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When you're friend-zoned and you watch him go on a date | BOUND TO LIBERTY

I’m sharing one of my favourite scenes from Bound to Liberty.



EXCERPT

They got out in front of a French bistro. While James paid the cabbie, Ethan surveyed the busy narrow unidirectional street, projecting a professional exterior, muting the conflict raging inside him. Strolling pedestrians, honking black cabs, blue neon signs and orange streetlights all competed for attention under the dark sky, but nothing signalled danger.

“I’m nervous about going in there.” James stood right next to him, almost shoulder-to-shoulder, arms brushing. “I haven’t been on a date before. I mean, Kezie has always been there. After we got together, I never thought I’d need to date anyone else.”

The vulnerability in James’s voice called to Ethan’s protective instincts, and he shoved aside his mild irritation at the situation. James needed him; his confidence, his sensitivity.

He placed his arm around the younger man’s shoulders and pulled him into a side hug.

“You’ll be alright,” he said in a low voice.

James glanced up, his uncertainty evident in the bite of his lower lip and the crease on his forehead. “You think so?”

Ethan nodded with a smile. “I do. It’s just like riding a bicycle. When you’re new, the wheels wobble until you get the hang of it. All you need to know is that I’ll be here to catch you if you fall.”

Ethan hadn’t entirely meant to come out with such a declaration. Now, he didn’t wish to take back his words.

Regardless of his screwed up emotions, he would be here for James.

James’s gaze flickered with amazement. “You mean that, don’t you?”

Ethan nodded. “Yep. The guy better be nice to you, because if he’s not, then I’m kicking his butt.”

Now he sounded like a big brother, sending his sibling out on their first date. He did a mental face-palm and held onto a grimace.

Surprisingly, James laughed. “Yes. I can just picture that scene.”

Ethan grinned and shrugged. James relied on him for safety. Ethan wouldn’t let him down, even if it meant screening his client’s potential lovers.

“I guess I better get in there. Wish me luck,” James said and strode to the door.

“Good luck,” Ethan said, and waited a couple of heartbeats before following him into the venue.

He approached the reception and requested a table for one. Luckily, he found one where he could see the entrance and James’s table.

He saw James’s date arrive—a white man in a blue T-shirt and smart black trousers. He had brown hair and tanned skin.

Ethan pulled out his phone and took a discreet photo of the man. He did this as part of his investigation into James’s stalker. He’d taken pictures of everyone James had interacted with over the past weeks, as he needed to analyse and rule out the innocent.

He watched their interactions, from the initial almost awkward handshake to their animated conversation.

He couldn’t hear what they said from his table.

James smiled for most of it, which meant the date was probably going well.

Ethan didn’t have an appetite, so he ordered just a starter—king prawns in garlic and smoked chilli butter served with a baguette, along with a bottle of cider.

He settled his bill before the food arrived because he needed to be ready to leave in case of an emergency.

He shouldn’t drink on duty. But he could be forgiven for having this one drink, considering the sacrifice he was making by sitting here and watching James with another man.

Nevertheless, he sat through it without driving his fist into a wall or into someone’s face.


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