Chapter 1

SEPTEMBER 5, 1996, 2:00 p.m.

Soaking wet and shivering, Thomas Marks kicked the door closed behind him as he entered his apartment, his arms full of grocery bags, including a large bag of ice. Small and shabby, the living room that greeted him was never particularly welcoming even on the best of days, but today, it was particularly hard to love. Its one charm, the afternoon sun that poured thorough the sliding glass door when the weather was nice, had been chased away by the storm raging outside. Jerking his head in the direction of the loud crash, Tommy marveled at the accompanying streak of lightning. For a fleeting second, the brilliance put a shine over the dull beige on every wall surrounding him but soon faded back into its enduring dreariness. Add the empty stillness and unsettling silence and he might as well have been taking a midnight stroll through a cemetery. Fitting, since the imminent arrival of a hurricane had him seriously contemplating his own mortality. Why is it so damn quiet? Where’s Ken?

Sighing, he wiped his feet on the square mat laid out on the tiny stretch of linoleum that passed for a foyer before stepping onto the ragged, old red carpet mocking him wall-to-wall throughout the rental he shared with his best friend. What a dump—at least it was cheap and conveniently located within walking distance of their university and only a ten minute drive to the coast.

Hustling to the small kitchen, he plopped the ice down in the sink and set the grocery bags on the circa 1980, white, Formica countertop. The coffeepot, toaster and drying rack took up most of the space, but there was still enough for a few bags. Limply shaking his hands and arms, he attempted to knock off some of the rain coating his skin like condensation swarming a cup of iced tea. He leaned over the sink, grabbing a handful of dripping-wet, chin-length hair and wringing the excess water into the basin. His soggy clothing stuck to his clammy skin, weighing him down. Even his flip flops were so drenched they squeaked. He gave a full body shiver—this sucks!

Hurrying into his bedroom, he left the haul of snacks and beverages behind as he schlepped over to the adjoining bathroom he shared with Ken Davidson. Opening the shower’s glass door, he reached inside, turning on the water and allowing it to get warm while he stripped naked. Pivoting to the side, he checked out his profile in the mirror before turning face-forward to preen some more. He placed a finger between his sculpted pectorals, tracing the line of definition down over his rocking abdominals and further to his taut navel. Not bad—years of playing every sport he could had put him in peak condition. He turned around, looking over his shoulder while shaking his money-maker in the mirror. Laughing to himself, he moved toward the shower and stepped inside.

Tommy closed his eyes, grateful for the warmth as the water rushed over him and rained down his back. Grabbing a bar of soap, he rubbed it between his hands, building up a good lather. He had already bathed that morning, but a second shower wouldn’t be a bad thing. Trisha was coming over to weather the storm with him and Ken, and he couldn’t greet her looking like a drowned rat or smelling like a wet dog. For a second, he considered using Ken’s special, lavender hair and body wash. Supposedly, the scent had aromatherapy benefits, though Ken swore he used it because his doctor recommended it for his dry scalp and skin. Ken probably wouldn’t mind if he just used a little.

After scrubbing his body with the soap, using the bath brush to get his back and the bottom of his feet, he clicked open Ken’s hair and body wash and held it up to his nose, closing his eyes as he breathed in the fragrance. Interestingly enough, the scent was oddly calming. He would use just a dab for his hair. Maybe the scent would settle the jitters he had been feeling all day.

Twisters tended to be an issue in northern Texas where he and Ken were raised, but he had never experienced a hurricane until moving to attend school at a university in a small coastal town just outside of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He lost his tropical storm virginity to Arthur last June, but luckily moderate surf and light rain had been the worst Arthur had to offer, but the following month, Hurricane Bertha’s intense winds threatened to topple them. They were spared when she made landfall farther north between Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Island, shattering that part of the North Carolina coast and causing about a dozen or so fatalities. Tommy barely had time to catch his breath before Hurricane Edouard showed up, but fortunately, Edouard only amounted to a bit of high surf.

Today, Tommy was staring down Hurricane Fran, and she was in a whole other class. Already, her large swells had required a daring rescue by the coastguard further down the Atlantic coastline and she was still gaining momentum. Her fierce winds had trees swaying, while the heavy rains she was dumping on the coast had the entire area on flashflood watch. He prayed Fran would dwindle away, but if the third time was the charm, the odds weren’t in his favor. Tornados are just as dangerous as hurricanes but something about the image of a funnel cloud rising from the ocean like a Kraken bent on destruction sent a hundred ice-cold pinpricks right up his spine.

