The Hunter: Chapters 1-3
Passages are written in chapters. The chapters with the heading Cortez Abernathy are in the present, while the chapters with the heading TheHunter are passages from the past, written within the pages of Cortez Abernathy’s memoir, The Hunter.
Note: Cortez Abernathy is romance novelist. Cort is highly sexual, romantic, and extremely emotional. Since this book is written for him, about him, and takes place within his mind, the usual linear storyline would not suffice. In essence, this book is Cort.
The blinking cursor of death.
I’m not used to this insanity. Well, I’m used to actual insanity, as in the kind in actuality. What I’m not used to is… Ugh, I can’t even think it.
I suffer from the dreaded writer’s block. I’ve been suffering for almost a year. It was a big joke between Ezra and me when I wrote my first shitty book. I wrote it on purpose. I wanted to see how Katya would react, whether or not she’d do her job versus falling for my charms.
Kitten did her damned job, alright!
The book I gave my wife was a shit-fest. I deliberately messed it all up. It was a test, or so I told myself as Ezra maniacally laughed at my plight. I was able to resurrect the horrid creation, and it hit number five on the New York Times best seller’s list. It stayed there for many weeks in fact… and then life got in the way. I lost track of the days that I didn’t write, when previously it was unfathomable that I go a few hours without putting words to page.
In the past, writing was as essential as breathing, an involuntary compulsion. I had to create to release the pent-up pressure inside my mind- the emotions, the thoughts, the sensations that choke the very life out of me. For me, writing was an emotional pressure release valve. I grin and charm my way into people’s lives. I smile when inside I feel raw, an open wound that will never heal.
First, life got in the way: relationships, family obligations, mystery illegitimate children, secrets and lies and betrayals of the deepest kind, marriages, and threats. Then the emotions came and rolled me under: Fear, jealousy, friendship, love, betrayal, fear, jealousy, betrayal, bitterness, and love. These emotions were so strong that no words could be uttered. My mind was a blank canvas without its usual colorful imagination. I was a black hole, devoid of anything but an infinite stretch of silent pain.
The first stirring appeared after I felt safe, the tingling at the back of my mind. It’s a slight sensation, rather pleasant and titillating. It was my muse awakening from a long slumber. She… and I have no idea why as a male I have a female muse, a muse I refuse to name. She stretched and yawned, and then she smiled at me, the smile of an angel. I blinked back tears, realizing that her visage is that of my long dead mother- but we all have our issues, mine just happen to be of the mommy kind.
I was elated. I was sitting on the sofa watching a movie with my family. I burst up from my seat, knocking poor Kitten off of my lap. I’d frightened Diane to the point that she gasped, a huge expression for the ultra-controlled women. Marcus knew. I could tell by the sparkling in his eye and the hearty laugh as he gazed at me in wonder. I’d shouted, “I’ve got to write. Disturb me and I’ll hurt you.” I ran to my office and sat down to write. Laptop booted up, a carafe of coffee, the whirr of the air purifier singing its song of contentment. Hell, the air temperature was perfect. I was at peace, the pressure ready to be relieved.
… And then I checked my messages. All one-thousand-four-hundred of them.
A while back, I’d joked about Bitch-Slaps through the laptop screen. It is a turn of phrase I created as Grant and I commiserated over the horrors of being a published author. Grant and I have long discussions about how reader interactions make us feel- the inspiration, the anxiety, the fear. The majority of the interactions are life-changing, friendship-building, inspiring. A scant few are like cancer, they bleed into your creativity and deplete your motivation, hell, your will to live even. Demands, ridicule, people speaking to you as if you are not a human being, but just a source of their unlimited entertainment- a puppet that’s strings get pulled for the price of your book.
I was in Hell- I burst into flame. I incinerated in my horror as my muse shriveled up and died within that special place she dwells at the base of my spine. My angel, my muse, the unnamed inspiration that I refuse to admit is Celeste Hunter. My mother died again for me that day, and I haven’t written a word since, not even a grocery list.
The demanding hands came through the laptop screen and choked me- they had me by the throat. The screams were deafening in their silence. Words of malice formed perfectly placed plunges into my heart. It was the game reawakening and ruining the only thing I had left to call my own. Ezra isn’t mine. Faith isn’t mine. Katya isn’t mine. Ava and baby Ez belong to Ezra and Katya. Zane belongs to Ezra and Faith. Azriel is mine by genetics, but she belongs to all of us. I’m not even mine. I’d freely give myself to Ezra in all ways, but the game owns me. I have no rights to anything. I thought my passion was something that couldn’t be taken from me.
