Six Ways from Sunday
—Southern Scrimmage Book 1—
Take one NFL tight end, and one Marine, add one week and watch the sparks fly.
Bowen Murphy craved two things, football and Dylan. After high school he had football but he lost Dylan.
Dylan Sunday walked a different path, one laid down before him by his father and his grandfather. Losing Bo one day after discovering they shared more than football wasn’t part of the bargain.
Six years of missed connections and finally Dylan is able to come home to the man he left behind. The spectacle of the biggest game in the NFL is only the beginning of one sizzling week. After that time and fate would decide if Bo and Dylan would walk the same path, or if one of them would make the ultimate sacrifice.
“When were you going to tell me?” The slamming door brought Dylan up short as Hurricane Bowen swept into the room bringing chaos in his wake. “I had to find out from the mail lady. The mail lady, Dylan!”
Dylan glanced around at the baskets of laundry, packing boxes, and luggage then winced. “Bo.” He had no idea what to say. Or how to explain. “I was going to tell you tonight.”
“Are you sure you weren’t going to wait until I was gone and just run off and…” Bo raked his hand through his short hair, making it stand up on end. He wore swim trunks that were at the moment dripping onto the carpet. His golden body shimmered from the pool. His gaze roamed the room, taking in the disorder that occupied the usually tidy space. “You enlisted? In the Marines? Come on Dyl, tell me she was lying. Tell me you aren’t…fuck you are leaving me, aren’t you?” he shouted when his gaze came to rest on the piece of luggage in front of Dylan.
Dylan could feel the rage coursing through his friend from across the room. And that made him angry. “I’m leaving you? Pardon me, but who is the one having the going away party tonight?”
Bo stopped staring at the open suitcase. Dylan was trying to whittle his worldly possessions down to one small bag but so much of it couldn’t be left behind. He’d agonized all morning, sorting things to go into storage or to get rid of completely. One small bag of things he’d need and the things he couldn’t live without. The picture of the two of them taken right after the State win in December, both in uniform and sweaty, was on top. He couldn’t leave that behind.
“I’m just going to school, only a couple hundred miles from here. You’re going to…they’ll send you to war. You can’t go.” Bo took the frame from its place on top of the few items of clothing Dylan had packed and held it like a shield. “I won’t let you.”
“You won’t let me?” Dylan stopped folding the t-shirt in his hands, or twisting it, he’d stopped folding long before. “I wasn’t scouted and I didn’t get a scholarship. Big Man Bowen Murphy is going all the way to the NFL and I’m not going to stay home pining for him.”
“You could have come with me. You could have gone to school and maybe gotten a walk-on tryout.” Hope entered his friend’s eyes, a hope that Dylan didn’t want to kill. But he had no choice.
“I can’t go to school, Bo, not this year. There’s no money. I don’t qualify for financial aid because on paper there is money. But there isn’t. Dad left tons of debt. Mom is going to sell the house. The insurance barely covered his funeral. Maybe next year. But next year—“
“Next year you’ll be in Iraq or Afghanistan. The year after, probably Iran or Syria. Or hell, maybe we’ll invade Mars in the next year. Or you’ll be dead.” Fear tinged his voice. One thing about Bowen was his no fear mentality. Take no prisoners. Show no fear. Beat them at their own game in their own house. That’s why he had the big scholarship and the bright future. All the way back to pee wee league it had been the same. Bo, the big chunky boy who didn’t talk much, but no one pushed him down. No one pushed Dylan down either. They’d have Bo to deal with. Bo and Dylan. Dylan and Bo. They were a team. A unit. Where one went, the other wasn’t far behind.
Except now, Dylan had to stand on his own. “I can’t be dead. You’d fly over and take on the whole Middle East if that happened.” He tried to laugh it off. Hoping to make Bo accept that this wasn’t such a bad thing.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” So much for that idea. Bo threw the frame against the wall, the force of impact shattered the wood and glass, and the photo fell face down in the pile of debris.
“You asshole, why’d you do that?” Dylan was across the room before he knew what he was doing. He shoved Bo as hard as he could, but that was like shoving a brick wall. A brick wall that shoved back and Dylan landed on the floor. Bo followed him down, straddling him; his fist raised just enough to punch. He was so close Dylan could see the fear and anger in his eyes. Betrayal. This was betrayal, something he’d never seen before. Something he’d never done before. Dylan steeled himself for the blow but it didn’t come.
A drop of moisture on his nose made him open his eyes in time to see Bo swipe at his eyes. “You can undo it? Please, undo it. Go tell them you made a mistake. Tell them that you can’t go.” He lowered his hand and leaned over, his face so close Dylan could see every pore, every single blond growth of stubble. He could see Bo’s fear…and smell it. See and smell and feel, enough to react when he’d sworn he wouldn’t. This was something he had to do and there was nothing left to decide.
“I can’t,” Dylan whispered, swallowing back the thick greasy bile that threatened to climb out his throat. He couldn’t allow Bo’s fear to engulf him. He’d never be able to leave if he did.
“Why? You always wanted football. There are other colleges. There are ways—“
“I want to go,” Dylan said, ignoring the pain in his friend’s voice. He’d never told Bo that football wasn’t his dream. Bo’s dream had always been big enough for them both. Until it wasn’t anymore. Senior year was spectacular but he’d known early on that he wasn’t anything special. He was just an average run of the mill quarterback and the recruiters had too many quarterbacks with so-so arms. They came to see Bo play, Badass Bowen Murphy who could snatch a fly out of thin air and take on the biggest meanest lineman any team could throw at him, that’s what the recruiters wanted. He was big and agile and poetry in motion. “Football is your dream, Bowen. My talents lie elsewhere.”
“You always did like to talk about the future but this isn’t what we talked about. I can’t see you with a gun in your hand.” His voice took on a wheedling childlike tone. One he used when they were six or seven and in trouble. All the time in trouble.
“Not all military jobs end up on the battlefield.” But Dylan knew that Bo knew he lied. If he’d wanted a safe computer job, he would have joined a different branch of the military. He was born to be a Marine like his father, and his grandfather before him. He was born to serve the way they had.
“Promise me you won’t get dead.” Tears clogged Bo’s throat, he made an impatient noise and leaned over until his nose touched Dylan’s. “Promise me you’ll write. Email. Whatever they let you do, every day. And that you don’t get dead.”
“I promise.” Trapped by his friend’s hazel gaze, Dylan gulped down the lump in his throat, but it wouldn’t go away. He’d write every day. He’d Skype. Everything he could. He couldn’t promise that other thing. But he didn’t need to tell Bo that. “I promise. You won’t even notice I’m gone.”
Bo nodded, his jaw clenched and unclenched, he breathed out a quick breath. One that smelled of orange soda. And then Dylan tasted the orange soda, on his lips, his tongue. Shocked, he didn’t realize why his mouth was fused to Bo’s until Bo sat up. His dick hard and straining beneath the wet trunks. The look in his eyes wild, embarrassed—no, ashamed. Shame and fear. So much fear that turned to confusion.
Confusion echoing in his own mind, Dylan caught his arm before Bo could clamber off him. Holding on for all he was worth, he said the words he thought he never could. “Kiss me! Again! Please.”