It’s Who You Know Ch. 01
For an author’s note: This is an 8-part story and my first attempt at something like it. I suppose it’s a romance/erotica/thriller mix.
I welcome all feedback, positive or negative.
I hope readers enjoy.
I struggle to think of the exact point where it starts. And I don’t know whether that means my memory is bad, or I’m a shit storyteller.
I think I want to start with Zack, because I wouldn’t be here now, and nothing would be as it is, without him. He has always been a solid rock in the middle of everything that swirls around him. When he does move, it’s purposeful. He’s never been pushed off his path. The one constant in my life.
Well, most of my life.
We met at college. I was 17, he was 19. I was pretty fresh out of secondary school, and I was still getting used to all my own responsibilities. There was no detention if I turned up late, it just meant I was making life harder for myself and falling behind on my work.
I was one of these chaotic things swirling around him, while he was as strict and disciplined as anything I’d ever seen. Opposites attract?
Fact is I’d always been a bit of a butterfly. I had a lot of trouble keeping friends. They’d come and go with all the small talk it took to make them. There was something about me that couldn’t keep people around, I was starting to accept that. Either that, or I somehow pushed them away.
This college was in another town. All the kids were new to me, some of them not to each other. They fell into two categories in my mind – too loud, or too boring. And then there was this older guy. An almost full beard on his jaw, stoic and controlled, sitting in the back corner and actually paying attention to his work.
Yes. I needed that one.
So we got talking. He was surprisingly friendly. I worked all my charm on trying to make him laugh, the only comfortable ice-breaker I knew, and it was twenty minutes before he finally did. It was beautiful. Watching those white teeth part the black facial hair.
He told me he had been taking another course – engineering – for two years, but it hadn’t really worked out for him. I was surprised he’d dropped it. He looked like someone who would be good with their hands. But, no. He had moved on to take this. Business studies. It was what he really wanted to do.
He was not someone you could look at and instantly picture running a business. You see, when I want to try and describe Zack in one word, the only one that comes to mind is ‘brute’.
Brute might describe his squared jaw. It might describe the powerful weight in his shoulders, the muscles that bulged on his forearms when his hands gripped something. It did describe the overpowering rush of strength that took him any time he got into a fight.
It didn’t describe the raw intelligence in his brilliant green eyes. The way his movements could be so delicate and precise. How he could stand, taking something in, with such calm and intense feeling, that I was certain only a man with true confidence in himself could ever seem so bliss.
To be fair on myself, I was younger, but I always felt like I was far behind him. He carried this weight as though he had been through it all, and knew who he was. He must’ve matured so fast. When did he reach that state of mind? At 16? I think I always tagged along behind him like a little lost puppy.
He clasped his hands together in this asymmetrical way when he talked. Elbows on the table, knuckles pressed against his lips. Was he nervous? He pulled away a little to say something else; flashed a quick grin, partially hidden by his hands, then leant back in his chair with open and relaxed posture.
To say he had caught my eye is an understatement. For some it might be an excitement in their stomach, but for me it’s smooth. There’s a point where I realise I don’t want to take my gaze away. It makes me feel calm inside, to simply take them in and enjoy their beauty.
So this was Tyler. He had just introduced himself to me and Zack was already cracking a joke at his expense. His lips parted to show his teeth and his head rolled against the back of the chair in some sort of chuckling defeat.
He was the definition of dark and handsome. Dark brown hair, deep brown eyes, olive skin. Such lively, smiling eyes. His long nose was just one more aesthetic line on his face, drawing my gaze down to his mouth.
I might’ve been enjoying myself too much, letting my looks linger too long. I’ve been criticised for being too intense enough times before. The first sign of his discomfort surfaced when he tried to hold my gaze. He struck me as the type of man who held your stare until you blinked first. Always. But he faltered and looked down at the table.
I had always thought I was tall. But I got to spend the years of my blooming manhood with Zack towering a couple of inches over me.
We completed two years at college, then went on to university together. They deneme bonusu veren siteler were some good years of my life. I did all the things you’d expect someone of my age to do… Perhaps more. Being away from home and out on my own was good for me, as daunting as it might have been. Zack was always there when things got rough.
