Chapter One of Risking it All

Hey, all! I decided to drop chapter one so you could get a little taste of what’s to come. If you’ve read the other books, you might have noticed little hints here and there, especially in Against the Rules. Merrick’s book, in present time, is actually five years after Against the Rules, but we have flashbacks to witness how his journey with Ali began, and how it progressed. Chapter one is the “remember that night” moment he had with Elijah in Against the Rules. If you haven’t read any of the others, no worries, you don’t need to.

ONE

10 Years Ago

Merrick

“So, what’re we gonna do this summer?” Ali asks, taking a sip of beer.

“Shit, it’s not like we have many options. We can have bonfires out at the circle of trees. Go to the mall or the pool.” I take a drink out of my own beer bottle. “I’m fine just hanging out here. Me and the guys set up in the garage and just play music. Maybe we can find some events to play at.”

Ali nods and then puts the joint between his lips and inhales. He’s not real close with Jay, Carlos, or Sky, but they don’t hate each other either. Sometimes he hangs out in the garage when we play, but usually it’s just me and the guys, and occasionally some girls, depending on who’s dating who at the time.

“Your brother’s not home, is he?” he questions, passing me the joint.

“Nah. I think he’s at work.”

Me and Ali sit on the steps leading to my backyard, drinking the beer he swiped from his mom’s house and smoking the joint we got from Leo—the known pothead of our high school.

“You’re lucky you always have the house to yourself,” he says. “My mom’s always up my ass about something. I gotta clean, do homework, cut the grass, help my sister with something. It’s never ending.”

I finish the beer and open another one. “Yeah, but at least you have a mom.”

Ali cringes. “Sorry, bro. I forget. I’m grateful I have her, but … you know.”

“Don’t worry about it. I get it. Elijah makes me do shit around the house, too. It’s not like I don’t have a parent figure. He definitely acts like my dad, so it’s not like it’s easy around here.”

We’re silent for a minute, drinking and smoking, even though we both know we shouldn’t be doing either. We’re only sixteen, but it’s not like we’re the only people doing it. Our school is crawling with kids who are eager to do both. Some do it to fit in or be cool, but I started doing it in the hopes that it would keep certain thoughts at bay.

My parents died when I was eleven, leaving my oldest brother to care for me and my other two brothers. It’s hard thinking about them and knowing they’ll never be around again. Sometimes you need their advice and guidance, especially as you grow older.

I met Alejandro last year, and quickly started calling him Ali. He says he hates it, but I think he’s gotten used to it by now. He decided to get me back by calling me by my last name, but that doesn’t bother me.

Any time I’m not with the band, I’m with him. We became fast friends, and soon after, I started having these feelings … these urges.

Sometimes I want to kiss Ali. He makes me laugh constantly, and his smile makes me smile. My heart has threatened to burst out of my chest when I’ve been in his room and he started undressing. I’m not supposed to think about him like that, but I can’t help it. He’s the first person I’ve felt any sort of attraction to. At least like this.

Sure, I’ve seen guys on TV who I’ve thought were good-looking, but women are pretty, too. I just don’t feel anything when I look at them. I feel everything when I look at Ali.

Me and him can talk about anything. Well, almost. I haven’t told him about this. How can you tell your same-sex friend that you find him attractive? How can you admit to something that you don’t really want to acknowledge yourself?

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m gay, and I don’t know how to deal with that. So I drink and I smoke and I try to pretend I’m into girls. That’s what most sixteen-year-olds do, right?

But there are moments, very brief moments, when I think Ali might like me too. Not just as friends, but as more. Maybe I’m seeing things that I want to see. Maybe he doesn’t glance at my lips when I talk. Perhaps that tiny little lip bite he did when I took off my shirt to jump in the pool was meant for someone else.

“What do you think about Mindy?” I ask, drinking more of the bitter tasting beer. 

“What about her?” he asks, his voice dripping with disgust.

I laugh. “You don’t think she’s cute?”

“Fuck no!”

“Why not?” I ask, laughing harder. “She’s got dirty blond hair, pretty eyes, and a decent body.”

Ali scoffs. “So do you.”

I sober up, sitting straighter and wondering if I heard what I thought I heard. Did he compliment me? My body? “What?”

His eyes are wide when he looks at me, then he starts laughing. “I’m just saying … that doesn’t automatically mean someone’s attractive.”

