Seven years earlier.
Viktor sat cross-legged on the three-feet-tall wall by the Danube river. The water was a long way away from us and it made me wonder if the wall was just for show or if there was a purpose to it. If the river grew so much, would another three feet really stop it? Wouldn’t it just sweep all of us down with it?
It had been a week since we had met, yet I felt like I’d known him for years.
This wiry, handsome rebel in front of me, his back turned to me, head tilted down as he observed the flow of the water, behaved like such a hot-shot, but I was coming to know it to be just a show. He wasn’t a player. If he was, I would have realized it by now. No. This rebel was a sweetheart at his core.
“Brought you ice-cream,” I said when I was only feet away from him.
He turned around, a lock of wavy black hair falling over his face, hiding one of his deep blue eyes. The street lights highlighted the shadows on his face — from his high cheekbones to his sharp lips to the tiny little bump in the middle of his perfect nose. I liked that it was a little crooked. It made him unique and gave him a daring look. Like he was a boxer of some sort.
“Have you been running?” he asked with the usual playfulness in his voice.
“No,” I said, my breath shallow. “Why?”
He smiled. “You’re blushing, then.”
“What?” I asked, feeling the heat in my face rise. “I’m not.” But, it was too late. He’d tricked me into blushing like a little fool. “Well, say bye to your ice-cream for this. Bet the fish will like it.”
“Is it pistachio? If it’s pistachio, you’ll be doing me a favor.
“No, it’s chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.”
He tilted his head, arm reaching over to the ice-cream in my hand. “In that case…” He snatched the cone before I could even blink and gave it a good lick. I had no clue why, but the sight of him stirred some deep feelings in me. It wasn’t just arousal that I was feeling. It was a whole storm of emotions.
He pressed his tongue against the roughly textured cone and slid it up slowly, getting the taste of every flavor stuffed in it.
I couldn’t tell when my mouth had fallen open, but I did close it as soon as he let the chuckle out his nose. “You think it’s sexy.”
“Huh?” I blinked twice. “Uh-huh.”
“Good,” he said, one arm hanging over his bent knee. Everything about his had an air of confidence, everything was casual with him. Everything was casual to him. Even this thing that had been going on between us must have seemed only like a casual fling. “I wanted you to think that.”
I smiled and sat on the wall next to him. My smile faded slowly as I looked into his eyes, then away. Even when I wasn’t looking at him, I saw him. I saw his skinny build, his defined muscles, his wild hair highlights, and the deep ocean blue of his eyes.
“What?” he asked.
I could only shrug for a moment as I tried to find my words. I think I’m in love with you, I’d say.
‘Course you are, he’d reply.
Aren’t you in love with me?
It’s just a fling, Jake.
It was, yes. It’s not anymore.
Don’t think about it too much. Just enjoy it while it lasts.
“I don’t want it to end,” I said, realizing I had cut him out of half of the conversation. I blinked a few times trying to remember where we’d talked and what I’d imagined.
He smiled, but it was in contrast with his eyes. His eyebrows fell somehow. His eyes grew bigger and so very sad. Everything ends, he would now say.
“Me neither.” He pushed his knee a little and touched mine.
It was such a small, simple gesture, yet it choked me. I licked the ice-cream, which was threatening to melt fast on a hot summer night like this, if only to distract myself. I didn’t want to cry so soon. We’d only known each other for a week. I didn’t want him to see me cry.
He turned away from me and was silent for a long time. He was ignoring his ice-cream, he was so still it felt like he was frozen. Was he even breathing?
One hand shot up and wiped at something out of my sight, then a sniff came. Then, he laughed. “Sorry.” A whisper.
I would have told him it was alright, but my own voice had betrayed me. Where had it gone? I needed it now. I needed to tell Viktor it was fine and that he could cry if he felt like it, but I said nothing. I couldn’t even see Viktor anymore, my vision blurry with the welling tears.
“I don’t know what got to me,” he said, wiping his eyes again and turning to look at me. They were a little red now, his lips twisted into a crooked smile that failed to hide so much.
I blinked and the tears trickled down my face.
After that, I couldn’t remember whether I had dropped the ice-cream or if I threw it away or what Viktor had done with his. All I knew was that his arms were around me and I was silently crying on his shoulder. Nothing but tears. No sound, not even a sniff. My head was nestled on his shoulder, his on mine, and I knew, so crystal clear, that I loved him.
“I wish you could stay,” he whispered.
“I wish I could take you with me,” I whispered back.
Then, I was fine again. We were looking into each other’s eyes. I couldn’t tell how long it had been.
“Neither is possible, is it?” he asked me as if I had an answer.
“I don’t know. Is it?”
“I don’t know.”
We held each other’s hand as we walked by the river. We walked so far that we reached the Chain Bridge and the busy streets of downtown Budapest. He stopped walking and pointed up to the Castle high up on the other side of the river. “If we get a chance, I’ll take you up there. It’s beautiful.”
“You must’ve been a million times,” I said, thinking how we didn’t have anything this exciting back home. New Haven was nice, but it was just a city. Budapest, on the other hand, was nothing like it. It was so much more than a city. It was life. It was history. It was time. It was passion above all else.
“No,” he said. “Just once. When I was a kid, I went there with my family. I don’t know why I never went again.”
“Take me there, then,” I said. “We’ll see it together.”
“We will.” He squeezed my hand harder and pulled me closer to him. His lips on mine felt just right. I could taste a bit of the strawberry on him and I took a deep breath of his sharp, pine and mountain breeze cologne.
Oh God… I loved him.
One More Shot is a second change MM romance and my debut novel. It features two adorable men who can’t keep their hands off each other, high levels of steam, and a very happy ending.
I hope you enjoyed this little teaser. Don’t mind if I shower you with gifts (*wink wink*).