Chapter 4

By Dabeagle


My thanks to Craftingmom for editing and Ricky for beta reading.

“That seems too much for me to believe. You could never kill someone, Harrison,” I said to him as firmly as I could. What had I walked into? Was Harrison having some kind of a mental break?

“That's what you know,” he said miserably. He leaned back against the wall and slumped against it.

“You said that if I'd said anything about you being gay at twelve, you'd have killed me. Why and what does Holden have to do with that?” I asked, hoping to lead him to more stable ground. Holden seemed to be a calming, safe place for him. Instead, he writhed against the wall, clearly miserable.

“Because...because of Father fucking Jack,” he whispered.

I realized immediately that Harrison had been abused. The misery, the embarrassment, the loathing were all on display. I realized that at this moment, he was extremely vulnerable and I didn't have clue one what to do about it. Trying to remain calm and not escalate the situation, I started to open my mouth and fill the air with some meaningless platitude – but he started speaking before I did.

“Earlier, when you asked about the parish school? I was sent to private religious instruction with Father Jack. He started raping me when I was nine.” Harrison's eyes closed and a single, large tear rolled down his cheek. I released a breath I hadn't realized I was holding as I focused on him.

“When I was ten, I started taking self defense classes, so I wouldn't be a sissy,” he said with his voice drenched in misery. “I could have fought back then. I could have, but no one believed me...no one would listen. My parents and grandparents kept telling me that I should always listen to Father Jack, any clergyman – as long as he was Catholic! - and to take my lessons like a man.”

His head hung down, staring at his bare toes.


“I 'took it like a man'. For three years, he raped me.” His head came up and tears filled both his eyes to overflowing. His lips were quivering and his face was flushed red with saliva running in lines between his lips. He snuffled through his nose, which was starting to run, and he continued as I began to make my way off the bed, slowly.

“I took it and took it until, one fine fucking day, grandfather was railing about the homosexuals! The goddamn homosexuals that were invading the priesthood! Trying to destroy the great mother church from the inside, like a cancer!” His voice was strident now, powerful but filled with horrible pain. I slid off the bed and a chill ran up my back and across my bare skin.

“So there grandfather is, raging about one of the men that's damned to hell. So, now I knew it was wrong – because that old wrinkled sack of shit said so – and the next time Father Jack reached for my pants, I rammed my head into his mouth. I kicked him anywhere I could – sides, groin, face. It didn't matter. Then I went to my grandfather and told him I'd beaten one of those homosexuals up. I told him how he'd been touching me and I'd beaten him.”

I was now standing maybe two feet from him. The skin of his face was flushed and veins were standing out on his forehead and neck. His chest was heaving and his hands were flexing involuntarily. I kept my hands at my sides, so as not to appear threatening to him. His eyes came up and fixed on mine, more tears welling up and filling his tortured orbs.

“He was all happy about it, until I told him it was Father Jack,” Harrison said sotto voce. “He told my parents I was lying, called me a liar.” He sniffed and ran a hand across his face.


“The bastard paid for Father Jack's medical bills and my grandmother organized a benefit to send him on a mission,” Harrison said this in a monotone, his eyes closed. Tears leaked and I took another hesitant step towards him.

“The night of the benefit – I didn't know,” he said as his eyes popped back open. “I didn't know it was for him. Not until they trotted him out. I started to scream. 'Make a scene', that's what my grandparents called it. My parents dragged me to the car, and we were going home. They were screaming about sending me away, and I...” his voice trailed off as he looked down at his toes again. His feet shifted, and he brought his face up to meet mine again as I waited for him to finish.

“I was throwing the mother-fucker of all fits. I was kicking seats, punching windows...just totally freaking out that no one would listen. My dad turned around and started swinging at me and yelling to shut up, and he crossed the center of the road. He never saw the other car.” His tears were back and his face collapsed in misery, his mouth open and lips trembling as he began to cry in earnest and slide down the wall.

I rushed forward and pulled him to me, lifting him back up and squeezing him as tight as I could. To ground him to reality? To comfort him? I think I just didn't know what else to do. He was in so much pain that the only thing I could think of was what others were supposed to do – hold him and let him know someone cared. His arms hung limply, but his chin turned in towards my neck and his hot tears and hitching breath were on my skin. His arms slowly came up, and he pulled me tight and all I could do was rub his back and murmur stupid nothings to him. What the hell could anyone say about such a colossal betrayal?

