Another semester, another class and no hotties in the bunch. Raylan Greene sat back in his chair and opened his notebook. He never should’ve waited until the summer semester of his junior year at college to take the American History class, but his schedule always ended up so full. He’d finally found the time—in the hottest months of the year.
The pale blue paint flaked at the corners of the room and the desks had seen better days. Most of the table tops were decorated with names carved into the wooden surface. Everyone from Albert to Zach had left a mark.
Footsteps thumped in the hallway and the building buzzed with conversation. Some of the girls sat together and chattered. Two guys near the door argued about a comic book movie Raylan wanted to see, but hadn’t been to the theater to view. One of the guys sported a football jersey and regaled his friends with stories from the latest practice session.
Raylan glanced around the classroom at the various students. He recognized a couple of the guys from other classes, but none of the men in the room appealed to him. He groaned. He had to be one of the older students in the room and all because he hadn’t worked the class in during his freshman year.
He hadn’t been a freshman in a long time, but he felt like he’d been in the photography thread forever. The students in the photography division all knew each other. Once they’d paired off in romantic relationships, those who hadn’t found a partner didn’t really date the others. He’d gone out with a few guys, but none for a great length of time.
He’d just about given up hope when a young man strolled into the room. The guy quickened his pace and collapsed in the desk beside Raylan.
“That was close.” He plunked his books on the desk top. “I had the wrong room assignment written down.”
“That can happen.” Raylan smiled at his classmate. “I’m Raylan.”
“Chase.” He stuck out his hand. “I’m not usually late.”
“You’re fine. We’ve got another five minutes. Professor Alemonde walks at his own pace.” Raylan studied Chase. He’d seen his share of good-looking guys before, but something about Chase caught his attention. Maybe it was the shaggy hair hanging to his collar or the slightly bewildered look in his brown eyes, but Raylan wanted to photograph him. He preferred strong men, but not overly muscled. Chase seemed to fit the bill. Was he a hairy guy? A top? A bottom?
“I feel so silly.” Chase opened his notebook and shook his head. “The wrong room number. I’ve been on this campus almost three years now. You’d think I’d check this stuff.” He moved his guitar case to beneath his seat. A myriad of stickers decorated the worn faux leather surface of the case. “If this gets in the way, tell me. I can’t control the thing sometimes.”
“Are those your bands? Or bands you’d like to play with?” Raylan asked. He noticed Chase’s hands. He liked men with long hands and groomed fingernails. Chase had both. He wondered what if would feel like to twine their fingers together. Probably the same as holding hands with anyone else, he supposed.
“Nah. The stickers cover the holes and dings in the case. I’ve had it since I was fifteen.” He grinned and shrugged. “I can’t get rid of the old girl.”
“Your case is a girl?”
“So is my guitar. Betty Lou.” Chase smiled again. The dimple in his cheek deepened. “That’s the closest I’m coming to holding a girl, so it works.”
“Ah.” So Chase wasn’t gay. Damn. Raylan gripped his pen. Too bad. He liked Chase and in more than a platonic way.
The professor strolled into the classroom and clapped his hands.
Raylan sighed. Any conversation with Chase would have to wait until after class. He scribbled notes and worked hard to pay attention, but having Chase beside him messed with his concentration. Why did the hot guys have to be straight? Or not into kink?
Raylan added another line of notes to his page, then titled the notebook. American History – 1850-1975, aka The Class with the Hot Straight Guy. He snorted to himself. If the professor or Chase saw what he’d written, they’d probably have a fit, but he didn’t care. He needed little things like the addition to the class title to amuse himself.
After forty-five minutes, the professor finished talking. He assigned a section of the book for homework reading, then sashayed out of the room.
“He doesn’t hold back or stick around,” Chase muttered. “What if you have a question?”
“You email him.” Raylan tucked his books into his messenger bag. “I had a friend who took this class last year. If Alemonde actually stuck around for more than a minute after the session finished, it was a miracle. But I hear he’s quick with answers in email form. Maybe he’s not a people person?”
