Always Three: A MMM Menage Coming Out of the Closet Romance (The Always Series Book 7), page 1
The Always Series
Copyright © 2019 by J.P. James
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Also by J.P. James
The Always Series
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I was left at the altar by my fiancée, but my two groomsmen are only too happy to comfort me.
I thought I was in love with Janine. She’s beautiful, sweet, and we’ve been dating since freshman year of college. It was the best day of my life when I asked her to marry me, and she said yes. But then Janine jilts me at the altar and leaves me like a fool before three hundred guests. I want to cry. I want to break down, and sob like a baby while sitting on the church steps. Good thing my groomsmen Hudson and Hayden are on hand to comfort me. But when their comfort goes beyond mere friendship, suddenly I’m forced to come face to face with the real Ricky who’s been in the closet his whole life.
My twin Hudson and I have been friends with Ricky since we were tots. We defended him against kindergarten bullies and did our best to shield him from the ups and downs of life. But now, Ricky’s been left at the altar by his long-time sweetheart. We never thought it was going to work with a woman, but it wasn’t our place to question his sexuality.
Now Ricky tells us he has feelings. For us. Real feelings that run deep and strong, not to mention a magnetic physical attraction that pulses in the air. However, he’s conflicted because after a lifetime of living as a hetero man, the adjustment is difficult. He questions himself, thinking that his attraction to men might just be a reflexive reaction to his recent trauma of being jilted at the altar. How can we help him find himself and see the light? Living as a gay man is never easy, but Ricky’s emotional conflict is taking a toll and breaking our hearts. How do we help Ricky accept himself, when he’s afraid to batter down the closet doors for good?
“Hayden, didn’t you grab the pack from the room?” Hudson curses at me.
He pats down every pocket a third time as he speaks, roughing up the sleek ironing of his suit. I groan, audibly. I need him to know I’m annoyed.
“Wasn’t it in your bag? I could have sworn it was in your bag?” He tries to explain, but I’m not having it with the excuses.
“You had one job,” I say as I narrow my eyes at him. “This is the last time I let you carry cigarettes.”
Hudson fidgets with his pockets a fourth time as my eyes wander, looking for a distraction from my nicotine craving.
We wandered towards the tree-lined walkway across the parking lot. The Atlantis Hotel is one of the largest hotels in Long Island, and a massive feat of architectural prowess too. The exterior mixes pristine white walls with bright red brick. A clock tower stands above the main entrance, tolling every hour on the hour. The hotel is regal, unassuming, and grand in every sense of the word. I hate to admit it, but it’s perfect for a wedding. It’s perfect for any wedding…except the one that’s about to take place.
“Aha!” Hudson gasps.
He lifts his jacket and, lo and behold, he pulls the smashed pack from the back of his waistband. He rips open the plastic as I pull the lighter from my pocket. It’s another ten seconds, tops, before we’re taking drags and enjoying the immediate rush of nicotine.
“Either way, this really is the last time you let me carry cigarettes,” Hudson states. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to resort to this every time I’m stressed out.”
“Don’t remind me,” I huff.
Hudson chuckles. “I don’t want to be an EMT that smokes. That’s like being a doctor who eats steak and drinks beer every day,” he admonishes.
Before I can tell him that a daily dose of meet and alcohol sounds like a perfect life choice, we hear ambling feet shuffle behind us. We turn and see an older couple descend the steps slowly, carefully making their way towards the hotel behind us.
The man has one hand on the woman’s back, while she keeps her eyes not just on her own feet, but the man’s as well. I’d bet $100 they’re married. The way they watch each other, hold each other, it the way siblings or friends care for each other. These two are the real thing. Soulmates.
My heart lurches at the thought. It’s a rough day, for many reasons. Case in point: Hudson and I are newly single. No, it’s not a good thing. I mean, maybe in the long run it’ll be good, but right now my heart is broken. My brother and I had been dating the same guy, Danny, for about a year. It’s not unusual for us to date the same person. Honestly, I think we prefer it this way. We have similar taste in guys, and we’ve always shared everything growing up, that it made sense when it came to relationships. Danny was sweet, sexy, but admittedly a bit of a loose cannon. I loved to spoil him, and I know Hudson did too, but a couple weeks ago, Danny decided to break it off. We didn’t see it coming, and before I could process it, it was over.
He said we were too intense, and then left to backpack through Southeast Asia. Obviously, he’d been planning this for a while…without us. I think that part hurts the worst. While he kissed me, told us he loved us, he was secretly planning his escape. Now, instead of trekking through the streets of Phnom Penh, we’re playing groomsmen to our best friend, Ricky.