Sometimes, Zack was the reason things got rough.
There were two reasons.
Of all the ways he could be so unwavering and certain of himself, it might have been his sexuality that got me the most. He was straight. He was so damn straight. He felt no need to test the waters. Why was he so content? How was it possible?
He didn’t even sleep around with girls. He was a virgin for so long, until he finally got with Amelia. It wasn’t that he was shy or had trouble catching female attention – it was that he knew what he wanted, and it wasn’t casual flings. Steady and purposeful.
You see, there’s his contented celibacy. Then there’s my horrendous mess of a sex life in contrast.
I’ve liked girls for as long as I can remember… And I’ve liked boys for as long as I can remember. There are varying types of virginity that I’ve lost. By the time I finished university, I think I’d done everything under the sun. There’s probably videos of me up online. I got paid to film those. Christ.
Amidst it all, the one I couldn’t have was Zack. And for a while, I really wanted Zack. I don’t like to admit it, but for a couple of years I was hopelessly in love with him.
He brushed off all my failed advances, drunk or sober, and never held it against me. Once or twice he shouted, mostly when I walked in on him showering after he’d asked me to stop doing it five times. There was a part of me that just couldn’t help winding him up, watching that cool exterior crumble into something more fiery beneath.
I think I purely imagined the sexual tension between us. I wanted to know what it would take to get him to lose control, to have those rough hands hold me down and take out his frustrations. Wasn’t he curious? Wouldn’t he just let me pleasure him one time, so it wouldn’t be his own hands? Just once?
I tried. For fuck sake, I tried.
My legs over his lap on the sofa. A hug that lasted a little too long. Making a point to stare at his chest and stomach when he went about shirtless. Trying to pull down the towel around his waist when he leant over the sink, fresh out of the shower.
“God, Tyler,” he laughed, knocking my hands away.
“Come on,” I replied, squeezing his hips. “We’re all guys here.”
The worst time was when we were in his room, sitting on his bed, talking. Backs against the wall, shoulder to shoulder. I told him all about my latest fuck-up, too exhausted by how much it had been bothering me to be able to cry, even if that feeling was in my throat the entire time. I appreciated his support at those times more than ever, how he still managed to see beyond my stupid behaviours to the person beneath.
I ended up lounging on the bed with my legs across his lap. I felt the heat and weight of his laptop on my knees while I dozed off. When he decided to sleep he didn’t go to the sofa or take my free room, or even – God forbid – wake me up so I would move. No, he slept with me. That narrow single bed that could barely fit his broad frame, and we were both squished on it.
I woke up with him spooning me. Hot air tickled the back of my neck in the slow rhythm of his breathing. It was a chilly January morning and he just felt so… warm. We were both still fully dressed and the duvet was beneath us. There was that drowsy cold in my bones.
My jeans were already tight from morning wood. I shifted my head and felt his nose and lips on my neck. He didn’t really kiss me, I was just pushing my skin against his mouth, but whatever happened, I let out an involuntary moan. His arm tightened around my chest.
He moved. With one fidgeting motion he ground his crotch against my arse. He was hard. Jesus Christ, he was hard. I could feel it so clearly. My breath hitched and I pushed back against him, wanting to feel it again. His chest pressed against my spine, his knees tucked into the bend of my legs.
He tried to roll onto his back but only got about halfway before the wall was there. I rolled with him. My hand went to his dick without thinking. The tracksuits weren’t thick like my jeans to conceal it. My groping fingers could feel every inch of him through the soft fabric. I was waking him up. His eyes opened and stared at me as I leant over him, my lips hovering above his, palm stroking. There was finally that flicker in his eyelids, that someone else was touching him somewhere sensitive.
But he didn’t give in to it. He avoided my kiss to look down at himself, forehead bumping my nose. His fingers closed around my wrist.
“I’m sorry, Ty. I’m just not interested.”
