Another Excerpt from Masked Intent: Guys need their BFFs, too

Just as Alexa has her besties to whip her into shape, Mateo has Becket Oliver, a fellow professor and all-around good guy.

Becket always finds a way to knock some sense into Mateo, who can be a bit of a knot-head. Just see for yourself.


I toss a quick glance at the priceless Whitehurst clock humming quietly from the top of my well-worn mahogany bookcase on the opposite side of my office. I’m not sure if I’m looking for answers or if I’m simply counting the hours until I see her again. Either way, it’s pathetic. I’m pathetic.

Sighing, I look around for something to busy my mind. I eye the stack of papers sitting in the middle of my desk and consider swiping them in the trash. At the beginning of each semester, I give my new students the ungraded task of letting me get to know them and why they’ve signed up for my class. I usually look forward to diving in as this offers a glimpse of what I can expect from them for the next four and a half months. It also helps me get to know them faster, which is a plus. Today, though, I can’t seem to find the concentration to do much more than think about the beautiful, broken woman I want so damned bad. I’m not sure when it happened, but I’ve stopped lying to myself. I’m in deep and have been for months. Thanks to my stunt with the running club and the game I created to get inside her thoughts some more, she’s beginning to bend. But she’s still playing keep-away with her feelings, and I need these barriers between us gone. It’s all I seem to think about. Good thing I’m a patient man. It’s usually how I get what I want. And what I want most is Alexa in my life. In my bed, too, but that comes in time. Seriously. No really. I can wait for all that.

I pick up a pen from the desk and pull at the tension blooming at the base of my neck. I need to do something with my pent-up energy and growing frustration. I know I won’t be able to give these papers my full attention, but it’s worth a try. Anything’s better than falling deeper into my feelings – feelings I didn’t know I could experience until now.

“Fuck it,” I murmur as I dive into the first paper before me.

“Fuck what, Matt?” I look up to find my buddy, Becket Oliver, standing in the door to my office. He’s taking a sabbatical this semester to finish writing a book on personality disorders, so this is the last place I expected to see him.

“The hell, Beck? Shouldn’t you be somewhere meeting deadlines?”

“I’ve written my 2,000 words for the day, man. But I forgot some notes that I need in my office and dropped in to grab them. And what crawled up your ass?”

I shake my head because I’m not trying to hear his mess tonight. Beck is a good guy, but he’s like a bloodhound if you let him into your head. He’ll root around until he finds what he’s looking for, retrieves it, and leaves you to clean up the mess.

“Just not feeling these papers, man. What’s up?”

“I thought we could head over to Marisol’s, throw back a beer or two and chill. You down?”

I’m not a big beer drinker, but this evening, I wouldn’t mind a distraction from this self-torture.

“Sure,” I say. “It’ll be better than sitting here bleeding all over these papers.”

Ten minutes later, we’re seated at the bar in one of our favorite haunts around the corner. Marisol’s thrives on the college crowd but still manages to attract a steady stream of neighborhood patrons and passersby. It’s Monday evening, so the place is relatively empty, and I’m strangely grateful for that. In full disclosure, I’ve found many of my hook ups in this place, or more to the point, they found me. Never one to chase, I let women come to me. They do choose you, after all. Well, for the most part. But Alexa isn’t like the women I’ve messed with, which is exactly why, for the first time, I find myself in pursuit.

“Are you going to tell me what’s up your ass tonight? Something’s on your mind, and don’t even try to lie about it,” Beck barks from the barstool next to me. I’m startled that I was so inside my own head that his voice cuts through my thoughts. I attempt to deflect him by waving a hand his way.

“I’m fine.”

Beck considers my words before taking another drink from his beer stein. After draining nearly half the dark amber stout, he shakes his head and shoots me a knowing grin.

“Nah. You’re not. Try again, Matt.”

“Just got some stuff on my mind is all, Beck,” I say before chugging from my own frosty mug. I grit my teeth and brace for the grilling I’m about to get when he laughs.

“I have to call bullshit, man. Nothing gets you down. Like ever. So, what gives?”

“Damn, you’re worse than a woman, Beck,” I say, sucking my teeth.

He reaches for a toothpick on the bar, places it between his teeth and points at me.