Ken had shown little emotion in regards to the storm, but his perpetual stone-faced demeanor wouldn’t allow any signs of fear to crack through, regardless of what he was actually feeling. Trisha had an entirely different attitude that leaned much closer to unbridled aggravation than anxiety or fear. Rather than preparing for the worst, she would be too busy bitching about her tennis shoes getting soaked through to her socks. She really was too stubborn for her own good but her tenacity was one of the things Tommy loved so much about her, even if it often resulted in driving him nuts. Tommy’s nostrils flared as he recalled her refusal to call in sick to work today even though he had called her that morning and practically begged her not to go. Trisha insisted people were going to need their bread and milk and someone had to be at the Pick-and-Save to ring up their purchases. He frowned, shaking his head. Why did it have to be her?

Squirting a dollop of Ken’s shampoo into his hand, Tommy rubbed his palms together before scrubbing his wavy blond locks, bleached bright platinum by many sunny afternoons spent at the beach. After rinsing until he was fresh and squeaky clean, he turned off the water and looked up to where he hung his…Ah shit! He had forgotten to grab a towel. Ken was going to fuss at him for getting the floor wet again. Oh well, he had survived all of Ken’s tirades up until now. What was one more?

Hopping out onto the bathmat, he reached over to the shelf that held their towels, grabbing the top one and pulling it to himself with a short yank. Thick and blue, the white seashell pattern made the terrycloth towels perfect for home or the beach. He dried his face first and rubbed the towel over his hair before drying his body and putting on his deodorant and cologne. Vainly, he smiled at himself in the mirror, raising and lowering his light brown eyebrows a couple of times.

Pretending both of this thumbs and forefingers were guns, he pointed at his reflection, wiggling his fingers in self-adulation before snickering at his own behavior. Looking down at his own cock, he gave it an apologetic squeeze. “Sorry, big guy. I know it’s been a while, but I can’t just go sticking you anywhere tight, wet, attractive, and willing anymore. Trish might think I’m a man-whore.”

He sighed, bemoaning the nearly six-month, self-imposed dry spell he was enduring—the longest he had ever gone taking care of business on his own since becoming sexually active. If it wasn’t Trisha, he wasn’t interested. She wiggled her round, little booty into his heart, capturing him slowly and subtly before he even realized what was happening. Her smile, her sense of humor, and the way she fit into his world even better than a glove—he never stood a chance.

Turning his attention back to the mirror, Tommy began his skin regime, slathering his face with some expensive, department store moisturizer, using both hands on each side of his rugged jawline. Moving on to pamper his body, he looked in the cabinet where he kept his body lotion, but it wasn’t in the usual spot. He scanned the area again and looked around in the other cabinets and drawers but still couldn’t find the blue tube. Maybe Ken had borrowed it.

After wrapping his damp towel around his hips, he reached for the doorknob. Wait, maybe I better knock. Ken could have a girl in there…Pfft, yeah, right.

As handsome as he was, Ken wasn’t so good with the ladies. A lot of girls wanted a first date, but obtaining a second date, assuming he even wanted one, often proved far more difficult. If it weren’t for the generous ladies who were down for one-nighters, that guy would have to endure some serious dry spells. Pushing the door open, Tommy strode into Ken’s room, slipping inside unnoticed.

A grin spread across Tommy’s face and his eyes widened as he caught Ken in the act. His usually vigilant pal was too wrapped up in the hentia video he was watching to notice the intrusion—fucking anime porn! Really?

Staying as silent as he could, Tommy scooted along the side of the wall until he stood parallel to the foot of Ken’s double bed. His shirtless buddy was sitting on the edge of the mattress with his gym shorts and underwear down around his ankles and his hand wrapped around his fully erect cock. Tommy smirked. No wonder he needed my lotion.

Covering his mouth with his palm, Tommy struggled not to make any noise though a gasp and a snicker were both sticking in the back of his throat. The fact that Ken was masturbating wasn’t surprising or funny—he would be abnormal if he didn’t. Tommy just found it highly amusing that a prodigy like Ken forgot to secure the bathroom entrance to his bedroom. The opportunity to get an honest reaction from his best buddy was too good to pass up so Tommy held his breath for as long as he could, finally choking out the lowest cough he could. Did I…Shit! Ken’s eyes flew open and his head turned toward Tommy.

