The Half of Us Excerpt

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“There’s nothing anyone could have done.”

Jason Garcia dipped his chin in acknowledgment of the comment, but didn’t slow his pace or look at the anesthesiologist walking alongside him.

“The patient’s thoracic aorta was dissected. His coronary artery was lacerated. And he had several pulmonary contusions. Nobody could have survived that. The only mystery is how he stayed alive long enough to make it onto the table.”

Hearing Dr. Mason recite injuries the patient sustained when his Prius collided with a Range Rover going eighty miles an hour on roads slick with early September rain was nothing short of annoying. Jason wanted to point out that as the cardiothoracic surgeon on the case, he had in fact been in the operating room, so he didn’t need the instructional on the injuries. But he didn’t want to say or do anything to extend the conversation, so instead he grunted.

“I know how rough it is to lose one.” Dr. Mason put his hand on Jason’s shoulder in what was probably supposed to be a comforting gesture but wasn’t. “I’m off right now too. Do you want to get a drink and talk about it?”

Surprised by the question, Jason turned his head to look at Dr. Mason. What on earth did he think they could talk about? The patient was dead. Jason hadn’t been able to save him. No amount of conversation was going to change that.

“I have plans.” Jason took the final step toward the physicians’ locker room, grasped the doorknob, and said, “Thanks for the offer,” as he stepped inside.

“Oh.” Dr. Mason followed him. “At this hour?”

Jason flicked his gaze to the clock above the lockers and saw it was after midnight. Late, but still plenty of time to shower, change, drive to a nearby bar, and pick up somebody he could use to fuck away the memory of the day. He had been doing that more often than not lately. When he thought about how differently his life had turned out from what he’d worked and hoped for, he inevitably ended up in more bars looking for more liquor and more sex in the hope of forgetting that realization. It was a vicious cycle, but at least he was getting laid.

“Yes, at this hour,” he said without elaborating further. He opened his locker, quickly shrugged off his clothes, and then stuffed them into the front pocket of his bag. “Have a good night.” He hurried to the shower, waving to Dr. Mason over his shoulder.

After making quick work of scrubbing his body and washing his hair, Jason snagged one of the towels from the shelf and dried off. At thirty-six, he was still in decent shape, his arms defined and his chest and belly tight enough to look good under clothes. Silver now streaked his black hair at the temples, and small lines had formed next to his brown eyes, but the places he went were dark enough that nobody noticed. Though he couldn’t pass for being in his twenties and he didn’t get swarmed at the bars, Jason generally had no trouble finding what he wanted—a warm body to distract him for an hour, maybe two, when the only thing waiting for him was an empty house and the promise of another workday.

He got into his car, drove onto the 15, and headed toward his favorite places to troll—the bars close to the Strip. Guys in town for conferences invariably followed the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” motto and went out with the purpose of getting laid. Names, if they gave them, were first names only and more likely than not fake. Phone numbers weren’t discussed. And hotel rooms were conveniently located for a quick in and a seamless out.

At ten minutes, the drive from the hospital to the bar wasn’t long enough for Jason to clear his mind, let alone get rid of the rock-sized ache in the pit of his stomach that came every time he lost a patient, but he figured a couple of drinks and a blow job would do the trick. He climbed out of his black Mercedes E-Class convertible, straightened his oxford and starched jeans, and walked inside.

Dim lights, musky smell, men crowded around a bar chatting or calling for drinks, and two tables in the corner occupied by women celebrating a bachelorette party—a typical Friday night at the Phoenix. Jason hadn’t yet reached the bar to order his usual rum and Coke when a laugh distracted him. It wasn’t particularly loud, but the joy in it cut through the noise in the room and caught his attention.

Slowly, Jason turned in a circle as he narrowed his eyes and looked around, trying to find the source of the warm sound. He had almost made it back to his starting position when he heard it again, coming from the seating area tucked between the bar and the tiny stage. A group of men were squished together on the leather sofa, the table in front of them lined with empty glasses. One of them kept trying to get up, only to have his friends tug him back down.

Before he thought about what he was doing, Jason walked toward them.

“You guys, seriously, I have to go,” the guy said, still sounding amused.

“It’s early!” one of his friends yelled. At the same time, another said, “You never go out with us!” And a third shouted, “But it’s your birthday!”

