupidest things sound funny, not to mention he seemed really friendly. I didn't understand how Luke could dislike him. And then, there was the growing feeling that he really was flirting with me. Every time Aaron told a joke and we started laughing, he'd lean over and let his shoulder brush against mine, or he'd touch my shirtless back. When he talked to me he'd lean forward so that we were face to face, but also in each other's personal space. And once when I made him laugh he even touched my knee for a few seconds. It was only a moment, but longer than I thought friendly touching would be.

Aaron also told me a little about himself, how he grew up here with his parents and how he had two younger brothers. He was a year older than me, just like Luke, and Aaron mentioned that he and Luke had both been on the wrestling team at school, like several of the other guys there. But, he never once mentioned that he didn't get along with Luke. Actually, anything he said about Luke at all seemed to be a compliment.

I'm not sure how long I talked to Aaron, but I was actually starting to enjoy myself. I decided that I wouldn't mind seeing him again at all. Who knows, maybe I could even form a friendship that would be worth keeping after I got out of this place.

We must have been sitting there for a few hours, because I noticed that it was dark now, and the temperature had dropped some, still not enough to put my shirt back on, but enough so that the heat in the air wasn't so noticeable.

When Chey came back in our direction I was surprised when Aaron held his hand out for her, despite her earlier growling. I was even more surprised when she growled again, only this time she actually tried to bite his hand.

"Shit." I cursed, leaning back away from the dog that had seemed so friendly, only a short time before. My movement placed my shoulder against Aaron's, and I was surprised again when he lightly placed his arm around my back, almost in a protective gesture.

"Hey, don't worry about her." He smiled, still not removing his arm, "She's just cranky."

I saw Luke walking towards us, and I saw him pause, and the frown that crossed his face when he saw Aaron and I sitting together with his arm over my shoulders. But frankly, I didn't really care what he thought of Aaron anymore. Aaron had been nothing but nice, and I wouldn't mind perusing a friendship with him. Maybe he was the only one in this desert that I actually wanted to get to know.

"Hey, Luke." Aaron smiled, "You know, I think Chey's gotten bigger since the last time I saw her, she's kinda wild though. It probably wouldn't kill you to put a leash on her."

And I could totally agree with that, considering the way that Chey was acting.

"She's not wild, Aaron." Luke replied coldly, "She's just a good judge of character." I was surprised at the icy tone in Luke's voice, more surprised when he used it on me, "We have to go, Rory, curfew's midnight."

"Sure," I replied, giving Luke a wary look, wondering what his problem was.

Aaron's arm dropped from my shoulders as he stood up with me, but his hand grazed my back on the way down. I couldn't tell if it was purposely or not.

"Um, it was nice meeting you, Aaron." I said, "Maybe I'll see you around."

"Well, hey," Aaron grinned, "Let me give you my number." I watched him fish his wallet out of his back pocket and then he glanced over at the table and whistled loudly, "Anyone got a pen?" someone tossed a pen and Aaron caught it in the air. All the while, Luke's frown had turned into an all out scowl. "Hey, Rory, lend me your back?"

I turned around and straightened as Aaron placed the paper on my back and wrote his number on it. I glanced over at Luke again, he wasn't looking at me, but he was glaring at Aaron.

"Thanks." I said as Aaron passed me his phone number, written on the back of a Dairy Queen receipt.

"Give me a call, Rory." Aaron smiled, "We'll get together."

"Yeah. See you later, Aaron."

"Bye Luke." Aaron waved as he walked off, leaving me with a still scowling Luke.

"We have to go." Luke frowned before turning and leading the way back to his truck.

I just shrugged to myself and followed along, as Chey ran ahead. As we walked I pulled my shirt back over my head and looked down at Aaron's phone number. Although he had written it on my back the numbers were incredibly legible. I wondered when I would call him. I knew that I wanted to, and I hoped that I'd have the chance too soon. Unfortunately, I had things I had to deal with first. Like Eddie. And, apparently Luke, because as we neared his truck and I fished the wallet out of my back pocket to put Aaron's number away, Luke suddenly snatched the small piece of paper out of my hand.

"Hey!" I protested.

"You don't need it." Luke said shortly before moving to the driver side door and getting in his jeep.

I ran around to the passenger door, shoving Chey out of my seat as I got in and angrily watched Luke turn the ignition.

"What the hell are you doing?" I demanded, "Give it back!"

"I'm doing you a favor." Luke stated, "That guys an asshole."

"No he's not!" I argued.

"And how would you know?"

"Because he's not! Now give it back!"

"You're not calling him!"

I think my jaw dropped. What the hell? I'd known Luke for less than a day and already he was pissing me off.

"Who the hell do you think you are?" I demanded, "I don't know what your problem with Aaron is, but he's not a jerk, and even if he is, I have a right to choose my own friends."

"Aaron, is not, your friend. And he isn't going to be, either."

"What, and you are?" I spat.

"I'm trying to be!"

"Well you're not doing a very good job, now give me the number!"



And with that, he held the balled up paper with Aaron's phone number in his fist and dropped it out the window as we drove away from the park.

Unbelievable. Un-fucking-believable. It was bad enough that I had to leave my life and end up here, but now I had some asshole cousin who was trying to run my life. Needless to say, Luke had managed to piss me off, even more than Eddie had.

"That is so fucked up!" I shouted, "God, Aaron's not the asshole, you are."

Luke switched on the radio and the music blared in my ears as the dismissal that it was. I crossed my arms and glared out my window, trying hard not to lose control of the sudden rush of emotions I was feeling. Mainly anger. God, I wanted to go home.

When we reached the house I think both of us slammed our doors as poor Chey rushed to get out of the jeep. Luke wordlessly led the way and as we entered through the garage and moved into the living room, I saw both Eddie and Jase on the sofa. They seemed alarmed, probably from the way that Luke and I stormed in, and they quickly stood up.

"Hey guys," Eddie called, even if we hadn't stopped walking. Luke was heading for the stairs and I was following right after him.

"Guys?" Eddie said, "Everything okay?"

No answer.

"Luke?" Jase called.

"Fine." Luke muttered.

"Hey!" Eddie called as they both started to follow us down the stairs. It wasn't difficult to tell that there was something wrong. Luke and I were both fuming. "Rory?"

"Whatever." I shot back over my shoulder as Luke and I pushed past each other down the hall leading to our rooms. Somehow, I managed to get to mine first. I slammed my door and a second later I heard Luke's door slam. I heard Chey bark and I heard Eddie demanding to know what was going on, and then I heard Jase and Eddie arguing. Eddie wanted to go back upstairs and wait. Jase wanted to talk.

What did Luke say about Jase? Oh yeah. He always gets his way. Shit.

"I'll talk to Luke and find out what's going on." I heard Jase say through the door, "Eddie, you go in there and talk to Rory."


"You have to talk to him, Eddie."

There was a knock on my door. I didn't want to talk to Eddie. I didn't want to talk to anyone. Eddie would probably think that whatever was wrong with Luke was my fault anyways. After all, I was the one who showed up to screw up this family's peaceful existence. But I wasn't the one who chose it. Another knock on the door.

"Rory," Eddie called, "If you don't open the door, I'm coming in."


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