Excerpt from unchained Melody S.K Munt
Ryan had showered while Meredith had been kissing Hunter good night and was now wearing black track pants with white stripes down the sides and no shirt as he stood in the centre of the room and sculled a bottle of water until it concaved with a crack. He threw the empty receptacle carelessly to the floor, looked up at Hunter and said: ‘Hey man. That only took forever. I’ve made your bed up though and there’s a fresh towel in the bathroom when you want it…’ He threw himself down on his own four poster bed and picked up a book: Don Quixote. Hunter knew that because he’d seen it on the table in the music room upstairs earlier. ‘I’m probably just gonna read until I pass out.’
Hunter said nothing in response, watching Ryan settle comfortably into the centre of his bed, his nose already buried in the book. Water was shining like blood on his damp hair in the light, giving him the impression of being someone’s master or vampire lord, not a seventeen year old kid with mummy and daddy issues. Hunter resented him for that- for being so flippant, so fucking cool in the face of everything all the time. For reading a book with a title Hunter wouldn’t attempt to pronounce out loud. No one talked shit about Ryan. Callie was a slut, and Hunter was a wannabe rock-star who should have been a boy scout instead; but Ryan Weaver was Ryan Weaver and had never, a day in his life, tried to be anyone else or had been expected to be.
Hunter leaned against the wall, crossed his arms and stared harder, waiting to see how long it would take for Ryan to feel a burning sensation between his eyes.
It took four seconds.
Ryan glanced at him, then turned back to the book. ‘Geez, how wasted are you? I’m not going to carry you to the shower, man.’ Hunter pressed his lips tightly, his scowl intensifying naturally in the face of that remark. Ryan sighed and put his book down on his chest, ‘Okay what? Did you drop acid or something?’
Ryan looked at him then, and after a few beats, a wearied look came over his face. ‘Fuck.’
Hunter raised an eyebrow.
Ryan sighed and sat up, tossing the book to the bedspread and resting his elbows on his knees, with his head in his hands. ‘She told you, didn’t she?’ Hunter tapped the side of his nose, afraid that if he opened his mouth now, nothing but the F-word come out. And he owed Ryan the chance to be heard out before he threw him into a few walls. ‘Look, I’m sorry.’ Ryan regarded him with an earnest expression, his drooping gait reminding Ryan of a scolded dog. ‘It wasn’t intentional. She was asleep, right there on the couch next to me, it was dark and raining, I was lonely, she was beautiful and smelled like fucking flowers…’ he exhaled. ‘But nothing happened.’
‘Because lightning struck?’ Hunter asked coldly.
‘Yeah.’ Ryan snorted. ‘I think the Gods were telling me to back off.’
‘Someone had to.’
Ryan’s eyes flashed, looking a bit like muted lightning themselves for a moment. But then he sighed, flopping back on the bed and bringing his hands to his face. ‘Look I know it was stupid okay?’ Gavin Rossdale’s husky voice making lyrical anguish to ‘Glycerine’ filled the room and suited to match both of their moods perfectly. ‘But I told you weeks ago that I was beginning to suffer in her company and what did you do?’ He sat up on his elbows and glared at him. ‘You pissed off. You left us alone almost every day for a month Hunter! It’s a bit late for you to lecture me for breaking the Three Musketeer code when you were off sticking your musket elsewhere!’
‘Okay, for starters, I haven’t stuck anybody with a musket.’ Hunter pushed off the wall, holding up a finger. ‘Secondly, I’m not just pissed off that you risked our friendship with Callie because you had a hard-on, but because you then asked her not to tell me about what happened. To keep a secret from me. How is that keeping us a trio, Ryan? Since when are secrets even a thing with us? What else haven’t you told me?’
‘Nothing!’ Ryan bounced to the balls of his feet, looking squarely at Hunter. ‘That’s it, okay? I almost kissed Cal. Almost. We were interrupted by thunder, and the way she answered that little Truth Or Dare round robin tonight tells me that she might have waved a red flag even if we hadn’t been- because you’re the one she’s imagined kissing anyway, not me!’
But Hunter held up his hand. ‘She was full of shit, Ry. I don’t know what her real answer was, but she basically told me that she made it up for the simple fact that I was the only one of the three options that wasn’t available and therefore, wouldn’t get any ideas.’
‘Oh bullshit. She told you that because she doesn’t want you to know how much she really likes you.’ Ryan turned away and kicked his rubbish can aggressively. ‘Everyone knows it Hunter. Why do you think Sacha asked you what she did? About why you haven’t kissed Cal? Everyone assumes that you two have hooked up because clearly, there’s something between you guys that has been excluding me for a while!’
‘She doesn’t want me.’ Hunter snapped, the words causing him actual anguish. ‘She had her chance but she-’
Ryan’s head whipped around. ‘What?! What chance? When?’ Hunter cringed. Everything inside him cringed just as everything inside Ryan began to straighten. His mate started laughing- actually laughing!
