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Alright, Rachel’s seriously meddlesome, a lot more than I had originally realized she was. But considering how seriously bad Erik and Ryan are at communicating with each other, perhaps they need the “facilitation”? Short chapter this week, and short chapter next week to set up for the grand finale!
Thanks for sticking it out with me so far!!
Copyright © 2018 by Hudson Bartholomew. All rights reserved. This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Embracing the Tension – Chapter 9
“Hello?” A tentative voice, young and uncertain answered the phone. That definitely wasn’t Ryan.
“Chloe?” Erik guessed. “It’s Uncle Erik.”
“Hi, Uncle Erik!” The hesitation dissipated into thin air, and Erik could just imagine her bouncing up and down. “Where are you?”
“Tell Uncle Erik I’ll be there in a minute!” The phone picked up Ryan’s voice as he shouted from afar.
“Uncle Ry says he’ll be here in a minute.” Chloe dutifully reported.
“Thanks, sweetie.” Erik smiled into the phone, wishing he could give Chloe a hug. “I’m in New York.”
“New York,” she repeated, testing out the sounds on her tongue. “Why are you there? Why aren’t you here?”
“Because I live in New York.” Those words had never felt so uncomfortable coming out of his mouth before.
“Oh.” Chloe obviously didn’t understand the implication. “Come back.”
“I will, sweetheart. I’ll be there for Christmas.”
“Oh, yay! Christmas! I love Christmas!”
Erik had no doubt. What little kid didn’t like Christmas?
“So, tell me, Chloe, did you go to school today?” Erik asked.
“Yup! And we painted our families! Caesar! Come here!”
Erik heard something that sounded like a cat yelping, and he wondered what kind of torture she was subjecting the animal to. Probably something only a child’s mind could dream up.
“And what did you put in your painting?”
“Mommy, daddy, me, Uncle Ry, Caesar, and you! And I drew our house in the back so everyone knows that we live together.”
A rush of emotion that Erik hadn’t anticipated rushed up and hit him smack in the middle of the chest. He blinked back tears and tried to take a breath against the weight pressing on his lungs. “You drew me?”
“Uh-huh, you’re my Uncle Erik. And Caesar, too. Even though he’s Uncle Ry’s cat. But he’s family, you know.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Thanks for keeping Uncle Erik company, Clo.” Ryan’s voice was closer now, clearer. “Why don’t you go downstairs. It’s almost time for dinner.”
“Okay! Bye Uncle Erik! Love you!”
Erik tried and failed to stop the strangled sound that escaped his throat. He ran his hand over his face and leaned his head back on the couch, wishing with everything he had that the couch was in a different living room, in a different city, in a different country.
“Chloe, walk down the stairs. No running!”
The pattering of running footsteps echoed through the phone, right before a heavy sigh, then, “Hello?” Ryan’s soothing baritone, a salve to all the aches and pains the day threw at him.
“Hey.” Erik put everything he felt into that one word, all the weariness and fatigue, the longing and loneliness.
“Hey.” Ryan’s response echoed back everything he needed: support, understanding, love. “Long day?”
Erik sighed. “Every day is a long day.”
He chuckled but didn’t try to stop Ryan from apologizing for something that wasn’t his fault. “I miss you.”
“I miss you, too.”
“I love you.” Erik said this in almost a whisper, because to say it any louder would send him down a whirlpool of longing for things he couldn’t have. The words were too powerful, and he wasn’t strong enough to resist.
“I love you, too.” Ryan was marginally louder because he was stronger; he had always been stronger. Erik knew that now. Even years ago, when it looked like Ryan was falling apart under the pressure of New York and their porn careers, Ryan was the strong one who recognized his limits and had the courage to step out before it destroyed him. Did Erik have the same courage?
He cleared his throat, but the ball of emotion remained. “So, I’m all booked for Christmas.”
“Great. Send me your flight details. How long are you staying?” Ryan’s voice was a little thick with emotion.
“Up on the 23rd, back on the 2nd. Is that okay?”
“Yeah, you’re always welcome here. You know that.”
They chatted until Ryan got called away for movie night with Chloe, and Erik dropped his phone onto the couch. He rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes as he leaned his head back.
It was getting harder every day, this long-distance thing, feeling like he was only half-present because the other half of himself was miles away in another country. He was in limbo, not fully here and not fully there but trying to make it through canlı bahis each day, living for the next time they can be in the same room.
