I Wish I Were Special by Julia McBryant

Genre: LGBT Romance.

Quinn blinks. He doesn’t think anyone’s ever has asked him to dinner and now he can’t help but stop and try to remember if that’s true. By now, Henry has caught up and he stands behind Ellis, still mounted. “SAY YES,” Henry mouths.
“Sure.” Quinn shrugs, snapping out of it. “Why not?”
“You sure?” Ellis asks. “Took you awhile.”
“Yeah,” Quinn says, like it doesn’t matter at all. “I’ll do dinner.”
Ellis takes his phone from the case attached to his saddle and hands it to Quinn. “Text yourself,” he says. Quinn does as he asks. “Give you a call?” Ellis says. “Say tonight, if you’re not busy?”
Quinn shrugs again, bodily shorthand for “I don’t care.” He’s long perfected that look, coming out at sixteen in a prep school where most students believed in The Gay Agenda. Ellis takes his helmet off, unties his hair, and shakes it out. Oh god, that long, gorgeous hair, down past his shoulders, a light brown naturally streaked blonde. Quinn dismounts, unsnaps his own helmet, and pulls his shoulder-length hair out of its tie in all its perfection: shiny, straight to his shoulders with no crimp from the ponytail holder. God, it took him forever to find a tie that wouldn’t leave a mark. Ellis stares. Totally getting f*cked tonight. Dinner, and then f*cked.
Quinn thinks about it all day, this man with the long hair taking him to dinner then back to his place. Probably a nice place, too: Ellis clearly has money, family or otherwise, and will have accumulated some decent possessions at his age. Even better, it’ll be nice for once to get f*cked by someone who, at his age, knows how to do it, and do it well.
The text comes around three. Drinks at The Low Man and then dinner at Oliver?
What time?
7 ok with you?
7’s great.
Quinn agonizes over his clothes. He almost calls Henry or his best friend Calhoun for help. In the end he decides to go total frat boy — Ellis seems like he’ll appreciate the type. Quinn picks a baby-blue checked button down to match his eyes, a pair of khaki shorts, easily yanked down, and sandals, but nice ones. When he walks into The Low Man at 7:15, fashionably late, he sees Ellis lounging in the low-lit bar wearing a gray linen suit with a dark green bow tie. He has a full tumbler of something in front of him that appears untouched. Screw him. Ellis looks Quinn up and down in the half-dark.
“Cute,” he comments.
“Thanks,” Quinn says dryly. “I was unaware we were dressing for dinner.”
“I always dress for dinner.”
“Sorry about that.” Quinn hops onto a leather barstool and twirls a little. “What’re you drinking?”
Ellis holds up a hand. “I should make you go home and change.”
“Excuse me?”
“I should make you go home and change. You’ll look adorable in a suit, and I won’t look like I’m robbing the cradle. But I didn’t warn you to dress for dinner. Next time.”
The realization comes slowly. “You’re not f*cking with me.”
“No. I most emphatically am not.”
Mother. F*cker. “You would send me home to change?”
“If I’d already asked you to wear a suit and you showed up in this? Yes.”
“Then f*ck you, if it’s that goddamn important, I’ll go home and change so we’re matchy-matchy.”
“I would be grateful, Quinn. But hurry up, I’m hungry.”
Quinn’s pissed, but a tiny part of him’s turned on. He loves when someone orders him around, preferably an older someone. So he leaves the bar, calls another Uber, and makes it wait while he goes inside and changes quickly into his favorite seersucker suit, a bowtie with tiny pink flowers and pink striped socks, topped by white bucks. Plus a white and pink belt. Summer in Savannah, what the fuck. When else can you get away with it?
Forty-five minutes later, he arrives back at The Low Man. Ellis scrutinizes him. “Much better,” he says. “Seersucker suits you. And white bucks too. Maybe you’re not an irredeemable savage. Better worn during the day, but we’ll let it slide for now. What are you drinking, Quinn?”
“Scotch and soda.” He twirls on the stool again. Ellis grabs it, stops him, and glares.
Ellis hails the bartender and orders for him, which annoys Quinn. He can order for himself. Only fucking girls let a man order for them, and he tells Ellis so.
Ellis gives him a half-smile. “Uh-huh.”
“The f*ck’s that mean?”
“You need to get over your constant use of the word ‘f*ck,’” Ellis comments. He brushes some of that gorgeous brown hair behind an ear and sips at his drink.
“But it’s such a wonderful word,” Quinn says as sweetly as possible. “It’s a verb, a noun, an adjective, an adverb, an interjection, an exclamation —”
“And it’s only effective when used judiciously.”
“You’re kind of a dick,” Quinn says bluntly. “You made me go home and change and now you’re harassing me about my language like I’m a ten-year-old.”
“Mmmm,” Ellis says noncommittally. “I suggested you change. You’re the one who did it.”
This is becoming tiresome just to get what he could have by walking into Club Metro and hanging out on a barstool for ten minutes — with eyeliner, more comfortable clothes, and maybe a bump or two of coke. “Explain why I shouldn’t tell you to f- eff and walk out right now,” Quinn says.
“You’re a smart-mouthed brat,” Ellis says. “I’m the one who should walk out. I don’t know why I’m bothering to stay, except you’re adorable, I like a smart mouth, and I like a good little submissive.”
“I never said I always bottomed!” Quinn protests. His voice rises but f*ck all who hears him. They’ll all be talking about who he went out with anyway. If two Savannahians meet in a bar, they buy some drinks, loosen some tongues, and walk out with gossip. Standard operating procedure in the prettiest city in the world.
Ellis snorts. “Have you ever f*cked another man? I mean, have you ever been the one actually doing the f*cking?”
Quinn knows he’s reddening and can’t stop himself.
“Mm-hmm. That’s what I thought, pretty boy. You like it on the bottom. You also desperately need civilizing. Savage. Finish your drink so I can take you to dinner and probably complain about your manners.” Either Ellis has ordered another or he hasn’t touched his. And he leaves a full glass of whatever when they walk out. Weird.
