CHAPTER FIVE

Nothing To Lose

An Out To Sea Novel

Chapter Five

© 2022 E.M. Lindsey

 

All rights reserved.

 

This serial novel is not meant for sale or distribution without the express permission of the author. These chapters are not authorize to appear on any other site except emlindseyauthor.com

 

Text is unedited and is subject to change before final publication. This book will be released on amazon after the completion of the serial novel.

Content Warning: This chapter contains explicit sexual content, disability identity exploration, past relationship verbal abuse, mentions of past cheating, and self-deprecation.

 

 

 

 

“…and then he just sends my ass to the poor man’s house to give them back.”

 

Hudson only looked up from his design table when he realized that his asshole so-called best friend was talking about him and his neighbor. He pushed his chair back and spun toward the little group who were at the meeting table doing absolutely no work.

 

“He was cute as a fucking button, too,” Eli went on. “He gave me the worst puppy dog eyes ever.”

 

“You could have eaten them,” Hudson bit out.

 

Eli scoffed and waved his hand dismissively. “And ruin my figure? Bitch, no thank you. But if he’d made them for me, I might have at least taken a nibble.”

 

“That’s because you’re a goddamn doormat,” Hudson snapped. “I’m not a monster because I don’t want some guy’s pity muffins.”

 

“They were welcome to the neighborhood muffins,” Eli corrected. “And then he what? Made you cookies. And you…”

 

“Threw them in a fucking trash bag and tossed them on his porch so he’d get the message that I don’t want anything from him,” Hudson said without feeling a scrap of guilt. He hadn’t asked for any of that. He didn’t want his neighbor’s kindness or pity or well wishes…or goddamn neighborhood welcome.

 

He just wanted to be left alone.

 

“Anyway,” Eli went on with a shit-eating grin. “Yesterday morning, I found him on Instagram.”

 

At that, Hudson gripped his wheels and gave one hard push, rolling to the table. “Wait, so I’m the monster for throwing out cookies, but you stalked him, and that’s fine?”

 

“I didn’t stalk him. He’s got some famous online bakery and he was all over my recommended page.” Eli grinned as he sipped his coffee, his gaze locked onto Hudson’s. “He had a video about you.”

 

“Fuck,” Hudson breathed out. “Does he know who I am? Who we are?”

 

“Not that I could tell,” Eli said with a shrug. “You don’t show your face on media, so how could he?”

 

Which was true. It was Hudson’s hard limit with the twins and their media campaigns, and he had no regrets considering it didn’t seem to be hurting their business at all. He let out a small breath of relief as he sat back and listened to Eli continue to paint his annoying neighbor’s story.

 

“I guess he had some shop which he lost after a major surgery. He hasn’t gone into detail but I’m pretty sure it was a gut thing because I caught a glimpse of a stoma bag in one of his vids. Some people asked, but he didn’t answer those comments.”

 

Hudson squeezed his eyes shut and told himself he would not be feeling sympathy for this nosy guy. “So?”

 

“So nothing,” Eli said primly. “He just seems like a genuinely kind person. And of course my loyalty is with you,” he drawled, leaning toward him. “I’m not gonna go be his best friend and pet the new stray cat he seems to have adopted…”

 

Fucking wonderful. A stray cat.

 

“…but at some point you two will probably cross paths, and you might want to consider what a dick you’ve been.”

 

Hudson spluttered. “I returned the first plate fully intact with a very clear note about no thanks and he ignored it. I’mnot the dick in this situation.”

 

Mostly. He knew he was a dick in general and he was fine with it. But he wasn’t going to be painted as some monster for setting boundaries and then enforcing them.

 

Eli sighed again. “Anyway, whatever. I don’t think he’d drag our company even if he did figure out who you were. And I know people tend show one face to the internet, but he genuinely seems like someone who’s kind for no reason.”

 

“That won’t last,” Hudson scoffed, and he felt Aspen and Rain both staring at him hard. They were younger and still wildly optimistic about life and love, and he didn’t want to crush that. But he also didn’t have it in him to lie.