Ken shook his head, displacing his heavy, long and wispy black bangs from in front of his eyes just so he could hold Tommy in a dead stare as he asked, ““Dude, just what the fuck are you doing?”“ Tommy soaked in Ken’s expression, but his almond-shaped eyes were filled mostly with annoyance rather than anger or embarrassment.

Oh well, at least Tommy didn’t have to hold back his laughter anymore. Grabbing his stomach, he let it all out, belly-laughing so hard he lost his towel. “Sorry! I just came in here to see if you had my lotion, and I was just waiting to make sure you were done using it.” Tommy hooted some more as he pointed to the tube on the bed next to where Ken sat.

Ken, who hadn’t even bothered to let go of his dick, rolled his eyes and tightened his wide-set jaw just a hair, but otherwise, he showed little to no emotion as he said, “Shut up…like you don’t jerk off in the shower every morning, and could you please put on some fucking pants?” Turning his attention back toward the television, Ken hit the pause button on the remote control.

Tommy, still snickering, bent his knees low enough to reach down and grab the towel off the floor, placing it in front of his dick and holding it without wrapping it around his body. Slowly, he shuffled forward a couple of steps, a mischievous grin turning up his lips. “Whatcha watching?” Ken shot him a sideways glance for just a blip but wasted no time returning his attention to his cartoon porn. It wasn’t like this had never happened before. He and Ken had been best friends since they were in diapers. There were no secrets between them.

As Tommy shuffled closer, Ken sighed, scooting over on the bed to make room while shaking his head. “Seriously, what are we in middle school, circling around a dirty movie to jerk off?”

Tommy scrunched up his nose while giving a tight lipped smile and shrugging. “Why not?” Folding the towel, he placed it over the comforter at the foot of the bed, leaving about a foot of space between Ken and himself when he sat down and squirted some of the lotion into his hand. “This probably isn’t such a bad idea with Trisha coming over, especially if we are all going to be drinking. I don’t want to be popping a boner all night.”

“Whatever,” Ken said, eyes glued to the onscreen action, stroking his cock while watching two animated nurses on screen. They were drawn with cute faces, large eyes and even larger tits pressing up against the plunging neckline of their tight, pink uniforms. The cartoon vixens were kissing while rolling all over each other, stripping off their clothes as they did so. Huge, incredibly unrealistic-sized boobs were exposed as the two fondled each other. The shorter of the two slurped on her coworker’s round, protruding nipple while the taller girl slipped a hand down the other girl’s panties. Tommy’s hand was moving steadily up and down his shaft. It never ceased to amaze him how little it took to get him off when he took care of business on his own and didn’t have to hold back. This was a cartoon for crying out loud, but his rod was already starting to twitch in his hand.

Having moved on to eating each other’s pussies in the sixty-nine position, the nurses moaned seductively. Oh, there we go! I’m close. His lips parted and his eyelids lowered as his breathing became ragged. Palming over the head and all the way to hilt, he let out a groan as the surging began. Here it comes. Just a few more strokes and Geronimo! A ribbon of white fluid shot out, squirting into the free hand he was cupping to catch it and running down his palm.

“Whoa! That felt good,” he said, chuckling as he stood up and grabbed his towel. After wiping his hands, Tommy mopped up the fluid left on his body before glancing over at Ken. No fucking way! He still hadn’t come? That’s crazy.

Ken was really going at it, though. He had to be about to reach his conclusion. Handling his erection with care, Ken circled his fingers around its veiny shaft while jerking his fist up and down. Ken’s breath was irregular, his mouth slightly open, exposing his tongue while his cheeks blazed with a honey glow.

Curious, Tommy turned his attention away from Ken’s face and toward his friend’s erect penis. He hadn’t seen Ken’s cock in years. The color was different from his own with a shaft that was slightly darker and a smooth, round head that was purplish rather than the ruddy reddish cap that crowned Tommy’s shaft. Ken’s shape was interesting, appealing even, with its slight upward curve, but Tommy couldn’t help but smirk. Mine’s bigger.

Ken was no slouch. With his skin stretched tense, he was probably about seven and a half to eight inches long, but Tommy’s ten-inch monster still had him beat. Dragging his front teeth over his bottom lip, Tommy bit down lightly. Thirty-seconds—he made a bet with himself on how long it would take Ken to come. Keeping watch, Tommy silently counted the seconds. Ken’s body began to tremble and he slid his free hand down below his twitching cock, reaching between his open legs to fondle his own sac. As he caressed the soft, tender skin, lightly fingering over the two egg-shaped jewels hidden within, Ken’s eyes rolled back and his sac constricted as he loosed a strained moan. Moaning again, louder this time, Ken bucked his hips. Tommy held his breath, on pins and needles to find out just how long Ken could keep going.