‘Oh no way- you’ve tried kissing her too?’ He loped towards Hunter with a half-amused, half-hateful grin on his face. ‘And I’m the one keeping secrets?!’ He poked Hunter in the centre of the chest. ‘When? Come on, Marks, fess up! I can see in your eyes that I’m fucking right!’
Hunter slapped his finger away. ‘I just told you man, and it happened two hours ago. What was I supposed to do? Run inside with Meredith’s hand in mine, curl up in your lap and sob because I tried to take Callie up on her offer and she actually ran away after literally pushing Meredith into my arms?’
Ryan’s brow smoothed out. ‘She did?’
Hunter nodded. ‘I was drunk. I only meant to go after her, to ask why she’d never mentioned the whole virginity thing to me-’
‘Because it excited you to hear it-’ Ryan pointed out.
‘Yeah well, fuck I’m not made of stone!’ Hunter stepped back, throwing his hands in the air. ‘Anyway I had her up against the wall, and she reacted like I had leprosy, told me that she’d exaggerated the wanting me thing, because she didn’t want you to think that she wanted you, or for Reece to think he had a shot in hell, period.’ He sagged back against the wall, feeling depleted in every cell. He shrugged. ‘And then she bailed.’
Ryan stared at him, his gaze shifting from one of Hunter’s eyes to the other quickly, as though searching for a tell that Hunter was now lying. But Hunter returned the suspicious look with a defeated look of his own, and held up his hands again.
‘She doesn’t want either of us, Ry. She’s our friend. And now, she’s this close to running to the hills, because we’re crossing lines all over the shop since she got boobs!’
Ryan turned away. ‘Fuck! This is bullshit!’ He bounced lightly on the balls of his bare feet. ‘And it’s all my fault, of course! Why did I have her over? I’ve known this was coming. I didn’t plan to do it, but I knew there was a chance I might!’
‘You did?’ Hunter asked, stiffening again. ‘Why? How often have you thought about it?’
‘How often?’ Ryan leaned over and pulled up the spiral, five-subject notebook he used to write lyrics in. Loose leaves of paper were stuffed between the attached pages and Ryan pulled them out, throwing them above his head like he was in a parade. ‘This often!’ Dozens and dozens of pages took flight and floated to the ground. He paused, peered in the dim light at the title of one, shook his head and threw it into the air above his head. ‘Sun-Kissed Snow White!’ He pulled out another fistful. ‘Fisted heart!’ He reached for another and once again, flung it behind him. ‘I want to be inside you Callie!’ He shot Hunter a foolish look. ‘Okay that one was never meant to be seen…and they all suck anyways!’
Hunter snorted. ‘Can I read it?’
‘Could you read, with a fist down your throat?’
Hunter laughed, and then Ryan chuckled.
‘I’m sorry.’ He turned to Hunter, his arms hanging limply at his sides. ‘I don’t want to be Callie’s boyfriend, well, at least I don’t think I do. And even if I did, I wouldn’t risk what we all have together by trying to keep her to myself.’
‘Well that’s a good thing,’ Hunter said. ‘Because I’d kill you before I let you take such a risk. Just like I expect you to snap my neck if I ever try anything like I tried tonight again.’
Ryan rubbed his temples with his hands. ‘Yeah well… how are we both going to make it to grad alive then, Hunter? Because I can’t even look at her without wanting to throw her down on the nearest surface. You’ve been off and so she sang with me and holy crap…’ He sank back down onto his bed. ‘Holy crap- that girl can sing me hard…. That husky thing…’
‘I know.’ Hunter was actually jealous that Callie had sung with Ryan. He sat down on Ryan’s desk. ‘She’s changed, hasn’t she? It’s not just the physical thing. She’s like… more alive or something.’
Ryan scratched behind his ear. ‘Yep. And whether she knows it or not, everything she’s doing is sexy; the clothes, the dancing-’
‘That thing with the tights!’ Hunter added.
Ryan groaned. ‘I almost stopped living.’
‘Okay so we can’t help but look,’ Hunter surmised, ‘but we just need to agree to keep our hands and lips to ourselves.’
‘By not drinking around her- ever again.’ Ryan agreed.
‘And not walking her anywhere or driving her anywhere alone.’
‘Which means you can’t miss any more practices and you need to stop being a shitty best friend in general so I’m not stuck with her by myself so much.’
‘Agreed.’ Hunter conceded. ‘But it also means, that we either need to get her a boyfriend, or get you a girlfriend as a distraction.’
Ryan screwed up his nose. ‘That seems like a dog thing to do.’
‘You wanna be a rock star?’ Hunter reminded him. ‘Well you better start treating girls like groupies and get some of that frustration out of your system before you break down our system completely.’