Tristan had nearly found Beau and asked if he could switch rooms, but the problem with that was that he liked sharing a room with Wade. He was a good roommate, conscientious and kind, and apart from this inconvenient attraction stuff, he was becoming a good friend.
And he’d already been around the NFL long enough to know that friends didn’t exactly grow on trees.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, then, that as soon as the light went out, after this long-ass day, when both of them should have been exhausted and immediately falling asleep, Tristan couldn’t help himself and instead of being safe and smart and careful, like he had been all day, like he’d used all that safety up, he asked the question himself.
“You ever kiss a guy before, Wade?”
Wade was quiet for such a long time that Tristan wondered if maybe he had actually fallen asleep.
He found himself holding his breath, barely able to breathe, his lungs clogging, as he waited for Wade to answer. Listening, way too intently, for even the minutest change in Wade’s own breathing.
Why did he even need to know?
Why did it matter so much that the answer be no?
Finally, Wade let out a deep exhale, like he’d been holding his own breath too. Like he’d made a decision.
“No,” he said. “No, I haven’t.”
Tristan dug his fingertips into his bedding. It was no less dangerous to kiss Wade in this dark, private room than to do it in the middle of the day, in the middle of the Piranhas weight room, but it was easier to justify because if they did it here and now, nobody would ever know.
But you’d know, Tristan reminded himself. And Wade will know.
It was those two things that kept Tristan in his own bed, instead of joining Wade in his—and showing him just how great kissing a guy could be.
“Is . . . is that what that was earlier? You were . . .” Wade hesitated for so long that Tristan, hanging on every single word, every single syllable echoing through the darkness, nearly got up and went to his side and demanded to know what it was he was supposedly doing. Finally, though, Wade finished his sentence. “Testing me?”
It made no sense. Why would Tristan be testing him? He already knew Wade was bisexual. Wade had told him himself. Tristan might have tested Wade if he hadn’t been sure. If he hadn’t been entirely sure how his flirtation would be received.
But he definitely hadn’t been testing Wade earlier.
He’d been irresistibly drawn to the man.
It felt unfair to pay Wade’s honesty back with a lie, no matter how dangerous the truth was.
So Tristan told him the truth.
“I wasn’t testing you. I was . . . if you have to know, I was . . . I find you attractive, Wade, and I wanted to kiss you. As stupid as that was. I shouldn’t have been thinking about it. You’re not out, and there were other guys around, and on top of that . . . it’s a huge, massive distraction that could get us both released. You know, teams don’t really like their players hooking up.”
Don’t really was an understatement.
It was technically allowed because it couldn’t be not allowed but it certainly wasn’t encouraged. All the Piranhas needed was a really good reason to cut Tristan, and this would be it.
“You wanted to kiss me?” Wade’s voice was full of wonder.
“I guess you missed the rest of that,” Tristan teased. “You know, the part where it was—it is—a bad idea.”
“Sorry.” Wade actually sounded apologetic. “I got stuck on that one bit. I just never thought . . . you and me. You’re so . . .”
It was playing with fire to ask.
Tristan knew it.
He asked anyway.
“I’m so what, Wade?”
“You’re so hot and confident and sure of yourself. You’re a beacon of hope to so many closeted guys, guys who think that you can’t be gay and play football. And then there’s me . . . not really ashamed but not open either, and not experienced . . .”
“None of that matters,” Tristan interrupted him, because he couldn’t listen to another moment of Wade putting himself down. “I can’t tell you how much none of that matters.”
“Wade, you’re fucking gorgeous and you’re sweet, and you’ve got this smile that lights up . . . well, it lights up everything around you. Including me, okay?”
Wade was silent for a long time again, like he was digesting what Tristan had just admitted to.
Like he was weighing the danger of it, the inherent risk of it, with the reward.
But how could he, Tristan thought, dying over in his own bed, when he didn’t know what he was really missing? He’d never kissed a guy before. He didn’t know.
“Why,” Wade said, his voice rough, “are you still over there, then?”