“If you love someone, let them go. If they return to you, it was meant to be. If they don’t, their love was never yours to begin with.”
Brendan McKenzie scoffed and balled up the card along with Aaron’s photo. It’d been three years since his lover—the man he’d thought was his soul mate—had left, and Brendan was tired of waiting and hoping, only to be disappointed in the end. Aaron had made his choice. Brendan could live with it, would have to live with it.
He still hated it.
“‘It is better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all’,” he read, picking up a postcard. “Ha. Anonymous has obviously never had to deal with either.”
Tearing the postcard in half, he threw it in the burn pile. He made quick work of the rest of the box, electing to keep only a few items. After he was done, Brendan sat on the fieldstone surround of the cold fireplace and started to build a fire. Feeling his pockets for a lighter, he swore, stood and went to search the junk drawer in the kitchen, retrieving a book of matches instead. He swore again when the doorbell rang.
“It’s fucking midnight! What the hell?” Brendan stomped to the door, and yanked it open. “Harden! What the fuck do you want? And why didn’t you just walk in?” He scowled at the dark features of Harden Langford, his best friend since third grade…and the cousin of his former lover. Harden’s parents had named him after a grandfather, and it had given his friend no end of trouble.
“Thought it’d be better to knock this time,” Harden said indicating a scruffy looking man standing near him. The other man stood slightly behind and to the left of his friend and stared at the ground, his hands behind his back. Brendan recognised the submissive stance immediately. This one was different. If he wasn’t mistaken, the submissive had been abused. “Garrett’s home, so he can’t stay with me,” Harden continued.
Brendan blinked and stared in disbelief at the dishevelled man as Harden’s words finally sunk in. This wasn’t just any submissive, abused or not. Brendan’s scowl deepened. He recognised Aaron Langford, his ex-lover and partner, through the stringy, dirty blond hair and shaggy beard. The once bright, smiling green eyes were dull and lifeless. The smaller man had lost weight since he’d left—that much Brendan could tell even with the baggy clothes he was wearing.
“No.” Brendan shook his head. His stomach clenched and his throat tightened. The last thing he needed or wanted in his life right now was Aaron. Responsibility be damned. He wanted nothing to do with the man who had ripped his heart out. Brendan blew out a breath and shoved a hand through his hair. He’d finally agreed to go out with Matt Carson, the good-looking office manager from the financial services firm that shared a floor with the advertising company that Harden worked at, after the man had pursued him for months. He’d spoken with the man several times and had a sensed a natural submissiveness in Matt that appealed to him on a certain level. Eventually, he would make a great sub. Aaron was a complication he didn’t want or need.
“Brendan, he’s only been in town a couple of hours and he has to stay somewhere,” Harden implored. “Garrett can’t stand him. He wants him dead and refuses to allow him in the house while he’s around.”
“The streets?” he suggested. “That smells like where you picked him up from. And what makes you think he is welcomed here or that my opinion is different than Garrett’s?”
“He’s family. My family…we’re all each other has.”
“He’s not my family,” Brendan ground out, ignoring the pleading invading his friend’s voice and eyes. Brendan knew Harden spoke the truth. Both men had been kicked out of the house and disowned by their entire family the day they’d come out. They’d been closer than brothers since then. At least until Aaron left them all and headed for New York City.
“He’s your soul mate.”
Brendan shook his head. “No. He’s. Not. He made his choice. Three years ago he walked away from me, from us and what we had together. He walked away from you.”
“He’ll die on the streets. It’s just a couple of days. Garrett leaves on Monday.”
Aaron’s eyes open wide, his face paled and Harden shook his head.
“It’s not my problem, Harden. Put him in a shelter, a hotel, or a gutter. I don’t care. But he’s not staying here. He’s no longer welcome,” Brendan replied, steeling his heart. Having Aaron under his roof would be torture, especially when he knew Aaron didn’t want him. Dating simply wouldn’t be possible with his ex-boyfriend living under the same roof. He had a real date planned, not just a hook up with a submissive from the club, and he had hoped to get lucky with Matt tomorrow. An idea that had lost its appeal when combined with the reminder of Aaron living with him. Staying, he corrected himself. Aaron wasn’t welcome.
“When did you become a cold hearted bastard?” Harden asked, balling his fists, testifying to the fury and worry running through his best friend.
“Swing at me if you must, Harden. You’re my best friend and you of all people should know exactly why Aaron isn’t welcomed here. I refuse to put myself through that again. Not for you. Certainly not for him. Not for any reason. There is no room in this house or in my life for that selfish prick.” Brendan pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and removed the cash and one of his business cards and handed it over to his friend. “Here is eighty-three dollars, that’s enough to get a room for a night or two at a motel. If I’m a cold-hearted bastard, you can thank your cousin for that. Get him off my property.”
Harden nodded reluctantly. “I’ll be in touch.”
Brendan watched Harden guide his one-time lover back to the light green sedan parked in his driveway. He kept watch as Harden drove away, wondering if he’d see Aaron again. Hoping he would. Praying he wouldn’t. Brendan blew out a breath and ran a hand through his hair. Why now, after three years had Aaron returned? What had happened to the man who had been proud of his looks? Why did he look and smell like he just crawled out of a sewer pipe? Looking at the cold fireplace, he retrieved a beer from the kitchen, and weighed his options. Blowing out a breath and rubbing his chin, he sat down on the couch, his mind swirled with unanswered questions.