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By Trina Solet
Copyright © 2014 by Trina Solet
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, locales or actual events is entirely coincidental.
All sexual activity takes place between persons eighteen years of age or older.
This novel contains material intended for mature readers.
Cover image is only for illustrative purposes. Any person depicted is a model.
By Trina Solet
Saturday morning, as he made coffee, Duncan heard the commotion outside his door. He vaguely remembered that someone would be moving into the vacant apartment down the hall. As the noise faded, Duncan looked out the window. He could see a rented moving van parked along the curb in front. It sat under the trees that lined the sidewalk. There would probably be more noise as furniture was carried in by amateurs yelling at each other. At least it would break up the monotony of his day.
All his days seemed interchangeable and gray. After the breakup with Jason, Duncan found it difficult to get himself going in the morning, but weekends were much worse. There was no reason to get out of bed. He would have rather been at work, not contemplating another empty weekend. Months ago, he had put Melissa in charge of the store in the evenings and on weekends. He had promoted her so he could spend more time with Jason. Now there was no point to all that free time he had given himself, but he couldn't demote Melissa just because he had nothing to do. She worked hard to put herself through grad school. She shouldn't have to suffer because of his disastrous love life. Unfortunately, with her in charge, there wasn't much for Duncan to do at the store. Whenever he went in on his days off, he kind of felt in the way. Plus Melissa gave him those compassionate looks. It was like she was telling him, "I know you're lonely and you need to keep busy so you don't think about Jason. I understand." Imagining that look was enough to keep him out of her way.
Now Duncan had to force himself to get through two empty days. Looking forward to Monday and wishing that the weekend was over were sure signs that he was in pretty bad shape. He didn't even care if the new neighbors were noisy and obnoxious. It was hard to make himself care about anything.
The coffee was just starting to brew, filling the air with its welcome aroma. While he waited for the coffeemaker to finish, Duncan noticed that the space on the side table that should be covered with junk mail was empty. That meant he forgot to bring in the mail Friday. Key in hand, Duncan went down to the mailboxes.
As he walked out of the elevator, Duncan saw a young guy and a girl around eight or nine trying to rig the double doors to the building to stay open. One door was already open, but the other one was missing the little leg that folds down.
"Use your sneaker," the girl said. She had dark hair and blue eyes as did the young man. Duncan thought they might be brother and sister.
"Give me your sneaker," the young guy said to her.
"Exactly. Look for something we can jam in here," he told her.
As the girl went outside, Duncan noticed a catalog in the bundle of mail waiting in his mailbox.
"This might work," Duncan said to the young man and offered him the catalog.
"Hey, thanks," the guy said and smiled up at him. He had amazing, dark blue eyes and an infectious smile. Damn. While trying to hide his flustered reaction, Duncan folded up the catalog and wedged it under the door. The young guy stood up, still smiling. He looked to be in his early twenties with a good, strong build.
"Are we going to be neighbors?" he asked Duncan. He sounded hopeful.
"If you're moving in. I'm on the fourth floor."
"We are neighbors! That's great." He then pointed at the rented van parked in front. "That's us. All our worldly possessions. We're just waiting for some friends so we can lug that stuff in."
"If you need an extra pair of hands, I'm free," Duncan said.
For a second the guy just stared.
"You're volunteering to help me move?" He sounded incredulous.
"I have an empty weekend ahead of me." Duncan shrugged. He probably shouldn't admit to that, but he had never been good at pretending.
"Have all your electronic devices died simultaneously?" the young guy asked, still finding it hard to believe that anyone would rather help him move than do anything else.
"I'm having second thoughts about offering my help." Duncan liked the idea of feeling useful, but not if this guy was going to make him feel like a complete loser about it.
"Sorry, but I had to threaten and bribe my friends to help out. Free lunch and helping you move at some future, unspecified date, that's what you just got yourself in exchange."
"I'll probably take you up on both," Duncan told him.
"It's a deal," he said, and they shook on it. "By the way, I'm Patrick."
Hearing the name only as background noise to his beating heart, Duncan had to remind himself to breathe. From his hand, he felt Patrick's warm, firm grip travel all through him and take hold of his dick. Damn, it was that easy to break his composure. All it took was a pair of blue eyes, an open, smiling face, dark hair, and a body made to be stripped naked. Even as he was painfully reminded of Jason's blue eyes and blond hair, his slimmer frame, Duncan couldn't shake off the effects of this other young guy. Maybe that was because he was right in front of him, unlike Jason, who was probably in the arms of some other man.