… And I was wrong. My passion was torn from my soul- ashes of who I used to be, who I should have become.
I paid the penance for whatever tantrum Ezra had thrown within the bounds of the game, and the payment of that consequence was my life’s blood- my life’s work.
Thousands upon thousands of emails, comments on my websites, Facebook and Twitter were blowing up with malice… and then the reviews started. Reviews are the bane of my existence. Perfect, five-star reviews manage to hurt my injured psyche. I think to myself, what did they really mean by that? Was the tone insulting? You never know, but the mind always sees it as a slight. I don’t read reviews on principal, but how can you not when you are inundated with thousands overnight?
The mean reviews, bashing, personal attacks, suck the life from your soul. You would think because someone received my book for free, or as an ARC, or for Lord’s sake, pirated the cocksucker that that gives them the rights to taint your name. Line-by-line they shred your story, and you try not to take offense, but how can you not? You created every word, you breathed life from nothing. While it may just be a book to them, a few minutes to snicker as they taunt like schoolyard bullies, it was thousands of hours of your life put into word form. Each and every book is remembered within you mind. Just the title itself will ping memories and emotions of how you felt as you birthed your story.
The worst are the reviews when you know they didn’t even read the dang book. They take apart a few chapters, totally annihilate your work, all the while getting it wrong because they didn’t even read it. But you can’t defend, you can’t even respond, you can’t even speak out in your own private medium on your own websites. You will be scorned for life. Stoned in the way of social networking. The scarlet letter, but in this case the A stands for Author.
I was ruined.
Ordinarily it would have washed over my back as soon as I began writing again, or read a book, or hugged my children. Any sort of positive interaction to remove the darkness that smudges my soul. But over a thousand is not a handful, and the reason for the well-placed strike was another mini-death- the betrayal.
Doesn’t everything in my life boil down to Ezra and his many explicit betrayals? I was distraught, raw. It felt as if Ezra personally attacked me. Hell, at the time, I figured he did. But I knew that if Ezra hadn’t betrayed me, then it was Faith, which was just as bad. Worse actually, Faith using me to hurt Ezra, and Ezra allowing me to take his consequences- it’s a double fist to the ass, that.
For months I pretended to write, which is with great difficulty when you live with your editor and your boss. Breakfast conversation was tense to say the least, especially when asked how my work in progress was coming along. Yeah, thanks for the advance, but I ain’t got shit on paper. Unless you want me to take a crap and wipe my ass and hand it in as a manuscript. I might be able to do that at least by the rapidly approaching deadline- I hope.
Finally, after questioning concerns and plenty of razzing, they all realized I had a real problem. So instead of indulging in writing, my soul cleanser, I ignored my issues and became the best father on the planet. Never having a father myself, I took all the qualities I respected in Marcus, and all the mistakes everyone was making around me, and tweaked it to how I thought a father should react.
I’m paralyzed by fear, by suffocating emotions that have no outlet for release, by the life I’ve chosen to lead but curiously believe it’s the wrong path. This isn’t how I saw myself. I’m living in our allies’ estate with my family and children, seeking refuge from the shit-storm Ezra rained down upon our heads. I feel immense guilt as I withhold everything from the ones I love. Our hosts are being tormented by the ones they house. It’s wrong, and my mother raised me better than that, and I should be raising my children better than that.
“Daddy,” Baby Ezra’s tender voice flows as he paws at my thighs, and just like that, Celeste Hunter takes the first real breath she has had in over a year. Not the resurrected breath of rebirth, but the dawn of a new life. My muse, my mother, she croons in my mind. If you can’t live with it, don’t accept it. Change!
… And like a lightning strike, I take a deep breath and my fingers fly along the keys. In order to be reborn, one must start at the beginning…
“Wait up!” I shout at Ez’s retreating back.
This summer, Ezra is obsessed with hide and seek. We take turns seeking each other. Once caught, we go back to the center of the lawn, and begin again. He makes us do this from dusk ‘til dawn. I just want to hang around the pool with Divina and Aaron, reading books and listening to music. But Ezra stares me down and says, no, do as I say.
In the past month, we’ve expanded our game to almost a hundred square acres. Now we use compasses, and we’re working up to the seven-hundred acres surrounding ShadowHaven. Ezra expects it by the time school starts. I learned forever ago, just give Ez what he wants.
