FAMILY was supposed to love you, right? It shouldn’t matter how you chose to live your life, whether you were a doctor, pole dancer, or a dancing bear. Your family was supposed to love you regardless of it all.
It was what everything was based on; it was the foundation of things, because if your own family couldn’t love you, then who would?
Instead of showering Jayden with all his love after his mother’s tragic death, his father had turned on his only son, beating him for the smallest of infractions. Love was supposed to be pure, right? And wasn’t a parent supposed to love the child?
Jayden shivered, pulling his sweater tighter around his lithe frame. He knew he wasn’t going to get any warmer by doing it, but it made him feel better.
The night was cold, and the light smog of the city prevented him from seeing any stars, but in fanciful moments he still tilted his head skyward and pretended to see the glistening firmament.
His imagination was sometimes the only thing that kept him warm, and thankfully, he had plenty of it.
Tonight he was grateful for the slight chill in the air, because thanks to that, it wasn’t raining. Standing in his usual spot while the heavens opened up on him wouldn’t help him earn enough to make the next rent payment.
Danny, his roommate, wouldn’t kick him out; he was a good guy. But Jayden needed to earn his own keep, even if it wasn’t by any means he was proud of.
Staying alive was all that mattered; he didn’t have the luxury of frowning on what he was doing, because keeping himself clothed, fed, and sheltered took precedence over anything else.
He had dreams, though; one day he would be able to leave this life behind, and he would make something of himself. He didn’t aim for much; he just wanted to live a decent life in a town far from here, where no one knew him or the things he had done, and then he would be content.
“Hey you,” a man called out to him, stopping Jayden in his tracks.
A sleek, expensive-looking car pulled over to the sidewalk. The window rolled down and a red-faced man looked out.
Some of his customers had been handsome enough to make Jayden wonder why they simply didn’t go to a bar and pick someone up. Maybe paying someone for sex was easier, even though it wasn’t legal? Or maybe they liked being in control, getting exactly what they wanted without having to be nice about it.
There were a few lines, though, he would never cross. He had no illusions about who he was or how much trouble he would be in should he get caught. But being aware of the risks of his profession didn’t mean he had to throw common sense or pride out the window.
He didn’t do anything without protection, because if he wanted to kill himself, all he had to do was fling himself off the nearest bridge; he didn’t have to make himself suffer for it.
And he never let anyone try any kinks on him. He didn’t go for being tied up, and he didn’t role-play, either.
“How much for a few hours?” the man asked, no pleasantries needed.
Jayden named his price, and before getting into the car, he quickly added, “Nothing without a condom, and no funny stuff either.”
The beady eyes narrowed, but when the man nodded, saying, “Of course,” Jayden got into the car.
One secret of the trade was to always prepare yourself before heading out for the night. He couldn’t count on some random stranger to take the time and the care needed to stretch him open properly, and frankly he wasn’t one of those people who enjoyed pain. One day he might find out what sex between people who at least cared for each other was like, but he wasn’t lying awake at night dreaming about such a moment. He wasn’t a teenage girl, for crying out loud, with mist in her eyes clouding her perception of reality.
He had Danny, his one and only friend, to thank for this insight too. Without his friend telling him what to do and what to avoid, he might’ve gotten hurt pretty bad. The first time he had touched himself back there, stretching his hole, it had been awkward, and it had really brought home to him what he was about to do.
But Jayden was nothing but practical, and by now it was as normal for him as putting on a suit and tie in the morning was for some men.
It didn’t mean he liked it; it was just the way things were.
There were lots of cheap motels in the area, and while some boys kept a room for the night, Jayden had never bothered. He figured if someone wanted to fuck him in a bed, then the man might just as well pay the room rate for it. If not, Jayden wasn’t averse to bending over in a dark alley and doing it there. Modesty was a luxury he had thrown out of the window a long time ago.
He had survived years of hell at home, hiding what happened in the confines of the house, and no one had ever thought anything was wrong. He was good at wearing masks, and if his childhood had been good for anything, it was for teaching him that no one could be trusted, even those who said they loved you. His life had also taught him that staying alive was all that mattered in the end, and if he didn’t see to it, then no one else would.
So he kept himself sane by drawing and painting, hiding in his art, and while he fancied himself to be quite good at it, he didn’t harbor any hopes or dreams of one day becoming famous. Such things didn’t happen to people like him, and he needed to set his expectations accordingly. Having his head in the clouds, dreaming of a life forever out of his reach, wasn’t going to do him any good. On the contrary, it would only set him up for a nasty fall, and since no one would be there to pick up the pieces when he shattered, he had to keep his own hopes and expectations at a reasonable level.