And all the while, that conversation replayed in his mind, the one they had in the car when he had word-vomited his fears about leaving New York, and Ryan heard it all as an accusation that Ryan wasn’t strong enough to cut it in the big city. Erik hadn’t been thinking about Ryan when he said those words, but maybe that was the problem.
Ryan was happy in Toronto. Erik had seen it with his own eyes. Hell, he’d experienced it himself. And all the other friends and acquaintances who had left New York looked happier wherever they happened to settle. So why was Erik so goddamn reluctant to admit that he could have that for himself? Why was he so set on soldiering on in a city that didn’t give a damn about him?
Because making it in New York is a sign of success, a sign of being at the top of his game. But what good was being at the top of his game when his heart wasn’t with him? When he felt like a shell of a human, just going through the motions without knowing why?
God, he was tired. So tired. A bath. That’s what he needed, a long soak in scorching hot water to sear off whatever fatigue had latched on to him and would let go. He was about to stand from the couch when his phone rang. A 416 number from Toronto, but not Ryan. Weird.
“Erik Fischer?” A tinny, male voice floated over the phone line.
“Yes, it is. How can I help you?”
“This is Buck Cohen from ShadowBox Films. We connected back in September at TIFF.”
The image of a short man, bald with thick-rimmed glasses popped into Erik’s mind. Yes, they had connected at TIFF. Buck had seen the documentary, and they had exchanged business cards. But when Erik had followed up with a meeting request to see how they could work together on future projects, he’d been left hanging.
“Oh, yes. Hi, Buck, how are you?” Erik’s heart sped up. ShadowBox was known for making innovative documentaries, edgy stuff that bordered on controversial.
“Good, good. Listen. When are you going to be in Toronto next?”
“Well, actually, I’m going to be there over Christmas.” Erik gripped the couch cushion, hoping that that wasn’t too far away.
“Christmas. Perfect. I don’t do Christmas. Come by the office when you’re in town, ‘kay? We’ll chat.”
“Uh, yeah, sure. I’d love to—”
“Great, my assistant will be in touch. ‘Kay. Talk soon. Bye.”
Erik stared at his phone after Buck hung up, not quite believing what had just happened. It was just a meeting, he told himself. Just one of those get-to-know-you-so-I-can-decide-if-I-like-you-enough-to-work-with-you types of meetings. It could go nowhere. He could crash and burn and get himself blacklisted for the rest of his life. But it was something, something to latch onto, a sign that all wasn’t lost. At least, not yet.
“Hey.” Ryan kept his voice even as he spoke into his phone after seeing Erik pop up on the caller ID. He ignored the way his heart fluttered and his heart rate increased with excitement.
“Hey.” Erik mumbled on his end of the line. “Sorry to be calling so late. I just got home.”
“It’s fine.” Ryan put his book on his nightstand and settled himself deeper into his pillows. Caesar, who had been curled up in his lap, grew bored and ambled off. “I was just reading in bed.”
“Hmm… in bed?” A hint of interest sparked in Erik’s voice.
“What are you wearing?”
Ryan frowned down at himself. “PJs?”
Laughter floated over the line.
“What? They don’t have Spiderman on them or anything. Just boxers and a t-shirt. Why? What else would I wear?”
More laughter, bubbling like a brook, tickled at Ryan, and he had to wait a moment before Erik settled down. “You’re not very good at this are you?”
“What do you mean? Not very good at what?” Ryan demanded in mock annoyance.
Ryan’s brain short-circuited for a second while he pondered the idea of phone sex with Erik. It was hard to believe they hadn’t had phone sex yet, considering how far into their relationship they were. His stomach fluttered with butterflies at the thought.
“We don’t have to, if you don’t want to,” Erik said after a moment of silence.
“No, I want to.” And Ryan did, as much as it terrified him and reminded him somewhat of porn, at least the performance aspect of it. But this was Erik and it was just the two of them; surely, he could get over this one piece of baggage?
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, yeah, I am. What are you wearing?”
Erik was silent for a beat before he said, “nothing.” Gone was the laugher, and in its place was a low rumble.
Ryan’s mouth dried at the image of Erik naked, covered only by a thin sheet twisting around his legs. Just a corner draped across his hips, obscuring the most X-rated parts of his body while the rest was on display under a warm, yellow light. In his mind, the light played off Erik’s smoke tattoo, and he imagined how the twisting shades bahis siteleri of ink would look against the crisp whiteness of the sheets.
“You’re imaging me naked in bed, aren’t you?”
Ryan could almost feel the vibration of Erik’s voice travel through the phone and reverberate against his ear. He shifted, but the smoothness of his sheets rubbed against his skin, sending tingles through his body until they congregated at his groin. He cleared his throat.
