Too Close to Hide Chapter 1

Chapter 1

If I didn’t love Jeremy so much, I would have walked away and completely denied knowing him. Trailing after him as we wandered through the big bedding and bath store, I couldn’t help but shake my head. I might look like a puppy following his master, but Jeremy just seemed nuts.

The list was perfectly reasonable, especially for a planner like him. The fact that it was like two pages long was understandable considering we were starting college with almost nothing. Googling thread counts and debating different kinds of cotton was not.

It had to have something to do with how stressed Jeremy was and how much we still had to organize, but his obsession with sheets was starting to draw attention. I just wanted stupid brown sheets to go with the comforter I’d picked out. I didn’t care what they were made of or how long they’d last—I had high hopes that we’d wear them out quickly.

I’m not sure Jeremy cared either, but this seemed to be what he was focused on, so I tried not to roll my eyes as he asked me for like the thousandth time how I thought the higher thread count would wash.

“Dude! I don’t think it matters. Let’s just buy two or three of the soft ones that are on sale. That way we don’t have to do laundry as much. If they suck, we’ll get something different next time.” Okay, so maybe I was starting to get frustrated. But in my defense, we’d been looking at the sheets for ten minutes, and we still had half the store to go.

“Don’t call me dude.” He was trying to frown, but the twitch of his lips gave him away.

“You’re my dude, Dude.” I grinned as he took a deep breath and grabbed two of the brown sheets and one of the dark blue ones, putting them into the cart.

“I’m your dude. Come on, dork, we still have to go through the kitchen section.” Jeremy started pushing the cart in the direction of the kitchen stuff and I was just glad to get out of the bedding department. Who knew you needed so much stuff for the bedroom?

Jeremy did.

I’m not sure what I would have done without him and his list. Not that I was going to tell him that. He had everything on it from pillows to hangers. If it had been left up to me, I’d have gotten out of the store with only about half of what we needed, and we would’ve had to make a dozen trips before I remembered it all. Thank God for Jeremy and his list.

I could admit it now that we were out of the bedding section. I wasn’t kidding when I said we were drawing attention. Several girls that I thought lived in our building had been pointing and giggling in our direction.

They weren’t being mean or anything; it was more like an “Aww aren’t they such a cute couple” kind of thing, but we didn’t need to stick out like that—we still hadn’t decided how we were going to introduce ourselves in public yet. So if he wasn’t careful, Jeremy was going to make that decision for us. I was pretty positive regular brothers didn’t shop like we did. There were entirely too many questions about what I wanted or what color he thought would go best with the blanket. With only one blanket, it looked pretty obvious to me that we were shopping for one bed.

Then there was the touching.

It was probably because we’d had to be careful for so long between the shit with my parents and each not knowing how the other felt, but unless we were really thinking about it, Jeremy and I were constantly touching each other. Like a security blanket, maybe. Not like groping-each-other-in-the-mall kind of touching but just small things. It was like we’d repressed all the little caresses we’d wanted for so long, and now we couldn’t control them.

Jeremy would brush his hand against my back to guide me in the direction he wanted to go, or I had a bad habit of putting my hand on his shoulder when I was trying to get his attention. Each rubbing our hand against the other’s when we were standing close. Small things that weren’t huge but when you added them up, they said lovers.

We’d never touched like that before but now, it was like a dam had broken, and the feelings couldn’t be held back any longer. I liked being able to reach out to him. To feel him right there and to know that he was mine. That he loved me.

I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to pull off telling people we were brothers. Even strangers in the store assumed we were together. Would we be able to hide it from people who actually got to know us? I didn’t think so.

Neither of us was a big joiner or partier, so it wasn’t like we were going to have huge gangs of friends. But I wasn’t naïve enough to think Jeremy and I would never have people over or go out to dinner with a group.

This was college, with study sessions and projects. Some of that stuff was going to end up being necessary. If we didn’t look like brothers, then we were going to have to hide the brother part and just say we were boyfriends…lovers…something.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about that either. It’d felt natural in the store, and it didn’t make me nuts when those girls had assumed we were together, but would it be different when I had to tell someone I was gay? With Jeremy beside me, it was easy to let people just assume because I loved him and I didn’t want to hide that. But if I was alone, I wasn’t sure how it would feel.