“Doesn’t sound like it.” Chase shoved his things into his backpack. “Would you mind if I got in touch with you? If I have questions or something?”
“Sure.” Raylan scribbled his cell phone number on a piece of paper. “Here you go. Ask away. I can’t guarantee I’ll have the answers, but I can try.”
Chase scrawled his number on the front of a business card. “This was the card from one of my bands. Derek insisted we have them. I’m not sure why. I never gave them out.” He handed over the card. “That’s my cell. Call or text.”
“If you’re interested, I’m playing down at the Last Drop Coffee Shop tonight. It’s just me and my guitar, but I can use all the audience I can get. It’s for a class.” Chase picked at the stitching on his guitar case. “We’re supposed to do a performance off campus. I’ve done plenty of them, but this one is for credit, not just experience or a few bucks. I’d love it if you came.”
“To fill the audience,” Raylan said. “Right?”
“I guess. Or just to see what I do.” Chase shrugged. “Maybe you could get something out of it, too. You’re a photography major, right?” He nodded to the camera bag. “I’m game to pose for free. I’ll pay your cover charge. Give the doorman my card with this on it and you’ll be fine.” He scrawled a note onto another business card and handed it to Raylan.
Chase struck an odd bargain. Raylan held onto both cards. He didn’t need concert photographs for any of his classes, but he’d be damned if he’d pass up a chance to practice the kind of photography he loved—rock and roll photography. He loved the odd lighting and the challenge of capturing the musicians in the midst of playing.
“I’ll try to be there.” Raylan met Chase’s grin. Too bad the guy was straight. Too bad he wasn’t interested in hooking up, and definitely what a shame. He held back as Chase wandered out of the classroom.
Raylan wished he’d had his camera at the ready. He’d have photographed the sway of Chase’s ass when he walked. The guy moved with grace, but little confidence—like he didn’t realize his own good looks. Some guys were like that, handsome but clueless. Was Chase that way? He wasn’t sure.
He’d attend the concert. Might as well. He wanted to see Chase in action and get those concert shots. Maybe he’d end up with something for his portfolio. Or spank bank. He snorted. The last time he’d photographed someone for his spank bank, he’d ended up fucking the guy. That wouldn’t happen with Chase.
Raylan headed across campus to the photography building. He had a few rolls of black and white film he wanted to process and go through before the weekend.
He dumped his things off in his locker, then retrieved the film from his bag. After preparing the chemicals and unwinding the film in the dark, he loaded the film onto plastic reels. Once he had both canisters loaded into the tank and sealed, he stepped back into the dimly lit developing room. There, he added the chemicals and shook the metal container. The different stages of developing and printing the pictures appealed to him, but he especially liked the rhythmic turning of the small tank. The preciseness, combined with the rhythm lulled him. He could let his mind wander as he developed the film. He clicked the time on his watch and turned the tank according to the developing instructions. While he allowed the chemicals to work, he thought about Chase.
He hadn’t met anyone in a long time that tickled his fancy the way Chase did. He had just assumed Chase was gay and would be interested in hooking up. That wasn’t Raylan’s normal MO. He thought and planned. He got details and worked out what he’d do before he did it, not jump to conclusions.
So what was it about Chase? Why get so goofy over someone he’d just met? The hair. He wanted to run his fingers through Chase’s hair. To feel the softness and to tug on those silky strands while they had sex…that’s what he wanted. He had the feeling Chase would make a good nude subject, too. He had the right body structure to make the shadowing pop. He could just see them together—him posing Chase and setting the lighting before he snapped hundreds of photographs. When they finished with the session, he’d strip down. He’d fuck Chase right there on the platform and make his lover scream until they both collapsed.
Raylan turned the tank again, then smoothed one hand down the front of his pants. Shit. He’d popped wood. Damn it. He needed to deflate his erection before he left the developing room. If he didn’t, he’d probably end up in trouble. How was he supposed to ditch the erection? Stop thinking about Chase because Chase wasn’t gay.
