(Chapter Two: Preview Chapter For Patreon)

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The man has his brown nose wrinkled and eyebrows drawn together like he's been perpetually irritated since the moment he was born. His eyes are fiercer up close, assessing and bright against the dark beige of his skin, and his hands are nearly large enough to circle the width of my arms completely.

"Are you a cop?" I try to wiggle a bit in his grip, shake my arms until I realize that he really has no intentions of letting go, "Because you've got a pretty good grip and the whole paranoia thing going for you, but otherwise, I think this is like assault or something."

I'm good at complaining, especially at four in the morning, and also my skin is sensitive, okay?

"Should I be?" His stance is straightening, pulling me with him. He hunches my arms closer to my frame, keeps me locked in place with more ease than I'd like to admit.

"What?"

I'm really starting to question my line of work. I think that, maybe, running coffee at the diner on Saturday nights to sad individuals and recent divorcees looking for love is after all — a better gig.  

Maybe I should've given Mr. Gershon my resume last summer instead of getting wildly hungover.

Ah, bummer.

"Are you doing something that requires law enforcement?"

"I'm not a burglar." I try to flex in his grip, garnering me more of a cramp than any sort of resistance, "See, nothing. Absolutely not burglar material."

It's true, I think I've subsisted on mostly junk food for the past six years, and I've spent most of my downtime either asleep or in the used book store since graduating. It's given me quite the impressive body of a teenager, a timeless look for a twenty-two-year-old, might I say.

"You're on my front lawn, in the dark, with a taser and —" He glares down at my hands, pries one open, keys falling from my palm and onto the gravel.

"What is that? Perfume?"

"Mace."

"And fucking mace." He's glaring now, eyes flickering down to my bike, "And what? Were you going to make a grand getaway on this thing?"

I can tell he's mildly amused at best, really thinks I'm the worst sort of thief in the history of plundering — and that's just fine because I think he's an absolute nut.

Who does home invasions here?

There are no criminal shenanigans in Sleepy Birch — it's mostly angry old people and their satanic animals, the occasional 'you planted your blueberries too close to my property line' fiasco, and maybe a sprinkling of city-tourists passing through that don't know how to use a four-way with no lights.

Regardless. I don't think someone is about to displace a hip to break into the spookiest house in town, that's for sure.

"I deliver your paper like three times a week," I nod my head towards my messenger bag, "I've already been chased by a chihuahua today, or I would've already done it — and no offense but everyone thinks your house is super creepy, so the taser was just a precaution." It's true, who cares if mace probably wouldn't have worked on a supernatural entity, not me, that's for sure.

"You're the one who delivers the newspaper?" He sighs, rolls his eyes — looks more annoyed than anything now. I frown at his tone, work pride deflated with the implication that he's either not satisfied with my deliveries or unimpressed by my lateness.

"I literally just said that, so yes. Besides, I don't think the elderly are really into high profile crimes." I can see his face relax in the slightest as I speak, clearly not as threatened as he was before, but still mean-mugging me. "That's seventy percent of who Sleepy Birch's population is composed of if you haven't noticed. Your house is safe."

"I'm from New York," he drops his grip on my arms and takes a step back, crossing his own, "and I've been chasing teenagers off my lawn for the past month. That warrants some suspicion."

He's rubbing his hand over his eyes like he can't believe this is the first thing he's had to deal with this morning. Obviously, he hasn't tried tripping over a bike and being man-handled by someone who looks like they've just stepped out of Vanity Flayre.

I guess it could be worse.

"Probably because everyone thinks you're a ghost." His eyes narrow slightly, stepping back. I reach down, hands up in surrender. Just getting my bag. "But you're actually just a not very nice man who thinks your paperboy is trying to break in and steal all your goodies."

I doubt he even has goodies.

He scoffs, and I bristle.

"... Do me a favor kid and stop throwing my newspaper in the lawn," he snorts, shoves both hands into his back pockets as he turns away from me, "so it's not a soggy fucking mess when I go to read it."

"— Kid?" I balk, oddly humiliated, "Who's a kid?"

"Did I stutter?"

"There's like six jobs in town, asshole," I'm a bit weedy, and a paperboy, my age is a common misconception. I feel my chest puff as I right my bicycle, pulling at the zipper to my raincoat, "I'm not a kid."

He's already halfway across his lawn, and I doubt if he's even heard me at all. If he did, he makes no indication.

Until he smirks.

I need a new job.

--

This is a preview of another one of my patreon-exclusive stories, which you can find here: www.patreon.com/mythmouth. Or on my page under my links. @mythmouth

There are ten chapters available so far. I update this and nine other stories regularly. It's only two dollars a month!

I've rewritten it to allow all of the characters to move further than they originally could. There will be a lot of character development early on and a slow-burn romance.  Please read carefully for the changes.  This is a romance between three male characters and centers on their growth and development so be aware of that.

Also, warnings for language, violence, coping with childhood trauma and strong sexuality in later chapters.

Thanks everyone!

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