Title: Lose Me to Love You
Author: Chloe B. Young
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 11/28/2023
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Fantasy, contemporary, gay, romance, urban fantasy, paranormal, suspense, magic/magic users, slow burn, tattoos, depression, grieving, second chances, religious parallels/subtext
At the bottom of a downward spiral of alcohol, sex, and risky behaviors, Matty Hill discovers that magic is real and that a mysterious man will teach him how to wield it if he can deal with the trauma of his past and present.
Sean Wildgust, Matty’s new teacher, is as secretive as he is fascinating. But when those secrets come back to haunt them both, Matty must decide if obsession is the same thing as love.
Lose Me to Love You
Chloe B. Young © 2023
All Rights Reserved
Matty gasped awake.
He opened his eyes, then closed them immediately when the light pouring in the grimy window burned. Recoiling from the light set off a chain reaction of aching muscles tensing, nausea roiling, head pounding, and there was nothing he could do to keep from throwing up.
The desperate lurch of his uncoordinated limbs had him puking off the side of his makeshift mattress instead of on himself. Though he wasn’t particularly happy about it while choking on stomach acid.
He’d never understood why people said it was better to throw up. Sure, his nausea wasn’t dragging him through the dirt anymore, but he had to deal with a dozen other smaller discomforts. When it was over, he flopped to his back again, his throat burning and his ribs sore from uselessly trying to suppress the inevitable. He blinked the tears out of his eyes, stinging from the sun and the force of his gagging.
When he’d rubbed most of the crud out of his vision, he looked around.
Nate’s house. Weird. They’d started at a rave with a lot of people Matty didn’t know. He knew Nate, and Nate knew everyone else, so he supposed it made sense that they’d all crashed at his tiny two-bedroom house.
Not all, it seemed. He could only see two others, and bits of flickering footage from last night told him the living room had been a lot more crowded before he’d passed out.
Carefully, so he didn’t upset his stomach’s tentative equilibrium, he pulled his feet out from under the strange bunk bed he and a stranger had made from the couch. The other guy was still sleeping on top of the bare springs while the cushions sank almost to the floor under Matty’s ass.
Getting up was a multistage process that took anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour. He couldn’t be sure. Had he fallen asleep in child’s pose between stage three and four?
Eventually, he made it to his feet and took a few cautious steps to test whether the floorboards stayed under him, giving the mess a wide berth with a silent promise to return and clean it up before he left.
The other person in the room was dead to the world, curled up tight in a sagging armchair, her jeans wormed down so low she was basically naked. Matty didn’t recognize her from the ratty mess of her hair and the bare expanse of her back.
A pattern of goosebumps traveled up her spine.
The sweater hanging on a hook near the front door was way too big to be hers, but it wasn’t Nate’s either, so no one would miss it, probably. When Matty draped it over her, it covered everything she would have wanted to be covered, and he hoped it was warm.
He found Nate in the kitchen but didn’t say anything and, instead, unscrewed the cap from a bottle of clear alcohol. Vodka, he guessed from the blurry red logo. It took two small swigs to chase away the sweet, metallic taste in his mouth. He rolled the liquid across his tongue like mouthwash and swallowed it down instead of spitting it into one of the plastic cups on the table.
Blue cups, not red. They were sophisticated, postcollege wastrels, after all.
The clock on the microwave told him it was earlier than he thought…until he spotted the clock on the stove. He looked at the microwave again and then at the stove as if staring at the glowing red numbers would help him decide which one to believe.
“Is one of those right?” Matty asked, his voice wrecked. (One of the least shocking discoveries he’d made today.)
Nate looked up from the pot he was watching and glanced at both of the clocks, then nodded. “Yep.” He jerked an elbow at the one next to his hip. “That one.”
That meant it was 1:36 in the afternoon, a fact Matty didn’t have any particular opinion about, other than surprise he’d slept so long on pillows about as soft as a pack of printer paper.
Nate tapped a dry spoon against the rim of his pot. He leaned on the counter, away from the glowing element. He was so skeletal-skinny Matty had no problem reading the clock past him. Had he always been that way, or had Matty not noticed until now?
Matty laid his arm on the cool counter and squeezed his wrist. He’d always been taller than he was broad, but was he thinner? Undoubtedly. The new hole in his belt told him so. But was he skin and bone, like Nate?
He couldn’t tell anymore. Like Nate, he didn’t have anyone to tell him to eat more solid meals or get some sleep while the sun was down.
The problem with eating was it required a few things Matty hadn’t had in months: an appetite and a base level of concern for his continued existence.