“It’s almost one in the morning. I went out with you tonight. And it’s no longer my birthday.” He stood again, wriggled out of his friends’ grasps, and started climbing over their legs.

“What, no goodbye kiss?” one man said. Another made exaggerated smooching noises.

The guy rolled his eyes and smiled. “Thanks for tonight. It was fun.”

“Come on, Abe, stay!”

He shook his head as he carefully made his way out of the tangled mess of bodies. “I have to be up early tomorrow.”

Jason had heard enough to know he should find someone else to screw. This guy—Abe—was done for the night. But before Jason could move away, Abe finally extricated himself from his friends and Jason got a closer look at him.

His hair was blond, straight, a little too long, and silky. Light-colored eyes framed by thin eyebrows dominated his face. He was a few inches shorter than Jason’s six foot one, which put him at about five foot eight. And he was young. Not so young that he wasn’t legal, but Jason was sure he had at least a decade on the good-looking man.

All indications—Abe’s age, his appearance, and his comments to his friends—indicated a straight path toward rejection and therefore a waste of Jason’s time. And yet, when Abe stumbled as he left the seating area, Jason lunged forward and grabbed him.

“Careful,” he said. “It’s crowded in here tonight.”

“Thanks.” Abe clutched his shirt and blinked up at him.

Blue. His eyes were blue.

“Anytime.” It was the kind of thing he’d say automatically, without thinking and without meaning it. But he did mean it. In fact, it was possibly the most sincere statement he’d made that day.

After a few breaths, Abe released Jason’s shirt and stepped away. “Thanks again,” he said, rubbing his chest.

Jason turned around and watched the small, round ass in the tight jeans get swallowed by the crowd. Dammit, the guy was hot. Seriously hot. And, sure, he wasn’t Jason’s normal type, but that was only because Jason’s normal type was drunk, desperate, and horny.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, he told himself as he followed the seemingly sober, likely never desperate, and apparently not horny guy heading toward the exit.

By the time Jason reached Abe, he was dialing his phone in a semi-empty nook next to the door.

“Meeting someone?” Jason asked.

Abe flipped around and jerked his gaze to Jason’s.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Not scared. Startled.” Abe smiled, the expression as warm as his laugh. “And no.” He held up his phone. “It’s too late to meet anyone. I’m calling a cab.”

“I’ll give you a ride.”

“You will?” Abe arched his eyebrows. “Do we know each other?”

Jason shook his head.

“So why do you…” Abe ducked his chin and then glanced up, his upper teeth pressing into his lower lip. “Oh.”

Shyness wasn’t a turn-on for Jason because he rarely had the time or the inclination to seduce or cajole or whatever label people put on trying to get into someone’s pants. When he was out looking, he wanted a guy who was in it for the same thing. Sex. In, out, done. Simple, satisfying, and over. But he had to admit to himself that on Abe, shy became sweet and attractive.

“I’m Jason.” He held his hand out.

After looking down, Abe put his palm in Jason’s. “I’m Abraham. Abe.”

“Nice to meet you, Abe.”

They shook hands, but rather than let go right away, Abe linked their fingers together. Though he wasn’t the hand-holding type, Jason didn’t pull back. They weren’t in a place someone would recognize him, which was one of the draws to the bar. Besides, he wanted Abe to accept his offer. They hadn’t gotten naked yet, and the tight little body in front of him already had him hard. It promised to be a good night.

“What do you say?” He pulled his keys out of his pocket with his free hand and held them up. “You game?”

Abe looked at him, really looked at him, but not at his body or his groin, which were the usual points of interest. Instead, Abe looked at his face, his lips, and mostly his eyes.

“I never do this,” he mumbled, presumably to himself, “but you only live once, right?” He took in a deep breath. “How much have you had to drink?”

Taken aback by the question, Jason said, “Nothing yet. I just got here. Why?”

“Because going home with some guy I’ve never met is about as risky as I’m willing to get for one night. If you’re drunk, we’re both getting in a cab.”

“I’m not drunk.”

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Abe said under his breath. Then he nodded and squared his shoulders. “Okay.”

A yes was a yes. Wanting to get out of there before Abe changed his mind, Jason rested his palm on Abe’s lower back and steered him out of the bar. “I’m parked right over there.” He pointed his key fob toward his Mercedes and unlocked the door.

