When Killian’s band gets its big break, he can’t contain his excitement. He assumes everyone is going to be thrilled, including the drummer, his boyfriend Malcolm. Killian can’t wait to get out of their small town so they won’t have to hide their relationship anymore. But Malcolm is skeptical and feels college is a safer bet than touring with the band, and he wants Killian to stick to their original plan and go to school with him. So they part ways, both feeling hurt and abandoned.
Ten years later, Killian is in another band, and they need a drummer. Their manager convinces one of his college professors to play with them on their upcoming tour, and to Killian’s surprise, Malcolm is back in his life again. Their reunion hits a few bumps at first, but soon they’re working through their issues one at a time. This progress is interrupted when an obsessed lover from Killian’s past reemerges. He wants to keep Killian from being with Malcolm—the lost love he’d heard so much about—and he’ll do anything necessary to make Killian his again…
Killian rubbed his head as he rolled into the studio two hours late. He was more hungover than he had been in months. They were just trying out a new drummer, so he didn’t see why he had to be there. Killian played lead guitar, but the frontman Liam could play that if he had to. He headed right into the practice room when he heard voices. Nodding to the bassist Will and then to Frank, who played rhythm guitar and sometimes keyboard, Killian plopped down on a chair and concentrated on his coffee. The two men just looked at him and then at each other before turning their focus back down to their guitars. A shadow soon fell across Killian.
“Hi, I’m Claude, manager of the world-famous metal band Reaper’s Reward.” He pushed his glasses up on his nose. “And you, sir? Who the fuck are you?”
Killian pulled his sunglasses off. “I’m sorry, okay, Claude? I had a long night.”
“Oh, I see. That makes it okay then.” Claude reached down and grabbed two of Killian’s dreadlocks, forcing his head back.
“The hell—” The look in Claude’s eyes silenced him.
“You’re embarrassing me in front of my favorite professor,” Claude said through clenched teeth.
Killian didn’t get what was happening. “What is one of your teachers doing here?” He didn’t even know what kind of degree Claude had when it came down to it. All he needed to know was that the guy had a shitload of personality and got things done. Killian didn’t care about anything else.
“Do you even listen when I talk?” Claude asked, releasing Killian.
“Says you.” Claude sighed. “My music management professor, who was my assigned mentor, is also a musician. I ran into him and asked him if he knew any drummers looking for a temporary gig. He told me he was taking leave for the spring and summer semesters and would love to tour with us. He even knows all of your songs already.”
“So he’s a fan?” Killian scanned the room.
“Yeah, I’m a fan.”
Killian locked eyes with Malcolm as he stood up from behind the drum set.
His hangover temporarily went away. “You’re shittin’ me!” Killian said.
Liam, who stood beside Malcolm now, looked back and forth between the two of them. “There a problem, Killjoy?”
“Fuck off!” Killian stood and took a few steps forward. “You didn’t want to be in my band ten years ago. The fuck are you doin’ here now?”
Liam took off his guitar and glared at Killian. “You got a problem, that’s tough, ‘cause we’ve been jammin’ for over an hour, and we think he’s a great fit. I’ve been playing your guitar parts, but it doesn’t matter. We’ll still sound decent even with you playin’ them.”
Killian stared Liam down. They’d been in Reaper’s Reward together for six years, ever since Deep Shadows had broken up. Liam had always been a good friend, but sometimes the two men really riled each other. Killian looked away first, but only because Malcolm moved forward.
“It’s okay, Liam,” Malcolm said. “I told you guys I knew Killian, but I neglected to say that we dated right before Deep Shadows took off. I was their drummer before I left for college. That’s my bad. Sorry.”
Liam turned to Malcolm. “That’s fine, man. I wouldn’t admit to having dated him either.”
Malcolm half laughed and then looked back to Killian. “How about we talk, Killian? That okay?”