Sleep though. That was different. He wished he could sleep. He’d gladly put his ear to the sheets if it meant everything would just…stop. For a little while. But it didn’t work like that, and if avoiding a REM cycle meant avoiding all the bullshit that came with it, he’d never count sheep again.
“What are you doing?” Matty asked, standing on tiptoes to try to see what was sloshing around in Nate’s battered pot.
“Water for jello.”
A visceral memory of the time Matty had found out how gelatin was made sent a rippling shudder through him—not unlike a wiggling cube of set jello, actually. “Really? That’s your idea of brunch?”
Nate’s spoon didn’t falter. “Jello shots, dude. For tonight.”
“What are you—fourteen?”
Nate’s bony shoulders lifted and fell under his T-shirt as he kept stirring, not sparing Matty’s derision a look. “Never too old for fun. You coming?”
Matty had forgotten that the weekend wasn’t over yet. What was the end of a week when he didn’t have a Monday grind to return to?
He looked around the kitchen at the abandoned cups and bottles in various stages of emptiness. The overflowing ashtray. The smudges of pale powder under a potato chip bag Matty didn’t want to think about very hard.
It was crazy to think that in a few hours, the place would be as clean as it had been on Monday. Nate was a hell of a cleaning machine when he was on a bender. It wouldn’t be spotless, but garbage bags would bulge on the porch and none of the surfaces would be mysteriously sticky, which was all Nate’s friends seemed to care about.
“Yeah, probably,” Matty answered, leaving room for bowing out so Nate wouldn’t get on his case if he decided to stay home and stare at his ceiling instead.
“Do you remember last night?” Nate finally stopped stirring long enough to toss something at Matty’s face.
He flinched but caught it. It was a bag of plastic shot glasses. Four hundred of them. He ripped it open and started lining them up on the available counter space. The popping noise they made as he put them down was nice, and the neat rows satisfied something childish in him.
“Not really,” Matty said. “I remember leaving the rave, but once we got here, it’s kind of fuzzy.”
“Man, you missed out. Don found a playlist of trippy screensavers on YouTube, and we all got high and watched them.”
“You’re a true party animal, Nate.”
“It was awesome.”
Matty tuned out of the play-by-play, getting into the rhythm of shot glasses coming out of the package. Slide, tap. Slide, tap. Slide, tap.
“And then you did a line,” Nate added, “and you were singing too.”
Plastic cracked under Matty’s hand. “Fuck off,” he blurted. “No, I didn’t.”
“Yeah,” Nate answered, placid as always rather than offended. “It was my stuff. Why would I lie about it?”
Out-logicked by a guy who watched screensavers for fun. If Matty didn’t know about Nate’s engineering degree and valedictorian plaque, he would’ve thought he’d hit a new low, which would’ve stung all the more, considering the record had only been reset twelve hours ago.
“Shit,” Matty said, dropping the crushed plastic cup next to the good ones. “I don’t—”
No, he did remember. It was in snatches, but the longer he thought about it, the more his own memories filled in the gaps: the offer, the temptation, the refusal, then another offer, and the tone of the evening changing.
The intensified blast of the giant, flashing neon sign that read in two-foot-high letters shone over every decision he’d made last night:
Nate took the pot off the stove and set it down next to the lines of plastic soldiers. He tore into a box of red jello. His yellow-stained fingers were obviously working more carefully than he was used to, but he still managed to spill pink powder all over the counter.
It was kind of pretty. It sparkled in the afternoon daylight, like snow, but wrong.
“I’m going home,” Matty said, and he chucked the half-full bag of shot glasses onto the biggest available space.
“See you tonight?”
Matty went through the living room to get to the door and saw that the girl hadn’t woken up or moved. Her hair, though, managed to look even more of a disaster from a new angle. Where it wasn’t a mess, it was blond and straight, though neither of those things came naturally, he was pretty sure.
It was basically the antithesis of Matty’s hair; the only thing it shared was it hadn’t seen a comb in too long. They were visual opposites, like he and—
He left Nate’s behind. He hadn’t cleaned up the floor, which he figured to be Nate’s punishment for offering him blow when he was drunk, but he had turned the guy on the couch over, so he wouldn’t choke on his own vomit.
Good friend? No. Great friend.
No one should have to ride in an ambulance with someone who was already as good as dead. Not even Nate.
Meet the Author
Writing is just one of the many ways Chloe gets her storytelling fix. In her other life, she sings and acts to fulfil the urge, and is never far from a stage.
When not writing, Chloe cooks with too much garlic, sharpens her eyeliner to a deadly point, and tries to accept that she’s turning into one of those people who only wears one color. (Pink.)
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