That croaky morning voice sounded so much the opposite of his words, but I let him go. How was he so calm with a raging boner? I almost couldn’t breathe from the tight knot in my stomach. He staggered up and left, and I heard the bathroom door shut. I had to relieve myself right there on his bed, before he came back. Not like it took long for me to come. It was powerful, and left me gasping, but there wasn’t a contentment afterwards. I knew I had to stop this.
I’m ashamed when I think back to it. Why couldn’t I leave him alone sooner? I’m still amazed that he put up with all my shit. Luckily he never got angry enough to do more than the occasional shove when I went too far. I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of his violence.
I had seen what happened when his fist connected with someone’s face.
Didn’t I mention there was a second reason why Zack made things rough? It wasn’t just my stupid hormones. We had some legitimate problems, too.
See, the main driving force behind Zack’s discipline to move forwards with his life was that he was escaping his childhood. He had grown up in a fucking shithole, and seen the worst that there was to see of society, tossed around between foster homes. I’m not entirely sure how he got out so unscathed.
With every year, he was cutting ties to his past. It had to be a gradual thing, though. One bridge burnt at a time. Some of those bridges stayed standing longer than others.
He had an easy way to make money, and he took it while we lived our skint student lives. Do you know what drug running is? It’s where someone pays you a lot of money to transport their shit. He picked up stuff from the neighbouring city’s airport and took it to dealers. These people had known Zack since he was a boy, and they trusted him.
It’s a really simple job. Especially when you’re so well known within the ranks. But the amount of shit that job could get Zack into was unbelievable. One time when he came back looking the closest to beaten up I’d ever seen him, I insisted I was going with him next time. He rejected. Of course he did. I don’t know how I ever changed his mind. Would I have taken me along on a job like that?
The shit we got into. I think it was the consequences of mixing with some of those people, and the situations you could find yourself in. A lot of the time there was nothing wrong with the events of the job itself, it was that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time at 3am.
Going back to our car to find two men breaking into it. Having to go through a damn crack house because the dealer was too sketchy to come outside for five fucking minutes. I have too many tales.
Zack was intrigued by the workings of the drug trade, though. I could tell. It was a thing of art in some ways. All those methods we took to keep us ‘safe’ and undiscovered.
Safe. What a joke. I learnt something about myself on those runs. The high energies I lived life on meant I could fight just fine when I really needed to. That, and Zack and I made a good team. Some of those situations were… exhilarating, in a way I hadn’t known before.
If it became fun at one point, reality came crashing back down. Zack dragged me to hospital with a knife wound that just wouldn’t stop bleeding. I remember being carried before I passed out from bloodloss. At the worst of times I don’t know how we got out alive. The taste of grit as my face hit the concrete and the pain of fists and kicks could unleash a primal survival instinct. The things the body could endure were remarkable.
Zack burnt the bridge when we killed someone.
Well, Zack killed someone.
The man shot at me and missed. Zack wrestled the gun from him and shot back. He wasn’t thinking. The body crumpled to the floor and we ran. We ran to the car. We got in. We sat in silence. Zack was trembling so much that we swapped seats and I had to drive. At that point I didn’t even have my license.
Guns aren’t common in England.
Maybe I should have explained this first. I want you to understand what Zack meant to me. The shit we went through.
It wasn’t the very first time I had seen him. He briefly appeared when I called around to Amelia’s and Zack’s one evening. I was sitting in the lounge, talking with Lia, when Zack got up to answer the door. I could hear their voices from the hallway, Tyler’s slightly higher one against Zack’s gruff one. Then two sets of footsteps thundered up the stairs.
The door had slowly swung open when they came back down, so I got a glimpse. He was carrying a box and I could see the strain of its weight on his arms. Whatever was inside clanked a bit when he adjusted it. I liked the sound of his voice, but back then, he looked a little different. He looked… rough. He was messily unshaven, an unzipped grey hoodie slung over his shoulders. A little like the type of person who would stop you on the street when they were drunk. Maybe when they were sober, too. Dare I say it, thuggish.
He peered into the lounge, studying me for a moment.
“That’s your boss?”
“Yeah,” Zack said. Tyler let out this short laugh and headed for the door.
