Part of BOUND BY LUST
Copyright © 2017 by Kelex
Rory Burgess stepped off the bus amid a long stream of riders. The scent of diesel fuel and trash collided in his nose and added a little sense of dread that coiled around the knot in his stomach. The moon hung low in the sky. It was barely five and already as dark as midnight. He hated winter nights like this. A chill raced down his spine, and he wondered if he’d made a mistake. Too late now.
He tossed his backpack over one shoulder, watching as a few families reunited not far from where he stood. A pang of regret hit him square in the chest, but he forced the emotions back. After collecting his suitcase from the driver and taking another peek around the stop, he walked into the bus station to make a call.
A call he’d been half-dreading.
The bright, fluorescent light inside the station hurt his eyes as he came in from the night. He paused just inside the doors and scanned the space. Digging into his pocket for some spare change, he sidled up to the row of phones, all of which had seen better days. Most of them appeared to be destroyed—all but one and someone was currently using it. He sighed and slid to the side to wait his turn and cursed the asshole who’d taken his cell phone. The same asshole who’d beat the shit out of him.
He lifted a hand to his aching jaw. It no longer hurt so much. It was more his pride than anything at this point. He turned and saw his reflection in the stainless steel lining the wall behind the phones and saw the purple bruises crossing his face. In time, they would fade. But the anger behind it… that would take time.
The guy on the phone finally wrapped up, and Rory sidled up closer. He inserted his change and dialed the number he thankfully remembered. Hopefully, the number hadn’t changed… it had been a while. After bringing the receiver to his ear, he sighed, both scared and anxious to hear the person on the other end.
“Hello?” the familiar male voice drawled.
Rory drew in a breath, trying to wrangle his nerves.
“Hello?” the voice said again.
“Hey, cuz,” Rory said in a rush. “How ya doin’?”
There was a pause on the other end. For a split second, he wondered if this would be another door slammed in his face.
Rory’s eyes drifted closed. “Yeah, man. How are you?”
“Good,” his cousin Levi answered. “It’s been a while. How are you?”
“As good as can be expected,” he answered. “It’s been too long… we need to catch up.”
“That would be great,” Levi said, but Rory sensed his cousin’s heart wasn’t in it.
“I’m in town.”
There was another pause. Longer than the first. “In town? Here?”
“Yeah. I haven’t seen you in forever. I thought it was about time someone checked in on you.”
“Man, I really wish you’d called first.”
If Rory had called first, Levi might have found out why he had left home. If his cousin had known… well, there was a better chance of Levi letting him in if certain news hadn’t been shared.
“Levi… I have nowhere to go. I could really use some help.”
Another pause. He and Levi hadn’t been super close, but then, his cousin had been quiet and reserved with everyone. Rory had never taken it personally.
“What’s wrong?” Levi asked.
“I really need somewhere to crash,” Rory said. “A floor is all I need. You don’t even have to give me a pillow or a blanket, as long as I got a roof over my head for a few nights.”
“What the hell happened?”
“I can fill you in… when you pick me up?” Rory asked hopefully.
“Where are you?”
Rory glanced around. “Greyhound station is all I can tell ya. Sign on the wall says Northside.”
“I’ll be there in about fifteen, twenty minutes,” Levi said before pausing. “See you soon.”
Rory heard the click as the line went dead. He hung up the phone and was nearly pushed out of the way by a guy waiting behind him. Grabbing his suitcase, he wheeled it away and waited for Levi to get there. Twenty minutes felt like an eternity, especially as he worried about the face to face with his cousin to come.
He couldn’t stay still. After an attempt to relax on one of the wooden benches failed, he rose to his feet and paced up and down the length of it. When he saw a guy scoping out his suitcase, he sat again, guarding his meager belongings with his life.
Finally, he saw Levi heading his way. The cowboy swagger and denim were the same, but the sweater and leather jacket his cousin wore looked expensive. Also gone were Levi’s boots. In their place were a pair of loafers. Loafers.
“No cowboy hat or boots? What they hell has this city done to you, man?” Rory asked as he grabbed Levi in a bear hug.
Levi squeezed him back tight and clapped him on the back before leaning away. He gazed at the bruises on Rory’s face. “I’d ask what the hell someone did to you.”
“Nothing. It’s all good, man.”
Levi grasped his chin and tilted Rory’s face. “Nothing looks like it hurt.”
Rory shrugged. “Wrong place, wrong time.”
Levi took a step back. “Is that why you’re here? You running from something?”
Rory was running all right. From everything. He needed a new beginning, a fresh start. Levi was the only place he could think to run. “I’m just tired of the rednecks and jackasses. Thought I could check out the city.”
“What happened, Rory?”
All it would take was one phone call and Levi would know the truth. But if he was already in Levi’s house, maybe it would make it harder for his cousin to kick him out. “I don’t want to talk here. Too many ears.”
Levi tossed his keys from one hand to the other, looking as if he was considering whether or not to let Rory come back with him. “I need to know what I’m stepping in, Rory. I don’t live alone… and I don’t need to bring trouble home.”
Rory sighed. “Somebody caught me in the bathroom at the bar one night… with someone.”
Levi chuckled. “Nothing ever changes, hmm? Still a manwhore. Who’s wife was she?”
Rory felt body tense.
“No one’s wife.” Rory swallowed, unsure he should share the next bit. He felt his hands trembling, his stomach turning… He couldn’t handle another family member’s disgust, but Levi could easily find out the truth. Rory just needed a little more time. He wasn’t a liar… but the truth was too difficult to share.
“Do I need to worry about somebody coming after you and knocking on my door?” Levi asked.
“No. I swear.”
“You’re not mixed up in anything illegal, are you?”
Rory sighed. “No.”
Levi didn’t look convinced.
“It wasn’t somebody’s wife… because it was somebody’s husband.”
Levi’s eyes widened slightly, but he said nothing. He stared at Rory a moment, silent. “Somebody’s husband?”
Rory shrugged. “I was just… curious… you know? I was drunk and stupid. Nothing really happened. Pop snatched me outta there before it went too far… and, well,” Rory pointed to his face. “The rest is history.”
Levi’s eyes narrowed. “Uncle Pat did that?”
“I won’t have a fag for a son!” he said, parroting the words his father had used before beating the shit out of him. Rory attempted to grin, to hide how much those words had hurt him… but he couldn’t manage to get his mouth to work right. He cast a glance around and saw a few ears had perked up and looked their way.
Levi glanced down. “That all you brought with you?”
“It’s all Mom could salvage as Pop tore through my room,” Rory answered. He looked down at the old beat up case. “I don’t even know what’s in here.”
“Come on. Let’s get you home.”