That, unfortunately, is a whole other can of worms, but before I lose myself to the agony in my brain, I look up as the old man takes his eyes off the ground. As he spots Hudson and me, his greying eyes light up and his smile pulls at the weathered skin around his cheeks.
“Hayden and Hudson Jones! I don’t believe my eyes,” he cheers, startling the woman in the process.
My eyes bulge and Hudson chokes on smoke. I immediately hide my cigarette, and Hudson follows suit. We drop them behind our backs and stomp them out as the charming duo steps within breathing distance. I don’t know who this lovely couple is, but if they know us, then I’m sure we’d get an earful if they caught us in the act.
The man sees our confused faces and chuckles. “It’s been a while, I guess. Midge, do you remember the Jones’ twins?” He says to his companion as they descend the last of the stairs.
“Come here boys!” She cries, pulling me into a bear hug as Hudson watches in full amusement.
“I’m so sorry,” I say as I pat her back. “You two are lovely, but I can’t remember you for the life of me.”
She releases me, and dives back to Hudson for more of the same. The man chuckles some more as he takes my hand in his.
“I’m Sidney Buchanan, and this is my wife Jane. You might remember me as Bucky,” he says with a grin.
Hudson and I gasp at the same time. Buck Buchanan. No shit. I haven’t heard that name since I was a kid. To every kid in Whittaker, Bucky was the town hero. He was an eccentric man and he lived his life how he wanted. Whatever happened to me, I knew that I wanted to grow up and live half the life Bucky did. My eyes study the small man one, twice, three times before I see the younger version hiding under the layers of age.
I shake his hand firmly yet delicate enough not to hurt him. “Are you kidding me, old man? We were kids when we knew you, but you’ve shrunk a good foot and half over the years.”
Sidney Buchanan, or as Hudson and I knew him, “Bucky” Buchanan, came to Whittaker, Long Island when we were kids. His wife transferred to the vet clinic nearby. Our dad told us that he had served in the Royal Air Force, before he immigrated to the US and met Jane. He’s always been eccentric, but I think it’s because he’s a kid at heart. That’s how we knew him. He would volunteer at every ice cream social, entertain at every county fair, and would read at the local library for an afterschool program. He and Jane never had kids, but in a way, he was Whittaker’s token father figure.
He’s the one that convinced us to try fencing, because “it’s fun to play with swords.” Those were his exact words. A grown up never encouraged me to play with sharp objects before, but Hudson and I obeyed his words like they were law. Jane found another job in Pennsylvania though, and they moved away. Still, the playing-with-swords mantra seared itself onto my brain.
Jane releases Hudson to smack me lightly on the arm. “Isn’t old age wonderful? Sid is almost my height now, and my tits are about a foot away from touching the ground.”
Hudson and I wail in laughter as Sidney shakes his head. He eyes his wife, and I know he’s not angry in the least. Based on the look he’s giving her, he might be falling even more in love.
“Really, honey. Behave yourself. We’re at a wedding,” he tells her.
I have to wipe the tears from my eyes before I can collect myself. “Wow, Bucky. It’s been, what, fourteen years?”
Sidney grins, and it’s coming back to me. He may be much shorter now, and wrinkled around the edges, but that smile hasn’t changed a bit.
“Don’t remind me. You can call me Sidney. I’m too old to go by Bucky. I don’t even look in mirrors anymore, too scared I’ll give myself a heart attack,” he says dramatically.
Jane smacks his arm now, no doubt reprimanding him for referring to himself in the negative. “You’ll always be my handsome Brit. Remember that.”
Sidney and Jane smile at each other for a brief moment, before they turn their full attention to us.
“How’d your fencing careers pan out?” Sidney blurts out.
“We competed through college, but our careers took us down a different path,” I explain.
Jane and Sidney both raise their eyebrows, waiting expectantly. I turn to Hudson so he can do the honors.
“We’re EMTs now,” he says with a grin. “We’re part of New York’s finest.”
Sidney and Jane light up like two trees on Christmas. Jane kisses both of us profusely.
“Jane, you’ll have to redo your lipstick, not to mention these guy’s poor faces,” Sidney laughs.
Jane pulls away to reach for the red tube in her purse. “These two are worth the reapplication.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Buchanan,” I tell her. She quickly shoos off the thought.
“It’s Jane, young man. Now tell us, how’s Ricky holding up?” She asks.
I thought, with the few drags and now this impromptu meetup, my nerves were long gone. But the idlest mention of Ricky’s name, and I can feel my chest struggling to breathe.
