Nothing To Lose
An Out To Sea Novel
© 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 frank discussions about disability and self esteem issues.
“I know that face.”
Hudson didn’t look up from his phone, only because he didn’t want to appear guilty. His instinct had been to quickly turn off the screen and throw the fucking thing across the room because the last thing in the world he needed was to get caught staring at Peyton’s bakery page.
Not that Rain would have known what he was up to, but Rain was also a nosy little shit and would have been able to tell that Hudson was acting…suspicious.
“This is my regular face,” Hudson said, slowly setting his phone down and affecting a look of pure and utter boredom. He set his elbow on the desk, propping his chin up as he looked over at the smaller man. “Is there something you need?”
“No, it isn’t. But yes. There’s a problem with what you sent me last night.” Rain sauntered over to the desk and dropped into a chair, kicking the edge of his Converse up on the wood.
“Get your fucking shoes off my…”
Rain dropped his foot before Hudson could finish his sentence. “You sent a blank document instead of product notes.”
Hudson blinked, then swore quietly under his breath as he flipped his laptop open and pulled up the document. There it was—filled out but unsaved, so the file that had sent out was still blank. He rectified the situation with a couple of keystrokes, then sent it off to Rain’s inbox.
“Sorry, long night.”
The look Rain gave him was pure pity which made Hudson want to put his fist through a concrete wall. Rain had obviously overheard Eli talking about his damn mother and her antics, so not only was he forced to put up with her narcissistic bullshit, but also people feeling sorry for him because of it.
“Please don’t,” Hudson said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “It’s not a big deal.”
“I just know you—”
“I’m being serious,” Hudson said, trying not to snap. He was attempting the whole, “being nice” thing that Eli was always bitching at him about. Which…was fair. He wasn’t the kindest boss, and it was only the fact that his employees didn’t mind being bossed around and bitched at that they didn’t slap him with a two week notice and leave him hanging.
But he knew damn well Rain and Aspen didn’t deserve his bad attitude.
Checking his phone, Rain looked up with a grin after he finished reading. “New product is that good, huh?”
Hudson shrugged, feeling oddly defensive and vulnerable after Rain could see his genuine reaction to pleasure. It was the one part of the job he truly hated. “I’ve had better. I’ve created better.” It wasn’t a lie—the new toy was good. There was just more truth involved, and part of that was the reason he’d been looking at Peyton’s Instagram.
He wasn’t looking just because Peyton was hot—which he was. Hudson was a recluse, but he wasn’t dead. But it was the fact that he understood Peyton’s frustrations better than anyone could—and the lack of resources to fix them.
And granted, Hudson had no experience with what Peyton was going through in regards to his body, but he knew what it felt like to lose control with no idea how to regain it. After his own surgery, he was given all of the medical literature regarding his recovery, his paralysis, and the complications that would cause in his sex life which had terrified him.
And he imagined that when Peyton’s doctors went over the changes to his body, and what it would mean for him, he went through the same.
Hudson recognized the notes of resentment and frustration and anger in Peyton’s voice when he talked about it. And that had been on his mind when he’d been testing the toy. Would this work for someone in Peyton’s position? Would anything on their line offer him the ability to reclaim pleasure in his body, and the control he’d lost.
The conclusion he’d come to that night was a definitive ‘no’. Or well, a definitive ‘he didn’t think so’.
“What are you thinking?” Rain asked, leaning forward.
Hudson let out a soft breath. “Do we have uh…anything on the line, do you think, for someone with…” He trailed off and for the first time that morning, flushed a bit. He’d been researching Peyton’s condition and apparently the common term for it actually was Barbie Butt. Hudson wasn’t quite sure he could actually say those words.
“Someone with what?” Rain pressed.
Hudson ran a hand down his face. “Don’t fuckin’ laugh because it’s not funny, okay?” He sat back and tapped his fingers on his knee, feeling the dull pressure over his jeans. “You ever heard of Crohn’s?”
“Yes. I don’t live under a bridge,” Rain said with an eyeroll.
Hudson stared at him with a flat expression. “Excuse me for not assuming. I didn’t know this was a thing until last night, okay?”
