I can’t do this anymore

Three weeks after he’d said the words, Quincy still couldn’t believe he had said them. He missed Rodeo like…he didn’t know what. But something was gone, and it hurt—but the secrecy had hurt more. He wanted Rodeo completely, or not all.

He was tired of the masks remaining when Rodeo pulled him into a dark room and ruined Quincy’s ability to think, to do anything but take all that he could get from a man he would never see without a mask, without secrets between them.

Of course, the whole fucking nosy superhero community had noticed that Rodeo and Technophile had ‘broken up’. Not that anyone knew of their affair, but they’d noticed they were flying solo these days instead of always working together.

Quincy stifled a sigh and wished he’d bailed on the fucking party—but the department chair had made it very clear that the best professor in the English department had better put in an appearance or else. So here he was, surrounded by the High and Mighty of society, wishing he was either out kicking criminal ass or just dead.

He finished his sidecar and set the glass down for a waiter to tidy away, then turned to stride back to the bar for another—and stopped just in time to avoid crashing into a walking wet dream.

“My apologies,” the wet dream said.

Oh, jeez, it came with a British accent. Quincy was a fucking sucker for accents. His affair with Rodeo had started in part—maybe even mostly—because the man had a southern drawl as thick as molasses, with a voice like a smoke. He got half-hard every time he heard it. “My fault entirely,” he said, smiling his bland professor smile, pushing his glasses up his nose.

The man smiled, and extended a hand, “Pierce Scarborough, and I believe you must be Professor Adams. Were you named after the president on purpose?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Quincy replied, forcing himself to be social as he realized he was speaking to the reason he was here—Peirce Scarborough was donating an obscene amount of money to the college, an alumnus that even the dumbest freshmen knew about. “My parents believed they were being clever, as parents often do. Dare I ask how you knew me? I am hardly the famous one at this party.”

Pierce laughed, looking sheepish. “I promise the tales are exaggerated, minus the one about how much I love the college. But your reputation precedes you, Professor Adams. You are quite the name in rare books.”

Quincy snorted. “Indeed, yet I sense it was probably my technophobe tendencies that you have heard most about.” In a college renowned for uniting the timelessness of academia with the flash of modern technology, he was a quaint relic—a young professor who acted like a man from generations long gone and mostly forgotten. His reputation was for being an old-fashioned pain in the ass that refused to own a cell phone.

Never mind that he could hack practically any computer with barely a touch and didn’t use cell phones because his own toys were much more advanced.

“A real gentleman never goes out of style,” Pierce replied.

His accent made Quincy shiver, but it was reflexive. As hot as it was, all he wanted was a smoke-and-molasses drawl whispering the words Quincy had badly wanted to hear . But when he had said enough, he couldn’t continue a secret affair when he loved Rodeo enough to risk everything—

Rodeo had said nothing. Had done nothing, when Quincy walked away.

It still hurt. “I like to think that is true, thank you, Mr. Scarborough.”

“Pierce, please,” Pierce replied. “I actually have been trying to speak with you all evening, if you do not mind me pestering you for a professional consultation at a party.”

“By all means,” Quincy replied, smile genuine.

Pierce laughed again, and it prickled along Quincy’s skin, making him ache though he couldn’t say why. Pretty though he was, hot though he was, he wasn’t Rodeo. Pierce was smooth and calm and controlled; Rodeo was all wildfire, as crazy and dangerous as his namesake.

He followed as Pierce led him from the room, to exactly the sort of fancy library he expected to see in such a lavish house. But at a glance, he could see the books were genuine, read, not merely picked to look good on a shelf.

The door closed—then locked. Quincy turned around, immediately on guard, bringing up the barest bit of his powers by pure reflex. “So where is this book, Pierce?”

“Wrong expertise,” Pierce replied—in a voice like smoke, the rolling drawl thick as molasses. “I want to know what Technophile could do to improve security around here. It’s a bit lacking, and with two of us under the same roof, it could stand improvement.”

Quincy stared, frozen by shock that Rodeo stood before him, fear that Pierce had been able to unmask him. “What—how—” He finally latched onto the easy observation first. “Your accent.”

Pierce chuckled, strode toward him. “Daddy was a cowboy, Mama was a proper English lady. I pick up accents; it’s a hobby, you could say. I can do everything.” He switched back to British, “An accent for every occasion, old boy. Now, I believe you and I have a conversation to finish.”

“I told you I loved you and you said nothing—did nothing,” Quincy said bitterly. “I would call that finished.”

Warm, calloused fingers cupped his chin, held firmly when Quincy tried to pull away. Pierce’s eyes were so fucking blue as he looked at Quincy. “I panicked. I wasn’t expecting you to say that. Wasn’t expecting what happened when I heard them.”

“I wasn’t expecting what happened either,” Quincy snapped. He had honestly thought—but it didn’t matter.

“Not that,” Pierce said patiently. “I didn’t know until you said it that I love you too. But I took too long, and then you were avoiding me, so I had to find you another way.” He smiled. “Imagine my surprise to find my Technophile masquerading as a technophobe. You’re really quite adorable.”

Quincy scowled at the adjective. “At least I’m not doing the lazy millionaire bit. That’s so overdone.”

Pierce chuckled, let go of his chin, slid his hands down Quincy’s arms to his hips, around his waist, pulling him close. “It works well, though.” He turned more serious. “I am sorry. I love you. I miss you. Forgive me?”

Quincy yanked his head down, and kissed him, not really believing until that moment when familiar lips moved against his that Pierce was Rodeo, and loved him, and was kissing him in full daylight where anyone could catch them. “I suppose,” he said eventually. “But never make me break up with you again.”

“I’m the only one who gets along with Technophile,” Pierce replied in a drawl. “I aim to keep that statement true for as long as we both shall live.”

Shivering at the words, smiling so hard it should probably hurt, Quincy dragged him into another kiss.