Okay? No, it wasn’t okay. Looking into those icy blue eyes again made the years drop away. Killian still saw the most beautiful man in the world, the only man he’d ever loved. In the same moment, he felt like both a victim and a coward. Malcolm had left him because he hadn’t had the courage to take a chance; yet, at the same time, Killian had been the one to leave, forgetting their plans to chase a dream. He’d never returned any of Malcolm’s calls or acknowledged any of his letters or emails, and after two years, Malcolm had stopped.
“Yeah, we can talk.”
As Killian walked past Claude, the man practically growled at him. “Behave, Killjoy.”
“I will,” he whispered back, his face growing hot. If any of them told Malcolm why they called him that, he’d kill them with his bare hands.
Killian briefly looked at Malcolm and jerked his head to the left. “We can go in this office here.”
Killian let Malcolm enter first, and when he glanced back at his band mates, they were all staring at him with stern yet curious looks on their faces. He flipped them off and went inside, closing the door. Malcolm leaned against the desk, looking calm and unaffected. How could he do that? Why wasn’t he feeling anything? Had he planned this? Was this some kind of revenge?
“So why come back after all this time, Mal? To torment me?” Killian crossed his arms and backed himself against the door.
“I’m here for Claude, actually. He was one of my very best students, and now he’s a good friend. I’m not here only because of you, though I’m glad to get the chance to clear the air with you. I am glad you got what you wanted. I’ve followed your career all along. I was sorry to hear about Deep Shadows breaking up but glad your friendship with Liam secured you a place here. You’ve been key to their success. I love the band, and I’d be proud to be a part of it, if you’ll let me.” Malcolm sighed. “I’m happy to let the past rest in peace so we can be friends.”
Friends? No, not fucking friends. Killian knew he couldn’t do it. But what could he say? He couldn’t go out there and tell the rest of the band that this was the guy who broke his heart, the guy he rambled about when he got drunk. Bile rose in his throat. Shit, Malcolm told them that we dated right before Deep Shadows got its break! They’re probably out there puttin’ it together right now. Fuckers. His head began to spin, and he sank down to the floor and put his head between his knees.
“Killian, are you okay?” Malcolm knelt at his side and touched his shoulder.
“I’m hungover, and this is stressing me out. So, no, I’m not.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t expect this. You never gave me another thought, it seemed, based on your silence. So I assumed—wrongly, perhaps—you got over me just fine.”
Just fine? If only Malcolm knew they called Killian “Killjoy” because of those drunken rants about his ex-lover, the one who hadn’t loved him enough to stay. He wanted to punch Malcolm just as much as he wanted to kiss him. Briefly, Killian was tempted to do both. He could picture it, reaching up and pulling Malcolm into a hot kiss and then nailing him right in the gut. Both would feel so damn good.
Killian leaned his head back and gazed at Malcolm. “Oh, I got over you. I got under every guy who came backstage. Each and every one of them was thrilled to make love to me. It was obvious that ‘Standing in the Road’ was about a guy, and I was the only lyricist, so the rumors I was gay stuck. It had all kinds of guys lining up to get some one-on-one with me.”
Malcolm still looked calm, though after a few seconds his left eye twitched, and Killian saw him swallow hard. “I hope you were careful, Killian.”
“Always used protection. I was brokenhearted, not dumb. I’m clean and perfectly healthy.” He smirked and pushed forward a bravado he didn’t feel at all. “Why? You finally want me now I’m famous?”
Malcolm touched Killian’s cheek so gently Killian stopped breathing for a second. “Stop it, Kill, please.”
Finding his breath again, Killian said, “Why? Does it hurt to hear it?”
“Yes, Kill. Yes, it does hurt. If you tell me to leave, I’ll apologize to the band and to Claude and then leave. I’d hoped enough time had passed that we could be friends.”
Friends. There was that word again. Killian turned slightly, pushed his dreads back, and grabbed Malcolm’s face with both hands. “We … are not … friends.” He locked his lips to Malcolm’s and let ten years of longing flow out of him.