Game Ender (Game #4) releases April 17 and is an interconnected standalone so can totally be read without any previous reading.
Chapter 1 - Thomas
There are certain things that are guaranteed to get any man—macho or not—to the doctor. Anything wrong with appendages located in the very important area between the hips down to mid-thigh will always warrant immediate action. The slight burning sensation from my morning leak that turned into a stream of fire by mid-afternoon definitely fell into that category so with a call to my best friend Cade, I leave the office, telling my secretary that I had an urgent meeting come up and would be gone for the rest of the day. A short drive later, I quickly make my way into the ER of Northwestern Hospital where Cade works as a doctor, and walked to the reception desk. “I’m here to see Cade Carsen.” “Sir, you’ll need to fill out this form and take a seat,” the receptionist says, holding out a clipboard to me. “You don’t understand,” I reply, my heart rate spiking as I take a quick cursory glance at the filled chairs behind me, the air becoming stifling with bacteria and germs that I swear are launching an attack on my immune system with every breath I take. I turn my attention back to the now scowling—actually downright scary—desk clerk. “Cade’s my roommate, best friend actually. Can you please page him? He’s expecting me.” She scrutinizes me, her eyes scanning down my body and back up again. “Riiiiight,” she replies skeptically, like every second person tries that excuse to avoid exposure to the waiting room petri dish. “Thomas?” the most welcome voice in the world says, using my nickname that only a select few use. I turn around to see the wife of another of my best friends, Mac, standing beside me, an orange Chicago Bears hoodie covering up her scrubs. “Everything okay?” I release a huge sigh of relief, my future health and life expectancy thanking the heavens for this serendipitous stroke of luck. “Hey, I’m here to see Cade. He’s expecting me but the lovely desk clerk here has obviously heard this story a million times and doesn’t believe me.” She bursts out laughing before turning toward the desk and leaning over it. “Hey Nancy, I can vouch for this miscreant. I can take him through to Dr. Carsen.” Nancy eyes me suspiciously, pursing her thin lips as she looks me up and down then nods her permission to Mac. What am I, chopped fucking liver? “Have a nice day, Nancy,” I say with a saccharine sweet smile on my face, knowing that I probably shouldn’t come here if I ever need emergency medical attention. Mac giggles beside me, making tut-tut sounds and drawing my attention. “What?” I ask innocently. She smirks at me. “You know what, Mr. Charming.” “Obviously didn’t work with Nancy.” “Nancy is just used to people’s bullshit. She sees people like you trying to cut in line every day, all day.” “I wasn’t trying to—” She snorts and quirks a brow at me, it’s such a ‘mom’ look that I can’t help but grin down at her as she swipes the ID card hanging off her neck across a keypad, gaining access through to the ER and leading me through the double doors. “Does that work on Danny boy?” I ask, betting everything I own that it does. “Why do you think he’s always smiling?” she says and it’s then I want to high five my friend Daniel for finding—and nailing down permanently—the woman beside me. “So why are you braving the ER center when you could just see Cade tonight at Poker?” I falter—just for a second—and eagle-eye Mac doesn’t miss it. We come to a stop outside a door labeled ‘Doctors’ Lounge’ and she turns to face me. “Is this a professional visit? You can tell me, I can’t tell anyone. Call it patient—sexy nurse confidentiality,” she says with a wink. I look her up and down and shake my head with a grin playing on my lips. “Sorry, love, unless I get the full naughty nurse treatment, short dress, garters, stockings and heels, no deal.” She pouts and play punches me. “Sorry, bruiser. Only superheroes get that kind of special treatment.” “I’ve got some latent super powers. They’re activated when you—” “Thomas,” Cade says, his voice an amused warning as he comes to a stop in front of us. “Are you coming on to the nurses again?” “Unfortunately for us, we missed the boat with this one. She’s well and truly off the market.” Cade snorts. “You’d hope so considering she married Dan how many years ago now?” “Five? No wait . . .” Mac holds out her hand, biting her lip as she counts her fingers. “Oh, I don’t know, a while.” We all laugh at that, Mac’s cheeks going uncharacteristically pink. “I think Dan must be losing his touch if you can’t remember those kind of details.” “Or