It takes a minute before my heart rate slows down. “Oh. Well, she asked me out.”

“She asked you out?”

“Why do you sound so surprised? I am attractive.”

Ali rolls his eyes as he laughs. “Whatever, man. That girl asks out everybody. She’s just a slut.”

“Harsh.”

He shrugs, then takes a sip of his beer while I puff on the joint. “Why do you like her anyway?”

I blow out the smoke as I answer. “She likes me.”

He shakes his head. “That’s not a good reason.”

“Whatever, bro. Who do you like? I saw you with Stephanie the other day. What’s up with that?”

“Nothing is up. She’s just a friend.”

“Have you dated anybody lately? I can’t remember you ever having a girlfriend.”

Ali tenses up a bit. “Girls suck.”

“What are you? Eight?” I laugh. 

“You haven’t dated anyone either.”

I think back as I finish the beer. “I went out with Jess.”

“Dude. I was there with you guys at the movies. That was not a date.”

“Okay, well, I made out with Rochelle.”

“Making out is not dating.”

“Why are you giving me shit?”

“You’re the one who brought it up.” He laughs and chokes at the same time, sputtering out smoke.

I finish another beer and he smokes the rest of the joint. We’re both feeling pretty good, laughing at stupid shit, and making plans for the summer.

“You’re right, girls do suck,” I say after a couple minutes of silence, leaning back against the railing.

He chuckles. “I know, but why do you say that now? I thought you were gonna go out with Mindy.”

I watch him until he finally looks up at me. Our eyes stay connected for several seconds, and I start having those feelings again. I want to lean over and plant my lips on his. I want to taste his tongue and run my hands under his shirt and feel his body. I want to tangle my fingers in his long, wavy brown hair.

“I don’t want to date Mindy.”

Stuck in this staring contest, the air around us becomes charged with electricity. His head tilts just slightly, like he’s asking me a question without words. I figure now’s a good time to try to drop hints. If it doesn’t go the way I hope, I can blame it on the alcohol and weed.

My eyes roam his handsome face. His skin is flawless and mocha tinted, and his eyes are like honey. I finally land on his lips. They look soft and plump, and they’re perfectly proportioned. His tongue swipes across the bottom one as I continue to stare.

“Merrick.” 

The use of my first name feels different and instantly pulls me out of my daze. “Yeah?”

“What’s goin’ on?”

“Nothing. What do you mean?”

“You’re looking at me like…”

“Like what?” I ask, arching a brow. 

Once again he glances at my lips, and there’s nothing about the way he’s looking at me that gives off a friend vibe. He’s looking at me like he wants me.

“Like…” he trails off again.

“Like you’re looking at me?”

We don’t say anything else. Instead, we slowly lean toward one another, each waiting for the other to pull away or ask what the hell is going on. Neither of us stops it. 

My lips brush against his. We’re cautious, taking our time. One peck leads to two. And then I put my hand on the side of his face and keep him in place as I slip my tongue into his mouth.

He moans which gives me the confidence to keep going. Our kiss turns passionate, and both my hands cradle his face as he fists the sides of my shirt and yanks me into him.

After a good thirty seconds, I ease away just slightly, but my hands are still on his face and his hands are still on my body.

“Ali,” I whisper.

The back door swings open, and the creaking sound sends me and Ali flying apart.

“Merrick.” Elijah’s stern voice steals my attention.

My heart hammers in my chest. Did he see? He looks surprised. Angry. He crosses his arms and narrows his eyes at me.

“Are you kidding me? You’re smoking weed? I could smell that shit as soon as I got out of the car.” He looks past me and Ali and finds the empty beer bottles. “And you’re drinking?” Elijah huffs, his jaw clenching. “Alejandro, I think you need to go home.”

Ali quickly stands up. “Sorry, Elijah.” 

My brother doesn’t say anything, he just steps to the side and lets Ali walk through the house.

I wait for him to start yelling and listing my punishments, but he just stands there and watches me. His anger quickly settles into something else. Disappointment? Concern?

“Go to your room, Merrick,” he says with a sigh. 

I stand up and slowly lift my head to meet his gaze. He puts his hand on my shoulder, and I suddenly want to break down and cry and tell him everything. But I don’t. I just walk past him and go to my room.

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