Most guys had some reaction to his car. If not an outright compliment, then at least the appearance of being impressed. It was why he’d bought a car that cost more than some houses. Abe didn’t seem to notice.

“Your place or mine?” Abe said once they got into the car. He grinned and waggled his eyebrows, his expression playful. “I never thought I’d get the chance to say that.”

Jason found himself laughing, which was rare in general and never happened with tricks. Maybe it was because he was completely sober.

“Yours. I live pretty far.” The familiar lie came easily. “Where are you staying?”

“Staying?” Abe buckled up his seat belt.

“Uh-huh.” Jason backed out of the parking space. “Which hotel?”

“Oh.” Abe shook his head. “I live here. Well, not here, but in Henderson. Is that too far?”

At that time of night, it was less than half an hour. A fact Jason knew because he lived in Henderson too.

“No. It’s fine.” He pulled out of the parking lot.

“So,” Abe said.

Jason jerked his gaze over to Abe and then back to the road.

“I don’t usually do this sort of thing. Want to tell me how it goes?”

Furrowing his brow, Jason tried to think of how to respond and came up empty.

“No? All right.” Abe cleared his throat. “Small talk, then. Did you grow up in Vegas or are you a transplant?”

Small talk. That was new. Then again, they had some time to kill.

“I grew up in Reno,” Jason said. “How about you?”

“I’m from Utah originally. Salt Lake. But I moved here for school.”

And with that, Abe was off, chatting about where he went to college (UNLV), his parents (divorced), his sister (four kids, lived in Idaho), why he moved to Las Vegas (good weather, less conservative than his hometown), and other equally mundane topics. Jason was able to ward off most personal questions with a grunt, so the conversation wasn’t painful. Actually, if he was honest with himself, it was nice. Listening to Abe chatter allowed him to focus on something other than work or the state of his own life, which was relaxing. Before he knew it, they were getting off the freeway and Abe was giving him directions to his apartment interspersed with tidbits about the area.

“Pass the grocery store. Doesn’t it look great? They just remodeled the whole strip mall and the inside of the store. They added a nut bar with all sorts of different nuts that you can grind to make fresh nut butter. The honey-roasted peanuts are my favorite. I go through a jar every couple of weeks.”

Jason glanced at Abe, dragging his gaze up and down his slim body. “Really?” He looked at the road again.

Abe shrugged. “Fast metabolism. Plus, I swim.”

“Well, it’s working for you,” he said, looking at Abe appreciatively. It was getting harder and harder to focus on driving.

Though it was too dark to know if Abe blushed at the compliment, Jason noticed him ducking his chin and biting his lip.

“Make a left at the light after the Roasted Bean. Oh my God, they have the best chai lattes there. I know it seems like they should be the same at every coffee shop, but theirs is special. Plus, refills are half price and they have a bunch of comfy couches and chairs. I’ve spent many weekend afternoons and evenings camped out there with my laptop or a book.”

Jason got an image of Abe curled up on a big sofa, his hair flopping over his forehead, a steaming mug in front of him and a book in his hand. “That sounds nice.”

“It is.” Abe pointed to an apartment complex just ahead of them. “That’s me. Building C.”

Jason drove in, parked in front of the building, and turned off the ignition. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he was a little anxious about going to bed with someone. Though he hadn’t shared anything about himself and he didn’t know all that much about Abe, he no longer felt like a stranger. The last time he’d had sex with someone he knew in any sense of the word, he had been married and trying to convince both himself and his wife that he wanted to stay that way.

“This is kind of weird, isn’t it?” Abe asked as they sat in the quiet car.

“No,” Jason assured Abe and himself. It was sex. That was a basic bodily need. In, out, done. That was his motto and he followed it religiously. There was nothing weird about it that couldn’t be attributed to his current state of sobriety. He made a mental note to never again pick up a guy until after he’d had a couple of drinks. With that decision made, Jason grabbed the door handle. “Ready?”

Abe looked at him again, one of his quiet stares. Jason tried not to wriggle under that scrutiny.

“You’re really attractive,” Abe said.

Not sure how he was supposed to respond, Jason went with the simple approach. “Thanks.” When Abe didn’t say anything or make a move to leave the car or stop staring at him, Jason added, “That’s a good thing, right?”