Just then Duncan realized that he hadn't introduced himself. That's probably why Patrick was staring at him with that expectant smile.
"No. Not him. No. He's no good," the dark haired young girl said as she walked back into the lobby. She looked from Patrick to Duncan with disapproval.
"Honey..." Patrick started to say.
"No. You can't have him," she insisted. "I found someone better. Come on." She tried to pull Patrick away.
"I'm talking to our neighbor," Patrick told her, not letting her budge him one inch away from Duncan.
"Then it's OK," she said, letting go.
"She thought you were hitting on me," Patrick explained.
"You must get that a lot," Duncan said. It was a safe bet that guys were all over him.
"Not nearly enough." After a pause, Patrick said, "That was a hint."
"Are you asking me to hit on you?" Duncan said. He was glad to confirm that his new neighbor was gay even if he wasn't planning to take advantage of that fact.
"Would it kill you to hit on me a little?" Patrick asked.
The girl said, "Don't!"
"Hi. I'm Duncan Jeffries. Welcome to the building," Duncan said instead of making a pass.
For some reason Patrick looked surprised.
"Seriously? I'm Patrick Duncan, and this is my sister, Wendy Duncan. Hear that? He's a Duncan too," he said to his sister.
"Huh! Neat," she said looking at Duncan with a little more interest and approval now, but something more important was distracting her. She turned to her brother. "Come quick. I found a good one. Come on, hurry."
"A what?" Patrick asked.
"A cute guy for you," Wendy said. She was pulling on his arm again.
"Don't let me keep you," Duncan said as Patrick looked back at him.
"Don't you want to see what she considers a good one?" Patrick said, not moving.
"OK," Duncan agreed. He was a little curious.
"No, Patrick," Wendy objected. "He'll steal him."
"If he steals him then it wasn't meant to be," Patrick told her mock-seriously.
As they went out onto the sidewalk, Duncan wasn't surprised that he wasn't a good candidate. He knew he didn't look like much, especially on a Saturday morning when he hadn't even done one thing to make himself presentable. Patrick didn't seem to mind his lack of effort. Maybe he liked the unkempt look.
After a few steps, Wendy pointed out a young guy who was leaning against an SUV parked a little further away. The guy she was pointing at was busy on his phone and didn't notice them. With longish, light brown hair swept to the side and a striped green and white hoodie, he was adorable but obviously too young even for Patrick.
"That's what she likes. I can't say I'm surprised," Duncan said. At thirty-four, he definitely couldn't compete with that.
"Wendy, go ask him how old he is," Patrick told his sister.
As she ran off, Duncan was alarmed.
"You encourage her to talk to strange guys?"
"I'm supervising," Patrick said. Then he told him, "I know him."
Wendy went eagerly but came back crestfallen.
"He's no good," she said.
"Why?" Patrick asked her though he obviously already knew.
"He's jailbait," she said, pouting.
Duncan burst out laughing.
"It's not funny," Wendy told him as they all walked back to the rented van. "He was really cute."
"We'll find someone better," Patrick told her. He was busy unlocking the back of the van.
"But not him," she said indicating Duncan.
"Can Duncan and I just be friends?" Patrick said.
She thought hard about that, she frowned then decided.
"If you have to."
"I think we do," Patrick said with a smirk. He looked over at Duncan in a disconcerting way that made him want to strip Patrick, shove his beautiful body into the nearest hard surface and kiss the hell out of him to start with. Duncan held his breath and tried to keep his face neutral. The last thing he wanted to do was encourage Patrick by letting him see how attracted he was to him.
Patrick opened the back of the van and then drew back daunted by everything that was crammed in there.
"The lady lamp!" Wendy said suddenly and went to the passenger side of the van. She got something out carefully then told Patrick she was going to take it upstairs. She went up carrying a box with a small lamp that had a porcelain figurine as its base with a parasol as the lampshade.
"That's precious to her," Patrick said. "She was cradling it in her lap on the drive over to keep it safe. It was our mom's. Our dad bought it at some flea market and brought it home proudly for Mom. Mom thought it was hideous at first. But the longer it sat on her bedside table, the more she fell in love with it."