But a good life, a decent life, was all he really wanted: a small house or apartment in a good community, a job that paid enough to allow him some comforts, and maybe a few good friends.
Surely that wasn’t too much to ask for, right?
Sometimes he couldn’t help but wonder if giving up wouldn’t be easier, but maybe there was something wrong with him deep down, because he seemed to be unable to simply roll over and give up. Sometimes Jayden thought his father’s goal in life had been to try and beat him into submission. Must be a fundamental flaw on Jayden’s part, then, that his teachings had never taken….
The car had a certain smell Jayden had come to associate with old guy even though if asked, he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone exactly what the smell actually was. It was heavy, hanging in the air, and normally he would run the other way, because it was a scent that had his nostrils flaring and his throat constricting.
The deodorant the man was wearing wasn’t much helping matters, either, but after taking a few collected breaths, Jayden was able to steady himself and not gag outright. It wouldn’t be good for business to offend his customer, and it was the nature of things that the men who came calling on him weren’t the type of men he would pick up if he had a choice.
The upholstery felt good underneath him, and he allowed his fingers to slowly caress the edge of his seat. He was mindful not to show his appreciation, because there was no way of knowing what would set off a customer and what wouldn’t. He had become careful with what he did and what he said, and his caution had served him well so far.
He hardly ever got into any trouble, and getting roughed up a little bit here and there was part of the risk he had accepted when he had started down this path. However, he was all about keeping those risks as low as possible, unlike some guys he knew who practically invited danger because it made them feel alive.
There was no small talk in the car, and minutes later, the man parked in front of a motel. As Jayden got out of the car, the man instructed, “Wait there.”
Jayden nodded and did as he was told.
The man was maybe in his late forties and had a strong build, but he didn’t seem to have taken particular care of his body. His facial structure hinted that at one time in his life he might have been considered handsome, and his pale-blue eyes might have only added to the appeal. Now, though, there was no warmth in those eyes, as if they had seen too much and it had jaded him beyond repair.
This was yet another reason why Jayden worked so hard to save up enough money to get out of this life. He didn’t want to up end up like that. He didn’t want to turn forty and discover he had wasted his life away. His goals might be modest, but he didn’t need to be filthy rich to be happy.
Jayden stuffed his cold hands into his pockets, rocking back and forth on his heels, wanting to lean back on the parked car but knowing better than to actually follow through. Some rich guys could be funny about these things, and Jayden didn’t want to anger the man, not when they were about to get intimate.
And the guy’s wealth wasn’t something he doubted for a single second. The car was of good quality, the clothes the man wore were of excellent taste, and his whole manner spoke of someone who didn’t worry about money at all. There was a certain carelessness in the way he had agreed to the amount Jayden had demanded with a flick of his hands, as if he couldn’t have cared less what Jayden asked for.
There were some customers who tried to negotiate, and even though there was a small part of him that felt bad for those guys, he never backed down. This was his life, after all, and if they couldn’t afford to pay for sex, then maybe they should go home to their wives and sleep with them!
Tonight’s customer came back from acquiring a room, and his jingling the door key was Jayden’s cue to follow him.
He watched his client open the door, and something about the man’s stance had the tiny hairs at the back of his neck standing up. The glint in his eyes was different from what Jayden had expected. There was no dent in the man’s jeans, no heavy breathing, and he was looking at Jayden, licking his lips in a way that had him almost taking a step back.
He blinked, narrowed his eyes, and shuffled his feet before he opened his lips, intending to say he wasn’t interested anymore. Keep your money. Have a nice life. He rarely walked away from a customer; he couldn’t afford to be picky, but every nerve ending in his body was screaming at him, telling him something wasn’t right here, and he knew better than to ignore his instincts.
But he didn’t get further than opening his mouth before a dark figure shoved him from behind, sending him stumbling toward the man in the doorway.
“What the—” he exclaimed, trying to catch his balance, but strong hands grabbed him from behind, securing his hands behind his back, and then he was once again forcefully shoved into the room.
He stumbled on the atrocious carpet, and it was just thanks to his quick feet that he managed to use his momentum to spin around and duck out from under a sudden swing the new guy had been taking at him.
This wasn’t about sex at all, this was about bashing a guy, and he had walked right into it!
He had heard about this happening, about guys being picked up and brought to a motel room under the pretense of sex, and then instead of getting down with it, the guy ended up getting beaten to a pulp.
And, his helpful brain supplied readily, one guy had even died!
He wasn’t strong and he most certainly was no fighter, but neither of these facts meant he was going to go down without putting up a fight. He hadn’t overcome this much in his life to simply roll over and take the punches coming his way.
