Sometimes you have to play love by ear.
Aaron Seavers is a pathetic mess, and he knows it. He lives in terror of incurring his father’s wrath and disappointing his mother, and he can’t stop dithering about where to go to college—with fall term only weeks away. Ditched by a friend at a miserable summer farewell party, all he can do is get drunk in the laundry room and regret he was ever born. Until a geeky-cute classmate lifts his spirits, leaving him confident of two things: his sexual orientation, and where he’s headed to school.
Giles Mulder can’t wait to get the hell out of Oak Grove, Minnesota, and off to college, where he plans to play his violin and figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. But when Aaron appears on campus, memories of hometown hazing threaten what he’d hoped would be his haven. As the semester wears on, their attraction crescendos from double-cautious to a rich, swelling chord. But if more than one set of controlling parents have their way, the music of their love could come to a shattering end.
At the door, Giles remained frozen in terror and indecision, but Aaron didn’t so much as look up. Hunched, dark hair over his eyes and arms crossed on his knees, Aaron stared at the floor and spoke in a tight, tired voice. “Go away.”
Giles wasn’t sure how to play this. While Aaron had never engaged in gay-baiting, Giles wasn’t sure he was ready to bet his front teeth Aaron wouldn’t turn him over to the wolves first chance he had.
From the second Aaron showed up at Alvis-Henning, Giles had seriously crushed on him. Hot as fuck, all dark hair, blue eyes, and fuzzy scruff on his jaw—his quiet reserve left way too much space for Giles’s imagination. This infatuation, combined with Aaron’s popularity, meant Giles hadn’t ever figured out how to behave around him. Which right now was a real problem.
He decided to hedge. “If you can wait five minutes to kick me out, I’d appreciate it.”
Aaron’s head snapped up, and in the low light of the room his bright blue eyes shone. “Oh. Sorry. I thought you were Colton.”
“God no. He’s dancing on a table in the living room.” Giles let himself relax somewhat. “Why would you tell Colton off? I thought you two were tight.”
To this Aaron’s response was a snort as he lifted a beer bottle to his lips. “Whatever.”
Giles was more confused by the second. “Why are you in here, anyway?”
Aaron toasted the air with his bottle and a black smile. “Because it’s my birthday.”
“Oh—happy birthday.” Giles frowned. “Sorry, I don’t get it.”
“Me either.” Aaron tipped his head against the wall and shut his eyes, allowing Giles an ogle of that gorgeous throat, the tiny tuft of hair at the front of his T-shirt, the line of beard shadow and the beautiful bulge of an Adam’s apple. Blue eyes opened, fixing in soft squints at Giles. “I know you. You were in my…calculus class?”
“And physics.” Giles waved. “Giles Mulder.”
Aaron gestured drunkenly back. “Aaron Seavers.”
“I know.” Jesus fuck, but Aaron was hot. Hot and slightly aloof. Giles wanted to put the guy on his knees and make him moan. Stop. Get out of this with all your teeth and bones in place. “So…you spend all your birthdays in the laundry room, or is this one special?”
“I’m having a better time in here than I was out there. Or anywhere. I’m having a particularly miserable life at the moment.” Wincing, Aaron took another drink. “Shit, that’s pathetic. You should probably go.”
“I think if I leave right now, I’ll go home in a body bag, or at least on a stretcher.”
Now it was Aaron’s face screwed up in confusion. “Why?”
“Eric Campf and his buddies are playing hunt the fag. Plenty of other people would be happy to join in if they heard about the party game.” Please don’t say you want to be one of them.
Aaron shut his eyes. “I hate this town. I should be glad I’m leaving it tomorrow.”
Aaron was leaving? Giles snuffed out the waft of disappointment. Like it matters. We’re all leaving in another month and a half. Also, just because hottie is talking to you instead of hitting you doesn’t mean you have a new bestie. “Where are you going tomorrow?”
“To hell.” Aaron drained the last of his beer. “Eden Prairie, with my dad. He’ll nag at me all summer, plus I have to avoid—” His whole face shuttered, and he didn’t say anything more.
Okay, touchy subject. New topic. “Where are you going to school in the fall?”
Swearing under his breath, Aaron tossed the beer bottle across the room. “I need another drink.”
“Unless you want fabric softener, I think you’re out of luck in here. Seriously, where are you going in the fall?”
“I don’t know.”
Giles stared at him, not quite sure what to do with this. “Dude, it’s June. June twenty-first.”
“Yes, I know. Birthday, remember?” Aaron covered his face with his hands. “I don’t know where I’m going. I can’t decide. My dad’s going to rag my ass about whatever I choose, and they all look the same. It’s my goddamned eighteenth birthday, I never got dinner, and I don’t know where I’m going to college. I’m drinking in a laundry room at the most boring party in the world, my ride home is smashed and dancing on tables—and I’m out of alcohol.”
“Well, I can’t help you with the alcohol or college, but I could give you a ride to a drive-through on the way to your house.”
Giles expected to be laughed at, but Aaron took him seriously. “For real?” He seemed briefly hopeful, then looked away. “I don’t want you to bug out of the party because I’m being a loser.”
“Did you forget the part where I’m hiding out because beating me up is about to be the evening’s entertainment?”
“Oh. Right. Um…yeah, if you’re offering and don’t mind, a ride would be great. I don’t live too far, so it shouldn’t put you out.”
“But I’m taking you to dinner first, right?” Giles stepped closer and held out a hand. “Need help?”
“You don’t have to take me out.” Aaron sounded like he wished someone would.
“Hey, it’s your birthday. The least I can do is buy you a Frosty.”
Aaron frowned as he accepted Giles’s hand and rose gracelessly to his feet. “Wendy’s is in Anoka.”
“Whatever, it’s only fifteen minutes. Besides, I could use an order of fries.” When Aaron only grinned at him stupidly, as if Giles had offered to scale a mountain for him, Giles added, “I think you could use more water and less beer.”
“Yeah.” Aaron listed on his feet. “No dinner, four beers in three hours. Dumb.”
“It’s your birthday. You’re allowed.”
Aaron laughed, leaning into Giles. “What, do I get a free pass on everything because it’s my birthday?”
Letting the comment soak in, Giles tried to decide if Aaron Seavers was hitting on him or not.
Aaron nodded to a shadow in the corner of the room. “Hey, is that a door?”
By God, it was. A side door with a clear, straight view of the street, and if he squinted, Giles could see his car. “Aaron Seavers, I fucking love you.”
Giggling, Aaron nudged him. “Come on, we haven’t even had a first date yet.”
Giles’s jaw dropped, but before he could wrap his head around Aaron Seavers—Colton’s best friend—hitting on him, Aaron grabbed his hand and tugged him toward the exit.
“Let’s go. If you love me, you can buy me a Frosty and fries.”
What the hell was he supposed to say to that? In the end Giles said nothing, only let Aaron lead him out of the party into the night.