From the way Patrick spoke about his parents, Duncan could tell that something had happened to them.
Patrick now pointed back up the street. The cute young guy Wendy had discovered was walking toward them along with a young man a little older than him. The older one had the same light brown hair, but his was cut in a more conservative style.
"That's some of my moving help. It's Cory and his brother, Ben. Come on, I'll introduce you," Patrick said.
They all shook hands, Ben only after his older brother clapped him on the back. Though he wore glasses and looked in every way like a nerd, Cory seemed more energetic and physically fit than his younger brother.
"You work fast," Cory said to Patrick as they went to the back of the van. He looked at Duncan like he was impressed by what he saw. Duncan couldn't imagine what he could find impressive about him.
"Yeah, but I can't get Wendy's seal of approval," Patrick said as he lifted a box.
"I saw her trying to recruit useless Ben over here," Cory said of his brother.
Hearing this, Ben tried to walk back where he came from. He did it without a word and without looking away from his phone or changing his expression. Cory grabbed the hood of his hoodie and dragged him back.
"Thanks for coming, Ben," Patrick said to him. "But you'll need to carry something other than your phone if you want me to feed you. Grab a box," he told him. After Ben reluctantly put away his phone, Patrick handed him the box he was holding.
Boxes were blocking everything else in the van so they went up first. The friends who had helped load the van were supposed to come by, but they were late. Patrick texted them as they stacked the elevator with boxes. Seeing that the cardboard flaps had labels in a very neat but childish hand, Duncan guessed they were labeled by Wendy.
When the elevator doors opened on the fourth floor, Wendy was waiting at the door of the apartment.
"He can't come in," she said blocking the door. She was talking about Ben. "He's jailbait."
"Who is she, the bouncer?" Ben said as he set down the box he was carrying. "Here, have a look." He pulled out his ID.
"Put away your fake ID, Ben," Cory told him coming up behind them.
"Wendy, that's Ben. He's Cory's brother. I told you they're helping us move," Patrick reminded her.
"He's already out of school so he's staying with me for the summer," Cory said and kissed Wendy on the cheek as he went in.
As Wendy let Ben in reluctantly, Duncan looked around at their apartment. Bare, it looked a lot like his. Wendy bustled around trying to figure out where things should go based on some hand-drawn plans on a legal pad.
"I guess you're in charge," Duncan said.
Hearing that, she looked kind of scared.
"We can only bring in one thing at a time so don't worry about it," her brother reassured her.
As Duncan was setting down a box according to directions from Wendy, she showed him the lamp she had carried up earlier.
"That was Mom's. Dad gave it to her. When I was little, I always wanted to play with it. And one time when I was sick, Mom brought it into my room and left it on all night to keep me company." She looked sad, and Duncan again wondered what had happened to their parents.
Seeing that he was just standing there, Wendy sent him back to work. Later, when she caught him smiling at Patrick over a dresser they carried into the bedroom, she warned him, "Don't you get any ideas, Duncan the Third."
"I won't. Just friends," Duncan vowed, more for his own benefit than hers.
"OK. We can be friends too," she said to him. "You work hard. You're not lazy like Jailbait."
Ben did do a minimum of work and a maximum of texting.
"Don't call me that!" Ben told her. "And this is what free moving help looks like. You want better, hire some big, burly men to heft your stuff."
"He has important texts to attend to," Cory said as he came through carrying a small table with the help of another of Patrick's friends.
Duncan noticed that his friends were all college kids except for Cory who was only a little older. Being in his mid thirties, Duncan felt old in their midst. That didn't stop Patrick from giving him a come hither look whenever he got the chance. It was good for Duncan's ego, but not for his peace of mind.
Though they weren't well organized, and they took an extra long break for lunch, everything made it up to the apartment eventually. As Patrick's friends cleared out, Duncan thought he should do the same so Patrick and Wendy could finish unpacking.
"You're not leaving too, are you?" Wendy asked.
"He helped enough, honey," Patrick told her. To Duncan he said, "Thank you for pitching in. I definitely owe you one."
"It's no problem. As I told you, I had nothing better to do."
"Then you can stay," Wendy jumped in to say.
Patrick looked at Duncan.
"I think you've done enough, but if you want to hang out while we unpack and help us order dinner, that would be great."