“Maybe, but I’m on to something here. Come on, tell Dr. Beck what’s eating ya.”

“Ok, man. It’s a girl.” I cave because maybe talking about her will either bring clarity or reveal my insanity.

“It usually is, but not for you. I’m listening.”

“Remember my guest lecturer a few weeks ago—”

“I knew it!” he interrupts and points at me sporting a shit-eating grin. “Ha ha!! The pull between you two is ridiculous even though you both seem to think no one can see it. Go on.”

“Anyway,” I continue, “we’ve been hanging out, getting to know each other. But the girl is slow to trust.”

“What? You can’t close the deal?”

“It’s not like that, Beck. I’m not looking to fuck her. Well, that’s not all I want anyway.”

“So, what? Are you saying you want a relationship with her?”

I think I have for a while even though I didn’t easily admit to that. At first, it was easier to flirt and finesse my way through our interactions. It’s no wonder she kept turning me down when I pressed her to go out with me. That shit didn’t feel good. But in some odd way, it made me that much more determined to get to know her. The longer it takes to get her to yes, the more time I get to see and understand what makes her happy. What makes her sad. To see what she dreams of and wonder if I can help her make it come true. Even when she thinks she’s being guarded, she’s sharing herself with me through her reactions to the world around her. A look, a sigh. An odd quirk of the mouth or flash of expression. I’ve been the guy, the only one I suspect, to see her unfold herself this way. I think this is the crux of what propels us into the way-more-than-friends zone. I want more of her, all of her.

I run a hand through my hair, parts of which feel like a wild mess after a full day of hand raking and hair pulling.

“That’s what I want.”

“And you’ve told her this?”

I side eye him, feeling more exposed than I’d like. “She knows.” I chug the rest of my beer and grab the barkeep’s attention for a refill.

His question grates, but I get it. We guys often assume our intentions are clear when, to women, they’re anything but. He laughs as the bartender places the refill in front of me with a salute before heading off to serve the small group of women who keep shooting inviting glances our way from their base camp at the opposite end of the bar.

“You sure about that, man? Have you said the words to her, or are you expecting her to realize that eye-fucking her for the whole world to see is evidence of your intent?”

Well, shit. I want to deck him, but I take a moment to think this through. I smile to myself but keep my eyes on my beer.

“I can’t help how I may look at her, Beck. She’s beautiful. She’s intelligent, and she doesn’t fall for any of my bullshit.” I grin as I say the words, feeling strangely comforted as I spill my truths. “She may not have said the words, but yeah, she knows. I see it in her eyes, and she’s pretty easy to read. She’s just scared is all.”

I spend the next minutes laying out our backstory to him. Beck studies me closely as I speak, almost as if he’ll find something more than what I’m saying if he looks hard enough. He nods when I’m done and pins me with his stare.

“You’re scared, too. Scared of what she makes you feel. Scared of fucking it up. And, you can punch me if I’m wrong, you’re falling for this girl, no?”

Falling is an active verb, suggesting an ongoing action in the present tense. Since we’re being honest here, I cop to what’s really eating at me. I’ve already fallen. If that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t have resorted to training for a fucking duathlon with a side of bullshit gaming as a way to spend uninterrupted time together. I park my thoughts for a moment and consider what this means. Maybe she’s not the only one running from what’s clearly true. Maybe I’m only now admitting the depth of my feelings. That would explain the unsettled restlessness that’s taken ahold of me since I saw her over the weekend. I nearly forget Beck’s sitting with me as he forges on to his next piece of psychotherapy.

“Look, if you weren’t so busy trying to charm and finesse, you’d see this clearly, too.”

“Ok, Dr. Phil, since you want me to spell it out,” I begin, ignoring the truth of his statement, “here it is. I’m scared, ok? I don’t do relationships. But it’s too late to pull back. When we met, I thought I’d nail her and get her out of my system. But that’s never been all I wanted from her. It scared me from the start. It scares me now. And truth is, I’ve already fallen for her. I’m just not sure how to cut through her defenses and get her to admit that she feels the same way. And once I do, what then?”