“You are, aren’t you?” The low chuckle from Erik was nothing like his earlier laugher. It was meant to entice, seduce. It worked.
“You are. I know you are.” The confidence in those words just as arousing as the image Erik’s voice conjured up. They felt like caresses over Ryan’s skin. “Mmm…” Erik moaned into the phone. “Tell me exactly what you’re wearing.”
Ryan squeezed his eyes shut and took a deep breath. When he opened his mouth to speak, his tongue wouldn’t cooperate and he ended up making random sounds instead of words. He couldn’t figure out if his sudden lack of vocabulary had anything to do with all the blood rushing to his dick, or with the bevy of butterflies still fluttering away in his stomach.
He could do this. He wanted to do this, damn it. What was a little phone sex between two people who loved each other? “Um…” He cleared his throat again before continuing. “Black boxers. And a red t-shirt.”
“The soft red t-shirt? The one I wore last time?”
“Mmhmm.” Images of Erik in the t-shirt, the material stretched across his wider shoulders, came to mind. He had practically lived in that t-shirt the last time he was in town, always running his hands up and down the material and commenting on its softness.
“Ugh, I love that t-shirt.”
“Run your hands over the shirt. Tell me what it feels like.” The breathiness of Erik’s voice tickled at Ryan’s ear.
Ryan ran a hand over his chest as instructed. “Um, it’s soft?”
Erik scoffed lightly over the phone. “Tell me how it feels.”
“It’s uh… It’s…” Nothing seductive or tantalizing came to mind, and Ryan simply burst out in nervous laughter. “Sorry, sorry.” Ryan apologized when he regained control of his giggles. “Let’s try again?”
“I’m not sure this is a good idea.” Erik sighed with a touch of amusement.
“No, no, I want to. Let’s try again.”
“Okay.” Erik agreed, though he didn’t sound as sure of himself as he had a moment earlier. “Forget the shirt; take it off.”
“Hold on.” Putting the phone down, Ryan stripped his shirt off and threw it at the foot of his bed. “Okay.”
“You’re lying on your pillows?”
“And your lamp is on? The one next to your bed?”
Erik sighed into the phone, and Ryan imagined he could see the hungry look that blurred the clear blueness of Erik’s eyes.
“God, I want to touch you so badly.” The words came out almost as a groan, the sound rippling over Ryan’s nerves. “I want to run my fingers down your body and trace your abs. Then I’d lick them, every single one. I want to taste the saltiness of your skin on my tongue.”
Ryan tensed his stomach as if Erik’s tongue were indeed dipping into every ridge, lapping at the muscles. His breath hitched as he imagined Erik’s tongue delving into his belly button. A muted moan escaped his throat. This was so much easier when Erik took control. Most of their physical relationship was like that, Ryan shouldn’t have been surprised that it translated into phone sex, too.
“You like that, don’t you?”
“I want to feel you under me. Bare chest against bare chest. I love the way you feel, naked in my arms.”
Ryan loved it, too, being pressed into the bed with Erik on top of him—all that hard, toned muscle. Running his hand across his chest, he closed his eyes and remembered Erik’s weight; it was one of his favorite things about being in bed with Erik.
“I miss kissing you so much. You have the softest lips I’ve ever kissed. And your beard; have I told you how much I like your beard?”
Erik had, multiple times, as he rubbed his smoothly shaven check against Ryan’s hair-covered one. It tickled whenever Erik did that, but Ryan loved the idea of them rubbing their faces against each other.
“Oh…” A teasing tone wove its way into Erik’s voice. “Do you know what I see?”
Ryan forgot to breath as his entire attention turned to what Erik was suggesting.
“You do, don’t you?”
All Ryan could muster was a moan.
“That goddamn earring. I love playing with it. You know why? Because you come completely undone in my arms when I’m sucking on that earlobe. God, I can just imagine it. Can you?”
Needy whimpers escaped his throat, and Ryan was helpless to stop them. Almost as if Erik was in the bed with him, on top of him, licking at his earring, Ryan felt tendrils of fire snake from his ear down through his body, igniting every cell along the way. Gripping his phone with one hand, and his sheets with the other, bahis şirketleri Ryan arched up, looking for the solid mass of Erik to push him back down, but found nothing.
“Ahh…” Ryan’s strangled cry echoed into the phone.
“Are you hard for me, babe?” Erik’s words came in pants, breathed directly into the phone. “‘Cause I’m so hard right now. Fuck.”