Damn it. Raylan poured the developer out of the tank, then added the stop bath. He needed to get his head into his work. Worrying about a guy wasn’t going to help him develop his landscape photos and it sure as hell wasn’t going to get rid of the erection growing in his jeans.
Fuck it. The denim held snug to his body. Yes, someone could see the slight tent, but the problem wasn’t as bad as if he were wearing jogging pants or sweat pants. He finished the various steps to developing the film, then stood at the long sink to rinse the film. Maybe he’d go to the club this weekend and find a for now guy. Someone who looked like Chase.
Raylan gritted his teeth. He shouldn’t be thinking about someone he couldn’t have or settling for someone to pass the time. He’d been down that road and almost always with horrible results. He wasn’t the type of guy to have hook-ups. He liked having a boyfriend.
Once he finished rinsing the film, he clipped the long strips onto the drying line and tagged the ends. Another student stood beside him and dried his film with a clip-together squeegee. Raylan cringed. Streaks formed on the other student’s film, but those streaks weren’t coming out. He’d scratched the film.
“Let it air dry,” Raylan said. “It doesn’t scratch if you do.”
“I’m in a hurry,” the student snapped. “I need these printed for a five o’clock class.” He made a sound that crossed between a snort and a gag, then yanked the film from the line and walked out of the room.
Raylan shook his head, then examined his negatives. The scenes of barns on the Ohio farm landscape had turned out like he wanted, with rich areas of dark color and accented spots in other areas. At least the photographs would turn out as he’d wanted. Now if the rest of his life would catch up, he’d be happy. Happy sounded pretty good.
* * * *
Chase gripped the neck of his guitar and paced the side portion of the stage. He couldn’t remember being so nervous before a performance. Normally, he simply strolled out in front of the crowd and belted out his original tunes and a few cover songs. The crowd would get into what he’d play and he’d be cool.
Not tonight. He glanced out at the people at the tables. The Last Drop Coffee Shop catered to the LGBTQ crowd and tended to feature acts from the various community groups. He’d lucked into his spot after Derek bowed out.
He gritted his teeth. Derek. His former friend and band member who ran off when the band didn’t reach instant fame. The dick. Derek only came to play when the mood struck him or he wanted to impress someone. If old Derek got a glimpse of Raylan, he’d definitely make a move.
Chase wanted to make a move. He paused. Why hadn’t he? He’d gotten Raylan’s phone number. That had to mean something, right?
He groaned and his shoulders sank as realization set in. The phone number exchange meant they were in a class together and were sort of friends. Nothing more.
Right now he needed to focus less on Raylan and more on prepping for the concert. He shook out his hands and rolled his shoulders in his pre-gig warm up routine. He worked through the pep talk he gave himself before each performance.
“You can do this. You’ve got this. They want to hear good music and that’s your specialty.” He nodded to himself again, then paced the small side-stage area. His hands shook. Shit. He couldn’t let his nerves get to him.
Think about how you’re going to rock out. You’re going to own that crowd. He blew out a long breath, then draped the guitar across his shoulders. With the instrument in place, a bit of his confidence returned. He could do this.
As the announcer said his name, Chase walked out on stage. He was there to play, not just show up. He switched to a strut. Play the part of the musician and sell yourself. He waved, winked, and took his position behind the microphone. “Thanks. It’s good to be here. Dance if you want to and if you’re in a dark corner, well, you know what to do from there.” He nodded to the crowd, then strummed the opening bars of the first song. He liked to start with tunes the people knew, then launch into his original stuff. Playing gave him a sense of freedom. Sure, the crowds could turn on him, but most of the time they got into his work. He fed off their enthusiasm and tonight he needed all they could give him.
He ran through the lyrics of an oldies song he’d added a heavy beat to, then glanced out at the people. Some people clapped and a couple of them danced in the aisles. Raylan sat at one of the tables near the middle of the room. He smiled, then lifted his camera.
