We move closer in the coffee cart line, my wet shirt from my spilled coffee sticking to my skin.
“So, what will you have to drink?” My tone is airy and light, but in a forced kind of way and not at all calm and collected like the night we hooked up.
It’s hard to believe the guy with so much game back then grew up to be a bumbling idiot.
Peyton looks hesitant, like he wants to fight having me buy him a coffee, and I can’t say that I blame him. If all of his socials have anything to say, it’s not like he bats for my team. He’s always posting photos of him and his teammates with girls, and I’ve tried to search for homoerotic subtext in the photos with any guy other than his brother, but even I know that’s grasping at straws.
And last night, when I caught sight of Peyton at Shenanigans, kissing the bartender, it all but confirmed my suspicion.
While I lied through my teeth about our hookup only being fun but not earth-shattering, it seems Peyton didn’t have the same revelation I did: I’m gay AF.
“I haven’t decided yet, but I need to make this quick. My place is just off campus, and I’d like to change before my next class starts in an hour.”
Disappointment that shouldn’t belong here punches me in the gut. “Sure.” I hope my tone can pass for nonchalant, but I doubt it.
“You’re welcome to come back with me.” He eyes me, and every inch his gaze touches burns like fire. “You could probably fit my clothes now you’re not so scrawny.”
Damn. As easy as that, the tension leaves my shoulders. “I wasn’t scrawny in high school either, you dick.”
“You were scrawny, but you’ve definitely … uh … filled out.” He eyes me again but is trying to be subtler this time.
The totally wrong thing to say here is he can fill me out anytime because that wouldn’t go down well. I’d go down well. On him. But no. Straight boy is straight.
If the universe loved me at all, he’d be bi, but that’s wishful thinking on my part.
We get to the front of the line, and I order another latte—or in this fucked-up Franklin U system, a “study juice”—and point to Peyton. “And whatever he wants.”
“I’ll get the same, but with two pumps of caramel.”
“Is that allowed on your team diet?” I ask while I tap my card to pay.
“Who are you, my brother?”
“Eww, fucking hope not.”
Oh. Right. No mentioning the thing that was fun but not really but totally mind-blowing and the thing that changed the direction of my life. Not mentioning it. At all.
When I don’t elaborate, Peyton relaxes.
“Besides. I was at practice at 6:00 a.m. I need to survive the full day of classes somehow.”
“With a side of caffeine for your sugar?”
“Yep. It’s the only way I can make it drinkable.”
We’re given our order, and I let Peyton lead us.
We drink our coffees in silence because after all these years, there are no words.
“So, you’ve been on campus this long and I haven’t seen you?” he asks.
Oh, look at that, my throat is dry, and I need more coffee. I sip slowly and try to think of a reasonable excuse for that.
“It’s a big school.”
“I saw you last night at Shenanigans, didn’t I?”
I play dumb. “Oh, were you there?”
“I was. And you were right across from where I was standing.” Yeah, he’s not letting me get away with that.
“Okay, fine. I saw you there with your girlfriend, and I didn’t want to interrupt.”
Peyton laughs. “Not my girlfriend.”
Hope blooms in my gut … And then he keeps speaking.
“I don’t have time for relationships.”
“Ah. Player on and off the field, huh?”
He scoffs. “Hardly. I’m too focused on my career to mess with anyone’s emotions.”
Except mine. Which he’s unwittingly doing. Gah, I want to ask him straight up if he’s into dudes, but then I have to remind myself that Peyton Miller is not the reason I’m in California.
And I’ll prove it by being honest with him. “I knew we’d run into each other eventually, and I did see you last night, but …” I bite my lip. “I kind of chickened out of talking to you.”
“Oh, so you went with spilling hot coffee on me instead. I have to say, a simple hello would have worked.”
“I wanted to make it memorable,” I quip.
“First-degree burns are memorable, I guess.”