Edward smiled softly at me, held my face with one hand, and our lips connected briefly once again. He tilted forward so our foreheads touched. “I suppose we’d better go downstairs before he comes back again,” Edward said quietly. “Here, let me help you get up, Jay.” I really liked it when he shortened my name.
He put his hand under my elbow and I pushed off from my good leg so he did not have to take all my weight. I rocked back and forth while the blood settled in my legs, and Edward fetched the crutches for me. “I’ll be glad when I’m walking properly,” I huffed, trying not to feel embarrassed after our short intimate moment.
“Then we can go out on our date, can’t we, hun?” Edward winked, then kissed my cheek. He twirled round and headed for the door swaying his hips before I could reply.
He led the way downstairs to the living room. I followed him almost as quickly. I could just about manage with one crutch now.
Ellis was alone in the room pacing up and down, waiting for us. I was surprised Ryan wasn’t shadowing him as he usually was and wondered what had caused Ellis’s sudden change of heart. Deciding to keep the weight off my aching leg, I sat down but the other two remained standing, neither of them looking relaxed in the slightest.
Ellis’s cheek and eye had a distinct bruised look to it now and his lip seemed more swollen than before. I felt guilty for causing him pain and thought I owed him an apology too. I should have kept my promise to keep quiet and not let anything slip, but there again, I didn’t want to deceive Edward.
Ellis looked uncomfortable as he faced his brother. “I’m very sorry, Edward. Sorry for interfering and telling Jayden what only you had the right to tell him.” He cleared his throat. “And I apologize for doing it in the past as well.”
Edward stood there, his arms crossed in front of him as he mulled over his brother’s words, but giving no real clue as to what he was thinking. He nodded slowly before placing his hands on his hips. “What I can’t understand is why you told Jay in the first place, Ellis.”
There was another pause as a puzzled then knowing look swept Ellis’s face.
“I don’t think it was because you were trying to protect me from Jay.” Edward continued in an animated manner, using his hands to help him talk. “Were you trying to put him off me for some reason?” Edward challenged him, his voice rising. I hadn’t seen him looking so bold and menacing before.
“What?” Ellis’s voice sounded quite agitated, but his faced flushed and gave him away.
“Well, ever since you introduced us all to Jay, you seem to have done your utmost to keep the two of us apart.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Ellis shouted, flinging his arms into the air and looking frustrated as well.
I never liked arguments at the best of times and could feel myself starting to get upset with the aggressive atmosphere. Edward’s eyes caught mine and he obviously sensed my sudden distress. He walked over to me, his hips swaying, and sat down beside me on the couch. Taking my hand in his, he brought it to his lips for a soft kiss. “Shush, babe. It’s okay,” he whispered, looking me in the eyes, “I’m here for you, Jay. Don’t worry.” A warm fuzzy feeling flooded me because of his thoughtfulness and concern.
Edward waited until I calmed down before he confidently turned back to his brother and continued his train of thought. “Let me explain for you, Ellis,” he said, keeping his voice even and the volume down. “If you recall, originally Seb was going to the coffee shop with all of you on Friday evening, but at the last minute he dropped out and I decided to tag along instead.”
“Yes, but what’s that got to do with anything?” Ellis barked back.
“You warned me off Jay before we got to the coffee shop, if you remember,” Edward bristled slightly. “You actually told me to leave him alone, but you never said why.”
“But I certainly wasted my time yet again. You chose to ignore me like you usually do.”
Edward smiled at me as if he remembered the evening and his obvious flirting with me. Perhaps he even thought of our very first kiss.
But evidently Edward had something on his mind and was stubbornly pursuing his line of argument as he turned back to Ellis. “So why did you invite Jay to join us for coffee in the first place?”
Ellis answered immediately. “I told you, he looked lost and lonely sitting all by himself in the lecture room. He’s gay, in a new town, away from his friends and family, so I thought he could do with some support… and company.”
“Any other reason, Ellis?” His eyes pierced into his brother’s.
Ellis paused for a second. “Okay, okay… I thought perhaps Jay would be good company for Seb as he’s brooding so much while he’s away from Aiden.”