We must have stayed like that for ten or fifteen minutes, until his breathing began to steady out, and he pulled back from me, a little shakily.

“I'm sorry,” he said a little nasally – his nose was plugged. I shook my head and touched his shoulder, just an unspoken motion to keep him in place. I stepped into the bathroom and brought the tissue box out. I pulled him to the bed and sat him down while pulling out several tissues for him.

“Harrison,” I said quietly as I took a seat close enough to him that he could lean on me, if he chose. “If you're serious about this friend thing, then you need to know – telling me what hurts you never needs an apology. I'm sorry those awful things happened to you, and I think you're incredibly strong to have survived.”

“Strong?” he guffawed.

“Yeah, very strong,” I said with a firm nod. “To have that asshole do that to you and have everyone kind of congratulate him? Send him on a trip? That's beyond fucked up.”

“Don't you...I mean...” He stopped and blew his nose. Closing his eyes he said to me, very softly, “Don't you think I'm responsible? For my parents?”

“That's stupid, Harrison. What the fuck were they thinking? Taking you to your rapist's going away fundraiser? If that's their idea of 'being a man' then...” I bit my lip.


I sighed and said softly, “You're better off without them.”

He leaned into me, shoulder to shoulder, and I wrapped an arm around him. “So, tell me about the part where you met Holden.” I was hoping this would prove to be a better story and would bring some balance to him.

“Oh boy,” he said, releasing a shuddering breath. “Do I have to?”

“No, of course not. It's just that Holden seems to be a...happy place for you. I thought talking about him might help make you feel a little better,” I replied.

He nodded slowly and then leaned away, turning his back and sliding up to let the headboard support him. He sat silently, picking at the duvet and moving his lips as if starting to say something and then biting it back. I moved up next to him and he, slowly, leaned onto me.

“After it all – the funeral and that – I had a horrible hatred for my grandparents, for myself and for gays. I didn't realize at the time that I was still believing what my grandfather had said, that gays were all about sex with a male. The age didn't matter, all gays were filthy and wanted boys if they could get them. I was an angry, bitter and...a very lonely person when I met Holden.”

“I sense the happy part coming,” I said with a smile. Harrison glanced at me and the corners of his mouth twitched – a start. He moved down and put his head more firmly on my shoulder and then slid forward a bit, resting more on my chest.

“Is this...all right?”

“Sure, no problem,” I said, putting an arm behind him.

“I'm not usually this...I'm feeling a little...”

“It's cool.”

“As long as you're sure...”

“Harrison, quit worrying. About Holden?”

“Yes, about Holden,” he said in agreement. “I didn't realize Holden was gay until we were about fifteen. I met him when I was thirteen, full of pain and angst, and Holden was...well, he was Holden. It seems stupid to say a breath of fresh air or something equally trite. He was everything I wasn't – kind, funny, compassionate...gay.”

“Did you have a problem with that, at first? You seem fine now.”

He exhaled deeply, his warm breath racing across the fine hairs on my chest, which tickled.

“I said some shitty things to him, but by then Holden was my moral compass.” He pushed into me a bit more and continued, “Holden was hurt – I hurt him more than I thought possible – but being who he is, he kept at me until I was able to accept the failure of my logic – and realized where that hate came from. Holden wouldn't hurt anyone, and he finally made me see the horrible things my grandfather had led me to believe.

“I didn't have to look any farther than Holden to disprove almost everything.”


“Yes,” he said with a small laugh. “Holden wanted to kiss me – he said I was attractive.” He squirmed a bit and then said, so softly I almost missed it, “So I did.”


“And nothing. I did it to prove to myself and Holden that I was healing, separating my abused past from my healing self. It was a good kiss,” he said with a shrug. We sat in silence, but not an uncomfortable one, even though I was completely unused to the proximity – for extended periods of time – that I was experiencing now. Rather than feeling aroused, which would be kind of understandable as I was a pretty standard teen in that regard and Harrison was hardly ugly, I felt peaceful and like I was nurturing my friend. He was taking comfort in the closeness and the physicality and...he was drooling on me.

I glanced down and saw the drop of saliva and then realized that his breathing had grown regular - he'd fallen asleep. I struggled around slowly until I'd managed to get covered and put the light out, all through that he never woke – but he clung to me in sleep.