“Ah!” Ken panted as his cock reacted to the stimulation, surprising Tommy by standing just a hair taller.

Ken smelled of lavender. He had likely just got done bathing right before Tommy returned home. Turning his head toward an orgasmic groan coming from the television, Tommy noticed a man in a white coat had joined the women and was being treated to a blowjob. Tommy’s own shaft started to rebound as memories of an unforgettable blowjob swirled in his head. The amazing feat happened during a one-night stand his freshman year, and for a long time after that evening, he wished he had gotten that girl’s name and number. Unfortunately, they had both been pretty drunk, and aside from the sexual act, all he could remember were the Greek letters on her T-shirt. He had thought about going up to her sorority house but was too embarrassed. What would he have said anyway? I met one of your sisters last night. The only thing I remember about her is her brown hair and that she sucked the hell out of my cock—say, who would that be?

As Ken slowly pumped his hand up and down his erection, Tommy recalled how the Eta Omega Epsilon sister took tiny, short licks along the head of his cock while doing the same. That girl had some serious skills. Tommy could still remember how her warm breath felt as she slowly engulfed the dome, only now when he fantasized it was Trisha’s intense, brown eyes staring up at him as her sexy lips wrapped around his member. Mmmm, that was a nice thought! How awesome would it be to have her pretty pout surrounding his cock?

Tommy glanced over to Ken’s face, noting the raptured look in his eyes and the way he bit down on his lower lip. He was ready to blow. Ah shit, I lost count.

“Ngh!” Ken moaned hardily, releasing his explosion to splat against his own belly and run down his hand. Panting unevenly, Ken turned his head and cut his eyes toward Tommy. “Fucking idiot, are you really just sitting here watching me?”

Tommy shrugged. “Yeah.”

“Pervert,” Ken said as he stood to grab some tissues from the box on the dresser. He cleaned his hands first before starting on his stomach and cock. He had pulled up his shorts and straightened his clothing, but he was still red-faced and glistening with afterglow. “Next time, why don’t you just get on your knees and help me out since you’re so in love with my dick.”

Tommy frowned as he threw Ken a dismissive look. “As if!”

Ken shrugged matter-of-factly. “You were getting hard again by watching me.”

Shaking his head and twisting his face, Tommy denied the charges. “Only because I started thinking about Trisha and how she’d look with her lips wrapped around…Ow!”

Before Tommy could get the words out, Ken punched him in the arm. “That’s worse, you perverted bastard. How dare you fantasize about the love of my life! If those molasses-sweet doe eyes are going to be looking up at anyone while those red, pouty lips wrap around his cock, it’s going to be me. Don’t even dream of contaminating her pretty face with your disgusting pecker!”

“Geez, for someone prone to grunting out half sentences, that was sort of poetic. You’ve thought about that description…a lot. Is there a secret fantasy diary around here I don’t know about?”

“Do the words shut up, mean anything to you?” Ken said, delivering one of his old comebacks. “If such a thing existed, I’m sure you would have already found it.”

Tommy smiled proudly. Ken was pretty quick when it was just the two of them, but he wasn’t being fair. “Trisha is the love of my life, too. If I can’t fantasize about her, neither can you.” Tommy folded his arms across his bare chest as he protested.

Ken stood silently, looking off to the side as if deep in thought. “Don’t ask don’t tell?”

Tommy snorted. “Sure, President Clinton, we’ll go with that for now.”

Ken almost gave a tiny smile but stopped and huffed exhaustedly, rolling his eyes yet again. “Could you please put on some fucking clothes? Unlike you, I’m not interested in looking at other guys’ cocks. We need to clean up this shithole and get all the booze, snacks, and sundries ready before Trisha gets here and finds us with our dicks in our hands.”

As the absurdity hit, a loud, heavy laugh coming from way down in Tommy’s gut filled the air between him and Ken. He laughed until his stomach hurt. Bending his knees, he rested his hands on them for support. “Okay, I got it.”

“What’s so funny?” Ken asked, stretching his arms up over his head.

“You’re always blunt as hell, but when it’s just you and me your vocabulary and word count skyrockets. I must be your happy place.”