else the three kidlets are stopping any kind of touching at all,” I retort. “On that note, I’ll love and leave you,” Mac announces, leaning forward and giving us both a kiss on the cheek before waving and walking away. “Shall we?” Cade asks, sweeping an arm toward the short corridor. “Lead the way.” “So . . . what’s the emergency?” He says as soon as the consultation room door closes behind us. I turn toward him, my heart pounding in my chest. But this is Cade, my best friend. He’s probably seen and heard it all. I know for a fact he’s seen more blood and gore than anyone should ever see. Struggling to find the words, I take a slow, calming deep breath. This is my trip on the downtown inferno train. It’s not like I’ve ever gone through something like this before, and I hope to Christ I never have to go through it again. “First, you’ve gotta swear on your life that you will not breathe a word of this to anyone.” His lips twitch and he lifts an eyebrow at me. “So it involves your dick then?” My eyes widen, fuck knows why. It’s not like it wouldn’t be my junk and I know it is my junk, but for some reason, hearing him say it like that irks me. “What makes you say that?” I ask like an idiot considering I called him just an hour ago and told him I was coming to see him and needed his professional opinion. All that aside, he’s going to need to know that my problem is with my most prized body part in order to give me whatever pills, injections, or bleach treatment required,. “I think I’ve caught something.” “Something?” “An STD.” And just like that Cade’s amused look vanishes in an instant and it’s in this moment that I love the man because he’s suddenly all business. Most other guys would take the opportunity to rib me about the correct use of condoms or—if it were Matt Taylor, one of my best friend’s brothers—tell me to do a damn scratch and sniff test next time. Man hands go to my belt and I start to unzip my fly. “Wait!” he says quickly. “Before you flop it out and show me far too much of yourself. What are your symptoms?” My hands still and my eyes back up to his. “Ah . . .” “Thomas, I can’t treat you unless I know what we’re looking at.” “It burns when I . . .” Fuck, why am I suddenly embarrassed about this shit. Because it’s fucking mortifying. I clear my throat. “It burns when I take a piss and there’s this weird stuff coming out—” “Right,” he says quickly. “Now we’re getting somewhere. When did you first notice that something was wrong?” He tilts his head toward the hospital bed and I move that way, undoing my pants before sitting down on the gurney. “Maybe a week ago. It was just a niggle, like something wasn’t right but I went to the men’s room at lunch and knew something was wrong. So here I am.” “Good decision,” he says, walking over to stand beside the bed, leaning over to pull some gloves from the dispenser on the wall. “Show me the problem.” He doesn’t show anything other than a perfect bedside manner as I pull down my underwear and show him my dick. Things you never imagine having to show your best friend, check. “You’ve got a sexually transmitted infection. I’ll need a urine sample to confirm, though,” he announces matter-of-factly and having finished examining my junk, steps back and pulls off the offending rubber gloves. “Can’t you just give me a shot?” His responding snort is the only crack in his professional demeanor. “I’m doing a full screen for STDs and you’re honestly thinking that I can clear it up with a shot?” He’s right of course, but seriously, why hasn’t someone invented that already? Burning sensation when you pee? Have a shot of ‘VD-be-gone.’ Weird ‘stuff’ coming out of places it shouldn’t? Bend over and one little prick will clear it right up. “Will it go back to normal?” I ask irrationally, knowing it’s an STD and not castration but a man can never be too sure of these things. I’ve watched those Sex Sent Me to the ER programs, I know that weird things can happen. He chuckles and smirks. “Yes, Thomas. You’ll lose the STD tag but the drugs won’t make it any bigger.” Fucking smart ass. “Thanks. I think I’m covered in that department, Carsen.” “So the Swedish Cock Pump I found in the guest room must’ve been yours.” “You’re hilarious. If this doctor thing doesn’t work out, you should think about stand up.” “I’ll take that under advisement.” “Seriously though?” I ask, all humor gone for the moment. He steps forward and claps me on the arm. “Finish the antibiotics I’m going to prescribe you, and once we know what you’re dealing with, you’ll just need to come back in and get retested in three months. And if I were you, I’d sit down and make a list of everyone who even