Quinn rolls his eyes — he was raised in upper crust Savannah. He knows how to behave at a table, and Ellis doesn’t find a single thing to bitch about. “Should’ve known rich boy would eat like a civilized human,” he says as they finish their steak. Quinn’s almost squirming. He knows what’s coming next and it should be mind-blowing. Ellis will have him on his knees and begging. They’ve spent dinner talking local politics; school (Ellis went to Thurston Prep and St. Albert’s as well, just many classes ahead of Quinn, then Emory and Duke), what Quinn expects to do with his degree (probably equine journalism); what type of music they like (Ellis prefers old REM and U2; Quinn likes David Bowie, Queen, and Johnny Cash — they have a good laugh about how someone would expect the opposite of them).
“I had a nice night, Quinn,” Ellis says finally. “I’d like to do it again sometime. You’re adorable and fun and I enjoyed your company.”
Quinn can’t keep the confusion off his face. “You want to come back to my place? Coffee or a drink or anything?” Sex? You want to come back to my place for sex?
“You’re also impatient and need to learn self-control.”
“Excuse me?!” Quinn demands for the second time that night.
“You’re adorable. Truly. I’d love to have you on your knees. Don’t worry. I will, if you’re patient. You’re used to getting what you want and walking away from it. Instant gratification isn’t good for anyone. Good night. I’ll call you.” Ellis picks up the bill and walks out, leaving Quinn, jaw dropped, alone at a table in Oliver.
That complete asshole.
Quinn goes home and takes another scalding hot shower. Should’ve known. The only guy he hasn’t met at a club in god knows how long and he refuses to have sex with him. Of course. Quinn should’ve known that it never works out for him. Too much of a brat. Too used to getting what he wants. Wrong clothes, wrong attitude, wrong everything. He stands in the shower and scrubs and scrubs. Afterwards, Quinn curls up in bed. It flits across his mind, the way it always does when things get bad: the time he nearly drowned when he was two. The usual story: a party, everyone thinks someone else is watching the baby and no one’s paying attention, not really. Quinn remembers kneeling to look at the light fracturing, spiderwebbing across the pool at night. And he was falling, down, down, headfirst then a gentle flip to his back. He could see the people as far away blurs, smears, the water around him so clear, the breath he took so easy but heavy and strange. Quinn remembers staring, staring up, the water fracturing around him, the slow, slow movement of his limbs, wanting so badly to close his eyes.
He didn’t choke until they brought him up, until he tried to breathe the air again, until he tried to scream, lungs full, suddenly terrified, suddenly aware of how alone he’d been down in the water, alone with all that dancing light, the people far, far away, not missing him, not caring, not noticing the baby in the bottom of the pool. He falls asleep and dreams of water.
So when Ellis calls the next day, he doesn’t pick up.
Nor does he pick up the call later that afternoon.
Or the next day.
Or the day after that.
Ellis is persistent, though. He keeps calling. Quinn ignores him.
Quinn goes cub-hunting again later in the week. Henry, Wills, and their brother Alexander have gone back to school; the Jasper twins show up, so he rides with Lucky and Thor. They stick to the back of the pack, but eventually, inexorably, Quinn draws ahead until he’s riding near the hounds again. He likes to take the jumps too much. Savannah’s given them another gorgeous morning, a little hotter but with the same lingering mist, the same promising glow.
The sunlight’s shifting from gold to yellow when he sees Ellis at a check. Quinn glances up, then looks away.
Ellis doesn’t speak, perfectly proper, until they trot off. He pulls his gray horse next to Quinn’s Mister. “You didn’t have to ignore all my calls.”
“You didn’t have to refuse to go home with me,” Quinn retorts. “Don’t know if you’re aware, but that’s generally how a date ends when you find the other person acceptable.”
“You’re savage.” Ellis sighs.
“You keep saying that. And yet I manage quite well for myself, thanks.”
“You spent last semester nearly failing out of SASA, you spend your weekends doing random guys you meet at Club Metro. Your parents used all their energy on your older siblings and by the time the Rutledge oops baby arrived there wasn’t much left for you. You’re on a road to nowhere, brat. Even your cousin Delia thinks so, and she’s got her head on straighter than just about any Rutledge in the city.”
“What the hell?” Quinn demands.
Ellis shrugs. “Savannah likes to talk. Savannah especially likes to talk when you buy it liquor.”
“So what’s your goddamn point?” Ellis has hit him hard, ugly, and it hurts more than Quinn wants to admit, even to himself. Knowing Delia thinks he’s a mess might be the worst. His cousin has shared the same class with him since kindergarten. He loves her like a sister. “You don’t want me, so why do you keep calling?”
“Not interested in sex with you currently, no. In civilizing you beforehand? Yes. I believe it’s called an actual relationship.”
Quinn snorts. “Uh-huh. Right. Like I’m going to believe that.” Like hell Ellis wants an actual relationship. He doesn’t know what Ellis wants, but he wants something. However, Quinn doesn’t need any part of someone who informs him that Delia, of all people, thinks he’s screwing up his life. Thanks for reminding me how much I suck, asshole. See you later.
“Too bad for you. Because you need someone to look out for you.”
“I think I’m doing a fine job on my own.”
Quinn rides back to the Jasper twins. They probably have plenty of brandy left. In Savannah, it’s never too early for daydrinking.
But something nags at him.
Ellis is right.

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Book published 09/25/19

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