We play The Hunter, as Ez likes to call it, and he won’t tell me why. He just mumbles, it’s what you do, isn’t it? You hunt your prey, don’t you? I try to tell him that I meant: why do we play it, not why is it called The Hunter? But he always ignores me.
I can tell Ezra is holding something back for me, he’s distancing himself. He knows something I don’t. I’d asked my mom about it because Ezra was getting obsessed with hide and seek… Mom didn’t say anything, and she didn’t need to. Her petrified expression said it all. Now I wish I hadn’t said anything, because Mom and Diane keep looking at us like we’re going to turn into freaks or some shit. The little brat, Aaron, tattles on us every time we do something that they think is nature versus nurture– whatever the hell that means.
An old dude keeps coming around and trying to chat us up. After several times, I figured out that he was a headcase quack. He’s stopped talking to me. But four times a week, Ez and the Doc lock themselves in our bedroom for two hours at a clip. Ezra threw a temper tantrum, so now he only comes after dark. Dr. Weiss was cutting into The Hunter time.
It’s days like today that I get jealous. Ez is only a month older than me, but he’s huge. Ezra is all long arms and legs, which eat up the distance of our hunt. It takes me twice as long to do our route. He hated it when I called him lollypop, but it’s not true anymore. All this hunting has beefed him up. I try not to notice, but it’s impossible with him constantly strutting around naked. It’s like he wants me to see that he’s manlier than me. Divina has seen all of him, too. Ezra just laughs and looks you in the eyes- pervert.
Ezra is a good four inches taller than me. After twelve years of being identical in all ways, I’m pissed. I still look like a kid and Ez is running around with hair on his body. I try not to compare us, but it’s difficult not to when everyone else does. We get a lot of sidelong looks and people calling us twins. I don’t know why, but it annoys Ezra so much that he gets confrontational. I’ve never told him that it hurts my feelings when he goes on the attack. Our lives have always been parallel: no fathers, raised as brothers by our single mothers, we even look alike. Why would Ezra be ashamed to be my brother? I guess he just doesn’t like my skin color. He teases me about being half Hispanic all the time. I’m too tan for Ezra’s white, rich world.
“Don’t be a twit,” Ez taunts, running backwards on his muscular legs- show off. “You’ll never catch me.” Ez whips around and lopes off into the woods, sinister laugh fading in his wake.
“You’ll regret making me chase you,” I shout. “Someday, you’ll be the one eating my dust!” Ez’s answer is his creepy laugh. After a heartbeat of hurt because Ezra left me behind, I go after him.
Pumping my arms as legs as fast as I can go, digging the treads of my sneakers into the ground, I try to gain on Ezra. I slow to yank off my t-shirt and swab my face dry. It’s so humid you can practically see the moisture in the air. It’s ninety-three degrees today with the sun directly overhead. The canopy of the woods isn’t offering any relief. It’s just moist, hot, and buggy.
I’d rather be in the pool, casting looks at Divina’s bikini top. Ez would throw a fit, though. Last week he beat me for looking at her titties. I told Ezra Divina wasn’t my cousin, so I can look all I want. I was just curious. I ended up with a black eye and Ezra had Dr. Weiss for extra sessions.
One advantage of being shorter, the limbs aren’t whipping me in the face. Ez keeps cursing every time he gets lashed. I snicker as he calls a spruce a cocksucker.
“You can’t hide if you keep bitching at inanimate objects,” I sing. “Defeats the purpose of hide and seek.”
“So does chasing me, dumbass,” Ezra shouts at me from somewhere deep in the woods. “The whole point is learning to track… which you suck at.”
“If you’d shut up, I’d look for you. You might as well throw up a flare, since your chatty ass won’t zip it.” Truthfully, every time I’ve found Ezra was because he was bitching at himself or a tree, sometimes a leaf or a bug. He’s silent in the woods. His feet barely touch the ground. Ezra stalks like a perfect predator. I never even hear him breathe. It’s these random outbursts that betray his position- without fail. I know he’s not… right in the head. He’s just Ez.
The whisper of fingertips on my chest awakens me, enlivens me. I’d know these fingertips even in nonexistence, and they just may be the very death of me. The fierce hunger I feel, the pit of ache in my stomach, causes a starvation that threatens to emaciate me unto death.
“Ezra,” his name flutters, quivers from nervousness, from my parted lips as I press his palm to the center of my chest, directly over my rapidly beating heart.