As soon as these words left Ellis’s mouth, Edward was fuming in a rage. “I really can’t believe what you do sometimes. Did you expect Seb to be unfaithful to Aiden? For God’s sake, Ellis, do you even think before you act? And what about Jay? Did you give him any idea what was going through your mind when you invited him out with us?”
I tried to soothe Edward by rubbing my thumb over the quivering hand I was holding, but he pulled his hand from mine as he stood up to face his brother. “So you invited him over here on Sunday in the hope that Seb would hook up with him and you did your best to keep us apart while he was here at the barbecue? I knew you were up to something and it wasn’t about looking after or protecting me. You know Jay wouldn’t even hurt a fly.”
They were standing inches away from each other now and I hoped neither of them would lash out. I doubted if Edward would stand much of a chance against his more muscular brother and I definitely didn’t want either of them to get hurt on my account.
Fortunately, Ellis seemed to back down. His head hung a little lower and he shrugged one shoulder. “Look, I’m sorry… both of you,” he said, looking at me as well. “I admit I didn’t think it through properly… I just thought you and Seb could both do with a friend and a bit of company. That’s all. I didn’t mean any harm.”
I was beginning to feel sorry for Ellis. He had only been trying to help a friend out.
Edward had other ideas. He still had a lot more to say and wasn’t going to let this drop. “Surely, you could tell I was interested in Jay from the moment I met him and yet you still did your best to keep us apart or restrict our alone time… just like you’ve done this evening.”
“And whose fault is that? I didn’t think you would make such a big deal out of all of this. If you’d accepted my apology straight away, you could be upstairs again with him right now,” Ellis replied, disdain written across his face.
“Ellis, it is a big deal to me and that’s what you don’t get. You try to keep us apart and then for some unknown reason you tell Jay about my past when you had no right to. Did you really think he would lose interest in me because I had been… attacked by those guys?” Edward’s voice wavered and his confidence seemed to diminish slightly. He flashed a look over at me again.
“I wanted to spare you any future upset, Ed,” Ellis started, “I realized by then that there was some sort of connection between the two of you. So yes, I was hoping to protect you from any future hurt. You know it’s happened in the past.”
“Once, Em, just once with Timothy. You make it sound like I’ve had hundreds of boyfriends.” Edward turned to me. “Jay… I’ve only had two proper boyfriends, Seb and Timothy. I don’t chase after other guys even if I seem to give that impression. You know I enjoy flirting with other guys and having fun that way, but I’m not the slut Ellis tries to make out that I am.”
I nodded at him, a little relieved that Ellis had misinterpreted his brother’s behavior.
“Look, Eddie—” Ellis started.
“Ellis, you know I don’t like it when you call me that,” Edward warned him, almost through gritted teeth.
Ellis huffed and started again. “Edward, I’m sorry. Really I am. I don’t want there to be bad feelings between us and I’ve apologized to Seb as well. I truly deserved this shiner from him,” he said, pointing to his swollen face. “I’ve been such an arse. I realize that now. Please can we forget about everything, if I promise to be on my best behavior from now on?” The naughty smile on his face told me the friction between the two brothers was easing down.
Edward ran his fingers through his hair, closed his eyes briefly, and by the time he opened them again his face seemed to reflect the forgiveness he was about to impart. He sashayed the short distance between the two of them and they embraced in a brotherly hug. They both muttered incoherent words into the other’s ears and pulled slightly apart, smiling at each other.
“Love you,” Ellis said quietly.
“Love you too, sweetie.” Edward beamed back at him and then gave him another tight hug.
The tension in the room lifted, and almost immediately, Ryan and Seb walked into the living room. I wondered if they’d been listening on the other side of the door, as their timing was perfect. I also wondered whether Seb had ever been aware of Ellis’s matchmaking plans. For a few seconds, I considered whether there would have even been a chance for Sam and me, if Edward and Aiden had not been in the picture. I didn’t really come to any conclusions because it was a non-starter anyway. All I wanted was to be with Edward, so no one else was going to get a look in.
Seb didn’t give much away. He marched stony-faced over to the fridge and pulled out some beers. He handed them round, but Edward and I declined, going for water instead.