Ricky is Hudson and mine’s best childhood friend. We grew up in Whittaker together, but we didn’t become friends until second grade. Hudson and I ditched class to read our book, Knights of the Roundtable in Space, behind an oak tree. It was this crazy space adventure with aliens, castles, and, yes, lots of swords, when Ricky found us. Instead of ratting us out, he sat down and we all took turns reading out loud. It was so fun, getting into character and acting out the scenes. When the teacher finally found us, we were thick as thieves.
No wonder we jumped at the chance to join the fencing club. Sidney recommended it, but we were always sword fighting at home and in the park. It’s so much fun, and fighting with Ricky was even better. He was smaller than we were, and in fencing that meant he had the upper hand. We fenced non-stop, and competed around the tristate area.
Eventually, Ricky went to NYU, while Hudson and I enrolled in the paramedic program at the local community college. Hudson and I dove into our training, and we didn’t visit Ricky as often as we wanted. We met Janine on our first visit. She’s pretty. She has sparling blonde hair and placid blue eyes, but also seemed flaky. She ditched us for lunch the first day we visited. Still, they were both freshmen living on the same floor, and they became friends I guess. Honestly, Ricky never talked about her much. When we called, he only ever talked about helping her with her homework. I started to wonder if he was tutoring her for money. He graduated cum laude and all, so she couldn’t have picked a better tutor. Boy was I wrong.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when we got his wedding invitation in the mail. Apparently, they dated all through college, and Ricky never mentioned it once. It was a shock, to say the least.
“He’s–,” I start, but when I can’t find the right word, I choke. He’s a liar. He’s a mess. He’s my best friend and didn’t tell me he was engaged. The thoughts race, but I don’t know what to say to them that isn’t either inappropriate, or a lie.
“He’s nervous,” Hudson cuts in, his jaw clamping shut after that. No doubt, he’s weighing his words the same way I am. Jane and Sidney nod thoughtfully though, before Sidney clears his throat.
“He was always the cautious one,” he chimes. “You three were inseparable, but I knew you were the masterminds behind everything. Ricky followed you two around like a lost puppy.”
Hudson laughs and I know it’s forced. I don’t say anything. I clasp my hands together, working my knuckles against my fingertips.
“It’s a big day,” Jane says rhetorically. “The sky is blue, these young gentlemen are the handsomest groomsmen in Long Island, and my tits sag. I’m just stating facts.”
I snort abruptly. I wanted it to sound light and carefree, but I put too much oomph behind it to sound nonchalant. Hudson takes up the task, asking Sidney and Jane about their lives fourteen years after our childhood days. The distraction allows me get lost in the thoughts that have plagued the last couple weeks.
You see, my brother and I knew we were gay from a young age. We came out our freshman year of high school. No one really gave us any grief for it, probably because we were six feet tall by the time we reached puberty. We also played sports, and we fenced. Would you mess with a guy who knew how to use a sword? Yeah, me either.
This is why I know Ricky isn’t straight. I’m certain he isn’t, even though he’s never confirmed or denied his sexuality. Ricky has always been quiet though. He loves to act, loves to swordfight, and loves to express himself through action. When it comes to talking about his feelings though, he’s almost mute. Hudson and I take action too. We’re EMTs for Christ’s sake. But, we thrive on communication. It’s why this break up with Da
I don’t like to put labels on people, but there have been a few flags with Ricky. For instance, he’s obsessed with Colin Firth. He’s watched every movie he’s ever been in, and scoured the internet for recordings of his stage performances. Ricky says if he’s going to be an actor, he needs to learn from the best. I’ll admit, Colin Firth is a damn good actor, but there’s a line between admiration and obsession. I think Ricky crossed that line six movies ago. Then, there’s the Playgirl. We were running late for fencing class, so we barged into his room to the grab him. We found him leaning over the magazine with his face buried in the pages, but he chucked it into the trash as soon as we saw it. He mumbled something about his mom’s trash, and then grabbed his bag, and we left, never talking about it again.
Ricky is a private guy, always has been. That’s why we don’t press him about things, not about the Playgirl, or Colin Firth, or anything else. Still, he tells us things. He doesn’t keep us in the blue, and that’s why I can’t believe he kept his relationship from us for this long. I know Ricky like the back of my hand. He loves to put potato chips in his sub sandwiches, and he likes to take the stairs two at a time. He has the best laugh I’ve ever heard. It makes anyone around him feel warm and satisfied. I know him, and yet I didn’t know this.
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