looked at your cock recently.” “How recent?” “It can’t be that big a list, surely?” My silence speaks volumes—to the both of us—and the fact that I even have to think about it is a blinding smack in the face. “You also can’t have sex until you’re clear. Public health and all that,” Cade says flippantly. “Even a party for one?” I ask, partly joking but seriously hoping he’s not going to rule out Mrs. Palmer fun. He struggles to hold back a grin. “You can’t infect your hand—or the penis pump—so you’re fine. But maybe this can be a lesson to you.” “To wrap it before I slap it?” He winces and I swear his thighs tense on autopilot. “Can’t believe you didn’t. Safe Sex 101.” “It was just once . . .” “Well at least you know when you got it . . . right?” he says with an obvious sound of relief. I suddenly feel embarrassed about my recent Laissez-faire approach to sex and women. “One girl I’ve seen twice, a few months apart . . .” “Thomas . . .” he growls. “Both times without protection?” I nod, feeling his recrimination deep in my bones. “So I’m guessing I need to tell the women in between now?” “That’s my professional instruction, yes.” Shit. That might be a long-ish list considering there were three months in between visits with said ‘one-time thing.’ “Ever thought of keeping it in your pants for a while?” he says ironically, considering he’s been my wingman more times than I’ve had hot dinners. “The last time I did that was when I was a teenager.” “And look where you are now. I’m so proud,” he says, wiping a fake tear away. This is no longer my doctor speaking, this is my best friend of fifteen years. “Says the man who’s now getting it regularly from his former mother-buffer friend with benefits.” “Who I wasted ten months not being with because I thought it was just a one-time thing,” he retorts. “And I would give up everything to make up that time now that I know what I’ve got with Abi.” Cade and Abi got together a year ago then again a few months ago. Now that they’re together–as in full relationship with a lot of benefits that I have to hear far too regularly–I can’t imagine them ever not being together. They’re just that perfect for one another. “I just haven’t found the right woman. You snatched her off the market before I could even introduce myself,” I tease. “You’re a funny guy.” “A funny guy with an STD.” “Let’s see what the tests come back with and we’ll go from there.” “That’s it. I’m never having sex again.” I reach down and gently cup my crotch. “It’s okay buddy, we’ll get you all fixed up and happy again.” Cade quirks a brow at me, his expression one of ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ “You need a girl–no, a woman–to knock you on your ass and make you want to change your ways.” “Like there’s even a woman out there who’d ever make me want to do that.” “Prove it.” “What?” “Prove it. No more casual sex, definitely no unsafe sex, and hold out for the right woman.” I don’t answer straight away, giving his suggestion the respect it deserves, because what harm can it do. Right now, sex is so far from my mind, what harm is a little abstinence going to cause? “Care to make it worth my while?” He barks out a laugh, shaking his head at me. “Only you would bet on your sex life.” I shoot him a grin. “What can I say, I value the future happiness of my cock very highly.” “Obviously,” he muses. “I bet you can’t hold out.” “Why would I?” “Just try it. You might surprise yourself.” “You don’t think I can do it, do you?” I ask, not sure how I’m feeling about the lack of faith Cade has in me. “Nope. I give it a month, or the first hot redhead to look your way. Whatever comes first.” “The woman always comes first, Doctor Carsen. Have I taught you nothing?” He steps toward me and holds his arm out. “I bet you can’t hold out.” I grasp hold of his hand, looking him dead straight in the eye. “I’m telling you, the next woman I take to bed will be the one.” His head jerks back and his eyes grow wide. “That’s a big call, Caldwell.” “I’m sick of fucking around. Look where and what it got me.” “So abstinence makes the heart grow fonder?” he asks, a smile playing on his lips. “Or the cock grow harder.” “Probably both,” he says, full out grinning now. “You sure about this?” “Yep.” The more I think about it, the surer I actually am. If I’ve learned anything from this, it’s that it’s high time I had a mid-thirties life overhaul. With the decision made, it’s then that I make my vow to Cade. “I swear to you, on our friendship and my future happiness, the next woman that gets me, will be the one that gets me and only me.” And blue balls and wet dreams be damned, I’m going to damn well stick to it.