Ignoring the voice in his head that told him to leave right now, Duncan accepted Patrick's low-key invitation. He helped Patrick shift some of the furniture that wasn't in the right place while Wendy was in the kitchen unpacking the food. As a reward for the extra work, Duncan got to watch Patrick's muscles flex as he worked. The words beautiful and dangerous alternated in his mind as did the warning "He's all wrong because he's just right."
As he ogled him amidst mental confusion, Duncan almost missed that Patrick was asking him where he worked.
"I practically work where I live. I own a little kitchenware store right around the corner. The Copper Kettle. Not my idea. It already had that name when I bought it," he said defensively.
"You must be into cooking," Patrick said.
"Only a little bit. It was just a good business opportunity. I wanted to own my own business, and the place had a lot of potential."
"I'll make sure to check it out," Patrick said.
Now Duncan wanted to know more about him.
"Most of your friends are in college, what about you?" Duncan asked him. He had heard the rest of them mention classes, but Patrick only said a few things about work.
"I had to quit. I needed a full time job after our parents died. My job title is Resources Coordinator at the Bartley Hotel. There are a couple of us. I mainly deal with people arranging special events, conferences, corporate events, that kind of thing."
"Not weddings?" Duncan said since that was the kind of event he imagined a hotel might be used for.
"Not at the Bartley. It isn't exactly pretty. It's functional, geared toward business types. It's designed to make people who work in cubicles feel right at home."
"I know, but it pays the bills. It was scary at first when I realized I had to support myself and Wendy. Cory helped me get the job at the hotel. He's like my big brother. He took me under his wing in my first year of college. I was sure we'd lose touch when he graduated, but Cory didn't let that happen. And he was there during the worst time in my life."
"He seems capable," Duncan said. "The only one who was more take-charge was Wendy."
"I consider him the perfect nerd role model for Wendy," Patrick said.
"I think you're a good role model yourself. Though Wendy seems like more of a leader than a follower."
"She's a bossy little thing," Patrick agreed.
Just then Wendy proved her bossiness by calling them into the kitchen to put away the things that went on the top shelves.
Duncan took care of ordering dinner from a place that made amazing panini. It seemed like the right thing after a day of moving. Wendy was so enthusiastic about them, Duncan decided a panini press would be a perfect housewarming gift for their new home. As he sat down with them to eat in that ramshackle kitchen, he felt so good that the feeling scared him. Then Patrick's knee brushed his under the small kitchen table, and Duncan shuddered. He again hoped Patrick didn't notice how strongly Duncan reacted to every touch from him. Patrick was telling Wendy how Ben tripped over the front step then got mad and stomped on it. Wendy laughed, but she admitted that she got mad at things that tripped her up too.
Patrick reminded Wendy that her room had to be put in order next since she would be going to bed first. Realizing that after her bedtime, he might be left alone with Patrick, Duncan decided it was time to go. When he left them, Patrick was helping Wendy unpack a few things that would make her room cozy for when she went to sleep. Duncan looked around one last time before he went out the door. Now that it wasn't empty, this apartment seemed nothing like his own. It had warmth and life even though here and there he could see treasured mementos of lost parents. Somehow, even those sad reminders made the place more alive. But mostly it was Patrick and Wendy. They made Duncan wish that he didn't have to leave.
As he walked into the safe haven of his dark apartment, Duncan knew leaving wasn't enough. After almost the whole day spent together, Patrick was too much with him. Turning on the light in the hallway, Duncan blinked at the sudden glare and saw a vision of Patrick smiling at him, taking sweet possession of him, telling him it was too late to run.
Sunday morning, Patrick woke up a little sore but pretty damn happy. He owed his good mood to their new neighbor. His head was filled with those blue-gray eyes like the sky on a cold day, but so beautiful and kind of sad. They alone made Patrick want to kiss his serious mouth until there was no trace of sadness there, only lust for him. Patrick groaned because Duncan wasn't right there to kiss and maul, but then he smiled again at the thought that he was right across the hall.
As he sat up in bed and threw the covers off, Patrick tried to think about the last guy that had him waking up with a smile in addition to the hard-on. Since his parents' death almost two years ago, Patrick hadn't felt a strong attraction for any man. Sure there was a flicker now and then, but this thing Duncan stirred up in him was a lot more than that. He couldn't believe his luck. Such a great guy was only a few steps from his front door. Patrick would have to make sure they ran into each other a lot.
