One Step Too Close

By: K.A Merikan

Jed



If Jed believed in God, he’d consider Ryder the most tempting mortal sin, just waiting to be committed. It was for the better that Ryder was straight, because Jed could safely ogle him without feeling like it was a gateway drug to fucking. Even waking up from wet dreams about Ryder had guilt choking Jed and sent him straight for a cold shower. They could be stepbrothers and best friends, but if Ryder knew just how depraved Jed was, even their platonic closeness could end. Still, Jed’s gaze trailed over the firm thighs and tight butt in the dark gray jeans, then followed the sway of the chain hanging off Ryder’s belt. And higher, to the broad shoulders.

Jed sat on a grimy bench outside the Coffin Nails MC clubhouse, beer in one hand, cigarette in the other. His stepbrother was celebrating the sergeant-at-arms patch that had been newly added to his cut, and now swayed to the music with his girlfriend, Jess. Jealousy was making its way down Jed’s throat, but it was hard to look away from Ryder’s thick, tan arms covered in dark hairs, or the smile amidst dark stubble. If only that grin were for Jed… He would do anything to get more of Ryder’s attention.

When Ryder started kissing Jess though, Jed had to look away. She was so small that she only made Ryder seem bigger, like he wasn’t already a six foot three hunk of pure tattooed muscle. Why couldn’t Jed like girls too? They could go on double dates with Ryder, talk about straight shit without Jed making stuff up. At least with the way Ryder made him feel, Jed was sure he’d never fall for any other guy. Ryder was safe. Jed could fantasize about pulling the hairband off Ryder’s barely-there black ponytail, feeling the scratch of his stubble, seeing an intensity in his eyes that would speak of bottomless lust. Nothing would come of it, and no one needed to know who Jed thought about late at night when he couldn’t sleep.

Cars were passing the club-owned compound like streaks of light in the darkness, hypnotizing Jed to look past the wire fence and into the black void stretching past the glow of the one working lamp over Jed’s head. There were two more of them in the courtyard, but the bulbs had given up long ago, and no one bothered to change them. There were fewer chairs in the clubhouse every year for the same reason.

The music was much quieter outside, and Jed liked it well enough as beer clouded his brain and opened Jed up to thoughts that were normally deeply hidden. He sighed, marveling at the way Ryder held Jess up, carrying her like a baby while she fed him liquor straight from the bottle. Ryder’s hair was so shiny and thick Jed couldn’t help but think about how it would feel in his hands. He would never know, of course, because it would be too weird to ask for permission to touch it.

Jed flinched when the door of the clubhouse burst open next to him, and Axe, one of the patched members, rushed outside pulling along two girls, one of whom was intently stroking his bright red mane. With his hands on two perky asses, Axe strolled over to Ryder and gave him a strong pat on the back.

“Have a drink, Sheriff,” he chuckled drunkenly. “We need one more night of freedom until you put collars on us all.”

Ryder laughed in that sharp baritone that never failed to raise the hairs on Jed’s forearms. “Indulge. That’s your last chance.”

“Oh, I intend to,” said Axe, and he must have pinched one of the girls, as she got to her toes with a yelp, before playfully elbowing him in the ribs. They exchanged a kiss, and soon enough Axe and his two partners stumbled toward the garage where the Nails repaired their bikes. Jed suspected Axe would be taking the girls farther, to a bunker-turned-warehouse where the club kept their assets, including Axe’s babies, a tank and a helicopter.

Jed inhaled a big drag of smoke but almost choked on it when Dana, the bane of his existence, sat down next to him. Just what he needed. She smiled at him with her fake white teeth and flipped back the blonde extensions.

“Aren’t you drinking a bit too much, honey?” Her voice was so sweet he almost gagged.

Like she cared if he drank himself to death. “None of your business,” he grumbled, and hated the way she squinted at him.

“You won’t be of much use like this.” She lowered her voice, and when he got up, caught his wrist in a grip much too strong for a woman her size.

He shrugged off her hand so violently a few people turned heads. “I don’t care!” He pushed back the long hair falling into his face and made a point of downing his beer before walking off. Six months with this witch from hell would be enough to push anyone to the edge of sanity.

He walked past Brain, who played a drunken game of chess against Tower, who worked at the club-owned gym in town. He was constantly pulling on his gray sideburns and didn’t even notice Jed passing by. Brain was dealing with their papers and taxes, as he was the only one out of them who’d ever done any college courses, and it was a bit baffling to see him on the losing side of the game.

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