He was quick, nimble on his feet, and he managed to duck and evade yet another punch. But two against one in a small motel room wasn’t fair by any standard, and even as he tried to get past the first guy, a hand managed to grab his arm, pulling him backward until he was in a strong hold, his back pressed to the guy’s front, unable to move.
“What do you want?” he forced out between ragged gasps, his heart beating rapidly.
Fear coursed through his veins. Even when his own father had beaten him bloody, he had never felt the urge to pass out cold from sheer dread. His father might have hurt him, unleashed whatever anger he had onto him, but Jayden had always known he wouldn’t end up dead. Hurt, yes, but dead? No, his father had never tried to kill him.
With these guys, anything could happen, and what brought the fear home was the fact there would be no help coming for him.
Hearing someone like him screaming in a motel room that was rented out by the hour wouldn’t cause anyone any alarm. It was a frequent occurrence. But knowing how dire the situation actually was had the blood in his veins turning to ice.
He needed to keep a cool head; he needed to stay focused, but that was easier said than done!
No answer to his question was forthcoming. Instead, the man in front of him—who was considerably shorter than the man who had picked him up but thinner and baldheaded—smiled evilly. The man reached behind him, pulling a weapon that gleamed in the barely lit motel room, and with wide, fearful eyes, Jayden watched as the blade slowly moved toward him.
They were going to slice him open!
For a moment he was frozen; no muscle in his body was responding to any of his commands. His brain was too jumbled with fear—which was kind of mind-numbing on its own—to choose between the need to run and the desire to launch himself at the man and rip him to shreds. There were too many conflicting demands running through his head, so no actual command managed to reach his limbs. “Frozen to the spot” had never been anything but an expression to Jayden, and he didn’t relish learning how it actually felt now. This was one experience he would’ve gladly done without.
Never before had a nightmare seemed so real. Kind of like the one where he had been rooted to the spot, butt naked, while everyone laughed at him. Back then, although he had struggled with all he had, he hadn’t managed to break the hold of the dream. Sadly, even in his terror, he had known he was in a dream. This, unfortunately, was stark reality.
Time seemed to slow down—yet another phrase he was getting intimately acquainted with. Who the hell had said knowledge was power? Ignorance was bliss! Could he please have his innocence back? Right now? The knife was moving toward him in slow motion, cutting through the air. His fierce wish to stay alive, to see his dreams come true, hurled him into motion, breaking the spell he had been under.
“No!” he shouted, putting his entire weight, which wasn’t much, into flinging himself backward. The back of his head connected with the guy’s jaw; there was a satisfying grunt of pain, and the grip on his arms lessened.
The knife was still coming toward him, but the little bit of freedom he had gained from his actions allowed him to throw himself sideways, changing the place where the knife would cut into his body. He couldn’t avoid getting cut, but instead of ending up gutted, he would only get sliced. Still not the preferable outcome, of course, but way better than being dead.
White-hot pain flared in his side, and the scream leaving his lips could have been described as a cross between a gurgle and the screech of a dying cat. He fell out of the man’s grip, but the pain was so intense that his knees gave way, and when the carpet moved toward him, all he could do was turn sideways and avoid hitting his face on it.
He rolled, clutching at his side, and with an almost lazy detachment, he stared at his fingers. Blood, a vivid bloody red on his fingers. The color was so pretty, so unlike the reds he had worked with so far. His fingers twitched; he wanted to use the color, not let it go to waste. Maybe he could run his fingers along the wall, leave a wide, vibrant red line behind? Kind of like leaving his mark in the world, one final testament. I have walked these shores, bear witness. A snort tore itself free from his throat; he couldn’t believe the stupid path his own thoughts had taken.
The vibrant red lost its appeal, his eyes slowly glazing over. The world was falling away one dark dot at a time. His brain, however, was gearing up again. He couldn’t go to sleep; there was something he still had to do!
His forehead creased and a frown marred his pretty face.
Shouts rang through the air, but he barely noticed the commotion around him.
Blond hair drifted into his vision, followed by vivid blue. Blue? Jayden blinked, trying very hard to focus. Yes, blue eyes peered down at him, and for a moment, his lips moved, tugging into a soft smile.
“You’ve got a cute nose,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper, and it was true. The guy was like a blond angel with the cutest nose he had ever seen.
When the blond stranger came closer, the dark dots dancing in Jayden’s vision finally succeeded in claiming world domination. When they took over, darkness was the only thing left. Deep down, though, in the furthest reaches of Jayden’s mind, a puzzle piece that had been missing slotted into place.