As he got up, Patrick could hear Wendy puttering around. The new place still needed straightening up, but a more pressing problem weighed on Patrick's mind. Wendy needed somewhere to go after school on Monday. She used to stay with Mr. and Mrs. Ortiz, the retired couple who owned their old apartment building. They liked having Wendy around and let her play with their two little dogs. When they sold the building, Patrick had to find a new apartment and something for Wendy to do after school as well. He thought he had a solution when he found an after school program that would accept her even though the school year was so close to being over. Then it turned out there was a miscommunication, and she wasn't accepted after all. Since Cory's brother wasn't busy, Patrick called to ask him if he could stay with Wendy after school.
"Babysitting?" Ben said when Cory put him on.
Patrick could hear him making a face.
"Come over, hang out. It's not like you have to change her diapers," Patrick told him.
"Patrick!" Wendy objected, having overheard him. She came over to hang on his arm and eavesdrop.
"Only if she stops calling me jailbait," Ben said.
"Never!" Wendy yelled.
"He'll do it," Cory said, getting on the phone. "You want to stay with me, you'll make yourself useful," he told Ben.
"Thanks guys," Patrick told them. Cory was coming through for him again.
After he gave Ben the specifics and got off the phone, Patrick found Wendy frowning at him.
"Whyyyyy?" she whined.
"It won't be that bad. You thought he was cute when you first saw him," Patrick reminded her.
"That was before I knew he was jailbait. He's useless to us now."
"He's not useless. He's helping us out."
"I told you I can stay by myself," she said.
"I would worry too much, and I wouldn't be able to concentrate at work," he told her. It wasn't always easy to convince her that she was still a little kid.
She sighed, accepting the inevitable.
"You want to walk around and explore the neighborhood," he offered. "We'll see if there's somewhere good to have breakfast."
Wendy agreed enthusiastically.
Last night, Duncan had fallen asleep so quickly, exhausted into peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. It was nice not to lie in bed awake, thinking about a man who didn't love him and didn't lose one minute of sleep thinking about him. Though chances were, if he had lost sleep, Duncan would have spent last night obsessing over Patrick not Jason.
Getting out of bed, Duncan noticed that he wasn't a hundred percent. He was sore all over because he wanted to show off for his hot, young neighbor. He would have to watch that. A guy like that living so close, that was temptation coming right to his doorstep. Duncan wondered if he could count on Patrick's little sister to keep them apart.
As he walked through the living room into the kitchen, Duncan thought his apartment looked more drab than usual. Having moved in only a few months ago, Duncan still wasn't used to calling this featureless space his home. It didn't feel like a home, but then no place did. That house by Deerbourne Creek was supposed to be his home, his and Jason's. Now it was just prime real estate. It was only a matter of time before he put it on the market. Unable to live in the house that he was supposed to share with Jason, Duncan had chosen this apartment simply because it was close to The Copper Kettle. The apartment was just a container, somewhere to put himself.
Just as he was settling down with his cup of coffee and a newspaper, Stacy called. She always checked in with him on weekends and tried to include him in her plans. She was his best friend, and he enjoyed her company but not if socializing with too many people was involved. Some if his other friends made similar efforts to get him out there, some even tried to set him up. Duncan refused most of their offers. He just had to work through this on his own. Stacy mostly understood that.
When he told her that he had helped someone move, she asked him if he was a masochist.
"That's what he said," Duncan told her. He couldn't go without mentioning his new neighbor to her.
"The guy who moved in. A young guy with a little sister."
"A young guy? Ooh, that's hitting your weak spot." Stacy knew Duncan found younger guys irresistible.
"The universe wants me to suffer," Duncan said though being with Patrick certainly hadn't felt like suffering.
"Maybe he'll shake you up and wake you up. Why not let him lick your wounds?" Stacy's voice was just as suggestive as her words.
"I'm still recuperating," Duncan said to cut her off.
"Nothing better for that than a hot, young guy. I speak from experience. He is hot, isn't he?" Stacy asked.
"Very. But I figured out the hard way that my taste in men isn't compatible with what I want in life," Duncan told her. The knowledge was hard-won. He would be a fool to ignore it.
"It seems to me like you've sworn off all men, not just the younger ones," Stacy accused him. Then in a milder voice she urged him, "Just go for it. Let him help you forget Jason and his lies. Have some fun."
