Page 74 of King of Campus

“What class do you have together?”

Since Roan doesn’t seem like he’s going to be contributing anything further to the conversation, I answer, “Business ethics.”

“That sounds like an interesting class.”

“Extremely.” Well… I might be overstating things a bit, but whatever. I feel like I’m drowning over here. And still Roan is just standing there silently.

Finally Daniel claps Roan on the shoulder. “Well, I guess we should get going. It was certainly nice running into you. I was actually going to give you a call on the weekend. We were hoping you might be able to make it over for dinner next Wednesday night.”

Since he’s barely said anything the entire time we’ve been standing here, I’m wondering if he’ll even respond. Finally he says, “As long as it’s after six, that shouldn’t be a problem.”

Again I’m hit with just how similar they look when Daniel smiles. “Great.”

Linc’s eyes slide to mine before one side of his mouth quirks up. Even though I’ve just met the man, I’m thinking a look like that means trouble… “And you can bring your friend if you want.” He gives me a little wink and I want to melt into the pavement of the parking lot we’re standing in.

What’s worse is that Roan says absolutely nothing in response. Oh my god, now I really want the earth to open up and swallow me whole.

We all say goodbye before Daniel and Linc disappear around the corner towards Peppino’s Pizzeria. Roan hits the key fob and the locks on his SUV automatically unlatch. Silently he opens the backdoor of the truck, setting the two boxes of pizza on the seat as I climb into the front before slamming the door shut.

A few moments later, he slides in next to me. Even though he starts up the truck, he doesn’t pull out of the crowded parking lot. He just lets it run. Because I’m not sure if I should say anything or not, I just sit there quietly besides him as he stares out the windshield. I’m not usually a fidgety person, but I can’t help twisting my hands together waiting for him to finally say something.

I want him to make sense of what just happened back there. I’ve never seen Roan shut down like that before. It was weird.

Because the silence is stretched so tautly between us, it doesn’t take long for it to become oppressive. And it’s never like that. There have been times when the sexual tension simmering in the air feels so charged and heavy that I want to jump his bones. There have also been times when I’ve wanted to slap him upside the head because of some inappropriate comment he’s made, but there has never been this kind of strangling tension sitting uncomfortably between us.

I hate it.

Part of me just wants to reach out and comfort him even though I have no idea why it’s necessary. But I can’t deny the feelings are there, swirling and building within me.

I know something is weighing heavily on his mind. I also realize it has everything to do with the two men we just ran into. Before I can overthink it, I gently place my hand on his powerful thigh. He blinks a few times before glancing down at it. Just when I start to wonder if I should pull it away, he covers my hand with his own.

“That was your dad, wasn’t it?” My words are softly spoken because I’m not quite sure how he’s going to react. I mean, it must be a big deal to him or he wouldn’t be acting like this.

He jerks his head at my words. “Yeah.” Inhaling a deep breath, he forces it out slowly. “He’s gay.”

Unsurprised, I nod my head before admitting, “I figured.”

“Linc’s a really good dude,” he adds quickly, as if I might, for some reason, think differently.

“He seemed very nice. They both did.” Almost offhandedly I ask, “Your parents are divorced?”

“Um, yeah,” he shifts uncomfortably in the black leather seat, “when I was about fourteen, my dad dropped the bomb that he was gay.” His eyes slide back to the windshield again before adding more quietly, “That he’d always been gay. And that he was leaving because he couldn’t live a lie anymore.”

“That must have been really difficult.” More like devastating. Having your parents split up is hard enough without adding the extra layer of one of them being gay.

“Yeah. It was.”

I’m not sure if I should ask any more questions. Obviously this is a touchy subject for him. “Are you two close?”

His eyes finally slide back to mine. He searches them carefully before continuing, “We weren’t always. It really sucked when he first told us. I didn’t get it.” He shakes his head as if to emphasize his words. “Like at all. The whole thing just pissed me off and I didn’t want to be around him for a long time. Years. It took me a while to accept that he was still the same guy he’d always been. The one I’d worshipped while growing up.” Inhaling a deep breath, he continues, “Once I was able to wrap my head around the fact that he was still the same guy, we were able to move past it.”