Ashton & Justice

an excerpt



Chapter One



Two hours, five minutes and thirty-eight seconds. That was how long before Justice could blow off this mess of a party and retreat to the safety of his apartment.

He dodged a frat brother making out with some blonde chick and leaned against the wall, wishing desperately he were somewhere else. Anywhere would do--prison, a desert island with no water, a country music concert, the fiery pits of Hell. Anything would be preferable to being the only openly gay guy at a college kegger.

"Will you try to at least look like you're having fun?" His older brother Craig thrust a plastic cup of beer into Justice's hand.

Justice took it, more aware than ever just how un-alike they and the lives they led were. Even though their birth certificates claimed they were blood related, they couldn't be more different. Where Craig had sunny, blond hair, Justice had plain brown. His dull, gray eyes didn't even come close to attracting the same attention as Craig's deep blue ones. The most stark contrast had to be their builds, Craig had the muscle-bound, football player look down perfectly, whereas Justice was small, thin and...well, insignificant.

"Sorry," Justice mumbled automatically as he took a sip of the tepid drink. It seemed he was always apologizing to his brother or father for some reason or another. It'd gotten to the point where he'd considered prefilling out "My bad. I know I'm always fucking up" cards just to make things easier on himself. That is if Hallmark made cards with that saying. But didn't they claim to have a card for every occasion?

Craig gave him a patronizing smile. "Look, don't be a brat. I'm doing this for your own good and as a favor to Dad. You need to get out of that shithole apartment of yours once in awhile or people are going to start thinking there's something wrong with you."

It was on the tip of Justice's tongue to argue that his apartment was far from a shithole, but he held it in. He'd learned long ago that it didn't do any good to argue with his brother. It only ended with Craig either hitting him or verbally cutting him down.

"You're right. I needed to take a break from all my homework and stuff." Justice forced himself to smile. "Thanks for bringing me."

"Just make sure you don't embarrass me."

Craig gave him a not so gentle punch on the shoulder before walking back to his friends. Once more alone, Justice busied himself by people watching. Since he didn't have much else to do, it seemed like the most entertaining way to pass the time.

There were two beefy, dark-haired guys who were interesting eye candy--that was until they started sucking face with the same girl. Ew! There was no way they couldn't be exchanging all kinds of interesting germs with that kind of tongue action.

Then there were the three sorority sisters who were sitting on the couch to the left of him. The middle one sobbed loudly, while her two friends patted her back in sympathy. Justice couldn't be for sure, but it seemed that she'd been dumped by some jerk named Randy. That was okay, though, because Randy was an idiot who had a dick the size of a thumb with an IQ to match and he couldn't find a G-spot even if he had Google Maps and a GPS at his disposal.

Distracted by thoughts of poor Randy and his misfortunate penis, Justice took a huge swig of beer. As soon as the now warm liquid hit his mouth, he cursed himself for being an idiot. He'd never been able to handle beer on a good day, let alone the cheap junk they were serving at the party. His stomach rolled as he forced himself to swallow. Even though he managed to get it down, he couldn't hold back the full-body gag that followed.

Bringing his hand to his mouth, he prayed that nobody noticed his embarrassing moment. A soft chuckle off to his right dashed all those hopes. Horror danced in his chest as he jerked his head in the direction of the noise. Then, when he got a good look at the source, his heart began pounding for a whole new reason.

Just five feet away, stood the most gorgeous man Justice had ever seen. Tall, but thin, with short, dark brown hair and a smile too sexy to be legal, the guy had to be pure perfection. By far, though, his best feature had to be his eyes. They weren't just brown, they were deep, soulful, and surrounded by thick, dark lashes. While he wore a Central Michigan T-shirt and jeans like so many of the other partygoers, on this guy it somehow managed to look classy. So much so, that he almost seemed as out of place at the kegger as Justice.

Justice silently chastised himself as he looked back down at his cup of beer. Deep and soulful? Most gorgeous man ever? Damn, if Craig could only hear his thoughts. There would be no end to the ribbing and scathing comments. With good reason, too. One of the many traits Justice had picked up from their deceased mother had been a streak of sappiness that he never had learned to hide.

That still didn't stop him from glancing back up at Mr. Yummy. His stomach flipped when he noticed the other guy looking back, his face showing mutual interest. Justice felt the corners of his mouth kick up in his first genuine smile of the evening. The dark-haired stranger returned it before walking over.

"Hey, I'm Ashton," he said by way of greeting.

"Hi," Justice returned. When Ashton cocked a brow in question, he hastened to add, "I'm Justice."

Ashton moved in closer. Even over the stench of beer and too many bodies pressed together, Justice could detect the scent of sandalwood. Though it'd never appealed to him before, at that moment it sent a jolt of desire through his body.

"So, I take it you're not a fan of the beer?" Ashton nodded to Justice's cup.

"I much prefer a cold Mike's Lemonade."

"I'll have to remember that."

"Why?"

"So I know what to order for you on our first date." Ashton flashed a playful look.

