Color Me In (Last Chance #2)(3)

By: Riley Hart

“It’s cool,” Maxwell replied. “I’m sure you guys have a lot to discuss. Plus, you wore me out a little earlier. I’m going to take a shower. I’ll be in our room if you need me.” Maxwell patted Shane’s ass, and Caleb smiled. He knew exactly what that was—Maxwell was staking his claim, and Caleb was damn happy Shane had that. No one deserved it more than him.

“You’re so crazy.” Shane looked at Maxwell, and Caleb could see how in love with the man he was. He couldn’t believe it, even though it was right there in front of his face.

“Crazy about you.” He winked. Shane leaned in and kissed him briefly on the lips before Maxwell disappeared into the house. Their house, apparently.

“Maxwell Sullivan?” Caleb cocked a brow.

“Lot’s changed since you left.”

“You can say that again.”

“Van,” Shane said. “He goes by Van now, and he’s not the same person he was.”

Caleb nodded. “Didn’t think he was. Not if he snagged you. Van it is.” It might take some getting used to—calling him that—but Caleb would respect it.

Shane stepped onto the porch and closed the door behind him. “She’s a beauty.” He tilted his head toward the car.

Small talk. Caleb could do that.

“Thanks. I take it you still love cars?”

They walked toward Caleb’s cherry-red Charger. “I do. I have my own shop in town.” He ran his hand over the hood of the vehicle. “You know how much I’ve always loved having my hands on a car engine.”

“I do,” he replied. “I also always knew you’d find a way to make your dreams come true. You look happy, Shane, and I’m happy for you.”

“I am happy.” He stopped, turned to Caleb, and he knew exactly what was coming. “Where’d you go, man? Where have you been?”

He sighed, wishing all the years hadn’t separated them. Wishing he’d contacted Shane sooner. Wishing some of his past wasn’t as embarrassing as it was. That he didn’t have things to be ashamed of. “How much do you know?”

“Next to nothing. I know we walked out of the woods that day. You got caught skipping, though I’m not sure how your parents knew about me. Then you were gone.”

Caleb opened his mouth, but Shane cut him off. “Maybe we should sit down.” He walked over, opened the bed of his truck, and they took a seat on it.

He looked at Shane—the way he’d changed over the years, the way he’d filled out—more muscles—his strong jawline with scruff along it. His dark hair was similar, but seeing Shane, seeing the changes, made him angry about the friendship they’d missed, even though most of it was his fault.

“I don’t really know what came over me that day. I guess…I guess I was just tired of lying. Of hiding. Hell, we rarely even hung out with each other because we were so damn afraid someone would find us out. So I admitted to my parents I was gay. The angrier they got, the angrier I got—basically, I was a stupid fucking kid.”

He’d tried to provoke them at that point, telling them he’d been in the woods with a boy. “I didn’t tell them it was you. I wouldn’t out you that way. But they knew…somehow, they knew. I honestly thought it would blow over, but the next thing I knew, we were driving across the country to stay at my aunt’s farm.”

He took a couple of deep breaths, not really wanting to go on but knowing he had to. Did he have to, though? Did he have to tell Shane all of it? “It was weird, Shane. It was like something had come over them. They thought they were protecting me. From what, I don’t know. My sinful ways, I guess. As if I wouldn’t be gay anymore if I wasn’t here. My aunt lived in the middle of nowhere. They homeschooled me. We went to church, and that was the extent of my social interaction outside of the fucking grocery store and things like that. I just…started to lose myself. It was killing me. They were killing me.” He said the last line more softly. The guilt swam around in him again, a current trying to tug him under. It felt like a betrayal to talk about his parents that way now…since they were gone.