Title: Say It Right
Author: A M Arthur
Series: All Saints #2
Can be read as a standalone
Release Date: September 12th 2016
Genre: Contemporary MM Romance
After his parents kicked him out for being gay, Marc Villegas lived on the streets before getting a second chance. Now he’s giving back by working at a shelter for LGBT teenagers—because helping fight their demons keeps his own at bay. Including his infatuation with the former best friend he’s sure is straight.
Anthony Romano hasn’t seen Marc since Marc left home eight years ago. In his confidant’s absence, Anthony turned to heroin. Now at rock bottom, he has an offer from Marc to help him get clean. Detox is hard and ugly, but not as hard as admitting the truth: he’s in love with Marc. Always has been.
Marc swore he’d never date an addict, but he never dreamed the one in question would be the man he’s always wanted to be with. As the two explore their feelings for each other, Marc faces a difficult choice. Say yes, and it could cost him his sobriety; say no, and it could cost him his heart.
Marc jerked upright in bed, instantly alert, but uncertain what had woken him. A hint of light made it through the blackout curtains on his only window, enough to show he was alone in his room. He snagged his phone off the bedside table, but no one was calling him. No texts, and the alarm wasn’t going off.
Only a little after noon. He’d gotten home from his overnight at the shelter less than two hours ago and crashed right away.
Why the hell am I awake?
The distant chime of his doorbell, then muffled banging.
He sat up, covers falling to his waist. No one ever knocked on his door. The Beware Pit Bull sign on his front gate deterred solicitors, and he rarely ordered anything that needed to be delivered. People didn’t ring his bell for no good reason, and that sent Marc diving for a pair of workout shorts.
Sleeping in the nude wasn’t conducive to quickly answering the door.
The stairs challenged him a little, but whatever. Two hours of sleep. At the bottom, he pressed his eye close to the peephole. A young Latina, maybe late teens or early twenties, stood on his stoop. Familiarity hit him in the heart. Her face was thinner, her hair longer, but he knew her.
He snapped the two locks and flung the door open. “Maddy?”
“Hey, Marcos.” Madeline Romano haunted his stoop like a ghost from the past—which she very much was. Maddy was the little sister of his high school best friend, and he hadn’t seen her since he was sixteen years old.
“It’s Marc now.” Stupid thing to say. “What are you doing here?”
“I need your help.”
“Okay. Come in.”
He stepped back, shut the front door once she was inside and out of the January cold, then ushered her toward his lumpy sofa. “Can I get you something to drink?”
“No, I’m fine.” She was pretty far from fine, or she wouldn’t be here after eight years. “Did I wake you up?”
Marc glanced down at his backward shorts. “Um, give me one sec, okay?”
He fled upstairs for proper clothes. Whatever was wrong, he didn’t need to hear it in his underwear. After finding clean briefs, he put on jeans and a sweater. Maddy hadn’t moved from the couch. She clutched at a small purse like she expected it to disappear at any moment.
“How did you find me?” Marc asked as he sat next to her.
“The internet. You stayed in the city.”
“I did. Where are you living?”
“Philadelphia. Sort of. It’s where we moved to when I was twelve. I’m home on winter break. Senior year of college.”
“Good for you. What school?”
“Damn, chica. Congrats on that.”
She smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “Thanks.”
“What’s Anthony up to?” Marc hadn’t thought about his former best friend in a while. After Marc’s parents had kicked him out at the end of his junior year of high school, Anthony’s family refused to help him or let them remain in contact. Marc hadn’t had any real way to keep in touch, anyhow. No money, no phone, no place to live. Maintaining a friendship hadn’t been part of his survival plan, and the one time he’d sought Anthony out, he discovered the entire family had moved. Apparently to Philly. And after enough years passed, finding Anthony again stopped feeling important.
After all, Anthony had never come looking for him.
Maddy squeezed her purse tight enough to make the leather squeak in protest. “He’s why I’m here.”
Marc’s heart kicked. “What happened?”
“After you left, he became a different person. Moody, angry, acting out. He quit the soccer team. Started getting into fights. He barely graduated, and our parents didn’t know what to do. A few months after graduation, he was arrested for possession.”
That news punched Marc in the gut. Anthony had always been about getting a soccer scholarship that would carry him to college first, then all the way to Europe. He’d dreamed of being a big-name soccer star, and he’d hated the idea of drugs. He’d turned his nose up at weed and didn’t even like to drink at parties.
“He got probation the first time.”
“The first time?” Marc squawked.
“Less than a month later, he was arrested again. He served four months.”
Anthony had been in prison for drug possession.
“It destroyed our parents,” Maddy said. “None of us understood what happened. Why he changed like that. When he got out, he was clean for a while. Even got a job at a car wash. We all thought he was doing good. Then Mom’s jewelry started going missing. Cash was missing. He kept staying out.”
“He was using again.” The words were bitter in Marc’s mouth.
“We had a family intervention. Rehab, or they’d kick him out. He chose rehab, got his act together and came home. He went to meetings, got a job. He was fun to be around again. Everyone thought he was okay until this past summer. Same thing, different day. But instead of rehab or begging for another chance, he just left. He left, and no one knows where he’s been for months.”
The heartbreak in Maddy’s voice put hot tears in Marc’s eyes.
“Fuck.” He blinked the tears away, then tucked Maddy close to his chest, acting on instinct. She clung to him without crying, and he tried not to tense up.
Marc knew the dangers of living on the streets better than anyone. He knew all of the different fates that could befall someone, especially an addict. He’d seen acquaintances overdose on bad shit. Seen them beaten up for what little they had on them, be it cash or dope. Seen them killed outright for standing on the wrong corner.
“How can I help?” Marc asked.
“I saw in the paper about your homeless shelter. It’s awesome that you do that.”
“Thanks, but Anthony’s never come to the shelter.” He wouldn’t have been admitted by Dave or Tate, even if he had. The shelter was for LGBT teenagers, not twenty-four-year-old former soccer stars. And no one brought drugs inside. “Why do you think he’d come back to Wilmington? Your family moved to Philadelphia not long after I lost touch.”
“It’s a guess. I’ve searched all over Philly. All of his old hangouts, his old friends. Dad even checked in with his detective buddy, and no one can find him there. Plus he talked about you a few times after the last rehab.”
And here Marc hadn’t thought anything else could surprise him today. “He did?”
“He wondered what you were doing, if you were okay. Said he owed you an apology, and part of staying sober was making amends. I figured searching here was worth a shot.”
Marc wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Anthony could be right around the block, shooting his own death up his arm, and Marc wanted to cry almost as much as he wanted to punch something. “If he came back to Wilmington, he’s never tried to make contact with me.”
“But don’t you know people? Someone who could help us find him?”
“I’m not sure.” Marc had more resources for this kind of thing than Maddy, but addicts weren’t quick to snitch on each other. Not unless money was involved, and Marc didn’t have a lot of spare twenties to flash in front of people for what would probably be worthless information.
One thought came to mind, though. An acquaintance who might be able to give him a lead.
About the Author
No stranger to the writing world, A.M. Arthur has been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long. She credits an early fascination with male friendships and “bromance” (and “The Young Riders”) with her later discovery of and subsequent affair with m/m romance stories. When not writing, she can be found in her kitchen, pretending she’s an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments. You can contact her at AM_Arthur(at)yahoo(dot)com.