Saints and Sinners

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Ephraim Kopczynski's original plans for Valentine's Day had been to sit alone in his small apartment, queue up his shows-to-watch list, and order in Chinese. Instead, he was sitting outside his friend Andrew's house, having second thoughts about going inside to the single's party Andrew was hosting and had insisted he 'needed' to attend.

"You need to get out," Andrew had said. "You'll have fun, I promise. There's no couples or any of that junk—just a bunch of single people looking to drink and party and have fun." Even though Ephraim didn't do much of the drinking or partying, and a fair number of people would argue about his fun-having as well, part of him was begging to get out of the house and do something that wasn't accompanying singers on the piano or coaching someone's voice.

Now, sitting in his car outside Andrew's, Ephraim was having second thoughts. Maybe it would be best just to go home and curl up on the couch with some wontons. He wasn't going to know anyone at this party; Andrew's circle of friends was completely different from his own. He was going to end up spending the night sitting awkwardly with people he didn't know and had nothing in common with, being ignored and feeling like an outcast, while the people around him got stupid drunk or high as a kite. The wontons were sounding better and better by the minute. Crab rangoons sounded pretty good too; maybe—

"Ephraim!"

Ephraim was startled out of his fantasy by the sound of Andrew calling his name and yanking open his car door.

"You're not thinking of running away, are you?"

Ephraim's hesitance was answer enough, and Andrew took his arm and tugged him out of the car.

"C'mon. You're already here and you look cute."

Ephraim wasn't so sure about that. He was wearing dark jeans and a blue button up with the sleeves rolled to his elbows—nothing fancy, nothing eye-catching, nothing impressive. Another night looking like the good boy that he was. It was too late to back out, though, because Andrew was leading him into the house.

He stopped short just inside the door, and for a long moment, Ephraim just revolved in place, trying to take it all in. Andrew's parents were on vacation and he had turned their house into the ultimate Valentine's party spot. White twinkle lights were strung around the ceiling; red, white, and pink drapes of gauzy material covered the lights. Streamers, confetti, and various décor, also of the same color, were spread throughout the house. On the way to the living room, Ephraim spotted a ceramic bowl filled with colored condoms. Just what kind of party was this? Worry knotted his stomach—and his eyebrows.

"You didn't just drag me into an orgy, did you?"

Andrew laughed, his blue eyes crinkling at the edges. "Not tonight, sweetheart. Another time?"

He cocked an eyebrow. "I don't think so."

Andrew laughed again. "C'mon in here."

In the living room, a dark-haired man had pulled his shirt over his head and was showing off the tattoos on his shoulder to a girl Ephraim recognized as Andrew's former roommate, Carrie. The man grinned at Carrie and pulled his shirt back on.

"You already know Carrie," Andrew said, gesturing from Carrie's candy apple red hair to her sky-high heels.

Carrie winked at him and fluttered her tatted fingers.

"Ephraim, this is Jason. Jason, this is Ephraim. He's a good boy. He's here to get out but not to get hurt, or I'll kill you." Andrew's tone was serious, but he was smiling good-naturedly a heartbeat later.

Jason grinned, lighting up blue eyes so dark that they were almost black, and for a moment, Ephraim wondered if he'd even be able to see a difference between iris and pupil if those eyes were lust blown and—

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