I wanted nothing more than to go back to Edward’s room and continue where we’d left off before Ellis had interrupted us and hoped Edward felt the same way. Instead, though, we all sat in the living room chatting about nothing much in particular. Each of us probably felt it was necessary to smooth out the discord from the previous few hours. Edward sat close to me on the long couch, our thighs and sides touching, so I was content with that. Ellis and Ryan sat at the other end of the couch. Ryan appeared to be sulking even though Ellis was doing his best to be attentive by holding him against his chest. Sam sat by himself in the armchair.
After a few minutes, Jack and Zachary came down the stairs looking flushed, making it obvious what they’d been doing. They settled down on the floor with Zachary sitting between Jack’s open thighs. He rested his chin on Zachary’s shoulder and wrapped his arms around him. They looked happy together and oblivious of the storm that had been raging in the room moments before. I wished Edward would hold me in a similar loving embrace and I longed for the time when we could demonstrate our affection for each other in front of everyone else.
I didn’t have to wait for long, however, for as the evening wore on, Edward’s fingers and hands wandered closer to mine. At one point, our hands were a matter of inches from each other, resting on our thighs. He stretched out and wriggled his hands, and as he did so, his little finger brushed against mine. He left them touching softly for a few minutes before stroking slowly against my skin. I was totally mesmerized by the feel of our connection. I tried not to stare, thinking it would draw everyone’s attention to his subtle movements.
I glanced around to everyone in the room, but they were apparently unaware of the amazing event that was taking place in my life. I had no idea where the conversation headed and hoped no one asked me a direct question because I’d not really followed what had been said over for the past few minutes. My breathing even hitched up a notch. If being this aroused by sitting close to Edward with just our hands touching I couldn’t imagine the effect of us lying naked together would have on me. I would probably combust.
Edward sniggered quietly and I dared a quick glance in his direction. He knew what he was doing to me and could sense the reaction I was having. He gave me a cheeky smile and boldly took my hand into both of his. Pulling my eyes from his gaze, I caught Seb looking at the two of us and he responded with a slight smile. Then he winked at me and I giggled back at him.
“What are we missing over there?” Jack piped up.
“Wouldn’t you like to know, hun?” Edward’s gave my hand a squeeze.
Jack eyed our linked hands and returned a smile to us as well. He whispered into Zachary’s ear, whose eyes drifted to our hands.
“About time too,” he said to Jack, but we all heard him.
My face flushed slightly, but I was too happy to feel embarrassed. I snuggled closer to Edward and he put one arm across my shoulders, while keeping his other hand entwined in mine. I nestled into the crook of his neck and twisted my body slightly to face him.
“God, I can’t wait for Aiden to arrive on Friday. I’m definitely the odd man out now. I’m surrounded by three happy, snuggling couples,” Seb jested, but deep down I thought he was serious. He clearly missed Aiden and it must have been awkward for him seeing three horny couples seated in the same room as him.
I didn’t want to move though. I felt perfectly happy in Edward’s arms. Everyone else, including Edward, continued with the conversation while I relished the contact between us. Every time Edward spoke, his voice resonated through his chest into my ears. I rubbed the bright pink patterns on his t-shirt. He continued to stroke my hand rhythmically, and my eyelids drooped the more relaxed I became within his warm arms.
The next thing I knew, Edward was coaxing me gently. “Hey, Jay, wake up. Let’s get you back to your room before you fall into a deep sleep.” He unfurled his arms from my back as he sat me up. I stretched my body in an attempt to wake myself up. I quickly glanced around the room and noticed everyone else was still in their same positions.
“What time is it?”
“It’s only around ten, but you were totally out of it, sunshine.” Edward smiled at me as he stood. “I’ll shoot upstairs and get the rest of your things.”
I wanted to go with him, but Edward spun around and was on the stairs before I could follow him.
Ellis got up next. He scooped up the mugs from the coffee table and headed towards the kitchen with them. When he was standing by the sink, he called me over. I struggled to my feet with the aid of the solitary crutch I had by my side. My leg was completely relaxed and I was pleased to find that I could put the whole of my foot down onto the floor now without wincing. Making my way over to Ellis, I wondered what he was going to say to me.