Rain held up his hands in surrender. “Okay, fair. I mean, a lot of people kind of make fun of it since you know, it’s like…the whole shitting thing.”
Hudson knew that wasn’t the case at all. At least, not what he was thinking of. “Just…I mean.” He cleared his throat. “Say a person who has a penis doesn’t ah…can’t. Say that their asshole got sewn up.”
Rain stared at him with a vague look of horror. “What?”
“It’s a thing that happens,” Hudson quickly defended. “Crohn’s complications.”
Rain, to his credit, quickly collected himself. “Is it you? Is that something you have going on?”
Hudson shook his head. “No. I met someone last night…”
“Oh fuck. Oh shit. Your neighbor,” Rain said, his eyes lighting up. “Eli was saying the dude has a stoma. The hottie baker.”
Hudson groaned but he knew there was no point in denying it now. “Yes, okay. Fine. I spoke to the neighbor and acted like a person, and he talked to me a little bit about his whole…situation.”
“Situation,” Rain echoed with a laugh. “God, you sound like someone from the fuckin’ fifties.”
“His asshole was sealed shut. Is that better?” Hudson snapped. “He didn’t get into detail, but I looked it up online and I was thinking maybe we should start working on a prototype that has both penis and external prostate stimulation.”
Rain’s brows furrowed as his face fell into his thinking expression. “We sort of have something like that. It’s kind of…we’ve had complaints because it’s needlessly complicated. It was something Aspen was working on with that intern design team.”
Hudson frowned. He vaguely remembered Eli setting something up a year before, and he wasn’t quite sure what it said about him as a boss that he didn’t remember what the outcome was. “Alright? That was a while ago though. Was there any progress?”
“I’m not sure. It wasn’t at the top of our priority list so I think it went to market as-is. Let me talk to my brother and ask,” Rain said. “If it’s still fucked, I’ll get the design team back on it and maybe put a call out to a couple people who’d use it.”
Hudson breathed out a sigh of part frustration and part relief, and he nodded. “Great. And when you’ve got something, let me know? I think we should send him one since it would be the neighborly thing to do.”
“Yeah, sure. Sending your neighbor a sex toy? That’s totally normal,” Rain said.
Hudson’s lips thinned. “He made me fuckin’ brownies and cookies and shit to welcome me to the neighborhood.”
“And you respond with sex toys,” Rain said with a shit-eating grin. “Have I told you lately how much I goddamn love working for you.”
Hudson folded his arms. “Get out.”
With a salute, Rain hopped to his feet and started toward the door. “I’ll get back to you by the end of the week.”
Hudson said nothing, only because he wasn’t ready to let it show that he was more than just pleased—he was actually eager to do something that might help his neighbor.
Hudson was just getting ready to shove a bite of his massive sandwich into his face when Eli strolled into his office and flopped down on the chair, hooking one leg over the arm. Hudson grimaced and appreciated that even when he’d had the ability to sit like that, he didn’t.
“Stop judging the way I sit. It’s bi culture,” Eli complained.
Hudson rolled his eyes and finally took a bite of his sandwich, chewing and swallowing before addressing his friend. “What do you want?”
“Are you ever happy to see me? Genuine question,” Eli said.
Hudson scoffed and almost choked on a few crumbs of bread that hadn’t made it down yet. “Are you ever going to give me a reason?”
Eli sat up properly and leaned toward him. “Undying love? Loyalty?”
Hudson raised a brow.
Eli sighed and crossed his arms, sitting back. “I found a product tester for your newest toy idea that is absolutely not at all about your massive crush on Peyton.”
Hudson felt his cheeks heat up, even as denial rushed to the tip of his tongue. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Save it. Rain told everyone. Anyway, this new guy’s name is Hendrix,” Eli went on, like Hudson hadn’t full-on tried to lie.
Hudson set his sandwich down and swiped a napkin over his fingers to clean up any stray mustard. “How do you know him?”
“Friend of a friend,” Eli said, waving Hudson off. “He’s a former marine.”
“And that qualifies him…how?”
Eli shrugged. “He was discharged after his injuries. I didn’t get the full extend apart from the fact that he’s an obvious double amputee. But he mentioned that he can only get off with external prostate stimulation. I didn’t dig too much deeper than that.”
