Web of Lies

Each week, I send out a story via my email newsletter. Each story is around 1000 words, sometimes less, sometimes more. The stories are in a variety of genres: supernatural, thriller, sci-fi, horror, and sometimes romance, and all of my stories typically feature a gay protagonist.

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This is story number 10 of the series. Enjoy!

Web of Lies

Nate knew this time would be different. As he drove down the dark highway, the city lights fading in the rearview mirror, he repeated it like a mantra. This time would be different. He wasn’t going to make the same mistakes, fall for the same traps. He wasn’t going to let his lying, scheming ways destroy everything again. And most importantly, he wasn’t going to let himself get sucked back into Bob’s orbit. Not this time.

Bob. Just thinking the name made Nate’s hands tighten on the steering wheel, his jaw clenching. Once upon a time that name had meant laughter and passion, lazy Sundays tangled in Egyptian cotton sheets. But then the lying started. The sneaking around, the excuses that fell apart under the slightest scrutiny. Nate knew he was no angel himself — his own lies over the years could fill an encyclopedia. But Bob brought out the worst in him, enabled his most self-destructive tendencies. Their relationship imploded in a maelstrom of bitter accusations and broken hearts. Nate had barely managed to pull himself out of that tailspin intact.

But he’d learned his lesson. Cut off contact, changed his number, moved to the other side of the city. Started seeing a therapist to unpack his unhealthy patterns. He was done with Bob and done with the lying. A fresh start.

Earlier that day, Dr. Alvarez had texted Nate asking if he could meet her at her country cottage instead of at her usual office. It was an unusual request, but Nate agreed, assuming she had her reasons. Now, as he navigated the remote stretch of highway, he felt a prickle of unease at the base of his spine, some primal instinct insisting something wasn’t quite right.

The cottage finally came into view, a curl of smoke rising from the crooked brick chimney. It could have looked quaint, rustic, if not for the overgrown weeds choking the yard, the sagging porch that had seen better days. Every horror movie warning screamed in Nate’s head but he forced himself to keep walking. Dr. Alvarez was waiting for him.

Three steps from the door, he heard it. A sharp, unmistakable click directly behind him, raising the hairs on the back of his neck. The sound of a shotgun being cocked.

“Don’t move,” growled a low, menacing voice.

Nate’s blood turned to ice. This was it. This was how he died, in the middle of nowhere with a bullet in his back. Because he’d been stupid enough to walk blindly into trouble. Some small, desperate part of him considered running, trying to dodge and weave. But his muscles seemed frozen, his feet rooted to the ground. The man stepped around to face him, keeping the shotgun leveled at his chest. Wait a minute…

“Bob?” Nate sputtered. “What the hell are you doing here?”

His ex looked even worse than the last time Nate saw him, if that was possible. Deep purple shadows under wild, bloodshot eyes. A sickly, grayish pallor to his face. His hair and beard grown out in ragged tangles. He glared at Nate with undisguised malice.

“I think the better question is, what are YOU doing here Nate? Shouldn’t you be back in the city, playing your little games? Spinning your little lies?”

“Dr. Alvarez asked me to meet her here. What have you done with her?” Nate demanded, eyeing the shotgun.

Bob barked a harsh laugh and gestured sharply with the gun. Nate felt his stomach drop. Had Bob killed her?

With no other choice, he let Bob shepherd him toward the dark maw of the cottage door. The wrongness of the situation blared like a siren in Nate’s head. This couldn’t be happening. It had to be a nightmare. Any second he’d wake up safe in his bed…

But the shove of Bob’s hand on his back was very real as he forced Nate over the threshold into the dank, musty room. Nate blinked, his eyes adjusting to the dim light of a bare bulb. And then he saw her. Dr. Alvarez, duct taped to a chair in the middle of the room, her long dark hair matted, mascara streaking her bruised face.

She looked at him with terrified eyes above the gag. And in that moment, the pieces clicked together in Nate’s stunned brain with a horrible kind of sense. Dr. Alvarez had been helping him unpack his relationship with Bob. Helping him break those patterns. Bob must have found out somehow, followed her, planned this –

“Why?” Nate asked hoarsely, unable to wrap his mind around the enormity of it.