The living and kitchen area was an open-plan design so everyone had a complete view of us. I wanted to apologize to Ellis for dropping him in it with Edward and his friends, but didn’t want everyone else to hear my words.
“No hard feelings, Jayden.” He extended his hand out to me. I took it thankfully and he pulled me in for an unexpected hug. I wrapped one arm around his back to support myself as much as anything.
“Sorry you got injured because of me,” I whispered into his ear. “I didn’t think before I spoke, it just came out.”
“No worries, Jay. Now you take care of my baby brother and promise me you’ll be gentle with him.” He smirked at me. “You’re just what he needs right now.” He hugged me firmly against his solid chest and kissed the top of my head. As he released me, I realized Edward was standing at the bottom of the stairs with my second crutch and jacket.
“Well, looks like I’m going to have to keep my eye on you from now on, sweetheart, if this is what you do as soon as my back is turned,” he said, with a serious face. I was about to blurt out an explanation when his face cracked and he started smiling. “Come here, hun. I was only joking.” Edward opened his arms to me and closed the gap between us. I pulled out of Ellis’s arms, and shot straight into his. “That’s better isn’t it? Just don’t make a habit of hugging my brother when I’m not around, Jay,” Edward said to me before turning to everyone else. “Right, I’ll see you guys later. I’m taking Jay back now.”
“We won’t wait up for you,” Zachary teased. “See you tomorrow, Jay.” He winked at me and everyone else bid me goodnight.
Edward helped me on with my jacket and we made our way to his car. I was definitely walking with less of a limp now and hardly needed the support of the crutch.
Edward noticed and commented on this. I smiled at him, then sat myself in the car and buckled up.
“So where are you going to take me for our first proper date?” he asked once we were on the road.
“I don’t know many places around here yet,” I admitted. “Where would you like to go?”
“You invited me, so I’ll let you choose, hun.”
“Thanks for the help… It will have to be a surprise then.” I winked at him. “Can we go out on Saturday? I think I should be walking and driving by then.”
He nodded with a smile. “I’ve got nothing planned all day, sweetie, so I’m all yours.” His words almost turned my insides to mush.
“Well, I’ll have a think and let you know.” That would give me a few days to sort out something special. I wanted our first date to be memorable.
Edward parked up his car but gave no indication that he was going to get out with me.
“Are you coming up?” I asked tentatively.
He paused briefly before saying, “It’s getting late and you need to get your beauty sleep, sweetie. And besides you’re walking fine without me now.”
I felt disappointed yet relieved at the same time. I wanted to kiss Edward goodnight, but the thought of being alone with him in my room made me suddenly feel a little apprehensive. I was determined to keep my promise to Ellis this time and be gentle with him. We needed to talk through a lot of things before we became intimate, and until we did so, it was probably best not to be tempted by too much alone time with him.
As I mulled over my response, Edward leaned in for a kiss. He cupped my face and his lips puckered slightly. I closed my eyes as his moist lips moved over mine. He was sweet and affectionate, just as I expected him to be. We hummed our appreciation at the connection, neither of us willing to pull away. The kiss intensified and Edward lapped his tongue against mine. I responded by pulling him closer and trailing a series of kisses along his jaw up to his ear.
“Goodnight, Edward,” I muttered softly and nipped his earlobe.
He groaned. “Mmm… goodnight, Jay. Hope you sleep well.”
We gave each other another few more pecks on the lips before I pulled away from him and opened the car door.
“I’ll try driving myself to college tomorrow,” I offered. “So I’ll see you at lunchtime perhaps.”
“Give me a call before half past eight if you feel you’re not up to it, sweetie. In fact, just give me a call anyway. I don’t want to have to wait until lunchtime to hear your voice.” He smiled and gazed into my eyes. I felt sure I looked just as lovesick as he did.
It took another couple of minutes and a few more short kisses before I eventually prized myself away from him.
As I closed the car door and waved goodbye to Edward, some familiar faces from my dorm corridor passed me by and we walked into the building together. One of them asked me where I’d been that evening. I replied happily, “I’ve been at my boyfriend’s house.”