We weren’t in the closet or anything…or at least I didn’t think we were anymore. Before was different; we had to hide deep in the closet but now, it didn’t feel like something that I needed to lie about. I was always going to be a more private person. I’d had enough therapy to realize that, but I thought there was a difference between being private and in the closet. Maybe?

There was no way we could put off the talk any longer. We’d only been on our own for two days, so it wasn’t like we’d dragged our feet but still, this shopping trip let me know that it had to be at the top of the weird-conversation list. Not that there were lots of other things on that list but I knew, with us, it was bound to have more stuff added to it eventually.

I pushed the thoughts about it to the back of my mind and focused on keeping up with Jeremy. The kitchen section wasn’t nearly as frustrating as the bedding had been. Cups, plates, bowls…they were much more straightforward, and I think he finally realized he needed to calm down because we got through that section in half the time. Methodically working through his list, we had everything we’d need to cook and eat with without spending as much money as I thought. It was still a ton of cash, but Jeremy had planned like a crazy person so I wasn’t worried.

Two packed carts and some frayed nerves later, we’d nearly made it out of the store when the girls from the bedding aisle walked over to us.

Giggling Girl Number One had to be the leader of the group because she came up first. “You guys are such a cute couple. You’re in 201A, right? The Whitehall Apartments? We live in 304B.”

Jeremy froze as he got to the automatic doors. He gave me an obvious What do I do with her? look. I shrugged. Giggling girls was not something I’d had a lot of practice with.

He must have decided to keep it simple because he just gave her a quick nod. “Yeah, I think we saw you when we were getting the keys yesterday. See ya around.”

Then we made a break for it.

Giggling Girl Number Two found everything incredibly funny. She whispered to the other girls standing around and then hollered out happily, “Come on over later. We’re going to have a back-to-college party tonight.”

Neither of us said anything as we walked toward the car. It had to be shock because I think Jeremy and I both assumed there would be more time before we had to socialize and get to know people. I wasn’t concerned with Giggling Girl Number One or Two; they’d obviously decided we were going to be the token gay couple their party needed. But it made me realize we couldn’t put off talking about it anymore.

The rest of the small mob looked like they were going to follow along anyway, but there was one girl standing there watching us with a more thoughtful look on her face. I didn’t know if it was her clothes or her expression but she just didn’t seem like she belonged with the rest of them. I had a feeling that if anyone could tell something was up with me and Jeremy it would be her. I hoped I was wrong.

We started filling up the car with everything we’d bought and I couldn’t help teasing Jeremy. Something had to break the tension. “Well, I’m not sure we’re ready to party just yet but it’s nice to know if we feel like getting drunk, the party people are so close.” I managed to keep a straight face for a few seconds but when Jeremy nearly dropped the dishes, I cracked.

“Dude, the look on your face.”

It was a terrible combination of shock and horror. Like for just a minute, he’d thought I was serious and he wasn’t sure what planet I’d come from.


“Oh, come on.” I laughed so hard I was afraid I’d pulled something. “The look on your face. Like I was some kind of alien.”

Jeremy shook his head and ignoring me, walked over to put the carts away. He might have thought I was nuts, but at least some of the stress had faded. By the time he got back to the car, we were both way more relaxed. But it was easy to tell that it was still weighing on our minds.

We weren’t far from home so the drive only took about five minutes, but it felt like a lot longer. We pulled into the parking lot and sat there for a little while. I was pretty calm, but Jeremy kept turning the radio up and then adjusting the volume down. Someone was definitely stressed.

“What do you think—” We both started talking at the same time.

I was curious to know what he was thinking, so I reached over and put my hand on his leg. I could see the tension leak out of Jeremy as I caressed him. “You go first.”

He took a deep breath before starting again. “What do you think we should have said? I mean, when she made the couple comment.”