“You broke my heart, Nathaniel,” Bob spat, as if the name was an epithet. “Shattered it. Did you really think I’d let you just walk away? Let you forget about me while you played house with your shiny new life?”

He circled Nate slowly, shotgun still trained on him. “I saw you, you know. All those cozy little coffee shop chats with the good doctor here. I knew she was trying to turn you against me. Trying to ‘fix’ you. As if you weren’t perfect the way you were.”

Bob’s face twisted. “But you’re mine, Nate. You’ll always be mine. And I’m going to make damn sure you never forget it again.”

Nate’s heart hammered against his ribcage as he met Dr. Alvarez’s desperate, pleading gaze. This had all spiraled so far out of control. He had to get them out of this somehow. Had to–

“I never stopped loving you,” he blurted out. The words clanged and echoed in the heavy silence, hanging between them. Slowly, Bob lowered the gun a fraction.

“What did you say?” he demanded.

Nate swallowed hard, mind racing. He was good at this, wasn’t he? The lying. He could spin this. He had to. Both their lives depended on it. He just prayed Dr. Alvarez would have the sense to play along.

“I said I never stopped loving you,” Nate repeated, taking a step closer to Bob. Holding his gaze. “Everything with the doctor… it was a mistake. I thought I needed to get over you but I was wrong. I was kidding myself that I could ever let you go.”

“But you left,” Bob insisted, a hairline fracture in his cold facade. “You cut me off.”

“I was scared,” Nate said, layering his voice with entreaty. Vulnerability. Lying had always come easy to him but never had the stakes been higher. “Scared of how much I needed you. I thought I was protecting myself. But all I did was make us both miserable.”

Another few steps, closing the distance. “I never should have left. But I’m here now. I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. It’s not too late for us.”

Bob’s hostile mask wavered, a riot of conflicting emotion underneath. Anger. Pain. Desperate, aching hope. The gun lowered a few more inches. From the chair, Dr. Alvarez made muffled noises behind the duct tape.

“You really mean that?” Bob asked roughly. “You’re not just… lying?

Nate reached out with a steady hand to push the barrel of the gun down. “I’m done lying. To myself, and to you,” he murmured. “I love you, Bobby. I want to be with you. Just like before, just the two of us against the world.” All the most shameless, saccharine lies he’d ever told, the words dripped like honey from his tongue as he shaped his face into earnest sincerity. “What do you say? Can you forgive me?”

For a long, heart-stopping moment, Bob just stared at him. The night seemed to hold its breath. Then the shotgun clattered to the floor and Bob yanked Nate into a crushing embrace, ragged sobs shaking his frame as he buried his face in Nate’s neck.

Nate returned the embrace robotically, muttering soothing nonsense. Over Bob’s shoulder, his eyes locked with Dr. Alvarez. Saw the knowing dread as she recognized the lies. And understood that to walk them back even an inch would mean both their deaths in this godforsaken place.

So Nate closed his eyes and held the man who had kidnapped and terrorized them. The man who clearly needed serious psychiatric help that Nate couldn’t begin to provide. The man he’d just promised to love forever.

Because this was his talent, wasn’t it? This was what he was good at. Lies upon lies upon lies, spinning a web tighter and tighter around himself until not even he could find his way out. He’d walked away from Bob, from their shared sickness, and thought himself free. Thought he could change. But in the end, he was still the same liar he’d always been. Still tangled in the same destructive patterns. Still willing to promise Bob forever if that’s what it took to survive.

There would be no fresh start. No clean slate. The past wasn’t done with Nate Holloway, not by a long shot. And as he met Dr. Alvarez’s stricken, pleading gaze over Bob’s shoulder, he silently vowed to find a way to save her from this nightmare, even if it meant sacrificing himself to the web of lies he’d spun. He held Dr. Alvarez’s gaze, trying to telegraph both apology and warning. I’ll come back for you, he vowed silently. I’ll make this right.

Then maybe — just maybe — one tiny fragment of his soul could still be redeemed.

It was a small hope, fragile as a soap bubble. But it was all Nate had left as the cottage door slammed shut behind him and Bob, and the night swallowed them whole.


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