The kiss is soft, a declaration of love as much as a silent apology of guilt and remorse. Ezra hovers over me, hands pressed into the mattress on either side of my shoulders. It’s just him and me, laying in our bed, as it should have always been. Gray eyes, the same shade and shape as my own, gaze down at me in wonder. Twin storm cloud asking for redemption… forgiveness.
Before the words flee my mouth, Ezra’s lips descend and consume me, suck my life down within himself, exactly where I belong.
This is like breathing. This is breathing, for without Ezra I cease to exist. We may have not shared a womb, a fact that I would’ve felt jealousy over if it weren’t for the problem of being in love with one’s twin brother. It’s bad enough that we are both men, men who are related by blood. We shan’t complicate it any more than it already is with pure incent- cousin is bad enough, but not illegal.
Ezra is my world. Ezra is my obsession. He builds me up and destroys me time and time again, and I gladly take it just to be near him. Ezra is my Sun, and I am a budding planet on the fringes of our solar system. I can never be close enough to him. I’d do anything to be as one entity. I crave the sensation of slipping my skin and entering Ezra, or him entering me, joining as one. Just as the Sun does to the planets that are sucked within its orbit- I implode. Ezra destroys my very being with a simple kiss.
“Please,” I beg, salaciously offering myself to anything he wants. A sardonic brow pops as a smirk pulls at Ezra’s cruel lips. I put all of my need into my expression, voicing without sound how very much I need him, how much I need to be with him. Ezra’s answering smile catches the very breath in my throat. It’s the smile that is only reserved for me. No matter who Ezra is: Ezra, Master Ez, or Ez, they all smile at me like that- just me, only me. Just as it should always be.
Muscular thighs part my own as Ezra settles his lower body along mine. I eagerly allow it, I crave what I shouldn’t. But this is not about fear, or right or wrong. This stolen moment is about Ezra and me, us, as it should always be. I allow Ezra to touch me in ways that most men would beat another for stealing, for violating a sacredness of privacy. But between Ezra and me, there are no line worth drawing.
Betrayal, lies, the agonizing torture that Ezra has put me under means so very little when I can smell his musky masculine scent, feel the movement of his chest against mine as he pants from excitement. The sensation of his skin touching my starving flesh has me whimpering in disbelief. It’s been too long. I’ve allowed hurt feeling to warp my love for the man that means the world to me- the man that is my life.
“Make love to me,” I forcefully demand while raising my lower body off of the mattress, trying to grind myself into Ezra. My heels dent the bed, toes curling for leverage. “NOW!”
“With pleasure,” Ezra murmurs with a smile. His tone is part sarcasm, part lust, and a whole heluva lot of amusement. His fingertips skate down my chest, outlining my abs, to my disappointment they veer around my cock. I watch in wonder as Ezra grips his flesh in his fist and pushes into me.
“Ezra,” I scream his name in exquisite torment, ecstasy isn’t a strong enough word. As a word weaver, I don’t have a word in my mental thesaurus to use for the sensation of Ezra joining us as one, as we should be… forever.
“Holy Fuck,” Kitten says with a sharp laugh. “That surely wasn’t a nightmare you were having.”
My eyelids fly open, hating the fleeting dream, despising myself for going there, even in my own mind. My wife stands beside our borrowed bed at Whittenhower Estates, fresh from Restraint and her naughty games with Dexter and Monica. She looks amused as she gazes at the sight I’ve made of myself.
My body is twisted in our sheets, sheets that only cover one of my thighs. Sweat slicks my body, as I pant, still stuck in my imagination. It’s discombobulating, the sensation of being in another time and place. The time was the future or the past, hell if I know which. The place was Ezra and my bed at ShadowHaven, the bed I miss, the bed I’ve shared with the love of my life since I left the cradle.
Tortured, I cry out, hating that my abs and chest are covered in the obvious reaction to my fantasy. I’m covered in my own ejaculate. Rivulets of semen speckle my flesh, covering me in an outrageous amount of proof of what I am, what I refuse to acknowledge. I never cum this much with anyone but him, even in my dreams.
I shade my eyes in humiliation, quickly ripping away the sheet that is twisted around my quivering thigh. I scrub my shame away. If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.
“Make love to me,” I beg my wife, but the tone is different than the one from my dreams- distant, pained… desperate. Obvious. Katya’s amusement disappears in an instant. Her vibrant green eyes change, not to lust as I’d hoped. I need her to distract me from the agony. Her eyes change to pain, deeply lancing pain.