Justice laughed. He couldn't believe such a hot guy was actually flirting with him. What's more, he was flirting back. That had to be a first. Usually Justice stuck to the corners and rarely ventured out to socialize at all.

"You seem pretty certain that I'm going to agree to that plan," Justice countered as he took a step forward.

His fingers itched to reach out and touch Ashton. Even a light caress would have sufficed. Just so long as he got to test how hard and warm the other man's flesh felt. Justice clutched the cup tighter in his hand to resist from giving in to his urges.

"Does that mean you're going to tell me ‘no'?" Ashton asked.

Justice shook his head. "If I could, I'd suggest that we bail from this party and take off now."

"What's holding you here?"

Justice felt himself blushing while he shrugged. "I kind of promised my brother that I'd stay for at least three hours."

"Was that the blond you were talking to a few minutes ago?"

"Yeah, I know we don't look much alike."

"You're right. You are way better looking than him." Ashton reached up and lightly brushed one knuckle down Justice's chest.

Justice sucked in a breath. Oh, my Lady Gaga! Once again, he thought he had to be dreaming or something because guys like Ashton didn't flirt with mousy dorks like him. He looked down at the area of his chest that had just been blessed enough to be touched by Ashton. The skin still tingled from the caress.

"Funny, most people usually think it's the other way around," Justice confessed.

Ashton leaned in and whispered in Justice's ear, "Surprise. I'm not most people."

A shiver went down Justice's spine and traveled to his cock. "No, you're not."

Justice set his cup of beer on a nearby table because he'd started to tremble so badly he worried he'd spill the stuff on him. The only thing worse than drinking the junk was reeking of it. Something he'd know from previous experience when Craig and his friends thought it would be fun to douse the "sissy boy."

Still keeping his lips inches from Justice's ear, Ashton asked, "So, if you won't leave with me now, at least have some mercy on me and give me your phone number."

Somehow Justice's hands ended up on Ashton's shoulders. His mind began to spin from all the emotions colliding inside him, the two biggest being arousal and shock. Arousal because--Hello!--Ashton was sex bundled up in a college T-shirt, and shock because Justice never moved this fast before. His dates were few and far between and never before had he touched, let alone kissed, until at least one or two weeks of knowing the other guy. Yet, as he found himself pressing his body closer to Ashton, Justice knew with a certainty that they'd be kissing within seconds. Justice closed his eyes and began to inch even closer.

"What in the fuck do you think you're doing?" Craig snarled.

Before Justice could react, his brother grabbed him by the arm and jerked him away. Justice opened his eyes and gasped as he readied himself for yet another one of Craig's verbal assaults. Instead, much to his surprise, Craig shoved Justice behind him before turning his fury onto Ashton.

"I don't know what kind of game you think you're playing, but keep my brother out of it," Craig snapped, his face red with anger.

"Craig?" Justice wondered what in the hell was going on. It's not like he already didn't know that Justice was gay, so it couldn't be the fact that he'd been getting up close and personal with another man. So, he had no idea what had pissed Craig off so much.

Ashton held his hands up in a peaceful gesture. "We were just talking."

Craig snorted. "I'll bet. It's more likely that your dad sent you out to screw with our family because of our father."

"I'm sorry, I still don't understand," Ashton replied calmly.

"You don't think I wouldn't recognize you as Carter Garner's son?" Craig challenged.

Justice stomach dropped at the name. Carter Garner ran the biggest illegal drug ring in the state. The name was so sickeningly familiar because he heard it every night at the dinner table as his own father, a DA, railed about how he couldn't wait to finally hang a conviction on the criminal. To make matters even worse, the two men had been involved in a very public battle of words.

"What does that have to do with me talking to Justice?" Ashton slowly shook his head.

Craig gave a bitter laugh. "As if you didn't know that Justice is Lloyd Knowl's son."

Ashton blinked a few times, understanding spreading over his face. "As in DA Knowl?"

His shocked tone seemed too real to be faked and Justice found himself believing him. That still didn't mean Justice felt any relief, not with all the tension in the air. Given his brother's volatile temper, he knew it was only a matter of seconds before fists started flying. Justice felt genuine fear even though for once Craig's temper wasn't aimed in his own direction. He realized he had to somehow get Craig as far away from Ashton as possible.

"Craig, let's just leave," Justice suggested softly as he put a gentle hand on his brother's arm.

That proved to be a huge mistake. Craig hissed a curse, turned, and shoved Justice. Pain shot through Justice's body as his back slammed into the unforgiving wall.

To say all hell broke loose after that would have been a tragic understatement. Several of the partygoers "oohed" while Ashton let out a few choice curses of his own. "Don't you fucking treat him that way."

Ashton lunged at Craig. At the last minute a dark-haired guy reached out and held Ashton back. Several frat brothers stepped forward. A pair of them grabbed Craig by the arms, while another took hold of Justice's wrist.

As they were being shown the front door, Justice dared to shoot a glance back at Ashton. The other man was still holding him, but all his attention was directed at Justice. The look of hurt and sadness stamped on Ashton's face cut into Justice like a blade.

I'm sorry, Justice mouthed right before he was led out the door.