Unedited excerpt from Dark Empire #1 – expected release on April 3rd, 2020
Keeping secrets from an IT wizard was hard! Especially since he worked IT security. Duncan hadn’t even alluded to the surprise he was working on. Knowing how private the love of his life was, it didn’t involve a lot of people. It involved an old warehouse south of Detroit. It was crazy to do this in the city he’d grown up, but he wanted to share something with Axel.
And that warehouse had been where Duncan and his friends had been stupid together.
Axel lived on his computer, yet when Duncan told about his past, Axel would live vicariously through him. He’d pay attention like he was watching the most epic movie ever on his screens or reading the coding of the most epic hack ever.
Watching Axel work, Duncan surmised he might look the same. He loved his introverted little geek for his ability to shrink the world to fit onto a screen. Then again, that’s not how Axel experienced it at all. He saw an entire world unfold in zeroes and ones. Binary. And that was all Duncan knew about that.
Sure, he could read his emails and figure out a basic program, but he was a physical person. He worked as a bouncer and trained MMA on the side. He was as strong as his fiancée was scrawny. But Duncan wasn’t huge or anything. Well, compared to his fiancée, he was, but he wasn’t pro wrestler or the Rock or anything. He was fast, though. His five-eleven were well balanced.
Looking around that old warehouse, Duncan remembered the pullup competition on an old set of pipes going along an old gangway which had since collapsed. He remembered the wall they’d tried to get enough force behind their bodies to run up to slap the metal lamp screen that was oddly enough still there and still somewhat blue.
Vagrants had occupied the area since then, but not when Duncan was a kid. His best friend, Tommy, had the key because his dad owned the building. Back then, it had been an okay business selling auto parts for import cars. And not high end, either.
It had been Duncan’s first job picking spare parts and boxing them for customers.
It was the one time in his life he’d never told Axel about. It was the one time in his life he wished he could go back and do differently. It was the one part of his past that he was ashamed of. With how Axel always looked at him like he was his hero, Duncan needed him to know that full story before they said their forever-lasting I do.
The one reason he needed to tell him was that he was sure it was nothing digital, thus his nosy boyfriend didn’t already know.
No one knew. Only Tommy, Duncan, and the dead boy, whose death was ruled an accident while hanging out at an industrial complex alone to get away from an abusive father and an alcoholic of a mother.
Duncan resolutely turned away from the ramp at the bottom of which he’d heard that wet snap of a neck breaking. He even got phantom pains as it could have been his own.
He pushed the memory back into the hole it had resided in ever since, and neither he nor Tommy had spoken of it. Ever.
Duncan’s mom had gotten a job in a different part of town, and they moved. Tommy fell into trouble and died of poor choices six years later with a needle in the crook of his arm. Duncan finished communal college and took work as a bouncer at the bar he frequented, miles from where Tommy had sunk into despair and either ended himself on purpose or chased oblivion too eagerly.
Duncan would never know.
But on a break at his bouncer job, a geeky young man had sat with a soda and looked lost while his friend mingled and tried to point girls his way. Studying humans for a living to find the troublemakers, it had taken Duncan all of ten seconds to see that it was the beefy frames of patrons that got the boy’s attention, not the low-cut shirts or high-riding skirts.
Never having had the need to flaunt his sexuality, Duncan merely went there to see if he could get lucky with a guy who wasn’t a flamboyant out and about who could out him to people who were none the wiser.
That blush. It was all it had taken. Duncan had been head-over-heels with the young man ever since.
Making his way through the familiar yet so very different streets of Detroit, Duncan had dressed down to fit in.
It hurt seeing a place he’d called home having succumbed to the economic crisis. Still, he walked the route he’d once bicycled to get to work, wondering if it was too far to walk with his fiancée to give him the full insight of memory lane.
He had it all planned out. Disappearing to keep the secret had been the hardest part.
He didn’t fear that Axel would draw away from him or stop loving him or something like that. Love could overcome anything when as pure and strong as theirs. Everything else was a bad drama twist in a romance novel or a reason for tension in a sequel to a movie where the hero got the girl. So many awesome movies were followed up by that. And he knew because he’d watched them all with Axel who apparently didn’t agree. To him, it was all about love conquering all, leaving Duncan feeling safe and secure.
The rain pelted him, yet he’d planned for sunnier skies. Didn’t matter. He’d dressed for the weather. Cars drove by slowly to be able to see as their wipers had problems keeping the windshield free from hard droplets, splattering out.
A sudden sting to his back made him short of breath, and he gasped and turned his torso a bit to see if it was a muscle cramping out of the blue.
Then he grew dizzy. Too quick to register, he felt numb. Then the sidewalk tilted.