Teaser- Fresh Meat

(Note: This is from a revision of a previously-published novel. The book is no longer available.)

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Shawn came back into the arcade right after Larry left. To my astonishment, he actually had a girl with him. She was scrawny, with barely enough boobs to fill her pink bikini top, and zits peppered her face and shoulders. Her hair hung down greasy and heavy, as if she hadn’t washed it in a few days. But she was definitely a girl, and judging from the way she hung on Shawn, I figured he might actually have a shot at fulfilling his mission.

I beat my high score a few times before the nerd who worked the change counter chased us away from the game. He claimed other customers wanted to play. I looked over my shoulder as we walked out of the place. No one was anywhere near our machine.

The four of us went out to the beach. Even with the sun pounding on us, being outside was better than having the arcade nerd chasing us around. Shawn’s chick, who Shawn didn’t bother introducing to us, bought us all snow cones. I heard him calling her Cherry a couple times and wondered if it was her name or just what he planned to lose with her.

Eddie and I tried not to look when some of her snow cone dripped down between her microboobs and Shawn licked it off. There was such a thing as too perverted for public.

After a while, the two lovebirds took off to do their thing. “Shawn’s going to spend the rest of the summer bragging,” Eddie said.

“The rest of the summer’s only like three weeks,” I pointed out. “Find your own girl and you can brag too.”

“Yeah, I want to screw someone random just so I can say I did.” Sarcasm dripped from his voice. “I’m as into girls as the next guy, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want to pick up some chick from the beach who I’ll never see again, you know?”

“Yeah.”

“What about you?”

“Huh?” I knew what he meant. I just really didn’t want a conversation about picking up chicks.

He rolled his eyes. “Girls, man. Why aren’t you out there with Shawn trying to get laid?”

I shrugged. “Why bother?”

“The old guy in the arcade seemed interested.” He made a face again. “It’s kind of nasty, you know? I mean, he kept looking at you the same way Shawn looks at girls.”

I tensed. Yeah, I would definitely never be able to tell my friends I might like guys.

Then Eddie went on. “I mean, I guess if a guy’s into guys, it’s his business. I don’t care, as long as he isn’t into me. It’s just that guy’s a lot older than us, too, and the way he looked at you gave me the creeps.”

I gave a little sigh of relief. Maybe Eddie wasn’t a prejudiced dickwad. He just had something against Larry’s age. “Can we change the subject now, please? I really don’t want to talk about creepy guys who might or might not be into me.”

He gave me a look. “Sure. What time is it?”

Teaser Thursday- Fresh Meat

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By four o’clock, I’d changed my clothes five times and still wasn’t happy with what I’d put on. I’d ended up in the same outfit as that morning, because none of the alternatives I’d tried seemed any better. Even though I didn’t figure Larry would care a lot about what I wore, I wanted to look good for him.

Finally I gave up and headed to the beach.

Larry was waiting for me exactly where he’d said he would be. My heart gave this weird little jump when I saw him. I wasn’t sure if it was happiness or love or lust, or some combination of all of them. All I knew was I was glad Mom had agreed to let me go, because I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a chance to see him.

“Glad you’re here.” His smile lit up brighter than the sun. “I’m glad your mother didn’t change her mind.”

“My dad tried to ground me,” I said.

He raised an eyebrow. “You didn’t sneak out or anything, did you?”

I shook my head. “My mother said I can still go. My father doesn’t know, and he probably won’t like it much. I don’t care. Can we get going, please?”

“Sure.” He squeezed my hand, then quickly let go when someone walked past us. I didn’t blame him. I was kind of disappointed, though. “I’m parked over here. We’ll go into the city, have supper, maybe check out the aquarium or something. Then when it’s dark, we can check out the lights before we come back here. Did your mother decide what time you had to be home?”

“I thought you and she had already sorted that out.” Had I been wrong? Maybe I’d convinced Mom of something that wasn’t true. Then again, she hadn’t remembered either, so I hadn’t exactly lied.

“She said nine, I said ten, she said she’d think about it.” He headed for a silver sports car. Some foreign thing which I should have known the name of but didn’t. I glanced at the license plate. It was from Oregon. Without meaning to, I memorized the number. Any time I saw a number written out, it stuck in my brain. I wouldn’t need to remember Larry’s for any reason I could think of, but if I ever did, I had it.