“Yes.” Abe nodded. “But it’s not why I agreed to bring you home.” Before Jason could decide if he should probe for an answer, Abe grinned at him and said, “But it sure helped. Come on.” He opened his door and stepped out of the car.

It wasn’t too late to leave. Jason could put the car in reverse, drive away, and either hit another bar or find someone online who wanted to fuck without talking or laughing or smiling. He had three apps on his phone for just that purpose. But he didn’t back away or reach for his phone. Instead, he got out of the car, locked it, and followed Abe into his apartment.

“Nice place,” Jason said as soon as he walked inside.

“I haven’t turned the lights on yet,” Abe answered with a laugh. “You can’t see anything. The walls could be fuchsia and mint-green polka dots for all you know.”

Jason didn’t care about the walls. He cared about getting Abe naked. The comment was something he said just to have something to say. But when Abe turned around and gave him a half hug to take the sting out of his teasing response, Jason found himself grinning and hugging Abe in return.

“What if I like fuchsia and mint green?” he asked. “Those could be my favorite colors.”

Crinkling his nose, Abe shifted until he was right in front of Jason, their chests touching. “Hmm. Those are your favorite colors?” He wrapped his arms around Jason’s neck, stretched up, and kissed the base of Jason’s throat. “I never would have guessed. You seem more like the tan-walls, blue-shirts type.”

His walls were in fact tan and the majority of his shirts were in fact blue. Slowly, Jason curled his arms around Abe’s waist, and then he goosed him hard.

“Ah!” Abe shouted and tried to move away.

Holding on tight, Jason said, “Not so smug now, are you?”

“I didn’t know it was such a sensitive topic.” Abe’s breath came out faster as he kept trying to escape.

Jason squeezed his ass again for fun and then again because he liked doing it.

“I’ll never tell,” Abe said. “I promise. Your secret is safe with me.”

“Are you making fun of me?” Jason asked, enjoying the interaction more than he would have expected. “Because that seems like an incredibly bad idea.” He dug his fingers into Abe’s sides. “Tell you what. Just to show you I’m a good guy, I’ll let go and give you a sixty-second head start to get to your bedroom. If you manage to get naked in that time, I’ll let you off the hook.”

“What a gentleman,” Abe said breathlessly.

“I’m pretty sure you won’t say that after you see what I plan to do to you once I catch you.” Jason winked and stepped away. “Time starts now. Go!”

Laughing, Abe swung around. Jason managed to get a good smack onto his ass before he hustled away.

“That’s cheating!” Abe said as he ran out of the room.

“Nah.” Jason unbuttoned his shirt and sauntered after him. “Cheating is giving you less than sixty seconds.” He knocked on Abe’s open bedroom door and walked in to see Abe lying faceup on his bed, still fully clothed, kicking off his shoes.

“That wasn’t sixty seconds,” Abe said between gasps. Though he was smiling broadly, his voice sounded strained and his chest heaved.

“Are you okay?” Jason asked as he approached the bed. He toed off his own shoes and then climbed up next to Abe and rested his palm on Abe’s narrow chest, feeling his heartbeat.

“I’m fine. My asthma acts up in this weather, and it was a long day and”—he lowered his gaze and blushed—“you got me kind of worked up when you were touching me.” He licked his lips. “I’m really nervous.”

Damn. Abe was sweet. Young and sweet. Jason suddenly felt guilty for being there. Mindless sex with guys who knew the score was what he wanted, not emotional entanglements for himself or the men he fucked.

“Don’t leave,” Abe said. Apparently, he was good at reading body language or facial expressions. “I want this.” He covered Jason’s hand with his smaller one. “I want you. Let me just get my inhaler. I have one in the nightstand.”

Jason moved back while Abe got his inhaler and took a quick puff. “Better?” he asked.

“Yes.” Abe nodded.

Taking a few moments to look at Abe’s chest, Jason watched it rise and fall and waited for his breathing to ease. When Abe’s breaths were even, Jason laid his hand over Abe’s heart again and noticed the bulge in his jeans growing, which made his own groin tighten. Abe said he was fine. A yes was a yes, and Jason was way too turned on to leave. He flicked open the buttons on his wrists and shrugged out of his shirt.

“Get naked,” he commanded.

Nodding, Abe crunched up, reached over his shoulders, grasped his shirt, and tugged it over his head. He lay back down, unbuttoned his jeans, arched up, and then shoved them and his briefs off his trim hips and down his legs.