“Don’t mind me, then.”
“Do you want to stay a bit?”
It was a very sharp ‘no’, like he wanted to get out the door as fast as possible. Zack shut it behind him and came in looking less serene than before.
“A friend?” I asked.
“Yeah. That’s Tyler.”
I had heard plenty of stories by then. And I would hear more.
Tyler still had a bit of that ‘bad boy’ look about him. It wasn’t something obvious. A few small things coming together into one vibe. His hair was shorter at the sides of his head, longer at the top in fauxhawk style. His beard was trimmed down into an attractive goatee, hugging his upper lip and chin. Sometimes when he smiled at Zack, his lips curled back into more of a snarl. The banter between them was quite something.
I knew he had been through rough things if he had grown up beside Zack, but he looked like someone who was finally maturing beyond it. He hadn’t shaved a gap in his left eyebrow, there was genuinely a scar there. He was dressed in a red and black checkered shirt, the top two buttons undone, showing the faint glisten of a thin silver chain against his skin.
He was… interesting. There was potential in him.
Life moved on. It always did. And Zack usually seemed fine with it when I wasn’t.
I was so happy when he finally got together with Amelia. I really was. My spark for him died down long before we finished our studies. I went as best man to his wedding, and it was one of the best days of my life. And it wasn’t even about me.
It had been one of those things brewing for a while. He met her through university – she was a couple years older than him, someone who was involved in organising internships. She was stinking rich. She was the princess and he was the pauper, and she fell in love with him. He deserved it. He deserved her.
I was glad she wasn’t a complete snob. She talked a lot, about deep things. She listened to our stories and was interested in hearing about all those parts of society that had always been beneath her nose. It was in those times you could see how big her heart was – she talked about what technology could do to improve lives.
Technology, you see. She was into the same things as me. I had grown less and less interested in business studies the longer I took it. I’m not really sure when it started. Maybe it was the way I became everyone’s go-to man to fix their laptops or desktops. I always had to have the latest smartphone. I’d spend hours online, reading articles on scientific things that were well beyond me, but I was interested all the same. I became almost entirely self-taught.
She had brown hair and brown eyes like me. We talked all the time, because we were so similar. We also argued because we were too similar. I think I did all the arguing with Zack’s wife so he didn’t have to. Sometimes I felt like he’d just gone and married a female version of myself.
And sometimes, she gave me a little tingle in my stomach. And lower. She was slim, wonderfully narrow waisted with these delicate hands and wrists. She had so much energy, one of those women always bouncing around on her feet when she was happy about something, clapping in glee. And it made her breasts bounce in well-fitting clothes. And it could be mesmerizing.
No. Don’t start on his wife when you just got over him. You fucking idiot.
I really had to get myself sorted. I was so confused.
I thought, during my teenage and student years, that I was going through a phase. I thought I was going to ‘find myself’ at some point, become so confident and self-assured like Zack was.
At some point I had to end up gay or straight. I would stop hovering in the middle. Right?
It was difficult. I never felt like I was taken seriously. Straight friends thought I was straight, because I fucked girls; I was just such a horny bastard that I didn’t turn down gay guys when they made a move on me. Gay friends, they thought I was gay; I was just sleeping with girls to conform to society pressures. They thought I hadn’t fully come out the closet yet. That I was afraid, or something.
“Some people are genuinely bi,” Amelia said to me.
I was so exhaused of this being a thing by then. “Why don’t people accept that, then?”
“Because people want things to be black and white.”
“But it’s not.”
“No. It’s not.”
Yes, life moved on. Amelia opened up new doors to Zack. He had experienced the very lowest of the lows of society, and now he was experiencing the dizzying heights. The corporate world. The companies that ran everything. Money in the right pockets that fuelled civilisation. Rich bastards everywhere.
Amelia went hand in hand with one of these companies. She had one of those long job titles to let you know she was important, a role that was essentially right hand of the CEO. She was head of her whole own department.
Zack got a job there. After a short while he was an assistant to the CEO. It didn’t take him long to rise, and nepotism from Amelia was probably to thank for that.