 

“Is this about Austin?” Rain asked.

 

Hudson’s jaw clenched. “This is about reality. People will promise you anything under the sun because they don’t think anything will change. Then shit happens. You age, you mature. Sometimes you gain weight, or you lose it. Sometimes you become disabled. And then suddenly all of those promises are too much of a burden to carry.”

 

“Not every man would have left you,” Eli pointed out.

 

Hudson’s face fell and his eyes narrowed, but he kept his mouth shut until Aspen and Rain escaped the room. When the door shut, he cracked. “Fuck you.”

 

“I’m not trying to—”

 

“Fuck you,” Hudson said again. “Why do you think it matters to me that someone else might not have left me? I wasn’t dating someone else. I was married, and he decided that getting his ass wrecked every night by a human penis—his words,” Hudson added, thinking of the last major fight he had with Austin, “was more important. He said what I could give him wasn’t enough.”

 

“I know,” Eli said quietly. “But you don’t have to be pissed at the whole world.”

 

“I was born pissed at the world,” Hudson muttered, running a hand down his face. “Being paralyzed by a fucking spinal tumor didn’t change my personality. It just took away a few more fucks.”

 

After a second, Eli laughed so hard, it made Hudson’s own lips twitch upward. “I hate you.”

 

Hudson just shrugged, mostly because he knew Eli didn’t.

 

“I’m not saying you should be your neighbor’s best friend. And I’m not saying that he should keep sending you baked gifts. But it wouldn’t kill you to talk to him.”

 

“Might kill him,” Hudson said, mostly because he was irritated that Eli was making sense.

 

Eli stood up and walked around the table, dropping into the chair next to his friend. “It won’t. Just like getting back out there to remind yourself that not everyone is going to be a massive, cheating shitweasel like Austin won’t kill you.”

 

Hudson squeezed his eyes shut. “Maybe it’s time we both admit that I’m just not a good partner, Eli. Austin liked it when I was an asshole because he got off on it. Take that away and what’s left of my personality?”

 

Eli bit his lip and shook his head. “Are you perhaps not considering that Austin was an asshole too and that you both brought out the worst in each other?”

 

Hudson grimaced because his therapist had said the same damn thing. But it was easier to just take responsibility for it all and hold the weight of being the man who drove his husband to cheat. “Maybe it was just me.” He swallowed thickly, feeling a confession rising in his throat. “Right before Austin left, he told me that it was the pressure of the marriage. He said that if we’d been open, he could have loved me forever.”

 

“Bullshit,” Eli spat. “I’m all for polyamory when it fits, but…”

 

Hudson shook his head quickly. “No, I know. But I think I believed him for a minute. Right before he moved out, he told me he was never getting married again because he knew it was a mistake. Not because of me, but because it wasn’t right for him. I was pissed and I wanted to rebound, so I downloaded one of those fucking apps and guess who the first person was that popped up on my matches?”

 

“Shit,” Eli breathed out.

 

Hudson let out a bitter laugh. He hadn’t told anyone about it. In fact, after reading Austin’s profile, he immediately deleted the entire thing and tried to forget he’d ever seen it. Unfortunately, his memory was too good, and it was one of the few moments he hadn’t been able to turn off the hurt.

 

“His profile name was MarriageMan.”

 

“Gross,” Eli said.

 

Hudson snorted a laugh. “Yeah. His entire bio was going on and on about how he was just waiting to meet the right one, and he was looking for long term commitment. I…I don’t know,” he added on a sigh. “I felt like an idiot.”

 

“That’s on him,” Eli said through clenched teeth.

 

Hudson rolled his eyes. “I know that, but maybe it was me. Maybe I drove him to this. Maybe he spent a few weeks away from me and realized that he wanted someone…better than me. Kinder. Softer.”

 

Eli stared at him for a long, long moment. “Maybe.”

 

Hudson winced, but he truly had wanted brutal honesty.

 

“That doesn’t give him the right to do what he did, and to tell you the truth—I don’t believe him. He was always a sketchy little shit.”