"My new neighbor isn't someone you just play around with. His little sister is living with him because they lost their parents. He isn't just some hot young thing, and that means serious potential for hurt."
"OK, I guess he isn't ideal for a quick, soul healing fling," Stacy said. Seeing his point but not giving up, she added, "You can't sit in that little cube forever." As an interior decorator, she had a very low opinion of his nondescript apartment.
"I'll know when I'm ready," Duncan assured her.
"I don't get a vote?"
After finishing up with Stacy, Duncan stood up with his empty coffee cup in hand and stretched carefully. Other than being sore, Duncan was also at loose ends. With the new neighbor on his mind, it was worse than all the pointless free time he had before. Now he didn't just feel aimless and bored, he felt antsy and confined. He wanted to lurk in the hallway to try to run into Patrick. That was unacceptable behavior especially in a man his age. Even though it wouldn't make Melissa happy, Duncan decided to go to the store. She didn't feel like she was really in charge if he was lurking around, but bothering Melissa was better than going stir crazy and stalking his new neighbor.
As he stepped out the front doors of the building, Duncan ran into Patrick and his sister. What was the universe trying to do to him? Standing on the sidewalk, they looked like they were deciding which way to go. Wendy was the first to notice Duncan.
"Duncan the Third!" she greeted him happily.
As he turned, Patrick gave him a big smile and a quiet "Good morning."
"Don't you ever shave?" Wendy asked, looking at Duncan's beard critically.
"Back off, Wendy. Maybe he likes the scruffy look," Patrick told her.
"But I don't," Wendy said.
"You don't get to decide," Patrick said.
Wendy grumbled and frowned at Duncan's facial hair.
"I was just going to drop in at The Copper Kettle and see if I can make myself useful," Duncan said and pointed in the direction of the store.
Wendy wanted to know what The Copper Kettle was. Once he told her, she said, "Can we go too? Let's go."
"Wait to be invited," Patrick told her.
"It's a store. You don't need to be invited," Duncan told her. Seeing Patrick's expectant look, Duncan said, "But you are welcome to come and see it."
"That's all I'm asking for," Patrick said in a low, teasing voice. "Make me feel wanted."
"You're going to be in trouble if Wendy hears you flirting with me," Duncan warned him.
She didn't because she was walking ahead of them. As they strolled toward the store, Patrick told Duncan that they were exploring the neighborhood and asked him to recommend a place to eat. Duncan mentioned a few places and suppressed his wish to accompany them. They arrived at The Copper Kettle just then, and Wendy went in first.
"You don't have any customers," Wendy said worriedly when she saw that the store was almost empty.
"It's early. We just opened," Duncan told her. "Feel free to look around."
She looked like she was waiting for him to say that. Dying to poke around, she zipped through the aisles trying to take in everything.
In the meantime, Duncan introduced Patrick to Melissa.
"We have to buy lots of stuff from here," Wendy decided once she got back to her brother.
"That's the kind of customer we like," Melissa told her.
After Duncan introduced the two of them, Arthur, his other employee, came in. Unlike Melissa, who had only widened her eyes briefly when Duncan came in with Patrick, Arthur practically congratulated Duncan and Patrick on their upcoming nuptials. He also slipped in a few references to his own boyfriend as he always did. Not wanting to put up with Arthur's insinuations if he stayed at the store, Duncan offered to take Patrick and Wendy on a tour of the neighborhood. Or he might have done it for other reasons. He just couldn't help it, and seeing Patrick's face brighten at his offer made it more than worth it.
"You can get away?" Patrick said.
"Melissa can handle things here. She's the weekend and evening manager, and she likes me out of her hair," Duncan said loud enough for her to hear.
She gave him an apologetic grin, but she didn't disagree.
First Duncan took them to breakfast at a crepe place that got Wendy's full endorsement.
"I'm guessing you're more of a bacon and eggs man," Duncan said since Patrick ordered a savory crepe with a mushroom and prosciutto filling.
"I default to cereal," Patrick said. "But I'll cook up some eggs when I'm feeling ambitious. And I wouldn't turn up my nose at a pancake or a waffle either."