It was basically the same thing I had been planning to ask, so I didn’t have a good response. “Ignoring it was probably the best idea. We haven’t really sat down and figured out what we’re going to tell people.”

He nodded. “I thought we’d have more time. There’s still a couple of weeks before school starts. I kinda pictured not having to explain anything until we were in classes. I guess I forgot about neighbors and people like that.”

“Me too. I knew we’d have to figure out what to say…like how to introduce ourselves…but yeah, neighbors.” I had to laugh. With all the planning we’d done, especially Jeremy, we’d forgotten people we’d see every day.

He reached down and squeezed my hand, closing his eyes and leaning back in the seat. “Do you know what you want to do? I’m not sure there’s a lot of options, but what do you think?”

“Options?” Did we have options? After trying to watch us interact objectively, I wasn’t sure we could pull off the whole “We’re just brothers” thing.

“Yeah, well, like just telling people we’re brothers or telling them we’re like…you know…together.” He was getting more stressed out, and I wasn’t sure if it was the conversation in general he didn’t like or if it was one of the options.

“I’m not sure we can play off the whole just brothers thing anymore, to be honest. We could try, but I think we’d come across as weird.” And I didn’t want all the shit that would come with doing that.

Deciding that I needed to be open with him, I kept talking. “And, well, I don’t like all the crap we’ll get wrapped up in with doing that. Like dating and pretending to be single. Staying in the closet. That kind of shit. I can see it all going teen-comedy crazy really fast.” That didn’t sound too stupid. And I don’t think I came across as clingy as I felt.

Maybe not because Jeremy smiled and started rubbing my fingers absentmindedly. “I don’t want to see you date anyone else either.”

I knew I was blushing, but I just tried to ignore it because he was right. I didn’t want to see him go out with other people.

“Do you think we could hide being brothers? I mean, we have the same last name and even though we don’t look that much alike, people are going to ask how we met and shit.” There were so many problems with that idea; I wasn’t sure it was feasible either.

Jeremy sank deeper into the seat and sighed. “I don’t know how either of them would work. I don’t think I could hide how much I love you for that long, but I’m not sure how we’d keep our background a secret.”

“This is the ultimate no-win situation. Either way, things could go bad.” It was like we just had to pick which terrible thing might happen. Then a thought occurred to me. “Hey, if the school found out, could they kick us out?” Could schools do that?

“No. I looked into it. They have pretty strong non-discrimination language in the school rules and as long as everything is consensual, there isn’t any kind of morals clause we’d be breaking.”
Jeremy sounded confident enough that I didn’t question it.

“My sexy planner…you think of everything.” I was kind of teasing but not really. I liked it. He made me feel safe.

“It was one of the first things I researched when we started looking at schools,” Jeremy admitted kind of sheepishly.

“Oh, so you were hoping to get lucky?” I liked making him blush and stutter.

His eyes bugged out of his head and his mouth dropped open. “What—no—it wasn’t like that—”

Laughing, I leaned over and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “You know it was so like that. It’s okay though because I was thinking the same thing.” He was still stuttering, so I gave him another kiss. This time not as quick and definitely not as innocent. “I’m teasing. I know how much you love me and I love feeling just how much you love me.”

Jeremy gave a bark of laughter and shook his head again. That expression was starting to look very familiar. “You’re terrible.”

“But you love it.”

This time he leaned over and gave me a kiss. “And I love you. No matter how we explain it to other people, you are the most important person in the world to me.”

He made me melt. Every time he got that look in his eyes. The one that let me see just how much he loved me. Just how much he needed me. It always felt like I was the center of his universe. We’d figure it out. We’d made it this far; nothing was going to keep us apart…especially not something as simple as a label.

Too Close to Hide by MA Innes - Gay Romance Ebook Cover

Kevin and Jeremy have finally gotten everything they’d ever wanted…but now what?

They have more questions than answers and stress is mounting. Are they out? Are they actually free of their domineering parents? How do they explain their relationship when they can’t even define it themselves? They thought that falling in love was the hardest part, but now they’re starting to see that it was just the beginning.

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