Which was fair, Hudson knew. He didn’t ask any of their product testers to disclose the nature of their needs or disabilities. All he wanted was genuine feedback. He folded his arms over his chest and only pretended to consider Eli’s offer because he already knew he’d trust anyone who Eli brought through the door.
“Don’t be a dick,” Eli said, giving him a pointed stare.
Hudson’s lip twitched. “Fine. Bring him in this week?”
Eli grinned, then his face fell a bit. “How’s your ASL?”
“He’s also deaf from the whole,” Eli made a gesture with his hand that Hudson couldn’t decipher.
Hudson shook his head. “Like, bare bones. I think most of the alphabet?”
“I’ll call an interpreter service.”
“One that isn’t going to send some pearl-clutcher,” Hudson warned. “I don’t need some religious freak bailing on the meeting because of what we do.” He hadn’t worked with a deaf client before, but he’d heard stories during his inclusivity research, and he wasn’t in the mood to deal with any more hassle.
“Leave it to me,” Eli said, then his grin returned. “With any luck, we’ll get this off the ground by next week, and in two months, you’ll be able to sweep Peyton off his feet. Metaphorically, unless you two are into that sort of thing.”
Hudson dropped his forehead to the desk with a loud thud. “Fuck off. This isn’t about…”
“We both know what it is and isn’t about,” Eli said. His voice had gentled but that didn’t take the edge off. “I’m not going to harass you about it, but you know I’m happy for you, right?”
Hudson lifted his face and shook his head. “Even if I did like Peyton, I would never date him. Ever. He’s my neighbor.”
Eli scoffed. “Easy access…”
“And when we break up because I don’t know how to stop being an asshole?” Hudson challenged.
Eli sighed and sat back. “You know you’re not actually an asshole, right?”
Hudson couldn’t help his laugh. “You’ve known me way too long to lie to my face like that.”
Eli didn’t relent. His eyes got darker and more intense—the way he always did when he started coming for Hudson’s low self-esteem. “You’ve had a lot of terrible people in your life who have convinced you that you’re something you’re not. You’re strong…”
“Stop,” he begged in a whisper.
Eli laid his palms to the top of Hudson’s desk. “You’re brave, and you have a lot of powerful feelings. You don’t like bullshit, and you’re not afraid to call it out. But somewhere along the line…”
“Eli,” he growled in warning.
Eli squared his shoulders. “…someone convinced you that those traits—those decent and good traits, made you a bad man. And they kept saying it until you believed it about yourself.”
“I think my track record speaks for itself.”
Eli laughed, but he didn’t sound amused. “I think the fact that you’re hiring someone to make a new sex toy because your neighbor—who has done nothing but irritate the shit out of you—needs help, would disagree with your so-called track record. And people like Peyton?” Eli shrugged. “I don’t know him very well, but I feel like it’s safe to say that he’s one of the people in this world who will see you for who you are.”
“Man who deserves to be loved,” Eli cut in before Hudson could finish his sentence.
Hudson’s jaw snapped shut, all the wind taken out of his sails. Eli did this every so often, and sometimes, Hudson started to believe him. Sometimes, he looked in the mirror and saw a man who was worthy of all those things.
Then real life—the real world—would remind him that Eli was wrong.
“I’m not saying I won’t eventually—maybe—” he added, just to be clear, “might become friends with Peyton. But if we date, it would be a goddamn disaster. I just moved in, and I like it there. I want to stay.”
Eli stared at him another long while, then stood up and walked over, dropping a kiss to the center of Hudson’s forehead. Eli was one of the few brave enough to touch him, but even when he did, it was never enough. It never lasted for as long as Hudson needed to feel it.
But he’d take what he could get.
“I love you.”
“Fuck off,” Hudson said, and Eli just grinned because he knew that was his best friend’s way of saying I love you too.
Chapter Eleven Preview:
He grabbed his wheels and started forward toward his ramp, and Peyton’s heart sped up.
“Bad date,” he blurted.
Hudson froze, then turned slowly. “How bad?”
“Pretty fucking bad,” Peyton said with a shattered laugh. “The guy was an asshole.”
“I have friends you know. Who are okay with being a little morally grey,” Hudson offered.