Unfortunately, talking about what kind of breakfast Patrick liked just made Duncan think unseemly thoughts. After a tiring night of exertion in his arms, a man deserved whatever kind of breakfast he liked. Duncan could see himself serving it up to Patrick in bed after waking him with a slow and thorough blowjob. Duncan wondered if slamming his head into the edge of the table would make those kinds of thoughts go away.
"You're a good tour guide, Duncan the Third," Wendy said as Duncan showed them around the neighborhood. He told them which stores were open late and when they usually got fresh produce.
"Couldn't you just call him Duncan?" Patrick said.
Wendy flatly refused.
"You ask her to stop calling you that. She won't listen to me," Patrick said to him.
"Wendy, could you just call me Duncan?" Duncan said very mildly.
"No," Wendy said, but she smiled at him sweetly.
That was good enough for Duncan.
"Didn't you hear? Duncan the Third would like you to stop calling him that," Patrick insisted.
"You made him say it. It doesn't count."
Their argumentative tone would confirm them as brother and sister even without the resemblance. Duncan could imagine them arguing on and on, exasperating their parents. But that was all over for them now. Their relationship had shifted. Patrick wasn't just Wendy’s brother any more. With their parents gone, he had to take their place.
"We need to go bathroom shopping," Wendy whispered, cutting through Duncan's serious thoughts.
"Why didn't you go at the crepe place?" Patrick asked, clearing up Duncan's confusion.
"I didn't need to go then. Now let's find somewhere nice," she said.
Patrick sighed as Duncan tried to think of a good place for that sort of thing. They went into one of the nicer department stores. A blast of perfume scented, air-conditioned air hit them. They walked around until they saw the sign for the restrooms.
"Wait here and pretend to be shopping," Wendy instructed them.
They were next to a display of shoes and handbags.
"We could actually shop," Duncan said.
Wendy turned over a shoe to look at the price tag.
"Oh, no. It's too expensive," Wendy said.
"We'll splurge. It will be on me," Duncan said since the place wasn't out of his price range.
Wendy frowned at him and said, "You have to be careful with your money, Duncan the Third."
"Is she worried about money?" Duncan asked after she went into the ladies' room.
"That's my fault," Patrick said. "I might have stressed our limited budget too much, saving for college, that kind of thing."
"College for Wendy or for you?" Duncan asked though he had a feeling he knew the answer.
"Wendy is the priority. She'll probably get a scholarship, but there are always extra expenses."
"And what about you?"
"I'll probably go back one day," Patrick said like it was no big deal. Obviously Wendy's future was his main concern, not his own.
Once they were back out on the street, Wendy spotted a cute guy at a bus stop. She made them stop as she pointed him out to Patrick and warned Duncan not to try and steal him.
"What's the cute guy doing?" Patrick asked her.
"He's doing something on his phone," Wendy said.
"You want a guy who will ignore me and stare at his phone the whole time like Ben?" Patrick asked.
"No," she said. She now frowned at the guy with disapproval and they moved on.
Once she was a little ahead of them, Patrick told Duncan, "She takes this very seriously. She feels bad that I don't have a boyfriend. She thinks my ex left because of her."
"Did he?" Duncan asked. He pictured Jason if he had been faced with a boyfriend who suddenly had full responsibility for his kid sister.
"No. It was just bad timing. Mitch and I were already drifting apart, doing more stuff with our friends instead of with each other. Mitch just didn't want to break up with me so soon after my parents died. I couldn't deal with that issue myself. We stuck it out until I was ready to end it. He was basically a good guy. By then Wendy was living with me, and I couldn't convince her that Mitch didn't break up with me because of her. I think she didn't like him and wanted him gone. Kids feel guilty when something bad they wished for actually happens," Patrick said as he looked at Wendy stopping to look into a store window. Then he turned his attention on Duncan. "And what's your story?"
"I'm just taking it easy. Things didn't end well with my last boyfriend. We were on different wavelengths."
It was a minimum of information but even with so little to go on, Patrick must have been able to tell that there was pain behind those few words.
"I hate him already," Patrick said. "For getting to have you and for breaking your heart."
"Is it that obvious that my heart is broken?" Duncan asked. He was really not good at pretending.
"At least it taught me a lesson that I need to stay away from young guys."
Patrick clearly did not like hearing that.
"Maybe you learned the wrong lesson."
"What's the right lesson?" Duncan asked.
"Don't give away your heart until you can't help it."
"That's a lesson?"