Huston took me home Saturday, and my father was parked in front of the TV, glass in hand. The bottles were almost like magic because I rarely see him go out. I even bring in the mail, and he just gives me his debit card with the disability check money to get food. If I could buy booze, he'd probably have me do that, too. I plugged in my dead phone and turned on the laptop to study for a bit. That didn't last as the phone buzzed several times as messages came though so I decided I should check.


Holden. Crap, I'd forgotten we were talking the night before. And there were a few messages waiting that gradually went from wondering where I was to apologizing if he'd made me uncomfortable. Double crap. I texted back.

'Sorry, stayed at Harrison's. Phone died.'

I waited nervously as the phone stayed silent. Holden wasn't the grudge type, I didn't think, so realistically I wasn't worried he'd get pissed or stay pissed. I did find, however, that it bothered me more than I wanted to admit. Holden was too nice to have a casual, throw away hook up with – at least, that's not what I'd want. Yeah, I admitted it in my own head – I liked Holden in more than just a casual way.

The phone stayed silent, and I found it bothered me enough to be a distraction to studying, so I cleaned the apartment. Twice.

Sunday, Mr. Phillips came by to let me do laundry at their house. Mrs. Phillips had made a nice lunch and we all sat out in the kitchen folding clothes as they came out of the dryer.

“Have you made any friends, Sean?” she asked while I switched things from the washer to the dryer.

“Yes, I was meaning to ask you about that. You mentioned last time you'd made a friend, I was wondering if I'd recognize the name,” Mr. Phillips said as he leaned on the backrest of his wife's chair.

“Uh, Harrison St. Cyr and Holden...you know, I don't know his last name.” Shit, here I was thinking he was worth more than a hook up, and I didn't even know his last name? Priorities, Stanley! Get some!

“St. Cyr...hmm, that name tickles a memory.” He looked at the ceiling while he thought.

“His grandparents are named Tillingham,” I said.

“Oh? Oh, them,” she said, turning to frown at her husband. I stopped loading the dryer and turned to face them.


“Well,” Mr. Phillips said with some reluctance, “They are a...ah...”

“They are 'burn you at the stake' crazy,” Mrs. Phillips said while reaching for a tee shirt to fold. “They belong to that crazy Catholic League run by Bill what's his name.”

“Donohue. He runs this place out of New York City. He's this guy who claims to protect the church, he belittles the children that were molested and fights to defend priests accused of that sort of thing.” Mr. Phillips said with a sigh, “Basically if you want to know you've done something right, he has to denounce you.”

“Oh, like Westboro?” I asked as I went back to loading the dryer.

“No. Well, not entirely,” he replied. “Westboro wears their crazy on their sleeve. He puts it in a suit and talks to other suits. He makes media announcements about anything he sees that doesn't make holy mother church shine her brightest.”

I started the dryer and brought the basket back to the table to fold. “Sounds like Mr. and Mrs. Tillingham,” I replied. I sat up quickly. “Hey! They were talking in the car last night, on the way to the Piedmont Club! He was saying some guy named Bill was talking to him about...holy crap.”

“What?” she asked.

“It's just...Mr. Tillingham said they should hire a bunch of investigators to discredit 'those people'. I think he must have meant abused people.”

“Likely, I'm afraid. The Tillinghams are very old money, I'm sure they are platinum members of the Catholic League,” Mr. Phillips said and then shook his head. “Tell us about your friends.”

“They are both really good people. Harrison has a lot of baggage, and he's doing a great job getting through it – heroic even.”

“Wow, that's quite a mouthful. Anything you can say?” Mrs. Phillips asked.

“No, it's pretty personal.” I shrugged apologetically, “Sorry.”

“Oh no, don't be. Heavens, I'm glad to know he can trust you with his secrets!” she said waving her hand. “Tell me about the other one, Herbert?”

“Holden,” I said with a smile – recalling that I had named him Herb as a placeholder. “I don't know his last name, but he's probably the nicest guy I've ever met.”

“Oh?” she said, dragging it out and smiling exaggeratedly at her husband, “Tell me!”

“There isn't that much to tell,” I said with a blush.

“What makes him so nice?” Mr. Phillips asked.

“His general demeanor seems to be set to 'kind'. He's funny, likes to make others laugh. He can take a joke. He stands by people. I don't know, he has a lot of good qualities,” I replied while standing to fold a sheet.

“That's all well and good, but let's get down to brass tacks,” Mrs. Phillips said with a smile. “What does he look like?”

“Well, he's got short blond hair, and I think it's natural because his eyebrows are light too. Great smile, about my height...” I blushed as I thought of his legs, which were extremely sexy.

“Any chance?” Mr. Phillips asked.

“I can't see one,” I said with a little disappointment. “I need the education and the name on my transcript. If I came from money, I might be more willing to gamble but...as it is, we're not really equals.”

“Money isn't the measure of a person's worth, Sean, you should know that.”

“Yeah,” I replied, “That's easy to say if you have the money.”

When I got home, the light was flashing on my phone. After seeing the Phillips' off, I fairly flew to the table and thumbed the display to life.

'I want to paint you green and spank you like a disobedient avocado'

What the hell was this?

'Uh, what?'

The phone was silent so I slowly set about wondering the hell that could possibly mean and began putting the laundry away. Dad was actually gone, the liquor stores closed early on Sunday so he probably had to go make sure he had enough to stay drunk for the rest of the day. I was putting my socks away when I heard the phone ring and I ran back out and glanced down at the display: it was Holden.

“So, a disobedient avocado, huh?”

“My sister thought she'd be funny, sorry,” Holden laughed.

I burst out laughing. “Where were you?”

“We were gone all day, went to see a show and have dinner in the city. I forgot my phone at home – I was so pissed too!” he giggled.

“Are you that attached to your phone?” I asked as I walked back to my room to put away more clothes.

“No! I was just thinking you were all weirded out, so I was kind of waiting for you to text me back.”

“I'm sorry, it died, and I was at Harrison's till yesterday morning.”

“It's cool.”

“So your sister...”

“Totally meretricious. I say this with all sincerity.” Holden giggled again.

“Mere-what? Hang on,” I left the drawer open and crossed to my bookshelf and popped open the dictionary. “Meretricious? Dude, you just said your sister looks like a prostitute?”

“You're not the only one with a vocabulary,” he burst out laughing, and I chuckled.

“I was just going to say she was funny. That text was kind of weird,” I said while replacing the dictionary and grabbing the last items from the basket to put away.

“Yeah. I say things like that and she has no clue, but she figures it's bad so she hits me anyway.”

“No offense, Holden, but why would you...you know, say that about your sister?”

“Are you serious? Sean, she spent the whole day telling anyone we met that I was her perfect, delicate flower and asking when we could have a facials and nails night,” he said indignantly.

I fell back on the bed howling with laughter and not hearing his recriminations, which he was definitely making. I got hold of myself and said I was sorry, but it was clearly not sincere enough.

“Nope, not accepted,” he replied.

“Oh, come on Holden. It was pretty funny.”

“Nope, not happening,” he replied. I could swear I could hear him smiling. “This all goes back to that conversation we had about other people's expectations. I'm not a beautician!”

“Well, at least she accepts you for who you are,” I replied.

“Accept? Did you...oh, man.”

“What? What'd I do now?”

“She doesn't have to accept anything – it just is. Like I don't have to accept she's a twit, she just is. See?”

“That seems like a weak argument...”

“Need I remind you, Sean, you're already on thin ice?”

“Okay, what's it going to take?” I said with a fake tone of resignation.

“Well...what were you doing at Harrison's all night?”

I sat up on my bed and fell silent for a moment. I quickly decided that, just as with Mrs. Phillips, this wasn't mine to repeat. “I can't say. I'm sorry.”

“He told you,” Holden said with finality.


“It's okay, really. I just thought there was some chemistry between us, and I guess I spoke too soon. Will this make things weird between us? I hope not 'cause I really do enjoy your company.”

“Wait, what?” I said in confusion.

“Aw, dammit. He told you about his baggage, not mine. Shit, sorry!”

“Wait...did you just call me baggage?” I asked.

“Uh...wow, you know, I still have homework to do...”

“Holden,” I said firmly.

“Oh, geez, come on! This is embarrassing enough!” I could hear his giggle coming back again. The larger problem was that if he was implying what I thought he was – my heart rate jumped at the possibility – then I needed to steer this conversation somewhere else, anywhere else, so I could figure out what to do.

“Yes. Harrison told me about...his baggage.”

“Oh. Oh my god. Is he okay?”

“He was okay yesterday morning. I haven't spoken to him today.” I felt kind of like a jerk, now that he mentioned it. I should have called to check on him.

“Well, he probably won't answer the phone. If he worked himself up enough to go through that, he's probably worn himself out. I'll call just in case,” Holden replied.

“Will you let him know I asked after him? If you get him, I mean.”

“Yeah. Of course. I'll call him now, but I'll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“Sure. Uh. It was nice talking to you.”

“Careful, Mr. Stanley, I'm feeling chemistry again.”

“Good bye, Holden,” I said and disconnected. I sighed deeply and placed my head in my hands – what the hell was I doing?


At 7:45 Harrison's car pulled up, and I joined him in the backseat. I hadn't been certain he'd show up, so many things can happen to a person's mind after telling deeply personal things – they show it on TV all the time. I had been prepared to run for the bus, if Harrison had suddenly decided to cut me out, and I'd put a travel pack of tissues in my bag in case he was emotional. Oddly, the one thing I hadn't counted on was that he would act as if it never happened.

“Morning. Did Holden get in touch with you yesterday?” I asked.

“Yes. I wasn't paying attention though. He said he spoke to you, something about a disobedient avocado?”

“His sister,” I said with a chuckle. “She got a hold of his phone.”

“We start swimming for gym next week. They are making noises about the school team needing people.”

“Are you thinking about tying out?”


“Oh. Why mention it then?”

“Because Holden will want to and you should know that, by virtue of having met him, he'll insist we do as well.”

“Why?” I asked with a frown. I was fairly sure my buoyancy was equivalent to a cinder-block.

“Because Holden prefers the company of his friends and he likes sports, therefore he thinks we should accompany him. Very selfish, if you ask me,” Harrison's mouth curled at the corner.

“Okay,” I replied, stretching out the word.

“Holden isn't especially adroit at sports. He prefers friends so that he has the courage to keep trying.”

We all have our weaknesses, I thought.

“I could sit in the stands and support him,” I said.

“No. If he makes me wear a Speedo, then you have to wear a Speedo.” Harrison smiled broadly, “It's the price of friendship.”

“Drowning is part of friendship? What is this, a suicide pact?”

“Does that mean you can't swim?” Harrison asked while arching an eyebrow.


“Just so we're clear,” Harrison leaned forward with a twinkle in his eye, “I'm not giving you mouth to mouth.”

“Thanks, I'll keep that in mind,” I said while rolling my eyes. “Anything else?”

“Hmm,” Harrison frowned. “He was going on about that murder – the fellow nailed upside down? Turns out his name was Peter something or other, and he was the head of a group of johns.”

“Group of johns? Like, in search of prostitutes, johns?”

“I'm not sure, didn't I say I wasn't paying attention?”

“You picked up all that while not paying attention?”

“Barbara Lynn had stayed over, and she thought it would be amusing to start round three while I was on the phone. I was distracted.”

“You slept with that bimbo?”

“Of course I did. Something about her breasts bouncing in front of me while the rest of her bounced on...”

“Harrison. Please.”

“You don't approve?” he asked as he curled the corner of his mouth.

“I hope you wore a condom.”

“Every time, mother,” he chuckled. “ I told you she liked the glow in the dark ones, didn't I?”

“I'm trying to block it out.”

He spent the rest of the ride trying to tell me about the positions and whatnot – I honestly couldn't tell if he was blowing smoke or had actually had a pretty impressive sex session. Multiples, if he could be believed. My worry was that he didn't have enough self esteem and that he was throwing himself away on an endless stream of nothing – forever empty.

The morning proceeded normally, except I kept imagining Holden looking at me. For instance, I'd be typing notes and glance over and it would be as if he were just looking away at that moment. I had to have been imagining it – Holden didn't strike me as a doe-eyed sort of fellow. He knew already that I was aware of his interest. Under other circumstances, I'd explore that interest – because it was mutual. As things stood, I thought it would be unwise.

Once we reached lunch, Holden sat to my left rather than across the table from me. To forestall any uncomfortable discussions – in case he had been checking me out – I brought up the murder he'd mentioned to Harrison.

“Oh, yeah,” he said in a tone of voice that told me he found it odd, and he continued quietly. “This guy, Peter Thatcher, he was the head of the St. John's Group. Turns out they are a funding organization that defends priests accused of 'baptizing little boys'.”

“Really?” I said, shooting a look at Harrison, who was busy aggravating Queen.

“Yeah,” he said with a nod, “That quote from the first story? The one from the bible? It was talking about Peter, the first pope and this guy was named Peter so...someone thought they were amusing I guess.”

“Could it be that a religious nut-job actually did a community service?” I mused.

“I don't know. Most religious folks, like Harrison's wrinkled set, are nuttier than squirrel shit.”

I burst out laughing.

“I wonder, though,” he said while furrowing his brow. “It seems kind of, I don't know, at odds.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, think about it. If you have a religious guy – wouldn't he like what the St. John's Group does? I mean, rather than hang him like the first pope and kill him, you'd think he'd blow the guy or something.”

“I'm fairly sure the really religious are against that.”

“You know what I mean!” he nudged me with his shoulder.

“Well,” I said in contemplation, “There are a lot of religious people that don't like that fundamentalist, old time religion. Maybe it was one of them? Someone sick of their religion being hijacked?”

“Who knows?” Holden said with a shrug. “Are you going to eat those?”

“These slimy tater tots? No.” I pushed the leftover food towards him. He popped one in his mouth and then started giggling. I arched an eyebrow.

“In some cultures, we'd be married now.”

“Oh, the Tillinghams' would love that. I'd never be invited back for Friday dinner at the club!”


We were headed to gym and, all in all, it had seemed like a pretty normal day, when Harrison was pulled out and sent to the Administration Center again. I wondered what he could have done – considering I'd been with him all day. Holden chattered along amiably, and I was happy to let him do so. It felt comfortable, the endless talk with a side of perky that Holden put out so effortlessly. I could listen to him for hours and caught myself wondering what it would be like to have that attention, that easy grace of his, with me all the time. Like, as a boyfriend.

This was starting to wear on me a little. As it was, Holden was becoming something of a fantasy for me and, every time I told myself no, the simple fact of who he was seemed to wash my resistance away like waves hitting sandcastle walls. Oddly, when we got to the locker room, I noticed Holden became quiet. I glanced at him and he seemed a tad nervous. What in the world...?

We stepped over to our usual lockers and began putting clothes away. Holden began to speak, and kind of stuttered along in a completely un-Holden like way. I hung things quickly and then pulled my shorts on and sat down to tie my shoes. Holden had been silent, and I was just turning to see what was up when I heard him say 'whoops' in possibly the least convincing tone of voice I'd ever heard, and he fell into me.

I caught him, his chest smacking into my face, and I nearly lost my balance and fell off the bench. I had a hand on his shoulder and one on his side, marginally, as I pushed him up to steady himself, and I realized...he was only in briefs. Turquoise ones with a fancy, thick band at the waist and white piping at the edges, that hugged...everything.

“Oh, geez, sorry! I overbalanced trying to put my shorts on!” Holden said in the fakest, most nervous tone I'd ever heard from anyone who wasn't on stage and trying to let everyone know he was being fake.

“No problem,” I said while clearing my throat and smiling wanly. Okay, he looked absolutely...I had to deal with this before my hormones completely overrode any remaining protesting brain cells. With a guy like Holden throwing himself at me – with the bonus of knowing how great he was – I was desperate to find a solution. But the way he looked in those fancy, sexy underwear was burned – still burning- in my memory. Oh my, what if he put them on just for me? Suddenly, his whole trick clicked in my brain and I realized – with not a small amount of fear – that he liked me a whole hell of a lot.

Coach yelled at us to get moving, and the spell was broken. We went on to gym, but all I could think about was Holden skinning off those briefs and getting into the shower. I swear, no matter how much I tried to turn my head – even trying to analyze the murder he'd talked about or Harrison's emotional weekend – all I could see was water droplets tracking down his skin. Sitting in clear pearls on his shoulder, perhaps beading on his chest. My fantasizing made me stumble on the treadmill and my heart rate spiked as fear rippled through me that I'd fall.

We walked down to the locker room after-wards, and I was sweating the situation, intensely. He was ahead of me, and I could see the top of his head, just as if – no! Holy crap, I needed to find some personal time and right now! Harrison was sitting on the bench next to our lockers and the look on his face put all amorous thoughts completely out of my head.

“Harrison?” I asked.

“What's wrong?” Holden said, taking a seat next to Harrison.

“Let's just...the stairway – a little privacy,” Harrison said, his eyes darting around at all the other sweaty guys fresh from the class. We three moved back to the first landing going up to the workout room and he faced us both and sighed deeply.

“I don't know how to really say this or how I'm supposed to feel,” he said and then exhaled deeply. “My grandmother was murdered.”

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