I walked beside him, half wishing my friends could see me getting into such an amazing car with a guy like Larry. Then again, they wouldn’t have cared about the guy thing. If Larry had been a gorgeous woman with a great car, Eddie and Shawn would have drooled so much they’d be standing in puddles. To me, Larry was more gorgeous than any woman. I knew my friends wouldn’t see it that way.

“She said ten,” I told him. “I have to be home by ten at the latest.”

He nodded. “We’ll make sure you’re home in time, then. I want you to be able to go out with me again sometime, and I don’t think that will happen if I bring you home late.”

“Probably not,” I agreed.

We got into the car and Larry headed south. On the way, I tried to talk to him more about himself. I still didn’t really know anything about him. I didn’t find out much during the drive. Every time I asked him a question, he turned it back on me. I didn’t know whether he used his power on me or whether it was just that I didn’t usually have anyone who wanted to listen, but I kept talking until we rolled into the city.

Then I shut up, because the buildings were huge. Even though Boston wasn’t far from home, I’d been telling the truth when I’d told Larry I’d only seen the city on trips to the airport. My fifth grade class had taken a field trip to Boston. I’d been sick and Mom had refused to let me go, even though she and Dad had already paid for it. I’d tried a few times to persuade them to take me and the kids to the city for a day and they’d always turned me down. Amber wouldn’t have been able to handle it.

Driving into the city with Larry, I tried to look in about a dozen different directions at once. Larry laughed as I craned my neck to look behind us. “Overwhelming, huh?”

“A little. Mostly I’ve just never seen anything like this, and I can’t believe I’m really here.”

“You are.” He rested his hand on my knee. I breathed deeply through my nose and stared out the window to calm my hormones. If Larry noticed, he didn’t mention it. “You’re here, and I’m here with you. And I’m glad I am.”

“M—me too,” I stammered.

“Good.”

Teaser Thursday- Fresh Meat

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The mall was pretty busy. A lot of people were probably doing their back to school shopping. I didn’t recognize any of the people I saw as we walked from the parking lot into the air conditioned building, but I kept watching faces so if anyone I knew was there, I would be able to avoid them before they spotted me.

We went into one of the big department stores and headed for the men’s department. I didn’t know how much I was allowed to pick out, so I just stood there until Eloise started loading me up with jeans and pants and shirts. We spent about two hours there while I chose things I would actually wear and tried them on. I ended up with almost as many clothes as I’d had at home. I tried to argue with Eloise about spending so much, because I didn’t think she really had any reason to. I wasn’t her kid or anything. She just smiled and said, “Money isn’t a problem, Tobias. We want you to be comfortable.”

We took the clothing bags to the car so we wouldn’t have to carry them around, then went back into the mall to check out a shoe store for some new shoes for me. I’d been wearing a pair of sneakers someone had left at Jed’s, which weren’t exactly comfortable.

I spotted Larry near one of the restaurants and froze.

“What’s wrong?” Eloise had gone a few steps farther. She turned to look at me. “Tobias?”

I shook. I couldn’t breathe. I just shook my head and pointed.

Eloise hurried back to me. She didn’t look where I was pointing. I needed her to see him. “Over there,” I whispered.

Then she finally looked. Her eyes widened, then she closed them for a moment. When she opened them again, she said, “We need to go home. Jed wants us to leave now.” I must have looked confused, because she said, “Mates have a bond and can communicate through it. I told him Larry’s here. He’s sending the trackers to take care of it and wants us to leave.”

Right. We couldn’t do anything about Larry ourselves, even though he was leaning against the wall chatting with a guy who looked even younger than me. Maybe he was going to do the same thing to that kid. I knew better than to go after Larry myself. Seeing him scared me so much I could barely stand up, never mind walk. But I couldn’t let him hurt someone else.

After a couple seconds, I managed to make my voice work. “Security guard.”

“What?” Eloise looked confused.

“He’ll hurt him.”

Apparently she caught on. “Okay. Come here.”

She led me to a nearby bench and motioned for me to sit. I did, peering around her to keep an eye on Larry. If he started to walk out of the mall with the kid, I would have to do something.

“Stay here.” Eloise spoke quietly, the way Jed had when he’d calmed me down the first day I’d been with them. “There’s a security guard right over there. I’ll go tell him something that will persuade him to get Larry away from the boy. Stay right here, Tobias, and keep your head down.”

I nodded and looked at the floor, though I wanted to watch her talk to the security guard and see what the guard did in response. If I looked up, the security guard might see me and recognize me. Worse, Larry might.