“It’s against the rules,” Katya says as an excuse, an excuse as obvious as the reason I asked her to make love to me in the first place.
“You’re my wife. Don’t we make the rules? If you really wanted to touch me, you would,” I easily manipulate, shoving the pain down and employing my charm. “Kitten, I’ll make you purr until I render you speechless.” The desperation is only thinly veiled. I need touch. I need centered. I need comforted and cared for. I need Ezra. And in his place, anyone can substitute. Katya is the substitute Ezra provided me, but she won’t comply. She’s too smart for our game, our ruination. She’s too smart to lie still while the avalanche of torment sent from the fates buries her with the rest of us. Katya is a fighter- a survivor.
“Go to him,” Katya breathes out, and agony is written across her face. “You really have to go to him- forgive him. I heard you. I watched you as you dreamed. Just as I’ve done since we started sharing a bed. You don’t dream of me, you don’t dream of anyone… but him. Get over yourself and fix this.”
“I can’t,” I cry out in shame. The pain tightens my chest, threatening to kill me with the vise-like grip clenching my heart. “You don’t understand,” I whine, and how could she, I can’t tell her the fucking truth.
“You are a selfish piece of shit,” Katya growls at me. “Grow up and fix this! Not for me, not for you, not for Ezra. Because I don’t know what is going to happen to us. Do this for our children!” Katya screams at me.
“It’s not my fault,” I shout back. “Everyone blames me when they should be blaming Ezra!”
“Bullshit,” Katya calmly says over her shoulder a second before she locks herself in the en suite bathroom.
“But it’s not,” I whisper to the Heavens. “If you only knew, you’d stop blaming me.”
Frustrated, pained, and horny, I stalk from the bed and yank on a pair of pajama pants. I can’t sleep. But I could write. With a deep breath, I smile. I can write again. The block is gone, and it’s time to heal with my words.
Whittenhower Estates is a strange, place- ominous. It’s perfect if you wanted to write a gothic novel of pain and misery. You can feel it bleeding from the walls, weeping from the mortar. I catch a flash of black and purple as Faith ghosts down the hall and rounds the corner. Yeah, just that split-second opens the wound in my heart and I start to bleed out. I lean against the wall, holding my chest against the suffocating nature of betrayal.
Another flash of color and my world fractures. I stare at the door with a cheery teddy bear plaque. I want to gouge that reminder of the past from the door with my fingernails, leaving blood and flesh from the splinters. I love Daniel, Whitt, Pretty Boy, whatever name you want to call him. Whitt is like the brother I never had, and I truly love him. Better yet, I like him. But right now, I could take a page from Faith’s playbook. I want to twist Whitt’s nutsack until it pops from his body and shove it up his virgin asshole.
That flash of color was the absence of color- white. The white-blond hair on the top of Ezra’s head as he snuck into the door with the taunting teddy bear plaque. At least Ezra asked this time, it’s not a true betrayal. Hot twenty-something pretty boys who eagerly shout their gaydom are a huge draw for my husband. Whitt is so gorgeous that it hurts to look at him, and then you melt when you hear his voice.
I’ve never wanted Whitt, I’ve never seen him as anything but a brother. But I can see Whitt’s appeal to both sexes. The perfect bastard has always wanted to take what’s mine, and I allowed it because it was a test- a test Ezra failed miserably. I’d be angrier if it weren’t for the fact that it’s caused Ezra to be even. I love Ezra enough to be happy that he is happy- that he is even. Yeah, I’m so jealous I could… tear my flesh from my body while screaming like a lunatic, but my name isn’t Ezra.
I retreat towards my office, surreptitiously wiping the betraying tears that flow from my traitorous eyes. I’m not sad. I’m not crying because Ezra is happy from playing gay-games with Whitt and his exotic boyfriend, Dalton. Ezra must feel like he died and went straight to heaven.
I stare at the floor as I enter my office, not giving a shit if obstacles take my life. It’s too bad that my office wasn’t on a different floor, I’d chance the grand staircase with my eyes shut. It would be a sweet surrender to exit this torture. Some days I feel as if I were the tortured hero written within a dark and twisted novel. Will my creator finally set me free?
“Ah, you look like hell,” Marcus wryly says, a smirk on his taunting lips as he sits at my desk, researching something on my laptop.
I sigh in relief- comfort. Thank you, Lord, comfort. “I’m no longer blocked,” I announce.
Copyright © 2013 Erica Chilson
M&M of Restraint
& Playroom series
~Happy Wicked Reading~