Excitement ran through Chase’s veins and he preened. Was Raylan a fan? Hope blossomed within him and he fed off the new energy. He’d found someone to sing to and loved the idea that this person was focused on him. He’d always been comfortable hiding behind his guitar, but with Raylan there, he grew more comfortable with playing his own material and added a second verse to one of the songs. When he finished, the audience cheered. Raylan grinned and gave Chase the thumbs-up sign.
On adrenaline overload from the performance, Chase bowed and then left the stage. He wasn’t ready to settle for the night and when he spotted his friend, he knew where he wanted to go. He packed his guitar and carried the case to Raylan’s table.
“You were good.” Raylan pulled out one of the chairs. “Sit.”
“Thanks. I saw you took some photos.” Chase toyed with the lip of his coffee cup. “I hope I didn’t look too dorky.”
“You were fine. Better than fine. When you finally loosened up and got into your music, your talent really shined through.” Raylan grinned. “When did you learn to play?”
“When I was fifteen. Most of the kids took up band instruments so they could march—not my thing. I got the guitar instead.” He closed his mouth. No point in regaling Raylan with information and stories that weren’t altogether exciting. No one wanted to know about his childhood.
“I tried to play, but it all sounded like crap. I liked photography a lot better.” Raylan smiled again. He tapped the placemat with the name of the coffee house. “How long have you been part of the community?”
Part of the community? Chase stared at Raylan for a moment. Oh! “I came out two years ago. I knew I was gay back in high school, but other than the guy I was dating at the time, no one knew about me.” And if he had his way, he’d keep that story under wraps, too. “I tried kissing girls and dated a couple of them, but I wasn’t interested. I took the one to a movie she wanted to see. The whole time I kept wondering what the guy on screen looked like without his pants. She thought I was hard because of her. Nope. I wanted to see the hero’s wang.”
Raylan chuckled. “Good times.”
“Yeah.” Chase folded his placemat into squares. “So…I’ve got a single dorm room. I lucked into a room in Stopher. All my own. Want to come over?” God. He sounded so stupid and unsure. He bit back a snort. The last time he’d asked anyone over had been the last week of classes before the summer break. The guy never showed.
“I’ve got an early photography class.” Raylan stood, then shoved his camera into his leather bag. “I’d love to if I didn’t have to be to the lab at eight.”
“It’s okay.” Chase smiled to hide his embarrassment and dismay. He should’ve known. Guys as good-looking as Raylan weren’t interested in trash like him. “Are you leaving? I’m done for the night. Won’t get paid or anything until Friday. We could walk back to campus together—unless you’ve got a ride.”
“I don’t.” Raylan pushed his chair in, then waved to the aisle. “Lead the way. I’m over in the Biennial Courts, so not far. I’d like to walk together.”
“Cool.” Chase escorted Raylan through the coffee shop into the foyer. He tapped the front desk and waved to the manager. “Thank you,” he called.
“If you’re going to play like that,” the manager said, “then I’ll have you play every Sunday night. Might get business rolling again. You were good, Licks.”
The tips of his ears burned. No one save for the manager of the Last Drop and one of his ex-flings referred to him as Licks. “Thanks.” Chase ducked his head and left the coffee shop.
Raylan fell into step beside him. “So…Licks? A family name?”
“Nah. It’s because of the way I play. Good guitar licks.” The lie sounded silly, but he’d go with it.
“You don’t have to be embarrassed. You’ve got talent. I’ve heard Muddy the Waters lots of times, but you put a fresh spin on the tune.”
“I try. That arrangement was for a class on…er…arranging. Orchestral. I had to switch it up in order for the winds section of the band to perform it. The heaviness went over fine until the bass clarinetist got sick. With no low tones, the song sort of fell apart.”
He slung his guitar case across his shoulders, then stuffed his hands into his pockets. He wanted to reach for Raylan but didn’t. His gaydar had to be on the fritz. Raylan didn’t give off signals like he was gay. Hell, he didn’t give off signals period.
“I bet it was fine.”
“The conductor switched it to the brass section. With the tubas, that sucker rocked.” He chuckled. He could still recall the throbbing low notes in the song and the way his belly thudded with each chorus. He’d only earned a B on the project, but as far as he was concerned, the arrangement was some of his best work.