After a minute or so, Eloise came back. “I told him you’re my grandson and you had a run-in with Larry last week and you’re concerned his intentions may not be good.” She took my hand and pulled me up from the bench. “He’s talking to Larry now and making sure the boy doesn’t leave with him. We need to get out of here before Larry sees you. We’ll go somewhere else for shoes.”

“I don’t care about shoes.” I wanted to cry. The only reason I didn’t was it would have shown even more weakness than I was already showing.

I trudged to the car behind Eloise, who kept glancing back to make sure I was there. She tried to talk to me on the ride home. I didn’t answer. I didn’t have anything to say. Part of me wanted to go back to the mall and kill Larry. Part of me was ashamed of how frightened I’d been. Neither part wanted to talk.

When we arrived home, Jed met us at the door. “The trackers are out looking. Larry had left the mall by the time they arrived.”

“They’d better find him.” I pushed past him to go inside. For a change, I didn’t want to be outside. I wanted to hide.

I went up to my room and looked out the window at the little bit of ocean I was able to see. It didn’t do as much to calm me down as it had. Larry was still around. Not only that — he was apparently looking for a new victim.

I didn’t know which pissed me off more, that he was still trying to hurt people or that he had apparently completely forgotten about me.

Teaser Thursday- Fresh Meat

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I hadn’t decided yet if I actually liked guys. Girls didn’t fascinate me as much as they did my friends. I still noticed them, though. Then again, I was younger than Shawn and Eddie by several months. Maybe when I was older I’d be more into girls. I hoped so. I didn’t want to think about what my friends, and especially my parents, would say if I turned out gay. I didn’t think finding guys hot had anything to do with how old I was.

“That guy’s weird,” Eddie said. “He’s been here a few times lately.”

“I haven’t seen him.” I started to look back over my shoulder and stopped myself. I’d calmed down my first reaction to him. I didn’t know if I’d be as successful again.

“You just haven’t been here at the same time as him. Your stupid mother keeps making you go home early.”

“Shut up.” I shot him a look that made him look away fast. I wasn’t always happy about Mom telling me to be home in time to help with Peri and Amber, but I didn’t want Eddie whining about it. And he had no business insulting my mother. Mom wasn’t stupid, just overwhelmed.

“I think that guy’s kind of a creep,” he said after a few seconds. “I mean, he’s a lot older than us, and he’s hanging around a place where kids go? Kind of weird, don’t you think?”

“Maybe he just likes pinball, dummy.” The guy hadn’t looked too old to me. I didn’t think he looked much more than twenty or so. Which was still older than us. It just wasn’t ancient or anything.

“He was looking at you, wasn’t he?” Eddie made a face. “That’s disgusting, man.”

“I guess.” I didn’t quite dare to ask if he meant the guy’s age or the guy checking me out. Knowing Eddie, he might have meant either or both.

Another reason not to let on that sometimes guys interested me. I’d lose the few friends I had.

“Just watch your back.” Eddie gave a little laugh. “Or maybe I should say watch your ass.”

I wanted to slug him. Instead I just said, “Dude, stop being a dink,” and kept walking.

We finally took over our favorite machine. I had the top three scores on the game, and Eddie had the next two. I sent him to the change counter for quarters while I stayed put so no one else took our game.

“Hi.”

Before I even turned around, I knew the voice behind me belonged to the guy in the white T-shirt. I couldn’t have explained how I knew; I just did. I was almost afraid to look at him, but my parents’ constant manners drills got the better of me. Not responding to someone who’d spoken to you was rude.

I took a deep breath and turned. Up close, those piercing eyes turned out to be grey. His hair was shaggy, light brown or dark blond depending on how you looked at it. It kind of shone under the overhead light. His shirt outlined his chest and abs, and the tattoo stood out against the tan skin on his arm. Seeing him more clearly, I couldn’t do much about the sudden bulge in my shorts. I just hoped he wouldn’t notice.

My mouth went dry and for a few seconds, I couldn’t talk.

He looked amused. “Yes, I was speaking to you. Hi.”

“Um, hi.” Yeah, I was great at conversation.

He held out his hand. “I’m Larry.”

“Tobias.”

When I shook his hand, something like a lightning bolt shot through me. Startled, I looked into his eyes, and the electricity grew stronger. I wouldn’t have been able to look away if I’d wanted to. Fortunately, I didn’t want to.