“You have a great body,” Jason said, enjoying the view of smooth, pale skin and lithe muscles. Abe’s cock was different from his, lighter in color, not as thick or long, and without prominent veins. Jason cupped it, enjoying the weight and heat in his hand. “And a really pretty dick.”

Abe lay still, letting Jason touch and explore. A light smattering of fuzz covered his round, tightly drawn balls. Lowering his face, Jason lapped at them, enjoying the texture of the wrinkled skin.

“Oh God,” Abe gasped. “You need to slow down. That’s too good.”

Smirking about the fact he had Abe close to bursting already, Jason dragged his hands down Abe’s legs and pushed off his socks. “You’re telling me you can’t get it up again at your age?” He climbed off the bed, pulled off his own socks, and then dropped his jeans and underwear to the ground. “Speaking of which, how old are you?”

When Abe didn’t answer, Jason glanced up to find red lips parted and blue eyes staring at his cock. It’d take someone without much ego to remain nonchalant in the face of that admiring expression, and nobody had ever accused Jason of lacking when it came to the ego department. Or the dick department, which seemed to be making Abe very happy.


Without raising his gaze, Abe licked his lips. “Yeah?”

Chuckling, Jason climbed back onto the bed and knee-walked until his groin was inches from Abe’s face. “Are you going to answer my question?”

“Question?” Abe finally blinked up at him. “Oh, uh, I’m twenty-six.” Slowly, he reached his hand out and wrapped it around Jason’s rigid cock. “Damn.” He nodded. “And, yeah, I’ll get it up again.”

That reverent, gentle touch distracted Jason from everything except getting off. “You want to suck me?” He gripped the base of his dick, planted one hand on the bed, and lowered himself over Abe’s mouth, painting his lips with his cockhead. “Come on.”

Groaning, Abe parted his lips and Jason slid inside. He moved slowly, aware his girth wasn’t easy to take, but Abe didn’t hesitate. He let Jason set the pace, moaning with arousal as his mouth was filled and even managing to get his tongue involved, flicking it over Jason’s heated skin.

“Christ, that’s good,” Jason rasped.

He removed his hand from his cock and pushed it farther into the wet heat, not stopping until Abe gagged. Surprisingly, Abe didn’t shove him away. He clutched Jason’s hips and held on as Jason moved out and then plunged back in, over and over again. After a couple of minutes, Abe whimpered, the sound aroused rather than pained.

“It’s sexy how much this is turning you on,” Jason said through gritted teeth. “I’m close.”

Abe bucked and moaned, drawing Jason’s attention to his swollen cock. He flipped around and, in one move, thrust deeper into Abe’s mouth and sucked Abe’s dick between his lips. The thin body underneath him went wild, shaking and moaning, gripping him hard enough to bruise and sucking with desperation.

“Ungh,” Jason moaned when early seed seeped onto his tongue. He played too much to swallow, so he pulled back regretfully. “That’s it,” he said as he stroked Abe, still rocking in and out of his mouth. “Give it to me.”

Within seconds, Abe arched and cried out around Jason’s cock as he shot into Jason’s fist. The scent, the sounds, and the sight of that pretty dick releasing a load, tipped Jason over the edge. He barely had time to pull out and start jacking himself before he was grunting his way through his own orgasm, painting Abe’s chin, neck, and chest with his seed. The pleasure seemed to last forever, his breath gone and his balls aching by the time he was spent.

“Jesus,” he said as he collapsed, his leg thrown across Abe’s chest and his face resting on Abe’s flat belly.

“Good,” Abe said as he patted Jason’s head, the motion tired.

Not knowing if it was a question or a statement, Jason said, “Uh-huh,” and then he kissed Abe’s hip. Really good. Damn.

“I need to get some water before we go again,” Jason mumbled after a few minutes. He sat up with a sigh and turned to Abe. “Do you want…?”

Abe’s eyes were closed, his lips were tilted up in a satisfied smile, his hair was mussed, and his cheeks were flushed. He was breathing evenly, deeply, already fast asleep. No way could Jason wake him when he looked so cozy.

After nuzzling his face in Abe’s groin, inhaling his arousing scent, and committing it to memory, Jason got out of bed and gathered his clothes. He didn’t do the same guy twice, not ever, but the sweet blond almost had him leaving his number. Almost.

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