I grab my brew as I consider how much more to share with Beck. I’m typically not one to think out loud, and this conversation is starting to grate, as I knew it would. On the other hand, I haven’t felt this much clarity since Alexa and I said goodbye on Saturday. I curse as my internal war wages on.

“Well, you could always blow off some steam with one of those girls who can’t take their eyes off you down there while you plot your next move.”

I find I’m insulted by the suggestion. Nevertheless, I keep my eyes trained ahead of me and consider my position for a moment. It’s not like I haven’t thought of using a willing body to manage my thirst for Alexa. But that honestly hasn’t happened for a while, it’s not happening this evening, and it’s certainly not going down with any of these barflies as willing as they may be. I turn my head to Becket and shrug my indifference.

“Not interested.”

“My point exactly. You’ve got it bad, my friend.” He chuckles and points at me. “I’ve never seen you turn down easy ass.”

I laugh and shake my head. “Then you haven’t been paying attention, my friend.”

“But see that’s where you’re wrong. I saw you with her that day she was leaving your class. It’s clear you’re into each other. I just didn’t figure you for a pussy is all.”

I narrow my eyes and meet his challenge. “You think what you need to, asshole. I don’t want to fuck this up.”

He considers me a moment and nods. “Ok. But something’s got you on edge today. You’re here with me but not really. And the same place your mind is now is where it was when I dropped into your office. What really gives?”

He sits there chewing on his toothpick. I lift my hands in surrender and turn to answer.

“Let’s say I’ve changed the game up a bit between us, set things up so we have to spend more time together. I wonder if that was a mistake because I’m not sure it changed a damn thing.”

Beck laughs and I bristle, narrowing my eyes at what sounds like mockery. “Dude,” he says as his laughter dies down, “you’re caught up in the chase, but looks to me like you might want to figure where your own head is at before you go club her on the head and drag her back to your cave.”

“Funny, asshole.” I give my beer my attention while I tie off that wound. “I wouldn’t feel like this if she didn’t mean something to me.”

“Nobody’s laughing, Matt.”

He fingers the toothpick sitting idly in the corner of his mouth as he regards me. I continue to sit in profile but have a clear, peripheral view of his eyes locked on me.

“See, if I follow you, it sounds like you set up time to be in each other’s space. But that sounds more like cat and mouse than anything else. By the time you end this shit-ass stunt of yours, know what you want. Lay things out for her if you can get her to take you seriously. Then you’ll both know where you stand. Shit! I can’t believe I have to spell this out for your grown ass!”

“Sorry we can’t all be as emotionally intelligent as you, Beck,” I smile, but his words sting because he’s right. I don’t chase, so this feels all kinds of wrong to me. But so does continuing down this path like we’re back in 𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘰 passing love notes while the teacher’s back is turned.

“Man, I’m serious. I’ve never seen you like this, and while it’s all kinds of fun to watch and give you shit, you’re obviously not happy. This girl has your mind all fucked up, but if I know you as well as I think, you only have yourself to blame. I bet you’ve relied on that pretty mug and what you probably think is Latin charm to reel her in. From the brief exchange I had with her, though, that shit won’t work on a woman like that. So, tell her how you feel and see where things stand. Otherwise, you’ll be in this stupid loop inside your head. And let me tell ya, you’re no damn fun right now.”

He raises his brows begging me to challenge him as though he’s just solved the mystery of life. I raise what’s left of my beer to him in toast, throw back the remaining liquid, and say the only thing I can.

“You make sense, Beck. I guess you’re right.”

“You know I’m right, genius. And hey, all jokes aside. If she’s who you want, you have to be willing to take the gamble to get her into your life in a meaningful way.” He looks away for a moment before pressing on. “I wish someone had been there to tell me this before Kaylee decided to call it quits. I wanted everything with her, man. I just didn’t or couldn’t face it at the time. Believe me, if I had it to do over I would. So, don’t be me.”

I grasp his shoulder, appreciating his sincerity more than I know how to tell him. I simply say, “I hear you. And thanks, man. I appreciate you.”

“Then show me your love by the way you pay me. Next round’s on you.”

𝙈𝙖𝙨𝙠𝙚𝙙 𝙄𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙣𝙩 is available for free in Kindle Unlimited. Get your copy here: