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    Jwolf
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The English Year - 29. Easy Street

I laughed. I chose easy. I needed easy. It was a one way street to happiness, I decided, and for that, I could do easy.

There’s a sound that things make when they break in two. If you snap a twig over your knee, or shatter a glass on the floor, there’s always a sound, an alarm, something that reminds you that something has broken.

In that moment, looking at Pete, and feeling my heart break into a million little pieces, I waited for a sound. Something.

Nothing but silence ever came.

I didn’t say anything to him. I didn’t respond, I didn’t even shake my head or acknowledge what he’d said. I turned around and walked down the stairs towards the sidewalk that would lead me home.

I vaguely remember hearing him call my name, but I can’t promise that that actually happened. I was too collected, too involved in my own thoughts, too busy waiting for the sound of my heart breaking. Shattering. Falling into a million pieces.

Instead I heard the sound of my footsteps on the pavement, each one growing heavier as I neared the front entrance of Chi Beta. I heard the sound of my breathing, my breath frost bitten by the cold December air. I heard the sound of my head pounding inside my skull, pulsing with every passing thought about what had just taken place.

But the sound of my heart breaking was nowhere to be found.

By the time I reached my house, Late Night was in full swing. There was no denying that our party was the party to see and be seen, and as much as I would have loved to walk up to my bedroom, curl up in my bed, and remain invisible to the world for the rest of the night, there was no way that was going to happen.

Every entrance to Chi Beta had drunken coeds in front of it. The porch that would have led me into the Great Hall was stacked with seniors drinking whiskey and Natty Light with their dates who’d ditched their cocktail dresses and heals and were dressed much more comfortably in jeans and old Christmas sweaters. I saw a pair smoking on the fire escape that I could have crawled through and been close to my room. I knew the backdoor by the parking lot would be a similar situation, and heaven forbid I braved the crowd by going through the basement and up three flights of stairs.

There were no good options, only the guarantee of running into someone who would inevitably ask me what was wrong, why my eyes were bloodshot from crying, and if there was anything they could do.

That person, the one I ran into while trying to make my way anonymously up the backstairs, was Nick Persons, who’d ditched his suit jacket and tie, and was walking around the back landing of Chi Beta in slacks and a white Oxford shirt. His hair had lost what product he’d used to slick it back earlier and was draped around his face. I spotted him as I rounded the corner to the third floor, and thought if I avoided eye contact, I could beeline for my bedroom without making conversation.

“Hey Corbin! About time you showed up at your own party,” I heard him say as I took the last step before the hallway. “Where’ve you been?”

I sniffed in to clear my nose, nonchalantly pushed my hair out of my face, planted my best fake smile on my face, and pretended that my eyes weren’t puffy and cloudy. I turned to face him.

I took a deep breath.

“I’ve been… nowhere.” I kept it short. I didn’t trust my voice any more than I trusted my heart, and like the latter, I knew the former could falter at any moment.

“Are you okay?” Nick asked, taking a step towards me. I wondered what he was doing on the landing by himself. “You look like you’ve been…”

“I’m fine.” I wasn’t fine, but I couldn’t let him see that any more than he already did. “I’m fine.”

I thought if I repeated it, he’d believe me. I said it a third time, thinking that the more times I said I was fine, the easier it would be for me to believe myself.

“What are you umm… what are you doing up here?”

“I just got here, from Sigma Chi. I was looking for you or Newby or someone I knew to see if there was anything up here to drink besides Natty Light… you know? I’ve, uh… I’ve been drinking liquor all night, so I don’t want to mix things up.”

For some reason, Nick looked nervous to me. He’d never looked like that before, and it took me a second to realize he was treading because of how upset I probably looked. I cocked my head to the side, making the split decision that I didn’t have it in me to invite Nick into my room for some of the liquor that I kept stashed away. I took another deep breath.

“I’m sorry. I just… I’ve had a tough night. You’ll understand.”

“No, I can see that. Do you want to talk about it?”

“I’d rather not, honestly.”

“Okay.” Nick took another step towards me. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Unless you’d like to explain to me the intricacies of the straight male mind, there really isn’t anything that you can do, is there?” I said, hearing my voice grow in aggression. I took a deep tempering breath, and looked Nick in the eye.

“Boy drama?”

“Is there any other kind?” I asked. My feet were already planted, and I realized that I’d opened the door for Nick to pry. I crossed my arms over my chest in defense of his judgment and decided to take him up on his offer to talk.

“Look, Corbin, I don’t know what happened, but it can’t honestly be…”

“That bad? It probably isn’t. And I could probably tell you what happened and you’ll say that I’m being dramatic and petty and acting like a little girl, but right now I’d like to go into my room and act like a little girl without anyone asking me what’s wrong. And tomorrow, I will probably look myself in the mirror and tell myself how petty and dramatic I was last night, and shoot you a text apologizing for letting you see me like this, and I can feel embarrassed for a little while, all while you assure me that I didn’t behave that badly and that you completely understand the feeling.”

I took a deep breath, realizing that I was beginning to ramble. I didn’t care. He’d asked if I wanted to talk about it. You don’t make that offer unless you’re prepared to listen.

“But you know what sucks about you saying that, Nick, is that you don’t understand the feeling. You’ll never understand the feeling of trying to interpret the secret straight male code that someone obviously pulled you all aside in high school and taught you so that you could spend all of your living days tormenting anyone stupid enough to fall for you.”

I finally allowed myself to breathe, realizing that I was verging on yelling at someone who had no clue what I was yelling about.

“I don’t know who did this to you, Corbin, but he seems like an idiot,” Nick answered. “If you ask me.”

I sighed, finally taking the last step onto the landing. Nick turned so that he was facing me head on.

“Can I tell you something without you taking it the wrong way?”

“You’re already planning to apologize via text message tomorrow anyway,” Nick answered. “May as well say what’s on your mind.”

“You are one of the guys that’s part of the problem.”

“I’m sorry?” he asked, narrowing his eyes, and putting his hands in his pocket. He shifted awkwardly towards me.

“I’m serious. You are. You and I, every time we run into each other at a party or on campus, there’s a vibe there, am I wrong? I flirt with you because you’re attractive, and you look like you might be a good guy. And I know that you’re straight, but it’s fun for me. There isn’t a lot going on in terms of out guys on this campus, so that’s what I do. But then guys like you, Nick, you flirt back. You say nice things, and you do sweet things, and you flirt back with guys like me instead of shutting it down like you’re supposed to. And eventually, after enough times of you being nice and being sweet and not shutting it down, something in the heads of guys like me stops and forgets that you are just a straight guy who happens to be okay flirting back with his gay friend, and the lines get blurred. And I don’t know if it’s you who blurs them, or if it’s me, but at the end of the day, I’m the one that wants to cross these blurred lines. And when I do…”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“What happens?” Nick asked, his eyes still narrowed, curious.

“It all turns to shit. All of a sudden we can’t be friends anymore because there are feelings there, or there’s an attraction that goes beyond just flirting, and every time you see me, you see a threat to your straightness, which, at this point is in question to begin with, and every time I see you, all I see is someone that I used to have fun innocently flirting with, and now I can’t get out of my brain. And when that happens, I come home looking like this, feeling like shit, and it’s all because a guy like you was too nice, and too sweet, and didn’t shut it down when the lines got blurred, and fucked up the head of a guy like me.”

Nick swallowed. He looked nervous. I watched him blink, waiting for him to respond to my crazy drunken tirade. I didn’t expect him to, and just as I realized I had made things awkward for someone who didn’t ask to be thrown in the middle of my rage, I started to walk towards my room.

“Guys like you, being…”

“Gay guys,” I sighed, turning back towards Nick. He took another step towards me.

“And guys like me, being…”

“Straight guys.”

“Oh,” he said. I could see him contemplating, working out the hypothetical that I had just laid before him.

“Who says?” he asked, his voice low and tempered, like he expected someone to be listening from down the hall.

“Who says what?”

“Who says I’m one of the straight guys?” I looked into Nick’s eyes. I narrowed my eyes and rubbed my teeth together. It took me a second to understand what Nick was saying to me, and by the time I did understand, he had already resumed talking.

“Sometimes a guy that flirts with you actually likes you, Corbin. Sometimes a guy that gives you hot chocolate with whipped cream in a very special Sigma Chi novelty mug is waiting for you to see him, and notice him back. Some guys don’t have mixed messages and crazy signals to interpret. Some guys just want you to kiss them, Corbin.”

There was a part of me that wanted to, right then and there. It was a big part of me, actually, that couldn’t believe what Nick had said, but desperately wanted to take him up on his offer.

But I couldn’t.

“You’re…”

“Yeah.”

“You never said…”

“You never asked.” I let out a brief chuckle. “What’s funny?”

“It’s just that… I’d never have guessed,” I answered honestly. All this time that I’d felt a flirtation from Nick Persons, there was actually something there, and right then, that night, that something there stared me right in the face.

“Want me to prove it?” he asked, a wry smile forming across his lips. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, wondering if I’d fallen into some sort of dream staring one of the cutest Sigma Chi brothers on campus.

“What?” I asked, still not fully contemplating what Nick had just told me. And then came the proof, connecting my lips straight to his, our tongues colliding in an instant as Nick kissed me deeply, pulling me into him as he did. I didn’t resist it, and for a second, I might have kissed him back.

But then I jolted. I tensed up. My body was right there, kissing Nick Persons, but my mind was a thousand miles away, remembering the last time I kissed a boy after yelling at Pete for being so noncommittal. He had found out, as people always do when you betray them, and he’d felt betrayed in the feelings I claimed to feel. I had let him down last time by running to Mike when things got tough with Pete, and that had been the catalyst for our falling out. I didn’t want to make the same mistake again, I thought. Even if it wasn’t about Pete, I didn’t want my remedy for a broken heart to follow the same pattern… no matter how cute the Sigma Chi I was falling into was.

I pulled back and put my hand on Nick’s slender but muscular chest.

“Nick, I can’t,” I whispered. He looked at me quizzically, as if he couldn’t physically comprehend the words that I was saying.

“I just got into a fight with someone,” I whispered.

“I don’t care,” Nick replied, his voice sexy, whispering so close to my ear I could feel his breath on the side of my face. He kissed my neck, sending an erotic chill down the back of my spine.

“If I do this, it wouldn’t be fair to you,” I said.

“I don’t want you to be fair,” Nick replied, sending a chill of horniness down my spine. I pushed him back, physically moving away from him, knowing that if I stayed close to him, I’d rebound into him, and I would take him into my room for all of the wrong reasons. That wasn’t what I wanted, not in that way. And I told him so.

“What do you want?” he asked, pulling away from me, but keeping his hand wrapped around my waist. I looked around to see if anyone was watching, but we were safely alone on the back landing of the second floor while the party raged in the basement below us.

I didn’t answer Nick right away, and he took that as his cue to smile at me, melt me down, and dive in for one more kiss. I waited a few seconds, enjoying his lips against mine, his tongue exploring my mouth, before I pushed him back again.

“I want to do this right,” I said, catching my breath, and wiping my mouth. “I just… I wouldn’t feel right about doing this tonight right after I got into it with someone else. It’s just… I don’t want this to get any more complicated than it already is.”

Nick nodded.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. Our bodies were still impossibly close, and Nick pulled me into a hug, my head against his warm chest.

“Take all the time you need, Corbin,” Nick said, patting my head and finally understanding that I was in no mental state to move on from what had happened earlier. “I’m not going anywhere.”

I took a deep breath and pulled back, smiling up at Nick.

“Listen, if you still feel like you want to try this out tomorrow, then… I dunno. We have another Late Night party, so… I’ll be here.”

“Okay,” Nick smiled. “Are you sure you don’t want to just rub me out really fast? I don’t want to get blue balls or anything.”

“Nick!” I hit him across the shoulder as he stood there laughing. “That’s not a real thing.”

“It was worth a shot. I’ll see you tomorrow then,” he said. “I’ll be here, happy as an elf… with bells on.”

“I’m sure you will.”

“Waiting for you, my friend.”

I couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. I watched the cutest guy I knew walk down the stairs in what felt like the most responsible, but ultimately disappointing move. But something had to give. Something had to be different this time than all the last times. I couldn’t just run into another guy’s arms because Pete had rejected me. What message did that send? Even if I was barking up the wrong tree with him, even if he had no interest, there was a part of me that had tested our loyalty before and failed. I didn’t want to make that mistake again.

And then there was the sheer and simple idea that abstaining was the right thing to do. I needed to clear my head. Nick was a great guy and I didn’t want to drag him into something that could, and probably would get messy. We’d flirted before, sure, but this was the first time I’d actually seen him as a sexual object, and I needed a minute to process that.

I walked into my room and gave up any hopes of going downstairs to finish off the party, all the while wondering if I had turned Nick away for a different reason. Was it because I didn’t feel the fire with him? Had there been an electric spark in his kiss, had there been that raw energy, regardless of if it was the right thing to do or not, I wouldn’t have been able to control myself.

I decided that I had too much going on in my head. Nick was too attractive to not have a spark with, and the fact that he was actually gay and not masquerading as one gave me hope that if I was able to clear the cobwebs of boys passed, there could be something there.

I discussed as much with Hutch, Roberto, and Austin over breakfast the next morning after they’d thoroughly drilled me about my definition of a date.

“We told you that you were being crazy,” Roberto was the first to chide me after I told them what had happened the night before. I debated not saying anything at all, not wanting to deal with the embarrassment of being rejected, yet again, yet again. But they were my pledge brothers, and even after having a long night to come to terms with what had happened, I needed someone to talk to about my realization that nothing would ever happen with Pete until he initiated it.

“I wasn’t being crazy, I just… I misread.”

“Again,” Hutch said, pulling his sunrise breakfast sandwich up to his face. We’d walked over to the commons, and amongst a sea of hung over coeds, picked up greasy bacon and sausage egg sandwiches and trudged back to the house. It would be a long day, and we needed to carboload before we hit the drinks again that afternoon.

“You’re getting good at misreading, maricon.”

“Really?” I asked, putting my sandwich down. “I guarantee if you all had been there and seen how he was acting, you would have told me it was a sure thing. I swear, I thought it was a sure thing.”

“And yet you woke up alone, again, after we told you that your definition of date was different than the one across the pond,” Austin chimed in, his mouth full of sausage, egg, cheese, and flaky croissant.

“It was kind of my choice to wake up alone,” I said cryptically. Hutch’s eyes shot up to meet mine, and I could see the inquisitive look on Roberto’s face. Austin went back to his sandwich.

“What do you mean by that? Choice? You just said that the Brit told you it wasn’t going to happen.”

“First of all, that’s not what he said,” I corrected. “He said, Corbin I don’t love you. Present tense. There was no, ‘I will never love’ or ‘this isn’t going to happen’.”

I heard myself slipping into the same rationalization that had gotten me rejected in the first place, and I managed to catch myself before I slipped back too far.

“Plus, the Brit wasn’t the only option that I had when we went out last night.”

“Don’t tell me you almost picked up a Pi Phi,” Austin said, staring me down.

“God, no,” I shuddered. There was too much bad blood between our two houses to even consider going down that path. “I might have done some flirting with Nick Persons.”

“Seriously?” Hutch was the first to open his mouth.

“Seriously.”

“And he made a pass at you?”

“He did.”

“Like an actual pass?” I could tell that he didn’t believe me. None of them did, as the other two continued to eat in silence.

“Like, we made out at the top of the stairwell, pass,” I replied, holding my head high, thankful that we were off of the subject of the Brit.

“And you turned him down?” Hutch asked. The other two guys turned to look at him. “What the fuck is wrong with you? He’s cute. He’s a dreamboat. Don’t look me, ‘Berto. Shut up!”

“Hand over your man card,” Roberto demanded.

“Whatever,” Hutch said.

“He is a good looking guy,” Austin added. “In case you were wondering, Hutch, that’s how you compliment a man’s appearance. You can wipe the drool off your face.”

“You’re an asshole,” Hutch directed towards my other pledge brother, elbowing him and getting a laugh out of Roberto.

“But seriously, maricon, you and Nick. What happened?”

“He was up there when I got back from my non-date with the Brit and asked why I was in a funky mood and then I started yelling at him about being over straight guys like himself that were always using gay guys for some twisted confidence booster, and that if he wanted to be with a guy, why wouldn’t he just come right out and say it.”

“You told him that?” Austin looked at me like he didn’t believe a word I was saying. Like I was some confidence man, laying the story on thick.

“I said those exact words to him,” I leaned in with emphasis.

“I would have punched you in the face if you’d come to me with that,” Roberto added.

“Well he didn’t punch me. He asked what made me think he was one of those straight guys. And then he kissed me.”

There was a collective silence between the other three guys as they tried to figure out what I was saying. They all knew I’d flirted with Nick in the past, and in the same way I had crushed on guys before, Nick was filed under the category of ‘Never going to happen’. And yet he’d moved himself out of that zone last night, and no one could believe it.

“So you’re saying that Nick Persons is gay?”

“At least bi,” I answered. “And he freely admitted it. He said he wasn’t in the closet, just that no one had ever asked.”

“You’re lying,” Hutch said to me as if I’d told him that Santa Clause wasn’t real.

“I don’t believe you either, Corbin, honestly,” Roberto added. I sat back, smiled slyly and crossed my arms over my chest.

“Well, believe it you asshats, because it’s true.”

There was another silence. And as they sat there trying to determine how much of my story they wanted to believe, Austin finally got back to the real question at hand.

“So if Nick Persons came out to you last night, and you had a moment with him at the top of the stairs, why didn’t you do anything with him? Why’d you let that go?”

I shrugged. I still wasn’t sure myself, and I wasn’t about to try to explain what I wasn’t sure about to my pledge brothers.

“Let’s just say you’re telling the truth about last night. You had the Brit who said he doesn’t love you, and you had Nick Persons who threw himself at you forty feet away from your bed. And you turned him down?”

“I told him that I wasn’t in the right head space to… you know… give any head space.”

“And I’m ready to throw up,” Roberto said, leaning back and tossing his food on the table.

“But he kissed you… in public,” Hutch continued down Austin’s train of thought. “And didn’t mind doing so… no pretense, or… I don’t know ‘I’m really straight but go ahead’ kind of thing.”

“No, he pretty much told me that he was gay.”

“And you didn’t do anything with him? You let him go?” Hutch raised his voice at me.

“Why are you yelling at me?” I asked.

“Because we’re sitting here for the umpteenth time trying to figure out if this stupid British exchange student is gay, not gay, into you or not into you … what-the-fuck-ever… and one of the hottest guys in school, pardon me for losing my man card here, but one of the hottest guys in school wants to make out with you, freely and openly, and you didn’t even let him up into your room? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

When he put it like that, it made me sound stupid. But I still wasn’t sure what it was that made me not want to dive in with Nick head first, so to speak.

“Okay, Corbin, serious question,” Austin interrupted, calming Hutch down with his voice. “Do you think it had anything to do with the fact that for what it was, and for what was happening, Nick seemed like a safe choice?”

“What do you mean?” I narrowed my eyes.

“You never go after the gay guys,” Austin explained. “You only go after the unattainable guys. The guys that have their barriers up, just like you, and sometimes you crack them, but most times you don’t. Why can’t you just be attracted to someone that’s gay… and likes you?”

It was a good question. One that I hadn’t asked myself since walking into my bedroom alone moments after telling Nick that I didn’t want to do anything with him that night. It was a question I had no answers to, but that I definitely needed to consider. I put the question on the table for the rest of breakfast, but later that day, as I sat in my room writing my last article of the semester, I brought the question off the table and really thought about it.

Given two options, why did we always pick the one that seemed like the bigger challenge? As humans, as men really, were we more addicted to the chase than the outcome? Was there something about wanting what we couldn’t have that thrilled us, excited us, made us see potential lovers as cookies in a cookie jar? Forbidden fruit? And was forbidden fruit really that much sweeter? When given the choice between a sure thing and a hail mary, why did we always choose the hail mary?

And while I was writing the article, I was forced to come face to face with one of my biggest insecurities. I decided that more times than not, we go after the harder choice because then we have a fallback in case we fail. There’s the built-in excuse when rejection comes along, and we never have to examine ourselves in that rejection. If things don’t work out with a safe bet, it’s because you did something wrong. But if there was little to no chance of winning anyway, then your bets are all hedged.

It was something I’d thought about at the surface for a long time, but I hadn’t fully diagnosed it until I put Nick Persons and all of the Pete Davis’ together in my mind. I was so happy to throw myself at Pete, knowing that there was a great chance that he wouldn’t go for it. But I could walk away wondering what was wrong with him, and not me. But if I gave Nick a chance, and I let him in… and things still didn’t work out between us… then I’d have to wonder what was wrong with me.

And I was too chicken to do that.

I finished my article and settled into my bed to watch music videos on YouTube until I got a text message from Hutch saying that Dominick wanted to see me.

To Hutch: About?

To Corbin: IDK. Our deal, probably. He was asking me about your involvement in bringing Lee around this weekend.

A smile crept across my face, and I decided that it was time to go in for the kill of my plan.

To Hutch: Tell him I’m busy. I’ll talk to him in an hour or so.

I knew there was a risk in keeping Dom waiting. I needed him to agree to give me my title back before the cards I’d laid out came crashing down and someone realized that the only reason I had any influence over Lee’s bid was because I’d taken it away from him in the first place.

But there were still pieces I needed to put in play, and while I thought I still had time to do so, I decided to accelerate the back half of my plan and go for it full force. Instead of jumping up and running to meet with Dom, I picked up my phone and called Lee.

“What are you doing?” I asked when he answered on the second ring.

“I’m studying at Steph’s house,” his voice was hoarse like he’d been partying all night. “Why? What do you need?”

I smiled at how eager he was.

“How soon can you rally the other guys in your pledge class?”

“What do you mean?”

“The locks. The guys that are going Chi Beta no matter what. How soon can you get them all together?”

“I don’t know. Most guys were going to study until about four or five, and then get ready for the cocktail party.”

I looked at my clock. It was almost one.

“Fuck that,” I said. “Are you ready to show some Pledge Class President muscle?”

“Absolutely.” I could almost hear Lee’s spine straighten, and I knew I had his attention. “What do I need to do?”

“Get the guys together and tell Dom and Hutch that ya’ll want to play 55-cup before the cocktail party.”

“Okay.” I knew he was listening to every word I spoke, wondering how it fit in to our plans to get him a seat of power once the pledge class was official.

“Listen carefully. After you’ve texted them, do not respond to anyone but me. Get your pledge class ready, and tell them that the games will start around three. I’ll call you with details. Ya’ll keep studying until then.”

“What if no one wants to play?”

“Convince them,” I answered shortly.

“How?”

“I don’t know, Lee, but you need to figure out how. I can’t lead for you, you’ve got to do that part on your own. But trust me, do this, show the brotherhood that you’re a leader amongst your peers, and you’re a shoe-in.”

“Okay,” he replied. I could almost hear him standing up and psyching himself out to rally the other guys. I wasn’t sure just how far to push him, and so I kept my mouth shut and let his own wheels spin in his head.

“Remember, send out the text. Ya’ll want to play 55-cup here at the house, and that’s it. Only communicate with me.”

“Got it,” he replied, and I knew I had him. With a confidence that my plan would fall in to place, I waited another forty minutes before asking Dom where he was, and then walking down to his bedroom to meet with him.

“Thanks for coming down,” he said, he sat on his futon, and motioned for me to take a seat at his desk chair across from him. He had stacks of books on his coffee table, and I knew that he’d taken time out of some very busy studying to meet with me.

“Hutch said you wanted to talk.”

“Listen, I heard about what you did to bring Lee back into the fold, and I just wanted to thank you. Our pledge class is taking shape, and knowing that you had a hand in that makes me reevaluate some of the behaviors that were so alarming not too long ago.”

I sat up, crossed my legs at my ankles, and my hands on my lap. I raised an eyebrow.

“I’m glad you feel that way,” I answered shortly, putting my guard up for Dom, and making him work for my approval.

“Listen, I never wanted to take your social chair position away.”

“And yet you did.”

“You have to admit that you were a loose cannon. And at the time, when you were confronting everyone in this house, threatening everyone that you could… I had to take action.”

I softened my stance, and leaned to the side. I swallowed heavily.

“I understand. You did what you thought was best.”

“And I still maintain that,” Dom responded quickly. “However, given what Hutch has said, and what I’ve seen with your involvement… I think the right thing to do is to give you your office back.”

I leaned back slowly, narrowed my eyes, and deliberately read Dom up and down. I didn’t answer right away, but instead made him wonder exactly what I was thinking. When I thought I’d waited long enough, and that Dom was getting a little uncomfortable, I answered his statement.

“If you think that’s the right thing to do, then let’s do that,” I said slowly, not taking my eyes off Dominick for a second, not even to blink. “But I’m going to be honest with you, Dom. I want something else, too.”

I could tell that he was agitated and nervous. What he’d thought would be a routine white flag exchange was proving to be anything but. He should have known better than to expect routine from me, but again, Dom underestimated me.

“Something else, like what?”

“I think we can all agree that I played an instrumental part in bringing Lee back in with our rush locks, and I think the reason we’re all so excited about the prodigal son coming home is that we all know how important Lee is to the rest of the class. So, knowing that, I think that my bringing him back deserves more than just retribution for the chairmanship that you stole from me.”

Now it was Dom’s turn to read me up and down. I could tell he was searching his brain, wondering exactly what it was that I wanted, and after failing to guess on his own, he finally asked what else I wanted.

“I want a vote on the Executive Council.”

“That’s impossible,” he said before the words finished escaping my mouth.

“I’m disappointed by your negativity.”

“On what grounds do you want a vote on the EC?”

“I just told you,” I said, sitting up again, this time penetrating Dom’s personal space with my razor sharp voice. “I bring you Lee. Lee brings the rest. This isn’t a negotiation, as far as I’m concerned because if you continue to spew words like impossible, then I’ll be forced to reconsider bringing Lee back into the fold.”

Dom didn’t say anything, and I knew he was thinking exactly what I would be thinking in his shoes. He was wondering what tricks I had up my sleeve; what power I thought I had that he wasn’t aware of. He was wondering just how hard he could call my bluff before I folded. And so I let him have my bluff, plain and simple.

“You don’t believe me. You think I’m taking credit for this Lee thing, and that the golden boy is a lock no matter what. And you’re also trying to figure out just how much influence he has over the rest of the guys that you’ve been rushing. I know what you’re thinking, Dom, and I assure you, this is one time that you don’t want to call my bluff.”

“Corbin-“

“-Call him.” I interrupted Dom before he could form another thought, another excuse, another reason in his head as to how I was reveling in the delusion of power. “Call Lee on the phone. He asked you about playing beer pong later, right? Call him and see if he’s still interested.”

I watched Dominick pick up his phone and search for Lee. I maintained my composure, breathing in and out evenly; meanwhile, inside, I was a nervous wreck that this plan I’d put into motion wouldn’t play out exactly how I thought.

“It went to voicemail.”

“Did it?” With Dom watching my every move, I picked up my phone and dialed Lee’s number. A second later, like clockwork, he picked up.

“Hey Corbin, what’s up?” I pulled my phone from my ear and put it on speaker so that Dom could hear every single word.

“Hey, so… 55-cup… did you convince the other guys to come over and play?”

“I did,” he replied. “They’re excited. We’re just waiting on you to give us some details.”

I didn’t take my eyes off Dominick for a second, and I swear as Lee’s voice rang in his room, I could see beads of sweat forming across his forehead.

“Well you let the guys know that 55-cup is cancelled.” Dom swallowed. I could tell he was nervous, but I plowed ahead like a steam roller.

“What? Why? I told them all to meet me here and then we’ll all head over together. You said-”

I interrupted him before he finished that thought.

“Well, Lee, I’m not sure what to tell you after you worked so hard to get all the guys together, but maybe a different house will let ya’ll play until the cocktail parties start up tonight.”

And right then, as I finished my thinly veiled threat, talking to Lee into the phone, but holding an oratory knife to Dom’s throat across the table, he waved at me and mouthed the words ‘Fine!’ over and over.

“Actually, you know what Lee, forget what I just said. Why don’t you and the guys head over. I’ll call Hutch and the sophomores and have them set up the games for you guys. I’ll see you in a bit.”

I didn’t wait for him respond; instead I hung up and shot Dom the smuggest look from across his room that I could muster. I breathed in, folded my arms across my chest, and stared him down.

“Now, what were you saying about that vote on the EC?”

I could tell that he was fuming. Through gritted teeth, Dom attempted one more excuse that I was ready fend off.

“How is this even going to work? The bylaws call for a five member EC.”

“Not the national bylaws, only the local bylaws, which let’s be honest, mean jack shit. Technically, nationals call for an EC that is representative in number to the active brotherhood. That could be any number, Dom, any number that you can sell to the other guys. In fact, up until a couple years ago, there were seven members on the EC, so going from five to six should be a synch.”

Dominick hesitated, grasping for another straw.

“The bylaws require an odd number. There’s no way I can add two extra votes.”

I thought for a second, and then decided to that since I didn’t have an answer for that particular question, I would call Dom’s bluff on his sudden memorization of the bylaws.

“Do they really call for an odd number, Dom, or are you saying that because you don’t actually believe that I would call Lee back and tell him that he can take all of the freshmen boys that he’s rounded up and go elsewhere.”

Dom didn’t say anything, and I knew right then and there that I had him.

“This isn’t all about me. I want a vote on the EC, sure, but if the EC has an even number, guess who gets to break a tie? That would be you.”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“Look, I’m not trying to rock the boat here. I just want an ounce more influence than being social chair can get me. And if that gets you even more power than you already have… come on. It’s a two-way street for us to start working together to better this house. I’m not here to fight you, Dominick. I’m here to say that it’s high time you and I put our differences aside, and work together to rebuild Chi Beta to its former glory. We can do that, you and me. Besides, it’s just one vote.”

I could tell that he had finally bought in. There was nothing he could do, and as much as he hated to hand over my demands, as much as he hated to negotiate with my terrorism, he had no choice. And so he reluctantly agreed, saying, “Fine. I’ll do it.” I cracked a smile as Dominick stared me down, knowing that he was signing over his presidential death warrant. However, the case I had presented was thorough, well-crafted, and impossible for him to refuse.

“Consider it done.” I smiled.

“I’ll see you at the next EC meeting,” I said, standing up as if we’d been speaking amicably the entire time. Dom gave me a look, before leaving me with a final warning.

“This is it, Corbin. I’m not sure what you’re angling for, or what your end game is here, but this is it. I’m done feeling threatened by you. You got what you want, and if you were serious about working together, then fine, next semester will go smoothly. But after this, after this meeting right now… this is it for you.”

I tilted my head at Dominick, trying my best to intimidate him once more. One look in his eyes, however, told me that he was serious. He was done playing my game of politics, and even though I’d won this particular battle, I knew Dominick would come back swinging. And so without any further delay, I continued to think through the next steps in my plans.

I didn’t have long to ponder. I bolted upstairs, pulled out my phone, and texted Lee.

To Lee: You did great. We’re a good team, you and I.

I could almost see him reading the message in front of the guys that he assumed would be his pledge brothers, beaming with pride at his involvement in fraternity intrigue. As I waited for him to reply, I checked my other messages and saw that I had one from Hutch and one from Pete.

I took a deep breath, trying not to make myself anxious over Pete’s text message. What the hell could it possibly say? Was it an apology, I thought? An explanation? Would he try to pretend nothing had happened and flippantly ask me what the plan was for that night? I decided to postpone ripping off the band aid and checked Hutch’s message first.

To Corbin: Did you plan 55-cup?

And then as I was reading it, a second message from my pledge brother came through.

To Corbin: You need to come see me right now.

I swallowed. That was quick, I thought. I hadn’t been out of Dominick’s makeshift office for two full minutes before the news had trickled, at least to Hutch.

To Hutch: I’m in my room if it’s important.

I took a deep breath, and waited. I debated opening Pete’s message as I waited for what I knew would be a less than friendly knock from Chad Hutchinson, and if he’d been in his own bedroom when he texted me, that knock wasn’t more than a few feet and a couple seconds away.

I could deal with Pete later, I thought. I put my phone away, took another deep breath, and without another second of hesitation, watched as Hutch barged into my bedroom.

“Are you fucking kidding me right now?” he accused, stepping in and slamming my door behind him.

“Excuse me?” I asked, playing dumb to the highest level.

“You didn’t say anything about a vote on the EC. Dominick just reamed me over the phone saying that I set him up, and wanting to know what else you have up your sleeve. You made me look like an idiot, Corbin. Are you fucking kidding me?”

“I don’t know why Dom would come to you with our conversation, but the second part of my request had nothing to do with what you and I discussed.”

“Well it sure as shit doesn’t look that way to him. And it sure as shit won’t look that way to the officers when he makes his little announcement at the next EC meeting.” I could tell that Hutch was upset, and that made me feel mildly guilty. But I pushed that aside. I had done what I needed to do, and I couldn’t feel bad for using my pledge brother’s position as rush chair to accomplish that.

“When is the next EC meeting, by the way? I should probably put it on my calendar.”

“You used me to get that vote.”

I shrugged.

“It wasn’t like that, Chad, I swear. I saw an opportunity and I took it. I would have helped with Lee regardless of all of this, but I saw a way to benefit from it, and I took advantage. I’m sorry if that upsets you.”

“What do you have planned? I need you to tell me what you’re planning right now. A full-on coup of the leadership? What? It can’t just be about a vote on the EC.”

I didn’t answer. The truth was, I wasn’t sure what I’d do with my vote. There were still other moving pieces that needed to align before my vote even mattered, and there was no use sharing with anyone, especially Hutch, what those moving pieces were. I’d gotten my vote, but I still needed other people to accomplish their part in all of this before that vote counted for anything more than a yay or a nay.

“I know you, Corbin. And I know you have something up your sleeve, and I need to know if it’s going to jeopardize me again like this last stunt that you pulled.”

“If you know me so well, Chad, then you should have known that I wouldn’t have gone through all of this bullshit with Lee just to be this house’s social bitch again. You say you know me, but if you did, you would have seen something like this coming.”

I made sure to keep my voice low and even. My words were razor sharp, but my tone was anything but.

“You’re acting like a conniving little bitch, and it’s going to bite you in the ass, and unlike the last times you’ve pulled stunts like this, I’m not going to be there to defend you.”

I stared Hutch down like two laser beams penetrating a wall. He’d struck a nerve, and as soon as I heard the word ‘bitch’ uttered in my direction, I stood up and took a step towards him.

“That was insulting, completely inaccurate, and borderline homophobic,” I edged, my voice low but strong. I could almost feel Hutch shudder as I took another step towards him. He turned his head, hesitated for a second with his mouth open and his tongue behind his teeth.

“Insulting, okay. I’m sorry. But homophobic? Seriously?” I could tell he was offended by my accusation.

“If I had been one of you guys and had done what I did, you would have called it politically savvy, or playing the game. But you’re standing here calling me a conniving bitch, and I have to wonder what the difference is between me and the other guys besides what genitalia I prefer to put in my mouth.”

And it was then that voices were finally raised.

“You have been gunning to stick it to Dom and the leadership this entire semester, Corbin, and that has nothing to do with you being a fucking homo or not. That’s just you being a b...”

Hutch stopped himself. He took a deep breath and brought his emotions down.

“You have put me in an awful position with the officers.”

“And for that, I apologize. But I will not apologize for taking steps to increase my position here in this house in a way that doesn’t sit well with you. Tell the officers it was all me. I tied your hands just like I did Dominick’s, and let me deal with the fallout.”

Hutch looked at me, reading my expression for a clue as to what my end game was. I was careful not to betray anything to him, and instead met his gaze with an even attitude.

“I’m worried that you’re taking this fight too far,” Hutch said, his voice low and even. “Even for you.”

I turned my head to the side. His words stung me just a little as I saw that Hutch’s whole reason for coming in to confront me was to make sure that I was digging my own fraternal grave.

“Don’t worry about me,” I said, lifting my head up and turning back to him. I might not have had every piece of my plan laid out, but with a vote on the EC, one thing I had bought myself was the ability to defend myself in the event the officers tried to take me down again.

“I can take care of myself,” I reiterated.

“Maybe I should rephrase that then,” Hutch said, this time looking straight into my eyes, trying even deeper to uncover exactly what my motives were. “I’m worried for the rest of us what you’re capable of when you take this fight too far.”

I swallowed the knot in my throat from hearing the worry in my pledge brother’s voice. Hutch retreated, leaving me in my empty room. I sat down on the edge of my bed, put my head in my hands, and took a deep breath.

It was a lot for me to sit there and have fight after fight. Going up against Dom was one thing; he and I didn’t see eye to eye and we both knew, to some extent, that we most likely never would. But fighting with Hutch, having to hear those things from someone that I respected and cared about and knew cared about me really did hurt. It took a lot out of me, and I wasn’t sure how to cope.

A few weeks ago, I thought, I would have called Mike and asked him to come to me. I would have sent out the SOS and escaped campus for the night. I would have gone to Lexington and regrouped, had the Vmee take my mind off of the series of conflicts I had set into motion, and I would have returned with a different resolve, a stronger will, and a clearer energy.

But calling Mike wasn’t an option. It was off the table, and it was off the table partially because of Dominick. I couldn’t reach out to that lifeline, and so instead I had to sit there on the foot of my bed and breathe in until I could manufacture the clear energy that Mike would have so easily provided.

My other lifeline, the one I had held onto since the beginning of that semester, was equally off limits, and I wasn’t even sure what would happen next with that. I couldn’t call Pete, not after last night, and I wasn’t sure how long it would be until I could call him.

In a way, I was lucky that everything had come up that day, and that I had to deal with the confrontation from both Dom and Hutch. For those few hours, it took my mind off my most recent rejection, and it was until I was sitting there wanting for something to take my mind off of everything that was going on that I was reminded of that rejection like a cold glass of water straight to the face.

I sat there thinking about why I had tried to kiss the Brit, yet again. What had made me think things would be any different? I ran through every word in mind, every single one of his actions, and in the end, I did what I thought made the most sense.

But when it came to boys with mixed signals, I decided, there was never any sense to be made.

Which led my mind to the final thing that had happened the night before: Nick Persons. He had been adamant about the fact there was only one kind of signal out there; that guys didn’t deliver mixed messages; that they either liked you or they didn’t. If that were the case, if that were true, then me falling back into Pete’s arms was my fault, and not his. I had made the mistake of seeing what I wanted to see, interpreting things that weren’t there, wanting for something that was clearly not in the cards.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to string my thoughts together into a workable conclusion. I didn’t have time to come up with a theorem, or even a hypothesis. After sitting at the edge of my bed, waiting for clarity for my unclear situation, I heard a soft knock on my door.

“Come in,” I stood. Lee opened the door, poked his head in and smiled at me.

“Is this a good time?”

“For what?” I asked, not sure why he was over. With Lee, you never knew. I looked at my watch and realized that a solid hour had gone by while I’d been sitting there accomplishing nothing, and that it was almost time for their 55-cup game to start.

Lee walked in and closed the door behind him.

“Did everything go according to plan today?” he asked. I’d forgotten that I had included him in my strategy to get an EC vote out of our president, and it took me a second to nod my head.

“You did everything perfectly,” I said. “I told you. Show a little influence over the other guys, and this house is yours.”

“You were right. They came flocking to me when I said that Corbin Crowley had invited me over for beer pong. I told them 55-cup was my idea, though.”

“Good job, Lee. You did a good job,” I said, taking a step back and sitting back down on my bed.

“I was thinking that… before the other guys get here, maybe you and I could celebrate a job well done.” I recognized the look on his face, and watching him creep towards me put me back into that mental roller coaster I had been on before he arrived.

I watched as Lee slowly knelt down in front of me, and, not wanting to cloud my mind any further, I pushed him back by the shoulder.

“Lee, I can’t today. I’m…”

“What’s the matter?” As if he hadn’t heard me protest, Lee brought his hand up to the flap of my pants and squeezed firmly. I grabbed his wrist.

“I just can’t today. You’ll understand.”

Lee sat back on his heels.

“So what you’re saying is you get to use me whenever you want, I’m at your literal beck and call when you need to go down and wheel and deal, but the minute I want something from you,” he put his hand back on the flap of my pants. “I get nothing. That doesn’t seem very fair.”

“Fair is for cotton candy and funnel cake,” I said, leaning back and glaring at him.

“I’m not a puppet, Corbin,” he shot at me.

“I never said that you were,” I replied, not wanting to fight with Lee. I’d fought twice already in the last few hours. I was all fought out.

“Then why does it feel like you’re the only one that gets to call the shots? What about the things that I want?”

I intensified my gaze on Lee. I didn’t want to fuck him, I had already made that decision. But as he sat there, looking at me, begging me with his eyes, I decided that in that moment, my relationship with Lee was the only thing that I had complete control over. Everything else around me, Mike, Pete, the fraternity, everything else had either fallen apart or could in any second.

And so I softened my face, and peeled my eyes down to his lips.

“What are these things that you want, Lee?”

He returned his hand to the bulge that was slowly forming in my lap and squeezed deeply.

“I think you know,” he whispered.

“Tell me,” I demanded. He licked his lips and looked down at my crotch. “I want to hear you tell me.”

“I want this.”

“What?”

“I want your cock,” he whispered.

“I didn’t hear you,” I said, shifting the balance of power. Sure, he’d persuaded me with his soft lips and his needy eyes to give in to his seduction, but he needed to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was my call, and that I was in complete charge of what happened next.

“I want your cock,” he said, his voice defiantly low.

“What do you want to do to my cock?” I emphasized the hard clicking sound of the word, creating an echo in my bedroom. I watched as Lee fiddled with my zipper and put his hand right into the flap of my underwear. His hand was warm and firm as he fished me out.

“I asked you a question.”

“You know what I want to do to your cock,” he said, pulling his face forward and down towards my newly exposed dick.

I grabbed the side of his head with my hand and forced his head up to look at me. My eyes said everything that I didn’t say out loud.

“I want to suck your cock,” Lee answered. There was a lust in his eyes that softened my resolve. Sure I was giving in to him, but he wanted it so bad, which kept me firmly in control.

I didn’t respond. Instead, I leaned back on my arms and watched as Lee gratefully pulled my pants down past my knees, and swept his mouth straight down to the hilt of my cock, like a moth drawn to an irresistible flame.

“Oh, yeah,” I moaned softly, leaning back all the way. I pulled my arm up so that I could hold Lee by the back of the head, gently guiding him up and down, as if he needed the help. The kid knew his way around a cock like a pro. He had to have been practicing elsewhere, as I noticed his tongue swirling in different directions, his throat creating different suction patterns, and his hands milking my balls firmly and seductively. This wasn’t the same Lee I’d fucked the first week of school, whose lust was far greater than his skill. This was a learned Lee, and all I could do in that moment was sit back and enjoy everything he’d learned.

“This is what you wanted, huh? My thick cock in your mouth?” I whispered, teasing him with my voice. He responded with a moan, not wanting to let my dick out of his mouth, I was sure. I could feel precum oozing out of the head of my dick, and I knew that he was enjoying himself. He could have gone for hours based on the way that he was milking me up and down.

As the pleasure intensified, I decided once again to take control of the situation. Just as Lee was retreating off my dick to massage the head with his tongue, I sat up, pushing the length of my cock back into his mouth.

I watched as he gagged on it, and without showing any mercy, I pulled his head down as far as it would go.

“That’s what you want, right? My cock fucking your throat?” I could hear him moan, and I felt his fingernails dig into the side of my thigh. I brought my foot between his legs and felt around his jeans for his hard cock, all nine inches confined to its tight space. He let out another guttural moan so intense that it sent vibrations all the way through me.

Lee might have been content sucking me all afternoon, but I was more than ready to cum. I thrust back once more, and with one last thrust into his throat, I let my balls drain wave after wave of hot cum straight into the freshman’s mouth.

His moans and heaves rang through me as I spent all of my cum into Lee. I laid back down, breathing heavily from the chest, and watch as he milked every last drop off my dick. When he finally retreated, my cock plopped onto my stomach, sticky and shiny from a blow job well done.

Lee looked at me, his lust intensified, and I felt a little bit bad for treating him like a cum rag. Still, I thought. If the guys that I actually wanted could use me up and down to boost their egos and then run away the second things got real, why couldn’t I turn around and do the same to a freshman who was at the very least enjoying my dominance over him? It was a sick thought, and as soon as it crept into my mind, I pushed it away. It almost turned my stomach seeing Lee standing there, his cock rock hard in front of me.

I knew what he wanted, but I couldn’t bring myself to reach up and let his cock out of his pants. I had no intention of returning the favor. He might have been able to soften my resolve enough to get into my pants, but I still had my own issues to sort through without clouding my mind even further by sucking off a horny freshman.

“Corbin,” he whispered. He brought his knee up as if he was about to straddle my bed.

“Stay right there,” I demanded. There was an edge in my voice that I didn’t recognize.

“I need-”

“-I don’t care,” I interrupted. “Stay right there.”

He went for his belt buckle, pleading with me with his eyes. This kid was in deep, and it felt like the more I humiliated him, the more I made him feel worthless to me, the hornier he got. I swear I saw his bulge pulse as I told him I didn’t give a shit about his pleasure.

“You can finish yourself right there,” I said, not taking my eyes off of him. I watched him slowly undo his pants, then pull them down to his ankles. He wasn’t wearing any underwear, which reminded me of what a slut he’d turned into.

“You don’t want…”

“…No.”

He slowly massaged his big thick cock, and it took all of me not to lick my lips and lust for it. Say whatever I can about Lee and our fucked up arrangement, but the kid was hot. Still I had too many guys on my back burner to let one more creep in. I reminded myself what Lee and I were doing, what we were trying to accomplish, and I forced myself not to cross that line with him again.

Instead, I watched like I was watching a documentary on the human male form. He was a fine specimen, Lee, and I watched him yank himself back and forth above me with the sexuality of a doctor watching a patient. He wanted me. I could resist him. That gave me all of the power.

He sped up his strokes, using his precum, which was leaking judiciously, as lubrication along his nine inch cock. I was immune to his moans as he jerked off. His eye rolls and his head popping back and forth with pleasure was clinical to me. Lee was someone who served his purpose. This was something else entirely.

And then he came. Right across my stomach, rope after rope of innocent freshman cum covered my stomach. He collapsed, hovering above me, and instinctively, I grabbed his shoulder and held him away from me, allowing him to expel himself all over me without getting too close.

It took a few seconds for him to finish, but when he was done, when I could feel his breathing return to normal, I pushed him back. He stood up and looked at me with a smile.

“Clean it up,” I said without an ounce of emotion. He looked around, presumably for a rag or a t-shirt or a towel.

“No,” I said simply. “You clean it up.”

At first he looked confused, like he wasn’t sure what I was asking. A second later, when I didn’t change my expression with as much as a blink, he knelt down and licked every inch of my abs until they were bone dry of his own cum.

The next look that Lee gave me would have killed me if I didn’t know that he was fully aware of our arrangement, and that he was a willing participant. He looked at me with wide eyes, asking without saying anything, if there was anything else he could do.

I felt the side of his head with my hand as he knelt there.

“You did great today,” I assured him. He smiled at me, stood up and pulled his pants up.

“What now?” he asked as if it was business as usual, as if he hadn’t just cum all over my naked body. I sat up and pulled my pants up as well.

“Go play beer pong. Keep winning your class over. You’re doing great,” I said, pulling my shirt back on. “And if there’s anything rush related that you want or need, go through me.”

“Why’s that?” he asked.

“Because I’m building you up from behind the scenes, and you and I need to be on the same page about everything from here on out.”

I watched him process what I had said in a way that made me slightly nervous. I could have told him that I was using our relationship to get my own slice of power, but that wasn’t something that a boy like Lee wanted to hear. So I left out that part, and told him how our special relationship benefited him.

“You’ve got to trust me on this part.”

“Okay,” he said after a second.

With Lee gone, my distraction disappeared, and I was back where I’d been before, lying in bed wondering what to do about the pieces that I couldn’t control. My revolving thought process kept wondering if and when Pete would call to explain last night, but the fact that he hadn’t, that he’d made no attempt to contact me whatsoever made me worry that that explanation would never come. And there was Mike, who was sitting in the solitary at VMI, out of reach, and out of touch. The one guy outside of the OD bubble who could talk me off any ledge, and there was no reaching out to him. And then there was Nick, who’d threatened to be the breath of fresh air that I so desperately needed, and while he was perfect on paper, there was a spark missing. Part of the chase just wasn’t there in the way that I enjoyed most, and I wasn’t sure if Nick Persons was worth dragging into all of my drama.

After laying in bed for a couple of hours, not coming to any real solutions, I did what any self-respecting college student would do in my position: I proceeded to get drunk.

Christmas weekend wasn’t for the faint of heart, and even though my instinct was to wallow in my latest failed attempt at seducing a Brit, I knew I had to pick myself up and keep keeping on.

By the time I woke up, showered, and got dressed in my most festive cream and red holiday sweater, the cocktail party downstairs was in full swing. It felt weird going to a Chi Beta event that I had essentially had no part in setting up, but I had to admit Newby and Jackson had done a good job. The dinner tables were set with white clothes and green runners with the appropriate amount of gold tinsel and mistletoe at the center.

The Great Hall looked elegant and seeing it all come together, even without me there, reminded me why I’d joined a fraternity in the first place. But on that night, mine wasn’t to reminisce. Mine was to get drunk, and so I made a beeline for the bar and ordered a vodka gimlet, strong.

I did my best to make small talk with the masses in the library, but mostly spent the night avoiding Dominick and the other officers while not standing directly in the corner of the room. I also spent a significant amount of time avoiding Lee while watching him work the room from afar. He was impressive, to say the least. And to say that he reminded me of a younger me would have been completely accurate.

At dinner, I sat with the members of my class and their dates. The question of where my date was came up early and I swatted it as swiftly as I could.

“Who knows?” I answered Hutch’s date tartly, taking another sip of vodka and cranberry in a wine glass. “But I’m sure wherever he is, he’s having a great time.”

There isn’t much about the night that I remember after that. I recall us finishing dinner and gathering in Austin’s room to play drinking games. I remember it being suggested to me that I take a break from alcohol and drink some water before Late Night. I remember going down to Late Night and dancing on the bar. I remember doing a shot with DJ Swayze right before he kicked into his signature Britney Spears medley, and I remember looking around from my platform as I danced for the one guy I wanted to share the 13 minute long medley with.

Between those things, I let myself go. I enjoyed myself with an abandon I hadn’t had in a while. I had wallowed enough, and even if I was drowning my negativity in beer after beer, I was at least having fun.

I had been down at Late Night long enough to work up a sweat when I decided I needed a breather. I walked up the steps to the main floor, turned the corner into the Great Hall and saw him standing there.

He was talking to a couple of Sigma Chi brothers that I recognized from a far, and even there in the crowd of coeds dressed in their holiday sluttiest, I noticed him right away. He turned to me, gave me a big smile and motioned me over.

“You are dressed as an elf,” I slurred, looking Nick Persons up and down.

“I told you I’d be at Late Night, happy as an elf… with bells on.” He lifted his leg to show me the heel of his slippers, which, in fact had little bells on them. I couldn’t help but smile. I had wanted so badly to put Nick in a corner, and there he was, proving to me that I shouldn’t.

I shook my head and laughed out loud.

“You thought you could chase me away that easy?” he asked. “After all of the Swiss beats I’ve let you listen to over the years.”

“Oh, not your beats,” I cackled, letting myself go once again. Maybe going after someone like Nick was what I needed at the time. Something uncomplicated with someone uncomplicated. I had been saying that that’s what I wanted for months, and there it was, standing in front of me in green tights and green felt costume.

“Look, I’m not usually as forward as I was last night, but I meant every word. I would love to go up to your room show you just how much I meant it.”

I thought for a second. There was nothing holding me back. There was no flip-flopping Brit, no closeted Vmee, no aggressive freshman. I could do it with a guy that would appreciate me, that could spend the night, that wouldn’t blame our flirting on the alcohol, and that didn’t expect anything out of me in return.

I could do easy, I told myself.

“I mean, we should probably go up to my room,” I smiled. “Your costume is a little short. I wouldn’t want to give you a boner out here and ruin everyone’s image of Santa’s little elf.”

“Who said it was little, Crowley?” Nick asked mischievously.

I laughed. I chose easy. I needed easy. It was a one way street to happiness, I decided, and for that, I could do easy.

And just as I was grabbing the easy choice by the hand and leading him up to my room, I felt my phone vibrate, and I knew that with me, things could never just be easy. I made the mistake of pulling it out of my pocket as Nick and I climbed the stairs to my bedroom.

“Is everything okay?” Nick asked when I paused suddenly, hesitated, and then kept climbing.

I put my phone back in my pocket, and tried my best to forgot what it had said.

“Everything is… fine.” I breathed out, turning to Nick and kissing him right then and there in the stairwell that led up to the third floor. It had been forever since a guy kissed me back in public, with no hesitation, no pretext, no barrier of his own.

As Nick and I kissed our way into my room, behind my door, and onto my bed, I tried my best to erase that text message from my mind. And even though I wanted to choose the easy road, I knew that forgetting all of my complications was much easier said than done.

To Corbin: I’ve been thinking a lot about last night. I’ve been unfair to you. I love you. Let’s talk. -Pete

              


Hi All! Thanks for your patience with this chapter. I hope it lives up to the wait! I can't wait to hear what you think, so feel free to leave questions, comments, and reviews, and join in on the lively discussion in the message boards. Until next time!

Copyright © 2016 Jwolf; All Rights Reserved.
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Holy frack. This is why I love this. How would I react or what would I do if I were in Corbin's shoes is a matter that has cost me a lot of liters of warm water down the drain. And the discovery is that it's so fracking soul-wrecking, I wonder how Corbin hasn't went full psycho yet. This is torture.

A great chapter, as usual.Of course this huge cliffhanger you have sprung on us means the next chapter is to come soon. It really has to. Really, really really. God.

:thankyou:

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oh maaaaann... I'm punching my pillow right now. Corbin is a stupid fuck. I mean come on. Have a little faith. How in the world can you make out with the one you love, haveing someone go down on you you're not even interested in an bedding a third, where there is no spark, within 24 hours? I'm speachless. And mad...

Loved the whole game with Dominik and Lee btw =)

 

great Chapter, thank you!!!!. You're playing my emotions like a guitar with this story :P Can't wait for more!!

 

Have a good day :)

 

pfox

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On 04/01/2015 07:22 AM, Hopeless Romantic said:
Holy frack. This is why I love this. How would I react or what would I do if I were in Corbin's shoes is a matter that has cost me a lot of liters of warm water down the drain. And the discovery is that it's so fracking soul-wrecking, I wonder how Corbin hasn't went full psycho yet. This is torture.

A great chapter, as usual.Of course this huge cliffhanger you have sprung on us means the next chapter is to come soon. It really has to. Really, really really. God.

:thankyou:

Glad the suspense is gettin you. You know I love a good twist. I think we saw in this chapter that Corbin is right at the edge. A laugh away from a tear. I don't know if he's ready for full on psycho, but expect him to keep things intense. More to come soon!
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On 04/01/2015 07:37 AM, pfox25 said:
oh maaaaann... I'm punching my pillow right now. Corbin is a stupid fuck. I mean come on. Have a little faith. How in the world can you make out with the one you love, haveing someone go down on you you're not even interested in an bedding a third, where there is no spark, within 24 hours? I'm speachless. And mad...

Loved the whole game with Dominik and Lee btw =)

 

great Chapter, thank you!!!!. You're playing my emotions like a guitar with this story :P Can't wait for more!!

 

Have a good day :)

 

pfox

Thanks for the review! Don't be mad. Corbin is going through it and trying his best. He didn't spread himself pretty thin this chapter. More to come soon!
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On 04/01/2015 08:38 AM, PeeAnt said:
Why you do this to me?!?!?! Another great chapter.
I'm glad you enjoyed the chapter! More to come soon.
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omg....Corbin! Give it up already! What is wrong with youuuu???? He said what you wanted him to say and you're still sleeping with Nick??? -_-" smh...God this story is so good

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“You are one of the guy that’s part of the problem.”

Typo. Anyway, really funny to see all the juggling Corbin is doing. The Nick Persons stuff was very Jane Austen-like.

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On 04/01/2015 12:18 PM, Moku_Sui said:
omg....Corbin! Give it up already! What is wrong with youuuu???? He said what you wanted him to say and you're still sleeping with Nick??? -_-" smh...God this story is so good
Corbin never makes it easy, does he? Thanks for the review! More to come, and especially his reaction to Pete's message.
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On 04/01/2015 12:48 PM, methodwriter85 said:

 

“You are one of the guy that’s part of the problem.”

Typo. Anyway, really funny to see all the juggling Corbin is doing. The Nick Persons stuff was very Jane Austen-like.

Oops. Missed that one! Thanks for the catch. What's funny about Corbin is that e completely misses the no brainers in his life. Expect more of that. I'll take a jane Austen comparison! Thanks again
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Aaaaarrrrggghhhh :facepalm: just as I think you're growing up, Corbs, and showing a bit of sense, you totally fuck up. :pinch::pissed:

You are denying the truth and deluding yourself:

"My revolving thought process kept wondering if and when Pete would call to explain last night, but the fact that he hadn’t, that he’d made no attempt to contact me whatsoever made me worry that that explanation would never come."

This is a lie, you had a text from Pete and YOU NEVER READ IT !!!! Grrrrrr, I want to shake you - no matter how much I want to kink the butt of the pathetic Brit and tell you to forget about him, he doesn't deserve you. But he did try to contact you.

And then you go into your usual self-destructive mode and have meaningless sex with Lee and even worse: drink yourself stupid. :angry::pissed::facepalm::angry:

And now you're playing with the emotions of a nice guy:

"I could do it with a guy that would appreciate me, that could spend the night, that wouldn’t blame our flirting on the alcohol, and that didn’t expect anything out of me in return."

Are you fucking crazy? Nick is probably in love with you ! He pratically told you, saying he'd been flirting with you to get you to notice him, and I bet he didn't just mean in order to get a kiss and a quick fuck. You actually knew better than to take him to bed, when you were sober and on a rebound. And to do it drunk with Pete on your mind ? Didn't you learn from your mistake with Mike? Are you also going to break a cute, kind boy's heart by calling him Pete while you fuck? :no:

But I did :rofl: when I read this reply: “I told him that I wasn’t in the right head space to… you know… give any head space.”

Oh, and Pete can learn the same lesson as Mike: Too Little Too Late. :D serves him bloody well right. :evil::gikkle:

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On 04/01/2015 09:13 PM, Timothy M. said:
Aaaaarrrrggghhhh :facepalm: just as I think you're growing up, Corbs, and showing a bit of sense, you totally fuck up. :pinch::pissed:

You are denying the truth and deluding yourself:

"My revolving thought process kept wondering if and when Pete would call to explain last night, but the fact that he hadn’t, that he’d made no attempt to contact me whatsoever made me worry that that explanation would never come."

This is a lie, you had a text from Pete and YOU NEVER READ IT !!!! Grrrrrr, I want to shake you - no matter how much I want to kink the butt of the pathetic Brit and tell you to forget about him, he doesn't deserve you. But he did try to contact you.

And then you go into your usual self-destructive mode and have meaningless sex with Lee and even worse: drink yourself stupid. :angry::pissed::facepalm::angry:

And now you're playing with the emotions of a nice guy:

"I could do it with a guy that would appreciate me, that could spend the night, that wouldn’t blame our flirting on the alcohol, and that didn’t expect anything out of me in return."

Are you fucking crazy? Nick is probably in love with you ! He pratically told you, saying he'd been flirting with you to get you to notice him, and I bet he didn't just mean in order to get a kiss and a quick fuck. You actually knew better than to take him to bed, when you were sober and on a rebound. And to do it drunk with Pete on your mind ? Didn't you learn from your mistake with Mike? Are you also going to break a cute, kind boy's heart by calling him Pete while you fuck? :no:

But I did :rofl: when I read this reply: “I told him that I wasn’t in the right head space to… you know… give any head space.”

Oh, and Pete can learn the same lesson as Mike: Too Little Too Late. :D serves him bloody well right. :evil::gikkle:

Hey tim! Thanks for an awesome review. I always love reading your responses. This chapter definitely got a rise out of you! There's definitely more story, and more growing, for Corbin to come. I will say, he didn't get Pete's text until he had already decided to go up with Nick... we'll get the full fallout of his decision to keep going in the next chapter. Can't wait to continue the story!
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You know that look that you see on someone's face right before they start threatening people with butter knives? Yup, you guessed it. I am making it at you right meow. So help me, if you wait a month to undo this little cliffy you left here, I will aim to misbehave. Now. That being said, I think Pete is a penis head. I know he is confused and all that but damn it, He does not get to zip off one little text and be back into Corbin's loving arms. What he did was no no bad Brit! So now Corbin has another little boy toy. This Nick guy could be fun. It gets Corbin away from the unholy trinity that is Pete,Lee, and Mike. I like that Nick knows himself and seems to be crushing on Corby-dearest. Could be interesting. I still don't think that the penis head, formerly known as The Brit is good for him. Its fun waiting to see. How much longer will Mike be in exile? I want to see how he comes into all of this. I think I covered everything. Oh wait, I remember! Wasn't Corbin Lee's first? I think they have that creator bond like vampires or something. Also, Lee turned into a HO! Goodness heavens. So I think that might be all that is beging to be let out of my little nutty brain. I liked this chapter, Domidick is still an ass and the Brit is still a penis head. I think that covers everything!

KTHNXBYE!

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On 04/02/2015 05:45 AM, Carrie76 said:
You know that look that you see on someone's face right before they start threatening people with butter knives? Yup, you guessed it. I am making it at you right meow. So help me, if you wait a month to undo this little cliffy you left here, I will aim to misbehave. Now. That being said, I think Pete is a penis head. I know he is confused and all that but damn it, He does not get to zip off one little text and be back into Corbin's loving arms. What he did was no no bad Brit! So now Corbin has another little boy toy. This Nick guy could be fun. It gets Corbin away from the unholy trinity that is Pete,Lee, and Mike. I like that Nick knows himself and seems to be crushing on Corby-dearest. Could be interesting. I still don't think that the penis head, formerly known as The Brit is good for him. Its fun waiting to see. How much longer will Mike be in exile? I want to see how he comes into all of this. I think I covered everything. Oh wait, I remember! Wasn't Corbin Lee's first? I think they have that creator bond like vampires or something. Also, Lee turned into a HO! Goodness heavens. So I think that might be all that is beging to be let out of my little nutty brain. I liked this chapter, Domidick is still an ass and the Brit is still a penis head. I think that covers everything!

KTHNXBYE!

I loved this review! Thanks so much. AS usual, so insightful and so funny! I'll try not to make you wait a whole month for the next installment... I promise! We will see Mike again, rest assured. And Corbin wasn't Lee's first, but did you notice Corbin noticing that Lee has learned a trick or two... you might be right about him being a Hoe! I love writing those two together. As for Nick... well, we'll just have to see where he fits into everything. More to come :)
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I literally just made an account to make this comment.

Please let Corbin end up with Nick! LOL, I know that's probably not how this story is going to end since it is titled "The English Year", but I just love their dynamic and it really is a breath of fresh air from the all the crappy cards/boys that Corbin has been dealt.

And I'm holding you to that promise you made to Carrie76, I have many a butter knives in my kitchen. :angry:

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On 04/02/2015 01:51 PM, blooblox said:
I literally just made an account to make this comment.

Please let Corbin end up with Nick! LOL, I know that's probably not how this story is going to end since it is titled "The English Year", but I just love their dynamic and it really is a breath of fresh air from the all the crappy cards/boys that Corbin has been dealt.

And I'm holding you to that promise you made to Carrie76, I have many a butter knives in my kitchen. :angry:

Hey! It means SO SO much that you made a profile just to comment on this chapter. I hope that means we'll be hearing from you in the future as the story unfolds! The Nick/Corbin dynamic is fun to write, and expect more of it as it unfolds. Also, please put your butter knives away... that goes to you and Carrie! More to come SOON!
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Omg, Jon, you're killing me here!!! Penis Head (can I steal that, Carrie?), FINALLY writes something worthy in a text, and Corbin STILL takes cutie-pie Nick to his room. No, no, no, no!!!! Bad Corbs!!! And Corbin, Pete DID contact you; he texted you when Hutch texted you, and you decided Pete's text can wait. Idiot! Rip the fucking band-aid off FIRST!!!!!

 

I think Tim's right; Nick could be in love with Corbs, or at least crushing on him. Now he's gonna play with his emotions. Tsk, tsk, tsk, Corbs. As much as I love reading about Nick (he is a cutie-pie, after all), Corbin's heart and head aren't with Nick; they're with Penis Head. Oh! And I don't know why, but I always thought Nick was gay. Maybe it's because he was always flirting with Corbs that gave me that idea. :lol::D

 

The whole Dominick/Hutch/Corbin frat (sorry, fraternity), politics just goes way over my head! lol I will never understand the inner workings of a fraternity, and all I get out of it is that Corbin will use whomever he wants to just to get ahead. This of course, will most likely continue into his working life. That's the one part of Corbs I don't care for. He's so into the hierarchy of the fraternity, and being on the highest committee and having all the power that he'll use his best friends (Hutch), and an innocent freshman ho (Lee), just to get what he wants.

 

I do have to tell you, Jon, that the beginning of the chapter about the broken heart and how you can't hear it breaking into pieces, you can only feel it, was written so beautifully. And it's so true. I think that whole section should be on a Hallmark card or something, like a 'I'm sorry that scumbag left you' type of card or a divorce card or something. :P Seriously though, it was really beautifully written. :)

 

Well, I continue to be on pins and needles until the next chapter. Will Corbs go through with boffing Nick? Will he get a conscience and tell him no? Will he text Penis Head back? All these questions! Inquiring minds (ok, mine), want to know!!! :D

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On 04/04/2015 04:37 PM, Lisa said:
Omg, Jon, you're killing me here!!! Penis Head (can I steal that, Carrie?), FINALLY writes something worthy in a text, and Corbin STILL takes cutie-pie Nick to his room. No, no, no, no!!!! Bad Corbs!!! And Corbin, Pete DID contact you; he texted you when Hutch texted you, and you decided Pete's text can wait. Idiot! Rip the fucking band-aid off FIRST!!!!!

 

I think Tim's right; Nick could be in love with Corbs, or at least crushing on him. Now he's gonna play with his emotions. Tsk, tsk, tsk, Corbs. As much as I love reading about Nick (he is a cutie-pie, after all), Corbin's heart and head aren't with Nick; they're with Penis Head. Oh! And I don't know why, but I always thought Nick was gay. Maybe it's because he was always flirting with Corbs that gave me that idea. :lol::D

 

The whole Dominick/Hutch/Corbin frat (sorry, fraternity), politics just goes way over my head! lol I will never understand the inner workings of a fraternity, and all I get out of it is that Corbin will use whomever he wants to just to get ahead. This of course, will most likely continue into his working life. That's the one part of Corbs I don't care for. He's so into the hierarchy of the fraternity, and being on the highest committee and having all the power that he'll use his best friends (Hutch), and an innocent freshman ho (Lee), just to get what he wants.

 

I do have to tell you, Jon, that the beginning of the chapter about the broken heart and how you can't hear it breaking into pieces, you can only feel it, was written so beautifully. And it's so true. I think that whole section should be on a Hallmark card or something, like a 'I'm sorry that scumbag left you' type of card or a divorce card or something. :P Seriously though, it was really beautifully written. :)

 

Well, I continue to be on pins and needles until the next chapter. Will Corbs go through with boffing Nick? Will he get a conscience and tell him no? Will he text Penis Head back? All these questions! Inquiring minds (ok, mine), want to know!!! :D

Lisa, thanks for another stellar review! So much to cover... I can't tell you quite what to expect moving forward without spoiling anything, but Corbin has learned a lesson or two about using guys on the rebound. Hopefully he draws from that. As for the frat stuff, it is a different world, and I enjoy writing Corbin's attempt to navigate it. For me it's about showing how great he is about reading and influencing people, yet when it comes to his love life, he's completely the opposite. I guess it wouldn't be a Jwolf protagonist if he didn't do some questionable things!!! Thanks for the compliment on the opening! More to come very soon. And if you know anyone at hallmark, tell them to call me!
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I must have read this chapter before, probably back in April, as I definitely pushed the "Like" button on it, but I never reviewed, and I'm not sure why. So here it is now July and I'm back catching up some chapters I've missed.
This was one helluva chapter to get back into the story as it must be one of the most Corbin doing his manipulative best accounts. He is a prime candidate for politics, heaven help us all. If I didn't like him - and that's all your fault, Mr Wolf, for using your skill so well - I would hate him as much as, I'm sure, Dom does. There are no half measures with Corbin, and here he's into this amazing game of manipulating everyone - except his English man - to get what he wants. I wonder sometimes if the English man's hold on him is the fact that he can't manipulate him, but then that's not entirely true. Corbin has lost his heart to the man across the pond. That defies logic and is uncontrollable, and Corbin is lost when he can't control the game. And now what is this message from the Englishman? Has he realized that he does actually love Corbin? He seems too ingenuous to be playing a manipulative game. That's the attraction, that he is not a political creature like Corbin.
This is such an amazing story and you write it so well. Glad to be picking it up again, for a while at least. Yeah! 4 great chapters to look forward to without waiting! To enjoy when I can and want. Thank you! This is a treat indeed!

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On 07/21/2016 02:51 PM, Jaro_423 said:

I must have read this chapter before, probably back in April, as I definitely pushed the "Like" button on it, but I never reviewed, and I'm not sure why. So here it is now July and I'm back catching up some chapters I've missed.

This was one helluva chapter to get back into the story as it must be one of the most Corbin doing his manipulative best accounts. He is a prime candidate for politics, heaven help us all. If I didn't like him - and that's all your fault, Mr Wolf, for using your skill so well - I would hate him as much as, I'm sure, Dom does. There are no half measures with Corbin, and here he's into this amazing game of manipulating everyone - except his English man - to get what he wants. I wonder sometimes if the English man's hold on him is the fact that he can't manipulate him, but then that's not entirely true. Corbin has lost his heart to the man across the pond. That defies logic and is uncontrollable, and Corbin is lost when he can't control the game. And now what is this message from the Englishman? Has he realized that he does actually love Corbin? He seems too ingenuous to be playing a manipulative game. That's the attraction, that he is not a political creature like Corbin.

This is such an amazing story and you write it so well. Glad to be picking it up again, for a while at least. Yeah! 4 great chapters to look forward to without waiting! To enjoy when I can and want. Thank you! This is a treat indeed!

Thanks for reviewing! And getting back into the story. I'm excited to be writing again, let me tell you. And you are definitely spot on that part of the attraction to the Brit is the fact that all of Corbin's manipulations don't necessarily work on him. He's been reading Corbin very well since the beginning, and while finding himself at the same time. Still, Corbin can't get enough of someone that doesn't just do his bidding... so there's that. more to come!

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OH HELL!!! Corbin, Corbin, Corbin, how stupid can you be??? The man you love just told you he love's you and you still take Nick back to your room. Are you really fkn kidding me??? You whine and bitch and moan to all the brothers and to the readers through 29 chapters and you're willing to fk it all up over one fk. OMG, truly, if I were Hutch (the one who usually has common sense during these times), I'd so be kicking you in the ass right now for your stupidity it wouldn't even be funny. Pete finally says yes and you allow Nick to be balls deep in you. Literally banging my head against the wall right now. Literally, 40% of the population can think abstractly. No wonder i'm pissed off 60% of the time ... like now .... at you! Hmpf! 

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7 hours ago, Chris L said:

OH HELL!!! Corbin, Corbin, Corbin, how stupid can you be??? The man you love just told you he love's you and you still take Nick back to your room. Are you really fkn kidding me??? You whine and bitch and moan to all the brothers and to the readers through 29 chapters and you're willing to fk it all up over one fk. OMG, truly, if I were Hutch (the one who usually has common sense during these times), I'd so be kicking you in the ass right now for your stupidity it wouldn't even be funny. Pete finally says yes and you allow Nick to be balls deep in you. Literally banging my head against the wall right now. Literally, 40% of the population can think abstractly. No wonder i'm pissed off 60% of the time ... like now .... at you! Hmpf! 

I LOVED this comment and your reaction. I'm gonna take it as a compliment you had such a heartfelt reaction. Thanks again for leaving your thoughts. I'm having a great time revisiting these chapters with current/fresh eyes. 🙂

 

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12 hours ago, 62Sooner said:

Manipulative little “Bitch”.  Does the real Lee ever call you out on your shit?

Wait and see. He got bolder this chapter. Who knows 

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