No Good Deed by Marie Sexton

Prologue

Six years ago…

Charlie hadn’t had to face the morning after in a long time. There’d only been Tad for five straight years. But Tad had broken things off three months earlier, and since then, he’d been depressingly celibate.

Until last night.

He quietly brewed his morning cup of tea, wondering what would happen when the man who’d spent the night in his bed woke up. Would they make light of it? Would they need to discuss how and why it had happened? Would it happen again, or had it been a one-time thing? Charlie needed to leave for work in forty minutes. He didn’t know if he should wake his guest and say goodbye, or let him sleep. Hell, for all he knew, the man he’d made love to only a few hours earlier was playing possum, waiting for Charlie to leave so he could sneak out without a word between them. He wished he knew exactly what was supposed to happen next.

He was shaken from his musings by somebody pounding on his front door.

“Shit.”

His clients generally used the back door, and of his friends, there was only one who would come knocking at seven o’clock in the morning without calling first.

Charlie hurried into the living room to open the door. Between his upcoming shift at Urgent Care and the man still sleeping in his bed, Gray’s timing couldn’t have been worse, but Charlie let him in anyway. That’s how it was between them—they always made time for each other, no matter what.

Gray’s hair was disheveled, his skin pale, dark circles shadowing his eyes.

“You look like shit, my friend.”

“Good. I feel like shit, so at least I’m consistent.” Gray threw himself onto Charlie’s couch. “I don’t suppose you have coffee?”

“I can make you a cup of tea.”

“Forget it.”

Charlie perched on the armchair, his elbows on his knees. Gray wouldn’t stop by this early unless he had something on his mind. “What’s going on?”

“Jonas and I had a fight last night. And not just any fight either. This was the fight, if you know what I mean.”

“You broke up?”

“No, but only because I left before we got that far.” Gray pinched the bridge of his nose. “Christ, what a mess. I’m hoping I’ll go home and find that he moved out while I was gone.”

Charlie blinked at that, surprised. “You didn’t go home last night?”

“No.”

“You spent the night with somebody else?”

“Not really.”

“What the hell does that mean, Gray? Either you did, or you didn’t.”

“I didn’t, but not for lack of trying.” Charlie waited for Gray to elaborate. “I went to a bar. Had a drink. Called Warren, but he was busy being a bodyguard for a couple of working girls downtown. So I had another drink. And another. And then…”

Charlie knew by Gray’s tone he wasn’t going to like what came next. “And then what?”

Gray sighed. “I went to see Phil.”

Charlie bit back a groan. Gray had been obsessed with Phil for months now. “So, what? You went to his house and told him you’re in love with him?”

“Jonas threatened to do it. I figured, better if I got to Phil first.”

“So what happened?”

“Rory was there, butting into the conversation all night, doing that fawning, flirting thing he does, practically begging me to fuck him. Jesus.” He shook his head. “Why can’t Phil see that guy’s no good for him? Why can’t he see Rory’s probably screwing at least three other people behind his back?”

“You mean, why can’t Phil see that he’d be better off with you?”

Gray sighed but didn’t answer.

Charlie cleared his throat, checking the clock, weighing Gray’s need for counseling against the minutes of his morning ticking away. “So you didn’t end up coming clean with Phil?”

“No. I drank a bunch of his top-shelf whiskey, then passed out in the guest room.”

“So what happens now?” Charlie asked. “With Jonas, I mean?”

“It’s over. You know that. I know that. Jonas knows that. The only problem is, neither one of us wants to be the guy who ends it. We’re both waiting for the other one to throw in the towel.”

Charlie pulled restlessly at his beard. “Seems like all you guys do these days is fight.”

Gray nodded. “Especially since he found out about Phil.” He sat up with a groan. “We can’t go on like this. It feels like it has to end today, one way or another.”