“Well.” Raylan came to a stop. “This is my dorm. Upper classmen housing.” He bowed his head. “It was closest to the photography lab.”
“Then you’re close to what you love.” Chase stuck out his hand. “I’ll see you in class on Friday?”
“Sure will.” Raylan shook hands with him.
Chase suppressed a shiver. His fingers sizzled from Raylan’s touch. Firm grip. Nice hands. Well groomed. He even liked the red chunks in Raylan’s black hair. The bit of goth worked well on the guy.
“Good night,” Chase murmured. He wasn’t far from his own dorm and thankfully the sidewalk was well-lit. He waved before heading down to his building. His heart flip-flopped in his chest. He’d dodged a couple of bullets tonight. He hadn’t had to explain the Licks comment in detail or his childhood. Score? He wasn’t sure.
Chase unlocked the door to the main part of his building, then ascended the stairs to the second floor. Getting a single in the mainly dual occupancy building had been a stroke of luck. He even had his own bathroom. He unlocked the door to his room. Once inside, he closed the door and dropped his guitar case, then flopped on the bed.
The walk between the dorms in the brisk night air helped to quell some of his desire for Raylan, but not much. He opened his jeans and stuffed both hands into his pants. He shouldn’t be this turned on by a guy he’d only known for a few hours. Then again, he and Raylan had a longer history than he’d shared with his last boyfriend.
He peeled his sweaty jeans and boxer shorts down his legs, exposing his cock. The rush of chilly air kissed his skin and sent a rush of excitement through his body.
Instead of his normal masturbation fantasy, Chase focused on Raylan and the way the photographer made him feel. When he closed his eyes, he could almost see Raylan on the bed beside him, watching him.
He wrapped his fingers around his dick and stroked. Chase closed his eyes and bit back a moan. Oh hell yes, he wanted to feel Raylan’s hands on his body instead of his own. He tipped his head back. Heat started low in his belly and radiated out to his limbs. His balls tingled and his asshole puckered. He needed to be fucked. Bad. By Raylan.
He chuckled low in his throat. God. Being around Raylan made him such a horn ball. He planted his feet on the mattress and slid one hand below his cock to his testicles. He’d gone without sex for long enough that he wouldn’t last much longer.
In his mind, he saw Raylan between his legs.
“You want me to fuck you?”
“Yeah.” His strokes increased in speed. “Please?”
“You’re so needy.” Raylan eased one finger into Chase, making him moan.
He knew Raylan wasn’t there, but he imagined Raylan penetrating him. Hot damn. He slid his middle finger just inside his hole then pulled out.
Chase matched the rhythm in and out of his ass with the strokes on his cock. He gritted his teeth and tensed. Holy hell, he’d never be able to hold on.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he chanted. He couldn’t breathe or think. Heat engulfed him and his resistance snapped. Chase grunted and cum spurted onto his lower belly and shirt. From his head to his toes, he shivered.
Chase withdrew his finger from his ass and sagged against the mattress.
“Wow,” he murmured. If Raylan were really there, they’d be able to cuddle. Chase laughed at himself. He wasn’t sure where the crazy ideas were coming from. The guys he knew weren’t cuddlers. They barely wanted to talk after sex.
He wiped his hands on his shirt and stared at the blackness of his ceiling. He shouldn’t be so interested in Raylan, but he wanted to be with the dark-haired photographer. Would Raylan want him? He doubted it, but he’d never know until he asked.
Chase sat up long enough to shuck his shirt and clean the jizz off his belly. He then headed into the bathroom for a quick shower to rinse the coffee scent and sweat off his skin. He thought about Raylan again. One day, he wanted to meet a guy who could handle all of his rough edges without flipping out. Someone with a good heart and a great body. Someone just like Raylan. He longed to feel those strong arms around him and to hear Raylan’s gravelly voice in his ear. He shuddered and switched off the hot water. He’d fallen in lust with Raylan Greene.