 

“You’re just saying that because he hurt me,” Hudson pointed out.

 

Eli shook his head. “No. I’m saying that because when you two first met, he came on to me. He waved it off like it was a joke, and I didn’t know him enough to decide whether or not he was lying.”

 

Hudson’s throat went hot. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“Because you seemed happy,” Eli confessed, staring down at his hands. “It was a mistake—I get that now. I hate myself for it, trust me. But you finally seemed happy for once, and I thought maybe you really loved him.”

 

“I don’t know if I did,” Hudson confessed. There was a tightness in his chest he didn’t know what to do with. “I don’t have anyone to compare it to.” And my God, if that didn’t make him sound pathetic, he didn’t know what would.

 

Eli reached over and took his hand, squeezing tight. “I swore to myself I would never lie to you again about whoever you ended up with.”

 

“Bold of you to assume it would be anyone,” Hudson said with a wry grin. He thought maybe he should be pissed at his friend, but he knew Eli had only been trying to help, and he just didn’t have the strength to care.

 

“It will be. But you have to give it a shot, okay? You took control of your body back, right? So maybe it’s time to be a little vulnerable.”

 

Hudson’s mouth fell open, then shut again because he didn’t know what to say. He had no idea what could possibly motivate him to trust anyone, and he didn’t think Eli had the answer. “I just need to do everything in my own time.”

 

Eli gave him a look, but when he withdrew his hand, it was obvious he was going to give Hudson a reprieve. Maybe not forever, but for now.

 

And that would have to be enough.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

Hudson half-expected to find another plate of bakes waiting for him on his front doorstep, and he felt the strangest little pang when there wasn’t one. He was desperately trying to avoid admitting that Eli was right—that he could have handled his neighbor better—but it was getting harder by the moment.

 

He headed inside and wheeled into his room to change, swapping to his walker. It was the same, painfully slow journey to the kitchen that it was every night, but he was starting to forget what it felt like to just hop up and walk somewhere without thinking about it. That was strange and a little sad, but a part of him was relieved because for a while there, he started to wonder if he’d ever feel comfortable in his present rather than waiting for the future or wallowing in the past.

 

Pulling open his freezer, he grabbed one of the pre-cooked meals from the service Eli had hired for his last birthday gift. They weren’t the best, but they also weren’t the worst, and they saved his life during long nights where he was stuck at the office working on designs.

 

The kitchen immediately began to smell like garlic, and he heard a quiet tweep, glancing down to see Bagel wandering in. Sitting on his bench, Hudson grabbed a jar of freeze-dried fruit and threw a few pieces down to the bird who began to peck at them. He watched as the thing wandered a little closer and nipped at his toes.

 

He could feel it—barely, but it was there, and it almost made him laugh that the obnoxious parting gift Austin had given him was the one thing to keep him aware of his current sensation levels.

 

Leaning over, he held his finger out and for a moment, he thought Bagel might actually hop on. Then the little beast flapped its wings, screeched, and bit him hard.

 

“You fucker,” Hudson gasped, pulling away.

 

The bird gave him a smug look before wandering off again, and he sighed quietly to himself, wondering why he didn’t just rehome the thing. He’d considered it once or twice. He’d even gone as far as to look up the rescue number for a sanctuary.

 

Then Bagel had wandered into his room, climbed up on the bed, and spent fifteen minutes grooming his hair. He’d cracked and changed his mind, and Bagel had thanked him by trying to pierce his earlobe.

 

“It’s because I hate myself,” he said aloud, grabbing his little dish from the microwave. He shoveled down his mediocre food, then headed back toward the office to check on Bagel’s supplies. He changed out the water dish, refilled his food, then swapped the bedding at the bottom.

 

The bird was perched on the back of a chair, watching him, and Hudson eyed it.

 

“This is Austin’s last revenge, isn’t it?”

 

Hnawwk!

 

Hudson rolled his eyes. “A constant reminder that I was some epic asshole and deserve to be tortured until I die, sad and alone.”