Ken’s jaw dropped and he stared as if Tommy had grown a huge tit on his forehead. Shaking his head, he retorted, “Are you high? Just go get dressed, dummy.”

Tommy stoked the fire. “Aw, don’t be mad, Kenny Wenny…”

“Shut up.”

“Why so sour?” Tommy took a step toward him.

Ken held two hands up in front of him, one extended all the way out, and the other bent, with his elbow at his side, leaving the hand about six inches behind the other. Tommy recognized the stance from Ken’s karate competitions. “If you make a run at me with your dick flopping, I will drop your naked ass.”

Torn, Tommy froze in place. Teasing Ken was immensely satisfying. After all, piercing the veil of his quiet dignity was no easy task. Now that he finally had Ken’s feathers all ruffled up, failing to squeeze every drop of pleasure he could get out of the situation would be immensely shameful. On the other hand, heeding his buddy’s warning was his safest bet. Ken could look disconcertingly calm when he was actually furious, so gauging how far he could be pushed was difficult at best.

Outside of competition, Tommy had only seen Ken attack one guy, and that was some asshole that dared to raise a hand to Ms. Davidson for refusing a second date. Watching a fifteen-year-old Ken beat down a grown man was an eye-opening experience Tommy would never forget. While Ken was unlikely to break bad on him and kick his ass, the lack of an accurate threat assessment placed the risk high enough to make Tommy cautious. “You would cause bodily harm to your best friend? We’re like brothers.” Tommy backed away slightly.

Relaxing his body language, Ken’s casual composure returned. “I consider it my personal responsibility to keep your hyper, capricious and completely inappropriate horseplay at a bearable level. If I let you fly too close to the sun at home, who knows what trouble you will get into when I’m not there to look after you? I don’t have cash for bail money.”

A tiny smile curved the edges of Tommy’s mouth as he peered at Ken’s face. Seeing another opening, he pushed his luck further. “Aw, Kenji Wenji really loves me.”

“Whatever, and don’t—only Mom can call me Kenji.” One of Ken’s dark eyebrows lifted as his eye twitched just a tic. One of his few facial tells for irritability.

“Oh no, not whatever…Kenji wants to protect me from myself…he really cares.”

“Okay fine…I’ll admit it. I hold a small, tiny really, amount of affection for you. However, there is a limit to my tolerance for your idiocy. Don’t call me Kenji, don’t touch me, and for God’s sake, put on some clothes.” Ken’s nostrils flared on his last word, a subtle cue playtime was over.

“All right,” Tommy said with a smile before be-bopping to his room to get dressed. Stopping in his tracks, he looked over his shoulder. “Don’t be mad.”

Ken’s silvery-gray eyes rolled up toward the ceiling. “What do I have to be mad about? I’m used to your tomfoolery, though your invading my privacy in the worst kind of way is a level above your usual dumbassery.

“Cool.” Tommy grinned as he left, unrepentant. Ken deserved some small measure of harassment for all the times Tommy had been forced to apologize for his friend’s blunt manner. He had always given Ken a pass because he realized pretty early on that Ken didn’t mean any offense. When they were just little kids, Tommy had to teach Ken to say hello or wave when someone greeted or waved to him. Ken honestly didn’t get why it was a big deal until Tommy explained that people tend to get pissed when they think they’re being snubbed.

Back then, Tommy didn’t know Ken was a literal genius with an IQ over one-sixty. Ironically, at the time, Tommy thought his dumbass friend needed lots of watching over to keep from looking like a great big fool. Tommy had relished the role of mentor and enjoyed the praise he got from his parents for looking after Ken. Over the years, they had parlayed that synergy and were able to capitalize on each other’s strengths while smoothing out each other’s weaknesses. Looking back, maybe their tendency to team up had made them overly dependent on one another. A pang of guilt constricted Tommy’s chest. Ken could have gotten a free-ride to study anywhere he wanted but chose to follow him.

Coastal Carolina University wasn’t easy to get into, but it wasn’t exactly MIT either. Still, Tommy couldn’t exactly say he was surprised that Ken chose him over the best institutions of higher learning in the country, and selfishly, Tommy had let him.

Startled, he jumped as a jolt of lightning illuminated the sheets of pouring rain hitting his window as if someone was continually splashing the pane of glass with a full bucket of water. The accompanying rumble of booming thunder set his heart racing. Please get here soon, Trisha! Taking a deep breath, he said a prayer for her safety as he searched inside his chest of drawers for an outfit.