Keeping Casey (Keeping Him #1) - Amy Aislin

Chapter One

Ethan Rain had two great loves of his life: hockey and his best friend, Casey Preston.

It was his good luck that he was exposed to both on an almost daily basis.

What wasn’t a great love of his life was Glen Hill College cafeteria food. Other than the fries and the chocolate chip cookies as big as his face, everything tasted bland. Sadly, cafeteria food was also something he was exposed to on an almost daily basis, and it was entirely Casey’s fault.

Though Ethan suspected bad campus food was simply part of the whole college experience. And wasn’t that why he was here? To get an education, experience everything college had to offer, and play hockey?

The latter he hoped his body would allow him to do for several more years, but with his condition, he might have to quit as early as senior year.

Fuck, he hoped not.

Shaking himself out of those thoughts, he stole a fry off Casey’s plate and popped it in his mouth. “These remind me of the fries at that chalet we went to in eighth grade.”

Casey cocked his head, brow scrunched in thought.

“The ski trip we went on with our families. Remember?”

“Right. Where you spent the whole time avoiding that girl who kept chatting you up.”

“I wasn’t interested.”

Snorting a laugh, Casey repositioned the too-small patty on his day-old bun. “Yes, that was painfully obvious.”

Ethan grunted. It took more than a few attempts at conversation for him to have feelings for someone. That was demisexuality for you, though—unless he had an emotional connection to someone, he was very much not interested, and some girl he’d just met that he’d never see again didn’t stand a chance.

He’d known he was gay by that point too, so her gender was already a notch against her.

Across the table, Casey bit into his burger with a moan, ketchup dripping out the back and onto his plate.

Ethan stole another fry and raised an eyebrow. “I doubt that burger deserves such a luscious moan.”

“It’s really not as bad as it looks,” Casey said around his mouthful.

“Your bun is soggy and your lettuce is wilted.”

“If you drown it in ketchup, you don’t notice.” A glint in his hazel eyes, Casey took a second bite, a louder, more extravagant moan echoing between them.

Shifting in his chair, Ethan rolled his eyes and stuffed the fry in his mouth.

If Casey knew how his moaning affected Ethan, he wouldn’t tease him as much. But Casey didn’t know, and that was a secret Ethan would take to the grave. In no version of this universe would he ever tell his best friend he was in love with him.

No, no, and no some more.

And it wasn’t only because Ethan didn’t want to fuck up the best relationship he’d had since birth, but because Casey wasn’t interested in anything long-term. He preferred the occasional hookup—gender not important—and, in his own words, “not getting attached.” Telling Casey how he felt would accomplish exactly nothing.

Casey hadn’t labeled himself as bisexual or pansexual or whatever, and Ethan had respected that. If Casey didn’t need a label, then Ethan didn’t need one for him.

Ethan himself wore the gay label for anyone who cared to ask. As it was, it wasn’t something he’d explicitly advertised in the month since he’d moved to Glen Hill, Vermont, from his hometown of Lighthouse Bay, Maine, to attend GH—as Glen Hill College was known to the locals. His last four weeks had seen a steady stream of hockey practice, settling into a new routine, and, as of two weeks ago, classes and homework.

If anyone cared to look, though, there was a rainbow-shaped key chain hanging off the strap of his gear bag, as well as a tiny demisexual flag. Not that a rainbow was an indication of queerness, but it said a lot when a guy his age carried one around.

In fact, it said so much that one of his coaches from his time in the juniors in Ohio, Coach Fallon, a guy Ethan had previously looked up to, who’d taken extra time to coach Ethan through his first couple of intimidating months, had curled his lip when he’d spotted it on Ethan’s bag and loudly encouraged him to get rid of it because “the gays don’t belong in hockey.”

He’d done no such thing.

Instead, he’d racked up the most points of all his teammates—both seasons. Being gay didn’t preclude him from being a good player, and he’d shoved that fact in Coach Fallon’s face for two years.

Ethan deserved to play as