 

Bagel had nothing to say to that, which Hudson knew was probably an answer in itself. He held his hand out again to the bird, and this time it hopped on, walking up to his shoulder. He kept his steps as steady as he could manage as he approached the cage, and the bird gave him a tiny nibble on his jaw before flapping down to the top and settling in.

 

“After these designs are finished, I’ll be around more,” he promised.

 

The bird eyed him sleepily, then settled into its feathers.

 

Making his way to his bedroom, Hudson went through the long slog of his nighttime routine—a sitting shower, teeth, hair, a few of his foot and calf exercises before popping a stool softener, a muscle relaxer, and then some Tylenol so he didn’t feel like he’d been hit by a bus come morning.

 

He went to bed naked because he had no one to hide from and no one to impress, and once the darkness hit, the restlessness began. He fought it for a handful of minutes, then rolled over and opened the little drawer in his nightstand, pulling out the very first toy he’d ever created. This one was slightly newer, but the mechanics were the same.

 

It was soft in his hands—the silicone almost slick on its own. There was a circle where he could tuck his dick in—hard or soft, and his balls. A knob at the base would roll against his perineum, stimulating his prostate, and the curved end would slip into his hole and pulse and vibrate, stimulation what sensation he had below the spot where they’d removed his tumor.

 

It didn’t always work, and he rarely got all the way hard, but he could feel it. It sent zings of pleasure from his stomach, through his limbs, and into his chest. His orgasms were different now—intense and all over his body instead of concentrated at his core.

 

And it reminded him, every now and again, how much better it would be with a partner. To have warm, strong hands petting him and clawing him in all the spots where it felt good? To be held tight and warm and wanted as he shook apart?

 

Slicking his hand with lube, Hudson tucked himself inside the circle, then used his hand to spread his legs so he could push the toy inside. He felt it—the barest pressure, then his thumb found the button and gave it a little tap. It was created for people without much hand strength to use, so it immediately flared to life.

 

He hadn’t done this in a while, and his breathing instantly picked up as sparks began to dance along his darkened vision. One hand fisted the sheets beneath him, the other holding his legs spread so he could rock his hips gently downward. The pulsing in his ass, the rubbing on his prostate—it was so much.

 

He sucked in a breath, then suddenly a face appeared behind his closed lids. The long, thick hair knotted, the gentle, shy smile, the hope in those dark eyes.

 

The one person he shouldn’t be thinking of right then was his neighbor, and yet—there he was. P. Shit, he didn’t even know the man’s full name.

 

Hudson tried to chase the vision off, but the pleasure began to spiral, and the image got clearer, and he found himself trembling with his orgasm to the face of the man he had been determined to shut out.

 

“Shit,” he gasped when it was over. He tapped the button to stop the motion, and it took him several long moments to get the toy off. He flung it to the end of the bed, then covered his face and let out a muffled cry. What the fuck was wrong with him? That was the worst thing he could have done.

 

Not just because he had no business fantasizing about his neighbor, but also because—in that moment—he realized he wanted to do it again.

 

 

Start at the beginning...

 

Chapter Six

 

 

** Chapter Seven Preview: **

 

“Walk away,” Peyton whispered to himself. “Walk away. Just fucking walk away…”

 

“What’s up?” the guy asked. His voice was a delicious rumble, matching his face and body, though at most he was objectively attractive. Peyton was most definitely the kind of guy who wasn’t attracted to assholes.

 

There was a long silence, and Peyton was about to turn, but the guy spoke again.

 

“Okay. Is she…” The guy sighed. “No. I’m not going to talk to her just because she gave you some sob story about a made-up health condition.”

 

Peyton grimaced, then looked down to find the kitten nudging his legs. He reached for her, cuddling her to his chest. “I bet he treats everyone like…”

 

“Do you know what she did last week? She stalked me at my rehab center and waited for me in the parking lot. Then she tried to take my fucking wheelchair.”

 

“Oh shit,” Peyton whispered.