“Mm… Erik…” He was hard, and yet, something was missing.
“Are you touching yourself yet? Touch yourself, babe. For me.” The command was growled, low and demanding, and Ryan didn’t think of disobeying.
His dick ached in his black boxers, a sizable wet spot already staining the fabric. Ryan squeezed his bulge and rocked his hips as if Erik was there to grind against. Except he wasn’t.
“Oh, yeah. I love the sounds you make, babe, whimpering like that. So fucking hot.”
The encouragement only made Ryan whimper more for what he lacked.
“Stroke yourself. Nice, long, tight strokes.”
Pushing his boxers down his thighs, Ryan took his cock in his hand, the length and girth of it familiar. Using his thumb, he swiped at the tip where precome had gathered and spread it around, using it to ease the glide of his palm.
Over the phone, Ryan heard Erik’s breath quicken. “Oh, god, Ryan. Can you feel my hand on you—in a really tight grip? Twisting at the head?” Erik’s voice cracked as a moan pushed its way through.
On his side of the phone, Ryan mimicked Erik’s movements, tightening his grip and twisting his hand around the head of his cock. He gasped at the sensation. “Ah, Erik!”
“Fuck.” The word was bitten out between heavy pants of air blown into the phone. “Switching to speaker.”
Ryan heard some fumbling before Erik was back, the sound echoing a little more than before. He quickly followed suit, putting the phone on the pillow next to his ear. He turned his face into the pillow, imagining he was pressing his cheek against Erik’s instead.
“What are you doing now? Tell me what you’re doing, babe.”
“I’m jacking myself,” Ryan whispered, a flush of heat flared in his body, and his head felt dizzy. “Cupping my balls.”
“Yes.” Erik moaned. “So am I. Roll those balls around, tug at them. Shit. Fuck.”
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” He found himself muttering as an orgasm built inside him, as strong as it usually was with Erik, but somehow empty.
“Ah, fuck, Ryan. Fuck. I’m so close, so close.”
“Erik…” He filled his voice with all the longing he felt.
“Rub your perineum, babe. Rub it. I want you to come with me.”
Ryan cried out as he sneaked two fingers back and did as Erik instructed. He pressed toward his prostate, sending sparks exploding through his body. “Ahh!” He cried.
“Oh, god, Ryan, I’m coming. I’m coming, Ryan. Fuck!”
The line grew eerily silent, and Ryan imaged Erik’s body arching as his orgasm overtook him, all his muscles standing in sharp relief, straining at the intensity of sensations.
An extra rub on his taint, a tight squeeze around his cock head, and Ryan followed Erik off the cliff. “Ah, Erik!”
He drew out Erik’s name as the rush of his orgasm hit him, and he painted himself in his own come. The sound of blood rushed past his ears as his heart thudded its staccato beat, blocking out all other sounds. Ryan panted through the strength of his orgasm, and as he came down from the high, the air quickly cooled and his semen became sticky on his skin.
Now would normally be the time when Erik buried his face into the crook of Ryan’s neck and Ryan would wrap his arms around those wide shoulders. And the two of them would hold each other as their hearts settled into a normal rhythm. But Erik wasn’t there, and Ryan had no one to hold. Was it pathetic that he wanted to cuddle with his phone?
“Babe?” he whispered. The phone still showed an active call.
“Yeah, I’m here.” Erik’s voice was groggy, the way it always was after sex. But Ryan could hear a little something else in there; it was the same achy, empty feeling Ryan felt.
He sighed. “I miss you.”
Erik responded with his own sigh. “I miss you, too. So fucking much.”
How much longer could they do this?
Erik’s arms strained as they hefted his heavy suitcase up the last stairs to Ryan’s apartment. Heavy with all the gifts he had brought for Ryan’s family. He may have gotten a little carried away with the gift shopping, but one purchase had led to another, and something about retail therapy and the prospect of having a real Christmas with a loving family had turned him into a bit of a maniac. He didn’t regret a second of it.
“Hey.” Ryan’s arms sneaked around his waist as he settled his hands on Ryan’s shoulders.
“Hey.” They smiled at each other for a moment before leaning in for a quick peck on the lips.
They had developed a bit of a ritual by now. The first several hours after Erik arrived would be spent on the couch, Erik nestled in Ryan’s arms, Caesar somewhere within petting distance. They would soak in each other’s presence, the touch of each other’s hands, the scent of each other’s skin. And slowly, with the passing of each minute, their realities would realign, almost like a blurry camera lens snapping back into focus, and they would remember how to be in the same space again.